Well, my two picks David Nalbandian and Venus Williams really crapped the bed. Those of course were the two big upsets through the first two rounds of a somewhat dull Australian Open as we saw the top players really having their way with their opposition.
But with both fields now pared down to 32 we now get down to business.
For the men, it’s tough to say who’s been the most impressive among the Fab Four. My pick to win, Roger Federer, looked shaky in his first rounder with Andreas Seppi, but the Swiss really poured it on against Evgeny Koralev on Wednesday. And I’d put Novak Djokovic in that same camp. The Serb started slow but played better in his last match.
Top seed Rafael Nadal breezed through two really sub-par opponents, as did Andy Murray who benefited from an Andrei Pavel retirement and then pounded Marcel Granollers earlier this morning.
So I’ll put the Fab Four at even. Maybe a slight edge to Rafa.
Same goes for the Americans. Hard to make heads or tails about Andy Roddick or James Blake as both have played exclusively qualifiers through two matches.
The French guys are really coming on though. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is blessed with a great draw in meeting Dudi Sela next, but his durability remains a question mark. Gilles Simon has played well as have Richard Gasquet and my man Gael Monfils.
Having said all that I still like Federer to get through and take this title. I think the slow court speed works for him, especially in his section. Marat Safin’s a threat, but a paper threat. The Russian might get a set but I really can’t see more than that. And then I expect the Swiss to knock out Tomas Berdych, who’s apparently found his game again this week. The real test for Fed, however, will come in the quarterfinals where it’s really looking like he will meet Juan Martin del Potro. JMDP has really looked sharp thus far, and I don’t see how the Argy can lose to Muller tomorrow or Cilic/Ferrer on Sunday. Too bad he’s in Fed’s section because against any of the other Fab Four I think he’s got a better chance.
Also tomorrow we’ll see Roddick take on the magician Fabrice Santoro. Roddick shouldn’t have much of a problem against Fabrice, but the court speed might really hurt him later against Tommy Robredo. I’ll look forward to that one if it comes to pass. As for Djokovic, I see nothing but smooth sailing with Amer Delic and then probably Marcos Baghdatis. With Nalbandian out and the court playing the way it is I think Novak gets through to the semifinal to face Federer.
In the top half Saturday Nadal might struggle a little with Haas, but wins in the end. Then things get real dangerous for the Spaniard. I know i picked Gasquet over Nadal and for now I have to stick with it, although I did not like how Richard played in the first round victory against Diego Junqueira. But what really encourages me in the top quarter is Monfils. With no signs of a foot problem he’s my new pick to make to the semifinals. Slower court, rowdy fans, plenty of atmosphere are all good for Gael.
Not much has changed for Murray in his path. He still has a relatively dream draw. I know Jurgen Melzer nearly scalped him (or should have scalped him) at the US Open, but Murray’s since a new man. I still think the red-hot Fernando Verdasco, who has curiously broken up with Ana Ivanovic, can pull a set but that’s really it. I’m not convinced yet of Tsonga’s health, and Igor Andreev had a stomach issue in his win over Ernests Gulbis. Blake is hanging around but he’ll need to deal with Andreev and then Tsonga just to get to Murray. Good luck. So Murray is still the clear pick.
As for the women, I took a flyer and went with Venus to win. That didn’t work out so well, did it? With Venus now concentrating on doubles it’s going to probably come down to the Serena Williams-Elena Dementieva semifinals to decide the ultimate winner.
For tomorrow, Baghatis-Fish, Ferrer-Cilic and Wawrinka-Berdych and of course Federer-Safin should all be interesting and entertaining. And actually the women might have some drama with Dokic-Wozniacki, Kleybanova-Ivanovic and Hantuchova-Cornet. Just wish I had the time to watch it all.
I’m not a fan of the 32 seedings at Slams because it does take away from the early rounds, but it does usually payoff for the middle rounds. Hopefully that will be the case again this weekend.
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