Ashleigh Barty and Novak Djokovic have been tipped as winners when the Australian Open finally gets underway on Monday.
The tournament has been pushed back three weeks amid uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is set to go ahead as planned.
And Roehampton Tennis director Dan Lott backs Djokovic, who has had more success than any other player in history at the Australian Open, to lift his ninth title in Melbourne.
He said: “Certainly, in the men’s singles it looks like Djokovic is the most likely. He won the event the last two years so he is going to be extremely tough to beat.
“Djokovic said that all he wants from tennis now is to get to 20 Grand Slams and if he wins this tournament it will be his 18th.”
Lott also expects 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal to perform, as well as younger players such as Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev.
He said: “Below Djokovic and Nadal, and obviously Roger Federer who misses out because of his knee surgery, there are players like Thiem and Medvedev who usually take the realm when the top guys don’t perform.”
Tennis Australia announced that 30,000 fans will pass through the Melbourne Park turnstiles each day at the Slam, which Lott believes will give home favourite Nick Kygrios a huge advantage.
He said: “There hasn’t been any fans for the last few events and the fact that 30,000 fans will be in attendance will certainly provide another element and a boost for the players.
“I’ve got a feeling Kyrgios might do quite well. He obviously lives there so will probably be quite relaxed and has the potential to do anything when he’s in form. I think he’ll be one to watch as a bit of an outsider.”
On the women’s side of the draw, Lott predicts another home favourite to perform at this year’s event, with world number one Barty eager to lift her first Slam on home soil.
He said: “Barty is a terrific player. She can beat anyone on her day and she’s a Grand Slam champion. Again, being a home favourite will certainly work in her favour.”
Defending champion Sofia Kenin was a surprise winner at last year’s event and Lott knows her game better than most after the American trained at Roehampton tennis club.
He added: “One of my favourite female players to watch is Kenin. When she was a junior, she came to our club to train on the grass and she’s got a fantastic variety in her game.
“Years later to win her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open last year and to reach the final of the French Open is great to see. She’s definitely one to watch and has the potential to win again.”
In the absence of Andy Murray, who missed the quarantine period in Melbourne due to his positive coronavirus test, British hopes in the men’s singles lie with 30th seed Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie.
Lott said: “Dan Evans has had some good results at the Australian Open. He’s got to the last 16 before in the past and he’s risen to a career high at the moment. I think he can certainly perform well out there.
“Cameron Norrie could also perform well. Cameron is a member of our club and played for our first team in the past before his singles career really took off. He’s world class now and if he could get through a couple of rounds it would be great.”
Defending doubles champion Joe Salisbury will be looking to retain his title alongside American Rajeev Ram and Lott predicts further success for the British star.
He said: “Joe comes and trains at the club a fair amount. I didn’t manage to catch up with him before he went because of the quarantine but the level he is at now I’m sure he’s looking to win it again.
“When he won the title last year, we had a celebration at the club where all our club members met him.
“We interviewed him and it was great to see someone who’s actually won a Grand Slam at the club. To have someone like that around is just amazing.”
The first round of the Australian Open starts on Monday, with UK coverage through Eurosport.
And you can check out all of SWL’s Australian Open coverage here.
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