Saturday, January 14, 2012

AusO 2012 -- The Men's Draw

So, I'm totally not as excited to write about the Australian Open men's draw as I was for the women. It's not because I don't enjoy watching men's tennis. These days, in fact, it's far more interesting to watch the men than the women. But there is always so much more drama swirling around the women that it's easy to find ways to spice up the post. In contrast, the men are fairly professional these days. Roger Federer is offering the most controversial quotes in press conferences, which means there's not much drama to report. The best thing about reviewing the men's draw is that I get to pore over all the shirtless (and sometimes pants-less) pictures of the ATP's hottest guys. Of course, I do it for you. I know you don't have time to waste typing Nadal shirtless, Federer shirtless, Djokovic naked into internet search engines. And you shouldn't have to. I'm here for you. Now let's get it on … I mean get on with it.

Quarter One – Seeds include Novak Djokovic (1), David Ferrer (5), Janko Tipsarevic (9), Andy Roddick (15).

There's not a whole lot to discuss here. Unless he breaks a leg, Djokovic is far and away the favorite in this quarter. With a broken leg, he drops down to even money. There's barely even a speed bump in his way. David Ferrer got to his second (out of 36 opportunities) grand slam semi-final here last year, but it had more to do with Nadal getting injured in the first set of their quarter-final match than it did with anything Ferrer was doing. Nole's compatriot Tipsarevic has played well against him recently, beating Djokovic in the round robin portion of the ATP World Championships at the end of the year and splitting two tiebreaks at the US Open before losing nine straight games and retiring down 0-3 in the fourth set. The question is, can he finish the job on a stage this big? I doubt it. That leaves Andy Roddick. Andy actually has a winning record against Djokovic (5-3), but they didn't play each other at all in 2011. Both of them are completely different players than they were in 2010. And none of the differences are in Roddick's favor. Plus, Roddick might not even get by Milos Raonic in the third round.
Semi-finalist Q1 – Novak Djokovic

Quarter Two – Seeds include Andy Murray (4), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6), Gael Monfils (14).

There are two former AusO finalists in this quarter of the draw. Neither of those players, however, has ever won a major tournament. I totally agree with the commentator (I forget who it was – maybe Johnny Mac) that said you can never be the favorite to win a grand slam tourney unless you've already won one. Until you've proven you can handle the pressure of seven matches in two weeks against the best players in the world, no one can really be sure if you can.

Since Andy Murray's rookie year, many people have said that it's only a matter of when he'll win a major rather than if. Seven years later it's starting to look a little iffy. He's gotten to the final here two years in a row now, but this year he will probably have to get by Djokovic to do it again. That's a tall order. In the final last year, Nole walked all over him. Other than another new coach, I'm not sure there's anything different about Murray to suggest a different result. I will try to catch his first round match with hottie Ryan Harrison though. They both can be hot-headed so it could make for good theater.

Jo-Willy Tsonga is a different story. He's got a game big enough to stay with any of the top players. He's proven that by beating Nadal in three easy sets here a few years back. He came back from two sets down to beat Federer at Wimbledon last year. He even has a winning record (5-4) head-to-head against Djokovic, although Djokovic beat him both times they played last year. Tsonga's problem is that he's French. I don't know what they do to their tennis players in that country, but they all have brilliant games and damaged psyches. I suppose if Amelie Mauresmo was able to pull it together for one big year, there's no reason Tsonga can't do the same. If anyone can beat Djokovic when he's playing well, it's probably Tsonga on one of his can't-miss days.

Gael Monfils has an even worse case of being French than Tsonga, but he's so much fun to watch. It would be nice to see him live up to all that potential at least once.
Semi-finalist Q2 – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Quarter Three – Seeds include Roger Federer (3), Mardy Fish (8), Juan Martin Del Potro (11), Alexandr Dolgopolov (13).

Here's an interesting quarter. We've got two guys that have won majors and a young kid that has the potential to be great. Let's the good times roll.

Federer should have a pretty straight-forward path to the fourth round, where we'll hopefully get treated to a match between him and Dolgopolov. I don't think there's much chance that Federer will lose that match, but the way they both play could create some visually stunning points.

If Mardy Fish and DelPo square off in the fourth round, it will be interesting to see which of them can withstand the pressure better. Fish is making a late-career run that's gotten him into the top ten, but he's been unable to really step up in the majors. Del Potro was in line to challenge Nadal and Federer after winning the US Open in 2009, but he got hurt and missed almost all of 2010. He hasn't been quite the same player since coming back. If he gets his confidence back, he could win multiple majors. There might be players that can hit the ball harder on occasion, but his normal ground strokes are hard than most guys' winners. And when he crushes a forehand, it's hard not to gasp.
Semi-finalist Q3 – Roger Federer

Quarter Four – Seeds include Rafael Nadal (2), Tomas Berdych (7), John Isner (16).

Winner of the best draw on the men's side goes to John Isner. Normally, having to play Rafa in the fourth round would be terrible for John, but this is not a normal year. Nadal has already scheduled a month off to recover from a shoulder injury after the AusO is over. That doesn't sound like someone that's ready to win the first major of the year. And of all the players you'd want to play in the quarter-finals, Berdych is good one to get. He's big and he hits hard, which Isner likes. Plus, even though Berdych is from the Czech Republic, he might as well be French. So, Isner could end up playing on the penultimate day of the AusO in a couple weeks' time. I'm not really a big rah rah USA guy, but it would be nice to see an American do well at a major again. I almost forgot, the other young hottie, Grigor Dimitrov is in this quarter. Hopefully he'll end up on a TV court at least once.
Semi-finalist Q4 – John Isner

Djokovic def. Tsonga (in five sets)
Federer def. Isner (in three sets)

Federer def. Djokovic (in four sets)

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