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Jan 22, 2018
Jan 22, 2018

2018 Australian Open: What have we learnt so far?

What have we learnt after the first week of the Australian Open

Can anyone beat Federer or Nadal?

Who has the best chance of winning the women's singles tournament?

2018 Australian Open: What have we learnt so far?

Credit: Getty Images

As we head into the second week of the Australian Open, the number of competitors is beginning to dwindle and those left in the competition will believe they have a solid chance of winning. Mats Wilander has analysed what we’ve learnt so far and what it means as we approach the finals.

No big surprises when it comes to the men

Hyeon Chung’s victory over Novak Djokovic was quite a big shock to most people, but it’s one of very few upsets we’ve seen during the men’s Australian Open singles tournament this year (especially when you compare it to the women’s tournament).

It might be the first Grand Slam of 2018 but it seems that nothing has really changed from last season. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal look pretty much unbeatable and it’s only when they play each other that you actually think one of them can lose a match. When you consider Federer is 36 years old and Nadal missed a good portion of last season through injury, their current dominance is quite remarkable.

The second week of a Grand Slam is always exciting and now that the players are used to the court and conditions, the level of tennis on show should go up another notch.

The majority of people will be looking at either Federer or Nadal when it comes to picking a winner and it’s easy to see why. Federer hasn’t dropped a set and has only been broken once in the four matches he’s played. Nadal has dropped one set so far but is known for finding his form against elite players and getting better as the tournament progresses.

It seems strange to say it but Federer appears to be getting better as he gets older. His ability to adapt his style and always play to his strengths is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. His backhand is still improving, his serve seems to be getting better and there’s no one quite like him when it comes to expending as little energy as possible - something that will be a major benefit towards the end of the tournament.

Federer and Nadal play every match like it’s the final of a Grand Slam and that’s why they’ve won so many titles. They put everything on the line to try and win and while they are under constant pressure from the media and fans, they put themselves under more pressure than anyone else. You have to appreciate the quality of tennis on show but their willingness to win shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Who poses a genuine threat?

Although Federer and Nadal are a level above the rest, it’s not to say that no one else stands a chance. Grigor Dimitrov had a poor start to the Australian Open and really didn’t look like the No. 3 ranked player in the world. However, he still managed to win when he needed to and his recent match against Nick Kyrgios really set the tournament alight. 

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal look pretty much unbeatable and it’s only when they play each other that you actually think one of them can lose a match.

Dimitrov has always shown he has the ability of an elite-level tennis player but his shot selection, energy and determination to fight for the win against Kyrgios had to be admired. His performance will definitely give him a confidence boost and although few would have seen him as a contender early on, he definitely has to be taken seriously now.

Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych are playing well but will have to beat the likes of Federer and Nadal to lift the trophy and there’ll be plenty doubting whether they have it in them. Their big serving styling can hurt anyone but they’re probably going to need more than that to make the final. 

Hyeon Chung will have grabbed the headlines after his straight sets win over Novak Djokovic but the 21-year-old South Korean deserves credit for his impressive performances throughout the tournament.

Chung looked good when winning the Next Gen ATP Finals and although people might think victory over Djokovic was his peak, he’s put a run of four big matches together and seems to have no problems coping with the pressure. The number of Korean fans in Melbourne will make it feel like he’s playing in front of a home crowd, so who knows how far he can go. 

Plenty of chances for a winner in the women’s draw

Just like very has little is changed in the men’s game from last year, the same has to be said for the women. Once again the race to win a Grand Slam is wide open and there are at least five players with the potential to win it.

Angelique Kerber will be a popular pick to emerge as the winner of the singles tournament after showing some promising form. She looks to be getting back to her best and a straight sets win over Maria Sharapova followed by a battling performance against Hsieh Su-wei has shown just how good a player she is (just in case people needed reminding).

If Kerber can beat the Keys she will have eliminated the best striker of the ball from the tournament and will fear no one going on to the semi-finals.

The likes of Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Karolina Pliskova will rightly be discussed as potential winners. While their ability isn’t a doubt, the fact they are yet to win a Grand Slam between them is a major cause for concern, especially when they’ve had plenty of chances (they’ve played in at least one final each).

One of the standout performers at this year’s tournament is Madison Keys. She’s timing her shots well, her confidence is up and she probably hits the ball the hardest out of any of the women on the tour right now. She will face Kerber in the quarter-final and the winner of that match will have a great chance of winning the tournament.

If Keys can overcome Kerber, it will show she’s improved on her game again and at 22 years old, there’s plenty more to come from her. If, however, Kerber can beat the American she will have eliminated the best striker of the ball from the tournament and will fear no one going on to the semi-finals.

The second week of a Grand Slam is always exciting and now that the players are used to the court and conditions, the level of tennis on show should go up another notch.

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