The main draw for the 2016 Australian Open will not be released until Friday of this week. However, one thing that will be for certain is that Novak Djokovic will enter the tournament as the top seed. While victory in Melbourne is far from certain for the World No. 1, there have been few Grand Slam men’s singles tournaments in recent memory that have featured such a heavy favorite.
Djokovic enters Melbourne Park 2016 absolutely sizzling from every possible perspective that you might take. He has won the tournament four of the last five years, he has an additional title down-under from his early 20s, he has opened 2016 with a hard court ATP title from Doha, and Djokovic has won three of the last four overall Grand Slam titles. Throw in the fact that Andy Murray’s wife is in late pregnancy, something that could distract the second-favored Scot, and Djokovic looks all the more convincing.
But focusing only on Djokovic, the Serb is on a six-tournament winning streak dating back to Flushing Meadows in the late summer. He followed his 2015 US Open title with ones in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, and the ATP World Tour Finals. The only player that has been able to do anything against Djokovic lately has been Roger Federer, the Swiss Maestro winning in Cincinnati last summer and in the round robin stage of the tour finals.
Djokovic enters the 2016 Australian Open as upset-proof as any player has ever been. It’s been over a year now since the Serb last lost a match to a player not considered one of the pre-eminent ones of the current time. That loss came in Doha last season when Ivo Karlovic, ranked 27th at the time, took out the World No. 1. If you know tennis, you know that a big server playing well can scalp anyone on tour and I’m sure that’s what happened to Djokovic in Doha last year.
When looking at the tournament at hand, in my view, you have to go back to the 2009 season to find tournaments where the favorite looked like such a dominant one. During that season, Federer entered the US Open having won five straight titles there. Furthermore, Rafael Nadal entered Roland Garros having won four straight French Open titles. The results of those tournaments are where tennis fans hoping for a non-Djokovic champion can actually ground some hope heading into the Aussie. After all, neither Fed nor Rafa actually won either of those tournaments, the former losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the final and Nadal losing to Robin Soderling in the fourth round.
Both results were considered shocking at the time and so perhaps we, tennis fans, should pause and think about a player causing a shock down-under. If one was to occur, I think a lot of people might name-drop Stan Wawrinka as a player that could make headlines. However, Wawrinka is a past champion at Melbourne Park, and if he wins the title, it therefore could not be called a shock.
The Canadian won ATP Brisbane through Federer and let’s forget that the Aussie was where Raonic originally broke out. Things could go right for the confidence Canuck in Melbourne.
The Bulgarian didn’t look to be playing that bad in Brisbane, taking a set off of Federer for the first time in their head-to-head series. Dimitrov is the guy that was tipped for the top a handful of years back – maybe 2016 will be his season.
I felt good about the Japanese No. 1 heading into 2016, but don’t really like the loss in Brisbane to Bernard Tomic. Furthermore, Nishikori had injury problems in late 2015 and might be an early round casualty in Melbourne.
The 19-year-old is definitely a player that could take an off-form Andy Murray, Nadal, or Federer out of the 2016 Aussie draw. He looks like he could be a future No. 1 and you never really know when such major talents are going to figure out the finer points of the game. On that note, Coric made the Chennai final last week through Roberta Bautista Agut. With a current ranking of 40th, Coric appears as though he will be the most dangerous non-seeded player in Melbourne Park. Unless eight higher-ranked players withdraw, Coric’s name could plunk down right beside anyone’s on Friday.
Where all of these players will end up in the draw promises to affect their chances of making the final drastically. While I’m convinced that Djokovic will make the Aussie final, I don’t have any confidence in Federer, Nadal, or Murray to come through even if they end up on the opposite side of Djokovic at Melbourne Park (Murray, as the No. 2 player, will do that). Everyone’s draw will get sorted out on Friday in Australia and, since that country’s capital is 16 hours ahead of Eastern Time, which actually means the draw will get sorted on Thursday for those in North America.