Federer, Venus My Favorites for the Australian Open Title
by Sean Randall | January 18th, 2009, 4:32 pm
  • 26 Comments

A year ago I thought that Andy Murray would reach his first Grand Slam final in Melbourne. It didn’t quite work out that way as Murray was upset in the very first round of the Australian Open by a kid named Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. As it turned out, it wasn’t such terrible a loss. Tsonga turned out to be a helluva player and a legitimate threat on the circuit.

Twelve months later Murray is now the talk of tennis after having unofficially beaten chief rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal a combined five straight times. That’s three straight over Roger and two consecutive over Rafa (remember he beat both guys at an exo in Abu Dhabi which really only counts in the wallet!). And with defend champion Novak Djokovic making the curious if not courageous decision to tinker with a game that elevated him to Grand Slam glory and a Masters Cup in 2008 by switching racquet manufacturers over the off season, it’s no wonder that people are more than ready to make Murray the man to beat in Melbourne.

But Murray has never advanced past the fourth round at the Australian Open, and this is best-of-five, big-boy tennis not found in Doha, Madrid or Cincinnati. And his main opposition at the top are at the ready, fresh and hungry. So who will it be left standing at the end of 14 days of Australian Open play?

First, the top-seeded Nadal was given what could be a very tough draw in his quarter. I think he should successfully navigate through Dmitry Tursunov in the third round but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Frenchman Richard Gasquet gets him in the 16s. It’s a longshot, but right now I’ll lean that way. As I said before, I didn’t like Rafa going to the Abu Dhabi exo and then playing Doha. I would rather have seen him ease up on the hard court scheduling. And I think the new plexiplave surface doesn’t help a guy like Nadal either. I know he reached the semifinals on it last year, but who did he beat? Next to no one. Gasquet though will have his hands full with Fernando Gonzalez in the third round, then after Nadal, he’ll beat Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals. I’d love to see my man Gael Monfils to make a strong run here – and he very well could given his draw and the conditions– but he’s been bothered by a foot injury so that really worries me. Sorry Le Monf, but if you play well in your first round I’ll scratch Gasquet in your favor.

The second quarter is where we find Mr. Murray. And if anyone has a walk into the semifinals it’s Andy who should reach the last four with under three sets lost total en route. Fernando Verdasco might get a set from him in the fourth round, and then if JW Tsonga’s back is healthy enough he could steal one in the quarterfinals. Or maybe Igor Andreev is the guy in place of Tsonga in that spot. Either way, among the Fab Four Murray’s the best pick in my mind to reach the semifinals.

David Nalbandian might very well be the sleeper of the field. After that crushing Davis Cup defeat last month I didn’t think he would have the motivation and the commitment needed to make a dent in the Majors anymore. But credit to him, his Sydney title this weekend clearly suggests otherwise. There’s still some life in that guy. Andy Roddick’s in that section as is Djokovic, so Nalbandian will have his work cut out for him, but I think he gets it done and he beats Roddick in the fourth round then Djokovic in the quarterfinals. With the pressure that comes with defending a Slam title and his racquet issue, I can’t see Novak getting through to the semifinals. If it’s not Nalbandian then Roddick takes him out. Novak’s the third guy in this group in my opinion. Doughnut Dave, though, is my call here.

The last quarter has actually become rather intriguing since its release. Federer of course is the clear-cut favorite and with the exception of Marat Safin, he should waltz into the quarterfinals. But awaiting there might be the hot-again Juan Martin del Potro who has impressively resumed his stellar play from last year by winning the Auckland title (who would have believed both Davis Cup Argy teammates would win titles this past weekend?). Plus, I think JMDP has a real friendly draw and the Melbourne surface suits him, though the climate may not! Mischa Zverev is a young star to watch for as is Marin Cilic but I think JMDP should advances to meet Federer. Unfortunately for the young Argentine his number will be up against Fed. In a two-of-three I think JMDP wins, but not three-out-of five against Raja. So Fed’s my pick here to get through to the semifinals though it really won’t be as easy as the draw suggests.

That leaves my semifinals as Gasquet v. Murray and Nalbandian v. Federer. I’m probably the only guy on the planet with that foursome but I’ll stand by it for now. And in the championship I think Federer does it again to Andy in a Slam final. Murray will surely have his time but right now I think when it comes to non-clay Grand Slams Federer’s still the man to beat. And he’s out to prove that’s still the case.

As for the women, there are the Williams sisters, the Serbs, the Russians and that’s about it. The champion is coming from one of those three groups and I’m going to pick Venus here to beat Elena Dementieva, then Serena and Dinara Safina in the final.


Also Check Out:
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Venus Williams Admits She’s a “Cheagan” When It Comes To Her Diet
Juan Martin Del Potro Targets A Grand Slam Title This Year
Venus Williams Withdraws From Auckland
Juan Martin Del Potro: “Sometimes Favorites Lose Early”

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26 Comments for Federer, Venus My Favorites for the Australian Open Title

aye aye Says:

Andy Roddick’s in that section as is Djokovic, so Nalbandian will have his work cut out for him, but I think he gets it done and he beats Roddick in the fourth round then Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

LOL! Sean that’s really funny


PietjeP Says:

Interesting you’ve chosen Fed Sean. Especially in a final against Murray… the guy who beats him consistently lately.

Let me at first say that I hope your prediction is true. Because I would like to see Federer do it. I think the guy deserves the nr 14 and possible more. Mainly because I like his playing style better than Sampras’. That ofcourse depends heavily on the person :)

But can you tell my why you think Fed will do it? Because I think he needs to raise his game by a couple of bars… His needs to keep his nerve, motivation, focus and on top of that bring the magic back and leave the UE’s.

Or do you think the Fed we’ve seen in smaller tournaments is holding back/lacking interest?

Anyway; should be an awesome two weeks of tennis!
And should Fed win, it will be a big power booster for the 2009 season…


Mary Says:

Hooray, real tennis is back.
Mens: I love the backstage bitchery! Somebody is gonna so get his hair pulled.
Fed: Randall picked him, so he will lose. But seriously, please for the love of the tennis gods let him win, so I don’t have to hear about him 24/7.
Nadal: I don’t like how he always looks grimy oncourt and off. It will be interesting to see how much pressure he feels to win, or is it will be okay for him to wait until May to start winning. I want to see if the press puts pressure on him.
Murphy: has a chance until he realizes he is from the UK, then he’ll lose. Why does he always look dingy? What type of water do the Scottish wash their clothes in?
Roddick: may not win, but he has the prettiest girlfriend and that counts for something.
Djok: who?

Womens:
Venus or some lady with a generic east european accent who wears her hair in a ponytail.

If you are lucky enough to have Direct TV they are featuring the AO Mix where you can watch and follow every match.

Boo to the Eagles!


Kimmi Says:

Sean, the moment you say Gasquet is going to beat Rafa is were i would say your prediction are way out. I can say monfils can beat Rafa but Gasquet ? The guy already thinks that Rafa is unbeatable, he does not have enough mental strength to go toe to toe with Rafa. he can take a set but thats is the only thing he can take from Rafa.

Now, because of these prediction, you have lowered yourself when you said Federer will win this. Its difficult to say, Murray has been the man in the last few months, in order for federer to win this, he has to serve big and play 100 % throughout the whole match, not just 1st set. murray will be there for the Kill. I hope Federer wins because he is my number one. But sean, wishful thinking is not winning. Roll on the AO.


Blah Says:

I would have to agree that Gasquet does not have a shot against Nadal, being a fan of Gasquet’s, I just hope he can go that far here. His game isn’t built for the hardcourts and Nadal’s one of the guys he just thinks he can’t (and ion hardcourts and clay, indeed can’t) beat. He’s too consistent for Gasquet and one can tell from the match against Nalbandian a week ago Gasquet is still mentally fragile.

I think if Simon survives early rounds though he has a chance of taking out Nadal, but that’s not a given with him possibly going up against Ivo or Ancic.

Murray is the popular pick but if you look at the draw he really has the best shot. He doesn’t have to face anyone until Tsonga, who has injury concerns as of late and issues with consistency.

I actually had Nalbandian beating Federer but one can see that Nalandian has been struggling with his first serve and forehand and I have the unpredictable Djokovic taking him out after his match with Roddick.

If it somehow winds up Gasquet against Murray I’ll actually pick Gasquet but there is a very slim chance that will happen.


Blah Says:

Anyway I have

Murray over Simon and Federer over Djokovic in the semis, then Murray over Federer.


Giner Says:

“First, the top-seeded Nadal was given what could be a very tough draw in his quarter. I think he should successfully navigate through Dmitry Tursunov in the third round but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Frenchman Richard Gasquet gets him in the 16s. It’s a longshot, but right now I’ll lean that way.”

Gasquet is a headcase and has a 0-6 h2h against Nadal. That’s definately a longshot. Are you divining these with a crystal ball, or using the traditional tea-leaf method?

“As I said before, I didn’t like Rafa going to the Abu Dhabi exo and then playing Doha. I would rather have seen him ease up on the hard court scheduling.”

Sean, he was out of the game since October. He needs as many matches as he can get. Before a slam, players want matches, and there’s not much time before AO begins. After Qatar, he said he hadn’t gotten enough matches under his belt and wanted more, but he hadn’t entered Sydney or Kooyong.

If the AO began in Feb, you’d have a good point not to play exos, but he needed all the practice he could get since he’d ended his season sooner. He should be plenty rested.

As a bonus, since the Abu Dhabi field was quite good (Djokovic was the only key missing one), it allowed him to see where he was at compared to the other top players (particularly Murray) before the real event. Does Murray really have him figured out despite a 5-1 h2h? The exo cleared some answers. He only ended up playing 2 matches anyway. For a rumored $1 mil, that is worth it.

“And I think the new plexiplave surface doesn’t help a guy like Nadal either.”

*Buzz*. I just read him in the paper saying that he likes the surface and that it suits him. I don’t understand why you think it doesn’t help him. Didn’t he win Beijing 2008 on a fast hard court? He won in Canada also, made semi in Cincy and semi at USO. What does he have to be afraid of? It’s not like he can’t play on the hard stuff.

“I know he reached the semifinals on it last year, but who did he beat? Next to no one.”

I looked it up: Viktor Troiki, Florent Serra, Gilles Simon, PH Mathieu, Jarkko Nieminen, then lost to Tsonga.

“Next to no one. Gasquet though will have his hands full with Fernando Gonzalez in the third round, then after Nadal, he’ll beat Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals. I’d love to see my man Gael Monfils to make a strong run here – and he very well could given his draw and the conditions– but he’s been bothered by a foot injury so that really worries me. Sorry Le Monf, but if you play well in your first round I’ll scratch Gasquet in your favor.”

Dude. Gasquet is known to lose matches he should have won. He is not going to get that far.

Last year you predicted Federer to beat Nadal at Wimbledon in straight sets, and Murray to beat Federer for the US Open title. It’s going to take some convincing for me to regain faith in your I-Ching or whatever you’re using.


gulu Says:

Murray would crush Simon like a lion crushes a fox (if at all he faces Murray) !
AND I’D LOVE IT ! I’d most enjoy seeing Simon ousted !


Giner Says:

Sean Randall, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about you, it’s that you think with your heart and not your head. You go out on a limb a lot, and trust your gut. Many a time, your picks are very irrational, particularly when you back some underdog for big upsets. We all have a gut, but I try to piece together the logic behind why you believe this, and just fail.

It’s very similar to Wertheim’s Blue Plate Upset Special picks, which are wrong about 90% of the time. He’s paid to predict the unpredictable and fails. That isn’t to say that guts are always wrong, I just struggle to find the logic behind it sometimes.


Mary Says:

I would like to make the first complaint about the broadcasting: Why the hell is the Tennis Channel broadcasting without sound?! Is it some kind of deaf appreciation day in Austrailia?


King Roger Says:

Rafael Nadal will easily win the title. Federer is unlikely to reach the last 16.


RAFAEL NADAL Says:

Fed’s a very good chance to win Australian Open again, no? And I can’t rest on my past laurels, no? I also have to prove that I can win, no? Otherwise none’s gonna believe in my ability to win a hardcourt slam, no?


RAFAEL NADAL Says:

Fed’s a very good chance to win Australian Open again, no? And I can’t rest on my past laurels, no? I also have to prove that I can win, no? Otherwise none’s gonna believe in my ability to win a hardcourt slam, no?


NachoF Says:

Federer’s backhand is one big mess… :(


margot Says:

I don’t know why Sean’s got a down on Andy. He seems to have forgotten that Andy beat Rafa over TWO days and five sets (or was it four) at the US Open. If that didn’t prove his stamina and guts, I don’t know what would. As for predictions…Gasquet is so talented…but his head says no, Tsonga, Nalbandian, Monfils, Murray could all win if they were on song and uninjured..if..if, and Simon -do something about your serve and get up there too and Gulbis, why is no-one mentioning him, he just beat Djokovitch. The final? Federer versus another…possibly, no I’m not betting anything!


gulu Says:

NachoF, believe me I was feeling somehow that Fed’s 1st match won’t be easy, he’d have to fight hard to get to the second round…. and I was right ! I dunno what others think, but to me Andreas Seppi’s not an easy prey, always hits the ball very hard !


gulu Says:

Just 43 unforced errors in today’s match by Fed. It seems he worked very hard on maintaining & improving his rate of unforced errors during the off season ! That’s exactly what I think he did .


jane Says:

“Just 43 unforced errors in today’s match by Fed.” Isn’t this quite a lot of errors? I don’t know. But I agree with you that Seppi can be a tough out. I’ve seen him play some other top players closely. He reminds me a little of Kendrick – both are dangerous early round opponents, or can be.


gulu Says:

Oh dear Jane, you’re so innocent ! Actually Jane, 43 unforced errors is MANY indeed, I was sarcastic in that post. I wasn’t appreciating but CRITICAL OF FED ! This much errors is enough to hand the match to a good opponent in 3 quick sets. God Save Fed !


ertorque Says:

Yeah, 43 unforced errors in his first match sure doesn’t augur well for Feds’ journey here. He needs to keep the number down. On another note, I am hoping that Dudi Sela the dimunitive and single backhander would create some upsets here. I was impressed by his play in the Shanghai Open this year where he lost to Roddick in the final of the China Open last year. Spectacular backhand!


jane Says:

Well, I thought maybe you were being facetious gulu, but I didn’t want to presume as much and then have to dig my foot out of my mouth if I was wrong! :-)


Paul Says:

It would be great to see Federer win, but Sean’s picks reflect his understandable journalistic desire to say something interesting, even if it isn’t what he really believes.

Sean was, in fact, one of the first to say Roger’s best days were behind him — and he said it in 2007.


fedfan Says:

AO FINAL Federer-Murray Score 3-1

Murray will be crushed by the great man. Remember anyone that has ever made statements against Fed. He haw been evaporated. Roddick getting butt kicked pops in mind in AO after saying that his level is where Feds. The fact that Murray has won couple of times is because Fed does not care, he even becomes bored in lesser than GS tournaments.


Sean Randall Says:

PietjeP, even though Fed’s not looking great right now – rerun on ESPN – as I wrote I think someone will get to Nadal and Murray I don’t think is quite there to win a Slam should he have to play Fed in the final. That said if Nadal meets Fed in the final I’d go with Rafa. And if Murray plays someone other than Fed then I’d likely favor Andy.

As for Gasquet, yes I’m more than aware of how mentally weak he is, but I think he finally comes of age.

Giner, yes, last year I predicted the same outcome, this time I hope I get it right!

Regarding my picks, I’m happy to put them up against anyone else’s. I think I’d hold my own!

Back to Roger, as Pete said I wrote him off a while ago, but he really impressed with that US Open title run which shows he can still do it when it counts. True, his days of dominating the smaller events are behind but I believe he still has one or two more years left in him where he can win Slams.


Giner Says:

I didn’t see Fed’s match, but 43 errors has to be put in context. Did he hit more winners than errors? If so, that’s ok then. But if he didn’t, then the other guy must have played really badly to have lost to him.


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[...] for the outcome, I’m sticking with my original pick at the start of the tournament and taking Federer to win this one in four sets. There’s just too [...]

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