Former Grand Slam champions and finalists.Veterans and up-and-comers.
They all make up large parts of the ranks of ATP players without a number next to their name on the draw sheet at this year’s Australian Open. With the year’s first major set to get under way, here’s a look at some of the unseeded players that will be out to make their mark at this year’s tournament. (All photos: Getty Images)
With Grand Slam finals reached in 2017 and ’18, much was expected of Anderson in 2019. He started the year off perfectly with the title in Pune, India, but struggled in Melbourne, falling in the second round to Frances Tiafoe. Unable to stay on the court due to injury, the former world No. 5 shut down his season early, with his last tournament coming at Wimbledon. Having undergone knee surgery in September, Anderson made his return to the court this year at the ATP Cup, putting on an impressive performance against Novak Djokovic in his first match back. The South African is in the same portion of the draw as seeded players Taylor Fritz and Dominic Thiem, and could give both of them trouble if he’s in good form.
With his huge serve and heavy groundstrokes, the hard-hitting American is always going to give any number of players fits. Last year was a breakthrough campaign for Opelka as he won his first title at the New York Open, and reached semifinals later in the season in Atlanta, Tokyo and Basel, Switzerland. Near the cusp of being seeded in Melbourne this year, Opelka will face the No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini in the opening round. Last year at the US Open, the two met in the opener there as well, with Opelka notching his third win over a seed at a major during the year. The notoriously mercurial Fognini claimed their most recent encounter at last year’s Davis Cup, but Opelka could make a statement early on with a win here.
Last fall, one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour was Pospisil, who won two Challenger titles in a row and helped Canada reach the finals of the Davis Cup. The past few seasons have been injury-plagued for the former world No. 25, but lately, he’s been showing what he’s capable of when healthy. Pospisil faces another dangerous floater, Ivo Karlovic, in the first round in Melbourne with a possible matchup against Gael Monfils in the round of 64. He’s 4-1 in his head-to-head matches against Karlovic, but has never beaten Monfils in five previous matches. The season is in its earliest days, though, and there could be no time like the present to turn that around.
Part of the next wave of French talent coming down the pipeline, Humbert just showed he might be the leader of the pack among his young compatriots by capturing the title in Auckland over the weekend. At the tournament, he knocked off two-time champion John Isner, the young Canadian Denis Shapovalov and his countryman Benoit Paire to claim his first title. It will be interesting to see if the 21-year-old can sustain his momentum in Melbourne as he has a solid chance of making it to the third round—and beyond.
It was only two years ago that Croatia’s top player for the better part of a decade was on the verge of capturing his second career Grand Slam title in Melbourne. He lost the 2018 final to Roger Federer, but not before pushing the Swiss legend to five sets. Injuries hurt his 2019 campaign, causing him to fall outside of the top 30 in the rankings for the first time in six years. Cilic started off this year at the ATP Cup and won two out of three matches at the team event—an encouraging start as he tries to work his way back up the rankings. At the Australian, he faces Corentin Moutet in the first round with a potential match against Paire, the No. 21 seed, in the second.