With just five ATP tournaments and a handful of exhibitions taking place prior to the Australian Open, it’s hard for most players to gain steam, or get on a free fall before the seasons first big test. That said, a handful of players have managed to make the best of their pre-AO warm ups, while another set of players may continue their struggles and get sent packing early from down under.
5: Daniil Medvedev
At just 20 years old, Medvedev reached his first ever ATP final in Chennai, and rocketed into the ATP top 70. Medvedev is making his Grand Slam debut in Melbourne and is at his best on hard courts. He has a good shot at winning his first match against a qualifier, but then he’ll get a step up in terms of competition against most likely David Ferrer. If he pulls the upset, Medvedev will make his mark in Melbourne.
4: Richard Gasquet
Gasquet, a three time Slam semifinalist, has had his worst results in Melbourne historically (four times in the 4th round). However, the veteran Frenchman won the Hopman Cup exhibition to start his season, and he looks healthy and fresh at 30 years of age. With one of the world’s best backhands, don’t count Gasquet out to reach the second week, even though a third round meeting with Grigor Dimitrov should be tough.
3: Jack Sock
The only problem for Sock in his AO Warm up is probably too much tennis. The American claimed just his second ATP title in Auckland on Saturday and prior to that he won three of his four singles matches in the Hopman Cup exo, moving his record to 7-1 on the season. Sock has been riding his powerful forehand, and also appears to have improved to his return in the offseason. His fitness will be the key though, as the turnaround from Auckland to Melbourne has historically been rough on players, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the Cilic/Tomic section is on deck for him after the first two rounds. If Sock is fresh enough, he could survive Melbourne’s first week for the first time.
2: Roberto Bautista Agut
RBA has been consistently good enough, as a steady baseline ballstriker, to reach the fourth round of slams, including twice in Melbourne. The Spaniard started his season with a title in Chennai, and should have a relatively clear path to the second week if he can get past Ferrer/Medvedev. Milos Raonic is going to be tough in round 4, but perhaps RBA can break through to his first ever Slam quarterfinal.
1: Grigor Dimitrov
The world #15 Dimitrov won the title in Brisbane with three top 10 wins in a row, and showed his talent as a potential top 10 regular in his own right. The Bulgarian is a gifted tennis player who at times has struggled with his focus on court. Gasquet, and Novak Djokovic are in his section, so he’s unlikely to repeat his best slam result in Australia (quarterfinals), but his quality tennis could trouble the world #2 in round 4.
5: Gilles Simon
Twice a slam quarterfinalist, Simon is now 32 and has fallen outside of the top 20. After a rough 2016, he started his season with an opening round loss, and his career seems to be in at least a slight decline. Simon went on to win an exhibition match in Kooyong, but he lost his next one and could get upset early in the first two rounds at the hands of a young American. Milos Raonic lurks in round 3, and Simon should lose by that point.
4: Borna Coric
Coric has lost in the opening round of the AO twice now and has still yet to make the second week of a slam. After knee surgery last fall, he lost his opening match in Chennai and with a tough match against Alexandr Dolgopolov his first in Melbourne, the Croatian young gun looks set for another first round exit. Coric has plenty of talent, but the start of 2017 should be rocky for him. Nick Kyrgios, another young gun favorite, is also struggling with knee problems.
3: Bernard Tomic
Three times the home favorite Australian has reached the second week in Melbourne. Bernie has prepared for the slam by struggling in both Brisbane and the Kooyong exhibition. Now 24, Tomic no longer qualifies as a young gun, and although he’s still in the top 30 he’s never lived up to his promise. Apparently Tomic has also gone through some dietary changes as well and he’s unlikely to make the second week, althoguh with lessened expectations you never know.
2: David Ferrer
Ferrer struggled in 2016 and has started 2017 in a miserable fashion, dropping a pair of matches to unseeded opponents in 250 level tournaments. Ferrer has made the semifinals in Melbourne twice before but the 34 year old may not even make the second week this time. Ferrer could be exiting stage right from pro tennis in the next year or two, Roger Federer, back from injury, also struggled a bit in the Hopman Cup warm up and could be suffering the same fate with a first week exit in the cards.
1: Marin Cilic
Cilic has a great draw that could result in a deep second week run, but the former Slam Champion and AO semifinalist got his season off to a miserable start in Chennai, dropping a shocker to a challenger level journeyman. Many see Cilic as a possible tournament dark horse, but expectations should be tapered by his shaky start in 2017.