The early rounds of Grand Slam play tend to be a lot of sparring and feeling out from the perspective of an avid fan. Top players typically advance, but form and attitude are things to gauge. Day 2 Down Under showed that Novak Djokovic looks healthy. Given how well this surface meshes with his game, a 3rd title seems quite plausible. Milos Raonic made short work of his first match. Quick matches and free points make me think Raonic could be there to challenge Djokovic in the round of 16. Juan Carlos Ferrero looked poised to pull an upset until the tide turned. These were all stories a fan could absorb on day 2.
A Tale of Two Losses
Sam Stosur’s 2011 US Open victory made me think she could be a multi-slam winner. Stosur has a big serve and a strong forehand. Her biggest weakness has been her mental game. A breakthrough win might have helped her to play without pressure and pile up even more results. The jury is still out on that possibility. A lot of players throw in a dud after winning a first Grand Slam title. Still, to lose early on her home turf is not a good sign. Stosur can play quite well on clay (see Paris 2010), but I think a poor French Open likely points toward a one slam career. In the current climate of women’s tennis, there is no reason she has to settle for one major, but I sadly think that is where this story is headed.
Ryan Harrison pushed Andy Murray hard for 3 sets. Harrison played well in fending off multiple break points. He showed good instincts on the court. He put some fear into Murray’s twitter fans. The 4th set was not as close, but in Harrison I think the US has a player who will at least be in the top 20 for multiple years. Harrison’s loss is a moral victory and a positive sign for his career. He may not have pulled out come from behind 5 set wins like Dologopolov and Tomic did. He did not mow down an opponent like Raonic did. However, none of those guys played Murray in the first round. If Ryan can work on channeling some of his negative energy on court, he could have a great hard court season in 2012.
France Moves Forward
France places a lot of players in the top 50. French players seem to be well adapted to all surfaces. Still, France has not had as much Grand Slam success as one might expect. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has played great tennis ever since the grass court season of 2011. Gael Monfils. Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet all joined Tsonga with first round victories. This surface should benefit Simon. Monfils overly defensive style also won’t be harmed by a slower hard court. Outside of Tsonga, I don’t see France producing a credible threat for the final, but I could see several French players in the second week.
Roddick x Hewitt
Godzilla movies started using X instead of versus for movie titles featuring Japan’s radioactive monster taking on some other behemoth. This will likely be one of if not the last Grand Slam battle between Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. Their 2001 US Open battle was memorable for both the tight score line and the bile that was left on the court. Hewitt upended Roddick in the 2005 Australian Open semifinal round. That match also got nasty. At Wimbledon 2009, Hewitt bristled at Roddick’s suggestion that they were two old married guys. Hewitt lost in 5 sets and then discounted Roddick’s chances vs. Andy Murray in the semifinal round. This one should be a treat for long time tennis fans. My head says Roddick in 3 or 4, but I think Rusty will bring something special and this may go 5. The winner will likely face Raonic’s Godzilla-like power game in the round of 32.