Predicted winners in BOLD
Predicted Winners in BOLD
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Fernando Verdasco - My first upset pick for May 9th’s slate of matches. Tsonga nearly beat Nole at Roland Garros last year and pushed Rafa in Monte Carlo this year. Still, clay favors Verdasco who needs a signature win.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Grigor Dimitrov - This match is worth the price of admission. Wawrinka just won a tournament beating #4 David Ferrer in the final. Dimitrov took a set off of Rafa at Monte Carlo and beat Djokovic in Madrid. I think Wawrinka’s momentum helps him hold off Dimitrov, but the youngster is making waves.
Predicted Winner in BOLD
STADIUM 1 Start 11:00 am
 Mardy Fish (USA) v [Q] Bobby Reynolds (USA)
 Andy Murray (GBR) v Evgeny Donskoy (RUS)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Fabio Fognini (ITA) – This should be entertaining, but Nole should also roll.
[WC] James Blake (USA) v  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) - An upset is possible here, but only if Tsonga is off of his game.
STADIUM 2 Start 11:00 am
 Marin Cilic (CRO) v Albert Ramos (ESP) – Cilic has made a nice return to the top 20 after his promising 2009 and early 2010. Ramos is capable of the upset though as Cilic can throw in a bad match from time to time.
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) v  Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) – The 2009 World Tour Final championship match revisited. JMDP should advance.
 Sam Querrey (USA) v [Q] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) – Expect tie-breaks to be played
STADIUM 3 Start 11:00 am
Marinko Matosevic (AUS) v  Juan Monaco (ARG) - Monaco has had a quiet 2013.
 Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP) – After his Australian Open collapse, it is possible that Almagro is going to struggle.
[Q] Philipp Petzschner (GER) v  Kei Nishikori (JPN) – My first upset pick.
COURT 7 Start 11:00 am
 Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) v Carlos Berlocq (ARG) – Berlocq is match tough after the Latin American swing of the tour.
Pablo Andujar (ESP) v  Tommy Haas (GER) – A 50-50 match in my mind. Haas gets the nod due to the surface, but the old man of the tour should not take Andujar lightly.
[Q] Matthew Ebden (AUS) v  Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) – Is he due for a breakthrough or not?
COURT 8 Start 11:00 am
 Jeremy Chardy (FRA) v Bjorn Phau (GER) – Chardy should beat the diminutive veteran.
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) v  Martin Klizan (SVK)
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.
6 Quick Hits
- Petra Kvitova lost a set and Chris Evert stated that she is not yet fully fit and will likely not win this Australian Open. This is something to follow.
- Novak Djokovic looks solid, and a showdown with Milos Raonic seems like a great round of 16 match.
- Kei Nishikori could surprise people in Melbourne despite needing 5 sets to reach the 3rd round.
- David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic are going to be hard outs in the draw.
- Nicolas Mahut has little chance vs. Djokovic, but his 3rd round entrance helps him not solely be remembered as an answer to a trivia question.
- Maria Sharapova is destroying people, but I am still skeptical about her second serve.
Ivan Lendl – Game Changer
Ivan Lendl’s tenure as Andy Murray’s coach is either going to be really successful or really short. Lendl is not going to put up with Murray’s traditional barbs toward his coach/family during matches. Lendl is still an intimidating figure. Some critics of Roger Federer complain about Federer giving off an imperious vibe. Lendl has that vibe too, but it is far less genial than Federer’s. I like seeing Lendl back, and I think projecting an imperious persona is not bad for Federer or Lendl. Lendl however seems menacing in a way that
will should help Murray. If Murray is smart enough, he can learn by osmosis. Lendl struggled to break through at the Grand Slams, but once he did at the French Open in 1984, 1985-1987 were displays of dominance. Aside from imitating Lendl’s demeanor, Lendl’s toughness may also make Murray fear him more than the expectations of Great Britain or than Nadal’s resolve. That too can only help Murray.
Roddick 7 – Hewitt 7
After 14 matches, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt are knotted up at 7-7. This match was a lot like their French Open match in 2001 in which Roddick also had to retire due to an injury. It would have been great to see another contentious 5 set grudge match a la Wimbledon 2009, but unfortunately injury struck. I feel for Roddick who put in a lot of road work during the late portions of 2011. Lleyton Hewitt, who has undergone 5 surgeries in 4 years, has to feel good about being in the round of 32 at a Grand Slam again. I doubt that we get to see too many more clashes between these two, but this would be an unsatisfying ending to their rivalry so I hope for at least one more match in a big event.
Roddick has a lot to look forward to in 2012 with the Olympics being on grass. Still, this injury and loss have to be crushing. Where do things head from here? If I were Roddick, I might skip the clay court season and just focus on being optimally prepared for Wimbledon, the Olympic games and the US Open. I am not sure where his career will go after 2012. I doubt he will retire at the end of the year, but injuries and a declining ranking put him in a tight spot.
For Hewitt, he got a lot of love from the Australian crowd. Last year, he lost in 5 sets to another contentious rival in David Nalbandian (Rusty has more than a few rivals on tour I guess). After the loss to Nalbandian, Darren Cahill speculated that 2011 was likely Hewitt’s final Australian Open. Here he is in 2012 with a giant challenge in front of him in Milos Raonic. I think Raonic is likely to win the match, but the young Canadian had best be careful not to let Hewitt push the match to a place where the crowd and experience become factors. Lleyton Hewitt could beat Raonic. If he does, his reward is likely to be world #1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic. Win or lose, I have to admire Hewitt’s desire to fight and compete. He’s got at least one or two main event fights on his hands, and that is just how Lleyton wants it.
Roger Federer d. Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-3
All is Bonus
Roger Federer, as I said elsewhere, could rub two rackets together in an attempt to start a fire as a bit of performance art and be defaulted on time violations at every event he enters until he retires and still be considered one of the best to ever play the game. Is he the best ever? That is a topic for another column, but I do think a strong case can be made that he is the most consistent player of all time. The point is that Roger has a lot of freedom in his final years on tour. Whatever he does is just adding to an already stellar resume.
Living and Dying with Their Favorite Player
Having said that a lot of tweets bemoaned Roger’s low conversion rate on break points in the second set and feared the break point Roger Faced at 6-1, 5-3. Fans will always do this with their favored player, but I think Roger’s fans need to realize that the 30 year old Swiss is still #4 in the world rankings and quite capable of playing top level tennis for the foreseeable future. Appreciating his final 2-5 years on tour (a total guess), is probably better than fretting. Besides he had a right to tighten up in the final game, winning in his hometown has to mean something to him. Happy 68th title to Federer.