Australian Open: in Melbourne, the pack is on the heels of Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek

Australian Open: in Melbourne, the pack is on the heels of Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek

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The 2023 edition of the Australian Open begins on January 16 with one huge favorite: Novak Djokovic. The Serb, who is aiming for the pass of 10 (!), landed in Melbourne with the fangs. Among the ladies, Iga Swiatek will be the player to beat. At all levels, the Australian fortnight promises to be brilliant. Here are the main themes.

UNPLAYABLE DJOKOVIC? Even before he landed in Australia, we had tripled the name of Novak Djokovic as the immense favorite of this 2023 edition. His career in Adelaide, title at stake, confirms our opinion; yes, it will be necessary to be very strong (very, very, very strong) to bring down the Serb, so impeccable on the soil of Melbourne that he has not lost a match there for 5 years.

In addition to the fact that he is the best player in the world at the moment, “Nole” is moving forward with a taste of revenge in his mouth. Whatever he says, in fact, he keeps in his heart the bitterness of the setback that was his non-participation in the Australian Open 2022 and all the fuss that surrounded it. Strong as a Djoko, reassembled as a cuckoo clock, the former (and future?) world number 1 – who could win his 10th Melbourne! – does not have an opponent of his size a few hours before the start of the tournament, despite his whistling hamstrings. What about on the court?

THE ENIGMA MEDVEDEV… It’s hard not to have affection for Daniil Medvedev, a nice boy with a strong character, who lives his matches, conveys his emotions and says things as he thinks and feels them. This was not lacking last year, when at the end of a lost final against Rafael Nadal (when he had to win it…), he confided that the dreamy little boy who slumbered in him was gone. gone for good. In question in particular: the criticism of the Australian public and the treatment that it had reserved for him.

Since then, Medvedev gives the impression of never having fully recovered from this abrupt end to the fortnight. Certainly, he has in the meantime experienced physical glitches, an absurd suspension for Wimbledon and a happiness which logically means that one can have a little less head in tennis (birth of his first child), but the question now is whether he , the man who shattered Djokovic’s dream at the US Open 2021, can once again become a cador capable of winning a “Major”. We believe him to be capable, of course. And he has a few months ahead of him to answer this question. But yes, the Australian Open can already provide a first element of response.

SOMEONE TO IMITATE ALCARAZ? To say that this Australian Open is potentially one of the most interesting in recent years is not heresy. It is indeed part of a period of doubt, of possible redistribution of the cards on the scale of the ATP circuit and also in line with a US Open which was literally exceptional at all levels. Remember that the level of play in New York was crazy. And that gave birth to an unprecedented winner: Carlos Alcaraz. Having become world No. 1 at just 19 years old, the Spaniard then pushed the machine too hard and has just withdrawn from Melbourne. Can another player follow in his footsteps and in turn overthrow a “Major” board? For the beauty of the sport, we would like it.

However, all the possible suitors give the impression of not yet having the “fund” to do so. The fact remains that we still gladly quote Stefanos Tsitsipas (one day will come, he will finally align everything he has to go to the end), Matteo Berrettini (even if he “stuck” Murray from the start), Taylor Fritz and Félix Auger-Aliassime among Djokovic’s main opponents. At the time of writing these lines, however, we believe much less in Andrey Rublev (the eternal disappointment), Holger Rune, Casper Ruud or Hubert Hurkacz. As for the brilliant Jannik Sinner, he seems a bit short at the start of the year. And Alexander Zverev is barely on the way back…

WHAT ABOUT NADAL? We smiled a lot at the start of the year thanks to Rafael Nadal. Or rather thanks to all those who, once again (one too many times), started to panic for the Spaniard on the pretext that he lost two matches in a row. He himself ended up getting annoyed by these reactions. It becomes more than tiresome that with each of his rare setbacks, some wonder about his future. Yes, there is a day when the record holder of Grand Slam titles (pardon the little) will be on the downward slope, but to send him back there with each defeat is ridiculous. Especially since it’s also the same every spring, when he loses either in Monte-Carlo or in Barcelona or in Rome before ending, as usual, by “exploding” everyone at Roland-Garros . So, red alert on Rafa on the eve of this Australian Open? Nay! But that doesn’t mean it’s the favourite. Still, as defending champion, the last survivor of the “Fedal” duo will necessarily have a say.

Arnaud Cerutti – @arnaud_cerutti

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