Australian Open 2018 draw analysis

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    With the 2018 Australian Open commencing tomorrow, it’s time to take a look at this year’s draw.

    First round features
    This year’s draw throws up some tantalising first-round match-ups on both sides of the draw. Unfortunately from an Australian perspective the draw has not been kind.

    John Millman, who has been in good form to start the year and would have been hoping to at least equal his best performance here by making the third round has a tough start against rising star Borna Coric, while Matt Ebden, also in career-best form, faces American seed John Isner.

    Feel-good story Jason Kubler also has a less than ideal start – the 25-year-old, who burst onto the scene as a teenager, winning junior titles and being touted as the next big hope, has had his career cruelled by ongoing injuries and faces 10th seed and 2017 US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

    Thanasi Kokkinakis, also making his return to Grand Slam competition after a long injury lay-off, faces rising Russian teen Danill Medvedev, who beat Australian Alex de Minaur in last night’s Sydney International final.

    Speaking of ‘The Demon’, De Minaur has an extremely tough first round against Tomas Berdych. With the form De Minaur is in, though, I expect him to take it right up to the Czech.

    (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

    The Australian women have fared slightly better. Sam Stosur has a tough match-up against Rio Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig.

    On paper 17-year-old rising star Destanee Aiava faces a nightmare match against world number one Simona Halep. However, this has the potential to be an interesting match – Halep has lost in the first round of the Australian Open in the past two years and comes into the tournament with all the pressure of a world number one who hasn’t won a Grand Slam.

    Granted, Aiava hasn’t been in good form, losing easily to Eugenie Bouchard at Kooyong this week, but perhaps the fact that she has absolutely nothing to lose in this match will help her play more freely.

    On a good note for Australia, we’re guaranteed to have at least one woman in the second round, with wildcards Jaimee Fourlis and Olivia Rogowska squaring off against each other.

    Outside of the Australian contingent there are some cracking first-round matches. On the men’s side two young guns in Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov, ranked 80 and 50 in the world respectively, go head-to-head in what should be a beauty.

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    The other side of the equation sees two veterans in Sam Querrey and Feliciano Lopez do battle. Juan Martin Del Potro is back in good form and takes on a young up-and-comer in American Frances Tiafoe. This could be a game of awesome shot-making.

    Probably the most intriguing match-up here is Donald Young vs Novak Djokovic. Young is a talented but maddeningly inconsistent player and could pose a challenge for the former champion on his return to competitive tennis.

    On the women’s side the pick of the matches is Venus Williams against Belinda Bencic. The fact that this is a first-round match is ridiculous – it could easily be a fourth-round contest.

    Bencic has been in fine form at the Hopman Cup this season, teaming with Roger Federer to win the competition. Her past few seasons have been ruined by injury, but in the form she’s in I expect her to challenge Williams.

    In terms of upsets, keep an eye on Zhang Shuai against Sloane Stephens. Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, has lacked form recently, and Shuai, who reached the fourth round here in 2016, looms as a danger.

    One interesting draw idiosyncrasy here is the match of two one-time French Open champions: 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko taking on veteran Francesca Schiavone, who famously defeated Sam Stosur to win the 2010 Roland Garros title.

    (The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

    Looking further ahead
    This is where it starts to get interesting. Starting with the men’s side, Djokovic, who may face enigmatic Frenchman Gael Monfils in Round 2, could then face rising stars Jared Donaldson or Alexei Popyrin in Round 3 before a titanic clash with fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the fourth round.

    Should he get that far, he could set up a quarter-final clash with Stan Wawrinka, which would ordinarily be an absolute corker, but this year it raises questions given the injury issues both players have suffered.

    If Nick Kyrgios manages to navigate the first two rounds, he could face Denis Shapovalov or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round before a fourth-round match-up with in-form third seed Grigor Dimitrov. Any of these matches could really be popcorn tennis full of shot-making. For Dimitrov’s part, he could face a tough third round against Andrey Rublev, a young Russian who defeated him in the second round of last year’s US Open.

    The third round could also see the two Zverev brothers, Alex and Mischa, ranked fourth and 34 respectively, face-off against each other, which would be an interesting contrast of styles. Alex is a tall baseline player while Mischa is a serve-volleyer who defeated Andy Murray here in the fourth round last year.

    For last year’s finalist Rafael Nadal it’s a relatively smooth draw in which he could face John Isner in the fourth round and Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.

    However, if 2017 champion Roger Federer is to defend his title, he’ll have to do it despite a tough draw. His possible fourth-round opponents include Querrey or Raonic, with a likely quarter-final against in-form Belgian David Goffin or his 2009 US Open conqueror Del Potro. For his part, Delpo could face Berdych or De Minaur in the third round.

    (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

    On the women’s side the top half of the draw is stacked with tough match-ups, and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out. No-one has been in better form to start the year than Sydney International winner Angelique Kerber, but if she’s to win the title this year, she’ll potentially have to overcome Maria Sharapova in the third round and Agnieszka Radwanska or Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round.

    Simona Halep also has a tough draw, with Petra Kvitova and Ash Barty possible match-ups in rounds three and four. That scenario depends on Barty getting past Camila Giorgi of Italy in Round 2. Last week that would have seemed a straightforward proposition, but Giorgi went on a run to the semi-finals at Sydney and is in excellent form.

    If Venus Williams manages to navigate her blockbuster first-round clash with Bencic, she could find herself facing Ekaterina Makarova in the third round, Daria Gavrilova or in-form Julia Goerges in the fourth round and a possible quarter-final against either Sloane Stephens or Brisbane champion Elina Svitolina.

    Second-ranked Caroline Wozniacki has arguably the easiest draw of the main contenders – her first seeded opponent is Kiki Bertens (seeded 30), while her possible fourth-round opponents include Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Kateryna Bondarenko, or former Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova, before a quarter-final against Jelena Ostapenko.

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • January 14th 2018 @ 9:37am
      Mark said | January 14th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Despite what the author of this article says, Jason Kubler did not win any junior Grand Slam singles titles.

    • January 14th 2018 @ 10:50am
      Simoc said | January 14th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Nice write up. Exciting new talent on the way but I’ll go for Federer and the overdue Halep to win. There are many valid contenders for the womens crown but few in the men. Kyrgios has to be a chance.

    • January 14th 2018 @ 6:28pm
      steamingWilly said | January 14th 2018 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

      I wish the women would play 5 seats for equal pay.

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