The first Grand Slam of the year begins on Monday with a new name at the top of the draw in Melbourne. Andy Murray‘s monster run at the end of last year sees him going into the Australian Open as top seed although the bookmakers remain unconvinced after the draw, installing Novak Djokovic as the favourite. The six-time champ does seem at his most vulnerable for a long time but an early exit would still be surprising – as would the new No.1 not making the final again. If he does, Murray will be hoping it is sixth time lucky for him. Meanwhile, Djokovic will break the record for most Australian Open titles if he were to win this year.
See the full draw here: Australian Open 2017 Men’s Draw
Murray’s run to the final begins against Ukraine’s Ilya Marchenko but more intriguing are possible clashes against talented prospects in Andrey Rublev and Alex De Minaur in potential second and third round clashes respectively. Rublev is a former junior No.1 while De Minaur is a former No.2 and made the Junior Wimbledon final last year. However, Sam Querrey is the projected seed in round three while John Isner could make it back to back clashes against big American servers if they both make it that far. Isner would be a welcome sight for Murray in round four given the Scot is 8-0 against him, including three victories last year. 16th seed Lucas Pouille will be hoping to spoil things although his last appearance on court saw him retire from the match with a foot injury.
You will be able to follow some Australian Open tips and predictions here.
The quarter final matchup for Murray should he get there will be hard to predict with three stand out names hoping to earn that one spot. The most notable of them is of course four time champion Roger Federer, who is still looking for that elusive eighteenth slam to extend his record. Federer comes into the tournament having not played a competitive match since losing the Wimbledon semi final. He lost to Alexander Zverev in singles action alongside victories over Dan Evans and Richard Gasquet but it will be hard to to predict how the current No.17 seed will perform over the five set format. Qualifiers in round one and two should allow him to ease his way in before a likely third round clash with Tomas Berdych. Berdych had traditionally troubled Federer but is winless in the last 5, mostly recently losing at this tournament last year. While Federer will draw all the attention, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Kei Nishikori is the highest seed in this eighth of the draw. The Japanese star will be hoping to make it five wins out of six against Berdych but if he is to establish himself as a legitimate slam contender on a regular basis, he shouldn’t be finding it too difficult against Federer.
The second quarter will have far less hype about it and many would predict that Stanislas Wawrinka would cruise through this section given his tendency to raise his game at slams as well as being a former champion in Melbourne. The 2014 champion has taken a slam title in each of the past three years and seems most likely to be victorious if neither Murray or Djokovic are. Very little excites in the early rounds until a projected fourth round matchup with Nick Kyrgios. It will be said every tournament how the Australian’s talent is endless and it will be up to his attitude on court to decide how far he can go. It will be Kyrgios’ first match since Shanghai last year, where he was hit with a suspension for ‘Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game’ in his defeat to Mischa Zverev. Kyrgios and Wawrinka are 2-2 against each other although each player has a win by retirement with their opponent way behind in the scoring.
It was in Australia where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga first burst onto the scene with his run to the final in Melbourne. Since that 2008 run he has made the quarter finals three times but not since 2013. With Marin Cilic a likely fourth round foe, the odds will be against him to make that a fourth quarter final. The 12th seed should ease through the first two rounds with the in-form Jack Sock projected in round three. Sock came from a break down to win the Auckland final to add to his good start to 2017. Sock was part of the losing finalist’s team at the Hopman Cup, alongside Coco Vandeweghe. Bernard Tomic will be looking to make his first quarter final in Melbourne but will likely see his run end in round three against Cilic. The Croatian has what looks a tough matchup on paper in round one against Jerzy Janowicz but in reality the Pole is far from ready to do much this early in his return from injury.
Djokovic becoming the bookies favourite for the title will be just as much down to his draw, which is markedly easier, as it is his statement victory over Murray in Doha, in which he recovered from a failure to take match points in the second set to win in three. He probably shouldn’t have made it that far having earlier saved multiple match points in a tiebreak against Fernando Verdasco, his first round opponent here. Verdasco famously lost an epic semi final encounter in 2009 to Nadal at this tournament but has found it difficult in recent years, not making the fourth round in the past 5 years. Richard Gasquet and Pablo Carreno Busta are seeded in this section but all the buzz is around Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov has long been hyped when it has been often unwarranted but his opening week of the year suggests that the Bulgarian is ready to take the next step. He picked up three top 10 wins on his way to the Brisbane title with two of them against the top 5 in Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori. A fourth round with Djokovic offers a lot of intrigue, especially if Djokovic is below par.
David Goffin and Dominic Thiem are the most likely quarter final opponents for Djokovic but it certainly doesn’t feel like they would offer much trouble to the World No.2 in their potential matchup. Big servers young and old in Reilly Opelka and Ivo Karlovic also reside in this section but it seems far too early for Opelka while Karlovic has always found it tough in the best of five format. Tommy Haas makes his return in a winnable round one match against the unpredictable Benoit Paire. Haas had horrible luck with injuries and saw his 2016 wiped out by surgery with his last match having been played in October 2015.
Rafael Nadal suffered just the 2nd first round slam defeat of his career in Melbourne last year, losing a marathon match to Fernando Verdasco. He will want to bounce back in style but it is hard to predict with any certainty that he will do so. The ninth seed will likely make the third round without difficulty but Alexander Zverev in the third round will be a tricky foe. Zverev blew a major chance to win their first meeting at Indian Wells but has improved at an astonishing rate in the past 10 months with three finals in that time including his first title in St. Petersburg, beating Stanislas Wawrinka in the final. Although an exhibition, his win over Roger Federer in Hopman Cup was impressive. The German is highly talented and if there is a shock semi finalist, he has to be near the top of the list of names. Sixth seed Gael Monfils heads this section and will look to match his best run at the event, a quarter final place at last years event. While he has 2 wins over Zverev in the past year, he has a slightly less impressive 2-12 career record against Nadal.
World No.3 Milos Raonic caps this quarter of the draw and he should be the favourite to advance to the semi finals for the second year running. 2016 was a great year for the Canadian who advanced to the next level in his career, making a first grand slam final and achieving his current career high ranking. No.2 remains a pipe dream for now given the stranglehold over the top 2 spots that Djokovic and Murray have in the world rankings but the Canadian will want to show he can compete with those two on a regular basis. Raonic is 3-1 against the first seed he can possibly face in Gilles Simon. His opener against Dustin Brown looks a potential shock on paper but it seems difficult to imagine Raonic would fail to be consistent enough to take out Brown over the best of five format. Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer are the other seeds in this section with Bautista Agut likely to advance should they meet. Ferrer looked poor in his surprise loss to Robin Haase in Auckland and will need to improve massively if he is to oust his fellow Spaniard should they meet.
Andy Murray def. Stanislas Wawrinka
Novak Djokovic def. Milos Raonic
Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic
Check out how Djokovic defeated Murray in the 2016 final.