I still haven't finished my music list from last year and here it is already time for the Australian Open. Since getting this posted is time sensitive I decided to procrastinate even longer on the music post in lieu of getting this done on time.
I'm doing it completely differently for this tournament. Rather than two posts talking about the men's and women's draws, I'm stealing something that espn.com does and giving you the “power rankings” of the top players, regardless of gender. I have a couple of reasons for this. One is that I've noticed that the men's draw post gets about ten times more traffic than the post on the women's draw. This way, I get rid of something hardly anyone was reading anyway. Also, it gives me an opportunity to simply focus on the players I think are most noteworthy. I guess I have a third reason as well, which is that with Kim Clijsters retired and Venus Williams not really a factor I'm just not as interested in the women right now.
My rankings are completely subjective. I rank them not only on their chances of winning the tournament, but also their chances of doing very well, being part of a surprising result (good or bad) and their chances of ending up getting a lot of attention (and whether or not I find them remotely interesting). Men also get points for being hot. The player's seed is in parentheses.
15. Venus Williams (-) – At this point in her career, she's not a threat to win a major. She probably won't even make it to the second week. Still, she's got as good a draw as you can ask for, not having to play any of the top three players until the semi-finals. My brain says she will lose to Sabine Lisicki in the third round, but my heart is rooting for a quarter-final against Petra Kvitova.
14. Simona Halep (11) – She ended 2012 ranked number 47. She's ranked 11th now. That's good for at least a mention.
13. Tommy Haas (12) – I'm pretty sure he's the oldest guy in the draw (but I didn't check everyone's birth date so I could be wrong) and I've just always liked him. It would be a hoot to see him pull off a couple of big wins. Based on his draw (Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer are the top seeds in his quarter), getting to the quarter- or semi-final isn't out of the question.
12. Sloane Stephens (13) – She's the best American woman not named Serena, so there will be interest. Plus, she could get a rematch with Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round. Last year in the semi-final, Azarenka took a very suspicious injury time-out late in the second set, after she had just blown five match points trying to finish it. Azarenka most likely would have won anyway, but leaving the court for almost ten minutes was a shady move for a defending champion.
11. Grigor Dimitrov (22) – I've been saying this for at least a year (and at some point I may have to face a grim reality), but I still believe Dimitrov is going to have a big result. Soon. However, considering he'll probably have to beat Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal to do it here, it won't be now.
10. David Ferrer (3) – Do I have to? I'm not sure why I have such an aversion to this guy. He's hot, which usually has a significant bearing on whether I like a male player. He just seems like if he ever does win a major tournament, it's going to be because everyone else beat the top seeds and he didn't have to play any. It will still count, of course, and I will give him credit. But it's not something one generally roots for to happen.
9. Na Li (4) – Now that I always remember in which order to write and say her name, I enjoy her a lot more. She's fun to watch, whether it's because she's playing well or because she's nailing a few forehands into the stand (unintentionally). She's also fun to listen to when she's being interviewed after the match, sometimes more so when she's been hitting forehands into the stands.
8. Maria Sharapova (3) – The good news for Sharapova (other than the news that she didn't change her name to Sugarpova like she wanted to) is that she's beaten Victoria Azarenka the last two times they played. The news that would have to be significantly better to even qualify as bad is that we're coming up on ten years since she's beaten Serena Williams. Of course, since she's already lost to her this year she's gotten that unlucky 13th loss in a row out of the way.
7. Andy Murray (4) – I don't know what to make of him. He missed the last quarter of the season due to back surgery. His draw isn't great. To win the tournament, he could potentially have to beat John Isner, Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic in succession. It makes -my- back hurt just thinking about it.
6. Roger Federer (6) – Last year was probably a disappointment, but it gave him a whole season to adjust to being the underdog and the sentimental favorite. I doubt he'll win here, but it could be a very emotional and entertaining semi-final if both he and Nadal get there.
5. Juan Martin Del Potro (5) – If Del Potro's going to win another major, it will probably be here – on hard courts at the beginning of the season when not everyone's in peak form. He just won the tournament in Sydney today so he's going in playing well. He's probably the one guy that could beat Nadal before the final.
4. Rafael Nadal (1) – He's the number one seed and the number one player in the world, but there's no ignoring that this is the major tournament where he's had the least success. He also has a draw that might as well have been handpicked by Djokovic. He's got Murray, Del Potro and Federer in his half. Plus he has to play the number one Australian player, Bernard Tomic, in the first round. At least he doesn't have any points to defend.
3. Victoria Azarenka (2) – She's the two-time defending champion. If anyone other than Serena is going to win it, it will most likely be her. But honestly I haven't disliked a top player this much since Justine Henin retired. The screeching, the attitude – I find almost everything about her unpleasant.
2. Serena Williams (1) – I want to be clear that it's not gender bias that had me rank Serena number two rather than one. It's simply that I think Azarenka has a better chance of beating her than Nadal does of beating Djokovic. But I also wouldn't be surprised if she went the whole two weeks without losing a set.
1. Novak Djokovic (2) – Conventional wisdom says that being one of the fittest guys on the tour is a big advantage at the end of the year. Nole just proved that true, going a ridiculous 26-0 to finish out the year after losing to Nadal at the US Open. But it has also made him virtually unbeatable in the Australian summer. He's the three-time defending champion here. It's possible he won't win, but it's more likely that he will be the first man since Roy Emerson to win the tournament four years in a row.