OPINION

All two-week a year tennis fans, keep calm

It's that time of year, sports fans, when we ask the eternal question: "Is this the year an Aussie will win the Australian Open?"

Seriously? How many times have you hit the snooze button on that conversation?

Granted, it has been a long time between drinks. Mark Edmondson way back in 1976 and Christine O'Neil two years later.

Edo, in the battle of the moustaches, beat John Newcombe in four of the most surprising sets of Aussie Open tennis.

The man from Gosford still holds the distinct honour of being the lowest-ranked winner of a Grand Slam since ATP rankings were introduced in 1973. He was No.212 in the world at the time.

And up until 2017, O'Neil was the only unseeded woman to win the Australia title in the open era. That elite group doubled in 2017 when Serena Williams won the title while ranked 81st in the world, so being the founding member isn't such a bad thing.

So what does AO2020 (as it's been marketed) hold for the homegrown talent? Well, specifically for Ash Barty.

Much will, of course, rest on the shoulders of the world No.1. Reasonably so, too, that ranking is a big tip.

But let's remember one key stat: Barty is 23.

Yes, since returning to the game she's swatted aside, ever-so disarmingly, all sorts of challenges - from the physical to the mental and everything in-between.

The "Barty Break" (when the former junior Wimbledon winner laid down her tennis racquets in search of life balance) of almost 18 months meant she missed two Aussie Opens.

Until last year's quarter-final loss to Petra Kvitova, her best result was the third round in the two previous years. So there's graduated improvement.

But does that magically mean the annual two-week tennis expert should expect a Barty party at Rod Laver Arena on women's final night? Ahhhh, nope.

She will start favourite, overwhelming so for we Aussies. And here's where the wise words of a certain R. Federer may just come in handy.

"She can have a different mindset," 20-time grand slam champion Federer said.

"It can relax you and you can really explore all of your potential and that's what happened to me when I won my first major, and I broke through as world No.1 after that.

"I thought, 'Well now I'm the guy to beat and I prefer to be in this position rather than being a contender'.

"I hope that Ash is also going to see it that way."

Me, too, Rog. But let's keep calm.

Janine Graham is an ACM journalist