Top Seven Australian Open Outsiders
The big four in the world of men’s tennis have dominated the latter stages of Grand Slams for the last few years and although Rafael Nadal is still struggling with injury the remaining trio of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer still command much the shortest odds at this year’s Australian Open.
It has been five years since someone from outside of this quartet has reached a final in Melbourne and eight years since another contender won it when Marat Safin triumphed in 2005. There will be plenty trying to break the stranglehold of the top players though over the next two weeks and we take a look at the men who could cause an upset down under.
1. Janko Tipsarevic
The eighth seed for the tournament may only have reached two quarter-finals at Grand Slams before but his impressive world ranking of ninth shows that he is always a tough opponent and no one will look forward to facing him.
The Serb is clearly in good form having already been into the winner’s enclosure this year as he won the Aircel Chennai Open earlier this month and at the time of writing has just seen off home favourite Leyton Hewitt in straight sets in the first round in Melbourne.
His section looks a very winnable one and if he can stroll into the quarter-finals for the first time in this competition then his confidence will be soaring and he has the potential to cause a real stir later on.
2. Milos Raonic
The young Canadian is very much on the rise in the game as he is at a career best of 13th in the world and his serve is a weapon that anyone he faces will fear. He hits an awful lot of aces from his towering height of 6’5” and if anyone wants to beat him they will have to learn to deal with this threat.
He reached the fourth round here at the age of just 20 and will be hoping to go further than that but he will struggle to do so with Federer in his section. If Raonic could displace the great man though he would have to be considered a contender.
3. Tomas Berdych
The world number six has enjoyed reaching the latter stages of Grand Slams plenty of times over his career although the Australian Open is the only one at which he has failed to reach a semi-final. Having said that though he did make the quarter-final last year which equalled his best performance in Melbourne so he will feel confident returning to the same arena.
He knows how to win big games on big stages having knocked both Federer and Djokovic out of Wimbledon in the past so it is guaranteed that no one will be taking him lightly. It looks likely that he could set up a last eight match with Djokovic which he would be a long second favourite for, but as mentioned, he has beaten him before so stranger things have happened.
4. Bernard Tomic
The real wildcard of the outsiders is the 20-year-old Australian who has caused plenty of controversy in his young career already. He is got himself in trouble both on and off the court and that has brought him plenty of publicity but he is going to have to start to deliver more consistently if he wants to really be taken seriously.
He has already managed a quarter-final at Wimbledon and made the fourth round in Melbourne last year knocking out two seeds along the way before losing in straight sets to Federer so his potential is massive. He is likely to meet Federer again though if he wants to improve on that, and like fellow young prospect Raonic, this could prove too much for him.
5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The Frenchman was the last man outside of the world’s top four to make it to the final of the Australian Open when he lost to Djokovic back in 2008. Along with two semi-finals at Wimbledon and well over million dollars won in prize money over his career thus far he has to be considered as a potential winner of big events.
He did not have his best year in 2012 though winning nearly million dollars less than he managed the previous year and he fell from fifth in the world at the start of the year to eighth by its end where he lies now.
He should have no problem with his section and could well meet Federer in the last eight which would be a great contest. Tsonga has beaten Djokovic on this stage before which few people in recent years can say so he will be confident facing anyone.
6. David Ferrer
At 30 it may be that the Spaniard’s chances of winning a Grand Slam have come and gone, but he is number five in the world and has been in the top 10 for some years now having peaked at number four back in 2008.
He is still yet to reach a Grand Slam final but after four semi-final appearances including one in Melbourne two years ago he can count himself very unlucky. If anything though his form seems to be improving with age as he at least equalled his best results at the French Open, US Open and Wimbledon last year along with winning more ATP tour titles than anyone and more matches than anyone that year.
It could be a semi-final against Djokovic for the Spaniard which is never easy but if he could finally make a Grand Slam final then the crowd may well be on his side as fans hope for a much deserved win after all these years.
7. Juan Martin Del Potro
The man who commands the lowest odds outside of the top three is the giant Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, which given that he is the only one of the outsiders to win a Grand Slam makes sense.
Del Potro sensationally won the US Open in 2009 defeating Roger Federer in the final and although he hasn’t repeated that success yet, that achievement has always got to leave him ranked as a possible winner in the big events.
He goes into the event as sixth seed and should certainly at least match his best performance in Melbourne of the quarter-finals which he achieved last year and in 2009. A potential meeting with Murray in the quarter-finals would be a very feisty one and a contest the Scot would not be relishing.