Before the start of the 2009 Australian Open, World No. 4 Andy Murray seems to be leading the pack.
After his big wins over top seeds Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer during the pre-season tournaments, he has suddenly emerged as the favorite to take home the crown from Melbourne Park.
However, a lot is standing along Britain’s No. 1 player.
First, there’s Rafael Nadal, who, despite his injury late last year, is set to prove himself on the hard court—the only court where he has yet to win a crown.
The top seed has to be in tip-top shape, probably needing to be in his best form, if he wants to score a win in Melbourne Park and continue where he left off in his amazing run in 2008.
Of course, Roger Federer can never be taken out of the equation.
Having won the crown three times, and coming from a not so-brilliant performance during the last season, he wants to bounce back and prove that he is still one of the best—if not the best—players the sport has ever produced.
Winning another slam would tie him with the great Pete Sampras, and hopefully, propel him to the top rankings once again.
Then there’s Novak Djokovic, World No. 3 and defending champion of the Australian Open. The Serbian ended 2008 with a win in Shanghai, and is hoping to continue his streak with a win in Melbourne Park.
And then there’s last year’s runner up, Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who is probably in his best form now. The top five seed would want to avenge his loss to Djokovic in the finals.
They are the usual suspects to win the Australian Open.
But we can never tell what surprises the tournament may pull out from its sleeves. The up-and -coming Juan Martin del Potro from Argentina and Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils could possibly spoil the parade for the top seeds.
Monfils surprisingly beat Nadal in Doha, and he could duplicate the feat with his unrelenting determination and tough mettle, and Monfils is on Nadal’s side of the draw.
Del Potro, on the other hand, can take a cue from the wins he collected in the ATP tournaments and finally claim a slam for himself. Simon may need to put in more muscle to get into the finals, but he has shown that his nerves can take down even the likes of Federer.
Experienced players like Andy Roddick, James Blake, David Nalbandian, and former World No. 1 and once Australian Open champion Marat Safin may be the tournament’s dark horses. They all have the right ingredients within them, no doubt.
The only question is if they have enough gas to make it through the finals.
So who could be raising the cup at the end of two weeks? We can only sit and watch the excitement as the Australian Open unfolds.