The big four have never looked so vulnerable

Justin Edwards Roar Rookie

By Justin Edwards, Justin Edwards is a Roar Rookie

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    Andy Murray has crashed out of Wimbledon. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

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    As the summer of tennis gets underway this week, the men’s game is still dominated by one question.

    Can anyone beat the Big Four?

    Aside from Stan Wawrinka’s 2014 triumph, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have won every Australian Open since 2006.

    While Andy Murray is yet to taste the ultimate success at Melbourne Park, he has been in five of the past eight finals.

    In fact, Wawrinka is the only player outside of the big four, to have made the final in the past decade.

    However, this year could provide the biggest chance of an upset in years, with three of the sport’s biggest names under injury clouds.

    Novak Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the Qatar Open in Doha earlier this week, still plagued by persistent elbow problems.

    The Serbian has been sidelined since Wimbledon and is in serious doubt to compete in the Australian Open.

    On his website, Djokovic said “Only when I’m 100 per cent ready to play, will I be able to come back.”

    Meanwhile, Andy Murray has begun his comeback after he missed the back end of the 2017 season with a hip injury.

    andy-murray-tennis-tall

    (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

    Murray, who also hasn’t played a competitive match since Wimbledon, struggled in a 6-2 loss to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in a one set exhibition match in Abu Dhabi.

    Should Murray and Djokovic be fit to play the Australian Open, their ranking means they will be seeded far lower than they would be accustomed to in grand slam tennis.

    Djokovic will be seeded in the 13-16 group, meaning a possible match with Nadal, Federer, Grigor Dimitrov or Alexander Zverev in the fourth round.

    Andy Murray’s performance in Brisbane this week will determine his ranking for the grand slam, but he is currently sitting at #16.

    World number one Rafael Nadal will experience no such problems with his draw, however he is battling a knee injury that forced him to withdraw from the Brisbane International.

    The Spaniard also withdrew from a Fast4 event in Sydney, raising concerns over his fitness.

    The tournament is seemingly Federer’s to lose and the 19-time Grand Slam champion will be heavily favoured to win his sixth Australian Open title.

    However, a younger brigade of players, buoyed by their improved seedings, will see this tournament as a golden opportunity to win a maiden grand slam.

    Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov is enjoying a career-high ranking of #3 after a stellar 2017 season.

    The 26 year-old won the season-ending ATP finals in London last year, one of four tour titles, that also included a first Masters victory in Cincinnati.

    Dimitrov has reached two grand slam semi-finals and has never been better placed leading into a major than he will be in Melbourne.

    One rank behind Dimitrov is the young German Alexander Zverev, who burst onto the scene in 2017 with his aggressive yet brutally effective play.

    Alexander Zverev hits a backhand

    (Image: Steven Pisano/ CC BY 2.0)

    At just 20 years of age, Zverev is the youngest player inside the top 30 and already has two Masters titles to his name, winning the Italian and Canada Opens.

    The German defeated Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer last season, so is more than capable of producing the tennis needed to win a grand slam.

    Young Austrian Dominic Thiem and Belgium’s David Goffin will be in the mix while the experienced Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro will also be difficult to beat.

    Australia’s Nick Kyrgios can play some of the most exciting tennis on tour and if he can control the mental side of his game, he is capable of going deep into the second week of his home grand slam.

    These younger players are the future of tennis, all of them are potential grand slam winners.

    But with the injuries to the big four, a disruption of the established order of the last decade, the future could be now.

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    The Crowd Says (2)

    • January 1st 2018 @ 9:24am
      Fionn said | January 1st 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Zverev beat an injured Federer to win the Canada Open, so I wouldn’t look too much into that.

      Thus far Dimitrov and particularly Zverev have been agonisingly poor at Grand Slams (aside from Dimitrov’s Australian Open last year). They need to prove they’re mentally and physically up to grand slams.

    • January 1st 2018 @ 12:38pm
      Johnno said | January 1st 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      It seems only age and injury will beat the big-4. I would argue it’s become the big 5, but the big 4 plus Warinka are all over aged 30 now. Remarkable that the top-5 in the rankings for a lot of last year were all aged over 30, who said tennis was a young man’s game? But time is an enemy and they can’t go on forever and yeah I expect the next-gen to come through more..

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