Our 2013 Australian Open Predictions

Thursday, January 10, 2013 /by
Rod Laver Arena, where this year's champions will be determined. (Wikimedia Commons)
Rod Laver Arena, where this year's champions will be determined. (Wikimedia Commons)

MEN'S CHAMPION

Peter Bodo, Senior Writer: NOVAK DJOKOVIC Given that Djokovic has pounded his way to triumph in three of the last five Australian Opens, it’s impossible to pick anyone else as the champ. The surface is just too friendly to his aggressive baseline style and defense, mainly because of the relatively high bounce.
Ed McGrogan, Online Editor: NOVAK DJOKOVIC The two-time defending champion is dangerous when he’s down, but also when he’s rested. Coming off a year-end championship victory and a well-deserved break, the year-end No. 1 has the game to defeat any style of opponent he’ll encounter in Melbourne.
Richard Pagliaro, Senior Editor: NOVAK DJOKOVIC The three-time champion has reached at least the semifinals in 10 consecutive majors, is the world’s best returner, and the speed of the Melbourne court suits his game. He should also be empowered by winning successive Oz epics over Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in 2012.
Steve Tignor, Senior Writer: NOVAK DJOKOVIC Djokovic loves the medium-slow hard courts in Melbourne enough to have won this event three times already. He had a few hiccups in the middle of 2012, but he finished very strong, with wins in Shanghai and London, to clinch No. 1. He is the best right now, and he should know it.


WOMEN'S CHAMPION

Peter Bodo, Senior Writer: SERENA WILLIAMS The big takeaway from 2012 is that you just never, ever write off Serena, no matter how many consecutive matches or big titles others win while she’s out of commission. Furthermore, this five-time Aussie Open champion seems to have rekindled her love of the game, and that will more than compensate for her advancing age.
Ed McGrogan, Online Editor: SERENA WILLIAMS Two weeks can tell a lot, espcially if your original pick for the title was Petra Kvitova. The Czech is already 0-2 in 2013; meanwhile, Serena cruised to yet another tournament title. I'm not sure what's more likely to happen: A Kvitova early-round loss, or a Williams win.
Richard Pagliaro, Senior Editor: SERENA WILLIAMS A decade after completing the “Serena Slam” in Melbourne, Williams aims for her sixth Australian Open title. Her serve is the biggest weapon in the game, she can dominate with her return, and defend with her speed. If she’s healthy and fit, it’s foolish to doubt her.
Steve Tignor, Senior Writer: VICTORIA AZARENKA Vika has good memories of Melbourne. Last year she crushed Maria Sharapova to win her first major and reach No. 1. The surface suits her aggressively versatile baseline game, and historically she starts her seasons fast. The question is: Can she beat Serena? At the U.S. Open, she should have.


MEN'S DARKHORSE

Peter Bodo, Senior Writer: MILOS RAONIC The 21-year-old Canadian is No. 15, and he’s been both consistent and on the verge of a big breakout for about two years now. Although Raonic lost a tough third-rounder to Aussie icon Lleyton Hewitt in 2012, he qualified and made it all the way to the fourth round in his Oz debut just a year earlier. He has the firepower to impose his game on anyone.
Ed McGrogan, Online Editor: KEI NISHIKORI Nishikori has been on the cusp of a major breakthrough for some time, and wouldn’t it be fitting if he did so at The Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific? He reached the quarters there last season, his best showing at a Slam, and he’s still improving.
Richard Pagliaro, Senior Editor: KEI NISHIKORI Quickness, court sense and a flashy forehand that’s most lethal on hard court make Nishikori a threat. The 2012 Australian Open quarterfinalist concluded 2012 winning 10 of his last 12 matches on hard courts. Despite concerns about his slight stature, Nishikori owns a 6-1 career record in five-setters.
Steve Tignor, Senior Writer: MARIN CILIC The Croat reached the semifinals in Australia three years ago, and while he hasn’t cashed in on that early promise, he made steady progress last season, and nearly led Andy Murray two sets to love in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.


WOMEN'S DARKHORSE

Peter Bodo, Senior Writer: SABINE LISICKI Andrea Petkovic is out, but there are plenty of other Germans who could make noise Down Under. One is 37th-ranked Lisicki, who has reached the semifinals of Wimbledon and took Maria Sharapova to three sets in a fourth-round loss in Melbourne last year.
Ed McGrogan, Online Editor: SLOANE STEPHENS The American finished 2012 ranked No. 38, but she’s unlikely to remain outside the Top 20 for much longer. The 19-year-old showed great potential last year, particularly at the majors. With a game befitting her eye for the spotlight, Stephens could cause anyone trouble in Oz.
Richard Pagliaro, Senior Editor: YAROSLAVA SHVEDOVA The two-time Grand Slam doubles champion has been streaking: Shvedova was ranked No. 208 when she failed to qualify for the 2012 Australian Open; she will be seeded in Melbourne this time. The WTA’s comeback player of the year’s athleticism, fitness, and all-court game are all assets Down Under.
Steve Tignor, Senior Writer: ZHENG JIE Like Cilic, the 29-year-old Zheng has been a surprise semifinalist in Melbourne, and she got off to a hot start in 2012 by winning the year’s first event, in Auckland. While her ranking—No. 42—is mediocre, she was still good enough to take Serena to 9-7 in the third set at Wimbledon last year.

 

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