Will the new decade just look like the last? Australian Open 2020 guide and preview
It may be the start of a new decade, but it doesn’t quite feel like it in the world of tennis.
We head into the first Grand Slam event of the ‘20s with Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams – both seven-time Australian Open winners – as favourites. Just like we did last year.
The question is whether now is the time for change. But we’re looking for different types of change on each side of the draw.
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For the men, it’s the ever-present question of When Will The Kids Arrive? It’s starting to get a little bit like Milhouse asking when Itchy and Scratchy are going to get to the fireworks factory.
Of course, fans always enjoy when it’s some combination of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Djokovic in the final of a Slam, but the longer they hang on, the harder it’s going to get for tennis to recover when they retire.
Remarkably the last 12 Grand Slams have been won by one of the big three, the second-longest streak they’ve put together. The longest streak was 18, between the 2005 French Open and Wimbledon 2009 – it’s ridiculous that the two streaks have happened a decade apart.
It feels like the kids are getting closer. Dominic Thiem took a set off Nadal in the French Open final, and Daniil Medvedev took the Spaniard to a fifth in the US Open decider.
Since 13 of the last 14 Australian Opens have been won by either Federer, Nadal or Djokovic (Stan Wawrinka’s 2014 triumph being the exception), it’s hard to say this will be the time another man breaks through. But we’ll probably never expect it until it happens.
On the women’s side, Serena may be the favourite – and there would be some romanticism in her catching Margaret Court in Court’s home country – but at Melbourne Park there has been a veritable rollercoaster of results.
Six different women have won the last seven Australian Opens, with Williams the only player to repeat (2015 and 2017, the latter while pregnant), and 11 different players have made the final in that time (Williams with three appearances, Li Na making it in both 2013 and 2014).
So while Serena has dominated women’s tennis for the last decade, what we’ve seen in Melbourne is to expect the unexpected.
And of course for the hometown fans, there’s one predominant storyline to track; whether world No.1 Ash Barty can break the 42-year drought for a local winning the singles title at this event.
With that all said, here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 Australian Open.
WHEN IS THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN?
The 2020 Australian Open is being held a little bit later this year – from January 20 to February 2.
The exact order of play for each day will be announced in the afternoon of the previous day.
Both the Men’s and Women’s Singles draws will be split into halves, and after the draws are revealed on Thursday January 16, we’ll know which halves will be playing on which days (ie one half plays on Monday of Week 1, the other plays on Tuesday, and they continue to alternate).
HOW CAN I WATCH THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN?
The 2020 Australian Open is being broadcast on Nine. All times in this section are EDT.
Until the semi-finals, the main Nine channel will broadcast play from 10am to 6pm, with a break from 6-7pm for local news (the broadcast will move to 9Go during this period), then returning to Nine until the end of play.
A secondary broadcast of other matches will be shown on 9Gem.
In the final days of the tournament, broadcasts will begin in the afternoon due to later start times. Check your local listings for more details.
WHAT IS THE PRIZE MONEY FOR THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN?
The total prize money for the 2020 Australian Open is $71 million, up 13.6 per cent on last year.
For the Men’s and Women’s Singles, the prize money is:
Winner – $4,120,000
Runner-up – $2,065,000
Semi-final – $1,040,000
Quarter-final – $525,000
Round 4 – $300,000
Round 3 – $180,000
Round 2 – $128,000
Round 1 – $90,000
WHAT IS THE WEATHER FORECAST FOR THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN?
The early forecasts for the opening days of the 2020 Australian Open aren’t too hot.
Showers are currently possible for the opening Monday and Tuesday, with highs in the mid-20s.
The main weather concern though is the smoke haze that has been plaguing Melbourne periodically during the ongoing bushfires in the east of the state.
The Australian Open will monitor air quality and in the opening stages of qualifying delayed matches to avoid the worst parts of the day.
WHO ARE THE FAVOURITES TO WIN THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN?
All odds courtesy of Sportsbet, correct as of January 14
Novak Djokovic $2.25
Rafael Nadal $5.50
Daniil Medvedev $9
Roger Federer $11
Stefanos Tsitsipas $11
Dominic Thiem $21
Nick Kyrgios $26
Alexander Zverev $41
Alex de Minaur $51
Denis Shapovalov $51
Others quoted at $67 or longer
Serena Williams $5
Ash Barty $8
Naomi Osaka $8
Simona Halep $10
Karolina Pliskova $11
Madison Keys $17
Aryna Sabalenka $21
Elina Svitolina $21
Petra Kvitova $21
Angelique Kerber $26
Garbine Muguruza $26
Others quoted at $34 or longer
MEN’S SINGLES PREVIEW
How can anyone go past the Djoker right now?
The lead-up to the Australian Open had a different look this year, with almost all of the top men’s players participating in the new teams event, the ATP Cup.
As it turned out, having one of the big three was a good way to do well at the event. Serbia and Spain met in the final, with Novak Djokovic defeating Rafael Nadal on route to victory.
Nadal has not beaten Djokovic on a hard court since the 2013 US Open final; that’s nine straight wins on the surface for the Serb. Given overall, the rivalry is 29-26 Djokovic’s way, it’s a clear indicator of who should be favoured at Melbourne Park.
After all, Nadal is the world No.1 and has looked dominant against almost all other players on the ATP tour; but hasn’t looked like being able to beat Djokovic.
Roger Federer is an unknown. He hasn’t played a competitive match since the ATP Finals last November, opting out of the ATP Cup to rest after featuring in a number of exhibitions.
At the tour finals – played on hard courts – Federer beat Djokovic but then lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi finals. He also lost to Tsitsipas (fourth round) at the Australian Open last year, and in the quarterfinals at the US Open (to Grigor Dimitrov).
At his best, the Swiss ace can certainly contend for the crown in Melbourne. We just don’t know if he’s at that level.
Of the next gen contenders, the leader is Russia’s Daniil Medvedev after his fascinating run to the US Open final which included turning from villain to hero, and taking Nadal to five sets.
The ATP Cup helped him enormously because it raised his ranking from No.5 to No.4; it means he can avoid playing two of the big three before the semi finals at Melbourne Park.
WOMEN’S SINGLES PREVIEW (via AFP)
Serena Williams can make history at the Australian Open as she pursues a 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would equal Margaret Court’s all-time record.
But there are numerous threats to the American, especially from the new generation headed by Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka.
AFP Sport picks out five women to watch in Melbourne.
– Serena Williams –
Will this be the moment when the American great finally makes it a 24th Grand Slam title?
The 38-year-old Williams, now a mother, has been stuck on 23 major triumphs since winning the Australian Open in 2017 when she beat her sister Venus.
Incredibly, Williams has lost her last four Slam finals, and each time failed to even win a set. Nevertheless, she is still a formidable presence and the woman to beat in Melbourne.
Now in her fourth decade on the WTA Tour, Williams started the season well when she won in Auckland last week — her 73rd tour victory, and her first since the 2017 Australian Open.
– Naomi Osaka –
The 22-year-old hit the highs and the lows in 2019.
When Osaka triumphed at last year’s Australian Open for her second Grand Slam title, she looked set to reign over the women’s game.
But the Japanese then endured a slump, exiting in the first round of Wimbledon and seeing her US Open defence fall flat.
With her father standing in as her coach, Osaka roared back to the form that made her number one with back-to-back titles in Japan and China.
In December she hired Belgian Wim Fissette as her coach — her fourth in less than a year.
– Ashleigh Barty –
Australia’s world number one will enjoy strong backing from the home crowd in Melbourne, but whether she thrives or shrinks in the spotlight will be key to her chances.
The 23-year-old, who once had a break from tennis and played professional cricket, won her maiden Grand Slam at the French Open in 2019.
Barty surged to the top of the rankings in June and has stayed there ever since, and sealed a breakthrough year with victory at the season-ending WTA Finals.
However, she lost to American qualifier Jennifer Brady in Brisbane last week in her first match of the year and the pressure to deliver for Australian fans will be immense.
– Simona Halep –
The 28-year-old Halep will have to dispel lingering doubts about her troublesome back.
She is a former number one and two-time Grand Slam champion — at Roland Garros in 2018 and then last year at Wimbledon, where she convincingly defeated Williams in the final, 6-2, 6-2.
But Halep struggled towards the end of the year with her back, which has troubled her for several years. In December was voted WTA Fan Favorite for the third time in a row.
– Coco Gauff –
Just 15, the American ploughed through qualifying and then stunned five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon last year, before going out in the fourth round to eventual champion Halep.
It was no fluke. Gauff went on to make the US Open third round and won her maiden title in Linz in her next tournament.
At the end of 2018 she was ranked 686th in the world, but 12 months later had rocketed up to 68th. Expectations are high for this star in the making.