Winning tips for ESPN’s ‘Tennis Major Pick’em: Melbourne’ contest


Welcome to ESPN’s tennis contest for the Australian Open: Tennis Major Pick’em: Melbourne!

What is it? It’s a free-to-play game, where you take a few minutes to answer a series of questions related to the upcoming Australian Open tennis Grand Slam event, which starts on Monday, Feb. 8, and ends Sunday, Feb. 21. You can play against your friends, family and coworkers, while also trying to climb the overall leaderboard for a chance to win $1,000.

Listed below are the 12 questions you’ll need to answer in order to participate, and I teamed up ESPN Stats and Information to supply you some nuggets of info to help guide you through your decision-making process.

Good luck!

Who will win the Men’s Singles Championship?

Djokovic has won the past two Australian Open championships and eight overall. Since 2006, his record at the event is 75-6. He is coming off a 2020 season in which he won 37 of his 39 outdoor matches, including the 2020 Australian Open.

Nadal has won the event only once, in 2009, but he has made at least the quarterfinals nine times since then, including four Finals. Outside of a first-round exit in 2016, Nadal has made at least the quarterfinals of every Australian Open he’s entered since 2007. He is coming off a 2020 season in which he was 22-4 outdoors and 18-6 on hardcourts overall.

Thiem had never advanced past the fourth round of the Australian Open until last season’s tournament, when he defeated Nadal in the quarters and lost a close five-setter to Djokovic in the finals. Thiem also won his first career major in 2020 at the US Open, and overall was 17-2 in his three 2020 major events.

With Roger Federer out with a knee injury, the only player outside of Djokovic or Nadal to have ever won the Australian Open is Stan Wawrinka (2014).

Who will win the Women’s Singles Championship?

Osaka won the 2019 Australian Open but was upset by Coco Gauff in the third round of the 2020 event. Nevertheless, Osaka would go on to finish 2020 with a 16-2 record on hard courts and a 9-1 record in majors, as she won the 2020 US Open.

Barty advanced to the semifinals of the 2020 Australian Open, after making the quarterfinals in 2019, her two best finishes in the event. She won her only major with the 2019 French Open. Barty didn’t play any more events in 2020 after the Australian Open, citing COVID-19 concerns, but she still enters the tournament as the top seed in the WTA rankings.

Halep advanced to the semifinals of the 2020 Australian Open and the finals of the 2018 event, but she has never won a major on hard courts. She did go 10-2 on hard courts and 23-3 overall in 2020.

Osaka, Barty and Halep have three of the four best odds to win this year’s Singles Championship, with Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus as the other favorite. Defending French Open champion Iga Swiatek, Serena Williams and defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin have the next three best odds.

Williams has won the event seven times but has advanced no further than the quarterfinals since her maternity absence in 2017.

Who will record more Aces in the First Round?

During the past 52 weeks, Raonic is third on the ATP Tour with an average of 17.2 aces per match, while Fritz ranks 17th with 9.7 aces per match. On hard courts, the gap narrows slightly, with Raonic ranking fourth with 16.4 aces per match while Fritz ranks 13th at 10.4 aces per match.

How many Men’s and Women’s Singles seeded players will lose in the First Round?

  • 0-5

  • 6-10

  • 11-15

  • 16 or More

During the past 11 Grand Slams, from 2018 through 2020, a total of 77 seeded men and 76 seeded women have lost in the first round. This breaks down to an average of 13.9 seeded men and women to lose in each tournament. During that same time period, 5.3 seeded men and 7.0 seeded women have lost in the first round on average for a total of 12.3 losses per Australian Open.

What will be Serena Williams’ tournament result?

Williams has won the Australian Open a record-tying seven times and an Open Era record 23 individual majors overall, but her last win was in 2017 in the Australian Open before her maternity leave. She has played in 10 Grand Slams since returning and has made the finals in four of them, but she has not won any. At the Australian Open, she advanced to the quarterfinals in 2019 and the third round in 2018. Williams is already the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open era, when she won the 2017 Australian Open at age 35. Also of note is that she pulled out of the Australian Open tune-up event, after reaching the semifinals, due to a shoulder issue.

What will be Alexander Zverev‘s tournament result?

Zverev is coming off the best season of his career. He advanced to at least the fourth round in all three Grand Slam events, including the semifinals of the Australian Open and the finals of the US Open. Zverev went 25-10 on hard courts last season. At the Australian Open, he has improved his results in each of the past three years, from the third round in 2018 to the fourth round in 2019 to the semifinals in 2020.

What will be Sofia Kenin’s tournament result?

Kenin is the defending champion at this tournament and is coming off (by far) the best season of her career. She was 16-2 in Grand Slam events last season and was 18-7 in hard court events. Kenin has played in only three Australian Open tournaments, and the 2020 championship was the first time she advanced beyond the second round.

How many Americans will make the Quarterfinals?

  • 0 or 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4 or More

During the past 11 Grand Slams, from 2018 through 2020, a total of six American men and 21 American women have made it to at least the quarterfinals. This yields an average of 2.5 American quarterfinalists per major during that stretch. Seven Americans advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the three Australian Opens during that span, an average of 2.3 per tournament.

In the three 2020 majors, one American man made the quarterfinals (Australian Open) and six American women made the quarterfinals (one at the Australian Open), again yielding an average of 2.3 per tournament.

Which of these players will advance furthest?

Rublev is coming off the best season of his young career, going 11-3 in Grand Slams, setting set new career-best finishes in all three tournaments. He started 2020 by advancing to the fourth round of the Australian Open, then made the quarterfinals of both the US Open and the French Open after the COVID-19 break.

Berretini has played in three Australian Opens, and last season’s second-round finish was the only time that he’s won a match. He’s been much more successful at the other majors, where he advanced to a third-round finish at the 2020 French Open, the fourth round at 2019 Wimbledon, and the semifinals at the 2019 US Open for his best finishes.

Andreescu won the 2019 US Open but got injured in October of that year and didn’t play a single match in 2020. However, she had a huge season in her first full campaign at the professional level in 2019, when she was 37-7 with three titles, including that first major at the US Open. Andreescu has played in only one Australian Open, advancing to the second round in 2019.

Azarenka was one of the dominant players on tour in the early part of the 2010s, winning two Australian Opens in 2012 and 2013 and advancing to the quarterfinals as recently as 2016. She got pregnant in 2016, and since her maternity absence has played in only one Australian Open, losing in the first round in 2019. She did advance to the final in the 2020 US Open, her best finish in a major since 2013, and she also won the Cincinnati Open as part of her 11-3 record on hard courts for the year.

Which of these players will advance furthest?

Medvedev has been one of the most successful young players on tour the past two years, particularly on hard courts. He has wins at the ATP Finals, Cincinnati Masters, Shanghai Masters and Paris Masters, and has advanced to the final and semifinals of the past two US Opens. He has advanced to the fourth round of each of the past two Australian Opens and has gone 17-4 total in the past four hard-court Grand Slams.

Tsitsipas advanced to the semifinals of the 2019 Australian Open and the 2020 French Open, his two best finishes in Grand Slam events. He advanced to the third round of both hardcourt majors in 2020, and to the semifinals of the 2020 Cincinnati Masters. He is 55-28 on hard courts over the past two years.

Svitolina advanced to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in both 2018 and 2019, before losing in the third round in 2020. She had the best Grand Slam season of her career in 2019, advancing to the semifinals in both the US Open and Wimbledon. She finished 2020 strongly as well, advancing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.

Sabalenka has played in three Australian Opens but advanced past the first round only in 2019, when she lost in the third round. She lost in the first round in 2020, but she did have a successful hard-court season, finishing 23-7 overall with a win at the Qatar Open.

Will either 1-seed in the Men’s or Women’s Singles lose before the Quarterfinals?

During the past 11 Grand Slams, from 2018 through 2020, two top seeded men and eight top seeded women have lost before the quarterfinals. Among the men, four of their eight losses overall came due to either retiring during the match due to injury or a disqualification. In the three Australian Opens during that stretch, no top-seeded man and only one top-seeded woman has not advanced to at least the quarterfinals. Novak Djokovic is the top-seeded man this season, and has made at least the quarterfinals in 11 of the last 13 Australian Opens. Ashleigh Barty is the top-seeded woman, and has advanced to at least the quarterfinals in each of the last two Australian Opens after having never advanced past the third round in any of her first five appearances.

Will a former Australian Open Singles champion win the Men’s or Women’s Singles championship?

The final draw has not been completed for this season’s Australian Open, so it is still subject to players potentially withdrawing. The current list of former champions to potentially play in this year’s event includes Djokovic, Nadal and Wawrinka for the men, and Kenin, Osaka, Williams, Angelique Kerber and Azarenka for the women.

Among likely participants who are not former Australian Open champions, Thiem is the only to have ever won any other Grand Slam (2020 US Open). Among the women, nine of the past 14 non-Australian Opens have been won by women who have never won the Australian Open, a group that includes top-seeded Barty and second-seeded Halep.

Tiebreaker: How many total games will be played in the Men’s and Women’s Singles Championship matches?

During the past 11 Grand Slam championships, the men’s finals have averaged 39.8 total games, and the women’s finals have averaged 22.7 total games for a total of 62.5 total games overall.

The fewest total games during that stretch came in the 2020 French Open, where Nadal and Swiatek both turned in dominating performances for a total of 43 games.

The most total games during that stretch was 84 at the 2019 Wimbledon, fueled by the record-breaking men’s final between Djokovic and Roger Federer that didn’t go to a tiebreaker until 12-12 in the fifth set (the rule is different at the Australian Open, where the tiebreaker in the last set of the Final comes at 6-6).

During the three Australian Opens, the men and women have averaged a total of 70.7 games in the Finals.

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