Which Tennis Stars Will Benefit Most from Faster Courts at 2014 Australian Open

Jeffrey Ruth@@ruthjeffreyaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2014

Which Tennis Stars Will Benefit Most from Faster Courts at 2014 Australian Open

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    The top tennis stars are saying the courts at the 2014 Australian Open are faster this year. So who will benefit the most?

    There are two ways to look at this.

    First of all, there is the look-between-the-ears philosophy. In other words, players only benefit if they truly believe they're going to benefit. One has to listen to what they are saying about their own chances. For example, according to skysports.com, Andy Murray has already placed himself out of the running.

    Second, there is a more nebulous method of determining who has always looked comfortable on low-bouncing courts.

    Here are five who will get the most out of the quick Aussie experience.

Roger Federer

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    Roger Federer has already gone on record saying that it's a good idea for Australia 2014 to be played on a faster surface. "I like it a bit faster, to be honest," he says.

    That covers the part of how he feels about things, and for Federer the question of his state of mind always seems to loom large. A confident Swiss star will always play better than a less-than-confident one, so fans should be excited about his chances based upon that alone.

    Then there is the fact that his play is more suited to a low, quick court. Again, in Federer's own words he states that it will benefit his slice more, keeping it skidding lower and taking the pace out of opponents' replies.

    That will help him to not have to run all over, chasing balls like he did last year. Noted Novak Djokovic at the end of 2013, Federer seemed to be "moving maybe slower."

    The faster courts will certainly benefit Roger Federer.

Novak Djokovic

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    Speaking of Novak Djokovic, it is clear that he will also benefit from speedier surfaces in Melbourne, though he is keeping mum about the topic altogether.

    Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, who incidentally claims that the courts will be no different than last year per The Sydney Morning Herald, says the world No. 2 player has practiced on the PlexiCushion at the venue and has not commented whatsoever.

    That means nothing.

    When it comes to speed-of-play and tactics, Djokovic simply cannot be ruled out. It could be claimed that since he is not the type to come into net often that he would be at a disadvantage. A quick look at history would squash that thinking.

    When the Open was played down under in 2000, the courts were compared to a sheet of glass. Yet no one found Andre Agassi complaining, despite being a baseliner.  In the same article, CNNSI.com noted emphatically, "Agassi has the reflexes to handle the speed."

    So does Novak Djokovic, and he will handle, and even benefit, from the faster surface.

Lleyton Hewitt

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    Lleyton Hewitt has already benefited from the speed of play in Australia this year, winning his first ATP title since 2010.

    Will Swanton of The Australian led a recent article with, "Hewitt finally gets a fast court." He went on to claim that the Aussie favorite had literally begged for this change in the past. If that is true, then it is clear that Hewitt believes he will benefit.

    That says a lot about what will happen next week.

    That is, if Hewitt's statement back in 2012 can be believed. According to MSN, he pointed out, "The quicker the courts, the better for me, too."

    So the two criteria are covered. Hewitt believes the courts will benefit him directly. And his game apparently is well-suited to the increase in speed, too, if the Grand Slam version of Australian tennis mimics what was found in Brisbane.

    Look for the former No. 1 player to find his way into the second week, aided by the conditions.

Marin Cilic

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    Marin Cilic called the courts at Queensland Tennis Centre, the same courts that will be used at the Australian Open, the slickest he had experienced anywhere in the past 12 months, according to Linda Pearce, sportswriter for The Age, via smh.com.

    He grew increasingly comfortable with those courts in his first three matches at Brisbane, looking more and more difficult to break. And that is key to Cilic's success.

    "The courts are extremely fast, and it's not easy to break," he said, as reported by Leo Schlink of The Herald Sun of Australia.

    Clearly, this is a benefit to the big-serving Croatian.

    Having just returned from a suspension which gave him the chance to fine tune his big game, things are looking good. Valkerie Baynes of The Courier Mail claims that the fast courts will put Cilic in "in good stead."

    Look for it.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    When Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Andy Murray in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, the Scot was quick to point out that his opponent's reaction time on the quick courts made the difference.

    "The courts here are really fast and you have to react quickly," Murray said. "Jo was sharper than me today, he served really well." At next week's Australian Open, that will make a tremendous difference. Tsonga will definitely benefit from the faster courts.

    The first criteria, then, of how a player feels about his chances points directly toward Tsonga's favor. If Murray noticed it, Tsonga will too.

    Besides, the Frenchman already feels at home in Melbourne. He recently remarked that not only does he "like to be in Australia," but that he is even thinking about coming back to the land down under after his playing career ends.

    That is a good mindset as the tournament opens.

    As far as how the surface suits his game, Tsonga should be a clear favorite. If there is one player on tour who manages his body going up, down, side to side and all around, it would be the energetic world No. 10.

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will speed through the draw on the speedy courts.