Top contenders for the Australian Open 2012

Feroz Khan

With the season`s first ever Grand Slam about to hit the town here is a look at the top contenders for the Australian Open 2012 title (Men singles and Women singles)

Novak Djokovic (World Ranking: 1, Grand Slam Titles: 7)

`Djoker` had the last laugh among the top names in men`s world of tennis in 2011 owing to his peerless form that saw him claiming all Grand Slam titles but the French Open. His superlative run of 43 unbeaten matches helped him capture 10 titles during the season. Deservedly, Djokovic ended the year as the world number one and is the favourite to pocket the first grand slam of the season.

Rafael Nadal (World Ranking: 2 , Grand Slam Titles: 10)

Rafa had a mixed 2011 season that was plagued by injuries. However, `the king of clay` managed to triumph on his preferred surface at the French Open. Battling a foot injury that he aggravated during the Wimbledon tournament, Nadal made it through the finals only to be beaten by Djokovic. The same story continued at US Open where he again lost in the finals to Djokovic. The Spanish Matador, however, managed to end the year in the top 2. Australian Open has been the least productive Grand Slam tournament for Nadal which he has won only once.

Roger Federer (World Ranking: 3, Grand Slam Titles: 16)

For the first time in nine years, Roger Federer ended a year without a single Grand Slam title against his name and he dropped one place in the ranking charts from number two to three. The Swiss, however, defended his ATP World Tour Finals title defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final. Fitness remains a concern as Federer had to leave the season opener Qatar Open with a bad back. Last time around he bowed out of Australian Open in the semi finals losing to the eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

Andy Murray (World Rankings: 4, Grand Slam Titles: 0)

The Scot has been under constant pressure to break Britain’s 76-year Grand Slam drought. His story can be summarised as `so near yet so far`. The new season brings new hope and added confidence as Murray has appointed tennis great Ivan Lendl as his coach to end his continuing wait for a Grand Slam title. He began the year by winning the Brisbane event. He has made two final appearances at Australian Open losing to Federer and Djokovic.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga(WR: 6)/Bernard Tomic (WR: 37)

Frenchman Tsonga is known for his `giant killing` abilities, a quality that he has exploited the most at Australian Open having tamed the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray. His famous win of the last season came during the quarter finals of Wimbledon. Tsonga came back after losing the first two sets against Federer to enter the semi finals. In his last outing at the Melbourne Park, Tsonga could only progress to the third round but then again this is the same tournament where he stunned the tennis world by entering the finals as an unseeded player in 2008.

Australian Bernard Tomic who is the youngest in the top 50, made it to the quarter finals of the Wimbledon tournament. He is currently the Australian number one and hopes rest on him to become the first winner from his country since Mark Edmondson in 1976

Caroline Wozniacki (World Ranking: 1, Grand Slam Titles: 0)

There have been constant questions and increased pressure on Caroline Wozniacki to justify her top billing in the tennis world despite a single Grand Slam title in her kitty. Her quest for a maiden title this season attains significance from the fact that her top status is receiving a constant challenge from Petra Kvitova. During the last Australian Open, she lost to Li Na in the semifinals.

Petra Kvitova (World Ranking: 2, Grand Slam Titles: 1)

2011 was a breakthrough season for Petra Kvitova that witnessed her meteoric rise from world no. 34 to no. 2. Her moment came during the Wimbledon tournament when she defeated Maria Sharapova to claim her first Grand Slam title. Deservedly, she was awarded the ITF player of the year.

Li Na (World Ranking: 5, Grand Slam Titles: 1)

Li Na created history by becoming the first player from an Asian country to win a Grand Slam Tournament winning the 2011 French Open title. She also made a final appearance during the season opener Australian Open. She suffered a slump in form soon after her maiden Slam title but managed to qualify for 2011WTA Tour Finals.

Kim Clijsters (World Ranking: 13, Grand Slam Titles: 6)

The Belgian began 2011 on a spectacular note winning her first Australian and fourth overall Grand Slam title. However an ankle injury caused her to miss French Open. Her return to the court in August saw her picking up an abdominal injury and led to her withdrawal from US Open where she was a two time defending champion. She took an off from the rest of the season to prepare for 2012.

Serena Williams (World Ranking: 12, Grand Slam Titles: 13)

Serena Williams is also suffered from an injury plagued season and has dropped out of top 10 players. Her performance in the last season, as little as it was, received praises. The 13-time Grand Slam winner`s fitness is under scrutiny after hurting her ankle during Brisbane International and admits that it`s causing her trouble. If the American manages to keep the fitness woes aside, she can be a strong challenger for the title.