It wasn’t a super-dominant year for Novak Djokovic in 2012, but he was still on top of the ATP rankings when the season ended. Heading into the first Grand Slam of 2013, the Australian Open, he’s favorite to win it for a third consecutive time.
And why shouldn’t he be? Without Rafael Nadal, the finalist from 2012, the man Djokovic should usually be worried about isn’t here. Andy Murray? You never know with the British player, who did beat Djokovic en route to his first ever Grand Slam title in New York last year, but needs to show big tournament consistency before he gets the upper hand, at least when it comes to predictions, against the number one players in the world.
Murray did show good form early on this year, retaining his title from the Brisbane international, although the players he beat on his way to his 25th career title weren’t the cream of the crop of world tennis: John Millman, Denis Istomin, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov in the final.
How about Roger Federer? The all-time grand slam titles record holder isn’t giving up on world dominance and titles. Still, his most recent match against Djokovic was one of those that might signal a changing of the guards, if there’s any need for that anymore. Federer is usually unbeatable in London at the Year’s end tournament, coming in rested and fresher than anyone. It still wasn’t enough against a fantastic Djokovic in the final of the tournament, losing 7-6, 7-5 in a brilliant match.
Yes, while Federer’s ability and shot making might still be considered the best in the world, his fitness and fatigue are his achilles heel. He needs more rest than Murray and Djokovic to perform at his best in long, five set matches for the Slams. Maybe he’s relaxed and rested heading into the Australian Open, but the heat of January in Melbourne might make it harder than ever before for Federer, who has missed out on the Australian Open final in the previous two years.
The rest of the field? Janko Tipsarevic, 9th in the world, won the tournament in Chennai. Richard Gasquet, 10th in the world, won the tournament in Qatar. Federer hasn’t played a single match. Tomas Berdych is always a danger, and so is Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but it’s hard to believe any of them can step up for two whole weeks and play consistently good enough to usurp a previous Grand Slam champion in the final.
Novak Djokovic is probably more confident than ever heading into Australia, knowing that Nadal isn’t around, Federer might lose to someone that’s not one of the top 3 while Andy Murray needed a Djokovic injury to win the US Open. Plenty of reasons to feel good.