By Jake Davies
- Novak Djokovic  vs Fernando Verdasco H2H: Djokovic leads 9-4
- Tommy Haas vs Benoit Paire H2H: First meeting
- Dustin Brown vs Milos Raonic  H2H: Raonic leads 1-0
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Who’d be a second seed? Novak Djokovic starts with a tough opener on Day 2 of the Australian Open
Novak Djokovic  vs Fernando Verdasco H2H: Djokovic leads 9-4
The one match that stands out above all other matches in the first round phase of the 2017 Australian Open sees the World No.2 Novak Djokovic face the electric Fernando Verdasco on Rod Laver Arena. When the draw took place on Friday morning it became apparent that Djokovic had the most difficult of first round opponents in his quest to defend his Australian Open title for the second time in a row.
Verdasco is a very dangerous opponent who has beaten the very best that the game has to offer, but is now approaching the twilight of his career. The Spaniard delivered the most shocking of upsets in the 2016 Australian Open where he defeated Rafael Nadal in a near five hour match in the first round.
Djokovic and Verdasco actually met in one of the matches of the season in the semi-final of Doha last week, where Djokovic saved five match points in the second set on his way to the Doha title. The match illustrated two things. That Verdasco has the firepower and quality of shotmaking to trouble the very best still and that Djokovic still has the knack and natural skill for seeing out matches where he faces an extreme amount of adversity. Even at his worst, Djokovic is still a force to be reckoned with, which is why he is still one of the main contenders to take home the coveted 2017 Australian Open title.
Prediction: Djokovic in four sets
Tommy Haas vs Benoit Paire H2H: First meeting
In a match which has flown under the radar, Tommy Haas returns to the tennis court for the first time since late 2015, where he will come up against Frenchman Benoit Paire. It is a match where we will see two very effective, impactful, but different backhands on display. Haas possesses one of the game’s greatest one-handed backhand from the back of the court, whereas Benoit Paire’s biggest weapon is his two-handed backhand when he elects to flatten it out from the baseline.
The mercurial Paire is the more unpredictable of the two players. His application to each rally varies point to point, but it remains a huge question where Haas’ level is after such a long layoff from competitive action. Is Haas returning to gain some real momentum and to return to winning on a regular basis or is he coming back simply because of his enjoyment for the game? Either way it is fabulous to see the 38-year-old back on a tennis court after an accumulation of injury after injury.
Prediction: Paire in four sets
Dustin Brown vs Milos Raonic  H2H: Raonic leads 1-0
Milos Raonic moves into the first slam of the year with a lot of people talking about a potential career-best season on the ATP Tour. Now at No.3 in the world rankings and already having the experience of a grand slam final under his belt, we really could be on the brink of a special two weeks for the Canadian. Dustin Brown is a great test in the opening round for Raonic. Many typecast Brown as the flashy, entertaining serve and volleyer, who brings a lot of fun to a tennis court, but what many overlook is his ability to serve through service games with great effectiveness. In regard to the quality of serving, Brown will give Raonic as good as he gets on one of the big courts in Melbourne.
The difference in this match will be the steadiness of Raonic under pressure. That is what separates the his 2014 self compared to the once we have watching three years for the last three years. He is the more reliable of the two players and should find a way to beat Brown in four sets.
Prediction: Raonic in four sets
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