Dynamic Djokovic Makes It 3 In A Row At AO
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Novak Djokovic gave a warrior’s performance in a 4 set victory over Andy Murray, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 to repeat as Australian Open champion and capture his 4th AO title overall.
Djokovic and Murray played 2 tight tiebreak sets with no breaks of serve, even though Djokovic had 5 break chances in the opening set which were all saved by Murray. Murray had 3 break point chances of his own in the 2ndset, all saved by Djokovic.
Murray struggled with his 1st serve in the opening set, but played much stronger in the 2nd up until the tiebreak. Momentum shifted after the 2nd set breaker was taken by Djokovic. Murray, who by then was struggling with a foot blister among other ailments, continued to play his heart out but began to fade getting broken midway in the 3rd set and the 4th.
It was a bit of a bland match, but had some excellent rallying. If you are a Djokovic fan, it was rewarding match.
Djokovic had to survive a tremendous, match-of-his-life performance by Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16 (winning 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 12-10) in 5 hours plus after a listless start and some tremendous hitting by Wawrinka. The Serbian then recovered quickly beyond expectations to roll past Tomas Berdych in 4 sets and David Ferrer in straights. Those wins were particularly top notch showings.
It was at times a struggle for Novak, but he continues to show why he is world number one and must be truly regarded as the best player in the world right now. Whether he is listless or firing on all cylinders, he still finds a way to win.
Murray had an easy march to the semifinals, beating an exhausted Gilles Simon, and a surprising Jeremy Chardy in straights, before gutting out his first career best of 5 win over Roger Federer. Murray split sets with the The Great One through 4 and then put Fed away in the 5th with confident serving and quality defensive retrieval.
Murray drops to 0-3 in AO finals and remains with just the one major win. This final was a rematch of their 5 set semifinal at last year’s AO, won by Djokovic, and a rematch of the US Open final, won by Murray.
In the men’s doubles, the Bryan Brothers won a record 13thgrand slam title over the unseeded team of Dutchmen Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling and continue to dominate.
In the mixed doubles, a special tip of the cap to a TEC favorite and one of the nicest guys on the tour, Matt Ebden, who won the title with his Aussie partner Jarmila Gajdosova and claimed one for the home country.
Players with a ranking like #29 Sloane Stephens rarely get a good draw at a grand slam. They usually get a nice first round pushover, followed by some major talent. Sloane was fortunate enough to face Simona Halep, Kristina Mladenovic and Laura Robson. Last night, she met and beat Bojana Jovanovski in three sets for a trip to the Quarters.
It’s not just the draw, but playing the matches that counts. And Sloane is showing no signs of letting off the gas in Melbourne. She’s now played herself into a position where she’ll be severely tested from here on out. Serena Williams awaits.
Let’s hope Sloane gets a chance to exact a little revenge for Serena’s fist-pumping win over her in Brisbane a couple of weeks back.
2013 Australian Open Week 2 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
The first week of the first slam of the year is in the books, and while I will admit it has not been quite as memorable of an opening week as previous years, it still packed a punch and had some very big, exciting moments. Of the 16 players remaining in the draw, seven of the top eight seeds remain. However, all of the Americans and home favorite Australians have been eliminated.
As for matches of the opening week, for the sake of quality it would have to be Gael Monfils’ first round clash with Alexandr Dolgopolov that went four sets. The thriller was full of absolutely epic shot making from both guys, and some stellar ace serving from Monfils.
And for the sake of length, unsurprisingly Monfils was also involved in an intense five hour, past midnight, 5 setter with countryman Gilles Simon. There, both players were injured throughout, with cramping, hand blisters, gimpy legs and sore arms with both mentally pushing on.
Simon won the first two sets only to drop two straight after injury issues. They then battled in the fifth with Monfils getting broken twice, only to break back once. Simon managed to serve it out 8-6 in the fifth. Did I mention that Simon was basically rolling his serves in there at 80 mph or less for the final couple sets of the match, yet Monfils couldn’t do that much with it? For the kicker, the average rally length in this match was easily 30 shots or more, and 40+ shot rallies were par for the course, though the pace of the match adjusted with the fatigue of both players. Simon was quoted as saying after the match “I was almost dying at the end of the second set”… and they played three more intense sets after.
Also challenging for the length category was a second round clash between Blaz Kavic and James Duckworth in the searing 100+ degree Melbourne heat for five hours. They could barely stand in the end as the fans urged them both on, and Kavic finally prevailed. He later tweeted a picture of himself flat on a stretcher in the locker room getting an IV. It was that intense. Duckworth, meanwhile, had played a five setter in the previous round and I’m sure set some sort of two round time record.
Also, extra special credit and respect to both Simon and Kavic for staying around to interact with fans and sign autographs after those matches. Quite an amazing gesture in and of itself.
Here is a breakdown of the eight round of 16 matchups.
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Stanislas Wawrinka
Novak has rolled through his first three opponents, Paul Henri-Mathieu, Ryan Harrison and Radek Stepanek, eliminating them all in straights, even though none of them played that poorly. He appears poised to continue his winning ways against Wawrinka, who beat Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Tobias Kamke and Sam Querrey all in straights to advance.
The fourth round is a good result for Stan the Man, but this is likely the end of his road in Melbourne as he has has lost to Djokovic 11 times in 13 meetings, and all of their meetings in the past 3 years.
As a note on Querrey’s second round opponent Brian Baker, one of the unfortunate incidents to come out AO this week is his tore meniscus in his knee and Baker will be out 4 months at a minimum. It’s a real shame to see a guy who has already been through so much suffer further injuries, and furthermore, it erases his chance to rack up basically free ranking points in the part of the year he didn’t play at the ATP level last year. Just a sad story all around and hopefully he can recover.
Kevin Anderson vs. (5) Tomas Berdych
This will be a battle of the big guys with some big weapons. The seemingly resurgent Anderson beat Paolo Lorenzi in four, Andrey Kuznetsov (who notched the opening round win over Juan Monaco) in straights, and gutted out a tough five set victory against Fernando Verdasco. Anderson has relied on his serve and his forehand to carry him through.
Berdych overcame some early year jitters to get past Michael Russell, Guillaume Rufin and Jurgen Melzer in straights, but Anderson should be a much tougher customer than his first three opponents.
This match could easily go five sets given the style of play, but I’ll still give the slight edge to advance to Anderson, the first South African man to reach the round of 16 in a major in 10 years. Berdych beat Anderson four times last year, including at last year’s Australian Open, but new trends have to start somewhere.
(4) David Ferrer vs. (16) Kei Nishikori
David Ferrer has looked lights out in his first three matches: a win over Olivier Rochus in straights, a four set win over an otherwise determined Tim Smyczek (who deserves a lot of credit for making a match of it after a slow start), and a surprising straight sets crushing of Marcos Baghdatis.
Nishikori has overcome any worries about his knee to record wins over Victor Hanescu in four, Carlos Berlocq in straights, and Evgeny Donskoy in straights. The developing Donskoy may have performed a changing of the guard in Russian tennis in the previous round after a solid five set win over the top ranked Russian male Mikhail Youzhny.
Really not much to say about the performance of either guy here so far, except that both are playing well, and Ferrer will be the favorite and should advance, even though he does hold a losing head to head record to the top man from Japan.
(10) Nicolas Almagro vs. (8) Janko Tipsarevic
Nico Almagro is looking strong after recording wins over Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Jerzy Janowicz in straights, and after winning his first round encounter with Steve Johnson in four sets. Tipsarevic gutted out a straight sets win over Lleyton Hewitt in surviving a barrage of shot making efforts. Next, he lost a two set lead against Lukas Lacko only to come back and win it in the fifth. To make the round of 16, Tipsy beat Julien Benneteau in five by winning the last two sets.
Tipsarevic has done his best to make his matches memorable but hopefully hasn’t worn himself down for what could be a ripping slugfest with Almagro. He was quoted as saying after his match with Benneteau “”Long matches can affect my physical condition”, and with that being true, I give the slight edge to Almagro here.
Jeremy Chardy vs. (21) Andreas Seppi
Jeremy Chardy pulled off the shock of the tournament and the upset of his career so far when he defeated Juan Martin Del Potro in five sets to reach the round of 16. Del Potro seemed disinterested through the first 2 sets, only to up his level just a bit in the third set and just barely edge past Chardy, who missed his chances to finish the Argentine off. Del Potro then took the fourth set and it appeared that this would be another case of a lower ranked player taking a lead in a five set match only to freeze up closing it out and fade late. The difference is a tired Chardy still stuck with it and didn’t fade, matching holds with Del Potro, who still couldn’t get his shots working effectively. Finally he broke Del Po and took the last set 6-3.
It was a very disappointing result for Del Potro, who had looked at ease in his first two matches. Chardy also beat Marcel Granollers in four sets in round after beating Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in the four set opener.
As for Seppi, he beat Horacio Zeballos in straights. Prior to that drubbing, he needed all five sets to get past both Denis Istomin and Marin Cilic, outlasting them with consistent play and breaks when he needed them.
This match is quite a lucky shot at the quarters for both guys, and Chardy will certainly be able to dictate with his serve. Meanwhile, Seppi might be a bit worn down. This match is an even proposition, but I’ll give a very slight edge to Seppi, who is normally the better player.
(14) Gilles Simon vs. (3) Andy Murray
I already mentioned Simon’s heroics, and he also beat Filippo Volandri and Jesse Levine in four after dropping the opening set. The problem is, he is the walking wounded for this match against Murray, who rolled over Robin Haase and Joao Sousa in straights. Muzz overcame frustration to get past the tricky Ricardas Berankis in straights, though the scoreline is a bit misleading in that one in that Berankis had a ton of chances to get in the match and take the lead, but failed to convert, while the more experienced Murray was able to serve just well enough to hang on.
Murray will be a clear favorite in this one, even against a rested and healthy Simon. Given that Simon is neither rested nor appears healthy, Simon’s odds are even worse.
(7) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (9) Richard Gasquet
Tsonga beat Michael Llodra, Go Soeda and an exhausted Blaz Kavic all in straights, and is rolling, though not totally sharp. Compatriot Gasquet beat Albert Montanes and Alejandro Falla in straights, then came back from a set down to beat the scrappy Ivan Dodig, who Gasquet let push him around the court for a bit until Dodig ran out of energy. Dodig made the third round with a win over Jarkko Nieminen, who played an absolutely epic first round match with Tommy Haas, finally besting him.
This was the match most people were expecting and something to certainly look forward to seeing. Both guys are playing fine and I’ll stick with my original pick of going with Gasquet in an upset.
(13) Milos Raonic vs. (2) Roger Federer
Milos Raonic has gone under the radar this first week, winning matches over Jan Hajek and Lukas Rosol before dispatching Phillip Kohlschreiber, who hadn’t been broken on serve up until that match, in straights. Now he runs into the Big Red Machine Known As Roger Federer, who has been clinical in wins over Benoit Paire, Nikolay Davydenko, and Bernard Tomic. The Big Red Machine beating all of them in straights and is not messing around.
Federer is clicking here, and I expect Raonic to be yet another casualty on the Melbourne road.
As a note on Tomic, he played quite fine up until the Fed match, not losing his serve including in a tight four set victory over Daniel Brands, but Fed was just too good.
Djokovic d. Anderson
Ferrer d. Almagro
Murray d. Seppi
Federer d. Gasquet
Sticking with the top 4 here and I don’t see any of them having trouble.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Murray d. Federer
Ferrer might trouble Djoker, but not enough to win. Federer/Murray, on the other hand, could be absolutely epic if both guys play at the top level. Fed has looked slightly better thus far, but I’ll still stick with my original call and say Murray gets through.
Djokovic d. Murray
Sticking with the original picks here as well.
You would think Jamie Hampton was content to cruise along like a stealth bomber over the last couple of years as a name that only US tennis enthusiasts knew. She had to go and ruin all of that last night by taking 12 games off of Vika Azarenka. The world #1 looked weak in that second set and the first half of the third. The Auburn Tiger’s run ended at the Australian Open with the 3rd round loss, but there has never been more internet chatter about the Birmingham Bomber.
2013 looks to be a great year for Jamie which will see her crack the top 50 or better. Now I just wish she’d claim the free url that’s been held in trust for her for years, jamiehampton.com. She’s no triple threat chatterbox like Irina Falconi, but her growing fan base demands to know more about her. Here’s hoping!
Last year, it took a second round matchup against Maria Sharapova to introduce Jamie Hampton to the world. This year, she’ll take on Vika Azarenka for an Australian Open Rod Laver Arena encore, thanks to a 6-1, 6-2, 57 minute drubbing of Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum tonight in Melbourne. Hampton won her first ever grand slam match during the same week last year and advanced to her first ever grand slam third round tonight. She seems to play her best tennis at Melbourne Park.
With the match certain to be featured on Laver (and to be shown on television everywhere, including the US, which is no small matter), Hampton will be a profound underdog against Vika. It’s a role the Alabama native is used to playing, and the experience she gained last year against Sharapova should help her nerves throughout the big match. And she does have the consolation of knowing that win or lose, Hampton’s current career high ranking of 63 can only improve next week. What a year for her, and it’s only January 17.
6-2, 6-1. 56 minutes. Madison Keys looked like a giant and a #1 seed in taking care of 2nd round opponent Tamira Paszek last night. Keys, who won a second straight wild card into the Australian Open main draw, is on to the 3rd round of a Grand Slam for the second time in the teen’s nascent pro career.
With that, she’ll face 5 seed Angelique Kerber in the 3rd round. Kerber is no slouch, but this is another match that Madison has a reasonable chance to win. Keys has been working on hitting ”a ton of out-wide forehands” all winter and her training has apparently paid off.
The USTA Wild Card Winners have already made their mark at the 2013 Australian Open. Yesterday, Madison Keys marched to a straight sets win. Tonight, it was Rhyne Williams turn. The Rhynestone Cowboy was patiently outlasted by #25 seed Florian Mayer of France in four grueling sets, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (12), before Williams succumbed to the demons of Melbourne in the fifth set by a count of 6-1.
Even though Mayer destroyed a great American storyline, it was Williams who produced and impressed tonight. The Tennessean played a nice match and the trip has already paid off for him on his first venture down under. In addition to the google-trending and goodwill he’s earned, he made over $20,000 for making the trip.
USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs winner Madison Keys won her first round match in Melbourne against Australian counterpart Casey Dellacqua by a count of 6-4, 7-6(0). Dellacqua is a rising star of Australian tennis who has been graced with wild cards from her home nation, but the battle of the future superstars went to Keys last night. The fact that Keys was able to overcome the heavy crowd favorite in the first round gives her valuable experience heading into the future of this Open and the next.
Keys sees Austria’s Tamira Paszek in the second round. The 30 seed in the tournament, Paszek is a powerful player whose recent inconsistency gives Keys a reasonable shot of advancing to the third round of a Grand Slam for the second time in her very young career.
Hopefully, this match will be played either early or late in Melbourne so East Coast fans can have a live look. After she beat Dellacqua, I wouldn’t expect organizers at Melbourne Park to do us any favors.
2013 Australian Open Week 1 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
January 14-January 27, 2013
It’s time again for my personal favorite slam, the happy slam, the thrilling, exhilarating, hyper intense Australian Open. It’s live with late night and early morning action from Melbourne park, and it’s a world away. It is the first slam of the year and every player is looking for a good result to set the mood for the season ahead. In the next two weeks, history and memories will be made once again and here is a preview of the men’s side of the action.
Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Roger Federer
3: Andy Murray
4: David Ferrer
5: Tomas Berdych
6: Juan Martin Del Potro
7: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
8: Janko Tipsarevic
The only players missing from the men’s top 50 are last year’s finalist Rafael Nadal, still seemingly rehabbing his knee injury and other related issues, Mardy Fish, who hasn’t played since the US Open last year, and John Isner, who also went out with a knee injury this month and withdrew earlier in the week, dealing a blow to American hopes.
1st round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. Paul Henri Mathieu
Djokovic should not have too much trouble out of the gate since he seems to be in good form, but the rejuvenated Frenchman PHM might have some tricks up his sleeve to give the world number one a test early on. While PHM hasn’t played any ATP matches this year he did take part in the Kooyong classic and pushed Del Potro to 3 sets and depending on his consistency, this could actually be a competitive match.
(11)Juan Monaco vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Pico has to be on upset alert for this match against the 21-year-old Russian talent Kuznetsov, who has broken into the top 80 after playing mainly at the challenger level last year. Though he seems to prefer clay, Kuznetsov isn’t bad on hard courts either. Monaco has not played any tournament matches this year, as he has been dealing with a hand injury that forced him to pull out of Kooyong. While he seems to be over that now, a mixture of rust and surface creates the makings for an early upset.
David Goffin vs. (22) Fernando Verdasco
Struggling former AO semifinalist Verdasco hasn’t won a singles match in his preparation for the AO. He’ll get a tough test in the humble Belgian youngster Goffin who really isn’t in the best form himself. Goffin enters the AO with a 1-2 singles record after 2nd and 1st round losses in his prep events. Still, you have to think D Goff is playing a bit better than Nando at the moment.
Fabio Fognini vs. Roberto Bautista-Agut
Chennai finalist Bautista-Agut will look to keep his quality play going on the grand slam stage. He retired in Sydney with fatigue but should be well rested now to take on Foginini, who will be sure to throw all the shots he has at the Spaniard. This match will show if Bautista-Agut is primed to surprise in Melbourne.
Michael Russell vs. (5)Tomas Berdych
Veteran baseline grinder muscles Russell got a stroke of luck when he drew a seemingly out of form Berdych, who after being upset in Chennai, was pushed to 3 sets by Ivan Dodig in Kooyang, then lost to Lleyton Hewitt there. Berdych is the stronger player and should not have any trouble with Russell but he has suffered 1st round slam upsets before…
(32)Julien Benneteau vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Seeded Sydney semifinalist Benneteau got the misfortune of drawing one of the hottest unseeded players in the draw in the form of Dimitrov, who he lost to twice last year. The Brisbane finalist has all the talent to make a deep run in Melbourne. This should be a good match full of intrigue and while Dimitrov will be favored, Benny could still grab the win.
Lleyton Hewitt vs. (8) Janko Tipsarevic
Tenacious veteran counter-puncher Lleyton Hewitt no longer carries the hopes of Australia almost solely on his shoulders, since less is expected of him in the twilight of his career. He still can come up with some Melbourne magic now and again and he will need all the magic he can muster against top tenner Tipsarevic, who will be looking to improve upon his results in slams and is coming off the Chennai title. While Tipsarevic will certainly be favored, this should still be a fun and possibly very long match. Last year Hewitt was able to upset Milos Raonic and still seems as motivated as ever to win matches, as just this week he notched some upsets to reach the final of the Kooyong classic.
Grega Zemlja vs. (22) Marcel Granollers
The unseeded Zemlja will be looking to grab the upset against Spaniard Granollers, who though he prefers clay, did make the quarterfinals in Sydney this past week. This match could really go either way and could go 4 or 5 sets.
Gael Monfils vs. (18) Alexandr Dolgopolov
The talented but inconsistent Monfils will meet the talented but inconsistent Dolgo in the opening round for the first time in their careers. Dolgo is a former AO quarterfinalist coming off a quarterfinal in Brisbane while Monfils made the semis in Auckland but was easily bounced by David Ferrer. This match could go either way, in both result and number of sets and I could very easily see this one ending in a retirement, especially if it is a day match in the scorching Melbourne heat.
(25) Florian Mayer vs. (WC) Rhyne Williams
USTA WC winner Rhyne Williams also got good luck in the draw and will have a good chance at an upset against consistent German Mayer who is an even 2-2 in his pre AO tournaments and prefers clay over hard courts. At the US Open last year Mayer fell to another rising American in Jack Sock. Now Williams will look to repeat the feat and has the talent to do it.
(19)Tommy Haas vs. Jarkko Nieminen
Tommy Haas has had success at the AO in the past and returns to Melbourne as a top 25 player looking for a good run. Haas has a tough opening test against the flying fin Jarkko Nieminen, who is coming off a quarterfinal in Sydney, while Haas is coming off a quarterfinal in Auckland. Haas will be favored, but do not put it past Nieminen to get the win.
(2) Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire
The tennis draw maestros did not do Fed any favors this time, as he will have to face the talented 23-year-old Paire, who is near a career high ranking just outside the top 40, in the opening round. Paire made the semis in Chennai and has an all court game, but the last time they met in Basel in 2012, Federer won easily in straight sets.
The defending AO champ Djokovic will face either Ryan Harrison or Santiago Giraldo after doing battle with Mathieu, then could meet an out of form Feliciano Lopez in the 3rd round. It’s a pretty easy early start for the Serbian superstar. Also in this section are the out of form Viktor Troicki and Radek Stepanek, one just struggling, and the other struggling with injuries. They will meet in the 1st round and the winner will play Lopez or a qualifier.
Auckland semi finalist and 25 seed Sam Querrey opens with a qualifier and then should get an intriguing matchup with fellow American Brian Baker, who upset Jerzy Janowicz in the 1st round of Auckland and seems to be playing competitively. The winner of that likely gets a match with 15 seed Stan Wawrinka who opens with a qualifier and then plays Tobias Kamke or Flavio Cipolla.
The winner of Monaco/Kuznetsov will likely face current Sydney finalist Kevin Anderson, who opens with Paolo Lorenzi. Whoever advances will get the winner of Verdasco/Goffin or Auckland quarterfinalist Xaiver Malisse, who opens with a slumping Pablo Andujar.
26 seed Jurgen Melzer opens with Mikhail Kukushkin and then will play the winner of Fognini/Bautista-Agut. In the 3rd round, whoever advances from that section should face Tomas Berdych if he gets through Russell and a qualifier or Guillaume Rufin.
Current Auckland finalist and former AO semi finalist David Ferrer will open with veteran mighty mite Olivier Rochus and then should get a polar opposite match against the veteran big man Ivo Karlovic (who opens with a qualifier). In the 3rd round, odds are he will face Brisbane semifinalist and a guy who does well in Melbourne, Marcos Baghdatis, who opens with a slumping Albert Ramos then the winner of John Millman vs. Tatsuma Ito.
16 seed and Brisbane semifinalist Kei Nishikori, who was dealing with injuries but seems recovered, opens with veteran Victor Hanescu then will meet Carlos Berlocq or a qualifier followed by 23 seed Mikhail Youzhny, who opens with Matt Ebden, then could meet countryman Evgeny Donskoy or Romanian Adrian Ungur.
10 seed Nico Almagro opens with a qualifier followed by the winner of Lukasz Kubot vs. Daniel Gimeno-Traver and then could face a test in the form of Jerzy Janowicz, who looks to recover from a 1st round loss in Auckland and will open with Italian Simone Bolleli, followed by the winner of Somdev Devvarman vs. Bjorn Phau.
The winner of Benneteau/Dimitrov will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin or a qualifier and then prepare for battle with Janko Tipsarevic, who after facing Hewitt, will take on the winner of Lukas Lacko, coming off a quarterfinal in Auckland against Gilles Muller.
Andy Murray, a semi finalist last year and twice a former AO finalist, will begin another Aussie open odyssey against Dutchman Robin Haase, who does not seem to be in great form. Then he’ll play the winner of Joao Sousa vs. Aussie J.P Smith, followed by a match with either the Mayer/Williams winner, Sergiy Stakhovsky, or a qualifier. Williams actually has a great shot at the 3rd round here.
Moving up the bracket, the Dolgopolov/Monfils winner will play the winner of Yen-Hsun Lu vs Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, then in the 3rd round should meet 14 seed Gilles Simon, who retired during a match in Sydney and might be struggling a bit. Simon opens with Filippo Volandri, then will face the winner of Tommy Robredo vs. the newly minted Canadian Jesse Levine. Simon at least gets a pretty easy early go of things.
Juan Martin Del Potro looks to bring his big game to Melbourne starting off with a qualifier, followed by the dangerous Aljaz Bedene, who will open with veteran Benjamin Becker. After that, he could play the Zemlja/Granollers winner, Jeremy Chardy, or a qualifier.
Sydney semifinalist Andreas Seppi, the 21 seed, opens with Argentine Horacio Zeballos, then will face the winner of Sydney quarterfinalist Denis Istomin vs. sizzling Igor Sijsling. The winner will likely follow with a match with 12 seed Marin Cilic, who opens up with Aussie Marinko Matosevic, followed by the winner of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. a qualifier. Seppi has a good chance at the 3rd round as Cilic isn’t playing his best tennis at the moment.
Federer, the 4 time Aussie open champ and semi-finalist last year, has a brutal early draw. After playing Paire he will get the dangerous veteran floater Nikolay Davydenko, who looked so strong previously en route to the Doha final. Davy will open with a qualifier. In the 3rd round, he may have to face home favorite and current Sydney finalist Bernard Tomic, who has realized a lot of his potential this month and is playing some of the best tennis of his young career in front of the home fans. Tomic opens with Leonardo Mayer and then Martin Klizan, the struggling 27 seed, or a qualifier.
Federer declined to play any tournament matches before the AO this year, and will be thrown right in the fire at the get go. He certainly can beat anyone when he is at his best, but any of his first 3 opponents could push him quite hard.
Elsewhere in this quarter, current Auckland finalist and 17 seed Phillip Kohlschreiber opens with Steve Darcis, then will face young Argentine Guido Pella or a qualifier. His possible 3rd round opponent, 13 seed Milos Raonic, who is really struggling this month (losing matches in both Brisbane and the Kooyong classic), opens with Jan Hajek, then a qualifier or fellow serve bomber Lukas Rosol.
9 seed and Doha champ Richard Gasquet will look to keep his momentum going opening with Spanish vet Albert Montanes followed by Alejandro Falla or wild card Josselin Ouanna. In the 3rd round, Gasquet should meet either the Haas/Nieminen winner or Ivan Dodig, an under the radar player who opens with Di Wu of China.
Former AO finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga begins with serve and volleying countryman Michael Llodra, followed by a match against Go Soeda or promising young Aussie Luke Saville. In the 3rd round, Tsonga could meet young Aussies James Duckworth or Ben Mitchell, who will play each other in the 1st round, Blaz Kavic, or 29 seed Thomaz Bellucci, who is talented but inconsistent. Tsonga should have an easy go of things the first few rounds.
Dark Horses (1 for each quarter of the draw): Kevin Anderson, Grigor Dimitrov, Andreas Seppi, Richard Gasquet
Anderson is playing and serving well and does well on hard courts. He gets a very reasonable early draw with Lorenzi, Monaco (who is seeded but not in great shape), then Malisse or Goffin. In the 4th round he will get Berdych or Bautista-Agut, both of whom are beatable and he has a great shot at the quarters, where he will likely run into Djokovic and run out of wins.
Dimitrov is skillful and playing great and assuming he dispatches Benneteau, Roger-Vasselin or a qualifier, he should set up a meeting with Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic will be favored in that one but it isn’t unreasonable that Grisha can pull it off and then beat likely opponent Almagro before running into Ferrer in the quarters. Dimitrov could go out somewhere between the 3rd round and the semis, but either way, he has a lot of upside.
Seppi is seasoned and consistent and has the advantage of a good draw. Assuming he doesn’t trip up against Istomin, he will have the advantage over Cilic but will likely go out in the 4th round at the hands of Del Potro.
Gasquet honestly got a bit lucky in Doha as he fell behind in multiple matches and his tactical play remains questionable, but he still has confidence from it and should be able to get through Montanes, Falla, and Haas, though that latter match will likely be a battle. In the 4th round, while Tsonga will be favored, Gasquet will still have a tremendous opportunity to notch the upset and make the quarterfinals. There he would likely face Federer, unless by some chance an even vaguer dark horse like Tomic, Kohlschreiber or Davydenko were to shock the tennis world and beat him.
Week 1 Predictions (4th round matchups)
Djokovic d. Querrey
Djokovic beat Querrey multiple times in 2012 and the result shouldn’t be any different this time.
Anderson d. Bautista-Agut
Bautista-Agut just beat Berdych in Chennai, and I think he can do it once again to set up this 4th round matchup, but I don’t think he is quite ready for the big time yet. Anderson should edge by.
Ferrer d. Nishikori
Tipsarevic d. Almagro
Del Potro d. Seppi
Murray d. Dolgopolov
Murray has beaten Dolgopolov 4 straight times, including a 4 set victory at the 2011 Aussie Open and a win at the 2012 Brisbane final.
Tsonga d. Gasquet
Federer d. Kohlschreiber
Djokovic d. Anderson
Ferrer d. Tipsarevic
This could be another 5 set ball striking slugfest just like their 2012 US Open quarterfinal matchup.
Murray d. Del Potro
This match could be tight and Del Potro will certainly have his chances.
Federer d. Tsonga
Another chance for Federer to trip up, but he should eke through.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Ferrer is good, but never has been at the level to trip up the big 3.
Murray d. Federer
With a mix of Murray’s motivation, less stress after finally winning a slam and Federer’s fatigue from a brutal draw, edge goes to Murray here.
Djokovic d. Murray
As much as I personally want to pick Murray, I have to go with Djokovic, who continues to consistently get the job done and hasn’t shown any signs he is not poised to win another AO title. Djokovic beat Murray in a thrilling 2012 AO semi and I expect this match to be just as entertaining if it occurs. On the other hand, Murray did beat Djokovic to win the US Open last year, but it took him 5 sets to do it and Djokovic seemed a bit out of sorts the whole time.