FOR some Australians, it marks the true high point of the summer.
But for the tennis world the Australian Open signifies the first big event on the 2017 calendar — an early opportunity to see what the year has in store.
The tournament, which begins on January 16, won’t just be the first slam of the season but will be tennis fans’ first opportunity to see a fleet of injured superstars including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, all of whom haven’t competed since the US Open in September.
And it’s all right on our doorstep.
Melbourne Park hosts the Australian Open on its world famous blue hardcourts. For visitors, it’s just a five-minute tram ride from the CBD.
With qualifiers running in the lead-up, the main tournament runs from January 16 to 29.
Fox Sports Australia will have all of the latest news on the event from our team on the ground as well as expert analysis and live coverage throughout the tournament. Fans can watch the matches on Channel 7 and 7TWO.
A record $50 million prize purse is on offer at this year’s Australian Open. But it’s not just at the top end, with a 30 per cent increase in money for first round losers.
Singles champions will receive $3.7 million, doubles champions will receive $650,000 and mixed doubles champions will receive $150,500.
With three retractable roof stadiums, the big matches will be kept away from the most extreme weather. The forecast is predicting a few hot early days with the first Tuesday of the tournament tipped for a tip of 33 degrees, with only a few after that expected to reach 30 degrees or higher.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR
On the men’s singles side, Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling sixth championship, defeating Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(3). The top seed took down Roger Federer in a fantastic four-set semi-final which pitted him against the second seed Murray, who defeated surprise semi-finalist and number 13 seed Milos Raonic to get there. The three-set win was Djokovic’s fourth win over Murray in an Australian Open final.
The women’s singles side went as expected until the final, as number seven seed Angelique Kerber stunned top seed Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win her first slam. Williams defeated Agnieszka Radwanska in the semi-finals while Kerber accounted for surprise semi-finalist Johanna Konta, who was unseeded and had battled a surprise herself in qualifier Zhang Shuai the round earlier.
The main draw has been conducted. See the news and key match-ups here.
1 Andy Murray (GBR)
2 Novak Djokovic (SRB)
3 Milos Raonic (CAN)
4 Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
5 Kei Nishikori (JPN)
6 Gael Monfils (FRA)
7 Marin Cilic (CRO)
8 Dominic Thiem (AUT)
9 Rafael Nadal (ESP)
10 Tomas Berdych (CZE)
11 David Goffin (BEL)
12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
13 Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
14 Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
15 Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
16 Lucas Pouille (FRA)
17 Roger Federer (SUI)
18 Richard Gasquet (FRA)
19 John Isner (USA)
20 Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
21 David Ferrer (ESP)
22 Pablo Cuevas (URU)
23 Jack Sock (USA)
24 Alexander Zverev (GER)
25 Gilles Simon (FRA)
26 Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
27 Bernard Tomic (AUS)
28 Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
29 Viktor Troicki (SRB)
30 Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
31 Sam Querrey (USA)
32 Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
1 Angelique Kerber (GER)
2 Serena Williams (USA)
3 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
4 Simona Halep (ROU)
5 Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
6 Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
7 Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
8 Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
9 Johanna Konta (GBR)
10 Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)
11 Elina Svitolina (UKR)
12 Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)
13 Venus Williams (USA)
14 Elena Vesnina (RUS)
15 Roberta Vinci (ITA)
16 Barbora Strycova (CZE)
17 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
18 Samantha Stosur (AUS)
19 Kiki Bertens (NED)
20 Shuai Zhang (CHN)
21 Caroline Garcia (FRA)
22 Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
23 Daria Kasatkina (RUS)
24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
25 Timea Babos (HUN)
26 Laura Siegemund (GER)
27 Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU)
28 Alizé Cornet (FRA)
29 Monica Puig (PUR)
30 Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)
31 Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)
32 Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
Lleyton Hewitt knows better than most the expectations Australians face — and often fail to meet — at their home Open.
As the last Australian to make the final at Rod Laver Arena, he indicated remaining level-headed was the key to success.
“I think anyone playing in their national grand slam, all eyes are on you, the weeks leading into it, there’s a lot of demands as well for your time,” Hewitt toldfoxsports.com.au.
“It’s about handling all that and trying to block it out as much as possible.
“These guys put enough pressure on themselves to go out and perform well, so the added pressure doesn’t really count as much, it’s more just managing your time.”
Nick Kyrgios — Our best chance in the men’s draw, Kyrgios will be hoping to build on his 2016 form in which he won his maiden ATP title and broke into the world’s top 15. A lingering knee complaint has hampered his preparation.
Sam Stosur — Despite going into the tournament as Australia’s top female seed, Stosur’s opening round exit in 2016 will no doubt be on the US Open champion’s mind. Her preparation for the Open has been less than ideal, bombing out of the first round at both the Brisbane and Sydney Internationals.
Bernard Tomic — Injuries and patchy form have also characterised Tomic’s preparation for the tournament. Despite this, Tomic has the ability to push deep into the Open. He has made the final 16 for the past two years and will be looking to go at least one better in 2017.
Daria Gavrilova — The bolter last year, Gavrilova will come to Melbourne Park with big expectations. She defeated sixth seed Petra Kvitova in the second round to establish herself as one of the dark horses, but fell to Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets in the fourth round.
Novak Djokovic — Djokovic completed the ‘Nole Slam’ by defeating Murray in the French Open final, completing his career Grand Slam, but exited Wimbledon in the third round, lost in the first round at the Olympics and then fell in the US Open final to Stan Wawrinka. But Djokovic has always looked most dominant at Melbourne Park meaning we’ll likely see these apparent flaws cleaned up by the start of the event.
Serena Williams — A shoulder injury ended Williams’ 2016 prematurely and a semi-finals exit at the US Open cost her the world number one ranking — a spot her conqueror last year at Melbourne Park, Angelique Kerber, now claims. Only now is Serena expected to be back in full force which bodes ominously for the women who end up on her side of the draw.
Andy Murray — Newly knighted and the new world number one, Andy Murray appears as well-placed as he has ever been to finally claim his first Australian Open title. He won’t have to face bogey man Djokovic until the final if they both make it there once again, of course, but he did take the Serb down in the ATP World Tour Finals late in the year so he may be especially confident.
Angelique Kerber — The greatest year of Kerber’s career started at the Australian Open as the current world number one won her first of two Grand Slam titles. She also made the finals of Wimbledon, the ATP World Tour Finals and the Olympics, showing she was no single-tournament fluke. The German will be hoping to stay at the top of the women’s tennis mountain which is so often in flux.
Stan Wawrinka — The man who broke through for his first Grand Slam title back in 2014 at Melbourne Park will once again be a dark horse in 2017, despite being the most recent men’s singles Grand Slam champion following his win over Djokovic at the US Open. With the Serbian set to be on his side of the draw, Wawrinka may be buoyed, given he has been one of the few to be able to crack that seemingly invincible shell of Djokovic deep in Grand Slams.
Garbine Muguruza — Despite never progressing past the fourth round of the Australian Open, the reigning French Open champion and world number seven is the favourite in many eyes as the dark horse behind last year’s finalists Williams and Kerber. She’ll certainly be hoping to do better than 2016 when she lost in the third round to unseeded Barbora Strycova.
Rafael Nadal — The 2009 Australian Open champion will be relying on his pedigree coming into the 2017 event given he is likely to slot in as the ninth seed — hardly a favourable spot for a player of his stature. But Nadal failed to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 2016 after falling to Fernando Verdasco in an opening-round epic at Melbourne Park. His best performance was the fourth round at the US Open where he lost in five sets to Lucas Pouille.
Simona Halep — A two-time quarter finalist at Melbourne Park, Halep fell in the first round last year to a qualifier. That qualifier did happen to be Zhang Shuai, who reached the quarter-finals, making it slightly less dramatic, but it’s still not as good as we should be seeing from Halep on the blue courts. The former French Open finalist has the ability to go deep into the tournament.
Roger Federer — From dominant force to fan favourite legend, as Federer’s career winds to a close the fans at Melbourne Park who have seen him claim four championships there — the first all the way back in 2004 — are desperate to see a fifth. But his seeding is likely to cost him dearly as a long injury break, dating back to before the Olympics, will put him at number 17 and in line for an early clash with a top seed. A semi-finalist here last year, we know he can still hang with the best. But is his time over?
Men’s Singles: Novak Djokovic ($2.63), Andy Murray ($2.75), Stan Wawrinka ($15), Rafael Nadal ($17.5), Milos Raonic ($25), Roger Federer ($26)
Women’s Singles: Serena Williams ($4.20), Angelique Kerber ($4.90), Garbine Muguruza ($11), Simona Halep ($11), Karolina Pliskova ($12), Agnieszka Radwanska ($32).