Fantasy Tennis: Australian Open Men's Preview

Fantasy Tennis: Australian Open Men's Preview

The 2020 Australian Open has potentially historical undertones, with No. 1 Rafael Nadal seeking to tie Roger Federer's all-time major record of 20 Grand Slam titles. In order to do that, however, he'll need to dethrone Australian Open king Novak Djokovic, who has won the tournament a record seven times and is the defending champion. Rising young guns and the aforementioned ageless Federer will look to spoil the party as the new season welcomes in its first slam of the year.

Favorites

Novak Djokovic: There's no reason to think that Djokovic won't defend his title from last season after he led Team Serbia to the ATP Cup title, defeating the likes of Nadal and Daniil Medvedev in the process. The No. 2-ranked Serbian will kick things off with one of the trickier Round 1 matches for any seeded player when he takes on No. 37-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff, who just missed on being seeded himself. But Djokovic will still be expected to roll through that match, and keep rolling, until a potential quarterfinal matchup with Stefanos Tsitsipas. The seven-time champion is 2-2 against Tsitsipas, so that could be his first big test. In the semis, he could face Federer, who he hasn't lost to at a major since 2012.

Rafael Nadal: Nadal has just one Australian Open title from way back in 2009 to go along with four other final appearances. That includes last season when he got drilled by Djokovic. However, coming off a strong close to the 2019 season, when he recaptured the No. 1 ranking and won the US Open, the 33-year-old Spaniard should be feeling confident heading into the year's first major. His first test could come into the fourth round, when he could face Nick Kyrgios or Karen Khachanov. A matchup against Kyrgios, who would be on home soil, could be tough considering he is just 4-3 in the head-to-head. Nadal is in the same half of the draw as Medvedev, who he barely ousted in the US Open final, and they could get a rematch in the semifinals.

Contenders

Daniil Medvedev: Medvedev rose to the top 5 in the world after an excellent close to 2019, which culminated in a thrilling five-set loss to Nadal in the US Open final. The 23-year-old Russian is one of the best hard-court players in the world, and has proven to be fiercely competitive with Djokovic in their matchups (2-4 record against), including in a recent grueling three-set loss to the Serbian in ATP Cup action. Medvedev would likely need to get past Nadal, who he has an 0-3 record against, in the semifinals to meet Djokovic in the final.

Roger Federer: Federer lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2019, which came after he had won two-consecutive titles at the event in 2017 and 2018. The 38-year-old from Switzerland has yet to win a major since that 2018 title, and he'll likely need to get past Djokovic and Nadal to grab his 21st major victory, which is a tall task at this stage of his career. If an upset or two happen, however, Federer could conceivably slide right in for his seventh Australian Open title.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Tsitsipas has good memories at the Australian Open, where he broke through in 2019 to reach the semifinals. He has risen to be the No. 6 seed at this year's event after he captured the biggest title of his career to close 2019 at the Nitto ATP Finals. The 21-year-old from Greece's first big test looks like it will come in Round 4, where he could face No. 9 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who he defeated in a tough four-setter at the Australian Open in 2019. Next could come Djokovic in the quarters, and Tsitsipas has an impressive 2-2 record against him, but they've yet to face off at major. It would be a popcorn matchup should the draw unfold that way.

Others to watch

Dominic Thiem: Thiem has yet to advance further than the fourth round at the Australian Open, but as the No. 5 seed, a quarterfinal run is certainly plausible. His draw could be tricky if he faces Kevin Anderson in Round 3, as he is 2-7 against him in his career. That said, he's the favorite to reach the quarters in his section, where he would face Nadal, who he is a respectable 4-9 against in his career.

Andrey Rublev: Rublev is 8-0 to start 2020 after titles at both Doha and Adelaide. The 22-year-old Russian has never advanced out of the third round at the Australian Open, but if he's not too fatigued after his early-season success, he'll like his chances to potentially make a quarterfinal run at the year's debut major.

Round 1 matchups with upset potential

No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. Jan-Lennard Struff - Djokovic leads H2H 2-0

No. 4 Daniil Medvedev vs. Frances Tiafoe - Medvedev leads H2H 1-0

No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Feliciano Lopez - H2H tied at 2-2

No. 12 Fabio Fognini vs. Reilly Opelka - H2H tied at 1-1

No. 25 Borna Coric vs. Sam Querrey - Coric leads H2H 1-0

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zak Patterson
Zak joined RotoWire in 2016 covering NBA games. Now, he focuses on recapping and analyzing daily ATP and WTA tennis matches, and providing perspective on the state of the men's and women's game.
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