The 2012 Australian Open men’s draw is out, and it’s a good one. To start, top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic will have to deal with Andy Murray this time instead of his usual Grand Slam semifinal foe Roger Federer. That means Federer landed with Rafael Nadal in a sumptuous bottom half semifinal.
From the top, Djokovic appears to have an easy path back to the semifinals. After a couple easy early rounds the Serb could run into the tricky Radek Stepanek. Then face a bigger test in the fourth round against a battle-tested Andy Roddick or Milos Raonic. Roddick has a brutal draw with Robin Haase to start, then possibly Lleyton Hewitt followed by a showdown with the Canadian No. 1. And interestingly Roddick, if he can get that far – a big if – has given Djokovic trouble in the past, especially in the heat in Austalia. But I think Roanic, if it’s not too hot, beats Roddick. In the quarters, I think Djokovic gets Ferrer who emerges from a very weak section that also includes Janko Tipsarevic.
Murray and new coach Ivan Lendl will have their hands full in a French-filled section. Before then, though, he gets rising American Ryan Harrison immediately in the first, then possibly Ernests Gulbis in the third round. In the fourth that’s when things figure to get interesting with Viktor Troicki or Gael Monfils. Monfils should be the man and hopefully push Murray, maybe even stretching the Scot to distance as he did years ago. And that match should set up a the best of the quarterfinal round clashes with JW Tsonga and Murray. Tsonga has a great draw with only Gilles Simon possibly derailing his quarterfinal run. And as of now, even with Lendl’s influence I like Tsonga in the Final Four.
In the bottom half, Federer has to be pleased with his section. The Swiss could get Jurgen Melzer (who plays Ivo Karlovic in the first round) in the third round, then possibly Alexandr Dolgopolov or the winner of the Fernando Verdasco-Bernard Tomic first rounder. I think it’s Dolgopolov who beats Tomic to arrive in that spot. In the quarterfinals, Mardy Fish is the next highest seed but I think Juan Martin Del Potro beats the American and comes through to face Federer. But I don’t think the Argy will have enough in reserves to beat Federer. Not in Australia.
In the final quarter, Nadal looks to be in good shape early on. Ivan Ljubicic can be dangerous in the third round as could John Isner or Feliciano Lopez in the fourth. Tomas Berdych should emerge from a cushy section to get out to that Nadal quarter. And in the end I think despite a shoulder problem I think Nadal reaches the semifinal.
So the semifinal for me then are Djokovic-Tsonga, Federer-Nadal. And the winner is…Djokovic over Federer.
On of the most important things to be mindful of with the Australian Open is the heat. I think the warmer the temperatures to more it favors Federer, Nadal and even Murray. And that could hurt Djokovic and Tsonga. But it’s a fine line with the roof coming into play and the day/night schedules.
Still, Djokovic is the clear favorite and I’d rate Federer right behind based on the draw Followed by Murray and then Tsonga. And I like that everyone is seeded to have a tough quarterfinal, though Djokovic-Ferrer is somewhat suspect.
Overall, though, I like how the draw came out with some new matchups and new blood. It should make for an exciting start of a what could be a very competitive year in men’s tennis.
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