The tennis season is officially underway now with action taking place in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha. That means the Australian Open is just 2 weeks away so I thought I'd do a little predictions / early thoughts post on what we can likely expect; as well as looking at some of the players who have an outside chance of making the second week or causing an upset in the draw.
I posted earlier in December about whether or not Djokovic was unbeatable on Plexicushion and what to expect from Roger, that was before any tennis had been played or we knew that Nadal was missing his second consecutive Grand Slam; so with those things in mind I'm in a better position to make a call on how I see the tournament panning out.
It's not vastly different, I still see Fed, Djoker and Murray making the semi finals but I do think the Nadal withdrawal has a slight impact as Roger usually plays better when the Nadal factor isn't in his mind so it could be a good omen.
My Tournament Favourite: Djokovic
Djokovic is the obvious choice and it's easy to see why. He's won back to back Australian Opens, had a great end to 2012 and looked pretty sharp in Abu Dhabi albeit it only being an exhbition.
The surface suits his game perfectly, he's made it clear before it's his favourite slam because it was his maiden win back in 2008 so I think he's going to be very difficult to beat. You can't see anyone upsetting him in the early rounds really unless they play lights out tennis and get the job done in straights but on a slowish court where defence can triumph over attack that's certainly not easy.
Playing Without Pressure: Federer
The headline I used is perhaps a little misleading as pressure is always inevitable when you have achieved as much as Federer has but I don't think the fans or the press are too expectant on his chances this year.
Of course they think he will be in the mixer but after the US Open all the talk is of the Djokovic & Murray rivalry in 2012 allowing Roger to almost slip through without any pre tournament hype.
Nadal's withdrawal also factors too as Roger doesn't have him, or the thought of playing him to contend with any more. It kinda sucks to say but Fed definitely has had a mental block on many occasions in slams against Nadal, even last year he played phenomenally well for half a set or so but just couldn't keep it up and Nadal dragged him down to the level he wanted the game to be played at. Of course with Nadal's withdrawal he's no longer an issue and I think Roger can go out and swing freely.
In my mind he should play ultra aggressive and look to serve/volley more often. The last time we saw him play really aggressive at the Australian was in 2010 when he won it, that year he returned serve really well and took the game to his opponents. If he can do that this year then I think he's probably the only player of beating Djokovic.
On a High – Andy Murray
Fresh off a Grand Slam win and having played some of his best tennis in Australia the past couple of years you have to think Murray will factor. I think he's in with a shout but at the same time I can see someone upsetting him and causing quite a surprise.
He's a weird character is Murray, does he thrive off confidence like we've seen Federer, Nadal and Djoker to create an almost snowball effect when it comes to tournament wins? I'm not so sure. His level can be unpredictable and he's always capable of losing to strange opponents. He's got his Grand Slam now though so it's stupid to write him off completely but I still can't weigh him up.
On a side note, I've long predicted that his physical style will catch up with quicker than a lot of people expect. He's put on a lot of a muscle and worked hard to be one of the fittest guys on tour but he still has a fragile frame underneath I believe. It's the same analogy as building a house on weak foundations and I think 2013 might see a few injuries for Murray. Perhaps not in Australia but we shall see.
Can Tomic win back his home fans?
Tomic had a great 2011 making the Quarter Finals at Wimbledon and 2012 started well for him too where he made the 4th round of the Australian Open before being schooled by the GOAT. After that he went off the rails, lost early in a ton of tournaments, had run ins with the law and got accused by McEnroe of tanking at the US Open against Roddick.
He's had a lot of critics lately and I'm not sure if his antics will go down with the Aussie sports fan, all crowds like the bad guy but usually they have to achieve to earn the respect first. If you suck and have an attitude it's not a great mix.
My prediction for Tomic is another flop this year, he's predicting he will turn it around, I've read a lot of other tennis sites that are making the prediction he will have a great year but I don't see it.
He beat Tommy Haas in the Hopman Cup earlier in the week and now suddenly people are saying he's willing to fight tooth and nail? Haas choked that match away, he lost a 6-1 lead in the first tie break and then served for the match in the third set before finally losing it 5-7 with a double fault. It was a good win for Tomic but I don't think you can read into it an awful lot as it would served up on a plate for him.
My Outsider – Philipp Kohlschreiber
Kohlschreiber is my outsider to do quite well at this years Australian Open, I've yet to see him on court but he's in action today against Ivan Dodig in Qatar.
A lot boils down to how much work he's put in the off season on whether he'll do well in Australia, if he's been on the mince pies and the Glühwein over Christmas then he will probably flop. But if he's put in the practise and does well in Qatar I can see him making good progress in Melbourne.
He's got all the shots so I can't see why he wont make the 4th round or better. Anyone wanting to see what he's capable of watch the highlights vs. Roddick at the Australian Open in 2008, a classic match.
- Milos Raonic
- Kei Nishikori
- Sam Querrey
- Andreas Seppi
My Flop Prediction: Juan Martin Del Potro
I hope Del Potro fans don't get annoyed at this one because he's actually probably in my list of top 5 favourite players, afterall anyone who schools Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2 in a slam is clearly a great player but for some reason I can see him losing early this year.
Since his injury lay offs he's always looked unfit to me and in the heat of Australia on courts that are conducive to lengthy rallies he could suffer. I guess it depends if he runs into someone who can handle his power, if they can then I see him having trouble.
Predictions aside it looks set to be another great Grand Slam and a fine way to start the year. It's a shame that Nadal is missing as it'd be nice to have that quartet going head to head but I'm still looking forward to seeing some good tennis being played and Rod Laver arena can get pretty electric with the right match. If we get anything like Nadal vs. Verdasco from 2009 it should be epic.
What are your predictions? Any outsiders you can see doing well that might make a deep run in the tournament? Let me know.