Day two Picks
Originally published on 15/01/18 00:00
Novak Djokovic (14) v Donald Young
A first round clash involving Djokovic is usually nothing more than a formality, however this will be his competitive comeback after a six-month absence.
The former world No.1, who looked sharp and alert in a warm-up match against Dominic Thiem at the Kooyong Classic last week, will hope that his body is willing as he attempts to win an unprecedented seventh Australian Open crown.
Djokovic showcased a slightly changed service motion against the Austrian – in an effort to protect his troublesome elbow – and it will be fascinating to see if his new action helps or hinders his cause.
Young, ranked No.63 in the world, will view this is a legitimate chance to push his illustrious opponent, but he will still do well to nab a set.
Prediction: Djokovic in three
Juan Martin del Potro (12) v Frances Tiafoe
Tiafoe has not had much luck with Grand Slam draws recently.
The likeable teenager bumped into Roger Federer in the first round of the US Open last year – and will commence his Australian Open campaign against del Potro.
He managed to push the Swiss to five-sets in the Big Apple, and he came almighty close to defeating his latest opponent in Acapulco last February.
Tiafoe has perhaps not made progress at the rate he would have liked, but he is talented enough to pose a serious threat to the Argentine.
Del Potro, fresh from reaching the final of the Auckland Classic last week, is competing in Melbourne for the first time in four years. His career has been repeatedly interrupted by injury, however he looks fit and is raring to go.
Prediction: Del Potro in four
Sam Querrey (13) v Feliciano Lopez
This opening round clash is unlikely to be a swift affair.
The attacking attributes of both players are well known and it’s going to be a serve-dominated encounter filled with quick points. Breaks of serve will likely be rare and tiebreaks are anticipated.
This will be the 10th meeting between Querrey and Lopez. The Spaniard has won six of their previous duels, however they have not clashed in nearly three years.
Querrey saved his best for the majors in 2017, and he will hope to achieve similar results at the biggest events again. Perhaps surprisingly, the 30-year-old has never made it beyond the third round in Melbourne and he will have to be alert to avoid an early exit.
The evergreen Lopez, in his 21st year as a professional, is competing in a 64th consecutive Grand Slam – a remarkable achievement.
Prediction: Querrey in four
Petra Kvitova (27) v Andrea Petkovic
This is a first round meeting between two former Top 10 players.
Kvitova makes a welcome return to the Australian Open after being forced to miss last year's edition due to being stabbed in the hand by an intruder at home.
It’s been a long road back to the top tier for the Czech, but she is relishing the new season after a productive pre-season training camp. Her first tournament of this year ended at the last sixteen stage of the Sydney International.
Petkovic endured a difficult 2017 as she struggled to string consecutive wins together. A new year should provide her with fresh impetus though, and she will hope a clash with a familiar foe will inspire her to perform.
The Czech has won five of her nine previous meetings with the lowly ranked German, and she will expect to prevail again this time.
Prediction: Kvitova in three
Yulia Putintseva v Heather Watson
Both competitors, separated by sixteen ranking spots, will view this first round contest as a glorious opportunity to progress.
Putintseva and Watson have met twice before, but not since 2015, and each player has netted one victory.
Watson, who has only been beyond the opening round at the Australian Open once in the last four years, enjoyed a run to the semi-finals of the Hobart International last week.
The Brit is confident and ready for the challenges ahead, but she will do well to overcome the 23-year-old from Kazakhstan.
Prediction: Watson in three