The first slam of the year is upon us with the Australian Open kicking off in Melbourne on Monday morning. Novak Djokovic will look to extend his record haul at the event to 8 while Rafael Nadal could finally catch up with Roger Federer and his 20 grand slam titles. Djokovic is the bookmakers favourite given his record here and he will be confident of taking another title, having won a comfortable straight setter against Nadal in the final last year.
Full draw here: AO 2020 Men’s Draw
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Nadal comes into the tournament as World No.1 and will keep that spot as long as he makes the semi final or if Djokovic does not win the title. He was part of the Spain team that made the final of the ATP Cup, suffering two losses, including a decisive one to the Serbian in the final. He should be able to ease his way into the tournament with two straight forward opening matches in theory, the first of which comes against Hugo Dellien of Bolivia. All eyes will be on a potentially blockbuster fourth round with Nick Kyrgios, although the Australian’s high points in big tournaments do appear to be becoming less common with each passing year. Karen Khachanov could also be an opponent at that stage as the Russian seeks to reestablish himself as the top Russian. He was surpassed by Daniil Medvedev in 2019, having shown a lot of promise in playing some great attacking tennis previously. Nadal will be fairly confident still having had fairly comfortable wins over the pair in 2019 and will probably be looking to get through the first week with the minimum of damage instead.
The further rise of Dominic Thiem on hard courts is a story to watch in 2020. The Austrian’s prowess on clay is well known but he showcased some great tennis on faster surfaces, winning several titles on hard courts with the most notable of them coming at Indian Wells. His partnership with Nicolas Massu looks to have worked wonders for his game and he should not be intimidated by a likely quarter final with Nadal. Amongst those seeking to thwart Thiem’s passage to the last 8 are Gael Monfils and Felix Auger-Aliassime. He has a handy 5-0 record against the Frenchman while Auger-Aliassime does not yet look ready for the big time just yet, despite some good performances in the best of three format. He was outplayed by Denis Shapovalov in their US Open meeting and lost a very winnable clash with Ugo Humbert at Wimbledon. Other interesting names in this section include Kevin Anderson, who has not played a main draw match since Wimbledon but played Djokovic tough at the ATP Cup.
All eyes will be on Daniil Medvedev, who almost shocked the world at the US Open – nearly achieving a comeback from 0-2 in sets against Rafael Nadal in the final. The Russian could not get quite over the line but it was a showcase of the great form he displayed all throughout 2019, making a whole host of finals in the second half of the season. He serves bombs much like you’d expect from a 6ft6 player but also can grind with the best of them as well showing a fighting spirit that was far from visible previously. There will be a target on his back as one to beat but he should be disappointed if he is not getting as far as his No.4 ranking says he should this fortnight. The seeds in his section will have looked much scarier several years ago with John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stanislas Wawrinka amongst those standing in his way. Medvedev does have wins over all of them in the past 12 months, with the most notable his four set win over Wawrinka at the US Open.
Andrey Rublev looks to continue his great form with a strong run here and may well fancy his chances of a run to the quarter finals despite two higher seeded players in his section. Rublev was highly touted after his Junior French Open title a few years back but a mix of injuries and loss of form meant he has had to work much harder to get back in the mix. He is on an eight match winning streak having added the Adelaide title to his Doha one the previous week. Neither draw was too difficult but it has to be promising that a great level of consistency has been found by the 22 year-old. Alexander Zverev may well have picked up career bests in three of the four slams but the fact that they he has just two quarter finals is somewhat disappointing for a player who has been a constant in the top 8 for the past three years. It’s hard to take too much from a glorified exhibition ATP Cup but Zverev didn’t show any sign of a player ready for a deep slam run there, losing all three of his matches for the German team.
With a top 8 seeding to his name, the pressure will likely be on Matteo Berrettini for the first time. The Italian plays a far more attacking game than many of his fellow countrymen but could be vulnerable on his bad days. It’s hard to pin point who would be the obvious beneficiary from this section with Guido Pella, Fabio Fognini and Borna Coric the remaining seeds here. Coric has faded a little, in some part due to injury last year, but did record his best slam performance at the Australian Open last year, making the fourth round.
With the mostly unproven Berrettini the highest seed in this quarter, this has to be considered a strong draw for Roger Federer. He will be eager to extend his lead in slams over the chasing pack but it is looking like he will finally be caught up this year by Rafael Nadal. A favourable route to the semi finals will give him one of his better chances to do it this year with Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov amongst the other contenders. Dimitrov did win the most recent meeting with the Swiss but lost the previous seven matches. The Bulgarian showed some improvement at the back end of last year, adding a Paris semi final to his quarter final run in New York. The big serving Hubert Hurkac is improving but it seems too early for him to pull off a shock deep run.
It was his run to the semi finals in Melbourne last year that propelled Stefanos Tsitsipas to the next level, on his way to making the top 5 in the rankings. The Greek did fade in the second half of the season, losing in the first round of both Wimbledon and US Open but showed he was still a force to be reckoned with by winning the ATP Finals at the end of the season. He should be confident of at least making the quarter finals but there are a number of threats for him along the way including Roberto Bautista-Agut and Milos Raonic. Bautista-Agut is solid if usually unspectacular but can be counted on to perform to his ranking most of the time. Raonic’s series of injuries over the last few years look to have hindered him but his serve is always going to be a huge danger on hard courts. Also in this section is a former finalist, having lost in 2018 to Roger Federer.
All the focus will be on favourite Novak Djokovic, as he seeks to deny Nadal’s attempt to finally match Federer’s slam count of 20. The Serbian went unbeaten at the ATP Cup with his win over the World No.1 in the final going a long way to helping his country win the first edition of the event. Djokovic is utterly dominant in this event and had he not been hindered by injury across 2017 and 2018, we could have been looking at him seeking to win a 10th in Melbourne as opposed to 8. He remains incredibly difficult to beat in a best of 5 format and there isn’t much to trouble him before the quarter finals. Lloyd Harris comes off an Adelaide final but may well lose in round one while seeds Diego Schwartzman and Dusan Lajovic are unlikely to offer much of a threat should they make it to round four. He will have been disappointed to have lost before the final in New York last year but still should be considered the favourite to win three of the four slams this year, including this one.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic defeats Rafael Nadal in the final