Podcast: Looking forward to week two at the 2015 Australian Open

January 25, 2015

Welcome the TennisConnected Podcast for 2015!

After seven days of action Down Under, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back to discuss the meat and potatoes of the event. With Roger Federer gone and Rafa Nadal back in form, will the Spaniard inch closer to the Swiss’ mark of 17 majors by weeks end? How will Novak Djokovic fair in the second week and will Nick Kyrgios continue to live the dream in front of his local supporters? We also discuss the women’s field and if Eugenie Bouchard still has too much respect to take out Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals.

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Australian Open 2015 Day 8 Preview: Raonic looks to reach another level in Melbourne

January 25, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Local teenager Nick Kyrgios was the toast of Melbourne on Sunday night, the Aussie saving a match point en route to a miraculous comeback victory over Roger Federer’s conqueror Andreas Seppi in an absorbing fourth round duel.

Day 7 Recap

When Seppi took the first two sets, it looked as though Kyrgios was about to hit the canvas. But a break to the 2014 Wimbledon quarter-finalist early in the third set gave him some hope, and when Kyrgios snatched the fourth set in a tiebreaker, it looked as though all the momentum was with the Aussie. Seppi was not done with yet, winning 12 consecutive points to rally from a 4-1 deficit in the final set, but Kyrgios kept his nerve, eventually closing out the match 8-6 in the decider after 3 hours and 34 minutes.

Kyrgios will now face Andy Murray for a spot in the semi-finals, after the Scot made the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the sixth successive year with a narrow victory over Grigor Dimitrov. The two seeds split the opening sets before Murray took the third to put himself in pole position. When Dimitrov led 5-2 in the fourth set, it seemed as though a fifth set was a near certainty, but 5 games in a row to Murray handed the former finalist a terrific win.

Earlier in the day, local hope Bernard Tomic was outgunned by Tomas Berdych, the Czech star too strong and steady on the big points. For the third consecutive year, Berdych is into the quarter-finals without dropping a set, but he faces a stern test next up in the form of Rafael Nadal. The Spanish superstar was forced to save 6 set points in the opening stanza against Kevin Anderson, but after taking the first set Nadal grew in confidence and ultimately claimed a 3 set win.

In the women’s tournament, second seed Maria Sharapova was in ruthless form, dismissing US Open semi-finalist Peng Shuai for the loss of just 3 games. Sharapova next faces Eugenie Bouchard, who overcame a mid-match meltdown to beat the Romanian Begu. Third seed Simona Halep was impressive in the night session, dismissing Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets, and will now face Ekaterina Makarova in the semi-finals after the Russian overcame Julia Goerges in straight sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 8

1. Feliciano Lopez vs. Milos Raonic

Raonic might be the higher-ranked player of the pair, but previous matches between these players have always been close, with each player claiming 2 wins out of the 4 matches. Lopez collected the most recent match, on hard-courts in Canada last year, but I think Raonic will be a tougher proposition over 5 sets.

Both players enjoyed standout seasons in 2014, but the reality is that Lopez is in the twilight of his career whereas Raonic is still on an upswing. The Canadian’s serve is up there with the very best in the game, and he has been working diligently on his backhand in an effort to improve the most glaring weakness in his game. I’ll back Raonic to squeeze through this one in a tight 4-setter featuring a couple of tiebreakers. Raonic in 4.

2. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

Stan Wawrinka entered last year’s French Open as the Australian Open champion and a recent winner on clay in Monte Carlo, but the Swiss star quickly realised that reputations count for very little on the court, going down to Garcia-Lopez in the opening round at Roland Garros. I’m sure that in Paris Wawrinka was still adjusting to life as a Grand Slam champion, and all the pressure, commitments and expectations that come with such a title, but at the same time that win will give Garcia-Lopez plenty of belief going into this clash.

Wawrinka has been in good form so far 2015, winning the tournament in Chennai and looking strong in his opening few matches in Melbourne. I think Wawrinka is now more accustomed to the greater spotlight he is under, and Garcia-Lopez won’t be as big a threat on hard-courts as he is on clay. Look for Wawrinka to gain revenge for Paris with a convincing victory. Wawrinka in 3.

3. Venus Williams vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

For the first time since 2011, Venus Williams is into the round of 16 at a Grand Slam, and the veteran American will be desperate to continue her winning ways today. Williams won in Auckland in the lead-up to Melbourne and if she is having a good serving day then Radwanska could be in real trouble.

Williams leads the head-to-head record 5-4, however it should be noted that Radwanska has won the past 3 matches between the pair. I wouldn’t be surprised in Venus turns back the clock with a win here, but I think Radwanska’s consistency and retrieval skills make her the favourite if the match goes into a deciding set. Radwanska in 3.

4. Serena Williams vs. Garbine Muguruza

Just as Stan Wawrinka was shocked in Paris last year by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, so too was Serena Williams stunned in the French capital in 2014. Defending champion Williams was upset by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, who had been threatening to beat an elite player in the months leading up to the French Open.

Williams will be gunning for revenge in this clash and, while Serena very rarely fails to get what she wants, it should be emphasised that Muguruza is the real deal, with former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez considering her a Grand Slam contender in 2015. That might be slightly optimistic, but there’s no doubt Muguruza is one to keep an eye out for. That said, I think Williams will be too focused and too strong for the Spaniard in this clash. Williams in 2.

5. Dominika Cibulkova vs. Victoria Azarenka

She might be unseeded this year after an injury-plagued 2014, but Victoria Azarenka has once again demonstrated her fondness for the bouncy blue hard-courts at Melbourne Park by waltzing into the round of 16. The Belarusian is still not quite back to her best, but even at 90 percent Azarenka is a major threat to the rest of the players on the WTA Tour.

Cibulkova’s form fell away a bit last year after a tremendous start to the season in Melbourne, but last year’s finalist is a feisty competitor who beat Azarenka in their last encounter. That said, Azarenka has won 6 of the 8 meetings between the players, and I favour the two-time champion to claim career win number 7 over Cibulkova in this one. Azarenka in 3.

Put your house on: Novak Djokovic. The top seed should cruise past Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller without so much as breaking a sweat.

Upset alert: I’m backing two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to continue her impressive run by knocking out eleventh seed Dominika Cibulkova.

Likely to go the distance: As noted above, I think the match between Venus Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska is destined for 3 long sets.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Nadal, Murray & Kyrgios reach Australian Open quarterfinals

January 25, 2015

Australian Open—Melbourne, Australia

Singles – Fourth Round
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. [14] Kevin Anderson (RSA) 75 61 64
[6] Andy Murray (GBR) d. [10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 64 67(5) 63 75
[7] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Bernard Tomic (AUS) 62 76(3) 62
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 57 46 63 76(5) 86 – saved 1 MP

Australian Open Day 7 Preview: Murray vs. Dimitrov is all you need to know

January 24, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

For the first time in 4 years, both Williams sisters are through to the fourth round of a Grand Slam, with Venus and Serena each forced to fight back from a set down to claim a spot in the round of 16.

Day 6 Recap

After Venus Williams came from a set and a break down against Camila Giorgi to make the round of 16 at a major for the first time since Wimbledon in 2011, sister Serena repeated the comeback act against upcoming Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the top seed roaring back to win in 3 sets. Venus will next face Polish seed Agnieszka Radwanska, whilst Serena will square off against Garbine Muguruza, who upset the world number one in Paris last year.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was the shock casualty on Day 6, going down to talented American Madison Keys in straight sets. Keys now faces another American called Madison, unheralded Madison Brengle, who knocked off Coco Vandeweghe. Last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova was another winner on Day 6, taking out France’s Alize Cornet. Cibulkova next faces former champ Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

In the men’s tournament, Stan Wawrinka was all business in a straight sets win over Jarrko Nieminen, whilst Feliciano Lopez and Milos Raonic notched 3 sets wins over Jerzy Janowicz and Benjamin Becker respectively. Kei Nishikori bounced back from the loss of the first set to defeat Steve Johnson in 4 sets, but John Isner was ousted by Gilles Muller. Top seed Novak Djokovic was a winner in the night session, surviving a tight first set tiebreaker against Fernando Verdasco before wrapping up the match in straight sets.

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 7

1. Andy Murray vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Almost certainly the pick of the fourth round matches, this mouthwatering clash pits Olympic gold medallist and two-time major winner Andy Murray against rising star Grigor Dimitrov, who showed he was ready to take the next step in the majors by whipping Murray on his home turf at Wimbledon last year.

Coach Roger Rasheed will be in Dimitrov’s ear in the lead-up to this match, telling him that he belongs in the upper echelon of men’s tennis and that he can definitely win this match, but I have been very impressed with Murray’s form in the lead-up to this tournament, both in Abu Dhabi and Perth. After taking a good 12-15 months to find his feet again after major back surgery, Murray again seems to be in the form that makes him a major contender in the Grand Slams. Little will separate the pair in this match, but I think Murray looks super fit after his offseason training in Miami and Dubai, and that could prove decisive down the stretch. Murray in 5.

2. Bernard Tomic vs. Tomas Berdych

The Australian Open hard-courts certainly suit Tomas Berdych’s game, the bouncy surface assisting the Czech’s free-flowing, hard-hitting approach. The two-time Davis Cup champion made the semi-finals of the tournament last year, going down to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in a tight match, and will again fancy himself to feature in the latter stages of the tournament.

Bernard Tomic had a wretched season in 2014, the Aussie being significantly affected by his double hip surgery. However, Tomic seems to be moving freely around the court once more and is the sort of player who could cause a boilover against a seed of Berdych’s calibre. Berdych has won both their previous meetings, each at Wimbledon, however both matches were close encounters. I expect Tomic, spurred on by the home crowd, to push Berdych all the way, but the Czech’s power game and superior fitness will likely see him through. Berdych in 5.

3. Nick Kyrgios vs. Andreas Seppi

The parochial Australian fans would normally be cheering for the very likeable Roger Federer, but I suspect they were pretty happy to see Andreas Seppi upset the Swiss superstar, as it meant that hometown boy Nick Kyrgios got a far more winnable round of 16 match-up as a result. Despite having back problems coming into the tournament and having limited match practice of late, Kyrgios has once again shown his ability to produce his best tennis on the biggest stages.

Seppi showed his abilities in beating Federer, but I wonder how the Italian will fare trying to back up from that momentous victory. I suspect Seppi might find it difficult to reproduce the magic of Friday’s win over the second seed, and with the home crowd cheering on Kyrgios, I’ll back the Aussie to make it through to the quarter-finals. Kyrgios in 4.

4. Kevin Anderson vs. Rafael Nadal

Big serving South African Kevin Anderson presents a far different match-up for Rafael Nadal than the Spaniard’s last opponent, the diminutive Dudi Sela. Lanky Anderson has the ability to blast players off the court but I think Nadal is well and truly up and running in the tournament now after his second round scare against American Tim Smyczek.

I’m sure that at least one of the sets will go to a tiebreaker, but look for Nadal to take big cuts at the Anderson second serve and make the most of his rare opportunities to break the South African’s serve. Anderson is not without a hope, but I’m predicting that Rafa will squeeze his way through in 4 tight sets. Nadal in 4.

5. Shuai Peng vs. Maria Sharapova

Chinese seed Peng had a strong finish to 2014, making the round of 16 at the All England Club and then reaching the semi-finals at the US Open. She’s a crisp, compact hitter who moves well around the court and who will make Sharapova pay if the Russian has one of her bad serving days. Sharapova scraped through against compatriot Alexandra Panova in round 2 before thrashing the talented Kazakh Zarina Diyas in round 3.

Peng is always steady, but Sharapova is the better shotmaker of the pair and the more aggressive player, so the match is on the second seed’s racquet, so to speak. There might be a fair bit of shrieking and grunting involved, but I think the former champion will get the job done today. Sharapova in 3.

Put your house on: Eugenie Bouchard. The Wimbledon finalist should have far too much game for Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu.

Upset alert: I think that at least one of the Aussies in action today will notch an upset win. Kyrgios over Seppi is probably a safer bet than Tomic over Berdych, but you never know.

Likely to go the distance: Belgian Yanina Wickmayer is in good form at present and could well stretch Romanian third seed Simona Halep to 3 sets in their round of 16 clash today.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Djokovic, Wawrinka, Nishikori and Raonic reach final 16 at Australian Open

January 24, 2015

Australian Open—Melbourne, Australia

Singles – Third Round
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. [31] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 76(8) 63 64
[4] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 64 62 64
[5] Kei Nishikori (JPN) d. Steve Johnson (USA) 67(7) 61 62 63
[8] Milos Raonic (CAN) d. Benjamin Becker (GER) 64 63 63
[9] David Ferrer (ESP) d. [18] Gilles Simon (FRA) 62 75 57 76(4)
[12] Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. Jerzy Janowicz (POL) 76(6) 64 76(3)
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. [19] John Isner (USA) 76(4) 76(6) 64
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 62 64 64

Australian Open 2015 Day 6 Preview: Djokovic tries to avoid the same fate as Federer

January 23, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

For the first time since 2001, the men’s singles round of 16 at Melbourne Park won’t feature Roger Federer, after the second seed was sensationally knocked out of the tournament on Day 5 by Italy’s Andreas Seppi.

Day 5 Recap

Seppi had never previously beaten Federer, and had taken just one set off the Swiss superstar in all of their previous matches, but the Italian started strongly, breaking Federer to love to claim the opening set and then taking the second in a tiebreaker to set up a commanding lead. Federer got the third set but, despite winning more points than Seppi for the match, ultimately went down in 4 sets. Federer’s upset is good news for Nick Kyrgios who set up a meeting with Seppi by beating Tunisian Malek Jaziri.

Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov set up a marquee fourth round showdown in contrasting styles, with Murray cruising past Joao Sousa and Dimitrov forced to 5 sets to see off former finalist Marcos Baghdatis. Rafael Nadal thrashed Dudi Sela to set up a clash with big-serving Kevin Anderson, whilst Bernard Tomic and Tomas Berdych booked a fourth round showdown by defeating Sam Groth and Viktor Troicki respectively.

In the women’s tournament, Maria Sharapova hammered Zarina Diyas 6-1 6-1 and will now face China’s Shuai Peng, who overcame Yaroslava Shvedova. Seeds Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep recorded wins on Day 5, as Yanina Wickmayer scored an upset win over Italian seed Sara Errani. Ekaterina Makarova overcame Karolina Pliskova and will now face Germany’s Julia Goerges for a place in the quarter-finals.

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 6

1. Serena Williams vs. Elina Svitolina

As I said at the outset of the tournament, Serena Williams is head and shoulders above the rest of the players on the WTA Tour when she puts her mind to the job. So far, the American has been steady without being spectacular, but that’s not a big issue, as she will aim to peak in the second week of the tournament.

Svitolina is a rising star on the women’s circuit and has now made the round of 32 at Melbourne Park in consecutive years. She’s definitely one to watch for the future, but I don’t think she will have the composure on the big stage to truly threaten Williams. Williams in 2.

2. Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco

One only has to think back to the pulsating semi-final at Melbourne Park played out between Fernando Verdasco and his more esteemed compatriot Rafael Nadal to remember just how dangerous Verdasco can be on hard-courts, especially when he gets his confidence up and his serve and forehand firing. On one hand, Djokovic will see Federer’s defeat as giving him an even better chance of winning the title; on the other hand, Djokovic will know that he needs to keep his guard up against a challenging opponent today.

Verdasco has nothing to lose, so I expect him to come out all guns blazing. But even if the Spaniard manages to fire on all cylinders for a while, he has a tendency to get tight in big match situations, and I think that Djokovic will get the better of him on the big points. Djokovic in 4.

3. Petra Kvitova vs. Madison Keys

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova showed in her demolition of Eugenie Bouchard in the 2014 final at the All England Club that she deserves to belong in the very top tier of women’s tennis, and now it is time for the Czech star to make her mark in the other Grand Slams. Kvitova has had an ideal preparation for the year’s first major, winning the title in Sydney before travelling to Melbourne, and I think she has to be considered one of the favourites for the title.

Keys is a highly rated American youngster who, with former star Lindsay Davenport now by her side, is sure to continue to progress through the ranks in the next 12 months. Keys showed plenty of grit in fighting back from a set down to beat Aussie seed Casey Dellacqua in round 2, but I fear a win over Kvitova might be step too far right now. Kvitova in 2.

4. Feliciano Lopez vs. Jerzy Janowicz

Spanish seed Feliciano Lopez is pretty fortunate just to be in the third round of the tournament, after he was forced to eke out a 10-8 fifth set win over the American Kudla in round 1 and got lucky in round 2 when his opponent, Adrian Mannarino, was forced to retire when in a winning position. Janowicz has been more impressive in contrast, completing a gutsy 5 set win over French seed Gael Monfils in the second round.

This should be an enjoyable match to watch, with Lopez’s old-school all-court game contrasting with Janowicz’s huge serve and raw power game. I think this is definitely a winnable match for the Pole, but I’ll back Lopez to get back in form with a hard-fought win here. Lopez in 5.

5. David Ferrer vs. Gilles Simon

Pencil in a long match featuring plenty of drawn-out rallies between these two baseline battlers. Former French Open finalist Ferrer is super-fit and as tenacious as they come, whilst Simon is a very adept mover around the court and an extremely good counterpuncher.

Ferrer has the better record in the majors and, whilst Simon has claimed his fair share of big-name scalps over the years, the smart money is on the Spaniard to prevail in this one. Ferrer is probably no longer at his peak, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Ferrer in 4.

Put your house on: Stan Wawrinka. After his Swiss countryman Federer was upset yesterday, let’s hope the defending champion can get the job done against veteran Finn Jarrko Nieminen today.

Upset alert: Perhaps not an upset per se, but I think unseeded former champ Victoria Azarenka will take down Czech seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova today.

Likely to go the distance: I reckon American Steve Johnson is an underrated player, and I’m backing him to make life difficult for fifth seed Kei Nishikori in their match today.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Federer upset at Australian Open by Seppi; Nadal, Murray & Dimitrov advance to fouth round

January 23, 2015

Australian Open—Melbourne, Australia

Singles – Third Round:
Andreas Seppi (ITA) d [2] Roger Federer (SUI) 64 76(5) 46 76(5)
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) d Dudi Sela (ISR) 61 60 75
[6] Andy Murray (GBR) d Joao Sousa (POR) 61 61 75
[7] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d Viktor Troicki (SRB) 64 63 64
[10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) d Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) 46 63 36 63 63
[14] Kevin Anderson (RSA) d [24] Richard Gasquet (FRA) 64 76(3) 76(6)
Bernard Tomic (AUS) d Sam Groth (AUS) 64 76(8) 63
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d Malek Jaziri (TUN) 63 76(6) 61

Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Dimitrov & Sharapova hope for more time in Melbourne

January 22, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt, competing in his nineteenth consecutive Australian Open, started off in sizzling form against Benjamin Becker in the evening session on Day 4 but eventually ran out of gas, succumbing to the German in 5 sets. Whether or not Hewitt steps onto Rod Laver Arena again remains to be seen, with the Aussie contemplating retirement at the end of 2015.

Day 4 Recap

Top seed Novak Djokovic sounded a warning to his rivals on Day 4, blitzing Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in straight sets. Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka also recorded 3 set wins, whilst John Isner and Kei Nishikori logged 4 set victories. Jerzy Janowicz outlasted Gael Monfils in 5 sets but the news was better for seeds Ferrer, Verdasco and Lopez, all of whom advanced. Joining Monfils on the sidelines on Day 4 were fellow seeds Giraldo and Bautista Agut.

In the women’s tournament, Sam Stosur’s miserable run at home continued, the Aussie seed going down to American Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets. Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka showed she would again be a contender this year, defeating eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets. Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska also claimed wins, with Cibulkova, Kvitova and Muguruza among the other seeds to advance on Day 4.

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 5

1. Andreas Seppi vs. Roger Federer

Fresh from seeing off one Italian in the form of Simone Bollelli in round 2, Roger Federer faces another Italian in round 3 in the form of Andreas Seppi. Seppi is a former top 20 player who is a good mover around the court and a consistent counterpuncher from the baseline.

Federer had a few off moments against Bollelli, but it was hard to tell if that was due to the problems he was experiencing with his finger or due to the play of his opponent. In any event, after dropping a set to Bollelli, I think Federer will put in a more consistent performance today and race through this match in straight sets. Seppi can’t really hurt the second seed, and Federer will take full advantage of that fact. Federer in 3.

2. Karolina Pliskova vs. Ekaterina Makarova

I mentioned the other day that Ekaterina Makarova was a dark horse, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Russian still in the draw as we enter the second week of the tournament. However, she faces a stern test against rising star Karolina Pliskova. The Czech is now ranked 20 in the world after making it through to the final in Sydney last week, and is one to watch in 2015.

Makarova has greater big match experience at this stage, so I’m favouring the Russian to come through this encounter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Pliskova comes up with the goods. Makarova in 3.

3. Zarina Diyas vs. Maria Sharapova

After surviving an almighty scare against compatriot Alexandra Panova in round 2, second seed Maria Sharapova will be firmly focused on producing a much more polished performance against Kazakh upstart Zarina Diyas in their round 3 clash today.

Diyas is a rising star on the WTA Tour, currently at her all-time ranking high of 31 in the world. Playing in the marquee night session on Rod Laver Arena might spook the youngster, although she has handled most things well in her career to date. I think Diyas will give a decent account of herself but Sharapova will be all business in this one.  Sharapova in 2.

4. Tomas Berdych vs. Viktor Troicki

After being exiled from the tennis world for refusing to take a drug test, Viktor Troicki has bounced back in the best possible way now that he is back on the ATP Tour. Troicki captured the title in Sydney last week and has backed up that win with excellent victories over Vesely and Mayer in Melbourne.

Berdych, a semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, will start as the favourite but the former world number 12 Troicki is likely to give him a bundle of headaches. I’m picking this one to go the distance and for Berdych to squeeze through by the skin of his teeth. Berdych in 5.

5. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Marcos Baghdatis

The Bulgarian star has started off the tournament in very impressive form, and under the watchful eye of coach Roger Rasheed, will want to improve on last year’s performance, where he challenged Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals but couldn’t quite capitalise on his chances.

Veteran Baghdatis is past his best but the former Australian Open finalist has plenty of support in Melbourne and, as he showed in upsetting David Goffin, still has the ability to make life very difficult for the world’s best.

Put your house on: Roger Federer. There are no certainties in sport, but the Swiss star is about as reliable as they come.

Upset alert: Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, a former US Open semi-finalist, could spring a surprise against Italian seed Sara Errani.

Likely to go the distance: I’m backing a long 3-setter to take place between Chinese seed Shuai Peng and Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova. I’ll tip the Chinese player to ultimately prevail.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Australian Open 2015 Day 4 Preview: Will Nishikori and Raonic reach round 3?

January 21, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Two former champions, Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal, were pushed to the very brink of elimination on Day 3 before showing their fighting qualities and recording comeback victories.

Day 3 Recap

Sharapova was forced to save 2 match points in her match against fellow Russian Alexandra Panova, eventually prevailing in 3 sets over the world number 150 in 2 hours and 32 minutes. It was smoother sailing for the other women’s seeds in action on Day 3, with 2014 Grand Slam finalists Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep progressing in straight sets. Also advancing was Russian Ekaterina Makarova, China’s Shuai Peng, Italian Sara Errani and rising star Karolina Pliskova.

In similar fashion to Sharapova, Rafael Nadal was forced to scrap his way to victory against courageous American Tim Smyczek, the Spaniard overcoming a 2 sets to 1 deficit before ultimately prevailing 7-5 in the decider. Roger Federer overcame a troublesome finger to beat Simone Bollelli in 4 sets, while Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray recorded routine victories.

There was good news for Aussie fans, as Nick Kyrgios upset Ivo Karlovic and Bernard Tomic ousted Philipp Kohlschreiber, whilst Sam Groth outlasted fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in 5 sets to set up a meeting with Tomic. Other seeds to fall on Day 3 included Lukas Rosol, who went down to Dudi Sela, Leonardo Mayer, who was beaten by Viktor Troicki, and David Goffin, who was outplayed by former finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 4

1. Ivan Dodig vs. Kei Nishikori

Croat Ivan Dodig is a former top 30 player with some serious victories to his name, able to claim wins over Nadal, Raonic and Juan Carlos Ferrero, among others. The Croat hasn’t had the best last 12 months, seeing his singles ranking slide even as his doubles career continues to prosper, but he’ll give Nishikori a decent run for his money.

Nishikori was very solid against Almagro in round 1, maintaining a consistent level against a dangerous opponent, and not letting the Spaniard get into a rhythm. I think Nishikori can do very well in this tournament, and I’ll back him to come through this test with flying colours. Nishikori in 3.

2. Vera Zvonareva vs. Serena Williams

Former world number 2 Vera Zvonareva has endured a miserable couple of years, having suffered from various injuries, including shoulder and hip problems. But the two-time Grand Slam finalist is back on court and working her way back up the rankings.

Even at its best, Zvonareva’s counterpunching game isn’t the sort of game that world number one Serena Williams loses sleep over, the American knowing that she will always dictate play in such circumstances. I think Serena will get through this one pretty easily, but I’m intrigued to see just how well Vera fares. Williams in 2.

3. Milos Raonic vs. Donald Young

Former teen prodigy Donald Young hasn’t ever quite lived up to expectations as a professional, but the American leftie is still a dangerous player and has claimed some tremendous scalps over the years, including the likes of Andy Murray.

Raonic had a terrific 2014 season and, having made the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2014, will firmly believe that a Grand Slam final is next on his to do list. Armed with a ballistic serve and an ever-improving backhand, it’s hard to bet against him. Raonic in 4.

4. Gael Monfils vs. Jerzy Janowicz

Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz got a lucky break when former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro was forced out of the tournament  with ongoing wrist problems. Del Potro had been drawn to play the Pole in round 1, but instead Janowicz faced a qualifier and cruised through to round 2.

Janowicz isn’t so lucky in round two, as he faces electrifying French seed Gael Monfils. The seventeenth seed performed impressively in New York last year and will be looking for another strong showing at the first major of 2015. If he can make some inroads on the Janowicz serve and maintain his consistency, I’ll back Monfils to notch the win. Monfils in 5.

5. Casey Dellacqua vs. Madison Keys

Aussie Casey Dellacqua enjoyed the most season of her career in 2014 and has been rewarded with a seeding at her home Grand Slam. The tenacious baseliner has scored some big wins at Melbourne Park over the years, and will be looking to put in another deep run in front of the patriotic Australian fans.

Keys is a rising star and the American will learn plenty from new coach Lindsay Davenport, a former world number one and multiple Grand Slam champion. Keys is a natural athlete and has plenty of tennis talent to match, hence why expectations are high. I’ll back the American to prevail in this one, but only by a whisker. Keys in 3.

Put your house on: Defending champion Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss star should be far too good for his second round opponent Marius Copil.

Upset alert: Spaniard Marcel Granollers could surprise French seed Gilles Simon, while Slovak veteran Daniela Hantuchova will fancy her chances against Spanish seed Garbiñe Muguruza.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in 5 sets for the clash between Frenchman Adrian Mannarino and Spanish seed Feliciano Lopez.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.

Nadal fights past Smyczek in over four hours at Australian Open; Federer, Murray and Berdych progress

January 21, 2015

Australian Open – Melbourne, Australia

Singles – Second Round
[2] Roger Federer (SUI) d Simone Bolelli (ITA) 36 63 62 62
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) d Tim Smyczek (USA) 62 36 67(2) 63 75
[6] Andy Murray (GBR) d Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 61 63 62
[7] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 76(0) 62 62
[10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) d. Lukas Lacko (SVK) 63 67(10) 63 63
[14] Kevin Anderson (RSA) d Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 62 62 76(3)
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d [20] David Goffin (BEL) 61 64 46 60
Bernard Tomic (AUS) d [22] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 67(5) 64 76(6) 76(5)
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d [23] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 76(4) 64 57 64
[24] Richard Gasquet (FRA) d James Duckworth (AUS) 62 63 75
Viktor Troicki (SRB) d [26] Leonardo Mayer (ARG) 64 46 64 60
Dudi Sela (ISR) d [28] Lukas Rosol (CZE) 76(2) 57 75 63
Andreas Seppi (ITA) d [29] Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 75 36 62 61
Joao Sousa (POR) d [32] Martin Klizan (SVK) 46 76(4) 64 10 ret.
Sam Groth (AUS) d Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 36 63 75 36 61
Malek Jaziri (TUN) d Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 16 63 64 16 63

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