Men's tennis: Day 1 Australian Open predictions
The first Grand Slam of 2019 kicks off at Melbourne Park on Monday. In the next two weeks, the world's best tennis players will do battle for the right to be crowned Australian Open champion.
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson are currently tied at six titles each. The Swiss and the Serb are on opposite sides of the draw and naturally, will be gunning to earn a record-breaking seventh Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the best matches on Day 1 on the Men's Singles draw:
Kevin Anderson vs Adrian Mannarino
Big-serving South African Kevin Anderson enjoyed the best season of his career last year. He's also in high spirits after winning in Pune during the first week of 2019. Although Mannarino can be particularly dangerous on hard court surfaces, I suspect Anderson should have too much quality for the Frenchman here.
Prediction: Anderson to win in four sets.
Christopher Eubanks vs Nikoloz Basilashvili
Basilashvili had a breakthrough season last year, winning titles in both Hamburg and Beijing. He pushed Rafael Nadal so close at the US Open back in September.
In contrast, Eubanks had to go through qualifying to book his place in the main draw. He's a real talent but still fairly raw on tour-level tennis and it should show during this encounter.
Prediction: Basilashvili victorious, in four sets.
James Duckworth vs Rafael Nadal
It will be interesting to see exactly what type of form Nadal is in during these early round matches. He's only just returning from injury and honestly, couldn't have picked an easier opponent.
Duckworth, who himself has endured troublesome injury issues in recent seasons, hasn't surpassed the second round at any Slam in his professional career to date.
Prediction: Nadal wins in straight-sets
Alex de Minaur vs Pedro Sousa
Alex de Minaur is coming into this one off the back of a title win in Sydney, while Sousa has lost his last four consecutive matches. Surely, there's only one winner here?
Prediction: Alex de Minaur to win in three sets
Roberto Bautista Agut vs Andy Murray
It would be symbolic of Andy Murray's career if this match goes five sets. Murray's career has been a successful one and there's a high chance that should he lose, it'll be his final one in professional tennis.
Having said that, I think he'll be competitive but Bautista-Agut himself is playing very good tennis right now. He beat Djokovic en-route to winning in Qatar, so it'll be increasingly tough to see this going against him.
Prediction: Roberto Bautista-Agut to win in five sets
Denis Istomin vs Roger Federer
It's worth pointing out that Denis Istomin is unafraid of causing early-round upsets. After all, he knocked out defending champion Djokovic in the second round two years ago.
However, the man from Uzbekistan isn't in great form at present - while Federer commenced his preparations with yet another Hopman Cup win.
Prediction: Federer to prevail with a straight-sets victory
Peter Gojowczyk vs Karen Khachanov
2019 is a big year for Karen Khachanov. The Russian won his first Masters 1000 in Bercy at the tail end of last year, but it's at the Slams where he needs to make significant progress.
With that in mind, this is a very winnable first-round match for the 22-year-old Russian.
Prediction: Khachanov to win in three sets
Match of the Day - Kyle Edmund vs Tomas Berdych
Kyle Edmund reached the semi-finals in Melbourne last year. With Murray's retirement imminent, he will be the man in the spotlight for British tennis going forward. He began 2019 poorly, leaving Brisbane after losing his first match against Yasutaka Uchiyama.
Here, his first-round opponent is the unseeded Czech Tomas Berdych, who returned from injury and reached the finals in Doha in the first week of the year. I can easily see this encounter going to five sets, as Edmund will look to wear down Berdych with his feet movement and big forehand.
Prediction: Edmund to win in five sets