Damien Kayat previews the men’s draw of the 2023 Australian Open. Will anyone be able to challenge Novak Djokovic as the Serb makes a return to Melbourne?
2023 ATP Tour
111th Australian Open
Melbourne Park, Australia (Hard-Greenset)
16th- 29th January
This promises to be a sensational start to the 2023 Grand Slam roster. Novak Djokovic returns to his beloved Melbourne following last year’s hiatus (borne from his own stubborn, anti-vaxxing ways).
Many are touting his chances of surpassing great rival Rafa Nadal to become the leading Grand Slam holder this season. He currently sits on 21 Slams (just one behind the pugnacious Spaniard).
The nine-time Aussie Open champ is looking as good as ever and will be an outrageous favourite this week. That said, the Serb was forced to cut short an Aussie Open practice session due to a slight hamstring scare.
Purely precautionary? Probably. Defending champion Rafael Nadal cannot be discounted after his marathon five-set, come-from-behind victory against Danil Medvedev last year.
The 36-year-old has defied expectations for seemingly his whole career and will gladly lend Djokovic the spotlight. World Number One Carlos Alcaraz misses out this week due to injury but there are a slew of contenders waiting in the wings should these giants fall.
2022: Rafael Nadal bt Danil Medvedev (2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5)
2021: Novak Djokovic bt Danil Medvedev (7-5, 6-2, 6-2)
2020: Novak Djokovic bt Dominic Thiem (6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4)
2019: Novak Djokovic bt Rafael Nadal (6-3, 6-2, 6-3)
2018: Roger Federer bt Marin Cilic (6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1)
Men on a mission 💪— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 12, 2023
Who is your tip for the #AO2023 men’s singles title? 🏆 pic.twitter.com/abQPGTINrp
Expected Quarterfinal – Rafael Nadal vs Danil Medvedev
Dark Horse: Karen Khachanov
Eagle-eyed observers will notice that this quarter sets up a likely rematch of last year’s dramatic final between Nadal and Medvedev.
Top seed and defending champion Nadal enjoyed a humdrum end to 2022, not reaching a semi-final in four events following his withdrawal from Wimbledon.
He has also not played any tennis this year outside of that sentimental Laver Cup doubles outing alongside Roger Federer. So, could the Spanish bulldog be slightly undercooked this year?
He will face a fascinating first-round test in Jack Draper. Many are predicting that Draper has real underdog currency here. I’m less convinced. I think Rafa’s first real test will come in the fourth round, where he faces either Tiafoe or Khachanov.
And I’m edging towards the Russian. Khachanov hasn’t had the greatest of starts to the year. But his semi-final run at the US Open last year showcased both his ability and durability.
That run included five-set victories against Kyrgios and Carreno Busta. I think the Russian could be a dangerous opponent on these flat surfaces. Still, Nadal should still progress to the quarterfinal stage.
Let’s move to the bottom half of this draw. Danil Medvedev obviously has some demons to deal with coming into this tournament. His form was up and down last year and you could see how much that defeat affected him psychologically.
But he reached the semi-finals in Adelaide last week and I think he has what it takes to rebound this year. The fact that he has a US Open crown to his name gives him a bit of a windfall. And I think his draw is favourable.
Seb Korda may give him some trouble in the third round before a likely clash with either Hurkacz or Shapovalov. Hurkacz never made it past the fourth round of a Slam last year and Shapovalov is wildly inconsistent. I think Medvedev will breeze through to a fated Nadal reunion.
My Quarterfinal Prediction: Nadal vs Medvedev
Rafael Nadal on mental toughness and reflecting on his comeback win over Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open in 2022 pic.twitter.com/LQVoRaa6T3— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) January 12, 2023
Expected Quarterfinal- Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Dark Horse: Borna Coric
I think you can expect some hurly-burly from this wildly open portion of the draw. Stefanos Tsitsipas enjoyed an extremely consistent 2022. However, he failed to make much of an impression in the final four Slams of the year.
In fact, he suffered a pretty embarrassing first-round defeat to Galan at the US Open. But he did reach the semi-final here last year (the third time in the last four years).
His rapidly improving serve and baseline coverage have made him a really dangerous opponent on this surface. But does he have what it takes to take the next step and assume the mantle of Grand Slam champion?
He really has a pretty easy path to the fourth round. There, however, he will likely face 21-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner. Considered a potential future World No.1, Sinner reached the quarterfinals in three of last year’s Slams.
Tsitsipas beat him fairly comfortably at the quarterfinal stage here last year. But Sinner has improved in that time and has certainly added more power to his repertoire.
He went hammer and tongs with an inspired Alcaraz at Flushing Meadows. I honestly think Sinner- despite relatively lacklustre recent form- has the game to upset the Greek.
Like Danil Medvedev, Felix Auger-Aliassime will have some demons to exorcise this year. He squandered a two-set lead in his quarterfinal against Medvedev and he failed to make an impression in the remaining Slams.
He picked up some momentum in some fairly weak European indoor-hardcourt events. But I still have my doubts in regard to his Grand Slam readiness.
And I feel similarly about Cameron Norrie (his projected fourth-round opponent). He reached the Wimbledon semi-finals last year but really struggled in the back half of the season (he was 4-4 in his last four events).
I just don’t think he has the power necessary to win this event.
My eyes are drawn to Norrie’s projected third round opponent: Borna Coric. The talented 26-year-old Serb has been absolutely beset by injury over his career.
But he returned from surgery last year in grand style, becoming the lowest-ranked player in history to win an ATP 1000 event in Cincinnati. He then beat Tsitsipas en route to a semi-final showing in Vienna.
He reached the fourth round here back in 2019 and he could be set for a massive fortnight.
My Quarterfinal Prediction: Jannik Sinner vs Borna Coric
Demon, slayed 💪— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 4, 2023
The moment @steftsitsipas snapped a 3-match losing streak against Borna Coric to bring Greece and Croatia level at #UnitedCup. pic.twitter.com/mlR2rBrZPD
Expected Quarterfinal- Novak Djokovic vs Andrey Rublev
Dark Horse: Nick Kyrgios
I’m not going to waste your time with a disingenuous rundown of all the possibilities in this group (particularly the top half). Novak Djokovic has reached the final in each of his last six events (winning five of them).
That includes Wimbledon and the ATP Finals. He won last week and is starting to look back to his imperious best. His likely opponents in this half of the draw are De MInuar, Dimitrov and Carreno Busta. I don’t foresee any problems for the seemingly ageless Serb.
Things start becoming a little less clear in the bottom half of this draw. Andrey Rublev is always a curious one. The six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist just hasn’t been able to replicate his regular tour form at this level.
Perhaps this has something to do with conditioning. But surely it is only a matter of time before the flat-hitting Russian breaks through on this stage.
He arrives here after two consecutive defeats (but I wouldn’t put too much stock into that). He reached the semi-finals of the ATP Finals and the quarterfinals of the US Open.
He has a potentially tricky first tie against Dominic Thiem. But his real problems will likely come in the fourth round.
There, he will likely face either Aussie firebrand Nick Kyrgios or 2022 breakthrough sensation Holger Rune. I think it’s too much to expect Holger Rune to go all the way this year.
Kyrgios is obviously the joker in the pack. He delivered on his massive potential last year, reaching the Wimbledon final prior to a decent quarterfinal run at the US Open.
But the mercurial Aussie hasn’t played a competitive singles match since October. He will obviously enjoy much of the fanfare this week. But can he curb his worst instincts and remain consistent enough to beat the robotic Rublev?
I just have the feeling that Rublev will doggedly work his way through his half of the draw.
My Quarterfinal Prediction: Novak Djokovic vs Andrey Rublev
Novak Djokovic makes it 9️⃣2️⃣ career titles! 🏆— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 8, 2023
3️⃣4️⃣ Consecutive wins on Australian soil 🇦🇺🤯@DjokerNole | #AdelaideTennis pic.twitter.com/P5HikuppKJ
Expected Quarterfinal- Casper Rudd vs Taylor Fritz
Dark Horse: Matteo Berrettini
This is another quarter that looks pretty open. Casper Rudd is a player who really defied my expectations last year. Reaching the French Open final was to be expected for such an accomplished clay-court operator.
But his hardcourt progression has been a wonder to behold. He reached the US Open, ATP Finals and Miami Open finals (losing all three). He has turned his serve into a far more dangerous weapon while punishing anything short with that aggressive forehand.
He should have a pretty serene ride until facing either Matteo Berrettini or Robert Bautista Agut. I think Berrettini is the real wildcard here.
The Italian has turned into a real Grand Slam behemoth over the last few years. He has reached the quarterfinal stage or better in each of the last five Grand Slams in which he competed (including a semi-final run at last year’s Aussie Open).
He was unfortunate last year, missing out on the French Open due to a hand injury and missing out on Wimbledon due to Covid. His massive serve and huge forehand will make him a tricky challenge for Rudd in the fourth round.
Plus, the Italian just handily beat the Norwegian in the United Cup. I sense an upset on the cards in the upper half of the draw.
I’m not sold on the idea of Taylor Fritz conquering his half of the draw. He is obviously coming off a highly successful season, picking up the coveted Indian Wells title and reaching the semi-finals at the season-ending ATP Finals. But he is still largely unheralded at Grand Slam level.
I’m more inclined to opt for Alex Zverev. The German hasn’t played since that heart-breaking ankle injury at last year’s French Open. He won six titles in 2021 (including Olympic Gold and the ATP Finals).
He is former US Open finalist and four-time Grand Slam semi-finalist (reaching the semi-finals here in 2020). I think we could see a reinvigorated Zverev.
My Quarterfinal Prediction: Matteo Berrettini vs Alex Zverev
Earlier 2 old friends practiced in the Melbourne sun with a good intensity. Both Zverev/ Thiem try to get back to form after serious injuries - Thiem has a lot of experience with that.— Jannik Schneider (@schnejan) January 12, 2023
Right now they playing an official practice match on centre court: 6:3, 1:2 for Thiem so far pic.twitter.com/zuO23TRzOs
Medvedev beats Nadal
Sinner beats Coric
Djokovic beats Rubelv
Berrettini beats Zverev
Medvedev vs Sinner
Djokovic beats Berrettini
Djokovic beats Medvedev