Only two days to go to the first Slam of the season! Who do you think will win? Check out her Australian Open 2017 preview:
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are once again the big favorites for the title.
5-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, who begins his campaign on Monday against 93-ranked Ilya Marchenko, has a quite easy route to the quarterfinals where he could meet Kei Nishikori or Roger Federer.
Novak Djokovic will launch his bid for a record seventh Australian Open title with a challenging first round match against Fernando Verdasco, who missed 5 match points against the Serb in Doha last week. Grigor Dimitrov could wait in the fourth round, before a clash against Dominic Thiem in the quarters.
The only two other players who could, in my opinion, capture the title this year are Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic. Unpredictable on the ATP tour, Wawrinka is always consistent come Grand Slam time; while Raonic has improved a lot in the last year and is not a one-weapon only player anymore.
Players to watch:
Rafael Nadal struggled to get back to form since his injury, but had a decent start of the season with a win at the Abu Dhabi exhibition and a quarterfinal in Brisbane. He could face Alexander Zverev in the third round, Gaël Monfils in the fourth round and Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals.
Roger Federer will play for the first time since last year’s Wimbledon. Seeded 17, he has not won a Slam title since Wimbledon 2012. He could face Tomas Berdych in the third round, and then Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray.
Andy Murray  – Kei Nishikori 
Stan Wawrinka  – Marin Cilic 
Gaël Monfils  – Milos Raonic 
Dominic Thiem  – Novak Djokovic 
First round matches to watch:
Nicolas Almagro – Jérémy Chardy
Jerzy Janowicz – Marin Cilic 
Dustin Brown – Milos Raonic 
Tommy Haas – Benoît Paire
Fabio Fognini – Feliciano Lopez 
Fernando Verdasco – Novak Djokovic 
Unlike the men’s draw, there is no clear favorite in the women’s draw, and it seems anything could happen.
Angelique Kerber had a dream season last year, with two Grand Slam titles and the world number one spot. She opens up her title defence with a match-up against Lesia Tsurenko and could play reigning Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals.
Serena Williams, who suffered a shock defeat to Madison Brengle in Auckland last week, will be chasing Grand Slam title number 23. Like Novak Djokovic, she will face a tough test in the first round: former world number 7 Belinda Becic.
The ever consitent Agnieszka Radwanska could finally win her maiden Slam title, while Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza will be looking to confirm their stand-out 2016 season.
Players to watch:
Finalist here in 2014, Dominika Cibulkova claimed her biggest title last October: the WTA Finals. She will look to pick up where she left off last year.
A surprising semifinalist last year, Johanna Konta reached the top ten since then, and won Sydney title, dismantling Radwanska in the final. She could do some damage in the draw.
Like Cibulkova, Svetlana Kuznetsova finished 2016 in great form. On a good day, she can beat anyone.
First round matches to watch:
Louisa Chiricio – Eugenie Bouchard
Mona Barthel – Destanee Aiava
Laura Siegemund  – Jelena Jankovic
Ana Konjuh – Kristina Mladenovic
Heather Watson – Sam Stosur 
Tsvetana Pironkova – Agnieszka Radwanska 
Kirsten Flipkens – Johanna Konta 
Yanina Wickmayer – Lucie Safarova
Belinda Bencic – Serena Williams 
Angelique Kerber  – Garbine Muguruza 
Simona Halep  – Svetlana Kuznetsova 
Karolina Pliskova  – Agnieszka Radwanska 
Dominika Cibulkova  – Serena Williams 
Photo credit: Australian Open instagram
Stan Wawrinka: there’s a new champ in New York. The Swiss struggled to get past the first rounds, losing a few sets here and there and saving a match point in the third round. But he stepped up in the semifinals against Nishikori and outplayed Djokovic in the final. 3 Grand Slam finals, 3 titles.
Karolina Pliskova: before this tournament, she had not passed the third round in her 17 previous Grand Slams appearances. She took down Venus Williams and top-seeded Serena Williams to reach her first Grand Slam final.
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) September 11, 2016
Caroline Wozniacki: she’s two years younger than Kerber but it seems she’s been on the circuit for ever. She beat Svetlana Kuznetsova and Madison Keys en route to the semifinals.
“I came into this tournament ranked No. 74 in the world and probably people ruled me out, but it’s nice to prove people wrong once again.”
Lucas Pouille: he reached the quarterfinals after 5-sets marathon wins over Chiudinelli, Bautista Agut and Rafael Nadal. He seems to be the only French player to have both the game and the attitude. A player to watch out next year.
Laura Siegemund and Mate Pavic: they had never met before this tournament. They teamed up to win the mixed doubles title defeating CoCo Vandeweghe and Rajeev Ram in the final.
“It’s really kind of a blind date.”
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares: they joined forces at the beginning of the season and won 2 Slam titles (the Australian and US Opens) since then.
Garbine Muguruza: the French Open champion was knocked out of the tournament by Anastasija Sevastova in the second round.
“Today was just very difficult. Everything I was trying to do she was coming back and doing incredible shots.”
Aga Radwanska: overpowered by 18-year old Ana Konjuh in the quarterfinals. The question is no more “when will she win her maiden Slam” but rather “will she ever win a Slam”.
Andy Murray: beaten by Nishikori in a bizarre match, he seemed mentally tired. He’ll now focus on the Davis Cup semifinals against Argentina.
“I tried my best. I fought as hard as I could with what I had. I didn’t let anyone down — certainly not myself. I pushed myself as hard as I could over the last few months, and I’m very proud of how I have done.”
Milos Raonic: a shock defeat to qualifier Ryan Harrison in the second round. His explanation: cramps due to nervousness, (nervous to play Ryan Harrison?).
Marin Cilic: the 2014 champion looked like a title contender again but surprisingly fell to Jack Sock in the third round.
Gaël Monfils: what on earth was he doing against Novak Djokovic? Not sure he knows it himself. What a waste of talent.
Bernard Tomic: nothing to add.
She started the year ranked number 10 with a large defeat to Victoria Azarenka in the final of the Brisbane tournament. A couple weeks later she stunned Azarenka and Serena to win the Australian Open.
Fast forward 8 months Angelique Kerber is now the new number one and took home a second Slam trophy.
Is it the beginning of a new era for women’s tennis?
Photo credit: Satoshi Tsuboi
Today I’ve got tickets for court Lenglen. In the first match of the day, 2014 Roland Garros finalist Simona Halep rallied from one set down to beat Naomi Osaka 4-6 6-2 6-3.
The view from my seat, row 25:
In Roland Garros’ newspaper today, the extraordinary story of Marcel Bernard, who took the singles title here in 1946. He was at first only committed in the mixed doubles and mens doubles competitions, but took part to the singles tournament due to the withdrawal of his his mixed doubles partner. He defeated Jaroslav Drobny in the final in five sets. It was the first Roland Garros tournament after a 6-year hiatus due to World War II.
The Roland Garros mixed doubles trophy is now known as the “Coupe Marcel Bernard”. The stadium in which the Open du Nord is played is named after him.
Marcel Bernard (left) and Jaroslav Drobny:
Andy Murray defeats Ivo Karlovic 6-1 6-4 7-6
Will we see the grumpy player who struggled to beat Stepanek and Bourgue in the previous rounds or the champion who defeated Nadal in Madrid and Djokovic in Rome? From the first points on, it was obvious it would be the latter. Murray looked sharp and focused, and Karlovic was in danger on each of his service games. Murray dispatched Karlovic in three sets, his 7th win in seven meetings with the Croat. You can find the complete recap of the match here.
Agnieszka Radwanska saved a match point in her second round match against Dominika Cibulkova, but then registered straight sets wins over Niculescu and Jankovic to reach the last eight. With her 6-2 7-6 win over Petra Kvitova, Radwanska is back to world number 2 ranking. Her opponent in the semifinal: Serena Williams.
As for Kvitova, as often, she’s neither fully mentally nor physically at her best.
Kei Nishikori defeats Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-4
Kei Nishikori survived a right wrist injury scare to defeat 26th-seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four sets.