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3 under-the-radar players who could win the Australian Open

Jan 16, 2016
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada
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Who can really stir the pot Down Under?

Of course, the Vegas oddsmakers have Novak Djokovic winning it all, but nothing is set in stone until the trophy is lifted. The ATP Top 20 is littered with super-talented freaks of nature that want that title just as much as Novak, maybe even more. An excellent predictor of future performance is past performance, so, we will deep dive into 2015 Grand Slam stats.

With the Australian Open just around the corner, let’s take a look at three players who are primed for a deep run in Melbourne.


Kevin Anderson

For an eight-year veteran of the tour, 2015 was a bit of a coming out party for the big South African. Anderson is known for his daunting stature (6 feet 8 inches) and a monster of a serve. He advanced to his first ever quarter-finals at the US Open, which brought his 2015 Grand Slam record to 12-4 – 7th best on tour. He owns some eye-popping serving stats at all 2015 Grand Slams:
  • Ace rate = 19.2%, 4th on tour
  • 1st serve winning percent = 80.6%, 3rd on tour
  • Hold rate = 89.6%, 7th on tour
His serve will be amplified by the surface in Melbourne and if he keeps riding his hot streak at the Slams, no seed will be pleased to see him on the other side of the court.

Kei Nishikori

Nishikori has been more successful than Anderson on the big stage, but 2015 was a bit different. He had good success with three titles to his name, but only gathered nine wins at Grand Slam events – partly due to an injury that saw him bow out of Wimbledon in the second round. Unlike Anderson, it's the return stats that jump off the page for Nishikori at the 2015 Aussie Open:
  • Break point conversion rate = 45.5%, 2nd among quarter-finalists
  • Break points converted = 25, 3rd at the tournament
  • Percent of return points won = 41.4%, 2nd among quarter-finalists
If his health and form return, his wicked return game will immediately make an impact Down Under.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Perhaps the perennial dark horse, Tsonga is looking to take the next step in Melbourne. He went 11-3 at 2015 Slams, without playing the Australian Open – probably his best tournament (he made the finals in 2008). Tsonga is a mix of Anderson and Nishikori, with both a devastating serve and punishing return. He hits the ball hard and flat, a perfect combo for the hard courts of Melbourne. His stats from the 2015 Slams are flat out scary:
  • Dominance ratio = 1.38, 3rd on tour (DR = % of points won on opponents' serves divided by % of points lost on own serve)
  • 1st serve winning percent = 80.6%, 2nd on tour (better than Anderson!)
  • 2nd serve winning percent = 58.4%, 4th on tour
  • Points per receiving game = 6.7, 6th on tour
  • Break points per game = 0.67, 9th on tour
If his serve and return are both working well and the big Frenchman is feeling confident, oh boy, watch out.