Marin Cilic had a good second half to the ATP World Tour season in 2016, which saw the Croat win his first Masters 1000 title at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, defeating world number one Andy Murray in that final. Cilic claimed his first ATP 500 tour title in Basel, where he defeated world number five Kei Nishikori in the final. Meanwhile, Cilic is a former semifinalist at the Australian Open having reached that stage in 2010. He will be hoping to equal or better that run at Melbourne Park this year.
On the other side of the net is the talented Poland native, Jerzy Janowicz. The big-serving Pole is a former world number 14 and reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2013. Unfortunately, injuries have intervened which has seen Janowicz slide down the rankings and is currently ranked at 278 in the world.
The 2014 US Open champion will have to navigate through a tough draw if he is going to win a second Grand Slam singles title. Should the Croat get through Janowicz in the first round, Britain's Dan Evans who reached his first tour final in Sydney could be a tough test in the second round as the Brit held a match point against Stan Wawrinka at Flushing Meadows, and he is projected to face Australia's 27th seed Bernard Tomic in the third round, who could cause a few problems, depending on which Tomic turns up.
Cilic is projected to face 2008 finalist and 12th seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round. The duo played a fantastic five-set match in the quarterfinals of the US Open in 2015. Cilic's nightmare draw continues with a quarterfinal meeting with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka looming or 14th seed Nick Kyrgios, who reached the quarterfinals two years ago in Melbourne, could cause the Croat some difficulties.
Should Cilic reach his second semifinal in Melbourne, he could face five-time runner-up Andy Murray, four-time champion Roger Federer or Kei Nishikori. A potential second Slam final could see Cilic have a mouthwatering final with the two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic or 2009 champion Rafael Nadal, but there is plenty of tennis to be played before Cilic thinks about reaching the final.
Cilic's results leading up to Melbourne
Towards the tail-end of the 2016 ATP World Tour season, Cilic qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals for the second time in three years. Despite being handed a tough group, he defeated Novak Djokovic for the first time at the 15th attempt in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Masters.
Unfortunately, for the third time in 2016, Cilic squandered a two sets to love lead, this time in the Davis Cup final against Juan Martin del Potro, and it was a costly defeat as Argentina went on to win the Davis Cup for the first time in their history.
The seventh seed's 2017 season got off to a poor start as he suffered as shock first round exit in Chennai, a place where he was triumphant in 2009 and 2010, losing to Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik in three sets.
Janowicz's results leading up to Melbourne
The Pole returned to the main tour after an extended absence on the sidelines at the US Open last year, an occasion where he wasn't given a chance to ease his way through the draw as he was paired up with defending champion Novak Djokovic in the first round. However, the Pole gave a good account of himself in this match, managing to take a set off the Serb but eventually went down in four sets. Following the conclusion of his first round exit in New York, he went on to compete on the Challenger Tour, in order to build up his ranking and gain some confidence by winning some matches, before returning to the main tour.
Janowicz defeated Nicolas Almagro in the clay court Challenger in Szczecin, and he started the 2017 season by reaching a Challenger final in Auckland losing to Michael Mmoh.
Cilic and Janowicz have met twice with each having one win. Their first encounter was indoors at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris in 2012 when an unknown Janowicz made an unexpected run to the final. Cilic was one of his victims along the way, defeating the Croat in straight sets, 7-6 (6), 6-2.
However, Cilic got his revenge by defeating Janowicz in a Davis Cup Europe Zone second round tie in 2014 between Croatia and Poland. The 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist lead by two sets to love but fell in five sets, 2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
Under the tutelage of Jonas Bjorkman, Cilic's partnership with the Swede has been quite successful as the Croat claimed his first Masters 1000 and ATP 500 tour level titles under the Swede. He qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals for the second time in his career. Moreover, the seventh seed reached a career-high ranking of 11 in the world. But Cilic would like to add to his Grand Slam collection and a first round meeting with Janowicz could be a stern test that he requires.
Janowicz has defeated five top ten players in his career. He defeated Murray and Janko Tipsarevic in Paris in 2012, back-to-back wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet in Rome, the following year and his fifth victory over a top ten player was over Grigor Dimitrov in the second round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati in 2014.
The unseeded Pole has a big first serve, and he gets a high trajectory on the ball at 6'8. For his height, Janowicz is a fabulous mover and his forehand is a formidable weapon, where he likes to use at the back of the court, and he likes to use drop shots and slices to trick his opponents. Furthermore, Cilic is also a good server in his own right at 6'6, and the Croat moves incredibly well, and he likes to dictate play from the baseline.
This is the third match scheduled on Day 1 of the Australian Open on Show Court 2. The winner of this match will play Britain's Dan Evans or Facundo Bagnis in the second round. Expect this match to be served-dominated with a few tiebreaks possibly required to separate the pair.
Prediction: Cilic in four sets