Australian Open Q&A with Alan Wilkins

We ask ESPN Star Sports commentator Alan Wilkins for his take on the 2012 Australian Open!

Editorial News: Alan Wilkins

1. Novak Djokovic had a superb 2011. What do you think the right strategy to beat him right now?

Novak Djokovic is the fittest player on the planet and has got all bases covered in terms of opponents who play against him.

Introducing variety is the only way to change the momentum of Novak's game because he will beat any opponent from the back of the court with his incredible hitting with his forehand and the double-handed backhand either down the line or cross court.

The use of slice, the drop shot, and the lob to move him around the court in order to upset his rhythm is the only way right now.

He showed signs of fatigue against both Hewitt and Ferrer by having to work so hard through the points.


2. What do you think is preventing Andy Murray and world number one Caroline Wozniacki from winning a Grand Slam title?

Andy Murray has got all facets of the game and in the opinion of many a former Grand Slam winner (McEnroe, Connors, Becker) Britain's Number One will win a Grand Slam if he can get his mindset right on the day.

It is mental more than physical for Murray in that he has beaten the big three before - Djokovic, Nadal and Federer - numerous times in his career, but in the three Grand Slam finals he has played, his mental approach has not been tuned in on the final itself.

Caroline Wozniacki has the ability to keep the ball in play and chases down every ball to make her opponent hit another for the winner, but there is no killer punch, no change of tactic and she has to think about coming to the net more than she does.

She cannot win Grand Slam titles by playing purely from the back of the court. Compare her all-round game to that of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova. They can all vary their game and it is not one of playing purely from the baseline.
 
3. Do you think Rafael Nadal can regain his dominance back in Melbourne Park this year, with his knees less than 100%?

The way that Nadal plays, his knees are always going to be a source of injury worries because he is 100% flat out on every point. He has definitely shown a return to full fitness, as his win over Tomas Berdych illustrated in his quarter-final.

But long-term, it is injuries that could well have a final bearing on how long Nadal can maintain his tempo of play at the highest level.
 
4. Roger Federer said all top four men's singles contenders are under pressure in Melbourne. If we look a couple of grand slams back, which players between Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray, has a better psychological condition to handle that pressure?

It is no coincidence that Novak Djokovic is the World's Number One player. He has achieved that status through a controlled programme of mental and physical preparation, a strict diet and sheer psychological determination and domination over his peers. His all-round thinking is that he is the best player in the world and that's how he intends it to stay for a while yet.

Rafael Nadal can challenge Djokovic for a few more years and so can Andy Murray. Roger Federer has maybe two more years at this level and many believe he has another Grand Slam singles title in him. Pete Sampras was 32 when he won his 14th Grand Slam, the US Open, and Federer is now 30.

Furthermore, the way Federer plays ensures he will enjoy longevity in the game because he has not punished his body the way that Nadal has. Psychologically, he still has belief in himself that he can win more Grand Slams, but time is ticking.

4. The Australian Open always offer surprises. Who will provide the shock this year?

The heat in Melbourne combined with the early start in the calendar year always makes the Australian Open a tough event. The number of retirements this year has been far more than in recent years but with the top four seeds in the men's event making it to the last four and with the top three in the ladies' event making it through to the last four, there are no real shocks to talk about as such.

Having said that, the first round elimination of Sam Stosur was one of the biggest shocks, but nothing really stands out as a tennis-changing shock. Federer winning it could be construed as a victory for longevity and mental resilience over power and physicality. 

Alan Wilkins presents on STAR Sports' coverage of the Australian Open. Catch the high-definition coverage on ESPN HD and live multi-court coverage on ESPN Player



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