The Draws: ’19 Aussie Open men

Stan Wawrinka

Top Quarter-
The No. 1 Novak Djokovic has won this tournament many times. He tends to focus, he can be calm or a little bit angry, and he runs forever. Yes, he is the favorite, as he won 2018 Wimbledon and US Open, but he has lost a couple matches at the end of the fall, and last week, he went down in the semis against the quick Roberto Bautista Agut. 

But this is the Grand Slams, this is 3 out of 5 — not 2 out of 3 — so to upset Djokovic, you have to be on top of it all the time. He could face the Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the third round. Shapovalov is pretty powerful, off both sides, and he is aggressive a lot, but he can sink. Djokovic will win. In the fourth round, he might play Daniil Medvedev or David Goffin. The Russian improved a lot during the fall, pretty quick and very intelligent. Medvedev will exhaust Goffin, but against Djokovic, he is still a little bit too inpatient. 

Who will Djokovic face in the quarters? Perhaps Fabio Fognini, Philipp Kohlschreiber or Kei Nishikori. The veterans have all played very well at times, but can they actually stun Novak? I cannot see it. Djokovic moves into the semis, the main man.

2nd Quarter
It’s a big tossup: Who will to reach the semis?

Perhaps Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric, Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka. No one is immune from an upset. Outside of the Grand Slams, Zverev has been so good, jumping on the ball or being patient. He has yet to go deep at the Slams, but thsi young player will eventually learn what to do on the court. Perhaps he can do it in the hot heat, as he has a decent draw. In the third round, he might face the smart veteran, Gilles Simon, which could take three hours, minimum. Even before that, Zverev might have to play Jeremy Chardy, another patient veteran. The German has to be swinging very hard, and deliver a bunch of aces. He will and reach the fourth round. Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios will face off in the first round. That is a heck of a match. They have played each other a fair amount of times, with both men hitting ace after ace. When they have to hit a second serve, there will be some fun rallies. Kyrgios lives in Australia, so at least in the first match, he will feel mentally solid and move ahead. 

Can Kyrgios reach into the fourth round to face Zverev? Who knows? He is so good when he is healthy, but when he isn’t, he retires. Plus, in the second round, he has to go up against the three-time GS champion Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss is getting healthy again and if he is 100 percent, clearly he is better than Nick. However, on some points, Kyrgios will surge and begin to be more consistent. Eventually, he will reach the fourth round and play against Zverev. What a match, and it will go five sets. Zverev will survive.   
Two more will reach in the fourth round: Dominic Thiem and Borna Coric. Late in the summer, the Belgian decided to whack the ball hard, which is why he reached the final at Roland Garros and lost to Rafa Nadal in three sets. At the US Open on the hard courts, he locked in and he went for the lines. Thiem lost again, but that time, he pushed himself for five sets, which was long and brutal. He can do it again, and while Coric is smarter now, Thiem will out-stroke him. Then, in the quarters, he will be patient, and he will beat Zverev, and reach the semis.

Third Quarter
It appears that the injured Andy Murray will retire this year. Very soon. Maybe next week. Read this…
In the first round, the humbled Murray has to face Bautista Agut. Roberto is a grinder, who just upset Djokovic, and Murray says that he can barely run. Roberto will grind him down, and quickly. Roger Federer is looming, he should beat Denis Istomin in the first round, and could face Gael Monfils in the third round. That could be fun, but Federer will destroy his backhand. The famous Swiss will likely play either two very good, young competitors: Stefanos Tsitsipas or Nikoloz Basilashvili. The winner will play Federer on the main court and he will be fired up. There should be a couple hours, celebrating, but Federer knows what to. He will reach into the quarters. We all knew that. 

Up at the top, Marin Cilic will play the Aussie Bernard Tomic in the first round. Cilic is consistent all the time, but the odd Tomic disappeared for months, in 2018, but now he is hitting again. He is ranked No. 85. Not terrible. When he is feeling good and in good shape, he can reach the top 20 again. But he is way down, so Cilic is favored, and he will bash him. 

Next up, Cilic could face the talented kid, Andrey Rublev. That could be tough, and assuming he wins, then he will likely have to go up against the rising Karen Khachanov in the fourth round. There, Khachanov will hit extremely hard and grab it. Can he upset Federer in the quarters? It will be close, but still, the Russian is learning how to play. Federer will win in four tight sets.

Bottom Quarter
Rafa Nadal seems to be pretty good in the first two matches, and then maybe in the third round, he will play against the Aussie Alex de Minaur. The super young player concentrates well and can be forceful. But, can he step in and bash the ball all the time? Nadal can push people way back behind the baseline with his heavy forehand. He will win, and then in the fourth round, it is possible he will face either Kyle Edmund or Tomas Berdych. At some point, Czech Berdych will climb up again, and beat the Brit. If he reaches into the fourth round, Berdych knows that he has to be threatening, but Nadal — assuming he is healthly — will yank him around. Clearly, Nadal can reach the semis, but recall that in the fall he couldn’t play because he was injured — for at least 10 times over the years — but if his legs are not too sore, then he will move on.

What will be lively, though, is that four of the good players will try to reach the quarters: John Isner, Grigor Dimitrov, Steve Johnson and Kevin Anderson. Isner had a very good year, as did Anderson, obviously. Those two have played each other a lot, the very tall and crunch huge serves. It is tough to break them, especially on grass at Wimbledon, when Anderson edged Isner 26-24 in the semis in the fifth. A true marathon. But, does it really matter against Nadal who returns deep, on the first and second serve, while the other two can’t really return much. That is why Rafa has won 17 Grand Slams, while Anderson and Isner have won zero.