The first serve of the Australian Open will take place at 11 am on Monday, January 14, kicking off the 107th edition of the event and the first Grand Slam of the season.
The 2019 Australian Open is sure to be filled with drama and excitement, so let’s check out some of the biggest talking points heading into the tournament.
Records set to tumble?
A number of long-standing records could be broken or matched at this event, with superstar players on both sides of the draw looking to etch their names further into the history books. On the men’s side, both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have the potential to become the most successful players in history at the Australian Open – each currently hold the record of six titles at the event, tied with Roy Emerson, who won all of his back in the 1960s.
On the women’s side, it is, as you may have guessed, Serena Williams who has the chance to make history. Margaret Court currently holds the record for most Grand Slam titles in history with 24 – including 11 at this event – the last of which came way back in 1973. Serena, who hasn’t competed since her controversial defeat at the 2018 US Open, currently sits at 23, meaning a victory here would catapult her into a tie for first place.
A key rule change
Early in December of last year, a major change was announced to the scoring system at Melbourne Park. From this year onwards, the event will follow the lead of the US Open and play tiebreakers at 6-6 in the final set. Previously, of course, each set was determined in this way with the exception of the last, which simply continued until one player had a two-game advantage.
Unlike at the US Open, in which the tiebreaker is the first-to-seven format, the Australian Open will extend the match a little further, with the first player to reach 10 – provided they have a two-point advantage – winning the match. The move will no doubt divide opinion, but there are pros and cons to the change: it will eliminate the possibility of the type of classic, extended finishes we’ve seen in the past, but it will also ensure matches are less likely to end in the early hours of the morning.
Youngsters ready to make their mark
A number of up-and-coming young players appear ready to challenge the status quo at the 2019 Australian Open on both sides of the draw. Aryna Sabalenka, the 20-year-old from Belarus, has been in sparkling form since last season’s Wimbledon and was the only player to take a set off Naomi Osaka throughout the entirety of the 2018 US Open. Ashleigh Barty is another set to figure, with the 22-year-old local having finished her 2018 campaign with a succession of excellent results.
On the men’s side, 4th seed Alexander Zverev will be desperate to surpass his career-best third-round performance at this event, though he enters the tournament under an injury cloud. The 21-year-old German has proved he can match it with the best, but has never advanced past the quarter-stage of a Grand Slam. 22-year-old Chung Hyeon is another; only once has the South Korean advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam, but that was at last year’s Australian Open, however, when he was a surprise semi-finalist.
Old hands on their last legs?
At the other end of the age spectrum, multiple players will be either attempting to resurrect their careers, or go out on a high in what could be their last Australian Open event. Andy Murray is an example of the latter, with the three-time Grand Slam winner announcing in an emotional press conference the likelihood of this being his final season, while former Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka will be hoping to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2018 which has seen him dip to #59 in the world.
Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are two other former winners at the event looking to re-establish themselves as top players after a tumultuous few years. Sharapova is slowly working her way back from a WADA suspension which saw her miss 12 months during 2016 and 2017, while Azarenka, currently the world #52, has missed a substantial amount of tennis as a result of a custody battle for her young son and will be eager to mark her return with a strong showing at the event.
Both sides of the draw hold plenty of interest, with the women’s, in particular, appearing wide open. Federer and Djokovic will head in a clear favourite for the men, but there is plenty of talent capable of upsetting the superstars as they search for a record-breaking seventh title. Regardless, it’s looming as an intriguing couple of weeks as the 2019 season officially opens its doors.