Australian Open Preview

What to Watch For in Melbourne – ATP World Tour Storylines (via @SharkoTennis)

* Big 3 Lead The Way – Since 2007 Roland Garros, 21 times the trio of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have reached the semifinals together. Of the 21, nine have come in a Grand Slam tournament, including three of the past five.

Here’s a look at the semifinals. Bold below indicates eventual winner:

Semi-finals

2011 US Open                           Djokovic d. Federer, Nadal d. Murray

2011 Roland Garros              Nadal d. Murray, Federer d. Djokovic

2010  US Open                         Nadal d. Youzhny, Djokovic d. Federer

2009  US Open                         Federer d. Djokovic, del Potro d. Nadal

2008  US Open Murray d. Nadal, Federer d. Djokovic

2008  Roland Garros             Federer d. Monfils, Nadal d. Djokovic

2008  Australian Open Djokovic d. Federer, Tsonga d. Nadal

2007  Wimbledon                   Federer d. Gasquet, Nadal d. Djokovic

2007  Roland Garros             Nadal d. Djokovic, Federer d. Davydenko

Note: This is the first time at the Australian Open in 1991 that the top three seeds have all won at least three Grand Slam titles. In 1991, the trio of Stefan Edberg (4), Boris Becker (4) and Ivan Lendl (8) each won at least three Slam titles.

*The World No. 1/Reigning Champion – Novak Djokovic is coming off a career-best 70-6 season in which he captured an ATP World Tour-best 10 titles in 11 finals, claiming three Grand Slam crowns (Aust. Open, Wimbledon, US Open) and a record five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. He was 64-2 after winning his first US Open and he finished the season with a 6-4 mark. He was 21-4 vs. Top 10 opponents (4-8 in ’10) and six of his wins came over Nadal and four over Federer. He took over the top spot on July 4 after capturing his first Wimbledon crown (d. Nadal). His first loss came to Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros on June 3, which snapped a 43-match winning streak going back to 2010 Davis Cup final (41 in 2011). After the loss, he then won 16 in a row.

One year ago the Serb was ranked No. 3 and his incredible season began in Melbourne, dropping only one set (vs. Dodig in 2R) en route to his second Aussie Open title (’08). In his final three matches, he defeated No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 5 Andy Murray. In both of his title runs in Melbourne he’s only dropped one set.

* Americans in Draw –  There are 11 Americans in the draw (five more than last year),  led by No. 8 Mardy Fish, who enters his third Grand Slam tournament ranked in the Top 10 and as the No. 1 American. At Wimbledon, he turned in a career-best quarterfinal finish (l. to Nadal) and followed with a 4R at the US Open (l. to Tsonga in five sets). There are five in the top half and six in the bottom half. No. 2 American Andy Roddick is the No. 15 seed and he could face No. 1 Djokovic in the 4R. Roddick, a four-tme semi-finalist, comes into Melbourne ranked outside the Top 10 for the first time since his debut in 2002 (at No. 15). The other Top 20 American is No. 16 seed John Isner, who could take on No. 2 Nadal in the 4R. Isner advanced to a Grand Slam-best QF at the US Open (l. to Murray) and two years ago he reached the 4R in Melbourne (l. to Murray). There were two American qualifiers, Denis Kudla (19) and Alex Kuznetsov (24).

* Federer-Nadal Domination – Since Nadal won his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2005, he and Federer have combined to win 22 of the past 27 Grand Slam tournaments (except ‘08 &’11 Aust. Open – Djokovic ’11 Wimbledon – Djokovic, ’09 US Open – del Potro, ’11 US Open – Djokovic). During that stretch, Federer has won 12 Grand Slam titles and Nadal 10. This is the second  Grand Slam tournament since the 2004 Aust. Open that Federer or Nadal are not seeded No. 1. In that Grand Slam tourn., Andy Roddick was the top seed. At last year’s US Open, Djokovic was top seed. This is the first Grand Slam tournament since 2005 Roland Garros they are seeded in the same half of the draw. That year they squared off in the semi-finals in their first Grand Slam meeting.

* Grand Slam King: Federer is the all-time leader in men’s tennis with 16 Grand Slam titles and he’s accomplished the feat in a span of 34 Slams played since winning his first title at Wimbledon in 2003.  His eight-year streak of winning at least one Grand Slam title came to an end last season although he was runner-up at Roland Garros. Overall he is 16-7 in Slam finals with six losses to rival Nadal and the other to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.

* Tomic Leads Aussie Hopes: Mark Edmondson is the last Aussie singles champion in 1976. Teenager Bernard Tomic is the top Aussie player ranked No. 37. The 19-year-old is making his fourth straight appearance in Melbourne (4-3 mark) and last year he lost to No. 1 Nadal 62 75 63 in the third round.  Lleyton Hewitt, 30, is making his 16th straight appearance in Melbourne (27-15 record) and his best result was a runner-up in 2005 (l. to Safin). In his 14 other showings he has never advanced past the 4R. Matthew Ebden,, who finished in the Top 100 last season (at No. 86), is the No. 2 Aussie and he’s looking for his first win in Melbourne (0-2).

* Grand Slams Streak: Federer is the only player in this century to play in every Grand Slam tournament in singles. This will be Federer’s 49th consecutive Grand Slam tournament. Wayne Ferreira holds the all-time record of having played in 56 straight Slam tournaments from 1991-2004.

* Grand Slam Champions in Field – Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer is one of seven Grand Slam winners (accounting for 36 GS singles titles) in this year’s main draw. Here are the active Grand Slam tournament champions in the draw:

Age     No.      Grand Slam Titles

Roger Federer             30        16        2003-07, ‘09 Wimbledon; 2004, ’06-07, ‘10 Aust. Open; 2004-08           US Open, 2009 Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal               25        10        2005-08, ’10-11 Roland Garros; 2008, ’10 Wimbledon; 2009 Australian Open, 2010 US Open

Novak Djokovic          24        4          2008, ‘11 Australian Open, 2011 Wimbledon, 2011 US Open

Lleyton Hewitt           30        2          2001 US Open, 2002 Wimbledon

Juan Martin del Potro             23        1          2009 US Open

Juan Carlos  Ferrero    31        1          2003 Roland Garros

Andy Roddick                        29        1          2003 US Open

*Active Players to Rank No. 1 – Djokovic, who became the 25th player in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings to rank No. 1 on July 4, is one of six players in the draw to rank No. 1:

Player

Reached No. 1

Age

Total

Weeks

Novak Djokovic July 4, 2011 24 Years, 1  Month 29 +
Rafael Nadal Aug. 18, 2008 22 Years, 2 Months 102
Roger Federer Feb. 2, 2004 22 Years, 5 Months 285
Andy Roddick Nov. 3, 2003 21 Years, 2 Months 13
Juan Carlos Ferrero Sept. 8, 2003 23 Years, 6 Months 8
Lleyton Hewitt # Nov. 19, 2001 20 Years, 8 Months 80

+ Start of tournament (Jan. 16)

*All-Time Grand Slam Champions – Federer is the all-time leader on the Grand Slam singles titles list:

W-L    Aust. Open Titles
1) Roger Federer       16-7                 4
2) Pete Sampras          14-4                 2
3) Roy Emerson          12-3                 6
4) Bjorn Borg              11-5                 0
Rod Laver               11-5                 3
6) Rafael Nadal           10-4                 1
Bill Tilden               10-5                 0

*Will There Be a Breakthrough Winner?: Since 2006 the Australian Open has been won by a Top 3 ranked player (Federer three times (four total) Djokovic twice and Nadal once). The last player outside the Top 3 to earn the title was No. 4 Marat Safin. Here’s a look at the players in the draw who have reached at least one Grand Slam final and are still looking for their biggest career title:

ATP Rank                                         Grand Slam Tournament Final

No. 4               Andy Murray              2010-11 Australian Open, ’08 US Open

No. 6               Jo-Wilfried Tsonga     2008 Australian Open

No. 7               Tomas Berdych           2010 Wimbledon

No. 43             Marcos Baghdatis       2006 Australian Open

No. 64             David Nalbandian       2002 Wimbledon

* Doubles Champs- Bob and Mike Bryan have finished No. 1 for seven of the past nine years and are five-time winners of the Australian Open, including last year. Overall they have 11 Grand Slam titles, which is tied for Open Era lead with Aussies Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

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