Australian Open Men’s Preview: Djokovic, Nadal In Battle For History, Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | February 7th, 2021, 6:43 pm
  • 13 Comments

Here we go! In a few short hours the long-awaited Australian Open gets underway in a new time slot. Sixteen years after first playing Melbourne, Novak Djokovic is still the man Down Under.

The Serb has won the event eight times including the last two years. This is his home.

Rafael Nadal has a home, too, it’s in Roland Garros. But the Spaniard needs this one for two reasons: pass Roger Federer on the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard at 21 and to become the first player in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams twice.

Rafa’s been chasing the last record for a while now. He hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2009 and while his draw looks great, that ailing back of his which kept him out of the ATP Cup doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings.

And of course times are changing.

In New York we watched a new Grand Slam champion and a first-time finalist in Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. Both could and should be factors this upcoming week, though Zverev also might be dealing with his own back issue.

The Russians are red-hot and deliciously dangerous led by Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, fresh off their ATP Cup sweep.

And you have the even younger bunch with Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger-Alliasime and 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz.

So who walks away with this first Slam title of 2021? On to the draw and my pick.

NOVAK DJOVOVIC’S QUARTER
The 8-time champion is the big favorite in Melbourne and for good reason. He’s won the title the last two years and — like Nadal in Paris — has been virtually untouchable. And he’s never lost once he makes the semifinals, and I expect him to do that again this month. His draw is good but not great. Jeremy Chardy is a decent player as is Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka who are also in his section. In the fourth round he’s looking at Stan Wawrinka and then perhaps Zverev in the quarters. As I mentioned, we don’t know how Zverev is doing with that back, though I really like his draw. Regardless, I think Novak buckles down and gets back to the semifinals.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic

DOMINIC THIEM’S QUARTER
Dominic Thiem, the only man to make both hardcourt Slam finals last year, returns trying to do one better this year. Having won the US Open, that should help his confidence here even though he may not need it given his cushy draw. Ugo Humbert could be his third round seed, then Pablo Carreno Busta or Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth followed by one of the Canadians — Shapovalov or FAA — or Diego Schwartzman or Sinner. Auger-Aliassime or Sinner might be that guy on the quick courts. But a rested and healthy Thiem comes through.
The Pick: Dominic Thiem

DANIIL MEDVEDEV’S QUARTER
No one has been hotter than Daniil Medvedev. In case you missed it, the Russian ripped through the end of 2020 sweeping the Paris Indoors and then the ATP Finals, and he resumed that momentum this past week going 4-0 at the ATP Cup. So he’s won his last 14. Also playing well is his friend and compatriot Andrey Rublev who also swept his Cup singles matches. What’s interesting is the two could meet in the quarterfinals. Rublev could get Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth while Medvedev is projected to face Filip Krajinovic and then either Borna Coric or David Goffin in the fourth. I think both Russians get through to a monster meeting. And I’m leaning to Rublev in a mild upset.
The Pick: Andrey Rublev

RAFAEL NADAL’S QUARTER
If Rafa’s back and health are 100%, he’ll make the semifinals. If he’s not OK, he’ll probably withdraw or retire at some point. He’s been practicing but I’m not sure how healthy he is. I guess no one really knows. So I can’t pick him here leaving about 3-4 guys to take his spot in the semifinals. Stefanos Tsitsipas has been there before. Matteo Berrettini made the US Open semifinals and then there is Dan Evans who just won today and the big Russian Karen Khachanov. The big match will be the fourth round battle between Tsitsipas and Berrettini and with some hesitation I’m taking the big Italian to get to the quarters and beat Evans. Tsitsipas is the more versatile player and beat Matteo two years ago in Melbourne, but I just haven’t seen any big results from Stef of late. And the lack of a full Greek crowd in Melbourne also hurts him.
The Pick: Matteo Berrettini

SEMIFINALS
Djokovic d Thiem: Djokovic does it again, stays perfect once he reaches the semifinals in Melbourne.
Berrettini d Rublev: Rublev comes up short in his first Slam semi against the big-serving Berrettini.

FINALS
Djokovic d Berrettini: Djokovic is back home and back in the win column, brushing poor finishes in the last two Slams.

I think if Medvedev beats Rublev in that quarter, he’ll get to the final and could trouble Djokovic there. He and maybe Thiem are the only two guys who could give Djokovic a run.

Even if Rafa is ok, I still don’t see him toppling Djokovic or winning here.

So to me the tournament is going to be won by Djokovic, Medvedev, Thiem or Zverev who I’ll also put in there. I think Rublev can get hot enough to do some damage, but he won’t sustain it. And I’ll be interested to see what Sinner can do against the slumping Shapovalov.

I know it’s Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S., but ESPN will have the Australian Open live from 7pm.


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13 Comments for Australian Open Men’s Preview: Djokovic, Nadal In Battle For History, Who’s The Pick?

Nits Says:

I will go with Medvedev looking at his form. He knows he can win a grand slam now. Thiem & Medvedev this year will take over this year decades of dominance of the Big four. Federer is out so expect them to reach last four every time in grand slams. Except Medvedev in French. Put Zverev in the mix too so you gonna have new GS champion this year.


Wog Boy Says:

If someone told me that I will ever going to watch Superbowl, I would tell him that he is crazy, it won’t happen…..and here I am in Melbourne pub (Crafty Squire) waiting for my pork belly meal with mash potatoes/veggies and watching Superbowl … and I have no clue what am I watching, but literally so, I can see the result is 9 : 31 for whoever;)


Van Persie Says:

Happy New Year to All! :)
Australian Open is ooon! Cool :D

“FINALS
Djokovic d Berrettini: Djokovic is back home and back in the win column, brushing poor finishes in the last two Slams.”

Sean, I do not know, what you are taking, but I want it too :)


skeezer Says:

WB,
FYI you were watching the GOAT of GOATS. But I know you have a problem with GOATS ;)


Wog Boy Says:

“..the GOAT of GOATs..”

I don’t remember seeing Michael Jordan playing yesterday, even I had few beers (best hand-crafted beer in Australia in Crafty Squire pub in Melbourne).

Only in America, the dude, whose name I don’t know like the most of the world outside America, is rated more than world recognised GOAT Michael Jordan.

If you stop anybody on the streets of Europe or Asia (even Australia which is heavily influenced by America) and ask “who is Novak Djokovic”, vast majority of the people will know, try with the other dude’s name?

FYI, by 2pm yesterday the pub I was in was almost empty and that game was still on!
The only reason people were in the pub was that it was lunch time for the people from surrounding offices, everyone was just glancing over the TV monitors without real interest while enjoying the meal and the best beer and don’t forget, Melbourne is sports capitol of this part of the world.
I am rugby man, the real people with no helmets and not padded bodies, body against body, flesh agains flesh, real sport, not a bunch of people who all look like a Captain America lookalikes.

Sorry to break it to you, American football is American and not world sport, though very colourful.
Correct me if I am wrong, it’s also used, like no other sport, to boost patriotic feelings with average Americans?


skewer Says:

No worries WB, FYI it has a way bigger global audience than Rugby lol.
American Football is in the top 10 of Global TV viewing audience. Go Google.
I gotta say, I did watch some Rugby live, and I thought American Football is brutal. No way, you guys win hands down for brutality there!

RE: Patriotic feelings? Probably MLB is the tops there in USA.

What is the name of the hand crafted Beer you like there?


Wog Boy Says:

“The Chancer -Golden Ale”

There is handcrafted American Pale Ale beer cold Hop Thief 10, I am now in the pub, it’s just around the corner from my hotel, when I finish this pint I’ll get that one and I’ll let you know if it is any good, it has to be, it is American;)


Wog Boy Says:

Here is the verdict:
“”Hop Thief 10” passed the test with flying colours, I guess because it’s actually Australian beer with only American name;)
I love the high content of alcohol too in this one.


skeezer Says:

“ Australian beer with only American name;)”
Ha, of course, why am I not surprised coming from you?
Thanks 👍🍻


Wog Boy Says:

Well, the beer is made by Australian company, in Australia by Australians, you can’t really call it American beer, though the name is pretty adequate, isn’t it;)

The company is called “James Squire”, makes only top shelf beer, I am pretty sure you already consulted Wiki about who is James Squire, the Londoner who arrived in Australia in 1788. on the first fleet as a convict later to establish the first brewery that is producing only top shelf beer, very interesting chap who had four wives, few mistresses, 11 kids and so on, have a look:

https://youtu.be/tCJ4okmROWg


Wog Boy Says:

VP,
Happy New Year to you too.

I wouldn’t mind Sean’s scenario either but it won’t happen, I also disagree that Nole is the favourite, particularly after watching Thiem, Medvedev and Tsitsipas last week and now, Rafa is yet to be tested.

I am just watching Tsitsipas live, looks really stronger than on the screen, full of power and strength, though this is a shadow of old Simon.


Van Persie Says:

WB,

Well, I would be very happy, if Sean was right 😉

Nole. deserves to be the fave: won it 8 times, is Nr. 1, but it does not necessarily means, he wins it again. Med, Thiem have a great chance too.


Wog Boy Says:

VP,
He certainly deserves to be favourite because of his record in Melbourne, he also played two really good and high quality matches last week, beating Shapovalov and Zverev, looking also stronger than last year, I am yet to be convinced that he overcame bad form from the tail end of the last year and they (media) are not giving him a brake either, they are doing everything possible to distract him.
His team failed big time to prepare him (mentally) for FO final, big time. Nadal team brought them (Nole and his team) exactly where they wanted them to be before the final, they proved to be too complacent and extremely naive.
I just don’t trust nor believe that Goran is up to the task to get him ready for the most important mach(es).
Of course, I will gladly admit I was wrong if they prove me wrong ;)

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