Saturday, January 16, 2010

Australian Open 2010 Men's Preview


Getty

Roger Federer SUI (1) v Igor Andreev RUS
Juan Ignacio Chela ARG v Victor Hanescu ROU
Stephane Robert FRA v Potito Starace ITA

Oscar Hernandez ESP v Albert Montanes ESP (31)

Lleyton Hewitt AUS (22)
v Ricardo Gocevar BRA (Q)
Christophe Rochus BEL v Donald Young USA (Q)
Paolo Lorenzi ITA v Marcos Baghdatis CYP
Frederico Gil POR v Gilles Simon FRA (15) David Ferrer ESP (17)

Fernando Verdasco ESP (9)
v Carsten Ball AUS
Ivan Sergeyev UKR (Q) v Dudi Sela ISR
Rajeev Ram USA v Stefan Koubek AUT (Q)
Ivan Dodig CRO (Q) v Juan Carlos Ferrero ESP (23)

Juan Monaco ARG (30)
v Ernests Gulbis LAT
Martin Vassallo Arguello ARG v Michael Llodra FRA
Carlos Moya ESP v Illya Marchenko UKR (Q)
Dieter Kindlmann GER (Q) v Nikolay Davydenko RUS (6)

Well, looky here. Donald Young has qualified for the Australian Open without dropping a set. Too bad he got placed in this quarter in that particular section. He should be no match for Christophe Rochus, and even if he is, Lleyton Hewitt will end his run in round 2. Still, a nice result for a young man told that he's got to stand on his own two feet if he's to continue receiving support from the USTA.

But I digress.

In his quarter, Roger Federer has drawn his new-found nemesis Nikolay Davydenko. Will Raja's extraoridinary streak of Slam semifinals end? Will Davydenko finally breakthrough and make a semifinal Down Under?

Yes and no. Raja looks to have tennis elbow on his right arm, and the Iron Man really can't stand the heat.

Who will stop them? Veteran Stefan Koubek is always good for a great Slam match and he'll probably give Fernando Verdasco all he can handle, if the Spaniard gets past big-serving homeboy Carsten Ball. Still flimsy in the head, though, Verdasco may cause one big upset, but not two. Marcos Baghdatis is playing some good ball again and this is the place he made a name for himself. If he can keep up his form and ride the wave of his boisterous fans, he makes another Australian Open semifinal and becomes the first surprise finalist of the decade.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France plays a forehand in his third round match against Tommy Haas of Germany during day three of the 2010 Kooyong Classic at Kooyong on January 15, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
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Novak Djokovic SRB (3) v Daniel Gimeno-Traver ESP
Marinko Matosevic AUS v Marco Chiudinelli SUI
Kristof Vliegen BEL v Michael Berrer GER
Denis Istomin UZB v Jeremy Chardy FRA (32)

Mikhail Youzhny RUS (20)
v Richard Gasquet FRA
Jan Hajek CZE v Robby Ginepri USA
Lukasz Kubot POL v Mischa Zverev GER
Santiago Giraldo COL v Tommy Robredo ESP (16)

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (10)
v Sergiy Stakhovsky UKR
Fabio Fognini ITA v Taylor Dent USA
Ryan Harrison USA v Janko Tipsarevic SRB
Simon Greul GER v Tommy Haas GER (18)

Nicolas Almagro ESP (26)
v Xavier Malisse BEL (Q)
Benjamin Becker GER v Grega Zemlja SLO (Q)
Alejandro Falla COL v Marcos Daniel BRA
Marcel Granollers ESP v Robin Söderling SWE (8)

Somoene called this the weakest quarter of the draw and a practical shoo-in for Novak Djokovic to claim. With Robin Söderling and Tommy Haas nursing injuries, I got his point.

But despite Djokovic's victory Down Under in 2008, he struggled mightily with the heat last year and had to retire in his quarterfinal. His strong run at the end of 2009 makes that retirement seem ancient, but it registers like yesterday. He'll win his section, but whoever emerges from the second section could give him ulcers. They won't beat him (unless, say Tommy Robredo serves out of a tree as he did in Hopman Cup to beat Andy Murray) but they will wear him down for the quarterfinals where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who also happens to love playing in Melbourne, will get his revenge from that 2008 final.

Darkhorses: Xavier Malisse

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina returns a shot against Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia at the Kooyong Classic tennis tournament in Melbourne January 13, 2010.
Reuters

Andy Roddick USA (7) v Thiemo de Bakker NED
Teimuraz Gabashvili RUS v Thomaz Bellucci BRA
Feliciano Lopez ESP v Pablo Cuevas URU
Rainer Schuettler GER v Sam Querrey USA (25)

Tomas Berdych CZE (21)
v Robin Haase NED
Daniel Brands GER v Evgeny Korolev KAZ
Sebastien Grosjean FRA v Marsel Ilhan TUR (Q)
Olivier Rochus BELv Fernando Gonzalez CHI (11)

Marin Cilic CRO (14)
v Fabrice Santoro FRA
Guillaume Rufin FRA (Q) v Bernard Tomic AUS
Igor Kunitsyn RUS v Jose Acasuso ARG
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ESP v Stanislas Wawrinka SUI (19)

Viktor Troicki SRB (29)
v Nicolas Lapentti ECU
Philipp Petzschner GER v Florian Mayer GER
James Blake USA v Arnaud Clement FRA
Michael Russell USA v Juan Martín Del Potro ARG (4)

This quarter feels overly crowded. Most of the seeds have shown some good form recently, and the "no-names" are dangerous: Thiemo de Bakker, Feliciano López, Robin Haase, José Acasuso, Guillermo García-López, and Philipp Petzschner all have huge games and can cause an upset if their opponents are even slightly below par. And then there are veterans Michael Russel, Nicolas Lapentti, and Rainer Schuettler with the games and the guile to crash many a party. Each tends to produce his best tennis at Slams. Anyone remember Russell taking Hewitt the distance after losing a 2-sets-to-love lead in 2007? It was the best underrated match of the year.

How far will Andy Roddick's head and heart take him? Clearly he has the game to get out of this quarter (even his latest losses to the USO champion were tight, tight affairs) and loves to play in the heat. But no matter what he or anyone else says I remain convinced Wimbledon broke his spirit. At least he already has a win on the year. Maybe redemption awaits....

We might get a rematch of the Chennai final in round 3 and a rematch of the USO quarterfinal in the Round of 16, not to mention a repeat of last year's Round of 16 right here in Melbourne. Will there be revenge?

It's tough to pick against Juan Martín del Potro to advance to his first semifinal in Melbourne.

Darkhorse: Any of the aforementioned "no-names"

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Getty

Andy Murray GBR (5) v Kevin Anderson RSA (Q)
Marc Gicquel FRAv Simone Bolelli ITA
Jarkko Nieminen FIN v Nick Lindahl AUS
Florent Serra FRA v Jurgen Melzer AUT (28)

John Isner USA (33)
David Ferrer ESP (17) v Andreas Seppi ITA
Louk Sorensen IRL* (Q) v Yen-Hsun Lu TPE
Daniel Koellerer AUT v Antonio Veic CRO (Q)
Matthew Ebden AUS (Q) v Gael Monfils FRA (12)

Radek Stepanek CZE (13)
v Ivo Karlovic CRO
Julien Benneteau FRA v David Guez FRA (Q)
Mardy Fish USA v Andrey Golubev KAZ
Jason Kubler AUS v Ivan Ljubicic CRO (24)

Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (27)
v Horacio Zeballos ARG
Blaz Kavcic SLO (LL) v Wayne Odesnik USA
Lukas Lacko SVK v Leonardo Mayer ARG
Peter Luczak AUS v Rafael Nadal ESP (2)

Land of the giants. The top seeds must start well to subdue their opening round opponents. Andy Murray's section looked like a dream until the qualifiers were placed. Kevin Anderson, the South African giant who spent most of 2009 on the challenger circuit and who made an ATP final two years ago, is no pushover. He serves big and moves well for a man his size. If Murray is too passive, he'll find himself in a dog fight. Rafael Nadal will have to play the crowd as well as a huge server in the round 1. A challenging mix, but the defending champ should be up for it.

Despite the presence of so many extra-tall players with huge serves in this quarter, the top seeds should make the quarterfinals where they will reprise their 2007 round of 16 encounter with the same result.

Darkhorse: John Isner

*I've never seen a player from Ireland in a Grand Slam main draw.

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The Women

13 comments:

Pamela said...

I saw that Rafa picture on my iPhone, but coming here and seeing it on my laptop - uh wow. Nice!

Djokovic is either playing possum or he's going to lose early. His play has been uninspired, his confidence seems shaky and he's making comments that lead me to believe he's just not that into this slam right now. Yes, I know it's a dating term/movie - whatever. lol

Not really convinced Del Po can go too far or that his wrist will hold up. I'm also not sold on Davydenko putting together his brand of precision tennis for 2 weeks in 3 out of 5 sets.

I can't even speculate further - I'll just stay up all night, losing sleep and being glad the "Happy Slam" is finally starting.

Karen said...

O/T but word is that the AO relief effort will be live streamed on AO tv live tonight at 2pm AO time. I wonder who Fed will pair with for the mixed doubles.

Tennisfan said...

Darkhorses: Xavier Malisse

xxxxx

Really? He is such a head case..

Craig said...

Yes, he is, Tennisfan. But that doesn't mean he can't make a Slam semifinal if he's lucky.

Alls I know is that Malisse was off the scene as far as I was concerned. And then the whole suspension/non-suspension controversy happens and he's given another chance to compete.

Makes him dangerous to me.

And it's not like he doesn't have the raw material to make a run.

I predict that 2010 will be unpredictable. I, of course, can be wrong. But in the spirit of unpredictability, I'm making unpredictable predictions

memejerommel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

Dont you just hate when announcers make errors about players' accomplishments. Serena has 11 Grand Slams, not 7. are you guys watching the exo?

pompelmo said...

time...

Craig said...

pompelmo!!!

I asked after you yesterday. Welcome back.

oddman said...

Great post, Craig. You're right, things are alot more unpredictable this year. Well, who'da thunk Rafa would have won last year, besides his die-hard fans? Not the pundits, that's for sure.

Most pundits going with Andy Murray again. Now, I like the guy fine, but his track record isn't all that lately. Maybe he's got something up his sleeve down under.


For some reason, maybe it's just fandom, I get a really good feeling about Andy Roddick this year. Dunno why... let's just see.

Rafa's going to have to remember how he played last year if he wants any chance to defend his title - he looks good, but that Doha final was worrying. But I never ever count him out.

No one fellow stands out this year - it'll be a dogfight. May the best man win! Let's just hope there's plenty of gorgeous battles on the blue courts in Melbourne.

pompelmo said...

hi Craig!

I am anticipating a good season with several top players on form. Especially on women's side *wink*

Helen W said...

pompelmo great to see you back! I was pulling for your guy when he lost that heart-breaker in the qualies.

Happy New year!

Craig said...

There's a stream for the Roddick/de Bakker match that has the sound from the match of the Marias.

Very annoying.

Craig said...

Lord have mercy, Roddick has already injured himself.