Who Will Federer Beat in the Australian Open Final?
by Sean Randall | January 15th, 2011, 9:12 pm

The question asked in the title of this post was racking my brain the last few days. Unfortunately, when the draw came out Thursday night Federer and my finalist pick Novak Djokovic both landed in the same bottom half, so that eliminated any chance for a Fed-Djokovic final. ADHEREL

Now I need a new finalist to fall to Fed in the final in two Sundays, and in the top half there are plenty of worthy replacements. There’s Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, JW Tsonga, Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro among other top tier contenders who’ll bid for a spot in the title bout.

So who will it be from the top half to make the final? Here are my thoughts.

Soderling is the a hot guy right now after winning in Brisbane, but the Swede has won a grand total of two more matches at the Australian Open than I have. In five tries Robin has never made out of the second round in Melbourne, a pretty shocking statistic. Perhaps it’s the slow surface, the warm conditions, bad draw or maybe he’s just a slow starter. I don’t know.

While impressive, Soderling’s Brisbane win was indoors and he beat a player in Andy Roddick who that day didn’t put up much of a fight, unless you call returning the ball back into the court a fight. And Soderling, as we know, is quite a good indoor player, but the majority of his matches if not all in Melbourne figure to be played outdoors in slower conditions.

So despite a favorable draw and a promising start to the new year, Robin’s past Australian Open history weighs down his chances; so I can’t pick him to suddenly break through this time.

Cilic was the hot guy a year ago, and now what? Twelve months later the big Croat comes limping into the Australian Open all but ready to relinquish those semifinal ranking points he amassed in 2010. Cilic does have a good draw in the beginning but in his current state does it even matter? Probably not. So best for Marin is maybe a fourth round though I’d love to see him rebound here and get his game back on track, but I just haven’t seen much life from the guy.

Speaking of limping in, Baghdatis injured his groin in Sydney so there is a minor injury concern with the charismatic Cypriot. But because Melbourne is where he plays his best  I still expect a good run from the former finalist, maybe to the fourth round. But I can’t put him into the final either.

Tsonga was under his own injury cloud much of last year. The streaky, hard-hitting Frenchman plays well in Melbourne and has the offense to beat anybody on any given day. My concern, however, with JW is his fitness level and his overall confidence. Remember, Tsonga hasn’t played a best-of-five match since Wimbledon! That said, if he gets hot he could go far but the finals is a long reach.

Another player returning from serious injury is DelPo. Like Tsonga, the Argentine’s biggest concern might very well be his fitness and his ability to play best-of-5. So I could see him winning and winning a few matches, but I would feat that eventually the pounding on his body would catch up. Dudi Sela will make him work in the first round and then a meeting with Baghdatis would be a treat, but I don’t think he can beat a healthy Marcos in Melbourne.

If you read the press clippings from yesterday night, Nadal had some interesting things to say. Nadal’s called winning a Rafa Slam “impossible” and he adds that he’s still got a little bit of the flu bug still in his system.

So is Nadal lying here to take some of the pressure off or does he really think that winning four straight is impossible and that he’s really sick. Whatever the truth, Nadal doesn’t sound like a confident guy here, and mentally he’s already telling himself winning the Australian Open is in fact “impossible” this year. I know he’s gracious, etc., but that’s not the mindset a World No. 1 should have.

And this flu thing, why mention it if it’s so minor as he makes it sound?

Still, could Nadal reach the final? Of course. He’s got a great first two rounds to play himself into form before either Jeremy Chardy of his buddy Feliciano. Then it could get dangerous in the fourth round against Radek Stepanek, Cilic or Isner (I’d rate their chances in that order), before a collision with Ferrer, Nalbandian or Youhzny in the quarterfinals. Against his countryman Nadal, you would think Ferrer would fall over, but Nalbandian and Youhzny could present a threat, especially the Argentine. Although I still like Rafa out to the semifinal, but the final? Not really. And here’s why: Andy Murray.

I think among the top players Murray has the easiest path to the quarterfinals. He should breeze in his first three rounds before bumping into Melzer or Baghdatis in round four. Both very winnable. On paper, his quarterfinal opponent looks like Soderling but I think I’ll go Tsonga here who’ll be battling fatigue (after beating Soderling) going in the Murray quarterfinal.

In the semifinals, that means Murray v. Nadal, this time no serious injury issues – let’s hope! We remember how Murray blew out Rafa a year ago in Melbourne and I think this year Murray gets the job done again. (part of me can’t believe I’m saying that!)

Murray played well in London and really pushed Rafa in that epic semifinal so I think his game is there. And if Rafa is feeling any illness and mentally he’s still talking himself out of an “impossible” accomplishment, Murray can sneak in get that win.

Andy said he trained hard over the off season and really this year he comes in a little under the radar. And I think he wants to make up for that dismal showing in New York and preventing a “Rafa Slam” would be a heck of a way to do it.

So Murray is my guy to make the finals.

As for all this doomsday talk of Federer’s harrowing draw, please.

“Oh noes, Roger plays Lukas Lacko!”

“Oh noes, Roger might play Gilles Simon!”

“On noes, Albert Montanes beat Roger!”

“On noes, it’s Mardy Fish!”

“On noes, this time Andy Roddick’s even fitter!”

And on and on.

It’s true, Federer does have a bunch of guys who have wins (some with multiple wins) over him. But how many of these guys earned those wins in best-of-five set matches?

For me, that makes difference.

I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating, perhaps Federer’s greatest asset in Grand Slam play is the best-of-five format. Against Federer, winning that third set is exponentially tougher than the second set. Ask Alejandro Falla. Ask Igor Andreev. Ask Janko Tipsarevic. Ask Andy Roddick.

That said, Simon, Fish, Roddick, etc., are good players who have put up some wins in big matches – Simon just won Sydney – but remember this is best-of-five and looking at Federer’s recent results – he ripped through the London finals and Doha – it’s hard to see any of them threatening the Fed.

If Fed’s going to be pushed in his half it’s going to be by Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. But I still like Fed in that one.

The Swiss has always performed well in Melbourne and he comes in this year with Paul Annacone at his side, so for me I just see no reason to go against him.

My semifinals:
Federer d. Djokovic
Murray d. Nadal

Federer d. Murray

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65 Comments for Who Will Federer Beat in the Australian Open Final?

tennis2011 Says:

There is no way you can put Roger in the finals yet. Regardless of what people think he has a very tough draw and will have to battle to get to the finals. That is no different for Nadal, Soderling, Djokovic, Murray, and other top players. The depth is to great in today’s game to just put someone in the finals like you have done. Maybe you are trying to jenx him or something which I do not believe in at all, but maybe you do. Tennis players make their own destiny and one of them will win the Australian Open, but I would not rule out anyone. My pick for the title comes from the top 5 players in the world, but I have no idea who it will be. Predictions are just that and if I had to make a prediction this is what it would look like.

Nadal over Soderling
Federer over Djokovic

Federer over Nadal

guy Says:

i wouldn ‘t give fish,roddick etc much chance, but simon is a different story.
he can hold his own in rallies. which is something roddick,fish,montanes can’t really do against federer.
simon beat federer twice in a year as well as nadal.
so sure federer is fav in 5, but given simon’s form right now, i don’t think he should be dismissed.
federer has been playing very aggressive lately, fairly risky actually. davydenko was surprised he was going for so much on the backhand.
but consider he’s been playing in perfect conditions, indoor and qatar, which was near perfect from what i saw. no wind, warm and fast.
however trying to play like that outdoors over 5 sets in summer heat is much harder.
if his timing goes off and starts spraying balls against someone like simon, he’ll be in big trouble.

guy Says:

as for nadal federer matchup. i think it’s clear when the tour moves indoors and 3sets the advantage swings to federer. but when it moves outdoors to 5sets, it shifts the other way.

puckbandit Says:

Hey guys,

Where is the bracket challenge? I signed up at the tail end last year but can’t remember how I got there. Hopefully I’ll remember my password.

jane Says:

Hey ya puckbandit….go Canucks go ;) Here is the link to the tennis channel challenge, direct to Tennis X’s pool:


puckbandit Says:

Thanks Jane

I think your Canucks are going to the Cup finals this year. I think they’ll meet Philly in the finals. If that’s the case, you know that I may be rooting for them.

jane Says:

If Fed has to beat someone in the finals, going by Sean’s predictions and logic then I hope Murray doesn’t make the finals, as another loss to Fed in a grand slam final would play hard on his psyche, methinks. On the other hand, least he’d defend his points. :/

jane Says:

I hope you’re right about the Cup finals puckbandit: we’ve certainly had a good season so far, but strange things sometimes happen in playoffs.

Happy picking in the bracket challenge,

Kimberly Says:

They r showing Flood relief exhibition on tennis channel

Farley Says:

Good Analysis, I agree with you, Roger Federer will win the tournament easily, I’m very sure.

Thangs Says:

Nadal would be healthy going into second week. Good thing in grandslam is a day off between matches.. Vamos Rafa!
Against Federer, winning that third set is exponentially tougher than the second set. Ask Alejandro Falla. Ask Igor Andreev. Ask Janko Tipsarevic. Ask Andy Roddick.*/

You forgot to ask Rafa!

Kimmi Says:

the sean jinx continues :(

DetectiveJamFace Says:

This is going to be a huge slam. Nadal can win 4 in a row. Federer can add a 17th slam to the collection making even harder for anyone to touch the record. I think Federer has a few surprises for everyone this time around, a more aggresive game with a refined backhand for the high balls. I think Nadal knows this and is using the flu bug as an excuse.

uwang alibangbang Says:

Rafa will win each and every grand slam until he retires and that’s a fact.

But what I can’t take is that he’s already of age but still doesn’t know the meaning of personal hygiene. How come his butt gets itchy everytime he plays, maybe that’s where he’s getting his energy from.

That’s why he got the flu, he doesn’t wash his hands after pulling his thongs and the worst thing is, he even smells it!

Kimmi Says:

davydenko gets a tough 1st round match. mayer just missed out to be seeded. hmm tricky. go davy!

SCD Says:

Yep, Detective is spot on. Fed’s been bringing some heat again and he’s moving up on short balls like a panther. Haven’t seen him looking like this since ’06. At the moment I think he’s once again become the best tennis game there’s ever been.

Soderling was totally monstrous against Roddick last week. I’m picking Fed over Soderling.

margot Says:

jane: I SO agree with you, I liked Sean’s analysis right up to “Fed defeats Andy in the final” could not bear it. Would rather Andy goes out b4 :’-(
Whatever happens, pleeeeaaase Nole take out Fed, if u get that far, and then, if Andy’s not there, blooming win!

contador Says:

atm i have davy going deep. he’s hurt me before…eegads Kimmi. florian has been playing well…yeah, gooo davy!

AO website says the qualifers are decided. hm… but they are not slotted into the main draw yet.

anyone having any info in this please respond!? !

ones i see made it:
gilles mueller

the rest i cant remember off the top.
this whole question of where the qualifiers go and not knowing always “irks” me…though not that important really in the end.

and i’m not picking with my heart in the quarters, semi’s, or final ….in my dreams…someone new upsets the whole tournament.

realistically, rafa or roger….maybe djoko or murray win.

as for sean’s thoughts and picks: : )

margot Says:

4got 2 say, hi puckbandit and fekkow Murray maniac, nice ter c yer!

margot Says:

hmmm, read “fellow” james joyce, I ain’t!

dari Says:

Even though I am backing fed for the title here, I’m weary (wary?) of posts that put him in the final just yet!
I want to slow it down all a bit. Match by match.
Im watching troicki Simon Sydney final and gilles is looking terrific. So speedy and flattening out for the winner at will.
If the match up should happen with Rog, it should be a delightful second round treat.
Can’t wait for the bottom half matches tomorrow.
Let’s go, Maestro!

contador Says:

LOL! uwang alibangbang!! … how fun to watch a match with you!

of course the whole nose wiping and blowing plus other germ swapping on and off court habits also make me wonder….flu, fever, bacteria and viruses shared. all in sum makes tennis watching even more dramatic or something…it’s not an extreme sport but it has its hazards…

none of it can be helped – same goes for the grunting and screaming. oh yeah and the tantrums: racket tossing, cursing…arguing…

Skeezerweezer Says:

Speculating is all good and fun, but let’s not get wrapped up in he says this so….

The facts. Rafa is the world #1 ranked player, seeded #1, he has won all 3 slams in 2010. He is the favorite ( I am assuming he is playing and has medical clearance ).

The fav is hands down Rafa, just like he was at USO.

That said, hope the best for Fed.

Skeezerweezer Says:

uwang alibangbang

The best poster name I have ever seen on tennis x! Lol


Huh Says:

Completly agree wid Skeeze abt uwang alibangbang. ;)

jane Says:

Glad i picked Hewitt over Nalby in the draw challenge. Hewitt won Kooyong over Monfils. I really do think his form is quite good right now, but you never know with Nalby either. Too bad that match is first round…

noleisthebest Says:

“So is Nadal lying here to take some of the pressure off or does he really think that winning four straight is impossible and that he’s really sick”

I see you’re already lining up your brick-bats in case Nadal wins the whole thing…….you will call him a liar.

pigirl1 Says:

aww if Rafa wins AO then probably it is going to be 5 in a row for the Spaniard, will be quite a feat.

Go Roger! You must stop Rafa this time!

Huh Says:

Last year itself I n a few othrs had predicted dat Rafa wid win 5 slams in a row n I think none’s stopin him b4 dat. D only guy who stands wid d real chanc of stopin Rafa in final is Fed(if Fed can get dat far, dat is).

Polo Says:

I hope to enjoy the first major event of the year. I expect, at best, Nadal and Federer in the finals. But I feel certain that one of those two will be there. I don’t think it will be as exciting if neither of them makes it to the finals.

Kimmi Says:

Grigor Dimitrov watch:

after winning his qualis matches. he is been slotted to play Golubev. The match is winnable. Good luck young boy.

Skeezerweezer Says:

Thanks to all the tennis stars, both men and women, who use there fame for good causes. Hope they can do one for Brazil soon too :)

“”It’s just nice to help because, I think at the end of the day, it’s a dream come true for us to be tennis players,” Federer told the crowd. “That’s what it’s all about, to give a little bit of our time for people who need it much more than we do.”

Kimmi Says:

kimberly – i have joined in on the bracket challenge. “Kimmi Tennis X”.

thanks for creating the pool.

contador Says:

yay Kimmi!

“go gulbis” is in there 2X…..1) realistic attempt 2) purely exciting upsets having qualifier “P” going deep… : ) as does berankis and raonic : )

tough pick hewitt v nalby, jane. but i did the same.

“suicide pool?”

grendel Says:

Kimmi, yes, the Golubev match is winnable for Dimitrov – but difficult. And if he wins that, he is likely to have WaWa – one hurdle too far, I’d guess, but look forward to watching it, might learn a lot about the young man. And I’ve never seen Berankis whom you lot have gone on about – looks like he should get to play Hewitt/Nalbandian. Will certainly give him the full inspection…

contador Says:


thanks for the link to suicide pool.

sounds easy but it’s not. fun tho.

picked gilles simon ( i hope ) and bethanie mattek-sands for day 1 going out.

fern Says:

I can see why Sean is not picking Rafa for the final beause having put Roger there, he knows there’ll only be one result if Rafa is the guy he has to play………..another hiding for Roger in a slam by the World No 1.

Yeah Sean, go for Murray v Fed in the final, if it makes you happy.

uwang alibangbang Says:

@skezeer, Huh & Contador, I skipped university for one year because I can’t handle the comments, etc., etc., about my name but I admit I’m not a bad looking person.

I just wondered if my parents made fun of me when I was born and gave me that stinky name. I’m still blaming them for all the miseries.

You guys are great, but I’m sure you took sometime to laugh and wonder before you posted your comments, it’s alright I have to live with it, that’s the reason I barely post any comments on any site.

contador Says:


tried finding a recent and reasonably clear youtube of the berankis tennis game. but really none.

have only seen him play and win during a few livestream matches.

he is 175 cm. maybe too short? but ferrer has done well at the same size.

smart player, appears tenacious and positive on court, good net play, volley, strong and speedy plus has a nice smile and charm. not a huge serve…

he’s only 20.

contador Says:

hahaha…uwang alibangbang!

it’s true, i did have to read the name and your post several times…

was scratching head wondering might you be a regular tennisx poster with a new pseudo?

nah, i decided ur an original!

Tennis Vagabond Says:

there’s a problem on your draw, eh? Gasquet has the wrong qualifier slotted for him.

contador Says:

right, tennis vagabond.

ryan harrison is in twice on tournytopia….against mannarino and gasquet.

but on the AO website draw richee rich has dancevic

harrison is actually vs mannarino

correct me please if i am wrong!

skeezerweezer Says:

@uwang alibangbang,

Too bad you left the UV for that, hope you went back. You are more than welcome up here…. and this is one poster here that is impressed with your honesty, most posters up here use an alias, like me :)

Post on….now I need to go wash my hands :)

grendel Says:

well, thanks for looking, Contador. I’ll soon find out, anyway, assuming Berankis gets past 1st round. Laver and Rosewall were small-ish, so perhaps that’s not an insuperable barrier. Have you seen Ryan Harrison? I hope he’s continued improving since the USO, which is when I saw him – I was impressed, he had a very nice, allround game (including some decent s and v), a pleasure to watch.

stu Says:

I picked Muzz in one pool and Nole in the other. The champion HAS to be one of the two, right?

contador Says:

impossible to do anything but think AO open atm, Grendel.

happy to look up almost anything : )

ryan harrison claims 6′ for his height. i’d never seen him play before us open. he was impressive but he plays with a pouty, on the verger of tears demeanor and i found myself hoping he’d lose. he’s only 18 or 19 though.

we’ll see him again soon too. schedule…

scineram’s link @ 7:38 AM to that suicide pool is worth checking out. one winner pick per day. and you can’t pick any winner twice!

contador Says:

maybe i better check those suicide rules again…might be wrong :/

Kimberly Says:

the qualifiers have filled in. Surpisingly I didn’t change any of my picks. I had already picked a fair amount of qualifers.

skeezerweezer Says:

Young vs Cilic 1rst rd

Ahhh…what ever happened to this kid DY? In the U.S., he was highly touted as a Junior and one to watch coming into the ATP? Fudge!

leo vixen Says:

Don’t let what Rafa says fool anyone! What he says and what he feels are very different; he is very competitive, HATES to lose, and has the mental strength equal to a bull’s physical strength. He will play as if this is his last tournament, and win or lose, he will go home and put his head on his pillow knowing he did his best. I just don’t think he has it in him to tout his own abilities and sit in front of the press and say, “Sure, I’m going to win because I am Nadal, I am ranked No.1, and I have 3 Grand Slams, so what’s one more?”. I just hope he recovers enough from this respiratory illness because any residual in his lungs will cause him to fatigue easily. Vamos, Nadal!

M Says:

Le sigh.

Sean, you’re like the N+1th person I’ve seen misquote Rafa.

He didn’t say it was impossible. He said it was “almost impossible”.

There is a difference.

Also, he’s right. I think we tennis fans can count on one hand the number of times it’s been done before, no?

Not to discount any of his opponents (I’m especially worried about Andy Murray, if he’s able to keep focus).

I’m also more concerned about Simon’s chances against Roger than you seem to be.

I know Roger and Coach Paul have been working hard, and I’m elated with their late-2010 results. I also saw Simon play very very well, and very very fast, against Troicki, and walk away with the Sydney championship. Roger has a great chance — maybe the better chance, despite their H2H — cannot afford to let his concentration lapse for a moment in that match, imo.

But I’d like to gently look forward to the possibility, as circumscribed by its description by Rafa (i.e., “maybe”) that we have a FEDAL final to look forward to, thanks – and rejoice if it should arrive.

So there. :-)

jane Says:

Stu, right. Has to! ;) maybe i should make two pools too. The better to jump in if we are mistaken…

skeezerweezer Says:

Is Rafa fooling everyone about his chances in this interview? Whatever he is selling these days in interviews about upcoming matches I am not buyin. It’s gettin old. Sorry, imo.

Rafa, fav to win AO ’11.

sheila Says:

hoping, hoping, hoping federer all the way!!!!!

Kimmi Says:

2 hrs to go..I cant wait!!

Eric Says:

Rafa always says his next opponent is going to be “very tough” even when everyone knows he is going to win 6-2, 6-3 or something. His next accomplishment is always going to be “very difficult,” “almost impossible,” etc. He has been well trained in giving humble interviews.

And whatever minor flu he had two weeks ago isn’t going to be affecting his play, especially since he won’t be tested until the second week.

On another note, the reason Fed’s draw is tougher than Nadal’s isn’t just that he has to play better, more highly-ranked opponents. (And he does: his likely opponents in the first few rounds are ranked 10 places above Rafa’s, on average. Over 15 places if you account for Simon’s artificially low ranking.) It’s that Roger might, just might, conceivably get upset in the second round by Simon. We all know that Roger (and Rafa, actually, sometimes: check Wimbledon 2010 when he almost lost in rounds 2 and 3 to top-100 players) often starts slow in tournaments, and Simon has beat him even when he was playing fine. By contrast, there is no one in Rafa’s draw whose victory over him would not be considered an earth-shattering, insane, match-of-the-century upset, until the semifinals. (With, arguably, the exception of Cilic, but his form since AO 2010 has not stood up too well.) By contrast, Simon beating Federer would be a huge, huge upset — not nearly as much as fearsome Gimeno-Traver or Ryan Sweeting beating Nadal (his second round opponents).

Just my explanation of why I – and others, I think – have made the point that Federer’s draw is, actually, fairly dangerous compared to what the top 2 seeds usually get.

Eric Says:

Check this out: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/articles/2011-01-17/201101161295170850477.html

AO in-house journalist predicts Venus Williams to lose in the first round…curious.

Kimmi Says:

i am not surprised about venus losing today eric. she is not match fit..

contador Says:

agree with your post at 6:01, Eric.

also think the bottom half includes a tough draw for djoko.

simon is definitely not an easy match for federer. agree simon’s ranking is now very “artificial.” gilles looks to be in better form than 2008 – and going into ao with lots of confidence.

draws from toughest to easiest appear 1) djoko 2) federer 3) murray 4) rafa

rafa has likely 3 spaniards, either isner maybe headcase cilic…all likely straight set wins, even over ferrer….finally a challenge in murray…maybe.

though…murray’s could be interpreted as the toughest draw if baghdatis is healthy and tsonga is… and soda….so…that is some work! then he meets nadal. but muzz having a tough draw might work in his favor. i think his fitness is always so good and the wins could sharpen focus and confidence which needs sharpening. no naps.

was even tempting to pick murray to win….again. but it’s rafa’s AO, i think.

dari Says:

her we go, ao!

Cherry Says:

There are so many players who have been previously injured. We’ll see who’ll surprise us and bag the Australian Open title. http://www.tennisround.com

Huh Says:

uwang alibangbang:
I m realy sory if u did mind, but my intention nevr was to hurt. Peopl do hav funny names, peopl may also not be extremly gud lukin, but dat doz nt mean they are less in d eyz of God. I personaly beliv dat a r equal. I m also nt as handsom as Fed or Rafa nor as tall, but I dont care. I know I hav som worth n m here for some good cause, same’s tru 4 ya as wel. So y wory? Enjoy yourself. U r most welcom here. Good luck 2 u n your fav tenis player. Take Care.

Huh Says:

Just one thing I would like to tel u as a frnd. \That is:
Always respect your parents. Dont blame them b4 othrs.

grendel Says:

Huh – not all parents earn respect

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