Saturday, 15 January 2011

Australian Open/Closed?

So the Australian Open starts this weekend and other than the usual Murray-mania, it's basically down to Federer Nadal. Again. If it was just Man U and Chelsea winning the Premiership every year, people would call it boring. Oh wait. Never mind.

Nadal is streaks ahead but Federer's been showing good signs - can he prove himself once again? I doubt he cares, but the number of times he's apparently finally settled the debate that he is the greatest of all time must be close to the number of aces in a Roddick-Karlovic 5 setter. Roland Garros '09 (career GS), Wimbledon '09 (most GS wins), regaining yr end No 1. ranking (end of '09), London O2 '10 (World Tour Finals).

But if you think of the great RN-RF clashes, it's Rafa that comes out on top. Wimbledon '07 was epic, but Rafa was only 21 and Roger was in his prime. When they've both been at the top of their games, Wimbledon '08 and Australia '09 it's been the Spaniard to prevail, not to mention the seemingly infinite number of RG finals he's beaten Federer in. Of course you cannot take away from Federer winning the French (09), then Wimbledon (09) and then the Aus but he didn't have to play Nadal at any of them (thanks to Soderling/injury, injury and Murray/injury respectively).

Federer's defending 2000 ranking points (from a total of 9245) whereas Nadal is only defending 360 (from a total of 12,390) so even if Fed does win, Rafa's likely to extend his lead in the rankings. Murray suffers a similar predicament in trying to win 4th back from Soderling, defending 1200 points to Soderling's 10. This won't be helped by the fact that Murray has hardly had any competitive tennis and Soderling's just won in Australia.

So any predictions? First of all, some dangerous players in the draw, undervalued in ranking for various reasons. Watch out for (in rough order of dangerousness):

Gilles Simon - Not sure Federer will be too happy to see Gilles as a potential R2 opponent, the Frenchman leads the head-to-head 2-0 and has been as high as 6 in the world, not to mention winning in Sydney this week. Prediction: he'll give Roger a good game, maybe take a set but not enough for the win - out in R2
Nikolay Davydenko - may seem silly to call the 23rd seed a threat but he's a lot better than 23 and can take anyone on his day (e.g. Nadal in Qatar last week) - could be a very interesting R4 vs Berdych. Prediction: out to Djokovic in QF
Juan Martin Del Potro - could take on Murray in 4th round, Grand Slam winner. Bit of a whack it hard as I can merchant but when he's in form, it works big time (US Open '09). Dangerous but lack of game time means he shouldn't pose Murray too much of a threat, if he gets that far. Prediction: out to Baghdatis in R2
Bernard Tomic - an 18 year old ranked at 209 currently (with a career high 208) may not strike fear in Nadal's heart but if Tomic can get past Chardy and Lopez, I think he could worry Rafa a touch. He gave Cilic a real scare last year and put out Starace (who was ranked 73) at only 16 years old. The crowd will be behind him and he may well make things uncomfortable for Rafa. If he gets to him. Prediction: (Disappointingly) Out to Lopez in R2

Who's actually going to win the thing? Ladbrokes have it dead even between Nadal and Federer, and I can't fault them - I'll go for Roger cos he's got a slightly easier route through. We'll see

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