Three rounds down, four more to go at the Australian Open which resumes in about an hour. While we’ve seen some upheaval in the women’s draw, the men’s matches thus far have gone near to form.
Tournament favorite Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are both closing in on even more history, and the two friends almost seemed destined to meet again next weekend.
Andy Murray and Robin Soderling are also on track for a highly-anticipated quarterfinal collision.
Novak Djokovic has been sharp and focused while Andy Roddick once again remains in the mix late in a Slam.
And after much talk and conjecture, I think it’s safe to say we got a sneak peek at the next generation of Top 10 players – Milos Roanic, Bernard, Tomic, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Kei Nishikori, Richard Berankis and Grigor Dmitrov, and it looks promising. Can you envision a Tomic-Raonic Slam final a few years from now? I can.
The first week disappointments for me have to be Nikolay Dayvdenko who went out in the first round and Gael Monfils who pulled the plug after losing the first set to Stan Wawrinka two days ago. And maybe add in Sam Querrey who just cannot get on track in Slams.
So might be ahead?
First, after what turned out to be a tough night against the talented Tomic, the world No. 1 Nadal said in the press that (gulp) he’s still not 100% right.
“I was perfect when I started the season in Abu Dhabi playing,” Nadal said. “I was playing perfect and I was feeling perfect physically. In Doha, I had that problem. I wasn’t feel very well. Have fever and these things. Seems like after that my body is still not perfect. I am sweating more than usual. I am more tired than usual when I’m playing. That’s what happen right now. That’s the true.”
Yes, Rafa, we noticed you sweating. But what gets me is why is he volunteering this information again? Is it to ease the pressure of being just 12 sets from a “Rafa Slam” or is he setting himself up for a collapse?
It’s hard to say.
Nadal, though, should be good shape for another round, maybe two. Tomorrow, Rafa gets Marin Cilic who is coming off a long, tough 5-setter over John Isner. Cilic has a lot of weapons and more than enough game to beat Rafa, but his legs might not be fresh enough to get past Nadal.
I’d then have to tip his countryman Ferrer to make it out to that quarter. Ferrer has beaten Nadal in five sets before at the US Open a few years ago and I think he’ll trouble Rafa here again. Monday, Ferrer gets the new kid on the block, Raonic. The 20-year-old Raonic lit up Mikhail Youhzny for 31 aces yesterday but Ferrer is one of the best returners on the tour and I expect the strong Canadian’s run to end there.
In the second quarter, both Murray and Soderling are arguably playing the best of anyone. They’ve been scary-good. It’s too bad they’ll likely meet in the quarters. Right now it’s an even matchup on paper, but I still like the guy very few are talking about and that’s Murray.
And with Rafa’s questionable health might that Murray-Soderling quarterfinal be for a spot in the final? It could be.
They say in Grand Slam play that everyone has a close call on their path to a title. Well, Federer had his against Gilles Simon in the second round. He got past that French hurdle then breezed by Xavier Malisse and he should do the same against Tommy Rorbredo today. The Spanish veteran might snag a set (I do think it will be a much closer match than folks think) but Federer prevails without much sweat.
Fed’s not the only Swiss left in the field. His buddy Wawrinka is still going strong and playing even better than his more famous countryman. Wawrinka hasn’t lost a set and brings an 8-match win streak tonight in to Rod Laver against Roddick in maybe the best match of the day.
Roddick got a little lucky against the frail Robin Haase. The Dutchman brought the firepower and for two sets it worked before he mentally and physically destructed. However, Wawrinka has more weaponry off the ground and he won’t check out like Haase. So if Roddick is back playing defense tonight, he’s going to be in trouble and we’ll see the upset.
I still like Djokovic’s draw, although not as much as I initially did. He should handle Nicolas Almagro tonight to set up a big Wimbledon revenge match with Tomas Berdych on Tuesday. The Czech, however, must first beat Fernando Verdasco and really, to my surprise, I think he will – Berdych was playing so bad, and suddenly he’s back in form. Verdasco is always dangerous especially when he’s playing so loose after saving matchpoints to Janko Tisparevic in the second round.
That all said, I still like my pick of Federer over Murray in the final!
As for the women, along with everyone else on the planet I also picked Kim Clijsters to win the title, though I’m having my doubts. Caroline Wozniacki looks much tougher than I thought she would. Li Na is hanging around and Vera Zvonareva is playing well. Those would be new four semifinalist picks and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clijsters get clipped. We’ll so how that goes.
Tennis from Australia begins in about an hour on the Tennis Channel at 7pm ET. ESPN2 comes on at 9pm.
SUNDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
Na Li (CHN) v. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Tommy Robredo (ESP) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00 PM Start Time
Andrea Petkovic (GER) v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Andy Roddick (USA) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)
Hisense Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Not Before:1:00 PM
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v. Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
Margaret Court Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Not Before:2:30 PM
Tomas Berdych (CZE) v. Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
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