Saturday, 22 January 2011

Top 8 = Last 8? And other stats

There is the real possibility that in two days' time a phenomenon may occur in Melbourne that has never occurred yet (as far as my research can tell me) - the top 8 seeds will make it through to the Quarter finals and therefore be the last 8 players in the tournament. Surely this is the whole purpose of the seeding process - getting the best players taking on each other in the closing stages? Yet never before has it happened. It nearly happened two years ago at the Australian Open '09, but Murray (4) let slip a 2-1 set lead to Verdasco (14) in the 4th round, leaving 7 of the 8 top seeds to fill the QF slots. 

Strangely enough it is Verdasco (9) who arguably has the biggest chance of spoiling the party this time round too, up against Berdych (6). That said, the Czech does lead the head-to-head 6-4 and 4-1 on Hard courts. 

Another one who could ruin it is Stan Wawrinka. He ruthlessly punished Monfils in R3 and certainly can threaten A-Rod. I'll still back our capped friend

Answers to this conundrum on a postcard: Stan has never even taken a set from Roddick yet he leads the head-to-head 2-1. *answer at the bottom*

Nadal again showed his class today - I warned you Tomic could be dangerous, but Rafa kept his nerve and demonstrated all of his fabled battling qualities from 4-0 in the second set. Tomic has an incredibly languid style (description from John Lloyd - patent pending), and seems almost lazy in thumping away winners. Unfortunately his UFE count meant that the only significant thumping was the one Rafa dealt him in the end. Lots of potential but needs to concentrate and not expect success to fall into his lap. Even Federer has to work hard. I fear Cilic may be reliant on divine intervention to have a chance of seeing the QFs this year, although he comes from the right town for it so who knows...

I was pleased that Baghdatis did the business over JMDP, as predicted, so it's a shame he had to pull out against Melzer. I fancy Murray over the Austrian (the Scot leads the head-to-head 4-0) but the Cypriot could have made it interesting.

So Rog and Raf are still there and still looking like giving us our first dream final since their clash here two years ago. Having tipped Rog because of his easier run to the final, I did some research (prompted by an off the cuff comment made on BBC Live text - see 11.52). Is it actually of benefit to avoid seeds on your route through? 

Not necessarily it would appear. Take a look at Federer's route through the Aussie Open since 2005 and you'll see that he's been in 4 finals (won 3) and only once in those years (4th round 2006 vs Haas, who was ranked 41 (having missed a lot of 2005 after stepping on a ball at Wimbledon and spraining his ankle) at the time, but made it to 11 by the end of 2006) has he played a non-seed after the 2nd round. 
The years in which Roger has been an abysmal failure, and only made the semi-finals ('05 and '08), he took on a non-seed in the 3rd round, and again in the 4th in 2005, before losing to the eventual winner each time.
Rafa is similar, last year he played non-seeds in the 3rd round and QF before losing his semi to Murray but his victory in '09 came off the back of wins against seeds in R4, QF and SF. 

Maybe the tougher route is the better one after all. 

Another bit of trivia, the two active players who have played the most consecutive Grand Slam tournaments are 1) Roger Federer (with 45) and 2) Tommy Robredo (with 41) - who play each other tonight.

* trivia question answer - both of Wawrinka's victories over A-Rod have come from the American's withdrawal due to injury, both in the first set (once SW was 4-0 up, once AR was 4-3 up). Congratulations if you got it, and a special mention to my wife who's not exactly a tennis enthusiast but figured it out pretty much straight away

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