My first reaction to the release of the Australian Open draw was utter joy. The idea of Bernard Tomic coming up against Rafael Nadal in the first round came of great relief to many Australian fans that Bernie won’t be taking up too many night sessions this January. Seeing the rest of the draw however, was a bit of an anticlimax. With one side loaded up with the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro and Lleyton Hewitt primed to bring some great matches throughout the fortnight, Novak Djokovic’s side is child’s play in comparison.
Let’s take a look at each quarter, some matches to watch, and our predicted semi finalist.
Seeds: Nadal (1), Monfils (25), Seppi (24), Nishikori (16), Raonic (11), Dimitrov (22), Paire (27), Del Potro (5)
Assuming Nadal can get through his first round encounter with Bernard Tomic, and a possible meeting Lleyton Hewitt, his run through to the quarter final is pretty routine for a Grand Slam. These two potential matches have the potential to be dangerous, considering both of the Aussies’ are in top form heading into Melbourne. The big names always time their run in Grand Slams to perfection, and will always have a few cobwebs in early rounds – so don’t be surprised if either of these matches aren’t straight sets. For Del Potro, he’ll be looking to improve on his disappointing third round exit from last year. A potential fourth round matchup against Milos Raonic beckons, with some massive hitting on offer. Delpo should account for this section of the draw pretty easily, for a great quarter final against Nadal.
Early Matches to Watch
Nadal v Tomic – probably the one person you don’t want in the first round. Tomic is capable of causing a big upset here. It won’t happen though, not against Rafa. If it was Murray, considering his return from injury id give him a real shot.
Monfils v Harrison – Two guys you never really know what will happen. Both have so much potential, but can rarely hold it together over a Grand Slam. Some big hitting will be on show for those spectators on outside courts. Check it out for sure
Nishikori v Matosevic – Can the Aussie get his first Grand Slam victory? This should be a great exhibition of baseline tennis that could go for a long time. Matosevic has been in pretty good shape heading into Melbourne, with some solid wins at Sydney, but unravelled against Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarter finals. He can’t afford to do this against Nishikori
Semi Finalist – Rafael Nadal – too good for everyone else in the quarter. Would only give Del Potro a shot on a hot day on a fast court. A slower night session beckons, swinging the favour right towards Nadal
Seeds: Murray (4), Lopez (26), Kohlschreiber (21), Isner (13), Tsonga (10), Simon (18), Verdasco (31), Federer (6)
Quarter of Death. No better way of describing it. This is brutal. With Federer and Tsonga lower down in the rankings than usual, their position in the draw is now altered (Federer out of the top 4, Tsonga out of the top 8). Whoever comes through from this quarter will have definitely earned it. Federer and Tsonga have been lined up for a fourth round matchup, something which we just haven’t seen in a long time. Both also have pretty rough draws heading towards this match, with Tsonga drawn against Gilles Simon in the third round, and Federer against his Wimbledon conqueror Sergiy Stakhovsky also in the third (Stakhovsky must overcome Verdasco in the second round). Murray faces a much simpler section, with his biggest threat being John Isner, who is coming off an ankle injury sustained in Perth.
Early Matches to Watch
2nd Round – Cilic v Simon – The big hitting Croatian isn’t seeded thanks to a tablet he took halfway through the year saw him suspended for a period of time. His spot in the draw could see him take out a seed in the 2nd round – this being Gilles Simon. Cilic had his most successful Slam here in 2010, so this match should turn into a great contest.
2nd Round – Verdasco v Stakhovsky – This would be a must see match for those with Ground Passes for the second round. Contrasting styles – baseline versus serve volleyer, will provide some great entertainment. Verdasco is always up and down – this could easily be straight sets on a good day for him, but get him in a tight contest, and he might start to crumble
2nd Round – Federer v Stepanek – A Radek Stepanek match is always hilarious to watch, and up against Federer, it should be a real showcase of some quality tennis. Federer should account for him easily, but a serve volley game troubled him at Wimbledon, so the Fish could squeeze a set out of the great man here.
Semi Finalist – Jo Wilfried Tsonga – Going out on a bit of a limb here, but against a declining Federer, and an underdone Andy Murray, Tsonga could find himself in the semi finals once again in Melbourne.
Seeds: Berdych (7), Dodig (32), Anderson (19), Haas (12), Youzhny (14), Janowicz (20), Chardy (29), Ferrer (3)
Probably the weakest of the four quarters, but has the potential for some surprise semi finalists. With another ultra-consistent year, Ferrer finds himself as a top 4 seed once again, giving him an easier ride through to the semis. Tomas Berdych has been drawn as his top 8 opponent, and with a surprisingly comfortable 7-4 winning record against him, Ferrer is certainly the favourite to take out this quarter. Keep an eye on Tommy Haas, who is slated for a fourth round encounter with Berdych. The Haas resurgence since 2012 surely has one more year left, and he would be every chance to break into a quarter final here. Jerzy Janowicz may also cause some grief to a higher ranked opponent, with a fourth round match lined up against Ferrer.
Early Matches to Watch
Janowicz v Thompson – The 19 year old previously unknown Aussie who almost took out Richard Gasquet at Kooyong will have his hands full against the big serving Pole. Hopefully this match is scheduled for a smaller seated court, where you can get up close and see how big Janowicz smacks his first delivery . It’s also definitely worth a look though for those interested in the upcoming Aussie talent. A great serve backed up an all court game will be fun to watch.
2nd Round – Chardy v Dolgopolov – Jeremy Chardy loves his tennis in Melbourne, with the Frenchman getting a big win over Del Potro here last year. Same too with Dolgopolov, with some big results here in the past couple of years. This will be another great opportunity to see a quality match on an outside court, with two extremely solid baseline games coming up against each other.
3rd Round – Janowicz v Youzhny – One of the more entertaining players to watch, Youzhny has had some poor performances of late at Melbourne Park. He hasn’t made it past the third round since 2008, and this potential match against Janowicz may be the opportunity he’s looking for. If he can get into his opponents service games, Youzhny should account for him in the baseline exchanges
Semi Finalist – David Ferrer – My least confident prediction, given the relative evenness of this quarter. A weaker quarter, but one that might yield a surprise semi finalist, but in this case, Ferrer is number three in the world for a reason, and should account for all five opponents.
Seeds: Wawrinka (8), Pospisil (28), Robredo (17), Gasquet (9), Fognini (15), Gulbis (23), Tursunov (30), Djokovic (2)
Djokovic must be laughing. The relative ease at which he should progress to the quarters is unbelievable. Fabio Fognini awaits in the fourth round (compare that to Federer v Tsonga), and assuming he gets through, a mouth-watering match against Stan Wawrinka in the quarters is on the cards. The match of 2013 in my books, the fourth round encounter that ended 12-10 in the fifth was some of the best hitting seen in Rod Laver Arena. Stan too faces a relatively simple first couple of rounds, but a dangerous matchup against Richard Gasquet in the fourth round looms as a danger match for the Swiss number 2. The other seeds in this quarter will really struggle to make any sort of inroads, with dangerous unseeded players like Marcos Baghdatis, Juan Monaco, Sam Querrey, Julien Benneteau and Aussie Sam Groth looking to spoil the party.
Early Matches to Watch
Groth v Pospisil – There should be some big serving in this first round encounter, with the world record holder up against the 6 foot 4 Canadian. Not too many rallies will be on show, but if Groth can take care of his side on serve, the 28th seed may face some difficulties.
Gulbis v Monaco – Could be the best possible chance for an upset of a seed in the first round. Monaco looked in pretty good sorts against Djokovic at Kooyong, with only a couple of lapses in concentration keeping him from forcing a close match. Gulbis had a decent showing in Qatar, losing to Nadal in a tight quarter final, so look for him to continue his good form.
2nd Round – Gasquet v Davydenko – Some quality baseline exchanges will be on show if these two progress into the second round. Gasquet with that incredible backhand and Davydenko with a ferocious attitude to chasing everything down. Recent form suggests that the 32 year old Russian may be on a rapid decline, but his Australian Open form has always been strong. Gasquet can falter in these big tournaments though, so don’t expect a complete walkover.
Semi Finalist – Novak Djokovic – only one tough match will stand in his way, and I can’t see Wawrinka producing the sort of match he did last year, or if Gasquet sneaks through, a tough match from the Frenchman. Djokovic will head through to the semis with less than 10 hours on court.