The Australian Open is played during summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which makes it the exception among the four major tournaments each year. Three of the four majors are played within three and a half months. The Australian Open exists on an island, being played four months before the French Open and four and a half months after the U.S. Open. What do you need to know about this tournament?
The Australian Open is a place where great hitters – those who are known on tour as precise and consistent hitters of a tennis ball, who make sweet contact and center the ball on the racquet – do really well. Obviously, it is necessary to hit the ball cleanly on any surface in any situation, but the key point about the Australian Open is that unlike the other major tournaments, its championship matches and all of its men’s semifinal matches are at night. The U.S. Open has night women’s semifinals, but the first men’s semifinal is a daytime match. You get a lot more sun and wind and various battles with the elements at the other three major tournaments. The Australian Open plays more of its most important matches at night, though the U.S. Open comes close. For this reason, Novak Djokovic has been a dominant Australian Open player, and Roger Federer has been almost as successful as Djokovic. They hit the ball cleanly and have been healthier than Rafael Nadal in Australia.
Serena Williams does well here. Naomi Osaka is a brilliant ballstriker, so it was not a shock that she won in 2019. You definitely don’t want to bet on the kinds of players who are great in one match and then terrible in the next. Hot-and-cold players don’t succeed here, with very few exceptions, Li Na in 2014 being the aberration which proves the larger example.
If players are worn out and tired at the U.S. Open, they are generally fresh at the Australian Open, since it is the first big event of the new season. The players who are known as “endurance players,” and who are both willing and physically able to play long matches, won’t suffer here. Andy Murray has made five Australian Open finals. He lost all five finals because his opponents were better – Djokovic and Federer – but his patient playing style was rewarded because he was physically fresh in Melbourne. Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki, two other recent Australian Open champions, play similarly patient and defense-oriented styles of tennis. Those kinds of players can do very well here.
The start of a new tennis season means that the younger players coming off a good finish to the previous tennis season are targeted by opponents. Early in the year, they are more vulnerable to an ambush and need time to work their way into the season. Aryna Sabalenka was a perfect example at this 2019 Australian Open. She was not ready. Veteran players go deep here. Kerber, Serena, Simona Halep, Wozniacki, Li Na when she won it in 2014, the list goes on. Venus Williams made the final in 2017. Maria Sharapova made the final in 2015. Naomi Osaka is the exception on the women’s side. Veterans – including Djokovic and Federer and Murray – play in championship matches.
Don’t Pick The Big Men
Two of the biggest, tallest guys in men’s tennis, Juan Martin del Potro and Kevin Anderson, simply don’t do well in Australia. Neither man has ever made a semifinal in Melbourne, even though both men are in their 30s. These veterans don’t handle Melbourne as well as their more celebrated counterparts.