By Jake Davies
- Rafael Nadal  vs Marcos Baghdatis H2H: Nadal leads 8-1
- Fabio Fognini vs Benoit Paire H2H: Tied at 2-2
- Gael Monfils  vs Alexandr Dolgopolov H2H: Monfils leads 3-0
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Rafael Nadal looks to continue his form as he heads into Round Two
Rafael Nadal  vs Marcos Baghdatis H2H: Nadal leads 8-1
The 2009 Australian Open winner Rafael Nadal is embarking on another journey to Grand Slam glory and his decision to appoint Carlos Moya as new full time coach reiterates just that. After two years of notable struggles in results and form, Nadal remains determined to put things right in his 2017 season and has started off in the right manner with a straight sets win over Florian Mayer.
The one major change to Nadal in the last two years in comparison to his grand-slam-winning days is the fading aura of invincibility. When a combination of surprising losses begin to mount up that not only changed the way that Nadal prepared for competitive matches but it also gave the other players in the locker room the belief that Nadal was beatable. The shocking losses to Fabio Fognini at the 2015 US Open and Lucas Pouille at last year’s US Open, have all come from a switch in mindset when approaching matches against the decorated Spaniard.
Nadal also lost confidence in his forehand. He retracted the risk element of that shot and refused to go for high-risk forehands down the line because of the lack of belief and assurance he had in his game. Now in 2017 and in this year’s Australian Open, Nadal is striving to leave the last few years behind him and look ahead to greater times. His next opponent in Melbourne is Marcos Baghdatis, who is a former Australian Open finalist in 2006 and he is a player that loves the night session matches at the big events on the big courts. Luckily for him he is scheduled on Rod Laver Arena under the lights, which will be another great opportunity for the Cypriot at the age of 31.
Prediction: Nadal in three sets.
Fabio Fognini vs Benoit Paire H2H: Tied at 2-2
Fognini is fairly renowned for his streaky temperament on court as well as his quick movement across the baseline. The majority of his successes have come on a clay court, but he is very adept at making the most of his weaponry on a hard court too. The Italian loves to utilise the serve out wide and then aims to finish most of his points with the following shot.
The way Paire carries himself on a tennis court has many similarities to that of Fognini. He very rarely plays a full competitive match with complete concentration and commitment to every rally, but his career high of No.18 in the world suggests that he has an abundance of talent. He is an awkward player and a unique one at that. He likes to run around his forehand to hit his favoured backhand shot, which is rare to see on the Men’s tour as many of the well-known players dominate the points with that forehand weapon. The forehand side of Paire’s is a considerable weakness though and it usually gets scrutinised against the very best players in the world.
Prediction: Fognini in five sets
Gael Monfils  vs Alexandr Dolgopolov H2H: Monfils leads 3-0
The No.6 seed Gael Monfils is coming off his best ever season on the ATP Tour. He is close to his career high of No.6 in the world and made his first semi-final in eight years at last year’s US Open. There is no reason why Monfils cannot continue to make strong pushes at the majors in 2017 as long as he remains concentrated, motivated and trusts in the wisdom of his coach Mikael Tillstrom.
Alexandr Dolgopolov has never picked up a win over Monfils in their previous three meetings, but Dolgopolov’s groovy, unorthodox game can cause issues and has proved a difficult task to handle for the best players in the world in the past.
I do not expect the Frenchman to defend his quarter-final points from the previous season, but would be surprised if he does not find a way past the funky game style of Dolgopolov.
Prediction: Monfils in four sets.
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