The Stars Show Up for the Australian Tennis Open in 2008

by : David Horne

The Australian summer tennis series is upon us once again. For most players the Australian Open is one of the toughest tournaments of the year due to several factors.

First of all many players use the last month of the year to take a break from the tour and their hectic travel schedules. As a result many players struggle physically to cope after this extensive layoff. To add to the drama most players are coming out of the cold winter conditions of Europe and the USA and straight into extremely hot weather conditions of the Aussie Open.

The Australian Open is notorious for players having to forfeit matches due to heat exhaustion. As a result there is a great opportunity for those players who may be inferior when it comes to talent but possess superior fitness levels.

The Australian open has undergone some major changes but none more so that the new surface that has been laid down. The green colour of the rebound ace courts have been replaced by the blue Plexi-cushion surface. Only time will tell as to the playability of the new surface. So far in the lead up tournaments in the Hopman Cup and also in Adelaide the feedback has been positive from the players.

From the men's draw the favourite is of course Roger Federer who has proven to be a class above the other players especially in the Grand Slam tournaments. He should follow up again with another win after his emotional victory last year.

A record number of tennis fans will once again flock to Melbourne Park to brave the extremely hot weather conditions. Tennis Australia has already stated that they will not tolerate any of the fan misbehaviour as was seen last year. There were violent clashes between various groups last year including the Serbians and Croatians. There will be a strong police presence throughout the tennis complex to prevent this from happening again.

When it comes to tickets the night sessions are still very popular and always showcase the top players in action. The best ticket during the grand slam is the "Grounds Pass" for the first week where you can get courtside and watch some of the great matches on the outside courts. It is during the second week that most of the outside matches consist of the juniors, mixed doubles and veterans' matches.

Roger Federer's chance of winning all four grand slam tennis titles starts here in Australia. His preparation was suppose to start at the Kooyong Classic but he was a late withdrawal due to illness. Federer would have had some valuable match play against his fellow top players such as Andy Roddick, Fernando Gonzalez, David Nalbandian, Tommy Haas, Andy Murray, Ivan Ljubicic and the crowd favourite Marat Safin. The Kooyong Classic will be the first opportunity for many of the players to test out the new surface of Plexi-cushion which has replaced the controversial rebound ace.

The Australian Open always produces some great matches and we look forward to another great tournament this year. Of course it is Federer's tournament to win but there will be some players trying to knock him off. Some of the players to watch out for include Roddick, Murray, Hewitt and Gonazalez.

On the women's side Justine Henin is coming off another top year but will definitely face some tough competition from the William's sisters, Maria Sharapova and the veteran Lindsay Davenport. With hot conditions predicted it will be interesting to see if Sharapova experiences the same heat exhaustion that she succumbed to last year. Davenports' experience will get her through to the later stages of the tournament but fitness may be questioned when it comes to being able to win seven matches in a row.

Overall the Australian Open brings in record crowds and provides for some great entertainment not only to the die hard tennis fans but also those who enjoy the social experiences that are found at the open. Live music, great food and plenty of entertainment always attracts a diverse group of spectators.