Best of 5 2017 Australian Open Men’s Day 2 Including Verdasco-Djokovic

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DOHA, QATAR - JANUARY 6 : Fernando Verdasco of Spain returns the ball to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the semifinal match of the ATP Qatar Open tennis competition held at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex on January 6, 2017 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by AK BijuRaj/Getty Images)

Day 2 of the 2017 Australian Open features the defending champion Novak Djokovic playing his first match, along with fan favorite Gael Monfils, and a host of other talented shotmakers. Our panel of Steen Kirby, Yesh Ginsburg, Manuel Traquete, and Jacob Billings are on hand to offer their previews and predictions once again.

Fernando Verdasco vs. (2)Novak Djokovic

Steen: Verdasco has had plenty of memorable moments in Melbourne and he’d love to crate another and knock off the defending champion Djokovic in round 1. The Spanish lefty was firing powerfully on his forehand side in their Doha meeting, but Djokovic saved five match points and went on to take the title. In a best of five format, Verdasco may be able to play effectively enough to take a set, but Djokovic should outlast him and win this match, as Verdasco lacks the mental fortitude to pull this out. Djokovic in 4 sets

Yesh: This is one of the best first-round Slam matches we can hope for. Djokovic hasn’t been in prime form for a few months now, and Verdasco has the ability to really push anyone when he gets on a roll. I won’t predict the upset here, but Verdasco will make it very interesting. Djokovic in 5

Manuel: The matchup looks intriguing in paper, but in reality it’s bound to be relatively comfortable for the defending champion. Verdasco can be very dangerous to anyone when he’s on his game, but those instances are quite rare and the events of Doha a couple of weeks ago are likely to render him even more mentally fragile than usual ahead of this matchup. Djokovic in 3

Jacob: This first round match will mark the 15th match of their rivalry, with Djokovic going 10-4 and not losing a match since 2010. Their match in Doha showed that their matches can be incredibly entertaining, but I don’t see Verdasco pulling off the upset. The Spaniard had a quadruple match point, but didn’t close the match out, which makes me skeptic of his chances to defeat Djokovic in best-of-five. Nonetheless, it should be a great match to watch, and if Verdasco is on, Djokovic will have to put his best game out there. Djokovic in 3

Gilles Muller vs. Taylor Fritz

Steen: Coming off of a title in Sydney, Muller should be both motivated, and fatigued. The veteran serve and volleyer could prove trouble for the young Fritz, but Fritz is rising fast in terms of his abilities, and presuming his form isn’t too rusty, I have him knocking off a tired Muller in a slight upset. Fritz in 5

Yesh: Taylor Fritz is slowly showing why he might be a top talent one day, but Gilles Muller is coming off the best week of his life. Muller in 3

Manuel: Muller finally got his maiden ATP title after trying for over a decade. It’s uncertain how engaged Muller will be after celebrating such a big achivement just a couple of days ago, but Fritz has some question marks of his own, what with being the youngest dad on the circuit. One has to wonder how well he prepared for this tournament. Muller in 4

Jacob: Muller had an incredible lead-up in Sydney, not only getting the title but beating quality players like Cuevas, Troicki or Dolgopolov on the way. His game style and this title means that Muller is currently leading the tour in the overall number of aces fired in 2017. Taylor Fritz has recently become a father, so he chose to skip the preseason. This decision might have been nice for his family, but definitely not nice for the bettors and predictors, who have no idea about Fritz’s form. If Muller keeps serving like he did in Sydney, Fritz shouldn’t give him too much trouble. Muller in 3

Mikhail Youzhny vs. Marcos Baghdatis

Steen: These veterans have met seven previous times and with their ability to play attacking tennis, it should be an entertaining affair. Youzhny’s counterpunching got him to the quarterfinals in Chennai, while Baghdatis reached the semis in Auckland with his own aggressive approach. Baghdatis should be slightly better in both Melbourne, and on a hard court against the Russian. Baghdatis in 4

Yesh: This is a great battle between two hard-hitting former top players. Both players can be mercurial, so it’s hard to know exactly what should happen, but this should be a great match regardless. Baghdatis in 5

Manuel: Two tour veterans in a match that can really go either way. No winner or set score would really be a surprise here. Maybe a slight edge to Baghdatis, who tends to play very well in Melbourne and get plenty of support. Baghdatis in 5

Jacob: Probably the toughest match to call between the two veterans of the tour. Baghdatis reached semifinals in Auckland and Youzhny quarterfinals in Chennai, so their forms are pretty coincidental. Youzhny leads the head-to-head 4-3, but Baghdatis won their only meeting since 2016. I see Baghdatis as the favorite because of form, but Youzhny won’t make it easy. Baghdatis in 5

Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Borna Coric

Steen: A pair of talented shotmakers who have been starved of recent success. Dolgopolov hasn’t won a match since last summer, while Coric had knee surgery and struggled in his return match. This match is tough to predict, but Dolgopolov will probably pull it together and earn a win. Dolgopolov in 4

Yesh: Borna Coric has found his place as a top player. Dolgopolov is a solid talent who can produce at high levels, but he’s never been able to do it consistently and I don’t expect that to start now. Coric in 3

Manuel: Another very unpredictable match featuring two players coming off an injury plagued 2016 and who barely played so far this year. Dolgopolov did show some promising signs in Sydney, where he had match points vs the eventual champion Muller, so perhaps a slight edge to him here. Dolgopolov in 4

Jacob: This is a match between two very exciting players that are both in pretty bad slumps. Coric started his year with a loss to Hyeon Chung, which made his losing streak go to four. Alexandr Dolgopolov has an even worse form coming into Australian Open, now on a 7 match losing streak. However bad that may sound, his losses against Nadal and Muller can’t be judged too harshly. The head-to-head is 1-1, both matches going to third set and taking place in 2015. Dolgopolov in 5

(6)Gael Monfils vs. Jiri Vesely

Steen: Vesely upset Monfils at Wimbledon 2014, and would love to do so again. The Czech has gone 3-2 in 2017, while Monfils opted not to play any tournaments to warm up for Melbourne. 2016 was a huge year for the acrobatic Frenchman, as he cemented himself in the top 10. Monfils’ superior movement should allow him to outwork Vesely and get his first win of the season. Monfils in 4

Yesh: This is another great matchup between two very talented players. Gael Monfils could be a Grand Slam winner if he puts it all together, and Vesely may himself contend for Slams some day. I’ll go with experience in this one, but not by much. Monfils in 5

Manuel: Monfils is always unpredictable and Vesely brings to memory one of his most bizarre matches ever, in Wimbledon 2015. With that said, despite Vesely’s giant-killing reputation of sorts, if Monfils starts 2017 with the same focus he started 2016 and is fit he should win this match with relative ease. Monfils in 3

Jacob: Monfils has chosen to play no lead-up, in order to get fit in time for Australian Open. Vesely has gone 3-2 in the early season, but two of those wins were against opponents outside Top 450. Monfils has won their last meeting, last year in Monte Carlo, but Vesely has won their only match at a slam. Monfils is definitely the favorite coming into this match, but a case could be made for Vesely. He is often compared to Berdych, who has a 6-1 record against Monfils. Vesely will come into this match with a lot of confidence, and Monfils is an unknown entity with his fitness. Vesely in 4

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