Australian Open 2019

Australian Open 2019: Seeds & champs, facts & figures – setting the scene as first Major kicks off

Marianne Bevis previews the 2019 Australian Open, with Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki the defending champions down under

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis

The qualifiers are hard at it, the big names have been working up a sweat in training—and a few exhibition events too—and the hype is building as 2019 prepares for the first tennis Major of the year, the Australian Open.

The clock is also ticking down to the draw this Thursday, and for the first time in many a year, all the tournament’s active champions and runners-up of the last decade, men and women, are present and correct, except for Marcos Baghdatis, who lost in qualifying.

Last year, for example, Melbourne was missing Serena Williams—who won in 2017 while expecting her first child—and Victoria Azarenka, who faced custody battles over her son. As for Andy Murray, he had been labouring with a hip injury since the previous Wimbledon and would eventually opt for surgery while still in Australia.

Now, too, former champions Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic, who were physically still sub-par last January following long injury breaks, are back to fitness. In particular, Djokovic, the six-time former champion, has hit the heights since early last summer to win two Majors and reclaim No1, though Wawrinka has yet to break the seeding milestone, making him a potential floater for seeds in the early rounds.

Murray and the other Brits

· After resorting to that long-delayed hip surgery last year, Murray now arrives in Melbourne ranked No230 and forced to use his protected after playing just six tournaments in 2018. He opened his Australia campaign with a Round 1 win in Brisbane but was beaten by Daniil Medvedev in Round 2—and still playing with some hip pain. Without a seeding, he is vulnerable to a tough draw from the very start without a good slice of luck.

· Kyle Edmund made his first Major SF last year at the Australian Open and won his first title at the end of 2018. But he began his 2019 campaign with an opening loss in Brisbane and a knee injury that forced him to withdraw from Sydney this week. However, he celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday with a rigorous two-hour practice with Roger Federer, and looked fully fit. Seeded inside the top 16, he will avoid a higher ranked player until the fourth round.

· The leading British female player, Johanna Konta, had her breakthrough in Melbourne with a SF finish in 2016—and a QF in 2017—but she struggled with form through 2018, with nine opening-round losses, to drop from a ranking high of No4 18 months ago to a current 38, ie outside the seedings. She has also picked up a neck injury following a promising win over Sloane Stephens in Brisbane, where she lost in the second round, and subsequently pulled out of Sydney.

· Compatriots Heather Watson (No93), Katie Boulter (No99) and Cameron Norrie (93) have also qualified for the main draws, while Dan Evans, Harriet Dart, and James Ward are currently progressing through qualifying.

· Norrie sharpened his preparation with two good wins at the Hopman Cup over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe, and this week has reached the quarters in Auckland, where he next plays Taylor Fritz.

· Boulter partnered Norrie in the Hopman Cup, played against Serena Williams in singles and, in doubles, against Federer, and she plays another non-tour event in Kooyong this week.

A few records up for grabs

· Serena Williams aims to match the all-time Major record tally of Margaret Court with an Open era record eighth Australian title.

· Both Federer and Djokovic are targeting a men’s all-time record seventh Australian title.

· Federer could overtake Ken Rosewall to become the oldest Major champion in men’s tennis.

· Feliciano Lopez could extend his record tally of consecutive Majors with his 68th in Melbourne.

Rules recap and new Heat Stress Scale

· The tournament has introduced, for the first time, a tie-break final set (fifth in men’s draw, third in women’s draw), won by the first to 10 points with two-point lead. The other sets will be regular tie-break sets at 6-6, first to seven points.

· The tournament will use a new Heat Stress Scale across the men’s and women’s draws, whereby players have a 10-minute break if conditions reach a pre-determined level, and play will be suspended when it hits the highest zone on the scale.

· Shot clock: 25 second clock on serve for all main-draw matches; one minute to be ready for coin toss, five minutes for the warm-up itself, one minute until the first point.

· Electronic Review System on all 16 match courts.

· Increased qualifying draw for women, from 96 to 128 players.

· Trial of coaching in qualifying and juniors.

Dates

Monday 15 to Sunday 28 January (NB Melbourne 11 hours ahead of London)

Previous champions and finalists in draws

Men’s champions: Federer (six, and defending), Djokovic (six), Rafael Nadal (one), Wawrinka (one). NB These four together have won the last 13 titles.

Men’s finalists: Andy Murray (five), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (one), Marcos Baghdatis (one), Marin Cilic (one)

Women’s champions: Serena Williams (seven, defending from 2017), Victoria Azarenka (two), Caroline Wozniacki (one, and defending from 2018), Angelique Kerber (one), Maria Sharapova (one)

Women’s finalists: Venus Williams (two), Dominika Cibulkova (one), Simona Halep (one)

Prize money

Total purse up 14 percent to a record A$62.5 million (£35 million) with $4.1 million for each singles champion (£2.3 million). Biggest percentage increase, 25 percent, to first-round main draw, A$75,000 (£42,000).

Champions/runners-up so far in 2019

Mubadala World Tennis Championships, Abu Dhabi (exho event)

Novak Djokovic beat Kevin Anderson, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5

Hopman Cup, Perth [ITF/TA event]

Roger Federer/Belinda Bencic beat Alexander Zverev/Angelique Kerber

NB Both Federer and Kerber won all four of their singles matches

Shenzhen Open, WTA International

Aryna Sabalenka beat Alison Riske, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3

Brisbane International, ATP 250/WTA Premier

Kei Nishikori beat Daniil Medvedev, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2

Karolina Pliskova beat Lesia Tsurenko, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2

Qatar Open (Doha), ATP 250

Roberto Bautista Agut beat Tomas Berdych, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Pune (India), ATP 250

Kevin Anderson beat Ivo Karlovic, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6

Auckland Classic, WTA International

Julia Goerges beat Bianca Andreescu, 2-6,7-5,6-1

Currently playing: quarter-final stages

Auckland Classic, ATP 250

Fabio Fognini, Pablo Carreno Busta, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Norrie, Fritz

Hobart International, WTA International

Belinda Bencic, Alize Cornet, Kirsten Flipkens

Sydney International, ATP 250, WTA Premier

ATP: Tsitsipas, Diego Schwartzman, Gilles Simon, Alex de Minaur, John Millman

WTA: Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Timea Bacsinszky, Kiki Bertens, Ash Barty

Exho events

Kooyong Classic, Melbourne

Players: Anderson, Cilic, Fernando Verdasco, Sorana Cirstea, Peng Shuai, Nick Kyrgios

Fast4 Showdown, Sydney

Players: Nadal, Kyrgios, Milos Raonic, Millman

World Team Challenge, Adelaide

Players: Azarenka/Verdasco; Eugenie Bouchard/Borna Coric

Australian Open Seeds, men

[NB Seeded withdrawals: Juan Martin del Potro, No5, Richard Gasquet, No26]

1 Novak Djokovic

2 Rafael Nadal

3 Roger Federer

4 Alexander Zverev

5 Kevin Anderson

6 Marin Cilic

7 Dominic Thiem

8 Kei Nishikori

9 John Isner

10 Karen Khachanov

11 Borna Coric

12 Fabio Fognini

13 Kyle Edmund

14 Stefanos Tsitsipas

15 Daniil Medvedev

16 Milos Raonic

17 Marco Cecchinato

18 Diego Schwartzman

19 Nikoloz Basilashvili

20 Grigor Dimitrov

21 David Goffin

22 Roberto Bautista Agut

23 Pablo Carreno Busta

24 Chung Hyeon

25 Denis Shapovalov

26 Fernando Verdasco

27 Alex de Minaur

28 Lucas Pouille

29 Gilles Simon

30 Gael Monfils

31 Steve Johnson

32 Philipp Kohlschreiber

Dangerous non-seeds: Kyrgios (51), Tomas Berdych (57), Wawrinka (59), Murray (230) (protected ranking), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (177) (wild card)

Australian Open Seeds, women

1 Simona Halep

2 Angelique Kerber

3 Caroline Wozniacki

4 Naomi Osaka

5 Sloane Stephens

6 Elina Svitolina

7 Karolina Pliskova

8 Petra Kvitova

9 Kiki Bertens

10 Daria Kasatkina

11 Aryna Sabalenka

12 Elise Mertens

13 Anastasija Sevastova

14 Julia Goerges

15 Ashleigh Barty

16 Serena Williams

17 Madison Keys

18 Garbine Muguruza

19 Caroline Garcia

20 Anett Kontaveit

21 Wang Qiang

22 Jelena Ostapenko

23 Carla Suarez Navarro

24 Lesia Tsurenko

25 Mihaela Buzarnescu

26 Dominika Cibulkova

27 Camila Giorgi

28 Hsieh Su-wei

29 Donna Vekic

30 Maria Sharapova

31 Petra Martic

32 Barbora Strycova

Dangerous non-seeds: Venus Williams (37), Victoria Azarenka (52), Belinda Bencic (55), Timea Bacsinszky (73) (protected ranking), Eugenie Bouchard (79)

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