top dogs


With the Australian Open just a week away, many players are using this time to rest from tournament play and work on their game in practice only. You won’t find Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray or Andy Roddick playing any real matches this week. All of those top-dogs have already notched several wins under their belts and are feeling confident heading towards the first Slam of the year.

For some players though, they have yet to gain enough time on the court and are looking to take advantage of some precious ranking points and prize money while the big guns rest up. This week there are two ATP tournaments and one exhibition tourney set to begin.

Heineken Open – Auckland, New Zealand:

Tommy Robredo is the number one seed in Auckland this year and is coming in with a big win off Andy Murray at the Hopman Cup last week. The Spaniard defeated Murray 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 to help lead Spain to victory. He has a first-round bye and may face big-serving John Isner in the quarter-finals.

The only other big name in the top half of the draw is veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero who will likely face a qualifier or two on his way to the later rounds. Ferrero is still kicking his tires on tour, but expectations are low even in a tournament of this scale.

In the bottom half Philipp Kohlschreiber has the not-so-enviable task of facing David Nalbandian in his return to tour action. Nalbandian has not played since May of 2009 due to injury but started his season a year ago with a victory in his first tournament of the year. It will be interesting to see what kind of shape Nalbandian is in and whether or not he can be considered a threat at the Aussie Open.

David Ferrer is the second seed in Auckland and has a fairly open section of the draw which should enable him to reach the semi-finals. The bottom half also welcomes Sebastien Grosjean back to the tour. The Frenchman had a record of 2-6 in 2009 as he too was plagued with injury problems.

Medibank International – Sydney, Australia

There will be a new champion in Sydney this year, as defending champion David Nalbandian is in Auckland instead. It’s hard to figure out why the Argentine would make such a move, but he never really has been an easy one to figure out.

Gael Monfils is seeded number one and should advance to face Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals. It is surprising that Wawrinka is choosing to play in Sydney, since he already reached the finals in Chennai where he lost to Marin Cilic last week. I would not be surprised if Wawrinka drops out at the last minute to rest up for the Open.

Igor Andreev and Richard Gasquet are also in the top half of the draw and are capable of causing some damage. We’re still waiting on Gasquet to deliver some results since returning from his shortened drug-related suspension from last season.

Lleyton Hewitt, who has won here four times before, will represent the local hopes. Hewitt is eager to return to the top ten this year and with a higher ranking he should be seeded at most tournaments he enters in 2010.

Sam Querrey and Tomas Berdych are also in this section of the draw. Querrey lost in the first round last week in Brisbane, while Berdych made it to the semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Andy Roddick.

Kooyong Classic – Melbourne, Australia

The annual Kooyong Classic exhibition normally attracts some big-name players and this year is no exception. Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro will both be in attendance, as will Fernando Gonzalez, Tommy Haas, Fernando Verdasco, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling.

While there will be no ranking points awarded here, the prize money must certainly be enticing and the players have the luxury of putting as much or as little effort as they see fit in the week before the Open. The draw will not be out until January 12th.

While players are eager for some more match play before the Aussie Open, it may be more of a burden for those who advance deep into the draws. Best-of-five-set matches are just around the corner and having some gas left in the tank is going to be a necessity for most.

Robbie Koenig Blogs From Montreal

Welcome to the U.S. hard court season! Things are spicing up very nicely as the top dogs continue to dominate here in Montreal. For the first time ever in a men’s tournament, the top eight-ranked players in the world have reached the quarterfinals. History was made in Montreal and it was good to be part of it!

Not much to report on thus far, Jason Goodall (co-commentator) and myself very much looking forward to the weekend ahead. I like Andy Murray this week for the win. He’s impressed me the most out of the top eight guys. I thought Rafa and Novak have been below par. JW’s match with Roger should be highly entertaining and beware of Davy! When the Russian is on, he can be devastating and he’s playing with renewed confidence of late!

Still no sign of the Federer twins on site this week. They are probably just chilling with Mirka back at the hotel

The tournament’s atmosphere has been ridiculously good, especially the evening sessions which have all been sold out! If you enjoy your tennis, this is a must visit event! The city is also fantastic so its a double whammy!

We’ll chat again tomorrow.