Novak Djokovic is hoping to become the first man in the Open Era to win a hat-trick of Australian Open crowns when the first Grand Slam of 2013 gets underway at Melbourne Park.
On the women’s side both Monica Seles and Martina Hingis have won the Australian Open three times in a row in the past couple of decades but the feat has eluded everyone in the men’s game, even the likes of Andre Agassi and Roger Federer who have won four titles in all.
Djokovic will be keen to reassert himself as the dominant player in men’s tennis. He battled his way back to the summit of the rankings at the end of 2012, winning the Shanghai Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals but he suffered key defeats to his rivals in the big events – losing to Rafa Nadal in the French Open final, Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semis and Andy Murray at the Olympics and the US Open.
However the conditions in Australia do suit Djokovic almost better than anyone especially when the roof is closed over Rod Laver Arena and there’s no wind to disrupt his metronomic ball striking. Murray came close twelve months ago in a titanic five hour semi-final and it’ll be fascinating to see what unfolds should they meet again.
Djokovic has had a mixed start to 2013. He won the season opening exhibition event in Abu Dhabi (which has given itself the rather presumptious title of the Mubalada World Tennis Championships) but suffered a shock straight sets defeat to Bernard Tomic at the Hopman Cup, something he blamed on his late arrival to Australia.
But none of his rivals have started especially quickly. Murray looks set to defend his Brisbane title but he’s been markedly rusty in all of his matches this week while David Ferrer was made to look decidedly second rate by Nikolay Davydenko in Doha and Tomas Berdych crashed out in Chennai.
Davydenko’s return to form could provide an intriguing subplot in Melbourne. He was a genuine contender for the title back in 2010 and may well have gone all the way if he’d found a way past eventual winner Federer in the quarters. He’s been on fire in Qatar, certainly the best tennis I’ve seen him play since he won the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of 2009.
David Cox writes for Livestreamingsport.com, an award-winning sports, news and live stream website.