Australian Open 2015: Experts' picks for the men's draw
The tennis experts of Sportskeeda look ahead at the 2015 Australian Open by making picks for the men’s draw in four categories: dark horse, early exit, dangerous floater, and champion.
1. Dark horse
Adnan Akhtar: Over the past year, Grigor Dimitrov has shown signs of brilliance on court but hasn’t gone on to record that breakthrough win. Despite a defeat in less than an hour to Federer in Brisbane, he is one player who can challenge the higher ranked players and maybe even progress deep in to the second week of the tournament.
Aditya Ramani: I don’t see anyone outside the top 10 with any chance. The usual suspects have either risen to the top or have gone MIA. But Richard Gasquet is lurking in the 20s and that could spell early challenges for some. He has just defeated Nishikori at Kooyong so his confidence will be well stocked. His draw is not too bad either. Can he win the tournament? That is not likely. He could make a deep run though, possibly till the quarters or semis.
Musab Abid: The last few months, Gael Monfils hasn’t done much wrong when he has stepped on the court, although he has repeatedly fallen just short with the finish line in sight. That doesn’t change the fact that he now has a discernible measure of mental stability to go with his ridiculous talents, and this may well be the tournament where he turns a corner. If Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic can, why can’t La Monf?
Jai Prakash: Grigor Dimitrov has improved by leaps and bounds over the last 18 months. Despite being in the same quarter as Roger Federer, to whom he lost in straight sets in Brisbane, the Bulgarian looks primed to string together some good results Down Under.
Roh: David Goffin’s name looks promising in this regard. A semi-finalist at this year’s Chennai Open, Goffin finds himself in Federer’s and Murray’s quarter – possibly taking on the Scot in the fourth round. He has a solid game and, at the first Major of the season, has a good chance to better his previous performances on the biggest stages of the sport.
Abhishek Desikan: Fernando Verdasco is fresh out of a title victory at the Kooyong Classic tournament and could make a deep run at the Australian Open.
Kapil Patwardhan: Grigor Dimitrov might have been shown his place by Federer in Brisbane, but ‘Baby Fed’ has shown enough improvement to suggest that 2015 can be a good year for him. Expect a firing start for the Bulgarian at the Australian Open.
2. Early exit
Adnan Akhtar: Ernests Gulbis would be my pick for an early flight back home from the tournament. The 2014 French Open semifinalist didn’t have a great run in the second half of last year and an early exit in Auckland doesn’t bode well for his fortunes at the Australian Open.
Aditya Ramani: The “Big 4” of tennis has grown in recent times to become the, let us say, “Terrific 10”. What I mean is that these guys give a feeling of surety about their progress through the initial stages of the event. To me, an early upset seems very unlikely for all these guys. Ernests Gulbis could have been one of these 10 players; the unorthodox but talented Latvian had an indifferent start to the previous season but he found his footing on clay and reached the French Open semifinals, taking out Federer and Berdych en route. However, shoulder troubles in the second half of the season made his play rather unremarkable and his French Open heroics have been largely forgotten. He’s not fully fit and short of match practice, but he is seeded 11th and he will be up against a talented Aussie youngster, Thanasi Kokkinakis, in front of several crazy and noisy Australian fans. That is my kind of upset script.
Musab Abid: Kei Nishikori’s US Open run was certainly no fluke, but the jury is still out on whether he can remain healthy in tough conditions. Melbourne will be a LOT warmer than New York, and Nishikori’s murderous draw doesn’t help. The Japanese star looks likely to win multiple Grand Slams in the future, but that run won’t start at Melbourne this year.
Jai Prakash: Ernests Gulbis is struggling to get match wins under his belt after a superb showing at Roland Garros last year. The Latvian lost to qualifier Jiri Vesely in Auckland and things do not look good for him in Melbourne as he opens against local favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Roh: Spaniard Feliciano Lopez had a blink-and-miss appearance at the Chennai Open earlier this month. With Juan Martin del Potro as a possible third round opponent, the 12th seed’s chances of going ahead in the event look to be quite slim.
Abhishek Desikan: Ranked No. 338 in the world, Juan Martin del Potro faces a tough comeback after close to 11 months off the circuit. Though he won two matches in his comeback tournament in Sydney, it is still going to take some time before he regains his top form once again. He could be knocked out as early as the first round, where he faces the Pole Jerzy Janowicz.
Kapil Patwardhan: Rafael Nadal is not playing his best tennis, and not looking his sharpest. An upset in the early rounds is defnitely on the cards.
3. Dangerous floater
Adnan Akhtar: Juan Martin del Potro would be my choice for the dangerous floater. Despite having a difficult draw ahead of him, the Argentine has the ability to cause some major upsets at Melbourne Park.
Aditya Ramani: The bottom half has Nick Kyrgios, who looms in the sights of Federer’s 4th round. He’d have already done pretty well making it to that stage, including possible victories over two seeds, Karlovic and Robredo. I don’t see him taking out Federer, but that would be a match to watch and he will be, for the Swiss, a legitimately dangerous opponent.
Musab Abid: The whole world knows about Nick Kyrgios now, so maybe it’s time his country got to know him a whole lot better. Since becoming a household name with his victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year, this will be the first time that the explosive teenager will be playing in front of his home fans. And that sure sounds like a recipe for plenty of entertainment. The seeds in his quarter – Ivo Karlovic, Tommy Robredo and even Roger Federer – would do well to watch out for Kyrgios.
Jai Prakash: Although Juan Martin del Potro is coming back from a long injury layoff, you cannot rule him out of contention just yet. If he can get past the first couple of rounds, he can surprise the seeded players in the tournament.
Roh: Juan Martin del Potro’s run back to form was cut down to size by qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin at the Sydney International. Nonetheless, the Argentine has already proved his comeback mettle and at the Australian Open, remains a player to be wary of.
Abhishek Desikan: After a stream of disappointments for the Australian supporters, this could finally be the year when Bernard Tomic makes inroads at the Open, causing some upsets along the way.
Kapil Patwardhan: Nick Kyrgios has the conditions set up for him. He has refined his game and will enjoy the home support. His unpredictable play might prove crucial as he goes deep into the tournament.
Adnan Akhtar: For my choice of champion, I would go with the bold and possibly unconventional pick of Kei Nishikori. With the draw that the Japanese has, I think he has a good chance of going one better than his performance at Flushing Meadows.
Aditya Ramani: I’m not sure how the odds are calculated. But across the world, several bookmakers will be currently offering the best numbers for Novak Djokovic. Djokovic can be and has been beaten though, especially by big shot players. He has Stan Wawrinka in his half, Milos Raonic in his quarter and John Isner in his eighth.
Last year, for the first time after many Slams, Roger Federer entered the US Open as one of the top favourites – a tag he carries even more deservedly for this tournament. He has a relatively easy draw till the quarterfinal. He could then, potentially, take on Murray, Nadal and Djokovic in succession (exactly like last year!). But given all factors, I get a feeling that string of tough matches may not come to pass, and Federer will lift the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup for the fifth time.
Musab Abid: For the third Slam running Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are coming in as the top two favourites, but I feel the Swiss has the slight edge this time. If he manages to defeat (or avoid) Rafael Nadal, Federer could be lifting his 18th Slam trophy in a couple of weeks.
Jai Prakash: He did not have a great tournament in Doha, but Novak Djokovic has emerged victorious in Melbourne without match practice before. The World No. 1 is again grouped with his slayer last year Stanislas Wawrinka, who seems to be the only threat that could prevent the Serb from clinching his fifth Australian Open title.
Roh: With a 4-0 win-loss record at the finals at Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic is in my eyes the absolute favourite, despite how strong his other opponents may come seem to be.
Abhishek Desikan: After a standout year in 2014, Novak Djokovic has the hunger and the motivation to claim a record breaking 5th crown at Melbourne . The draw is in his favour, and the Serbian would be aiming to reclaim his lost crown.
Kapil Patwardhan: Roger Federer has shown that age does not matter as long as he uses his body intelligently. He has never needed to run too much, and lately he has been busy making his opponents cover every inch of the court. With Djokovic his likely opponent in the final, Federer can finally hand the Serb a defeat in Melbourne.