Grigor Dimitrov is a great talent but in the past his tennis career has been more about style than substance and his celebrity girlfriends. However, he can take his game to a new level by winning the Australian Open which begins on Monday in Melbourne. One of his exes is Maria Sharapova and she can also get her career back on track by winning the first Grand Slam tournament of the season but whether she should be playing is another matter.
The Australian Open is the first of the four Grand Slams and it is played outdoors on hardcourts. It’s the height of the summer in the Southern Hemisphere so matches will be played in very high temperatures. Over five sets in the men’s draw it is as much a test of fitness as skill. Prolonged matches are draining and extremely demanding physically so being in the best shape possible is key. Roger Federer is the favourite but sadly Andy Murray is not playing. He may be forced to retire but he is determined to play the sport he loves again but not in Australia this time.
The three-time major winner has not played competitively since limping out of the Wimbledon quarter-finals last summer. He has never won the Australian Open despite playing in five finals. Murray lost to Federer in 2010 and has been beaten four times in the final by Novak Djokovic. The Serb is another player trying to return from an extended break but unlike Murray he has managed to regain his fitness in time for a tournament he has won six times.
Federer has won one less title in Melbourne but he is the defending champion. He beat Rafael Nadal in five sets a year ago which meant the Spanish player could not add to his one Aussie Open from 2009. Dimitrov has never won a Grand Slam title but reached the last four in the 2017 Australian Open. He has a Win-Loss record of 70% which shows he can handle the courts and extreme temperatures. However, in 29 Grand Slams he has never reached a final and only made the last eight three times.
After several years of not quite delivering at the very highest level Dimitrov won the ATP World Tour Finals indoors on hardcourts in London at the end of last season. The event fell into his lap but he won all five matches so beat all-comers. Dimitrov’s confidence must be high and he can take that form into this Grand Slam so he is the selection to win the 2018 Australian Open.
Sharapova returned to the sport last year after a ban for an illegal substance misdemeanour. She served her suspension so is now perfectly entitled to earn a living from tennis again. Sharapova has played 65 matches in the Australian Open and only lost 12. In the absence of Serena Williams she has won most Grand Slams of the entry and she can win her sixth major title in Australia this year. It’s doubtful she will be celebrating with Dimitrov because they parted in 2015.