Funny isn’t it. It seems the biggest story in the run up to the first Tennis Grand Slam of 2016 – the Australian Open – was that Andy Murray will jet back from Oz mid-tournament, if wife Kim goes into labour early. To the UK’s major news channels the tantalising proposition of top-level Tennis from the world’s best players has almost been an aside.
So. As ever, we’re here to help with another unique ABC Selfstore take on the only Grand Slam tournament to take place in the Southern Hemisphere. So let’s start with a bit of history – and then we’ll take a look at the main contenders – including our superstar scotsman.
First held in 1905, the Australian Open is the youngest of the four tennis majors. The size of the Australasian continent and the limited transport network in the first half of the 20th Century, meant that it was a relatively small tournament to begin with – attracting few but the players who could make the trip to participate. Consequently it moved around Australia – and has been hosted by Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne – as well as Christchurch and Hastings in New Zealand. As transport networks improved, the event began to establish itself as the southern hemisphere’s premier tennis challenge – becoming designated by the International Lawn Tennis Association one of the four majors in 1925/26.
As with Wimbledon and the US Open, the Australian Open was originally played on Grass. The change to a hardcourt surface happened as recently as 1988 – when the event moved to Melbourne Park, which includes a court with a retractable roof. The familiar blue plexicushion surface being introduced in 2008.
So who are the favourites to take the men’s crown in 2016?
Let’s start with BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2015 – he’s on great form (as the team showing at the Davis Cup confirmed). With the world ranking of No. 2, you have to put Murray right up there – assuming he doesn’t have to drop everything and hot-foot it back to the UK on 1st time Dad duties. Greg Rusedski is predicting Britain’s favourite Scot will make it through to the final. Let’s hope he can overcome the Djokovic steamroller.
You’d have to put Novak down as the favourite. He beat Nadal in stunning fashion in Qatar in early January – making the spaniard look like a more lowly ranked player. The big one for Djokovic is the calendar grand slam – winning all four majors during 2016. If he continues his current form you have to say it’s more than doable.
Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam in the past 3 years – but that doesn’t mean he’s not a threat. Whether or not he’s got what’s needed to take the fight to Djokovic remains to be seen (he lost to the serb in the last match of 2015). But he’s still one of the best in the world – and has proved in the past that he’s got the hunger and mindset to come back from a run of poor form – if you can call losing to Djokovic a run of poor form.
Stan ‘the man’ Warkinka
Swiss number 2 Wawrinka was crowned Champion in Australia in 2014. But his form can be patchy to say the least. If he brings his A game to the Australian Open he’ll be a threat all the way through. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether he will though, and perhaps that’s the paper-thin difference between a world-class tennis player and a championship winning one.
The tour has taken its toll on Rafa and he’s had more than his fair share of injuries over the past three years. Once the man to beat he’s taken his time to get back into form since returning from injury. It all seemed to be on an upward curve (he got back to no.5 in the world rankings) until a defeat to Djokovic in November. You could but hope that was a blip – but the New Year saw an even more resounding victory for the Serb over the Spaniard – let’s hope that Rafa has not passed his prime and he can refine the form that gave us so much exhilarating tennis.
On another note – one thing that we’ve always pondered – where do Tennis pros keep their kit? They seem to bring something in the region of 5 brand new rackets to each match. Given that they’ll play up to 7 rounds to get to a final that’s up to 35 rackets.
You don’t need to be a tennis professional to need somewhere to keep your sports kit. If you need some storage space, we can help, with a range of storage units in many sizes – for virtually every need.