2019 Australian Open – Men’s Singles Preview

The 2019 Australian Open is just about here, and we have got an exciting fortnight coming up from Melbourne Park, potentially an historic one with both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer looking to become the first player to win the Australian Open seven times.

Federer is also looking to claim his third-straight crown at Melbourne Park after defeating Rafael Nadal in 2017 and Marin Čilić in 2018 (both in five sets), and with that become the first male player, and the third player overall across both sexes (Serena Williams and Helen Wills Moody) to win two separate Grand Slam singles events at least seven times.

While Djokovic, who after Madrid in 2018, when he had just six wins and six losses for the season, and struggling to find his way after having elbow surgery after the 2018 Australian Open, won 47 of his last 53 matches in 2018 to reclaim the World No.1 ranking after slipping to 22nd in the world just before Roland Garros, returning to the top 10 after winning for the fourth time at the All England Club, and became the first end of year World No.1 not have won a title before Wimbledon in the same year. He will be looking to return to the form of his past glories at Melbourne Park after failing to make the quarter-finals in the last two years.

However, the 2019 Australian Open is not just about Roger and Novak, with Rafael Nadal, who had surgery to remove a floating piece of bone in his ankle after pulling out of 2018 ATP World Tour Finals due to an abdominal strain, looking to win his second Australian Open, and become just the third male player to win each Grand Slam singles event at least twice. Nadal has retired or withdraw from 17 of his last 18 official hard court tournaments (which included Davis Cup) that he was entered in, including withdrawing from his last seven.

Then we have the comebacks of Andy Murray from his hip problems, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from a knee injury, and then the potential challengers to Novak, Rafa, and Roger in Alexander Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Marin Čilić, Dominic Thiem, and Kei Nishikori among others who could challenge for the first Grand Slam title of 2019.

However, will there be a twist or two during the next fortnight? Let’s analyse the men’s singles draw.

 

Section One

Djokovic will face a qualifier in the opening round before facing either Tsonga, who he defeated to win his first Australian Open back in 2008, or Martin Kližan in the second round. Djokovic is slated to face the promising and talented Denis Shapovalov in the third round, before facing David Goffin or Daniil Medvedev, who had the most hard court wins in 2018 with 32, compared to Djokovic with 31, at the start of the second week, but assuming he is fit and healthy, no one is going to stop Djokovic going deep into the second week here.

My fourth round match-up: (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Daniil Medvedev

 

Section Two

Nishikori is the clear favourite to make it through this section, and meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals after climbing from 22nd to 9th in the world in 2018, but faces an awkward second round against big serving veteran Ivo Karlović, before facing Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, and then either Fabio Fognini or Pablo Carreño Busta in the fourth round. In saying this, this section is easier on paper than Section One, and should pose no issues for the 2014 US Open finalist.

My fourth round match-up: (23) Pablo Carreño Busta vs. (8) Kei Nishikori

 

Section Three

Zverev, who won four titles in 2018, including the ATP World Tour Finals, should make it through at least to the fourth round, where he will have a shot of making just his second grand slam quarter-final, but the first round match-ups which stand out are the ones between Stan Wawrinka and Ernests Gulbis, and Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic, with the winners of each playing each other in the second round, with the winner of that to play last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung, who missed both Roland Garros and Wimbledon due to an ankle injury, who could face Sam Querrey in the second round, potentially the only roadblock to a blockbuster third round, and then potential Round of 16 with Zverev.

My fourth round match-up: (4) Alexander Zverev vs. (24) Hyeon Chung

 

Section Four

On paper, it looks like a comfortable section for the 2018 Roland Garros finalist Thiem, who made his first Grand Slam quarter-final outside of Roland Garros at the US Open, where he was beaten by Nadal in a epic five set match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, but faces Benoît Paire in the opening round before facing 2017 Australian Open quarter-finalist Mischa Zverev, who defeated Murray in the fourth round as Murray’s physical issues started to become evident on-route to being subsequently smashed by Federer in the quarter-final, and then Lucas Pouille in the third round before a fourth round encounter with Borna Ćorić. The only real obstacle for Ćorić will be Marco Cecchinato in the third round, who became the first Italian to make a Grand Slam semi-final in 40 years at Roland Garros last year after defeating Djokovic in what was a huge upset.

My fourth round match-up: (11) Borna Ćorić vs. (7) Dominic Thiem

 

Section Five

This is a really intriguing section of the draw with a big first round match-up between last year’s Australian Open finalist Čilić, and 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic, who has made the fourth round at Melbourne Park, and according to former Australian tennis player Paul McNamee believes Tomic is in best form for five years, around the time when Čilić and Tomic last met back in 2015 at Montreal, a match which Tomic won in the lead up to the 2015 US Open, where Čilić made the semi-finals in the defence of his 2014 crown. And, although Čilić made the final here last year, he has only made the quarter-finals or better here twice, making the semi-finals back in 2010, where Čilić defeated Tomic in a five set struggle in the second round. If there was to be a big upset in the opening round, this is the match where it could happen.

Regardless, the winner of this match-up could make it through to the third round to face Fernando Verdasco before a fourth round meeting with either Karen Khachanov, last year’s quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, or Murray. Both Bautista Agut and Murray face each other in the opening round in what is going to be a tough match for Murray, who has only played 14 matches in his comeback so far, and has announced his intention to retire from the sport at some point in 2019 due to his ongoing hip problems. I think patience is going to be the better part of valour over the next couple of months if Murray is to make a truly successful comeback.

My fourth round match-up: Bernard Tomic vs. (10) Karen Khachanov

 

Section Six

Federer, although he faces Denis Istomin in the opening round, who of course defeated Djokovic in the second round two years ago, and Gaël Monfils in the third round, should have no problems making it to the Round of 16 to meet Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas, who gave Federer some trouble over at the Hopman Cup in Perth. In saying this though, Federer is certainly a strong chance of going deep into the second week, and perhaps winning his 21st Grand Slam title.

My fourth round match-up: (14) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (3) Roger Federer

 

Section Seven

This is one of the more stronger sections of the draw with Anderson a chance of reuniting with John Isner in the fourth round in what would be re-match of the 2018 Wimbledon semi-final, which was the second-longest match in Wimbledon history, but has to get past Adrian Mannarino in the opening round, Frances Tiafoe in the second round, and either Steve Johnson, Andreas Seppi, or Feliciano López in the third round.

However, Isner has obstacles of his own to overcome as well, facing his fellow giant American Reilly Opelka in the first round, and then Grigor Dimitrov in third round, who looks to be returning close to his best after making the quarter-finals in Brisbane.

My fourth round match-up: (5) Kevin Anderson vs. (20) Grigor Dimitrov

 

Section Eight

Nadal, despite his fitness clouds, should have no problems making it through to the third round to play Alex de Minaur, who won his first ATP title in Sydney, and could meet either last year’s semi finalist Kyle Edmund, 2011 Wimbledon finalist Tomáš Berdych, or Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round. Both Edmund and Berdych will face each other in a blockbuster opening round, while Schwartzman should have little trouble in making the third round.

In any case, I can’t see anyone in this section right now capable of denying Nadal a passage through to the second week, and a shot at a second Australian Open crown.

My fourth round match-up: (18) Diego Schwartzman vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (8) Kei Nishikori

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. (7) Dominic Thiem

(10) Karen Khachanov vs. (3) Roger Federer

(20) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

(3) Roger Federer vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted final

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (3) Roger Federer

 

2019 Australian Open champion prediction

(3) Roger Federer

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2018 Roland Garros Preview – Men’s Singles

After a clay court season where one man, that man, has dominated, winning 17 of his 18 matches on-route to claiming his 11th title in Monte-Carlo, his 11th title in Barcelona, and his eighth title in Rome, with his only blemish being a loss in the quarter-finals in Madrid to Dominic Thiem.

And with his great rival in Roger Federer sitting out the clay court season for a second-straight year, can anyone stop Rafael Nadal from claiming an astonishing 11th title at Roland Garros, and a 17th Grand Slam title overall to move to within three of Federer’s record of 20?

So, let’s have a look at the men’s singles draw for Roland Garros 2018!

Section one

Of course this section of the draw features Nadal, who needs to defend his crown to retain the No.1 ranking, and while there are a couple of potential dangers that at their best could give Nadal trouble, most notably Denis Shapovalov, who made the semi-finals in Madrid, and perhaps Jack Sock, who has had a poor start to the year with just five wins from 15 matches. However, I cannot see either of them, let alone anyone else in this draw defeating him this year at Roland Garros.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (24) Denis Shapovalov

 

Section two

Section Two is a wide-open section featuring Diego Schwartzman, Borna Ćorić, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Feliciano López, who will equal Roger Federer’s record of 65-consecutive Grand Slam appearances, and Kevin Anderson, who are all capable of going deep here, but none of whom have reached the quarter-finals before at Roland Garros, with the best results being fourth rounds from Kohlschreiber (2009, 2013), López (2004), and Anderson (2014, 2015, 2017)!

However, in terms of form, Schwartzman (18 wins from 30 matches) and Anderson (20 wins from 28 matches) are clearly to two most in-form players in 2018 from this section, and without any truly obvious selections, one of these two will meet Nadal in the quarter-finals!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) Diego Schwartzman vs. (6) Kevin Anderson

 

Section three

This section of the draw is also an interesting section, but one that contains a clear three standouts in Marin Čilić, who made the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo and the semi-finals in Rome, Fabio Fognini, who made the quarter-finals in Rome, and Kyle Edmund, who made the quarter-finals in Madrid, as well as the final in Marrakesh, and the quarter-finals in Estoril before that.

While I expect Čilić to make the fourth round, it will be a tough third round battle to decide who will meet him in the round of 16, one that the Italian will be favoured to win over the Brit.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Marin Čilić vs. (18) Fabio Fognini

 

Section four

If Juan Martín del Potro is fit and healthy, he can go deep into this French Open, but has only played four matches during the clay court season as he struggles to overcome a groin injury, but as long as he is right, he will at least make the fourth round where he will meet either John Isner, who made the quarter-finals in Madrid, or Tomáš Berdych, who lost in the first round in Monte-Carlo, Madrid, and Rome, but is capable of producing on the big stage.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (9) John Isner vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

 

Section five

In section five of the draw, David Goffin is the clear favourite to at least make the fourth round, if not the quarter-finals, after quarter-final appearances in Monte-Carlo and Rome, as well as making the semi-finals in Barcelona, but who he could meet in the fourth round is an interesting prospect! He could meet either Nick Kyrgios, who hasn’t played for over a month as he attempts to overcome an elbow injury, but is capable of finding form at short notice, or Pablo Carreño Busta, who made the semi-finals in Barcelona, as well as in Estoril, and looks to be in good form!

Kyrgios will face fellow Australian Bernard Tomic in the opening round in what could be an encounter full of tension!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (8) David Goffin vs. (10) Pablo Carreño Busta

 

Section six

Section six contains the 2016 champion Novak Djokovic, who seems to be finding some form after a poor start to the season in his troubles from coming back from an elbow injury (10 wins from 17 matches) after making the semi-finals in Madrid, but faces a tough draw here, potentially facing David Ferrer in the second round, Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round, and Grigor Dimitrov or Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round, but in saying that, other than Dimitrov, who made the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo and the quarter-finals in Barcelona, looks the most in-form player here!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (20) Novak Djokovic vs. (4) Grigor Dimitrov

 

Section seven

Dominic Thiem is in this section of the draw, the only man to defeat Nadal during this clay court season, and has made the semi-finals here for the last two years, but while he is the favoured player in this section, he faces a tough second round match-up with the Greek teenage sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made the final in Barcelona, and the semi-finals in Estoril, before he can make a smooth passage through to the fourth round to probably face Kei Nishikori, who made the final in Monte-Carlo, and the quarter-finals in Rome on his comeback from a wrist injury suffered before the US Open last year.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) Dominic Thiem vs. (19) Kei Nishikori

 

Section eight

The 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka is in this section of the draw, but comes into the French Open in such poor form (three wins from eight matches), and his first round loss in Rome was his first match in just under three months in his struggles to overcome his knee problems.

The only player I can trust in this section is Alexander Zverev, who has been in amazing form, winning in Munich and Madrid, but also making the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo, and the final in Rome off the back in winning in Madrid. In my view, Zverev is the only player I truly believe can trouble (or beat) Nadal this year at Roland Garros!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (15) Lucas Pouille vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (11) Diego Schwartzman

(3) Marin Čilić vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

(8) David Goffin vs. (20) Novak Djokovic

(7) Dominic Thiem vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

(8) David Goffin vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted 2018 Roland Garros champion

(1) Rafael Nadal

2018 Australian Open men’s singles draw: preview and predictions

After a year in 2017 where Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer turned the clock back to their glory days of being the top two players in the world after coming back from serious injuries suffered in 2016, with Nadal winning at Roland Garros for the 10th time as well as the United States (US) Open for a third time, and Federer winning the Australian Open for the fifth time in a classic, and Wimbledon for the eighth time.

2017 was a year where their rivals, including Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray (who sadly won’t be at the 2018 Australian Open) suffered serious injury setbacks of their own, what will the 2018 Australian Open bring?

Can Federer continue his remarkable form at 36, and win his sixth Australian Open crown to equal the records of Djokovic and Roy Emerson? He will move to within one of Lleyton Hewitt’s record of 20 Australian Open appearances.

Can Nadal back up the 2017 he had when he returned to world number one for the fourth time in his career by going one better and winning his second title at Melbourne Park?

Can Djokovic make an extraordinary comeback from a serious elbow to win a record seventh Australian Open?

Can Grigor Dimitrov, who won four titles including Cincinnati and the ATP World Tour Finals, and Alexander Zverev, who won five titles including Rome and Canada, justify their high seedings and their brilliant years in 2017 to contend for their first Grand Slam singles titles respectively?

Can Dominic Thiem make a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time outside of Roland Garros?

Can Marin Čilić, who is of course a former semi-finalist here back in 2010, back up his performance at Wimbledon last year, and make his third Grand Slam final?

Can David Goffin or Jack Sack back up their wonderful years and be surprise contenders at the 2018 Australian Open?

Can 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic comeback from their injury troubles to challenge for the trophy?

Can 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson and 2009 US Open champion Juan Martín del Potro continue their strong comebacks from injury, and challenge for their first Australian Open crowns?

Can one of the other seeds, or a dangerous floater shock the world to contend at the first Grand Slam of the year?

And, what about Nick Kyrgios? Can he deliver Australia their first singles champion at Melbourne Park?

There are so many tantalising storylines leading into the 2018 Australian Open, so let’s have a look at the men’s singles draw, and determine who will win the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup!

 

Section one

Rafael Nadal is the clear favourite to make the quarter-finals from this section of the draw, and will likely meet big-serving American John Isner, who made the US Open quarter-finals in the fourth round in what will be his greatest challenge before the quarter-finals.

With this draw, Nadal will be perfectly placed to contend and possibly win his 17th Grand Slam singles title!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (16) John Isner

 

Section two

Both 2014 US Open champion Marin Čilić and Pablo Carreño Busta, who of course made the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows last year look to be the ones to beat in this section, although there a few strong players, such as two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Gilles Simon, Gilles Müller, who of course defeated Nadal in an epic fourth round match to make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas, three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Mikhail Youzhny, and American Ryan Harrison, who are all capable of causing serious damage!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (10) Pablo Carreño Busta vs. (6) Marin Čilić

 

Section three

Grigor Dimitrov has a good draw for the opening two rounds, meeting qualifiers, but the thing that really stands out from this section is the opening round match-up between David Ferrer, who made the Roland Garros final back in 2013, and 2017 US Open quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev, which should be one of the best first round matches, and they are both in great form with Ferrer making the semi-finals this week in Auckland and Rublev making the final in Doha the week before.

The other thing that stands out is the difficult draw that 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has got, potentially facing either Denis Shapovalov or Stefanos Tsitsipas, both talented youngsters, in the second round before meeting Nick Kyrgios in the third round. Kyrgios has a slightly easier draw, potentially facing Viktor Troicki in the second round before meeting Tsonga, and then Dimitrov in a round of 16 blockbuster on Rod Laver Arena.

Both Dimitrov, but particularly Kyrgios are showing the right signs that they can go deep at Melbourne Park.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (17) Nick Kyrgios

 

Section four

An evenly-matched section of the draw, but one which Kevin Anderson and Jack Sock should negotiate with little trouble to make the fourth round.

However, they must be wary of the likes of British youngster Kyle Edmund, Denis Istomin, who of course defeated Novak Djokovic in the second round last year at Melbourne Park, Lucas Pouille, who made two Grand Slam quarter-finals in 2016, German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, who made the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2012, Japanese youngster Yoshihito Nishioka, who is on the comeback trail from a serious knee injury, Andreas Seppi, who defeated Kyrgios in the second round at last year’s Australian Open, a match that was considered the unlosable match for Kyrgios, and 2009 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ivo Karlović, whose big serve will always be a major threat!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) Kevin Anderson vs. (8) Jack Sock

 

Section five

Dominic Thiem, who has made the semi-finals at Roland Garros in the last two years, and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka are the two best players in this section and should meet each other in the fourth round.

However, they will be wary of the likes of American journeyman Steve Johnson, Czech player Jiří Veselý, French player Adrian Mannarino, the consistent Roberto Bautista Agut, 2009 Australian Open semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco, and to a lesser extent Lithuanian player Ričardas Berankis who could make their runs to the second week difficult.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Dominic Thiem vs. (9) Stan Wawrinka

 

Section six

This section contains 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, who is returning to tennis after six months out due to an elbow injury, which has affected his service motion, and has received a tough draw as the 14th seed. He plays American journeyman Donald Young in the first round before playing two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Gaël Monfils in the second round! If he can get through this, he could play either American youngster Jared Donaldson or 2016 Roland Garros quarter-finalist Albert Ramos Viñolas in the third round before playing Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.

Zverev appears to have a simpler path, but could face older brother Mischa Zverev, who of course made the quarter-finals at last year’s Australian Open after defeating Andy Murray in the fourth round, in the third round in what would be an intriguing match-up in so many ways!

My predicted fourth round match-up: Gaël Monfils vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

 

Section seven

David Goffin, who was the finalist at last year’s ATP World Tour Finals and the injury-plagued Juan Martín del Potro look like the players most likely to make it to the second week of the Australian Open.

Although Goffin could meet French veteran Julien Benneteau in the second round, and the enigma that is Italian player Fabio Fognini in the third round, he should have no problems making the fourth round, while del Potro could meet 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomáš Berdych in the third round after meeting rising star Karen Khachanov in the second. It should also be noted that Berdych plays Australian young gun Alex de Minaur, who made the final in Sydney, in the opening round in what will be one of best first round matches of the tournament!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) David Goffin vs. (12) Juan Martín del Potro

 

Section eight

The 19-time Grand Slam champion, and defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer is in this section, and easy first two matches before meeting Richard Gasquet in the third round, and will likely meet 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in the fourth round.

Raonic also has a comfortable draw before meeting either 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey or Feliciano López, who will move to within one of Federer’s record of 65 consecutive Grand Slam singles main draw appearances, in the third round.

In my view, Federer is the championship favourite!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (22) Milos Raonic vs. (2) Roger Federer

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (6) Marin Čilić

(17) Nick Kyrgios vs. (11) Kevin Anderson

(5) Dominic Thiem vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

(12) Juan Martín del Potro vs. (2) Roger Federer

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (17) Nick Kyrgios

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. (2) Roger Federer

My predicted final match-ups

(17) Nick Kyrgios vs. (2) Roger Federer

My predicted 2018 Australian Open champion

(2) Roger Federer