Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winners and Losers from the Australian Open Men's Draw

With the 2016 Australian Open ready to begin, here's a look at some winners and losers from the men's draw.


Andy Murray:  Murray knew he'd land on the opposite side of Djokovic as the number two seed, but he was fortunate to see 4th seeded Wawrinka land on his half as opposed to 3rd seeded Federer.  Moreover, he's slated to play 8th seeded Ferrer in the quarters, who just got destroyed by Sock and shouldn't be much of a threat to Murray.  In the early rounds Murray doesn't look to have much to fear either.  He opens with 18 year old Alexander Zverev who is a superstar in the making, but isn't ready to beat Murray in a major at this point in his career.  After that the path looks to be relatively tame.  If Murray fails to make the semis with this draw it would be a big surprise, and he'd be confident heading into a semifinal match against Wawrinka or Nadal.  Winning a third career major in Australia is clearly Murray's goal, and the draw gave him as good of an opportunity to do so as he could have hoped for.

Rafael Nadal:  Nadal has to be thrilled with his Australian Open draw.  Both Djokovic and Federer are in the other half, and his potential quarterfinal opponent is Stan Wawrinka who he historically dominates (and beat in straights at the end of 2015).  While Murray is clearly in good form and would be a tough semifinal opponent, Nadal knows he can still beat him as he took Murray out at the 2015 year ending championships.  Nadal often plays himself into form as a tournament goes on, and he should have the opportunity to do so here.  He's not getting that much attention as a serious contender based on the beat down Djokovic gave him to open up the year in Doha, but with his friendly draw Nadal could end up being a major factor in Australia.


Roger Federer:  As the third seed Federer was clearly hoping to land in the opposite half of Novak Djokovic, but he had no such luck.  Assuming he makes it to the semis he'll likely have to find a way to beat the world number one, but his draw to that point is tougher than the one he usually faces.  Federer could face the always tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov in round two, and a Grigor Dimitrov who seems closer to his 2014 form than his 2015 form in round 3.  He could then face the talented Dominic Thiem or David Goffin in the Round of 16.  In the quarters he could find himself facing the big hitting Berdych, Kyrgios or Cilic.  Federer would clearly be favored against any of these opponents individually, but having to role through such a tough draw just to make the semis could take a lot out of the 34 year old.  He's still a serious threat, but Federer's Australian Open draw did him no favors.

Kei Nishikori:  Nishikori failed to build on his success in grand slams in 2015 after reaching the 2014 US Open finals, and it looks like he'll have to wait a little bit longer to do so in 2016.  While his path to the quarterfinals is pretty manageable, he's slated to run into Djokovic in the quarters.  Based on current form Nishikori would struggle to even get a set (which says more about Djokovic than Nishikori).  It's possible Nishikori is ready to make a run at the top 5 in 2016, but it doesn't look like Australia will be much help in that regards. 

The "next generation":  The draw didn't do any favors to much of the promising next generation.  Alexander Zverev could have done damage with the right draw, but has to open against Murray.  Borna Coric would have to meet fellow countryman Marin Cilic in round two, and 19 year old Korean Hyeon Chung who is just outside the top 50 drew Djokovic in round one.  18 year old American qualifier Taylor Fritz has been on a tear to open up the new year, but drew Jack Sock in round one.  Assuming Sock is recovered from the flu in time, this seems to be asking a bit too much from Fritz at this point in his career.  Moreover, the big hitting Thanasi Kokkinakis wasn't even able to play Australia with an injury.  There's a lot to look forward to with this young generation, but it's unlikely we'll see a teenager make a deep run in Australia given their brutal draws.

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