Five ATP stars who could end Grand Slam wait at Australian Open: From Felix Auger-Aliassime to Nick Kyrgios
Four of the players in the top 10 of the ATP Rankings are Grand Slam winners, but there are certainly several others knocking on the door with Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime leading the way.
Reigning US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz broke his major duck last year when he defeated Ruud in the final at Flushing Meadows while the other two Grand Slam winners in 2022 were usual suspects Rafael Nadal (Australian Open and French Open) and Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon).
The US Open certainly seems to be the tournament for winning your first major as before Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev was the last first-time major winner when he lifted the US Open trophy in 2021. Dominic Thiem also became a Grand Slam winner at the US Open in 2020 while Marin Cilic won his only major in 2014, also in New York.
The Australian Open, though, has always been a tough nut to crack for first-time winners as you have to go back to 2014 for the last time a player other than Djokovic, Roger Federer and Nadal won at Melbourne Park as Stan Wawrinka won his maiden major when he defeated Nadal in the final. And Stan is far from a one-Slam wonder as he went on to win the French Open and US Open.
Former world No 1 Marat Safin won his only title at Melbourne Park in 2005, but you have to go back to 2002 for the last true one-Slam wonder winner when Thomas Johansson defeated Safin in the final.
Those hoping to break through Grand Slam ducks Down Under this year will have to get past nine-time champion Djokovic, defending champion Nadal, world No 1 Alcaraz and hard-court favourite Medvedev.
But anything is possible and a host of players are certainly more than dark horses to win in Melbourne.
The Norwegian reached two Grand Slam finals last year as he finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the French Open and then lost against Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open.
Ruud’s best performance to date at the Australian Open is a run to the fourth round last year as he retired during his clash against Andrey Rublev.
Although a clay-court specialist, Ruud also reached the final on the hard courts of the ATP Masters 1000 Miami Open last year and won the San Diego Open in 2021.
With three Australian Open semi-finals to his name in the last four years, Tsitsipas looks best poised to end Big Three’s trophy dominance at Melbourne Park.
The Greek lost to Daniil Medvedev in the last four in the last two editions while in 2019 he was beaten by Nadal.
Let’s not forget he was one set away from beating Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final while he has also won four titles on hard courts, although you have to go back to February 2020 for the last one.
Back in August 2019, Andy Murray predicted that Auger-Aliassime, Tsitispas and Alexander Zverev will be the ones to take over the baton from the Big Three of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.
“I like Felix. I like his game; physically he’s very strong and he looks good mentally,” the three-time Grand Slam winner said. “He’s still young so he’ll need a little time.”
World No 6 Auger-Aliassime will certainly feel he has had more than enough time. Having turned professional in 2017, he had to wait five years to win his first ATP singles title, but once he got his hands on some silverware he couldn’t stop winning titles.
The Canadian won four titles last year, including three in a row in October, and it won’t be a surprise if he does take the next step at the Australian Open.
The Italian will be the first to admit that 2022 was not his best year on the ATP Tour as he won only one title and finished the year at No 15.
Sinner, though, has been tipped for stardom by those who know the game as Novak Djokovic stated a few years ago: “(Sinner) definitely possesses a game that is powerful and is with a lot of quality, and you can say he has the potential to be a top player of the world.”
Last year Sinner reached three Grand Slam quarter-finals, including the US Open where he lost in five tight sets against Alcaraz.
His best performance to date at Melbourne Park was last year when he made it to the last eight before losing in straight sets against Tsitispas.
It was a toss-up between Kyrgios and Matteo Berrettini as the fifth player with Alexander Zverev not considered as he is still nursing his way back from injury.
Ultimately we went with the Australian due to his ability to get wins against the biggest names in the business.
While they both have runners-up trophies at Wimbledon and Berrettini reached the semi-final of the Australian Open in 2022 and the US Open in 2019, the Italian is yet to beat Djokovic, Nadal, Medvedev and Tsitsipas.
Kyrgios, by contrast, has a 4-1 record against Medvedev and Tsitsipas, is 2-1 against Djokovic, and 3-6 against Nadal.
The Australian is certainly on the rise when it comes to Grand Slams following his run to the final at SW19 as he also reached the quarter-final of the US Open and he was certainly devastated after failing to make it further at Flushing Meadows.
Talk that the balls that will be used at this year’s tournament will be “light and quick” will certainly be music to his ears, although the fact that is unlikely to play any warm-up events in the lead-up to the event will count against him.
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