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Australian Open previews

Just a few hours now until the Australian Open begins. My regular previews have been going since 2000, and have found a new home - this year I am writing for The TOTE and theshark.com.au.

Snippets from women's preview:

1. Wozniacki – will be a token no.1 until she breaks that Slam duck. Trying to bring more aggression into her game but still not a patch on the free-swingers like Serena or Kvitova. Had treatment on her left wrist in loss to close buddy A.Radwanska in Sydney, and that injury can be nasty if full blown, even if it only affects her on the backhand side. Draw says Jankovic R4, Clijsters/Li QF, Azarenka/Aggie Rad SF. Odds to win the title show just how much of a token no.1 she is.

2. Kvitova – exciting leftie who is seen as the heir to the no.1 mantle: she has already won a Slam and won the end-of-year WTA Championship. Looked in fine touch at the Hopman Cup, beating Wozniacki and Bartoli despite carrying a little extra condition. That works for her on the power game side but I’m a little concerned about it if Melbourne has a hot spell and she meets a couple of retrievers who won’t stop running. QF here last year, beaten by Zvonareva. Very nice draw – Stosur/Bartoli QF, perhaps Serena/Sharapova in the semi. Worthy favourite.

Read the complete article here

Snippets from men's preview:

There’s nothing like the Aussie Open on the tennis calendar. So early in the season that players are either still hurting from last season or they’ve been busting a gut at a boot camp during the northern winter. This event has a reputation for shock finalists (Clement, Schuettler, Baghdatis, Gonzalez, Tsonga since 2000 plus Tommy Johansson winning in 2002) but at the moment, the top four are almost impenetrable at the biggest events on the tour. Even Murray, supposedly the weaker of the quartet, reached the semis at all four Slam events last season. Let’s run down the field.

1.Djokovic – took the world before him last year, winning three of the four Slam events. Ended the season quite sore and tired, so whether he is in the shape of last January is contentious. Looked good in Abu Dhabi but hasn’t played an event since. Certainly a better player than back then, and he now carries the weight of heavy expectations. Value at 2.25? I doubt it but record in 2011 v Rafa 6-0, v Federer 5-1 (French Open), v Murray 2-1 (loss via retirement).

2.Nadal – injured here last year when losing in the QF to Ferrer. Ended 2011 with a Davis Cup win for Spain, just days after not caring at all at the Tour finale in London. Weird as it seems, he may be flying in under the radar here. If fit (always some concern over his knees and shoulder), he’s right in it. Has drawn the softest quarter, only Berdych to worry about before the semis. Should not be the outsider of the four.

Read the complete article here

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