Sunday, 15 January 2012

ATP Australian Open Preview and Predictions

I have gone into massive detail on my WTA preview of the Australian Open so here is a slightly shorter preview for the ATP!

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is the number one seed and opens his title defence against the Italian, Paolo Lorenzi.  After an incredible year, Djokovic has an almighty task to defend his ranking points this year.  He looked tired and mentally spent at the end of 2011; however he started the year well with some dominant wins in the Abu Dhabi exhibition and I think he will be back to his best here.  The first seed he is likely to run into is Radek Stepanek in the third round before potentially meeting Andy Roddick in the 4th round.  Roddick has a tricky opener with Robin Haase, but the real test will be a potential third round encounter with Milos Raonic.  Raonic has looked very impressive winning the title in Chennai and I feel Roddick is on the way out so I fancy Raonic to make the 4th round.

Djokovic's projected quarter-final opponent is the the number 5 seed, David Ferrer.  Ferrer has a particularly straightforward passage to the 4th round starting with Rui Machado in round one.  His first test will no doubt come in round four where he is likely to face either Janko Tipsarevic or Richard Gasquet.  Both these players will have tests along the way as Tipsarevic opens up against Dmitry Tursunov and Gasquet could play Mikhail Youzhny in round two.  However I anticipate Tipsarevic and Gasquet to face off in an exciting third round clash with Tipsarevic prevailing and meeting Ferrer in the 4th round...

4th round matches: Djokovic v Raonic, Tipsarevic v Ferrer

Winner of Quarter 1: Novak Djokovic

Highlight 1st round matches: Rosol v Petzschner, Haase v Roddick, Tipsarevic v Tursunov

Watch out for the dark horse... Milos Raonic

Worthy of a punt: It is pretty much slim pickings in the top half, but I would go for the talented Lukas Rosol to beat Phillip Petzschner at 9/4

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Andy Murray is in the second quarter and has been handed the most difficult draw of the top four.  Murray opens up against the talented, Ryan Harrison in round one.  His biggest obstacles potentially lie in the 4th round and quarter-finals where he could face the French twosome of Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga respectively.  Monfils has shown that he has the talent to beat anyone on his day; for example he took out Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of Doha last week.  However he frequently fails to consistently deliver his best tennis.  He will play Marinko Matosevic in the first round and could play Viktor Troicki in the third round, who he beat in Doha.  I fancy him to reach the fourth round where he will face off against Murray.

In the bottom section of the draw, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have to be at his best to overcome Denis Istomin in round one, but he will be relatively content with the remainder of his draw.  Marcel Granollers is likely to be his first seeded opponent in the third round, and Gilles Simon is his projected fourth round opponent.  I fancy Simon to be upset along the way; I think that the Australian Matthew Ebden, who plays Joao Souza in the first round, is a dark horse within this section of the draw.  He had some good results at the end of last year and played well in Brisbane too.  I think he will beat the number 24 seed, Kei Nishikori and then stun Simon.  Ultimately, I think Murray and Tsonga will square off in the quarter-final and i'm completely on the fence as to who will win!

4th round matches: Murray v Monfils, Ebden v Tsonga

Winner of Quarter 2: Andy Murray (just!)

Highlight 1st round matches: Murray v Harrison, Troicki v Ferrero, Istomin v Tsonga

Watch out for the dark horse... Matthew Ebden

Worthy of a punt: No stand-outs for me, but I would probably go for Dudi Sela, who is 11/13 to beat Thomasz Bellucci

Mardy Fish can be found in the third quarter and opens up his campaign against Gilles Muller.  I must say I am not feeling positive about Fish's chances especially after a disappointing series of performances at the Hopman Cup.  I see his tournament ending in the third round to the Argentine, Juan Monaco who will have to start strong to knock out Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round; Kohlschreiber is terribly inconsistent so i'm going for Monaco.
Juan Martin Del Potro

Assuming that Monaco does get to the 4th round, I think we could have an all-Argentine 4th round sizzler as Juan Martin Del Potro is also in this section of the draw.  Del Potro will play Adrian Mannarino in the first round, who he did actually lose to at Queens last year (I remember because I watched the match live!).  I  anticipate a different result this time and i'm confident Del Potro will ease into the 4th round as he has been handed a very straightforward draw because his first potential seeded opponent in Florian Mayer has withdrawn and been replaced by a lucky loser, Rik De Voest.

In the bottom half, Roger Federer will play Alexander Kudryavtsev in the first round and looks set to stroll through the draw.  Jurgen Melzer is likely to be his third round opponent and although Melzer did beat Federer last year in Monte-Carlo, Melzer has not been the same player since.  His fourth round opponent is likely to be an interesting one... the two seeds in this section are Fernando Verdasco and Alexander Dolgopolov.  Verdasco has the toughest test against Australian, Bernard Tomic in round one.  Tomic has looked in very good form so far reaching the semi-finals of Birsbane and playing well in the Kooyong exhibition.  I am confident that the irratic Verdasco will be ousted and this will pave the way for a tempting third round clash between Dolgopolov and Tomic...

4th round matches: Monaco v Del Potro, Dolgopolov v Federer

Winner of Quarter 3: Roger Federer

Highlight 1st round matches: Kohlschreiber v Monaco, Tomic v Verdasco, Melzer v Karlovic

Watch out for the dark horse... Juan Monaco and Bernard Tomic

Worthy of a punt: I would go for Juan Monaco to beat the inconsistent Philipp Kohlschreiber at 7/4.

David Nalbandian
Tomas Berdych is the number 7 seed and he will play Albert Ramos in the first round.  Berdych was extremely consistent during 2011 but ended the season in good form.  I think he could be one to watch out for this week.  His projected third round opponent is the big serving, Kevin Anderson who has yet to win a match in 2012.  His fourth round opponent could be anyone... based on seeding it should be Nicolas Almagro, but he will have to be at his best to pass Lukas Kubot in the first round and then potentially Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.  I am a big fan of the Bulgarian, Dimitrov and predict he will cause an upset.  The other seeded player in this section is Stanislas Wawrinka, who I think will come unstuck against Marcos Baghdatis in round two.  This paves the way for an unseeded third round clash between Baghdatis and Dimitrov and i'm going for Dimitrov to stun the Cypriot to play Berdych in the fourth round.

The number 2 seed, Rafael Nadal rounds out the draw and will play the qualifier, Alex Kuznetsov.  His first seeded opponent is likely to be Ivan Ljubicic in the third round.  In the fourth round, he is projected to meet John Isner; however Isner has a number of established players to pass such as David Nalbanidan, Nikolay Davdyenko and Feliciano Lopez.  Of note in this section is a first round clash between Nalbandian and Jarkko Nieminen who has been in excellent form in Sydney winning the title but a rain delay on Saturday means he will have little preparation...i'm going for a Nadal v Nalbandian 4th round.  Nadal has a good draw, but I do not fancy his chances.  He has admitted he will take a month off after the Australian Open to fully rest his shoulder injury and personally, I just don't see him as a threat... this will be a great opportunity for Berdych to do some damage.

4th round matches: Berdych v Dimitrov, Nalbandian v Nadal

Winner of Quarter 4: Tomas Berdych

Highlight 1st round matches: Nielsen v Anderson, Kubot v Almagro, Nieminen v Nalbandian

Watch out for the dark horse... Grigor Dimitrov

Worthy of a punt: Wawrinka can be vulnerable in his opening matches so 3/1 for Benoit Paire to upset him in round one looks like good odds.

Final Prediction - Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer
I am going for Novak Djokovic to win his third consecutive Grand Slam beating Roger Federer in an epic finale.  To be honest, before the draw was completed I didn't fancy Federer to get to the final, but he has a very favourable draw.  I would have gone for Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but they are seeded to meet in the Quarters and on Djokovic's side! Rafael Nadal is not a contender for me (i'll probably regret saying that!) and Tomas Berdych is my dark horse.

So my predictions are set and i'm all ready for the first Grand Slam of the season! If I have time, i'm hoping to blog through the next two weeks with match reports and predictions as we move through the tournament.  I'm already eyeing up my first match to watch between Victoria Azarenka and Heather Watson at midnight on Sunday... bye bye sleep!

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