Let’s get it on.
Murray: In the top half of the draw, the Scot has a tough route for his quest to win a fourth major and first Australian Open. Here’s how his quarter should play-out.
He opens with Illya Marchenko, a Ukrainian who made the AO 2nd round in ’10 and ’11. Murray gets a breather in R64 and then he should see Querrey or the young Frenchman Halys in R32, Pouille/Isner in R16 with a potentially big QF v Nishikori, Berdych or Federer.
Looked at from the bottom of that quarter, Federer should see Berdych in R32. Chew on that. Those two played in the QF last year, but
with Federer’s deserved 17-seed, he needs to slide into form early or he’s out. You and I like his chances against Berdych, but this is no easy draw for the 35 year-old. The winner of that match gets Nishikori in R16, the winner to almost certainly play Murray in that top QF.
So, Murray has Pouille, Federer, Berdych and Nishikori as big threats.
Wawrinka: The Swiss 4-seed has a fairly lighter draw, compared to Murray, but then again with such draw mystery and Stan’s unpredictable form, who knows. He certainly has potential fireworks in a R16 match with Kyrgios who’s lurking as a 14-seed with a lot to prove and seemingly comfortable playing at home. Cuevas, Troicki, and Johnson are in that bracket as potential spoilers; that aside, we hope to see Stan finding form as he squares-up with the uber talented (ill-mannered) Aussie in that match to decide one half the 2nd QF.
The other half of that quarter will see Cilic attempt some semblance of respectable tennis, the kind we know he has in him, sorta, we guess. Looks like he’s in like-minded company with the guys such as Tsonga and Tomic in that draw. All this means is there are guys who can rise-up and be very difficult outs. Tsonga, on a downward trajectory, might have one or two big runs in him left, and Tomic, like Kyrgios, could keep his shit together, act like a man and be a dangerous opponent for anyone in Melbourne.
Beyond those three musketeers, this bracket has some other threats: Jack Sock is looking to close-out his win in Auckland in that AO warm-up, looking pretty good despite the warm-up talent there, but still: he’s maturing, has a solid serve, huge FH and works to develop that BH along with his Bo5 fitness. He can be dangerous. Along with Sock, speaking of AO warm-ups, the British former (or occasional) squash player Daniel Evans is closing-in on the crown at the Sydney warm-up, the APIA International. He plays big serving Gilles Muller in the final.
We’ve talked Evans here before, from him holding MP vs Stan at the USO last September to Federer looking good in a victory over the Brit at the Hopman Cup a couple of weeks ago. As I said then, it was a shot-making clinic, the squash player’s ability to shape the ball a nice complement to some of the Maestro’s touch.
Cilic has Evans in R64 and that’s if the Croatian 7-seed can take care of Jerzy Janowicz, a guy who’s big game has seen the 3R at the AO as recently as 2015. In other words, Cilic will be tested early and often.
People want to say the QF here is Wawrinka or Kyrgios v Cilic. Kyrgios is a sexy pick given the context but that guy could easily implode in a match against Wawrinka, especially since a good Stan will probably take you, at least, into a 5th and decider. A lot of opportunity for Nick to counter his explosive tennis with some explosive immaturity (big stage, big stakes, big lights, potential 3-4 hour match. . .). Again, may seem like a straight-forward bracket, but there are a lot of players in here with no one who seemingly has the consistency to really stand above the throng.
Raonic: This is the weakest bracket in the tournament. Raonic’s huge serving professionalism will get him into the R16 vs Zverev, Monfils or Nadal (I suspect) and onto the QF, most likely. You probably know where I stand on Monfils and Nadal. I don’t trust either one (the former because of his Kyrgios-like instability and Nadal because of his form). Zverev is still quite young so you have to factor that in, but he should beat Nadal in that R32 show-down.
Outside of that, what else do you see? I guess Bautista Agut could give Raonic some difficulty (or Simon? Not). Raonic fell in Brisbane while the 13-seed Spaniard continues to show-up and find victories, winning Chennai last week. Has Raonic’s coaching changes perhaps affected him poorly? We suspect he’ll be fine in this format, on this surface.
Seeing Zverev emerge from the top would be a good development though I know a lot of people would like to see Rafa make a run.
Djokovic: This doesn’t look like a tough draw at all. People could get their panties in a bunch regarding his first round “re-match” with Verdasco, but who thinks the Spaniard really has a chance in this match? Sure the Serb has a habit of starting slowly in tournaments, but this certainly should wake him up. He’ll want to punish the dangerous Spaniard for his insolence in Doha. Of course, you and I both know the poetic justice here would be the Spaniard “setting the record straight” against the sneaky Serb who escaped FIVE MPs in that Doha SF 😉
But the defending champion here should clean-up his act against Fernando and move-on.
Of course, there’s a 3R match, Djokovic vs. Dimitrov, that makes this blog ring again with its steady prescience. Too much to ask from the Bulgarian I suppose, but I certainly hope he’s on his game. If that BH is working along with the rest of his arsenal, he’s moving like he does, keeps his head in the match (fortitude), could be a classic. I love it. Especially since that’s the title of a recent post that I penned (almost) jokingly 😉
Thiem? I don’t see it. Hopefully he’s in better form. Watch the difference in style between Thiem and Dimitrov, both OHBH practitioners. Dimitrov has so much more behind the shot, meaning his movement and versatility. Thiem’s execution is too slow, or was in 2016.
Goffin doesn’t concern me (prove me wrong) and I don’t necessarily guarantee Thiem reaching the QF. Which means that’s a shitshow, pretty much.
Djokovic v Dimitrov is (hopefully) about as good as it gets down there.
One player who could upset the Serbian-Bulgarian tilt is Gasquet. I could see him beating Dimitrov, which would be a disaster as the vacillating Frenchman would then retreat to the loo for the remainder of the tournament. Give me Djoker v Grigor!
Seems fairly likely a 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 semi-finals plays-out. But it’s tennis and the winds of change are always blowing. Stan seems the likely uncertainty, Murray perhaps the most certain to reach the final four. What say you, dear reader?
Many many interesting storylines.