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Australian Open 2019 Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on semi-final collision course; Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline top half; as Andy Murray gets tough opener

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 10 Jan 2019
  • Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been drawn in the bottom half of the Australian Open, and are on course for a semi-final meeting
  • Andy Murray handed tough opener against Roberto Bautista-Agut and could face Federer in the quarter finals
  • The Australian Open is live from Melbourne from 14-27 January
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are in the bottom half of the 2019 Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Defending champion, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are in the bottom half of the Australian Open draw, while world No. 1, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline the top half.

Former world No. 1 Andy Murray is in Roger Federer's quarter, and could face the great Swiss if he makes it to the last eight, but Murray has been handed a tough first round draw on his return to the Melbourne Park, as he takes on the in-form Roberto Bautista-Agut. 

Can Federer win the Australian Open for the third straight year, or will Novak Djokovic carry on his dominant form from the second half of last season and win a seventh Australian Open title? These two are the bookmakers favourites to go all the way, but with former champions, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka in the draw, and a host of young guns pushing to make their marks, it promises to be another exciting fortnight in Melbourne. 

We preview the 2019 Australian Open men’s singles’ draw.

First Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Novak Djokovic (1) vs Kei Nishikori (8) [Djokovic leads 15-2 on head-to-head]

Seeking a seventh title in Melbourne and a 15th Grand Slam title overall, Novak Djokovic begins his campaign against a qualifier, but could face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round in a repeat of the 2008 final. While Djokovic surged to No. 1 in the world in the second half of last season, Tsonga was battling a knee injury, dropping out of the top 200 after a seven-month lay-off. The French wildcard showed decent form in reaching the Brisbane semi-finals in the opening week of the year, and provided he gets past the equally dangerous Martin Klizan in the first round in Melbourne, he should provide an eye-catching early test for Djokovic. That said, the world No. 1 should be too good for Tsonga.

Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Djokovic's projected third-round opponent is Denis Shapovalov, who like Tsonga, is capable of periods of magic, but doesn't have the consistency to take three sets off the top seed. Should Djokovic expectedly reach the fourth round, he could face the in-form Russian, Daniil Medvedev, who is coming off a runner-up finish in Sydney, following on from his rise to the top 20 in 2018. Medvedev may have to get past David Goffin in the third round to earn a shot at Djokovic. The Russian brings plenty of firepower to the table, particularly the serve, but he will need to maintain an extremely high level for a sustained period if he is to take down the six-time champion. I don't think that will happen. Djokovic's potential route is lined with flashy shot-makers, hence, he will be on the receiving end of quite a few spectacular winners, but the Serbian should grind down everyone in this quarter and move into the quarter finals, where he could face Brisbane champion, Kei Nishikori. 

Nishikori missed last year's Australian Open due to a wrist injury, but he has done remarkably well to earn a top-eight seeding in Melbourne having dropped out of the top-30 at some point last year, and after his fine start to the season in Brisbane, the Japanese star will hold high hopes of at least matching his best ever efforts in Melbourne, which were quarter final appearances in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Nishikori begins his tournament against a qualifier, before a potentially tricky second round date with giant Croatian, Ivo Karlovic (provided Karlovic beats rising Pole, Hubert Hurkacz in the first round). If Nishikori withstands the barrage of Karlovic aces, he will likely face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, while Fabio Fognini and Pablo Carreno Busta are his projected fourth-round opponents.

Predicted Quarter-Final: Novak Djokovic vs Kei Nishikori 
Semi-finalist: Novak Djokovic 

Second Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Alexander Zverev (4) vs Dominic Thiem (7) [Thiem leads 5-2 on head-to-head]

Alexander Zverev heads into the Australian Open with question marks over his fitness after the world No. 4 suffered a couple of injury scares in the week leading up to the first Grand Slam of the year. Zverev had opened his season at the Hopman Cup, winning three singles matches before losing to Roger Federer in the final, but he then pulled out of an exhibition event in Adelaide, citing a hamstring problem sustained in training, before appearing to injure his leg during another practice match a few days later.

Alexander Zverev's has had a couple of injury scares ahead of the Australian Open. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
The German is still expected to go ahead with his Australian Open campaign, which he opens against Great Britain's Aljaz Bedene, before a second-round meeting with Jeremy Chardy or Ugo Humbert. While he may have enough to get through those two rounds, he could encounter serious problems in the third round against Gilles Simon- the sort of pesky opponent that will definitely exploit any physical (and mental) issues Zverev may be carrying. Simon has made a solid start to the season, making the semis in his tournament opener in Pune, and then as at the time of writing, the quarter finals in Sydney. He could be the man to extend Zverev's Grand Slam misery in Melbourne. 

Whoever comes through that section is seeded to meet Milos Raonic in the fourth round, but Raonic's position is far from secure, with the Canadian stuck in what's arguably the most exciting part of the draw. Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Hyeon Chung are also present in this bracket, with only one to go through to the fourth round. Raonic opens against Kyrgios, with the winner facing Wawrinka or Ernest Gulbis, while last year's semi-finalist Chung could await in the third round. It's incredible difficult to call this one, but Wawrinka's pedigree and early season form makes him favourite in my opinion. After a difficult few months in 2018, the former Australian Open champion improved significantly as the year approached its conclusion, and he looked bright enough in Doha in the opening week of 2019, beating Paris champion, Karen Khachanov and the dangerous Chilean, Nicolas Jarry before falling to the inspired Roberto Bautista-Agut.

Dominic Thiem heads the other side of the second quarter, but the Austrian could encounter immediate trouble as he opens against the unpredictable Benoit Paire, while Mischa Zverev, who reached the quarter finals in 2017 is a possible second round opponent. Thiem could play Lucas Pouille in the third round- no guarantees that either man will get that far- while Borna Coric is a potential fourth round opponent.

Rather than play anyone of the build-up the tournaments across Australia and Asia, Coric went to Melbourne very early to get used to the conditions as he seeks his first significant move at a major. Incredibly, the Croatian has never won a match at the Australian Open, losing in the first round in each of the last four years. However, after his stunning 2018, during which he rose as high as 11th in the world, I think he is ready to make his move!

Predicted Quarter Final: Stan Wawrinka vs Borna Coric
Semi-Finalist: Stan Wawrinka

Third Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Roger Federer (2) vs Marin Cilic (6) [Federer leads 9-1 on head-to-head]

Defending champion, Roger Federer begins his quest for a third straight Australian Open title, and milestone 100th career title against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, who is arguably most famous for taking down Novak Djokovic in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open. With a career-high ranking of 33, Istomin is obviously a very good player, but the chances of the world No. 99 upsetting a reigning Australian Open champion in Melbourne for the second time in three years are very remote. An accommodating early draw sees Federer take on a qualifier in the second round, while Gael Monfils could be the Swiss’ first seeded opponent in the third round. Monfils has not played since retiring from a quarter final meeting with Fernando Verdasco in Vienna last October, and could be out of the tournament before the third round as he plays the steady Damir Dzumhur in the first round, and Taylor Fritz or the improving Brit, Cameron Norrie in the second round- if he gets that far.

Roger Federer. (Photo by ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Either way, Federer should progress into the fourth round, where he is projected to meet young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas or the hard-hitting Georgian, Nikoloz Basilashvili. Rising star, Tsitsipas can catch Federer cold outside the Grand Slam arena (hasn’t happened yet, of course), but that is not likely to happen over the best of five sets!

Federer looks set to reach another Australian quarter final, where he could run into Marin Cilic, or quite possibly, Andy Murray… 

Murray returns to Melbourne after missing the tournament last year and undergoing hip surgery, but he has been handed a tough opening round, as he plays Doha champion, Roberto Bautista-Agut. Bautista-Agut played some of his best tennis in Doha last week, beating Wawrinka and Djokovic on his way to the title, and he will not get a better opportunity to score his first ever win over Murray, who continues to search for form and fitness after his injury ordeal. If Murray somehow gets through the tenacious Spaniard, he will face John Millman or Federico Delbonis in the second round. The hard-hitting Russian, Karen Khachanov is his most likely third-round opponent, while Marin Cilic could be waiting in the fourth round. 

Cilic has not had the smoothest start to the season, as he missed the Maharashtra Open in Pune and has been struggling with a knee injury, but he came through unscathed at the Kooyong Classic during the week, beating Kevin Anderson and Fernando Verdasco in the exhibition tournament. The Croatian has a tricky opener against Bernard Tomic in Melbourne, and could face young gun, Andrey Rublev and Spanish veteran, Verdasco in the second and third rounds.

Murray and Cilic are obviously the star names in this quarter, but Bautista-Agut is the form man after his Doha heroics. This could be the tournament when the Spaniard finally makes his maiden Grand Slam quarter final.

Predicted Quarter Final: Roger Federer vs Roberto Bautista-Agut 
Semi-Finalist: Roger Federer 

Fourth Quarter 

Projected Quarter Final: Rafael Nadal (2) vs Kevin Anderson (5) [Nadal leads 5-0 on head-to-head]

Right at the bottom of the draw is Rafael Nadal, who plays his first tournament since last year's US Open when retired hurt from his semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has been struggling with a thigh injury, pulling out of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship after just one match, and the Brisbane International, but he has sounded very positive fitness-wise ahead the Australian Open, where he will attempt to win the title for the second time.

Rafael Nadal practising in Melbourne. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Nadal will not be too displeased with his early draw- he takes on Australian wildcard, James Duckworth in the first round, and will face Matt Ebden or hard-hitting German, Jan Lennard Struff in the second round, while rising Aussie, Alex De Minaur is his projected third-round opponent. I like De Minaur a lot, and I think he will push Nadal very hard, but the Spaniard should again have too much firepower for the battling youngster.

If Nadal does progress, he is projected to meet Kyle Edmund in the fourth round, but the British No. 1 and last year's semifinalist has got his work cut out in the first round as he plays the fit-again Tomas Berdych, who returned from a six-month absence in the first week of the year and instantly made the final in Doha. Lurking somewhere in that section is Diego Schwartzman, who could face either Berdych or Edmund in the third round to decide Nadal’s fourth-round opponent. Schwartzman was a semi-finalist in Sydney at the time of writing, and the diminutive Argentine, who pushed Nadal to four sets in the fourth round last year, is my pick to set up a round-of-16 rematch with the great Spaniard in 2019.

Leading the other side of the quarter is world No. 5 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, Kevin Anderson, who got off to a flying start in 2019 by winning the Pune title. The major roadblocks to Anderson's path to a first Australian Open quarter final are John Isner and Grigor Dimitrov, both of whom could meet in the fourth round. 

Predicted Quarter Final: Rafael Nadal vs Kevin Anderson
Semi-Finalist: Kevin Anderson 

Novak Djokovic vs Stan Wawrinka 
Roger Federer vs Kevin Anderson

Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer

Roger Federer

What do you think of our predictions? Let us know on twitter! 

Australian Open tennis is live from Melbourne from 14-27 January

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Australian Open 2019 Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on semi-final collision course; Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline top half; as Andy Murray gets tough opener

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could meet in the Australian Open semi-finals after being placed in the bottom half of the draw, while Andy Murray has been handed a difficult draw on his return to the Australian Open. Read our draw preview, predictions and stream the matches live online.

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