Like every season, at the first Australian Open, the Australians are present en masse and find unsuspected resources to qualify in the second round, with the boiling support of the public. Even if this year, the stands will be half full, we can count on their fighting spirit to create a few more big hits. For example, they were 6 out of 11 to qualify last year (including 4 in the underdog position), and 6 out of 12 in 2019 (including 2 in the underdog position). But 100% of the Australians in the position of favourites won. An overview of this first round of the Australians with our consultant Florent Serra.
Alex De Minaur vs Tennys Sandgren
With an odds of 1.06, the advantage given by the bookmakers to the Australian Alex de Minaur against the American Tennys Sandgren seems much too big. De Minaur, 23rd in the world is logically favourite, but he will have to be wary of Sandgren in any case. The odds of the American, 50th in the world, are sometimes close to 9, which seems totally crazy, unless he is physically unable to hold 3 sets, which didn't seem to be the case against Caruso this week. Even if he hasn't finished the 2020 season in a nice way and he has contracted the Covid-19 less than a month ago, he remains a dangerous player, capable of bending players much better ranked than him. Last year, he came within a hair's breadth of taking Roger Federer out of the quarter-finals. The maestro had finally emerged after having discarded multiple match points. Perhaps it is on a mental level that Sandgren is far inferior to his opponent of the day. On the technical level, one can also give De Minaur the advantage, just as on the physical level at the moment. But Sandgren is a bomber who, when he manages to be regular and to get all his shots in, proves to be simply a fearsome player. The two men have never played against each other, which is another argument that gives the impression that the odds given by the bookmakers are totally disproportionate. De Minaur is the logical favourite, but will certainly not have it so easy for Sandgren. Even if the Australian could nevertheless win in 3 sets, we can expect at least tight races. The eye of Florent Serra : I see a victory for De Minaur of course, but the odds are against me. The American is largely capable of taking at least one set. He has already played well in Australia. De Minaur moves superbly well, he takes the ball early and hardly misses at all. He is very solid. On the other hand, Sandgren is a bit whimsical, not necessarily physically fit. But Sandgren just has to keep up the pace during a set, he is well equipped to fight for part of the match. In the end, I see the Australian winning but the odds are too wide.
Jordan Thompson vs Casper Ruud
Third confrontation between these two players. There is for the moment a perfect equality. In May 2018 at Roland Garros, Ruud won the match after 3 hours of play in 5 sets. In October 2018, Thompson had taken his revenge on hard in the Challenger in Canada, also in a match in 3 sets including 2 tiebreaks. Once again, the match is likely to be a highly contested affair. However, Ruud could suffer greatly. Indeed, Thompson is a player who loves the hard court with 62% of victories and 3 titles in 2018 in Challenger on this surface. Moreover, Ruud hasn't been able to do so since his 16th final at Roland Garros last October. Since then, he has lost 4 times in a row, including last week in Melbourne against Vesely. Despite a good quality of service, 81% of points behind his first and 13 aces, he lacked solidity in the important moments. He also had a Vesely, who was very good in the service. Thompson made a nice comeback for him. In Melbourne, he reached the quarter-finals before losing by surprise to Thiago Monteiro. He notably defeated Mager, Herbert and then Viella. He was rather good on serve but suffered a little bit more on his backhand side by committing a lot of mistakes. We can expect a balanced match between two players with a similar style of play. Advantage of the surface for Thompson compared to Ruud who prefers ochre. Ruud is nevertheless a player with a more complete technical palette than Thompson. Whereas bookmakers used to place players 50/50, Casper Ruud is now the favourite for this match, making the Aussie's odds quite interesting considering the Aussies are often successful in the first round here in Melbourne Park. On his last 4 participations, Jordan Thompson has crossed the first round three times against Bublik, Feliciano Lopez and Joao Sousa. Since 2017, it is of course in tough Australia that he has his best percentage of victories on the ATP circuit (47%).
The eye of Florent Serra : We're on hard. I don't think Ruud is good enough yet to justify being a favourite against Thompson. He needs time to get organised, he likes to shift and he has a real weakness on the backhand side especially when the game is speeding up. He has progressed on hard but maybe not yet good enough to beat Thompson. The Australian also lacks a little bit of power but he varies a lot. But I find him a little bit too nervous at times. We are in Australia so I would tend to go for Thompson. Ruud is going to have to be better in his short game patterns to hope to win. I would have almost put Thompson at 50/50 or even slightly favourite.
Nick Kyrgios vs Frederico Ferreira
We could write a book about Nick Kyrgios! The Australian is undeniably one of the best tennis players in the world. But he has this misplaced grain of madness and sometimes this lack of professionalism which unfortunately prevents him from having a certain degree of exigency with himself and from exploiting all his potential and this for years already. 2021 seems to start in the same way for Kyrgios. He has just declared that he was hesitant to participate in the first Grand Slam. Absent from the courts for a year, not at the top physically, Kyrgios lost in two dry sets to Coric at the first tournament in Melbourne. The fantas(ti)que Aussie will nevertheless be the favourite for this round against Portugal's Ferreira, 184th in the world. The Lusitanian, who has been active on the circuit for 8 years now, has only played 11 matches on the ATP circuit (including the Davis Cup). He has mainly been active on the ITF circuit with 16 titles in total. The step seems too high for the Portuguese rider in this first round, even if everything is possible with Kyrgios.
Aleixei Popyrin vs David Goffin
This is one of the beautiful posters of this first round of the Australian Open. The Belgian David Goffin, author of a bad 2020 season hampered by the health crisis, really hopes to get back on track and move towards the Top 10 again. But Goffin, after a good start to the season in Turkey in Antalya, quickly came down to earth as soon as he arrived in Australia. Top seed n°1 in Melbourne, he was defeated as soon as he entered the race against Carlos Alcaraz, a 17 year-old Spanish nugget, presented as a very big future of the circuit. The Belgian will start as the favourite against the Australian Popyrin but will have to be wary of this player who revealed himself a few years ago during the Australian Open. In 2019, he took the measure of Dominic Thiem who finally gave up before losing in 5 sets to the future semi-finalist Lucas Pouille. This success against the Austrian is the only one of his career against the world's top 20. The Australian struggles to confirm the hopes placed in him and his potential is slow to reveal itself on the big circuit. The two men are racing against each other for the second time, but this is their first duel on the official circuit. They had indeed competed against each other during the suspension of the circuit during the Ultimate Tennis Showdown organised by Patrick Mouratoglou. Goffin had largely imposed himself and intends to repeat this performance against Popyrin who, over the years, seems to be confined to this status of future-ex great hope of Australian tennis. Nevertheless, we can expect a very competitive match compared to Goffin's current level and the great performances signed by Popyrin this week. Is this finally the good year for Popyrin? Has he prepared himself well for 2021? Is he finally going to take a step forward? He was good against Tommy Paul and Dimitrov. A surprise on this meeting is quite possible as the Belgian seems very far from his best level. The Belgian's odds could in this context seem too high since the bookmakers give him 80% chance to win.
The eye of Florent Serra : Popyrin has the weapons at the service and in forehand to hinder a David Goffin, really far from his best level for many months now. If Goffin finds angles, returns as he knows how to do, then Popyrin could go on the foul. The Australian can quite take a set from Goffin's current level of play. Popyrin is going to have to be very solid from the bottom of the court to succeed, which would still be a feat when you look at his results over the last two seasons. Except for a withdrawal of Thiem, the Australian has never managed to beat a top 20 in hardcourt in his career. It remains to be seen if Goffin will be able to reach the level of a top 20 on this first lap.
Thanasi Kokkinakis vs Soonwoo Kwon
Among the players who have quickly achieved a status of great future potential in Australian tennis is Thanasi Kokkinakis. In the same vein as Nick Kyrgios, the Australian was expected season after season, but for the moment, he has never managed to confirm the high hopes placed in him. His common point with Kyrgios is more on the level of the mental, sometimes failing and some mischief on and off the courts than pure tennis talent where he can't compete with his compatriot. Formerly 69th in the world, Kokkinakis is today ranked beyond 260th position. At only 24 years old, he has come back to the hell of his last seasons: " If I came back and lost against everybody, I would say to myself: " Why am I doing this? ». But when I came back, I was competitive and I beat the good guys. This leads me to think that if I can stay healthy for a long period of time, I actually have a chance to do something pretty good. "Opposite, Korean Kwon is a gifted player, with a game focused on ball control and counter-attacking. He will have to be patient as he knows how to do it, channel his opponent's power and take the moral high ground by pushing Kokkinakis to the foul. The match promises to be quite competitive and mental strength could make the difference. In terms of pure talent, Kokkinakis may be a little bit higher, but he will have to be concentrated from start to finish.
Marc Polmans vs Marton Fucsovics
With already 7 matches on the scoreboard this year, Polmans is already in good shape for the first Grand Slam of the season. He will nevertheless have a lot to do even if he plays at home against the Hungarian Fucsovics, 55th in the world. Fucsovics has accustomed us during the last seasons to deserve this status of dangerous player, difficult to handle and rarely totally overtaken by his opponent. Even if he won't be as strong as Polmans, the Hungarian will be the clear favourite for this first round. The two men have never met each other, but their style of play is quite similar, both of them being versatile. Fucsovics is nevertheless more talented and already has a lot of experience that should allow him to make the difference and to emerge against Polmans. Be careful though, we have to take into account that it is always more complicated to start the AO against an Aussie, carried by the public, even if the stands will be 50% empty.
Alex Bolt vs Norbert Gombos
Nice opposition between the speedy Bolt, who has benefited from a wildcard, and the powerful Gombos. After having ridden his hump on the secondary circuit with 10 titles at the end, Gombos (89th) has obtained some nice successes in 2020 on hard ground by taking the scalp of David Goffin and Pablo Carreno Busta. Despite his physique, Gombos (1m93) will have to be wary of Bolt, who is left-handed and who has won the first two duels between the two men on the circuit. But the circumstances were different since they were held on grass. Bolt has already played three matches this year (2 victories) and seems better in legs than his opponent. In 2019, Bolt had impressed in Melbourne by beating Sock and Simon. He had mainly resisted Thiem for 5 sets a year ago. The Australian will start as a slight favourite and that seems quite logical.
Li Tu vs Feliciano Lopez
We told you about Li Tu a few weeks ago on Tennis Break News, here he is now with a widlcard at the Australian Open! A little reminder for those who didn't read the article. Li Tu is an Australian who didn't play between 2014 and 2020. He is still unclassified but has had exceptional results in UTR (32 victories in 34 matches) against good players notably Polmans (125th). Li Tu is an excellent server, like his opponent Feliciano Lopez. The difference is that the Spaniard is left-handed and Li Tu is right-handed. Li Tu could have his chances, matches between two very good waiters often lead to tight matches with tie-breaks. He will also have the advantage of being a little more enduring than Lopez. However, Li Tu has a small weakness on the backhand (one-handed backhand) and playing against a left-handed player is not the best news for him. In addition, Lopez will have the advantage of experience. But nothing justifies such a rating for Lopez on a three-set winning format. Nevertheless, Tu's defeat to Pedro Sousa this week is another reminder of what separates him from the top level. TBN stat: Feliciano Lopez is still on 4 consecutive Grand Slam defeats and has not won a match 3-0 since 2016 against Daniel Evans.
Aleksandar Vukic vs Karen Khachanov
This is a match that looks very unbalanced on paper. This seems justified given the two catastrophic matches that Vukic made in Great Ocen especially against Lu despite the victory. His level of play was almost worrying. Khachanov comes out of a rather successful week with a semi-final in Great Ocean even if he wasn't perfect, especially against Van de Zandschulp where he nearly lost. Despite that, Khachanov will get rid of Vukic very easily considering the level he is showing at the moment. However, the odds of the Russian are unplayable and the risk of a 3-0 victory against a rather good Australian is a bit risky if we take into account the lack of regularity of Khachanov since two years.
Jan-Lennard Struff vs Christopher O'Connell
It is never easy to face an Australian on his home ground for a first lap of the AO but all the lights seem to be green for the German. Excellent in the ATP Cup with Germany, he showed a good level of play, his serve is well set up and his shots are powerful and of a regained regularity. Winner of Lajovic and Raonic, he came very close to the feat against the Russian Rublev. The Australian is a second-class player used to the Challenger circuit. This will be his 5th Grand Slam match, he has only one victory against Djere at the Us Open, during his two participations at the Australian Open he lost in the first round. This player is a good server with an offensive style but he lacks regularity and his moves are approximate. In this match, Struff has the power to win but there is no guarantee that he won't lose a set on the road. Struff is not a reference in terms of regularity and O'Connell's quality of service can cause him problems. In the worst case he could be surprised on a set. Of course, the German stays on 4 consecutive qualifications in the first round of a Grand Slam against an opponent less well ranked on hard courts, but O'Connell is on the verge of the top 100 and he had been far from ridiculous against Rublev a year ago (6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 7-6).
James Duckworth vs Damir Dzumhur
This match looks balanced on paper. The two players are close in the rankings even if the dynamic is negative for Dzumhur who was 23rd in the world in 2018 and who has since fallen. With his style of play, he needs a confidence at the highest level to perform well and that has been lacking for two seasons now. During the 2020 season, the Bosnian rider has returned to the Challenger circuit with the aim to build up confidence and to play one match after the other. Unfortunately, despite a final at the Challenger in Barcelona, he has only obtained 5 victories for 3 defeats, 2 of them in the first round. The Australian makes the lift between Challenger circuit and main circuit, with success since in 2020 he won 2 tournaments in Pune and Bengalaru. This week in Adelaide, he has managed a good preparation tournament, winning against the 32nd world champion Ugo Humbert. In their only confrontation, Duckworth had won in three sets and he is capable of repeating the performance. The Australian has a revenge to take for him who had lost in a cruel way last year in the first round against Bedene in 5 sets. The Australian has three victories in the AO and will be the favourite for a new qualification in the 2nd round.
Bernard Tomic vs Yuichi Sugita
The whimsical and decried Tomic is back. He will be opposed to the Japanese Sugita. Two styles of play confront each other with the discreet Sugita and the Australian capable of lyrical flights that only he can explain. Based on his tennis qualities, there is no doubt that Tomic is much better than his opponent, whether on serve, forehand or power. Only regularity and emotional management can fail him. The Japanese is a fast surface player who takes the ball early and plays flat on both sides. He offers few variations in his game. However, be careful with Sugita's ranking, which does not reflect his true value as he has hardly played in the last two seasons (16 matches). He went through the qualifications and had to fight his way into the final draw of this Australian Open with three victories in three sets against Kovalik, Shoolkate and Smith. Their last confrontation took place in 2008 and the Japanese won, but the period is too far away. On this match, can we trust the Australian figthing spirit to allow Tomic to win in this first round? His result is moreover largely positive with 8 victories in 10 participations. Only Nadal and Cilic have beaten him in his first match.
Editor's note ⭐️⭐️⭐️--- ⭐️⭐️ Sandgren scores at least 11 games Victory Tomic / Victory Duckworth ⭐️ O'Connell 1 set / Victory Bolt / Victory Thompson / Popyrin 1 set (or +16.5 sets)
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