I cannot see past Novak Djokovic for the accolade of winning a seventh title, and when it came to picking the shock exits, I don’t see either defending champion getting their mitts on Norman and Daphne, respectively.
While I would love to see Simona Halep get a second Slam, especially after that heartbreaking loss last year, but I think Angelique Kerber is looking ominously good already.
In terms of the Brits, they have all been handed mean draws, and we are unlikely to be so lucky as to have a batch of them in the second week. Let’s hope this is a work in progress for the year.
ATP CHAMPION: Novak Djokovic. After predicting the Serb to win this event since US Open, I’ve now almost convinced myself that he’ll be knocked out by round four and Roger Federer will go all the way. But that’s just too risky a prediction when Djokovic is the man concerned.
WTA CHAMPION: Serena Williams. I often lament not listening to my gut instinct, which has Angelique Kerber or Naomi Osaka winning this event. But despite her two major finals in 2018, Serena is almost getting overlooked. And that is when she thrives.
ATP SHOCK EXIT: Alexander Zverev. Really I should have Novak Djokovic’s name in this section, but I’m not brave enough. For all his talent and his decent draw, I don’t expect Zverev’s run to match his seeding.
WTA SHOCK EXIT: Caroline Wozniacki. Not convinced enough to place Simona Halep’s name here. I don’t see Wozniacki defending her title, and Alison Van Uytvanck – who took defending champion Garbine Muguruza out of Wimbledon – isn’t the most delightful first round draw. Other dangers lurk for the Dane ahead of the quarterfinals.
ATP DARK HORSE: Stan Wawrinka. I was on the brink of choosing Nick Kyrgios for this category, but he’s scheduled to meet Wawrinka in the second round. It was one or the other. And it’s a big gamble, given Wawrinka’s recent form.
WTA DARK HORSE: Belinda Bencic. She was in the top ten in her teens, and the Swiss 21-year-old is becoming a threat again after spells of injury. If Kvitova has a nightmare (as she often does in Melbourne), Bencic is looking at a run to the fourth round, at least.
Djokovic is the clear favourite to lift the title, although Federer’s impressive displays at the Hopman Cup could see him go all the way.
It also feels as if it’s Serena’s time. She should be physically stronger than Wimbledon and the US Open where she lost in the final and the opportunity to match Margaret Court’s record in her own backyard will prove too tempting to resist.
In terms of dark horses, I think Borna Coric and Aryna Sabalenka could go deep… sadly I can’t say the same about the Brits.
I’d be amazed if any got beyond round three, and I suspect only one will reach that stage after some fiendishly difficult draws…
I think it’s Djokovic’s title to win in Melbourne and I believe that his recent losses to the likes of RBA, Zverev and Khachanov point to the fact that he’s more focused at the majors and perhaps less so at other tour events at his age. Hard for me to see Federer or Nadal doing it, but crazier things have happened.
I’ve had a strong feeling about Kerber ever since I’ve seen her at Hopman Cup, and I think that Serena is fave #2, but that quarter of death she is in could make her chances ever more difficult.
I wanted to put Andy down for a win but all the tumult in his head and in his world have probably given him little to zero time to actually prepare for Bautista Agut. I’m not sure that he even has this win in him, sadly. But none of it will dull the emotions that I feel for the man at the moment and this fortnight will manage to be one big Murrayfest no matter what happens in the end.
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