After a 17-year roller coaster, the glittering and sometimes controversial career of Maria Sharapova has come to an end.
In what could be an exciting year for Australian Tennis fans, the 2020 Australian Open promises to have plenty of intrigue in the early rounds.
There’ll be huge interest in the rising stars and journeymen alike who comprise the contingent of Australian players representing at their home grand slam.
With six players represented in the men’s top 100, it is the No. 7 Australia who is currently creating the most interest courtesy of his amazing movement up the rankings from outside the top 1000 at the end of 2018 to 119 at the end of 2019. Christopher O’Connell, a Sydney Northern Beaches player now aged 25, has been on the circuit since 2014 and had gradually improved his ranking to a respectable high of 240 at the end of 2016 before injury and illness saw it plummet to 1185 at the end of 2018.
His current 119 ranking places him right on the cusp of direct entry into the Australian Open field of 128 players, comprising the highest 119 players in the ATP rankings and nine wildcards.
He opted not to play in the wildcard tournament considering that, as the highest ranked Aussie outside the top 100, he would be granted a wildcard if necessary. The recent withdrawal of Kei Nishikori further enhances his chances of direct entry.
Three other Aussies ranked in the top 200 also have chances of making it into the Australian Open.
Marc Polmans, who played singles in the Australian Open last year, was a semi-finalist in the men’s doubles in 2017. If granted entry and a favourable draw, he could raise a few eyebrows. At 22 years of age he is currently ranked 134th, and with the withdrawal of Nishikori and Andy Murray, who’s currently ranked 125th, he has moved closer to obtaining entry.
The winner of the wildcard tournament was John Patrick Smith, who is also a one-time grand slam quarter-finalist, albeit in the doubles at the US Open. Smith is outside the top 300 in the world rankings but is capable of surprising also.
Alex Bolt is experiencing his highest end-year ranking in his ten years on the circuit. This is due mainly to his performance in last year’s Australian Open, where he made it through to the third round and on form and fitness is a chance to repeat that effort this year.
Also slipping under the radar to some extent is Australian No. 10 Andrew Harris, whose main claim to fame is a long-term doubles relationship with Nick Krygios that began in 2012 with a series of junior grand slam top-eight finishes. Harris finished 2019 with his highest singles ranking ever and has now been on the circuit for nine years.
Australia’s top six male singles players, all in the world top 100 and all with their own band of supporters, would all be hoping for at least a Round 3 performance, and no-one would surprised if they made it. From Australia’s No. 1, Alex De Mineur, through to James Duckworth at No. 6, all have shown enough ability to match it with the world’s best, but all need that vital ingredient luck to be on their side.
De Mineur has the drive, Krygios has the ability, Millman has the consistency, Thompson has the ranking, Popyrin has the youth and Duckworth has the experience to reach Week 2 of the Australian Open, but factors such as form, fitness, state of mind, opponent, desire and attitude will all form part of the mix, which should make the 2020 Australian Open an exciting and spellbinding experience for any loyal Australian fan.