Alex de Minaur. Image Source: tennis.com.au

Friday’s Australian Open first-round draw didn’t favor too many of the 13 Aussies in the men’s pool.

Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios will once again be Australia’s biggest chances but will face the top four seeds to make it out of their respective quarters of the draw. Seven Aussies received wildcard entries, while Bernard Tomic battled his way through the qualifiers to earn a first-round berth.

The Inner Sanctum took a look at the 2021 Australian men and how far they’re going to go in this year’s tournament.

Alex de Minaur

The 21st seed for the Australian Open, de Minaur will be desperate to advance far into 2021’s first slam after pulling out with an abdominal complaint just days before his first-round matchup last year.
His form on hard courts in the past six months has been superb, reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in 2020 and winning the Antalya Open last month.
The 21-year-old has a first-round matchup with American Tennys Sandgren, who enjoyed a fruitful Australian Open last year.

Having only ever made the third round once before at his home Slam, expectations will be on the Australian to fight for a potential fourth-round clash with star Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

John Millman

Millman has embodied the Aussie battler spirit throughout his career. The 31-year-old enjoyed his first ATP tournament win at the Astana Open in November last year and comes into the Australian Open as the 36th ranked player in the world.

A first-round meeting with the crafty Corentin Moutet will be a good test for Millman. If he can close the match out and keep his legs fresh, then a likely second-round matchup with Canadian 14th seed Milos Raonic will be an enthralling contest.

Nick Kyrgios

Kyrgios came back from over a year out of the game in typical fashion; arguments with the chair umpire and broken tennis racquets soured the highlight shots that make him one of the most entertaining players on the ATP circuit.
He got some valuable court time, but in doing so reaggravated a lower leg issue which may become problematic in the five-set format.

Nick Kyrgios. Image Source: tennis.com.au

Still just 25 years of age, Kyrgios enters the Open unseeded but has received first-round fortune in the form of slam debutant and qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva. The Australian has a potential third-round blockbuster with Austrian 4th seed Dominic Thiem looming.

Jordan Thompson

Thompson enjoyed the best Slam run of his eight-year career in 2020, making it to the fourth round of the US Open. He has backed up the campaign with solid performances in the Great Ocean Road Open, gaining valuable hours on court.

Ranked 52nd in the world, Thompson hasn’t yet made it past the second round in his home Slam, and Casper Ruud awaits first up. The Norwegian 24th seed favors clay to the hard courts of Melbourne; if Thompson can limit his errors, Rudd will struggle to contain the fiery Australian on his surface of choice.

James Duckworth

Duckworth hasn’t yet found success in his home Slam, unable to make it past the second round in eight attempts. He does, however, carry solid form into the 2021 season with a victory over French 29th seed Ugo Humbert his biggest scalp.

Bosnian Damir Džumhur is a ‘lucky loser’ entrant of the qualifying stage to the Australian Open. He will be the man in the way of Duckworth’s pursuit of a second-round berth and a possible matchup with Canadian young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Alex Bolt

The challenger circuit veteran will be competing in his fifth Australian Open, making the third round once in 2019. Having not played a match from October through to last week, the 28-year-old won his way to some much-needed court time and an eventual round of 16 defeat to Stan Wawrinka in the Murray River Open.

The first-round clash with Norbert Gombos is winnable for the left-handed Aussie. The Slovakian hasn’t won at the Australian Open previously. Fan favorite and 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov would be an entertaining second-round matchup if Bolt can progress.

Alex Bolt. Image Source: tennis.com.au

Alexei Popyrin

A wildcard entrant for this year’s tournament, Popyrin possesses the tools to cause an upset in the early stages.

The 21-year-old stands at 196cm with a powerful serve and moves well
for his size, finding his feet in the move from the challenger circuit to ATP tournaments last

First up, Popyrin will face a huge challenge in the form of 13th seed David Goffin. However, the Belgian may be susceptible to an upset given his poor showing in the Murray River Open last week and concerning struggles at the Australian Open in recent years.

Marc Polmans

The legionnaire wearing crowd favorite has struggled in the last six months with the move from the challenger circuit to more ATP tournaments.

Going down in straight sets to countryman Harry Bourchier last week wasn’t the ideal lead into a first-round matchup with Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, but the wildcard will be confident of producing his best tennis on home soil with the crowd behind him.

You can be sure the 23-year-old will compete for every point and make the Hungarian earn a first-round victory the hard way.

Li Tu

Tu received the wildcard entry that was given to Andy Murray before the veteran withdrew due to a positive Covid-19 result. An incredible effort saw the 24-year-old junior tennis coach finish with a 48-3 UTR Pro Series record in 2020 and a life-changing berth in the Australian Open.

The first round will see Tu face 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez, who may struggle with a combination of the five-set format and Australian summer. Just competing in the first round of the Slam will see Tu’s ATP ranking of 1188th rise.

Aleksander Vukic

Vukic received a wildcard entry to make his Australian Open debut at age 24 this year. Plying his trade on the Challenger tour has rewarded him with qualification to last year’s French Open and the first-round birth at his home Slam.
The Sydney native has received a tough first-round matchup in the form of powerful 19th seed Karen Khachanov, who lost out to Nick Kyrgios in a thrilling five-setter last year. Vukic will need to produce his best tennis to upset the dynamic Russian.

Thanasi Kokkinakis

Thanasi Kokkinakis has been a name on the lips of Australian tennis fans since his junior performances. Now aged 24, injuries have derailed the momentum he was carrying into his professional career.

The fit-again South Australian lost out to Alex Bolt at Melbourne Park last week and faces a tough opponent in South Korean Soonwoo Kwon first up.

Christopher O’Connell

O’Connell recorded an impressive win over German Dominik Koepfer in the Murray River Open last week and has turned heads in challenger tournaments towards the end of 2020.

The wildcard entrant will face another German in Jan-Lennard Struff, who has been in excellent form recently. Getting past Struff will be a tough task for the Sydney-sider, but his form warrants optimism in the first round.

Bernard Tomic

Tomic has been the problem child of Australian tennis for some time now but impressively fought his way through qualifying in Dubai to book a first-round matchup with Yūichi Sugita.

The Aussie has a real chance to improve on his 229th rank if he comes prepared to play for five sets. It would set up an intriguing second-round match with either 11th seed Denis Shapovalov or Italian young gun Jannick Sinner

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