Outrage amongst fans as Australian Government treats millionaire sportsmen as a regular person, but with Djokovic gone, who will take his place as the King down under?
Since Novak Djokovic won his first Australian Open title fourteen years ago only three other men have won the Championship, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. Out of those fourteen years Djokovic has been champion for nine of them. With the exit of such a dominant champion the draw has significantly widened. Rafael Nadal now stands as the only former champion at Melbourne, with Daniil Medvedev, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray serving as the only other players in the draw to have won a Major title. With Cilic and Murray’s primes being well behind them and the time it has been since Nadal’s last and only victory at Melbourne (2009), it looks exceedingly likely that a new Major winner will be crowned come the end of the tournament.
The favourite for the title will now undoubtedly be Daniil Medvedev, and for good reason. The Russian’s dismantling of Djokovic in the final of the last Major tournament, the US Open, already placed him in good stead. Now with Djokovic’s deportation it’ll be hard to look past the Russian going one better than he did in 2021. However, another Russian contender will also be quietly confident to cause an upset and claim the title. Andrey Rublev, the world no.5, is renowned across the tennis world for the ferocity of his ground strokes. Much like the 2014 Champion Stanislas Wawrinka, Rublev possesses the power to hit anybody off the court which could be crucial in conquering the consistent tennis of Medvedev. If all goes accordingly then the two are set to meet in the quarter finals, the same as in 2021, in what promises to be a gruelling and thrilling match. The winner of that quarter final will be in a prime position to win the tournament with Stefanos Tsitsipas representing the only other major threat in that half. It is important not to overlook Tsitsipas, a previous semi-finalist in 2019 and 2021, although he has a tough third round draw in prospect against Grigor Dimitrov, with the winner of that match having a reasonably straightforward route to the semi-finals.
The other side of the draw represents a truly exciting conundrum. With the removal of Djokovic from the tournament, the top half of the draw opens up immensely. The obvious big names in the draw are Nadal and Alexander Zverev but a number of other outside players will also hope to go deep in the tournament. In particular the top quarter becomes unbelievably open especially when considering that the highest seed in the quarter, Matteo Berrettini, has never been past the 4th round at Melbourne. Players such as Gael Monfils, Cam Norrie, Pablo Carreno Busta and the young Carlos Alcatraz will surely fancy their chances of making at least the semi-finals of the tournament. Especially with the fact that Nadal and Zverev are set to meet in the other quarter final of the half. Monfils will especially be one to look out for having recently won the First Adelaide International at the start of the year. It is also never unwise to consider a home favourite, Thanasi Kokkinakis has been in exceptional form leading up to the Open, with a victory in the Second Adelaide International just days before the tournament is due to start. If he can maintain the form shown in Adelaide then he could pose a problem for anyone on court, keep an eye out for his hopeful second round meeting against Nadal.
Despite the threat of dominance posed by Medvedev this still hopes to be a thrilling tournament with several outside seeds promising to go deep into the later rounds. Djokovic’s absence, while a blow to those who think they are above the pandemic, is a serious victory for the tournament, majorly increasing the intrigue surrounding it. It looks extremely likely that we will have a new winner for the first time since 2014.