seeds

2013 Australian Open and The Usual Suspects?

by James A. Crabtree

With the Australian open only a jiffy away now seems the opportune moment to make some foolhardy predictions as to who shall claim the spoils first in 2013.

At a glance it doesn’t look like a new grand slam champion will emerge just yet.

With the big 4 being cut down to the big 3 for a second straight major with a certain Spaniard sick one would assume that a new contender could join the party dominated for so long by the remaining Scot, Serb and Swiss.

In truth none look like they are either knocking on the door or even hold an invite to the elusive ‘S club 4’. Berdych and Tsonga have proved they can take down a big gun, but have never followed it up in the following round. This leaves only Del Porto who has at least proved he can hold his nerve in 5 set thrillers. The big Argie’s draw isn’t easy with a possible matchup against Granollers in round three, the inform un-seeded Dennis Istomin by round four and Andy Murray in the quarters. Tsonga’s draw is better with the only major problem being countrymen Gasquet in the fourth round.

With Nadal away so often Federer shall play, as with his Roland Garros victory in 2009 and Wimbledon 2009 and 2012. This time more question marks surround Federer’s destiny.  The seeding format in Australia is an upside down 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 rather than 1v 3 and 2 v 4. This means 2nd seed Federer is slated to meet 3rd seed Murray, a player he would have otherwise avoided, in the semi-finals. That is supposing he makes it. Problems persist for ol’ Roger well before then with possible opponents including Davydenko, an inform Tomic, a dangerous Raonic and a nemesis of sorts with Tsonga in the quarters. The all-time leading grand slam champion has big questions regarding form having not played a competitive match since the ATP Tour Finals in early November 2012.

And what of Murray?  Many tennis enthusiasts have predicted he could go on a tear having got the U.S. crown and shown impressive performances in Australia the past three years, with two finals appearances and one semi-final. His performance in Australia thus far has been the most notable of the big 3, inclusive of reclaiming his second straight Brisbane title. His first round matchup is against Robin Haase, a fellow curly haired baseliner and someone he has split their last two meetings with, although they have not played each other since 2011. Other hurdles for him include Dolgopolov or Simon in the fourth round then an intimidating Del Potro in the quarters.

As well as Murray has performed Djokovic has performed better as he looks for a hat trick in Melbourne and his fourth title in six years. A second round struggle could be with Ryan Harrison who looks to be itching for a big name scalp. This might not happen this year but Harrison can be dangerous and did take a set off Murray in Australia in 2012. The ‘other Swiss’ Wawrinka is expected in the fourth round then possibly an out of sorts Tomas Berdych in the quarters although his name could be replaced by new kid on the block David Goffin.

And what of the semi-finals?

It’s time to go out a limb and say Jo-Wilfred Tsonga will beat Roger Federer and make his first semi-final since 2010, but ultimately lose to Andy Murray who will continue to play for sick friend Ross Hutchins.

On the other side of the draw expect Mr Consistent David Ferrer to meet up with Novak for a repeat of their 2012 quarterfinal match with a similar score line and result.

That leaves Novak Djokovic to do battle again with Andy Murray in their second straight grand slam final with Novak gaining revenge on the Scot.

US Open Men’s Draw Analysis and Picks — Nalbandian, Fish, Nadal?

The 2010 US Open Men’s Draw was announced just hours ago, but there are already stories and predictions circulating the scene. Even though the qualifying tournament is still in progress, I’ll break down some of the potential matchups, great first- and second-rounders, and announce my picks, starting with the quarterfinalists!

First off, let’s take a look at where the top four seeds have landed in the draw. #4 Andy Murray finds himself in the top half with #1 Rafael Nadal, while #2 Roger Federer has #3 Novak Djokovic in his half of the draw.

Nadal’s 1/8

Nadal probably won’t face much opposition until the third round where he could meet Gilles Simon or Philipp Kohlschreiber. Feliciano Lopez and Ivan Ljubicic are then the only other seeded opponents left for Nadal to meet in the fourth round, but he hasn’t had much trouble with any of these players. Ljubicic has been pretty quiet this season having only had two matches on hard courts this summer. And while Lopez did make a run to the semis in Los Angeles last month, he continues to be wildly inconsistent having lost in the first round of both Toronto and Cincinnati.

Quarterfinalist: Rafael Nadal
Verdasco’s 1/8

Fernando Verdasco may find himself in trouble from the very first round, where he’ll meet his Wimbledon nemesis, Fabio Fognini. Fognini took out Verdasco in a tight four sets in the first round of Wimbledon this year — can he do it again in New York? If Verdasco does get past him, he’ll be rewarded with a newly resurgent David Nalbandian in the third round.

In the top half of this section, David Ferrer may also face a cruel first round opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov. “Dolgo” is a fresh face and took Ferrer to three sets in Cincinnati just a couple of weeks ago. He has a unique playing style and could easily gain good rhythm that may take him to the third round. Here, he could face Ernests Gulbis, a player with a load of talent, but it’s anybody’s guess if his mental state is in the right drive to make a run here.

With Nalbandian’s first two rounds being fairly straight-forward wins, I see him overcoming both Verdasco and Gulbis in this section.

Quarterfinalist: David Nalbandian

Murray’s 1/8

Andy Murray’s first test may come in the third round when he faces #25 Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka has recently changed coaches, but he may not even be a valid threat as he failed to reach a third round in any hard court tournament this summer. He may even find himself ousted in the second round by Yen-Hsun Lu, who defeated Andy Roddick at this year’s Wimbledon.

In the bottom half of this section, the most likely third rounder may be between Sam Querrey and Nicolas Almagro. Almagro, known for his clay court game, and Querrey, having another successful summer on the hard courts, should have a quick match with Querrey moving on. He will then face Murray but lose in a close four sets.

Quarterfinalist: Andy Murray

Berdych’s 1/8

Tomas Berdych comes in with a ‘slam high’ having made the semis in Roland Garros and finals in Wimbledon this year already. His first round against Michael Llodra could be a tricky one, as he plays a serve-and-volley game predominantly. Berdych likes hard fast balls and Llodra’s pace may throw him off. If Berdych survives he may meet another Frenchman Julien Benneteau or countryman Radek Stepanek in the third round.

The top half of this section may see a potential matchup between Mikhail Youzhny and John Isner. Isner is still questionable for the US Open due to an ankle injury he sustained in Cincinnati two weeks ago. If he is fully healed, he could be facing Berdych in the fourth round, but if not, it will be Mikhail Youzhny. Either way, this section’s quarterfinalist is set.

Quarterfinalist: Tomas Berdych

Davydenko’s 1/8

Nikolay Davydenko usually keeps a low profile while still winning, so it should be no surprise he is the #6 seed. Somehow, it still perplexes me he has managed to stay this high in the rankings. Davydenko’s first tough encounter may be as early as the second round, where he could face Richard Gasquet and his elegant one-handed backhand. Thomas Bellucci, with his steady results and great runs in the last two slams, could face Davydenko in the third round and come out victorious.

The bottom half of this section may be the biggest draw for fans. Andy Roddick will most likely take on Janko Tipsarevic in the second round. Tipsarevic has taken players (including Roger Federer) deep into the fifth set in past slams and he could easily tire a player like Andy out, who is still recovering from mono. The winner will get the treat to play the skilled acrobat, Gael Monfils in the third round. I’m optimistic with my choice for this section, but here it is.

Quarterfinalist: Andy Roddick

Djokovic’s 1/8

This section of the draw may be the most interesting. Novak Djokovic is a clear favorite, or is he? He complains of asthma-like lung problems in the heat and humidity, so he may not fare as well this year as in the past. He’ll quickly be challenged by his comrade and friend Viktor Troicki in the first round. If he survives, he’ll face Philipp Petzschner in the second round. Petzschner is a skilled player, having not only hoisted the Wimbledon doubles trophy this year, but also took Rafael Nadal to five sets as well at the same tournament. The only positive is that the third round opponent may be a breather, as potentials may be either James Blake or Juan Monaco.

The top half of this section boasts a potentially great matchup in the third round between Marcos Baghdatis and Mardy Fish. Both have had breakthrough summers and are near the top of the list in hard court wins on the year. For this to happen though, Baghdatis must overcome Arnaud Clement in the first round and probably Robby Ginepri in the second round. Fish, on the other hand, should have no trouble in his first two rounds. While Baghdatis has played five tournaments in a row coming into the US Open, Fish took a smart break after Cincinnati and should be ready to overtake Baghdatis. Fish will come in much fresher than Djokovic into their fourth round encounter, and while it’ll go five sets, the winner will be clear.

Quarterfinalist: Mardy Fish

Soderling’s 1/8

In the biggest cakewalk of the draw, Soderling has five qualifiers in his section, with one of them being his first round opponent. Imagine to get through three grueling rounds in qualifying only to find out you’re playing the world #5 in your first main draw round. Ouch! Soderling should breeze through Taylor Dent in the second round and not even be challenged in the third round by Fernando Gonzalez who is still recovering from injury.

Marin Cilic is Soderling’s greatest threat in the fourth round. But he must first overcome Evgeny Korolev in the second round and possibly Australian Carsten Ball in the third. Although, Korolev has had great results in the warmup tournament in New Haven so we could see an upset as early as the second round here.

Quarterfinalist: Robin Soderling

Federer’s 1/8

And in the second biggest cakewalk of the draw, Roger Federer may not be challeneged until the third round where he faces Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt retired with an injury several weeks ago in Washington, DC and has recently split with his coach. Will this change of events take over Hewitt or will he put up a great fight and possibly overcome the champion?

In the top half of this section, we see Jurgen Melzer taking on Dmitry Tursunov, a player who has a protected ranking and decided to enter the US Open under that exemption. Melzer could then face tough young American Ryan Sweeting in the second round and veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third. The match then between Melzer and Federer should be as straight forward as it was in Wimbledon this year.

Quarterfinalist: Roger Federer

Now, that my quarterfinalist picks are in order, let’s quickly breakdown my predictions to the semifinals!

Quarterfinal #1: Rafael Nadal d. David Nalbandian

Nadal has pretty much been unstoppable this season. He’s healthy and happy: no “broken abdominals” or knees, no familial problems and he finely-tuned his schedule to allow himself enough rest and recovery during the summer. Although Nalbandian is a confident competitor and his angles may blow some players off the court, he simply won’t last in a five-setter in the heat against Nadal.

Quarterfinal #2: Andy Murray d. Tomas Berdych

Berdych has a strong game and is a very powerful competitor if his mental stamina holds up. Andy Murray is known to complain and simply lose a match because of his own temper. It’s a tough draw between the two opponents, but Murray’s footwork will outlast Berych’s serve. Get ready for an even more grueling battle if Murray decides to be aggressive in his tactics.

Quarterfinal #3: Mardy Fish d. Andy Roddick

Fish has never been more fit and Roddick is coming off of a tough summer. On top of that, Fish has won their last two encounters within the last couple of months. Many are calling Fish the “darkhorse” this year and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. As much as Roddick has stayed consistent in his rankings the last six years, his results haven’t given much inspiration lately.

Quarterfinal #4: Roger Federer d. Robin Soderling

This is another tough one to call, but Soderling’s lackluster summer will catch up with him in New York and he’ll see himself crash out to Federer in a tough four sets. Although Soderling’s game is more suited to the hard courts, you can’t discount Federer’s run here the last six years. Elegance and precision will overcome power and grit.

In the semifinals, the matchups between both Nadal vs. Murray and Fish vs. Federer will be epic performances as each player could beat any other on any given day. It’s hard to predict the winner of each and I’ll leave that up to you. But for now, my vote is with Rafael Nadal, 2010 US Open Champion. It’s about time to add another flame to his Babolat bag and Nike shoes.

Happy watching and cheering!

BAGHDATIS NETS REVENGE WIN OVER HEWITT

There are no seeds left after quarterfinals at Medibank International in Sydney as local favorite Lleyton Hewitt, the only seeded player in quarterfinals, was defeated Thursday 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Marcos Baghdatis.

“The first set and a half I was hitting the ball pretty well, and I was happy with my ball striking,” said Hewitt. “Even after that, my ball striking wasn’t too bad.”

The match was a re-match of a famous match where Hewitt beat Baghdatis two years ago in Melbourne in latest finish match ever (4:34 AM). In the semifinals, Baghdatis will play Mardy Fish. The American ousted the other Aussie, Peter Luczak, 7-6, 6-2 in the night match.

In Auckland, Albert Montanes advanced to his first hard-court semifinal after 6-3, 6-3 over qualifier Michael Lammer. He meets next John Isner, who reached first semifinal outside United States by upseeting No. 1 seed Tommy Robredo 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, recovering from 1-3 in the third set.

G’DAY FOR THE AUSSIES IN SYDNEY

Wednesday was a “G’Day” for the home Aussies at the Sydney International. Lleyton Hewitt needed just 55 minutes to beat Andreas Seppi 6-0, 6-2 to advance into the quarterfinals. The win avenged a loss to Seppi in Sydney’s quarterfinals four years ago after wasting two match points; Also 30-year-old Aussie Peter Luczak reached first ATP-quarterfinal in his home country after 1-6 6-4 6-2 win over Tomas Berdych.
The Spaniards are the main force at the Heineken Open in Auckland where they comprise of the top four seeds. However, only two of them advanced to the quarterfinals. Swiss qualifier Michael Lammer, 27, advanced to the first ATP-quarterfianl when he led 3:1 in the first set when his opponent, Juan Carlos Ferrero (No. 3 seed), was forced to retire (sprained right ankle).

Austrian Cancer Survivor Klemenschits To Make Grand Slam Debut In US Open

Austrian doubles specialist Sandra Klemenschits, who returned to the tour in July 2008 after overcoming a rare form of abdominal cancer, will make her Grand Slam debut this week at the US Open in the women’s doubles event. Partnering Aravane Rezai of France, they will play Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan, the No. 5 seeds. The match will take place either on Wednesday or Thursday during the first week of the tournament.

Klemenschits, currently ranked No. 111 in doubles, is a winner of 28 doubles titles on the ITF circuit. 20 of these titles came when she partnered with her twin sister, Daniela. In January of 2007, both Sandra and Daniela were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, squamous cell carcimona, forcing them to retire.

Players including Roger Federer, Justine Henin, and Martina Hingis donated items for an online auction in June of 2007, raising over $70,000 for their medical bills. In April of 2008, Daniela Klemenschits died at age 25.

In July of 2008, Sandra Klemenschits announced she had beaten her illness and returned to professional tennis at a WTA event in Bad Gastein, Austria. Since returning to the pro tour 13 months ago, Klemenschits has won eight ITF circuit titles in doubles. She arrives at the US Open having won 10 of her last 11 matches.