Australian Open men’s draw analysis - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Editorial

Australian Open men’s draw analysis

Avatar

Published

on

The Australian Open men’s draw was made on Friday morning in Melbourne and, as all grand slam draws, has heightened anticipation for the start of the event. Our analysis of the men’s draw is set out below.

 

The top half of the men’s draw looks marginally stronger, perhaps because it contains both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who contested the last two slam finals of 2015. Nick Kyrgios, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori, among others, also lurk as credible semi-finalists. But the bottom half is perhaps more competitive – the third quarter especially which sees Nadal, Wawrinka and Raonic the main contenders for just one semi final spot. Murray will be happy to have avoided all of the above in the fourth quarter and, along with Djokovic, seems to have had the best of the draw. How far Murray progresses will be based on his own play and on whether his wife goes into labour thus foreshortening his participation. On such things does analysis of a grand slam draw rest.

Quarter 1

Top seeds: Djokovic (1) and Nishikori (7)

Five-time champion Novak Djokovic was given an interesting but ultimately straightforward early draw. The world number one begins on Monday with an intriguing clash with teenager Hyeon Chung. Chung’s progress in the last 12 months (currently ranked 51) and potential in the next few years ensures that this match will be watched for the form of both players. The Korean’s draw (and that of Zverev against Murray see below) is abrupt notice, should it be needed, that everything is earned in tennis. Assuming the Serb progresses, his second round opponent is likely to be Croatian veteran Ivan Dodig, against whom Djokovic holds a 3-0 head to head. Djokovic’s third round opponent is projected to be Andreas Seppi, the 28th seed who conquered Roger Federer at the same stage last year, or equally conceivably Teymuraz Gabashvili or Denis Kudla, one of potentially 15 Americans in the main draw.

In the fourth round, Djokovic is set to meet either Gilles Simon or Ivo Karlovic. The Serb surely has a preference for Simon (9-1 head to head) over Karlovic, one of the few players who has a positive head to head record against Djokovic (2-1); and in the event of quick conditions could pose some tricky questions with his almost impregnable serve. Of the players that Djokovic could have drawn in the last eight (which also included Berdych, Nadal or Ferrer), Kei Nishikori, the Japanese number one, is arguably the greatest threat to the world number one, having defeated Djokovic in the US Open semi final in 2014. Federer is Djokovic’s potential semi final opponent.

Nishikori’s draw, however, is not straightforward. He has a tough opener against Philipp Kohlschreiber, a potential third round meeting with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and a projected fourth round clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 finalist and ninth seed. Although Nishikori boasts a 4-2 head to head record against Tsonga, it is their most recent meeting, a quarter final at Roland Garros last year won by Tsonga, that will give the Frenchman confidence.

Quarter 2

Top seeds: Federer (3) and Berdych (6)

Federer will not consider himself as fortunate as Djokovic. After opening against Nikoloz Basilashvili, the world number 117, Federer’s faces a number of threats which he will need to overcome quickly to have a realistic chance of winning a fourth Australian Open. Federer’s likely second round opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov, is mercurial but reached the quarter finals in Melbourne in 2011. From there, it’s likely to be Dimitrov, whose potential threat is understood even if he has rarely executed to date. Dominic Thiem or David Goffin could be fourth round opponents. Federer is not often short of confidence but will be buoyed by his combined head to head against Dolgopolov, Dimitrov, Thiem and Goffin of 10-0. And then it gets harder: potential quarter final opponents include Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic and Nick Kyrgios, followed by a projected semi final against Djokovic.

Even if not the highest seed, Kyrgios headlines the other half of the second quarter. Kyrgios is some people’s pick as an outsider for the title, although the draw on Friday did him few favours. His potential path to the final includes Berdych and Cilic, and maybe both Federer and Djokovic. Kyrgios’s mix of big match temperament, belief and talent may take him some of the way and his potential third round meeting with Berdych, a semi-finalist in each of the last two years, will tell us a lot about both players. Borna Coric, the Croatian 19 year old, and last week announced as one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” in sports is a potential second round opponent for countryman Cilic.

Quarter 3

Top seeds: Wawrinka (4) and Nadal (5)

Arguably, this is the most competitive of the quarters where all three of Nadal, Wawrinka and Raonic are in form and will each be confident of making the semi finals or better. Crucially, to win the title, they would at the most only need to beat one of Federer or Djokovic. The consensus is that Nadal is playing better now than at any time in the last 12 months, although his dismantling at the hands of Djokovic in Doha last weekend may give a more sober view of the 2009 champion’s current form. Nadal faces Fernando Verdasco in the first round, which recalls their epic 5 hour semi final in 2009, and it will be an immediate test for the Mallorcan. Kevin Anderson, who made his first grand slam quarter final at the US Open last year, will look to push on and Nadal-Anderson is a potential fourth round match. Anderson will look to reverse a 3-0 head to head against Nadal that includes a defeat in the fourth round at last year’s Australian Open.

It is likely that to make the semi finals, Nadal or Anderson would have to defeat either Raonic or Wawrinka, tournament winners last week in Brisbane and Chennai respectively, and themselves favourites to meet in a titanic fourth round match. Before that however, Jack Sock’s run to the final in Auckland this week makes him a likely third round test for Wawrinka, the 2014 champion. Raonic’s first projected seeded opponent is the in-form Viktor Troicki, who plays on Saturday in the Sydney final.

Quarter 4

Top seeds: Murray (2) and Ferrer (8)

Were it not for the impending birth of Murray’s first child – and Murray’s insistence that he will leave the tournament if his wife should go into labour – the fourth quarter would not leave much to the imagination. Murray’s first round opponent, Alexander Zverev (at 18 the youngest member of the top 100), should be straightforward for the British number one and his first test may come in a projected fourth round match-up with Bernie Tomic, the Australian number one, followed by a potential quarter final with David Ferrer (against whom Murray has an 11-2 head to head away from clay courts).

Lleyton Hewitt will compete in his 20th and last Australian Open before retiring. The Australian’s best result at his home grand slam was a final appearance in 2005 and all of tennis will wish him well over the next two weeks. A potential second round match up with David Ferrer at first sight looks to be the limit of Hewitt’s progress, but the veteran Australian may have one last trick up his sleeve. Steve Johnson, Feliciano Lopez and John Isner round out the seeds that may potentially meet Ferrer in the fourth round, with Lopez-Isner a projected third round meeting. Their head to head is tied at 3 wins apiece and includes 5 tie breaks in 9 sets of grand slam play. Their match at the Australian Open in 2012 went 5 sets and 3 and a half hours: this one may need international arbitration to settle.

But it’s only what the seedings project….

The draw projects semi finals of Djokovic-Federer and Murray-Wawrinka. However, experience tells us that grand slam draws rarely work out as the seedings project. This Australian Open is no exception: with tough draws, strong outsiders, and the potential that the second seed may leave at any moment, any number of players will have the confidence to know that this is their opportunity to break through.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Comments

US Open: Shelby Rogers Delivers; Serena Still A Threat To Win 24th Major

Avatar

Published

on

Serena Williams - US Open (photo Twitter @usopen)

After all of these years of playing in the U.S. Open, Shelby Rogers is finally a seeded player.

 

The Charleston, S.C., native has been playing America’s premier tennis event almost continuously since her debut in New York in 2010. She’ll turn 30 years old in a few weeks and has worked her way up the rankings to 31st in the world.

That’s a big achievement from the little girl who hung on the fences more than two decades ago to watch her older sister Sabra play high school matches that eventually led to an Al-American career for Sabra at Emory University. Sabra became a psychologist and, of course, is one of  Shelby’s biggest fans.

LOOK OUT FOR ROGERS?

Rogers took the direct route. She didn’t play high school tennis, but left the classroom before high school to train in tennis, study online and play the junior circuit. She turned pro in 2009 at age 16.

Monday evening at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, It took Rogers awhile to start living up to her ranking. But once she turned the corner after dropping the first set in nine games, Shelby started looking like a seasoned top 30 player.

Rogers sort of blew The Netherlands’ slim Arantxa Rus away, taking a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the opening round of the U.S. Open. Rogers especially played the deciding 28th game of the match like the veteran pro she is. She hit one long forehand and netted one ball in that game, but otherwise she rode her big serve to victory in the clinching game. At 40-30, she delivered a huge first serve down the middle that Rus couldn’t put into play.

WOMEN’S RACE TO TOP PRIZE WIDE OPEN

The way things are on the women’s tour these days, with no true leader while once-amazing top-ranked Iga Swiatek tries to regain her dominance, anything is possible.

Yes, even finally a 24th Grand Slam title for Serena Williams.

But this is about Shelby Rogers. She is playing the best tennis of her career nearly a decade and a half after her life as a professional tennis player started.

With any kind of luck, Rogers could leave New York ranked among the top 25 players in the world, or maybe higher if she continues to serve and play the kind of big-ball tennis she played  in the last 19 games Monday night.

WHO’S NEXT IN LINE

So, what’s after Swiatek, who started the year on fire with a long unbeaten streak that went through the French Open and rewarded her with as many points as the confined totals of the Nos. 2 and 3 players. Of course, Ashleigh Barty’s retirement after winning the Australian Open opened the door for Swiatek’s rise to the top.

And then Wimbledon’s grass took care of Swiatek.

Nos. 2-5 Anett Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur are all outstanding players, but none currently fit in the great column. They appear to be waiting in line for Swiatek or another Barty-like player to step forward to rule the women’s tour.

WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE’S DARIA!

Then there are almost totally unknown players such as Ukraine’s Daria Snigur. I hadn’t given Snigur much chance at all on the pro tour until her shocking U.S. Open first-round victory over multi-Grand Slam tournament winner and seventh-ranked Simona Halep. 

The last time I had thought about Snigur was when she upended Charleston’s Emma Navarro in the Junior Wimbledon semifinals and then won the Junior Grand Slam tournament.

At Junior Wimbledon in 2019, I thought Navarro, who also is now on the WTA Tour and is currently ranked 145th in the world, would roll past Snigur the way she had in the 2019 Junior French Open quarterfinals. But Snigur is so deceptive with her ground strokes that strike like lightning, she dominated Navarro at that Junior Wimbledon.

So, maybe the currently 124th-ranked Snigur may be ready to make a mark on the tour after scoring her first tour victory by defeating Halep.

NO NOVAK, BUT RAFA IS THERE

Without Novak Djokovic, the men are about as unpredictable as the women, with the exception of one player. Rafa Nadal, of course, entered this U.S. Open, with a perfect 19-0 record this year in Grand Slams.

Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion at the U.S. Open, but even though he is ranked No. 1 in the world, it’s a long road to the final for the Russian. Medvedev hasn’t always been predictable.

And already, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas has been eliminated by a complete unknown, Daniel Elahi Galan.

Wow! The Greek star probably was about as much of a favorite as Medvedev.

And poor Dominic Thiem was cast on an outside court. And he lost. Just a couple of years ago, Thiem was winning the U.S. Open.

My top five picks in order would be: Nadal, Jannik Sinner, Nick Kyrgios, Medvedev and Andy Murray. Yes, Andy looks pretty fit.

————————-

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

Continue Reading

ATP

Will Rafael Nadal Keep The Grand Slam Winning Feeling Going In New York?

Rafael Nadal has injury doubts heading into his search for a 23rd grand slam title in New York.

Avatar

Published

on

Rafael Nadal (@usopen - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal will look to repeat successes from Melbourne and Paris by answering his doubters with triumph in New York.

 

The Spaniard enters the last grand slam with injury doubts having only just come back from an abdominal injury suffered in his Wimbledon quarter-final against Taylor Fritz.

It was injury that saw his calendar grand slam dream come to an end and ever since then has been recovering in the hopes of finishing the grand slam year strong in New York.

However in his first match back Nadal was defeated in three sets to Borna Coric in New York which has put doubts on whether the Spaniard can be a threat in the US.

Nadal will likely not have to worry about Novak Djokovic but a victory in New York could see him be world number one with current number one Daniil Medvedev defending the title.

The likes of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be standing in Nadal’s way and if the Spaniard isn’t match-fit then he could face an early exit.

However as tennis pundit Barbara Schett pointed out, ruling out Nadal at this stage would be foolish and the Spaniard always raises his level at the grand slams, “The match is always different from practice,” Schett told Eurosport.

“And whoever had an abdominal injury and a tear on the abdominal muscles knows how it feels. You have to be extremely cautious. You’re worried that you’re going to reinjure it again.

“And I think that’s what we’ve seen on Wednesday. When he played against Coric, he was a little bit uncertain how the body was going to hold up. And for sure he’s going to feel better and better.

“If there’s no damage to the abdominal muscle, then he still has a week and a half to improve his health, to improve the trust also that he can extend and he can’t bend on the serve because that’s the trickiest shot, the serve and the smash.

“When that is the case, Rafa Nadal certainly can be dangerous again at the US Open. I mean, he’s so fired up at every single Grand Slam. We’ve seen this year playing the best tennis of his life. You can never, ever write him off.”

Nadal is currently undefeated at grand slams and if fit, the Spaniard will certainly fancy himself to win another seven matches at the US Open this year.

Whatever it should be interesting to see if Nadal improves before the US Open with the tournament starting on the 29th of August.

Continue Reading

Comments

Does WTA Need A Top Rivalry To Drive The Sport?

Iga Swiatek is the WTA’s dominant world number one but does she need a rival in order to drive the sport to new heights.

Avatar

Published

on

Iga Swiatek (@TennisHandshake - Twitter)

The WTA has a dominant world number one and a variety of talented players on the tour but the one thing it’s lacking at the moment is a top rivalry.

 

First of all it was supposed to be Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, then Ash Barty and Osaka and also Barty and Iga Swiatek.

However none of these match-ups created a top rivalry over a long period to generate an overwhelming amount of interest.

After Barty’s shock retirement, many people were left disappointed at the fact that her and current dominant world number one Iga Swiatek could not compete for the sport’s biggest titles in a fierce rivalry.

Now Swiatek sits at the top of the WTA rankings with almost a 4,000 point lead at the top. The rest of the field are very talented and that in itself is an intriguing aspect of the WTA’s appeal.

But the one thing the women’s game lacks is a top rivalry to generate a hype that the ATP clearly has right now.

As Mark Petchey said it’s an issue that needs solving soon as every sport has one, “Rivalries drive the sport. What they do is make sure that it manifests itself in a big polarisation of a large fan base, against another one,” Petchey was quoted as saying by Tennis365.

“You look across the board, over F1, look at the tribal nature of AFL, of Premier League football here. It’s a huge part of what you need to have a successful sport. That is the one thing that is missing from the women’s tour at the moment, is a superb rivalry, with a little bit of edge.

“That’s why I say I’m sad that Ash pulled up stumps, because I think that rivalry could’ve developed with Iga in that way. Would it have been quite as intense as the Rafa-Novak and Roger-Novak rivalries? Probably not. But it would have been there. Going into every major saying that you’re not looking forward to a specific clash potentially when the draw comes out, does hurt the tour a little bit. 

“You can’t keep saying ‘oh, anyone can win it’. Because you’re just not tagging anybody… you’re not setting the scene for something amazing that’s going to happen, a nice little volcanic eruption right at the back-end of a major. They need some people to be a bit more consistent and getting through, because that’s what will be a massive driver for the WTA.”

It’s hard to argue with those points of view from Petchey as rivalries are what are talked about for decades after players have retired.

It will be interesting to see whether Swiatek will continue to dominate the rest of the field or whether someone can build a rivalry with the Pole heading into the remainder of the season.

The next big WTA event of the year will take place at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on the week of the eighth of August.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending