There are only a few more sleeps to go until the Australian Open gets underway and all eyes will be on some of the biggest names of the game as history beckons for the likes of Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Ashleigh Barty.
As the new year beckons, so too does the start of what promises to be another exciting Australian summer of tennis.
Several of the world’s best tennis players are about to touch Down Under, the highlight of which is the Australian Open in which Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the defending champions.
In Part I, I covered the ATP Cup, the Qatar Open and the women’s only Brisbane International, while in Part II, I covered the Shenzhen and Auckland Opens.
Here, in Part III, I will cover the Adelaide and Hobart Internationals, as well as the big one – the Australian Open – which starts on January 20.
January 12-18, 2020
Defending champions: N/A
Drawcards: Novak Djokovic (SRB), Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE), Alex de Minaur (AUS), Ashleigh Barty (AUS), Simona Halep (ROU), Petra Kvitova (CZE), Johanna Konta (GBR), Venus Williams (USA)
A new addition to the Australian tennis calendar is the Adelaide International, which will take place at the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre just outside the iconic Adelaide Oval.
The tournament replaces the Sydney International, which was axed in favour of the ATP Cup which will take place in that city, as well as in Brisbane and Perth, the week earlier.
Headlining the men’s field is Novak Djokovic, who will be returning to the City of Churches for the first time since he won the Next Generation Adelaide International as a 19-year-old in 2007; it was his third career title.
Joining him will be reigning ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, as well as Alex de Minaur, Andrey Rublev and former US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carrena Busta.
In the women’s field, all eyes will be on Ashleigh Barty as she continues her preparations for the Australian Open. She is joined in a strong field by reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams.
While this will be the first time since 2008 that a men’s tournament has been held in Adelaide, it will be the first time that the women have played in the South Australian capital, and it promises to be as intriguing as it is exciting for the locals.
January 13-18, 2020
Defending champion: Sofia Kenin (USA)
Drawcards: Elise Mertens (BEL), Garbine Muguruza (ESP), Caroline Garcia (FRA)
While the majority of the top women’s players will either be playing in Adelaide, or warming up in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, several lesser names will finalise their preparations for the first Major of the year in Hobart.
Belgian Elise Mertens, who won her first career title here in 2018 before going on to reach her first Major semi-final at Melbourne Park, is the only top twenty player in what is otherwise a relatively weak field.
She is, however, joined by two-time Major champion Garbine Muguruza, who also returns for the first time since she captured her maiden career title in the Tasmanian capital in 2014, as well as former top ten Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia and local favourite Samantha Stosur.
Garcia was part of the French team that broke local hearts by defeating Australia in the Fed Cup final in November, teaming up with Kristina Mladenovic to defeat Stosur and Ashleigh Barty in the deciding doubles rubber.
Stosur returns for the first time since 2014, when she reached the semi-finals only to be beaten by Klara Koukalova.
January 20-February 2, 2020
Defending champions: Novak Djokovic (SRB) and Naomi Osaka (JPN)
Men: Rafael Nadal (ESP), Novak Djokovic (SRB), Roger Federer (SUI), Dominic Thiem (AUT), Alexander Zverev (GER), Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE), Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
Women: Ashleigh Barty (AUS), Karolina Pliskova (CZE), Naomi Osaka (JPN), Simona Halep (ROU), Petra Kvitova (CZE), Serena Williams (USA)
Finally, more than two weeks of intense preparation will culminate in the first Grand Slam tournament of 2020, the Australian Open.
History stands to be made in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, with Rafael Nadal only one win behind Roger Federer on the men’s Grand Slam leaderboard, and Serena Williams one win behind Margaret Court on 24 Major singles titles.
Thus, it’s fair to say that 2020 could be the decisive moment in the ongoing argument as to who out of Nadal and Federer can be considered tennis’ GOAT (greatest of all time).
If Nadal can triumph at Melbourne Park for the second time, then not only would it see him draw level with Federer on 20 Majors, he would then start the hottest of favourites to land a 21st Major title, and a jaw-dropping 13th French Open title, at Roland Garros.
Should the Spaniard win his pet event, then he would also notch up 100 match wins at the tournament, with the milestone victory coming in the championship match (his record at Roland Garros is 93-2). This is assuming he does not receive a walkover from his opponent en route.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, will be hoping to close the gap between himself and Federer and Nadal with a 17th Major title, and a record-extending eighth at the Australian Open, a tournament he has dominated over the past decade and a bit.
In the women’s draw, while all of Australia will be banking on Ashleigh Barty becoming the first local champion in over four decades, all eyes will also be on Serena Williams to see if she can finally equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
The American has been stranded on 23 Major singles titles for nearly three years, having not saluted since she won this tournament in 2017 – at a time when nobody except for herself and her close knit of friends knew that she was expecting a baby.
She has had several chances since to equal Court’s record, but has come up short four times, twice each at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Further, she hasn’t won a title anywhere since returning from her maternity leave, so the motivation will be there for the 38-year-old to finally break her title drought, and doing so in Australia might be the perfect way to do it.
Barty, however, is the name to watch at Melbourne Park after her phenomenal 2019 season in which she won her first Major title at Roland Garros, ascended to the top of the rankings and won the prestigious WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
She holds the biggest hope this country has of a first local champion, male or female, since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
Former champion, Caroline Wozniacki, will bow out of professional tennis once her involvement at the Australian Open comes to an end, so you can expect that it will be an emotional moment when the former world number one formally says goodbye to the tennis public.
That’s Part III in my Australian summer of tennis preview. I hope you will enjoy the next five weeks as much as I will.