Yesterday, I started my draw analysis with the players from the bottom half of the draw, who begin playing today. Meanwhile, we learned that Florian Mayer (20) has withdrawn due to a hip injury, that Rafael Nadal is tired of being the voice of the players’ grievances, that Juan Martín del Potro understands the reaction to his refusal to play the first round of Davis Cup (linked article in Spanish), and that Bernard Tomic sees Fernando Verdasco (his first-round opponent) just like we do. All this before the first ball was tossed, which, in the cases of Nadal, del Potro, Tomic, and Verdasco, will be in a few hours.
After stopping on the bottom half of the draw, it is now time for me to take a closer look on the top half, that of Novak Djokovic (1) and Andy Murray (4).
Novak Djokovic’s quarter
If I had to rank the top 4 players’ respective draws, I would say that Novak Djokovic has a draw similar to that of Roger Federer’s: a piece of pie, not too sweet, not too hard, just hard enough, still far from the rough path that awaits Andy Murray. The defending champion does have a few interesting matches ahead of him, but I don’t think he will be extremely bothered until the quarter-finals.
His first two opponents, Paolo Lorenzi and the winner of Santiago Giraldo and “Miracle Matteo” Viola (who saved no less than 11 match points en route to qualifying for the main draw), should not be too difficult to dispatch. However, Novak the Ist could have a little trouble with a potential third-rounder facing veteran Radek Stepanek (29), who can always be a handful with his serve-and-volley style.
Nevertheless, I think that his fourth round match will be difficult, particularly if he meets the Canadian Cannonman, Milos Raonic (25), who has a fairly easy draw until a potential third round meeting with Andy Roddick (15), who had, last year, ended his hopes of a second title in as many weeks when he spectacularly won the Memphis final. Roddick has a fair draw to get to Raonic, even though a potential second round with a Lleyton Hewitt on the comeback trail could be tricky.
I would really be hard put choosing a winner between Raonic and Roddick, particularly since Roddick hasn’t played anything other than the Kooyong exhibition prior to the tournament. Then again, no matter who he faces, I still think that the defending champion will make his way through to the quarter-finals.
On the other side of the quarter, I don’t see last year’s semi-finalist, David Ferrer (5), having too much trouble until the fourth round. Ferrer proved in Auckland that he is still in his proverbial good shape, ready to run his way through his draw, as he first faces Rui Machado and then the winner of Matthias Bachinger/Ryan Sweeting, none of which a possible trouble for him.
Same goes with the third round, although the four players could make it there and predicting who, of Juan Ignacio Chela (27), Michael Russell, Igor Kunitsyn, and Pablo Andújar, will make it all the way to that stage of the tournament.
The first big test, for David Ferrer, should come in the fourth round, where he should likely meet Janko Tipsarevic (9).
However, things will be complicated from the start for the Serbian, as he will begin the Open facing Dmitry Tursunov, a player who always seems to give him a bit of trouble. However, to me, whoever reaches the fourth round should be between Tipsarevic and Richard Gasquet (17), an interesting clash of styles if such a match happens.
My quarter-final prediction
Novak Djokovic d. David Ferrer
Andy Murray’s quarter
Of the top 4, Andy Murray has, without a doubt, the hardest quarter to overcome if he is to only make it to the semi-finals, let alone repeat or best his performance of the last two years (runner-up).
However, from what I’ve seen of Ivan Lendl’s protégé, I think that he now has all the resources in his camp in order to take the missing step in order to make a deep run in the tournament, starting with a tricky first-round meeting with young Ryan Harrison and a likely just as tricky second-round against Xavier Malisse.
Things don’t get better for Murray, as he could meet either Michaël Llodra, Ernests Gulbis or Alex Bogomolov Jr (32) in the third round, all opponents that can prove quite a challenge for Murray, although nothing compared to a potential fourth-rounder against the always unpredictable Gaël Monfils (14), especially if Monfils plays in Melbourne like he played against Nadal in Doha.
The Frenchman has a very good draw to reach the fourth round, as his first really threatening opponent could very well be either Viktor Troicki (19) or the Serbian’s first opponent, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Of course, I’m hoping it will be Ferrero, if only to have the chance to see another match like their hard-fought US Open encounter.
On the other side, we must say that red-hot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6) has a very easy draw all the way to the fourth round, as his biggest “threat” should likely come from Spaniard Marcel Granollers (26). However, the fourth round should be interesting, especially if Tsonga is to face his countryman Gilles Simon (12), who is on the hunt for a return to the top 10, or Japan’s Kei Nishikori (24), unless Nishikori falls to the balls of the crafty Australian Matt Ebden.
My quarter-final prediction
Andy Murray d. Gilles Simon
Still to come…
The matches to watch/follow on Day 1