Australian Open 2018: The Title Favourites In The Men’s Draw
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the top two seeds at the 2018 Australian Open.
Defending champion Roger Federer will be back sniffing a 20th major at the Australian Open that starts Monday but the build-up to the men's tournament has been more about who will even make the start line in Melbourne, rather than who will last the course.
Rarely have so many top players begun the season either carrying injuries or taking the early steps back from lengthy absences. Five-times runner-up Andy Murray and Japan's Kei Nishikori will take no part, with Murray's hip injury casting a huge cloud over the former world number one's career. Former champion Stan Wawrinka and Canadian Milos Raonic are also still getting up to speed after injury breaks.
Below is the list of favourites who have made the journey to Melbourne this time round.
Rafael Nadal: Top Seed
- Age: 31
- 2017 Win-Loss Record: 66-11
- 2017 Singles Titles: 6, Career Singles Titles: 75
- Major Titles: 16 — Australian Open ('09), French Open ('05, '06, '07, '08, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14, '17), Wimbledon ('08, '10), U.S. Open ('10, '13, '17).
- Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-Lost in Final, '16-1st Round, '15-Quarterfinals, '14-Final, '13-Did Not Play.
Nadal returned from a lengthy injury layoffs last year to reach the Australian Open final, seeded ninth, and renewed his vintage rivalry with Roger Federer, who won in five sets. In the same year though, he went on to win his 10th French Open title — becoming the third man to win majors in teens, 20s and 30s — and the U.S. Open.
He finished 2017 atop the rankings, becoming the oldest year-end No. 1 in the history of ATP rankings.
Recent form: Nadal’s preparation has been hampered by a right knee injury that has restricted him to two exhibition events at the start of the season.
Until his shocking 1st-round loss to Fernando Verdasco in 2016, Nadal had reached the quarterfinals or better at every Australian Open he had contested since 2007.
Roger Federer: Second Seed
- Age: 36
- 2017 Win-Loss Record: 52-5
- 2017 Singles Titles: 7, Career Singles Titles: 95
- Major Titles: 19 — Australian Open ('04, '06, '07, '10, '17), French Open ('09), Wimbledon ('03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '09, '12, '17), U.S. Open ('04, '05, '06, '07, '08).
- Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-Won Championship, '16-Semfinals, '15-3rd, '14-SF, '13-SF.
Taking the last half of the 2016 season off to let his surgically repaired left knee heal did the trick for Federer last season, which he kicked off by winning his fifth Australian title and ending a long sequence of defeats in Grand Slam finals against Nadal.
Recent form: Warmed up for the 2018 Australian Open by combining with Belinda Bencic to win the Hopman Cup international mixed teams tournament for Switzerland.
After skipping the French, Federer then won Wimbledon for a record 8th time and become the second-oldest major winner in the Open era behind Ken Rosewall.
With the exception of a 3rd-round exit in 2015, Federer has reached the semifinals or better at Melbourne Park every year since 2004.
Grigor Dimitrov: 3rd Seed
- Age: 26
- 2017 Win-Loss Record: 49-19
- 2017 Singles Titles: 4, Career Singles Titles: 8
- Major Titles: 0 — Best: SF, Australian Open ('17) and Wimbledon ('14).
- Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-SF, '16-3rd, '15-4th, '14-QF, '13-1st
Dimitrov comes into 2018 on the heels of his best season to date where he finished at a career-high No. 3 and went 5-0 to win the season-ending ATP Finals. He started 2017 by winning the Brisbane International title and then making a career-best run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, where he lost in 5 sets and almost 5 hours to Nadal.
Recent form: He failed to defend his Brisbane title last week when he lost to eventual champion Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals, but he appeared to be relaxed and confident and produced one of the highlights of the tournament by leaping over the net to help injured opponent Kyle Edmund in the quarterfinals.
Alexander Zverev: 4th Seed
- Age: 20
- 2017 Win-Loss Record: 55-22
- 2017 Singles Titles: 5, Career Singles Titles: 6
- Major Titles: 0 — Best: 4th, Wimbledon ('17)
- Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-3rd, '16-1st, '15-DNP, '14-DNP, '13-DNP
Zverev finished behind only Federer and Nadal for most titles in 2017, in a season that earmarked him for bigger things to come. The year also saw him produce the biggest victory of his career to beat Djokovic en route to his first ATP Masters title at Rome.
He beat Federer in the final of the Masters tournament in Montreal, reached a career-high No. 3 ranking in November and became the youngest player since Djokovic in 2007 to break into the Top 3.
However, for all his success at Masters level, Zverev still hasn't made a run to the quarterfinals of a major.
Recent form: He helped Germany reach final of Hopman Cup in Perth, but was no match for Federer in the final after winning a tight first set.
Novak Djokovic: 14th Seed
- Age: 30
- 2017 Win-Loss Record: 32-8
- 2017 Singles Titles: 2, Career Singles Titles: 68
- Major Titles: 12 — Australian Open ('08, '11, '12, '13, '15, '16), French Open ('16), Wimbledon ('11, '14, '15), U.S. Open ('11, '15).
- Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-2nd, '16-W, '15-W, '14-QF, '13-W.
Djokovic shares the record for most Australian titles with six but was a doubtful starter after an extended break from the tour dating back to quarterfinal exit at Wimbledon because of a right elbow injury. The time away saw him drop from a year-end ranking of no 2 in 2016 to no 12 last year.
Djokovic however excels on the hard courts at the Australian Open, where he is aiming to be the first man to win seven singles crowns and break a tie with Roy Emerson, who won his home title in 1961 and from 1963-67.
Prior to a shocking 2nd-round loss in 5 sets last year to wildcard entry Denis Istomin, the Serb was on a 40-1 record and five titles in the previous six years at Melbourne Park.
Nick Kyrgios: 17th Seed
- Age: 22
- 2017 Win-Loss Record: 31-17
- 2017 Singles Titles: 0, Career Singles Titles: 4
- Major Titles: 0 — Best: QF, Australian Open ('15), Wimbledon ('14)
- Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-2nd, '16-3rd, '15-QF, '14-2nd, '13-DNP
Kyrgios is known as the Aussie with enormous potential but also occasional lapses in motivation.
On the international circuit, he is the only active player to have won his first career meetings against Nadal, Federer and Djokovic — establishing his credentials when he beat Nadal to reach the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals as a 19-year-old wildcard entry ranked No. 144
Recent form: Kyrgios started 2018 in a positive frame of mind, beating defending champion Dimitrov in the semifinals on the way to winning the Brisbane International, his first title on home soil and first anywhere since 2016.
The local lad had some issues with his left knee, which needed taping in Brisbane, but doesn't expect it to bother him in Melbourne.
Australia hasn't had a homegrown men's champion since in the national championship since 1976, so Kyrgios should have the crowd on his side.
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