Todd Woodbridge.
Todd Woodbridge. Aap

Australia's summer of tennis reaches its climax next week

AUSTRALIA'S summer of tennis reaches its climax next week with the start of the Australian Open.

The first Grand Slam event of the year, the Open will feature 2013 champions Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka returning to Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne to defend their titles.

Channel 7 commentator, and former men's doubles champion, Todd Woodbridge told The Guide he recently changed his mind about who his favourite was going into the tournament.

"No doubt that Novak is a favourite," he said.

"Until about a month ago I really felt that he was the one I would back, but I've since switched my allegiance to Rafa (Rafael Nadal).

"Coming off the brilliant comeback to win the majors that he did in 2013, I think Rafa will be really hungry to do well at the Aust

ralian Open. He didn't play last year because of injury, but he's played well in Australia (in the past)."

But Woodbridge said former World No.1 Roger Federer was still a force to be reckoned with, despite Federer not winning any majors in 2013.

"I had the privilege of having some one-on-one interview time with him and Roger is really relaxed," he said.

"If you believe what he says, then he's 100% fit. It doesn't sound like last year that he was. I think he's also fairly driven. He's made some changes to freshen up and gone for a bigger racquet.

"He was also in Brisbane (for the Brisbane International) so he was on the Australian time zone early. He is 100% committed to winning new majors."

Woodbridge also thinks defending women's champion Azarenka will have trouble winning the Open two years in a row.

"It's so hard to go past Serena (Williams); she will be perfectly prepared," he said.

"Anybody who beats her has to play extraordinary tennis.

"Victoria obviously loves the surface and what the Australian Open offers, but can she win a triple threat? It's going to be a really tough one for her."

While the chances of an Aussie Open winner are slim, Woodbridge said this summer's tennis tournaments have been a great platform for rising talents Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios.

"This year is about showcasing some of the new young guns," he said.

"They're very good juniors. These two have an x-factor about them.

"Because of the focus on those two guys, Bernard Tomic's going to have to pull up his socks and get going again, which is a good thing."

Woodbridge has been an Australian Open commentator for Channel 7 since 2006, and always looks forward to spending his summer holidays behind a microphone courtside.

"I love this time of year," he said.

"Commentary for me has adrenaline to it. It's live, you have to be on your toes and if you make mistakes then everybody's there to criticise you.

"It's like playing a tennis match. It's the only thing I've done in my post-tennis career that gives me that adrenaline."

 

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