AUSTRALIAN OPEN ’19: So many Slam champs over previous 2 years

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When Serena Williams was at her greatest, there was by no means a lot doubt that she’d be the favourite at just about any event she entered. Whereas she was off the tour turning into a mother, ladies’s tennis was as large open as ever.

Might the Australian Open, the place play begins Monday (Sunday EST), finish the current run through which eight ladies divvied up the previous two years’ price of Grand Slam championships, the primary time that had occurred because the 1930s?

It started with Williams taking residence her seventh title from Melbourne, and 23rd main singles trophy general, in January 2017. The world didn’t understand it on the time, however she was pregnant then; her daughter, Olympia, was born on Sept. 1 of that yr. Williams didn’t return to Grand Slam motion till final yr’s French Open, and whereas she reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, her title drought continues.

Within the meantime, gamers akin to No. 1-ranked Simona Halep, defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Naomi Osaka and Jelena Ostapenko every claimed her first main, whereas Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza added to their collections.

“It’s a joke when individuals say, ‘Who’s your decide?’ Nicely, I don’t have a decide, OK?” mentioned Chris Evert, an 18-time main champion who now’s an analyst for ESPN.

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“The power, I really feel, and the expertise is so even with the ladies,” Evert mentioned, “it actually will come right down to the small intangibles, like perhaps who desires it probably the most, perhaps just a little luck, who doesn’t have the actually robust matches the place they’re exhausted.”

The place — and whether or not — the highest ladies face one another might be fascinating to keep watch over.

Williams may meet Halep, final yr’s runner-up, within the fourth spherical.

Halep may must get previous Venus Williams within the third spherical to get there.

Stephens was drawn right into a attainable quarterfinal in opposition to Kerber.

And so forth.

“I don’t assume we’ve ever had the depth that we have now proper now,” WTA CEO Steve Simon mentioned. “We’ve a really fascinating dynamic, with a novel mix of gamers that you just don’t all the time have.”

Listed below are different issues to know in regards to the Australian Open, the yr’s first Grand Slam event:

DJOKOVIC’S DOMINANCE

Novak Djokovic returned to his outdated type within the final half of final season, profitable Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to run his main title complete to 14, trailing solely Roger Federer’s 20 and Rafael Nadal’s 17. Even when he bought off to a little bit of a shaky begin to 2019, Djokovic continues to be the oddsmakers’ favourite so as to add to his rely with what can be a file seventh trophy in Melbourne. “My focus and aims are Grand Slams,” the 31-year-old Serb mentioned. “That’s the place I need to find a way shine and play my greatest.”

MURRAY’S HIP

This could possibly be it for Andy Murray. At a information convention in Melbourne on Friday (Thursday EST), the three-time main champion teared up as he defined that his surgically repaired proper hip is simply too painful to permit him to compete at a prime stage and that he might be retiring after Wimbledon — if he even could make it that lengthy. The 31-year-old from Scotland hasn’t competed at a significant event in 1½ years however will give it a go on the Australian Open. He’s a five-time runner-up on the occasion however by no means gained the title.

ROGER AND RAFA

Federer has gained the previous two titles at Melbourne Park and a complete of six, like Djokovic; they might solely meet within the ultimate in two weeks’ time. Federer is perhaps 37, however he’s wholesome and nonetheless seems younger on court docket. The identical can’t essentially be mentioned for Nadal, whose solely Australian Open trophy got here by way of a victory over Federer within the 2009 ultimate. Nadal has handled accidents in Melbourne through the years, together with retiring in the course of the quarterfinals in 2018, and his hard-court file of late is discouraging. But when he can put apart the thigh pressure that cropped up in early January, his sport is sweet sufficient for one more deep run.

NEW RULES

Among the many modifications this yr are first-to-10-points, win-by-two tiebreakers at 6-all in males’s fifth units and girls’s third units; a brand new method of measuring excessive warmth and the allowance for 10-minute breaks forward of males’s fourth units — one thing first seen eventually yr’s U.S. Open — and, as already was the case, forward of ladies’s third units; 25-second serve clocks.

NEW FACES

Gamers not everyone seems to be conversant in however who possess the talents to make a Grand Slam breakthrough embody Aryna Sabalenka, Daria Kasatkina, Elise Mertens and Kiki Bertens among the many ladies, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov and Alex de Minaur (a 19-year-old Australian) among the many males.

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Comply with Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Extra AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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