We are down to just 16 in the men’s draw at the Australian Open. Finally, the tournament begins.
After some toasty temps, a sprinkle memorable matches and even a couple of surprises, the fourth round beckons Sunday and we get down to some business.
Leading the way are the familiar names – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, all off whom have yet to drop a set or really be pressed in any meaningful way.
Based on draw, based on form and based on tournament history Djokovic was my pick at the start of the week and that hasn’t changed. The Serb has been sharp and dominant. Just what you expect from a 3-time defending champion.
And who is he going to lose to before the final? Can Stan Wawrinka really do it? Tomas Berdych? David Ferrer? I just don’t see it. He could and very may lose a set, but three?
Nadal said he played some of his best tennis last night in a win over a wild Gael Monfil. Rafa’s been fortunate with his bracket, earning a retirement from Bernard Tomic, then drawing the youngster Thansi Kokkinakis before that demolition of the Frenchman last night.
Rafa now plays Kei Nishikori in what figures to be another one-sided affair and then maybe Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian had the match of his life beating the uninspiring Milos Raonic, and while I’d love to see Grigor push Nadal, I just think Nadal’s too physical for the young 22-year-old. That is if Grigor even beats Roberto Bautista Agut. A big if!
The Spaniard Agut pulled the upset of the event stunning Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round then backed up yesterday over the uneven Benoit Paire. I said at the start of the week Del Potro needed some help, specifically with the heat. He didn’t get it. With the scorching temps even at night, my guess is he wore down in the end to the lesser opponent. It’s a shame but that’s tennis. The strong survive.
In that second quarter is where we find the real fireworks. Both Andy Murray and Roger Federer have looked terrific through three matches, but let’s be honest their competition has been awfully awful.
And that continues tomorrow for Murray who has the easiest fourth round opponent in a lucky loser Stephane Robert.
For Federer, now it begins (or ends). After three relative cupcakes to get “FedBerg” rolling, he’ll now face the hot-handed JW Tsonga. And right now I like Tsonga here. The Frenchman also hasn’t dropped a set and he’s got to be out for revenge from last year 5-set loss to the Swiss in the quarters.
So that’ll leave Tsonga-Murray and as I picked last weekend, I’ll stay with Tsonga. I’m just not convinced Murray’s 100% back to his top level so I’ll side still with the Frenchman.
Overall it was a meh first week. It’s too bad Tomic drew Nadal to start as having the tempestuous Aussie around is a good thing (unfortunately he now needs hip surgery). LLeyton Hewitt did play well but just couldn’t pull it out in the end.
John Isner was another disappointment once again showing promise and hope in the smaller events only burn out (or retire in this case) in the Slams.
The women’s draw looks like a Serena-Azarenka final. Sharapova seems to be still finding her way after shoulder injury. Li Na is there and Sloane Stephens does play Azarenka tomorrow, but all signs – unless there’s a Serena injury – are point to Serena holding up No. 18 a week from now.
Of course the first week will be most remembered for the thermometer. the heat was such a major story that it took away from some of the play. But with that now long gone we’ll shift now to the actual tennis. Perfect timing.
Some picks today: Djokovic, Wawrinka, Mayer and Berdych. I think Robredo could surprise Stan and Mayer did beat Ferrer last fall. Berdych has owned Anderson (9-0) and Kevin had to author two 0-2 comebacks last week.
SUNDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 am Start Time
Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
Not Before: 12.30pm
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
Not Before: 2.00pm
Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00 pm Start Time
Casey Dellacqua (AUS) vs. Eugenie Bouchard (CAN)
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) vs. Tommy Robredo (ESP)
Hisense Arena 11:00 am Start Time
Mansour Bahrami (IRI) vs. Pat Cash (AUS)
Cedric Pioline (FRA) Mats Wilander (SWE)
Not Before: 12.30pm
Na Li (CHN) vs. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)
Florian Mayer (GER) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
Sara Errani (ITA) vs. Monique Adamczak (AUS)
Roberta Vinci (ITA) Olivia Rogowska (AUS)
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