Australian Open 2013: Men’s draw preview and analysis
January 11, 2013 · Print This Article
Could 2013 be the second straight year of having four different grand slam winners on Tour? If you think about it, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are the two best hard-court players in the world right now, while Rafael Nadal has proven that his prowess on clay this decade has been second to none. Roger Federer owns seven Wimbledon titles, still plays great on the lush and then bruised lawns of Wimbledon and appears ready for another competitive season. What this all translates into is quite simple: The top four still remain the best in the business—minus Nadal at the moment—and must be considered the considerable favorites heading into the year’s first major.
Djokovic and Federer have been laying low to start the season; perhaps one too many exhibitions in December alongside some donkey cheese buying being the main culprits for their absence? Murray on the other hand took part in the Brisbane event heading into Melbourne, defending his title from a 2012.
While it’s easy to pick a top three seed to add another slam to their CV, we mustn’t forget the chances of some of the other formidable contenders.
David Ferrer continues to defeat the players that he should, but will he finally be able to upset the men ahead of him at the grandest stage? Tomas Berdych proved that his power was enough in New York by defeating Federer in quarters, but does the Czech ultimately have what it takes when the conditions and nerves kick in? I’d say that looking toward the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (a former finalist) and Juan Martin del Potro (a former slam winner) are much better options for Australian glory. Both Tsonga and del Potro have shown their merit against the game’s best when it really counts, while holding some of the sport’s greatest weapons in the process.
Milos Raonic continues to grow his bandwagon by the year, but at some stage the 22-year-old will have to make a slash in a major in order to keep the hype going. Only months removed from his poor effort in New York, Bernard Tomic has vowed that his days of reckless behavior are behind him and that he’s fully committed to improving.
There’s a lot to take in at the start of 2013 when it comes to how the season will pan out. Could we see another player enter the limelight with Nadal’s future up in the air, or will the current top three clean up where Nadal would’ve usually racked up titles?
Nevertheless, 128 men all have a fighting chance at capturing the trophy, while heading into Paris as the only player with a shot at a calender year slam.
Let’s now take a look at the four quarters of the 2013 Australian Open men’s draw.
Aiming for a three-peat in Oz should be easy pickings for Djokovic. He’ll have to contest with an aging and injured Paul-Henri Mathieu early, before the power of Sam Querrey, or the one-handed magic of Stanislas Wawrinka could come along in round four. Not donning the swoosh anymore on his clothing, Berdych is slated as Djokovic’s quarterfinal foe, but the barreling Czech’s nine straight losses against the top seed, would indicate that a semifinal showing will be hard to come by.
At this point, the heat could very well be Djokovic’s greatest competition heading into the semis. I believe the Serb will be looking to make a statement early and that could very well begin with title No. 4 Down Under.
With Rafa out, Ferrer walks in as the No. 4 seed, adamant on backing up his final four finish from a year ago. His first-round encounter with Oli Rochus could be four hours plus, while Karlovic’s serve won’t be easy to get past in round two. Ferrer’s draw does open up after some early tests with the likes of Nishikori (carrying a knee injury), Almagro (not his best on hard-courts), Janowicz (unproven at the majors), and finally Dimitrov (started the year well, but again, unproven at the majors).
The marque first-round match-up of this quarter belongs to Tipsarevic vs. Hewitt. Although Hewitt is far from what he used to be, he’s still more than good enough for an early upset. Does he get it done against Tipsy? I’d say so because of the crowd and his sense of urgency. Tipsarevic did start the year strong by winning Chennai, but Hewitt knows how to work his hometown support and will be ready to fight under the lights.
However, even with the upset of Tipsarevic, Hewitt will likely go down somewhere in round three or four, leaving Ferrer as the unanimous favorite to advance.
Not losing before the semifinals here since 2010, Murray’s in the unique position of potentially claiming two majors in a row. He will also be playing for his friend Ross Hutchins, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Starting off against the underrated Robin Haase, Murray could see some resistance against Dolgopolov or Monfils in round four, but I’d say his strongest competition in this section will come against either Cilic or del Potro in the quarterfinals. Cilic had Murray on the ropes at the US Open and del Potro showed that he’s almost back to his top form by winning two titles last fall.
At this point, I’d give the slight edge to del Potro in coming through this quarter, because he’s had a ton of rest and plays his best on the asphalt. Murray will still be favored to pull through, but I think it’s del Potro’s time to inch closer to major No. 2.
Pick: del Potro
Best first-round match: Dolgopolov vs. Monfils
While Federer ended last year relatively strong, one has to wonder about his form coming in? He won’t have to worry about Nadal this fortnight and the only other player to beat him here since 2005—Djokovic—won’t be in his way unless he makes the finals. But, with a reduced playing schedule this year, could Federer’s days of thinking like a full-time pro finally be behind him?
If Federer was looking to ease into 2013, he sure didn’t hit the jackpot with his draw. Starting off against the flashy Benoit Paire, Federer is slated to face Davydenko in round two, Tomic or Klizan in round three, Raonic in round four and either Tsonga, Haas or Gasquet in the quarters. It’s interesting to note that most of the players in this quarter are currently in or nearing the best form of their careers. With that being said, I believe that Federer will be up to this challenge and use his all court craft to cast away his inform adversaries.
Quarterfinal picks: Djokovic vs. Berdych; Ferrer vs. Dimitrov; del Potro vs. Murray; Federer vs. Tsonga.
Semifinal picks: Djokovic vs. Ferrer; del Potro vs. Federer.
Champion: Djokovic defeats del Potro.