Friday, January 11, 2013

Australian Open Preview

Next week the first tennis Grand Slam of the year begins, a year I have a feeling might see a bit of a changing of the guard.

In my Drum piece this week I had a bit of a squiz at Bernard Tomic and his hopes to be in the top 10 by the end of the year. I should state at the outset that I am not a fan of Tomic. Maybe I just am an old miserable cuss who can’t stand 20 year old braggarts driving around in muscle cars and telling everyone that they’re going to be the greatest player in the game. I’ve never been big on the “you have to support them because they’re Australian”  line either. In Davis Cup? Sure. But tennis is an individual sport, so I’ll pick the individuals who I wish to cheer for.

That said I will be shocked if he’s not in the top 20 by the end of the year. Top 10 is a bigger ask mostly because it requires someone dropping out for him to get in.

Here’s the current top 25 (Tomic is 64, but it’s really around 50 because he skipped the Brisbane International and played in Sydney, so he lost the points he won there last year, but he’ll essentially get them back with a few more from his play in Sydney):

Rank, Name & Nationality Points Week Change Tourn Played
1 Djokovic, Novak (SRB) 12,920 0 18
2 Federer, Roger (SUI) 10,265 0 20
3 Murray, Andy (GBR) 8,000 0 20
4 Nadal, Rafael (ESP) 6,600 0 17
5 Ferrer, David (ESP) 6,505 0 26
6 Berdych, Tomas (CZE) 4,680 0 25
7 Del Potro, Juan Martin (ARG) 4,480 0 23
8 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA) 3,375 0 25
9 Tipsarevic, Janko (SRB) 3,090 0 28
10 Gasquet, Richard (FRA) 2,720 0 24
11 Almagro, Nicolas (ESP) 2,515 0 26
12 Monaco, Juan (ARG) 2,430 0 24
13 Isner, John (USA) 2,215 1 26
14 Cilic, Marin (CRO) 2,210 1 24
15 Raonic, Milos (CAN) 2,175 -2 24
16 Simon, Gilles (FRA) 2,145 0 27
17 Wawrinka, Stanislas (SUI) 1,900 0 22
18 Nishikori, Kei (JPN) 1,870 1 23
19 Kohlschreiber, Philipp (GER) 1,770 1 27
20 Dolgopolov, Alexandr (UKR) 1,750 -2 26
21 Haas, Tommy (GER) 1,681 0 20
22 Querrey, Sam (USA) 1,650 0 27
23 Seppi, Andreas (ITA) 1,560 0 30
24 Verdasco, Fernando (ESP) 1,490 0 25
25 Youzhny, Mikhail (RUS) 1,335 0 25

OK the top 4 I can’t see dropping out. Nadal has his injury, but his ranking is protected, and the guy has won Grand Slams on one knee before, so he ain’t dropping down too far yet. Federer I think is the one in danger. Age surely must hit at some point (though I have been thinking this for a few years now). The first 6 months of 2012 were great for him, so he has a ton of points to defend – a semi at the Aust Open, and wins at Indian Wells, Dubai and Rotterdam. The Madrid tournament won’t be on blue clay this year – a surface that seemed to suit his game more than others, so that’ll be tough to defend. That said – it’s a long way for him to fall out of the top 10.

Ferrer, Berdych, Del Potro and Tsonga should be ok – I especially think Del Potro could be the one to rise. Ferrer could fall – and I doubt he’ll be number 5 in 12 months time. Tipsarevic has the win in Chennai in the bank for 12 months, and really doesn’t have much at the Grand Slams to defend – his best is a QF at the US Open. So there’s a fair bit of upside for him. But he is 28, so maybe he’s peaked. Gasquet has the win in Doha in his bank, and he made the 4th round of every Grand Slam, so a QF in any of them will give him 180 extra points – and every extra point put you further away from those trying to catch you. He also has made a solid and steady rise up the rankings from being number 30 this time 2 years ago. At the age of 26 he would be feeling like the next 2 years are his peak.

Then come the others in the top 20. Roanic, Cilic, Nishikori and Dolgopolov are the “young ones” (if 24 is young in the case of Cilic and Dolgopolov) on the rise. Both Cilic and Nishikori made the QF of last year’s Aussie Open, and both also missed the US Open. So while they have big points to defend in the next fortnight, they won’t have any when they get to Flushing Meadows. Nishikori didn’t make it past the 4th round of any Master event last year, so there’s points there to be made.

Those four are guys on the improve, for Tomic to make the Top 10 he not only has to displace one of the current top 10 he also has to get in front of these 4 (and the other 6 in the top 20). Tomic’s current rankings points are loaded mostly with the 4th round at last year’s Aussie Open. In his favour are that he was poor at Wimbledon, so he can improve there.

As I say, top 20 is a big show – but I will go so far as to say anything less than top 20 by the end of the year will be a disappointment. Top 10 would be a very good effort – certainly possible, but the year is long, and he had a great Australian summer last year as well, so it’s in the long months away from Australia where he needs to improve.

OK to to the Australian Open draws.

Djokovic has a quarter that has him set to play number 5 seed Berdych in the QF. To get there Djokovic might have to play young USA up and comer Ryan Harrison. Harrison at 20 years of age is a few steps behind the same aged Tomic at the moment, but the match would be a nice one to watch to see where both are at. Wawrinka or Querry in the 4th Round should be no danger for Djokovic. Berdych meanwhile will have to go through Juan Moncao or Verdasco to get to the QF. He should.

In the same half of the draw is David Ferrer who is due to meet Tipsaravic in the QF. Ferrer will likely have to go the dangerous Ivo Karlovic, Baghdahtis, Mikail Youzny or Nishikori. Depending on Nishikori’s fitness, I’m thinking he could be the upset factor here.

Tipsarevic faces Leyton Hewitt first up. I don’t think an upset is out of the question, but I wouldn’t put money on it. In his 16th of the draw I’m interested to see how Grigor Dimitrov goes. He faces number 32 seed Julien Bennetau in the first round. I’d like to see an upset.

In the bottom half we start with Del Potro who is slated to meet Andy Murray in the QF. I can’t see anyone stopping Del Potro getting to the final 8. Similarly Murray has a cruisey draw. Their QF would be a cracker.

Roger Federer has easily the toughest draw of the top seeds. He is slated to meet Tsonga in the QF, but to get there he needs to beat firstly the young Frenchman Benoit Paire, then probably the veteran Davydenko. The 3rd round is tough – likely a very in-form Bernard Tomic, and then a 4th round if he makes it against Raonic. It really is a case of the old man having to defend himself against the wannabe future. Federer’s run of 34 consecutive Grand Slam QF’s will face a supreme test. To be honest I am not sure he’ll get there. If he does it’ll mean he is playing very good tennis, and I'd back him against Tsonga, who has a pretty clear run to the QF.

The toughest aspect with Federer is he hasn’t played any tournaments of late so there’s a risk he’ll be too rusty in the early rounds. A few years ago he might have got away with it, but this year, with his draw, he’ll need to be sharp from the get go.

And that will bring us to the second week.

In the women’s?

Serena Williams. She might even lose a set along the way.

1 comment:

UV said...

Yeah Roger haven't played for a while but he got his techniques in winning title.. he will be winning title for fifth time if he won australian open 2013 title .. wish him good luck