10 red-hot reasons to tune in (literally) to the Australian Open
For anyone who made a New Year's resolution to stay positive in 2018, allow us to present the Australian Open. No Serena? No Andy? No Vika? No sweat (figuratively)! Here are 10 reasons to set your alarm/stay up late/forgo sleep/guzzle coffee for the next two weeks.
1. It's warm (maybe even hot) in Melbourne
Had a little bit too much bomb cyclone, Arctic blast and thundersnow in your world lately? In Melbourne, the most likely sources of bluster are Nick Kyrgios and Fabio Fognini. It will be hot (literally). Really hot. Allow Eugenie Bouchard to illustrate.
2. Lucky seven for Sloane?
First things first: US Open champion Sloane Stephens will be called US Open champion Sloane Stephens for the first time at a major. After that, there is one potential problem: Stephens hasn't won a match since her magical run in New York. Since winning seven straight at Flushing Meadows to win the Open in September, Stephens has lost seven straight in various spots across the globe. Do we call that a trend? And, if a trend it is, does it indicate that she'll go back-to-back in majors?
3. And that's just the tip of the iceberg
Sorry about the frigid reference, fellow shiverers. But Stephens is not the only American who could contend for the women's singles title. CoCo Vandeweghe has cracked the top 10 and made it to the semifinals at both the Australian Open and US Open a year ago. This time around she's got Aussie legend Pat Cash on her side (literally and figuratively). And then there's Madison Keys, she of the mighty forehand and the 2017 US Open runner-up title. Don't forget 2017 Australian Open runner-up (not to mention seven-time Grand Slam champion) Venus Williams. How great would it be to see Billie Jean King, scheduled to present the trophy to the winner, hand off to Venus? Chills.
4. Maria, mates!
Love her or hate her, believe her or don't believe her, there's no denying that Maria Sharapova draws a crowd and makes everything around her a bit more interesting. The 2008 Australian Open champion, who missed last year's Aussie Open because she was serving a suspension for failing a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open, is back. But without a seed. What's more, she is a win away from another collision with Anastasija Sevastova, who eliminated her at the 2017 US Open.
5. Rooting for Petra
Rarely has it been easier to root for a player than it is for Petra Kvitova. The two-time Wimbledon champion missed last year's Australian Open while she recovered from the serious knife wounds to her left hand that were inflicted by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic. The lefty made it to the quarterfinals at the US Open last year and says she's back to feeling normal on tour.
6. Woz in Oz
She is arguably the best player in the women's field who has never won a major. And she closed 2017 by winning the biggest of her 27 titles, the year-end WTA Finals. Tuning in to see if the player who has won nearly $27 million in prize money can win her first major in her 43rd attempt just makes good sense. She's seeded second and opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu, the only person she beat at the 2017 US Open.
7. Work, work, work, Simona
Like Wozniacki, top-seeded and world No. 1 Simona Halep is looking for the first Grand Slam title of her career. The pros? Halep was an Aussie Open quarterfinalist in 2014 and 2015. The cons? She hasn't won an Australian Open match since that 2015 run. She was ousted in the first round in 2016 (by Zhang Shuai) and 2017 (by Shelby Rogers). She opens against Australian teen Destanee Aiava this time around.
8. Repeating Roger?
The prospect of seeing Roger Federer win major No. 20 could be reason enough to tune in. The thing is, you can't wait until the final to do it. The defending champion wasn't exactly given the kindest of draws in pursuit of his sixth Australian Open title. Among those who could stand between Federer and the final (is that synonymous with Rafael Nadal?) are Sam Querrey, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Sascha Zverev.
9. Will he or won't he?
We're talking Nadal here. But we're not talking about whether or not the 2017 runner-up (not to mention 16-time Grand Slam champion) will play. And we're not talking about whether or not he'll use the Australian Open as a springboard to narrow the gap on Federer. Listen to this: Word on the web is that Nadal is turning back the clock and cutting back the sleeves, a la 2008. That bomb cyclone's got nothing on the swoon bomb about to strike Melbourne.
10. Only in Australia
And finally, you just know all is right with the world when Vegemite is the official Australian Open ball kid partner. Australian Ashleigh Barty, for one, is on board. "I've grown up eating Vegemite and now travel the tennis circuit with a tube of Vegemite in my luggage," she says. Cool?