Australian Open 2016 Preview: Round 2

2936A few days into the Australia Open 2016, there has already been some shocks. But the biggest shock thus far in the men’s group, is that a big name contender, Rafael Nadal has been knocked out of the Australian Open in the first round by Fernando Verdasco.

With one big player out of the way it leaves much more room only for a few massive contenders to battle it out for the title. Let’s see who’s left standing and who’s the most likely to take this coveted title home.

Novak Djokovic

Many Tennis experts think that unless he has any fitness problems or a dramatic loss of form or unforseeable injury, the world No. 1 is by far the undisputed favourite in every match up he faces.

2016 was a massively successful year for Djokovic, and maybe even his greatest season of all time, since he lost only five matches and shored up 10 titles. He now is the first player to win three grand slam titles and six Masters events in the same year. He has joined the ranks of Rod Laver and Roger Federer in being the only men in the Open era to ever play in all four grand slam finals in one single year.

He had some very impressive victories over Federer at Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP World Tour Finals. Those win proved that he is no longer affected by partisan crowds. He major goal this year is to win the calendar slam, since last year he was denied it by Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final. Djokovic’s destruction of Rafael Nadal in Doha was not just ominous but insightful as to how Nadal would likely fall at the Australian Open

So Nadal made swift work of First round opponent, world No. 51 Hyeon Chung, from South Korea closing out the match easily 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. It was a scorching hot Melbourne summer’s day and the energetic early challenge from the Korean teen was interesting, to say the least as he began his quest for a sixth Australian Open title on Monday. Next Djokovic faces the Frenchman Quentin Halys.

Andy Murray

Looking like he has fully recovered from his back surgery which he had in 2013, Murray is just overflowing with confidence after one of his most consistent seasons in 2015. He finished as the world No. 2 for the first time and finally conquered the clay courts, winning his first titles on the dirt in Munich and Madrid, and then topping off his year by giving Great Britain their first Davis Cup triumph for 79 years.

Another high point for him was putting an end to an eight-match losing streak against Djokovic, when he won his fourth title of 2015 by beating his greatest rival in Montreal. Murray will be focusing on improvement in the slams, as he is search for a new assistant coach after cutting his ties with Jonas Bjorkman. Surprisingly, he hasn’t beaten Djokovic or Federer in a major since winning Wimbledon in 2013. He has gotten close though – but not close enough to get a victory.

In his first match up, Murray saw off the German teenager Alexander Zverev pretty easily to get to the second round of the Australian Open. The 28 year old dominated the whole match against the former junior world number one, and won 6-1, 6-2, and 6-3. He will now face locally popular, Australian Sam Groth, who is the holder of the game’s fastest serve, on Thursday afternoon.

Roger Federer

The 34-year-old remains relevant as ever. Even though it’s going on four years since Federer last won a grand slam he still makes waves in the game. He started 2015 by losing to Andreas Seppi in the Australian Open, in the third round, and he ended the year by losing to Djokovic in the last match of the season.

Many do not wonder what is the reason why Federer cannot add to his 17 grand slam titles when Djokovic’s domination is an ongoing frustration to the Swissman, but still he continues to delight and capture the imagination of fans, by his variety of play, and by the purity and quality of his game.

No matter how much aesthetic beauty Federer’s tennis has, at the end of the day he still wants to winm, add to his record haul and thus, he has adjusted his schedule accordingly. This year he won’t be playing any clay events in the buildup to the French Open. Many experts believe this is a sign that he wants to stay fresh for Wimbledon and for the Rio Olympics this summer.

Against his first round opponent, world No. 117 Nikoloz Basilashvili, Federer claimed am easy 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win on Monday night at the Rod Laver Arena. In beating Basilashvili in one hour and 12 minutes, Federer extended his streak of Grand Slam tournaments at which he won at least one match to 51. His next opponent is 35th-ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov from Ukraine.

Stan Wawrinka

Many know Stan Wawrinka as the player who won the 2015 French Open by beating Novak Djokovic. Well the 2014 Australian Open champion is also capable of beating anyone when he is on his game but equally, he’s capable of losing to anyone too on his off days. Wawrinka has a powerful approach and a single-handed backhand that makes his game one of the most enjoyable to watch on the men’s tour. It has regularly given Djokovic trouble, who was overwhelmed by a storm of fearsome winners from the Swiss No. 2 when they met in the French Open final last June.

Wawrinka is now finally capitalising on his huge potential and so he should fear no one in Melbourne, having recorded wins over every other player in the top four last year. Yet he is curiously unpredictable which makes his game exciting because you never know which Wawrinka is going to show up.

Even though he had beaten Nadal on clay in May last year, many said his form before the French Open was overall poor. But then he went ahead and clinched his second grand slam title, with massive wins over Federer and Djokovic at Roland Garros. It’s undoubted that the next step for Wawrinka is to find more consistency. And he might just do that in Australia. His girst round opponent was world No. 265 Dmitry Tursunov, from Russia, but Wawrinka was able to walk on through after Tursunov called it quits after losing the second set 6-3. Tursunov received treatment for a hip injury during the second set, but just couldn’t go on.

Novak Djokovic is definitely the undisputed favourite after a stunning 2015, but players like Andy Murray and Roger Federer still have capability to beat the world No. 1.

Our Pick: Federer vs, Djokovic in Final – Federer to win Australian Open 2016