I agree with Uncle Toni's assessment: the two favourites for the Aussie Open are Nole - for obvious reasons and Murray because he's hungry to win his first Slam. You could argue that Nole has only had tournament practice in the form of a lowly exo some eons ago yadda yadda but that's only because you'd be a Rafa fan.
As for Murray there's the perpetual argument that he's hungry for his first Slam, but add to that the fact that he's acquired the Brisbane title, Ivan Lendl and another year of finals experience under his belt and he's looking stronger than he ever has. *Insert something witty and related about his shaggy mane here*.
Now I would've considered King Rog to be a heavy heavy favourite coming in if he hadn't messed up his back. At the end of last year he was looking sensationnelle but we know what happened last time he played with a slight back injury - let's just hope Alejandro Falla isn't anywhere in sight. I guess I'm going to have to cap off Roger's progress at the quarters, but I could be wrong. And probably will be.
And now for our Bacardi champion. The good new is that the shoulder is in perfect conditions. The illusion is there; the passion is there. Things are looking good. I mean, Rafael Nadal is alwaysandforever going to be a contender and he seems to be practising well, but it's a matter of wait and see.
Someone that should definitely command your attention is the small matter of Jo-Willy Tsonga who has not put a foot wrong since the end of last year. You know how everyone keeps asking if there is anyone that could spoil the top 4 party? Yeah. This guy.
The last male player that springs to mind is the bombastic Milos who captured his 2nd title ever in Chennai. Expect him to go far. Well as far as Nole in the fourth round. Sorry Milos.
Kim's hip and Serena's ankle are making it hard for me to place them - it really just depends on how they're holding up - there's a credible army of contenders these days. I am NAAT optimistic about MaSha at all though. Zero match practice since forever is just not going to cut it. You never know though. Although, you do. Why are all our veteran champs hobbling?
Vika's made her way nicely to the Sydney title and is definitely a top pick for me to get far. Her draw should certainly allow it up to the quarters. Petra's obviously a front-runner as well and I'm sure she won't allow her loss to Na in Sydney to phase her. Na on the other hand should definitely allow the win to phase her. Knowing she can take on someone like Kvittygoat will be a big consolation; and stepping back on the court where she'd made the finals last year as we all know, will be a huge boost. Na says "[she's] back" and I believe her.
As for Caro and her wrist - I'm not so sure. I don't think she's in the best shape ever to do some serious damage (well not after she gets to the fourth round anyway; have a look at her section of the draw - it ain't bad). There are far too many challengers in the mix for a full fledged Caro show.
So there's my take. Thank you and goodnight. I'm off to sleep for a full 48 hours.
Click here for the draws.
Click here for the draws.
(Pic: Scott Barbour/Getty)