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Serena, Azarenka and Federer, Murray in same halves of Aussie Open draws

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer has a tough draw to capture his fifth Australian Open. (Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images)

The Australian Open draw has been made, and the 30-minute delay due to the late arrival by boat of defending champions and No. 1 seeds Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka kept people restless. The wait turned out to be well worth it. The biggest question of the day surrounded the No. 3 seeds: On whose side of the draw would Andy Murray and Serena Williams land? Murray landed in Roger’s Federer’s half, while Serena finds herself in Azarenka’s half. Federer may have to beat both Murray and Djokovic to win the title (while Djokovic would only have to beat one of the two). That’s a significant difference.

First off, here are the projected quarterfinal matchups based on the seedings to help you get oriented:

Men: Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer vs. Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Martin del Potro vs. Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Roger Federer.

Women: Victoria Azarenka vs. Sara Errani, Serena Williams vs. Petra Kvitova, Li Na vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber vs. Maria Sharapova

Here’s a link to the complete draws for the men and women. Here are the key takeaways:

1. Roger Federer has the toughest road to the title. If there’s a “Group of Death” in the draw, Federer has found himself in it. He’ll open against flashy Frenchman Benoit Paire — he of of the ridiculous leaping ‘tweener we featured this week — and then could see this: Former No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko, who had a resurgent tournament in Doha last week where he made the final, Bernard Tomic, who hasn’t lost this year, and big-serving Milos Raonic, who pushed Federer deep in to a decisive set in their three previous matches. That’s just to get to the quarterfinals.

Once in the quarters, Federer is projected to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who famously came back from two sets down to beat Federer at Wimbledon in 2011. An Australian Open finalist in 2008, the dynamic Tsonga has started the season well. Should Federer win there he’ll likely face either Murray or Del Potro. That’s tough for Federer either way, particularly in light of Del Potro’s performance last fall when he beat Federer in Basel and the World Tour Finals.

The good news for Federer is there are questions surrounding each one of these potential opponents. Murray still hasn’t beaten him at a major, Raonic hasn’t been convincing in his warm-ups, and Tomic and Tsonga are just as capable of losing early as they are making a deep run. As for Del Potro, it’s hard to know what to expect from him since he chose to skip the competitive tune-ups.

Federer said he likes the challenge. This is the toughest draw he could have asked for.

2. Write Novak Djokovic into the final: With Murray in Federer’s half, Djokovic clearly has the easier draw. His projected path to the title: Paul Henri-Mathieu, Ryan Harrison, Radek Stepanek, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Federer or Murray. An Aussie three-peat looks doable.

3. Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka drawn in the same half. One thing’s certain: No Serena-Azarenka rematch in the final. The two would meet in the semifinals, giving Maria Sharapova a fairly clear path to the final if she can navigate it. No. 1 is on the line and will be decided between Azarenka, Sharapova and Serena, though Azarenka has to reach the final to have any chance of retaining it. As a result, should Serena and Azarenka meet, that match could be for the No. 1 ranking.

Bernard Tomic

Bernard Tomic’s early season success makes him a popular pick to make noise at home. (Rob Griffith/AP)

4. Floaters are dangerous. Many unseeded players look primed to bust brackets. Tomic was the one most people had their eye on, particularly in light of his week in Sydney, where he’s into the semifinals and looks poised for his first ATP title there. He’s looked fantastic these last two weeks, showing a stronger physique, amped-up serve and more aggressive tactics. It’s a shame he’s in Federer’s section, as he really does look ready for a second-week run, but Federer cleaned his clock last year 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Tomic loves a big-stage match, and it doesn’t get any bigger than Federer on Rod Laver Arena at his home tournament.

Speaking of Aussies, Lleyton Hewitt is still kicking. He gets No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic in the first round. Tipsarevic is coming off a win in Chennai, but Hewitt has shown great form this week in Kooyong, where he’s beaten Raonic and Berdych. If he pulls off the upset then that section of the draw, anchored by Tipsarevic and No. 11 Nicolas Almagro, is wide open, making way for the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, another floater, to have a career run. Dimitrov, who made his first ATP final last week in Brisbane, plays No. 32 Julian Benneteau in the first round.

Last but not least, Gael Monfils. The crowd favorite is unseeded after a knee injury interrupted his 2012. He’ll open against the No. 18 Alexander Dolgopolov in a must-watch match. You’d be hard pressed to find two quicker, more dynamic players who put a premium on shotmaking over simple common sense.

As for the women, Caroline Wozniacki’s bad luck continues. She starts against No. 37 Sabine Lisicki, whom she hasn’t beaten since 2008, though that win did come in Melbourne. Lisicki made the fourth round last year, losing to Sharapova in three tough sets. Another name to look out for is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had a big win over Wozniacki this week in Sydney. The two-time major champion, now unseeded, is in a soft part of the draw headlined by Wozniacki and Sara Errani.

5. Must-see matches: Everyone is looking forward to Sharapova and Venus Williams in the third round. The women look more primed for significant early match ups than the men. That’s nothing new. The WTA features more parity from Nos. 1 through 100. But keep an eye on top American Sam Querrey. He’s got a good shot at the fourth round.

Men: Lleyton Hewitt vs. Janko Tipsarevic (first round), Gael Monfils vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov (first round), Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire (first round), Grigor Dimitrov vs. Julien Benneteau (first round), Lukas Rosol vs. Milos Raonic (second round), Tommy Haas vs. Richard Gasquet (third round), Sam Querrey vs. Brian Baker (second round), Sam Querrey vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (third round), Jerzy Janowicz vs. Nicolas Almagro (third round).

Women: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sabine Lisicki (first round), Petra Kvitova vs. Francesca Schiavone (first round), Melanie Oudin vs. Laura Robson (first round), Jamie Hampton vs. Urszula Radwanska (first round), Sam Stosur vs. Zheng Jie (second round), Laura Robson vs. Petra Kvitova (second round), Maria Sharapova vs. Venus Williams (third round), Sloane Stephens vs. Petra Kvitova or Laura Robson (third round),  Ana Ivanovic vs. Jelena Jankovic (third round), Madison Keys vs. Angelique Kerber (third round).

  • Published On Jan 10, 2013
  • 19 comments
    Devo
    Devo

    I wish I could be there www.redx.co.il/גיבוי_מרחוק

    Michael9
    Michael9

    First Quarter: Djokovic beats Berdych. After seeing the relatively easy draw in their quarter and half, Team Djokovic must have gone to a Serbian bar for five rounds of Slivovitz. Djokovic is unlikely to be troubled by Querrey/Baker or Wawrinka. Though Berdych could be a challenge, Djokovic seems to be in the head of the mentally-suspect Czech in the past two years. Worse, Berdych's start to the season has been lackluster, losing to Roberto Bautista Agut in and Lleyton Hewitt. Berdych may have celebrated too much after winning the Davis Cup.  But Berdych has four rounds to work up some form, since he has the easiest section of the top eight seeds, though his 'nemesis' Roberto Bautista Agut lurks.

     

    Second Quarter: Ferrer beats Hewitt/Almagro/Tipsarevic. This section has the cluster of most lowest ranked seeds, but is an unpredictable quarter with several players capable of beating each other and engaging in long matches (much to the delight of the waiting Djokovic): Ferrer, Tipsarevic, Baghdatis, Hewitt, Nishikori, Almagro, Janowicz, Dimitrov, Benneteau, Youzhny, Karlovic. It's possible one of these players put in the hard training during the extended off-season to trouble Djokovic for a set or two (Djokovic has already lost in straight sets this season to Tomic and struggled to beat Almagro in three sets). Djokovic is surely hoping to face his buddy Tipsarevic in the semifinal.

     

    Third Quarter: Del Porto beats Murray. Tennis history is against Murray winning the Australian Open: no professional player has won back-to-back Slams after winning his first Slam. Murray probably has the toughest potential quarterfinal opponent in Juan Martin Del Potro. Delpo and Murray haven't played since 2009, but most of their old matches had gone the distance. This could be a great season for Delpo if he is energized by his good results last fall (won Vienna, won Basel, Paris R16, WTF sf) and Argentina exhibition spent with Federer last month. This week Delpo cruised into the AAMI Kooyong final against Hewitt. Other than Delpo, Some fear Murray has a tricky opener against Haase (yet Federer crushed Haase in straight sets in Netherlands during last Fall's Davis Cup). Delpo seems to be the only danger man in this group: so far this season Cilic, Simon and Dolgopolov have been lackluster, while Seppi is unlikely to do damage. Monfils might surprise, but can he keep it up for four rounds?

     

    Fourth Quarter: Federer beats Tsonga. The danger of Federer's draw is that there are several players displaying good form over the past three weeks and Roger could be caught in two or three longer matches that take their toll in the second week.

    - In first round, Federer opens against the highest-ranked opponent of the top eight seeds, No. 43 Benoit Paire. The Frenchman, with five matches under his belt this season, should have confidence from reaching the Chennai semifinal. Paire credits Federer for improving his calmness on court. Having played Federer in front of his Swiss fans two months ago, Paire should be better prepared this time around.

    - In second round, no rational person would write off former No. 3 Davydenko, who crushed Davis Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 in 65 minutes at Doha and who has a winning record over Nadal. Davydenko may be inconsistent nowadays and has a poor record against Federer, but he has been to 10 Slam quarterfinals (including 4 semifinals) as well as won the year-end championships (2 finals). Davydenko will try to wake up for this match: if he is able to recapture his 2010 Australian Open form, this could be a messy match for Roger.

    - In third round, Federer faces either Bernie Tomic or Martin Klizan (who won St Petersburg indoor hard courts). Tomic says he is playing the best tennis of his career, and seems to be on a mission to make Pat Rafter and company eat their words: Tomic whipped Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 at the Hopman Cup ("84-minute romp, unleashing 25 winners to 12 to notch his second career win over Djokovic"). And now Tomic is in the Sydney final -- perfect preparation to carry him for a few rounds at the Australian Open. Those who wrote off Tomic are living in the past.

    - In fourth round, Federer might face Kohlscreiber, the Auckland finalist. Raonic lost all four matches he played at Doha and AAMI Kooyong, so it's possible he's injured or off form. But if Raonic makes it, his serve could make it a messy match for Federer. It's unlikely Lukas Rosol will win four rounds.

    - In quarterfinal, Tsonga is one of only five players who have reached an Australian Open final on plexicushion (the others are Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Murray). Tsonga has probably been energized from being around and practicing with Federer at the South America exhibition: at the Hopman Cup, Tsonga straight-setted Isner, Verdasco and Kevin Anderson but suffered a hamstring injury and pulled out of Sydney. If Tsonga doesn't make it, then Bellucci/Haas (both played in the South American exhibition) or Doha winner Gasquet might reach the semifinal.

     

    Every top player and rational tennis analyst would conclude Federer has the worst draw and the toughest path to the title. Indeed, Federer has had the worst draws of the big four players over the past five years in terms of top players draw to his half: since 2008 Federer has had Djokovic (mostly), Nadal or Murray in his half of every Slam draw in 20 of the last 21 consecutive draws (only exception was 2008 French Open, No. 4 Davydenko). Yet inevitably some poster always tries to rationalize that Federer 's draw isn't tough -- what they don't tell you is that Federer always has a lopsided winning record over any quarterfinal draw because Federer has had the best overall win-loss record in the past nine years (the only two active players with winning career records over Federer are Nadal and Murray).But that does not excuse the fact that Federer's draw would be the toughest draw for the other three top seeds (while their draws would be easier for Federer than his existing draw). If Federer succeeds despite the tough draws he gets it is a testament to his ability as arguably the greatest winning machine in tennis history.

     

    zobovt
    zobovt

    I'll pick Serena and Murray for the titles based on the draw & their current forms!!!

    plethyn
    plethyn

    lol. poor federer can't win--if he gets a tough draw haters will spring up claiming that the draw isn't dofficult at all, and if it's slightly easy, they'll claim a fix and complain about cupcake draws for federer. only a biased idiot would claim his draw isn't dofficuly, but haters will be haters

    robbati21
    robbati21

    In my opinion, Federer's path to a potential Murray semifinal is vastly overrated, given a variety of factors, some of which Courtney does point out. 

     

    For one, Federer typically does well against the flashy, variety-loving, shot-maker types.  In other words, he usually beats the players that play like he does, largely for the same reason Djokovic does well against the Ferrer-types; that is, they are the best players of their particular style niche, and simply do everything just a little bit better than similar-style opponents.  So for Federer, that takes care of Paire, Tomic and perhaps even a non-2011 Wimbledon Tsonga. It's the big-hitters that have created the Federer upsets in Slams (See Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling and 2011 Wimbledon Tsonga).  Given Tsonga's not so fantastic recent history, you'd have to guess we might see a redux of his 2010 AO semifinal with Federer.

     

    Federer also has done well preventing any changing-of-the-guard type victories by his younger opponents.  I mean, I guess it has to happen sometime, but the record right now shows that he has never had much trouble against the more inexperienced up-and-comers.  This would take care of Paire, Tomic/Klizan and Raonic.  Plus, Raonic has had a pretty poor start to the season.

     

    As for Davydenko, I think Federer's 17-2 record against him speaks for itself.  Plus, though in seemingly good form, Davydenko's choke against Gasquet in Doha shows he still has mental struggles, which have proved costly for him against Federer in the past.

     

    If Federer gets to Murray and Djokovic, however, that's a different story.  Of course, there's the 3-0 record Federer holds against Murray in majors (but all in finals).  Also, one could always point to the now meaningless stat that Federer is 1-0 against Djokovic in Slam finals.  Ah, Darth Federer at the 2007 US Open.  Those were the days...

    robbati21
    robbati21

     @Michael9 Oh dang, coming off as one of those "Federer always gets cakewalk draws" anti-Federer types is the last thing I wanted to do.  I was more arguing the overrated-ness of Federer's draw in terms of Federer himself; that is, the fact that he's been so consistent with a ridiculous win-loss record as you point out, being the reason why even this draw, I believe, shouldn't give him too much trouble.  But yes, it will give him relatively more trouble than if he had Djokovic's or Murray's draw.  Also, i definitely agree that Federer's main problem in Slam draws that he hasn't won lately has been the difficult first weeks he's had.

    ummair.malik
    ummair.malik

     @plethyn Lol! Agreed with you. Tough draw or easy draw, haters will be haters.

    Plus, Fed has shone whenever tennis experts have written him off. Let us hope he can shine once again in Melbourne

    great_escapist
    great_escapist

     @robbati21 

    +1 on all of this. People are over-exaggerating Fed's draw.  I just don't see him losing before semifinals. Paire (yea, ok!), Davydenko (even at his best couldn't beat Fed in a slam), Tomic (next!), Raonic (not playing well right now), Tsonga (isn't he injured? he pulled out of hopman and sydney).

    robbati21
    robbati21

     @great_escapist  @robbati21 Good point about Tsonga, I forgot about that.  I think that for anyone who claims that Federer has a difficult draw, the argument has to begin and end at the fact that he would have to beat both Murray and Djokovic to win the title.  Anything beyond that is simply ignoring the reality of what you and I have pointed out.

     

    Also, just to add to what I said before, I think that out of the Fed/Djokovic/Murray trio, Federer is still the one where players who land in his quarter pretty much know they're toast, unless they actually have beaten him in a Grand Slam recently, which amounts to a grand total of two players on his side of this draw.  Or in an Olympic final, just for the sake of including Murray.  I mean, does anyone really think Tomic is thinking to himself right now, "Awesome, can't wait to cause the greatest upset in Grand Slam history this side of Lukas Rosol!"  No way.  He's probably cursing his bad luck.  I think if Djokovic puts in another strong Slam season he could get to this point of having that aura of invincibility in the first four rounds of Slams, but I don't believe he's there just yet.  And Murray's definitely not there yet.

     

    Plus, even the over-exaggerators would have to admit that though the draw as a whole "looks" tough for Federer, he would still be the heavy favorite in each individual match-up, which is what mostly matters.

    ummair.malik
    ummair.malik

     @IdaAnnaTaylor Yes, the Ferrer's quarter is the easiest of all and is the most open of all. I am keeping fingers crossed for Federer though that he goes all the way :)

     

    IdaAnnaTaylor
    IdaAnnaTaylor

     @ummair.malik  Exactly right.  Djoker got a cakewalk compared to Fed's draw.  Fed could conceivably play all seven rounds against guys in the Top 50.  Djoker and Murray were lucky.  Of course, the luckiest of all is Ferrer.  He has the easiest quarter.

     

    robbati21
    robbati21

     @IdaAnnaTaylor  @great_escapist Right. Just to be clear, Federer does have the toughest road to the semis, but that doesn't mean it isn't still overrated. Given the individual match-ups it presents, and taking into account that one or two of the hardest potential opponents may crash out early (Raonic? Tsonga?), I still contend that it is not the death sentence that everyone is predicting.  He had what many thought to be a pretty challenging road last year (Karlovic, an in-form Tomic, Del Potro), and didn't drop a set.

     

    Plus, Federer did sort of luck out with Tsonga, instead of Berdych or Del Potro.

     

    I am so looking forward to a Murray-Del Potro quarterfinal, by the way.

    IdaAnnaTaylor
    IdaAnnaTaylor

     @robbati21  @great_escapist

     Compared to the other Top 3, Federer has by far the toughest draw.  I'm sure both Djoker and Murray would prefer their potential opponents to the QFs over Fed's.

    iamvik
    iamvik

     @great_escapist  @robbati21 

     

    LOL..."toughest draw" is a relative yardstick, isn't it? Who, in your opinion then, has the toughest draw? 

    great_escapist
    great_escapist

     @robbati21 

    could not agree more with all you've said! but people/media will (and have already) run with this story of fed's difficult draw. as janko would say: "sigh".