Where would No. 3 Roger Federer land in Australia? Well, other than at the airport, he settled in Novak Djokovic’s half of the just-released men’s Australian Open draw.
That leaves Andy Murray with Stan Wawrinka plus Rafael Nadal.
Overall, a really nice, even draw with lots of interesting matchups. Going from top down…
Novak Djokovic Quarter
It won’t be easy for Novak Djokovic to claim a sixth Australian Open, but early on I think it should be. The World No. 1 opens against rising teen Hyeon Chung. Then maybe Roger Federer’s third round conqueror a year ago in Andreas Seppi in that same round, followed by Gilles Simon the fourth. The quarters could get tricky with either JW Tsonga or Kei Nishikori, but neither guy has been in form of late, however if someone like Tsonga gets hot one never knows. Otherwise, maybe someone like Karlovic or Tsonga sneak a set, that’s about all I see Novak dropping before the semifinals. There are some names there, but Djokovic is just playing too well right now.
The pick: Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer Quarter
While I rate Djokovic’s section the easiest, I put Federer’s on the other end. The 34-year-old will have to deal with the hard-hitting Nikoloz Basilashvili. Then the dangerous Alex Dolgopolov in the second followed by a likely date with Grigor Dimitrov in a Brisbane rematch. In the fourth he’s looking at possibly Dominic Thiem who has a good draw. And in the quarters a man who’s made the semifinals in Melbourne the last two years, Tomas Berdych. The Czech has an interesting road with the brash Nick Kyrgios in the third round and Marin Cilic in the fourth. Cilic could face Borna Coric in the second. But you just can’t count on Berdych to win big matches, so Federer’s the man for me in this deep section of the draw.
The pick: Roger Federer
Stan Wawrinka Quarter
The stan-dout in this section is the very first line where we see Rafael Nadal against Fernando Verdasco in the pick among the 64 first round matches. Both Spanish lefties aren’t what they once were, but Verdasco has fallen much more, so Rafa should get through and overall I like his section. He’ll get Jeremy Chardy in the third, maybe Kevin Anderson in the fourth before Stan Wawrinka in the quarters. I also like Stan’s section. He’ll have Jack Sock in the third then Milos Raonic in the fourth, but if he’s playing well – and winning Chennai does indicate that much – he should get through. Then in the best of the projected quarters I think I’m going to pick Nadal who gets revenge for the 2014 final. I think. I’m not sold but that’s where I’m leaning right now.
The pick: Rafael Nadal
Andy Murray Quarter
Assuming the baby is on time and Andy Murray doesn’t have to jet out of town, I think we’ll see good things from the 4-time finalist. He’ll open against the tough teen Alex Zverev, then potentially the big-serving Sam Groth with another Aussie, Bernard Tomic, looming in the fourth. Then in the quarters he’s looking at David Ferrer. Ferrer could face Lleyton Hewitt in what would be an interesting finale for the Australian. Ferrer could also run into John Isner in the fourth, but the American has to deal with the hot-headed Jerzy Janowicz in his opener. But in the end Murray’s draw is just too good to ignore.
The pick: Andy Murray
So that means a Big 4 semifinal? What, is it 2009 still? No, it’s 2016 and little has changed. Well, not exactly because if anyone can foil that plan it’s Stan Wawrinka who won this title two years ago. But regardless, I don’t think the end result changes much. If the courts are playing slow, that will help Djokovic even more. But he doesn’t need it. This title is going to be his be it over Murray, Nadal or even Wawrinka in the final. (Right now I think it’s Murray.)
As I said, the Stan-Nadal match could go either way if it happens. I also could see Federer getting bounced somewhere, maybe even by Berdych. Otherwise, Djokovic and Murray both look like good bets to make the semifinals.
I will say there are a lot of great matches early on, plus it will be nice to see these young kids like Chung and Zverev get to show their potential on the biggest of stages.
I just hope someone can push Djokovic. Let’s see.
Matches begin Sunday night at 7pm ET on ESPN.
You Might Like:
French Open Draw: Rafael Nadal Lands In Novak Djokovic’s Quarter!
Miami Men’s Draw: Djokovic, Federer Could Meet In SFs; Nadal Heavily Favored In Top Half
French Open Men’s Draw: Federer Needed A Dream Draw And Got It; Nadal Lands With Djokovic
Federer Lands In Djokovic’s Half (Again) As Nadal Enjoys Comfy Path To Seventh French Open Final
Wimbledon Men’s Draw Preview: Nadal Falls With Federer, Murray In Quarter Of Death