Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2018 Australian Open.

It’s a tradition we started a year ago at Roland Garros and, frankly, we’ve loved it ever since.

Last season we started writing, instead of the typical draw preview and analysis that we had been doing up to this point where we predicted how the quarterfinals might unfold and so on, well last season we started writing event power rankings. In these, we’ve been looking at and attempting to rank all participants of any given event.

They’re a lot of fun, at least we like to think so, and we’ll be writing these for a number of events this 2018 season. Starting with this Australian Open.

1. Absentees

It’s not quite what it was at, say, last year’s US Open but yes, absentees will loom large over the next two weeks. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Andy Murray will all be missing in action, to name only them. Every year we wish each other for good health at the start of a new year, what happened to tennis players?? 🙁

2a. Roger Federer

2b. Rafael Nadal

That said, the dynamic and ageless duo of men’s tennis will be in Melbourne to save the day.

4. Simona Halep

We’re already on the record as saying that 2018 will be the year Simona Halep addresses a stunning (in the eyes of some, not ours) weakness in her resume and add a Grand Slam title to her name, so why not take this one out of the way early? Maybe she’s never done better than a quarterfinal berth in Melbourne, but all that means is that she’s due for it. (It doesn’t mean that but whatever.)

5. ASICS Tennis

6. Novak Djokovic

When Novak Djokovic comes back to the tennis courts this week in Melbourne, he’ll have already made his biggest move in the lead-up to the Australian Open by announcing he’s partnered with ASICS—or maybe it’s the other way around? In any case, the Djoker will now be the company’s new Global Footwear Partner. They even created a semi-fancy video to announce the partnership. Fun.

10. North American fans

Due to the time difference, coverage of Australian Open matches typically kick off in the middle of the night here in North America. It’s one thing to stay awake over the weekend but for everyone putting off sleep on any given week night to watch some tennis? You guys are the real MVPs.

11. Nick Kyrgios

Everybody’s favourite bad boy started this 2018 season on a roll, winning the Brisbane International for his first ever title on home soil. This, we guess, bodes well for his chances in Melbourne? Hahaha well if it were anyone but Nick Kyrgios, one week’s excellence might foresee another’s similar greatness. But not him. Still, we’ll be there for the Nick Kyrgios experience™ wherever it takes us.

15. Maria Sharapova

The 30-year-old, you might have heard, has had quite an embattled previous two years. She was suspended for a positive test at this event in 2016, and has since clawed her way back to No. 48 on the WTA Rankings. She starts this new season with a clean slate finally—she’d probably like a Grand Slam title to go along with said clean slate.

50. Angelique Kerber

Can Angelique Kerber recapture the magic that allowed her to grab the No. 1 ranking, two Grand Slam titles and another major final in 2016? Highly unlikely, but don’t be surprised to see Kerber make (at least) the fourth round in Melbourne.

60. Kristina Mladenovic

The 24-year-old French native has long been a great doubles player on the WTA Tour but she has finally established herself as a force in singles over the past two seasons. And this year in Melbourne, Kristina Mladenovic arrives as the No. 11-seeded player and has been gifted a fairly favourable draw. Now would be as good a time as ever to put it together on one of the sport’s biggest stages.

100. Denis Shapovalov

If you’re Denis Shapovalov and you’re the sport’s new wunderkind, what do you do for an encore in 2018? You go and grab a Grand Slam title. Unlikely? Maybe, but definitely one hell of a statement.

128. Philipp Kohlschreiber

There has to be a median guy in every tournament. Congratulations, Philipp Kohlschreiber.

256. Bernard Tomic

The former No. 17-ranked player, if you recall, is now down, way down at No. 142 and couldn’t even navigate through the qualifying draw in Australia. As a result, the Aussie will miss the Australian Open. For a while now, he’s looked like he’d rather be doing anything but playing tennis. Now he can.

257. Margaret Court

In an ideal world, the Margaret Court Arena would be renamed and we’d never bother to again ask the former player about her views on transgender children and gay marriage. Alas, we’re living in this one.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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