Australian Open: Selected Men's Ro64 Matches Preview

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Our tennis expert takes a look at two of the more interesting round of 64 matches coming your way from the Australian Open.

Kevin Anderson 1/5 | Frances Tiafoe 31/10
Kevin Anderson is fresh off a remarkable year that saw him elevated into the upper echelons of the male tennis landscape. That Wimbledon performance was just one chapter in an incredibly successful season. Titles in Vienna and New York were supplemented by a flurry of semi-final and final appearances. Add to that the fact that Anderson is fresh off a title at the Maharashtra Open. But the South African did labour slightly in defeating Adrian Mannarino in the opening match. One potential pitfall of his tremendous consistency is the sheer volume of games that he is currently playing. Perhaps the sweltering conditions in Melbourne will impact the lanky South African.

Frances Tiafoe started last season in scintillating fashion, which seemed to herald the rise of a new force on the tour. The former US Junior National Champion became the youngest American to win an ATP event since Andy Roddick at the Delray Beach Open. He beat the likes of Del Potro, Shapovalov and Chung en route to that brilliant wildcard victory. He then followed that up with a commendable fourth-round run in Miami. He also reached the final in Estoril, highlighting his all-court potential. But the latter part of the season was largely disappointing and Tiafoe will be keen to reset the clock this season. He eased past Gunneswaran and will be meeting Anderson for the fourth time.

Anderson leads that head-to-head 3-0, though it slightly misrepresents the reality of their encounters. Two of those losses were tight three-set affairs that really could have gone either way. Like Anderson, Tiafoe is tall and powerful, relying on a devastating first serve to ensure dominance on his serve. This always leads an element of chance to these matches. I just think that 31/10 could represent great value at this early stage of the tournament. 

Roberto Bautista Agut 3/10 | John Millman 9/4
Bautista Agut needed five sets to overcome Andy Murray, in the process likely sending him into retirement. Bautista Agut is one of the most metronomic figures in the sport, with fourth round finishes here in 2014, 2015 and 2017. The nine-time title winner has hard court credentials, most memorably reaching the Shanghai Final in 2016. He had a decent 2018, capturing his first ATP 500 Title in Dubai. But perhaps more significant is his early season form. Bautista Agut won the title in Qatar in tremendous fashion, accounting for World Number One Novak Djokovic. Bautista Agut is a tireless worker whose sheer work-rate outweighs his lack of true power on either flank.

John Millman’s career has been beset by dramatic injury issues which have seen him mull retirement from time to time. He will be looking to the partisan crowds and will hope that ‘Millmania’ will propel him through this testing encounter. He overcame Delbonis fairly comfortably and has had an encouraging start to the season. He reached the quarters in Sydney, beating the likes of Fucsovics and Tiafoe en route. Much like Bautista Agut, Millman lacks real authority on either side, hanging in with good defensive ability. He came back last season, reaching an ATP Final in Budapest. He also won the Aix-en-Provence Challenger event before a heroic run at Flushing Meadows. He managed to beat Roger Federer in an awesome quarter-final run that has reinvigorated his game.

Bautista Agut perhaps unsurprisingly leads the head-to-head 3-1. But Millman is a different player now and will be playing in front of a fanatical home crowd. His renaissance sees him in touching distance of Bautista Agut in rankings points and I think he could be on the verge of a major upset here. Millman to win at 9/4 looks to have some legs here. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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