Australian Open has history of surprises

January 17th, 2009 - 6:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Jan 17 (IANS) Australian Open has the reputation of throwing surprise champions who then fade into oblivion. In the past, men come out of nowhere to reach the final at Melbourne Park. Some of them won it, such as Czech Petr Korda in 1998 and Thomas Johansson in 2002.

And then there were sensations who fell short, such as Marcos Baghdatis in 2006, Fernando Gonzalez in 2007 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last year.

But for the most part, the established elite players take home the big trophies. When Novak Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title at Rod Laver Arena last year, he had already reached one major final, the 2007 US Open, and was thought to be on the cusp of greatness.

Will it be young Scot Andy Murray this year?

Murray has made the right moves leading to the year’s first Grand Slam. The prize scalp of Roger Federer twice recently has made the World No.4 one of the hot favourites in the tournament beginning Monday.

He reached the US Open final last year, falling to Federer, but he also scored wins over all of his top rivals: Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic. He’s been red-hot since the latter part of 2008 and is aiming to become the first British male since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major.

Just two weeks ago in Doha, Murray knocked out Federer in the semis and then thumped Andy Roddick to win the title.

Murray has spent a lot of time training off court to add muscle to his long frame and to increase his aerobic capacity.

As for Federer, even though he is coming off his worst year since 2003, he still claimed his 13th Grand Slam title at the US Open.

The Swiss has triumphed here in 2004, 2006 and 2007. But this season is going to be a big challenge for him as he is just one major short of Pete Sampras’s mark of 14 Grand Slams.

World No.1 Nadal has been enormously successful on clay and silenced his critics with a Wimbledon crown last year on grass. But he is yet to reach the final of a hardcourt Grand Slam.

He’s coming off the best season of his career, winning the French Open on clay again, Wimbledon on grass for the first time and the Olympic gold on hardcourts, but Nadal injured his troublesome knee a few months ago and was forced to miss Shanghai and the Davis Cup final.

World No. 3 Djokovic began to fall off the mark after his maiden Grand Slam title here last year. The Serbian has put too much pressure on himself to grab the No. 1 ranking.

After confronting an angry crowd at the US Open when he beat American Andy Roddick and paying for it later mentally, he calmed down and recovered to win the Masters Cup in Shanghai.

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