Like Nadal, Federer is also struggling with his fitness and form. His fans are expecting swashbuckling comeback.
Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj while speaking to Tehelka asserts, “One cannot write off a player in the class of Roger Federer. He still has the ability to win Grand Slams and hard courts will help Nadal get back to his groove soon”. So the onus is on the two players to live up to their billings.
Brit Andy Murray had recently expressed that if he had any realistic chance of winning the Australian Open then it would be possible if the reigning world number one Novak Djokovic falters early on. Relying on Djokovic’s form indicate the level of confidence in Murray’s game and his mindset.
As far as Indian interest is concerned all eyes will be on the peerless Leander Adrian Paes as he plays the doubles and mixed doubles. It would be sensational if the 43-year-old Paes lifts another Grand Slam in his glorious career.
Coming to the women’s side, world number one, Serena Williams is aiming for her seventh Australian Open crown. Despite struggling with a knee injury she is the perennial favourite for winning the title. The big question every ardent tennis fan is asking is, can the 34-year-old pull off another Grand Slam not being totally fit and match the legendary German Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam record this year?
Serena had an outstanding 2015 and it was the unknown Italian Roberta Vinci who spoilt her Grand Slam dreams at the US Open 2015. Serena was forced out of the ground for last two months in 2015 due to her injury after being surprisingly knocked out in the semis of the US Open. Reports of Serena Williams lingering a knee injury must have embolden her rivals to halt her dream run.
Leading the charge is hard-hitting Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. She too has had her share of injuries but bounced back with a win in the Brisbane International recently. She has beaten Williams three times on hard courts. So she could pull off an upset.
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova too would love to win in Australia. She lost the finals to Serena in 2015 in two hard fought sets. One of the most popular and glamorous faces in tennis, the five time Grand Slam winner is always a title contender with her big serve and athleticism.
Czech Petra Kvitova, a two time Wimbledon winner has a superb all court game and can go all the way. Serb Ana Ivanovic, has the game on her side but she has often lacked the consistency that is needed to be a serious Grand Slam title contender. Ivanovic off late is making news off court too, the tennis star is reportedly dating German national football team skipper and Manchester United star Bastian Schweinsteiger.
In the women’s doubles, all eyes will be on Indo-Swiss pair of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis. Both the players are in amazing form. Winning six titles in a row, starting from the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, WTA Finals and Brisbane Internationals. Both are aiming to continue their winning streak in Australia. Hingis has been the lucky mascot for both Leander Paes and Sania Mirza.
So, after a rather engrossing 2015, the 2016 Australian Open will surely set the tone as to what lies ahead in the year in the tennis scenario. So let the action begin in Australia and ardent fans are just hoping that their favourites live up to the expectations. Top guns Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have thrown a challenge to their respective rivals. Onus is on the contenders to rise and meet the challenge. Will they be able to halt the two reigning top seeded superstars?