Tennis – Australian Open Begins in Few Weeks

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, 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 CupScience Articles, 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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