Ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2022, four Last Word on Tennis writers–Vithun Illankovan (@VitIllankovan), Damian Kust (@damiankust), Fraser Learmonth, Andy Watson–made their Australian Open predictions for the Men’s Singles tournament. We also have a separate roundtable for the Women’s singles.
Australian Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions
Champion – Who will win the US Open?
Vithun: (11) Jannik Sinner [ITA]
If Novak Djokovic was playing in the tournament, I would’ve picked him as my winner–not out of confidence, but because it would be a safer option than having to guess the surprise winner which I believe is what we will get. Many of the main contenders do not have good omens on their side. No man has won their second Grand Slam straight after winning their first so I ruled out 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev. Alexander Zverev is 0-11 against Top 10 players in Grand Slams and it is unlikely he will be able to go through the whole tournament without facing one. Rafael Nadal’s only Australian Open was in 2009, which was 13 years ago–the men’s record longest gap between winning the same Grand Slam title is eight years. Stefanos Tsitipas still isn’t that reliable on hard courts and also has injury concerns surrounding him. Matteo Berrettini seems due an exit before the quarter-finals as he only won one of his three matches at the ATP Cup and does not seem of the calibre to make four consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals. Next in the bookmaker’s odds to win is Berrettini’s compatriot Jannik Sinner. The young Italian won all three of his ATP Cup matches in straight sets and after some impressive performances as an alternate at the ATP Finals last year, I believe he is primed for a surprise Grand Slam win at this year’s Australian Open.
Damian: (3) Alexander Zverev [GER]
I initially picked Daniil Medvedev to follow up on his US Open success, mostly as Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic were placed in the same half of the draw. Now that this concern is gone and two favorites remain, let me choose the one that’s slightly bolder (still, not really). The German is yet to win a match against a top 10 player in the best-of-five format, but I can’t really believe it’s going to persist. The physical toll is obviously not the issue, so it’s just a matter of mentality. His draw, even with Djokovic out, is still a tad tougher than Medvedev’s. His time is gonna come though and it should be sooner rather than later.
Fraser: (9) Felix Auger-Alliasime [CAN]
Novak Djokovic was always going to be my pick here. However, with the Serbian out of the tournament I’ll have to find a new pick. I’m going to go with Felix Auger-Alliasime. The young Canadian is a top ten player with all the qualities needed to win multiple ATP titles and Grand Slams. All he has been missing in the last 12 months is the mental fortitude to go out and do that. He looks determined to change that so far this year. With the field wide open in Melbourne this could be FAA’s chance to nab his first title and Grand Slam in one go.
Andy: (2) Daniil Medvedev [RUS]
I thought Medvedev would win even before the final decision on Djokovic’s visa. He has recently overtaken the Serbian on Hard court ELO rankings and I think he is the one to beat on any hard court tournament now. His stats are beginning to get up to the levels expected of a dominant player and his section of the draw is fairly weak, allowing him to ease into the tournament nicely.
Dark Horse – Who will go furthest in the draw, relative to their seeding (or ranking)?
Vithun: (31) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]
I believe the young Spaniard is the real deal. He has already proved his potential at Grand Slam level with a run to the quarter-finals at the US Open last year which included a victory over a Top 5 player. His quarter has also opened up immensely with the absence of Novak Djokovic. In the 3rd round, he could face No.7 seed Berrettini but as I previously mentioned, the Italian seems due an pre-QF exit. Also, he won their only previous meeting, which was on hard courts. In the 4th Round he could face No,12 seed Cameron Norrie, who he beat in the opening round in his US Open run last year. No.17 seed Gael Monfils likely awaits in the quarter-finals but the Frenchman is quite a streaky player and so is unlikely to produced five top quality matches in a row. My only concern is that Alcaraz has not played any tennis this year but I have enough confidence in his ability to pencil him in for the semifinals.
Damian: (15) Roberto Bautista Agut [ESP] or (20) Taylor Fritz [USA]
I’m cheating here, but let me explain myself – this is a potential third-round matchup that I’m really looking forward to (and I think only Frances Tiafoe has a good chance of ruining it). Whoever wins, would likely play Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is by far the weakest of the top four seeds (now three with Djokovic withdrawing), especially coming off an injury. The section next to Fritz/Bautista Agut is also one of the less competitive ones and the way I see it is whoever wins that third-round encounter could go all the way to the semis. Both kicked off the year beautifully at the ATP Cup. Fritz has a negative head-to-head record (1-5) against the Spaniard, but he’s the slightly better player at the moment, hence me not being able to separate them.
Fraser: (WC) Andy Murray [GBR]
This one’s easy, it’s Andy Murray for me. The former British #1 is playing his first ATP final in three years as I write this. Whether he wins or loses, Murray has shown that he can compete at an elite level in the men’s game. He believes he can still win titles and even Grand Slams and if he believes it we should too. I think Murray makes at least the fourth round here and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a semifinal if his body stands up to the rigours of five set tennis.
Andy: (31) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]
It concerns me that he hasn’t yet played this season but if he is ready for it then the youngster has been granted a massive chance to go deep in this Australian Open. The main threat in his section is either Tommy Paul or Gael Monfils, either player he has a great chance to defeat. A word also for Casper Ruud and Tomas Machac, both of whom I expect to outplay their seeding and ranking.
Early Exit – Who will suffer the earliest exit, relative to their seeding (or ranking)?
Vithun: (21) Nikoloz Basilashvili [GEO]
The Georgian has to play Andy Murray in the opening round. Murray just beat him in Sydney and went on to reach the final. I predict the five-time Australian Open finalist getting the better of Basilashvili once again. Also in danger is the big American John Isner. The 22nd seed has only won one of his four matches in 2022 and it was against a player ranked outside the Top 230. He opens up against compatriot Maxime Cressy who reached the final of the Melbourne Summer Set so an upset appears on the cards. Also due an early exit for reasons I made earlier is Matteo Berrettini, but the Italian should win a couple rounds.
Damian: (8) Casper Ruud [NOR]
While he’s made so much improvement on hard courts in the past year or so, I do believe there might be a third-round exit looming for the Norwegian. Alex de Minaur had a terrible second half of 2021, but he always seems to raise his game in front of the home crowd and performed very well at the ATP Cup. The Australian is hungry for a big result and I think he might just get it if he plays Ruud in round three.
Fraser: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE]
Greek superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas is yet to convince me that he is an elite talent on hard courts. He is very, very good but I won’t consider him a contender in any major outside the French Open until he starts making the second week on a consistent basis. He has traditionally fared well in Melbourne, and I don’t think he’ll go out in the first round like he did in Wimbledon. However, I don’t see him making the second week and that simply isn’t good enough for a top five player.
Andy: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE]
Didn’t look right at the ATP Cup and has called into question his own recovery from his injury. Has a trickly first round draw vs Mikael Ymer and not an easy section after that. Also, Cameron Norrie may not make the second week, he usually doesn’t but now his elevated ranking of 12 means he is a bigger seed to fit into this category.
Main Photo from Getty.