Previewing Freedoms Past & Present in the Year's First Grand Slam

No less than FOUR members of the 2013 Freedoms are playing in the main draws at the 2014 Australian Open!  (Live U.S. TV coverage begins tonight at 7 PM EST on ESPN2).  Follow the Freedoms Facebook page for daily updates on our players!

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The Freedoms brigade is headlined by the Freedoms' own "Thunder from Down Under" Sam Groth (left), who continues to hold the record for world's fastest serve at 163.4 MPH. Sam has built on the momentum from his fantastic Freedoms season to soar to his current career high ranking of #157. Awarded a wildcard into the year's first Grand Slam, Sam faces a tough first round opponent in #28 seeded Vasek Pospisil (Canada).

While Sam looks to make waves in the singles draw, as the current world #85 in men's doubles, he and partner John-Patrick Smith hope to make a deep run in men's doubles. To do so, they'll have to upset #6 seeded Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the first round.

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Speaking of doubles, 2007 Australian Open women's doubles champion and 2010 runner-up Liezel Huber (right) is seeded #13 in the women's doubles draw, partnering Hao-Ching Chan (Taipei). The veteran Freedoms doubles specialist and partner Chan face Tamarine Tanasugarn (Thailand) and Saisa Zheng (China) in the first round.

In a season plagued by injuries, the 2013 Freedoms relied heavily on substitute players along the way. Luckily, the Freedoms had some "super subs," including Vicky Duval, Sachia Vickery, and PA's own Alison Riske. Two of them will be representing the Freedoms in the Australian Open while the other came up just short in two hard-fought attempts.

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Three weeks ago today, teammates Duval (left) and Vickery faced one another in the finals of the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, a hard-fought match ultimately won by Vickery. As Freedoms fans know, Vicky is a fighter who never gives up. This past week in Melbourne, she advanced to the final round of Australian Open qualifying, a run that included a victory over former Freedom Kristyna Pliskova. Though Vicky did not win her final match, her qualifying run means that as of Monday morning, she'll have attained a career-high ranking of #151 in the world!

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With wildcard entry in-hand, Sachia (right) looks to build on her 2nd round performance at the 2013 US Open in her first career Grand Slam appearance. Like Groth, Duval, and Riske, Sachia has risen dramatically in the world rankings since her Mylan World TeamTennis experience with the Freedoms; coming into the 2014 Aussie Open, she sits at a career high #196. She'll be one half of an all-American showdown in the first round when she takes on #67-ranked Lauren Davis.

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PA native Riske (left) brings tremendous momentum to Melbourne. Alison currently sits at a career-high #55 in the world, bookending her time with the Freedoms last July by reaching the 3rd round at Wimbledon and the Round of 16 at the US Open. She'll look to resume her run of Grand Slam upsets when she takes on #23 seed Elena Vesnina (Russia) in the first round of women's singles. 

Also an accomplished doubles player, Alison will team will another young American star - and former Freedom - Madison Keys in women's doubles. They face Xinyun Han (China) and Miki Miyamura (Japan) in the first round of women's doubles.

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Watch out for former Freedom Keys (right) in the singles draw. As a 14 year-old phenom with the Freedoms in 2009, she made headlines around the tennis world when she upset #1-ranked Serena Williams. 2013 was her breakout year on the pro tour and she comes into the 2014 Australian Open with a career-high ranking of #36.
 
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Other Freedoms alumni of note in Melbourne include hometown hero, Freedoms Community Ambassador Lisa Raymond (left). The longtime Freedoms stalwart is seeded #15 in women's doubles teaming with Daniella Hantuchova (Slovakia) in pursuit of her second career Australian Open championship, having won the title in 2000.
 
And in perhaps the most unexpected and feel-good story leading into the Open, Patrick Rafter (below), Lisa's Freedoms teammate in 2004 and 2005, is coming out of retirement after more than a decade away from the pro game to team with fellow Aussie great Lleyton Hewitt in men's doubles!
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