Can an Aussie win their home open?
Can an Aussie win their home open?

Who is Australia’s best chance to end 42-year drought?

It's been a long, long time between drinks for homegrown talent at the Australian Open.

Chris O'Neil made history in 1978 by becoming the first unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era, a record that would stand until 2007 when Serena Williams did it.

Her 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win over American Betsy Nagelson remains the last time an Australian man or woman held the title.

 

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Mark Edmondson was the last man to win the Open, in 1976 coming back from a set down to beat compatriot John Newcombe 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1.

So who's got next?

Here's a look at the Aussie men and women hoping to break a historic drought at Melbourne Park.

 

WOMEN

 

Will Ash make it a Barty Party at the Aus Open? Picture: AAP
Will Ash make it a Barty Party at the Aus Open? Picture: AAP

 

Ash Barty

One of only two Australian women to ever hold the the World No.1 ranking, Ash Barty has become the darling of Australian tennis. A cherubic smile and happy-go-lucky attitude hides a fearsome will to win whenever she steps onto the court. Barty's vaunted kick serve sets up her all-court game, her ability to adapt to her opponent matched only by a relentless will to chase down balls few women would even attempt. Barty had a stunning 2019, claiming her maiden Grand Slam at the French Open and becoming the best player in tennis. Still just 23, Australia's best and brightest hope goes into the tournament as an outright second favourite behind record-chasing Serena Williams and has never had a better chance to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

 

 

Ajla Tomljanovic will be hoping to better her quarter final appearance of 2014. Picture: AP
Ajla Tomljanovic will be hoping to better her quarter final appearance of 2014. Picture: AP

 

Ajla Tomljanovic

Hard to believe it, but Ajla Tomljanovic made her professional debut way back in 2008. Still just 26 and close to the peak of her powers, the Croatian-born starlet is Australia's second-ranked woman and will enter the Melbourne tournament with high hopes of making a deep run. Known for her power game, Tomljanovic's bread and butter is blowing her opponents off the court, but work on an improved defence and second serve paid off in 2019, helping her crack the top 40 for the first time. Has not won a first round match at the Open since 2015, so will be hoping to reverse that trend in 2020.

 

Could Sam Stosur wind back the clock in Melbourne? Picture: Liam Kidston
Could Sam Stosur wind back the clock in Melbourne? Picture: Liam Kidston

 

Sam Stosur

The mother figure of Aussie women's tennis at 35, has shown no of hanging up the racquet. Stosur made her Australian Open debut way back in 2002, where she lost as a wild card entrant against German qualifier Gréta Arn. While she's never made it past the fourth round, Stosur has shown up, year in, year out, to fly the flag for Australian tennis, during a largely barren time for women in the sport. Produced a big highlight last year when she partnered with China's Zhang Shuai to win the women's doubles title at Melbourne Park. Can she produce a vintage run in the singles draw. Wouldn't Australia love it?

 

Priscilla Hon is part of the new wave of Aussie women hoping to dominate the sport. Picture: Getty Images
Priscilla Hon is part of the new wave of Aussie women hoping to dominate the sport. Picture: Getty Images

 

Priscilla Hon

Ash Barty's second in charge of the next generation of Aussie women tennis stars, as a 17-year-old, Priscilla Hon was, in 2016, handed the unenviable task of stopping Serena Williams in her Australian Open debut. That match went as you'd predict but, four years on and with a maiden Grand Slam main draw victory (French Open 2019), Hon might just be ready to make some noise in Melbourne. The Brisbane native is still fine-tuning an all-court game that she has been able to partner with a vastly improved serve. A Seoul quarterfinal appearance was her best result of 2019 and, while she will obviously be hoping to avoid Serena this time round, the world No.122 also gained valuable experience as a member of the Aussie Fed Cup team.

 

Can Astra Sharma make it to the second week of the Open? Picture: Getty Images
Can Astra Sharma make it to the second week of the Open? Picture: Getty Images

 

Astra Sharma

The surprise packet of last year's Australian Open, Sharma qualified for the main draw by beating Russian starlet Vera Zvonareva and then defeated compatriot Hon 7-5 4-6 6-1 to make it through to the second round of her Slam debut. She then partnered with John-Patrick Smith on a fairytale ride all the way to the mixed doubles final. Not bad for a 23-year-old who just two years before was studying medicine in the US and was ranked just inside the top 1000. Now ranked 111, it would appear the Singapore-born Sharma made a a good decision to choose tennis.

 

MEN

 

Nick Kyrgios

 

Can he finally put it all together. It's the question tennis pundits ask every year. Some have given up on Nick, tired of his on-court antics. But the guy has a heart of gold, as evidenced by his work in encouraging Tennis Australian - and athletes from other sporting codes - to donate funds to help victims of Australia's devastating bushfire crisis. Perhaps he can ride that goodwill into a deep run at the open? We all know the talent is there. If the mind comes along with it, Kyrgios can beat any tennis player on the planet. Wouldn't it be glorious to see him do that on Rod Laver on the last day of the Australian Open?

 

Alex de Minaur has become an Aussie fan favourite. Picture: AAP
Alex de Minaur has become an Aussie fan favourite. Picture: AAP

 

Alex de Minaur

The young Demon has the heart of a lion. Just relentless on the court, de Minaur has fast become an Aussie favourite with his ability to retrieve just about any ball that lands over his net. As fair dinkum as Vegemite once was, the 20-year-old has the world at his feet. While the serve isn't quite there yet, the young gun returns so many balls that it leaves his opponents breathless. Trains as hard as any athlete on the planet and reaps the benefits. Was brilliant in the ATP Cup partnering with Kyrgios and giving Rafael Nadal an almighty scare, before the Spanish legend's class came to the fore. Ranked a career-high No.18 on the back of three ATP titles in 2019, the 20-year-old goes into the Aus Open as one of the hunted.

 

 

Alexei Popyrin is the next big thing in Aussie men’s tennis. Picture: AAP
Alexei Popyrin is the next big thing in Aussie men’s tennis. Picture: AAP

 

Alexei Popyrin

Second in charge to de Minaur as the leader of the next generation of young Aussie tennis tyros, at 195cms, Popyrin has the physical tools and the mental toughness to be a star of the game. With a power serve and fearsome weaponry on the court, modelled on his idol, 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou has also compared him to Greek wunderkind Stefanos Tstsipas. Aged 20 and beginning the year inside the top 100 after he won at least one match at each of the four 2019 Grand Slams if Popyrin can be as confident and sure as Tsitsipas, the sky is the limit.

 

Jordan Thompson needs to find his best to make an impact in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images
Jordan Thompson needs to find his best to make an impact in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images

 

Jordan Thompson

Now aged 25, Thompson is no longer a young gun, but he is yet to fully realise his talent. Dished up his best Grand Slam year in 2017 when he won matches in France, England and the US, but has struggled to get out of the first round in Melbourne. Victories over former World No.3 Grigor Dimitrov and compatriot Alex de Minaur helped Thompson reac a career-high singles ranking of 43, indicates the moutachioed one has more to give. Entering in at 63, you can bet the Sydney-sider will attract the Aussie crowds, no matter what courtr he plays on.

 

 

Veteran John Millman has never made it past the third round at the Australian Open. Picture: Getty Images
Veteran John Millman has never made it past the third round at the Australian Open. Picture: Getty Images

 

John Millman

The elder statesman now, Millman almost hung up the racquet earlier in his career thanks to injury, but the power of the people kept him going and he is still an integral member of the Aussie tennis system. Thius will be Millman's fifth Australian Open and he will be looking to improve on the third round appearance of 2016. Has all ready shown what a good bloke he is this summer, crossing to the other side of the court during his ATP Cup clash with Greece's Michail Pervolarakis and helping him up after he slipped on some debris on the court. Let's hope good bloke John can cause some Millmania at the Open again.


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