Predictions from the international media ahead of the opening slam of the year.
Simon Briggs, The Daily Telegraph:
Roger Federer (assuming his back unclenches). During the last knockings of 2011, Rog was in magnificently free-flowing form: not just the top dog, but the apex predator.
Women’s champion: Kim Clijsters (assuming her hip holds up). Modern Australian Opens seem to go to those who can do the limbo, and the Clijsters splits move is surely the most gymnastic manoeuvre in tennis.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: Heather Watson won’t complain about Victoria Azarenka’s glass-shattering howls after her opening-round defeat. Poor Hev drew Maria Sharapova at the US Open, and given that she claimed not to have noticed the noise, we can only conclude that she wears earplugs.
Simon Cambers, The Tennis Space:
Men’s champion: Novak Djokovic – he’s as fit as a dog and still high on confidence after an incredible 2011. Loves the surface and surroundings. The one to beat.
Women’s champion: Kim Clijsters – recovered from injury, the Belgian is one of the few who can cope with the power of Serena Williams and usually plays well fresh.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: An Australian champion – Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic have the ability but Stosur feels the pressure here and Tomic is a year or two away from really competing.
Christopher Clarey, New York Times and International Herald Tribune:
Men’s champion: Andy Murray: Eye thoroughly on the prize: Mr. Lendl won’t put up with accusatory glances.
Women’s champion: Kim Clijsters: Part time, still the right time and this is her best surface.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: Men’s players won’t express gratitude for Australian Open’s record prize money.
Mike Dickson, Daily Mail:
Men’s champion: Rafael Nadal. He’s in a lot better shape than he’s been letting on.
Women’s champion: Petra Kvitova. The big new talent, ready to strike against Kim and Serena.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: The temperature will stay in a gloriously even range of 21-25 degrees without a cloud in the sky.
Neil Harman, The Times:
Men’s champion: Novak Djokovic – though we haven’t seen him in a truly competitive match at the start of the 2012 season, he looks honed and ready, his confidence levels are high, he is rested and ready to go.
Women’s champion: Victoria Azarenka. Having a solid warm up event in Sydney, hitting the ball with extreme confidence levels, really feels that this is her moment to strike.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: Margaret Court in a warm embrace with Martina Navratilova. The two are at loggerheads over Mrs Court’s powerful views on gay marriage.
Paul Newman, The Independent:
Men’s champion: Andy Murray has reached the last two finals in Melbourne and now Ivan Lendl can help him over the last hurdle.
Women’s champion: Petra Kvitova finished 2011 with a flourish and is the best equipped among a group of half a dozen contenders for the women’s title
What won’t happen in Melbourne: Caroline Wozniacki, having embarrassed sections of the press last year with her “revelation” that she had been attacked by a kangaroo, will not let her imagination run wild this time.
Jonathan Overend, BBC:
Men’s champion: Andy Murray. While the hiring of Ivan Lendl doesn’t automatically mean instant success, I firmly believe it will do. He is the missing link in the grand slam puzzle for Murray, that figure of respect which will force him to control his temper and end the meltdowns.
Women’s champion: Vika Azarenka. I think she’ll be given a huge run for her money by Heather Watson in Round 1 but after that Azarenka can motor through. She’s been in good form and it ready to become yet another first time major winner in the women’s game.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: An injury-free tournament. Venus, Petkovic, Soderling and Cilic are out. Serena, Clijsters, Federer, Pennetta, Lisicki all come in with recent pull-outs, bumps and bruises. Any more and we’ll have to start a debate about the length of the tennis calendar…
Rene Stauffer, Tages-Anzeiger:
Men’s champion: Andy Murray, because of Lendl, and because it’s time.
Women’s champion: Serena Williams, still the best when fit.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: No one outside the men’s top four will reach the final.
Alexandra Willis, The Tennis Space:
Men’s champion: Andy Murray. The Lendl effect could be the difference.
Women’s champion: Petra Kvitova. As long as the wind stays away, she should brush aside everyone else on hard courts.
What won’t happen in Melbourne: No Americans in the semi-finals of either the men’s or women’s singles.