After four days of uneven, sometimes exciting tennis, here’s what we know. No one has looked better in the men’s draw than Novak Djokovic. And then it’s Andy Murray.
That said, both guys (and good friends) have crushed absolute tomato cans. Djokovic’s two wins came over a qualifier named Aljaz Bedene and yesterday he whipped an overmatched Andrei Kuznetsov. And tomorrow he gets Fernando Verdasco. Fernando is a former Australian Open semifinalist and he’s got four wins in his career over Novak, but the Spaniard isn’t the player he once was. And even back in his heyday he wasn’t capable of pulling off a monstrous upset in a Major.
Meanwhile, Murray also hasn’t lost a set, beating the 317th-ranked Yuki Bhambri then blitzing Australian Marinko Matosovic in the second. Today he’s back on court for what figures be another one-sided affair against Joao Sousa, a tougher foe but on a hardcourt he likes Murray should roll.
So as usual, the first week at a major can be awfully deceiving because thanks in large part to the 32 seedings, which I hate. And then we get to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Federer cruised in his opener – as he should – blowing out Yen-Hsun Lu. Then things got interesting against Simone Bolelli for a bit. Federer sought treatment for a mysterious swollen finger late in the first set. Federer wasn’t sure how the finger – it looked to be his right pinky – got that way which is a little troubling. A guy like Federer should have the best doctors at his disposal at the tournament, and if they can’t tell him what’s going on, then… Well, let’s just hope it’s gotten better for today’s match against Andreas Seppi.
Roger’s 10-0 against the soft-serving Italian so I don’t see much of a threat unless the finger gets worse, however Seppi can really crack that backhand. But looking ahead the streaky Nick Kyrgios could be tricky, I suspect he might be running out of steam.
As for Nadal, looks like he’s believing his own words, that he can’t win the Australian Open. Like Federer, he too has a mystery illness, his is much worse it would appear. Some sort of energy-sapping, gastro affliction.
And watching his match on DVR, after he lost the third set it really looked like he was done. Fortunately he was playing a journeyman guy like Tim Smyczek and not a cold-blooded killer like Ben Becker. So to his credit he gutted it out. That’s what champions do.
And well worth repeating it is best-of-5, plus Rafa had a day off, plus he’s got arguably an even easier opponent than Smyczek today in Dudi Sela. So I have to think Rafa will be strong at least tonight, but if he doesn’t get his head right quickly either Anderson or Gasquet could knock him out or even a Berydch in the quarters. For whatever reason, Rafa just doesn’t have the confidence right now and the clay season is a long three months away!
So four days in, if I were to rate the guys…
1. Novak Djokovic – Playing like a 4-time champion, a good draw always helps
2. Andy Murray – Appears to be back in the form that got him to three finals
3. Roger Federer – Assuming the finger is no issue, he’s looked good this year
4. Kei Nishikori – Got through in the heat, and I like his draw
5. Tomas Berdych – If Nadal’s not 100%, he’s the favorite in that quarter
6. Rafael Nadal – Is he playing possum or has he really lost his confidence?
7. Stan Wawrinka – Elbow concern gives me a little pause
8. Gilles Simon – A tricky player for anyone if he’s in form
9. Milos Raonic – Can he get past Djokovic? I don’t think so
10. Grigor Dimitrov – No shortage of confidence, but draw is very tough
Today we do have a couple of good matches with Berdych and the resurgent Viktor Troicki. I like Berdych in a tight one, though Troicki will probably be returning to the Top 20 pretty soon. And the Dimitrov-Baghdatis match should be good. Marcos made the finals nine years ago, maybe he has another run in him? It would be nice to see and I certainly give him a chance especially if he can get the crowd involved early on.
In the women’s draw, it just looks again like someone or something will clip Serena Williams. Maria Sharapova doesn’t look great either, but as we saw again she’s such a tough out. Maybe it will be Petra Kvitova or even Victoria Azarenka who seems to be back online. Simona Halep? I just think it’s a wide open event.
FRIDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00am Start Time
Lucie Hradecka (CZE) vs. Julia Goerges (GER)
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Caroline Garcia (FRA)
Not Before: 1:30pm
Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs. Roger Federer (SUI)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00pm Start Time
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Dudi Sela (ISR) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Margaret Court Arena 11:00am Start Time
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)
Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)
Margaret Court Arena 7:00pm Start Time
Malek Jaziri (TUN) vs. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) vs. Martina Hingis (SUI)
Karin Knapp (ITA) Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
Hisense Arena 11:00am Start Time
Sara Errani (ITA) vs. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
Carina Witthoeft (GER) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU)
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Joao Sousa (POR)
Not Before: 5:00pm
Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs. Sam Groth (AUS)
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