Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic practice at the Australian Open
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STEVE TIGNOR: Novak Djokovic
He hasn't been perfect since winning the US Open, but he's a six-time champion in Melbourne who is hungry for more—once again—and his draw looks good.
ED MCGROGAN: Novak Djokovic
Recency bias is real, especially in sports. But Djokovic's losses in Doha, London (ATP Finals) and Paris (Bercy Masters) aren't enough for me to forget about his titles at Wimbledon, Cincinnati, the US Open and Shanghai. There is a clear No. 1 on tour, and he's the clear favorite in Melbourne.
NINA PANTIC: Novak Djokovic
His career record in Melbourne is 61-8, with six titles, and he's No. 1 in the world. His loss in Doha was unexpected, but it may help Djokovic keep fresh and hungry for the long fortnight ahead.
STEVE FLINK: Novak Djokovic
He could potentially face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Denis Shapovalov, the formidable Daniil Medvedev, Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev just to reach the final. Still, I like Djokovic's chances of securing a record seventh title.
JOEL DRUCKER: Novak Djokovic
Three words defined the last six months of Djokovic’s 2018: Baby, I’m back. Footwork, balance, sustainability—utterly smothering. If not quite the favorite Nadal is at Roland Garros, a record-tying six AO titles and his impressive resurgence clearly make Djokovic the man to beat in Melbourne.
ZACH COHEN: Novak Djokovic
The Serb has won 12 of his last 13 matches against Tsonga, and it’s hard to imagine Shapovalov out-slugging him in a best-of-five match. There will be tougher opponents in the quarters and semis, but neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer is playing well enough topple Djokovic right now.
ASHLEY NDEBELE: Novak Djokovic
Despite his loss to Roberto Bautista Agut in the Doha, the top seed has given us no reason to doubt him. He's won the last two majors, which should give him all the confidence he needs to go all the way in Melbourne.
Dark Horse (Seeded No. 20 or lower)
STEVE TIGNOR: Alex de Minaur
Nobody will fire up the home crowd like this wiry, speedy Aussie. A third-round encounter with Rafa could be a blockbuster.
ED MCGROGAN: Jack Sock
As bad as Sock's singles season was in 2018, he finished the year on a high with doubles titles at the US Open and the ATP Finals (not to mention Wimbledon). Now, he has a legendary doubles voice helping him out: Mark Knowles. There's nowhere for Sock to go but up, and he has the talent, plus a decent draw.
NINA PANTIC: Frances Tiafoe
He hasn’t yet broken through at the Grand Slam level, but why not now? The 20-year-old won his first title last year, on hard courts, and he won’t be afraid of anyone—not even No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson, who he may face in the second round.
STEVE FLINK: Alex de Minaur
I like the No. 27 seed's fighting spirit.
JOEL DRUCKER: Lucas Pouille
This smooth Frenchman hit the radar in 2016 and has been lost in the shuffle amid the staying power of the Big Three and the ascent of other youngsters. But with as reasonably favorable draw—a possible third-rounder versus Dominic Thiem—Pouille might just be ready for a bigger breakthrough.
ZACH COHEN: Stan Wawrinka
The champion in 2014, Wawrinka knows what it takes to get the job done in Melbourne. He comes into the event healthy, and landing in the unproven Zverev’s portion of the bracket doesn’t hurt, either.
ASHLEY NDEBELE: Alex de Minaur
He’s only 19 years old, but de Minaur has the mental strength of a veteran warrior. No surprise, then that his mentor is fellow Aussie Lleyton Hewitt. If he gets off on the right foot, he’ll have the home crowd firmly behind him.
Alexander Zverev suffers a practice injury scare:
Bust (Seeded No. 10 or higher)
STEVE TIGNOR: John Isner
Isner will face something unusual to start: a taller player, in the form of Reilly Opelka. Isner lost early in Auckland this week, and has never been past the fourth round Down Under.
ED MCGROGAN: Alexander Zverev
Call it a gut feeling, or call it doubling down on my dark horse pick. But I don't think this will be the German's Slam breakthrough. Reports say he rolled his ankle in a practice match (watch above), and the jury is still out on whether he can sustain his occasionally brilliant level of play over five sets.
NINA PANTIC: Dominic Thiem
He's consistent, but he just lost to doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in Doha, and has been dealt the unpredictable Benoit Paire in the opening round. As great as Thiem is, every player goes through dips and this will be another.
STEVE FLINK: John Isner
I am torn between Marin Cilic and the ninth-seeded American. I am going with the latter, who could lose to fellow giant server Opelka in the first round.
JOEL DRUCKER: Alexander Zverev
Having only once reached the quarters of a Slam, at this stage it’s new territory for Zverev to go deep in a major. With reports of two recent injuries and a number of promising younger contenders, this does not appear to be his year.
ZACH COHEN: John Isner
Isner had a career year in 2018, but he’s as good a bet as any to disappoint in Melbourne. He's lost in either the first or second round in three of his last five appearances in the Australian Open. If Isner survives his first two matches, he could meet Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. The Bulgarian is coming off of a lousy season, but he has generally played well in Oz.
ASHLEY NDEBELE: Dominic Thiem
The Austrian hasn’t looked the same since reaching last year’s French Open final, and he kicked off his 2019 season with a loss in his Qatar opener. Furthermore, he hasn’t gone past the fourth round Down Under.
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