Archive for January 12th, 2008

aussie open: chris sees a venus/serena final

January 12, 2008

Chris has told us his picks for the men’s draw (and about ruing the loss of Rebound Ace). Now he does the women…

Top half, first quarter: (draw)

Okay, let’s get the match we all want out of the way first -– Lindsay Davenport vs. Maria Sharapova. I pick Davenport to blow Sharapova out of the water much the same way Serena did last year. Davenport rides high on emotion, momentum, and motherhood into the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately she’s going to run into perpetual party-pooper Justine Henin. Expect the Belgian to coast through her first three rounds, dropping no more than five games total. She won’t even be challenged until facing Tati Golovin or Sybille Bammer. Tati will breeze through her early rounds just as easy as Henin, but’ll go down to Henin in two close sets.

Top half, second quarter: (draw)

The next quarter opens with the most interesting first round match-up in the women’s draw: Jankovic vs. Tamira Paszek. Despite Jankovic’s poor play at the Hopman Cup and the Tour Championships, she’ll make it to the quarters (with a few three-setters, I’m sure). Jelena’s biggest threat is the winner of the Mauresmo-Schnyder match in the the third round. Mauresmo’s ’06 Australian Open title means nothing now; I question her desire to win and compete. Schnyder takes this one.

Serena makes her way to the quarterfinals by beating Nicole Vaidisova in a tight match in the Round of 16. Serena takes out Azarenka on her way there while Vaidisova goes through Zvonareva and hometown favorite Alicia Molik.

The semifinals will feature yet another rematch between Henin and Serena. The stakes here are a little higher (this being a semi and all), and now these girls have a history. Serena’s hunger and drive (plus her trim bod) pushes her through to the finals.

Bottom half, first quarter: (draw)

The top quarter here comes down to Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic. As usual, Venus will struggle with her first round opponent (Yan Zi) but gains momentum as she goes deeper into the tournament. Gold Coast champ Li Na continues her excellent post-hiatus form and (barring injury) defeats Marion Bartoli on her way to the Round of 16. Ivanovic will go through Safina and Srebotnik with little difficulty to get to the quarters, but will hit the Venus wall for the third consecutive slam. (Why aren’t these two getting the same attention as Serena and Henin?)

Bottom half, second quarter: (draw)

The final quarter is a little more open. Kuznetsova is my only lock for the semis. On her way she takes out Dechy, and teenagers Radwanska and Szavay. Her quarterfinal opponent is a little more up in the air but I’m going to go with Dani Hantuchova. Chakvetadze needs more time to shake off the robbery (which left her hands injured, from being bound) and will go out to Krajicek in the third round, if not earlier. Krajicek, as my dark horse pick, will make the Round of 16.

I see a Venus-Kuznetsova semi and, despite her success this year at Sydney, I see Kuzie clamming up and going down in two disappointing sets.

Quarterfinals: Henin d. Davenport, Serena d. Jankovic, Venus d. Ivanovic, Kuznetsova d. Hantuchova

Semifinals: Serena d. Henin, Venus d. Kuznetsova

Final: Serena d. Venus. Yes, I am predicting a Serena and Venus final, their first since the 2005 US Open. This will be one of the sister’s better slam finals against each other. I expect Serena to win in three.

What are YOU thinking? What do you think of Chris’ picks? Who do you think is ripe for success Down Under? Who’s ready to get upset? Which match-ups are you looking forward to? Tell us!

aussie open: chris’ picks for the men’s draw

January 12, 2008

Below are Chris’ picks for the men’s singles draw. (Printable draw here:

Top half:

You can’t bet against top seed Roger Federer. He opens against the dreamy Diego Hartfield, who gave R-Fed two tight sets in the first round at Roland Garros in 2006. This time, Diego will be blown out of the water.

One of the most interesting first round match-ups is Fabrice Santoro against John Isner. Isner hasn’t quite developed his slam chops, so I’ll tip my hat to Fabrice. That, and I’m secretly gunning for the guaranteed entertainment of Federer versus the Frenchman in the following round.

Roger’s semi appearance is a given, but it’s tough picking for the other slot because there are seven former slam finalists in this half. Instinct says to pick one of those guys…

Djokovic: Nole is the highest seed and the logical choice, but I think he’s due for a sophomore slump and I didn’t find his play at the Hopman Cup all that impressive. [Erwin: not to mention his back is already misbehaving.]

Hewitt: God bless him, but surface change or not (and backed by Tony Roche or not), the Aussie hope will be lucky to get to the Round of 16. He should just pass things on to Chris Guccione and have some fun.

Safin: With Marat, as always, it all depends on who shows up, plus he comes in with not having played a professional match since his loss to Ivo Karlovic in last October’s TMS Madrid. He could very easily go out to his first round opponent, up-and-comer (and Aussie Open first-timer) Ernests Gulbis. Hey Vern, I pick the kid to win this one.

Johansson: The Swede hasn’t mattered since his eye injury and he plays Baghdatis in the first round.

Nalbandian: The Argentine is suspect due to his back.

Ferrero: Juanqui has a tricky first round against Kiefer, but the Spaniard should get through.

Baghdatis: Marcos has played well at Kooyong this week and will come into the Open with that momentum. I pick Baghdatis him to make it past Johansson and Gulbis on his way to the semifinals.

Aside from those seven, there’s also David Ferrer. He’s mellowed significantly compared to his year-end play (vying for TMC Shanghai against Roger), but if he gets hot he has a chance to get to the semis.

Dark horses: My dark horses in this half are Dmitry Tursunov and Gooch -– who just happen to be meeting in the Sydney finals this week. This match will probably be an indication if my dark horse selection is accurate.

Tursunov’s biggest challenge would be Djokovic in the third round, but maybe that’s when Djoko’s sophomore slump fails the Serbian? And if the seeds hold up, Guccione has big upset potential against streaky Gonzo in the second round; then Almagro, who’s never made it out of the first round in Melbourne; then either Blake or Ljubicic in the Round of 16. I’m going to bet (which I can do. But not you, Potito Starace!) on James or Ivan not playing their best. Gooch makes it to the quarters.

Bottom Half

Mostly a boring bottom (hyuk) half, but there are a few gems like the potential Round of 16 match between Richard Gasquet and this year’s Doha champ, Andy Murray. Andy will be tested by his tough first round match-up against surging Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. If the Scot makes it through that, he’s through to the semis.

Murray’s quarterfinal opponent won’t be fourth seed Kolya Davydenko, who hasn’t shaken off the betting scandal and could lose to Adelaide champ Michael Llodra. Despite Youzhny and Karlovic (that’s the Croatian word for “tie breaker”), I pick Stanislas Wawrinka to make it through to the quarters for a rematch of the Doha final.

In the final two quarters, only three names matter: Andy Roddick, Rafa Nadal, and Mardy Fish. I like the way Mardy looked at the Hopman and he did well in Melbourne last year. He’ll go out to Roddick in the Round of 16 in a fun and friendly encounter.

Nadal’s health and fitness I think will be a non-issue here and his biggest roadblock to the quarterfinals is fellow mallorquín Carlos Moya. They had a tight match (three tiebreaks) sets earlier this year in Chennai, but Nadal should take this one in four.

Despite Murray’s recent form, the Australian heat takes it’s toll on him and we see the Murray of old — Crampy McCramps — lose to Roddick in three. [Erwin: but what about all that Bikram yoga he's been doing?]

Quarterfinals: Federer d. Guccione, Baghdatis d. Ferrer, Murray d. Wawrinka, Roddick d. Nadal

Semifinals: Federer d. Baghdatis, Roddick d. Murray

Final: Roddick d. Federer. I know, I know, that’s a pretty big limb I’m on but I don’t think Federer is coming into the Open at 100% and Roddick will be riding his wave of confidence from his Kooyong success. Making it all the more bittersweet will be the fact that Roddick finally gets his win in Melbourne, and not under the Flushing Meadows.

What do you think of Chris’ picks? Tell us!

fashion flashback: tati longstocking

January 12, 2008

golovin-lacoste-spring08.jpg

Tatiana Golovin has gone back to solids for the early part of the Australian summer hardcourts, pairing pigtails with Lacoste pink and tennis pleats (cute!) at last week’s Hopman Cup. And she looked even better sharing the court with fellow Crocodile Nono Clement (photos here).

Can’t wait to see what Tati will wear for the Australian Open. I guess we’ll find out in a few days…

(photos by Getty Images)

rebound ace, oh great equalizer, we hardly knew ye

January 12, 2008

[Erwin: JNP has already weighed in on the Aussie Open draw, so now it's Chris' turn...]

I’m just gonna come out and say it: I wish they hadn’t switched the court surface for the Australian Open. I personally loved watching the players try to deal with the bounces. And since they played on it so seldomly, you really couldn’t call anyone a “Rebound Ace Specialist”.

Which is why the first Grand Slam of the year always gave you that weird, uncommon men’s semifinalist (and, often, finalist). Who would’ve expected the great runs of Fernando Gonzalez (2007), Marcos Baghdatis (2006), Rainer Schuttler (2003), and Arnaud Clement (2001)? Thomas Johansson taking the title in 2002?

If we look at the rest of their grand slam records, Gonzo and Clement haven’t gotten past the quarters in any other slam, and Schuettler has hit the wall at the round of 16. Sadly, Clement and Schuettler are unseeded at this year’s draw and face each other in the first round.

That being said… my next post is a look at the men’s draw for this year.


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