Tennis star Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal pulled out of the London Olympics on Thursday due to injury.

Spain's Rafael Nadal answers questions during a press conference at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Service ace: Djokovic back with rebuilt serve at Aussie Open
Spain's Rafael Nadal answers questions during a press conference at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, and Switzerland's Roger Federer hold their trophies for International tennis Writers Association "Ambassadors of the Year" awards at a press conference at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Service ace: Djokovic back with rebuilt serve at Aussie Open
Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, and Switzerland's Roger Federer hold their trophies for International tennis Writers Association "Ambassadors of the Year" awards at a press conference at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
The world’s leading players did their best to take the sting out of the Margaret Court Arena issue on Saturday. One after the next, they trooped into the interview room at Melbourne Park and said that they would play where they were damn well told. What an obedient workforce! And what a contrast with tennis’s two great lesbian role models – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – who both said on Friday that, were they still hitting balls professionally, they would have boycotted any stadium that carried Court’s name. One typical response on Saturday came from the British No. 1 Johanna Konta, who said “I will play wherever I'm scheduled. That's out of my control.” And when asked whether she thought Melbourne Park’s second-string stage should go by a different title, Konta added “Again, I think it's a Tennis Australia decision. “I think it's unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred,” she went on, “because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It's not because of her beliefs, it's because of her achievements in the sport. It's unfortunate it's kind of meshed together when they're actually quite separate.” Konta was at one with the rest of the field on this. Even Nick Kyrgios, so often a free spirit, said he would be overlooking Court’s vile comments last year – in which she suggested that children with transgender leanings had the devil in them, and also linked the LGBT community to the Nazi party. Konta on whether the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed: 'I think it's a Tennis Australia decision' Credit: Getty Images “I guess you’ve got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “That's why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at. I guess that's what I will do. I'll try to block out the other stuff. Obviously I am okay with same-sex marriage.” The apolitical stance of the locker-room will come as no surprise to Navratilova. Speaking to the New York Times last week, she predicted that there would be no boycotts from tennis’s big names. This is a selfish sport and always has been, so perhaps we should not expect players to endanger their own careers by a principled stand. Even King kept her sexuality quiet until 1981, when she was forced into the open by a lawsuit from her former lover Marilyn Barnett. And with good reason, as it turned out. Within hours of that revelation, all her sponsors had fled. When the first day’s schedule was published on Saturday, it seemed surprising that the Australian Open had put Sam Stosur, the Australian No. 3, on the problem court. Stosur, who is a close friend of the openly gay doubles player Casey Dellacqua, had hinted at a potential boycott during the French Open, when she said “We’ll see who wants to play on Margaret Court Arena and who doesn’t.” This week, though, she backed down, telling reporters that she would follow the example of Konta, Kyrgios and all the rest by acceding to the tournament’s requests. Stan Wawrinka is fit enough to feature at the Australian Open... just Credit: Getty Images Away from this ongoing controversy, the Australian Open could be grateful that Stan Wawrinka has declared himself fit enough to play. This was a close-run thing, as Wawrinka admitted that he had begun his practice session Friday morning without being sure what decision he would come to. “The fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first match, it's a big victory,” said Wawrinka, who underwent two knee operations after Wimbledon. “I waited the last minute to decide. For me, most important was to make sure the knee doesn't risk anything.” Tournament director Craig Tiley will no doubt be delighted by Wawrinka’s decision. The 2014 Australian Open champion remains a hugely popular figure here, even if he admitted that “Physically I'm not at my level at all”. Still, the next couple of days will nevertheless be a nervous time for the organisers, with several leading players still clogging up the treatment rooms. Beyond the Baseline | Read Charlie Eccleshare's three-part series on the unseen side of top-level tennis Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is another concern after she damaged a thigh muscle in Sydney last week. “I'm training every day,” said Muguruza. “I'm doing everything I can to be fully recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts.” And Novak Djokovic, who used to dominate the Australian Open in the same way that Rafael Nadal owned Roland Garros, is also determined to risk his problematic right elbow after a six-month absence from the tour. “It hasn't 100 per cent healed yet,” said Djokovic, whose comments echoed those of Muguruza. “But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day it’s getting better. “Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave,” Djokovic added. “After six months of no competition, you never know how you're going to react. So let’s see. I've done everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to compete in the Australian Open.”
Australian Open players adopt apolitical stance over Margaret Court Arena issue with no talk of boycott
The world’s leading players did their best to take the sting out of the Margaret Court Arena issue on Saturday. One after the next, they trooped into the interview room at Melbourne Park and said that they would play where they were damn well told. What an obedient workforce! And what a contrast with tennis’s two great lesbian role models – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – who both said on Friday that, were they still hitting balls professionally, they would have boycotted any stadium that carried Court’s name. One typical response on Saturday came from the British No. 1 Johanna Konta, who said “I will play wherever I'm scheduled. That's out of my control.” And when asked whether she thought Melbourne Park’s second-string stage should go by a different title, Konta added “Again, I think it's a Tennis Australia decision. “I think it's unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred,” she went on, “because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It's not because of her beliefs, it's because of her achievements in the sport. It's unfortunate it's kind of meshed together when they're actually quite separate.” Konta was at one with the rest of the field on this. Even Nick Kyrgios, so often a free spirit, said he would be overlooking Court’s vile comments last year – in which she suggested that children with transgender leanings had the devil in them, and also linked the LGBT community to the Nazi party. Konta on whether the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed: 'I think it's a Tennis Australia decision' Credit: Getty Images “I guess you’ve got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “That's why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at. I guess that's what I will do. I'll try to block out the other stuff. Obviously I am okay with same-sex marriage.” The apolitical stance of the locker-room will come as no surprise to Navratilova. Speaking to the New York Times last week, she predicted that there would be no boycotts from tennis’s big names. This is a selfish sport and always has been, so perhaps we should not expect players to endanger their own careers by a principled stand. Even King kept her sexuality quiet until 1981, when she was forced into the open by a lawsuit from her former lover Marilyn Barnett. And with good reason, as it turned out. Within hours of that revelation, all her sponsors had fled. When the first day’s schedule was published on Saturday, it seemed surprising that the Australian Open had put Sam Stosur, the Australian No. 3, on the problem court. Stosur, who is a close friend of the openly gay doubles player Casey Dellacqua, had hinted at a potential boycott during the French Open, when she said “We’ll see who wants to play on Margaret Court Arena and who doesn’t.” This week, though, she backed down, telling reporters that she would follow the example of Konta, Kyrgios and all the rest by acceding to the tournament’s requests. Stan Wawrinka is fit enough to feature at the Australian Open... just Credit: Getty Images Away from this ongoing controversy, the Australian Open could be grateful that Stan Wawrinka has declared himself fit enough to play. This was a close-run thing, as Wawrinka admitted that he had begun his practice session Friday morning without being sure what decision he would come to. “The fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first match, it's a big victory,” said Wawrinka, who underwent two knee operations after Wimbledon. “I waited the last minute to decide. For me, most important was to make sure the knee doesn't risk anything.” Tournament director Craig Tiley will no doubt be delighted by Wawrinka’s decision. The 2014 Australian Open champion remains a hugely popular figure here, even if he admitted that “Physically I'm not at my level at all”. Still, the next couple of days will nevertheless be a nervous time for the organisers, with several leading players still clogging up the treatment rooms. Beyond the Baseline | Read Charlie Eccleshare's three-part series on the unseen side of top-level tennis Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is another concern after she damaged a thigh muscle in Sydney last week. “I'm training every day,” said Muguruza. “I'm doing everything I can to be fully recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts.” And Novak Djokovic, who used to dominate the Australian Open in the same way that Rafael Nadal owned Roland Garros, is also determined to risk his problematic right elbow after a six-month absence from the tour. “It hasn't 100 per cent healed yet,” said Djokovic, whose comments echoed those of Muguruza. “But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day it’s getting better. “Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave,” Djokovic added. “After six months of no competition, you never know how you're going to react. So let’s see. I've done everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to compete in the Australian Open.”
The world’s leading players did their best to take the sting out of the Margaret Court Arena issue on Saturday. One after the next, they trooped into the interview room at Melbourne Park and said that they would play where they were damn well told. What an obedient workforce! And what a contrast with tennis’s two great lesbian role models – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – who both said on Friday that, were they still hitting balls professionally, they would have boycotted any stadium that carried Court’s name. One typical response on Saturday came from the British No. 1 Johanna Konta, who said “I will play wherever I'm scheduled. That's out of my control.” And when asked whether she thought Melbourne Park’s second-string stage should go by a different title, Konta added “Again, I think it's a Tennis Australia decision. “I think it's unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred,” she went on, “because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It's not because of her beliefs, it's because of her achievements in the sport. It's unfortunate it's kind of meshed together when they're actually quite separate.” Konta was at one with the rest of the field on this. Even Nick Kyrgios, so often a free spirit, said he would be overlooking Court’s vile comments last year – in which she suggested that children with transgender leanings had the devil in them, and also linked the LGBT community to the Nazi party. Konta on whether the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed: 'I think it's a Tennis Australia decision' Credit: Getty Images “I guess you’ve got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “That's why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at. I guess that's what I will do. I'll try to block out the other stuff. Obviously I am okay with same-sex marriage.” The apolitical stance of the locker-room will come as no surprise to Navratilova. Speaking to the New York Times last week, she predicted that there would be no boycotts from tennis’s big names. This is a selfish sport and always has been, so perhaps we should not expect players to endanger their own careers by a principled stand. Even King kept her sexuality quiet until 1981, when she was forced into the open by a lawsuit from her former lover Marilyn Barnett. And with good reason, as it turned out. Within hours of that revelation, all her sponsors had fled. When the first day’s schedule was published on Saturday, it seemed surprising that the Australian Open had put Sam Stosur, the Australian No. 3, on the problem court. Stosur, who is a close friend of the openly gay doubles player Casey Dellacqua, had hinted at a potential boycott during the French Open, when she said “We’ll see who wants to play on Margaret Court Arena and who doesn’t.” This week, though, she backed down, telling reporters that she would follow the example of Konta, Kyrgios and all the rest by acceding to the tournament’s requests. Stan Wawrinka is fit enough to feature at the Australian Open... just Credit: Getty Images Away from this ongoing controversy, the Australian Open could be grateful that Stan Wawrinka has declared himself fit enough to play. This was a close-run thing, as Wawrinka admitted that he had begun his practice session Friday morning without being sure what decision he would come to. “The fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first match, it's a big victory,” said Wawrinka, who underwent two knee operations after Wimbledon. “I waited the last minute to decide. For me, most important was to make sure the knee doesn't risk anything.” Tournament director Craig Tiley will no doubt be delighted by Wawrinka’s decision. The 2014 Australian Open champion remains a hugely popular figure here, even if he admitted that “Physically I'm not at my level at all”. Still, the next couple of days will nevertheless be a nervous time for the organisers, with several leading players still clogging up the treatment rooms. Beyond the Baseline | Read Charlie Eccleshare's three-part series on the unseen side of top-level tennis Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is another concern after she damaged a thigh muscle in Sydney last week. “I'm training every day,” said Muguruza. “I'm doing everything I can to be fully recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts.” And Novak Djokovic, who used to dominate the Australian Open in the same way that Rafael Nadal owned Roland Garros, is also determined to risk his problematic right elbow after a six-month absence from the tour. “It hasn't 100 per cent healed yet,” said Djokovic, whose comments echoed those of Muguruza. “But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day it’s getting better. “Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave,” Djokovic added. “After six months of no competition, you never know how you're going to react. So let’s see. I've done everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to compete in the Australian Open.”
Australian Open players adopt apolitical stance over Margaret Court Arena issue with no talk of boycott
The world’s leading players did their best to take the sting out of the Margaret Court Arena issue on Saturday. One after the next, they trooped into the interview room at Melbourne Park and said that they would play where they were damn well told. What an obedient workforce! And what a contrast with tennis’s two great lesbian role models – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – who both said on Friday that, were they still hitting balls professionally, they would have boycotted any stadium that carried Court’s name. One typical response on Saturday came from the British No. 1 Johanna Konta, who said “I will play wherever I'm scheduled. That's out of my control.” And when asked whether she thought Melbourne Park’s second-string stage should go by a different title, Konta added “Again, I think it's a Tennis Australia decision. “I think it's unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred,” she went on, “because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It's not because of her beliefs, it's because of her achievements in the sport. It's unfortunate it's kind of meshed together when they're actually quite separate.” Konta was at one with the rest of the field on this. Even Nick Kyrgios, so often a free spirit, said he would be overlooking Court’s vile comments last year – in which she suggested that children with transgender leanings had the devil in them, and also linked the LGBT community to the Nazi party. Konta on whether the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed: 'I think it's a Tennis Australia decision' Credit: Getty Images “I guess you’ve got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “That's why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at. I guess that's what I will do. I'll try to block out the other stuff. Obviously I am okay with same-sex marriage.” The apolitical stance of the locker-room will come as no surprise to Navratilova. Speaking to the New York Times last week, she predicted that there would be no boycotts from tennis’s big names. This is a selfish sport and always has been, so perhaps we should not expect players to endanger their own careers by a principled stand. Even King kept her sexuality quiet until 1981, when she was forced into the open by a lawsuit from her former lover Marilyn Barnett. And with good reason, as it turned out. Within hours of that revelation, all her sponsors had fled. When the first day’s schedule was published on Saturday, it seemed surprising that the Australian Open had put Sam Stosur, the Australian No. 3, on the problem court. Stosur, who is a close friend of the openly gay doubles player Casey Dellacqua, had hinted at a potential boycott during the French Open, when she said “We’ll see who wants to play on Margaret Court Arena and who doesn’t.” This week, though, she backed down, telling reporters that she would follow the example of Konta, Kyrgios and all the rest by acceding to the tournament’s requests. Stan Wawrinka is fit enough to feature at the Australian Open... just Credit: Getty Images Away from this ongoing controversy, the Australian Open could be grateful that Stan Wawrinka has declared himself fit enough to play. This was a close-run thing, as Wawrinka admitted that he had begun his practice session Friday morning without being sure what decision he would come to. “The fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first match, it's a big victory,” said Wawrinka, who underwent two knee operations after Wimbledon. “I waited the last minute to decide. For me, most important was to make sure the knee doesn't risk anything.” Tournament director Craig Tiley will no doubt be delighted by Wawrinka’s decision. The 2014 Australian Open champion remains a hugely popular figure here, even if he admitted that “Physically I'm not at my level at all”. Still, the next couple of days will nevertheless be a nervous time for the organisers, with several leading players still clogging up the treatment rooms. Beyond the Baseline | Read Charlie Eccleshare's three-part series on the unseen side of top-level tennis Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is another concern after she damaged a thigh muscle in Sydney last week. “I'm training every day,” said Muguruza. “I'm doing everything I can to be fully recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts.” And Novak Djokovic, who used to dominate the Australian Open in the same way that Rafael Nadal owned Roland Garros, is also determined to risk his problematic right elbow after a six-month absence from the tour. “It hasn't 100 per cent healed yet,” said Djokovic, whose comments echoed those of Muguruza. “But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day it’s getting better. “Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave,” Djokovic added. “After six months of no competition, you never know how you're going to react. So let’s see. I've done everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to compete in the Australian Open.”
The world’s leading players did their best to take the sting out of the Margaret Court Arena issue on Saturday. One after the next, they trooped into the interview room at Melbourne Park and said that they would play where they were damn well told. What an obedient workforce! And what a contrast with tennis’s two great lesbian role models – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – who both said on Friday that, were they still hitting balls professionally, they would have boycotted any stadium that carried Court’s name. One typical response on Saturday came from the British No. 1 Johanna Konta, who said “I will play wherever I'm scheduled. That's out of my control.” And when asked whether she thought Melbourne Park’s second-string stage should go by a different title, Konta added “Again, I think it's a Tennis Australia decision. “I think it's unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred,” she went on, “because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It's not because of her beliefs, it's because of her achievements in the sport. It's unfortunate it's kind of meshed together when they're actually quite separate.” Konta was at one with the rest of the field on this. Even Nick Kyrgios, so often a free spirit, said he would be overlooking Court’s vile comments last year – in which she suggested that children with transgender leanings had the devil in them, and also linked the LGBT community to the Nazi party. Konta on whether the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed: 'I think it's a Tennis Australia decision' Credit: Getty Images “I guess you’ve got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “That's why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at. I guess that's what I will do. I'll try to block out the other stuff. Obviously I am okay with same-sex marriage.” The apolitical stance of the locker-room will come as no surprise to Navratilova. Speaking to the New York Times last week, she predicted that there would be no boycotts from tennis’s big names. This is a selfish sport and always has been, so perhaps we should not expect players to endanger their own careers by a principled stand. Even King kept her sexuality quiet until 1981, when she was forced into the open by a lawsuit from her former lover Marilyn Barnett. And with good reason, as it turned out. Within hours of that revelation, all her sponsors had fled. When the first day’s schedule was published on Saturday, it seemed surprising that the Australian Open had put Sam Stosur, the Australian No. 3, on the problem court. Stosur, who is a close friend of the openly gay doubles player Casey Dellacqua, had hinted at a potential boycott during the French Open, when she said “We’ll see who wants to play on Margaret Court Arena and who doesn’t.” This week, though, she backed down, telling reporters that she would follow the example of Konta, Kyrgios and all the rest by acceding to the tournament’s requests. Stan Wawrinka is fit enough to feature at the Australian Open... just Credit: Getty Images Away from this ongoing controversy, the Australian Open could be grateful that Stan Wawrinka has declared himself fit enough to play. This was a close-run thing, as Wawrinka admitted that he had begun his practice session Friday morning without being sure what decision he would come to. “The fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first match, it's a big victory,” said Wawrinka, who underwent two knee operations after Wimbledon. “I waited the last minute to decide. For me, most important was to make sure the knee doesn't risk anything.” Tournament director Craig Tiley will no doubt be delighted by Wawrinka’s decision. The 2014 Australian Open champion remains a hugely popular figure here, even if he admitted that “Physically I'm not at my level at all”. Still, the next couple of days will nevertheless be a nervous time for the organisers, with several leading players still clogging up the treatment rooms. Beyond the Baseline | Read Charlie Eccleshare's three-part series on the unseen side of top-level tennis Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is another concern after she damaged a thigh muscle in Sydney last week. “I'm training every day,” said Muguruza. “I'm doing everything I can to be fully recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts.” And Novak Djokovic, who used to dominate the Australian Open in the same way that Rafael Nadal owned Roland Garros, is also determined to risk his problematic right elbow after a six-month absence from the tour. “It hasn't 100 per cent healed yet,” said Djokovic, whose comments echoed those of Muguruza. “But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day it’s getting better. “Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave,” Djokovic added. “After six months of no competition, you never know how you're going to react. So let’s see. I've done everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to compete in the Australian Open.”
Australian Open players adopt apolitical stance over Margaret Court Arena issue with no talk of boycott
The world’s leading players did their best to take the sting out of the Margaret Court Arena issue on Saturday. One after the next, they trooped into the interview room at Melbourne Park and said that they would play where they were damn well told. What an obedient workforce! And what a contrast with tennis’s two great lesbian role models – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – who both said on Friday that, were they still hitting balls professionally, they would have boycotted any stadium that carried Court’s name. One typical response on Saturday came from the British No. 1 Johanna Konta, who said “I will play wherever I'm scheduled. That's out of my control.” And when asked whether she thought Melbourne Park’s second-string stage should go by a different title, Konta added “Again, I think it's a Tennis Australia decision. “I think it's unfortunate that this whole thing has even occurred,” she went on, “because it does overshadow why her name is on the court. It's not because of her beliefs, it's because of her achievements in the sport. It's unfortunate it's kind of meshed together when they're actually quite separate.” Konta was at one with the rest of the field on this. Even Nick Kyrgios, so often a free spirit, said he would be overlooking Court’s vile comments last year – in which she suggested that children with transgender leanings had the devil in them, and also linked the LGBT community to the Nazi party. Konta on whether the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed: 'I think it's a Tennis Australia decision' Credit: Getty Images “I guess you’ve got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “That's why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at. I guess that's what I will do. I'll try to block out the other stuff. Obviously I am okay with same-sex marriage.” The apolitical stance of the locker-room will come as no surprise to Navratilova. Speaking to the New York Times last week, she predicted that there would be no boycotts from tennis’s big names. This is a selfish sport and always has been, so perhaps we should not expect players to endanger their own careers by a principled stand. Even King kept her sexuality quiet until 1981, when she was forced into the open by a lawsuit from her former lover Marilyn Barnett. And with good reason, as it turned out. Within hours of that revelation, all her sponsors had fled. When the first day’s schedule was published on Saturday, it seemed surprising that the Australian Open had put Sam Stosur, the Australian No. 3, on the problem court. Stosur, who is a close friend of the openly gay doubles player Casey Dellacqua, had hinted at a potential boycott during the French Open, when she said “We’ll see who wants to play on Margaret Court Arena and who doesn’t.” This week, though, she backed down, telling reporters that she would follow the example of Konta, Kyrgios and all the rest by acceding to the tournament’s requests. Stan Wawrinka is fit enough to feature at the Australian Open... just Credit: Getty Images Away from this ongoing controversy, the Australian Open could be grateful that Stan Wawrinka has declared himself fit enough to play. This was a close-run thing, as Wawrinka admitted that he had begun his practice session Friday morning without being sure what decision he would come to. “The fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first match, it's a big victory,” said Wawrinka, who underwent two knee operations after Wimbledon. “I waited the last minute to decide. For me, most important was to make sure the knee doesn't risk anything.” Tournament director Craig Tiley will no doubt be delighted by Wawrinka’s decision. The 2014 Australian Open champion remains a hugely popular figure here, even if he admitted that “Physically I'm not at my level at all”. Still, the next couple of days will nevertheless be a nervous time for the organisers, with several leading players still clogging up the treatment rooms. Beyond the Baseline | Read Charlie Eccleshare's three-part series on the unseen side of top-level tennis Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is another concern after she damaged a thigh muscle in Sydney last week. “I'm training every day,” said Muguruza. “I'm doing everything I can to be fully recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts.” And Novak Djokovic, who used to dominate the Australian Open in the same way that Rafael Nadal owned Roland Garros, is also determined to risk his problematic right elbow after a six-month absence from the tour. “It hasn't 100 per cent healed yet,” said Djokovic, whose comments echoed those of Muguruza. “But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day it’s getting better. “Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave,” Djokovic added. “After six months of no competition, you never know how you're going to react. So let’s see. I've done everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to compete in the Australian Open.”
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
Australian Open 2018: A to Z of first grand slam of the year - blubbering wrecks, gobby girlfriends and questionable dress sense
A is for...Australia Day Show me another major sporting event that breaks for a ten-to-15 minute delay for a fireworks show? Yes, that's the situation the elite tennis stars have to face at the opening slam of the year every year without fail on January 26. Annoyingly for Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal it just so happened to coincide with their final showdown back in 2014 but didn't disrupt Stan the Man's focus enough to stop him claiming a maiden slam title. Roger Federer though may feel differently about the 'celebrations' as for many the Swiss just wasn't in the groove after the delay in his 2012 semi-final with Nadal and went on to lose in four sets. B is for... blubbering wrecks "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him." Yes, the moment Murray started to turn the tide with some of his critics. Murray, back in 2010, wasn't the only first cry baby in Melbourne. And while his tears came a year after Federer's, it was Pete Sampras who really pulled on the heart strings back in 1995 when during his contest with Jim Courier he turned from the ever-professional to an emotional wreck. His water works were for his coach Tim Gullikson who had been struck down by with a recurrence of a heart problem and despite Courier's offer of "We can do this tomorrow", Pistol Pete went on to record victory in five sets to reach the last four. It was later revealed his coach was battling cancer. C is for Courier as in Jim Temperamental and tenacious as a player, Jim Courier has turned cringey TV broadcaster and his on-court post-match interviews often lead to uncomplimentary discussions about his style on social media outlets. Last year Boris Becker became one of the more high-profiled critics and declared himself less than enamoured with Courier’s style. He was displeased that after his charge Novak Djokovic had thrashed Andrey Kuznetsov, Courier asked the top seed about Becker’s fondness for Twitter hashtags. ‘Don’t understand why #Courier would ask @DjokerNole after a good win @AustralianOpen about my #...wrong place or timing,’ Becker tweeted. At least Courier isn't the worst on-court interviewer. That accolade has to go to Channel 7's Ian Cohen who asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following victory on court three years ago. Quite conveniently for this article his surname also begins with C. D is for Djokovic - who else? The No 1 is the undoubted king of the blue hard courts in Melbourne with a perfect six-in-six in Australian Open finals. Need we say more? E is for Edmondson - as in Mark The last Australian male to win on home turf back in 1976 and what's more he was ranked 212th in the world at the time! Incredibly in the weeks leading up to the grand slam he couldn't afford to fly around Australia to take part in local tournaments so spent his days earning a crust as a window cleaner and floor polisher. To this day he remains the lowest ranked player to claim a major title. F is for fanatics Dressed from head to toe in yellow and green attire, the Fanatics are part of a vast network of Aussie fans who party hard and travel far to support all their Australian sportsmen. Their nutty presence at their home tournament does not go unnoticed as they produce chant-after-chant with sometimes delightful ditties for their home-grown talent including: "If you’re an Aussie and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re Aussie and you know it, clap your hands”. Ok so it's tame fare but boy can they make some noise. G is for gobby girlfriends Technically Kim Sears was Andy Murray's fiancee when she unleashed her expletive-laden rant towards Tomas Berdych in 2015. After Murray had broken back in the first set of his semi-final the camera panned to his courtside box where Sears was filmed mouthing what appeared to be the words “f****** have it you Czech flash f***” apparently in the direction of Berdych’s team. Sadly with husband Andy injured for this year's Australian Open, there will be no surprise at this year's tournament. H is for hot, hot, hot The Australian Open and extreme hot weather go hand-in-hand like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The heat becomes a daily topic of conversation with arguments over whether organisers need to address their current extreme heat policy which kicks in at a mighty which 40 degrees. Back in 2014, Melbourne endured it's longest heat-wave in over 100 years when four days of action was held up and disrupted by the scorching sunshine. In those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted while another vomited. The soles of one player’s trainers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle. Croatia's Ivan Dodig wondered whether he would die on court. Frank Dancevic collapsed at the 2014 Open I is for insects The life of a ballboy or girl is quite straight forward. Outside of collecting tennis balls they might have to hand players towels or drinks but on the whole it's mainly about the balls. For one ball girl called Alison five years ago she was required to do something that wouldn't have been in the job description - pick up and remove a cockroach on court. Yes German player Cedrik-Marcel Stebe instructed her to "take care of this bug here please," and despite some reluctance, that is exactly what Alison did - albeit in true giggly 'this is disgusting' fashion. You see the late-night finishes conincide with the playtime of insects and bugs. Serena Williams a few years back wasn't put off by a problematic ankle injury, but those darn bugs made her feel uncomfortable. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine," she said at the time. "Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" J is for jokers Already a crowd-favourite for her hilarious on-court interviews, the now retired Li Na proved the ultimate joker in the pack when she delivered a knockout champion's speech in 2014. Her husband tends to be the butt of her jokes, but he takes in all in his stride. "My husband, even famous in China," Li said of her victory over Dominika Cibulkova. "Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You're a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me." Djokovic probably regards himself as the main jester still and treated the Aussie Open faithful to an impersonation of his Boris Becker. At least his then watching coach took it all in good humour. K is for Kyrgios Petulant, prickly and peevish no this isn't the P category but the Australian fits every one of those adjectives to a T. The pressure will be on him in front of his sometimes adoring sometimes appalled public this year but will he deserve our k-udos later this fortnight? (See what I did there?) What side of Nick Kyrgios will we see this month? L is for late night finishes Good on the 5,000-strong crowd who managed to last the distance of Lleyton Hewitt's epic five-set clash with Marcos Baghdatis which ended at a bleary-eyed 4:34am back in 2008. Incredibly the pair didn't take to the court until 11 minutes to midnight and then staged a ding-dong battle which lasted a full four and three quarter hours - no wonder Baghdatis was on the brink of tears by the end. It remains the latest finish in grand slam history and surpassed the record set only a year earlier when Italy's Andreas Seppi the the lesser-known Bobby Reynolds of the US finished a first-round match at 3.34am. M is for marathon matches While the Australian Open holds claim to witnessing the longest slam final when Djokovic outlasted Nadal in 2012 after 5 hours and 53 minutes - and led to both players handed chairs to sit on during the drawn-out post-match celebrations, the women have been known to provide spectators value for money. Two of the three longest ever women's singles matches have been played out in Melbourne with Francesca Schiavone's mammoth 16-14 triumph in the third set against Russia Svetlana Kuznetsova finally ending after a royal four hours and 44 minutes battle - and that was only a fourth-round match at that. N is for nowhere men to new(ish) kids on the block Andy Murray's first-round exit to a little-known youngster with Muhammad Ali looks back in 2008 looked a little more respectable when Jo Wilfried-Tsonga blew Nadal away to reach the final in Australia in only his second appearance in the tournament. The Frenchman, who was then world No 38 is one of a number of male players who have come from nowhere to reach the final at the opening grand slam. The 31st seed Rainer Schüttler saw off David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick on the way to the final against Andre Agassi in 2003, 16th seed Thomas Johansson went one better a year earlier beating Marat Safin in the final. And Arnaud Clément (15th seed) stormed to the final in 2001 beating Roger Federer and Yevgeny Kafelnikov along the way only to slip to a straight sets loss to Agassi. O is for old timers Australian Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months old when he won the Australian Open in 1972 and still holds the record of being the oldest grand slam winner. Surprisingly it came 19 years later after his initial success as an 18 year-old in 1953. Tsonga celebrates victory over Murray back in 2008 P is for prize money This year's prize pot has been increased by 10 per cent to $55 million (AUD) (£31.8m), with the men's and women's winners pocketing a $4-million (£2.32m) cheque which is up from £2.14m in 2017. Finalists will earn £1.16m for their efforts while first-round losers stand to earn £28,900. Not bad. Q is for questionable dress sense Venus Williams' bright yellow lattice-style top and patterned micro-miniskirt look in 2011 takes some beating as the worst ever outfit Down Under - which one fan thought resembled a cheese and onion slice. Her outrageous and hideous dress came a year after she introduced flesh-skinned pants which drew gasps from conservative parts of the crowd. Venus' flesh-coloured pants caused quite a stir R is for racket destroyers Why smash one racket when four will do? That's the motto of Cypriot Baghdatis who didn't get enough satisfaction from demolishing one racket en route to returning to his chair that he had to delve into his bag and take it out on his poor unexpecting other tools just busily going about their own business. S is for sponsors You can pretty much ignore the first 10 minutes of the presentation ceremony such is the Aussie Open's fondness for thanking about everyone who made the championships possible right down to the racquet stringers. So the less said about this the better. T is for tantrums It's always great fun to see players throwing their toys out of the pram and the Australian Open has witnessed some crackers. Back in 2013, Poland's Jerzy Janowicz lost his cool after a close line call screaming the words "how many times"... well a lot of times. But it was small fry in comparison to John McEnroe who received three code violations and was disqualified from his fourth-round match in 1990. His first violation was for intimidating a lines judge. His second was for racquet abuse - which resulted in a point penalty - and his third and final violation was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official. U is for upsets Marat Safin brought Federer, at the heights of his powers thirteen years ago and on an unbeaten run of 26 matches, down to earth with a stunning five-set victory in their semi-final contest 2005. The top-ranked player hadn't dropped a set until he met the bad-boy Russian. Safin's ferocious tennis had the defending champion hurling his racket and muttering and cursing into the night. Federer's unbeaten streak pales into relative insignificance when you consider Martina Navratilova was bidding for her 75th consecutive match victory and on course to land a seventh successive grand slam title only for Helena Sukova to burst her bubble in the final in 1984. In 2002, World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the first top seed to lose in the first round of a grand slam in 12 years as he suffered defeat to Spaniard Alberto Martin while Martina Hingis' ambition to clinch a fourth Aussie Open title was quashed by underdog Jennifer Capriati in 2001. V is for Victoria As in in the south-east state in Australia which stages the first slam of the year and Victoria as in Azarenka the two-time former champion who will be missing from the tournament this year. W is for Wawrinka as in Stan Stan the Man ended the three-year reign of Djokovic in the quarters, Tomas Berdych in the semis and then beat top-ranked Nadal to clinch a maiden grand slam in 2014. Never mind Nadal could hardly move around the court after injurying his back in the second set, the record books don't register such minor details. Anyway, Stan backed it up by denying Djokovic a career grand slam at the French Open a year later. X is for YiFan Xu The only player in the Australian open whose surname starts with the letter X. The Chinese left-hander reached the semi-finals of the doubles in 2016 alongside Zheng Saisai. Y is for Yarra River In close proximity to Melbourne Park, the Yarra River is usually the backdrop to the champions' celebrations when they all have their glad rags on and look almost unrecognisable. Z is for zen Forget your tantrums, racquet smashes and villians, what you really have to be to succeed on the tennis circuit is "totally zen". That's not my words but the advice of Federer who knows a thing or too about winning majors. Federer the dad of two sets of twins has revealed he has mellowed by fatherhood and experience. "I'm at a point where in tennis, yes, and otherwise not really. I don't know, I feel like I'm too busy and I don't care if I'm winning in other sports or if I play cards. I used to be a perfectionist and now now I'm happy if the other guy wins. I'm like 'let's just have a good time'. "It's funny because I used to be totally driven in everything. "Chess, I used to whack the figures off the chess board from my dad and all these things would drive me crazy, but not any more. Today, I'm totally zen."
World number one Rafael Nadal believes the amount of injuries happening on Tour should be looked into
There are too many injuries on tour and something must be done - Nadal
World number one Rafael Nadal believes the amount of injuries happening on Tour should be looked into
World number one Rafael Nadal believes the amount of injuries happening on Tour should be looked into
There are too many injuries on tour and something must be done - Nadal
World number one Rafael Nadal believes the amount of injuries happening on Tour should be looked into
World number one Rafael Nadal believes the amount of injuries happening on Tour should be looked into
There are too many injuries on tour and something must be done - Nadal
World number one Rafael Nadal believes the amount of injuries happening on Tour should be looked into
Despite not playing an official match in preparation, Rafael Nadal is still confident heading into the Australian Open.
Nadal feeling good despite preparation worries
Despite not playing an official match in preparation, Rafael Nadal is still confident heading into the Australian Open.
FILE PHOTO: Rafa Nadal of Spain reacts after beating Jack Sock of U.S. during their men's singles match at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, China, October 9, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon . Picture Supplied by Action Images
Rafa Nadal of Spain reacts after beating Jack Sock of U.S. during their men's singles match at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Rafa Nadal of Spain reacts after beating Jack Sock of U.S. during their men's singles match at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, China, October 9, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon . Picture Supplied by Action Images
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (C) of Switzerland shake hands after being presented with their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards, during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (C) of Switzerland shake hands after being presented with their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards, during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (C) of Switzerland shake hands after being presented with their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards, during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland hold their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland hold their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland hold their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland hold their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland hold their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland hold their trophies for the International tennis Writers Association 'Ambassadors of the Year' awards during a press conference at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis, Suiza) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
MLB. Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a practice session for the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain serves during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain serves during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain serves during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Melbourne (Australia), 13/01/2018.- Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during a practice session at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 January 2018. The Australian Open starts on 15 January. (España, Abierto, Tenis) EFE/EPA/MAST IRHAM
Spain's Rafael Nadal makes a backhand return during a practice match against Austria's Dominic Thiem on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
After one for the ages, Australian Open now a fitness test
Spain's Rafael Nadal makes a backhand return during a practice match against Austria's Dominic Thiem on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Austria's Dominic Thiem prepares to serve to Spain's Rafael Nadal during a practice match on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
After one for the ages, Australian Open now a fitness test
Austria's Dominic Thiem prepares to serve to Spain's Rafael Nadal during a practice match on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
<p><em>With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI&#39;s tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners. </em></p><h3><strong>What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?</strong></h3><p><strong>Jon Wertheim: </strong>My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.</p><p><strong>Richard Deitsch:</strong> It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.</p><p><strong>Jamie Lisanti:</strong> Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently</a>: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.</p><p>Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?</p><p>On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.</p><p>Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?</p><p><strong>Stanley Kay:</strong> Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round. </p><p>There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round. </p><p>Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks. </p><p>Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round? </p><h3><strong>Which top players will crash out early?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn&#39;t get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/902377/Rafael-Nadal-knee-injury-Australian-Open-Richard-Gasquet-loss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:knee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">knee</a> makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….</p><p><strong>Lisanti:</strong> With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out. </p><p>Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title. </p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural. </p><p>Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns. </p><h3><strong>Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy. </p><p>On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well. </p><h3><strong>Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open. </strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?</p><p>Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/09/australian-open-2018-margaret-court-intervew-mary-carillo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here.</a> I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vogue cover story." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vogue cover story.</a></em></p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> Sure, I&#39;m intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they&#39;re currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini&#39;s fashion sense. Fognini apparently <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0V2aCzpApYFERzyVFKorWt?domain=smh.com.au" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> his outfit an &quot;Italian look,&quot; which—well, just see for yourself. </p><p>I have many questions. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the men&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim:</strong> Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the women&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim</strong>: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.</p><p><strong>Deitsch: </strong>I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately<strong>,</strong> I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.</p><p>Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne<strong>,</strong> *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?</p><p><strong>Kay: </strong>I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne. </p>
2018 Australian Open Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses and Top Storylines

With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI's tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners.

What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?

Jon Wertheim: My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.

Richard Deitsch: It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.

Jamie Lisanti: Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.

Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?

On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.

Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?

Stanley Kay: Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round.

There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round.

Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks.

Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round?

Which top players will crash out early?

Wertheim: Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn't get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s knee makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….

Lisanti: With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out.

Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title.

Deitsch: I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.

Kay: I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural.

Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns.

Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?

Wertheim: The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.

Deitsch: I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.

Lisanti: Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.

Kay: It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy.

On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well.

Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open.

Wertheim: Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?

Lisanti: Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?

Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.

Deitsch: I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here. I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this Vogue cover story.

Kay: Sure, I'm intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they're currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini's fashion sense. Fognini apparently called his outfit an "Italian look," which—well, just see for yourself.

I have many questions.

Who will win the men's title?

Wertheim: Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.

Deitsch: Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)

Lisanti: I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.

Kay: As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne.

Who will win the women's title?

Wertheim: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.

Deitsch: I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.

Lisanti: No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.

Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne, *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?

Kay: I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne.

<p><em>With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI&#39;s tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners. </em></p><h3><strong>What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?</strong></h3><p><strong>Jon Wertheim: </strong>My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.</p><p><strong>Richard Deitsch:</strong> It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.</p><p><strong>Jamie Lisanti:</strong> Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently</a>: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.</p><p>Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?</p><p>On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.</p><p>Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?</p><p><strong>Stanley Kay:</strong> Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round. </p><p>There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round. </p><p>Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks. </p><p>Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round? </p><h3><strong>Which top players will crash out early?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn&#39;t get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/902377/Rafael-Nadal-knee-injury-Australian-Open-Richard-Gasquet-loss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:knee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">knee</a> makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….</p><p><strong>Lisanti:</strong> With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out. </p><p>Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title. </p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural. </p><p>Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns. </p><h3><strong>Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy. </p><p>On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well. </p><h3><strong>Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open. </strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?</p><p>Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/09/australian-open-2018-margaret-court-intervew-mary-carillo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here.</a> I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vogue cover story." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vogue cover story.</a></em></p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> Sure, I&#39;m intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they&#39;re currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini&#39;s fashion sense. Fognini apparently <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0V2aCzpApYFERzyVFKorWt?domain=smh.com.au" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> his outfit an &quot;Italian look,&quot; which—well, just see for yourself. </p><p>I have many questions. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the men&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim:</strong> Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the women&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim</strong>: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.</p><p><strong>Deitsch: </strong>I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately<strong>,</strong> I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.</p><p>Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne<strong>,</strong> *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?</p><p><strong>Kay: </strong>I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne. </p>
2018 Australian Open Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses and Top Storylines

With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI's tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners.

What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?

Jon Wertheim: My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.

Richard Deitsch: It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.

Jamie Lisanti: Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.

Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?

On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.

Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?

Stanley Kay: Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round.

There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round.

Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks.

Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round?

Which top players will crash out early?

Wertheim: Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn't get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s knee makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….

Lisanti: With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out.

Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title.

Deitsch: I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.

Kay: I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural.

Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns.

Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?

Wertheim: The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.

Deitsch: I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.

Lisanti: Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.

Kay: It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy.

On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well.

Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open.

Wertheim: Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?

Lisanti: Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?

Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.

Deitsch: I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here. I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this Vogue cover story.

Kay: Sure, I'm intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they're currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini's fashion sense. Fognini apparently called his outfit an "Italian look," which—well, just see for yourself.

I have many questions.

Who will win the men's title?

Wertheim: Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.

Deitsch: Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)

Lisanti: I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.

Kay: As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne.

Who will win the women's title?

Wertheim: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.

Deitsch: I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.

Lisanti: No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.

Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne, *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?

Kay: I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne.

<p><em>With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI&#39;s tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners. </em></p><h3><strong>What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?</strong></h3><p><strong>Jon Wertheim: </strong>My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.</p><p><strong>Richard Deitsch:</strong> It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.</p><p><strong>Jamie Lisanti:</strong> Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently</a>: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.</p><p>Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?</p><p>On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.</p><p>Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?</p><p><strong>Stanley Kay:</strong> Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round. </p><p>There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round. </p><p>Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks. </p><p>Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round? </p><h3><strong>Which top players will crash out early?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn&#39;t get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/902377/Rafael-Nadal-knee-injury-Australian-Open-Richard-Gasquet-loss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:knee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">knee</a> makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….</p><p><strong>Lisanti:</strong> With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out. </p><p>Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title. </p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural. </p><p>Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns. </p><h3><strong>Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy. </p><p>On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well. </p><h3><strong>Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open. </strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?</p><p>Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/09/australian-open-2018-margaret-court-intervew-mary-carillo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here.</a> I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vogue cover story." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vogue cover story.</a></em></p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> Sure, I&#39;m intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they&#39;re currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini&#39;s fashion sense. Fognini apparently <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0V2aCzpApYFERzyVFKorWt?domain=smh.com.au" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> his outfit an &quot;Italian look,&quot; which—well, just see for yourself. </p><p>I have many questions. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the men&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim:</strong> Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the women&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim</strong>: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.</p><p><strong>Deitsch: </strong>I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately<strong>,</strong> I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.</p><p>Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne<strong>,</strong> *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?</p><p><strong>Kay: </strong>I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne. </p>
2018 Australian Open Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses and Top Storylines

With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI's tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners.

What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?

Jon Wertheim: My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.

Richard Deitsch: It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.

Jamie Lisanti: Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.

Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?

On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.

Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?

Stanley Kay: Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round.

There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round.

Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks.

Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round?

Which top players will crash out early?

Wertheim: Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn't get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s knee makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….

Lisanti: With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out.

Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title.

Deitsch: I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.

Kay: I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural.

Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns.

Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?

Wertheim: The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.

Deitsch: I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.

Lisanti: Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.

Kay: It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy.

On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well.

Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open.

Wertheim: Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?

Lisanti: Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?

Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.

Deitsch: I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here. I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this Vogue cover story.

Kay: Sure, I'm intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they're currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini's fashion sense. Fognini apparently called his outfit an "Italian look," which—well, just see for yourself.

I have many questions.

Who will win the men's title?

Wertheim: Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.

Deitsch: Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)

Lisanti: I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.

Kay: As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne.

Who will win the women's title?

Wertheim: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.

Deitsch: I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.

Lisanti: No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.

Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne, *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?

Kay: I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne.

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