Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's seeds at the 2016 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions, and find the women's seed report here.
1. Novak Djokovic
Right now, it’s his gated community. And no one else is getting in. It’s at the point where you would take him against the field. He’s playing well. He rested in the off-season. He has won five titles in Melbourne. A heavy favorite. Tough first rounder against up-and-comer Hyeon Chung but then the draw opens a bit.
2. Andy Murray
Distracted—understandably—by impending fatherhood, this event might be a wash for him. Four Australian Open finals (including 2015), no titles. An overarching question for 2016: can Murray make inroads against Djokovic?
3. Roger Federer
Still hanging in there, still capable of beating Djokovic on hardcourts—a feat he pulled off three times in 2015. Coming off a Melbourne disappointment (a loss to Seppi) and a cold. Has the misfortune of being of Djokovic’s half but otherwise, should harbor no complaints about his draw.
4. Stan Wawrinka
The champ from 2014 returns to the scene of the climb. Always dangerous on the right day. And has already won a title in 2016. Potential QF against Nadal.
5. Rafael Nadal
Well….on the plus side 1) he’s a former champion 2) he finished 2015 with a small surge 3) this is his fifth straight major, suggesting that his body, long the subject of so much speculation, appears to be holding up. It’s really a question of his confidence level and how that translates on the court. Should win first rounder against Verdasco—and then his draw yawns open a bit.
6. Tomas Berdych
New outfits, same scouting report. Capable of beating anyone; capable of losing to anyone. Especially on hard courts. Run to the semifinals last year included a takedown of Nadal. Alas, once there he let a winnable match against Murray slip away.
7. Kei Nishikori
Getting to be prove-it time for Nishikori. A solid top ten player with endorsements to match. But is he truly elite? Nice draw—until the round of eight—where Djokovic awaits.
8. David Ferrer
The sense that his wholly admirable career was winding down? Here he is almost 34, going strong.
9. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Such a strange player and strange career. When you're ready for him to charge, he retreats. When he’s an afterthought, he tends to surge. A finalist here—the only major final he’s reached—in 2008.
10. John Isner
The serve always makes him dangerous and he has blossomed into a consummate pro, giving himself every opportunity to succeed. But you worry about how he holds up playing best-of-five in the heat.
11. Kevin Anderson
Still learning how to win big matches, but a player to watch. A major breakthrough at the U.S. Open where he labored to beat Murray on Labor Day. Perhaps the most fearsome serve in tennis.
12. Marin Cilic
Another name for the dangerous-but-lots-of-variance cohort. The 2014 U.S. Open winner has hardly been heard from since. (True, he reached the 2015 U.S. Open semis; when he got there, he won all of three games.) If nothing else, it underscores the greatness of the Big Three (Four? Five?) who don't just win majors but consistently play deep.
13. Milos Raonic
Hard-serving Canadian made his breakthrough in Australia a (gulp) half-decade ago. Comes in with a new coach, largely new team and a back that recent underwent surgery. On the plus side: tune-up win over Federer should be source of confidence.
14. Gilles Simon
Never a threat to win; always a pleasure to watch.
15. David Goffin
A lot of encouraging results. But still needs to improve play at the majors. (He’s yet to reach a quarterfinal.)
16. Bernard Tomic
For a guy who’s so vocal and scrutinized is there a quieter story in tennis than his emergence as a top 20 player? The pure strokes help him; the lack of athleticism hurts him.
17. Benoit Paire
Talented Frenchman plays tennis for the soul. And he has moved up more than 100 spots since the 2015 Aussie Open.
19. Dominic Thiem
Now in the top 20. And the elevator is still going up. Withdrew from tune-up with blisters.
22. Ivo Karlovic
The Disruptor. As long as his right arm holds up, he’s a threat. Even closer to age 40 than 30.
25. Jack Sock
Big serve + big forehand + big confidence. Didn’t play a year ago on account of hip surgery. Now he has a real chance to go deep.
27. Grigor Dimitrov
A work in regress. But this is a fresh start for a player with way too much talent to ignore.
29. Nick Kyrgios
After an, eventful, 2015, it will be interesting to take inventory of his game. Rough first rounder in workaday Pablo Careno Busta.
Borna Coric: The ascent continues.
Gilles Muller: A second week player in 2015; that lefty serve always makes him dangerous.
Vasek Pospisil: A lot of talent; a lot of injuries.
Hyeon Chung: Lots of curiosity over the Korean teenager who finished 2015 at No. 51. Too bad he starts against Djoker.
Brian Baker: A tip of the cap for him getting back.
First round matches to watch
Djokovic vs. Chung: Rough first rounder for both.
Nadal vs. Verdasco: The Sangria Special.
Benoit Paire vs. Noah Rubin: The purist’s delight.
Murray vs. Alexander Zverev: Like Djokovic/Chung, it will be interesting to see a young sensation against a Hall of Famer.
Pospisil d. Simon
They are almost 38, but eventually the Bryans have to snap this slump and get back on the board, no?
Djokovic d. Federer
Wawrinka d. Tomic
Djokovic d. Wawrinka