For ESPN tennis analyst Darren Cahill the Aussie Open is something very, very special. He is after all from Adelaide, Australia and played often in front of the crowds here in Melbourne. Cahill was one of the most successful doubles players in the 1980’s and 1990’s wiining over 12 titles. Although he never won the Aussie he did make to the finals in 1989.
There is again the usual suspects coming into the Aussie Open on the men’s side with the big four of Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. At the moment there is a very good rivalry brewing between Nadal and Djokovic heading into Melbourne.
Cahill covered a great deal of tennis topics including a possible upset winner of the 2014 Aussie Open.
What are your thoughts about having former superstars like Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Michael Chang returning to the game as coaches?
Cahill: First of all, I think it’s great that anytime these former champions want to get back into the game, the big winner in this is tennis. It’s great to see these guys put their hand up and get back into the game, whether it be commentating, coaching. But becoming re-involved in the game is great for tennis in general.
I think it’s a great thing that we can all learn from these guys. I’ll put my coach’s hat on. I’ve learned a lot from Lendl working with Andy Murray. Becker involved, Ivanisevic involved, Chang involved. Each one of these guys are going to bring strengths to the table, and I think it’s a wonderful thing.
As far as Andre is concerned, I think if you’re going to pick one player that probably won’t get back into full-time coaching, he’s had several offers, big players, top 10s, on both the male and female side have approached him, but I think you’ve seen his life now move more towards the education in the United States. He’s heavily involved in that. I think it would take a drastic alteration for him to turn his attention back to tennis.
What is going on in men’s tennis in the United States?
Cahill: I think it’s a huge year or two years, and I’m going to be a little more general here and not just say the American players, because all of those guys are capable of making top 50. They should be looking beyond that. They should be looking to the top 20 and beyond. All those guys are capable of making top 50, Harrison, Sock, all the guys inside the top 150 at the moment. You also have a bunch of guys in the United States who are 15, 16 years of age who are outstanding. Some of the best male juniors that I’ve seen in a long, long time, we saw a bunch of them playing at the Orange Bowl recently. They dominated over there. The group of kids coming behind this generation that you’re talking about is outstanding. They will leapfrog these guys if they’re not careful in the next couple of years.
So who wins the Aussie Open?
Cahill: Look this is a great tournament for upsets. While, conventional wisdom says that this will be a battle between Rafa and Novak, which would make sense. I really think the guy that no one wants to play is Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He loves Australia and the crowds are always behind him. He is a high energy guy and a grinder. He’s come into the Australian Open coming off the Hopman Cup – he put on an outstanding show. He’s got a couple of French coaches now and he’s worked really hard over the last couple of months. He could walk in here and win, so keep an eye on Jo.