There will be more posts up in the next 36 hours, but watching the match along with familial commitments have made posting those in the near term impossible. Enjoy the two weeks we as tennis fans were treated to.
There will be more posts up in the next 36 hours, but watching the match along with familial commitments have made posting those in the near term impossible. Enjoy the two weeks we as tennis fans were treated to.
My grammar could be dicey as I am typing in real time
Expect Sentence Fragments
First Set Nadal 4 – Djokovic 2
Rafa held off several break points to consolidate the break. Nole is upset that he is not moving well. Rafa is serving pretty well and has his sneer out in full force. I have not seen Rafa sneer this much since the 2007 Wimbledon final.
First Set Nadal 4 – Djokovic 3
Nole holds to keep the first set in contention. Can Rafa maintain his high level of serving? On a side note, my 3 year old has woken up and is cutting into my typing. Djokovic yet to find his range. Rafa needs to win this 1st set as he can’t let Nole off the hook for these misses.
First Set Nadal 4 – Djokovic 4
After Djokovic gifted Nadal a few unforced errors, Nadal gave momentum back. Nole now 1 of 5 on break points. 0-15 after an easy miss from Djokovic. Nole has been playing from behind, will he relax too much after leveling the set? Nole needs to up his serving a touch to make his return game a comparative advantage. 0-30 after a Nadal forehand winner. Nadal slicing his backhand because he does not have to plant his foot as hard and can more quickly get ready for the next shot. Nadal with bad luck on the let cord, 15-30. 30-30 after a physical rally. The let cord really changed the complexion of this game. Somehow Nole is leading 5-4 on serve.
First Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 4
Rafa solid to take a 15-0 lead. Hitchcock’s birds make an appearance. 40-0 quick hold to this point. Nadal slicing his backhand to not surrender court positioning. He does not plant his weight as firmly and can more quickly shuffle back into the point. Novak must punish these slices to win. 40-30 now. Not as routine of a hold. My grammar during live blogging may take a slide. Huge forehand to level the match at 5-5.
First Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 5
After the 0-30 let cord save last service game, Nole needs a strong hold. 0-15. Rafa playing like a lefty Jim Courier and covering 70-80% of the court with his forehand. 15-15 after a solid point from Nole. Bole trying to zero in on the Nadal backhand but left a shot short that Rafa drove with his backhand to take control of the point. 30-30. Huge forehand from Nadal to get a break point at 30-40. Nadal breaks for a 6-5 lead. Rafa’s strategy of playing as many forehands as possible, teeing off when possible, taking risks on his serve and slicing his backhand is working to this point. The 1st set is within reach. As well as both men return each set could be a war of attrition and to this point Rafa is out in front.
First Set Nadal 6 – Djokovic 5
Body serve to get to 15-0. Nice return and a forced forehand error leads it to 15-15. Nole still not settled in as Nadal edges ahead 30-15 on a missed return. Rafa punishing any forehand he gets a look at and now has 2 set points. 2 set points saved. Deuce. Ad Nadal. 80 minutes into the match. Rafa takes the first set 7-5. He played better and deserved the first set. Nole will have to hit up the line into Rafa’s forehand wing to force him out of playing 80% of the court with his forehand. Also, Nole has to do more with Rafa’s slice backhands.
Nadal wins the First Set 7-5
30-0 lead for Nole. Quick hold for Nole.
Second Set Djokovic 1 – Nadal 0
Double fault puts Rafa in an early 0-15 hold. A letdown from either guy might be natural after an 80 minute first set. 0-30 as Nadal’s slice backhand has lost some depth. Nole has to give these slices a bit of a ride and not let Rafa off the hook for chipping the ball back. Nole misses badly on a second serve to allow 15-30. Rafa missing more first serves and a forehand unforced errors for 15-40. Nole’s slice forehand is a sign that he is not in control of a point. Nadal saves the second break point in part to a slice backhand that had some bite on it. An ace. Ad Nadal. Backhand error to deuce as the conditions become more windy. Rafa holds and saves 2 break points.
Second Set Djokovic 1 – Nadal 1
Djokovic wins an odd point that included a volley lob and a screaming backhand winner. 15-0 to Nole, but some odd tactics. 30-30 after a Djokovic error. 40-30 after a solid serve – big forehand one – two punch. Forehand error from Nadal.
Second Set Djokovic 2 – Nadal 1
Nole working the ball into Rafa’s forehand and pushing Nadal around the court for one of the few times this match. 0-15. Heavy hitting from Nadal to get to 15-15. Nadal not slicing his backhand this game as he crushes a backhand winner 30-15. 30-30. Forehand error 30-40; 3rd break point for Nole in the 2nd set. Nole breaks with a clucth/lucky volley after an unlucky net cord took some steam out of his forehand.
Second Set Djokovic 3 – Nadal 1
0-15. 15-15 after another serve forehand one-two punch from Nole. 30-15 after a big serve. Crushing two-handed backhand up the line from Nadal for 30-30. Rafa is taking his cuts at the ball. 40-30 after heavy shots from Nole. Nole pushed Rafa around on the last 2 points of that game.
Second Set Djokovic 4 – Nadal 1
Nadal has done a great job of mixing up his serve placement and backhand spins. He has taken chances to avoid being pushed behind the baseline, but slowly Nole seems to be establishing better court positioning in the second set. Can Rafa re-assert his court positioning? That will likely be the difference in the match. 15-15, but Rafa is getting pushed further back as the match progresses. Nadal 30-15 with a big passing shot. Still, Nole controlling rallies in the 2nd set. If Rafa holds, he can put pressure back on Novak due to winning the 1st set.
Second Set Djokovic 4 – Nadal 2
Djokovic is only up one break despite dominating this set. Rafa could dig deep and make this set interesting again. 0-15 after a great point of heavy hitting from both players. Rafa playing great defensive tennis in that rally. Service winner 15-15. Nadal slice backhand into the net 30-15. Service winner 40-15. Nole is getting a few more free points on serve. Easy point with a drop volley winner.
Second Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 2
Commentators saying Nadal cannot revert to a defensive style or else Nole will punish him. 15-0. Backhand error from Rafa 15-15. Nice rally with a forehand volley winner from Rafa 30-15. Big return leads to a forced error 30-30. 40-30 after Nadal digs out a huge return with a defensive yet effective slice. Deuce – Nole saves two game points with two big returns. Is Nole dialing in on Rafa’s serve? Huge return Ad – Djokovic break point, set point. Deuce after a serve forehand 1-2 punch from Nadal. Forehand error – Ad Nadal. 3-5.
Second Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 3
This is still only a one break lead. Rafa could dig deep and fight the percentages. 30-15 second serve. Drop volley winner as Nole has pushed Rafa further and further behind the baseline. 40-15 double set point, second serve, backhand error from Djokovic. 40-30 set point, deuce after Rafa punishes a slice forehand from Nole. Deuce. Ad Nadal after a drop shot volley combo – some luck, but Nole did not do enough with the drop shot. Double fault and this set is back on serve.
Second Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 4
Djokovic has had great chances in all four of Rafa’s service games this set and has only broken once. Beyond that Nole has had 2 set points on his own serve and played somewhat passively. Rafa moved forward more the last game and was rewarded with a break. Now his first set win places pressure on Nole. 15-15. Djokovic is making Rafa run and work hard, but he needs to win more points when he makes Rafa do the majority of the work. 15-30 after a big Nole return. Service winner 30-30. Service winner 40-30. Overrule and failed challenge 40-30. Deuce after heavy hitting from Nole. Set point #4 for Nole after a screaming backhand passing shot winner. Double fault and Nole wins the second set 6-4.
End of the Second Set
1 Novak Djokovic is Tied with 2 Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4
40-0 with Djokovic riding some momentum. Will self-doubt creep into either man’s game. Maintaining concentration when each set is taking 1 hour at a minimum is not going to be easy.
Third Set Djokovic 1 – Nadal 0
Deuce after 40-15, there is pressure on Nadal now. Service winner, Ad Nadal. Deuce. Service winner, Ad Nadal. Deuce. Long game and Rafa has to work harder in the typical point than Djokvic does. In the long run, this obviously favors Nole. Still, Nole getting close in return games vs. breaking serve is huge. Ad Nadal after a let cord.
Third Set Djokovic 1 – Nadal 1
15-0 after a heavy rally and backhand winner from Djokovic. 15-15. Novak starting to get the points he likes, but has not been air tight enough to break or hold quite as easily as he would like. 30-15 after another dominating rally from Novak. 30-30 after Nadal reverses roles and pushes Djokovic backwards. 40-30 after an unforced error from Rafa.
Third Set Djokovic 2 – Nadal 1
Nole is playing the match on his terms at this point, but still is not taking the match by the jugular. 15-15. Uncle Toni looks nervous. 30-15. 30-30. Rafa looking a little unsure of himself. Another tough service game, but if he holds Nole is only landing body blows and no knockout looks. 30-40 after Nole dominates a rally and ends it with a forehand winner. This is what we call a big point. Second serve and an unforced error after a long rally. 3-1.
Third Set Djokovic 3 -Nadal 1
15-0 service winner, Nole asserting himself. 30-0 service winner and a lost challenge by a disheartened Nadal. 40-0 service winner. Nadal looking like he needs a hug. Forehand winner.
Third Set Djokovic 4 – Nadal 1
0-15 as Nole is working Nadal hard while he basically is in the middle of the court directing traffic. 30-15 but if Rafa has to hit shots like that to win points over time I think he loses this match. 30-30. Drop shot for a break point and de facto set point. 30-40. Deuce. Forehand error, Ad Nadal. Nole making him work but not breaking quite as frequently as he likely should.
Third Set Djokovic 4 – Nadal 2
30-0. Now 40-0. Novak holding more easily as the match progresses. Fatigue not looking like a factor.
Third Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 2
0-15. Nole breaks at love. 6-2. Knock out punch?
Third Set Completed:
1 Novak Djokovic leads 2 Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
0-15 to stop a string of 8 consecutive points lost. Nadal does everything right and still loses the point. 15-15. Confidence helps Nole during that last point. 30-15 forehand error from Nadal. Ace 40-15. Things are not looking good for Nadal at this point. 40-30. Deuce. Nadal digging in as he has to make a stand. Forehand error from Nadal – Ad Nole. Deuce after a big serve and bigger return leads to a Rafa point. Backhand error from Nadal – Ad Nole. Forehand error on a second serve.
Fourth Set Djokovic 1 – Nadal 0
15-15. 30-15 but Nole is controlling the rallies. Rafa is having to run a lot. 30-30 after both men trade backhand unforced errors. 40-30 service winner. Deuce after a big return. Nole is making Rafa earn every hold. Ad Nadal after an angled overhead. Ace to hold. Nadal sneering again for the first time since the 1st set.
Fourth Set Djokovic 1 – Nadal 1
15-0 after a forced error. Nole is making Rafa hit passing shots from well behind the baseline. Ace for 30-0. Ace 40-0. Nole is holding too easily. Service winner 2-1.
Fourth Set Djokovic 2 – Nadal 1
Forehand error from Djokovic 15-0. 15-15 after a defensive lob elicits a smash error from Nadal. Challenge failed and forehand error from Nole. 30-15. Service winner 40-15. Solid hold 2-2.
Fourth Set Djokovic 2 – Nadal 2
0-15 off of a nice forehand winner hit behind Nole. 15-15 off of a serve forehand 1-2 punch. 15-30 off of a big inside out forehand winner. The crowd trying to rally Rafa. 30-30 slice backhand into the net from Nadal. 40-30 service winner. Game Djokovic off of a Nadal forehand error.
Fourth Set Djokovic 3 – Nadal 2
The pressure is squarely on Nadal this game. A break of serve would put Nole close to the title despite better play from Rafa in the 4th set (as compared to Rafa in the 2nd and 3rd sets). 15-0 service winner down the T. 30-0 off of a return error – Nole challenges and shockingly it is on the line. 15-0. 30-0 off of a wide lob. Double fault 30-15. 30-30 after a heavy rally and backhand error from Nadal. Second serve as Nadal hit a serve very long. Tough rallying from Nadal for 40-30. Another long first serve. Great return and a better reply from Nadal 3-3.
Fourth Set Djokovic 3 – Nadal 3
0-15 off of an ill advised drop shot in a rally Novak was dominating. 15-15 after a service winner. 30-15 after a big serve and looping forehand pushed Nadal backwards. Service winner for 40-15. Second serve winner/big forehand miss from Nadal.
Fourth Set Djokovic 4 – Nadal 3
0-15 after a sick backhand winner from Nole. 0-30 after some magical defense from Nole. 0-40 off of a big return and a nasty forehand winner. Triple break point for Nole to possibly (likely?) serve it out. 2 Huge forehands keep Nadal alive 15-40. Service winner 30-40. Rafa wrong foots Nole and levels the game at deuce. Ace or not – challenge by Djokovic. Challenge failed - Ad Nadal. Service winner for 4-4 gutsy hold.
Fourth Set Djokovic 4 – Nadal 4
How does Novak respond to giving up 3 break points that would have led him to serving for the match? How does Novak respond to the roof/rain delay? We shall see, but the match went from looking like it was over to having a lot of life left in it. 10 minute delay ends. 15-0 as Rafa nets a forehand. 30-0 for Nole after some heavy ground strokes force an error from Nadal. Nadal misses a big swing on a return 40-0. Great defense from Nole and a forehand winner on the full stretch lead to a 5-4 lead. Held at love while missing 3 of 4 first serves. Confident hold.
Fourth Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 4
Nadal hits long on a point he was controlling 0-15. Second serve, but Nole guides a backhand long 15-15. Service winner 30-15. Nole’s unforced error is bad now as he could be 15-30. Backhand unforced error from the Serb 40-15. 2 huge forehands and it is 40-30. Nadal grits out the point, and it is 5-5.
Fourth Set Djokovic 5 – Nadal 5
15-0 after a service winner. Nole with a forehand error 15-15. Serve forehand 1-2 punch for Nole 30-15. Backhand error from Djokovic 30-30. Serve backhand 1-2 punch for 40-30. Tough rallying leads to a Nadal backhand error.
Fourth Set Djokovic 6 – Nadal 5
15-0 after a service winner. 30-0 after Djokovic elects not to go after the second serve and then makes a forehand error. 40-0 after Nadal digs out a few big shots, and Djokovic nets a forehand. Easy hold.
Fourth Set Tiebreak
Nole 1-0 service winner out wide. 1-1 after Rafa paints the line with a huge forehand. Nole made him hit an extra ball, but a big risk big reward for Nadal’s forehand. 2-1 Nadal as he controls the rally and ends it with a smash. 2-2 after a tough rally ends in a Nadal error. Close to a 3-1 lead, but the ball sailed. Nadal 3-2 with the first mini-break after a loose Djokovic forehand error. 3-3 after a forehand hits the tape and jumps out. 3-3 after Nadal misses a forehand wide after a net cord. 4-3 Djokovic now leads by a mini-break after trailing by a mini-break at 2-3. 5-3 Djokovic after a crushing forehand ends a rally Nole controlled. 5-4 after Nole dominates a rally but hits a forehand wide. 5-5 after Nole controls another point yet ends with an error. Service winner Nadal leads 6-5, set point to send this to a 5th set. Another error from Djokovic ends the set.
Fourth Set Complete 7-6 for Nadal:
1 Novak Djokovic is Tied with 2 Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5)
Djokovic has had many chances to win this match, and now it is tied. We shall see where the 5th set leads. Nasty winner from Nadal to get to 30-15. 40-15. Double fault for 40-30.
Fifth Set Nadal 1 – Djokovic 0
15-0 for Nole after a serve forehand combo. 40-0 after an ace from Nole. 40-15. Second serve from Nole, forehand error from Nadal.
Fifth Set Nadal 1 – Djokovic 1
40-0 after an odd first point had to be replayed. Routine hold for Nadal thus far. Game.
Fifth Set Nadal 2 – Djokovic 1
I am not sure what I think about players falling to their knees after winning a set, but I get it. 0-6 in 2011 and in trouble until winning that 4th set. Momentum is with Nadal at the moment. Nole looks a bit deflated. 0-15 off of an error. 15-15 off of a big forehand. Nole still looks deflated. 3rd service motion of this point – not great for one’s stamina. Error 30-30. Danger time for Djokovic. Nadal error for 40-30. Backhand error from Nadal.
Fifth Set Nadal 2 – Djokovic 2
15-0 after Nole loses a point he was controlling – recurring theme? 30-0 off of a weak looking missed return. Nole looks weary. Ace for 40-0. Another missed call? The line judges are not up to par tonight.
Fifth Set Nadal 3 – Djokovic 2
Nole looks weary and leery. 15-0 after Nadal makes a forehand error. 15-15 after a Djokovic error into the net. 30-15. 30-30 off of a Nole shot that sails long. 30-40 after Nole loses another point he controlled. Story of the match so far. Forehand error 4-2 Nadal.
Fifth Set Nadal 4 – Djokovic 2
15-0 Rafa forehand winner. Is Nole mentally done? We shall see. 15-15 off of a Novak return winner. He’s needed a few more of those since the middle of the 4th set. Service winner up the T 30-15. Did he miss it? Or were the lines people off yet again? 30-30 challenge failed. Maybe a crack for Nole to get his mojo back. Second serve. 30-40 after heavy hitting from Nole forces an error. Big miss at 30-15. Second serve as Nadal misses into the net. Nole breaks back.
Fifth Set Nadal 4 – Djokovic 3
Adrenaline miss from Nole 0-15. 15-15 after a tough rally and angle volley from Novak. 30-15 off of a missed return from a second serve. 40-15 despite missing 3 straight first serves. Holds for 4-4 in the 5th.
Fifth Set Nadal 4 – Djokovic 4
15-0 after a long rally. Ill advised attempt at a drop shot. 30-0. 30-15 after another challenge over turns a call. 30-30 after a Nadal forehand unforced error. Service winner up the T for 40-30. Second serve, forehand winner from Nole for deuce. Ad-Djokovic off of a backhand error from Nadal. Service winner out wide for deuce. Drop volley off of a reflex return for Ad Nadal. Second serve, missed return off of a soft serve almost a change up.
Fifth Set Nadal 5 – Djokovic 4
15-0 after a punishing rally ends with a Djokovic forehand winner. 30-0 and now Nadal looks a little leg weary. Nole has more stick on his shots at the moment. 40-0 as Rafa misses a return long. Second serve, double fault for 40-15. Second serve, forehand winner 5-5.
Fifth Set Nadal 5 – Djokovic 5
Forehand winner by Nadal for 15-0. These points are pretty impressive this deep into a match. Forehand error from Nadal 15-15. second serve, 15-30 backhand error from Nadal. 30-30 as Novak rushed a lob wide. 30-40 but Nadal saved the point 4 times prior to losing it. A backhand volley from no-man’s land to save it off of a nasty return. Second serve, deuce off of an off pace but effective second serve. Forehand error from Nadal; ad Djokovic. Backhand slice into the net. Nole leads 6-5 and will serve for the title.
Fifth Set Djokovic 6 – Nadal 5
An error and service winner have Nole at 30-0. Forehand error from Nole 30-15. Nadal saves the point 3 or 4 times, Nole muffs an overhead 30-30. 30-40 after Nadal digs deep again. Too much defense at this point for an easy point.*
1 Novak Djokovic wins 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5
* I should note I had to change a diaper during the final game of the match and could not comment on the final 3 points after 30-40 despite seeing them.
The New Queen
I knew that Victroia Azarenka was playing well, but I picked against her thinking that the moment of a first Grand Slam final would be overwhelming. I was wrong and saw a player with steely nerves. Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title and claimed the #1 ranking. Her game is ideally suited to clay and she performed well at Wimbledon in 2011 so the Belarusian will have chances to win another Grand Slam title in short order if she handles her new status well.
Not a One Slam Wonder
I mention a second slam for a reason. Azarenka seems to have a mindset that will fuel her pursuit of more big titles. I should mention that Petra Kvitova will also pursue these titles. It is premature to say that Sam Stosur will not win another slam, but players such as Jana Novatna and pre-retirement Kim Clijsters seemed to lose their competitive edge after winning a Grand Slam title. I think Azarenka and Kvitova are driven. For this reason, women’s tennis should be happy. Hopefully Stosur and Na Li are also similarly driven. Azarenka’s reaction of pure joy tells me she will want that type of big win in the future.
Taking The Ball Early
Victoria Azarenka won in large part by stealing time from Maria Sharapova. She hugged the baseline and hit balls standing inside of the baseline. This forced Sharapova’s scrambling abilities to be the terms upon which the more experienced player would either win or lose the match. Sharapova is not good at scrambling. Azarenka won 6-3, 6-0 claiming 12 of the final 13 games of the match.
I will add that Novak Djokovic’s ability to take the ball earlier than Nadal is why I think Nole wins his 3rd Australian Open title. The introduction of new string materials and stringing techniques seemed to end the Agassi led days of players slugging away from inside the baseline. It will be interesting if we see players whose techniques have adapted to the new strings begin to creep back into the court and play rallies in a manner akin to how Jimmy Connors played. Tennis is cyclical. Roger Federer does often hug the baseline or play inside the court, but his one handed backhand allows for him to be pushed back. Novak Djokovic is harder to push back, and therefore he can dictate points.
The New Top 4
A major plus for Victoria Azarenka is that she is #1 without any of the nagging questions that were thrown at Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki. Petra Kvitova is positioned at #2 and should make a push for #1 during the upcoming months. Maria Sharapova is deserving at #3 however two one-sided Grand Slam final losses in the past 52 weeks have to sting. Caroline Wozniacki is now #4 and may face less scrutiny as she aims toward a major title. In addition, Na Li, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur can all plausibly win a major in 2012. This depth is good for the WTA and ITF so long as Azarenka and Kvitova lead the charge. I am betting that this will occur and women’s tennis will transition into a new era.
Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Sharapova
I refuse to make any jokes about how noisy this match is likely to be. Azarenka has cleared a number of mental hurdles at this event. She played admirably well at the 2011 Year End Championships. Beating Kim Clijsters after being rolled in the second set speaks well of her mental fortitude. Having said that, I think Maria Sharapova wins this match in 2 sets. Sharapova has had health issues and this is a great chance for her to win another slam. Her serve may or may not hold up again. I suspect that Sharapova will harness her sense of urgency and win this title. Vika will win a Grand Slam in the next 18 months, but it won’t be this one. As a fan, I hope I am wrong as I always like to see players break through.
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal
I was asked earlier this week if Roger Federer should be favored over Rafael Nadal. I answered that I thought Federer had a great shot at advancing, but it is hard for me to see him as a favorite versus Nadal at this stage of things. I will have a longer write up of this unprecedented 3rd consecutive Grand Slam final featuring the same two competitors. However, my answer is basically the same for the final. I think Nadal has a great chance at winning especially considering that Djokovic expended a lot of energy versus Andy Murray. Still, I cannot say that Nadal is favored versus Djokovic until he beats him again in a big situation. I predict that Novak Djokovic will win his 3rd Australian Open title in 3 or 4 sets.
I thought I would share photos I took during Cincinnati 2009 of tonight’s main event contestants. These are not the greatest pictures, but hey they are free!
Men’s Picks (Winner’s Name in Bold)
1 Novak Djokovic vs. 5 David Ferrer – Djokovic should win, but Ferrer is going to be tougher than Hewitt was. My guess is Nole raises his game and wins in 3 or 4 sets.
4 Andy Murray vs. 24 Kei Nishikori – I think Murray calmly makes another slam semifinal. Nishikori pulled a great upset over Tsonga, but Murray looks pretty solid to me. I pick Murray in 3 sets.
11 Juan Martin del Potro vs. 3 Roger Federer – This is the hardest match to predict. Federer benefits from the day time heat. I think that may be the difference. Delpo has played quite well since a sluggish first round. A win here would signal that Delpo is indeed fully back in the hunt. I originally picked Federer for the final four so I am sticking with that, but JMDP winning would not be even a small surprise. My pick is Federer in four.
7 Tomas Berdych vs. 2 Rafael Nadal – This could have been a close match. However, I think Berdych failing to shake Nicolas Almagro’s hand will make Spanish pride a factor. I think that unless Nadal pulls up injured he beats Berdych in 3 sets.
Women’s Picks (Winners in Bold)
1 Caroline Wozniacki vs. 11 Kim Clijsters – Clijsters’ ankle is a question mark, but I think this being her final Aussie Open will help Kim dig deep and dispatch the world #1 in 2 tough sets.
3 Victoria Azarenka vs. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska – Azarenka certainly could lose this match, but it will be decided on her terms. If she makes her shots, she wins. If she sprays too many errors, Radwanska wins. I think Azarenka is close to breaking through so I pick her in 2 sets.
Ekaterina Makarova vs. 4 Maria Sharapova – Makarova pulled a great upset, but Sharapova wins here pretty easily. Maria wants to get back into the winner’s circle.
Sara Errani vs. 2 Petra Kvitova – Kvitova will set up a Wimbledon rematch with Sharapova. I pick Kvitova in 2 sets.
As much as I love the early rounds of Grand Slams, the matches that lay ahead of us all look to be of a high quality. Grand Slam events are set up a lot like the NCAA college basketball tournament. Rather than wait for a sweet 16 in March, we have one in January. I was 5-2 with my picks yesterday so I decided to take a crack at the next 8 matches.
Men’s Picks (My projected winners in bold)
1 Novak Djokovic vs. Lleyton Hewitt – I expect Novak to win in 3 sets, but Lleyton could make this close. After 5 surgeries in 4 years, Hewitt deserves a ton of credit for getting back to a Grand Slam round of 16.
17 Richard Gasquet vs. 5 David Ferrer – I am tempted to pick Gasquet as he has weapons and flare. I thought Janko Tipsarevic would beat him, but I think Ferrer is unlikely to no show like Tipsarevic was and on a slower court I think Ferrer wins in a close match.
4 Andy Murray vs. Mikhail Kukushkin – Prior to hiring Ivan Lendl this might have been an upset special. Kukushkin is a solid player who won’t beat himself, but Murray in 3 or 4 is my call.
24 Kei Nishikori vs. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – I’d love to pick Nishikori here as he has a great game, but Tsonga since Queen’s Club 2011 has been close to cracking into the elite ranks of the sport. Tsonga winning Qatar in addition to being runner-up at the Word Tour Finals makes me pick Tsonga in 4.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. 11 Juan Martin del Potro – Delpo is my second favorite player as a fan, but I don’t see Juan Martin del Potro playing quite at the level he needs to. Kohlschreiber has a great deal of variety in his game abd can keep the ball low. That will be enough to win a close match.
Bernard Tomic vs. 3 Roger Federer – I think Tomic actually has a 30-35% chance to win this match. His game is subtle. If he can keep Roger off balance enough and get some good Aussie vibes going, Tomic has a chance. Still, Roger Federer should win in 3 or 4 sets.
7 Tomas Berdych vs. 10 Nicolas Almagro – This is a huge opportunity for both players. Berdych had a breakout year in 2010, and played well everywhere except for the Grand Slams in 2011. He has been solid to this point in the event and might present Nadal a tough quarterfinal opponent.
18 Feliciano Lopez vs. 2 Rafael Nadal – Nadal wins easily. I just can’t see Lopez getting enough quality returns in play to break Nadal. Rafa will beat up his backhand. Lopez will have to serve huge to make this interesting. I just can’t see that happening for more than 1 set.
My Women’s Picks Will Be Coming Up Once the Quarterfinal Round Occurs – I do pick Kim Clijsters to beat Na Li again.