The ATP Tour will have Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray back in action in 2018, plus Stan Wawrinka and other players who were caught up in the flood of injuries which drowned men’s tennis last year. It will be very tough for a first-time Grand Slam winner to emerge from all that star power, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer still going strong, but here are some candidates who could push through the barrier:
The German lost early at Roland Garros and blew a two-sets-to-one lead in the fourth round of Wimbledon against Milos Raonic, before losing early in the U.S. Open to Borna Coric. He was a frustrating player to watch at the Grand Slams last year. His thin-legged body was able to run and move very effectively in three-set tennis matches at the Masters 1000 level, where he won two championships in 2017. However, the grueling nature of five-set tennis at the Grand Slams wore him down. It is a different kind of competition, and Zverev was not ready for it. He will not be favored to win a Grand Slam next season – nor will anyone else on this list – but if he gets stronger and tougher, he could give himself a chance and perhaps make a semifinal, which is close enough to the finish line where a lucky break could make a difference for him.
Zverev finished the 2017 campaign with a record of 54-21. He was 9-3 on the grass, 16-4 on clay and 22-8 on the hard courts.
The runner-up at the ATP Finals beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at that event. Not many players have beaten those two players in the same tournament. That is a big confidence builder for him, after he defeated Novak Djokovic earlier in the year at Monte Carlo in April. Goffin also won two singles matches at the Davis Cup Final in late November in France. He did all he could to give Belgium its first-ever Davis Cup title – the nation had never won and had lost to Great Britain in 2015 in the final. Goffin won two points in the final against France this year, but Belgium needed three. It lost 3-2 because it couldn’t win the reverse singles or the doubles. Nevertheless, Goffin grew in stature and confidence. If he plays the way he did over the past month in 2018, he will make a run at a title.
Goffin had a very successful season in 2017, going 53-24 overall. While he didn’t play on grass, he did go 14-7 on clay and 23-9 on the hard courts.
The ATP Finals champion looked like a complete player in London. He covered the court, he crushed his backhand, he served big, he held his nerves on important points. He played well in offensive positions and defensive positions. He didn’t make the silly and unfocused errors that have sabotaged him so often in the past. He showed that he has the ability to be relentlessly good. A lot of people are hoping he can be that kind of player in 2018 at the Grand Slams.
On the year, Dimitrov was fairly successful, going 49-19. He was just 4-5 on clay and 6-3 on grass, but he really thrived on the hard courts. He was 24-8 on that surface.
This is not a player who has much of a chance on hardcourts or grass. Thiem commits way too many wild errors. However, on clay, the slower surface gives him more time to run to the ball, and also enables him to set up his shots and control rallies with topspin. Thiem is not as much of a contender for a major title as the three men listed above him, but he is the best contender for a first-time major at the French Open. He will have a better chance of winning the French than Goffin, Dimitrov or Zverev.
For the 2017 season, Thiem finished with an overall record of 47-27. He was 16-13 on the hard courts, 4-3 on grass, but he really thrived on the clay courts where he was 22-5.
2018 Odds To Win Australian Open
Rafael Nadal 11/4
Roger Federer 11/4
Novak Djokovic 4/1
Andy Murray 6/1
Alexander Zverev 12/1
Grigor Dimitrov 18/1
Stan Wawrinka 18/1
Juan Martin Del Potro 22/1
Milos Raonic 25/1
Nick Kyrgios 25/1
Dominic Thiem 28/1
Kei Nishikori 33/1
Marin Cilic 33/1
David Goffin 40/1
Denis Shapovalov 66/1
Gael Monfils 100/1
Jack Sock 100/1
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 100/1
Kevin Anderson 100/1
Lucas Pouille 100/1
Tomas Berdych 100/1
Richard Gasquet 125/1
Roberto Bautista Agut 125/1
Andrey Rublev 150/1
John Isner 150/1
Pablo Carreno Busta 150/1
Sam Querrey 150/1
David Ferrer 200/1
Karen Khachanov 200/1
Kyle Edmund 200/1
Borna Coric 250/1
Hyeon Chung 250/1
Thanassi Kokkinakis 250/1
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