The 2018 Australian Open: Who Will Prevail in Melbourne?

Tennis fans, gear yourself up for another epic year of Grand Slam action–starting with the eagerly anticipated Australian Open in Melbourne during the middle and latter stages of January. Roger Federer was crowned men’s champion in 2017 after defeating familiar foe Rafael Nadal in five sets, and the Swiss star–now a winner of a record 19 major titles–will be in the mix to go on and lift the famous trophy next month.

Men’s tennis is now more competitive than it has ever been and there are a handful of elite names who could challenge for glory in the first Grand Slam event of the calendar year. The likes of Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic will all be desperate to stop Federer in his latest bid to secure a 20th Grand Slam crown. Meanwhile, new kid on the block Alexander Zverev will be quietly confident of displacing his older and more experienced rivals.

Federer is still the one to beat

Currently ranked No. 2 in the world, Federer continues to turn back the clock. At 36 years old and arguably the greatest male tennis player of all-time, he should be in his twilight years of his career. But Federer has shown time and time again that he is more than capable of holding his own against his younger opponents.

As of right now, Federer has won a staggering 19 Grand Slam titles and No. 20 may be just around the corner. Capturing another Australian Open title won’t be easy despite his incredible winning percentage in Melbourne. Federer has won 87 percent of his Grand Slam matches at this event and that ratio could rise even further if he finds his best form ahead of the 2018 competition.

Zverev destined for Grand Slam success in the future

Zverev is almost certainly a future Grand Slam champion. The German is playing at a level well above his age and experience. He may be just 20 years old, but the world No. 4 is on the road to greatness–and he knows it. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a true tennis prodigy in action. If this is his tear to shine, though, Zverev will have to fare better in majors–including at the Australian Open (lost in the third round in 2017).

One interesting statistic of note is that Zverev has an excellent record against Federer. On grass Federer has been the better player, but Zverev got the best of Federer on the hard courts of Montreal this past summer. Yes, he is young and still very raw but he can take his own game to the next level in 2018 with a surge to the latter stages of the Australian Open.

Don’t discount Djokovic despite disappointing 2017

Last season quickly turned into something to forget for Djokovic. He failed to overcome a series of niggling injury issues and was eventually ruled out for the final few months of the season. Now, he is back and ready to challenge for the biggest prizes on offer. Can he get back to his brilliant best? Only time will tell….

The Serb was ranked No. 1 in the world for well over a year, but Djokovic’s struggles in 2017 were well-documented and he has now slipped down to 12th in the official ATP rankings. Despite his fall from grace, Djokovic is valued at 4/1 to win the Australian Open with most bookmakers available via Oddshecker. Punters may want to scour the promotions and offers before betting on the inconsistent 30-year-old.

Grigor Dimitrov has been solid in recent months

At 26 years old, Dimitrov is approaching his prime and he will be tough to stop on what is arguably his best surface. Having reached the semifinals of this event in 2017, the Bulgarian may be able to go two steps farther in 2018 as he looks to prove his worth as one of tennis’ modern greats. Do not write him off just yet; he is well worth considering for Grand Slam glory.

Nadal: the one to oust Federer?

The “King of Clay” is about so much more than Roland Garros. Personality wise, Nadal is able to match Federer stride for stride and he is one of tennis’ most likable characters. His own record at the Australian Open isn’t outstanding, but he did push to the brink of defeat in 2017 and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see this one go in his favor.

Now considered the best player on the planet in the official rankings, Nadal can cement his status alongside Federer as the top two men to have ever graced the sport. With Federer favored and Nadal a general 3/1 shot to go on and win Down Under, there isn’t much between the two all-time greats. Most bookmakers are struggling to split these two legends of the game.

Australian Open Prediction

It may see a little clichéd to look at Federer and Nadal, but nobody else really stands out too much at this moment in time. Although Zverev is a future champion and possesses the skill-set to succeed, backing the youngster so soon may be foolish. Neutrals want another titanic clash between two of the greatest players ever to have lived and we could be set for another installment in the classic Federer-Nadal rivalry.

100 Comments on The 2018 Australian Open: Who Will Prevail in Melbourne?

  1. I’ve got Fed then next in line is Rafa Novak Dimitrov and dark horse for me is Goffin or Stan. I still don’t trust Zverev in slams yet. We’ll see if he changes my mind bout that.

    • ZV is not ready to take down Fed in BO5.

      As far as THE GOAT is concerned, depends on his knees whether he makes it past the quarters or not. I have my doubts which is why I’ve picked Fed for the second year running. Courts will be kept historically slick again to give him best chances to hit 20 (not to mention below averaged ranked players for the first couple of rounds and evening matches a la 2017). Last year Fed played the No. 300 and 200 ranked players in first two rounds, compared to Nos 36/49 for Rafa, 40/117 for Nole, 30/34 for Wawrinka and 95/152 for Murray.

      All completely random of course.

      • Agree with you Hawkeye. Zverev’s yet to prove himself at Slams,didn’t reach a QF until now,let alone beating an ATG in best of five.
        He has the mental strength,for sure,but there’s a big room for him to improve in the physical department and on his second serve,I don’t find it that great.
        If the surface gets back to 2015 speed,I consider that it could be wide open and many players could step up to the plate,causing big upsets. If it’s similar to last year conditions,then Fed will be in the pole position to win it all. It would be interesting to see a Dimitrov-Fed match there,to see if Dimi finally has what it takes to turn the tables on Fed or if he folds again. I don’t really want to think about the draws being rigged,that will be a real shame for the sport.

  2. Ive no clue who will win. Federer’s game best suited to the fast conditions, but to win back to back titles at his age seems almost impossible even for him.

  3. Ricky, “Now considered the best player on the planet in the official rankings, Nadal ………….”

    Isn’t there only one ranking? Where is the unofficial ranking on which someone other than Nadal is the current #1?

    • nadline10 AT 3:32 PM,

      Rafa is World #1 in the REAL tennis world, but Fedfans have their own alternate universe…

      • World #1 means best player in the ATP over the past year. Doesn’t really say who’s best at the moment, or who will win AO. Gotta play the matches to find that out.

        We do know a few things. 1) Rafa’s knees aren’t the best in the world. 2) Roger’s back is not the bitw 3) Andy’s hip is not… 4) Djoker’s elbow is not…5) Raonic seems rather rusty and that’s being kind.

  4. In my opinion, it’s wide open. There are many variables and until I see Rafa play I have no idea how his knee is holding up. If Djoker wasn’t fit to play AD and Doha how on earth could he be a likely winner of the AO?

    As for the certainty that Sasha is definitely a future slam champion – based on what? There are quite a lot of great players in his age group so nothing should be taken for granted. Sasha did well last year but he has to make SFs and finals consistently to be taken seriously as a future slam champion and #1.

    • None of the young guns are ready imo. They’re too one dimensional; watched Khachanov vs Fed in Hopman Cup; he just hit as hard as possible, stayed at the baseline almost all the time, didn’t know how to approach the net well, etc.

      Rublev is another hard hitter; A. Zverev not much better at the net even though he plays doubles with his brother. Shapo has more weapons and varieties but he goes for broke almost all the time. Chung too is another hard hitting counter punching baseliner. It’s only Kyrgios whom, if he puts his heart into it, could be the only one from the young generation, who has the skill set and talent to go deep at the slams. Sadly, he’s either injured or too immatured to put in his 100% efforts at the slams.

  5. Russell Fuller (BBC’s tennis correspondent):

    Kei Nishikori confirms his wrist is still not strong enough and pulls out of the Australian Open;

  6. Yes he won’t come back until March. Rafa’s knee was fine for Abu Dhabi and Brisbane. It was the lack of preperation he had. He’s now has two whole much months off so that’s plenty time.

    • Yeah, I think Rafa is fine; he just needs some quick match competition to get his competitive juices flowing. After nine weeks of rest and recovery, I do believe his knee should be fine for two weeks competition, after which he can always take Feb off.

      If he’s playing Miami this season, I really hope he wins it, so that he can start skipping it come next season, and so will build in four weeks rest (after IW) before starting his clay season.

  7. Stuart Fraser (Tennis writer for The Times) 50 minutes ago:

    “BREAKING: Andy Murray has withdrawn from the Australian Open. He departed Brisbane on a flight just after noon local time and is heading back to the UK via Melbourne.”

    • I think, Andy will continue trying to come back because he is tenacious – but I now doubt that he will succeed reaching earlier lofty heights 🙁 Bad hips are nasty and have ended many careers prematurely. As I said earlier, Guga Kürten was only a shadow of his earlier self after hip surgery and eventually retired. Andy is older than Guga was then…

      • According to British media (as cited by Tignor on Tennis.com) Andy has a torn labrum, which is a ring of cartilage. Kuerten and Hewitt had the same problem. The surgery would be arthroscopic so minimally invasive and hopefully techniques have improved in the past years. Still, I think Andy’s chance of returning to the top is pretty low.

  8. Never been overly fond of the AO, my least favorite GS, never been a happy hunting ground for my favorites anyway urgh, advantage Federer, thank goodness for football ….

  9. I watched Fed vs Khachanov and vs Sock. Fed wasn’t really great and that’s why he was pushed by both these guys but Fed still managed to win in straight sets.

    I was thinking, had the Rafa of 2014 or Djoko of 2015/2016 met this Fed, I was sure they would beat this Fed relatively easily. Such a shame, both had their injuries and no one of note to challenge this Fed.

    I hope Delpo at least could be healthy and fit, and well rested to be ready for the AO and challenges Fed all the way, if others are not up to par.

    • Great players raise their level against other greats. You don’t know that Fed plays at the same level if he plays Nadal or Djokovic.

      • Gotta agree with you Benny,Federer played well in his three matches,was a bit rusty in the first match against Sugita but that’s normal after the layoff.
        He really didn’t need to raise his game that much to win convincingly,despite he needed tiebreakers,he was really clutch on the big points. If his back doesn’t act up,he will go far in Melbourne again.

        • Isn’t that a given, that Fed would go far at the AO? He had reached at least the SF (bar once in 2015) since 2004! In fact the AO is/was his second best performing slam, after Wimbledon.

      • Ha, Fed had played both of them and lost, don’t you remember?

        Fed wasn’t impressive that’s all I’m saying; Djoko is injured, obviously he’s not up to par, so if Fed meets him, obviously it’s advantage Fed. Do remember 2015 and 2016 though, when Djoko wasn’t injured, and he’s 3-0 vs Fed at the slams!

        • IMO,if we place the best 2017 version of Fed against 2015 Djokovic at the AO,Djoko would be the overwhelming favourite. Against 2016 Djoko and 2014 Rafa would be a close call,the improvements on his backhand would give him a good shot.
          The question is:Would Federer have the consistency to be able to take them down in a best of five match? If he was oscillating during that matches like he did in 2017 AO,he would lose to both versions of Nadalovic.

        • Well,maybe not.I think Benny meant players only play as well as they have to? All part of Feds energy saving and injury avoiding .
          He can certainly bring out his A game for important matches

  10. Nadal will win. He’s already pracidtising on the court. Apparently it’s gone back to being slower. Goffin is playing well so he might go far

    • Do you have any source of what you’re stating? That goes exactly against the tournament director,Craig Tyler,who said that the surface speed will be identical to last year and the medium fast conditions will remain this year.

      • Yes, Oliver, how did you come by this information of a slowed down court speed? I highly doubt it. Why would they slow it down again? It would displeasea certain No 2 and title defender mightlily, lol! but seriously, I always believed that the higher court speed of last year’s AO wasn’t mainly implemented in order to accomodate Fed. At the time nobody guessed that he would stage the perfect comeback. But the Aussies might’ve grown tired of Djoko lifting the trophy a bit, who thrived at the slower conditions. The Aussies also have now a home grown talent called Kyrgios. Although he’s a bit erratic and mentally unstable at times. But his game profits immensely from a higher court speed. I believe the Aussies wanted to create perfect conditions for him, although it certainly did help that Fed liked it, too. So, why on earth should they slow down the court conditions again this year? Last year worked just fine for them, even without Kyrgios going deep.

        • While I personally like the game better on slower courts, it’s fair to point out that the US Open courts have been slowed down last year. This – plus great form and an extremely benign draw – certainly helped Rafa to win a third US Open title. in 2017 we had a medium fast and a medium slow hardcourt slam. Seems fair to me…Fed won the two slams on fast courts and Rafa took the other two.
          This is interesting, though: until 2017 the conditions at the AO have been significantly slower than at the US Open for quite a while. While many tennis fans expected Rafa to win eventually more than one AO title, many doubted – until 2010 – that Rafa could win even one US Open trophy. It’s funny that he has three now, while the AO seem to elude him time and again. I’m very interested to see how Rafa will fare this year on hardcourt,should he manage to stay healthy. Despite all the losses against Fed, with four finals and two titles Rafa had a stellar hardcourt season last year. During his career only 2013 was significantly better on hardcourt (one slam and three masters trophies).

  11. Sounded like Fed needs all the help for him to win at the slams – AO quickens the surface plus favorable schedule; Wimbledon places him at CC always, regardless of his ranking and he not being the defending champion. Did USO do anything to help Fed?

    Rafa needs no such help (I’m glad) but still he’s able to win the FO and USO. I just hope for a favorable draw for him at AO and maybe Wimbledon too.

    • As I said: it’s only fair to point out that 2017 Rafa profitted from the slowed down conditions at the US Open. Certainly no favoritism there for Fed as far as the court conditions are concerned

      • Nope, they didn’t slow down the USO surface last year; it’s being slowed down for a few years already; but, building the roof over AA arena had made it less windy and so the conditions was a little quicker than when it’s without roof.

        • That’s not what I heard. General consensus last year was that the court played significantly slower than in previous years.

          • If it’s slower than previous years, then how did big servers and hard hitters prosper on them last year – Querrey, Anderson, Shapo, Rublev?

            • I heard they were slower than in the past as well. And the draw was pretty messed up from Murray’s withdrawal which allowed guys like Querrey and Anderson to play well. Also Carreno Busta made the semis and he’s a slow court player. And Thiem was playing super well on them but mentally lost it against Del Po. And we all know he doesn’t thrive on faster surfaces.

            • My bad I should have said it allowed guys like Querrey and Anderson to go far. They could’ve still played well and lost early if the draw was more stacked lol

            • Benny G, yes, the draw was pretty messed up indeed, which opened up the path for Anderson et al, and you point out correctly that Thiem doing well at the USO 2017 might’ve been aided by a slower court. Also, Rafa won against Anderson cleverly from way back behind the baseline, as Tignor pointed out in his article after the final. He couldn’t have done that on a faster court. IMO, as Uncle Tony has pointed out as well, about everything fell into place for Rafa at the USO – which is fine, because many times a lot of things conspired against him at other slams. He had earned a lucky break, lol! And he was good enough to grab the great opportunity firmly by the neck! He then also backed up his USO title in Beijing and Shanghai, where he had a great semi against Dimi before he fell with a messed up knee against Fed.
              But again: his AO 2017 run to the final where he beat supreme hardcourt players along the way and almost won against Fed on a super fast court, is the greater achievement IMO. I also admired that this tough loss at another AO final (and the following losses against Fed at IW and Miami) didn’t crush him mentally, and that he was still able to put together a stellar season with two slam trophies and the year end pole position.
              There have been extensive discussions who really had the better season – Rafa or Fed. Maybe, Fed could’ve reached the top ranking if he hadn’t skipped the clay season completely – who knows? But Fed’s wins were all well within his personal comfort zone on grass and fast hardcourts while Rafa also managed to do well on courts where he has been traditionally less successful.
              I still have no idea at all how the 2018 season will unfold. But I have a hunch that it won’t be a repeat of 2017 – although Rafa might again dominate the clay season if he stays healthy. I wonder how the absense of Toni and Moya’s role as sole coach will play out.

          • Little foot, you talked as if Rafa was so useless at the USO, that he needed all those aids! Come on, he had won the USO twice, beating none other than Djoko, the best HC player in the last few years, in the final.

            Rafa was able to handle Anderson all along, regardless of the surface, so I doubt that Anderson would beat Rafa even if the court at USO was as quick as that of AO! Rafa had beaten AZverev, Dimi, Raonic and Monfils at the AO quick surface, and lost narrowly to Fed, the best HC player in 2017; you think he couldn’t handle his draw at the USO should the surface there be quicker? I think he would beat Delpo too on a quick HC, because Rafa was playing at a better level at USO than AO whilst I doubt Delpo was as good as Dimi (of AO).

            In fact Rafa was playing at a high level that I feel even if it’s Djoko, Murray or Fed that he had to face there at the USO, he would also have beaten them. He needed no lucky break btw, perhaps just had to work a bit harder against fellow big four.

            Strange that you’re thinking that losing the final at AO was greater achievement than winning the USO ( belittling his USO title win IOWs). You seem not to have faith in Rafa on the quicker courts, that reaching the final was in itself an achievement!

          • If Fed were to play the clay season, his grass season would suffer. He knew that and that’s why he chose to skip the clay season.

            Rafa was still ahead of Fed in the points should we take in only 12 of his events played (Fed played 12 events in 2017). Rafa won two slams plus reached another final, so he had 5200 points vs Fed’s 4360. Rafa won two masters and reached final of another two, so he had 3200 points vs Fed’s 3600. He won two 500 events and reached final of another, so he had 1300 points, vs Fed’s 1045 ( won Halle, Basel, reached R2 of Dubai). Rafa had zero point at WTF and 45 from one 250 event (Brisbane) whilst Fed had 600 from WTF and zero from Stuttgart. So, Rafa had 9745 points from 12 events vs Fed’s 9605 points; Rafa was still ahead of Fed!

            Rafa had played more events and hence won more points but he was good enough to play a full schedule and lasted a full season. Why would that work against him when he had won real ranking points, compared to some imaginary points that some think Fed would have won had he played on clay (without even thinking of jeopardizing his chances on grass)?

            They both had won 2 slams each; even though Fed had won one more Masters than Rafa, Rafa was doing better at the slams in that he reached a final in the third slam whilst Fed only managed a QF. Had Fed won the WTF, then perhaps he might be considered having a better season than Rafa’s, he did not and so Rafa imo, should have a better season as he had won two slams, more ranking points, more prize money and finished the season as no.1.

    • So, in Wimbledon , if you play on Center Court , does it increase your chances ? Then by that logic , Murray should also win a lot in Wimby.

      • Yes, if it’s rainy weather and there’re delays in the outside courts.

        Last year, Fed got the CC whilst Djoko Court 1, and Djoko was delayed by Rafa’s long match, that he had to play on the following day. Djoko despite seeded above Fed, had to give way to Fed. While Djoko with his physical problems might not win despite playing at CC, who knows if they switched place and Fed got delayed by Rafa and had to play on the following day instead, how that would affect Fed’s performance in the next match (QF I believe)?

        As for Murray, he reached three SFs and three finals, losing mainly to Rafa (thrice) and Fed (twice) and won twice. With the roof installed, he certainly won’t be one affected by the weather. He lost mainly to Fedal at Wimbledon (2014 he’s still finding his way back after his back surgery; in 2017 he had hip issues, both times he lost in the QF, to Dimi and Querrey respectively). I don’t think he’s that bad at Wimbledon.

        • Murray is worse on grass than Djoker. 2016 Wimby was a lottery for him.

          If anybody had to get CC out of these two , it has to be Djoker who even had upper hand against anyone including Fed during 2014-2017.

            • I think Djoker once suffered due to Murray as well . He was the top seed and his match with Anderson was pushed. It was a five-setter. Djoker actually won that wimbledon.

              But yes, agreed , scheduling needs to be fair. I found USO to be fairest of them all.

  12. If the Aussies are sick of Djoko winning the AO almost always, then they should be glad that Djoko didn’t and won’t win the AO for two consecutive years, as I doubt Djoko is going to win the AO this year.

    • I also highly doubt that Djoko will lift the trophy this year. Fed and some young guns are clearly the favorites. Rafa’s chances are hard to assess right now. We need to see the draw and his first matches. But he certainly proved last year that he is again a force on hardcourt – if he’s healthy.

      • Don’t know where you get the info that they slowed down the USO surface last year! It’s already slowed down long ago, since Rafa won it in 2010 ( it’s always the case, that they slowed down the grass and HC surface each time when Rafa was able to win on them. You seemed to believe that hence your comment about the 2017 USO surface!). If anything the court there at AA plays a bit quicker once they have built the roof, as the roof structure blocks out the wind making it less windy thus speeding up the ball travel.

        • The roof definitely plays a part and Roger sure likes it closed. But since you can’t plan the weather in advance the roof doesn’t determinate the court speed reliably.
          As to last year’s US Open: it was one of the dominating themes how slow the courts played last year. As to all the big hitters being in the 2017 semis: big hitters always have a good chance to make a deep run on hardcourt, especially if a lot of the top players like Djoko, Murray and Wawrinka who all thrive on slow hardcourt, are AWOL.
          You’re right, though: the US Open have started to play slower from at least 2010 onwards. But they still used to play faster than the AO. That definitely changed last year.
          The way I see it, the status quo right now is fair even if I personally don’t like the new AO speed. And we saw last year that Rafa made it to the finals no matter what – and almost won. And his array of opponents (Zwerev, Raonic, Dimi and Fed) was nothing less than formidable. IMO his AO performance last year was more impressive than his US Open title,especially since the court speed wasn’t in his comfort zone.

          • Well, at the AO it was a fresh start; both Fed and Rafa did struggle through the draw. Rafa did struggle in the early rounds of USO but thereafter he was brilliant, esp in the SF and final.

            I was more confident with Rafa at the USO than at the AO because he had better results at the USO all along. It’s not a matter of slow court or fast court, in fact Rafa said he didn’t like slow court, he like it medium quick; it’s a matter of the bounce of the ball.

            Rafa always played grinding tennis at the AO, but he rarely grind at the USO (perhaps 2015/2016 being the exceptions), which might explain why Rafa had better results at the USO (other than 2015/2016, Rafa rarely went five sets at the USO).

  13. The draw was messed up but that’s just Murray who withdrew. Even if Fed and Rafa were on opposite side of the draw, Querrey or Anderson was still able to make it to at least the QF or SF!

    Thiem wasn’t playing well, it was Delpo who played bad for the first two sets (he had a fever) but managed to turn things around.

    The roof structure, whether the roof was closed or not, did block out the wind, thus making the conditions less windy and so it affected the ball speed.

    • You’re right that the newly installed roof at the USO does indeed block out the wind and therefore affects the court speed no matter whether it’s open or closed. But that doesn’t change the consensus that for some reason the courts – especially the cc – played significantly slower in 2017 than in previous years. While Rafa had to find his stride in his first two matches he then played indeed great for the rest of the tournament, better than everybody else. But he also profitted from the court speed, which allowed him to play his kind of game, and the less than formidable assortment of his opponents. It would be disingenious not to acknowledge that. Btw, would Rafa have won against Fed if Roger had won his qf against Delpo – as he should’ve? Yes, I think Rafa would’ve probably won because the court speed and general momentum was on his side and Fed hadn’t been in his earlier stellar form for a while – maybe because of his back problems. And Fed knew it. That’s probably the main reason why he lost to Delpo – although he never should’ve lost that match! Even many fedfans acknowledged that this loss may have been a blessing in disguise, lol! But of course we will never know for sure now.

  14. Amazing that it’s 2018 and every slam not played on clay is on Federer’s racquet. But it’s true until Novak or some youngster shows otherwise, and I don’t think either is ready to do that yet. IF Roger’s back holds up he will win GS #20.

    Much as I would like that to happen, I don’t think it will. I also don’t think Nadal will go far in this tournament, and I think that we’ll have a new GS champ.

    Admittedly, I thought the same thing at last year’s AO, but I now think my prediction was just a year early.

    • But why is/was the USO on Fed’s racket? He hadn’t won since 2008 and managed only two finals since – 2009, 2015. He lost to Delpo (twice), Cilic, Djoko (thrice), Berdych, Robredo from 2009 to 2015, quite a long list.

      To me Rafa at least has as fair a chance as Fed at the USO, if not better. He made four finals (winning three losing one to Djoko), during 2009-2017 ( DNP in 2012, 2014) and besides losing once to Djoko, he lost to Delpo, Foggy and Pouille.

    • I also have a hunch that we will finally see some new slam winners this year. Last year’s improbable resurgence and dominance of Fedal – who of course were also in sublime form throughout the season – was aided by many facts which may well play out differently this year.

  15. It’s simply too early for making reliable predictions for 2018. Unlike at the beginning of other years we haven’t even seen any matches of some key players, yet. We have no idea about Rafa’s and Novak’s true form. They both withdrew from the traditional warm-ups. Do they still carry an injury or were they just cautious? Somehow I’m more optimistic for Rafa than for Novak because the Djoker explicitely complained about lingering pain in his elbow. We also don’t know if Novak is as accomplished as Rafa – who’s done it more than once now – in coming back after a lengthy injury brake. Novak is over thirty and a two-time dad now. Who knows in what kind of physical and mental shape he is right now? How will Agassi’s impact play out?
    What Rafa and and Fed have done last year isn’t the norm, which of course also means it’s unlikely that they repeat what they’ve done last season. In two weeks we will know much more…

  16. Kyrgios, who had a great start into the new season, already complains about pain in his knees. Experts doubt that besides being hindered by his volatile temperament he’s hampered by a body which lacks structural integrity for a fortnight of best-of-five matches. Unfortunately that means he will probably always remain a very dangerous floater since he can’t climb up the ranks permanently. He can take down anyone on a good day and tear a draw wide open without collecting the hardware. But no one wants him in his side of the draw.

  17. Unless Djoko’s injury is serious enough to threaten his career, I doubt Djoko won’t have the heart, the desire to fight for big prizes for the remainder of his career.

    Djoko is just too good not to win big titles unless his injury prevents him from doing so. His balance off both wings, his speed and flexibility, his unbelievable ROS, his fighting sprit and his pride, will help him get back on track.

    • You may well be right, and Novak has indeed all the positive attributes you listed. But staging a successful comeback after a lengthy break isn’t easy – especially at a certain age. It’s one of Rafa’s outstanding and possibly underrated achievements that he has staged ultra successful comebacks more than once. As far as Novak is concerned I’m cautious as long as I haven’t seen him in a few challenging matches. We also don’t know about his private situation right now. It wasn’t just his elbow which hampered him after he won 2016 RG. Let’s wait and see…

    • I respect Djokovic and I hope he returns and challenges the field. I also think he will be the guy who will come close to Fedal as tennis legend, but he will not touch their overall level and legacy. He is the best tennis player, except Nadal and Federer and that can change only if he wins at least as many slams as Rafa, which is not impossible at all, but will rather not happen in my opinion.

      • I also don’t disagree that Djoko’s peak is one of the best if not the best, and his h2h against Fedal speaks for itself, that’s why he is so close to them although his slam count is 4 less than Rafa’s.

        • Eugene, Rafa himself said that peak Novak was harder for him than playing Roger at his best.
          The crazy aspect is that the trio Fed/Rafa/Novak was chasing records and was at each other’s heels during roughly the same period. They needed to become better because of the stiff competition and therefore they climbed new heights. But they also suffered and collected a lot less titles than they would’ve normally. Each of them could’ve been the absolutely undisputed GOAT if the others hadn’t taken away so many titles. Considering Roger’s negative head-to-head against both, Novak and Rafa, the Fed seems to have suffered most from the stiff competition. But he also had a head start since he began racking up slam trophies during a slightly more benign era. His slam count dropped sharply once Rafa and Novak started to peak. After Wimby 2009 he managed to win just three more slams! Three slams during an eight-year-period1 Hardly GOAT-like. Clearly he constructed the foundation for his claim to GOATness before that time span. But then again – he could’ve called it a day and hung up his raquet long ago. Nobody would’ve been surprised. Instead he choose to hang around and managed to maintain a very high level. And it all paid off big time last year. If he ends up as the (more or less) undisputed GOAT – and right now that’s the most likely scenario – it could well be because of his tenacious longevity and because he never stopped believing.

          • It’s about the match up. For all of Djoko’s unbelievable best or peak level, he had to fight tooth and nail vs Fed; the AO2016 being the only exception imo. I’m talking about Fed vs Djoko on their respective best surfaces, not on clay.

            It’s still boil down to the fact that each of the trio is best at his/their respective fave surface; Rafa at his best on clay is simply too formidable for anyone, Djoko included. I doubt we could see Djoko playing at the level Rafa could on clay at FO2017; Djoko or Rafa on grass won’t be as formidable as Fed on grass when each was/is at his best. Djoko is most formidable on slow HCs whilst Fed is on fast HCs.

          • And I can make a case that Rafa is the worst off where competition is concerned; likewise for Djoko too, or Fed for that matter.

            Rafa had to first overcome Fed, and then had to face Djoko who’s his peer and fellow ATG. Djoko v2 had to face Fedal, though Fed was heading towards post prime after 2012 but still formidable. Fed had to fight with Rafa during his own prime and peak, vs a young Rafa and then a Rafa at his peak and in his prime, and then had to fight against Djoko v2 while he himself was getting past his own prime.

            All of them had it tough for the last decade or so, I feel (from 2007 to 2014, or 2015/2016, and maybe 2017?).

        • Take nothing away from Novak, but his H2H against Roger has been on the winning side only after Fed turned 30 and past his prime.

          Prime Fed with smaller racquet led pre-prime Novak 13-6 at the end of 2010. Since then Djokovic has a 17-9 lead.

          IMO, prime Fed with a larger racquet beats prime Novak more often than not. 2014-17 Fed has been great, but 2004-12 Fed with larger racquet would have been even better.

          We saw last year what an old Fed with a larger racquet could do off clay against #1 Nadal -historically a much more difficult opponent for him than Novak.

          • I think it’s a matter of surfaces; Djoko would still beat Fed on slower surfaces, bigger racket or not, prime or not.

            So, prime vs prime, Fed vs Djoko H2H would still be about equal, should they meet on slow and quick surfaces fairly equally.

            I also doubt that Fed would have any advantage over Rafa on slower surfaces, not forgetting Rafa wasn’t the Rafa of say 2013 or 2010, who’s much quicker and more powerful than his 2017 version. On quick surfaces I always give Fed the advantage over Rafa; on slow surfaces the advantage is with Rafa.

            • True. And last season Fed made sure (intentionally or unintentionally) to meet Rafa solely on quicker surfaces, although I’m not quite sure how fast or slow IW is these days. It used to play slower than Miami, and Rafa managed to win a few IW titles, the last one in 2013.
              We have discussed last year’s USO already. My hunch is that Rafa would’ve won there against Fed, because the conditions and the shape he was in were in Rafa’s favor, but since they didn’t meet, we will never know for sure.

          • I also feel that Fed having advantage on quicker surfaces because he played in the S&V era when he was younger and so he picked up his net game from then. Rafa and Djoko were born later and so missed out on the S&V era, so they basically had to learn their net game after joining the main tour.

            For Fed it’s adapting from S&V to learning to play the baseline game; for Rafa and Djoko, they have to learn their net approaches after playing a baseline game. It’s interesting to note that Rafa as a 17 yo playing his first Wimbledon in 2003 was trying to S&V during his matches. He lost to Paradorn Srichaphan, then no.11, in R3. He was good in his net approaches too vs Fed at Miami 2004 though he wasn’t that good a volleyer yet but he certainly knew when and how to approach the net.

            I think Murray was good with his net approaches all along as he grew up to play on grass so might have picked up the skill from young.

            • Most experts (Johnny Mac for example) think Rafa is a superb volleyer – one of the best on the current tour. His success rate is sky high because his skills and his judgement when to approach the net are very good. But still, he’s not a born serve-and-volleyer and therefore it’t not a tactic which he employs readily.

  18. But, I have to say, for Djoko to catch up with Fedal, he really has to do so much, like seeks professional help in almost every aspect of his game, his health and fitness, etc.

    I understand that Fedal may have already done that too, but Fedal, even with their flaws (Fed’s weaker BH, Rafa’s not so great serve plus his injuries) are still formidable enough to win so much and stay ahead of Djoko despite Djoko’s exploits in the last few years.

    Fed is still ahead of both of course with more slams, more titles, more YE no.1 and weeks at no.1. Fed is no.1, Rafa no.2 and Djoko is no.3 as it stands now – excluding the slams on their respective fave surface, Fed has won 11 slams, Rafa has 6 and Djoko has 4, that shows Fed’s dominance on two surfaces – grass and HCs.

    • Although I’m not an ardent fan, I also respect the Djoker immensely. No matter what he will do in the future, he has already done enough for being an all time great and a true legend – probably a slightly underrated legend. One and a half years ago I was fully expecting him to best Rafa’s slam haul and maybe even Fed’s eventually. Heck, he just needed three more for overtaking Rafa! It seemed to be child’s play, considering the pace at which he was collecting the slams! And then suddenly everything unraveled for him, while Fedal quite improbably and against all perceived odds started to collect all the important hardware again. What a difference a year can make…
      Right now I don’t think that Novak will end up with more slams than Rafa. Winning at least five more is a very tall order for a guy over thirty on the comeback trail. And anyway, Rafa might not be done, yet. Another RG always seems possible for a few more years. But no one can take the brilliant Novak Slam away from the Djoker. That’s a unique and generally underrated achievement, considering the stiff competition between the Big Four. Why was it so underrated, btw? One reason is certainly that Novak was never able to generate the same amount of loyal fans as Fedal. But I think another reason is that he started to fall apart so soon after his greatest triumph. Therefore the narrative was shifted away too soon from his greatest success.

      • Well, had Djoko won the FO in 2015, thus winning the calendar slam, no one would ignore that! Blame it on Stan the Man!

        • Lol! But then again – if Novak had won the 2015 RG trophy, he might’ve also unraveled emotionally after achieving his greatest dream. Who knows if he then had continued to win slams. What-ifs are tricky.
          2017 probably has permanently dented Novak’s potential career legacy to a certain degree. It was very unfortunate for him that instead of Andy, Stan or some of the Young Guns his two greatest rivals for overall goatness picked up all the slams. Now he will never catch Roger, and while Rafa is still within reach, it’s highly unlikely that Novak will win five more slams while Rafa wins none.

        • But you’re right: a Novak-calendar-slam would’ve been much harder to ignore. When Novak won RG he became – like Rafa many times before him – a victim of the swift turnaround of attention towards Wimbledon. Since he lost early there people started talking about his baffling second round loss in London just three weeks after his greatest triumph in Paris. Like Rafa many times before he didn’t have a lot of time to relish Paris. At the end of 2016 it didn’t help of course that Novak wasn’t even able to secure the No 1 position in the year of his greatest triumph.

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