Roger Federer begins the defence of his Australian Open title in the Day 1 night session on Rod Laver Arena. He will play Denis Istomin in what should be a fairly routine opener for the third seed in round one. Federer can move back to No.2 if he wins the tournament but has a tough ask to do so if Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are both at their best this fortnight. Check out the Federer vs Istomin H2H matches.
Istomin had one of the best results of his career at this event two years ago, surprising everybody with his win over Novak Djokovic early on in the tournament. While Djokovic was far from his best at that stage, any win over the Serbian in a five set format has to be applauded. The Uzbek spent much of the first half of the decade in the top 50 but has failed to return back there for nearly 4 years.
Rather than playing a competitive tournament as warmup, Federer chose to defend his Hopman Cup title with Belinda Bencic. The pair repeated as champions with Federer dominant throughout, not dropping a single set over matches with Tiafoe, Tsitsipas, Norrie and most impressively – Alexander Zverev. It’s not quite revenge for Zverev dumping Federer out of the World Tour Finals last year but the third seed will be happy with his week in Perth. “The last couple years I’ve had wonderful Hopman Cups. I think it’s a good way for me to just feel good, play well. Team environment, you know, with Belinda, as well. I enjoy playing the mixed, as well.” he said.
“I know what Denis did to Novak. I watched basically the entire game a couple years ago when he beat Novak here. I’ve had some tough ones against him in the past. He can play well in fast courts, and that’s what it’s going to be a little bit here as well.” Federer said on Istomin. He is 6-0 against Istomin although their most recent meetings at the 2013 and 2014 Basel tournaments saw him win deciding sets to advance.
Prediction – Roger Federer in straight sets