Week 1 at the 2017 Australian Open is in the books, and what a week it’s been. World #1 Novak Djokovic fell to a stunning five set defeat in round 2 at the hands of qualifying wild card Denis Istomin, who started the tournament ranked outside of the top 100. That opens up the bottom half of the draw, and makes it more likely that we’ll have a new Grand Slam champion, and perhaps finalist as well. Here is your look ahead to week 2, with predictions for what’s to come.
Round of 16 matches
(1)Andy Murray vs. Mischa Zverev
Murray hasn’t dropped a set through three matches. Illya Marchenko and Sam Querrey both gave it a good effort, while teenager Andrey Rublev didn’t play quite as well, but regardless, the world #1 is the favorite to take his first ever Aussie Open title.
Zverev continues a late career breakthrough, he stunned John Isner 9-7 in a 5th set in round 2, and also earned wins over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Malek Jaziri. Zverev’s serve and volleying has been difficult to stop thus far, but Murray is a tremendous returner, and is a clear favorite in this match with a 3-0 h2h.
(17)Roger Federer vs. (5)Kei Nishikori
Federer has beaten Nishikori the past three times they met, and hasn’t dropped a set outside of his round 1 victory against Jurgen Melzer. Noah Rubin and Tomas Berdych were both dominated by the Swiss maestro, who is fit, and highly motivated at age 35.
Nishikori struggled with his serve, needing five sets to put away Andrey Kuznetsov in round 1, but has looked much better in matches against Jeremy Chardy and Lukas Lacko that were both completed in straights. Nishikori has the game to trouble Federer, but the Swiss veteran is a clear favorite, his aggressive ball striking should be superior in this one.
(4)Stan Wawrinka vs. Andreas Seppi
Wawrinka has won the last three meetings against Seppi, and although he’s had a shaky start, dropping sets in two of his three matches, he’s still a dangerous player left in the draw. Stan the man needed five sets against big hitter Martin Klizan, beat Steve Johnson in straights, and then narrowly avoided five sets against Viktor Troicki, winning a fourth set tiebreak. Seppi should be a bit exhausted as he dropped sets against both Paul-Henri Mathieu and Steve Darcis. In round 2, Seppi stunned Nick Kyrgios 10-8 in the 5ht set, coming back from two sets down to defeat the home favorite. Seppi’s steady play contrasted with Kyrgios roller coaster form, and eventually frustrated the young gun into defeat.
Seppi’s steadiness will likely trouble Wawrinka as well, but Wawrinka should tighten his game up and hit enough winners to prevail.
(12)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Dan Evans
The former AO finalist Tsonga got a huge win over Jack Sock in four sets in his last match, and he’s also defeated Thiago Monteiro and Dusan Lajovic to reach the second week. The in-form Evans is playing the best tennis of his career. The new top 50 player has won seven of his last eight matches, behind a powerful and versatile one-handed backhand. Evans upset Bernard Tomic, and also Marin Cilic in four sets, in consecutive matches, he also beat Facundo Bagnis in round 1.
Tsonga is a good attacking player, but Evans motivation has been something to watch recently. I’m going with an upset, and have Evans reaching a first ever slam quarterfinal.
(6)Gael Monfils vs. (9)Rafael Nadal
Nadal leads the h2h 12-2. Having lost weight, Rafa is playing better on hard courts than he has in recent years, and he looks fit, and newly aggressive on his groundstrokes, taking the ball earlier in rallies. The Spaniard needed five sets to defeat a powerful Alexander Zverev in round 3, as he outlasted the young gun with strong defensive play. Rafa also had easy wins against Florian Mayer, and Marcos Baghdatis in round 1 and 2.
Monfils has wins against Jiri Vesely, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Philipp Kohlschreiber, dropping just a set to Dolgopolov. The Frenchman is playing quite well right now, but I don’t think he’s good matchup for Nadal, given Nadal’s top spin tends to push him back and away from the baseline.
(13)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (3)Milos Raonic
Milos Raonic is suffering from flu, but leads the h2h 4-0 against RBA and is playing well, with his serve, volleys, and groundstrokes all clicking. Raonic defeated Dustin Brown, Gilles Muller, and Gilles Simon through three rounds, dropping just a set to Simon.
RBA dropped a set to David Ferrer, but he’s in a great form, having posted routine wins against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka. RBA is 7-0 to start the season, but unless his return game improves considerably, Raonic has to be the favorite.
(8)Dominic Thiem vs. (11)David Goffin
Thiem has won three of his last four matches against Goffin and the young Austrian continues to cement himself as a top 10 player. Wins against J.L. Struff, Jordan Thompson, and Benoit Paire allowed him to reach the second week, even though he dropped sets in all three matches.
Goffin is also a picture of steady tennis, after slipping past Reilly Opelka in five sets in round 1, he had no trouble with Radek Stepanek, and Ivo Karlovic, winning those matches in straight sets. The qualifier Opelka’s versatile game bothered Goffin, and Thiem isn’t the easiest opponent. That said, Thiem was having problems on serve in his last match, and seems to still be suffering from shoulder problems. Goffin is a clear favorite.
(15)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (WC)Denis Istomin
Outside of a bad set against Hyeon Chung in round 2, Grigor Dimitrov has been playing great, posting eight straight wins, including routine victories over Chris O’Connell and Richard Gasquet. Most people expected Gasquet to put up a better showing, but Dimitrov simply dismantled him, playing especially well on return games.
The draw has opened up, thanks to Denis Istomin. Istomin was nearly defeated in a pre-qualifier to gain a wild card to the AO, but instead he played the match of his life, handing Novak Djokovic his worst defeat since 2008 with a confident five set victory. Djokovic started the match slow, and never was able to gather momentum, Istomin’s great ball striking and confident serving allowed him to overcome leg cramps to win two tiebreaks, and the fifth set. Djokovic was especially poor on return and spewed errors. Istomin’s first victim was Ivan Dodig in round 1, and Pablo Carreno Busta lost to Istomin in round 3, falling in five sets, after taking the 4th set.
Istomin has proven that he may be set for a return to being an ATP regular, but Dimitrov is the more consistent and higher ranked player. Istomin’s run should end in the round of 16.
Predictions for the remaining rounds
Murray d. Federer in 4
Wawrinka d. Evans in 3
Raonic d. Nadal in 5
Dimitrov d. Goffin in 4
Murray will have a difficult match against Federer, but the fresher, younger, and better player at this point in their careers should prevail. Wawrinka’s backhand is better than Evans, and his experience should win out. Raonic and Nadal is a tough match to call, but on hard courts I’ll still go with Raonic. Dimitrov should have more upside than Goffin given his recent form.
Murray d. Wawrinka in 4
Raonic d. Dimitrov in 5
Murray and Raonic should be clear favorites to reach the final, Dimitrov is a wild card to reach his first ever slam final though, depending on Raonic’s health.
Murray d. Raonic in 4
Raonic’s serve is a great weapon, but Murray’s elite return game neutralizes that. The World #1 should win his first ever Australian Open title, defeating Raonic just like he did in the Wimbledon final.