Players to watch in Melbourne
Angelique Kerber Age 30 Nationality German World ranking 2
Australian Open best Winner (2016) Titles 12 (3 grand slams) Although second favourite with the bookmakers – to Serena Williams – Kerber looks like the woman to beat. She has positive memories from winning her first major title at the Australian Open three years ago, and is the reigning Wimbledon champion. Superb movement and athleticism make Kerber extremely hard to beat. Novak Djokovic Age: 31 Nationality: Serbian
World ranking: No 1 Australian Open best: Winner (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016)
Titles: 72 (14 grand slams)
A year ago Djokovic’s body was failing him and he left Australia after a fourth-round straight sets loss to Chung Hyeon. But a resurgent second half of 2018, which included two majors and completion of a career Golden Masters, has made him bookies’ favourite for a seventh title in Melbourne. The Serb aims to win all four grand slams in one calendar year in 2019, according to his coach Marian Vajda.
The dark horse
Ash Barty Age 22 Nationality Australian World ranking 15 Australian Open best Third round (2017, 2018)
The home favourite would make for an extremely popular champion, and not just because of her nationality. Regarded as one of the friendliest players on the tour, Barty also plays extremely watchable tennis – full of spin and angles. Her defeat of world No 1 Simona Halep in Sydney last Wednesday suggests she is primed to cause an upset or two.
Borna Coric (left) Age: 22 Nationality: Croatian World ranking: 12
Australian Open best: First round (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
The 2013 US Open boys’ champion produced a string of noticeable results last year, including victory over Roger Federer in the Halle final and a key round-robin win that helped Croatia capture the final Davis Cup title of the old system. Coric is an attacking baseliner with a strong two-handed backhand. His best slam showing to date was a fourth-round exit to Juan Martin del Potro at last year’s US Open.
Serena Williams Age 37 Nationality American World ranking 16
Australian Open best Winner (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017)
Titles 72 (23 grand slams)
On her last visit to Melbourne, Williams won a seventh Australian Open title while pregnant. Now she is bidding to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles by winning her first major as a mother.
Roger Federer Age: 37 Nationality: Swiss World ranking: 3
Australian Open best: Winner (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018)
Titles: 99 (20 grand slams) Federer could not only potentially win a third straight title on the speedy Melbourne courts but the 100th title overall of a glittering career. The Swiss was in great touch during the defence of the Hopman Cup alongside Belinda Bencic, which included a singles win over Alexander Zverev in the final, and a historic mixed doubles contest involving Serena Williams.
The young gun
Amanda Anisimova Age 17 Nationality American World ranking 87 Australian Open best n/a Titles 0 Still only 17, the big-serving American made headlines last year by reaching the Indian Wells fourth round with wins over seeded players Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Petra Kvitova. Helped by a bruising double-handed backhand, Anisimova has since cracked the world’s top 100 and reached the quarter-final in Auckland last week. Alex de Minaur Age: 19 Nationality: Australian World ranking: 29 Australian Open best: Second round
(2017) Titles: 0 In contrast to compatriots Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic who have struggled to live up to the hype, De Minaur has an easy-going temperament. He prides himself on his battling qualities of chasing down every point and making his opponent fight for everything. The teenager started last year ranked at No208 and closed it at No31.
The Brit to watch
Katie Boulter (left) Age 22 World ranking 99 Australian Open best Qualifiers first round (2018)
After making great strides last year and cracking the world’s top 100, Boulter is preparing for her first automatic entry to a grand slam. She reached the second round of Wimbledon in July, and will be hoping to go further on the slick Melbourne courts that should suit her power game. Cameron Norrie Age 23 World ranking 93 Australian Open best n/a Titles 0 Catapulted into the world top 100 in just over a year after turning professional, Norrie has gained direct entry into a fourth grand slam in a row. The left-hander has opened the new season strongly, defeating the precocious talent of Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Hopman Cup for the biggest scalp of his career so far.