There is always so much excitement for the start of Australian open. The first grand slam action of the year at Melbourne park really sets the tone for a busy season. A bit more than a fortnight after the first day of the new year, the players are usually fresh from their offseason and are happy to reunite with familiar faces on the tour. This year feels different though. We already experienced some breathtaking tennis at the inaugural ATP cup that saw Serbia crowned as champions. The victory is a big boost for Novak Djokovic and would make many wonder if this is going to be another year of domination by the big three. 2019 saw some breakthrough victories for gen next but none at the highest level. The last 8 grand slams have been won by the Big three. Nadal and Djokovic especially are at the peak of their prowess and it would take a real big performance from the young brigade to stop them. So let’s take a sneak peak at the men’s singles draw.
First round fixtures to look out for:
Almost every grand slam throws at us a blockbuster fixture in the first round. This year’s Australian open is no exception. Daniil Medvedev will have his hands full against Frances Tiafoe in the opening round. The wily Russian was in red hot form during last year’s hard court season, reaching the final of US open. He will be hoping to go one step further this time. Novak Djokovic starts his title defence against Jan-Lennard Struff and he will be wary of the big hitting German.
Australia had a difficult period with the devastating bush fires. It was heartening to see the tennis fraternity rally around by raising money to support the rescue and rebuilding efforts. The Aussies would be hoping for some success in the tournament for their local lads. Nick Kyrgios always had the potential to go big at the grand slams but the only question he is yet to answer is if he has the mental strength to fight those long battles that extend deep into fifth set against top seeded players. He played some brilliant tennis during the course of the ATP cup. The match against Stefanos Tsitsipas will stay long in memory.
It’s never an easy draw for anyone at the grand slams, but the big three – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer almost always make it to the second week. The fact that every Australian Open played over the last decade featured at least one of the Big three, proves their combined dominance down under.
Roger Federer will have his first big test against Denis Shapovalov or Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round. This is a highly anticipated clash considering the Swiss maestro’s loss against the Bulgarian in last year’s US Open is still fresh in memory. If the master overcomes the 4th round, he still has to play the best tennis in recent years to get past Djokovic and Nadal in the semi finals and the finals respectively. He was agonizingly short of achieving that feat in the epic final at Wimbledon last year.
Rafael Nadal has a relatively easy route to the quarter finals where he is expected to face Dominic Thiem followed by Daniil Medvedev in the semi finals. Nadal and Medvedev played arguably the best match of 2019 at the US Open finale and the Russian will be eager to get his revenge.
Novak Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite to win his eighth Australian Open crown. His first proper test could be against the impressive Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter finals. The serb could be unstoppable if he reaches the finals though. He played 7 finals down under and emerged victorious all 7 times.
There are a host of young guns working their socks off to break into the exclusive grand slam winning club, none more so than Alexander Zverev. The German endured a very tough start to the year with some very bad losses at the ATP Cup. He would be hoping for a much better showing in Melbourne. Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas surely have the ammunition to upset the big guns. It’s a fascinating time to be a tennis fan and the next fortnight or so will let us know if a challenger is going to break the duck and lift the first grand slam trophy or if a seasoned champion adds to his account. Either way, it’s only good hard fought tennis played in the best spirit, is what we pray for.