By HOWARD FENDRICH
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saturday, January 12, 2019
NOVAK DJOKOVIC Ranked: 1 Country: Serbia Age: 31 2018 match record: 53-12 2018 singles titles: 4 Career singles titles: 72 Grand slam singles titles: 14 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - lost in 4th round, 2017 - 2nd round, 2016 - winner, 2015 - winner, 2014 - quarter-finalist Aces: Has won an ATP-best 27.4 per cent of his return games against top-10 opponents over his career.
Topspin: Had surgery on his right elbow shortly after last year's early departure in Melbourne and really returned to his best play in the season's second half, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Even if he got off to a slow start to 2019, hard to pick against him getting title No. 7 in Australia.
RAFAEL NADAL Ranked: 2 Country: Spain Age: 32 2018 match record: 45-4 2018 singles titles: 5 Career singles titles: 80 Grand slam singles titles: 17 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - quarter-finalist, 2017-runnerup, 2016 - 1st round, 2015 - quarter-finalist, 2014 - runner-up Aces: Led ATP by winning 36.6 per cent of return games in 2018; no one else was even at 31 per cent.
Topspin: Pulled out of Brisbane tuneup event, citing a strained thigh muscle, so fitness in Melbourne will be worth keeping an eye on early. Hard courts give his body trouble, but if he's okay, could make a deep run at only Slam he hasn't won at least twice.
ROGER FEDERER Ranked: 3 Country: Switzerland Age: 37 2018 match record: 48-10 2018 singles titles: 4 Career singles titles: 99 Grand slam singles titles: 20 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - winner, 2017 - winner, 2016 - semi-finalist, 2015 - 3rd round, 2014 - semi-finalist Aces: Will try again for his 100th career title. Bids for a third consecutive Australian Open trophy; only Djokovic has done that in the Open era.
Topspin: Everyone keeps wondering how much longer he can keep contending for majors, but still no reason to doubt him.
ALEXANDER ZVEREV Ranked: 4 Country: Germany Age: 21 2018 match record: 58-19 2018 singles titles: 4 Career singles titles: 10 Grand slam singles titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - 3rd round, 2017 - 3rd round, 2016 - 1st round, 2015 - did not play, 2014 - did not play Aces: Now working with Ivan Lendl, an eight-time major champ as a player and former coach of Andy Murray. Only 44thbest at saving break points last season, doing so just 58 per cent of the time.
Topspin: Supremely talented, but biggest impediment to reaching the last weekend of a major seems to be health; pulled out of tune-up in Adelaide after hurting a hamstring in practice.
KEVIN ANDERSON Ranked: 6 Country: South Africa Age: 32 2018 match record: 47-19 2018 singles titles: 2 Career singles titles: 6 Grand slam singles titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - 1st round, 2017 - did not play, 2016 -1st round, 2015 - 4th round, 2014 - 4th round Aces: At 6-foot-8, can deliver dangerous serves with the best of them. His 1,082 aces ranked second on tour in 2018.
Topspin: Seemingly has a game built for success in Melbourne, but hasn't won a match there in four years. With confidence built from runs to finals at two of the past five majors, could he be ready to do some damage at this one?
DOMINIC THIEM Ranked: 8 Country: Austria Age: 25 2018 match record: 54-20 2018 singles titles: 3 Career singles titles: 11 Grand slam singles titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - 4th round, 2017 - 4th round, 2016 - 3rd round, 2015 - 1st round, 2014 - 2nd round Aces: Only two career titles have come on hard courts; eight on clay, where he managed to beat Nadal last year and also reached his first major final.
Topspin: A physical presence on court who can bully an opponent during baseline exchanges, certainly capable of sticking around into the second week in Australia.
KEI NISHIKORI Ranked: 9 Country: Japan Age: 29 2018 match record: 43-21 2018 singles titles: 0 Career singles titles: 12 Grand slam singles titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - did not play, 2017 - 4th round, 2016 - quarter-finalist, 2015 - quarter-finalist, 2014 - 4th round Aces: Held in 81.4 per cent of his service games last season, the lowest rate of any member of the year-end top 10.
Topspin: If the bracket breaks in his favour, could make a deep run. Past four exits in Melbourne came against Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Wawrinka, who've all won the tournament.
JOHN ISNER Ranked: 10 Country: United States Age: 33 2018 match record: 34-22 2018 singles titles: 2 Career singles titles: 14 Grand slam singles titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - 1st round, 2017 - 2nd round, 2016 - 4th round, 2015 - 3rd round, 2014 - 1st round Aces: Led ATP last year by winning 93.6 per cent of his service games. Led tour with 1,213 aces in 2018.
Topspin: After quick exit in Australia, wound up having best season of career in 2018; maybe he channels last year's Grand Slam success at Wimbledon, U.S. Open and making his first quarter-final in Melbourne.
STEFANOS TSISIPAS Ranked: 15 Country: Greece Age: 20 2018 match record: 46-27 2018 singles titles: 1 Career singles titles: 1 Grand slam singles titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - 1st round, 2017 - did not play, 2016 - did not play, 2015 - did not play, 2014 - did not play Aces: Will be making just his seventh career appearance in the main draw of a major tournament. One of the brightest young up-and-coming stars on tour.
Topspin: A terrific mover at 6foot-4, uses a big forehand and good hands at the net. Probably needs to improve his serve to take the next step into the top 10.
NICK KYRGIOS Ranked: 51 Country: Australia Age: 23 2018 match record: 25-13 2018 singles titles: 1 Career singles titles: 4 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 Past five Australian Opens: 2018 - 4th round, 2017 - 2nd round, 2016 - 3rd round, 2015 - quarterfinalist, 2014 - 2nd round Aces: 44 aces in match at Brisbane to open year, only one shy of record for an ATP three-setter. Averaged 19.8 aces per match last season.
Topspin: As talented and mercurial as they come, as liable to beat one of the Big 3 in the second week as he is to bow out in the early rounds.