Monday, January 19, 2015

Australian Open: Hewitt, Tomic, Kyrgios spearhead Aussie line up

The Australian Open begins today for its 43rd consecutive year in Melbourne, with the city again a buzz for the first Grand Slam of the year. After many years of looking, hoping and waiting for a strong Australian contingent to support on home turf, fans should have their nights occupied for the next week if the Australian men’s line up can build on its potential and progress towards the finals.

One of Australian Tennis' finest moments, Kyrgios defeating Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014. Will injury preventing him recapturing the same tantalising form?
With as many as ten Australians' starting in the Men's Singles, the chances for Aussies' to feature in the later stages of tournament are the best in years. Australia’s three most prolific men’s potentials include the accomplished battler Leyton Hewitt, enigmatic Bernard Tomic, and rising star Nick Kyrgios. All three come into the event with in differing form, experience and scenario’s, ensuring an interesting start to the tournament.

Sport/Life/Australia decided to take a closer look at each of the leading Australian viabilities.
Leyton Hewitt

Hewitt is the now veteran competitor who has raised the collective Australian heartbeat every January for almost two decades. Through a flurry of turnarounds, unlucky exits and heart fought wins, he is undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest sports competitors.  

Thirty-three-year-old Hewitt continues to dispel the annual suggestions this will be his final start in the Australian Open, citing a desire to continue playing while ever his body permits. Whether Hewitt shrugs of the suggestions to ensure there isn’t any added pressure to his tournament, this has to be close to his final year after eighteen years playing across the globe.

Hewitt’s unmistakable grit and ability to dig deep at the closest moments to a match loss summarise the live-wire. Placing himself in almost near impossible positions to win matches at two sets down more than anyone else on the tour, you can never write off the 30 time title winner who has amassed an amazing 20 million dollars, despite having only won two grand slams.

In line for a potential 3rd round match against Milos Raonic, and with the likes of Gael Monfils, Feliciano Lopez & Novak Djokovic on his side of the draw, you can expect nothing but classic Leyton Hewitt. Intriguingly for the first time, there are two other Australians drawing the attention away from him, which could play into his favour not having to be the great hope for the Australian public.
Prediction: Quarter Finals

Bernard Tomic
Coming onto the Men’s scene in 2010 and quickly rising to be inside the top 50 in the world, Tomic has often been thought of as Australia’s great hope since Leyton Hewitt’s dominant years. That pressure, combined with his remarkable results as a junior and the attention of his perplexing father and coach, has caused mixed results for the Gold Coast raised product.
Not short on self-confidence, Tomic has a brashness blended with a genuine respect for his competitors that makes him a player either loved or loathed by the public. Tomic has entered the Australian open for the last two years as a finalist of the Sydney prelude Tournament, taking the title in 2013. This year, Tomic comes to Melbourne coming off a 3rd round loss at the Sydney APIA International (6-7, 6-7).

Claiming to be as fit as he ever has been and with his father now free to attend ATP tournaments after serving a one year ban, Bernard could just put in his best performance if he keeps his focus. Entering his fifth year on the pro-circuit, it’s hard to believe Tomic is just twenty-two years of age.
Whether he has had the needed attitude adjustment to improve on past results remains to be seen, but Tomic continues to support his father as his coach, firmly stating he has taught him everything he knows. Rejuvenated, ready-to-go and out of the spotlight with the rise of Kyrgios, Tomic could progress the furthest of his fellow countrymen.
Prediction: Semi Finals

Nick Kyrgios
Last week Nick Kyrgios went down in the first round in Sydney to World number 44, Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, hardly a good start for the Aussie talent who materialized early last year. However, until Sydney, Kyrgios had not played in over three months, with a gruelling worldwide schedule breaking down the nineteen-year-old, forcing him to throw in the towel during September.

Of most concern to Kyrgios is a hampering back complaint that Coach Todd Larkham described as ‘neither a disc problem nor a stress fracture’, leaving it as something he can continue playing with, without risk of serious injury. After failing to feature in the season-starting Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia’s shining light will enter the Open’ well off 100%.
Kyrgios’ season last year showed his determination, famously powering past former World No.1 Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. His fourth round win over Nadal in just three sets after starting the tournament as a wildcard entry, shifted the Tennis world’s attention to the emerging Canberra born star.

Currently ranked number 53 in the world, Kyrgios will have to be able to play with significant injury in order progress in the tournament where he could face the now nearing-veteran and long-time stalwart, Rodger Federer in the fourth round.

Prediction: Fourth Round
Australia’s big three will be the Aussies' on our screens in the early rounds but other Australian names to look out for include; 2012 Australian Open Junior champion Luke Saville, and the developing James Duckworth. Both men should move past their first round matches and with home support on their side, further progression wouldn’t surprise.

With the world’s best all taking part in the tournament and many of the big names being major-injury free for the first time in years, the 2015 Australian Open looks like it will bring two weeks of highly anticipated world-class sport.

Enjoy, summer-soakers.