Yesterday I posted my women’s preview for the Australian Open and now it’s time for the men’s. Your thoughts are widely encouraged in the comments section. Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Whatever way, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s take a look at the men’s draw for the 2014 Australian Open…
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FIRST QUARTER: R.Nadal (1) v J.M. del Potro (5)
The world number one, Rafael Nadal headlines a top-heavy draw and faces one hell of a ride if he is going to make the final. In the first round, Nadal has drawn the dangerous, Bernard Tomic. The Aussie has once again, peaked in Australia as he reached the final in Sydney although he was disappointing in the last match with a 6-3 6-1 loss to Juan Martin del Potro. In a sure-to-be Rod Laver Arena night match, I think Tomic has the capability to at least get under Rafa’s skin. The highest seeds Nadal can face before the quarter-finals are Gael Monfils, who he defeated in a three set Doha finale and Kei Nishikori. Nishikori’s section is highlighted by the appearance of the most dangerous floater of them all, Lleyton Hewitt. The tireless Aussie caused a stir beating Roger Federer to win the Brisbane title. Hewitt opens his tournament against the seed, Andreas Seppi, where I anticipate a straight forward victory.
Juan Martin del Potro sits at the bottom of this demon quarter. The Argentine took some time to get going in Sydney as he was forced to three sets by his first two opponents, Nicolas Mahut and Radek Stepanek, but strolled through his next two matches. He could meet Benoit Paire in the third round; the Frenchman has started 2014 in characteristically unpredictable form so despite a win over DelPo in Rome, he shouldn’t be much of a threat. The big test for DelPo could come in the 4th round where Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov are looming. Both players have been hyped to the heavens and I believe that Dimitrov will make new ground at a Grand Slam by reaching the last 16. Raonic’s performances were so-so at the Hopman Cup and I still believe there isn’t much to his game other than the big, booming serve. Also watch out for Yen-Hsun Lu in this section, who beat David Ferrer to make the Auckland final.
1st Round Predictions: Nadal to beat Tomic in 4 sets, Kokkinakis to beat Sijsling in 4 sets, Kamke to beat Sock in 5 sets, Hewitt to beat Seppi in 3 sets, Nishikori to beat Matosevic in 4 sets, Raonic to beat Gimeno-Traver in 3 sets, Paire to beat Dancevic in 5 sets and Del Potro to beat Williams in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: Nadal v del Potro
SECOND QUARTER: A.Murray (4) v R.Federer (6)
I have no expectations for Andy Murray this week in Melbourne. The Brit, who has reached three finals down under in Melbourne, has just two competitive matches under his belt since undergoing back surgery. In Doha, he handed out a 6-0 6-0 beatdown to a local Qatari wildcard, who was sadly not fit for the ATP tour, and then lost to Florian Mayer from a set and a break up. Physically he has looked OK, but I believe ever since Wimbledon really, his mentality and motivation has been questionable. I think reaching the quarter-finals would be a solid effort. He will play Go Soeda first and has the likes of Feliciano Lopez, John Isner and Philipp Kohlschreiber in his section. Isner won Auckland including a victory over Kohlschreiber in the quarter-finals. It is likely the big dude will have to overcome Kohlschreiber once more as the pair are seeded to meet in the third round.
Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are the top two seeds in the bottom half of the second quarter. I have had a feeling for a while that Tsonga is going to have a terrific Australian Open. There isn’t a great deal of logic behind it although he has done well at this event before and I think he wil pumped up having missed a big chunk of 2013 through injury. Federer was in and out through Brisbane, starting with some supreme tennis, but going out on a lacklustre final performance against Hewitt where he managed to lose a set, 6-1 with over 20 unforced errors. It has made him a very unpredictable player to call and I think Tsonga will stride on to the quarters and deeper. Federer faces home hope, James Duckworth in the first round, meanwhile Tsonga will play Filippo Volandri.
1st Round Predictions: Murray to beat Soeda in 3 sets, Kohlschreiber to beat Bedene in 3 sets, Isner to beat Klizan in 4 sets, Tsonga to beat Volandri in 3 sets, Cilic to beat Granollers in 4 sets, Stepanek to beat Kavcic in 5 sets and Federer to beat Duckworth in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: Murray v Tsonga
THIRD QUARTER: T.Berdych (7) v D.Ferrer (3)
This third quarter is absolutely tragic. TRAGIC! When I saw the seeds, my heart sank because it really is a terribly poor section. David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych are the two seeds and if one or either, get knocked out, which is possible based on their pre-Australian Open form then we could welcome some Wimbledon carnage back to the floor. Much of the discussion around not getting enough matches has been focused on Murray, but what about Berdych? He also had less-than-ideal preparations playing just one match in Doha, which he lost to Ivo Karlovic in two tiebreak sets.
The first seed he could play is Ivan Dodig, who faces an all-Croatian first round match with none other than Karlovic. Dodig leads that head-to-head by 2 wins to 0; however Karlovic has been playing well so far this year and he might be destined to continue haunting Berd. I originally went for Berdych to fall in the third round, but I have bottled it and decided to go safe. In a similar quarter at last year’s US Open, I went for all the obvious shocks, which didn’t materialise and the seeds held true. Berdych is still a solid player compared to most players and if he did meet Karlovic again, a match over best of five sets would work in Tomas’s favour.
Ferrer features in an equally wobbly section to Berdych with Jeremy Chardy, Jerzy Janowicz and Mikhail Youzhny the seeds he may have to contend with. I really wish Janowicz was fully fit and in-form because this would be his quarter for the taking. Unfortunately he looked well short of his best in a 6-2 6-2 loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov in Sydney. Youzhny pulled out with a stomach complaint just four games into his first round match in Chennai so I am not expecting much from him either. The funky German, Florian Mayer has a really favourable draw and could conceivably reach the 4th round. Ferrer has had some baffling losses to Daniel Brands in Doha and Yen-Hsun Lu in Auckland in his pre-Australian Open tune-ups. However he often gets his game together when it really matters and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did again in Melbourne.
1st Round Predictions: Berdych to beat Nedovyesov in 3 sets, Karlovic to beat Dodig in 5 sets, Anderson to beat Vesely in 5 sets, Thiem to beat Sousa in 4 sets, Haas to beat Garcia-Lopez in 3 sets, Mayer to beat Kudla in 3 sets, Janowicz to beat Thompson in 3 sets, Dolgopolov to beat Berankis in 4 sets and Ferrer to beat Gonzalez in 3 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: Berdych v Ferrer
FOURTH QUARTER: Stanislas Wawrinka (8) v Novak Djokovic (2)
Where the women’s draw is incredibly even, the men’s is about as lopsided as it could be. On the face of things, The number two seed, Novak Djokovic should stroll into the final. This fourth quarter is definitely better than the third quarter (TRAGIC) and could potentially see a rematch of the best match from 2013 between Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka, which took place at the Australian Open. Djokovic will play Lukas Lacko in round one and his first potential seed is Dmitry Tursunov. The section that will produce Djokovic’s 4th round opponent features some interesting characters. Ernests Gulbis remains an enigma and has made a solid start to the season with a quarter-final appearance in Doha. He has drawn Juan Monaco in the first round, who I did not realise was no longer in the top 32 after a rough 2013 season. Fabio Fognini is also in this section and regular readers will know I have come down hard on him in the past. He pulled out of his first match in Chennai and I would be surprised if he matches his seeding with his performance.
The top half features Stanislas Wawrinka, who made a really encouraging start to the year winning the title in Chennai. He has never been the most convincing player against lower ranked players when he is expected to win. In Chennai though, he didn’t drop a set on his way to beating Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the final. I do like his draw, which is likely to pass by seeds, Vasek Pospisil and Richard Gasquet. Wawrinka met Pospisil in the semi-finals of Chennai, who had to retire hurt in the second set, meanwhile Gasquet laboured to a second round loss to Gael Monfils in Doha and I wouldn’t fancy his chances if not 100% fit. Wawrinka and Gasquet played a quite majestic match at the French Open last year so if they did meet in the 4th round, that would be the most exciting match-up in another drab section of the draw.
1st Round Predictions: Wawrinka to beat Golubev in 3 sets, Ebden to beat Mahut in 5 sets, Robredo to beat Rosol in 5 sets, Fognini to beat Bogomolov in 4 sets, Gulbis to beat Monaco in 4 sets
Moo’s Quarter-Final Prediction: Wawrinka v Djokovic
I have to admit I have really struggled writing this preview. The ATP tour, in my opinion, has very little depth outside of the top ten and like all the men’s Grand Slams, won’t get going until the 4th round / quarter-finals begin. I have mentioned how I felt about Tsonga and he is my one really bold prediction this tournament. On paper, it makes no sense, but in my head, it does! I think Tsonga will beat Federer and Murray, and then take out Nadal. I also thought about Del Potro’s chances in some detail and decided I don’t think this is going to be his tournament to shine. It’s a terribly tough draw for Nadal and if he did come through to win… hats off. Djokovic is the clear favourite in my eyes and I didn’t even have to deliberate.