Cameron on Aussie Open: The down-low Down Under

January 12, 2013, 10:31 AM

Have insomnia? Great — you’re all ready for the Australian Open.

If you’re like me, you’re actually excited to be staying up late and waking up early to watch tennis at an ungodly hour. Coffee will become your best friend.

There are a lot of questions going into the first Grand Slam of 2013 (other than what time you need to set your alarm): Can Serena Williams continue her dominance? Was Andy Murray’s success in the second half of 2012 a fluke, or can he keep winning at the highest level? What young kids are going to make an impression on tour this year?

Well, let’s get started.

The Favourites

Serena Williams

Right now, Williams is the greatest female tennis player on the planet and she’ll win the Australian Open. Simple as that.

I guess I should elaborate or else this preview will be extremely short.

Last year, Serena had an amazing year, winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold, and the U.S. Open. Heading into this year’s Australian Open, Serena has already won the Brisbane title. If that doesn’t already convince you that she’s the favourite to win the title this year, keep in mind that Williams has won five Australian Open titles. Convinced?

Williams’s toughest task could be in the semi-finals where she’ll likely meet defending champ Victoria Azarenka. Even still, Azarenka has only beaten Williams once in 12 meetings.

If Williams wins the Australian Open, she’ll have won three consecutive Grand Slam titles — something no woman has done since 2003, when she won four consecutive Slams.

Could Williams win the 2013 Grand Slam (all four Grand Slams)? Absolutely.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic comes to Melbourne as the top seed and the defending champion, and luckily for him, he won’t have to face Murray or Roger Federer until the final. Yes, he’ll probably meet top Spaniard David Ferrer in the semis, but his path to the final is pretty clear.

Watch out for: Roger Federer

While Federer may be the greatest tennis player of all time, the 17-time Grand Slam winner is coming into the Australian Open basically unnoticed. I know what you’re thinking: ‘He’s Roger Federer, how can anyone miss him?’

Federer hasn’t played in any warm-up tournaments coming into Melbourne. Federer isn’t the defending champion and while he isn’t the underdog, there are simply more compelling storylines coming into the Grand Slam that people are focusing on. That’s just what Federer wants.

Federer is in Murray’s half of the draw, so they could meet in the semi-final. Even though Murray just won the Brisbane title, I expect Federer to reach the final and face Djokovic. Federer is well rested and even though he hasn’t played any matches this season, he’ll be all warmed up by the semi-final.

Although I picked Djokovic as the favourite, I wouldn’t be surprised if Federer sneaks in his 18th Grand Slam title this month.

The surprise: Bernard Tomic

I’m not saying he’s going to win it, but watch out for Australia’s Bernard Tomic.

Tomic, as you may remember, was the trouble child on the ATP Tour last year. He got his fair share of speeding tickets, was called out for having attitude problems by Pat Rafter and Patrick McEnroe, and he even got into a good ol’ fashioned hot tub fight. All in a year’s work, I suppose.

But this year Tomic has seemingly matured. Just two weeks into the season, Tomic has eight wins, won his first ATP title in Sydney and even upset Djokovic last week in the Hopman Cup.

Tomic trained hard in the off-season and he’s actually putting in a full effort on the court in 2013 — something he didn’t do in 2012. If we’re lucky, Australia’s own could face Federer in the third round.

The Canadians

Milos Raonic

Last year at this time, Raonic had already won the Chennai title and was riding a wave of confidence headed into Melbourne. This year it’s a different story.

Raonic was upset by Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of Brisbane, so he headed to the exhibition tournament in Kooyong to try and get some extra matches in. In Kooyong, Raonic lost two of his three matches. That’s not a great way to start the season.

Raonic will face Jan Hajek (ranked No. 106 in the world) in his Australian Open first round match. If Raonic makes it through to the round of 16 he could face Federer.

Jesse Levine

‘New Canadian,’ Jesse Levine had a nice run to the quarter-finals in Auckland this week. He’s playing really well and he’ll face Tommy Robredo in the first round in Melbourne.

Rebecca Marino

After taking seven months off last year, Rebecca Marino is still making her comeback. Because of her protected ranking and fellow Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak’s withdrawal, Marino gained entry into the Australian Open main draw. She’ll be rusty, but this could be a great place for Marino to return to the spotlight in Canadian tennis. Marino will face Shuai Peng in the first round.

Must watch first-rounders

Petra Kvitova vs. Francesca Shiavone: Two Grand Slam champs.

Lleyton Hewitt vs. Janko Tipsarevic: Pride of Australia vs. No. 8 seed.

Grigor Dimitrov vs. Julien Benneteau: Dimitrov has been called a ‘young Federer’ — keep your eyes on him.

Gael Monfils vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov: This will be a fun, fast-paced match.

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