Commencing the New Year, it seemed the focus of the sporting world seemed once more on their respective sports. Amongst these seems to be tennis, who having now returned from their rest period, have begun their season, in which all players may be aiming to build upon their achievements from the previous year. As such, beginning the campaign with a recognisable and established tournament may be increasingly important, as attaining support at a rapid rate may ensure the sport remains at the forefront of focus. The Australian Open has been awarded this honour, and considering it is one of the four Grand Slams, it may already boast a high regard. Yet, considering the other three majors seem to be held in superior stead, the tournament may also be seeking to highlight its benefits, and with players perhaps refreshed after their rests, playing at their peak capabilities may solely serve to contribute to this goal.
As the event is the first of the four Grand Slams to occur, it may be beneficial in providing an insight into who may succeed throughout the rest of the campaign, similarly being pivotal in enticing support for the new season. This may place the event in challenging circumstances, as attaining support may be important in elevating the credentials for tennis, and with other Grand Slams perhaps more viewed, most notably due to the time difference, there might be pressure. Yet, this may ultimately motivate them to succeed, as dividends may be paid, and thus it might be a position they relish.
Whilst Novak Djokovic has consistently triumphed in the event since his maiden victory, this year’s competition may be increasingly competitive, as the Serb, whilst involved, is returning to the pinnacle for the first time since his sabbatical to regain fitness. With other accomplished players, including Kei Nishikori and former Grand Slam victor Andy Murray, absent for similar reasons, the quality might be affected. Yet, it may ultimately create opportunities for other players to achieve, as their route to the final may be more accessible. This seems similar in the women’s draw, as with the second round containing other players as opposed to the Williams sisters, who contested the 2017 final, opportunities seem plentiful. With the women’s number one also consistently changing, it seems now may be a pivotal opportunity for the sport to showcase its strength in depth, and highlight how any player may be capable of attaining victory.
With its status as a Grand Slam, and the repercussive monetary and status incentives which occur in tandem as a result, motivation may already be at its peak for all competitors. Yet, the prime reason for this may be because it seems to provide an opportunity for all to both expand their trophy cabinets and their repertoires; with competitions available for both genders, wheelchair, youth and veteran athletes, along with players from a multitude of nations, boundaries seem to be being bypassed. With all therefore provided with viable pathways into the sport, it may lead to more people striving for a career in sport, and with this potentially alleviating pressure on the NHS due to the reduction of obesity levels, the impact may be on a wider scale than the sport itself.
While a multitude of former Grand Slam victors are absent from this year’s edition, fans may have opportunities to see the most accomplished players in the world triumph, including world number one Rafael Nadal and reigning champion Roger Federer. Considering both of these players advanced through the first round via playing proficiently, they may be regarded as the favourites to triumph.
With a potential final encounter scheduled, seeing these players compete may motivate a fresh batch of players to ply their trade in the game, replicating, and in turn surpassing, their achievements. Furthermore, with the recent predicament surrounding Russian athletes, and the potential repercussions for the Winter Olympics, this may contribute to the focus being drawn back onto the beneficial aspects of the sport, and with the necessity intensifying, the Australian Open may pay a pivotal role.
How might the Australian Open signal the advancement of a fresh set of athletes at the pinnacle?