the first Grand Slam event of the year has lastly arrived. The 2021 Australian Open will present a little bit of a return to normalcy, as fans will likely be in attendance.
Regardless of the obstacles, from 72 players having to quarantine upon arrival and forced to train in their hotel rooms for 14 days, to a hotel worker testing positive for COVID-19 and forcing players again into isolation, the match is going on (watch on ESPN+ and the ESPN App).
Our experts break down who they anticipate to come out on prime in the men’s and women’s singles draws, and who to control to make a shock run for the crown.
Who will win the men’s singles title?
James Blake: Novak Djokovic. He simply feels so assured on the occasion and still the best mover within the sport.
Cliff Drysdale: Djokovic is the apparent pick given his profitable history in Melbourne, but it is not going to be a gimme with a tough draw.
Chris Evert: Rafael Nadal. I simply love his aggressive spirit, and I feel he is hungry for one more Grand Slam title.
Brad Gilbert: I might like to see Nadal get No. 21, however, Djoker is the large favorite since he is so tough to beat Down Below. Nonetheless, I’m selecting a brand new champion: It will both be Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev, but I am leaning towards the younger Greek to win his first Slam.
Jason Goodall: Beating Djokovic in Melbourne is almost — not fairly, however nearly — as difficult as beating Nadal at Roland Garros. Novak vs. the sector? Novak.
Sam Gore: Djokovic. Hard to choose anyone else when you consider the success he has had on this event as an eight-time champion. However this year there are a few different things stepping into his favor as I see it. First, the way he exited the US Open. Sure, it was his fault and he apologized, but you know it has burned him up inside since. Second, health and mental edge. Nobody stays fitter, and this main will come all the way down to who finest stays match and handles the psychological grind of quarantine.
Luke Jensen: Novak Djokovic just would not lose in these conditions. The velocity of the court and intensely sizzling Aussie summer climate offers him the sting.
D’Arcy Maine: Djokovic. The world No. 1 did not win both of the 2020 Slams performed throughout the pandemic and has recently made greater than his share of off-the-court headlines, but it nonetheless feels impossible to rule him out in Melbourne. Exhausting to suppose anybody has a greater likelihood of winning this match than he does.
Jake Michaels: Dominic Thiem. The Austrian broke by with his first main title final year, and he’ll fancy his possibilities of bettering his runner-up end against Djokovic at Melbourne Park final year.
Patrick McEnroe: Changing of the guard arrives with Medvedev over Thiem within the remaining after every beat Nadal and Djoker in the semifinals.
Chris McKendry: Djokovic for the three-peat, extending his general total to a record 9 Australian Open titles. The world’s finest hard-court participant carries an air of invincibility in Melbourne. And nobody believes that more than he does.
Pam Shriver: Medvedev, because I’m bored with choosing Djokovic or Nadal to win, and Medvedev discovered nice type towards the tip of 2020 and appears to have saved it throughout this week’s ATP Cup. He loves the exhausting court and needs to affix Thiem in breaking apart the Large Three dominance on the majors. (It makes me uneasy that Medvedev has never won a five-setter, however that may even change in Melbourne.)
Rennae Stubbs: Just like Rafael Nadal in Paris, Djokovic is the man to beat in Australia.
Matt Walsh: Djokovic. He loves Melbourne, loves profitable, and appears to especially love when his again is towards the wall. Djokovic had — how can I put it — an interesting 2020, however realizing the champ that he’s, he’ll have his eyes firmly on a ninth Norman Brookes trophy.
Who will win the women’s singles title?
Blake: Ashleigh Barty. She had the best preparation when it comes to being able to control her surroundings instead of having to quarantine.
Drysdale: Naomi Osaka. Not like so many others within the women’s field, she has the assumption. Profitable begets profitable, and she is on a roll.
Evert: Serena Williams. It is now or by no means. She’s shifting higher, she’s fitter, and the rest of discipline is just not match-tough.
Gilbert: The underside half of the women’s draw is totally loaded, but I’ll go along with Osaka. She is the most effective hard-court player within the women’s sport proper now.
Goodall: Osaka is the clear favorite. The truth that other players have not been in a position to play on many events since the US Open additionally offers Serena her finest likelihood in years.
Gore: Simona Halep. She has had the benefit of quarantining in Adelaide, which has probably benefited her mentally. Her health is often superior, so I see her outlasting most of her opponents in lengthy matches. She’s been a finalist right here and reached the semis final year.
Jensen: Osaka has the large first- and second-serve combo that separates her from the sector. She has a tough-as-nails mindset that may play properly from a deficit, like within the 2020 US Open finals. The velocity of the Melbourne exhausting courts suits completely her energy ground-game style.
Maine: Osaka. I imply, did you see her play on the US Open? She was nearly unstoppable, even when pushed to 3 units towards some very formidable opponents, and appears to be at the prime of her sport. Not like during her final look in Melbourne, as the defending champion, she appears relaxed with the spotlight and cozy with her front-runner standing. It is hard to see anyone beating her on the hard courts.
Michaels: Sofia Kenin. There’s no reason Kenin can’t go back-to-back in Australia. Her Slam document in 2020 was a formidable 16-2, and with one other 12 months of expertise, she ought to find further improvement.
McEnroe: Barty will give Australian followers and the WTA a huge current, as I see her winning the title with a win over Halep in remaining. Serena will make a deep run, but I do not see her getting past Halep.
McKendry: Osaka faces a tough draw, but do not all the ladies this 12 months? She’ll start 2021 as she completed the 2020 Grand Slam season — with a title.
Shriver: Regardless of a difficult draw (arguably the toughest half of a women’s main draw ever), Osaka will take a large step towards becoming the most dominant hard-court player of her era with her fourth main title, all on hard courts. She has been in a position to keep her exceptional energy under control on the most pressure-packed moments, as well (she is 3-0 in major finals).
Stubbs: With the courts being quicker, Osaka is the one to beat. She is healthy and assured, and he or she loves playing in Melbourne. She is on a high and taking part in as stable as anyone.
Walsh: Barty. I’m calling it — Australia may have its first homegrown Australian Open winner since Chris O’Neil in 1978. Certain, she’s had a year “off,” but she has been working on her game and hasn’t had to do resort quarantine.
Which men’s player might make a surprise run to win?
Blake: Andrey Rublev. I love the way he plays. He received 5 titles final 12 months, and now simply must put all of it together in a Slam.
Drysdale: Denis Shapovalov. He is pesky but gifted, but just like Djoker, has a much tougher half.
Evert: Stefanos Tsitsipas believes he can beat prime gamers, and his improvement is apparent.
Gilbert: I would like to see someone 21 and under make the semifinals and an American to make the second week.
Goodall: Rublev ought to make a minimum of the quarterfinals, although he isn’t quite but able to win the whole thing. Of the youthful, lower-ranked gamers, be careful with Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who’s very a lot following in Nadal’s footsteps.
Gore: Alexander Zverev. His off-court personal issues have been a distraction, but he has had progressive success in Melbourne. He has the expertise to win all of it, and he might really feel much less the stress away from all of the scrutinies he confronted in Europe.
Jensen: I am liking Tennys Sandgren. The Sandman has feasted on the Aussie previously with quarterfinals appearances in 2018 and 2020, and he had match factors towards Roger Federer in final year’s quarterfinals. Get the popcorn out for the first spherical, as a result of Sandgren’s competes against the 21-seed Aussie, Alex De Minaur. That will be a great battle between two of the fittest ballers on the ATP Tour.
Maine: Jannik Sinner. The 19-year-old made a quarterfinal run on the French Open and received his first ATP title on the Sofia Open in November. It appears solely a matter of time before he challenges the supremacy of the Large Three and hoists a significant trophy. If he can escape Shapovalov within the first round, why not now?
Michaels: Stan Wawrinka. He has reached the quarterfinals in three of his previous 5 main appearances and is a former Australian Open winner (2014). Write him off at your own peril.
McEnroe: Felix Auger Aliassime is ready for a breakthrough.
McKendry: Rublev. Although he is never taken a set from Medvedev, Rublev will shock his fellow Russian within the quarterfinals and can go on to take the title.
Shriver: Rublev. With extra titles in 2020 than any other men’s player and as large a forehand as any within the sport, he is able to make a significant.
Stubbs: Tsitsipas. He loves Melbourne, has nice memories right here, beating Roger Federer, and with the court playing quicker, it fits his sport. If he can handle his feelings, he will likely be an enormous risk.
Walsh: Zverev. Might this be the year he breaks again into the highest three? Final 12 months in Melbourne, he fell to eventual runner-up Thiem within the semis, and in that match received the primary set and compelled two tiebreakers. The 23-year-old is not far off.
Which women’s player might make a surprise run to win?
Blake: Jennifer Brady. She played so properly on the exhausting courts at the US Open, and I feel she will do it once more.
Drysdale: Contemplating she’s sitting outside the highest 5 proper now, Serena. No means you guess towards the GOAT. But a couple of others to think about are Coco Gauff and Victoria Azarenka. One will benefit from the simpler draw in the prime half.
Evert: Victoria Azarenka believes she will beat anybody, and her preseason training was stellar.
Gilbert: Lately, at nearly every Slam, an unseeded participant makes the semis. I see that happening once more. Let’s stick with an American going on a run, as I hoped for the lads. Maybe someone outside the highest 15 could make a deep run.
Goodall: Brady is looking to again up to her nice run on the US Open, whereas Francesca Jones is making her main-draw debut at a major after qualifying within the Center East. She’s an inspirational player (with solely three fingers and a thumb on every hand) who will likely be competing towards the world’s finest.
Gore: Azarenka. A two-time champion in Australia, she seems to be in a superb frame of mind following quarantine. I really like the maturity she has proven in coping with all that has occurred because of the pandemic. She knows her days within the sport are numbered, so she’s been locked in on winning this main. Serena, Osaka,, and Kenin all appear to have some damage questions, so I could see Vika advancing underneath the radar and winning the title.
Jensen: I like Brady here. In 2020, her US Open semifinal look and win on the WTA event in Lexington, Kentucky, have made her a participant to look at going into any main. In 2017, Brady reached the fourth round in Melbourne and has since developed into an all-court and all-capable competitor at each degree.
Maine: Aryna Sabalenka. OK, so this would hardly be a surprise to anybody who has adopted her latest results (profitable titles at Ostrava and Linz to shut the year and the season-opening event in Abu Dhabi), but she has by no means superior previous the fourth spherical at a major. She has the sport to do it — might this lastly be the Slam the place she makes her breakthrough?
Michaels: Serena. Unsure it will be considered a shock if Williams hoisted the trophy at the finish of the fortnight, but she hasn’t received a major since 2017.
McEnroe: Maria Sakkari should make a nice run.
McKendry: Garbine Muguruza loves the Grand Slam occasions and has regarded the strongest and most constant within the tuneup event.
Shriver: I used to be not expecting to name somebody who got here from the 14-day exhausting quarantine, but Brady will play one other robust hard-court main. Her US Open semifinal run was spectacular and gave her the confidence she wanted throughout her majors. Her forehand and serve are developing into one of many strongest 1-2 punches in women’s tennis.
Stubbs: Muguruza. She is playing nice and loves the courtroom and atmosphere right here. When at her finest, she is all the time a risk. There’s a handful of women exterior of the highest 4 who can win, but she is perhaps the one to interrupt by.
Walsh: Muguruza. She doesn’t mind playing in Melbourne, and after her robust run to last years remaining and her hot begin to the Australian summer to date in 2021, she might win all of it.