The 2020 Australian Open Crystal Ball
The 2020 Australian Open Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball: the superstar set to bomb out of Aus Open

ANOTHER Australian Open is upon us, which means it is time for our experts to put their cards on the table and work out just what is going to happen in the next fortnight.

Just like last year, all eyes will be on Serena Williams' chase for grand slam history, and whether anyone can break through to stop the Big Three's stranglehold on men's tennis.

Will it be Roger Federer's last stand? And which superstars are set to flunk their way out in the first week?

Find out below.

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THE 2020 MEN'S CHAMPION WILL BE______________

Sam Groth: Novak Djokovic

He was so dominant at the ATP Cup and is the same in Melbourne. His consecutive number of set wins against Rafa - the world No. 1 - now sits at 19 and means he's his biggest challenger.

Leo Schlink: Novak Djokovic

Owner of seven titles here and a remarkable hardcourt supremacy over Rafael Nadal makes the Serb a logical, if predictable, choice.

Lauren Wood: Novak Djokovic

He's absolutely flying and the big three ain't done yet. Claimed the ATP Cup with a blistering win over Rafael Nadal in a match we'd all love to see again at Melbourne Park.

Gilbert Gardiner: Roger Federer

How could you not want Roger to win a 7th Melbourne Park title.

Emily Benammar: Novak Djokovic

It's got to be Novak for me this year. Title no. 8 at Melbourne Park and another step closer to catching Rafa and Roger.

Liam Twomey: Novak Djokovic

With the smoke around Melbourne, playing on the inside courts with the roof closed is going to be an advantage like never before. Expect Djokovic to make the most of this and cash in with his eighth Australian Open title.

Kate Salemme: Novak Djokovic

He's just too good and absolutely loves playing in Melbourne, where he has an 89 per cent winning record at the Australian Open - his best win per cent of the grand slams.

Mick Randall: Matteo Berrettini

I'm risking the Big 3 (foolhardy) but I think the Italian is trending upward at the Slams and, at 23, his game is beginning to ripen. Why not an upset?

Richard Evans: Rafael Nadal

Joe Barton: Novak Djokovic

Not a sexy pick by any means but it's hard to see him getting beaten on the hard court.

THE 2020 WOMEN'S CHAMPION WILL BE______________

Sam Groth: Simona Halep

This is hard to pick! But I always like Simona Halep, and having Darren Cahill back in her corner means she's always better.

Leo Schlink: Naomi Osaka

Loves this surface and showed enough in Brisbane with her new coaching arrangement to signal a deep run from the defending champion.

Lauren Wood: Serena Williams

Her first win as a mum is finally complete and the self-admitted relief was evident. Williams winning on the anniversary of Margaret Court's grand slam sweep to equal the Australian? Huge.

Gilbert Gardiner: Karolina Pliskova

Powerful Czech star still hunting for her breakthrough slam.

Emily Benammar: Serena Williams

She's kicked off the year with her first title since 2017 so I'm backing Serena to finally break the hoodoo and level Margaret Court. Where better to do it than Australia?

The GOAT – can Serena Williams finally get that elusive 24th grand slam title? Picture: Getty
The GOAT – can Serena Williams finally get that elusive 24th grand slam title? Picture: Getty

Liam Twomey: Serena Williams

History is about to be made. In two weeks, Serena Williams will hold the Australian Open trophy aloft and equal Margaret Court's Grand Slam record. While not against elite competition, her win in Auckland shows she is in a great space.

Kate Salemme: Serena Williams

The time has come (I hope) to equal Margaret Court with 24 grand slam singles titles. At her best, Serena is still the No.1 player in the women's draw and reaching four finals from seven grand slam events since returning from maternity leave proves it. Just needs to focus on each point and not the history. Hopefully the title in Auckland helps to relieve the nerves she's felt in finals of late.

Mick Randall: Petra Kvitova

Was the story of last open, fighting back from a terrifying knife attack and making it all the way to the final, only to fall to boom teen Naomi Osaka. Has the ability and the fearsome weaponry to win in Melbourne

Richard Evans: Simona Halep

Joe Barton: Karolina Pliskova

This one feels wide open, but as hard as it is to pick against Serena… it feels like the time is right for the former world No.1 to build on last year's semi-final appearance and her recent Brisbane International triumph.

THE BREAKOUT STAR OF THIS YEAR'S TOURNAMENT WILL BE______________

Sam Groth: Denis Shapovalov

He's got himself to that point where of the young guys, he looks like he's got the most structure to his game as well as the weapons.

Leo Schlink: Jannik Sinner

The ATP NextGen tournament launches AO quality. The young Italian is trailing Hyeon Chung and Stefanos Tsitispas from Milan to Melbourne.

Lauren Wood: Felix Auger Aliassime

The Canadian young gun is just 19 but has taken all before him and the triple-pronged name will be one to remember.

Gilbert Gardiner: Jannik Sinner

Eighteen year-old Italian on the up, stopped Alex de Minaur in the NextGen ATP Finals last year. Bright future and headline writer's dream.

Emily Benammar: Jennifer Brady

America has a habit of it's young players enjoying breakout tournament on the big stage and this 24 year old is one to watch. 2020 has already seen her beat Ash Barty and Maria Sharapova

Jannik Sinner is one of the rising stars of the men’s circuit. Is he ready to make the leap? Picture: Getty
Jannik Sinner is one of the rising stars of the men’s circuit. Is he ready to make the leap? Picture: Getty

Liam Twomey: Denis Shapovalov

This kid has all the tools to be a Grand Slam winner. Expect him to take some massive steps forward this year, which will start with a big scalp at Melbourne Park.

Kate Salemme: Coco Gauff

If you were living under a rock during Wimbledon and the US Open last year and missed 15-year-old Coco Gauff's stunning runs then she'll be your breakout star of this Australian Open. For others, look out for Karolina Muchova. The 23-year-old is another Czech star on the horizon to follow in the footsteps of Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova. The biggest win of her career came against world No.2 Pliskova at Wimbledon last year, while she's played at the Australian Open just once (2019). She gets a lot of balls back and possesses a good range of shots where she can mix it up with spin and pace.

Mick Randall: Coco Gauff

She's on the cusp of being a superstar at just 15. What a career she has ahead of her. Dare I say she could eclipse her heroes the Williams sisters.

Richard Evans: Denis Shapovalov

He's young, has hovered around the higher rankings but is yet to make a move in a major. And he had a good warmup at ATP Cup.

Joe Barton: Team Canada

The rising stars of world tennis are coming from the land of maple syrup and ice hockey - and they're ready to explode. 20-year-old Denis Shapovalov looks primed to make the second week for the first time in Melbourne, while 19-year-old compatriot Felix Auger Aliassime has never been in the main draw here. He's ready.

Just what can we expect from the brilliant and maligned Nick Kyrgios this Open? Picture: Getty
Just what can we expect from the brilliant and maligned Nick Kyrgios this Open? Picture: Getty

NICK KYRGIOS WILL______________

Sam Groth: divide the nation, once again.

Leo Schlink: be panned - win, lose or draw

It won't matter how far the Canberran goes, the firing squad is already in position.

Lauren Wood: endear, divide, endear, repeat

It's a rollercoaster. But don't we love the ride.

Gilbert Gardiner: reach the quarter-finals and win over Australian fans

Emily Benammar: do great things

He will enjoy a solid run at this year's tournament, smash an obscene number of aces and donate a bucket of dollars in the aces for bushfire relief appeal.

Liam Twomey: make the second week

He was dumped in the opening round last year. But this will be a different story. After his positive form in Brisbane, no big name will want to see Kyrgios in their section of the draw.

Kate Salemme: win himself more fans this summer

He's led the way in the tennis world by inspiring others to act, donate and raise funds for bushfire victims and to help with the relief effort by being the first to pledge $200 for every ace he hits across the summer. His tweet declaring Tennis Australia can host an exhibition match prompted Rally for Relief. Well done, Nick.

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Mick Randall: hit new heights

Kyrgios will piggyback on his kind gesture to our fire-affected communities and produce his best Australian Open performance yet.

Richard Evans: Ride the highs and lows

He will match the highs of the ATP Cup but miss the team environment and support fostered by Lleyton Hewitt which will lead to some lows. He will have more media attention on him than anyone in week one.

Joe Barton: flatter to deceive

Kyrgios won the hearts of many with his ATP Cup performances, but it'll only take one foul-mouthed, racquet-smashing third round flame-out for the knives to come back out.

Is Ash Barty primed for another run into the second week? Picture: Getty
Is Ash Barty primed for another run into the second week? Picture: Getty

THE AUSSIE THAT WILL GO FURTHEST IS ______________

Sam Groth: Ash Barty

She had a great run in Australia last year and now understands the pressure of being the best player in Australia means.

Leo Schlink: Ash Barty

She's proven at this level and, providing there aren't injury issues, the world No 1 can give the title a proper shake.

Lauren Wood: Ash Barty

Not only the world's No.1, but ours too. Has showed she has the mettle to do what it takes and will relish the home stage.

Gilbert Gardiner: Ash Barty

Will go close to winning the tournament, can't say the same about any other Aussie.

Emily Benammar: Dylan Alcott

What a 2019 campaign he had and I have every confidence he will pick up where he left off and claim a sixth Aus Open title.

Dylan Alcott wins all over the world... but Australia is home. Picture: Getty
Dylan Alcott wins all over the world... but Australia is home. Picture: Getty

Liam Twomey: Ash Barty

Hopefully her first round loss in Brisbane to world No.53 Jennifer Brady was just rust. With the top seed in Melbourne, Barty will have plenty of time to work into the tournament. She made the quarter-final last year and expect her to top that effort.

Kate Salemme: Ash Barty

If she can handle the pressure of being world No.1 while playing at her home slam. Hasn't got off to the best start this year by losing her opening match at the Brisbane International but should find a way to find form. Her ability to mix up her game means she's got options if things aren't going well mid-match.

Mick Randall: Nick Kyrgios

Richard Evans: Nick Kyrgios

Joe Barton: Ash Barty

I wanted to go with the fighting qualities of Alex de Minaur, before the lingering abdominal issue proved too much. Barty has the weapons to go all the way and while a scratchy start to the year hints at an early slip-up, she's the most likely to be standing in the second week.

THE STORYLINE TO FOLLOW THIS YEAR IS ______________

Sam Groth: is this the last chance for Roger and Serena?

Can Serena finally - in a year that Margaret Court's being honoured - break the record. And can Roger withstand seven best of five matches in a taxing Australian summer?

Leo Schlink: Air quality

An unprecedented development - at grand slams anyway - smoke haze blighted the qualifying. Tennis Australia and the players have been left to grapple with nature's worst - through no fault of their own.

Lauren Wood: Margaret, Margaret, Margaret

How she will be received at Melbourne Park will be front and centre - even more so if her record is toppled by Serena.

Gilbert Gardiner: Dusty Martin to be the 2020 Anna Wintour

After gallivanting together in the Maldives it stands to reason the two-time Richmond premiership star gets box seats to the Serena Show.

Emily Benammar: will the tournament be hampered by the elements?

Every year we study the extreme heat policy as the Mercury edges towards 40 but add to that the issues with hazardous air quality the city is experiencing and there could be an almighty headache for organisers.

 

Liam Twomey: Will 'generation next' arrive?

Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov. Is this the tournament one of these young guns makes their move and topples the big three? Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have combined for 13 of the past 14 Melbourne Park titles.

Kate Salemme: …Serena's quest for No.24

After four lost grand slam finals the time has come to equal Margaret Court. Let's do it in Melbourne, Serena!

Mick Randall: Serena's chase for Margaret Court's record

Also, how often Margaret Court puts her foot in her mouth and the potential swan song for the great Federer.

Richard Evans: Serena... and Margaret Court

If Serena stays in contention, the Margaret Court issue will likely boil over and fester. It should be bushfire relief though (and if the fires continue, will be), this is a chance for tennis to show the power of sport to help.

Joe Barton: The smoke haze

The shocking bushfires - and horror smoke haze - which have plagued Australia this summer look set to have a huge impact on the Australian Open. Already we've seen qualifiers affected. As the smoke lingers in the first week, with dozens of fixtures on the outdoor courts, the health and safety of players and fans alike will be a major storyline.

________________ WON'T MAKE IT INTO WEEK 2

Sam Groth: Alexander Zverev

For a player of his ranking and calibre, what we saw from him in the ATP Cup off the back of, by his standards, was a pretty disappointing 2019. There's no signs that it's getting any better for him.

Leo Schlink: Sloane Stephens

Her recent record at Melbourne Park - three first-round losses in four attempts - is reason to be nervous.

Lauren Wood: Alexander Zverev

It was a horror ATP Cup campaign for the German whose serve didn't seem to make it onto the flight Down Under. Will need to find some spark.

Gilbert Gardiner: Alexander Zverev

Far from bombproof despite having all the talent in the world.

Emily Benammar: Caroline Wozniacki

In what will be her final grand slam hurrah, I think we will be saying farewell to the Dane early doors.

This will be the last chance Aussie fans will get to see Caroline Wozniacki. Picture: AP
This will be the last chance Aussie fans will get to see Caroline Wozniacki. Picture: AP

Liam Twomey: Alexander Zverev

His form at the ATP Cup was next level ugly, with the young German suffering a serving crisis. He averaged one double fault per game and openly told the media he was low on confidence heading into the Open. They're not good signs.

Kate Salemme: Angelique Kerber

Struggled last year, with her fourth-round appearance at Melbourne Park her best result at the grand slams. She's dropped to No.18 in the world and lost to Sam Stosur in the first round at the Brisbane International.

Mick Randall: Alexander Zverev

Because I still think he hasn't figured it all out yet.

Richard Evans: Stefanos Tsitsipas

A tough call to match his storming 2019 run and looked out of sorts at the ATP Cup last week. Pressure will tell. (Ash Barty is a close call here though).

Joe Barton: Maria Sharapova

The 2006 has a 78 per cent win record at Melbourne Park, but a scratchy start to 2020 - with a first-round loss in Brisbane and a smoke-affected preparation in Melbourne - has an ominous look about it.

We said goodbye to Andy Murray last year. But was it goodbye forever? Picture: Getty
We said goodbye to Andy Murray last year. But was it goodbye forever? Picture: Getty

THE AUSSIE OPEN WON'T BE THE SAME WITHOUT______________

Sam Groth: Bianca Andreescu

Having our most recent grand slam champion on the women's side missing the tournament is a shame. The US Open into the Australian Open formline has been really strong, and having her missing definitely opens up the draw a little bit.

Leo Schlink: Caroline Wozniacki

The Dane has been a wonderful competitor and bows out at the right time on the right stage. The 2018 champion has always exemplified the best of the sport

Lauren Wood: Marcos Baghdatis

Nor will the January profits of Melbourne institution Stalactites where the Cypriot mainstay would often dine. Yes, he was only in qualifying last year but this'll be the first Marcos-free Melbourne Park since 2004. Apochairetismós and kalí týchi, Marcos.

Gilbert Gardiner: Wet globe temperature readings

No one but the AO organisers and Bureau of Meteorology really knows what the wet globe is but it is a fun term bandied around in the first week of the Open usually when the traditional heatwave strikes.

Emily Benammar: Juan Martin del Potro

Sad to say it as he's becoming such a regular absentee but the tournament won't be the same without Juan Martin del Potro. One of the nicest guys on tour who has a horrendous run of injuries.

There’ll be none of this at the Australian Open (main draw) this year. Picture: Getty
There’ll be none of this at the Australian Open (main draw) this year. Picture: Getty

Liam Twomey: Andy Murray

We said goodbye last year but then it looked like Andy Murray could be coming back to Melbourne after all. Will we see him here in 2021? Let's hope so.

Kate Salemme: Victoria Azarenka

The two-time champion won't be in Melbourne again after withdrawing from the tournament prior to the entry deadline. At her best she's one of the best players in the world, while her quirky and fun personality both on and off the court will definitely be missed. Hopefully we'll see her back in 2021.

Mick Randall: Bernie Tomic fighting with Lleyton Hewitt...

Wait, that could still happen!

Richard Evans: the men's holy trinity

This could be the last time to see the three megastars at their peak and seeded 1, 2,3.. Make the most of it.

Joe Barton: Bernard Tomic

Sure, he hasn't made it past the first couple of days since 2017 - but, following his early exit in qualifying, I'll still miss the circus that follows his arrival at Melbourne Park. I feel robbed of the drama.


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