Australian Open 2019: Men's Preview and Draw Analysis
After an action-packed first couple of weeks of the 2019 season that saw Kei Nishikori break his nine-match finals losing streak, Roberto Bautista-Agut having one of the best weeks of his career and Roger Federer have another perfect outing in the Hopman Cup, the focus finally shifts to the first Grand Slam of the season, Australian Open.
And once again, the primary focus will be on the holy triad of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is currently on a two-slam winning streak after capturing titles at Wimbledon and US Open in an epic, resurgent 2018 season. And he has already worked up quite a sweat this season as he spent almost 10 hours on the court last week in Doha, getting to the semi-finals in both singles and doubles. So, he is in all readiness to capture a record seventh title down under.
Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, has found it quite hard to find some time on court in the last few months. After ending his 2018 season due to an ankle injury, the Spaniard didn’t start this season on the right foot as he withdrew from the Brisbane International due to a thigh injury. He, though, did show up on court earlier this week at a Fast 4 event in Sydney, and will hopefully be completely ready to go for a chance to lift his second Australian Open title.
Two-time defending champion Roger Federer, after having a tough second half of the 2018 season by his standards, started this season once again at the ever so entertaining Hopman Cup, and looked fresh and in-form as ever. The Swiss had another blistering week in Perth as defeated the likes of Tiafoe, Tsitsipas and Zverev, all in straight sets on his way to the title, and looks in prime position to defend his title once again.
But not only the Swiss, former grand slam finalists Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson also started this season in the best possible manner as they both captured the titles in Brisbane and Pune respectively, with the Japanese finally ending his title drought of almost three years.
Along with them, Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka also had an extremely positive week in Doha on their comeback to the tour from their injuries, reaching the final and quarter-final respectively. And with their current ranking, they will be looking forward to really shake up the draw along with five-time finalist Andy Murray, who is still trying to find some rhythm after a long lay-off.
But as in these last couple of years, a whole lot of focus will be on the NextGen brigade, and leading their challenge once again will be the ATP Finals champion, Alexander Zverev. All eyes will be on him after he had the best possible finish to last season, beating both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back to back to lift the title in London. But the big question this time also will be that can be crack the monster that is called the best of five?
Along with the German, the NextGen Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and the 2018 Newcomer of the Year Alex De Minaur will also be looking to wreak some havoc on the usual suspects.
So, after taking a look at the usual, the not-so-usual, and the new suspects, let’s break down the draw to see who all these men are pitted against:
Novak Djokovic leads this quarter and he has been dealt with a tough draw. After going against a qualifier in the first round, he will face either the dangerous Martin Klizan or the 2008 runner-up Jo -Wilfred Tsonga.
Then in the third round, he will likely face the Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov before having to probably deal with one of the most in-form players of the last few months in Daniil Medvedev. In the quarters, he will most likely face the Brisbane champion Kei Nishikori, who has a much more comfortable road to the quarters in comparison with Djokovic.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev is leading this quarter and he has a pretty decent draw. He will open his campaign against Aljaz Bedene before likely facing the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
But the blockbuster action in this section will take place in order to find the German’s potential round of 16 opponent as Milos Raonic will start his bid against the former Aussie no. 1 Nick Kyrgios, before having to face Stan Wawrinka or Ernests Gulbis in the second round.
The other section of this quarter features the French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, who has a tricky draw as he will face the flamboyant Frenchman Benoit Paire in his opener before likely going against Mischa Zverev’s serve and volleys in the second round. Then, before having a chance to face Mischa’s brother in the quarters, he will probably have to go through the Shanghai finalist Borna Coric.
The Pick: Borna Coric
No. 3 seed Roger Federer finds himself in the bottom half of the draw and he will start his title defence against the man who stopped Djokovic’s title defense in 2017- Denis Istomin. After that, he will face a qualifier before likely going against Gael Monfils in the third round. Then, in the round of 16, he will probably face either the hard-hitting Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili or the Rogers Cup runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In the other section of this quarter lies the 2018 finalist Marin Cilic, who will start his campaign against the unpredictable Aussie Bernard Tomic, before having a chance to face the Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco.
Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov also headlines this section and he will go against Peter Gojowczyck of Germany in the first round. But the real action in this section is highlighted by the 5-time finalist Andy Murray, who has been dealt with a horror opener as he is pitted to go against the Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut before having a chance to face the young Russian in the third round.
The Pick: Roger Federer
2009 champion Rafael Nadal leads this quarter and he will face a barrage of home hopefuls in his early rounds. He will play his first official match since last year’s US Open against the Australian wild card James Duckworth. Then in the second round, he is likely to face another Aussie in Matthew Ebden before having a chance to face the Aussie no. 1 Alex de Minaur.
British no. 1 Kyle Edmund also finds himself in Rafa’s section and before having a chance to face the Spaniard in the round of 16, he will have to go through the Doha finalist Tomas Berdych in his opener.
The opposite section of this quarter features the likes of Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, Andre Agassi’s new charge Grigor Dimitrov and the big-serving American John Isner, and only one of them will go through to the quarter-finals.
The Pick: Kevin Anderson
Novak Djokovic v Borna Coric
The Pick: In the rematch of the 2018 Shanghai final, The Croat, who has shaped his game around Djokovic’s, will be hoping to the turn the tables this time around, but the Serb does all those things that Coric does, only a little better. The Croat will not be able to find enough ways to hurt Djokovic and will once again come out on the losing side.
Roger Federer v Kevin Anderson
The Pick: Roger Federer will be looking to avenge his Wimbledon loss to the South African and he will be able to do just that, as this time, he will not miss the chances that will come his way as he did in that evening on the No.1 Court at SW19.
Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer
The Pick: This is the match-up that the whole tennis world will be hoping to witness in just over 2 weeks’ time and this will also break the tie of the holder of the most Australian Open titles.
Last time Federer got the better of Djokovic in a grand slam was way back in Wimbledon 2012. But this time, Djokovic’s road to the final will likely consist of long and grinding matches against the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Kei Nishikori and Borna Coric. And a couple of them even might be in the excruciating heat of Melbourne and that might help the Swiss Maestro get past his Serbian rival this time around to lift an unprecedented seventh Australian Open title.
Exciting potential early-round match-ups:
Novak Djokovic v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Kei Nishikori v Ivo Karlovic
Stan Wawrinka v Ernests Gulbis
Milos Raonic v Nick Kyrgios
Dominic Thiem v Benoit Paire
Marin Cilic v Bernard Tomic
Andy Murray v Roberto Bautista Agut
Kyle Edmund v Tomas Berdych