Aussie Open Previews
by Abe Kuijl | January 13th, 2008, 6:51 pm
  • 25 Comments

I have always been a fan of Rebound Ace. In my mind, the surface seemed to offer more classic, hard-fought battles than any other Grand Slam, year in, year out. But, it was also a unique playing ground, a kind only to be found in Australia, which not in the least bit added to the charm of the Open. Now, with the replacement of the courts by a US-made plexicushion surface, the event lost a bit of its identity along with it. The uniqueness of each Grand Slam with its own surface has vanished. Hard courts now rule the majors, like they have ruled the pro tours for years already.

But the question we’re all asking ourselves is, will the tours’ rulers stand tall over the next two weeks? It’s time for the draw analysis.

MEN’S PREVIEW

First Quarter

If you’re wondering if a lack of match practice could hurt Roger Federer’s chances in this tournament, just think back to Wimbledon last year, when there was such a big fuss going about when Fed decided to skip his yearly warm-up event in Halle and head straight from the Parisian clay to his sacred ground in London. A similar road lies ahead.

Federer will start his 2008 season against Argentine Diego Hartfield. He’ll face a tricky opponent in the second round in either Fabrice “the Magician” Santoro, or the tower of power, John Isner. They’re no serious threats though. That could come in the quarters, where a rematch with last year’s finalist Fernando Gonzalez looms. The Chilean was of course the last player to beat Fed, during the Masters Cup. That’s two reasons to look forward to that one. Still, Federer’s loss to Gonzalez in Shanghai was probably just a one-off.

Semifinalist: Roger Federer

Second Quarter

Here we have the fun quarter of the draw. Novak Djokovic is the player to beat as the No. 3 seed, but his path to the semis is hardly a gimme. Djokovic’ section offers the Dazzling Davids (Ferrer & Nalbandian), Marcos Baghdatis, Lleyton Hewitt, Sydney champ Dmitry Tursunov, Juan Carlos Ferrero and the streaky Marat Safin, Radek Stepanek and Xavier Malisse. And there’s US Open breakthrough performer Ernests Gulbis as well. If Nalbandian is ready to play, he and Ferrer will be the two biggest threats to Djokovic out of that bunch. Luckily for the Serb, he’ll just get to face one of them in the fourth round.

Semifinalist: Novak Djokovic

Third Quarter

How fit is Andy Murray? Judging from his gasping in the Doha final against Stan Wawrinka, there’s still work to be done. I think Murray will outsmart Richard Gasquet over the long haul in the fourth round, and he seems to be a few levels above Davydenko mentally, to beat the Russian in the quarters. Should he face Youzhny for a spot in the semis, the Scot will be in bigger trouble.

Semifinalist: Andy Murray

Fourth Quarter

Rafael Nadal has definitely not been playing well after losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final, his confidence being further hammered by a crushing 6-0 6-1 loss to Youzhny last week in Chennai. However, the draw has been kind to Rafa, who really shouldn’t be troubled before the quarters. There, he’ll most likely face Andy Roddick, who for once hasn’t been drawn in Federer’s half.

It’s true that Roddick can blow Nadal off the court with his serves, but if the Spaniard gets the ball back in play, his game matches up perfectly with A-Rod’s. Roddick doesn’t hit his groundies as flat, or with as much pace as a Youzhny, Berdych, or Blake, players who cause Nadal a lot of problems. Roddick’s only option is to take the balls early and move into the net. He won’t hit winners off the baseline consistenly. Then again, by coming forward, he gives Nadal a target at the net, and one can’t argue with Rafa’s skill in hitting passing shots. So, even though Nadal may be slumping, he’ll be favored to reach the last four.

Semifinalist: Rafael Nadal

Closing stages

Djokovic came close to beating Federer in the US Open final, even though it went 0-3. He won’t be straight-setted by the Swiss here, but winning more than two sets will still be too much for Nole.

In the other semi, I don’t believe Murray will have enough gas left in the tank to outplay Nadal in a best-of-five match under gruelling conditions. Rafa may have to come from behind here, but he’ll prevail. In the final though, his recent lack of confidence should show against Federer, and we’ll be able to add major number 13 to the Swiss’ résumé.

Champion: Roger Federer

WOMEN’S PREVIEW

First Quarter

Was anyone still surprised when the draw came out? Justine Henin again faces competition from Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams in her half. This time though, the Belgian is not scheduled to face either one of them until the semifinals. There are some tough hurdles to clear first though for Henin, starting with Tatiana Golovin in the fourth round. Henin encountered the Frenchwoman in two indoor finals near the end of 2007, losing one set in Stuttgart. Henin was a little shaky in Sydney last week, losing sets to Ivanovic and Kuznetsova. Against Kuzy in the final, she was down 0-3 and faced break point to go down a double break. Henin was struggling with her serve, hitting about 20 double faults combined in her last two matches.

In the quarters, she’ll face a major bump in the road in Maria Sharapova. The Russian came very close to upsetting Henin in the appraised final of the Madrid Championships last season, and that was without any match practice under her belt, and not much more training either. Sharapova seems to have left her shoulder problems behind her and that means she’ll be a legitimate contender again at any Slam other than the French.

Semifinalist: Maria Sharapova

Second Quarter

Serena Williams beat Jelena Jankovic en route to the championship last year, and they’re scheduled for a rematch in the quarters. Jankovic has been fading ever since Wimbledon, though she almost beat Venus Williams to reach the US Open semis, and is yet the only player to have beaten Lindsay Davenport after her comeback. Jankovic will be favored to reach the quarters, but in this section of the draw, Serena has the edge.

Semifinalist: Serena Williams

Third Quarter

It will take at least one major upset to prevent a quarterfinal showdown between Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic. Venus has to fend off either Marion Bartoli or the resurgent Na Li in the fourth round, while Ivanovic’ toughest opponent looks to be the struggling Dinara Safina. Ivanovic is very likely a future Slam champion, but she still has to grow up some more mentally to beat the elite players.

Semifinalist: Venus Williams

Fourth Quarter

Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze are the highest seeds in the bottom quarter of the draw, but it probably won’t come down to another semifinal clash between the two Russians, like at the US Open. I’m not sure anyone would mind about that.

We all know about the tragic incident involving Chakvetadze over the off-season, who wasn’t going through the best times of her tennis career either. Yes, she reached the semis at the Championships in Madrid, but after her complete meltdown to Kuznetsova in New York, Chakvetadze’s results went downhill. Although Anna C. is a big fighter, she’s very fragile mentally and needs to win consistently to build up confidence. She was routed by Katarina Srebotnik in the first round in Sydney last week and thus heads into the Aussie Open winless. The world No. 6 might not make it into the second week.

Agnes Szavay and Agnieszka Radwanska pose some threat to Kuznetsova, and Daniela Hantuchova might trouble her in the quarters, but the Sydney finalist is looking in solid shape to advance out of this section.

Semifinalist: Svetlana Kuznetsova

Closing stages

Serena Williams will be glad to see Sharapova has done all the hard work for her in taking out Henin. Against Sharapova, in Melbourne, you’ve got to like the defending champion to think back to what happened in ’07 and pull through. In the other semi, I’ll take Venus over Kuzy on a hard court any day of the week. I’ll pick V over her sister as well.

Champion: Venus Williams


Also Check Out:
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Federer v Nadal in Doha; Brisbane, Chennai, ATP Previews
Kvitova Wins, Woz New Coach, 2 Upsets, Friday Previews at Roland Garros
Murray Outlasts Federer in 5, vs Djokovic in Aussie Open Final
Dementieva on Top at Kuala Lumpur; WTA Previews

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25 Comments for Aussie Open Previews

JCF Says:

“I have always been a fan of Rebound Ace. In my mind, the surface seemed to offer more classic, hard-fought battles than any other Grand Slam, year in, year out. But, it was also a unique playing ground, a kind only to be found in Australia, which not in the least bit added to the charm of the Open. Now, with the replacement of the courts by a US-made plexicushion surface, the event lost a bit of its identity along with it. The uniqueness of each Grand Slam with its own surface has vanished. Hard courts now rule the majors, like they have ruled the pro tours for years already.”

I agree 100% with this paragraph. The AO lost their credibility when Craig Tiley replaced Paul McNamee as tournament director, and then caved in to Hewitt’s demands. McNamee would never have sold out. He staunchly defended himself every time Hewitt demanded the surface be changed. I liked Rebound Ace for the fact that it was unique to the Australian portion of the season. So now it most certainly has lost some identity. It may as well be US Open Jr.

There has been talk about it moving to Asia or the middle east. Being a Melbourne resident myself, it had always been a very important event for me, but now I’m not going to miss it if we lose the event. Go for it Asia.

“If you’re wondering if a lack of match practice could hurt Roger Federer’s chances in this tournament, just think back to Wimbledon last year, when there was such a big fuss going about when Fed decided to skip his yearly warm-up event in Halle and head straight from the Parisian clay to his sacred ground in London. A similar road lies ahead. ”

I think the concern isn’t so much his lack of match practice, but more whatever ailed him enough to pull out of Kooyong. Has he recovered from it?

I don’t think Nadal will make the finals by the way. I like him and want him to, but I think he will either be beaten by Roddick or get upset even sooner than that. Plus he is suffering from some other niggle picked up in India.

I hope Nalbandian is able to play his best. If he’s not hampered by the problem from last week, I think he could beat Djokovic and maybe even Federer.

It’s a bit disconcerting that there’s been this many injuries that soon into the 08 season… Just look at all the pullouts from Kooyong, which is actually a star studded field.

As for the women, who are you kidding? Henin will lose to Sharapova? Fair enough for backing your russian, but you normally provide reasons for picking your winners, and you seem to have completely left out your reasoning. You’re not backing up your pick in Qrtr 1. Yes she’s had match practice now, but she simply isn’t as talented as Henin. She can still win, but it would be a stretch to call her a favourite against Henin. My money is on Davenport beating Sharapova in round 2, which you somehow neglected to mention.

And I thought you got over your Williams cheerleading already since Henin beat Serena 3 times last year, and Venus as well at the US Open? I guess you’re going back to the Williams-is-invincible phase again. Shame. I’m going to go with Henin beating Kuznetsova in the final. If she has to play both Williams, she will beat them both.

Your article needs some serious copy editing by the way. You’ve repeated many paragraphs.


Von Says:

“I agree 100% with this paragraph”

It’s true that the rebound ace gave the AO authentication. And, I feel that every grand slam should have it’s own authenticity. However, was it not very uncomfortable for the players’ feet. However, it was a lot faster than the plexicushion is, which is going to cause the ace servers a problem, e.g., slowing down the ball. It could probably make a drop shot difficult to return, the ball will just die.

“There has been talk about it moving to Asia or the middle east.”

I would like it to remain in Australia. Melbourne is such a nifty City. There is harmony and ebulliency in the Aussie fans, which makes the AO even more authentic. I hope the AO remains the AO.

“I think the concern isn’t so much his lack of match practice, but more whatever ailed him enough to pull out of Kooyong. Has he recovered from it?”

His recovery is questionable. Viruses, especially a stomach virus, have a way of lingering. It returns to haunt you, and, stomach virues can leave you extremely depleted, electrolytes, etc. It takes about a month to finally feel 100%. So the question would be, does Fed feel 100% or shaky. We’ll have a better estimation after his first round. He plays an easy opponent.

“I don’t think Nadal will make the finals by the way.”

That’s my feeling. He was exhausted in Chennai. His game is bult on physicality and movement. I do not believe he is the same as he was in ’07 up to Wimbledon. This year it’s a different, less physical Rafa, which comes down to his longevity in the AO. If Roddick gets to the quarters I think his chances are good of beating Rafa, unless Rafa is rejuvenated and starts running all over the court.

“I hope Nalbandian is able to play his best. If he’s not hampered by the problem from last week…”

I am interested to see how Nalbandian would play. If his back does not act up he could take out Djokovic and Federer. At this point it’s pure conjecture. We’ll have to see how he plays in his first round. Djokovic does not fair very well in the heat,coupled with his many injuries, I’ll be surprised if he advances past the quarters. He struggled in the Hopman Cup, which was just an exhibition. Two injury timeouts just playing 3 setters.

“She can still win, but it would be a stretch to call her a favourite against Henin. My money is on Davenport beating Sharapova in round 2, which you somehow neglected to mention.”

I can’t foresee Sharapova taking out Henin. Sharapova, at the ’07 AO, looked like a wilted flower, she frequently retreated to the shaded spot behind the court for some respite from the heat. Even though the writer hssn’t made mention of Davenport, I believe Davenport is a force to be reckoned with and in view of her successful comeback, I have to go with Davenport beating Sharapova.

I don’t see Kuznetsova making it to the final, but even if she does, I’ll say Henin will win. Henin beat Kuznetsova at the Medibank tournament. I’ll say it will be a repeat performance. However, Henin had problems with her serve, 9 double faults. That could place her game in jeopardy. I daresay, she’ll be practicing this weekend on her serve.

In summary, only time will tell. We’ll have to wait and see how the tournament unfolds.


jane Says:

Davenport is through but she had those foot problems in her first match; it’ll be fun to see her and Sharapova play though, should that match up happen, which it should.

Murray loses two sets and now he’s up 5 love in the third! Who knows what’s going to happen in round one. This is why I love early rounds.

And what’s with Jankovic? She looked thin and pasty today, even though she battled through.

These players NEED a longer off season.


jane Says:

Von,

Nice to see Andy Roddick through easily, even if he was a bit scratchy in that match.


Von Says:

Janey Girl:

I thought we lost you. I was thinking of putting out an APB on you. I’ve kept busy discussing tennis with Skorocel. Now, we can discuss the first round.

Huge upset – Murray went down in 4 sets to Tsonga. Brad Gilbert must be gloating.

Davenport will become stronger as the tournament goes on. She had a little hiccup but she came back roaring. Her shoe seemed uncomfortable.

Andy, had a little scratchy 3rd set, but he got through it. He always gets nervous in his first match ever since he lost in ’05 to Giles Muller at the USO in the first round. It caused him to lose American Express as a sponsor, and he tries to be very careful = becoming tight. I saw Jimmy in Andy’s box. I suppose he has decided to stay. Andy seems to have made some progress with his backhand and net play.

Now what are we to make of Murray’s loss. I am stunned. Tsonga gave Roddick some problems in Roddick’s first match last year at the AO. He’s a big server, has lost some weight and just won a doubles tournament with Gasquet. What a crushing blow for Murray.

Jankovic suffered an injury to her hamstring. It happened at the Hopman Cup. It was funny to see Jankovic and Djokovic in doubles on court. She had a tush problem and he had previously developed a back problem, and in the doubles match he had an injury timeout for his shoulder. I want to see him in his first round match. We’ll have a better indication of what’s up with him. Two (2) innjury timeouts?

I don’t think for both of them that they need a longer off season. They need to cut down on the amount of matches they play. They played too many matches last year. They just refuse to rest. After Hopman Cup she played Medibank and lost. They want too much too soon, and that has a price.


JCF Says:

“I don’t see Kuznetsova making it to the final, but even if she does, I’ll say Henin will win. Henin beat Kuznetsova at the Medibank tournament. I’ll say it will be a repeat performance. However, Henin had problems with her serve, 9 double faults. That could place her game in jeopardy. I daresay, she’ll be practicing this weekend on her serve.”

Make no mistake. I don’t think Kuznetsova has a chance at winning any big titles, but she does make a lot of finals only to lose to players like Henin. She’s a perennial finalist you could say. The sad things is that in a lot of her matches against people like Henin, she actually had it in the bag, but then choked it away. Or Henin just made a remarkable comeback. The same happened at Medibank. She was up 3-0 with break points for 4-0 in the 3rd set. And then you just have to look at her French Open records… it has choker written all over her. But she’s still very good at making the latter rounds of big tournaments. Just not winning them.


JCF Says:

“I don’t think for both of them that they need a longer off season. They need to cut down on the amount of matches they play. They played too many matches last year. They just refuse to rest. After Hopman Cup she played Medibank and lost. They want too much too soon, and that has a price.”

The only players that can handle that are Davydenko and Dementieva.


jane Says:

“They need to cut down on the amount of matches they play. They played too many matches last year.”

Yeah, this is no doubt true for a number of the players. They’re learning the hard way. I am looking forward to seeing how the Djoker looks on court today.

“Huge upset – Murray went down in 4 sets to Tsonga. Brad Gilbert must be gloating.”

No doubt Glibert is gloating, haha. But seriously – I know it’s an upset and all, but it’s not totally surprising. Tsonga is a streaky player and he had some wicked serves and groundstrokes going on – he rushed the net a lot too. Murray could’ve done more to neutralize him in those first two sets, but there’s no doubt Tsonga played a great match. We’ll see how Murray fares after that loss; it must’ve hurt, but he seems fairly philosophical about it in his post-match interview.

“The only players that can handle that are Davydenko and Dementieva.”

I didn’t see either of their matched; does Dementieva have a serve yet?


rogers twin sister Says:

The Medibank final between Henin and Kuzzy was incredible with each of them battling it out like warriors. I was pleased to see Kuzzy rising to the occasion. As for Sharapova beating Hening, I recall a similar battle at the YEC with Henin prevailing. I also recall the same epic battle with Jankovic last year where Henin won.

The media (and several tennis fans) just love raising the bar for Henin, and each time, she’s succeeded, they raise it again. ESPN couldn’t (or wouldn’t, as usual) show her match last night beyond a few minutes. Let’s give this woman some credit for her fantastic record and athleticism.

I’m wishing and praying that Mauresmo stays well enough to make a comeback. I love watching her play and would love to see another match between Mauresmo and Davenport…poetry (and power) in motion.


rogers twin sister Says:

Henin…typo


Von Says:

JCF: “The only players that can handle that are Davydenko and Demetieva.”

I don’t think that even Davydenko can handle that schedule anymores. From October to December, Davy looked ike he was all ready to stretch out. He bombed out of Paris and the TMC. He developed shoulder/elbow problems. These athletes are human-beings, not thoroughbreds. Even horses are rested and fed the best diet. By the time Djok and Jankovic gets to age 25, it’ll be lights out (unless they wise up).

rogers twin sister: “ESPN couldn’t (or wouldn’t, as usual) show her match last night beyond a few minutes.”

I am yet to figure out ESPN’s method to their madness. They are supposed to dedicate more time to the top seeds and the players of the particular country that the broadcast is feeding into. During Roddick’s match they switched back and forth to the Davenport and Murray matches. In total Rodick’s match was allowed approx. 40 minutes total.

However,for the Moya/Koubeck (two lower ranked athletes) the show time was about two hours, same for Rafa’s match, but he is the No. 2 seed. Anyway, I am not a fan of the ESPN commentators. They should add a gossip column to their TV broadcasting.


Von Says:

JCF: Typos – anymores s/b anymore; ike s/b like


JCF Says:

“I didn’t see either of their matched; does Dementieva have a serve yet?”

No. I don’t think she ever will either. She’s good for making the 4th or Quarters, and an upset every now and then, but sadly lacks the tools to take home the hardware.


JCF Says:

“I don’t think that even Davydenko can handle that schedule anymores. ”

Might have had something to do with the off court stuff, like the match fixing allegations wearing him down. For a while he was playing like crap and tanking.


rogers twin sister Says:

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Davydenko in the AO Final.


jane Says:

rogers twin sister,

you serious? what makes you pick him for a final?? he hasn’t typically shown that form (semis at best), he’s not been in his best form of late, and he claimed exhaustion from the heat at Kooyong & from practice. i’d certainly be surprised anyhow. betting scandal aside, he is under the radar (press isn’t talking about him as a contender) so he has that going for him (less pressure perhaps) i suppose.


SG Says:

I say put the AO back on grass. If nothing else, it’s a tribute to the great S&V Aussies of the past. Grass, to me at least, represents the hey day of Australian tennis. I think Tennis Australia was so enamored with disassociating itself from its British colonizers that it may have torn up the grass courts more out of spite than out of common sense. In the process of ripping up those grass courts, they’ve kind of separated themselves from their past. Sad. Very sad. Tennis was a grasscourt game before it was anything else. Now, we only have a couple of grasscourt tournaments a year. And grasscourt tennis really promotes guile and shotmaking. Where would Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and even Roger Federer be without Wimbledon? Somehow, it’s no surprise to me that the all-time great shone brighter on grass than anywhere else. I say, bring on the turf and turf and tarmack!


SG Says:

I say, bring on the turf and turf the tarmack!


jane Says:

I agree that it’d be nice to see more grasscourt tournaments, but it’s been a while since Australia’s been a hardcourt event, so I can’t see it happening. But maybe the lead up between the French and Wimbledon should be extended with a few more ATP grass events. Then the indoor carpet season could be a bit shorter since the year begins and ends on hard. It would evolve some different players, that’s for sure.


Von Says:

SG:

“I say put the AO back on grass. If nothing else, it’s a tribute to the great S&V Aussies of the past. Grass, to me at least, represents the hey day of Australian tennis….”

The roots of tennis began on grass. The British refers to it as “Lawn Tennis”, played on a lawn and lawns are covered with grass. Up to the prsent time, the British tennis association is properly referred to as “The Lawn Tennis Association,” and that’s the reason Wimbledon still has grass. The British are steeped in tradition, and very proud of it.

“I think Tennis Australia was so enamored with disassociating itself from its British colonizers that it may have torn up the grass courts more out of spite than out of common sense.”

Absolutely. They even changed their national anthem from “God Save The Queen/King” to “Waltzing Matilda.” However, their speech still has that British inflection and possibly some intonation.


rogers twin sister Says:

“Advance Australia Fair” is the national anthem, NOT “Waltzing Matilda.” LOL…the very thought of it…


Von Says:

Waltzing Matilda was at one time their national anthem.


rogers twin sister Says:

OMG you are persistent in your ignorance! “Waltzing Matilda” was NEVER the Aussie National Anthem. ENOUGH!


SG Says:

I’ll say this…if Sampras and Fed played in 2 Slams a year on grass, there’s no telling how many majors they could have and can compile!


SG Says:

Anyway, there’s just nothing in tennis that is comparable to watching those first few days at Wimbledon. The beautiful,lush, green courts. It just makes you wanna run out and hit! So what if it’s a little decadent. The place just looks amazing!

Australia gave up a piece of itself when it turned its back on its own past! Laver, Rosewall, Newcombe, Emerson, Rafter, Cash. All these giys grew up playing on grass. And grass helped them build these really flashy and flamboyant games. The British, having never really produced the kinds of tennis champions the Aussies did, stayed true to their major championship. With this historic success of the Aussies, I can’t see why they didn’t do the same.

Top story: Serena Williams And Simona Halep Clash For The WTA Finals Title
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Rankings
ATP - Oct 20 WTA - Oct 20
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
3 Rafael Nadal3 Simona Halep
4 Stan Wawrinka4 Petra Kvitova
5 David Ferrer5 Na Li
6 Tomas Berdych6 Agnieszka Radwanska
7 Kei Nishikori7 Eugenie Bouchard
8 Marin Cilic8 Ana Ivanovic
9 Milos Raonic9 Caroline Wozniacki
10 Andy Murray10 Angelique Kerber
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