Sunday, 22 January 2012

Murray to face Kazakh Kukushkin for the Quarters

Into the second week and Murray couldn't have asked for a much better last 16 opponent that Mikhail Kukushkin. The Kazakh world 92 had won an overwhelming total of 2 Grand Slam matches in his entire career prior to this tournament, but wins against Garcia-Lopez (66), Troicki (23) and Monfils (15) have rocketed him to a position he could never have imagined or hoped for a week ago. He now faces the biggest match of his career and a chance to seriously make a name for himself, and perhaps more significantly, claim enough points to climb 50 odd places in the rankings, and break the top 50 for the first time. 

Murray beat him fairly unconvincingly in 3 sets in Brisbane, in his first match of the season a couple of weeks ago so there's always the potential for a bit of trouble but realistically, in a match of this significance, Murray should crush him.

It's a bit like Chelsea (ranked 4th) playing Northampton Town in the FA Cup 5th round, after the Cobblers knocked out Rochdale (66), Cardiff (23) and West Brom (15) - you don't expect to see the League 2 relegation strugglers causing too much of a threat. It might be a different matter if Murray's defence consisted of the the tennis equivalent of David Luiz but fortunately he's more like the Chelsea of Mourinho than AVB.

Then again, Kukushkin plays his Davis Cup tennis in the World Group, the top tier, and will be up against Nadal et al. of champions Spain in February. Murray and Great Britain, in the European section of the 3rd tier, will be playing the Slovak Republic, including giants of the men's game such as Lacko and Klizan (yes I did have to look them up) - so maybe Mikhail should be going in as the overdog (not sure that'll catch on).

Should Murray overcome his unseeded opponent, it is highly likely to be JWT that awaits in the quarter final. The 2008 finalist and 6th seed will have the disadvantage of being French, something our Scottish hero seems to thrive on, as Llodra and Roger-Vasselin have found out to their misfortune. Nationality aside though, Tsonga will be a formidable opponent. I briefly touched on his strong end to 2011 last time out, and nothing so far this tournament suggests he is going to be anything less than extremely competitive. Although Murray holds a 5-1 head-to-head, JWT's win came at none other than the Australian Open, when the unseeded 23 year old from Le Mans powered his way past Murray (9), Gasquet (8), Youzhny (14) and Nadal (2), before losing to Djokovic in 4 sets. I shouldn't like to rule out Nishikori's chances on Monday but I can't help but feel the all important "second week" at this Slam is going to be a short one for the first ever Japanese player to get there.

Only minor shocks so far really (e.g. Raonic/Hewitt, Falla/Fish, Benneteau/Simon) and all the main men looking pretty comfortable. Sensible money seems to still be on Novak but cruising through early on doesn't really mean anything and this time next week the moment of truth will be on us. 

1 comment: