Sunday, January 18, 2015

What the Australian Open Means for Men's Seeds 6-10

Andy Murray: Murray will be looking to carry over his improved play from the end of 2014 into the Australian Open.  He's got to be happy to see Djokovic in the other half, although he has a potential tricky Round of 16 matchup against Dimitrov.  If he gets past that, he'd likely have Federer in the quarters.  A semifinal showing or better would let the tour know Murray is back to contending for slams after his down 2014.  With a loss to Dimitrov or Federer, the questions of when Murray will return to his championship form will only grow louder. 

Tomas Berdych:  If Berdych were to somehow break through and win the title, he could finally shed the label of being one of the most talented players of his era to not win a slam.  No one is expecting him to do so, although the semis seems very realistic given his favorable draw.  Unless Nadal somehow finds his top form in time, Berdych seems like the best bet to come out of his quarter of the draw.  If he gets that far he'd be in for a tough semifinal against Federer, Murray or Dimitrov.  A loss in the semis would be disappointing but largely expected given Berdych's history.  Seeing Wawrinka and Cilic win majors in 2014 must have been tough for Berdych, and he'll look to erase any jealousy with a grand slam title of his own.

Milos Raonic:  Raonic had the misfortune of landing in Djokovic's quarter, and he has never been able to beat the Serb in 4 tries.  However, Raonic has been on a tear since the beginning of the 2014 season and seems poised to take the next step this season.  If he can upset Djokovic in the quarters, he'll no longer be thought of as just a big hitter who isn't quite ready to compete with the Big Four.  A loss to Djokovic could be spun positively as part of the growth process, but it would be a big missed opportunity. 

David Ferrer: Ferrer received a pretty favorable draw, and will be looking to show he is still relevant at the slams.  He already won a 250 level tournament this year and looks to be in good form.  However, his days of consistently reaching the quarters and semis of slams may be drawing to a close.  He still is able to beat the players he is supposed to beat, but beating guys in the top 10 at majors isn't going to be getting any easier for Ferrer.  If he can't get through Nishikori in the Round of 16, many will conclude his best results may be behind him. 

Grigor Dimitrov:  It won't be easy for Dimitrov to get past Murray and Federer, as he will likely have to do in order to reach the semis.  He's had some success against Murray, but has never beaten Federer and recently got blown out by the Swiss.  Dimitrov has a lot to gain with a strong showing, as the tennis world has been waiting for him to break through for some time now.  His 2014 season was by far his best on tour, and it's hard to imagine him not being a top 10 player for the next several years.  With a grand slam title under his belt, the endorsement opportunities and media attention placed on Dimitrov would increase exponentially.  If he goes down to Murray or Federer it won't be particularly surprising.  He's still young and there's no reason to believe he won't keep improving.  However, at some point he needs to make the jump from being a borderline top 10 player to a true grand slam contender.  2015 seems as good of a time as any, as he is entering the prime of his career.  If he can't get out of his quarter of the draw it certainly won't be a disaster, but it will be clear he still has some work to do before he's truly at the level of the guys ranked above him.

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