Australian Open 2014: Sky Sports takes a look at some outside picks for the tournament
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 09/01/14 9:18am
Sky Sports takes a look at some outside picks who could shake things up at the 2014 Australian Open.
Since 2005 Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and reigning champion Novak Djokovic have dominated Down Under, while Andy Murray has been the bridesmaid on three occasions.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made a real impact a few years ago when reaching the final in 2008 before losing to Djokovic.
So who could upset the odds this time around? Let's look at five players who could spring a surprise at the 2014 Australian Open.
Juan Martin del Potro (Sky Bet odds: 10/1)
Juan Martin del Potro: Voted Argentina's Sportsman of the Year ahead of Lionel Messi
Argentina's Sportsman of the Year had a wonderful 2013 and he will be aiming to continue his excellent form at Melbourne Park. The world No 5 and 2009 US Open champion won four titles last season - in Basel, Tokyo, Washington and Rotterdam and was runner-up at Indian Wells and the Shanghai Masters. He also made the semi-finals at Wimbledon, losing a five-set epic to Novak Djokovic in the longest men's last-four match in the history of the tournament. It lasted an incredible four hours and 43 minutes on Centre Court. Outside of the "Big Four" - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - Del Potro is the only other man to have won a grand slam since 2006. 'The Tower of Tandil' showed plenty of guts for a fight when he tumbled down to world No 485 after a lengthy lay-off a few years ago, but dug deep and battled all the way back, earning the 2011 ATP Comeback Player of the Year award. He has one of the fiercest forehands in the game which frequently generates speeds of up to 100mph and his first serve has recorded speeds of 147mph. If Del Potro can stay fit and healthy, there is little doubt he has all the ability to walk away with his second grand slam title. The question is, can he do it in Melbourne?
Tomas Berdych (Sky Bet odds: 40/1)
Tomas Berdych (Bottom Right): Helped Czech Republic retain the Davis Cup
The Czech Davis Cup star caused a shock in 2010 by reaching the final of Wimbledon. But, since losing that final to Rafael Nadal, Berdych has struggled with form and consistency against the big-name players. Last season, the seventh-ranked star reached ATP finals in Marseille, Dubai and Bangkok, but failed to add to his eight career titles. His record in Melbourne is not too shabby though, having reached three straight quarter-finals. Berdych shows a willingness to battle and lets his powerful serves and ground strokes do the talking. When it comes to Davis Cup, the 28-year-old is in a league of his own. He owns a phenomenal 18-1 record in his past 19 Davis Cup matches and is 19-1 in doubles overall. He led his country to a 3-2 victory over Serbia in Belgrade to help retain their title in November and he will hope for a continuation of that form heading to Melbourne.
Stanislas Wawrinka (Sky Bet odds: 33/1)
Stanislas Wawrinka: Could take the mantle as the Swiss No 1 in 2014
Stan could be 'The Man' this year following a stellar 2013. He is without doubt one of the outside contenders who could break the monopoly of the top-ranked players at this year's grand slams. Wawrinka won the Roland Garros junior title in 2003 and hasn't looked back since. He is notable for giving opponents a hard game on any surface. He battled Novak Djokovic in two very memorable matches last year and claimed just his fourth ATP title of his career by winning the Portugal Open in Oeiras. He also reached a further three finals, but lost in 's-Hertogenbosch, Madrid and Buenos Aires. Magnus Norman - runner-up at the 2000 French Open and former world No 2 - was hired to mentor the player on a trial basis, but the Swede's knowledge paid immediate dividends as the 28-year-old climbed back into the top-10 as well as reaching the World Tour Finals for the first time in his career. Norman is now expected to commit long-term to Wawrinka, who possesses one of the best single-handed backhands on tour. And after living in the shadow of Roger Federer for so long, it would be no surprise to see him take the mantle as the Swiss No 1 in 2014.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (50/1)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The Frenchman has been in the top 10 for several years
The Frenchman will be aiming for a healthy 2014 after being blighted by injury last season. Tsonga's summer came to a premature end when he was forced out of Wimbledon and the US Open after suffering an injury to his left knee. The 10th seed did reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open before going down to Roger Federer in five sets. He then went one better at Roland Garros where he was attempting to become the first Frenchman to reach the French Open final since Henri Leconte in 1988. After gaining sweet revenge over Federer in the last-eight, his Parisian dream came to a shuddering halt with a massively disappointing straight sets defeat at the hands of David Ferrer. He did add to his nine ATP titles with victory on home soil in Marseille, but lost to compatriot Gilles Simon in the Metz final. In October, Tsonga hired Nicolas Escude and Thierry Ascione as his new coaching team, replacing Roger Rasheed. The 28-year-old has been in the top 10 for several years but has yet to win one of the four grand slam titles. Could this be his time?
John Isner (125/1)
John Isner: He is currently the highest-ranked male American tennis player
Marathon man Isner is currently the highest-ranked male American tennis player, having moved from world No 22 to a career high 14, winning two ATP titles. After pulling out of the Australian Open due to a knee injury the 28-year-old 6ft 9in player from Greensboro, North Carolina captured his first title on clay in Houston by firing a record 64 aces en route to the title. He picked up his second in Atlanta after overcoming South African Kevin Anderson in three tie-break sets. Isner has traditionally saved his best for the home crowd with 14 of his 16 career ATP Tour final appearances coming in the States. The big-hitting Isner has a serve which regularly tops 140mph, but he is most famous for his three day first-round victory against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon which lasted an incredible 11 hours and five minutes. In that match he served an astonishing 113 aces, before winning 70-68 in the fifth set. Isner led the ATP in aces for the third time in four years in 2013, finishing with 979, but his best major performance to date has been reaching the quarter-finals at the 2011 US Open. Isner has clear tactics ahead of the Australian Open. "I'm going to try to have an aggressive mindset and stick with it." If he does, we could witness a resurgent Isner going far Down Under.