The men and women are Down Under competing in the 105th Australian Open, the first major of the year in Melbourne.
It's hot there, today was 101, but it can be that way in Australia in their summer, our winter as their continent is in the Southern Hemisphere and our seasons are opposite.
This should be a pretty epic tournament on both the men's and women's sides. The Tennis Channel and ESPN 2 will televise with ESPN taking over for the finals. The women's is Saturday, January 28th @ 2AM CT/3 AM ET on ESPN, but I'm pretty positive there will be a later broadcast in the AM. The Men's final is Sunday, January 29th @ 2 AM CT/3 AM ET on ESPN as well.
Here are the predictions for this "happy Slam" as they call it, because the weather is warm, especially right now, and the people are warm and friendly.
This is a very big deal as Serena is going for major number 23, which would break the tie with Steffi Graf for most majors in the "open era." Margaret Court has the most with 24, but some were before the open era started, when only amateurs competed. In 1968, professionals were finally allowed to play with amateurs in the grand slam tournaments, so I would say that Graf's mark, which Serena has tied, is the most significant. But Angelique Kerber, by virtue of her two Slam victories last year at the Australian and U.S. Opens, is now the number one player in the world. Serena has not played much at all this year, and she's probably feeling some pressure, but she usually handles that well. Serena lost to Kerber in the Australian finals last year, lost to Garbine Muguruza in the French finals, won Wimbledon over Kerber, then lost to Karolina Pliskova in the semis at the U.S. Open. The big question is, can Serena break the record with the pressure on her at 35 years old. Here are the predictions.
Kerber over Simona Halep, 6-3, 6-4
Kerber builds on her strong '16 with a trip to the finals in Melbourne.
Pliskova over Serena, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5 tiebreaker)
Pliskova with her powerful serve, she leads the tour in aces, and her powerful ground strokes, once again denies Serena of the outright open era record.
This should be a classic. Kerber, of Germany, defeated Pliskova, of the Czek Republic, in 3 sets at the U.S. last September. Pliskova is close to breaking through and winning her first major at 24, but I like the 28 year old German to capture her third major and go back to back down under. i expect a really good battle though.
Kerber over Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 7-5
Johana Konta, Great Britain
Just defeated Australian Open third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-4, 6-2, in Sydney last weekend, so the 9th seeded Konta will be a big time factor. Will take Serena to a third set in the quarters before barely losing 7-6 in the tiebreaker.
Andy Murray has moved to No.1 in the world. He won Wimbledon last year and moved to No.1, as Stan Wawrinka defeated Novak Djokovic in the finals of the U.S. Murray also has won Wimbledon in 2013 and the U.S. in 2012. But Joker is superb and has already beaten Murray in Qatar in the Middle East, so he's got the advantage in 2017. Roger Federer is the 17th seed amazingly. The 17 time major winner missed the last half of the season last year with injury. Rafa Nadal has struggled recently with injuries and his play has dropped off, but the 14 time major winner is back in good health and ready to make a run. Here are the predictions for the men's draw.
Wawrinka over Murray, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4
Stan is part of the Big five with Murray, Joker, Fed and Rafa, and he's earned it. He has three majors now, and has a very good shot at a fourth.
Joker over Milos Raonic, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Djoker roars into the final with a straight set victory over the up and coming 26 year old Montenegro native.
Like Novak to outlast Stan in a war. Stan is quite a player and has the old school one handed backhand, which is pretty cool. Joker just gets by at the end to capture his record setting 7th Australian title and his 13th major. Wow. The Serbian force is on Fed's heels for most Grand Slams. He will need four more to tie Roger and 5 to break Fed's record.
Djoker over Wawrinka 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, 6-7 (8-10),
Marin Cilic, Bosnia
I can't remember exactly, but the Urban Assault Vehicle in Stripes with Bill Murray and company may have been captured there by the Ruskies.
The 28 year old can do some damage here. He'll give Wawrinka everything he wants in the quarters, and has a shot to knock him off and square off with Murray in the semis. But I like Stan in five sets against Marin.