Kokkinakis-Kyrgios d. Ebden-Purcell 7-5, 6-4
2, 3, NS, NS
SEEDS: ONE & DONE (1st Match Loss)
3 out of 16
AUSTRALIAN OPEN NEWS & NOTES
*There will be no repeat champions in Melbourne with the late news that Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the tournament due to a knee injury. That leaves the team of Kokkinakis-Kyrgios on hold for now. Last year’s runners-up Ebden-Purcell also are no longer a regular pair with Ebden teaming up with Rohan Bopanna this year, while Purcell is paired with Jordan Thompson. The magical Kokkinakis-Kyrgios title run of last year marked the first for an unseeded team since 2015 when Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini surprised for the titles. The all unseeded final in 2022 was also the first since that 2015 run when the Italians beat Herbert-Mahut.
*Four seeded pairs dropped their openers in 2022, just one less than 2021. With the exception of 2020, we’ve seen at least three seeds go one and done in Melbourne over the last six seasons. Being the top seed here has been absolute poison. It has been four years since the top seeds have been as far as the quarterfinals with 2013 as the last time that the top seeds made the final. That is also the same year that the #1s last won this when the Bryans brothers scored their sixth Australian Open men’s doubles titles.
*There were 19 underdog winners in last year’s doubles draw out of 63 matches played. The biggest score came in round one at 3.55 (+255) with the upset of (15)Golubev-Skugor. The second largest scalp came with the semifinal upset by Ebden-Purcell over (2)Ram-Salisbury at 3.01 (+201). There were three dog wins in the final seven matches (QF-SF-F) with the other two very modest at 2.06 (+105) and 2.18 (+118). The majority of your barking dogs came in rounds one and two with 15 of the 19 dog hits in those two rounds. If you’re looking for a dog winner in the final, move right along. There has been just one in the last ten years and that was slight at 2.19 (+119) when Dodig-Polasek won in 2021.
*Twenty matches in 2022 required three sets to be settled. Most of those also came in rounds one and two with 16 of the 20 in those rounds. The final has gone down in straight sets for six straight runs in Melbourne with 2016 marking the last time that the final went the distance. Of those last six straight sets finals, the largest totals ended at 22, 23 and 24 games. The other three all saw 20 games or less.
*There are a pair of former champions in the seeded field this year. 2020 champions Ram-Salisbury rate the highest as the #2 seeds. The duo has a fantastic pedigree in Melbourne the win in 2020, a runner-up finish in 2021 and a semifinal showing at last year’s tournament. The other former champions are the 9th seeded Italians, Bolelli-Fognini. The Italians made just their second appearance together since that landmark win in last year’s Aussie Open. Bolelli-Fognini made the quarterfinals in 2022.
*This year’s top seeds, Koolhof-Skupski, will be looking to break that long drought as the #1s. They made their Australian Open debut a year ago and finished with a quarterfinal loss to Ebden-Purcell. In that same manner, third seeded Arevalo-Rojer are also in just their second Australian Open. They dropped their opener a year ago. Rounding out the top four are (4)Mektic-Pavic. The Croats have played here twice with a 2021 semifinal as their best showing. They arrive in a similar fashion to 2021 when they had a couple of tournament titles under their belts prior to Melbourne. This year it was a title run in Auckland for Mektic-Pavic where they edged three of the matches in super tie breaks.
*One of the hottest teams of 2023 is (6)Glasspool-Heliovaara. They come into the tournament with a 6-0 record, but were forced to withdraw from the semifinals at Adelaide-2 due to a wrist concern for Llloyd Glasspool. A year ago, they were not a household name for that many, but now are a top eight tandem and legitimate threat to the throne. Health will be the concern early though along with a difficult draw against Lammons-Withrow, a team that has been a difficult out since late in 2022.
*There are a few new teams in the seeded field in 2023. Jamie Murray and Michael Venus as the 11th seeds are some of the more high profile names to debut as a team this year. They have four matches together so far (2-2) with a finals showing at Adelaide-1. Another first time team is (14)Mies-Peers with the Aussie John Peers starting his third straight season with a new partner. He made the quarters teamed up with Filip Polasek in 2022. Mies broke from longtime partner Kevin Krawietz to end 2022, a team that lost to Peers-Polasek in the fourth round here last year. The other fresh team up is (10)Bopanna-Ebden. They have just one match together as a team, a 7-6, 7-5 loss in Adelaide-2 to Mahut-Puetz.
*One of the things you always have to look at with the men’s draw in Melbourne is all-Aussie pairs. Last year was obviously the huge moment for Aussies with the final having a pair of all-Aussie teams. In the past without the hoopla of guys like Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, there still has been a solid recent history of all-Aussie pairs surprising with deep runs. In addition to last year’s two teams, there have been seven other all-Aussie duos who have advanced to at least the quarterfinals since 2017. Ebden had done it twice with two different partners with Purcell last year and JP Smith in 2021. Seven of those nine all-Aussie duos to make the quarters or better have been wild card entries.
So are there any all-Aussie duos who could fit that pattern in 2023?
You’ve got two guys here who have both been part of teams with unlikely Australian Open runs in the past. Bolt has done it twice with his now-coach Andrew Whittington in 2014 and then with Brandon Mousley in 2017. Saville paired with Max Purcell in 2020 when the Aussie wild cards made the final. Bolt and Saville in 2022? You guessed it – wild card entries. It might be a shock for them to repeat any of that history though as they likely have to get through Mektic-Pavic in round two, but there is plenty of experience on their side.
They have experience after making the round of 16 in their Aussie debut in 2022. They were a pretty regular pairing for 2022 with a 17-8 record overall. They’re in a part of the draw where the seeds might be a bit prone too with Cabal-Farah and Mahut-Puetz filling those roles. They have a tough opener, but if they survive that one then it’s game on for these guys to make that push. They’re also wild cards.
These two Aussies more known for their singles play are teaming up for the first time. They’re in the same section with Sweeny-Tu and the seeds I mentioned, so if they find some rhythm together then this is that part of the draw that could open up to an unseeded team grabbing a quarterfinal spot. This is another wild card entry.
This is an intriguing all-Aussie duo. They haven’t played much together, but when they have they have been formidable. The Aussies beat Mektic-Pavic at the Davis Cup Finals last year in three sets, so they certainly can beat anyone. That’s a good thing though since they’re stuck in the Ram-Salisbury quarter. They wouldn’t see the until the round of 16 though, so it would be for that trip to the quarterfinals. Keep an eye on these guys.
Another first time pairing, so they are hard to judge to start this tournament. They have the magical wild card designation though, but also have a difficult path with Ram-Salisbury likely if they make it to round two. Sometimes getting those top tier teams early is better rather than late when they’ve got it all cooking, so you never know and they carry the wild card designation too.
FIRST ROUND BANGERS
These are ones I am highlighting because they look like they’ll be competitive and you can probably find a few underdogs in the mix that might wind up barking!
*Glasspool-Heliovaara v Lammons-Withrow
This will be a first ATP meeting, but they have played at Challengers twice in 2021. Glasspool-Heliovaara won both 7-6, 7-6 and 7-6, 6-4 indoors. Both are more complete teams now, so this should really be a BANGER.
*Mektic-Pavic v Gonzalez-Molteni
A repeat from Auckland that saw Mektic-Pavic stretched into a super tie break to win 10-5.
*Dodig-Krajicek vs McDonald-Melo
Ivan Dodig pulled out of the Adelaide-2 final due to back issues, so that is something to rememeber. Prior to that, Dodig-Krajicek were a perfect 3-0 in that tournament including a win over Koolhof-Skupski. McDonald-Melo have been pesky in a short time as an off & on team up. They also won over Koolhof-Skupski in Adelaide-1 and won a title together when they first paired up last year in Tokyo. This will be a tough spot for the 5th seeds Dodig-Krajicek.
*Cressy-Olivetti v Chardy-Martin
Cressy-Olivetti both have huge first serves, so they have been able to be a tough out in their short time pairing up. They don’t have any elite wins, but they can make it difficult. Chardy-Martin are the experience with this being their 4th Australian Open. They were just 1-2 in prep work prior to Melbourne.
*Bopanna-Ebden v Erler-Miedler
Bopanna-Ebden may well be a solid pairing, but we have not seen them enough yet. Their Austrian opponents are a regular pair with good reps in the build-up to Melbourne. They lost their high profile matches to Mektic-Pavic and Glasspool-Heliovaara, but looked competent enough to make those two play well to score the wins. They’re more of a clay court threat, but could push here with Bopanna-Ebden still working out the kinks in their chemistry.
Golubev-Nedovyesov v Sweeny-Tu
*Unheralded teams here, but ones with experience plus the home support for the Aussies should make this a fun environment. Seems like a potential three setter or at least super tight with Golubev-Nedovyesov’s two matches so far in 2023 featuring four tie break sets and a super tie break.
*Matos-Vega Hernandez v Nys-Zielinski
Nys-Zielinksi are a sneaky good team, so they won’t really be underdogs against the 13th seeds in this one. These teams have played four times across all levels with all of those meetings in 2022. It was a clean split 2-2 with Nys-Zielinski winning the only outdoor hard meeting at Winston-Salem. Matos-Vega Hernandez won on clay and in the last meeting indoors in Sofia after Nys-Zielinksi had beaten them indoors in Sofia. Three of the four meetings went down in straight sets. Only the last one required a super tie break finish.
For me, a lot of this quarter is going to shake out according to what happens in that marquee battle between Glasspool-Heliovaara and Lammons-Withrow in round one. In that half of the quarter, the winner of that one should be in good shape to push for a quarterfinal. Murray-Venus are the other seeds in that half and while they’re still formulating their chemistry, I like their draw. The trickiest team might be Brkic-Escobar who looked good in making the semis at Adelaide-1, where they lost to Murray-Venus 7-5, 7-5. Hach Verdugo-Isne are another unseeded duo to monitor. They’ve played a couple times in Mexico together with a title run in Los Cabos in 2021 and a semifinal push in Acapulco last year. This is a tougher setting, but they could be tough on the survivor of that Glasspool-Heliovaara and Lammons-Withrow clash.
In the other half, can Koolhof-Skupski escape the top seed jinx? They draw affords them a decent shot to at least get into the last eight. Gonzalez-Roger Vasselin will be the ones to watch as they pushed Koolhof-Skupski to a super tie break in at Adelaide-2. They’ve been very good in limited action on hard courts with a finals run at Indian Wells and a semifinal run in Cincinnati last year. That included wins over Ram-Salisbury at IW and over Koolhof-Skupski in Cincy. The most dangerous floater in this section likely is the winner between Cabral-Sousa and Cacic-Qureshi. Both teams have some history playing together with good results. I’d give a slight edge here to Gonzalez-ERV as they’ve shown no fear when playing Koolhof-Skupski.
For me the quarterfinal mix in this quarter could very well have an unseeded team. Lammons-Withrow and Brkic-Escobar are very capable in the one half along with Hach Verdugo-Isner. That’s the part I think that would be likelier to produce one than the other half which seems most likely to see the two seeds battle it out for a spot in the last eight. I’m hoping Glasspool-Heliovaara are healthy for this tournament as it could be a chance for them to really bust out based on what we’ve seen early.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Lammons-Withrow over (6)Glasspool-Heliovaara
Mektic-Pavic did all the little things they do when they’re “right” in taking the Auckland titles. Playing tight sets and winning super tie breaks. It’s harsh though getting that rematch with Gonzalez-Molteni right out of the gate. I still like the as the class of that top half with Mies-Peers as the other seeds. Mies-Peers showed they’ll be competitive by taking Dodig-Krajicek to a super tie break in defeat at Adelaide-2. The more reps they get together, the better they should wind up. Bolt-Saville will be the unseeded team to watch in this section, but all things being equal this looks a bit chalky unless Gonzalez-Molteni set the tone with that early upset. The other unseeded teams in this section don’t inspire a lot of upset talk from me, but Halys-Mannarino did grab a couple of wins at the US Open last year. They might be one to watch as a deeper outlier.
In the other half, you’ve got Granollers-Zeballos and Bolelli-Fognini as the seeds. Granollers-Zeballos had a solid debut in Auckland with a semifinal push before losing to Lammons-Withrow. They made the semifinals a year ago to offset a first round failure to the year prior. The draw sets up good to start, but they may be in trouble in round two if they see Gille-Vliegen again. The Belgians took them to a super breaker in Auckland before falling 10-7 and they won the titles in Pune to start the season. They’re only 1-3 in their careers in Melbourne, but seem likely to be a tough out. Bolelli-Fognini have the experience edge over Doumbia-Reboul although that team is quite accomplished albeit mostly at Challemgers where they won five titles in 2022. I still think that one is close. This part of the draw could open up a bit, but the two seeds have all the experience at Slams. Gille-Vliegen look like they could be the biggest threat from the unseeded duos and I still think Doumbia-Reboul are not to be overlooked.
The quarterfinals here could be more interesting than most think … or it could wind up straight chalk to Mektic-Pavic and Granollers-Zeballos. Mektic-Pavic hold a 3-2 edge in that head to head, but most of the matches have been tight with three super tie break finishes and a tight four set win for Mektic-Pavic at Wimbledon last year. The Croats get the nod for me and I think I’m going chalk with Granollers-Zeballos for the other QF spot.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Gonzalez-Molteni over (4)Mektic-Pavic
Doumbia-Reboul over (9)Bolelli-Fognini
A total banger starts this quarter with (5)Dodig-Krajicek up against McDonald-Melo. That sets the tone for chaos in that half with the survivor not having an easy round two matchup. Chardy-Martin or Cressy-Olivetti will be dangerous. Bopanna-Ebden, the other seeds in this half, also have a tricky opener with Erler-Miedler. I think they will find a way to get that done, but it may well be very tight through three sets. Dodig-Krajicek no doubt are the favorites if they survive round one and Dodig’s back holds up. They played so well early and have the Slam experience to boot. If they falter, it’s all up for grabs. McDonald-Melo are capable, but vary in consistency from match to match. That could leave the door open for Bopanna-Ebden to slip into the quarters.
In the bottom half, Arevalo-Rojer are a team I need to see more of and I think they want to be on court more with two walkover wins in their first tournament. On paper you like their draw quite a bit in this section. McLachlan-Nishioka intrigues me with the all-Japanese duo having played just once before in Davis Cup action. The other team to watch is the Brits, Cash-Patten. They were KINGS of the Challenger circuit in 2022. A 65-10 combined record with ten titles. Now they’re stepping it up more onto the ATP level, so we get to learn more about their true capabilities. They split four matches in Pune and Adelaide to start the year. They got their feet wet at a Slam with a first round loss at Wimbledon last year. Inexperience at this level might be a draw back, but their part of the draw sees them with a winnable match to start. Haase-Middelkoop are the seeds in that half. The Dutch pair have a lot of experience over the years, but are 0-2 in two trips here in 2018 and 2019. They still seem the best shot in that part, but I’m watching Cash-Patten to see if they can harness that talent into some big wins.
The quarterfinal make up could see an unseeded quarterfinal runner in this quarter for me. McDonald-Melo are obvious threats in spite of the difficult start with Dodig-Krajicek. Chardy-Martin and even Erler-Miedler could take advantage here as well of the any early growing pains from Bopanna-Ebden. The other half looks so so set for a seed to take it that I almost want to pick against that because it seems overly obvious. Arevalo-Rojer have the safer path to the round of 16 and proved they can win on hard courts at Slams with the semifinal run at the US Open in 2022. They get the nod, but Haase-Middelkoop would not be surprising either.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
McDonald-Melo over (5)Dodig-Krajicek
Erler-Miedler over (10)Bopanna-Ebden
The only thing Ram-Salisbury might have working against them is a lineup of all-Aussie teams that could test that theory. There are four all-Aussie tandems in this quarter with two directly in the Ram-Salisbury half. They could see one as soon as round two if Polmans-Popyrin blossom and grab a win. I think Purcell-Thompson would be the bigger threats of the Aussies for me and they’ll need to push past either Matos-Hernandez or Nys-Zielinski to get that crack most likely. Nys-Zielinski are the other unseeded pair that you cannot dismiss. They took Ram-Salisbury to a third set in the quarterfinals of last year’s US Open.
The other half houses Cabal-Farah and Mahut-Puetz as the seeds. The 12th seeded Colombians, Cabal-Farah, play here for the 11th time! They’ve fallen off heavily though since making their only final here in 2018. They have not been past round two in their last three trips. I think the trouble spot for them is round two with the Golubev-Nedovyesov/Sweeny-Tu winner waiting. Cabal-Farah were playing with small margins in all of their prep matches with all three going to super tie breaks and just one win. They’ll be beatable I think for one of those two teams. Mahut-Puetz are another new team that got a seed after the Kokkinakis-Kyrgios withdrawal. They looked good at Adelaide-2 with a win over Bopanna-Ebden before losing to Glasspool-Heliovaara in the semis in a super tie break. They have a decent draw although they could catch an Aussie wild card duo in Millman-Vukic possibly in round two. I think I still like Mahut-Puetz much better of the seeds in this half, but this is one that coud be smelling very Aussie near the end.
The quarterfinal mix here is one where I think we could see some of that funky Australian magic. I’m looking at Sweeny-Tu and Purcell-Thompson as the two all-Aussie teams that I like best in this section. Sweeny-Tu would be in the softer part of the draw, but still would need to take down some vets to do damage. Could Millman-Vukic then just wind up being the total Aussie surprises? May very well be. Ram-Salisbury look likely for the other QF spot, but watch out for Nys-Zielinkski too.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Nys-Zielinski over (13)Matos-Hernandez
Despite last year’s craziness, seeds still tend to win in Melbourne at the end of the tournament. Four of the previous six title matches before 2022 had featured two seeded pairs. I see a team or three that could make it another unseeded team in the final, but a couple of those teams are also facing in-form seeds to open. Boom or bust. Of course the other thing we’re facing with those two seeds, Dodig-Krajicek & Glasspool-Heliovaara, are injuries that could change the landscape of the tournament if either Dodig or Glasspool is still hurting. Glasspool-Heliovaara would also need to work past their nemesis Mektic-Pavic to get into the final.
The smart pick is saying Ram-Salisbury will be around in the semis and perhaps the final. They played well enough in Pune and have a solid draw in their half. Mahut-Puetz I think could be sleepers among the lower seeds. In the top half, I’m going to stick with the hot hand in Glasspool-Heliovaara or Mektic-Pavic to get into the final. Murray-Venus would be my super sleepers among the lower seeds.
I don’t have access to a doubles outright market anywhere, but if I was putting something down I’d still have to go more of the “smart” and “safe” route.