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Australian Open Men's Preview: Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic?
3:00 | Tennis
Australian Open Men's Preview: Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic?
Friday January 16th, 2015

SI.com's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's seeds at the Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions, and find the women's seed report here

Top 16 seeds

Novak Djokovic, Serbia

Djokovic is a favorite in the seedings—and a favorite with the oddsmakers—to win Australian Open title No. 5. And it’s hard to argue otherwise. His track record in Melbourne speaks for itself; he can bring his fitness to bear. A source of hope for other players: he’s lost nine of his last 11 majors — including last year in Melbourne. Still, he’s a heavy fave.

Roger Federer, Switzerland

Even discounting for nostalgia and wishful storyline thinking, the notion of Federer winning his first major in 30 months isn’t entirely fanciful. He comes in having won his 1,000th match in Brisbane and his play over the last 12 months has been inspired. Especially if Djokovic something falls, this could get interesting.

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Rafael Nadal, Spain

Nadal’s status has echoes of Serena Williams. He appears poised to dominate; and his body wages war with itself. He appears to be fading; and returns abruptly to win big prizes. It’s hard to imagine Nadal playing to his seeding after this layoff—especially at the only Slam he’s won only once. An opening match against Mikhail Youzhny could be a disguised blessing.

Stan Wawrinka, Switzerland

At once, the defending champ and a wild card. Stanimal looked strong winning Chennai tune-up and was the best player at the Davis Cup finale in November. But he hasn’t even been to a Slam semifinal since his 2014 breakthrough. This is a big opportunity for Wawrinka to shed the one-Slam-wonder label. If he loses early, he’ll fall out of the top ten—though that’s unlikely given his draw.

Kei Nishikori, Japan

After reaching U.S. Open final, there’s only one “next step” he can take.

[tweet=https://twitter.com/keinishikori/status/553518138781097984]

Durability remains a concern, but not out of the question we could have two consecutive Asian champs at the “Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific.”

Andy Murray, Great Britain

A generally forgettable 2014 was salvaged a bit with both a mini surge in the fall and a firm commitment to coach Amelie Mauresmo (and a firm committment by Under Armour.) A (multiple) losing finalist in Melbourne, Murray should offer a barometer for 2015 with his play.

Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic

A bit of a copy and paste since, say, 2005: Lots of power, lots of game. But does he have the consistency to play seven matches without the (hitherto inevitable) dip?

Milos Raonic, Canada

Still at the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately phase. We know he’s a top ten player. We know he can play into the second week of a major. But its up to him to prove this is not a ceiling. (And, alas, he is in Djokovic’s quarter of the draw.)

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David Ferrer, Spain

We keep hearing about his inexorable decline, but it hasn’t come yet. At age 32—with a lot of miles on the odometer— he won his 22nd title in Doha last week.

Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria

Not unlike Raonic, the talent is undeniable, but the salon is getting a tad impatient, especially since his results have dipped a bit over the last few months. (He hasn't had a win over a top 20 opponent since August.) A lot to like, but the breakthrough is eagerly anticipated.

Ernests Gulbis, Latvia

Your guess is as good as his. 2014 reinforced what he already knew: his results don’t run the gamut; they sprint it.

Feliciano Lopez, Spain

Nice career revival as the lefty suddenly playing some of the best tennis of his career.

Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain

Because it’s about time Spain pulled its weight and furnished tennis with a decent talent. (That was a joke.) The best player you’ve (perhaps) never seen play. He has a rough first round opponent in Dominic Thiem.

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Kevin Anderson, South Africa

Hard serve and winning attitude counts for a lot. A pro’s pro.

Tommy Robredo, Spain

The Spanish veteran gets credit for sustained excellence. But his best days are long behind him.

Fabio Fognini, Italy

At his best, he is a temperamental artist. At his worst, he is tennis’ answer to a thug. Say this: it’s seldom boring. He lost to Juan Martin del Potro in Sydney.

Seeds 17-32

Gael Monfils, France

A full-time performer and part-time competitive player.

John Isner, United States

Pulling out of a tune-up with fatigue was inauspicious. But the serve and the sui generis game always make him a threat.

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David Goffin, Belgium

A 2012 flavor-of-the-month, Goffin disappeared and now he’s back with a vengeance, having gone on a winning binge in fall of 2014.

Alex Dolgopolov, Ukraine

Erratic but dangerous. Although he did pull out from a Kooyong exhibition in Melbourne on Friday.

Ivo Karlovic, Croatia

On the serve alone, we give him a good chance. His performance in a win over Djokovic in Doha was also impressive.

Dark horse stable

Nick Kyrgios: No pressure, kid, but you’re now the highest ranked Aussie.

Bernard Tomic: Kyrgios has stolen his thunder Down Under, but quietly (which is rare) Tomic has played well lately.

Juan Martin del Potro: Those with a thing for karma know he’s due for a run.

Jerzy Janowicz: We say it again: The optimism of 2013 was exuberant, but there’s so way he’s not a top 30 talent.


Donald Young: Still only 25. Again, we should all fail like this. He has a big chance against Milos Raonic in round two if it happens.

Borna Koric: Best 18-year-old in the world.

First round upset

If Nadal is anything less than 100 percent, he is vulnerable against Youzhny—who’s beaten him before at a hardcourt major— but we’ll go Thanasi Kokkinakis over Gulbis.

Double champs

Bryan and Bryan. As much because the field is lacking (see: Jack Sock, Radek Stepanek et al).

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First round matches to watch

Dominic Thiem v. Bautista Agut: Brutal first round draw for both, but they are two of ATP’s brighter lights.

Janowicz  v. Del Potro

Kokkannakis v. Gulbis: If nothing else, the atmosphere ought to be electric.

Nishikori v. Nicolas Almagro: There were reports that Almagro—off the tour since the French Open—wasn’t ready to post. But it’s still a potential tough test against a veteran for Nishikori.

Predicted Brad Gilbert sports analogy: “It’s like Steve Kerr skipping the Knicks and taking the Warriors job instead.”

Semifinal predictions:

Djokovic d. Wawrinka 
Federer d. Nadal

Final: Djokovic d. Federer

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