Double Fault – Australian Open Preview – By Jack Maleham

The first Grand Slam of the season gets under way this week in Melbourne as the Australian Open takes centre stage.

In terms of the men’s game most peoples favourite going into the tournament will be world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic. The Serbian has claimed the title in Melbourne three times in his career already and has a favourable draw.

He cannot meet Roger Federer or Andy Murray until the final and so looks a good bet for the crown. Murray is the second favourite for the title after he finally broke his Grand Slam duct at the US Open last year.

His form is good going into the tournament having won the Brisbane Open and he will look to claim his second successive Grand Slam title as well as attempting to claim the number one ranking.

He is likely to face Federer in the semi-finals but with his game constantly improving you wouldn’t bet against the Scot.

Whilst he isn’t one of the two favourites it would be foolish to write off Federer. The Swiss, who has won 17 Grand Slam titles in his career, may be advancing in years but he still has the capability to win Grand Slams as we saw at last years Wimbledon.

He does however have arguably the toughest draw of the three favourites. To get to the final he could possibly have to get past home favourite Bernard Tomic, rising Canadian star Milos Raonic, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as well as Murray.

Whilst it is likely that one of the ‘big three’ will take the crown, an outside bet could be Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine has won the US Open in the past as well as a bronze medal at London 2012 and is now back to full fitness after suffering various injuries in the past.

Del Potro sits in Murray’s quarter and will provide a stern test for the Scot after reaching the semi-final of the ATP Tour Finals last November.

Serena Williams is most peoples favourite in the women’s game after a blistering end to last season saw her win Wimbledon, the US Open and a gold medal at the Olympic games.

Despite sitting at number three in the world rankings on her day Williams is simply unplayable as her strength enables her to dictate points against her opponents. She could be in for a third consecutive Grand Slam title.

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka will be hoping to retain the title in Melbourne and goes into the tournament as second favourite to Williams.

The world number one, won her first ever Grand Slam in Melbourne twelve months ago and it is a favourable surface for the Belarusian. She is likely to meet Williams in what could be a blockbuster of a semi-final but may have to get past Sara Errani or former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter finals.

Maria Sharapova has also got to be considered a major contender for the title in Melbourne. The Russian world number two has won four Grand Slam titles in her career, including the Australian Open in 2008. If she is on top form she will be very difficult to beat and could go all the way.

Outsiders for the women’s title include 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011 Australian Open finalist Li Na and 2012 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

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