Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic winning the Australian Open?
Novak Djokovic will be back at the Australian Open this year, and that is probably bad news for his ATP rivals.
Djokovic has been the most dominant man in the history of the tournament, winning nine titles, the latest of which came after tearing his abdomen in the fourth round.
The sensational events of January this year when the Serbian was detained and then deported on the eve of the tournament are sure to ensure he will arrive in Australia even more motivated than ever, and his form is exceptional too.
He finished off the 2022 season at his majestic best, winning Tel-Aviv, Astana and the ATP Finals and reaching the final of the Paris Masters.
While he will be the overwhelming favourite, though, there are plenty of players who will also fancy their chances of stopping him from winning a tenth major down under.
Everyone knows that the Australian Open is not Nadal’s favourite major, but if we have learned anything during his incredible career it is to never write him off.
He arrives in Australia as the defending champion, although many seem to consider last year’s success an ‘asterisk’ title given Djokovic was not allowed to compete.
I don’t think that is entirely fair, although if Djokovic won the French Open without going through Nadal we’d all likely say the same about that title too.
Nevertheless, let us not fall into the trap of believing Nadal can’t beat Djokovic in Australia. He can beat any player in the world on any given day and he will be a serious contender to start the season with another major title.
For all Nadal won the Australian Open this year, for most of the tournament it looked like Daniil Medvedev was going to. The Russian played some incredible tennis across the two weeks and looked like the most dominant player.
He led by two sets to love in the final against Nadal too, and he probably still to this day doesn’t really understand how he didn’t win it. The reality was he didn’t do anything wrong: it was just Rafael Nadal doing Rafael Nadal things.
Medvedev is a player who loves a hardcourt as much as Djokovic does, and he has a defence that makes him tough to hit through – even when he is off-balance. He’ll be hard to beat, there is no question of that.
He has also beaten Djokovic in the final of a hardcourt major before, with that win coming at the 2021 US Open. Djokovic couldn’t even take a set off him that day.
Make no mistake about it, if it’s a hardcourt major, Daniil Medvedev can win it – whether Djokovic is in the draw or not. He has proven it.
ANALYSIS: Breaking down Daniil Medvedev’s defence
Alexander Zverev has not played competitively since the semi-final of the French Open due to a serious foot injury. Ordinarily, you’d give him a bit of time before expecting a player too be in major-winning condition after such a period out.
Zverev has the advantage of being naturally super-fit, though, and his time away from the court may have actually done him some good in giving him some headspace to figure out how to take the step that has eluded him in his career so far.
He will also be helped by the fact that, in terms of rhythm and rustiness, everyone will be in the same boat to a degree after having a couple months off in the close-season.
Then there is the Dunlop Australian Open balls, which are light and quick and likely to favour the big servers, especially when they are new.
In other words, don’t rule out Alexander Zverev coming back with a bang in Australia.
Read an exclusive Tennishead review of the Dunlop Australian Open ball
Another player who will be helped by the balls is Nick Kyrgios, who is probably the best server and most devastating power-player on the ATP Tour.
He has finally proven his Grand Slam credentials by reaching the Wimbledon final this year and, while he has not appeared to have conquered his demons entirely, he has demonstrated much greater control over his temperament.
Kyrgios will also have the added advantage of having the loud Australian Open crowd on his side, and no one can whip them into a frenzy like he can.
The big question will be whether that creates momentum or pressure, but there is little doubt that if the Wimbledon Nick Kyrgios turns up in Melbourne, he can win it.
ANALYSIS: Can Nick Kyrgios win the Australian Open?
Carlos Alcaraz is the world number one and for that reason alone you have to put some respect to his name. He has certainly earned it.
In fact, there has never been a younger world number one in ATP history, and to win a major at any age is some achievement – to do it as a teenager is mind-blowing.
Can Carlos Alcaraz win the Australian Open? Yes. He has proven he has the talent and temperament to win a major.
The rest is unknown. He has no real Australian Open record and no one can predict how he will adjust to the pressures of increased expectations. In terms of raw talent, though, don’t count him out.
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