We have say this is another Nadal vs Djokovic Final this year if both are healthy and playing well. Whatever confidence Rafa lost against Serbia in the ATP Cup last week, we should assume that he, Moya and Co. will be ready to rumble in Melbourne.
Looks like Nadal could have, potentially, a tricky R16 opponent, one of these blokes: Kyrgios or Khachanov (Simon and Cuevas are there too, but the power of the Aussie and Russian has our early attention). Something to watch.
To stay with apparent threats, Rafa’s QF opponent will be from this bunch: Monfils, Anderson and Thiem. The Austrian 5-seed has Mannarino in the first round, which could be quite tricky; hopefully Domi is in some kind of form. Sure, a little surge from FAA in this bracket would be delightful, and he’s currently set to play Rublev in a SF in Adelaide tomorrow, but I’m not holding my breath. Overall, I’d say there are some potential threats in this 1st Quarter. Kyrgios, naturally, at home, inspired by world events, is the ultimate X-factor. But we’ve died drinking in that dream too many times.
Beyond the potential R16 difficulty, an Anderson or Thiem QF doesn’t quite get us too excited, but we’ll have to just see how things unfold (Anderson showed some form at the ATP Cup, keep in mind).
The top R16 match here in the 2nd Quarter could have this kind of match-up: Medvedev vs. Wawrinka or Isner. We haven’t seen the Swiss at all, but Isner is closing-in on the Auckland Final, as we speak. He has a SF match vs. Ugo Humbert later today/tonight. Tsonga and Seppi are in there, too, giving us a little last-decade nuance, along with the young Serb Kecmanovic. This is just to the R16. Medvedev is the favorite, but I’m waiting, quite honestly, not to be surprised by a sudden dip from the tightly wound Russian.
The other half of this 2nd Quarter has this, in order of likely to face a survived Medvedev in the QF: Goffin, Rublev (might switch those two), Basilashvili, Verdasco and Zverev. Rublev is playing really well right now — won Doha and in the Adelaide SF, as I said earlier. Goffin has to feel good about beating Nadal in the ATP Cup.
Anyways, there’s the top half. Beyond Nadal, there’s talent. Who’s hungry enough to step into the cage and shock the world? The Russians seem to have provided us with a couple of options, but are we still a year or three early on such a “surprise”? Most likely.
At a glance, this seems to be the lightest quarter, Federer’s 3rd Quarter. If he can somehow make the QF, his likely opponent, from the top of that bracket, is Berrettini, Fognini, Querrey or local kid Thompson?
Federer should get through to this QF, but he has two recent assassins in Millman, potential R32, and Dimitrov R16. The Pol Hurkacz could make some noise and face Federer early in this quarter, as well.
American Tommy Paul, Hurkacz and Humbert are all still alive this week in these last AO warm-up events. So there is some burgeoning talent in this 3rd Quarter. NextGen champ Skinner and Shapovalov are in that bottom part of the bracket, as well, and could face Federer in that R16.
Will not be a surprise to see Federer knocked-out, despite the names on the paper. He has veteran Steve Johnson in the first round, likely Krajinovic in the second, both tough. Then maybe Millman, Hurkacz or Dimitrov. So, there’s trouble for the old man. Hopefully, he can use some of his off-season rest to turn back the clock.
If healthy, Djokovic has to be too comfortable, in form, and motivated to fall before the SF (or the title for that matter). Struff, his first round opponent, is not a pushover, but Novak gets through that and I don’t see anyone in that bottom half of his quarter with a shot against the 2-seed. I would like to see the fighter from Spain, youngster Fokina make a little push. Novak’s ATP Cup teammate Lajovic lurks, as well. Don’t see the threat at this point.
His QF opponent, however, could be from the likes of RBA or Tsitsipas. Raonic and Kohlschreiber are in that top half of the quarter, as well. Taking three sets from the Serb is a tall order, especially if he’s healthy, coming-off the ATP Cup triumph, searching for his 9th Aussie Open title, etc.
Do youngsters like Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Thiem, Rublev or Shapovalov make some noise in Melbourne, or is the dark horse more from the likes of Wawrinka, Isner, Anderson or RBA?