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The ATP 2019 Scouting Report

With the new season already upon us, here’s a look at the prospects of the top ATP players.

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Novak Djokovic at the 2018 Paris Masters - Photo by Gianni Ciaccia

Novak Djokovic

Ended 2018: Winning the last two Majors of the year, but losing his last two tournament finals to rising stars Karen Khackanov and Sascha Zverev.
Starting 2019: After playing the Abu Dhabi exhibition, he’ll be the top seed this week in Doha.
Prospects: With his mojo fully back, Djokovic will be the favorite to win his seventh Australian Open. Considering his level of play over the past six months, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating him on the hard courts of Melbourne in the best-of-five format. That would be his fifteenth Major title, putting him just two behind Nadal. And that would certainly make for a compelling clay court season, as he would chase his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. With little points to defend in the first half of the year, Novak should easily remain world No.1 for the foreseeable future.

Rafael Nadal

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Ended 2018: Did not play after retiring in the US Open semifinals as he dealt with knee, ankle, and abdominal injuries.
Starting 2019: After playing the Abu Dhabi exhibition, he’ll be the top seed this week in Brisbane.
Prospects: Coming off a four-month layoff, will Nadal be back to 100%? He’ll need to be to have any chance of prevailing in Melbourne, as he retired from both hard court Majors in 2018 due to injury. It’s more likely that Nadal will peak for the clay court season, where an in-form Djokovic would be Rafa’s biggest terra baute challenge since 2016.

Roger Federer

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Ended 2018: After winning his 99th career title at home in Basel, he lost in the semifinals of both Bercy and the ATP Finals.
Starting 2019: Playing the exhibition team event, the Hopman Cup. He’ll again team with Belinda Bencic, and will face Serena Williams and Francis Tiafoe on the first day of the year.
Prospects: Does the 37-year-old and 20-time Major champion have any Grand Slam triumphs left in him? With Djokovic back at the top of his game, the two-time defending champion in Melbourne will be hard-pressed to three-peat. The Australian Open and Wimbledon, with faster conditions than the other Majors, will remain his best chances to win his 21st Major. However, I fear another Grand Slam title may prove elusive for Federer in 2019.

Andy Murray

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Ended 2018: Shut down his season after Shenzhen in September to rest his body, after playing only 12 matches on the year.
Starting 2019: At the Brisbane Open along with Nadal and Kei Nishikori.
Prospects: Murray arrived in Brisbane a few days ago still citing pain in his ailing hip. The Brit will have some tough draws coming his way, as he’s currently ranked 256th in the world. The ongoing question for Andy in 2019 will be this: will his hip ever allow him to get back to the top of the sport?

Stan Wawrinka

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Ended 2018: Shut down his season after injuring his back during practice in October.
Starting 2019: In Doha alongside Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.
Prospects: Wawrinka’s situation is similar to that of Murray’s. Stan never fully got going in 2018, going just 17-17 coming back from knee surgery. Stan though did show signs of his old self during the summer, with victories over Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, and strong showings in defeat against Nadal and Federer. Now ranked 66th in the world, can the 33-year-old get back to 100% and become a consistent performer in 2019? He’s much closer to doing so than Murray is, but a fourth Major title appears far from the reach of the Swiss veteran.

Juan Martin Del Potro

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Ended 2018: Did not play again after fracturing his patella in Shanghai in October.
Starting 2019: With his knee still not fully recovered, his start date for 2019 is questionable. Del Potro has said he’s hoping to play at the Australian Open, but he does not sound certain.
Prospects: Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Del Potro will likely need some time to get back into form coming off this knee injury. Hopefully the oft-injured fan favorite will get back to full health and be a factor at the big tournaments later this year.

Marin Cilic

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Ended 2018: Winning his first Davis Cup title.
Starting 2019: As the second seed in Pune, behind top seed Kevin Anderson.
Prospects: After a very shaky second half of 2018, the Davis Cup was a welcome triumph for the 2014 US Open champion. Will that give Cilic the confidence he needs to stop giving away so many leads to his opponents? I’m not convinced the Davis Cup will immediately make Marin a different player in 2019. His well-documented woes of 2018 will likely require more of a cure than a win at a team event. And since he’s defending finalist points at the Australian Open, an early exit could see Cilic drop out of the top 10.

Sascha Zverev

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Ended 2018: Winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals, with consecutive victories over Federer and Djokovic.
Starting 2019: Teaming with Angelique Kerber at the Hopman Cup.
Prospects: Will 2019 be the year Zverev breaks through at a Major? The best-of-five format remains troubling for the 21-year-old. But coming off his ATP Finals victory, and with Ivan Lendl now in his corner, I think this will be the year Sascha advances to a Grand Slam final for the first time.

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Past Champions Wozniacki and Kerber Cruise Into Third Round

Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber continued their search for a second Australian Open with comfortable second round wins.

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Caroline Wozniacki (zimbio.com)

Past Australian Open champions Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber cruised into the third round with straight sets wins. 

The defending champion Wozniacki made it back-t0-back wins with a crushing 6-1 6-3 win over Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.

While 2016 champion Angelique Kerber proved why she is one of the favourites for the title after a 6-2 6-3 win against Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia.

The German will now play Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell after she stunned Donna Vekic while Wozniacki could face Maria Sharapova on Friday.

Although it was Wozniacki’s first time of defending a grand slam title, she sure hasn’t looked nervous so far as she went too work against the world number 77.

A break to love in the second game sealed a good start as the Swede was made to pay for early match nerves. In this Scandinavian clash the Dane had 10 break point opportunities as she continued to be aggressive.

After a second break in the sixth, the clinical Wozniacki sealed the opening set in 28 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

The second set provided fans with a similar pattern as the Dane assumed control by breaking in the third game to love for a 2-0 lead.

Even though Larsson created a couple break points, she wasn’t aggressive in the big moments to capitalise as Wozniacki sealed her fourth break of the match to book her place in the last 32.

A great performance from Wozniacki, who is sending a real message that she has no plans of giving up her title without a fight.

The win from the world number three means she could face Maria Sharapova in the next round, who still has to play Johanna Larsson.

Kerber Continues Good Form

Another player who is sending a real message in world number two and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber who dropped five games in a great win over Beatriz Haddad Maia.

The Brazilian qualifier had to work very hard to keep hold of her serves but was broken three times without reply as the Kerber advanced to the last 32.

In the next round Kerber will now play Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell after she knocked out 29th seed Donna Vekic 6-4 4-6 6-1.

The world number 200 is making the most of her Aussie summer as she makes the last 32 of her own slam after sealing her first top 10 win in Brisbane earlier this year against Daria Kasatkina.

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Angelique Kerber Eases Past Hercog, Goerges Ousted By Collins

Angelique Kerber set a marker for the rest of the tournament to follow after crushing Polona Hercog 6-2 6-2 in a dominant display in Melbourne.

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Angelique Kerber (zimbio.com)

Angelique Kerber sent a message to the rest of the field after she thrashed Slovenia Polona Hercog 6-2 6-2. 

The world number two has looked impressive all season and continued that form by dropping only four games in her Australian Open opener.

A clinical Kerber converted four of five break point opportunities to seal a comfortable first round win and will face Beatriz Haddad Maia in the next round.

However the Melbourne heat got the better of 14th seed as she was ousted out of the Australian Open by in-form Danielle Collins 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4.

The 2016 champion headed into this year’s Australian Open having won five of her six matches to start the season in Hopman Cup and Sydney, with her only defeating coming to Petra Kvitova.

It was easy to see why she was one of the favourites to win the title early on as she dominated the Slovenian early on with her impeccable groundstrokes.

A 4-1 lead was secured in very quick fashion as the world number 92 was facing a very difficult task to try and outsmart the three time grand slam champion.

The 30 year old was only forced to save one break point in the first set as she won the opener in 38 minutes. Although Hercog had forced the issue a bit more in the second set, the same result was produced as Kerber opened up another 4-1 lead.

The Slovenian failed to convert any of her three break points as her 47 unforced errors would prove costly. Eventually Kerber served out a 74 minute win to progress into the next round.

After the match the German stated that she felt good despite the heat, “I am feeling and my body was feeling good and I’m happy I could play a little more than one hour today.”

The German who will be seen as a favourite for the tournament will now play Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the next round.

Goerges Stunned By Heat And Collins

However it wasn’t a good day for another German as 14th seed Julia Goerges crashed out in a three set defeat to powerful American Danielle Collins.

The American played a very good last set and a half to take out the Auckland winner 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in brutal heat. The loss will be even more frustrating for Goerges who served for the match at 6-5 in the second set.

It’s good news for Kerber though as she was scheduled to play Goerges in the fourth round and will now avoid the big-serving German in the last 16.

As for Danielle Collins she could produce a big threat in the tournament as she has an all-American clash with Sachia Vickery in the next round.

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Serena’s Bid, Halep’s Test and Wozniacki’s Mission: Five Australian Open Storylines To Follow In The Women’s Draw

What will the always unpredictable WTA Tour produce in Melbourne Park this year?

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It has been almost four years since the same woman won two grand slam titles in a row. The WTA Tour is renowned for its unpredictability, which draws an equal amount of criticism and excitement from fans. There is no telling what that this year’s Australian Open will bring, but here are the main topic’s to follow in the women’s draw.

Serena eyes No.24

During her comeback season last year, it was a case of so near, but so far for Serena Williams. Twice the American came within touching distance of equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record for most grand slam titles. At Wimbledon, she suffered a comprehensive defeat to Angelique Kerber. Then at the US Open she was outplayed by Naomi Osaka in a final that was overshadowed by her clash with umpire Carlos Ramos.

“Last year she made an incredible effort to come back in shape after having a baby and actually she came back in a decent shape quite fast,” Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou said.
“It was a big deal. She had a lot of medical issues after the delivery but she definitely was not 100 percent.
“And I think she’s fitter now … she came back (this season) to a very, very high level of fitness.
“So she’s ready. She’s ready to compete and when Serena’s ready to compete, she’s ready to win.”

Already a seven-time Australian Open champion, should she win again Williams would become the most successful female player in the Open Era to ever participate at the tournament. Her first triumph was in 2003 and last was in 2017, when she defeated sister Venus in the final.

“I think it’s possible for Serena to equal me,” Court told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper Sunday. “If anybody’s gonna do it, it’s Serena, but I don’t think there’s a clear-cut favourite.
“I think it’s a pretty open tournament and I think an outsider can win it.”

Williams is yet to play a WTA Tournament this season heading into Melbourne. The only indication her current form occurred on December 27th when she defeated Venus in an exhibition match at Mubadala World Tennis Championships.

The former world No.1 will make her 18th appearance in the main draw. The event where she made her grand slam debut back in 1998. At present she has a 89% winning record at the event (81-10).

Williams will take on Tatjana Maria in the first round.

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