Early Australian Open 2017 Discussions

Greetings. Since the last time I posted, the Argentines won their first Davis Cup title so congrats to them and especially Del Potro who was the hero of the tie. He came back from two sets to love down to defeat Cilic 6-7(4), 2-6, 7-5 6-4, 6-3 in the second singles which paved the way for Del Bonis to play a brilliant match against Karlovic which clinched the title for the Argentines.

I was really happy for Del Potro after everything he’d been through with his injury. He was also the last player to defeat Murray when he won another epic five-setter against him in the tie against Great Britain.

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I’m looking forward to seeing what Del Potro can do in 2017 if he stays healthy. This year was a rebuilding year for him in which he won his first title since 2014 in Stockholm, made the Olympics finals, and won the Davis Cup.

If he stays healthy he will be a serious threat and may even win another slam. I for one would be delighted for him if it happens.

  • Who is the Australian Open Favorite?

Now let’s get to today’s topic. Usually, when the Australian Open comes around there is only one obvious favorite and that is Djokovic. According to some of the so-called experts, that is not the case next year.

To be fair to Murray, he hasn’t lost a match since that Davis Cup defeat to Del Potro before Beijing and he is now the world number one. He has been on a great run which culminated in him defeating Djokovic in the London finals.

I’m not overlooking that. With Lendl back in his corner, he has taken his game to another level and is now a serious threat to Djokovic. That said, we all know Djokovic was far from his best in the London final.

The way I look at it, Djokovic started finding his old form in London again if you leave out the final. That is an ominous sign for any rival who have hopes of winning the Australian Open next year.

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Yes, Murray is on a dominant run but Djokovic is still the favorite in Melbourne for me. The Australian Open king has won the title there five times out of the last six years. And it’s not like he hasn’t been in this situation before.

Back in 2011 he had that slump toward the end of the year and faced one of the all-time greats Nadal in the Australian Open final the following year. We all know what happened then. He defeated Nadal in one of the all-time great major finals.

Back in 2011 Djokovic didn’t even qualify for the semis in London winning only one match in his group. I would argue he is much better prepared this time and with Doha before Melbourne he will get some more matches to make sure he is in peak form.

  • The Return of Federer and Nadal

In my last post, I talked about the absence of Federer and Nadal toward the end of the year after Becker said Djokovic ran out of opponents. I think their return will be another big motivating factor for Djokovic.

They are his two biggest rivals that motivated him to become an all-time great himself. The tour just feels more familiar for him with them in the mix and they bring out the best in him.

Murray, on the other hand, doesn’t have the greatest of records against them and their return could have the opposite effect on him. Either way, I think the stage is set for Djokovic to play his very best tennis in Melbourne again.

And he needs to because I can’t help but feel like that will be quite a critical tournament for him. Melbourne is his turf where he needs to make a stand and let Murray know that he is still the real number one.

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Djokovic let things slip a bit since he won the French Open this year but things aren’t critical yet. If he allows Murray or someone else to win the title on his turf then there is more reason for his fans to be concerned about his future.

But for now, as a fan myself, I am not concerned. There is no need to have a fatalistic outlook. Everyone has setbacks and slumps in life. What makes the difference between winners and losers is how they deal with it.

Whatever the case may be, the Australian Open next year promises to be another exciting installment of which is probably my favorite slam nowadays.

With Murray, Wawrinka, Del Potro, and the return of Federer and Nadal there will be plenty of exciting matches and plenty of challenges for the reigning Australian Open champ.

Who is the 2017 Australian Open favorite?

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17 Comments

  1. I think you’re right about the AO being a critical tournament for him, and I really hope he can come good and win it. I still think the ‘elephant in the room’ is whatever is wrong in his private life, and he will find it very difficult to regain 100% focus and concentration until that gets resolved one way or another. I’m also hoping a new season and the return of his old adversaries will help jolt him and give him the motivation to get himself out of the doldrums.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    How do you know there is something wrong in his private life?

    [Reply]

    Lynsey Adams Reply:

    Trying to answer without writing a novel! I don’t think that’s the only reason for his slump, but with an emotional player like him it could be a big factor which would affect his performance, (added of course to everything you mention).
    There have been rumours in the foreign and sports press that I’m not even going to talk about. But, at Wimbledon he said he had a ‘personal problem’, (and even before that we saw erratic uncharacteristic behaviour and losses but put it down to pre-FO pressure). If we fast forward to even the last couple of tournaments, we have seen him play well – almost like his old self – for the first couple of matches, then literally overnight be like a different person, in attitude as well as performance. This has happened more than once, and asking myself ‘what the hell happened overnight?’ I can only think of one thing which would ultimately be more important to him than tennis and would radically deflect his focus and mood, and that is family. His wife is looking quite unlike her former self when we see her at matches and other functions – she is indeed a beautiful woman but seems detached, remote, even severe, and more thin and pale than usual – far from the lively, involved supporter we used to see. This could be sheer worry for him, and I feel disloyal even talking about this and don’t really want to. In the end, none of us KNOW absolutely what is going on, I’m just putting out a suggestion brought about by gut feelings about what I see on court, things that have been half said and rumours that I won’t expand on from loyalty to Nole. I just feel that a family problem, whatever it is, would continue to affect him badly and reflect in his performance if it remains unresolved. I really hope I’m wrong.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Like you said none of us know so it is pointless for me to speculate. He is a professional and knows how to run his personal business. I’m not interested in his personal life anyway. He clearly improved from Paris to London so I see no need to be negative or to speculate.

    Please try to be optimistic and appreciate the fact that he was very close to his best in London. Why look for negatives?

    [Reply]

    Danielle Hughes Reply:

    Ru-an, I don’t think you can ignore the fact Djokovic’s “personal problems” (his words) dramatically affected his 2016 performance. We all know what those problems were/are (or at least those of us with inside connections). It’s not so much “looking for negatives” as it is looking at all the factors involved.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I am not ignoring his personal problems but how long ago was that and how do we know he still has those problems? What we do know is that he was close to his best in London. So yeah, I prefer looking for positives of my favorite player than for negatives. I can’t tell other people how to be a tennis fan but that is the kind of fan I have always been and I don’t think it is very constructive to look for negatives in someone that you are a fan of. That seems counter-intuitive to me.

    [Reply]

    Danielle Hughes Reply:

    His personal problems were this summer. The positive is that his slump (in my opinion) was not due to injury or any physical decline. It had to do with a personal private situation. It is positive because once he gets things straightend out personally (this has already happened), we can except him to quickly return to top form. It would be much worse if the slump was due to injury or general decline (Federer / Nadal). Novak is an unbelievably talented player and we can expect many more great moments.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    His personal issues probably arose from the fact that he had become unbalanced in his life and tennis and the expectations that came with increasing success were dominating it. The same goes for the mental and physical problems. Winning the personal slam is a massive thing in this era and had to take a toll. That is why he said he wanted to get back to enjoying tennis. All the things are interrelated. They are not separate issues.

    [Reply]

  2. Hello??? What about the #3 player in the world?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Raonic has never won a slam. Neither has Nishikori. Are you saying one of them are the favorite?

    [Reply]

    Danielle Hughes Reply:

    Ru-an, are you saying to be a favourite to win a slam a player must have already won a slam? That seems short sighted. I agree Raonic would not be favoured over Djokovic or Murray, but I would favour him over the rest of your list. Raonic was #14 in the world in 2015. He finished this year #3. He had a match point against the eventual ATP Tour Final winner, Andy Murray. His return game has dramatically improved, and he won the majority of the long rallies against Murray in that semi final match. Looking at the stats it seem obvious to me. Barring injury Raonic has a decent shot at finishing #1 in the world next year. I know you are a massive Novak fan, and for good reason. But there are young up and comers that deserve a bit more mention on your blog.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘Ru-an, are you saying to be a favourite to win a slam a player must have already won a slam?’

    Yes, I am. I don’t think it is short sighted. There is a big difference between making the final and winning the title. Look how many tries it took Murray to win a slam. And besides Raonic has never made the AO final. Last year he did well against the weaker version of Murray in the semis.

    But his game is not really suited for Plexicusion or clay. His returns, bh, movement, and lack of variation are liabilities. He’s made great strides to be #3 in the world but Wawrinka, Federer, Nadal, and Del Potro are more experienced than him and he won’t be the favorite for any slam until he actually wins one.

    [Reply]

  3. Hello Ruan,

    I see you’re in upbeat mode

    The thing we like about Novak is that he is upbeat without straying into denial

    It’s difficult to not be upbeat when he has resolved all the injury problems just in time for next year

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Exactly, Marcus! The injury problems are a much more objective and constructive problem to focus on than ‘personal’ problems and as you say he seems to have put them behind him. I don’t know why people are talking about personal problems. He looks mentally and physically ready for 2017.

    [Reply]

  4. If Djokovic doesn’t win his most successful Slam the Australian Open, his Slam winning days are numbered and his chances of matching or overtaking Federer’s 17 Slams will go from very unlikely to almost impossible.

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  5. Del Potro is ruled out due to injury. Sigh! It’s depressing to see him miss tournaments due to his wrist. Nonetheless, it’s going to be an intriguing tournament; not only because of the anticipating regarding the Big 4 but also the possibility of a young gun coming of age. Certainly, a great tournament is on the cards. Even I think Djokovic will have the slight edge over Murray at this venue. It’s quite hard to rule out Djokovic here. Good one!

    [Reply]

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