At the start of the second week, all of the singles matches shift to the three show courts. We organize our daily preview a bit differently as a result, following the order of play for each stadium. From here to the end of the 2013 Australian Open, you can find a preview of every singles match in Wizards of Oz.
Rod Laver Arena:
Kerber vs. Makarova: When two left-handed women last met on Rod Laver, the match unwound deep into a final set. Viewers can expect less drama but higher quality from a meeting between the world #5 and a Russian seeking her second straight quarterfinal here. In this round last year, Makarova recorded probably the best win of her career in upsetting Serena, and she rekindled some of those memories with a three-set upset of Bartoli. Advancing through the draw more routinely, Kerber reached the second week here for the first time and will look to exploit the ebbs and flows in her opponent’s more volatile game. Makarova will aim to take time away from the German counterpuncher, in part by opening the court with wide serves behind which she can step inside the baseline. In a close match, Kerber’s outstanding three-set record and her opponent’s relative frailty under pressure could prove decisive. The German won all three of their 2012 meetings in straight sets.
Ferrer vs. Nishikori: Despite his clear superiority in ranking and overall accomplishments, the fourth seed might feel a bit anxious heading into this match. Nishikori has won two of their three previous matches, both at significant tournaments. More notable than his victory over Ferrer at the Olympics was a five-set thriller that he won from at the US Open, which introduced the Japanese star to an international audience four years ago. Chronically beset by injuries, Nishikori overcame a knee problem early in his first match and has won nine straight sets. As he pursues his second straight quarterfinal here, like Makarova, he cannot afford to encounter any physical issues in a grinding encounter filled with protracted rallies and few outright winners. Ferrer wore down Baghdatis, a former nemesis here, in a routine third-round clash as his level rose with the competition, but now it rises again.
Sharapova vs. Flipkens: Perhaps benefiting from the guidance of retired compatriot Clijsters, Flipkens has reached the second week at a major for the first time. Still, she defeated nobody of greater significance than Zakopalova to reach that stage, and it is difficult to see any area of her game that can trouble the rampaging Russian. Following her two double bagels, Sharapova conceded just four games to Venus in a highly anticipated encounter that turned into a demonstration of just how crisply she has started the season. The Belgian’s best chance may lie in the hope that the world #2 enters this match a little complacent or satiated with her statement triumph, not likely from someone of her professionalism. Their only previous hard-court meeting, in Luxembourg ten years ago, bears no relevance to what might unfold here.
Ivanovic vs. Radwanska: Early in their careers, the Serbian former #1 hit through the Pole’s defenses with her serve-forehand combinations. As Ivanovic has grown more erratic with time, the balance of power has shifted towards Radwanska with three straight victories in 2009-10 before a retirement from the former in their most recent meeting. All of those matches have stayed very close, though, which can give the Serb as she realizes that she will have chances against a player who will not overpower her. Stalling in the fourth round of majors for most of the last few years, Ivanovic has suffered a long string of losses to top-four opponents. Currently undefeated in 2013 with two titles already, Radwanska has shown greater discipline and steadiness here (no surprise, really) than the flustered former #1, who has oscillated wildly in form. Expect the fourth seed to outlast and outwit Ivanovic in an entertaining battle.
Djokovic vs. Wawrinka: Not exactly known as a steely competitor, the Swiss #2 has acquired a reputation for folding at majors against elite opponents—not just Federer, but Djokovic and Murray has well. He has lost his last ten meetings against the defending champion, last winning in 2006, although three times since then he has won the opening set. Demolishing his first trio of victims without dropping serve, Djokovic has not shown any vulnerability that might offer Wawrinka a reason to believe. Granted, the latter has not lost a set here either, but a matchup with the world #1 in a night session on Rod Laver Arena seems like the type of environment calculated to bring out the worst from the Swiss and something near the best from the Serb. Parallel to Sharapova and Flipkens, one struggles to imagine any part of the underdog’s game that can threaten the favorite consistently.
Almagro vs. Tipsarevic: Never before have they met on a hard court, discounting an Abu Dhabi exhibition. To no surprise, the Spaniard defeated the Serb comfortably when they met at Roland Garros last year, the most favorable surface for the former and the least favorable for the latter. Almagro remains almost as lethal a threat on hard courts as on clay, producing a handful of fine results in Melbourne and New York behind an impressive serve and plenty of groundstroke first-strike power. Both men can strike winners down the line from either groundstroke wing, nor will either hesitate in attempting a bold shot at any moment. That factor, combined with their proximity to each other in the rankings, bodes well for a tightly contested match, as does their mixture of impressive and unimpressive results in the first week.
Li vs. Goerges: If Almagro and Tipsarevic never have met on a hard court, this pair of women never has collided at all. Whereas Li rolled through the first week without dropping a set, Goerges needed to claw through a long three-setter in her opener against Dushevina and salvage a third-round epic against Zheng after the Chinese served for the match. Despite the accumulated fatigue, that resilience under pressure might aid her in a match likely to feature several twists and turns between two streaky women. Under Henin’s former mentor, stern taskmaster Carlos Rodriguez, Li has hinted at improving her consistency from one tournament to the next. Starting the year with a title and a Sydney semifinal, she enters this match with an 11-1 record in 2013. On the other hand, Goerges has wobbled through a long span of the unpredictability typical of WTA Germans, leaving her stagnant until this week.
Margaret Court Arena:
Anderson vs. Berdych: The first South African to reach the second week of a major since Wayne Ferreira ten years ago, Anderson did it the hard way by winning the last two sets of a five-setter against Verdasco. Few players have started the year more impressively than he has, marching from a strong week at the Hopman Cup to the Sydney final and now a week in which he twice has won matches after losing the first set. But Anderson may find himself eyeing adversity again when he meets a man who won all four of their matches last year. The last two of those reached final sets, offering him some hope in this contest of crackling serves, ferocious forehands, and meager backhands, which should produce repeated holds and perhaps some tiebreaks. Berdych has dominated the opposition through three rounds with the relentless focus that he does not always show, although he has not faced anyone of a quality approaching the South African.
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
Comeback stories and players reinventing themselves seem to have been a theme of the ATP tour for the last few years. It seems like a lot of players are reaching the peaks of their careers around the ages of 28 or 29 recently, instead of the customary 20-24. Players like Mardy Fish and Jurgen Melzer come to mind, who began having their best results late in their careers. David Ferrer is more consistent than he has ever been before now that he is 30 years old.
One such reinvention story, which has really flown under the radar for the past few years, is Nicolas Almagro. Almagro has always been a talented player, which he showed by jumping onto the scene and beating Juan Carlos Ferrero during his campaign to win his first-ever title. Almagro plays a power game that is really built on defense. He has never really had the talent to beat the top players, but he has been raising his consistency in recent years and it has really helped keep his ranking high.
Even with his obvious talent, Almagro has been known for two things. The first is being a clay court specialist; the second is keeping his ranking artificially high by playing far too many small tournaments. In fact, Almagro has played 250 events several times in the past few years even when he had 0 potential points to gain by playing in them. It’s not an unfair critique of him to say that he plays too many of these tournaments. But he is a professional and has every right to do whatever he feels necessary to compete at the highest levels or even just to bring home enough money.
The critique I want to focus on, however, is the claim that Almagro is good on clay and nowhere else. The problem with this complaint against him is, of course, that it is just no longer true. Yes, all 17 of Almagro’s career finals (12 wins and 5 runner-ups) have come on clay; and yes, Almagro is better on clay than on other surfaces. But what very few have realized is that the 27-year-old Spaniard has really picked up his level on all surfaces in the past few years.
Including this tournament, Almagro has now reached the Round of 16 of 4 straight Australian Opens. Before 2010, he had only reached the third round of 2 Slams not on clay. But it’s not just the Slam results that show Almagro’s new all-surface abilities. Before 2010, Almagro reached 5 Masters-level rounds of 16, only 1 of them on hard courts. Since then, he has gone that far 15 times, 8 on hard courts and 7 on clay.
Earlier in his career, Almagro used to look awkward and uncomfortable off of clay. You would almost expect early exits from him on hard courts, even when he was the higher-ranked player. And because he built up that reputation, a lot of people still expect that from him. But it really isn’t fair anymore. He showed his new ability to move on grass when he beat John Isner at Wimbledon in 2011. He also showed his ability to play power tennis on hard courts when he beat Stanislas Wawrinka at the Australian Open last year and Ivan Ljubicic the year before.
By now, people who consistently watch Almagro don’t even have this distinction in their minds between clay courts and other courts. Yes, Almagro is still better on clay than on other surfaces. But the distinction is no longer that he is good on clay and bad everywhere else. Now, he’s very good everywhere and even better on clay.
A plethora of intriguing encounters awaits audiences as the third round begins at the Australian Open. Foremost among them are two in the women’s draw, which we include in our latest preview.
Kerber vs. Keys (Rod Laver Arena): Long hovering on the horizon, the 17-year-old Madison Keys has soared into the consciousness of the tennis world by winning four main-draw matches in the last two weeks. Moreover, she has won most of them decisively, including routs of top-20 opponent Safarova in Sydney and the 30th-seeded Paszek here. The teenager’s serve could prove a crucial weapon against Kerber, whose superior steadiness and experience should prevail in rallies unless Keys can find a way to unsettle her, which she could with a strong start. Featured on the show court of a major for the first time, she seems more likely to rise to the occasion than crumble under the weight of the moment.
Li vs. Cirstea (RLA): Familiar with both rising and crumbling in spectacular style, the 2011 Australian Open runner-up split her two meetings with Cirstea at majors last year. Li defeated the heavy-hitting Romanian at Roland Garros but lost to her at Wimbledon before battling past her in a Cincinnati three-setter, so she will know what to expect. While Cirstea defeated Stosur in the first round here last year and can hope to capture that magic again, the moderately paced hard court in Australia would seem to favor Li’s more balanced game.
Sharapova vs. Williams (RLA): Scanning the WTA elite, one might not find two champions more similar in playing style than these two legends of first-strike tennis. Both Sharapova and Venus can hammer lethal missiles from both groundstroke wings, and both compete with the ferocity of women whose lungs illustrate their loathing for losing. Both have the ability to win free points in bunches with their serves, but both also can lose control of that shot beyond repair amidst cascades of double faults. Both have survived significant bouts of adversity, Sharapova by battling back from a career-threatening shoulder surgery and Venus by battling back from a career-threatening illness. While the American has accumulated a richer title haul, the Russian owns the more balanced resume.
Their record reflects much of the above, neatly balanced at 4-3 in Sharapova’s favor but skewed 4-1 in her favor away from Wimbledon, where Venus has claimed her greatest achievements. Not dropping a single game through her first two matches, Maria can expect a steep elevation in her opponent’s quality and must come as prepared to elevate her own quality as she did five years ago here against Davenport. Like her sister, Venus has produced some of her most dazzling surges when least expected, and she has looked quietly impressive if less overtly overpowering so far.
Ivanovic vs. Jankovic (Hisense): Those who appreciate tennis largely from an aesthetic perspective may wish to cover their eyes in a pairing of two women who sprayed disheveled errors to every corner of the court in their previous matches. Meanwhile, those who fancy their tennis served (or double-faulted) with a dollop of drama should enjoy this battle between two countrywomen who have feuded chronically but bitterly. The superior player by most measures, Ivanovic has dominated their head-to-head as her versatile forehand has hit through Jankovic’s baseline defense. So high do the emotions run in these matches, though, that one never knows what to expect from one point to the next.
Djokovic vs. Stepanek (RLA): In addition to their five-set epic at the 2007 US Open, Stepanek has troubled the Serb on two other occasions. He won a set from him at Wimbledon last year by using his idiosyncratic style to disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm. Even as his career has faded, Stepanek continues to revel in the spotlight and ended 2012 on a high note by winning the decisive match in Davis Cup. That momentum probably cannot lift him high enough to disturb Djokovic in Australia, where he looks as dominant as ever in all facets of his game.
Ferrer vs. Baghdatis (RLA): The fourth seed in Nadal’s absence, Ferrer can falter at times with the distractions caused by partisan crowds. Supported vociferously by Melbourne legions of Greeks and Cypriots, Baghdatis hopes to revive the memories of his charge to the 2006 final. At this tournament two years ago, he became the first man ever to win after losing the first two sets to Ferrer at a major, surprising in view of their relative fitness. The fourth seed looked vulnerable in stretches against an overmatched opponent in the last round, while Baghdatis did likewise in another mismatch. His flat, net-skimming groundstrokes should offer an intriguing contrast to Ferrer’s safer topspin.
Anderson vs. Verdasco (Hisense): Reprising their meeting at the Hopman Cup this month, this match pits a rising against a fading star. Like Baghdatis, Verdasco has failed to duplicate his breakthrough performance in Melbourne (a 2009 semifinal), and he should count himself fortunate to escape a five-setter to start the tournament. On the other hand, Anderson followed his strong results in Perth with a final in Sydney, where he showed poise under pressure. Expect plenty of quick holds as each man struggles to crack the other’s serve.
Benneteau vs. Tipsarevic (MCA): Which Tipsarevic will show up here? The man who fired his way past Hewitt with a blizzard of electric shot-making, or the man who barely edged past Lacko in an unimaginative performance? Tipsarevic looked a bit drained after the heroics of his opener, and he may pay the price if he enters this match flat, for Benneteau rolled past trendy dark horse pick Dimitrov in the first round. Although streaky, the Frenchman represents a clear notch upward in quality from Lacko.
Querrey vs. Wawrinka (MCA): The lanky American with the casual power got a little too casual early in each of his first two matches, dropping the opening sets in both. Against Wawrinka, a natural grinder who thrives on long rallies, Querrey should discipline himself to eliminate such gifts. Having lost both of his previous meetings to the Swiss, including a US Open five-setter, he will need to maintain a higher first-serve percentage this time and aim to end points more efficiently.
Almagro vs. Janowicz (Court 3): In the wake of a bizarre five-set comeback against Devvarman, one wondered whether to praise Janowicz for his tenacity in roaring back after losing the first two sets, or to linger on his immaturity for letting his emotions run astray early in the match. Without that costly burst of petulance, the match likely would not have lasted as long as it did. Similarly, Almagro needed much longer than expected to dismiss American neophyte Steve Johnson in another five-setter. Between the Spaniard’s backhand and the Pole’s forehand, fans should see risky, flamboyant shot-making as each man hopes to exploit a weak section of the draw.
James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — The day started well, I got an email from a very noble Nigerian who alerted me to the fact I had inherited $2 million U.S. dollars. So sweet of him to seek me out, will definitely chase that up later.
After a quick brekkie I skipped out like a happy smurf on to Melbourne Park for what turned out to be a canapé kind of day. What on earth do I mean you ask? Simply sampling, a bit of this and a bit of that. And let me tell you that the Australian Open app only forces you to court hop even more.
I started with Nicolás Almagro who was up against fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver. This was a one sided affair for Almagro which meant constant checking of the app for updates elsewhere. Radwanska, Kerber and Venus Williams all dominated quickly as the top seeded women do, except Stosur but more on that later.
Seriously, how about some more upsets? I am starting to believe it was a mistake since Wimbledon 2001 to increase the number of seeds from 16 to 32 and thus in many ways limit the chance for an upset.
Digression over, I hung around for Li Na but it was clear she was going to oust Govortsova although the tall girl with a dodgy serve made a respectable effort in the second set.
A quick walk out of the Hisense arena brought me to Stepanek resting on one court while Del Potro was practicing serves on another. Every time I have seen Del Potro practice, which is now five times, he is always serving. In fact I am starting to believe he doesn’t even practice groundstrokes.
On another playing court was Jurgen Melzer who looked in control against spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, so I skipped that one (even though it did go to five sets). Just beyond that match was another practice court this one showcasing Maria Sharapova, with fans hurdled around like she was handing out free candy — perhaps even “Sugarpova.”
That brought me to lunch although no canapés were on offer. Within the confines of the media restaurant journalists readily stuff their faces. It should be noted that a notable Australian doubles legend, who is commentating, didn’t disappoint. He returned twice (according to the girl working) for a serving of fries with a sweet soy sauce that was scooped from the depth of a bok choy chicken dish. That’s right, no vegetables or meat, just carbs and gravy which may be the secret to his eternal youth.
Back to the infamous Australian Open app and decision making. David Ferrer on Margaret Court or Stan the Man Wawrinka on Show Court 2? I chose Stan, just had to see that backhand, sorry David. Each set Stan was broken he kept his nerve and fought back, although a third set wasn’t needed against Kamke who retired.
On the way out of the Stan match I was greeted with the big screen showing big Berd(ych) cruising. Also worthy of a cruise and a round of Pimms was Tomas Berdych’s old school “lets go yachting” attire and its lack of a sponsor. He wore a plain white collared shirt and hat that felt ever so 1950. The logo on his hat was covered and his socks folded down to disguise a brand, with the only sign of sponsorship being his Nike shoes. “Good show old chap, good show.”
After another quick check of the app and a failed attempt to use the live streaming to watch Jerzy Janowicz playing out his epic two set down comeback against Somdev Devvarman, I finally moved onto the Margaret Court arena. Here David Ferrer ranked 5 and seeded 4, played against lucky loser and sister of Tennis Grandstand writer Tim Smyczek, ranked 125. Smyczek was hoping for his second win against a top twenty player, the first being Jurgen Melzer at Delray Beach last year. The little Spaniard (who really is that little) was his typically energetic self and ran out the win in four entertaining sets although Smyczek should be commended for his efforts.
Next, I gallantly shunned the Stosur match because I attended her first round exit last year and somehow felt I was an unlucky omen for her if I was there to watch. Omen or not she lost her second round match to Chinese player Jie Zheng. But as I wasn’t in attendance, Stosur’s loss is officially not my fault this time.
Over at Rod Laver arena was Djokovic, who avoided becoming the first defending champion to lose in the 2nd round since Mats Wilander back in 1989. The honour of joining that fateful club was never an issue against Ryan Harrison. Interestingly, this loss extended Harrison’s streak of losing to seeded players in grand slams to eight, although nobody could have beaten Nole on this night.
That brought me to the close of the evening where it was time to head home, charge the phone, get ready for the mega heat and tomorrow’s action – Davy and Fed, Serena and her dodgy ankle, Tomic, Murray in his tight shirt, Laura Robson and Kvitova! And, of course, time to sort out the $2 million dollars from the noble Nigerian.
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
None of the top players were troubled at all in the first round, with each of the top 8 seeds winning in straight sets. Some of the top favorites, like Murray and Federer, looked a bit more dominant than the rest; but all in all these were strong performances from the top players. None of them showed any major weaknesses and each of them, for the moment at least, look like they are primed to play their best to win this tournament.
Who Looked Good
Juan Martin Del Potro – Where has this Delpo been since 2009? His forehand was harder and more consistent while his footwork was better than it has been since he won the US Open 3 long years ago. I am not saying that he is in the form to win a Slam at the moment, nor am I saying that tougher opponents in later rounds won’t challenge him more, but he did bring out the level that we all have been waiting to see for a long time. Now the only question is if he can keep it up.
Stanislas Wawrinka – There were very few superlative performances in the first round by men this year, but I was impressed with Stan. He had a tricky opponent who has a lot of talent and played well. Wawrinka stuck with his game, played very well, and never let the pressure get to him. He really played a solid match, which he doesn’t always do in these situations. The consistency he showed is really a good sign for him moving forward.
Honorable Mention: Not that it was a great performance, but I have to give an honorable mention to Amir Weintraub. After 7 years as a professional, Weintraub just competed in and won his first-ever tour-level match (though he has played Davis Cup). Not that it’s a statistic that means anything, but very few players win their first-ever matches—and in a Slam to boot. I’m sure this will give him a great feeling before he gets destroyed by Kohlschreiber in the next round.
Who Looked Bad
Nicolas Almagro – I’m sorry, but top 10 seeds should not be taken to five sets by qualifiers, and certainly not by lower-tier qualifiers like Steve Johnson. Yes, Johnson is a former NCAA champion. But he has not played well on the main tour since then and really didn’t play great in this match. He fought his way to win two tiebreaks, but this was a match dominated by poor play by each player. This was close to being the biggest win, by far, of Johnson’s career, yet it was a far cry from the best match he’s ever played. Almagro should have been better, period, and should not have thrown away those two tiebreaks.
Florian Mayer – Not that we were able to watch the match, because it was on untelevised Court 20, but Rhyne Williams is not a player that anyone in the top 30 should lose two sets to, and certainly not with multiple breaks of serve. Williams barely competes at a top 200 level and held two match points against Mayer in the fourth-set tiebreak. If Mayer plays so poorly in the next round, he will not last very long against his opponent Ricardas Berankis.
Thomaz Bellucci – Once again, I’m commenting on a match that wasn’t televised. And I know that Bellucci is probably the biggest clay court specialist on tour right now. I don’t even care how well Blaz Kavcic played. Winning just 7 games against Kavcic in 3 sets is just inexcusable. It’s not what a top-level tennis player does. It just isn’t.
Match of the Round
The most entertaining match of this round (as least, of those that were televised) was pretty clearly Tatsuma Ito against John Millman. The match was not the highest level of tennis, but it was two evenly matched players gutting it out and fighting from the first ball. Ito took the first two sets by a single break but could not convert a single break point in the third or fourth sets. As this match went on and Millman looked to be moving forward with his comeback, the crowd got more and more into the match. And while the Aussie was a decisive crowd favorite, Ito had some very strong support as well. The crowd erupted after every strong and important point late in the match. They had just as much a part of this being the best match this round as the players did. Millman had a real chance to go up a break to serve for the match at 5-5 in the fifth, but he could not convert and was immediately broken to fall 7-5 in the fifth. It was a good match by both players and one of the most enjoyable to watch this entire round.
Looking for a jumbo preview of the Australian Open men’s draw that breaks down each section of the brackets? Look no further. We take one quarter at a time in tracing the route of each leading contender, locating the most intriguing matches, projecting the semifinalists, and identifying one notable player to watch in each section.
First quarter: Seeking the first men’s three-peat Down Under of the Open era, Djokovic will want to conserve his energy during the first week and probably will. Although rising American star Ryan Harrison could threaten briefly in the second round, he lacks the experience to test the Serb in a best-of-five format, while potential third-round opponent Stepanek lacks the consistency to do so as his career wanes. Among the other figures of note in this vicinity are two resurgent Americans in Querrey and Baker, destined to meet in the second round. The winner may fancy his chances against Wawrinka, more comfortable on clay, and Querrey in particular could bring confidence from his upset of Djokovic in Paris to another clash with the Serb when the second week starts.
The quarter’s lower section features several men who share Wawrinka’s affinity for clay, such as Monaco and Verdasco. While the Spaniard’s career has sagged over the past year or two, the Argentine enjoyed his best season to date in 2012 as he reached the top ten for the first time. His reward lies in a clear route to the second week and an appointment with the enigmatic Berdych. Always susceptible to ebbs and flows, the world #6 ended last season optimistically with a semifinal at the US Open, where he upset Federer. But then Berdych started this season miserably by falling in Chennai to an opponent outside the top 50. He has won just one of his twelve career meetings with Djokovic, although the only victory came in one of their most important matches: a Wimbledon semifinal. While Berdych’s route to the quarterfinals looks comfortable, then, only a superb serving performance can shield him from the Serb’s more balanced array of weapons when he arrives there.
Player to watch: Querrey
Second quarter: The only section without a clear favorite proliferates with question marks but also with talent and intriguing narratives. In the draw’s most notable first-round match, Hewitt will open his 17th Australian Open campaign against the eighth-seeded Tipsarevic. A mismatch on paper, this encounter could develop into one of the late-night thrillers that have become a Melbourne tradition, and the home crowd might lift their Aussie to an improbable victory over an opponent less untouchable than those ranked above him. Other storylines include the apparent emergence of Grigor Dimitrov, previously familiar only for his facsimile of Federer’s playing style but now a Brisbane finalist. While the Bulgarian never has reached the third round of a major, his recent accomplishments and his desire to impress romantic interest Maria Sharapova might inspire him. He faces a challenging initial test against Benneteau, who fell just short of his second straight Sydney final.
Awarded his first seed in the main draw of a major, Jerzy Janowicz looks to continue his momentum from last fall when he reached the final at the Paris Masters 1000 tournament. Unlike Dimitrov, his route through the first round or two looks clear, and projected third-round opponent Almagro does not pose an insurmountable obstacle. Unless Janowicz improves upon his January efforts so far, however, Almagro can look ahead to the second week and perhaps even a quarterfinal against compatriot Ferrer. The highest seed in this section, the latter Spaniard will reach the top four after the tournament no matter his result. His fitness should carry him past erratic opponents like Baghdatis or Youzhny, although the titanic serve of Karlovic has troubled him before and merits watching in their second-round match. Having recorded multiple victories over Ferrer on marquee stages, Nishikori poses his most convincing pre-quarterfinal threat. But he has struggled with injury recently and may prove no better able to grind past the Spaniard in the heat than Almagro, who never has defeated him. If Tipsarevic reaches the quarterfinals, on the other hand, he will aim to reverse the outcome of their US Open quarterfinal last year, which he lost to Ferrer in a fifth-set tiebreak.
Player to watch: Dimitrov
Third quarter: Never has a man won his second major immediately after winning his first. Never, however, in the Open era had a British man won any major at all, so this bit of history should not intimidate the reigning US Open champion. Murray will start his campaign by reprising an odd encounter with Robin Haase at the 2011 US Open, which he rallied to win in five sets after losing the first two. The lanky Dutchman behind him, he will face nobody over the next few rounds with the firepower to discomfit him over this extended format. Throughout his section lie counterpunchers like Simon or Robredo or tactically limited players like Mayer and Stakhovsky. The two exceptions who could threaten Murray will meet in the first round. Reviving his career with solid results in Doha and Auckland, Monfils will pit his momentum against fellow showman Dolgopolov in a match likely to showcase plenty of electrifying shot-making.
Perhaps of more interest is the route traced by Del Potro, the most likely title contender outside the top three seeds. In the second round, the Tower of Tandil could meet surprising Slovakian Aljaz Bedene, who reached the Chennai semifinals to start the year and nearly upset Tipsarevic there. Owning more than enough weapons to dispatch the passive baseliner Granollers afterwards, Del Potro would open the second week against Marin Cilic. The Croat developed around the same time as the Argentine and honed a similar playing style to complement his similar physique. But Cilic has disappointed those who anointed him a future major champion and top-10 fixture, appearing to content himself with a lesser level of accomplishment. He must brace himself for an opening battle against home hope Marinko Matosevic, who took him to five sets in New York last fall. If Del Potro can reverse his 2009 loss to Cilic in that projected fourth-round encounter, he also must halt his winless hard-court record against Murray. The task does not loom as large as it might appear, for he has won sets in all four of those matches.
Player to watch: Del Potro
Fourth quarter: What a pity that leading Aussie hope Bernard Tomic can play only two rounds before descending into the maw of the GOAT, as he did in the fourth round here last year. All the same, Tomic will have the opportunity to knock off a seeded opponent in Martin Klizan while praying for a miracle from Federer’s second-round opponent, Nikolay Davydenko. (Those who saw their match at the 2010 Australian Open will remember how impressive the Russian looked against the Swiss—for a set and a half, after which he utterly collapsed.) Perhaps more formidable than the momentum of Tomic is the mighty serve of Milos Raonic, which nearly toppled Federer three times last year. In each of their matches, Federer managed to win the crucial handful of points late in final sets, but can he continue to escape so narrowly? The younger man cannot look too far ahead too soon, however, for a second-round match against Lukas Rosol lurks, and everyone knows what Rosol has done in the second round of majors.
Winless against top-eight opponents in 2012, former finalist Tsonga hopes to turn over a new leaf in 2013. To snap that streak, though, he must survive the early stages of the tournament against dangerous lurkers like Llodra and Bellucci. Tsonga has struggled at times against compatriots and has a losing career record against Gasquet, his projected fourth-round opponent. Fresh from his title in Doha, the world #10 never has plowed deep into the Australian draw and may not benefit this time from the weak first-week slates that he received at majors last year. Eyeing a possible upset is Haas, another artist of the one-handed backhand who has collaborated with Gasquet on memorable matches before. But the question remains whether any of these men currently can compete with Federer across a best-of-five match, and the answer seems clear.
Player to watch: Tomic
Final: Djokovic vs. Murray
Champion: Novak Djokovic
Come back tomorrow for the women’s preview, designed with the same level of detail!
Miami, FL – December 2nd, 2012: Stadium Court at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL. was buzzing on Saturday afternoon, as fans piled-in to witness the highly anticipated headline match on day two of the Miami Tennis Cup.
Andy Murray and Andy Roddick took part in an afternoon 12 and under coaching clinic before returning to the locker room to prepare for the day’s spectacle. Roddick, known for his on-court antics, taunted the crowd before serving the first point, which set the tone for what was to come. “Are you tired yet?” he asked Murray after the first game. Roddick dominated Murray from the start of the first set, as Murray seemed sluggish around the court, compared to a grunting and aggressive Roddick. Roddick won the majority of his first service points, which gave him a home-court advantage and Murray couldn’t seem to gain any type of lead with breaking Roddick’s serve. Roddick broke two of Murray’s service games in the first set to take a 6-2 lead. Despite Murray’s attempts to out-rally Roddick, the retired American gave fans a taste of his old baseline perseverance as he dug even deeper in to the second set to take it 6-3.
“I could feel Andy’s intimidation from his end of the court when he saw how round I’d become,” said Roddick, referring to the 4 pounds of weight gained since retiring. “I must admit, he didn’t look good at all,” Murray responded. “If we had gone to three sets, I’m sure I would have had full body cramp,” Roddick smiled. Murray may have admitted to taking it easy on Roddick, as the exhibition match marks the beginning of Murray’s training season towards the Australian Open.
Shortly after the tournament’s headline match, the top-ranked American, John Isner, took to the court against the world’s number 11 Nicolás Almagro in the other semi final. The Spaniard edged past Isner 6-3 6-4 in roughly 90 minutes.
“I think I felt a little more comfortable than him on the court,” said Almagro.
The final of the Miami Tennis Cup will feature Andy Roddick against Nicolás Almagro on Stadium Court starting at 5:00pm.
Miami, FL – December 1st, 2012: Attendance grew on stadium court at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL. on Friday evening, as tennis enthusiasts flocked to see some of the world’s best players perform during the night session on day one of the Miami Tennis Cup.
As the vodka bottles were uncorked in the VIP Lounge, for the select few lucky enough to purchase lounge passes, Alejadro Falla, Colombia’s top-ranked player, took to the court against Spain’s Nicolás Almagro, ranked number 11 in the world. The first set was closer than expected, as Falla put up a hard fought battle from the baseline, after conceding the first set 6-4, lasting well over an hour. His first set spirit diminished during the second set that lasted only 35 minutes, as Almagro demonstrated why he was eleventh in the world, winning 6-1.
“It was tough because every match against Alejandro is complicated,” said Almagro about the left-handed Falla. “I’m quite happy with how I’m playing at the moment and I’m glad to be in the warmth of Miami for the first year of the Miami Tennis Cup. Hopefully the crowds were treated to an enjoyable game.”
Shortly after the tournament’s opening match, the top-ranked American, John Isner, squared away against the former number one player from Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Fans were treated to a thrilling first set that reached a tie-break, that was easily won by Isner 7-2. The second set was a close fought battle, but Isner stepped-up his game to take the second set 6-3.
“I’ve a pleasing 2012, and this is a nice way to round off the year,” said Isner during his post-match press conference. “I’m happy to be competing in the Miami Tennis Cup. It’s a good crowd with some top players competing. I’m looking forward to seeing Andy Roddick play Andy Murray and hope to meet one of them in Sunday’s final.”
Day two of the Miami Tennis Cup will feature the tournament’s headline match between the retired Andy Roddick and the reigning U.S Open and Olympic Champion, Andy Murray, currently ranked number three in the world. The match on Stadium Court starts at 5:00pm and is expected to draw a capacity crowd.
By Ashley Babich
Andy Roddick shocked many in the tennis community this week when he announced his impending retirement at the 2012 US Open. (He even surprised some who don’t follow tennis so closely, as my grandma called to tell me, with much concern, that she heard the “cute American tennis player is retiring.”)
The conversation has been in play for a while, and most can’t discuss Andy’s retirement without immediately following up with a discussion about who will carry the torch for American tennis once Andy has moved on to happier days with his wife Brooklyn, and hopefully, babies.
While there are many players who could possibly be the face of American tennis, it will be hard to fill Andy’s red, white, and blue shoes. (Did you see those in his match against Tomic? Go America!)
Anyway, I’m here to talk about Jack Sock.
He’s 19-years-old, ranked 243rd in the world, and made his way into the US Open as a wild card. He made his first ever appearance in the third round this weekend and lost to the 11th-seed, Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1, taking the Spaniard to three straight tiebreakers before easily giving up the fourth set.
Does Jack Sock have a lot to learn? Yes. In that match against Almagro, Sock converted just one of 11 break points and had 52 unforced errors overall in the match, compared to Almagro’s 24.
Yet, in my opinion, he has great potential to become, well, great. While his errors are hefty in number, so are his winners. He had 56 winners this match, while the world No. 12 Almagro had 53. Sock has an aggressive forehand, a great serve, and even gets up to the net for volleys from time to time.
In addition, his on-court demeanor is something to talk about. Compared to a couple of other Americans players, no names mentioned of course, Sock seems to be able to remain calm and manage frustration when things aren’t going his way. (Though, he might want to work on the nerves. Sock gave away some easy points in the always-stressful tiebreaks.)
While Sock still has growing to do, and matches to play, he does have some experience under his belt. He won the boys’ Junior US Open Championship in 2010, and he won the 2011 mixed doubles title at the US Open with fellow one-time American hope, Melanie Oudin.
During this fortnight, much conversation will be had about who our nation can cheer on next, and I think Sock has drummed up just enough excitement to keep his name in the mix. The next few years will prove telling for the American, though. Andy Roddick won his US Open title at the age of 21, so I guess we can sit back and watch as Sock chases down his own place in the history of American tennis.
And speaking of grandmas, Sock seems to have a pretty funny one. As he and Oudin kindly signed autographs for anyone who waited around in Court 17 after their exciting first-round mixed doubles win, his grandma snuck into the line and asked him to sign a band aid. Sock jokingly responded, “Get out of here, grandma. I’ll see you later at dinner.”
It seemed oddly empty at the tournament today compared with the past five days in terms of fans. Of course, the smaller player field made for a less hectic scene at the practice courts. Still, I managed to get a lot of photos.
The practice courts featured a few players who had been knocked out. David Ferrer, John Isner, Caroline Wozniacki, Jurgen Melzer, Iveta Benesova, Richard Gasquet, and Julien Benneteau were all getting some training in this morning. The afternoon saw the second half of Quisner–Sam Querrey–practicing as well as Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal, and Marc Lopez.
Ana Ivanovic started off the morning on stadium 1. She played a strong match against an ailing Marion Bartoli, who apparently came down with the Indian Wells illness. Ivanovic will take on Maria Sharapova, who fought hard in the battle of Maria’s against Maria Kirilenko.
When Kirilenko took the first set and broke in the second, it seemed that Sharapova had a big hill to climb. The former world number one broke back, and it seemed the second set would be won by whoever could hold her serve. Sharapova managed to do so eventually and went on to win the set and ultimately the match.
On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic had little trouble with Nicolas Almagro. Djokovic made more errors than usual today, but Almagro couldn’t capitalize and seemed to fade away. When John Isner began his match against Gilles Simon, Isner couldn’t seem to stay focused either, making a plethora of mistakes. Simon took advantage of the situation and secured a break in Isner’s first service game. Despite this early disadvantage, Isner fought back and won the first set. The match took three sets, but the American was able to see it through.
Men’s doubles also took center stage tonight with Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez facing Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski. Fyrstenberg and Matkowski are strong doubles players; however, they never seemed to find a rhythm as Nadal and Lopez cruised to a victory.
Tomorrow will be my last day of live coverage, so check back tomorrow night for more photos!