Before each day's play at the 2020 Australian Open, we'll preview three must-see matches.
Are Johnson’s best days permanently behind him? He turned 30 last month, he’s coming off a 14-21 season, and his ranking is down to No. 81, a full 60 spots off its 2016 high. But we’ve seen other players have resurgences at his age in recent years, and if he’s going to do any damage against Federer, it will probably come in a match that’s played on hard courts, and on a day when Federer might be rusty (the Swiss is making his 2020 debut). Johnson and Federer have faced off twice, and Federer is 2-0. But their last meeting, three years ago on a similar surface in Indian Wells, was an entertaining shootout decided in two tiebreakers.
We all know what happened the last time these two met, in the first round at Wimbledon. History was made, and a torch was possibly passed, when 15-year-old Gauff beat 39-year-old Venus. Now, can Coco hang onto that torch, or will Venus grab it back? Venus has slipped in recent months; she had just one decent result in the second half of 2019, in Cincinnati, and she’s in danger of being passed by Gauff in the rankings—as of Saturday, Venus is No. 55, Coco No. 66. Of course, Venus has slipped and been counted out many times before, only to get right back off the mat when a new season begins. Can she do it again? The answer to that question will likely tell you the winner of this match.
Struff, ranked No. 37 and coming off a surprisingly promising season at age 29, is among the best unseeded players at the Australian Open. He’s 6’4”, has an imperious serve and forehand, and can hit a lot of his opponents off the court. Djokovic, however, is not likely to be one of those opponents. The Serbian and the German have played twice, and the Serbian hasn’t dropped a set. It probably won’t help Struff’s cause that this match, which closes out Monday’s schedule in Rod Laver Arena, will be played in cooler evening-session air. Still, if you’re looking for a potentially competitive and entertaining first-rounder involving a top men’s seed, this is the one to watch.