Australian Open contenders: 10-6

The 2013 Australian Open is little more than two weeks away. In the days leading up to the season’s first Grand Slam, the Grandstand is counting down the Top 25 contenders in five different parts. Part three features contenders 6-9. **Note: Rafael Nadal was ranked as the No. 7 contender until he withdrew.**

9. Janko Tipsarevic – Tipsarevic is on top of his game right now, but rarely is he in similar form Down Under. His best showing was a 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8 loss to Roger Federer in the 2008 third round. Since then, the Serb is a dismal 5-4 at the major event and he won a mere seven total games against Richard Gasquet in the 2012 third round.

Tipsarevic should get at least one step further this time. Twice in a row he has backed into the World Tour Finals as No. 9 player in the world and first alternate. No matter how you slice it, however, his breakout 2011 campaign was no fluke. He won 54 matches that season and found the win column 57 times in 2012. Exhibitions should never be taken seriously–regardless of the circumstances–but for anyone who cares, Tipsarevic ousted Andy Murray in Abu Dhabi then lost to Rafael Nadal replacement Nicolas Almagro. Highlights from Tipsarevic’s win over Murray: [youtube=]

8. Milos Raonic – The Australian Open has been Raonic’s best slam, but that isn’t saying a lot. The big-serving Canadian qualified for the main draw in 2011 but underachieved amidst high expectations in 2012. After advancing two rounds, he was upset by Australia’s own Lleyton Hewitt and was thus denied a shot at Novak Djokovic.

Raonic is poised to go further this time around, at this slam and at every slam. He more than doubled his career win total with 45 victories in 2011 and he is currently peaking at a rank of No. 13 in the world. There have been no shortage of Tweets from Raonic during hi journey to Australia: Raonic Tweets
7. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
– Starting with Tsonga, we’re now talking about guys who at least have some kind of chance to win it all in Melbourne. In six appearances, the eighth-ranked Frenchman has a runner-up, a semifinal, and a quarterfinal. He is 20-6 at the event after losing to Kei Nishikori in a fourth-rounder that went five sets.

Tsonga’s 2012 fall swing was decent, but he flamed out of the World Tour Finals without a single win. Perhaps his partnership with Roger Rasheed will get Tsonga back on track in time for the upcoming slam. Will we be seeing the Tsonga dance at least four times Down Under? If so, it can be considered a success.Tsonga wins
6. Tomas Berdych
– Watch out for Berdych Down Under. He is a proven commodity at Grand Slams, including the Australian Open (two straight quarterfinals). At this summer’s U.S. Open he upset Federer before falling to Murray in the semis.

Berdych could be a more serious threat than ever in 2013 after ending this year with a Davis Cup title. No matter that the Czech lost his final match to David Ferrer; his confidence should be at an all-time high. Check out ESPN’s recap of the Berdych-Almagro 2012 Aussie Open drama: [youtube=]

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