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THE ONE THING PLAYERS DON'T WANT TO DO BEFORE THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN


There is one thing players competing in Auckland, Adelaide and Hobart in the next week don’t want to do and that's win the tournament.


Although it seems counter-intuitive, taking out the title the week before the Australian Open has been a curse and seen champions consistently fall early in Melbourne.


In a tight two-week schedule in the lead up to the first grand slam of the year, players understandably want to get as much time on court as possible.


For many they were guaranteed at least two singles matches at the United Cup while others have competed in Pune and Adelaide in the last week.


That first week in the build up to the Australian Open has proved to be successful, with every winner of the last decade taking that route, as well as 83% of all quarter-finalists.


But what has proved less successful has been success at the tournaments the week before the Australian Open.


In the last five years, 60% of those events’ champions have fallen at the 1st round in Melbourne.


They include Kokkinakis (Adelaide 2022), Sinner (Melbourne 2021*), Evans (Melbourne 2021*), Humbert (Auckland 2020), Sandgren (Auckland 2019) and Bautista-Agut (Auckland 2018).


(*2021 only had one week preparation, rather than the usual two)


Additionally, only one of the ten champions (Adelaide 2020 winner Rublev) made it past the third round in that time.


And you have to go back even further to 2013 to find a champion who went deeper in the tournament, with Auckland winner David Ferrer making the semi-finals that year.


This also impacts finalists as well, with 40% of tournament runner-ups losing first round in Melbourne and none making it past the fourth round in the last ten years.


So what do we have to consider here?


Well, most top players avoid the second week to focus on their build up to the Australian Open.


This leads to slightly weaker fields and champions and therefore less chance of going deep in the tournament.


However, playing right up to the weekend before a Grand Slam and having the emotional and physical effort of the win, no doubt impacts those players.


They also arrive on the ground in Melbourne later than others and, in the case of Auckland particularly, have additional travel and time zones to factor in.


So who could be impacted by this?


Quite a few of the outside chances at the Australian Open are playing this week including Casper Ruud and Cameron Norrie in Auckland and Andre Rublev in Adelaide.


If they win the tournament or even make the final, will they be able to break the curse and go deep at the Australian Open the following fortnight?


Time will tell.

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