The 2014 Australian Open is underway in the sweltering heat of Melbourne, but the adverse conditions have paved the way for the best players in the world to steal the show once again.
With stars like Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and others playing well thus far, the right combination of momentum, talent and ability to work through the weather will result in a deep run for all of the following stars.
Here are the top players who will continue to roll at the 2014 Australian Open.
The most consistent men’s player over the last three years has been Djokovic, and he has carried that momentum into the Australian Open with his stellar play through the first two rounds.
After taking down Lukas Lacko, 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, in the opening round and manhandling Leonardo Mayer, 6-0, 6-4, 6-4, in Round 2, Djokovic is playing as well as he ever has in his career.
Djokovic has matured as a player. He has learned to relax and not put too much pressure on himself. Instead, he has turned that pressure into focus and has grown on the court, as Djoker told the Associated Press, via Fox News:
Well, usually I do not like to talk too much about myself, I leave that to other people. I think they can make a judgment about who I am and how good or not good I am on the court and off the court. But for me it's important to always know where I come from, be grateful for the life that I have. Since I was four or five years old I played this sport, always dreamed of playing on this stage, so I don't take any situation for granted. Being aware of all these things is the best of being Novak Djokovic.
With elite speed along the baseline, his unique length as one of the taller plays on tour that allows him to cover much more ground than his opponents and his mental superiority, Djokovic is one of the most feared players in the game today.
Denis Istomin will certainly fear him in the third round.
Stars like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal may be more accurate with their shots, but the tenacity of Djokovic, his ability to cover ground and the momentum he has built make him the most dominant player in this tournament.
The American star is one of the most dominant female tennis players of all time, but she is looking to move closer to becoming the unquestioned best in history by adding yet another Australian Open victory to her resume.
Williams dominated Ashleigh Barty in the first round, 6-2, 6-1, and looked to be playing as strong as ever. After carrying that momentum into Round 2 against Vesna Dolonc, winning 6-1, 6-2, Williams showed little effect from the heat.
After cruising to a win in Round 1, Williams told the AP, via USA Today, about playing a homegrown star like Barty:
She had absolutely nothing to lose. It would have been different playing her at like a French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, but she's from here, so obviously it's a different atmosphere. In Australia, they're like crazy for anyone that is local.
Williams moves on to the third round against No. 31 seed Daniela Hantuchova and will look to advance in straight sets once again. Not only is her dominant play good for her confidence as the tournament drags on, but it also allows her to get off the sweltering court as quickly as possible.
With the heat playing a major factor, the faster that Williams can get back into the climate-controlled locker room, the fresher she will be for the waning stages of this Grand Slam event.
Williams may be the top player on the women’s side, but Chinese star Li Na has the experience and the talent to give the American favorite a run for her money.
After dominating the Shenzen Gemdale Kaisa Open leading into this week’s Australian Open, Na has carried that momentum into Melbourne. Na utterly dominated Ana Konjuh, 6-2, 6-0, in the first round and Belinda Bencic, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), in Round 2.
No. 26 seed Lucie Safarova is next.
As long as Na continues to play with as much confidence in her game and as much power in her racquet as she has through the beginning of 2014, she will find herself going head-to-head with Williams eventually.
*All stats and information via AusOpen.com.
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