2017 Australian Open Open draw analysis

The Australian Open draw could have gone haywire based on where some of the best players in the world were seeded. Everyone knows to whom that statement refers. Rafael Nadal heads into Melbourne as the No. 9 seed, while Roger Federer is all the way down at 17th. In the end, though, the draw turned out to be just about as balanced as possible. Two of the “Big 4” are on each side of the bracket, with Federer and Andy Murray both in the top quarter. But even the one section that lacks a “Big 4” representative has plenty of intrigue in the form of Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and volatile Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.

Murray’s quarter

As the No. 17 seed, Federer’s placement in the bracket was always going to be the talk of the town. The 17-time Grand Slam champion avoided a potential third-round showdown against Nadal, but he will face Tomas Berdych in the last 32 if both players win their first two matches. That should end up happening in a section riddled with qualifiers, although Berdych may have somewhat of a tough test with either Nicolas Mahut or Ryan Harrison in the second round. Kei Nishikori, if he has recovered from a hip problem that plagued him in the Brisbane final, is a likely opponent for the Federer-Berdych winner in round four.

Murray is a five-time Australian Open runner-up and the new No. 1 player in the world, but he could fly under the radar during the first week as Federer and friends slug it out on the other side of this section. The top-seeded Scot has a favorable road in which he could run into Sam Querrey in round three and either John Isner or Lucas Pouille in the last 16.

Best first-round matchup – Nicolas Almagro vs. Jeremy Chardy

With four Grand Slam finalists in this section of the draw, including two who have combined for 20 major titles, things are going to get real interesting once the third round arrives. In the early stages, though, the pickings are relatively slim. Although Almagro and Chardy are by no means playing the best tennis of their careers these days, this could be a good one. The head-to-head series stands at an alarming 5-0 in favor of Almagro and he is 11-1 in total sets against the Frenchman, but those numbers are hard to explain. If Chardy serves well, he will make it competitive.

Best potential second-round matchup – (19) John Isner vs. Mischa Zverev
Best potential third-round matchup – (10) Tomas Berdych vs. (17) Roger Federer

Possible surprises – Well, Roger Federer is the freaking No. 17 seed at a Grand Slam. How much more surprising can it get? That being said, a couple of unseeded floaters could join Federer and Murray in the fourth round. The older Zverev brother—Mischa—gets overshadowed by the much younger Alexander, but he has been in stellar form since last summer and Isner—his likely second-round opponent—hates playing lefties. The only notable thing Pouille has done since last September is live stream a practice with Federer. On the other side of this section, Nishikori’s once-again questionable health status leaves the door open for Almagro, Chardy, or Andrey Kuznetsov.

Wawrinka’s quarter

Look at draw; see potential fourth-round affair between Wawrinka and Kyrgios; grab popcorn. Of course, it may not happen because the 21-year-old has underwhelmed at times at his home slam and he is heading into this fortnight with a knee injury. The good news for Kyrgios, though, is that his draw through three rounds is outstanding. Gastao Elias should be disposed of on a hard court, Andreas Seppi has disappeared, Paul-Henri Mathieu is on his last legs, and Pablo Cuevas is unimposing as Kyrgios’ nearest seed. As for Wawrinka, his only potential roadblock is Steve Johnson in round two.

Johnson is coming off a semifinal performance in Auckland, where he fell to fellow American and eventual champion Jack Sock. The world No. 23 is on a collision course for the fourth round with Marin Cilic, against whom he took six consecutive sets last summer (in a five-set Davis Cup win and a straight-set rout at the U.S. Open). Sock could, however, meet Karen Khachanov in the second round and Tsonga in the last 32. Cilic vs. Tomic is another possible third-round clash.

Best first-round matchup — (27) Bernard Tomic vs. Thomaz Bellucci

There is, of course, a chance this one could end in retirement. Tomic’s fitness is being called into question and Bellucci, who has an injury history of his own, lost his Sydney opener to Mahut in straight sets. But there is also a chance this could result in a five-set thriller in front of a raucous Australian crowd. Tomic won two five-setters on his way to the fourth round in 2012, and he also advanced that far in 2015 and 2016. Bellucci is an obvious underdog on paper and will have the fans against him, but he leads the head-to-head series 2-1.

Best potential second-round matchup – (4) Stan Wawrinka vs. Steve Johnson
Best potential third-round matchup – (12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (23) Jack Sock

Possible surprises — Wawrinka and Tsonga are traditionally outstanding Down Under, but neither one is anything close to unbeatable. This is a draw that sets up nicely for Sock. The only downside is that he has only one day of rest in between the Auckland final and the Aussie first round. But the American’s opener will come against doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert and a second-rounder against either Khachanov or Adrian Mannarino is manageable. Sock can ease into things before facing Tsonga and then possibly Cilic, against whom he is 2-0 dating back to last summer.

Raonic’s quarter

Like Federer, Nadal was at the mercy of the draw with a seed outside the top eight for the first time since the wooly mammoth era. It ended up not costing him too much, aside from a potential third-rounder against Alexander Zverev. Gael Monfils as his possible fourth-round foe and Milos Raonic as his nearest top-four seed has to be considered a win for Nadal at the draw ceremony. Still, an expected second-round date with either Marcos Baghdatis or Mikhail Youzhny (especially Baghdatis) will draw some interest and Zverev also looms large—quite literally.

Arguably the two best unseeded players on the other side of this section (Gilles Muller and Taylor Fritz) have to go head-to-head right off the bat and the winner will likely meet Raonic in round two. That means the unseeded contingent is unlikely to make much noise, thus leaving the spoils to Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut. No. 25 seed Gilles Simon, though, could have his hands full with up-and-coming American Jared Donaldson in the last 64.

Best first-round matchup — Gilles Muller vs. Taylor Fritz

Muller missed out on a seed by just two ranking sports at No. 34 in the world. The 91st-ranked Fritz is nowhere near being seeded at Grand Slams…yet. At just 19 years old, he already has 16 ATP-level match victories to his credit and a runner-up plate from last season’s tournament in Memphis. Muller currently finds himself in the Sydney title match, so the veteran Luxemborgian will have only two days off in between that match and this one. Fritz did not play either of the first two weeks, so it remains to be seen how he comes out of the gates in 2017.

Best potential second-round matchup – (21) David Ferrer vs. Daniil Medvedev
Best potential third-round matchup – (9) Rafael Nadal vs. (24) Alexander Zverev

Possible surprises — The Nadal-Zverev winner could go for a while, because Monfils’ section of the draw is an injury-plagued disaster. Having to face the 14-time major champion as early as round three is a nightmare for Zverev, but the road opens up significantly for the 19-year-old German if he upsets Nadal or if Nadal gets taken out earlier by Baghdatis or Youzhny. This could be the Grand Slam breakthrough for which Zverev has been waiting.

Djokovic’s quarter

Other than drawing Fernando Verdasco in the opening round, Djokovic could not have asked for a better setup to his Australian Open title defense. Murray, Federer, and Wawrinka are in the other half, Nadal is in a different quarter, the fourth section of the bracket is by far the weakest. Dominic Thiem, who is the Serb’s 5-8 seed, fared poorly in both Brisbane and Sydney to begin his season. David Goffin, another potential quarterfinal adversary, is 0-5 lifetime against the six-time Aussie champion. Pablo Carreno Busta, Djokovic’s nearest seed, does not have the firepower to be a real threat on a hard court.

The most interesting pod here features Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Gasquet. Dimitrov surged during the second half of 2016 and he is coming off a title in Brisbane. Gasquet has not done much recently, but he remains one of the most talented shot-makers in the game. The Bulgarian and Frenchman could collide in a blockbuster third-rounder, with the winner likely to face Djokovic.

Best first-round matchup — (2) Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco

This probably won’t turn out to be the best first-round math in terms of competitiveness, but it is the most intriguing matchup on paper. After all, Djokovic and Verdasco just faced each other in the Doha semifinals and the Spaniard had five match points—including quadruple set point in the second-set tiebreaker—only to fall 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3. Verdasco is also no stranger to first-round upsets Down Under, as he won a five-set thriller against Nadal right off the bat last year. Needless to say, though, Djokovic will be locked in from the very start of this tournament knowing the danger Verdasco presents.

Best potential second-round matchup – (8) Dominic Thiem vs. Joao Sousa
Best potential third-round matchup – (15) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (18) Richard Gasquet

Possible surprises — Djokovic should be able to take care of business in his half of this section, but who knows who he will face in the quarterfinals? A much-needed offseason does not seem to have done Thiem any good, and Goffin has excelled of late only at unofficial tournaments (Abu Dhabi and the Kooyong Classic). Any unseeded player in the Thiem-Goffin eighth has to like his chances of making a run. The most likely candidates are Sousa and—mainly because has a great draw—Benoit Paire.





56 Comments on 2017 Australian Open Open draw analysis

  1. Joker should be refocused and hungry this year. That is scary for the rest of the tennis world. I can’t believe there are so many picking Nadal. Would it be cool to see him get another, yes, but we haven’t seen him make a deep run in a long time.

    • How do you know Djoko should be hungry and refocused now?? At Doha, he almost lost to Verdasco, and with MPs vs Murray, couldn’t close the match and allowed Murray to force a final set. How’s that for being hungry and refocused?

      OTOH, Rafa did look very enthusiastic coming back to the tour after injury. I would say he’s more hungry and more focused than Djoko; although that doesn’t mean he would win the AO, AO being too soon a slam for him.

  2. We are not even playing the FO, its the AO now, much can happen between now and RG, cant we just wait and see without already writing off Rafa for the rest of the year JEEZ ….

    • I did not write off Rafa! I only said he will not be considered the favorite! He was not considered the favorite in the past years by many although he deserved to be most of the times..,please, do not misinterpret what I said!

    • Alison,

      I agree with you! Let’s see what happens with Rafa at the AO and then let him have the time to get himself going before RG! Way too early to be talking about that one!

  3. Ricky,

    Thanks for the draw analysis. It really helps to break it all down and also focus on some early round matches that should be worth watching.

    I don’t think Nando will give Novak all that much trouble. Novak will be ready for him this time and it’s a best of five set match and not a best of three. Now I see just how good Novak’s draw really is. He could not have gotten a better one.

    I also think Murray did well with his draw. People will be focusing on a possible meeting g with Murray and Fed.

    If Rafa gets past Zverev, then things might get interesting in his section of the draw. But I do still adopting a wait and see attitude. Rafa has not been able to get out of the early rounds of a slam. It remains to be seen how he will do in this first slam. I still think that getting to the fourth round or even the quarterfinals, would be a good result for him.

    • On the contrary I fell that it is Verdasco who will be ‘ready’ this time for Djokovic! He must be kicking himself for losing those match points in Qatar – and also took Murray to 5 sets at Wimbledon in 2013, so has the stamina to go the distance….
      Not saying he will beat Djoko, but I have a strong feeling it will be a draining match for Djokovic even if he wins, which will impact on the next matches….

    • C’mon Ricky. That was rather #Orange.

      Sharapova doubled down in support of her call out….

      Maria Sharapova ‏@MariaSharapova Jan 11
      Maria Sharapova Retweeted Sara Foster
      THIS X2👊🏻Maria Sharapova added,
      Sara Foster @saramfoster
      @Dimonator I think what you meant to say was “how inspiring that a former world #2 38 YO with 15 surgeries behind him is playing”..idiot
      28 replies 122 retweets 650 likes

  4. Rafa has a very tough draw. Zverev will be a big challenge early on. Rafa is hopeful but he is low on confidence. I think he can play at a good level and get some encouraging wins. Beating Zverev and Raonic to reach the semis will be excellent result. Not saying it is given that Zverev and Raonic will surely progress to meet rafa but those highly likely it is going to happen.

    I understand those who are saying Djo-Verdasco will be a routine match but I do think it can be a tricky match. I actually think Djokovic will have some trouble. If Verdasco is clicking, he has some good shot patterns against Djokovic.

    • Ot won’t be routine but it is rigged. Rigged draws are everywhere!

      And I’ve said it before, it’s cumulative time and energy spent on court in the heat of the day that can take it’s toll as the tournament progresses.

      Nole should win his quarter.

      Rafa gets No. 42 Mayer in the first round and then a likely meeting with Baggy in the 2nd who always plays his best. Rafa will take these if he’s not beating himself but that will take substantial energy for first two rounds. Also 34 deg and sunny predicted on Tues. won’t be good for Rafa given his latest struggles in heat. Hoping for a night match.

      Then any single match against potential successive opponents Zverev, Monfils and Raonic That’s a big ask with him just returning with unknown form. I would make Rafa favourite in any single match here but I would put today’s Rafa as an underdog against that field of three. In other words, unless the field opens up I don’t see Rafa making semis yet again. Hope I’m wrong.

      So I’m picking Raonic (if not Zverev) to win that quarter.

      While Murray is playing his best, he hasn’t beaten an in form Fed in a long time and will likely have to Face Isner Pox or Pouille before meeting him. Fed just might be peaking should they meet as he’s looked strong so far even though it’s early. Fed’s only challenge would be a gimpy Nishi assuming Nishi doesn’t pull out before then. That would be a great semifinal to watch and I’m leaning towards Fed.

      I’d also love to see CryBaby vs Nick “FDT” Kyrgios in the fourth round. Go Nick! That one should happen as both have pretty easy paths, Troicki being the toughest for CB before then. CB is a pedestrian 9-7 since winning the USO and just 3-6 vs Top 10 in the last year.

      I’d pick an in-form Fed over CB or Kyrgios (both idols of Fed).

      Preferred scheduling for Fed with mostly night matches and two days off before the final as predicted should catapult him to his first slam win in five years.

      SF
      Nole over Milos
      Fed over Murray
      F
      Fed over Nole

      #BEL18VE

      • Don’t agree with much of that. Nishikori won’t give Fed that much trouble as he’s not in form right now but Murray IS and will probably take Fed down in the quarters. I don’t think that Fed has the conditioning quite yet and has more chance at Wimbledon this year….

    • Agree! That match is potentially draining for Djoko, which may well do for him further down the line. Sometimes a long match early can put a player off-kilter.

    • VR,why do you say Rafa is low in confidence? While he’s not very confident, neither is he low in confidence. I think he relishes another go at Raonic, this time he’ll bring his best because it’s a slam. Zverev may be playing well but BO5 he may not have the patience and calm to see it through facing Rafa when it’ll go the distance if he’s to beat Rafa.

      As long as Rafa has his aggressive mindset going into his matches, he’ll be hard to beat. Raonic needed to go the distance in order to beat a defensive Rafa, how about playing against an aggressive Rafa?

      • I don’t think he’s confident because he hits too short too often on shots that he can and should do more with as he has traditionally done when he’s more confident.

        He can’t play more aggressively effectively without excessive errors unless he’s confident.

        Rafa has said this himself many times.

        • “Confident” = knowing that the shot is going to go where he aims it. I expect him to be much more confident in his baseline shots now than he has been in the last few years. His serve, however… who knows? That seems to come and go.

        • I doubt he’s not confident at the moment seeing how he played at Abu Dhabi and Brisbane. The only bad match he played was against Raonic at Brisbane and still that had gone the distance. He was playing well in the first set and had he continued playing that way, it’s likely that he would win. He went back to his defensive way and lost, I feel he was a bit tired after all the travelling and lack of match plays for so long.

          Rafa didn’t have much luck with the AO, many times coming back from injuries and not yet match fit – missed AO in 2013, came back from injuries in 2015 and now. He also got injured during AO2010 and 2011. It’s only in 2009 that he was good enough to win after injury break late in 2008 where he missed YEC and D.C. Final. Perhaps at that time he was at his physical peak and was playing top level tennis from 2008 clay season right up to MC 2009.

        • I’d say his confidence is middling at the moment. Not fully there, but a lot better than we’ve seen it at its lowest ebb. For the most part, he played well in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, but he’s still an unknown factor. But then, so is Federer, as at least Rafa has played some non exo matches this year.
          Interestingly, Rafa’s mentioned more than once that after Miami is when he’ll fully assess his level for the first time. This shows how focussed he and his team are on the clay season this year, more than ever before I’d say.

  5. I Picked Berdych to knock Federer out, hes done it twice at GS, both W and USO, TB seems to relish playing Federer and is not intimidated by him, its just a gut feeling for me, so i dont think he will get as far as Murray, still JMO ….

  6. I Picked Berdych to knock Federer out, hes done it twice at GS, both W and USO, TB seems to relish playing Federer and is not intimidated by him, its just a gut feeling for me, so i dont think he will get as far as Murray, still JMO ….

    BTW Dont know what happened there please feel free to delete the above comment, mus have hit the F by mistake sorry hmm ….

    • I am not sure that Fed will get to the quarterfinals. It’s always tricky to look too far ahead. It is true that Berdy has not looked as good recently. It’s been some years since he beat Fed.

      This is also not the same Murray now. I think this is a Murray who will play much better against a Fed coming back from a long layoff. Murray is now the #1 player and has another Wimbledon title and a great finish to 2016. I think he’s more confident and mentally tougher. I think the dynamic will be different this time should they meet in the quarterfinals.

      • Indeed. People are being far too confident of Fed’s chances. He hasn’t played a competitive match since Wimbledon, so I’d say an upset isn’t *that* unlikely. I mean, if Seppi could do it in the third round two years ago….

  7. Tricky to decide Federer or Berdych .Neither at their best but Berdych has more match practise.
    Sock v Tsonga is another.Im edging towards the Frenchman in 5.

    • Jack Sock appears to have lost weight and improved his fitness…perhaps endurance playing Bo5. But his draw is harder than Tsonga’s (maybe). That’s another hard section.

      I’m okay with picking Berdych over Federer in 2017, Bo5.

      • I went with Tsonga over Sock. I believe that I did pick Fed over Berdy. I was going back and forth on that one right until the last minute.

  8. I missed this bracket,but am in the main Tourneytopia one.
    Glad that Fed is doing well,I picked him over Berdy .

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