The tennis aficionados wait with bated breath to see the coronation of champions of the blue turf at Melbourne, home to year`s first major tournament - the Australian Open.
The year gone by was an year of new champions, some history making and some shocking ousters. We take a look at the men single`s draw and the expected outcomes at the Australian Open 2014.
A look back at 2013
Last year, Novak Djokovic retained his Australian Open crown, Rafael Nadal defended his French Open, Andy Murray was `etched` in British history by winning the Wimbledon, and Nadal got his second US Open taking him atop the ATP rankings, displacing Djokovic. The last year also saw emergence of David Ferrer, who was quite a revelation in the French Open. Stanislas Wawrinka came of age entering his first semi-final in the US Open. Juan Martin del Potro was another tough contender, who gave Nole a run for his money at the Wimbledon semi-finals.
The 2014 prediction
Now that the Big Four is Big Three, with ouster of the 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer from the league, we are expected to see the Rafa-Novak rivalry gain new heights.
We predict a Nadal-Djokovic final this year, a repeat of the 2012 scenario, where these two put in all sweat and blood for the title, in a contest that lasted for five hours and 53 minutes, making it the longest Grand Slam final ever.
While Novak is on a 22-match winning streak, which includes a victory against Rafa at the ATP World Tour Finals, Nadal too is in stupendous form. What an extra ordinary comeback he has made to reach the numero uno position, needs no description.
Ideally, the final title fight should be between these top two ranked men. However, considering the game changers in line who often are able to cause upsets, could we see a possible new champion at the Rod Laver arena? That remains to be seen.
A tough contender would be Andy Murray, who despite winning the Wimbledon remains an `underdog` contender. While Murray rues about his injury woes, his form is even a greater threat to his title contention. He would meet Roger Federer at the quarter-finals if the Swiss is able to regain his faltering form. Though Federer recently commented he still has the power to beat the top two, a look at his dismal 2013 makes that really doubtful. Federer is at least expected to reach the fourth round, till he meets the French-man Jo Wilfried Tsonga - a man against whom he suffered a shocking loss at the Wimbledon semi-final in 2011.
Nadal would meet del Potro in the quarters, and the hard hitting Argentine could give a tough fight to the mighty Spaniard. Rafa in the first round faces Bernard Tomic - the Australian who has never faced a first round defeat at a hard court grand slam, however, this Australian Open could be an end to his record.
In Novak`s side of the draw, the Serbian would not have a real fight till he meets the other Swiss - Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarters. The number three seed David Ferrer would meet Tomas Berdych in the quarter finals. Both of whom are capable of causing upsets.
Novak Djokovic will wait for his fifth Australian Open, fourth in a row! Nadal would be inching closer to his 14th grand slam title. Roger Federer`s win only adds to a fan`s delight! If a new champion wins the crown, it would be interesting to see how he defeats the mighty Serb or the Spaniard. Whatever the outcome maybe, every year with a grand slam win, fans get a treat and the game raises its bar, courtesy its gritty determined warriors.