It is now just a matter of days and the first slam of the season will start. The 15th of January will be day number 1 of the 106th edition of the Australian Open (Melbourne).
As we underlined in the previous tennis article, the beginning of the new year and the new season (in Australia and New Zealand) has been characterized by many, if not too many unknowns.
In comparison to the very first tournaments of the year, the injury list is not that long anymore, but some of the big names are still on this list and won’t participate, while some other players’ physical conditions are still to be evaluated.
We will not see Andy Murray in Melbourne, who made it to the finals 5 times in the past years. He underwent a surgery hoping to sort his hip problems and will be out at least till this year’s Wimbledon (July). The Scotsman, after trying to play in Abu Dhabi, has been forced to announce his withdrawals from Brisbane first and from the Australia Open then.
Another remarkable absence will be Kei Nishikori’s. The Japanese player won’t be able to play as he struggles with a right wrist injury. Unlike Murray though, his comeback should not take too long. Nishikori is scheduled to play two challengers in the next few weeks: one in Newport (20 – 28 January) and one in Dallas (29th Jan – 4th Feb).
These two are surely the two main forfeits, but what also worries the fans (and affect the show in general), are also the conditions of some players.
The number one question here is Novak Djokovic: the Serbian has withdrawn from the Mubadal World Tennis Champions in Abu Dhabi and we haven’t really heard much about him since then. No real information on his physical condition has been released, and as for now, we can only guess his current form. As soon as he enters the court in Melbourne, we should be able to evaluate his right elbow.
Like the Serbian, Stan Wawrinka is expected to begin his 2018 tennis season in Melbourne. The Swiss has been forced at the boxes for more than 6 months by a knee injury (his last match is dated 3rd of July 2017, when he lost against Daniil Medvedev in Wimbledon). Many doubts remain on both his participation at this year’s Australian Open as he recently withdrew from Tie Break Tens without playing (the tournament was held in Melbourne and won by Tomas Berdych).
— Tie Break Tens (@tiebreaktens) January 10, 2018
The official reason was a problem in his shoulder, but rumors don’t exclude possible longer-than-expected recovery for his knee, which underwent surgery in August 2017.
The Australian Open will also see Milos Raonic looking for revenge after an early defeat in the first round in Brisbane against Alex de Minaur. The Canadian, after his Wimbledon quarterfinal last year and a semi-final in Washington, has only played in Montreal and in Tokyo to end the previous season and, as said, one match in Brisbane this year.
This was a recap on the injuries that we know about among the main players and the doubts that we still have in same specific cases. Let’s now focus on the other side: players that should be all set to perform well at the Australian Open 2018.
We would like to start with Juan Martin Del Potro, who is back in the draw after a 4-year long absence from the tournament. After all those injuries it looks like the Argentinian has found the right rhythm, his strokes are powerful and he seems in good form as he has played well in Auckland, showing good returns and solid serving. Del Potro reached the final in Auckland, where he lost in three sets against Roberto Bautista Agut.
Another guy to watch out for is surely Grigor Dimitrov, who won the ATP World Tour Finals 2017 and was already semi-finalist last year in Melbourne. Nick Kyrgios has also started this new season in the best possible way as he won the tournament in Brisbane and is always in the hunt for a top-10 spot.
Someone that has proven that he can beat anyone on the tour and has chances of going far in this opening slam is Alexander Zverev. The German won two Master 1000 titles last season and is expected to confirm his recent brilliant results.
Last, but not least, the two player that according to bookmakers (and not only) should be the absolute main characters of this tournament: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The Spanish player (Nadal), who withdrew from the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi to fully recover from his knee tendon inflammation, got a little bit of luck and has a good draw.
The top part of the draw (Nadal’s) seems weaker than the rest, with Dimitrov and Kyrgios set to meet in the 4th round, as the other semi-finalist could be one of these two, while Nadal could be facing Isner and Cilic as real dangers on his way to the semi-finals and should have 3 easy matches in the first three rounds.
Federer’s draw was bitter. In the bottom part of the draw, Federer, apart from having to battle his 36 years of age, could be facing Gasquet in the 3rd round, Querrey or Raonic in the 4th round, Del Potro or Goffin in the quarterfinals and one between Djokovic and Zverev in semifinal. Pretty tough!
We expect a very entertaining men’s tournament which will tell us more and will provide us with the first verdicts of the 2018 tennis season!
Here is a table with odds pre-draw and after the draw, with our estimated chance of win.
Some information about the men’s Australian Open 2018 and the tournament:
- 128-player draw (32 seeds)
- 104 players directly qualified
- 16 players from qualifications
- 8 wild cards (assigned by organizers)