Looking at the Saturday schedule, it’s fair to say anyone with a sound tennis IQ could have predicated a limited amount of drama on day six at the Australian Open, but how many could foresee virtually none? Sometimes in pro tennis we get days like this.
Among the highlights, er lowlights: Roger Federer mauled Albert Montanes, Novak Djokovic destroyed Dennis Istomin, Nikolay Davydenko crushed Juan Monoco and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, both cruised rather comfortably.
Then there was Fernando Verdasco, who was the beneficiary of a second set retirement from the unwell qualifier Stefan Koubek. Little-known Polish Sausage Lukasz Kubot was even luckier. He advanced when his opponent, Mikhail Youhzny, couldn’t even take the tennis court because of a wrist injury.
But after all that, rest assured the much-anticipated feature match of the night between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis would come to the rescue and save the day. Um, nope. Hewitt hammered the Baggy in the first set 6-0 and then down 4-2 in the second Marcos, who was coming off a four-plus hour win Thursday over Davis Ferrer, hit the eject button. The Cypriot apparently had some shoulder problems and could go no further. Too bad as I had set my alarm for 5am hoping to catch some 4th set action only to find the match had long been over. (back to bed!)
At least Tommy Haas and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga held up there end, sort of. Tsonga was looking dead ahead at his first career five-set match with the German Haas in complete command of the fourth set at 5-2. But apparently Jo Willy didn’t like that idea and he promptly ripped off five straight games to close it out going away in four sets.
Also on the day, Nicolas Almagro was a winner – he next faces Tsonga – and in the women’s field Sam Stosur, Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka were all victorious in straight sets if I recall correctly.
The takeway: if you went to the tournament Saturday you might want to see about getting a refund, or better yet, asking to exchange for the ticket for Sunday or Monday entry because what an absolutely dynamite schedule is ahead.
Sunday (or later tonight US time) we get Andy Murray v. John Isner, Rafael Nadal v. Ivo Karlovic, Marin Cilic v. Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Roddick v. Fernando Gonzlez. (Sleep? Who needs sleep? It’s the weekend!)
The ladies isn’t half bad either. Justine Henin v. Yanina Wickmayer, Dinara Safina v. Maria Kirilenko and Sveta Kuznetsova v. Nadia Petrova.
As for my picks it’s ladies first. I like Henin in three with Safina, Petrova and Bondarenko all in straight sets. Alona Bondarenko plays Jie Zheng.
Now for the main course: the men.
Andy Murray v. John Isner
Isner’s on a roll and serving bombs, but this match is really on Murray’s racquet. If Andy plays his game he beats Big John. Murray has too many weapons and he defends too well. John will have to attack to make serious inroads and I think Murray will return enough serves and come up key passing shots to end John’s run. It’s Murray in four.
Rafael Nadal v. Ivo Karlovic
I put this match on Rafa’s racquet. Ivo can serve Rafa off the court, a fast court, but I’m not sure on a slower hardcourt. And once the rally starts I don’t see how Ivo will be able to deal with Rafa’s money shot, the heavy topspin forehand to Ivo’s one-handed backhand. On a slow court like Rod Laver which they say really takes the spin, Ivo’s going to be in trouble unless Rafa has a poor serving day. It’s Rafa in four.
Marin Cilic v. Juan Martin Del Potro
For me this is the toughest match of the four. DelPo beat Cilic twice last year at the Australian and US Opens both times in four sets. Entering this match both have looked a little sluggish. Cilic was packing his bags the other night against Bernard Tomic while James Blake had DelPo on the ropes in a five-set thriller. They each scraped through four-setters in their last round. But for some reason in this test of 21-year-olds I think DelPo comes out today razor sharp, finds his US Open form and rips the Croat. If he’s off his game in anyway (fatigued or that darn wrist), Marin will take him down. On a whim, DelPo in straights.
Andy Roddick v. Fernando Gonzalez
In this one I immediately think of Andy’s coach, Larry Stefanki, knowing all of his ex-pupil’s ticks and tendencies. Add that to Andy’s sizeable 8-3 head-to-head edge – he’s won six of the last seven – and Gonzo’s possible physical issues following his five-set win over Evgeny Korolev, the clear edge goes to Roddick. I will say though that this match is on Gonzo’s racquet. If he can get hot and stay hot he can pull this one out. But I don’t think he can. The pick is Roddick in straight sets.
If I had rate which picks I feel most confident about, I’d say Nadal, Murray, Roddick and then DelPo. With the exception of DelPo/Cilic match, the tall will fall Sunday at the Australian Open!
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