Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Next Gen among Australian Open talking points

Press Association Sport 11:15 09/01/2019
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Is it the end of the road for Andy Murray?

The first grand slam of the new season will see a number of fascinating storylines play out.

Can the old stagers continue to get the better of the young pretenders or will this be the tournament where the torch is finally passed, and what of the British hopefuls?

Here, Press Association Sport picks out five talking points for the Australian Open.

MURRAY TRYING AGAIN

When Andy Murray called an early end to a seriously truncated 2018 season, it was with the aim of a much more positive 2019. But, a year on from hip surgery and more than 18 months after the problem first surfaced, hopes that the Scot might be able to return to his level of old are fading fast.

His movement is still compromised and he remains in pain. Going into the tournament unseeded, Murray’s return to Melbourne could be a brief one, although he is playing well enough to take advantage should the draw be kind.

Of Britain’s other main hopes, Kyle Edmund has the pressure of defending semi-final points and doubts over a knee issue while Johanna Konta will look to show she is heading in the right direction again under new coach Dimitri Zavialoff.

SERENA BACK ON THE STAGE

SerenaWilliams (1)

Serena Williams might have begun 2019 with no intention of looking back but her first competitive match since the tumultuous US Open final will take place at Melbourne Park and she would surely be better off confronting what happened in New York rather than continuing to shy away from talking about it.

On the court, the 37-year-old will once again be among the favourites to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 slam singles titles in her fourth major tournament since childbirth.

Her form at Flushing Meadows prior to being outplayed by Naomi Osaka indicated she is more than capable.

CAN ANYONE STOP DJOKOVIC?

Back to his old self: Novak Djokovic.

Back to his old self: Novak Djokovic.

Whatever happens, it is clear the Novak Djokovic, who lost in straight sets to Chung Hyeon in Melbourne 12 months ago, is a very different animal to the one who returns to his most successful grand slam.

Back at world number one and, judging by his performances over the last three months of the 2018 season, back at the top of his game.

The Serbian will be bidding for a third consecutive slam title and looks as hungry as ever to chase down the sport’s records. Has suffered surprising losses in his last three tournaments but has not been beaten at a slam since June.

FEDERER FADING?

Roger-Federer-Tennis (2)

While Djokovic battled through his two-year slump, Federer returned to the grand slam winners’ circle and arrives in Melbourne looking for a third title in a row.

But, while 2018 may have begun in the same fashion as 2017, the rest of the season was far less successful for the 37-year-old Swiss. Even Federer cannot hold back time forever, and there has not been the same confidence about the Swiss, especially in close matches.

NEXT GEN TRY AGAIN

AlexanderZverev

In Osaka, women’s tennis appears to have found a new superstar, and she will now have to cope with the pressure of sky-high expectations. Aryna Sabalenka is another 20-year-old rising fast and the big question for 2019 is whether male players of a similar age can at last make their mark on the biggest stage.

By beating Federer and Djokovic back to back to win the ATP Finals to close 2018, Alexander Zverev made a statement but he has so far under-performed at the slams.

The likes of Karen Khachanov, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Borna Coric, Denis Shapovalov and Alex De Minaur have the talent, but can they seize the opportunity?

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