Australian Open Preview +Picks

aus

 

Make sure your alarm clocks are set. Be sure that your friends and family are aware that you may be unreachable for the next two weeks. If you’re like me, your sleep schedule will be wildly unordinary for the next 14 days. The Australian Open is upon us, the first slam of the year, the “happy slam.” With temperatures set to break 100 degrees on multiple days in Melbourne, the heat will certainly test players happiness.

The draw was released on Friday, and more than a few were in uproar at the imbalance it produced. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Roger Federer are all on the top half of the draw, leaving Novak Djokovic sitting pretty in his quest for his 4th Australian crown. But a draw is nothing more than a draw, and the matches still have to be played for potential matches to occur later in the tournament.

I think this year’s Aus Open will be the year of the upset. An upset winner is highly unlikely, but we could be in store for some deep runs by less than “elite” players. So let’s get into the picks!

Winner

Novak DjokovicI know, this is probably the 1000th time you’ve seen this pick. But to pick against Djoker would mean that I’m not a realistic tennis analyst. Look at his draw. Really the only danger he faces in route to the final is Stanislas Wawrinka, and that is real danger. If Stan the Man gets to the quarters, we could be in for another epic. But most likely Novak will cruise through his first 5-6 matches dropping maybe a set or two in the process. He is the best hard-court player in the world, as he proved during his 24 match winning streak to end 2013. Obviously he should face a great player in the final, whether that’s Nadal, Murray, or Del Potro. But none of those players have an easy road to get to their 7th match. The overall stress of playing 2-3 tough matches takes its toll and Novak will undoubtably have the clear edge in the final.

Dark Horse(‘s)

Ernests Gulbis–Although Ernie G is in Novak’s quarter of the draw, he has the firepower to take out anyone. He lost in straight sets to Rafa in Doha, but I think the court speed in Melbourne is just right for Gulbis’ style of play. He will have just a split second more time, and the ball will sit just a little higher; perfect for his elongated strokes and extreme grips. Of course Ernie could lose in the first round and make me look incredibly stupid, but you gotta show some faith right?

Gael Monfils–I’ve made a few comments on twitter in the last couple weeks talking about Monfils. From what I’ve seen, I think he’s ready for a breakout(or breakback?) 2014. The talent has always been there, but he looked as focused as I had even seen him in Doha. He lost a close 3-setter to Nadal in the final, but he was hitting the absolute **** out of the ball. If he is serving well, he is tough to beat, and Gael lives for the big moments in front of big crowds. The defining match for him will be the potential 3rd round rematch between Gael and Nadal, under the lights on Rod Laver Arena.

Grigor Dimitrov–I pick this guy….a lot. And usually he proves me wrong, by losing before the third round in Grand Slams. But my colleagues at Tennis View Magazine have had great reports for Dimitrov’s practice sessions. Apparently he is really hitting the cover off the ball, and with new coach Roger Rasheed, it’s time that Grigor made his move. 2014 will see Grigor inside the top 10. There. I  said it.

Americans(The less Popular One’s)

Tim Smyczek–Had to include Smee in this post. He adds to the stacked top half of the draw. He will play Roberto Bautista-Agut in the first round. RBA is in good form, reaching the SF in Auckland, where he blew a set and break lead to John Isner, eventual champion. Tim is using a new racket in 2014, and as long as he takes out RBA he will meet Delpo in the second round, which should be fun to watch.

Denis Kudla–I really like Kudla, I think he has one of the higher ceilings among young Americans. He is VERY fit, and solid as they come off the ground. He qualified into the tournament and will face Florian Mayer in the first round. Mayer is a really good player, but I think Kudla takes this one in 5. He will then could face Mikhail Youzhny. Again, it should be fun.

As Brad Gilbert says: Who ya got and scoreline?

 

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Day 4 Preview

James Blake

 

After the major carnage on day 3, let’s hope day 4 at Wimbledon can restore some order. The seeds in the top half have fared much better than those of the bottom half. There are many good matches on the schedule for tomorrow, so lets take a look.

Tomas Berdych vs Daniel Brands- After taking out a tricky first round opponent in Martin Klizan, things don’t get any easier for Tomas Berdych. The Birdman takes on the big serving Daniel Brands, whose game fits the grass well. Berdych has never played Name Brands, but he’ll be aware of his opponents talent. Look for a few tiebreaks in this one. I’m taking Berdych in 4.

James Blake vs Bernard Tomic- Theses two players are at the opposite ends of their career. Blake has never played very well at Wimbledon, but he’s got an opportunity to make the third round for the first time in 5 years. Bernie Tomic apparently can’t play that well unless his dad is in the stands, and he won’t be their due to his ban from the ATP for headbutting Bernard’s hitting partner. Tomic has the talent, but doesn’t seem to have the passion to be a top player yet. I’m taking Blake in 5.

Denis Kudla vs Ivan Dodig- Most people aren’t talking about this match, but I love Kudla. He also has a great opportunity, after Dodig took out Phillip Kohlshreiber in the first round. Dodig is very up and down. He beat Nadal in 2011, but I’ve also seen him play some horrible matches. I’m thinking Kudla continues his run and wins in 5 grueling sets.

Novak Djokovic vs Bobby Reynolds- Djokovic’s mouth must have a smile on his face after all the top seeds going down early. However, he knows that he has to make sure he doesn’t catch the upset bug. He shouldn’t have a problem with Bobby Reynolds. The American is a journeyman with not too many weapons, so Novak should win 3 routine sets.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Jesse Levine- Delpo in 3.

David Ferrer vs Roberto Bautista Agut- Ferrer in 3.

Richard Gasquet vs Go Soeda- Gasquet in 3.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Grega Zemlja- Dimitrov in 3. (I’m pulling for Grigor bigtime now that Fed is out)

Tommy Haas vs Jimmy Wang- Haas in 3.

Kei Nishikori vs Leonardo Mayer- Nishikori in 3.

Santiago Giraldo vs Alexandr Dolgopolov- Dolgopolov in 4.

Milos Raonic Igor Sijsling- Raonic in 4.

Michael Llodra vs Andreas Seppi- Llodra in 4.

Jeremy Chardy vs Jan-Lennard Struff- Chardy in 4.

Feliciano Lopez vs Paul-Henri Mathieu- Lopez in 4.

Kevin Anderson vs Michal Przysiezny- Anderson in 3.

Who do you guys have on upset alert?

Day 2 Recap

Nole

 

Wimbledon Day 2 had it’s fair share of story lines. Although there were no huge upsets like day 1, there were way more 5 set matches. The World Number 1 was in action, and the American Men had a very up and down day.

Djokovic Sharp In Opener- I predicted that Florian Mayer would play 2 tight sets against Novak Djokovic, and that was a pretty good pick. He was close for about a set and a half, as Novak won in straight sets 6-3 7-5 6-4. Mayer played well, mixing it up between topspin, flat, and slice shots. Djokovic was way too good though, and he never dropped serve. His next two rounds will probably be easier than this match.

The Americans: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- There were 9 American men in action Tuesday, and many of them struggled. We’ll start with the good. Denis Kudla continued his torrent run with a 5 set win over another qualifier James Duckworth, 6-1 in the fifth. Kudla will play Ivan Dodig next, and that’s a really good opportunity for the young Virginian to make the third round of a grand slam for the first time in his career. Another positive came on the other end of the spectrum, as 32 year old James Blake won his first match Wimbledon in 3 years. He beat Thiemo De Bakker in straight sets.

Now the bad. Ryan Harrison had a great opportunity against the 28 seed Jeremy Chardonnay Chardy, who has never had good results on grass. The first set went on serve until Harrison had a break point to serve for the set, but he missed an easy forehand. Chardy took the tiebreak, but Harrison rebounded to take the second set. He was the better player, but he didn’t take the numerous chances he had and eventually lost in 4 sets. Harrison falls to an atrocious 6-13 on the year. In an all-American match, Steve Johnson led by a break in the fifth set, but fell to the journeyman Bobby Reynolds.

The ugly. Sam Querrey had a tough first round opponent, Bernard Tomic. However, Tomic was not playing well, and quite frankly, it didn’t look like he cared. Querrey squandered 7 sets points in the first set, and went down 2 sets to none. After easily taking the next two, Querrey choked and lost fifth. Both players showed nearly no emotion, and Bernie seemed more fired up in his post match interview when he was defending his dad.

Young Guns Move On- Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, and Kei Nishikori all advanced to the second round with straight set wins. Each of these players are in David Ferrer’s Quarter of the draw, so look for at least one of them to make a run.

My Picks- Not quite as good today, as I went 22 for 32. Looking back, I have no idea why I picked Michael Russel to win.

Queen’s Club Wrap Up

Murray

 

The ATP 250 wrapped up this weekend. I am here to wrap up the end of the tournament in London where Andy Murray was victorious for the third time in Queen’s Club in his career.

Murray’s quarterfinal match was a close straight set encounter over German Benjamin Becker. Becker’s serve kept him in his match, but Murray’s return is better than Becker’s serve. Murray won 6 – 4, 7 – 6 (3). Then came the semi final showdown with Jo Willy Tsonga. Tsonga had cruised past American upstart Denis Kudla in the round before and was looking to upset Andy in his first tournament and it certainly looked like that was going to happen early in the match. Tsonga won the first set 6 – 4. But Tsonga, as he showed in Paris, continued to have issues closing out matches and struggled under pressure. Murray came back and won the second and third sets 3 and 2.

The final pitted Murray against defending champion Marin Cilic. Cilic had defeated a hot Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals and then upset second seed Tomas Berdych in the semis so he was playing solid ball going into the final. Once again, Murray was off to a slugghish start. He had plenty of opportunites to win the set, but did not take advantage. Cilic stole the first set 7 – 5. Murray continued to struggle throughout the second set as Cilic began to raise his game. But Murray kept hanging around and holding serve and finally converted on his chances, taking the second set 7 – 5. Murray began to wear Cilic down physically and ended up getting the one and crucial break he needed and serced it out to win the third 6 – 3.

This is a big confidence booster for Murray, being his first tournament back since the beginning of the clay court season. I look for him to make another deep run at Wimbledon this year. Stay tuned for more coverage this week as I update everyone on the tournament in Eastbourne on Thursday. And congrats to the Bryan brothers for their 90th career title. That’s truly incredible for one doubles team. Enjoy everyone!