The 2017 Australian Open: What to Look Out For
Posted on: January 6th, 2017
We’re not far into 2017 but we’re already eager to kick off the tennis new year, and we won’t be waiting long at all. The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, and it’s shaping up to be a fascinating event.
There will be plenty to sink your teeth into once the Open starts on January 16th, so in this article we’re looking at some of the most exciting and intriguing things to keep an eye out for to make sure you’re fully prepared for the action.
We start where we left off in 2016, with Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic vying for their place at the top of the tennis mountain. Murray finished 2016 as rank number one with his win over Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals, but Djokovic will be looking to fight back immediately. The Serbian had a faulty second half of 2016, capping it off with a disappointing performance in his last game against Murray, but the brief rest before the Australian Open has hopefully given him chance to recover from nagging injuries and find some form.
Djokovic won’t be short of motivation, and he is heading into the Open as defending champion – beating Murray in last year’s final. The two have faced off four times in this tournament, and Djokovic holds a 100% record in matches between the two. But with Murray at the top of his game, this is definitely his best chance yet to break the winning streak.
Prize money rises
In a bid to fight corruption, Tennis Australia are raising prize money for this year’s Open, focusing on players who drop out of the tournament early on. With early rounds more susceptible to match fixing, due to previously low prize winnings, the hope is that a more lucrative sum will prevent players from being tempted by corrupt betting schemes. Players eliminated in the first round will earn 39% more than they would have last year, and winnings throughout qualifying is also up by 39%.
The improved winnings will also help players make more of a viable living from tennis, which will hopefully in turn allow more players to craft and hone their game to become top players in the future.
Tournament of returns
While Djokovic and Murray continue to be at loggerheads, they’d be foolish to ignore the imminent heavyweight returns to the Grand Slam circuit. Roger Federer makes his comeback after a swathe of injuries – and illness – kept him sidelined for the second half of 2016. If his knee holds up, and he is able to find some of his classic form, he could very well break back into the top ten as he looks to end a four-year title drought.
Rafael Nadal is another high profile return. He ended his 2016 season last October after a wrist injury, but has been preparing for the 2017 season since. He recently changed his season schedule, starting off in Brisbane so he could get used to the Australian conditions before the Open in Melbourne, and he hopes that this change will stand him in good stead as he tries to gain his first championship win since the 2014 French Open.
The final major return is that of Serena Williams. She’s on a mission to win a 23rd Major title, and with that kind of motivation it will be hard to stop her. Williams has earned six Australian Open titles so far, and an immediate seventh to start off the 2017 season would be an impressive statement. There will be questions regarding her condition after her injury last year, but the powerhouse will be tough to put down once she makes her awaited return to competition, and she will definitely be playing with a point to prove.
Goodbye to gambling ads
With corruption in the tennis world coming under scrutiny, Tennis Australia have decided to curb any and all courtside ads for betting agencies. This will be a welcome sight for many fans, especially those watching with their children, as many have been vocal about the Open’s partnership with certain agencies in the past.
The relationship between gambling and sport has always been a hot topic, and openly advertising betting agencies during matches will definitely limit the exposure of betting companies, as the audience for Grand Slam tennis grows and grows. So if courtside gambling adverts have ever been a source of frustration to you, their absence from the 2017 Open will definitely be something to look forward to.
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