THE world’s best tennis players are in town for the first grand slam of the year and if you’re not a huge tennis fan but looking for a player to follow, we’re here to help.
Tennis and AFL might be two completely different sports, we’ve managed to find some similarities between the game’s top players and AFL clubs.
Are there similarities between Nick Kyrgios and Collingwod? Maria Sharapova and Essendon? Roger Federer and Geelong? Novak Djokovic and Hawthorn?
KATE SALEMME, LIAM TWOMEY, MICHAEL RANDALL and CHRIS VERNUCCIO reveal which player best suits your club.
(Only players in this year’s Australian Open were considered)
SEE WHO YOU SHOULD FOLLOW THIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN
ADELAIDE — GAEL MONFILS
Adelaide fans experiencing Eddie Betts withdrawals, this is the next best thing. Gael Monfils has been a non-stop excitement machine on the ATP Tour for years, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Whether it is his blistering forehand or slam dunk style smashes, Monfils officially has every trick in the book. Time will tell if he has his own pocket though.
BRISBANE LIONS — ANGELIQUE KERBER
Kerber’s grand slam success can be contained to a narrow period of time, just like the Lions and their glory years under Leigh Matthews. Her Australian Open and US Open titles both came in 2016 and she was made the Wimbledon final that year as she shot to the No.1 ranking. The following year she dropped out of the top 20 as her form fell away. Take out that golden 2016, Kerber’s next best results in slams were two semi-final appearances at Wimbledon (2012) and the US Open (2011) and two quarter-finals at the French Open (2012) and Wimbledon (2014). Brisbane, in comparison, has been starved of success before and after the Matthews years.
CARLTON — SLOANE STEPHENS
The Blues have always had pretty deep pockets. Just ask Chris Judd, whose signing was made complete with an ambassador role with Visy. American Sloane Stephens is also keen on a good payday, if this quote after she won the US Open is anything to go by, “Did you see that cheque that that lady handed me? Man, if that doesn’t make you want to play tennis, I don’t know what will!”
COLLINGWOOD — NICK KYRGIOS
You either love Nick Kyrgios or you hate him and it’s the same for Collingwood when it comes to the AFL. The Aussie draws a huge crowd either way, much like the Magpies who had the most members of any club in 2017 with 75,879, and while he’s got enormous talent you never know what you’re going to get from the 22-year-old. One set he’s hot, the next he’s struggling and mouthing off to his player box. Ring any bells? Nathan Buckley’s team has paid for its inconsistency in games, particularly in the last two seasons.
ESSENDON — MARIA SHARAPOVA
Last year Essendon welcomed back 10 players from doping bans and Sharapova will return to Melbourne Park for the first time since testing positive to meldonium at the Open in 2016. She’s still got her loyal fans, as do Essendon who amassed more than 50,000 members before Christmas. But like the Bombers in the AFL the Russian has drawn the ire of tennis fans around the world for her ban. The Bombers are one of the favourites to be top four in 2018, can Sharapova make a deep run at the Australian Open?
FREMANTLE — CAROLINE WOZNIACKI
Pretty simple. Wozniacki doesn’t have a grand slam title to her name, just like the Dockers have yet to taste premiership success. When it comes to slams, the Dane has been a huge underachiever despite spending 67 weeks as world No.1 from 2010-2011. All up, Wozniacki has contested just two grand slam finals and reached the semi-final stage only four times. The Dockers played in five finals series from 2010-2016, but made just one Grand Final appearance, which they lost to Hawthorn by 15 points.
GEELONG — ROGER FEDERER
What is the biggest thing Roger Federer and Geelong have in common? They don’t believe in rebuilds. Since he celebrated his first grand slam victory back in 2003, Federer has remained at the top of the game year in, year out. Following their 2007 premiership, the Cats have missed the finals just once and refused to bottom out. Both will be contending for top honours in 2018.
GOLD COAST SUNS — BERNARD TOMIC
Like the Suns in 2017, Tomic couldn’t get his act together on and off the court. In the same year Gold Coast won just six games and sacked coach Rodney Eade, Tomic was also battling as he failed to get past the first round in 13 tournaments, three of them in grand slams. And only three times did the Queenslander win in the second round. His year hit rock bottom when he was fined $20,000 at Wimbledon after he made the stunning admission he was bored and lacked motivation in his first-round loss to Mischa Zverev, which resulted in him being dumped by racquet sponsor Head. Even Wikipedia labelled Tomic’s 2017 season as a “rapid declined”.
GWS — ALEXANDER ZVEREV
When it comes to exciting talent, the Giants and Alexander Zverev are as good as it gets in their chosen sports. But as yet, the talent is yet to lead to the ultimate prize. Both parties have come close but in the big moments, haven’t been able to get the job done, yet. That could all be about to change this year though.
HAWTHORN — NOVAK DJOKOVIC
The best in it for a very long time, but had a down effort last year. That’s the perfect explainer for both the Hawthorn Football Club and the man affectionately known as Nole. Hawthorn dominated the AFL with three straight premierships from 2013-16, but missed the finals last year. Similarly, the Serbian star spent a ridiculous 122 weeks at World No.1 from 2014-16, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice, and the US and French Opens. No finals for Hawthorn last year and no slams for The Djoker brought both back to the pack. Can they bounce back?
MELBOURNE — GRIGOR DIMITROV
Footy fans have been quick to name Melbourne as potentially the next footy fairy-tale, with the Demons looking to follow in the footsteps of the Western Bulldogs and Richmond. But as yet, this Melbourne group is yet to fulfil its potential. The same can be said for Grigor Dimitrov, who has every shot in the book but has so far come up short on the biggest stage.
NORTH MELBOURNE — VENUS WILLIAMS
Like the powerhouse Kangaroos of the 1990s, there was once a time when Venus Williams dominated the tour, winning seven grand slams but for various reasons — including a battle with Sjögren’s syndrome — fell down the rankings. She’s worked her way back up and almost by stealth become a contender once more. It reminds us a lot of North Melbourne’s preliminary final appearances in 2014 and 2015, where no one tipped them to be a contender before starting a rebuild. Venus has completed her rebuild and is back challenging.
PORT ADELAIDE — SIMONA HALEP
Port Adelaide is trying to shake the flat track bully tag and a history of struggling in finals — including last year’s elimination final loss to West Coast — and despite being the current world No.1, Halep has not produced anywhere near her best at grand slams. She is yet to win a major and has made only two slam finals in her career — both at Roland Garros four years apart — and has faltered at her last three quarterfinal appearances.
RICHMOND — JELENA OSTAPENKO
The Tigers came from the clouds to win the premiership last year and little-known 20-year-old Ostapenko, unseeded at Roland Garros, stunned the tennis world by blasting her way to her first grand slam title. The hard-hitting Latvian caught everyone off guard and was never overawed by the occasion as her raw power, shot making and uncompromising game style smashed opponents off the court. Similarly, the Tigers pressured opposition into errors then capitalised on the turnovers to complete a fairytale season.
ST KILDA — MARIN CILIC
Oh when the Saints … St Kilda has won one premiership. Marin Cilic has won one Grand Slam. Neither has done much else since. I’m not saying they were flukes, but … Fluke = “an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck”. Well, I might be being a little harsh, the Saints made the Grand Final in 2009 and 2010, while Cilic reached the Wimbledon final last year, but we all know how those ended …
SYDNEY SWANS — RAFAEL NADAL
A powerhouse of men’s tennis, the 16-time grand slam champion always enters a major as one of the favourites. Sydney has been a powerhouse of the AFL for more than the last 10 years and while the Swans, like Nadal, haven’t won every grand slam (or Grand Final) they are always one of the contenders.
WEST COAST EAGLES — SAM STOSUR
If the West Coast Eagles and Sam Stosur were one athlete, they would be perfect. Why? Because the Eagles always win at home and never on the road and Stosur has an incredible overseas record but struggles in Australia. Put that DNA together and pretty soon we are talking premierships and grand slam titles.
WESTERN BULLDOGS — JOHANNA KONTA
Australians love to get behind “Sydney born” star Johanna Konta, just like most footy fans have a spot for the Western Bulldogs. If Konta — who plays under England’s banner — won, there’d be plenty of Aussies claiming her as their own, just as many footy fans were on the Doggies’ bandwagon when they surprised in 2016.