Unlike the WTA event the men’s tournament doesn’t often offer up surprise winners. Ljubicic won it in 2010 but other than that the winner since 2004 has been one of Nadal, Federer or Djokovic.
Nadal is defending champion having beaten Del Potro in last year’s final. I will be amazed if we see a repeat of that final this year as Del Potro is far from 100%.
Nadal’s route to the final will need him to be focused. Stepanek managed to push Federer to 3 sets in Dubai and looks set to be Nadal’s opponent in round 2. Dolgopolov could well be the Spaniard’s third round opponent and the real test could be against Monfils in the 4th. Monfils would have to get past Fognini first though which should be an entertaining match.
Raonic hasn’t played since he lost to Dimitrov in Melbourne. I would expect him to meet Becker in round 2 and we will see how well he has prepared. There is no substitute for actual match play though so he will need to find his touch and timing quickly. If he manages to beat Becker I think Janowicz will be waiting for him in the third round. That one isn’t easy to predict at this stage without seeing how the Canadian is playing.
Hopefully whoever does win that match will meet Murray. The Scot potentially has a tricky 2nd round match with Rosol to get through first but if he does then I don’t expect Sijsling to pose much of a threat in the third.
The rest of this section of the draw is dominated by the Swiss. Wawrinka looks likely to face a barrage of aces with probable matches against Karlovic, Querrey and Anderson. If he’s on his game he ought to get through all 3 matches.
Whether or not Federer will meet Wawrinka in the quarter final will depend on him beating Tursunov and probably Nishikori. I don’t expect either to be able to cause an upset.
Youzhny hasn’t had a good start to the season and it would be funny if Olympian Donald Young beats him in the second round.
Chardy and Haas could have a great match if Haas can manage a full match but I think Nishikori will knock out whoever gets the win.
Predicted quarter finals in the top half of the draw: Nadal v Murray, Wawrinka v Federer
Semi final: Nadal v Wawrinka.
The bottom half of the draw looks a little harder to predict.
We have a lot of talent on show and potentially many matches that can go either way. I feel Gasquet needs to have a good tournament. He hasn’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season. He could have a tough match with Verdasco in round 3. If he gets through that I expect Kohlschreiber to be his opponent in the 4th round unless Isner is able to produce better tennis than he has done in 2014. Isner and Kohlschreiber are set to meet in the third round.
A little lower down the draw we have a very strong chance of seeing another Gulbis v Dimitrov battle. Their match last week was extremely tight but I fancy Gulbis to grab some revenge.
The third round will probably see Florian Mayer take on Berdych. Can Berdych continue his excellent form? I think he will be too strong for Mayer. That would give a predicted 4th round match up between Berdych and Gulbis. Berdych proved just too good in their recent meeting.
When I originally made my notes I had Del Potro reaching the 4th round with wins over Lopez and Pospisil. He didn’t look too comfortable in his doubles match so may not get through the Lopez match.
Simon and Tsonga are likely to meet in the third round if Tsonga can beat Benneteau. Benneteau hasn’t shown much form this year to suggest he can trouble Jo-Willy.
Djokovic is unlikely to be troubled before a predicted 4th round match against Cilic. I don’t expect Robredo to be able to beat Cilic.
Predicted quarter finals from the bottom half of the draw: Kohlschreiber v Berdych, Tsonga v Djokovic.
Semi final: Berdych v Djokovic.
Final: Wawrinka v Djokovic. Djokovic to win in 3 sets.