Australian Open 2014 Draw: Complete Bracket Analysis and Review
Get your smiles ready—the draws are officially out and it's time for the Happy Slam!
On the men's side, the top half is absolutely loaded with Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. That leaves four-time Champion Novak Djokovic with a pretty straight shot back to the final for the fourth year in a row.
For the women, things are a little bit more balanced, with Serena Williams and Li Na in the top half and Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in the bottom half. Still, there are plenty of chances for surprises and upsets along the way.
So go ahead and set your clocks to Melbourne time and stock up on the coffee and snacks, because the action is about to begin. Here's everything you need to know about the draws this year:
Men's Favorites with an Easy Draw
Novak Djokovic (No. 2)
The four-time Champion couldn't have asked for a better draw. He has virtually no land mines on the way to the final, with Fabio Fognini (No. 15) as his projected fourth-round opponent, Stanislas Wawrinka (No. 8) as his quarterfinal opponent and David Ferrer (No. 3) as his semifinal match. It doesn't get much better than that.
David Ferrer (No. 3)
Ferrer should be happy as well. He has Mikhail Youzhny (No. 14) as his projected fourth-round opponent and Tomas Berdych (No. 7) as his quarterfinal opposition. The Spaniard could find himself back in the semifinals if he brings his A-game.
Men's Favorites with a Tough Draw
Rafael Nadal (No. 1)
Welcome back to Australia, Rafa! The top-ranked player gets a brutal draw, with local favorite Bernard Tomic in the first round, Gael Monfils (No. 25) likely in the third round and Juan Martin del Potro (No. 5) in the quarterfinals. Not a friendly draw from the friendly folks down under.
Andy Murray (No. 4)
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding Murray this year, and the draw doesn't help. He could get Philipp Kohlschreiber (No. 21) or John Isner (No. 13) in the fourth round, and then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 10) or Roger Federer (No. 6) in the quarterfinals. He can't necessarily ease his way back into this tournament.
Roger Federer (No. 6)
Federer's in the loaded top half of the draw, with Tsonga projected in the fourth round and Murray in the quarterfinals. Defending his semifinal points will not be easy.
Women's Favorites with an Easy Draw
Serena Williams (No. 1)
The past two years, ankle injuries have been the bane of Serena's existence in Melbourne, contributing at least in part to her losses to Ekaterina Makarova and Sloane Stephens. There's no way to predict whether her ankle will make it through the fortnight, but at least her draw is pretty straightforward.
Her toughest test in her quarter is No. 17 Samantha Stosur, whom she could meet in the fourth round, but Stosur never plays well in her hometown slam. Sara Errani (No. 7) would be her slated quarterfinal opponent, and then she could play Li Na (No. 4) in the semis.
Victoria Azarenka (No. 2)
Winning her third straight Australian Open will be far from easy, but Azarenka's draw could be a lot worse. She could get Jamie Hampton (No. 27) in the third round, Sloane Stephens (No. 13) in the fourth round and Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 5) in the quarterfinals, but Azarenka has a great record over all three. Then, the Belarusian would only have to get through Sharapova to make it back to the final again.
Women's Favorites with a Tough Draw
Li Na (No. 4)
Last year's finalist has a very tough road back. She could face Venus Williams, Sabine Lisicki (No. 15) or Ekaterina Makarova (No. 22) in the fourth round, and then the always-dangerous Petra Kvitova (No. 6) in the quarterfinals. And if she makes it through all of that, Serena could await in the semifinals. Ouch.
Maria Sharapova (No. 3)
Coming off of a four-month layoff, there will be a lot of question marks surrounding Sharapova as she enters Melbourne, and her draw—while not as tough as Li's—is not a cake walk. She opens up with the tricky American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and then could play her old nemesis Jelena Jankovic (No. 8) in the quarterfinals and two-time champ Azarenka in the semis.
She has a long way to go if she wants to hoist her second Australian Open trophy.
Outlook for the American Men
The rough draws for the lackluster American men continue in Melbourne, and hopes should definitely be tamed.
John Isner (No. 13)
Isner is the best American prospect here, but his draw is not easy. He has Philipp Kohlschreiber (No. 21) projected in the third round, and the Greensboro, N.C. native is 0-2 against Kohls at the Slams. Then, if he can turn that record around, he'd meet Murray in the fourth round. A second week isn't looking likely.
Despite being unseeded, Querrey got put into a very nice section of the draw. He could get Ernests Gulbis (No. 23) in the second round and Fabio Fognini (No. 15) in the third round. That gives him a decent shot to make it to the fourth round, where he'd face Djokovic.
Ryan Harrison continues his draw woes, pulling Gael Monfils (No. 25) in the first round. The winner of the Harrison/Monfils match could play another American hopeful, Jack Sock.
Outlook for the American Women
Besides Serena Williams (whom I've already covered), there are a lot of talented young American women in the draw. Unfortunately, their draws aren't the best. Still, here are a few to look out for:
Sloane Stephens (No. 13)
Stephens is defending semifinalist points in Australia, and it's not going to be easy. She already started the year by pulling out of the Hopman Cup with an injury, and now she gets the tough Yaroslava Shvedova in the first round, Svetlana Kuznetsova (No. 19) likely in the third round and Azarenka in the fourth round. Making it to the second week is going to be a tough task.
Jamie Hampton (No. 27)
The always-impressive Hampton has a good shot to make it to the third round. Unfortunately, that's where she'll run into Azarenka, and her time in Melbourne will likely end.
Keys is in a really great section of the draw. She has Roberta Vinci (No. 12) projected in the second round, Kristen Flipkens (No. 18) in the third round and Sara Errani (No. 7) in the fourth round. Those are all great players, but there's definitely an opportunity for the hard-hitting 18-year-old to cause some upsets.
Remember her? The elder Williams Sister made a WTA final to start out the year and is unseeded and looming in the AO draw. She has a tough first-round match against two-time quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova (No. 22), but if she makes it through that one her next big challenge would be in the fourth round against Li Na.
Must-See First-Round Matches
(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Bernard Tomic
(24) Andreas Seppi vs. Lleyton Hewitt
(25) Gael Monfils vs. Ryan Harrison
(3) Maria Sharapova vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands
(22) Ekaterina Makarova vs. Venus Williams
Wild Cards to Watch
Jelena Jankovic (No. 8)
The former No. 1 played some excellent tennis during the second half of 2013 to get herself back into the Top 10, and she's in a part of the draw in Melbourne where she could do some damage.
There's nobody in her section of the draw who has made a huge impact at a Slam until she gets to her projected quarterfinal opponent, Maria Sharapova. With Sharapova competing in her first slam since her shoulder injury, this would be a great time for Jankovic to pounce.
Tommy Haas (No. 12)
At 35, the ageless wonder could still make an impact in this draw, especially considering he's in the quarter of a draw with Tomas Berdych (No. 7) and David Ferrer (No. 3). Haas loves the hard courts, and seeing him make a deep run into week 2 would be a great way to start out the year.
Predictions for the Men's Tournament
(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (5) Juan Martin del Potro
(4) Andy Murray vs. (10) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
(3) David Ferrer vs. (7) Tomas Berdych
(2) Novak Djokovic vs. (8) Stanislas Wawrinka
Del Potro vs. Tsonga
Djokovic vs. Berdych
Djokovic vs. Del Potro
Predictions for the Women's Tournament
(1) Serena Williams vs. Madison Keys
(4) Li Na vs (6) Petra Kvitova
(3) Maria Sharapova vs. (8) Jelena Jankovic
(2) Victoria Azarenka vs. (5) Agnieszka Radwanska
Williams vs. Kvitova
Jankovic vs. Azarenka
Williams vs. Azarenka