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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Australian Open Going to Form; Top Seeds Dominant

The first few days of the 2013 Australian Open seem like a replay of 2012. Serena, Vika, Maria are still at the top of the game. Roger, Novak, and Andy are dominating the field again. What is new?

In my previous post I said some questions would be answered at this Slam. With a resounding "yes" Serena Williams has exhibited her commitment to being the best in the world. Serena dropped just two games in the first two rounds, despite turning her ankle. I believe history is pushing Serena to reach this high level of commitment. She can put her name at the top of the women's game all-time with several more successful seasons of winning slams.

Victoria Azarenka has looked awesome as well. While the question of how she would respond to having to defend her 2012 title is unanswered, I want to see her playing the top seeds under pressure, she has revealed her commitment to staying at the top of WTA tour. With Serena the favorite to win the Aussie, Vika has be second in line.

My prediction that Sam Stosur could make a run at the Aussie was wrong. Losing to Jie Zheng of China is not a terrible loss, but Stosur has to be disappointed with her start to the 2013 Slam season. Losing to lower ranked players has become to much of a trend for Stosur since winning the 2011 US Open. I obviously do not know why she has struggled, but I can speculate that the pressure of expectations could be at play here. Especially at her home slam.

On the Men's side Novak Djokovic looks prepared to defend his title and Andy Murray will be right there to challenge him. Roger Federer has not looked as solid as Murray and Djokovic but he does not necessarily need to be playing his best in the first few rounds. The most important thing is that he and the other top seeds are getting off the court quickly.

Players of Note in the First Two Rounds

Surprise, but not a surprise: Juan Martin Del Potro looks awesome. He is bigger and playing dominant tennis. A Del Potro-Murray quarter will be awesome. I think you can put it in the books, I do not see either guy being upset.

Definitely surprising: Laura Robson's marathon win over Petra Kvitova. Robson made a splash at the 2012 US Open by beating Kim Clijsters. Now she has toppled a top 10 seed and former Wimbledon champion. I liked how Robson was hitting out on the ball even at 9-all in the third set. All the credit to Robson for maintaining her composure on such a hot day in Melbourne.

Kvitova, in contrast, struggled with her serve and missed badly a few times late in the match. Like Stosur, Kvitova has struggled to find that elusive phenomenon of consistency at the top of the game.

Finally, most entertaining: Gael Monfils' two wins and nine sets of tennis through the first two rounds. Monfils upset #18 seed Dolgopolov and then beat Lu last night. In the five-set win, 8-6 in the fifth over Lu, Monfils looked down and out. Yet, he kept fighting to stay in the match and battled his way to victory. It will be interesting to see how far Monfils can go in his draw. He probably expended far too much energy the first two rounds to make a deep run at the Aussie. Especially after coming back from an extended injury rehabilitation. If he can get through the human wall Gilles Simon, then a fourth round match-up against the superhuman wall Andy Murray will probably be about as much as Monfils has in the tank. It will be interesting to watch how Monfils competes against Simon. Will have the focus, energy, and mindset needed to beat his countryman?

Match up to watch closely: David Ferrer vs. Marcos Baghdatis

I think it will be a long, grinding match. Ferrer will be consistent as always while Baghdatis will have to prove he can hang with Ferrer for four hours. That is what it will take for Marcos to pull the upset.

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