A new year means a potential new champion, and the first tennis Grand Slam of the year is set to commence in under two months – the Australian Open. Following the news that the tournament will be pushed back three weeks from its original start date of 18th January 2021 to February 8th, players will have time to arrive in Melbourne, quarantine and still prepare ahead of the first major tournament of the year.
While online bookmakers like Betdaq are announcing their odds for the men’s and women’s singles champions, respectively, we have scoured the market to see who the hopefuls are.
The current reigning champion, and eight-time winner of the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic will return to retain his crown. The Serbian defeated Dominic Thiem in last year’s final and will look to make it three successive Australian Open titles in 2021. After victory in Melbourne, Nole reached a second Grand Slam final of the year at Roland-Garros in the French Open.
Unfortunately, he lost out to the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, and in the third and final slam of the year – with Wimbledon being completely cancelled – he crashed out of the US Open. In controversial circumstances, Nole accidentally hit a line judge with a wayward ball he had hit in anger and was consequently, disqualified from the fourth-round match. He remains three titles behind Nadal and Roger Federer, who share the record with 20.
The Austrian has had a very good year, winning his first major title and also reaching two championship finals. It started well, with Thiem reaching the final of the Australian Open, but losing out to Djokovic.
After reaching the quarter-final at the French Open, his earliest exit for five years, he returned to winning ways at the US Open. At Flushing Meadows, he defeated Daniil Medvedev to become the first player in the Open Era to win from two sets down in a US Open final. But the Russian exerted his revenge in the year-end ATP Finals. While he remains third in the ATP rankings, Thiem is Mr Consistent and will look to continue where he left off in 2021.
Osaka has won three Grand Slam titles in as many years, with two US Opens to her name and the Australian Open in 2019. At the start of the year, in Melbourne, her third-round shock exit came at the hands of a young rising star, Coco Gauff – but she made amends for that later in the year.
After missing the French Open, due to a hamstring injury, she returned with a triumph at Flushing Meadows. Osaka beat Victoria Azarenka over three sets, and became the first women’s single player to lose an opening set but win a US Open final. In readiness for the 2021 Australian Open, the WTA number 3 has been training with former tennis player, Tommy Haas.
Of course, amongst the favourites for the women’s singles title is WTA number 1 and Queensland-native, Ash Barty. She is yet to win a home Slam, having reached the semi-final earlier in the year, where she lost out to the eventual winner, Sofia Kenin.
Barty’s tennis schedule this season has largely been disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as she was absent from both the French Open and US Open, amidst safety concerns whilst travelling. But she has been able to hold onto her world number 1 status and will be gunning for a successful return to the sport and hopefully winning that second major title.