Five Predictions for the 2014 Australian Open

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1. Winner of the bottom draw wins the tournament

This year’s Australian Open has produced one of the most lopsided draws in recent memory. The top half of the draw features legitimate title contenders Rafael Nadal, Juan martin Del Potro, Andy Murray and Roger Federer as well as dangerous players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jon Isner ,Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. The draw is exceedingly tough and should provide a ton of excitement throughout the tournament.

The bottom half of the draw pits three time defending champion Novak Djokovic against a relatively weak field, whose best players are David Ferrer, Thomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. Aside from Djokovic, who is a six time Grand Slam winner, only two players in the bottom half have even been in a Major final. Those are Ferrer and Berdych, both who got thrashed in their respective championship matches. Players on the other side of the draw combine for 34 Grand Slam singles titles.

The difference in overall success between the draws should create an interesting result in the final. The finalist from the top half of the draw will have to go through a gruelling series of matches and will inevitably reach the final very fatigued. On the bottom half of the draw, it is extremely likely that Djokovic will blitz through his matches until at least the semifinals, or possibly the quarterfinals if Wawrinka can test Djokovic again.

Playing a rested, thee time defending champion in the final will be a daunting test for any player, but considering the road that they will have to take to get there it is almost impossible to believe that anyone who survives the top of the draw could hope to beat Novak Djokovic in the final.

2. Federer vs. Tsonga is the potential match of the tournament

The most exciting potential match of the early rounds has to be the potential 4th round matchup of Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. If the match materializes it stands to be the best match of the tournament. While Federer holds a career head-to-head record of 9-4 over Tsonga their last three matches at Grand Slams have been iconic. Their last meeting was at the French Open, where Tsonga, a fairly average clay court player, blasted Federer off the court in a straight sets beat down. At last year’s Australian Open the two met in the quarterfinals and the match went the distance with Federer escaping 6-3 in the fifth set. In their previous Grand Slam match at Wimbledon in 2011 Tsonga became the first player in history beat Federer after he led two sets to love.

Tsonga plays an explosive brand of tennis which features a world class swerve and forehand, alongside surprising touch around the net and supreme athleticism. His mind tends to hold him back sometimes, but he seems to elevate his play against Federer and can actually bully him around the court with his powerful ground game. Is match materializes; it will easily be the most exciting of the early rounds. And the winner might be decided by the time of day the match is played. If it is played in the high heat of the day the court will play faster, giving Tsonga a huge advantage, whereas the night will give Federer more of a chance to extend rallies.

3. Home-town Hero Hewitt won’t make a run

Coming off of his thrilling three set win over roger Federer to win the 2014 Brisbane International there is a lot of positive energy coming from Hewitt’s camp right now. It seems that Hewitt is experiencing a bit of a career renaissance here in his twilight years. Playing on his home soil also definitely benefits him, coming into the Australian open, where the very vocal fans will definitely be backing him with gusto.

That being said, it is hard to imagine that he will make any kind of serious impact in the Open this year. Hewitt is almost 33 years old and has not played well in best-of-five set matches the last several years. Since 2011 he is only 10-10 in Grand Slam matches. His signature fitness and grinding style are somewhat lessened by his increasing age, which has robbed him of a step and which makes recovery between matches that much harder.

He is also not a recipient of a good draw. He is scheduled to play Italian Jack-of-all-trades Andreas Seppi, the 24th seed in the first round who holds a 2-1 head to head advantage on hard courts. If Hewitt does managed to upset Seppi, 16th seed Kei Nishikori waits as the prospective third round match. Nishikori has never beaten Hewitt, but is almost a decade younger and in very good shape and will try to grind Hewitt down.

Ultimately it would be stunning if Hewitt was remotely relevant in this year’s Australain Open.

4. No Australian man makes it past the 2rd round

Australain men’s tennis has been in a slump for a while. With the exception of Lleyton Hewitt, no Australian has made a serious run at a Grand Slam in a long time. Supposed up and comer Bernard Tomic is currently experiencing some growing pains as he tries to realize his potential and become more than just a former child prodigy. The rest of the Australian men’s field is pretty spare.

There are nine Australian singles players in the main draw this year. The two Aussies with the best chance to go far would have hypothetically been Tomic and Hewitt. Hewitt has been discussed already, and Tomic had the misfortune to draw world no.1 Rafael Nadal in the first round. Another Australian, James Duckworth is slated to play Roger Federer. In fact, six of the nine Australians are playing against seeded players in their first round matches. The other three would potentially play a seeded player should they advance to the second round.

There is practically no chance that an Australian escapes the second round in this year’s Australian Open

5. There will be at least one first time quarterfinalist in the draw

This is likely to be a feature of the weakness of the bottom half of the draw. In the top half the likely quarterfinal matches will be Nadal- Del Potro, and Federer/Tsonga-Murray. There will likely be few surprises there unless Raonic can unseat Del Potro or a player plays an out of their mind tournament like Tsonga did in 2008.

On the bottom half of the draw however, there is potential for movement. Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny are beatable players and could set up a new challenge in their quarter with a chance to make it all the way to the quarters. But the real intrigue is in the fourth quarter of the draw where Novak Djokovic will likely play either Richard Gasquet or Stanislas Wawrinka, neither of which have reached the quarters of the Australian before.

There is going to be a first time quarterfinalist in this year’s Australian Open, but considering the upset inducing nature of the first Grand Slam of the year, it would be entirely possible to see multiple first time quarterfinalists, especially if someone can upset Thomas Berdych.

Don’t forget to check out Nick Francis’ preview of the Australian Open Mens Draw.

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