When Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka contested the Monte Carlo final in April 2014; it was the first ever all Swiss final at any ATP 1000 event. The two have been placed on opposite half of the draw and I am anticipating a first( and maybe last for some time) all Swiss final at any major event. The defending champion Wawrinka enters the tournament winning the warm up event in Chennai (d. Bedene) & world no 2 Federer (d. Raonic) won the Brisbane event last week. Wawrinka also takes a 16-0 record in the month of January dating back to his wins last year in Chennai (d.Roger Vasselin) and a maiden grand slam (d. Nadal). Federer, the winner of an unprecedented 17 major titles will be relieved that he does not have to deal with the extra hype of 1000 match wins as he became only the third player on Open Era after Jimmy Connors(1253) and Ivan Lendl(1071) to reach the mark.
What could have been an intriguing first round match up involving the 2013 Wimbledon semi-finalists Jersy Janowicz and Juan Martin Del Potro is a no show as the Argentine has withdrawn – to the disappointment of tennis fans all over the world. One can expect a few hiccups for the top three as world no. 1 Novak Djokovic faces the runner up in Chennai Aljaz Bedene from Slovenia, Roger Federer taken on Yen Hsu Lu famous for his five set win against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 2010 and Rafael Nadal faces the highly experienced Russian Mikhail Youzhny. It would be a catastrophe though if any of the three do not progress. Wawrinka should have it easy against Marcel Illhan and Andy Murray should take care of Yuki Bhambri who won the junior event in 2009.
Expect the draw to go as per the seedings as the top players will get better with each outing though Djokovic and Federer may have to deal with the heavy artillery from John Isner and Ivo Karlovic in the round of 16. As per the seeding Djokovic will meet Milos Raonic; Federer gets a repeat of last years quarter-final showdown with Andy Murray; Nadal faces the 2014 semi finalist Tomas Berdych and Wawrinka plays the US Open runner up Kei Nishikori of Japan. If the toup four survive then expect a block buster semi-final line up. Djokovic and Wawrinka in the top half split two extraordinary five setters at the last two editions of this event and in the bottom half the rivalry between Federer and his nemesis Nadal is widely regarded as the greatest in the history of the game. While Wawrinka will have the extra incentive of defending his title Federer could finally end Nadal’s domination as the Spaniard has himself ruled him out as a favourite for the title he won in 2009. The winner of the event is a tough call but world No 1 Novak Djokovic looks like the safest bet to win his fifth Australian crown and his eighth major overall. The sentimental favourite Federer too can win his fifth Australian title and his 18th major should he manage to avoid a five setter early on in the event; something for which he had to pay a heavy price at the US Open 2014 as he barely edged the Frenchman Gael Monfils before being routed by the eventual champion Marin Cillic who too has been sadly sidelined due to shoulder injury.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]