2020 Australian Open – Men’s Singles Preview

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!

 

Section One

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

 

Section Two

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

 

Section Three

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

 

Section Four

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

 

Section Five

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

 

Section Six

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

 

Section Seven

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

 

Section Eight

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

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