Ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2023, five Last Word on Tennis writers–-Vithun Illankovan (@VitIllankovan), Damian Kust (@damiankust), Jack Edward, Shane Black and Jakub Bobro–make their Australian Open predictions for the Men’s Singles tournament. We also have a separate roundtable for the Women’s singles.
The player we think will win the Men’s Singles tournament
Vithun: (4) Novak Djokovic [SRB]
The Serbian has won the Australian Open nine times (with his last defeat coming in 2018), which is more times than anyone else. Djokovic has won his last 34 matches in Australia, including a title in Adelaide this year. Given that he was unfairly denied participation last year by the government, he will have added motivation to win. Therefore, I’m sticking with my prediction at the end of last year that Djokovic will win the 2023 Australian Open.
Damian: (4) Novak Djokovic [SRB]
Usually, I’m all for gutsy picks and unexpected selections, but sometimes you gotta know when to stop. The draw only strengthens my belief that Novak Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite coming into Melbourne this year. He should have a few quiet rounds early on and while his quarterfinal might get tricky, neither Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune, nor Nick Kyrgios have really shown they’re capable of defeating him in best-of-five play. On top of that, he’s also landed in the weaker half without Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Daniil Medvedev. Would their presence change my pick? Not really, but it has to be noted that Djokovic’s already sky-high ratings in my book have only risen since I saw the draw.
Jack: (4) Novak Djokovic [SRB]
Apologies for the safe bet but I’m left with no option. Novak Djokovic has won five of the last six tournaments he’s played, 34 matches on the bounce in Australia and nine of the last 14 Australian Opens he’s played.
The numbers overwhelmingly fall in his favour with his greatest threat currently a dodgy hamstring. Nadal hasn’t beaten the Serb on a hard court in ten years and Medvedev is just too unreliable at the moment. If his strongest rival is Nick Kyrgios in the quarters, there appears to be no other logical pick.
Shane: (4) Novak Djokovic [SRB]
The nine-time champion of the Australian Open is back in Melbourne after being unable to defend his title last season. Novak Djokovic will attack this ATP season with vengeance as he looks to become the all-time Slams leader. Djokovic holds an unfathomable 64-3 record at the Australian Open since 2011. Looking at the draw, the Serbian should cruise into the second week with no trouble. Even then, other tournament favorites such as Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Daniil Medvedev, are on the other side of the draw. Once Djokovic rounds into form after a few matches, it will be tough to stop him on his quest for Grand Slam No. 22.
Jakub: (3) Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE]
After three semifinals in Melbourne since 2019, I believe Tsitsipas will break through and win his first slam title to start 2023. The Greek went undefeated at the United Cup and the opportunity is there with some key players in tough spots. With Carlos Alcaraz out, Rafael Nadal out of form and faced with a tough draw, and Novak Djokovic’s questionable health, this tournament could end up wide open. Tsitsipas has also been given a decent draw with very few threats in the first week.
Men’s Dark Horse
Which (other) player outside the Top 8 seeds will go furthest in the Men’s Singles?
Vithun: (9) Holger Rune [DEN]
Rune is a young player on the rise in the ATP. He has landed in the same eighth as Andrey Rublev, the weakest of the Top 8 seeds. Therefore, should they meet in the 4th Round, I expect and Rublev to have a meltdown and start crying angrily as Rune to advances to the quarterfinals.
Damian: (16) Frances Tiafoe [USA]
A lot of the high seeds in this draw seem quite strong and it will be tough for someone lower-ranked to beat them and go on a huge run. This is sort of related to my early exit pick as I believe if Rafael Nadal is to meet Frances Tiafoe in Round 4 (the exact stage they played each other at the US Open), he’ll have a very good shot at beating him again. Karen Khachanov is the biggest obstacle between the American and the last 16. Who would be the favorite for me in a hypothetical match between Nadal and Tiafoe? If it was tomorrow, the 16th seed, but if it happens in the fourth round, I think it’s too early to tell and would depend on how they (especially the 22-time Grand Slam champion) had been performing until then.
Jack: (29) Sebastian Korda [USA]
Nick Kyrgios would have been my pick but, with Holger Rune in the third-round Novak Djokovic likely lying in wait in the quarterfinals, it’s tough to pick him making a deep run with confidence. Sebi Korda’s game has been getting more and more reliable and a third-round upset of Daniil Medvedev is absolutely a possibility. Following that, who knows what could happen in a quarterfinal with Nadal. Don’t sleep on Korda’s extremely high level this fortnight.
Shane: (15) Jannik Sinner [ITA]
With Carlos Alcaraz’s ascension to the top of the sport in 2022, I think people were quick to forget about Jannik Sinner. The 21-year-old Italian has as bright of a future as anyone in the sport and has been on the precipice of breaking through at a Grand Slam multiple times. Sinner reached the quarterfinals at this event last year and has shown extreme comfortability on slick hard courts. Although he did not finish the 2022 season in the best form, his confidence looked strong in three matches in Adelaide. The draw sets up nicely for him through the first three rounds. If he can get past Stefanos Tsitsipas in round four, I believe the young Italian can make a run to the final.
Jakub: (13) Matteo Berrettini [ITA]
Only the 13th seed due to his season being slowed down by injuries in 2022, Berrettini could be in for a very nice run here. The Italian has a tough draw to start with Andy Murray in the opener and potentially tricky Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round. After that, Berrettini has an easier road with Roberto Bautista Agut as his likely third-round opponent and Casper Ruud the high seed in his section. I see Berrettini getting through to the quarterfinals at the very least and having a strong chance to beat out Taylor Fritz for a spot in the semifinals.
Men’s Early Exit
Which Top 8 seed will be eliminated earliest in the Men’s Singles?
Vithun: (5) Andrey Rublev [
The ATP ranking system favours commitment over competence and as a result Andrey Rublev is beneficiary. Contrary to what he believes, he is not in the Top 8 players in terms of Tennis ability. The Russian frequently gets exposed for being “mid” at Grand Slams and I think it will happen once again at the Australian Open with another pre-quarterfinal exit.
Damian: (1) Rafael Nadal [ESP]
The seeds that seem the most vulnerable are, paradoxically, No. 1 and No. 2. If Rafael Nadal is to beat Jack Draper in the opening round, then I believe he’ll also make the fourth round, where he could run into some issues again. But that’s a pretty big if and the young Brit was literally the toughest unseeded player he could face. Provided he holds up physically after a long week in Adelaide, I believe Draper has every chance of beating Nadal and playing him in the first round only helps – he can catch him before the Spaniard regains his mojo.
Jack: (5) Andrey Rublev [
Andrey Rublev hasn’t inspired me with a ton of confidence in a long time. He’s looked frazzled and stressed the last few times I’ve watched him play – nearly nobody expects him to keep a level enough head to go all the way.
I’m predicting worse than that. Though Rublev should be okay against Thiem, Emil Ruusuvuori has enough parallels to his own game to cause him trouble on a bad day and Dan Evans could be a complete nightmare for him in the third-round if he hasn’t hit his stride.
Shane: (2) Casper Ruud [NOR]
The past two seasons for Casper Ruud have been nothing short of extraordinary. He finished 2021 and 2022 with a combined record of 109-40 with eight titles and two runner-up finishes at Slams. Ruud has proven he can play at a very high level on any surface. That said, I am intrigued to see how he handles the pressure of being the No. 2 seed in Melbourne. Ruud is 1-2 on the young season, losing matches to Matteo Berrettini and Laslo Djere. A potential second round meeting with Jenson Brooksby could cause some problems for the Norwegian. I, however, think he bows out in round three to American Tommy Paul. The two have had some epic battles in the past, including a five-setter at the 2022 US Open.
Jakub: (2) Casper Ruud [NOR]
Despite the questions surrounding Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic coming into Melbourne, I have picked second seed Casper Ruud as my early out. The Norwegian showed splendid progress in 2022 but I think he’s still far from a consistent force on the tour outside of clay. Ruud suffered a loss to Laslo Djere in the lead-up and has a tough draw early. He opens against Czech talent Tomas Machac before potentially facing Jenson Brooksby in the second round. Ruud will then have to play one of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Alexander Bublik, or Tommy Paul, all players he could lose to. If Ruud makes it out of that section, he will likely have to play Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round.
Main Photo from Getty.