Roger Federer makes his return to competitive action at the Australian Open on Monday. The seventeen-time Grand Slam champion looked in great form in the Hopman Cup in Perth last week and nearly guided Switzerland to the final alongside Belinda Bencic. The majors offer a different kind of physicality for Federer and it has been a very long time since the Swiss man played a best-of-5 format on a regular basis.
If Federer was to win his 18th major at this year’s Australian Open, he will have to do it the hard way. His first round opponent is former Roland Garros semi-finalist Jurgen Melzer, who has beaten the very best in the game throughout his career including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer himself.
The former top tenner Melzer is a dangerous opponent even at the age of 35, but Federer still remains the heavy favourite to come through this match and to make a lot of noise in the coming weeks in Melbourne.
Prediction: Federer in three sets
Bernard Tomic  vs Thomaz Bellucci H2H: Bellucci leads 2-1
Bernard Tomic and Thomaz Bellucci lock horns in the first round of the Australian Open in an intriguing match-up. Tomic plays his best tennis on a grass court as the court surface allows him to be more aggressive and shorten the points with more regularity, while Bellucci has found most of his success on a clay court. With that being said, both of these players do have the quality to get decent results on the outdoor hard surface too.
These two players could not be any different in their approach to tennis, their respective game styles and the level of energy they bring to a tennis court. Bellucci commits fully to near-enough every ground stroke and plays with great intensity from start to finish, whereas Tomic is a lot more laid back on the court at the best of times.
Tomic’s game is great to watch. He can pick up the pace of a rally with his forehand and slow the course of a rally down completely with his backhand slice and I think that is an area where Bellucci will struggle enormously in this match-up. Bellucci can have a tendency to over-press and his shot selection can become reckless at times. Tomic also having the home advantage in a packed Margaret Court Arena could play a huge part in the early stages of this match also.
Prediction: Tomic in five sets
Stanislas Wawrinka  vs Martin Klizan H2H: Wawrinka leads 1-0
In many respects, Stan Wawrinka drew one of the most dangerous floaters of the unseeded players in the first round. The difficult thing about playing Martin Klizan is that you do not really know how Klizan will play – he is a very, very unpredictable tennis player. Some could argue the same case for Wawrinka, whose level fluctuates between match to match. The similarities in both players levels is that when they are feeling great about their game they can be very difficult to stop. Wawrinka is one of the most destructive players in our sport and can hurt his opponent off both wings, which makes him an even greater threat to the person on the other side of the net.
Wawrinka should be concerned with the firepower that Klizan possesses, but I think the three-time major winner will come through unscathed while dropping a set.
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