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Federer? Nadal? 10 Men Who Can Win the Australian Open, Part 2

Posted on January 12, 2011 by JA Allen

No. 5: Robin Soderling

Swede Robin Soderling is "red hot" coming into the 2011 Australian Open.

The Swede made a name for himself by pulling off the biggest upset in the history of men’s tennis, in many people’s estimation.

This occurred when Soderling dismissed Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open in 2009.

It stunned Nadal and his fans when this upstart from Sweden stopped Nadal from winning his fifth consecutive French Open title.

Based on his play at the French and subsequent tournaments, Soderling rose into the men’s top ten at the end of 2009 and has remained there since that time.

Currently ranked world No. 4, Soderling will be seeded No. 4 as the 2011 Australian Open gets underway on January 17th. The odds on his winning have risen to 20-1.

But the Swede has never done well at the Australian Open.  In fact, he has never progressed beyond the second round.

Much of this has to do with the number of serious injuries Soderling has endured over the years since he broke into the men’s tour.

Even when he played, however, Soderling was plagued with nagging shoulder and knee problems.  This kept the Swede from playing his best. The lack of complete health lasted through 2008.

In 2009, Soderling began to find success and score victories on tour.

Even though he lost early to an unseeded Marcos Baghdatis at the 2009 Australian Open, Soderling made it to the finals of the French Open where he lost to Roger Federer.

Who Will Win the Australian Open Title?

  • Roger Federer (46%, 12 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (35%, 9 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (12%, 3 Votes)
  • Someone else (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Robin Soderling (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 27

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No. 4: Andy Murray

Will this be the tournament when Andy Murray finally wins that elusive first major?

Every year, for every major tournament except the French Open, pundits prepare for Andy Murray to finally break through to win his first major.

Most think hard courts are the Scots best bet for winning that elusive first slam title.

Others apply the pressure to win at home––to capture a Wimbledon crown and put Fred Perry finally away as the last male Brit to win at Wimbledon.

Alas, it has not happened yet.  Most especially, the chance to win has not shown bright in Melbourne, except for last year when Murray made the finals for the first time.

In fact Murray did not even lose a set at the 2010 Australian Open until the semifinals when Marin Cilic managed to take one set before Murray slammed the door shut.

Murray had defeated Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals in straight sets, with Nadal finally retiring in the third set.

But then Murray faced Federer in the finals, losing in straight sets 3-6, 4-6, 6-7.  In the tiebreak, Murray finally started to show his form, but it was too little, too late and Murray lost his second slam title to the Swiss––the first in the finals of the 2008 U.S. Open.

The Scot has had really rotten luck at the Australian Open throughout the years.  Murray always seemed to run into the “hot” player during the notorious Australian Open which seemed to serve up one surprise finalist after another during the 2000s.

In 2008, Murray lost in the opening round to unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who rode a winning streak all the way to that year’s finals where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

In 2009 Murray ran into Fernando Verdasco who had a remarkable Australian Open that year, making it all the way to the semifinals where he lost in five tough sets to Rafael Nadal.

Perhaps this will be the year for Murray to get the monkey off his back and perhaps like Lendl, once he wins that first major, the Scot will never look back.

It took Lendl until age 25.  Murray is still only 23, even though it seems like he has been at the top of the men’s game for years.

The odds-makers have the Scot as the third favorite at 5-1. Will Murray’s luck change this year?

No. 3: Novak Djokovic:

Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open in 2008. Will this year be a repeat?

Novak Djokovic won his first and only major title in Melbourne in 2008.

The Serb defeated Roger Federer in the semifinals and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the championship match to capture the Australian Open that year.

When the Serb made the finals of the 2010 U.S. Open, it marked his third major final since his first at U.S. Open in 2007 where he faced Roger Federer.

At age 23, Djokovic is one of a handful of active players besides Federer and Nadal who has won a major title.

The question is can he win another and will it come this year in Melbourne?

The obvious answer is that he can do it a second time because he has already done it once.

But there are many examples of men who have won one slam and never another.

Djokovic’s first two forays into the Australian Open were not very successful.

The Serb was dismissed in the first round in 2005 and 2006.  But in 2007 the young Serb made it all the way to the fourth round where he met and was defeated by Roger Federer, the eventual champion.

In 2008, however, Djokovic found Federer across the net in the semifinals and this time he did not fold, defeating the Swiss in straight sets.

While playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals, the Serb dropped his first set of the tournament.

It was a definitive win for Djokovic, who claimed his first major title at the 2008 Australian Open Championship.

In 2009, however, Djokovic lost to American Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, retiring in the fourth set of his match.

In 2010 Djokovic lost again in the quarterfinals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a five set match.

Djokovic has prepared for the upcoming Australian Open by participating in the Hopman Cup where he went undefeated.

In between times the Serb found time to practice with Scot Andy Murray as they both seek to get accustomed to the Australian climate.

The Serb definitely has his eyes firmly on the prize as the Australian Open gets underway in less than a week. With odds settling at 6-1, the Serb is a favorite to win again.

No. 2: Rafael Nadal:

Rafael Nadal will be seeking his second Australian Open Championship.

There is much riding on Rafael Nadal winning this slam down under in 2011.

He won the Australian Open Championship in 2009.

But winning this one would give Nadal a record in tennis that Roger Federer does not already own and one he cannot claim to equal.

By winning this year’s championship, Nadal would hold all four majors at one time.

He would be the only man to accomplish this feat since Rod Laver did it in 1969.

It would be Nadal’s “Rafa-Slam,” much as Serena Williams completed her “Serena Slam” in 2002-2003––holding all four major championships at one time.

It would also start Nadal down the road to winning a calendar year slam––the last one occurring during the first full year of competition in the Open Era in 1969 by Aussie Laver.

Nadal has played in six previous Australian Open Championships, the first in 2004 when the Majorcan advanced to the third round losing to Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets.

In 2005, Nadal made it to the fourth round, losing again to Aussie Hewitt but this time in a very competitive five-set match.

Injured in 2006, Nadal did not return to Melbourne until 2007. There he advanced to the quarterfinals where the Majorcan lost to Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets.

In 2008 Nadal made his greatest advance into the Australian Open, making the semifinals where he met and was defeated by unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Frenchman was enjoying a very hot winning streak down under eventually making the finals where he lost to Djokovic.

Finally, in 2009, Nadal made it to the finals where he found his arch nemesis, Roger Federer, waiting.

In another epic contest, Nadal won in five sets, capturing his first Australian Open Championship and his first slam victory on hard courts.

By taking this title, Nadal opened the door wider exposing the  breadth of the Majorcan’s game.  He was now a slam winner on all surfaces.

At age 24, Nadal has already built a huge edge over his contemporaries on the tennis court.

Whether he continues to advance on Federer’s records will become clearer as the tennis year progresses in 2011.

A vital step will be realized should Nadal win this year in Melbourne. But that promise to exert much pressure on the Majorcan.

There is no doubt that Nadal will be unrelenting in pursuing this goal.  He will not beat himself in this quest.

Somebody will have to wrest the championship away from him by outplaying Nadal in every aspect of the game.

No. 1: Roger Federer:

Roger Federer will be seeking his fifth Australian Open Championship in Melbourne.

Roger Federer is the only active player to have won the Australian Open more than once.

In fact, the Swiss has won the Australian Open four times in 11 appearances.

After being dismissed in the third round twice by Arnaud Clement in 2000 and 2001 and in the fourth round by Tommy Haas in 2002 and David Nalbandian in 2003––both five setters––Federer won his first Australian Open in 2004.

He defeated Marat Safin in straight sets.

It was a very satisfying win for the Swiss after winning Wimbledon in 2003.

The 2004 Australian Open was Federer’s second grand slam title.

Meeting Safin again in 2005 in the semifinals, Federer suffered a rare defeat, losing 7-9 in the fifth set. The loss allowed Safin to advance on to the finals where the enigmatic Russian won his second slam title.

Federer won back to back titles in 2006 and 2007, defeating unseeded Marcos Baghdatis and Fernando Gonzalez respectively in the finals.  In his 2007 campaign, the Swiss did not drop a set––another record set in his amazing career.

Everyone predicted another win for the Swiss in 2008 but Serb Djokovic derailed Federer in the semifinals and went on to win the title for himself that year.

2009 saw Federer once again in the Australian Open final––this time facing Rafael Nadal for the first time in a hard court major final.

Nadal capitalized winning the critical points and he took the title away from the Swiss in dramatic fashion.

It ushered in another whole era in their storied rivalry.  While Nadal’s best surfaces are still clay and grass, the Majorcan proved he can win on any surface.

In 2010, Federer once again returned to the final in Melbourne and this time he succeeded defeating the Scot Andy Murray in straight sets, winning his fourth Australian Open and his sixteenth major title.

Coming into the Australian Open in 2011, Federer is riding a wave of successes having just won the ExxonMobil Open in Qatar, defeating Nikolay Davydenko in the final.

He also won the WTF in London by defeating Nadal in the finals.  This victory came after winning in Stockholm and Basel.

Federer’s game is clicking and his confidence is sky-high. But does that mean he will win in Melbourne?

No one can say for sure – but he is healthy and excited about playing tennis again. Let’s face it the man has a history of winning slams.

Read Part 1 by clicking here.

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