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Sunday, January 12, 2014

[2014 Australian Open] Draw Analysis and Picks (Men's Singles & Women's Singles)

I'm so excited about the coming fortnight of the Australian Open. Well, technically, I do follow most of the ATP tournaments of ATP 250 and up. Sometimes I do even check the daily results of ATP Challengers if there's any young Canadian player playing . Still, any of those tournaments is not even comparable to a grand slam tournament. So, I've been snoozing for the past two months since 2013 Masters Final in last November. I follow other sports too, but tennis is "THE" sport for me. :) 

 When I first glimpsed the Men's singles draw, I found it very balance the four quarters. I looked at it more in detail, I found a few hurdles, threats and challenges in each quarter, to make it look a little more difficult than the other quarters, but honestly, those hurdles exist at each quarter. And also, there should be some surprises  here and there throughout the draw, otherwise it would be too easily predictable, and boring, as a consequence.

Okay. The basic premise of this draw is that the 2014 Australian Open's draw is well balanced between the four quarters.
First, Rafael Nadal's quarter.
In my humble opinion, I find that Rafa slowed down his pace somehow since he was re-crowned as the ATP No. 1 in October 2013. You may object my opinion since he just won his first title of the in Doha last week. Nonetheless, you can't deny that there was no real match for Rafa. David Ferrer who has never been a match for Nadal in his career, lost too early, to meet Nadal.  Andy Murray, seed # 3 of Doha, lost his second round match to Florian Mayer. So Nadal was free as a bird there. But, we all know that a grand slam is a totally different animal, and there are much less chances for big players to lose in the earlier rounds as they are steadier players, especially in best of 5 sets.
 So, Nadal should expect to meet Gael Monfils No. 25 seed, whom he defeated in three sets last week in Doha final, in the third round. Then, Nadal will probably meet Kei Nishikori, No. 16 seed, in the fourth round who will not cause much trouble. Then, the biggest challenge will come in the quarter-final against Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro became a (even) more solid player with surprising speed at his height of 6'6" frame. Here I see a chance for Del Potro who beat Nadal in straight sets in Shanghai masters at their most recent encounter.  I wouldn't be surprised whichever direction the match goes.

Second, Novak Djokovic's quarter.
If I am realistic and reasonable, I should think this is Djokovic's first tournament of the year to win. He has won three consecutive years in Melbourne, and there is no other sign of him not extending the record to the fourth year. Djokovic could have lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16 in Melbourne last year. But, the eventual champion won the fifth and deciding set by 12-10 over Wawrinka. Wawrinka landed in Djokovic's quarter once again, but as the second highest ranked player of the quarter.
I expect both Djokovic and Wawrinka to advance to the quarter-final. Hopefully we can see another epic match between the two. To reach the quarterfinal, Nole should first defeat Ernests Gulbis in the fourth round. I don't think Gulbis has a steadiness and fierceness to beat Djokovic. But he can make the match difficult for the No.2. Well, I like Gulbis very much, next to Federer. So I would be happily surprised if Gulbis sends off Djoker in Djoker's very dominant tournament.
Wawrinka won his first tournament of 2014 in Chennai last week. So he must have a strong confidence and energy to make this year great.

Third, David Ferrer's quarter.
There wouldn't be much objections to my opinion that David Ferrer is the weakest of the current top 4 players, especially on the hard surface, even though he is ranked number 3. In that sense, it's fortunate for Ferrer and unfortunate for Tomas Berdych, No. 7 seed,  that they are drawn to the same quarter. Berdych is a wonderful player on all types of surface and should be fantastic on a super fast surface like Rod Laver arena. However, Berdych is the other end of the same quarter of David Ferrer who happened to be his nemesis. Ferrer has 7-4 overall record against Berdych, and won most of their hard courts encounters.
If Ferrer can overcome one of the hottest young guns, Jerzy Janowicz, in the fourth round, he will have another chance to beat Berdych. Berdych  may meet Ivo Karlovic who just beat him last week in the first round of Qatar Exxon Mobil, will be able to advance through the first four rounds to meet his nemisis in the quarter final.

Fourth, Andy Murray's quarter.
You would agree that this is the hottest quarter, by far, which drew the 2013 Wimbledon champion, 17-time grand slam champion, and  the 2008 runner-up and Australian Open's fan favourite. Federer is seeded No. 6, lowest seed ever at Australian Open in more than a decade. :( But, as he said he would have less pressure as a lower ranked player, I hope he can play a great tennis in this fortnight. Federer will not see a real challenge until he meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the round of 16. Tsonga could be challenged by Marin Cilic who came back to the circuit recently after the 4-month ban. Cilic has played well at the Australian Open, but so has Tsonga. If they can meet at the third round, it would be an entertaining match.
In regards to Murray, his physical strength is questionable after the surgery he went through last October. He seemed okay in Doha, but he lost to Florian Mayer to whom he had never lost before. Maybe he just stumbled a bit after a long pause of over two months. If Murray is fully recovered and motivated, he will have no problem to advance to the quarterfinal for sure. There is no other notable match for him apart from John Isner who wouldn't be able to cause much trouble to a 100% Murray.

If you want to see the full Women's Singles draw, see here:

To make the long analysis short, I have my picks for the Men's singles draw as below:
Round of 16
Rafael Nadal d. Kei Nishikori in 3
Juan Martin Del Potro d. Milos Raonic in 4
Andy Murray d. John Isner in 5
Roger Federer d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4
Tomas Berdych d. Tommy Haas in 4
David Ferrer d. Jerzy Janowicz in 4
Stanislas Wawrinka d. Tommy Robredo in 4
Novak Djokovic d. Ernests Gulbis in 3

Quarter finals
Juan Martin Del Potro d. Rafael Nadal in 5
Roger Federer d. Andy Murray in 4
David Ferrer d. Tomas Berdych in 5
Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka in 5

Semi finals
Roger Federer d. Juan Martin Del Potro in 4
Novak Djokovic d. David Ferrer in 3

Roger Federer d. Novak Djokovic in 4

For the Women's Singles, there are not much to say since Serena Williams has been at her top for the past 365 days, only considering the past year.

She accumulated so many wins in 2013, to make an astronomical record of 78 wins - 4 losses. How can a single player win so much in one season while losing so little? She has been playing amazing in 2013, and there is no sign of her slowing down. She is just fresh out of her first title of the year in Brisbane last week.
Victoria Azarenka who is ranked number 2 with quite a distance from Williams is two time defending champion at Merblourne Park. However, Azarenka has never met Williams in an Australian Open final. Vicka won only 3 matches out of their 18 encounters. If the top two seeds advance to the final, which is likely, my bet is definitely on Serena. However, Maria Sharapova, seeded No. 3, is in the defending champion's half. Their head-to-head is more balanced at 7-6 (Azarenka - Sharapova). Oddly, they met only once in 2013, and Sharapova won the match in 3 sets at semi-final of Roland Garros. It would be another anticipated match to look forward to. If Sharapova advances to the final and finds Williams at the other side of the net, the Russian beauty will not have many chances, even only considering the last week's final at Brisbane International.
Other than these top three players, No. 13 seed Sloane Stephens and No. 30 seed Eugenie Bouchard are the youngsters to watch. I think Stephens plays her best, she will be able to match Azarenka's shots.

Here are Colleen's picks:

Round of 16
Serena Williams d. Samantha Stosur in 2
Roberta Vinci d. Eugenie Bouchard in 3
Na Li d. Sabina Lisicki in 3
Petra Kvitova d. Angela Kerber in 3
Simona Halep d. Jelena Jankovic in 3
Maria Sharapova d. Carla Suarez Navarro in 2
Agnieska Radwanska d. Caroline Wozniacki in 2
Sloane Stephens d. Victoria Azarenka in 3

Quarter finals
Serena Williams d.Roberta Vinci in 2
Na Li d. Petra Kvitova in 3
Maria Sharapova d. Simona Halep in 3
Agnieska Radwanska d. Sloane Stephens in 3

Semi finals
Serena Williams d. Na Li in 2
Maria Sharapova d. Agnieska Radwanska in 3

Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova in 2

Enjoy the first Grand Slam event of the year!

2014 Australian Open


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