Melbourne | Why it’s difficult to predict a winner in the men’s open division?
The first round will see a replay of last years final, the 2017 Wimbledon and Roland Garros singles champions go head to head, the US Open champion take on the wildcard from Oz and one of our top Brits take on a returning to his best form former World number one.
If you asked me to call who might lift the 2018 Australian Open men’s open division singles title right now I don’t think I could.
The standard of the top players is so good that on their day anyone of them could claim that trophy at the end of the week
There’s eight players here all who could win the title but I feel like I’m hitting the ball well Gordon Reid
Last year saw four different Grand Slam singles champions – Gustavo Fernandez in Australia, Britain’s Alfie Hewett at Roland Garros, Stefan Olsson was victorious in Wimbledon and Stephane Houdet took home the title at the US Open – and all four are in the draw here at Melbourne Park.
Also featuring is 2016 Australian Open singles champion Britain’s Gordon Reid who at the back end of 2017 and the start of the 2018 season has been playing some inspired tennis, few will forget arguably his greatest on court comeback against World number one Fernandez which ultimately saw him progress out of the group stages and finish as runner-up for the second successive year at the end of year singles Masters event, adding to the doubles Masters title he won with Hewett only the week before.
Shingo Kunieda too looks to be one of the players to watch as the start of the 2018 season has seen the former World number one show the type of form that saw him go on a nearly three year unbeaten run before taking time out for injury.
Adam Kellerman is the wildcard at this years open and having scored a victory over fellow Aussie Ben Weekes in the nationals at the end of 2017 to earn his place in this years competition, he could be the surprise package at this years event.
And you can never write off Nicolas Peifer, runner-up here last year, and a player that has all the shots at his disposal and when he’s on his A-game can batter any of the other top ten players off the court.
Three in a row for Gordon?
Two Brits feature in the men’s open division draw – World number two, Alfie Hewett and World number four, Gordon Reid.
Both already have a number of Grand Slam titles to their name already and both are no stranger to succeeding on the big stage.
And given their form going into the competition – Hewett having made both singles and doubles finals in Sydney just under two weeks ago and Reid having joined him in the doubles final, as well as both having made the later stages of singles competition at the Melbourne Open last week – they are a definite threat for the singles title in 2018.
Reid goes into this years competition as a defending doubles champion, after winning the title last year with Joachim Gerard by his side and also picking up the career Grand Slam in the process
He said: “It was pretty special to get the Career Grand Slam in doubles last year not many people can say they’ve done that in their careers and to have that happen in doubles at such a young age as well is a big achievement for me and I’ve just got to try and do the same thing in singles now.”
And lifting a title this year, whether that be in singles or doubles, would see him make it three years in a row when it comes to becoming an Australian Open champion, having lifted the singles title in 2016 and the doubles in 2017.
Reid said: “It would be awesome to do that.
“Obviously it could be a tough week as there’s eight players here all who could win the title but I feel like I’m hitting the ball well – there’ll be no easy matches but I’ll see what I can do.”
Hewett planning to take it ‘one match at a time’
Hewett made his Australian Open debut last year and whilst in singles he bowed out at the quarter-final stage, in doubles with Fernandez by his side he made it all the way to the final, finishing with runners-up honours.
The British number one who always like to set himself a goal for each tournament – which it should be noted nine times out of ten he succeeds in achieving and then going on to completely smash that goal – has the same mentality as he had all of last year at Slams going into this years event.
He said: “I just want to get through one match at a time, one match at a time.
“Obviously like everyone else here it would be great to win the event and I believe I can do that but I’ve got a tough first round match against Stefan Olsson – it’s never easy against him so I will sit down and look at the match in detail and try and prepare the best way I can.
“If I can go into that match relaxed and put the other pressures and possible outcomes of this week to the back of my mind then that’s all I can ask for.”
It has of course been an incredible twelve months for Hewett since he made his debut at Melbourne Park last year – adding three more Grand Slam titles, a singles Masters title and a career high singles ranking of World number two to his list of achievements.
Not to mention that should Fernandez fail to defend his singles title here in Melbourne this week then Hewett could potentially become Britain’s latest World number one tennis player before the first month of 2018 is out.
Hewett said: “I think last year has helped me now go into tournaments with more belief in my own ability – I think at times previously I didn’t think I could consistently perform at a high level but I the last six months of last year in particular has proved to me I could and that I can play the game and type of tennis I want to regularly.
“A lot of that I think is down to the hard work I put in in the training room and this week is going to be tough like it always is when I take on these guys in the top ten, and no doubt there’ll be a few tough battles, but I’m confident that I can make the hard work pay off.”