The draw for the Australian Open is now out as the first slam of the year nears ever closer. Novak Djokovic has had a tight grip on the trophy in Melbourne, winning the event the last three years and four times in total while World No.1 Rafael Nadal makes his return after missing the 2013 edition.
Check Out the Full Draw HERE: Australian Open 2014 Men’s draw
Projected quarter finals by seeding in brackets
First Quarter (1) Rafael Nadal vs (5) Juan Martin Del Potro
Nadal will look to follow up his outstanding 2013 by taking the slam he has found most elusive in his career. After his 2013 US Open success, the Australian Open is now the one title he has not won multiple times. On paper his quarter looks the toughest of the four but in reality there should be little for the Spaniard and his fans to worry about.
While Bernard Tomic always turns up and plays his best in Australia, he has yet to pick up a statement win against the sport’s elite there. Every year since 2011, he has played one of Federer and Nadal in Melbourne and failed to win a set. There seems little to suggest anything will change especially with the possibility Tomic could wear himself out in attempting to defend his Sydney title. Nadal could face a second Aussie in round two with prospect Thanasi Kokkinakis a victory over Igor Sijsling away from meeting Nadal. Sijsling’s opening round defeat to Yen-Hsun Lu in Auckland doesn’t look as disappointing now that Lu is a finalist in the event.
Gael Monfils should be waiting in the third round for Nadal but it is rarely as simple as that with the Frenchman who looked impressive in Doha before losing in the final to Nadal. Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock are the likely threats to this rematch. Lleyton Hewitt has his work cut out against Andreas Seppi – a very tough draw as he looks to build on his Brisbane title. Kei Nishikori may well quietly go about his business and make the fourth round although the 0-5 record against Nadal will remain a concern.
With question marks over Andy Murray‘s fitness, Juan Martin Del Potro is seen as the biggest threat to breaking the Djokovic-Nadal stronghold that is developing once more. While he has shown he is capable of defeating each of the top 5 in 2013, his performances at slams left a lot to be desired except for Wimbledon. He lost to Lleyton Hewitt in New York and Jeremy Chardy in Melbourne which suggests the hype needs to be scaled down a little. While he likely wins the title in Sydney this weekend, a slam contender playing the week before is questionable at best. In Del Potro’s 1/8th, Benoit Paire is possibly more inconsistent than Monfils while Grigor Dimitrov‘s performances at slams have not been fitting of the hype he has been receiving. Milos Raonic should see his way through to the fourth round. Raonic and Del Potro split matches in 2013 while the pair are are 0-4 and 8-4 against Nadal respectively.
Second Quarter (4) Andy Murray vs (6) Roger Federer
With a number of unconvincing performances since his return from back surgery, doubts are being raised over Murray’s chances of challenging for the title here. Given the Scot has made the final in three of the past four years, it seems foolish to write him off should he shake off the rust from lack of matches. Go Soeda and a qualifier should allow Murray to ease himself into the tournament while 26th seed Feliciano Lopez is 0-7 against Murray winning just two sets.
Philipp Kohlschreiber and John Isner look likely to make it through from their sections and meet for the second time in two tournaments. Isner does lead the head to head 4-2 and won in three tiebreak sets last week but in best of 5 he is 0-2 against the German. Should Isner win through, Murray would be confident having handled the American on both occasions in slams.
Roger Federer is projected to make the quarter finals by seeding although another disappointing defeat in Brisbane to Lleyton Hewitt will add further doubt to the four-times winner’s chances. James Duckworth drawing Federer is another of the terrible draws for Australians at the event. Even with Federer’s struggles, lightning surely can’t strike twice for Sergiy Stakhovsky who could contest a third round should Fernando Verdasco disappoint. The Ukranian was two points from the Sydney final before falling to defeat in three sets.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made his only slam final at this tournament in 2008 and could take advantage of the uncertainties in the draw to at least win this quarter. His first round opponent Filippo Volandri is a walking bye while it is still hard to judge Marin Cilic at this early stage since his return from a ban late last year. Tsonga is 5-3 against 18th seed Gilles Simon and 2-0 on outdoor hard.
Third Quarter (3) David Ferrer vs (7) Tomas Berdych
More often than not, it is easy to pinpoint a “weak” section of the draw in analysis and more often than not various players are hyped up to take advantage of being in the section of third seed David Ferrer. Also more often than not, he defies the doubters making at least the semi final four times and exiting no earlier than the quarters in every tournament in the past two years. A loss to Yen-Hsun Lu in Auckland doesn’t fill you with confidence but he likely eases his way into the tournament with Alejandro Gonzalez and Steve Johnson/Adrian Mannarino in his way until the third round.
Alexandr Dolgopolov has took a set in each of his last three meetings with Ferrer but failed to pick up the victory on each occasion while Jeremy Chardy has lost his last three against Ferrer. Chardy was a winner over Del Potro in this last year on his run to the quarter finals.
Jerzy Janowicz is one such player who managed to take advantage of a broken down draw in his run to the Wimbledon semi finals, giving eventual winner Andy Murray a major test before succumbing to defeat. Like many of the tours up and comers, inconsistency at slams has been a problem for the Pole. Affected by injury, Janowicz was a first round lose to Maximo Gonzalez at the US Open. With this draw though, he will hope to become more known in Australia for a deep run than his famous “How many times?” rant. Wildcard Jordan Thompson and one of Albert Ramos and Pablo Andujar really shouldn’t pose too many issues if he is on his game. Mikhail Youzhny is projected as a round three opponent but retired from his opening match of the season.
Tomas Berdych has an outstanding chance to make the semi finals with this draw although unseeded Ivo Karlovic is lurking as a possible third round opponent. The big serving Croatian is 4-2 against Berdych including a Doha win to begin this year. Karlovic however is 0-3 against his fellow Croatian and round one opponent Ivan Dodig. Newly nationalised Kazakh Oleksandr Nedovyesov is more comfortable on clay and so shouldn’t hand the Czech his annual round one slam exit.
Kevin Anderson and Tommy Haas would be prime targets for early upsets but weak opponents early on mean they should avoid such a fate. Both lost to lowly Americans in Auckland but should meet in the third round. Jiri Vesely plays Anderson while Guillermo Garcia-Lopez begins against Haas.
Fourth Quarter (2) Novak Djokovic vs (8) Stanislas Wawrinka
With four Australian Open titles, Novak Djokovic is coming close to dominating Melbourne like Roger Federer/Wimbledon and Rafael Nadal/Roland Garros and is favoured to make it five this year. He is almost unbeatable on slow hard courts and up until the fourth round should have an extra easy time of it. He begins with Lukas Lacko and then either Leonardo Mayer or Albert Montanes while Dmitry Tursunov is a likely third round opponent as 30th seed. Tursunov is 5-3 against first round opponent Michael Russell.
Fabio Fognini is another such vulnerable seed but Alex Bogomolov Jr. is nothing better than a Challenger player despite his career year in 2011. Ernests Gulbis will at least make a match out of a potential meeting with Djokovic but given his last slam outing was a five set loss to Andreas Haider Maurer, making it to week two will never be a guarantee for the Latvian.
Stanislas Wawrinka suffered two heartbreaking losses to Djokovic at slams last year and the potential for another blockbuster affair is there in the quarter finals. A bad linecall stopped Wawrinka from having the possibility of serving for the match in the fifth set in Australia while he ran out of gas at the US Open. Those wins extended Djokovic’s H2H over Wawinka to 17-2. Wawrinka is set to play Richard Gasquet if the seedings go to plan. The pair played another of the matches of the year at the French Open, with Wawrinka coming from two sets down to silence the French crowd.
Wawrinka was on his way to defeating Vasek Pospisil in Chennai before a retirement for the Canadian ended the match abruptly. They look set to meet barring shock wins from either a pair of Kazakhs for Wawrinka (Andrey Golubev/Mikhail Kukushkin) or Australians (Matthew Ebden, Samuel Groth) for Pospisil.
Meanwhile, Gasquet finally got past his fourth round troubles at the US Open before losing in the semi final to Rafael Nadal. Getting so far looks highly unlikely this time but there isn’t much to threaten him early unless Nikolay Davydenko rolls back the years – an occurrence that is becoming less common with each passing event. Lukas Rosol will play Tommy Robredo in the Spaniard’s first outing since a wrist injury forced him to withdraw in Shanghai.
QF: Rafael Nadal def. Milos Raonic
QF: Andy Murray def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
QF: Tomas Berdych def. Jerzy Janowicz
QF: Novak Djokovic def. Stanislas Wawrinka
SF: Rafael Nadal def. Andy Murray
SF: Novak Djokovic def. Tomas Berdych
F: Novak Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal