With 11 days to go until the start of the 2021 Australian Open, we’ve been looking at what it’s going to take to win this year’s tournament.
And it’s safe to say that it is wide open.
As expected, the run-up to this year’s grand slam has been unprecedented.
Even though things on the tennis circuit were pretty abnormal in 2020, the Australian Open has written the rule book on how to host a major sporting event during a pandemic.
And credit should go to the Australian Open organisers. We cannot commend them enough on the work they have done to ensure the tournament can go ahead safely.
From the players perspective, it’s all been about who can best adapt best to the circumstances.
With all players having to undergo a 14-day quarantine, and 72 of those players having to complete a stricter lockdown, we’ve reasoned that the players who will go deep into the tournament will be those who have acclimatised best to the unique circumstances.Embed from Getty Images
“As well as last year, this year it’s all about adapting,” Australia’s No.1 Alex de Minaur told Channel 9 News.
“You don’t know what’s going to come your way, you just have to adapt and put your best face forward and get ready to play whatever is in front of you.”
“What’s going to happen this year, what’s going on with the virus we just have to keep going.”
Speaking on those players currently unable to train during the 14-day quarantine, de Minaur said the coming weeks are “going to be tough.“
“A lot of these players haven’t hit obviously for 14-days, so it’s going to take a couple of days to get used to it, maybe a week.”
Some have been trying their best in the strict quarantine to stay fit, including Britain’s Heather Watson, who attempted to complete a triathlon in her room last week.
Yes, a triathlon in her room, you read that correctly.
And despite them being at a disadvantage to those who have been training during the last two weeks, it is our view that some of these players might be some of the most dangerous opponents in the tournament.
After being cooped up in their rooms and unable to practice, there is no doubt they’ll be chomping at the bit to get on court, and this could make them a real threat.
“I know that tennis Australia has been working very closely with the ATP and the WTA to work on a schedule to try and prioritise some of these players and try to help them in very tough conditions and I think they’ve come up with a few solutions to prioritise and help them,” said de Minaur.
Additionally, we’ll be keeping our eyes on previous grand slam winners Sloan Stephens, Bianca Andreescu, and Victoria Azarenka, who are all included in the 72 players currently undergoing a hard quarantine.
The extenuating circumstances will enhance their desire to win. And if we combine that with their past grand slam experience there’s no doubt these players could progress into the later rounds of the tournament.
But perhaps this year isn’t all about grand slam pedigree; it’s about resilience.
Sure, consistency and experience always count for a lot in grand slam tournaments.
And there’s no doubt that those players who have experience going deep into the majors will have an advantage over their opposition.
But as Alex de Minaur said, it’ll be those who are resilient enough to overcome the problems in their way, who will go far into this year’s Australian Open.
At its heart, tennis is a mental game.
Once players step over the baseline, they are on their own. They have to focus and block out any uncontrollable factors that could distract them from winning the match.
When defining what makes a grand slam champion, we can look to various factors, including their skill level or perhaps more specifically, their service percentages, to show how good they are.
But ultimately nothing screams being a winner more than their ability to out-smart and mentally outlast an opponent.
It is perhaps why, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer have won a whopping 99 tournaments between them.
Great 2 weeks in Adelaide! What an experience. Thanks @tennisaustralia.— Jannik Sinner (@janniksin) January 28, 2021
So grateful to @rafaelnadal and his team for having me practice with them. Amazing to spend time learning from one of the greats. Learnt some cheeky football skills too, thanks Team Rafa! 💪🏼👊🏼 pic.twitter.com/UlI0DGe8La
But this year could be different.
With so many uncontrollable distractions, from quarantine measures to players coming into the tournament undercooked, it is true that players with the best mental resiliance will go far in this year’s Australian Open.
“It is a different year, without a doubt. There’s no way around that,” world No.1 Ashleigh Barty said to the WTA.Embed from Getty Images
“I think we have to, for us, put trust in the process and the routines we’ve created.”
“Obviously, at the moment, the preparation for everyone is a little bit unique leading up to the Australian Open. Everyone is in a different situation, and everyone has different challenges, obviously.”
It’ll be fascinating to watch how the players will get around those challenges in the coming weeks.
Featured Image: Australian Open 2020 by RobPJKeating // https://www.flickr.com/photos/14041643@N00/49837296901 // Licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/