When Roger Federer declared Novak Djokovic to be the Australian Open favorite last week, he wasn’t kidding. Especially after the release of the men’s draw this afternoon.
As Federer said, Djokovic is the favorite. With no Rafael Nadal the position of third ranked Andy Murray carried that much more weight and this time the Scot landed on the side of Federer. That leaves Novak with Rafa’s countryman David Ferrer as his semifinal seed. Lucky for the Djoker.
Before then, though, there will be a few hurdles, small ones that is, in Djokovic’s way. The Serb opens with French veteran and former Top 20 Paul-Henri Mathieu, then likely Santiago Giraldo who should beat American upstart Ryan Harrison. Novak’s first seed could come in the form of Radek Stepanek, or perhaps the Czech’s first round opponent Viktor Troicki or even Feliciano Lopez. It’s a tough call, but I think Stepanek’s the guy. In the fourth round, depending on weather, he could see Sam Querrey or if it’s a scorcher of a first week maybe Stan Wawrinka. Then a date with Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Like Djokovic, I don’t just see anyone that will stand in Berdych’s way of the final eight.
I also think Ferrer looks good to be the guy to meet Novak in the semifinals. It’s a lame pick but in a weakest quarter of the draw it’s tough to see anyone stopping David. The Spaniard who’ll become the top-ranked player in his country after the event, begins with Olivier Rochus, then the awkward transition from the smallest to the tallest player in Ivo Karlovic. Hopefully his first seeded clash will be former finalist Marcos Baghdatis and then in the fourth I’ll tab Mikhail Youzhny who also benefits from a hospitable section. In the quarters I guess for now I’ll take Janko Tipsarevic who opens against Lleyton Hewitt in a fiery first rounder. Dimitrov, who plays No. 32 Juliean Bennteau, could also be in the path of Janko, and maybe Jerzy Janowicz can catch fire.
The bottom half is where the action is. Two-time finalist Andy Murray is now a Grand Slam winner. The Scot opens with the talented but oft-injury Robin Haase. From there maybe Florian Mayer in the third, Gilles Simon in the fourth before a big run in with Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals. Del Po has a nice early road but he could be in for a tussle against Marin Cilic in the fourth. Still, I have pick Murray over Del Potro. But that could change.
Federer finds himself in a loaded final quarter. The Swiss has the flashy Frenchman Benoit Paire in his first match of 2013. Then the in-form Nikolay Davydenko – no easy task there. Maybe a breather after in Martin Klizan or a primetime showdown against Aussie hope Bernard Tomic. What a match that would be. In the fourth let’s hope Milos Raonic finds his form after a shaky start to the year, and if he does he presents a serious test for anyone, Federer included. In the quarters with JW Tsonga questionable I think it’s Richard Gasquet getting out there. Tommy Haas doesn’t engender such confidence and I don’t see Tomaz Bellucci or Michael Llodra getting that far. It’s quite an easy 16th of a section there and someone has a golden opportunity.
So for now in my semifinals I got straight chalk: Djokovic v. Ferrer, Murray v. Federer. Can it happen? Sure, but someone will likely fall by the wayside and I don’t think it’s Novak. So for the moment I’ll take Novak winning this crown again, this time over Murray.
As for the draw, it’s pretty unbalanced. Top half far easier than the bottom which has Del Po, Federer and Murray, and a question mark with Tsonga. Plus guys like Cilic, Tomic, Dolgopolov, Raonic, Simon and Gasquet. But heck, I’ll take it. As long as there’s some drama.
Matches begin Sunday night in the U.S.
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