Sport Tennis We answer all the burning Australian Open questions

We answer all the burning Australian Open questions

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For all the purported change tennis is supposed to be undergoing, it’s incredibly difficult to see anyone upsetting Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams in the year’s first grand slam.

Both the men’s and women’s world number ones head into the Australian Open as hot favourites.

But there are plenty of other burning issues.

Can Nick Kyrgios make the right kind of headlines? Is Victoria Azarenka finally back?

Can Andy Murray finally break through Down Under?

We take a look at all the troubling questions heading into the tournament.

Who will stop Novak’s march to history?

Well, Murray is probably the most obvious choice, but does the four-time runner-up (three of those to Djokovic) have the belief?

Djokovic takes his game to another level in Australia. It was where he lifted his first grand slam trophy in 2008, and he’s done it another four times since then.

If he wins this year he’ll equal the great Roy Emerson’s record of six Open titles, although that feat was achieved during the amateur era.

Stanislas Wawrinka, champion in 2014 and Djokovic’s conqueror in last year’s French Open final, puts forth an impressive argument.

Serena Williams' fitness is, as usual, cause for concern. Photo: Getty
Serena Williams’ fitness is, as usual, cause for concern. Photo: Getty

Roger Federer, it seems, no longer has the equipment to stay with Djokovic over five sets.

Of the next generation, Canadian Milos Raonic may be the best bet. He took a confidence-boosting victory over Federer in the Brisbane final, and has a big enough game to pose anyone problems.

But to answer our question, no one.

Will Serena’s body hold up?

Despite not having played since her US Open semi-final shocker against Roberta Vinci, and being troubled by knee inflammation, Williams is still the name on most people’s lips when asked to nominate a winner in the women’s draw.

But a look at her practice session on Saturday was troubling – the world number one’s body language left no doubt that she’s not feeling 100 per cent.

That’s never really bothered her, though, and she’s so far ahead of the pack she could waltz through the first week and be hitting her straps come the business end.

However, we feel this could be the year when father time finally catches up with one of the all-time greats.

How will our newest Aussie fare?

After only being granted Australian citizenship in November, 21-year-old former Russian Daria Gavrilova feels she is ready to cause a storm at this year’s Open.

After a stellar 2015 that included victories over Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, Gavrilova partnered Nick Kyrgios to glory in the Hopman Cup.

But her form in the majors was a bit of a letdown, and she’ll be bidding to beat her best effort and make it past the second round.

Standing in her way in the first round will be experienced Czech Lucie Hradecka.

Can NK rise?

He made the quarter-finals last year before his season descended into tabloid fodder.

Can Nick Kyrgios do better in 2016?

Nivk Kyrgios
It could be Nick Kyrgios’ time to shine. Photo: Getty

His maiden win over Andy Murray at the Hopman Cup will be a shot in the arm confidence-wise, although that’s not really an area that’s needed work.

We think the 20-year-old will struggle – his third round opponent is expected to be sixth seed Tomas Berdych.

The Czech hasn’t been halted before the quarters in Melbourne since 2010, and made the semis each of the past two years.

Kyrgios will have his hands full.

Will Bernard Tomic finally live up to expectations?

Doubtful. Tomic, who enters the Open seeded 16th, faces a tough first-up examination from Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin, before potential matches against Simone Bolelli, Fabio Fognini and Andy Murray.

He enters in good form, however, having made the semi-finals in Brisbane before being dispatched by eventual champion Raonic.

But it’s difficult to see the Aussie troubling Murray, should he make it that far.

How long will Hewitt’s farewell tour last?

Not long.

Lleyton Hewitt’s will has long been the best part of his game.

Like a boxer whose best feature is his chin, that’s never a good sign.

Hewitt has the heart, but he ain’t got the tools.

With eighth seed David Ferrer potentially lying in wait if he makes it past James Duckworth in round one, best not blink if you’re hoping for a last look at Australia’s last world number one.

Can Rafael Nadal find his wings?

Nadal has been a shadow of his former self for more than a year.

Azarenka's smile lit up Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013. Photo: Getty
Azarenka’s smile lit up Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013. Photo: Getty

Last year was the first in which the Spaniard failed to win a slam since 2004, failing to reach the semi-finals in any after being beset by back, knee and shoulder troubles.

How far gone is Nadal?

His high-intensity game has wreaked havoc on his chassis, and at times he looks like a 29-year-old in a 39-year-old’s body.

Let’s hope the worst of his injury problems are behind him, because in full flight he’s as good as it gets.

Is Victoria Azarenka back?

Azarenka’s twin Open successes in 2012 and ’13 seemed to herald the arrival of Serena’s successor, but since then the Belarusian has fallen off the radar.

There have been definite signs of a resurgence this summer.

She won her first tournament since 2013 in Brisbane, taking out world number 10 Angelique Kerber in the final.

It’s early days, and grand slams are played at much higher intensity, but Azarenka may be one of the few women capable of giving Williams a run on her day.

Who will win?

For the men, it’ll take a calamity to stop Djokovic making history.

But in the women’s draw, we think Serena is a little too sore to get it done. We think world number three Garbine Muguruza, last year’s Wimbledon finalist, is ready to break through for a major win.

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