Friday, 15 January 2016

Aus Open predictions - Men's Singles

Shouldn't take long - Djokovic will win his sixth AO title - end of story.

However there is more to the tournament even if the fininish may be obvious to most, and of course the hottest of favourites have been known to fall at very unpredictable hurdles in past majors.

The draw has given us potential blockbuster matches from the very first round, and the random placement of seeds has assisted in ensuring this throughout.

Rafa Nadal as fifth seed was always going to be the key interest, and he fell on the bottom side of the draw, to the relief no doubt of Roger Federer, who won't have to meet his nemesis unless they both make the final.  It will be another Swiss player, Stan Wawrinka who will need to deal with the 2009 champion Spaniard in the quarter finals should they win their expected earlier matche.
That would be a return encounter at Melbourne Park bringing back memories of the 2014 final which saw Stan's major breakthrough at the expense of Nadal.

So the quarter finals if matches go according to seeds would be as follows:

Djokovic (1) v Nishikori (7)
Federer (3) v Berdych (6)
Wawrinka (4) v Nadal (5)
Murray (2) v Ferrer (8)

That may not be the final eight though, and the lead up form of a number of other players cannot be denied.
Yes, Novak in Doha defeated Berdych and destroyed Nadal to win his sixth straight tournament, and Stan won in Chennai comfortably.  Federer, though, lost his final in Brisbane to a confident Milos Raonic, and faces the prospect of an in form Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.  Dimitrov is currently threstening to win in Sydney if the weather ever allows the tournament to finish.

Murray hasn't played an ATP tournament, preferring the Hopman Cup as his lead up preparation, and his form looked OK for the best part, even allowing for the loss to Kyrgios.
Ferrer lost first round in Doha and just lost a three set battle with young American star Jack Sock in the semis in Auckland but he is usually in the right form for a deep run in Melbourne, possibly including a second round clash with the farewelling Lleyton Hewitt.

Berdych has done well in the last couple of Aus Opens and has many points to defend.  He faces the possibility of a third round big hitting contest against Aussie hopeful Nick Kyrgios.  The young firebrand has opened the season well in the Hopman Cup and appears to have concentrated his efforts on purely tennis and not the garbage that troubled his progress in 2015 and alienated him from many.

If Nick can harness his huge potential and be a little more patient, Berdych could find himself with one of the toughest early battles for the top seeds.

Of interest in the top part of the draw is ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose first round opponent is a fellow former AO finalist Marcos Baghdatis.  If Jo can find his way through that encounter, he could conceivably threaten the quarter final spot of Kei Nishikori, who will have his own trouble in round one with Kohlschreiber, a respected performer at Melbourne Park in the past.

Of course I must mention Australia's highest ranked player Bernard Tomic, seeded 16 and an impressive semi finalist in Brisbane, defeating Nishikori and only losing to eventual winner Raonic in two tiebreakers.  Tomic is in Murray's quarter of the draw and should on form face the Scot in the fourth round.  With the Australian's style of game he could annoy the hell out of Andy but I fancy Tomic may at this stage of his improving career lack an edge in pace around the court to be able to handle all of Murray's weapons.

While on the Brisbane event, the winner Raonic is well placed in the AO draw, with winnable matches through to a likely fourth round mouth watering clash with Wawrinka.  Raonic is ready to take down one of the big names in a grand slam setting and perhaps this is the tournament to stamp himself as the first of the next generation to join the elite group of Djokovic et al.

For all of the ifs buts and maybes, and analysis of the unknown, here are my predictions for how little they may be worth:

Djokovic to defeat Federer in one semi
Raonic to defeat Murray in the other semi (yes my money is on the Canadian to be the big story)

Novak to win the whole thing of course.

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