Who might become a surprise champ at the Australian Open 2014?
The Australia Open is underway and the world’s greatest players are all out to make sure their seasons start off in the best way possible.
But apart from the Serenas, Rafas and Novaks of the world, who else might cause an upset and win this year?
We take a look at a few underdog names that could break through and win the year’s first Grand Slam down under.
Juan Martin del Potro – World Ranking 4
Del Potro remains the only man other than Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to win a Grand Slam since 2004. Imposing, aggressive and capable of a massive serve, he has the tools that are needed to take down even the most talented of players. 2013 also saw him climb back to where his fans believe he belongs, the top 5. But can he take down one of the top four to repeat his 2009 US Open success, the jury’s out, but the highest of our dark horse contenders remains an exciting prospect to watch.
Stanislas Wawrinka - World ranking 8
Sometimes even the greatest talents can be set off course by knocks to their mental strength. And for Stanislaw Wawrinka, some commentators suggests it is coming up against one of the Big Four that’s enough to stifle his great talent. But is this really the case? He has one of the games great backhands and boasts some impressive form following a quarter final appearance in the Australian Open last year and a semi-final appearance at the US Open where he did in fact take down the defending champion, and Big Four membership card holder, Andy Murray. Could this be the Grand Slam where the Swiss topples the other Big Four to the top prize as well?
Jerzy Janowicz – World ranking 21
Like Wawrinka, Janowicz from Poland is another tennis player who saw his stock rise in 2013. A highlight was becoming the first pole to ever reach a Grand Slam semi-final when he did so at Wimbledon in June (he beat a fellow Pole to get there). Despite this achievement, for many his most memorable moment of the year was a remarkable tantrum he threw in his second round Australian open match. As long as there is no repeat of such behaviour this year, Janowicz, along with his cannon-like serve and unique combinations of spins and slices, means he could be a player to come of age in Australia this year.
Simona Halep World Ranking - 11
Witih six months in 2013 Halep won six titles. Add in to the fact that these came across three different surfaces, then you know you are dealing with a player with real quality. Voted last year as Tennis’ most improved player, Halep is another one who could upset the top ranked players.
Sloane Stephens World ranking - 12
Stephens’ trumping the world’s greatest women’s player Serena Williams was a massive story at last year’s Australian Open. Nobody expected it then, and there’s nothing to say we shouldn’t expect it now. And with an Aus Open semi-final under her belt, a Wimbledon quarter final and her great match temperament, the young American is definitely a hot contender for this year's big prizes.