Tennis – Australian Open Begins in Few Weeks

Every professional tennis season unofficially begins with the Australian Open. There are always a few smaller tournaments in early January to kick off a season, but only when the players take their places at the first Grand Slam of the year does the action really heat up.

The 2009 Australian Open begins on January 19, the third week of the tennis season. Heading into next year, the ATP Tour rankings show Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Nikolay Davydenko as the Top 5 players. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, and James Blake round out the Top 10.

Only the Top 4, however, are considered serious threats to win the upcoming Australian Open, which is staged in Melbourne,asianbookie livescore Australia at historic Melbourne Park Tennis Center. Rod Laver Arena, named for the former Australian tennis great, will be the venue for the men’s title match on February 1, 2009.

Nadal recently put an end to Federer’s 237-week reign as the No. 1 player in the world. The pinnacle of Nadal’s journey to the elusive top spot came last season at Wimbledon, where he defeated the Swiss in a five-set classic to end Federer’s run of five consecutive titles at the All-England Club. Nadal also won his fourth straight French Open crown, the Olympic gold medal in men’s singles, the Masters Series event in Monte Carlo, and the Masters Series event in Hamburg. Injury concerns surrounding his knee are the only problems Nadal has to deal with heading into 2009.

Federer’s 2008 campaign was not up to normal Federer standards, and it started with a loss in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Federer has three Aussie Open titles, however, and he will be looking to restore his dominance Down Under next month. He should have a good chance of winning another title, as he salvaged his 2008 season by winning the last Grand Slam of the year at the U.S. Open.

Djokovic is the defending Australian Open champion, as he captured his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne by defeating Federer in the semifinals and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a four-set final. The Serb also won the last tournament of 2008, capturing the Masters Cup trophy. That victory gives Djokovic a full head of momentum heading into 2009.

A new Grand Slam contender, Murray, joined the fray in 2008. Murray finished runner-up to Roger Federer at the U.S. Open and won back-to-back Masters Series titles in Cincinnati and Madrid. The Scot also reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.

The Australian Open, however, often produces a surprise finalist. Recent runner-up finishers include Rainer Schuettler in 2003, Marcos Baghdatis in 2006, Fernando Gonzalez in 2007, and Tsonga in 2008. If only one of the top four players reaches the 2009 title match, there are several other men worth keeping an eye on to fill the other spot. Del Potro won four consecutive ATP titles in July and August and did not lose a single match in between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Simon surged into the Top 10 with a title in Indianapolis, semifinal finishes at the Masters Series Canada and the Masters Cup, and a runner-up performance in Madrid. Up-and-coming youngsters who could be ready for Grand Slam greatness also include Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis.

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