Australian Open Preview and Predictions

by John on January 14, 2018

 

The Australian Open begins Monday and on the men’s side the first major of the year might seemingly be viewed as the Melbourne Wide Open. But that’s not the case if you’re defending champion and world No. 2 Roger Federer. With all the carnage of season-ending injuries to top players in 2017 still permeating through this year’s men’s draw, Federer stands alone, tanned, ready and fit as can be. Last man standing at the end of the past year and certainly the rock-solid pre-tournament favorite this year. The walking wounded, all Top 10 players, are making valiant efforts to play, but one can’t predict how well they will perform. Six-time champion Novak Djokovic’s right elbow still isn’t 100 percent, Rafael Nadal’s troublesome knee is said to be iffy, Stan Wawrinka’s surgically repaired knee hasn’t truly been tested and Milos Raonic is still rusty after having left wrist surgery last fall. Only Raonic has played in an official tournament in the lead-up to Melbourne, and he lost his opening match in that one. And then there is Kei Nishikori, who hasn’t fully recovered from a torn tendon in his right wrist last summer and isn’t fit to compete yet. Ditto Andy Murray, who had hip surgery earlier this month. His attempts at non-surgical treatment (rest) were unsuccessful after injuring the hip at Wimbledon in July. So there you have it. Federer’s toughest competition may have to come from the NextGen youngsters or the in-between guard who haven’t quite proven to be ready for prime-time play in the majors yet. So a quick look at the draw to see how things shape up is in order. Nadal, last year’s losing finalist, heads the top half of the draw in the 1st Quarter. The top-seeded Spaniard, if his knee holds up, shouldn’t have much trouble advancing to the semifinals from this section. Potential hurdles along the way include Borna Coric in the third round, John Isner in the fourth and Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. It’s all about Nadal’s knee in this quarter. ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, the third seed, leads the pack in the 2nd Quarter. Dimitrov’s win in London posits well for the talented Bulgarian to make a serious run in a major, but it won’t be easy. Andrey Rublev could be his opponent in the third round with the possibility of enigmatic Nick Kyrgios or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth. Jack Sock or Kevin Anderson should emerge from the bottom section of the quarter to meet Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. The Bulgarian prevails against either one. In the bottom half of the draw, fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev is top dog, positioned at the bottom of the 3rd Quarter bracket. He might have to play older brother Mischa in the third round and Novak Djokovic in the fourth. That is if Djokovic’s elbow holds up and the Serb survives a second round tilt with Gael Monfils. Djokovic will win that encounter, but falls to the 20-year-old Zverev. Dominic Thiem, at the top of this bracket, survives his opposition and takes on Zverev in the quarterfinals. Zverev wins and advances to the semifinals. Federer, on the bottom of the 4th Quarter bracket, faces a testing road to the semifinals. Richard Gasquet looms as a potential 3rd round opponent and either Milos Raonic or Sam Querrey, both big servers, should battle the Swiss in the fourth. David Goffin, who beat Federer at the ATP Finals in London, is at the top of this section and advances to a fourth round matchup with Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine has too much firepower for the Belgian and moves on to meet Federer in the quarterfinals. Delpo beat the Swiss at the U.S. Open last year, but it won’t happen this time as Federer extracts revenge. So it’s Nadal versus Dimitrov in one semi and Zverev against Federer in the other.

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