Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Australian Open 2011: The Long Overdue Preview (Part 2)

The Nadal Quarter

Nothing is more anticipated or drooled over, than the thought of Rafa completing the Rafa Slam. Can you imagine how huge it will be if Rafael Nadal wins his 4th straight Grand Slam? Achieving a feat that no one has managed to achieve in 42 years, and even then, there were only 2 surfaces for Grand Slams, not 3. I certainly can’t stop thinking about it, so I’m trying to imagine how Rafa is dealing with that very thought?! He is the master of mind control but this is one tough thought to squash!

The top seed has quite a few bumps on the road to the Rafa Slam, I don’t know why people are saying he has an easy draw. Is there such a thing in a Grand Slam anyways?!

Nadal [1] opens his Oz Open campaign against Brazil’s Marcos Daniel and could meet his compatriot and good friend, Feliciano Lopez [31] in the third round.

The Spaniard could then meet Marin Cilic [15], Radek Stepanek or John Isner [20] in the 4th round, before a possible quarterfinal against another friend of his, David Ferrer [7], or Mikhail Youzhny [10], or David Nalbandian [27].

Nalbandian vs Hewitt

The 1st round match to watch is definitely David Nalbandian [27] against former world number 1 and home favorite, Lleyton Hewitt. Those two have a history in Melbourne where they played an infamous 5-setter in the 2005 quarterfinals which Hewitt eventually won 10-8 in the 5th. Hewitt has a slight 3-2 edge over the Argentine in their head-to-head record but the last time they played was in 2009 in Sydney, where Nalbandian won.

Nadal on how it would feel like if he wins his 4th straight Slam:

“I think is better if we continue with another questions because for me, seriously, I can't answer this question because I didn't imagine (laughter). I think if that's happen, for sure for me I gonna be more happy to win in Australia because is the Australian Open more than is because the fourth in a row. That's hundred percent true.”

Nadal on whether he considers himself the favorite in Melbourne:

“But I for sure am feeling less favorite than him [Federer] and not more favorite than Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, these kind of players, no? So that's true. That's what I think.”

Nadal’s key to success:

“In tennis you can improve all your career. So is something that I always tried when I wake up every morning and I go to practice. My goal is improve, not go to practice. That's why I am here, no? If someday I lost this feeling, maybe I don't gonna come back to this tournament.”

The Soderling/Murray Quarter

Robin Soderling did to Andy Murray what Juan Martin Del Potro had done at precisely the same time last year ahead of the Australian Open. The Swede leapfrogged Murray in the rankings to grab the number 4 spot and set the media off into a speculation of what would happen if both Murray and Djokovic fell in the same half of the draw together with either Nadal or Federer?!

As everyone kept asking Murray how he felt being the 5th seed, the Scot had the simplest and most perfect reply:

“To be honest, I don't really care. Like last year, I was seeded 5 here and made it to the final. Been 4, lost in the third round of slams.”

So Robin Soderling is seeded 4th and Andy really couldn’t care less. Soderling opens against Potito Starace and Murray faces Karol Beck of Slovakia.

Other dangerous players in that quarter who are all semifinal contenders for Nadal are Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis [21], Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [13], Jurgen Melzer [11] and Ernests Gulbis [24].

Murray could meet Del Potro or Baghdatis in the 4th round, while Soderling could meet Tsonga or Gulbis.

Possible quarterfinals

Andy Murray [5] vs Robin Soderling [4]
Andy Murray [5] vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [13]
Robin Soderling [4] vs Jurgen Melzer [11]
Robin Soderling [4] vs Marcos Baghdatis [21]
Robin Soderling [4] vs Juan Martin Del Potro

Possible semifinals

Andy Murray [5] vs Rafael Nadal [1]
Robin Soderling [4] vs Rafael Nadal [1]

Murray’s thoughts on Rafa possibly winning 4 in a row:

“To me, I think if you hold all four Grand Slams, it's one of the best achievements in sport. And I really hope he doesn't do it (smiling).”

Murray on returning to Melbourne after losing last year’s final (from The Australian):

“For me, Melbourne is also the scene of my greatest disappointment. I played some of the best tennis of my career here last year, but was not able to reach that same standard against Roger Federer in the final...”

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