Australian Open 2013: Unexpected Players Who Could Steal the Tournament

Jeffrey Sakakibara@sakainjapanContributor IIJanuary 21, 2013

Australian Open 2013: Unexpected Players Who Could Steal the Tournament

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    The Australian Open is approaching its second week, and tennis has been rather calm Down Under. Aside from Juan Martin del Potro's early exit, top seeds have routinely won their matches and young guns have made their exits. 

    But the latter stages of a Grand Slam are where tennis really gets interesting, when top seeds have so much to answer and their opponents with nothing to prove. 

    With breakout performances by Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the past, the Australian Open is fully capable of producing upsets. 

    Take a look at a few players that could be the next to join the Grand Slam club. 

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga: If Nothing Works, Just Hit as Hard as You Can

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    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had his first breakout performance here in Australia and has been a solid top-10 player ever since. Though Tsonga has started to mold his playing style into something a bit more consistent, his true talent comes out when he goes for broke. 

    Take the Wimbledon Quarterfinals against Roger Federer for example. In 2011, Federer was leading two sets to none and on the way to a routine win. Desperate for any glimpse of hope, Tsonga started hitting with complete aggression. The "go-for-broke" attitude worked for Tsonga only because he's capable of generating that much power. 

    Power that is usually neutralized by any other top player just cannot be contained if its coming from Tsonga. 

    If Tsonga keeps a high first-serve percentage and utilizes his forehand correctly, he can use his dexterity at net to finish the point. It will all depend on whether the ball wants to paint the line or spray out of the court. 

Tomas Berdych: Use Your Height

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    Often times players will hit a ball to the backhand side with excessive topspin. Roger Federer loves this antic and forces the opponent to hit a weaker shot back because of the high contact point. Many players struggle with this and end up hitting a routine shot rather than an offensive one. 

    But Tomas Berdych has all that covered. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, Berdych can hit any corner on his serve and hit a decent shot from most contact points. 

    Slated against Novak Djokovic in the next round, look for Berdych to end points quickly by moving up to net. No player can knock Djokovic off with a baseline war, so Berdych needs to keep the points short and keep himself offensive. 

    Often times his forehand will break down for him and he'll start to coast through his groundstrokes. But with the level of the players left in the draw; that's just not going to cut it. 

    If Berdych can keep his body language positive he can be a real threat in the coming rounds. 

Svetlana Kuznetsova: Pure Pace

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    Continuing her fairy-tale comeback, Svetlana Kuznetsova came into the Australian Open unseeded and is now in the quarterfinals. During her recent win against Caroline Wozniacki, Kuznetsova's natural pace was just too much for Wozniacki. 

    Kuznetsova's greatest strength is that she hits heavy balls without extra effort. Her natural shots are just heavy, penetrating shots and she gives the same kind of trouble Serena Williams often gives to her opponents. 

    But what sets her apart is her creativity during the point. Kuznetsova is able to utilize different areas of the court  to set up her finishing blow. She has so many shots in her repertoire that she can change a usually defensive shot to an offensive one. Her backhand can go short angle while hitting flat, or she can slice it short as well. 

    If Kuznetsova can keep her stamina through the final rounds, she has a real chance to add the Australian Open trophy to her trophy cabinet.  

Sloane Stephens: Utilize the Bad Day

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    With so many American players either plagued by injury or suffering early exits, Sloane Stephens is looking like the next American star on the women's side. Stephens has enjoyed her run till now but her true test comes next in the Quarterfinals against Serena Williams. 

    Her and Serena share very similar playing styles. They both have a great serve and a powerful forehand. Though Serena has the upper hand on the backhand and on the returns. 

    But what both players utilize is their serve. Both Serena and Sloane start the point on the immediate offensive with the serve and work the point from there. 

    If Serena has on off day with her serve, Stephens has too much firepower to let a bad day slide. Stephens needs to look for a weakness early on and it's imperative that she breaks that weakness down as much as possible. 

    Often times Serena has lost easy matches because her mentality crumbles because of an "off day." Stephens should look to capitalize if such an opportunity comes up in their matchup.