By Britwatch & Special Guests

  • It’s Britwatch vs … well the world really, as the first Slam of the year rolls around
  • Special Guests: Chris Oddo, Adam Addicott, Marianne Bevis, Vicky Monk, Sean Nevin & George Bellshaw for a bumper edition!
  • Who will win the ultimate Britwatch bragging rights?
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – G’day cobbers and welcome to the first Britwatch Prediction Challenge Cup – our biggest ever – but who will come out on top!

 

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ATP WTA
Champion Dark Horse Shocker Champions Dark Horse Shocker Brits
Ros (6) ❌ 

Dimitrov

Goffin

Thiem (1)

 

Halep

Kerber (1)

Muguruza (4)

 

Konta R4 

Edmund R1

Watson R3

Marianne (5)

Nadal

Monfils

Thiem (1)

Kerber

Bencic

Muguruza (4)

Konta QF

Edmund R4

Watson R3

Vicky (6) Federer

Kyrgios

Wawrinka (2)

Halep

Kerber (1)

Stephens (3)

Konta SF

Edmund R1

Watson R2

Adam (14) Federer

Del Potro

Sock (4)

Wozniacki (5)

Kerber (1)

Muguruza (4)

Konta R4

Edmund R3

Watson R3

Chris (6) ❌ 

Nadal

Simon

Wawrinka (2)

Halep

Zhang

Stephens (3)

Konta R4

Edmund R1

Watson R1 (1)

George (13) Federer

Kyrgios

Sock (4)

Wozniacki (5)

Sharapova

Muguruza (4)

Konta R4

Edmund R1

Watson R2

Jake (10) Federer

Kyrgios

Sock (4)

Svitolina

Mertens (3)

Stephens (3)

Konta QF

Edmund R1

Watson R3

Sean (7) Federer

Anderson

Wawrinka (2)

Wozniacki (5)

Barty

Halep

Konta R4

Edmund R1

Watson R2

 

Ros Satar – Chief Tennis Scribe, Britwatch Sports

Simona Halep of Romania in action during her third-round match at the 2017 Western & Southern Open WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

On the ATP side – it could well be Grigor Dimitrov’s moment to shine. I think it is nigh on impossible for Roger Federer to pull off the same feat and I just don’t see Rafael Nadal being anywhere near ready, having come to the tournament with no warm-up matches.

I think he will be an early exit well before time – again not enough time to get ready. My Dark Horse though is David Goffin. He impressed at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals and with the benefit of a good healthy off-season behind him, he could do very well.

On the women’s side, my heart wants Simona Halep to finally get her Slam, and after finally getting to the World No. 1 spot, I think she has a great chance. That being said, out of the limelight and indeed out of the Top 10, watch out for Angelique Kerber to snaffle her second Aussie Open Slam title. In terms of slip-sliding out of the tournament – I just think Garbiñe Muguruza is a little under-cooked this time around and her fitness issues so early into the year are worrying.

As for the Brits – I think Kyle Edmund has a terrible first round draw – I think he will go a good four-five sets but Anderson is just a little too solid. Johanna Konta also has not got a great draw at all, and think she will fall just one short of last year and come out in Round 4. Heather Watson has a decent chance for a run – an out of form Kristina Mladenovic could get her to the third round at least.

 

Marianne Bevis – Chief Tennis Writer The Sport Review

Rafael Nadal US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

Photo by Ella Ling/REX/Shutterstock
Rafael Nadal US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

Champs: Nadal, Kerber

I’d pick Federer, except that the draw is so bottom heavy, and plays second, so even if he negotiates big-hitting Sam Querrey/Milos Raonic, then Juan Martin Del Potro or Goffin, and (depending on their unknown fitness and form—part of the problem for this prediction) then Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Stan Wawrinka, he will be at a disadvantage against a far less challenging top half and with less recovery time before the final. I think Nadal’s knee is fine—and can’t see any hiccups until perhaps Nick Kyrgios or Dimitrov in SFs

Kerber: She’s back to her lean, mean form, I think: Outstanding in Hopman Cup, and now Sydney. I’d pick Halep, like her to get a ‘big one’, but draw is against her. Same applies to Elina Svitolina.

 

Dark horses: Monfils, Bencic

Gael Monfils won Doha, should like fast courts, and is unlucky to have missed seedings, but this is all supposing Novak isn’t at his best, which could stymie things… Would happily have gone for Stefanos Tsitsipas or Denis Shapovalov—but drawn against each other!—or Thanasi Kokkinakis or Hyeon Chung—but they’re clustered together and in Zverev/Djokovic eighth. David Ferrer might be a good bet, too, except he opens against Andrey Rublev, who’s in hot form.

Belinda Bencic: loved her tennis in Perth, looking fit, happy, and bringing extra dimension to her tennis, it seems. Of course, she has Venus Williams first—but if Williams’ serve is slightly off, she may not have the energy to keep pace with Bencic. Will certainly be an interesting match, and the winner could go very deep. Incidentally, an obvious choice is Maria Sharapova—but having picked Kerber to win, she was out for me.

 

Shocker: Thiem/Muguruza

Like Dominic Thiem and his game, but unless he starts attacking more, especially on the faster courts, he’s not going to beat the strong guys like Wawrinka (assuming he is fit), or either of the Zverevs, who will probably both attack a lot. It’s a tough half, top to bottom… and several of the younger (and veteran) guys are better suited to this surface. And Thiem has been off-colour physically.

Muguruza: I just don’t think she’s 100 percent. If she IS, she could win on these courts, but had poor showings so far—and has a tough section of the draw.

 

Brits:

Konta: I don’t think is in great form at the moment, though she’s done well in Australia. With a following wind, and if Pliskova does not find her big-hitting game, she could make the quarters again.

Edmund: A lot depends on the ankle that he twisted in Brisbane. If he’s back to full strength, he may make a good run here. Anderson is in decent form, but Edmund almost beat him, except for an injury, at FO, and this is an otherwise decent eighth: fourth round.

Watson: good to see her winning some matches in Hobart, so she *may* make the third round, though it will be interesting to see the fitness of the four seeds in her segment.

 

Vicky Monk – Associate Editor, ESPN UK

Words of wisdom to come!

 

Adam Addicott – Tennis Writer, Ubi Tennis

Roger Federer, Nitto ATP Finals 2017, Day One

Photo by Dave Shopland/BPI/REX/Shutterstock | Roger Federer,
Nitto ATP Finals 2017, Day One

Men

Although he hasn’t successfully defended a grand slam title since the 2008 US Open, Federer is my pick for the Melbourne title. He looked in good form during the Hopman Cup and is one of the few players to not be bothered by injuries in recent months. It is for this reason why Federer gets my backing over Nadal. Nadal looked sharp in recent exhibition tournaments, but a lack of recent match play will be a big factor for the Spaniard.

Section seven of the draw is where I believe the two dark horses are. Goffin showed me and the tour at the ATP Finals that he shouldn’t be underestimated. His tennis is getting better and I honestly think he can do damage to the top four. The same applies to Auckland champion del Potro, who could play Goffin in Round four. The Argentine has experience and was impressive during the US Open last year.

I think Sock could go out in the early rounds. He was hindered by a hip problem at the Hopman Cup and was not very impressive at the ASB Classic. He is set for a first round meeting with Yūichi Sugita followed potentially by Ivo Karlovic. Both of whom I think are very capable of defeating the American.

As for the sole Brit in the draw, I quite fancy Edmund’s chances of defeating Anderson. He looked impressive in Brisbane against Dimitrov, narrowly losing the match. I predict him reaching the third round this year.

 

Women

I believe that this could be the tournament where Caroline Wozniacki ends her grand slam title drought. She looked in solid form in Auckland, despite losing in the final. Also, given her relatively generous draw, that will certainly help the Dane for later in the tournament. It is also important to mention that the Australian Open is Wozniacki’s second most successful major in terms of match wins. Her first is the US Open.

Kerber’s start to the year has got a lot of people excited and I am one of them. At last she has regained the form that has been absent for the past 12 months. I would certainly back her as the dark horse in the draw. I would personally rate her as the strongest player in her section based on current form.

Muguruza is my predicted shock exit. There are just too many unanswered questions about her current fitness. First, it was a cramping issue and then there was a problem with her abductor. I don’t think Melbourne will be her tournament his year. Especially when Kristyna Pliskova or Agnieszka Radwanska could be a third round opponent.

For the Brits, I expect Konta will reach the fourth round. Although due a recent lack of match play, I don’t think she is yet in a position to last two weeks in the draw. Especially if she faces Karolina Pliskova in the last 16. Watson has quite an interesting draw where she could fair very well. She is certainly capable of winning her opening match against Yulia Putintseva if she is on her game. I reckon she will reach the third round this year.

 

Chris Oddo – Tennis Writer, Tennis Now

Johanna Konta, Wimbledon 2017

Photo by Ella Ling/BPI/REX/Shutterstock | Johanna Konta
Wimbledon 2017, Day 10

Well I guess here goes. I’ve picked Halep to win her first major despite the tough draw, because I really do feel it’s her time and last year’s disappointments have strengthened her, which is obvious to see by her ranking. I went with Nadal on the men’s side because his draw could help him get to week two without very much energy expended. The guys on the lower half have it kind of rough. I like Del Potro to come out, or maybe Zverev (the young one) or Federer. But it’s tough to call.

Really the whole kit and caboodle is up for grabs is how I see it.

As far as the shocker goes, isn’t it obvious that Stephens will never win a WTA match again? And don’t we all know that Stan’s knee will likely keep him from doing very much in his first event back since surgery and two months on crutches?

As far as the British players go, welcome to life without Andy Murray on the men’s side. Hope he gets back soon. And hopefully Konta will make some magic to counter the hole left by Murray at this year’s Australian Open.

That’s all I’ve got. Cheerio and may the best seer triumph!

 

George Bellshaw – Sports Journalist, Metro.co.uk

Photo by Mike Frey/BPI/REX/Shutterstock
Maria Sharapova US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

Federer seems the nailed on winner so boringly I will go with the flow on that, while I like the look of Wozniacki’s draw (although I have a lot less faith in backing anyone on the WTA Tour than I do Federer right now).

Muguruza has struggled with injury in the build-up and a potential match-up with either Kerber or Sharapova in round four should see her fall before the semi-finals and, in honesty, she may even go before then. Although before the draw, I was expecting Kerber to go deep, I really don’t like the look of her path in the slightest and actually kind of fancy Sharapova to go through their potential third-round tie. With Muguruza an uncertainty for the fourth round due to her physical problems, the Russian could be a decent outside shout to go deep and perhaps even win her second Australian Open crown – a decade after the first.

It’s tough to see the Brits going far. Edmund will likely fall at the first hurdle to Anderson, while Konta may come unstuck against Pliskova in the fourth round. Watson is in good form and has a chance against Putintseva but I can’t see her going much beyond round two. Third round max.

 

Jake Davies – Tennis Writer Britwatch Sports

Elina Svitolina Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati 2017

Elina Svitolina (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Women’s winner – Elina Svitolina [4]. I think this could be the grand slam where the Ukrainian gets her maiden title. Fresh off a title win in Brisbane, full of confidence and I expect a very successful 2018 season for Svitolina.

Dark Horse – Elise Mertens. Mertens has just defended her Hobart title and is playing some of the best tennis of her career. I have a feeling this could be the Grand Slam where she makes her big breakthrough and I like the look of her draw too.

Shocker – Sloane Stephens [13]. The American has struggled incredibly since the US Open win. She’s on a five match losing streak and hasn’t won a single match since that US Open win and I don’t see things changing as she faces a tough opener against Shuai Zhang.

Men’s winner – Roger Federer [2]. He looked fabulous in Hopman Cup and although he has some potentially difficult players to face I do think he is head and shoulders above the rest of the field at the moment and anticipate he will defend his title.

Dark Horse – Nick Kyrgios [17]. The Australian could make some real moves at this year’s Australian Open. I still think he has underperformed at Grand Slam level given how much potential he has and how talented he is, but that Brisbane title win might really spur him on to do great things at his home slam. The only concern is his fitness in best of Five.

Shocker – Jack Sock [8]. Sock comes in as the No.8 seed. He looked disinterested in Auckland and I have a feeling he won’t last long at the Happy Slam. He’s also been carrying a niggling hip problem that does not look completely resolved.

Brits – Kyle Edmund. Edmund’s been playing great to start the season but unfortunately had that ankle-turn in Brisbane. He pulled out of Auckland to recover in time for Australian Open, but I’m not so sure he is ready to overcome a tough draw against Kevin Anderson in Round 1

Heather Watson – 3rd round. I can see Watson going quite far until she meets one of the seeds. She could do some real damage if the draw falls into place and opens up.

Johanna Konta [9] – Quarter-Final. I’m predicting that Konta defends her Quarter-Final points from last season. She’s won some matches but she’s also played well in matches she’s lost, so the future looks good for the British No.1

 

Sean Nevin – Editorial Intern, ESPN UK

WTA Champion – Caroline Wozniacki

With Serena Williams absent and unable to defend the crown she won 12 months ago, this is a very open (some would argue weak) draw. The world No. 2 has never progressed beyond the semi-finals in Melbourne, but after storming to the WTA Finals title in Singapore late last year and looking good in Auckland, Wozniacki is carrying form into this one, and after being drawn in probably the easier half of the draw, she has a great chance of winning her maiden Australian Open. It is staggering that she is yet to take down a Slam – this is as good an opportunity as any for her to end her duck.

ATP Champion – Roger Federer

A boring pick, I know, but with Murray absent, Djokovic and Wawrinka lacking fitness and Nadal hardly an expert down under, it’s hard to look beyond Federer for his 19th Grand Slam title. At 36, Federer should be beyond the point of being favourite for a Slam, but after Hobart, Federer looks as unbeatable as ever. I thought about going for Dimitrov, and he deserves to take down his first Grand Slam title (I have a feeling he will at some point this year). However, I need to beat Viki so I am going to play this one safe. Federer to win!

 

ATP Shocker- Stan Wawrinka

With the number of injuries floating around among the top seeds, there is bound to be an early exit for one of the big boys. For Wawrinka, that knee is still not looking good, and while he made it to the semi-finals last year, I don’t think he is quite ready to hit those heights again just yet.

WTA Shocker – Simona Halep

The World No. 1 has never won a Grand Slam title, and even though she is in great form, the draw has thrown up plenty of potential ties that could cause her to come up a cropper. Eugenie Bouchard probably awaits in round 2, while two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is a potential third round opponent. Australia has never been kind to Halep – she’s crashed out in round one in both of the last two years, and I don’t see her fortunes turning around this year at Melbourne.

 

WTA Dark Horse – Ashleigh Barty

There is a huge chance for a dark horse to go deep here, and my pick is 18th seed Ashleigh Barty. On home soil, the 21 year old went well in Sydney, losing in the final to Kerber, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she will continue that form when it really matters.

ATP Dark Horse – Kevin Anderson

I know he plays Edmund first, but sadly for the Brit, I believe Anderson can go far in Melbourne. After Edmund is dealt with, the South African is unlikely to face a tough test until the last 16, at which point Sock is his likely opponent. I reckon Anderson can get past sock and then graciously exit at the quarter final phase – a respectable showing for the World No. 11.

 

How the Brits will do?

Konta is back in her natural territory in Australia, but a tough draw is not going to help Britain’s only hope to deliver in Melbourne. Madison Brengle is hardly going to be a pushover in the first round while Pliskova will be an extremely tough tie in the fourth rounds. Tougher tests lie beyond the fourth round, but Konta doesn’t need to worry about those because she’ll go out in the fourth to Pliskova. Retiring through injury in Brisbane and a poor showing in Sydney will also not help her case. Konta can do well this year, but I don’t think Australia is her time to shine.

Watson comes into this slam in good form. There’s no shame in losing to Mertens in the Hobart semis. Putintseva will be as tough a test though. I’ll be nice and say Watson will pull off a win there, only to lose to Mladenovic in round 2.

Edmund meanwhile, will slump to a first round exit at the hands of Anderson. Yay! Optimism!

The Australian Open takes place between 15-28 January.

 

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