“Big Three” battle, outsiders, Serena record… The challenges of the first Grand Slam 2020

Suspended by the weather, the organizers of the Australian Open tennis tournament have been sweating heavily all week. The toxic fumes released by the monster fires ravaging the south-east of the country disturbed the qualifications, threatening – for a time – the holding of the tournament. And then the storms arrived on January 15 in the evening, which chased away the pollution.

Since then, air quality in Melbourne has been measured as "Moderate". On Saturday, the tournament management announced the installation of an air pollution monitoring system that will cause matches to be suspended in the event of an alert. And the saving rain should return on Monday, and wash away the last fears of the organizers and the players.

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Who to succeed Novak Djokovic? Will Serena Williams equal the record for Grand Slam held by Australian Margaret Court (24 titles)? What chances for the Blues? Overview of the main challenges of the first Grand Slam tournament of the season, from January 20 to February 2.

  • The Federer-Djokovic-Nadal match for the world throne
Serb Novak Djokovic in training at Melbourne Park on Saturday January 18.
Serb Novak Djokovic in training at Melbourne Park on Saturday January 18. STRINGER / REUTERS

The battle between Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will be like in every Grand Slam (GC) tournament in the center of attention. World tennis bosses shared last season the four most prestigious tournaments on the professional circuit (Australian Open and Wimbledon for Djokovic, Roland Garros and US Open for Nadal).

In the fight for the number one world title at the end of the year, the Spaniard, the Serb and the Swiss leave in 2020 for a remake of the previous seasons. The only real suspense is the leadership in number of Grand Slam titles. With 20 tricks – a record – Roger Federer leads the way but tackles the Australian Open " in doubt ", by his own admission.

"GOAT" – "Greatest of all times" (for the best tennis player in history) – for many observers, the 38-year-old Swiss recently confided that Djokovic (32 years and 16 GC) and Nadal (33 years, 19 GC) would earn more Majors than he did during their career. The Bâlois (six titles in Melbourne) have already given up? The Serb, sevenfold winner at the Rod Laver Arena, has the favor of the predictions. World number one, the Majorcan will aim for a second victory at the Australian Open after that of 2009.

  • Will the young shoots finally upset the hierarchy?
Stefanos Tsitsipas on January 18 in Melbourne.
Stefanos Tsitsipas on January 18 in Melbourne. WILLIAM WEST / AFP

Who to dislodge the "big three"? If many players are depressed about having had a career during the reign of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, some young wolves intend to break the monopoly of the three "elders".

Winner of the London Masters in November (tournament which brings together the eight best in the world), the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas is a serious contender. Aged just 21, the sixth in the world is the only one to have beaten the "masters" in 2019. Semi-finalist in Melbourne in 2019, he is the number one outsider. As long as you don't get carried away by the pressure.

Daniil Medvedev can also upset the hierarchy. The 23-year-old Russian giant (1.98 m), whose forehand is not very academic but effective, achieved a stratospheric 2019 summer (two successes in Masters 1,000 and finalist at the US Open). But beware, French student Gilles Cervara has yet to prove himself in the second week of the Grand Slam.

Read also Tennis: Daniil Medvedev, the Russian threat

Other outsiders will be watching at Melbourne Park: the Austrian Dominic Thiem (26, 5e world), the Canadian Denis Shapovalov (20, 13e), the Russian Andrey Rublev (22, 16e), who has just won the Doha and Adelaide tournaments in January, or the Australian Nick Kyrgios (24, 26e), player as whimsical as talented.

  • Serena Williams, for the record?
Serena Williams, January 16 in Melbourne.
Serena Williams, January 16 in Melbourne. Ciro De Luca / REUTERS

Serena Williams is back. Titled in Auckland on January 12, her first trophy in three years, the 38-year-old American aims in Melbourne a 24e Grand Slam title, which would allow him to equal the record for the Australian Margaret Court achieved in the 1960s and 1970s. Record that he has missed four times in the finals at Wimbledon and at the US Open in the last two years.

Seven-time winner of the Australian Open, the youngest of the Williams sisters, 9e world, always inspires fear. "She is so powerful (…) I’m sure she’s still able to win. ”, underlined, 48 hours before the start of the tournament, the Czech Karolina Pliskova.

In her quest for the record, Serena Williams should find Japanese champion Naomi Osaka and 3e World. Or the Austalian Ashleigh Barty, world number one, who, in front of his audience will try to do better than his quarter-final in the previous edition. Sensation of the last Wimbledon, the American Cori Gauff – 15 years old – will be the attraction at Melbourne Park. She will face in the first round against Venus Williams, 24 years older.

  • The best French chances

Promised for the best future at the start of their careers, the four modern musketeers of French tennis (Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gaël Monfils) already roll most of them on the rim. A splash of Monfils? At 33, the leader of the Blues (10e at ATP) probably plays his last cartridges in Grand Slam. His game, which alternates very good and mediocre, however allows him to hope; his mind and physique – fragile – a little less.

The French in form this beginning of the season, Ugo Humbert and Corentin Moutet, are young, which gives cause for optimism. Winner in Auckland, Saturday January 18, the first (21 years old) is the youngest French to have won an ATP tournament since Gasquet in 2007 and will point on January 20 to the 43e world place, its best ranking. Far from the big names, however. The second (70e), an unsuccessful finalist against Rublev in Doha on January 11, has a formidable left arm, but his small height (1.75 m) does not benefit him against the golgoths of the circuit.

Read also Roland-Garros, the "familiar dream" of Corentin Moutet

For women, the mirage of victory in the Fed Cup struggles to conceal poverty at the highest level. Only four players appear in the World Top 100. Imperial in the win against the Australians in November, Kristina Mladenovic, 39e in the WTA ranking, carries on its shoulders the meager hopes of French women's tennis to shine in the Grand Slam. Caroline Garcia (46e), meanwhile, goes on defeats.


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