Play­ers to watch in Mel­bourne

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Tennis -

The favourite

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)

Ti­tles 3

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)

Ti­tles: 2

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.

The vet­eran

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)

Ti­tles 0

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.

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