We used to bemoan the lack of British success at Wimbledon; in fact it became a national obsession. Yet, we have been guilty of missing another similar drought that still continues down-under. While Australia’s desire for male and female winners at the Australian Open may not have been as long in the making, the longing for Aussie success at their home Grand Slam is just as strong. It has been 37 years since their last female winner and 39 since their last male champion. So, what are the respective chances of those current Australian players desperate to go far, or even all the way, on home soil at this year’s 2015 Australian Open?
Where else to start than with the poster boy of Australian tennis for the last 17 years, Lleyton Hewitt? It’s now been a decade since he fell agonisingly short as the runner-up, yet the man with two Slams and 30 career titles is arguably still Australia’s best hope in the men’s draw. The opening round defeat at the Brisbane Open, which he won last year, and the fact that his best performance since 2005 has been the 4th round does not bode well for the man who turns 34 next month. Nonetheless, with the home crowd behind him at his 19th Australian Open and that true grit and determination that characterises his game, there is always the chance that Hewitt could cause a few upsets this year. The legendary Rod Laver is just one who has backed him to fire at this year’s tournament. The talent is still there – can he discover it again in these twighlight years of his career?
Stosur seemed primed for a full on assault upon the women’s game when she won her one and only Slam at the US Open in 2011. Unfortunately for her and Australian tennis she hasn’t been able to kick on in the years since – she ended 2014 outside of the top 20 for the first time in six years. Yet the 30 year old from Brisbane has to turn it around at some point – why not at her home Slam? She has admitted to choking at previous Australian Opens but Stosur has proven that she has the ability to go all the way at one of tennis’ biggest competitions. After a 5-week break at the end of last season she will feel fresh and ready to finally prove she can go all the way in Melbourne. She is the top-ranked Australian female and thus automatically her countries biggest female hope.
There is no doubt about it – a star was born last summer on Centre Court when young Nick Kyrgios beat the then world no.1 Rafael Nadal. With unquestionable talent, flamboyance and supreme self-belief (not to mention the booming serve) the current Australian number 1 has flown from unknown wildcard to the great hope of Australian tennis. He is still one for the future but perhaps now is the time for Kyrgios to show that he is not just raw potential but a man who can consistently match the very best. This will be his final Grand Slam as a teenager yet he is already arguably carrying the hopes of a nation. This year is surely too early for him to fight for the Norman Brookes Cup but do not be surprised if this exciting youngster ruffles more than a few feathers and finds himself breaking into the later stages.
Players can suddenly come good at any stage in their careers and there is a growing feeling that Casey Dellacqua’s may, at 29 years old, be doing just that. She got Australian pulses racing in last year’s tournament where she was eventually defeated in the 4th round by Eugenie Bouchard, whilst she also reached the same stage at the US Open, her best Slam performances to date. She may not have the Grand Slam pedigree but her career is currently on an upward trajectory, allowing her to reach a career best world no.27. When she really gets it right Dellacqua is a major threat – this could be the tournament where all the pieces finally come together with a potentially devastating effect.
At times controversy has seemed to follow Tomic like a moth to a light bulb, yet Australian tennis fans remain eagerly anticipating the moment when he starts to fulfil his vast potential in tennis’s most prominent arenas. After an injury disrupted 2014 Tomic maintains his belief that he can break into the top 20 and this inaugural Slam for 2015 could mark a big year for a man who won two Junior Grand Slams. A promising burst to the quarter-finals in the warm up to the championships at the Brisbane Open has highlighted the ability of the 22 year old and stranger things in tennis have happened than seeing him excelling and leading the Australian charge in Melbourne.
Every tournament has a dark horse or two and the Australian sporting world will be hoping that the relatively unknown Olivia Rogowska will be one of them. The no.4 ranked female Australian would love nothing more than to leave her mark in the city she was born in. The 23 year old just missed out on automatic qualification but the wildcard is coming in off her best ever season in 2014. She has been talked of as having a game that will enable her to establish herself as top future player. Rogowska has the firm belief that her time will come – why not now?
The first Grand Slam of the New Year is upon us, with a host of Australian players ready to set Melbourne alight. The wait for home success at the Australian Open has spanned decades – is this the year that it finally ends?
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