Smashtalk: Storylines to watch in the new season

Published by Matthew Trollope, Leigh Rogers and Bede Briscomb

ONE TO WATCH: Can Garbine Muguruza reclaim the No.1 ranking in the first week of the 2018 season? Getty Images
It’s time for the first Smashtalk of the 2018 season – and there is lots to discuss and look forward to.

The 2018 season is about to begin and there are plenty of storylines to follow.

After a long off-season, the Smashtalk team of Matthew Trollope, Leigh Rogers and Bede Briscomb can’t wait for the on-court action. This what they are most looking forward to at these key Australian Open warm-up events:

Mastercard Hopman Cup

Trollope: There are some stellar teams in Perth, including Switzerland (Federer and Bencic) and Germany (Zverev and Kerber). But I’m probably most excited to see the Aussie duo of Thanasi Kokkinakis and Daria Gavrilova. Dasha always performs so strongly on home soil and Kokkinakis’s battles with chronic injury mean it’s a joy to see him return to the court. You’d be struggling to find a pair of players with more dynamic games and personalities – it should make for an exciting partnership.

Rogers: All eyes will be on Roger Federer but it is another former world No.1’s form I’m most keen to see. Angelique Kerber added the esteemed Wim Fissette to her coaching team in the off-season and it will be interesting to see whether his has an immediate impact. If the German can recapture the confidence that led her to two Grand Slam titles in 2016, it would shake up an already wide-open women’s field leading into the Australian Open.

Briscomb: The Belinda Bencic Comeback Tour hitting Perth! I bought all the Bencic stock I could possibly buy in March and, sure, when she opted for wrist surgery in May I got a little nervous, but it has since paid dividends. The Swiss Miss’ WTA profile right now is a beautiful sea of Ws and I’m looking forward to her and Roger continuing that form at Perth Arena.

QUIZ: Were you paying attention in the off-season?

Brisbane International

Trollope: For me, all eyes are on Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian comes into the tournament as the world No.3 (a career-high ranking) and the defending champion. This is where the going gets tough – can he prove that his breakthrough 2017 season was no fluke, when the expectation and pressure is higher and many of the big guns are returning to the game after injury?

Rogers: Will Garbine Muguruza end the tournament at No.1? The Spaniard could reclaim the top spot, and secure the No.1 seed at the Australian Open, if she makes the Brisbane International final. That’s a lot of incentive for the opening week of the season – and a great chance for the current world No.2 to prove she deserved to be named the 2017 WTA and ITF Player of the Year ahead of her No.1-ranked compatriot Simona Halep.

Briscomb: Nobody is talking about Milos Raonic, but they should be. Milos is a former champion in Brisbane and he looks to be over his injury woes. If he gets through the tournament without limping on his calf or grabbing at his abductor we have to start talking about him as a genuine chance to win the Australian Open.

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