Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 Australian Open Draw Breakdown – For once Federer seems to have a tougher draw

Is it me or has 2009 just simply swooshed by? Cuz I swear last year’s Australian Open trophy ceremony featuring Federer’s waterworks seems just like yesterday.

Anyways the 2010 Australian Open kicks off on Monday and here’s what you need to know about the draw:
The Federer Quarter

This time last year, Federer was playing at the Australian Open as the number 2 seed for the first time in ages, but the Swiss managed to turn things around and now he’s back as Melbourne’s top seed.

First round opponent - Igor Andreev

The Russian can be dangerous at times despite the fact that he has dropped out of the world’s top 30 and is not seeded in Melbourne this year. The last time Andreev played Federer, he took the Swiss to 5 sets in the 2008 US Open 4th round. Andreev, who reached the third round at the Oz Open last year, has only played one single match so far this season when he lost to Leonardo Mayer in Sydney this past week.

First possible clash with a seed - Third round against Albert Montanes [31]

Possible fourth round opponents

2005 Australian Open finalist and home favorite, Lleyton Hewitt [22], David Ferrer [17], and 2010 Sydney champion and former Australian Open finalist, Marcos Baghdatis.

Possible quarterfinal opponents

2009 ATP World Tour finals champion and 2010 Doha champion, Nikolay Davydenko [6], 2009 Australian Open semifinalist and this year's Kooyong champion, Fernando Verdasco [9], Juan Carlos Ferrero [23] and Latvian talent, Ernests Gulbis.

Possible semifinal opponents

2008 Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic [3], 2009 Roland Garros finalist, Robin Soderling [8] and 2008 Australian Open runner-up, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [10].

The reason Federer’s draw seems pretty daunting is because some of the players in his half of the draw have actually managed to beat him at least once over the last 12 months; like Davydenko who’s snapped his 12 match losing streak to Federer by beating the Swiss twice in a row, in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour finals and in the Qatar Open semifinals earlier this month. Soderling also beat Federer in the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi 2 weeks ago, while Djokovic has beaten him 3 times out of 5 last year. Tsonga also beat Federer the last time they played at the quarters of the Montreal Masters last year. So the world number one certainly has some tough hurdles to jump if he wants to reclaim that Australian Open trophy that has eluded him the last 2 years.

The Djokovic Quarter

The Serb sensation, who won the title in 2008 beating Federer in the semis and Tsonga in the finals, has not played any matches so far in 2010; but if the end of last season is any indication of how dangerous he is at the moment, then everyone should be more than scared, since Djokovic managed to win back-to-back titles in Basel and Paris, made the finals in Cincinnati and the semis at the US Open, all in the last 4 months of the season. The world number 3 is also in a great position to leapfrog Rafael Nadal in the rankings, if the Spaniard doesn’t do well in Melbourne this fortnight.

First round opponent – Daniel Gimeno-Traver

First possible clash with a seed – Third round against Jeremy Chardy [32]

Possible fourth round opponents

Tommy Robredo [16], Mikhail Youzhny [20] and Sydney finalist, Richard Gasquet.

Possible quarterfinal opponents

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [10], Tommy Haas [18] and Robin Soderling [8].

The Del Potro Quarter

For the first time since August 2008, the top 4 seeds in a Grand Slam are not Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. A tall Argentine has intervened and has squeezed Murray out of the foursome just in time to get the number 4 seeding for the Australian Open; yes, Juan Martin Del Potro is in fact seeded fourth for the first time at a Grand Slam. The US Open champion has been the talk of the tennis world since his triumph over Federer in the US Open final and will now face his opponents in Melbourne from a very different position, a position that is of a Grand Slam champion!

First round opponent – Michael Russell

Possible second round opponents

James Blake
or Auckland finalist, and former Australian Open finalist, Arnaud Clement.

First possible clash with a seed – Third round against Viktor Troicki [29]

Possible fourth round opponents

Marin Cilic [14] and Stanislas Wawrinka [19].

Possible quarterfinal opponents

Brisbane champion, Andy Roddick [7], Tomas Berdych [21] and former Australian Open finalist, Fernando Gonzalez [11].

Possible semifinal opponents

Defending champion, Rafael Nadal [2] and Andy Murray [5].

The Nadal Quarter

The world number 2 returns to Melbourne for the first time as the defending champion. The Spaniard had mixed results in the second half of last season and admitted he wasn’t playing with much confidence nor was he at his best level, but after his Davis Cup triumph in December and some vigorous training, Nadal showed up in 2010 in some gruesome fashion. He won the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi beating Robin Soderling in the final and reached the Doha final where he fell to Davydenko in one of the best matches we’ve seen in a long time. From what we’ve seen of Nadal so far this season, the 23-year-old certainly seems ready to defend his title.

First round opponent – Australia’s Peter Luczak

First possible clash with a seed – Philipp Kohlschreiber [27]

Possible fourth round opponents

Radek Stepanek [13], Ivan Ljubicic [24] and Ivo Karlovic.

Possible quarterfinal opponents

Gael Monfils [12], Andy Murray [5] and Auckland champion, John Isner [33].

Possible semifinal opponents

Juan Martin Del Potro [4], Andy Roddick [7] and Marin Cilic [14].

Nadal’s path to the quarters seems smoother than Federer’s but come the quarterfinal stage, Nadal will certainly have mountains to climb if he wants to defend his title.

The second seed opens his title defense campaign on Monday at 7pm (Melbourne time) on Rod Laver Arena.

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