2023 Australian Open Men's Preview
Nadal with Medvedev during the trophy ceremony at last year's Australian Open (James Morgan/Getty Images)

The first major of the year kicks off tonight Down Under with the Australian Open opening up proceedings. Rafael Nadal, off to an 0-2 start, looks to right the ship as he tries to win a third title in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic makes his return after his entrance into the country ultimately saw him get deported. With Carlos Alcaraz sidelined due to injury, a first-time winner could be on the cards.

Tournament Headlines

How Does Nadal Overcome His Slow Start and Rough Draw?

It's a tough ask of the champ to somehow survive this gauntlet of a draw and defend his title. However, if anyone can do it, Nadal would be at the top of the list of players who could. Of the unseeded players, the world number two drew rising star, Jack Draper. The Brit shot up the rankings last year and performed well in his two warmup events and should be up to the task against Nadal.

Should Nadal win, a tricky tie against Mackenzie McDonald or Brandon Nakashima await. The man who knocked out the top seed of the US Open, Frances Tiafoe, would be the Spaniard's fourth-round opponent and is likely the favorite in that match.

In the later rounds, a finals rematch from last year against Daniil Medvedev could be on the cards in the quarterfinals and finally a matchup against Felix Auger-Alliassime, Jannik Sinner, or Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Jack Draper looks to pull off a massive first-round upset (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Jack Draper looks to pull off a massive first-round upset (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The Return of Novak Djokovic

The very well-documented exit of the Serb was the headliner for the leadup to the "Happy Slam". Now that he's back, he'll love his chances to add to his Australian Open tally. There won't be too many threats to the Serb in his first few rounds and likely won't be tested until the fourth round should he meet Pablo Carreno Busta.

After claiming a warmup title in Adelaide, the Serb enters as the heavy favorite on the men's side.

Can Anyone Stop Djokovic?

A brutal top half of the draw that we already mentioned shares many of Djokovic's main threats for the title. There are a few players who could give the four seed a run for his money in the later rounds.

American Taylor Fritz is looking to break barriers of his own by reaching the semifinals. The eighth seed suffered heartbreak, losing at Wimbledon to Rafael Nadal. The American number one went toe-to-toe with Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals and famously pushed him to five sets at the 2021 Australian Open.

Matteo Berrettini looks to put a disappointing 2022 behind him and has started off 2023 strongly. His most famous bout against the 21-time major champion came in the 2021 Wimbledon Final, losing in four sets. The quick courts of Australia suit the Italian's weapons well.

Other potential threats in this half include Casper Ruud, Alexander Zverev, and Holger Rune.

Djokovic all smiles during his pre-tournament Australian Open presser (James Morgan/Getty Images)
Djokovic all smiles during his pre-tournament Australian Open presser (James Morgan/Getty Images)

First-Round Matches To Watch and Early Upset Alert

Jiri Lehecka vs Borna Coric: The Croatian is immediately put to the sword with an immediate test. The Czech youngster Lehecka already has some good wins under his belt, defeating Zverev at the United Cup and pushing Norrie to the brink in Auckland this past week. At the US Open, Enzo Couacaud took Coric to five sets and even served for the match. Lehecka should be able to take at least a set here.

Andrey Rublev vs Dominic Thiem: Thiem, a former finalist here, looks to start his first full season in some time as he is finally fully healthy. Two players with big weapons will both be punishing the ball from the back of the court. The big question mark will be coming from the Austrian who was dumped out swiftly by Soonwoo Kwon during the first run at the Adelaide International.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Aslan Karatsev: Despite being unseeded, a Karatsev would not be the biggest shock on the cards here. The Russian is a former Australian Open semifinalist and his powerful yet grinding style of tennis could annoy someone like Dimitrov. The Bulgarian can be prone to mental lapses and poor decision making due to his flashy style of tennis.

Ilya Ivashka vs Botic van de Zandschulp: Not the ideal preparation for the Belarussian, coming in with no warmup events. Despite that, he has a solid hard court record and knows what he is capable of. Up in the final set against Jannik Sinner at the US Open last year, he let that lead slip though. The first set will be key here to feel out if he will be able to hang with the Dutchman who made his breakthrough just a couple of years ago.

Last 8 Predictions

Tiafoe vs Medvedev

Tsitsipas vs Auger-Alliassime

Rublev vs Djokovic

Fritz vs Berrettini

Semifinals

Medvedev vs Auger-Alliassime

Djokovic vs Fritz

Finals

Djokovic def. Medvedev

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