2018 means there are four new shiny Grand Slam trophies up for grabs! The stereotypical case of Roger/Rafa vs. the rest and a wide-open, Serena-less women’s bracket is partially true, although with a new year comes a new set of stories and questions surrounding the best tennis players in the world.
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TWO former world No. 1’s in Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka are the biggest omissions from the ladies draw. So once again, it seems like we may have a first-time Australian Open champ, with former winners Maria Sharapova (2008) and Angelique Kerber (2016) still struggling to re-affirm their names with the top of the food chain. That leaves the door wide open for the likes of Garbine Muguruza, Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova or world No. 1 Simona Halep
Dark Horse – Top 25 Aussies
FOR Ash Barty (18th seed) and Daria Gavrilova (23rd seed) playing in front a local, vocal crowd can be both a blessing and a curse. Barty took it up to Kerber at the Sydney International this week and nearly came away with the title, while Gavrilova has plenty of big-name scalps on her resume. I think that either Ash or Dash can make the final 16 field if they can avoid early slip-ups and dethrone a big name.
Image from sydneyinternational.com.au
Bust – Sloane Stephens
THE major reason the winner of the previous slam finds herself here is due to health. She faces a tough draw to make another deep run in a major, and if she really isn’t 100% healthy don’t rule out a first-round collapse at the hands of Zhang Shuai.
AFTER back to back first round exits, Simona Halep will make it all the way to the second round where she will be upset by Eugenie Bouchard or Oceane Dodin.
Final – Karolina Pliskova vs. Caroline Wozniacki
PLISKOVA built a solid 2017 season onto her finals appearance at the 2016 U.S. Open, and I think she has the talents to be a force in 2018. Unfortunately, for her, standing in her way is seasoned veteran Caroline Wozniacki, who after 42 failed attempts will break through and win her maiden Grand Slam.
WINNER: CAROLINE WOZNIACKI
Image from blog.tennis-warehouse.com
HOW can we follow up the epic 2017 Aus Open? Well, why not schedule a rematch between the two greatest players of this generation (sorry Novak)? Rafa and Roger hold down the one and two seeds respectively, but outside of them, the field gets murky. Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori are out with injuries while both Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka have had injury-interrupted starts that will likely translate to short stays at Melbourne Park. The chance is there for someone outside of the top 10 to make a big move, but will anyone stand up?
Dark Horse – Fernando Verdasco
IT feels like just yesterday that Verdasco was running around wreaking havoc in the 2009 Aus Open, running all the way to the semi-finals. Nearly a decade later his best tennis may be behind him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous. If he can take down Roberto Bautista Agut in his first match, don’t rule out more fireworks in the rounds that follow.
Bust – Tomas Berdych
THE easy pick may be ticking time bomb Nick Kyrgios as we aren’t sure what side of the polarizing 22-year old we are going to see. I’m sticking with another familiar name in Thomas Berdych who faces a tough road out of his portion of the bracket. An underwhelming 2017 and a potential matchup with del Potro in the 3rd round doesn’t bode well for the Czech.
Image from irishmirror.ie
WE can almost see the torch being passed when Alexander Zverev takes down the King of Melbourne, Novak Djokovic in the 4th round. Also, I’m predicting that we will lose Roger before the round of 16.
Final – Alexander Zverev vs. Grigor Dimitrov
I’M genuinely excited for the Men’s bracket to unfold, given the upset potential and surprises that are in store. One thing is for sure though, I don’t see Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal winning in Australia, just a gut hunch that I’m riding. There’s no doubt they will be in the thick of the other three Grand Slam’s, but I’m ushering in a new era at Rod Laver Arena this time around.
WINNER: ALEXANDER ZVEREV
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