Boone and Lee: Our Final Four Predictions for the 2021 Australian Open

The Daily’s Ells Boone and Jordan John Lee tackle the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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With the 2021 Australian Open now underway, we decided to make some predictions for how we think the tournament will play out.

Men’s Draw 

With Roger Federer not participating in this year’s tourney, as he continues to recover from knee surgery, the focus shifts to the other two members of the “Big Three”— No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal.

No. 1 Seed Novak Djokovic’s Quarter: 

Djokovic is the biggest name in the first quarter of the men’s draw, but it will not be an easy path to the semifinals for the eight-time Australian Open champion. No. 17 seed Stan Wawrinka, who has beaten Djokovic six times in his career, and No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev will be his toughest competitors in this section of the bracket. We expect the quarterfinal matchup in this sector to come down to Zverev and Djokovic, in what could be a thrilling match. In the end, we think Djokovic will be the one to advance as he looks to win his third-straight Grand Slam Down Under. 

No. 3 Seed Dominic Thiem’s Quarter:

The next quarter is headlined by No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem, who finally got over the hump in 2020 by winning his first Grand Slam tournament at the U.S. Open. Thiem’s path to a second consecutive Grand Slam title is tough, however, as he is joined by Nick Kyrgios, No. 15 seed Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov, No. 20 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman in his quarter. The third round of this quad should be particularly intriguing. Thiem will potentially play Kyrgios, a showdown that pits one of the fieriest players on the tour against one of the most consistent. Another potential matchup to watch in the third round will be a battle between two of the rising stars in today’s game, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian pair have played with each other for years and know each other’s games inside-out. We think this sector will come down to a quarterfinal between the favored Thiem and Shapovalov, and Thiem will advance to play Djokovic in semi-final number one. 

No. 4 Seed Daniil Medvedev’s Quarter: 

The third of four quarters contains high seeds such as No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, No. 7 Andrey Rublev, No. 12 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 13 David Goffin. Potential fourth-round matchups between Medvedev and Goffin, as well as Rublev against Bautista Agut, should be enticing. We could have a rematch of the 2020 U.S. Open quarterfinals between the Russian pair of Rublev and Medvedev in this year’s edition of the Australian Open quarterfinals; we have Rublev getting his revenge this time around. 

No. 2 Seed Rafael Nadal’s Quarter: 

The fourth and final section contains none other than No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal. Joining Nadal in this quad are No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 19 seed Karen Khachanov and No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur. Nadal should be able to cruise into the fourth round before potentially facing de Minaur, who is looking to build off of his coming-out party at the 2020 U.S. Open, where he reached the quarterfinals. We think the quarterfinal match for this sector will be one of the most mouth-watering matchups of the entire tournament: Tsitsipas versus Nadal. Those two are some of the hardest hitters on the tour, and they will undoubtedly put on a show. At the end of the day, Nadal should edge out the younger Tsitsipas and set up a semi-final match against Rublev. 

Predicted Men’s Semi-final Matches: 

Djokovic (1) vs. Thiem (3) 

Rublev (7) vs. Nadal (2) 

In what would be the pair’s ninth-ever meeting in a Grand Slam final, we have Djokovic denying Nadal his record 21st Grand Slam. Djokovic usually outperforms his Spanish counterpart on the hard court, and this year should be no different.

Click here for the full men’s draw.

Women’s Draw

Due to the depth of the women’s field, it is hard to definitively say whether a certain player will reach a certain stage of a Grand Slam Tournament. Let’s take a look at each quarter of the draw and see which four talented women might have the chance to win it all in Melbourne.

No. 1 Seed Ashleigh Barty’s Quarter: 

I believe that Australia’s Barty has the easiest route to reach the last four in Melbourne. Having fallen in the last four in 2020 in a tight, two-set loss to eventual champion Sofia Kenin, Barty knows how to reach the latter stages of a Grand Slam. Her backhand slice and accurate, down-the-line shots disrupt players’ rhythm, allowing her to gain control of the point at any time in the rally. Her quarter includes only one Grand Slam champion in Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, and No. 6 seed in Karolina Pliskova, a former world No. 1, from the Czech Republic. Other notable players include two Grand Slam semifinalists in Barbora Strycova from the Czech Republic and No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic from Switzerland.

No. 2 Seed Simona Halep’s Quarter: 

Whoever makes it out of this quarter will really have worked hard to earn one of the coveted four spots in the semifinals. History compels me to choose No. 11 seed Serena Williams, but it’s a toss-up between Williams and Halep in this quarter. Serena’s path to the quarterfinals should be a fairly straightforward one, with her biggest challenge before Halep being Belarusian power-hitter No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka. If Serena can go toe-to-toe with Sabalenka, Serena has a very good chance to set up a contest with Halep. If Serena succumbs to injury or second-week nerves like she had at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, her chances of Grand Slam number 24 will be out of sight — and Halep will seize the opportunity in a heartbeat.

No. 3 Seed Naomi Osaka’s Quarter:

The legends and the young phenoms! This section might be the most stacked of the draw, with six different Grand Slam champions in this section alone. My heart longs for Venus Williams to return to the top of the sport — strong showings at the Yarra Valley Classic, a tune-up event before the Australian Open, have proved that age is just a number for her. But the most-anticipated and most-likely matchup in this part of the draw would have to be a potential quarterfinal between No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu from Canada and Osaka. This is a true toss-up with major implications; both have proven that they have what it takes to win a major title. But the edge goes to Osaka, who just has had more match play heading into the tournament, while Andreescu will be competing for the first time since the WTA Finals in Shenzhen at the end of 2019. 

No. 4 Seed Sofia Kenin’s Quarter:

Kenin, the defending champion, looks to use her court awareness and smart shot selection to reach her third Grand Slam semifinal in two years. A surge in talent in this section of the draw, however, will ask questions of the defending champion. For starters, the youngest player in the draw, Coco Gauff, will seek to avenge a fourth-round loss to Kenin last year in Melbourne. Another American in No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady looks to build upon her dream semifinal run at the U.S. Open last year. Belarusian veteran and No. 12 seed Victoria Azarenka looks to claim her third Australian Open title, having won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Ultimately, I think the composure and experience of Kenin will overpower this section of the draw.

Predicted Women’s Semifinal Matches:

Serena Williams (10) vs. Naomi Osaka (3)

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Ashleigh Barty (1)

I believe that Serena’s determination to achieve the elusive 24 will elevate her level of play and will get her to a fifth final in four years. In her hometown slam, Barty will look to avenge her semifinal loss against Kenin last year. This Serena-versus-Barty matchup would be their third meeting. Serena has beaten Barty post-pregnancy and will likely use the speed of the courts to her advantage to win in front of a rowdy Australian crowd (yes, there are fans).

Click here for the full women’s draw.

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Ells Boone is a desk editor for the sports section. He is a freshman from Virginia Beach, Virginia, interested in studying communication and economics. You can catch him waking up early on weekend mornings to watch his favorite Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur, play. Contact him at eboone24 'at' stanforddaily.com.
Jordan John Lee ’22 is a Desk Editor for the Sports section and a contributing writer for the News section of The Daily, double majoring in Biology and Classics. Catch him drinking coffee or boba, not biking around campus, or watching recaps of iconic tennis matches. Contact him at jjlee 'at' stanforddaily.com.