What a crazy day it could have been for the men at the Australian Open on Friday. Of the eight matches scheduled only Andy Murray was able to advance in straight sets, and that over Frenchman Florent Serra. Otherwise, everyone else was tested with the lone upset being John Isner of my man Gael Monfils.
I caught some of that match on the tube and I have to feel bad for Monfils’ coach, Roger Rasheed. Gael has so much raw talent but he just discombobulates at all the wrong times. You can’t dive into water coolers. You can’t do half splits on the court and you can’t double fault with a break at hand, and all those things and more Monfils did to help Big John get through. But credit to Isner. I wrote long ago that the guy was destined to be Top 20 and he is without a doubt finally headed to that level. Isner now gets a date with Murray come Sunday.
As for the rest, Feliciano Lopez actually gave Andy Roddick something to think about, as in the Spaniard really can come over the backhand (sometimes). Next up for Andy is Fernando Gonzalez who survived a scare from the ball-belting Evgeny Korolev in five sets. I have to wonder about Gonzo’s health in that match up.
Juan Martin Del Potro still hasn’t found that US Open form, but he did manage to win again, this time in four sets over Florian Mayer. Del Po now gets Marin Cilic who also went four sets to beat a nemesis of his, Stanislas Wawrinka. I still have no read on Del Potro and his mysterious wrist injury. He really is a wildcard if there ever was one. He could walkaway with this title or flame out badly at any moment. I just don’t know.
And late last night, it was Rafael Nadal getting past the pesky Philipp Kohlschrieber in four tough sets. I haven’t had a chance to watch the match (sleep = health!), but given Phil’s exceptional backhand and his past performance on Rod Laver (he beat Roddick a few years ago at the Australian Open), I knew it was going to be a difficult match. Nadal wins in the end and on Sunday he’ll meet Ivo Karlovic, a four-set winner over his countryman Ivan Ljubicic.
So a lot of the favorites could were in some trouble but they managed to escape, for now setting up an outstanding Sunday line-up!
As for tomorrow and my picks. I like Roger Federer, Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko, Novak Djokovic, Nicolas Almagro and Mikhail Youzhny all to get through. No real surprises there and really none of those matches should in doubt, though I’ll be keep an eye on just how well Dayvdenko performs against Juan Monaco.
But in the battle of the day Marcos Baghdatis and Lleyton Hewitt get it on in a rematch of their late night encounter from 2008 which was finally won by Hewitt just after 4:30am. This time around, if Baghdatis, who just came off an emotional and physical five-set win over David Ferrer, can get his legs and body back to full strength he should beat Hewitt. It won’t be easy and the match could very well go four hours plus (it won’t end past 4am because it’s first on the night session!). Bags is such a talented player I just hope he can get back into the Top 10. So set your DVRs and/or alarms. It should be a good one.
Taking a look at the women’s draw it’s very surprising to see Kim Clijsters get tossed aside like a rag doll 6-0, 6-1 by Nadia Petrova. The loss was the worst of Kim’s career and while Petrova deserves her due, I have to think something was amiss with Clijsters. She can’t just lose that badly, can she? Who knows.
Justine Henin was also on the brink of heading for the exits before she recovered against Alisa Klyebanova. No such recovery for Jelena Jankovic who got blasted off the court by Alona Bondarenko. The takeway is Henin’s struggling with her body (she says) and Jankovic (like her Serb countrywoman Ana Ivanovic) might never get back to another Slam final.
I should also mention that Svetlana Kuzetsova is currently in quite the dogfight with Kerber at the moment.
All this of course is looking real good for Serena Williams who tomorrow meets Carla Suarez Navarro. Recall Carla beat Venus a year ago in Melbourne. Serena’s not going to like that by any stretch! Venus, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka are also playing, but they are merely a sideshow to Serena. At least that’s how I see it.
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