Since the turn of the Millennium, two unseeded male players have lifted Grand Slam tournaments: Goran Ivanisevic overcame Pat Rafter at Wimbledon in 2001, and Gaston Gaudio beat fellow Argentine, Guillermo Coria, at the 2004 French Open.
Before then, only five unseeded male players have triumphed at Grand Slams in the history of tennis, putting their achievements into context.
But since Coria’s success at Roland Garros in 2004, tennis has been dominated, almost exclusively, by the big four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
With one unseeded Grand Slam champ in the 70s, two in the 80s, two in the 90s and two in 00s, the 10s is running out of time to continue the trend of two unseeded champions every decade.
Will the Australian Open kick-off the 2018 tennis Grand Slam calendar with the 10s first unseeded Grand Slam champion? Something Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came so close to doing in 2008.
Like so many of the last-standing unseeded players, the Frenchman fell foul to the power, skill and stamina of the aforementioned ‘big four’.
In fact, in the last decade, one of Federer, Murray, Djokovic and Nadal have knocked out the final unseeded players on nine different occasions.
Since’s Tsonga’s run to the final in 2008, no unseeded player has made it further than the quarter-final; Nick Kyrgios has been the closest to breaking into the semi-final stage, taking 12 games off of Andy Murray in 2015. However, all defeats in the quarter-final stage have been fairly routine for the seeded player.
The regularity in which unseeded players reach the quarter-final stage is increasing, though. After Tsonga’s surge to the final a decade ago, the four following Australian Open campaigns saw the last unseeded players exit at the Fourth Round.
Mischa Zverev’s quarter-final exit last year, though, was the third time in five years an unseeded player had reached that stage – a start of something?
As a minimum, previous trends suggest that this will be the first year, as a minimum, that we will see back-to-back quarter-final exits for a seeded player in the Men’s Singles – further enhanced by the fact that Novak Djokovic’s form is patchy, at best, and is seeded 11th, whilst Andy Murray misses out through injury.
Given that the last time an unseeded player won the Australian Grand Slam was Mark Edmondson, back in 1976 – two unseeded females have won the Women’s Singles title since then (Serena Williams as recent as 2007) – the Australian Open doesn’t look like it will deliver the unseeded champion – save your money for the The French Open, which has given us 43% of unseeded Men’s Singles winners.
The smart money has to go on the seeded, Grigor Dimitrov, who is currently in his tennis peak at 26, whilst sitting in his highest ever world ranking of No.3. Furthermore, having been evicted at the semi-final stage last year, at 10/1 the Bulgarian is worth backing to go all the way this time around.