Australian Open 2021: Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka favourites as COVID-19 casts shadow over occasion
With the Grand Slam being performed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers will likely be beneath as a lot strain because the gamers to carry out and full the occasion.
Tennis isn’t regular. In actual fact, enjoying any sport on the highest degree requires a sure abnormality within the coronary heart and head. The stakes are excessive, competitors is fierce and it is bodily and mentally demanding not solely on the gamers however generally extra so on the dad and mom, coaches, trainers, and help employees. Once you throw the coronavirus pandemic into the combination, it makes for a surreal state of affairs.
That’s the situation beneath which the Australian Open Tennis Championships 2021 will get underway tomorrow in Melbourne. For the primary time, the organisers will likely be beneath as a lot strain because the gamers to carry out and full the occasion. Given the strict, nearly unrealistic guidelines of the Australian authorities, it is going to take a mammoth effort of all of the stakeholders of the occasion to make sure it runs easily and with none main incident.
The weird state of affairs of over 70 gamers being ‘arduous quarantined’ for 14 days as quickly as they entered Australia with no entry to coaching services, not to mention enjoying tennis after which the second spherical of over 600 gamers getting examined after employees on the official resort examined optimistic signifies that the adage ‘thoughts over matter’ takes on an entire new which means for the 12 months’s first grand slam. Gamers resorted to modern and quirky methods of staying match, (bodily and mentally) because the quarantine began to put on them down even earlier than the primary ball was performed.
What’s fascinating to notice is the very different and completely different reactions and thought processes of the marquee gamers in the course of the pandemic. Whereas Novak Djokovic stored the organizers and the media on their toes along with his remarks concerning the quarantine guidelines that appeared to indicate him in poor mild (shock shock), Rafael Nadal was the voice of cause as at all times, going past the sport of tennis and insisting that gamers are privileged to have the ability to do what they love and nonetheless receives a commission for it.
With Federer opting out because of knee surgical procedure, the highlight is firmly on Djokovic and Nadal who begin out as agency favorites within the males’s occasion. The remainder of the gamers within the subject know that to beat both of them, they might want to produce the best high quality of shotmaking over three units. Each have an excessive amount of at stake with Nadal aiming to overhaul Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles and Djokovic aiming to proceed his dominance in Melbourne and inch nearer to Federer’s document and maybe get a bit extra fashionable with the followers.
Each have had very completely different paths and coaching packages main as much as the occasion. Whereas Nadal has nearly by no means performed an occasion resulting in a Grand Slam, he was compelled to alter his routine and play within the ATP Cup to get some ‘match observe’ beneath his belt. Nonetheless, he was unable to participate within the competitors because of a decrease again downside.
Djokovic then again has been as medical and methodical in his coaching regime as he at all times has been. He’ll desperately need to put behind the unceremonious and embarrassing exit that he had on the US Open late final 12 months which might have in all probability ended with one other Grand Slam title beneath his belt.
They are going to be challenged by the same old suspects who’ve been extra victims than victors. Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov, Daniil Medvedev, Milos Raonic, and some others who’ve flattered to deceive on the massive stage. Thiem misplaced a match he ought to have gained ultimately 12 months’s Australian Open remaining, however made amends by profitable his first Grand Slam title on the US Open albeit with out the large three within the fray.
The ladies then again have been fairly busy buying and selling locations and trophies. There have been 4 completely different winners within the Grand Slams in 2019, three completely different winners in 2020 (with Wimbledon being canceled). Naomi Osaka was the one participant to have gained a grand slam title in 2019 and 2020 and appears essentially the most stable to win one other slam if she retains her bouts of inconsistency in verify.
There may be additionally a sure Serena Williams who has been chasing that elusive twenty fourth Grand Slam victory which makes her the best feminine tennis participant to have graced the sport. She has come very shut over the previous couple of years however has been waylaid largely because of some impressed tennis by her opponents and a few uncharacteristic meltdowns of her personal. The clock is ticking quick for her and Australia supplies the right alternative for her to make amends.
On the Indian entrance, Sumit Nagal stays the lone warrior within the singles by advantage of a wild card. He has a difficult first spherical match with Richard Berankis who beat him simply final week within the warmup match. The creator spoke briefly to him and he appeared relaxed and assured for the match this time round since he has obtained a variety of observe beneath his belt in the previous couple of days and the rustiness appears to have worn off.
Rohan Bopanna opens the brand new 12 months partnering Ben Mclachlan of Japan within the males’s doubles and Ying Ying Duan of China within the combined doubles within the combined doubles. Divij Sharan is the opposite participant within the males’s doubles and he’ll associate Igor Zelenay of Slovakia. Each will likely be seeking to begin the brand new 12 months on an excellent word and maintain the momentum for the primary a part of the 12 months. Sania Mirza, India’s torchbearer for thus a few years determined to skip the occasion because of a mix of a leg harm, COVID-19 , and extreme journey restrictions.
All in all, it guarantees to be an interesting two weeks of tennis!
Gaurav Natekar is a double Asian Video games gold medallist, Arjuna Awardee and former India No 1 tennis participant.
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