2106 Australian Open Men’s Draw

You know the draw is out for AO 2016. This post is late. Sorry. Been away from the old computer, which is actually a good thing.

Let the games begin. Having grown-up an athlete, who still loves to watch and play and think like an athlete, there is nothing quite as intriguing as a tournament, regardless of the sport. Looking at the men’s 2106 Australian Open draw, the year’s first major, has us all pretty loaded on potential and possibility.

I’m going to go through the draw quickly, quarter by quarter, and give some initial thoughts. I will probably mention this in my comments, but we need to remind each other that so much depends on form at the very least. One can sound fairly out-of-touch if players leave their form and/or character back at the practice facility. Time to perform, gentlemen. Let’s not pull dispshit and shit the bed. Everyone on their best behavior!

Top Quarter:

The Djokovic/Chung match will be a great (hopefully) tennis lesson from the best in the game for the future pro. Chung has some good tennis on his highlight reel (good showings vs. Wawrinka at USO and recently vs. Cilic, taking these guys to TBs). Should be a great learning experience for the S.Korean (19 y/o). Overall, this part of the draw doesn’t look very difficult for the Serb, at all, though we can mention Karlovic is lurking, and Tsonga is breathing (but he looked distracted last week. Pull your act together, Jo Wilifried). I have my eye on the young American Ruben (because I want these American teens to fulfill some potential for this tennis-hungry nation of ours 😉

Novak should roll through this draw. Nishikori? Forget about it.

Next Quarter:

Roger’s draw. The big news seems to be that Roger unfortunately fell into Novak’s half and that Roger has a very tough draw. Roger’s potential challenges come from Dolgopolov, Dimitrov, Thiem, Goffin, Cilic, Agut, Kyrgios, and Berdych (no disrespect to anyone else in this draw). Of course, Cilic, Agut, Kyrgios and Berdych will decide who represents that half of the QF, so Roger is dealing mainly with those other foes, at least. IF Roger is on form (and that’s a big IF), I don’t see the trouble with Dimitrov, et al. Sure Dimitrov has had a decent tune-up, but he lost the Sydney final and I just don’t see him rising up like that to beat Federer. The bottom there does have potential. Kyrgios should frighten everyone. A Kyrgios v Federer QF could be simply delicious. See below for my thoughts on falling in Nole’s half.

Bottom half top quarter:

This is an interesting draw with Stan and Rafa leading the way (I suppose). With Stan’s inconsistency and Rafa’s post-“prime” tennis, who knows. The Bo5 format should definitely benefit the Spaniard, but the likes of Gulbis (if he’s playing well), Monfils (same) and Anderson could challenge Rafa (Verdasco might be a tough assignment, too). The bottom where Stan resides will consist of the Swiss getting through Sock, Troiki and Raonic. If Stanimal landed in Melbourne, he should be fine. Raonic is the big pick right now because of Brisbane. He is definitely a handful, but remember: neither he nor Roger played very well in that Brisbane final. Nonetheless, Raonic should enjoy the surface and his big serve and solid ground came can be very difficult to deal with. Sock retiring from the Auckland final isn’t the best case scenario for the American. The Raonic R16 will be his biggest test, if Stan is on form. And if he is, Raonic is not stopping him. Sorry.

Bottom of the bottom half quarter:

This is Murray’s to lose. Nothing jumps out at you other than that potential Tomic R16, but who knows what form that guy is in, mentally for sure. We don’t want to overlook Ferrer, but does he, a retiring Hewitt or a Feliciano Lopez scare Murray? Probably not.

Final thoughts before the first ball toss: Novak should notch his sixth AO. What I will say about the Roger placement in the draw is, A) you have to deal with the tournament draw, so it is what it is. Having said that, B) this might not be bad at all for Federer. Question: if you’re Roger, would you rather play Djokovic in a final or a semi-final? If you said final, you’re not thinking or haven’t been watching. Pre-final is the time to face Nole. When the 2015 FO draw came-out last year, we remember seeing Novak and Nadal potentially playing in the QF. Of course, they ended-up there, where Novak crushed him. That benefitted Novak only in that the stakes weren’t as high in a QF (if you know what I mean). Facing Nadal in a final at the FO would be much more dangerous. So, on that logic and recent history, Roger’s draw is not that bad. If he’s on form, a Roger v Novak SF should be in store. That should benefit Roger, as the alternative, if both players are destined for the final four, is a Roger/Novak final. We know very well how those finals have played-out. No doubt, one of Novak’s best qualities is his game under the biggest spot-lights. He’s terribly good in finals play.

But we will not overlook Kyrgios. Could be his break-out major. He’s due and the time and place couldn’t be better.

I will hold my tongue on Nadal. I will say that if he makes the SF v Murray, that would surprise me.

In that same draw, I’m calling for the Fritz upset of Sock. Sock retiring in that final last week isn’t ideal and I like the 19 year-old to pull a little surprise. American on American crime. Enjoy.

Let me know your thoughts, if it pleases you. Surely enjoy the tennis and do check back for in-tournament discussion.

3 comments

  1. Nice and objective summary Matt. Keep up your excellent posts!

    The Djokovic and Murray quarters don’t seem especially challenging. They both should make it to the semis without any issues (unless Tsonga or Simon play the game of their lifetime to upset Djokovic-Nishikori not a threat on this surface).
    The Federer quarter is a hard one, with many quality players whose game can be applied on the courts’ conditions. Thiem (who at the time I’m writing this already won the first round) should be his first challenge as the surface suits his power game, followed by quarterfinal with Berdych (maybe Kyrgios, if he decides to play tennis). Overall, he has to be in good form to advance, given the potential opponents. Not sure what to expect here, as he didn’t have enough time to work the backhand issues (evident when weakened by illness against a relatively calm opponent in the Brisbane final) with Ljubicic, but I wouldn’t set the bar high. In my book, improvements should be expected after spring and his second off-season period. Yes, a semi-final with Djokovic is preferable to a final with him (regarding stamina and psychology) but would anybody bet against Djokovic in the Aussie? I wouldn’t.
    The Nadal/Wawrinka quarter is a interesting one. As usual on a slow surface, Wawrinka’s form decides the fate of everyone else. I expect Nadal to advance at least to the quarters, unless Anderson (unlikely) or Monfils are in form. As you acutely noticed, Raonic didn’t play well in Brisbane (Federer played even worse), so we should wait to gauge his game too. But Matt’s question after Doha (in the “Breadsticked” article) remains relevant: this is about Nadal’s game and his relevance in the top game overall. I loss before the quarters should be confirming our host’s views. By the way Matt do you still believe that an Djokovic-Nadal final is on the cards?

    Djokovic-Murray final seems a bit simplistic yet the most rational choice with the Serb ending on top again at the end. Apart from the aforementioned young players (Kyrgios and Thiem), whose game should develop nicely here, I can’t see any potential upsets (e.g. another player seeded lower than 20 to reach the quarters, not by coincidence). But there we are bound to witness some, and because of the one man show that the ATP tour has become, they will be welcome.

What say you?