Heading into the 2020 Australian Open, there is a lot of intrigue about men’s tennis, and for so many reasons, including the battle for supremacy between Roger Federer (20 Grand Slam titles), Rafael Nadal (19 Grand Slam titles), and Novak Djokovic (16 Grand Slam titles), and the title in many people’s eyes as the greatest male tennis player of all-time!
Can Nadal equal Federer on 20 by winning his second Australian Open and become the first player in the Open Era to win at every Grand Slam at least twice, and join Australian legends Roy Emerson and Rod Laver to have won each Grand Slam at least twice across the amateur and professional eras of the game?
Can Djokovic close the gap between himself and Federer to three by winning his eighth Australian Open, and become the first male player to win the Australian Open in consecutive years on three separate occasions?
Or, can Federer extend his lead to two over Nadal, and five over Djokovic by winning a record-equalling seventh Australian Open, and become the oldest grand slam champion in the Open era, going ahead of Australian legend Ken Rosewall, who won his final grand slam (his eighth overall, and his fourth Australian Open) at the age of 37 years and two months.
And Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic all have the opportunity of joining Rosewall as the only male players to have won Grand Slam titles in three separate decades, and become the first to do so entirely in the Open Era.
However, can anyone else stop these three undisputed all-time greats, and etch their names on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup?
Here is my analysis of the 2020 Australian Open men’s singles draw!
Despite his form at the ATP Cup where Nadal won four of his six matches, the World No.1 should have no problems in reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park where he should meet either Karen Khachanov or Nick Kyrgios. Of course Kyrgios carries the hopes of Australia in the men’s singles draw after the withdrawal of Alex de Minaur due to an abdominal injury, but will need to be better than what he was against Roberto Bautista Agut in the ATP Cup semi-final in Sydney if he is to trouble the 2009 Australian Open champion, and potentially make it through to a third Grand Slam quarter-final.
For Nadal though, he will sense that he will have bigger fish to fry, including a potential semi-final against Daniil Medvedev in what would be a re-match of last year’s US Open final, and a potential final up against either Djokovic in a re-match of last year’s Australian Open final, or a re-match of the 2017 Australian Open final against Federer, a match-up which could ultimately decide when it is all said and done, who finishes with the most Grand Slam titles of all-time!
My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (23) Nick Kyrgios
This is a very competitive section of the draw featuring 2016 Australia Open quarter-finalist Gaël Monfils, former Wimbledon quarter-finalists in Lu Yen-hsun (2010), Ivo Karlović (2009), and Vasek Pospisil (2015), 19 year old sensation Félix Auger-Aliassime, who made three finals on the ATP Tour in 2019, as well as American Taylor Fritz, who defeated Sam Querrey to win his first career title at Eastbourne last year, two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson, who showed some great form on his return from a right knee injury at the ATP Cup in Brisbane, 2016 Roland Garros quarter-finalist Albert Ramos Viñolas, Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who defeated Jordan Thompson to win his first career title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last year, and two-time Roland Garros finalist in Dominic Thiem.
Given the lack of success from Thiem outside of clay, and the general unpredictability of Monfils among other factors, this section is wide open!
My predicted fourth round match-up: (20) Félix Auger-Aliassime vs. Kevin Anderson
The 2019 US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev, who was brilliant throughout the ATP Cup, should have little trouble in making it through to the fourth round for a potential meeting with 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, although Medvedev faces last year’s Australian Open quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe in the first round, and either 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Australian Alexei Popyrin in the third round, who got past the first round in each of his four Grand Slam appearances last year.
Looking at Wawrinka, he has a tough road to get to Medvedev, with match-ups against Damir Džumhur in the first round, Andreas Seppi or Miomir Kecmanović in the second round, and 2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist John Isner in the third round, and while you sense the three-time Grand Slam champion has another big run left in him, you also sense that it is Medvedev’s time to shine and potentially win his first Grand Slam title.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (4) Daniil Medvedev vs. (15) Stan Wawrinka
Three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist David Goffin, and two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalist Alexander Zverev are the favourites from this section to move through to the second week, and meet each other in the fourth round, although face potential banana skins in each round.
Goffin has 2013 Australian Open quarter-finalist Jérémy Chardy in the first round, before facing either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Cameron Norrie in the second round, before a cracking third round match against Andrey Rublev, who made the quarter-finals at the US Open back in 2017, and just became the first player since Dominik Hrbatý in 2004 to win titles in each of the first two weeks of a new season.
However, given his strong form at the ATP Cup, including defeating Nadal in straight sets in Belgium’s quarter-final loss against Spain in Sydney, Goffin’s aim will be to go really deep into the second week at Melbourne Park, and potentially reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.
Zverev faces Marco Cecchinato in the first round, who other than reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2018, has failed to progress beyond the first round at each of his other 10 Grand Slam main draw appearances, before facing Casper Ruud in the second round, and then either 2009 Australian Open semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco, or Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the third round. However, given the issues that he has had with his second serve in recent times, this is perhaps not the tournament for Zverev to shine at this time around.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) David Goffin vs. (7) Alexander Zverev
Last year’s US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini should have no issues in making the third round, where he will meet either last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Sam Querrey, or Borna Ćorić, before a potential all-Italian fourth round meeting with Fabio Fognini. However, Fognini has to overcome the highly-dangerous, big serving, and huge American in Reilly Opelka in the first round, and 2019 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Guido Pella in the third round before contemplating a meeting with his fellow countryman early in the second week.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (8) Matteo Berrettini vs. (12) Fabio Fognini
Despite coming into the 2020 Australian Open with no official matches under his belt at the start of this year, you feel like Federer should have little trouble in reaching the second week once again, although he will have to be wary of Hubert Hurkacz in the third round, who was impressive for Poland at the ATP Cup, before meeting either the explosive Denis Shapovalov, or three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, with that third round encounter between the Canadian and the Bulgarian set to be an exhilarating battle.
However, back to Federer, can he make the semi-finals, and then defeat Djokovic, and then defeat Nadal in the final to claim his 21st Grand Slam singles title, and maybe secure his place as probably the greatest male tennis player of all-time? Only time will tell!
My predicted fourth round match-up: (18) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (3) Roger Federer
Last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas should have little difficulty in reaching the third round to face 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, who is on the rebound from a back injury which kept him out of the 2019 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, but Tsitsipas faces a potential banana skin in 2012 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round before his meeting with the Canadian in the third round ahead of a potential fourth round classic with 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist Roberto Bautista Agut, who has really been in career-best form, particularly at the ATP Cup where he didn’t lose a match.
However, the Spaniard has to face fellow countryman and four-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Feliciano López, and then either Benoît Paire or 2014 US Open champion Marin Čilić in the third round before a meeting with Tsitsipas.
However, given the amazing form of Bautista Agut, Tsitsipas will have his work cut out if he is to match his performance last year at Melbourne Park, and maybe restore the respect of his parents after his antics in the match against Nick Kyrgios at the ATP Cup in Brisbane.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (6) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (9) Roberto Bautista Agut
Fresh off leading Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup crown, and winning each of his singles matches during the event, Novak Djokovic should have no problems in reaching the second week of the 2020 Australian Open, with three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Diego Schwartzman likely to be his greatest challenge before the quarter-finals, but the greater question is can Djokovic go onto win his eighth Australian Open, and his 17th Grand Slam title to close the gap to Nadal and Federer? Few would bet against him, but nothing can be taken for granted, especially against Federer in a semi-final, and Nadal in a final.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (14) Diego Schwartzman vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
My predicted quarter-final match-ups
(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (20) Félix Auger-Aliassime
(4) Daniil Medvedev vs. (11) David Goffin
(8) Matteo Berrettini vs. (3) Roger Federer
(9) Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
My predicted semi-final match-ups
(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (4) Daniil Medvedev
(3) Roger Federer vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
My predicted final match-up
(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (3) Roger Federer
2020 Australian Open men’s singles champion
(3) Roger Federer