The 2014 Australian Open projects to be an immensely important event, as the season’s first Grand Slam will give fans a glimpse of what to expect for the rest of the year.
It should also be an extremely exciting tournament, as the defending champion on both the men’s and women’s side have been given the No. 2 seed and are quite likely to go up against a bitter rival in the finals.
Let’s take a look at what the draw for the upcoming Aussie Open looks like, then make a couple of predictions concerning some potential matchups.
|Seed||Men's Draw||Women's Draw|
|1||Rafael Nadal||Serena Williams|
|2||Novak Djokovic||Victoria Azarenka|
|3||David Ferrer||Maria Sharapova|
|4||Andy Murray||Li Na|
|5||Juan Martin del Potro||Agnieszka Radwanska|
|6||Roger Federer||Petra Kvitova|
|7||Tomas Berdych||Sara Errani|
|8||Stanislas Wawrinka||Jelena Jankovic|
|9||Richard Gasquet||Angelique Kerber|
|10||Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||Caroline Wozniacki|
Men’s Prediction: Djokovic and Nadal Will Keep Rivalry Alive in 2014
Novak Djokovic will be hungry to defend his title at Melbourne, as the Serbian superstar direly needs a win here to begin his ascension back to the No. 1 world ranking.
Nadal was able to steal that distinction away in 2013, recovering from a devastating knee injury and making a run back atop the standings.
These two bitter rivals met six times last year, splitting three apiece. It had to be immensely unsatisfying for the Djoker to trade blows with his rival, but still lose the No. 1 ranking. It is definitely worth noting that Rafael Nadal won the more prestigious showdowns, including the finals of the U.S. Open and semifinals at Roland Garros.
With Nadal getting the top seed and Nole, the defending champion in this event, securing the No. 2 spot, it seems likely that these two are about to set out on a collision course for a finals matchup.
Djoker is a slight favorite to capture the fifth Norman Brookes Challenge Cup of his career, currently going off at 10-11 at Oddschecker. Nadal isn’t far behind, being listed at 3-1.
Nole realizes that he could make history with a win and has plenty of desire to emerge victorious from the land Down Under, according to AusOpen.com:
To be also mentioned in the history aspect, you know, and winning three in a row, it's a huge achievement. So I'm always motivated in every match that I play on. But of course Grand Slam finals are always bringing something new, something special to every player, and that's where you want to perform your best.
The last time that Rafa and Djokovic met at Melbourne Park was back in 2012, when they played in one of the most epic matches in the history of the sport. While it isn’t likely to span six hours or five sets, most fans would more than welcome a rematch.
Djokovic prevailed then in a thriller to win the title, but anything could happen if they meet up again in the championships.
Women’s Prediction: Williams and Azarenka on Collision Course
The women’s bracket should be just as exciting as the men’s, if not more.
With Roger Federer’s decline and Andy Murray’s injury, it’s almost certain that Nadal and Djokovic will meet in the finals there. It’s not exactly wide open for the women, but there is more potential for surprise—especially if a major upset happens early on.
However, it would be foolish to expect Serena Williams to falter ahead of the championship, if she does at all.
The 32-year-old superstar just bullied her way through Brisbane to capture a title and has been installed as a 8-11 favorite via Oddschecker. Sports Illustrated notes that Williams' dominance at Brisbane is something we have seen before and could be a good sign for her 2014 season:
Serena Williams starts 2014 the same as 2013. Wins Brisbane with a 64 75 win over Victoria Azarenka. First loss in Oz for Vika since 2011.— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) January 4, 2014
Don’t be surprised if the American clashes with Victoria Azarenka in the finals, as Vika has consistently dominated in the Aussie Open. She’s won back-to-back championships in Melbourne, although didn’t see Williams last year due to Sloane Stephens’ surprising upset in the semifinals.
Who would win a finals matchup between Williams and Azarenka?
Now that Serena is fully healthy and looking practically unbeatable, the Belarusian superstar will have to raise her game in order to become just the sixth woman to win three straight Australian Open championships in the Open era.
It’s going to be a tough road and there is certainly a chance at an upset striking one of these competitors, but expect Williams and Azarenka to meet up for the 17th time in Melbourne.