Latvia will be represented at the highest professional tennis level by Alona Ostapenko, who was drawn against Ukrainian Dayana Jastremska in the first round of singles. Ostapenko’s chances in singles can only be guessed in coffee grounds. Yes, she still belongs to the world elite, is in the TOP 20, but rather unstable. Two warm-up tournaments in Adelaide had mixed results. In the first tournament, she had an excellent performance against the strong Czech Karolina Pliskova, but in the very next game she unconditionally surrendered to the Romanian Irina Bega. This week already in the first round, the neutral athlete Anna Kalinska lost.
She is doing better in doubles, having reached two semi-finals in a row together with the Ukrainian Lyudmila Kichenok. Everyone agrees that Ostapenko’s potential in singles is very high, provided that she does not make too many mistakes on the court, which also creates emotional instability. She has to prepare for every game like her last, because with the stability lately, it is what it is.
In women’s tennis, the throne is vacant again, as the undisputed leader of the world ranking, the Polish woman Iga Šviontek, is no longer so stable, which can be explained by various chronic injuries.
Due to her recently injured shoulder, last year’s athlete failed to show the expected performance in the survey of European news agencies, she even burst into tears. Serena Williams has said goodbye to sports, Naomi Osaka has not actually achieved anything on the field since the great honor of lighting the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games. The Japanese player played very little last year and already announced some time before the Australian Open that she would not participate in it. The current richest female athlete in the world, the two-time Melbourne champion, also revealed this week that she is expecting a mother and has other priorities. Osaka has been dating American rapper Korday for several years.
American Jessica Pegula is in good form, but she does not have a “Grand Slam” title, just like Tunisian Onsa Jabert. Karolina García, Marija Sakari, Arina Sabalenka, maybe also the young Coco Goff, Paula Bados, Belinda Bencic – all can be counted among the contenders for the throne, but none of them has yet won a “Grand Slam” in their career. There can also be a surprise, and we hope for Ostapenko, who has already tasted the big victory. Veteran Venus Williams will not play, British young star Emma Radukana has an ankle injury and it is not yet known whether she will be able to play several matches in Melbourne. Similarly, after the sensational triumph of the US Open, Radukan’s greatest success is in the field of advertising, not on the tennis court. Another recent “Grand Slam” champion, the American Sofia Kenina, has been suffering from injuries for a long time, she is no longer even in the top 100, playing only 13 matches last year.
For men, Novak Djokovic is also allowed to play in Melbourne this time, as if he is therefore an undoubted favorite, but…
He also doesn’t feel very healthy, he just didn’t finish the sample match against Daniil Medvedev due to a thigh injury. The ban on him entering Australia has been lifted, there are no special restrictions due to Covid-19, but the question is whether Djokovic himself is ready to win this time as well and catch up with Rafael Nadal in terms of the number of “Grand Slam” titles. The Spanish tennis player will play and be seeded in the tournament with number one, but the second half of last year was not so successful for him. In the rating, however, he rose to second place, very close to the new star Carlos Alcaraz, who missed the final tournaments of the year due to an injury to the abdominal muscles.
Alcaraz will not play in Melbourne either – still injured. As if Nadal was given the opportunity to defend the title won last year in Melbourne, but at least recently he showed a rather pale performance in the new “United Cup” tournament in Australia. Understandably, Nadal being Nadal, he focuses only on the most important and refuses to talk about the possible end of his career. News also outside of tennis, just now Nadal has become the owner of the sea speed boat electric class team, which will compete in the world championship. Nadal loves the waters, and this is one of his investments, this time in the brand new electro class, also attracting several well-known Spanish scientists and technicians to lead the team.
Roger Federer no longer plays from the former big four,
while Andy Murray is playing more for fun and will also have to start against Mateo Berretini in Melbourne. The hope of the home team, Nick Kyrgios, canceled his participation in the “United Cup” tournament at the last moment, even unexpectedly for his teammates – allegedly because of an injury. He has a charity match against Djokovic in Melbourne on Friday, and Kyrgios will play at the Australian Open next week. The previously very stable Austrian Dominik Thiem has not really recovered from his injuries. Yes, he is already a “Grand Slam” champion, mentally strong, the organizers have given Thiem a special invitation to Melbourne, but it is unlikely that the Austrian will be able to fight until the decisive matches. He has to meet Andrei Rublev in the first round.
The Frenchman Gail Monfils, the American giant Reilly Opelka and the stable and experienced Croatian Marin Cilic (also a “Grand Slam” winner) were also injured. A similar fate also happened to the Swiss Stan Wawrinka, who used to be the most serious opponent of the big four, but the last few years have been more marked by injuries.
There are a lot of unknowns and maybe it will be someone’s chance to win the Grand Slam for the first time, unless Djokovic and Nadal are not so stable.
Of course, the neutral athlete Daniils Medvedevs, who has already won big victories, as well as the Greek Stefans Tsitsips, should be added to the favorites. Certainly also the very patient and hardy Norwegian Kasper Ruud. There are already a whole constellation of good players (Ogier, Berretini, Sinner, Tiafoe, Shapovalov, etc.), but perhaps the most interesting thing to watch will be the German tennis player Alexander Zverev. He was in top form in last year’s French Open final against Nadal himself when he suffered a serious ankle injury. Returning after such injuries is not easy, at the end of last year Zverev played only sporadically, but maybe he will be ready for Melbourne. If so, then Zverev should be counted among the favorites, he has everything needed in modern tennis, and Zverev has already had several outstanding successes, including the title of Olympic champion in Tokyo (also defeating Djokovic in the semifinals).
An unpredictable, literally and figuratively hot tournament awaits, but in any case, very interesting for fans around the world for two weeks.
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