Australian Open 2013 Issue 2: Day 1 Review, Day 2 Preview
January 14, 2013 · Print This Article
by: Tom Cochrane
World number one and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic picked up right where he left off at Melbourne Park, easing past Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets on Day 1.
Day 1 Recap
Whilst Djokovic cruised against Mathieu, his countryman Janko Tipsarevic had to produce some extremely high-quality tennis to get past hometown hero Lleyton Hewitt in a tight 3-setter. Fourth seed David Ferrer also advanced in straight sets, as fellow seeds Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka and Juan Monaco booked their place in round 2.
Spanish seeds Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco were lucky to survive the opening day of the tournament, squeezing past Steve Johnson and David Goffin in respective 5-setters. There was heartbreak for Aussie Matt Ebden, who squandered a 2 sets to love against Russian seed Mikhail Youzhny, much to the dismay of a raucous pro-Australian crowd on Margaret Court Arena.
Kei Nishikori was cheered on by a large contingent of Japanese supporters, working his way into the second round with a 4-set win over Victor Hanescu, while Julien Benneteau accounted for a disappointing Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian never getting into his rhythm and succumbing meekly in straight sets.
In the women’s tournament, last year’s finalist Maria Sharapova sounded a warning to her rivals, handing the much unwanted double bagel to her compatriot Olga Puchkova. Venus Williams was almost as ruthless, allowing her opponent a solitary game. Among the other seeds to score wins on Day 1 were Marion Bartoli, 2011 finalist Li Na, fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, fifth seed Angelique Kerber and former world number one Jelena Jankovic.
Ninth seed Sam Stosur, who seems to feel the pressure to perform in front of her home crowd in Australia, finally had something to celebrate after a wretched start to the season, cruising past her opponent in straight sets. Also joining her in round 2 was Ana Ivanovic and Dominika Cibulkova, who overcame a gallant effort from rising star Ashleigh Barty.
Matches of the Day – Day 2
1. Robin Haase vs. Andy Murray
Dutchman Robin Haase is a talented player who has caused Andy Murray problems in the past, most notably at Flushing Meadows in 2011, when Haase led the third seed by 2 sets to love before going down in a 5 set marathon. Haase has a big game, but at his best Murray is adept at exposing and chipping away at his opponent’s flaws, no matter how slight they might be.
It will be fascinating to see how Murray conducts himself on-court after winning his maiden major in New York last year. Will he play with more abandon and relief after finally getting the monkey off his back? Or will Murray redouble his efforts and focus on becoming a winner of multiple majors and claiming the top spot in the world rankings? I fancy the latter, and I expect Murray to come out on top in this one, although Haase is likely to have his moments. Murray in 4.
2. Benoit Paire vs. Roger Federer
Benoit Paire didn’t cause Roger Federer much consternation in Paris last year, where the pair met indoors at the Masters event in the French capital. Nonetheless, the Frenchman is a dangerous and volatile player, capable of moments of brilliance but also capable of moments of pure madness.
Against a lesser player, I’d give Paire a chance of causing an upset, such is his talent, but Federer has far too much experience to be fooled by the Frenchman. Look for the Swiss master to applaud Paire’s breathtaking winners, ignore his outbursts and make the most of the times when the Frenchman goes cold. Federer in 3.
3. Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sabine Lisicki
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki faces a tough assignment in the opening round against former Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki. Wozniacki has struggled to match the power games of Azarenka, Sharapova and Williams in recent times, but the Dane is still crafty and cunning enough to eke out plenty of victories over lesser players.
Blessed with a fantastic serve and a powerful forehand, Lisicki has been frustratingly injury-prone during her career to date. When fit, her results have been impressive and include a trip to the round of 16 at Melbourne Park last year. I think this one will go the distance, but I’ll back Wozniacki on the basis of her greater amount of match-play in recent months.
4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Michael Llodra
Former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is still looking to make his breakthrough at Grand Slam level, but the flamboyant Frenchman will be buoyed by Andy Murray’s US Open success last year, which showed that it is indeed possible to break the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic stranglehold on Grand Slams.
Now teamed up with renowned Aussie coach Roger Rasheed (a former coach of Lleyton Hewitt and Gael Monfils), Tsonga will be looking to get through the opening week of this tournament as easily as possible, and then focus on peaking for the big matches in the second week. His countryman Llodra is one of the few serve-and-volleyers left on the ATP Tour and always puts in a committed performance, but Tsonga should have too much firepower for the veteran. Tsonga in 4.
5. Francesca Schiavone vs. Petra Kvitova
Winner of the 2010 French Open, Francesca Schiavone’s form has fallen away in the last year or so, resulting in the veteran’s ranking sliding down to number 48 in the world. The Italian seems to have slowed a little as she moves towards the end of her career, and I suspect the many years of travel on the WTA Tour are also beginning to take their toll on her desire for future success.
Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova sometimes gets forgotten when pundits discuss the big names on the women’s circuit. Although she is not always as consistent as Azarenka or Sharapova, the left-handed Kvitova has the game to worry all the big names, including Serena Williams. Look for the unassuming Czech to cause a few nervous moments in the second week of the tournament. Kvitova in 2.
Put your house on: Serena Williams to slam unheralded Romanian Edina Gallovits-Hall. The American is on a 14 match Grand Slam winning streak and is a near-certainty to make that 15 major wins in a row.
Upset alert: Marinko Matosevic was one of the big improvers on the ATP Tour last year, but the Aussie has yet to record a win at Grand Slam level. He had a golden opportunity against Marin Cilic in New York last year, but couldn’t finish off the job and went down in 5 sets. Perhaps the support from the home crowd will see Matosevic turn the tables on his seeded opponent this time around.
Likely to go the distance: Flashy Frenchman Gael Monfils is still finding his feet again on tour after a lengthy absence due to injury, but the lanky former top 10 player possesses a wealth of talent and his clash with eighteenth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov should be a beauty. Expect plenty of ebbs and flows, some inspired shotmaking and a match that goes the distance.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.