This year more than any in recent history looks the most wide open.
Looking at the entries, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see anyone of 10 players holding the trophy on the final night at Rod Laver Arena.
The leading contenders in no particular order:
The speed of the court will play a role as always with the varying styles these players have. This year there has been a change of surface supplier which perhaps potentially introduces a new variable. The most recent history for the surface has been to play medium-fast with lowish bounce and with less spin than the US Open. This fact may explain why Nadal has failed to win here recently despite reaching several finals. Tennis Australia has said the courts would be the same but being brand new on the main stadiums, they may play slower initially.
Assuming the courts do play the same as in the recent past then I think this eliminates Nadal as I don’t believe with his draw that he could beat Djokovic in the final, Medvedev in the semi and Thiem in the quarters.
Before the ATP Cup, I thought Zverev would have a big year and he still might but his second serve in that event was a huge problem, and I can’t see him going deep here on the back of that.
Wawrinka would likely run into Medvedev in the round of 16, and the lower bouncing court won’t do him any favours, and this is where I think his tournament will end.
As I have eliminated three players, this leaves Djokovic, Federer, Tsitsipas, Theim, Medvedev and the two wildcards Shapovalov and Cilic.
I exclude Cilic – who I think can surprise with a deep run, but I don’t believe with his ranking that he can beat two or more of the above players in succession to win the title.
Shapovalov has a stylish, well-rounded game that this surface suits, but I doubt he is ready to win a major and he has to beat Dimitrov to make a quarter-final against Federer that I don’t think he can win.
These further omissions leave me with five players:
Federer: If fresh and firing can go all the way with Djokovic his most significant obstacle in a semi-final.
Djokovic: Seems always to start the year well and loves this venue and surface. Tsitsipas strikes me as the player to bother him with his variety and energy in a quarter-final.
Tsitsipas: Surface suits his attacking game and has shown he has the mental attributes that could take him all the way. I think he will give Djokovic a shake in a quarter-final, but I expect the Serb to sneak past him.
Thiem: Showed in 2019 that he is much more than a clay-court specialist. Has developed his game to be excellent on hardcourts and if he could beat Medvedev in a quarter-final has the mental strength to go all the way. Height of court bounce is a significant factor though, for him, I feel.
Medvedev: Showed last year he is exceptionally hardy and difficult to beat on any surface and with his US Open showing in 2019 looks ready to take out a major. I think being opposed to Djokovic or Federer would pose the biggest threats to his ambitions.
I can’t go past Djokovic for the title, but if he slips up and Federer gets past him, I could see Roger posting his 21st major victory. Either way, I would see the other finalist as being Medvedev.
Who do you have playing in the final?