Monday, January 18, 2010
A little late on this, but here are my predictions for the Australian Open 2010 for both the ATP and WTA.
On the men's side:
Although any Grand Slams now would just be icing on the cake, Roger Federer (pictured above holding the runner up trophy at the 2009 Australian Open) seems as confident and motivated as ever. He'll be wanting to prove that at the age of 28 he's still hungry for Slams and that he still loves playing and winning.
He'll face formidable opponents throughout his draw but should be able to get into the second week of the Open with relative ease. A fourth round match against Lleyton Hewitt should be enticing but like recently against Hewitt, Federer will cruise through unscathed and into the Quarterfinals. There he'll likely meet the streaky Russian, Nikolay Davydenko, but it's hard to bet on Davydenko to pull the upset on the big stage like this. A Semifinal meeting with Novak Djokovic seems likely and will set up a rematch of the 2008 AO which gave way to Djokovic's maiden Slam title. While Djokovic usually shows up with his A game against Federer, he does not seem to be best conditioned for the Australian heat and that gives Federer quite an advantage (especially when he does not have mono). Federer should get through that in 4 sets to face...
Andy Murray, which seems like an odd choice, especially with some tough players on his side of the draw, but I think he'll be looking to prove himself early in the tournament and I do believe his best surface is hard-court. He reached the 2008 U.S. Open Final and while hasn't had his best results in Australia, I think his draw works in his favor.
The fourth round should bring about a match-up between Murray and Gael Monfils, who injured his right shoulder in Sydney. Murray should be strong enough to withstand the always entertaining and passionate Frenchman in 3 sets. Next up for Murray would be the defending champion, Rafael Nadal. While I did find it difficult to chose against Nadal, I believe his health still isn't where he wants it to be and Murray will overcome Nadal like he did in the '08 U.S. Open Semifinal and should get through in 4. Next up you have the under-dog hero of 2009, Andy Roddick, and it was really difficult picking against Roddick, who defeated Murray on his way to his epic defeat at Wimbledon last year. Roddick has had to deal with some injuries since his march to the finals at Wimbledon and like Nadal I don't think he is where he wants to be health-wise. This should allow Murray to march into the Finals, where despite a valiant effort, will lose a tight match to the ever confident and motivated Federer.
Roger Federer over Andy Murray in 4 sets.
On the women's side:
I'll start off by saying that I was wrong to bet on error-prone Maria Sharapova to make it to the Quarterfinals, yikes. So with that out of the way, I believe the top half of the draw will be dominated by Serena Williams, who makes Grand Slams essentially her only priorities these days. But it's worked and she claimed 2 of the 4 slams in 2009 and likely could've won another had it not been for the infamous "outburst" at the U.S. Open.
She should meet Samantha Stosur, Australia's female hope, in the fourth round but will soundly overpower her. Next up will be a resurgent Ana Ivanovic, who I believe if she gets over her first round or two will grow increasingly confident and regain her past form. Unfortunately for Ivanovic she has never beaten Serena either time they have played in 2006 and 2009. Waiting in the Semifinals should be Caroline Wozniacki, the Danish iron-girl, who played in more tournaments than any other WTA player in 2009, and stormed up to no. 4 in the world after her run to the U.S. Open Finals. However, like the other opponents, Wozniacki should be overpowered by Serena.
Meeting Serena on the other side will be Kim Clijsters, who really hasn't lost a beat since coming out of retirement last year. In only her third tournament back, Clijsters won her 2nd Grand Slam at the U.S. Open and proved she immediately belongs back in the top tier of players. I see Clijsters playing the 2009 French Open champion, Svetlana Kutznetsova in the fourth round and winning in straight sets. Next up would Justine Henin as the first match up of the un-retirees from Belgium, in what would be their first Grand Slam meeting since the 2006 Wimbledon Semifinals won by Henin. While Henin has shown she too has shed her rust, her loss to Clijsters in the Brisbane International reveals she still has work to do. Clijsters will march on in 3 tight sets to face Alona Bondarenko, who has never gone past the 3rd round in a major, but ended her 2009 season on a strong note and opened up her 2010 season with a title at the Moorilla Hobart Invitational. Clijsters will prove to be too balanced and experience for Bondarenko and will go on to face Serena in the finals, in which Serena will put her 2009 U.S. Open demons behind her and claim her 12th Grand Slam title.
Serena Williams over Kim Clijsters in 3 sets.
Well that's it for my 2010 Australian Open predictions. Here's looking forward to an epic and exciting tournament.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
While the rest of America was watching the Colts rout the Ravens (to my delight) I decided to tune into the Roger Federer organized charity event dubbed "Hit for Haiti" which helped raise $200,000 for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Here are some of things that stood out for me:
-These kind of exhibitions can sometimes seem forced and awkward (see: 2009 U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kid's Day featuring Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic) but everyone participating last night seemed to really enjoy each others company.
-Having the players mic-ed up definitely added some flavor and personality to the event.
-Roger is the undisputed leader and face of tennis.
-Lleyton Hewitt (pictured above signing autographs at the 2009 Legg Mason Tennis Classic) looks to be fit despite having back spasms at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
-Everyone seemed to be light-hearted about their own recent "controversies": Roger joked about his disdain for Hawk-Eye, Andy poked fun at Serena's outburst, and Novak even commented on how he was going to "retire" from the exhibition match.
-The "tweener" (between the legs shot) is as easy as breathing to Roger.
Big props to Roger for planning the event and for the other players for participating.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
U.S. Open 2001 Final: Pete Sampras vs. Lleyon Hewitt.
The first full match of tennis I ever watched on television was seeing the legend Pete Sampras get pummeled by the young up-start from Australia Lleyton Hewitt. I barely had any clue about tennis at that time except that Pete Sampras was supposed to be good (what a first impression...) Yet there he was getting destroyed by this fresh-faced blonde kid that I had never heard of.
It's kind of amusing to me that I'm such a tennis fanatic now because just 8 years ago I really had little idea of how to play the game let alone have any knowledge about the sport and its players.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2007; my Dad just bought a new tennis racquet from Costco to replace the 30 year old gross yellow stringed good-for-nothing ones we owned. I took it to work with me the next day to see whether my friends wanted to go hit around after work.
What began as a light hitting session and the chance to try out my new nCode Wilson racquet turned into an excitement for a sport I hadn't felt since...well, ever. I was hooked. For the next couple weeks, my friends and I would go straight from the pool (where we were lifeguards) to the park and play til the lights went out at 11pm nearly 4 times a week.
This new found obsession with a sport was nothing new for me. At times I would get into a particular sport and play it rather devoutly for a period of time. Activities such as "Blizzard Basketball" comes to mind and how I could convince my friend Eric to come along and partake in such an experiment is still beyond me.
But tennis was different. Different from the various sports I participated in through my grade school years. Although I don't see myself as a particularly athletic individual I did swim competitively with RMSC (Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club) until 8th grade, run track in high school, earn a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and help out the Women's Varsity Volleyball team at the University of Maryland. Yet, regardless of whether it was swimming or basketball, I never had any real enthusiasm for the sport. Reasons ranged from being plain terrible at it (basketball, track, volleyball) or just a general feeling of nonchalance (swimming, Tae Kwon Do). I suppose you could say I never really had a sport that I called my own.
I can't quite explain it but tennis offered a sort of catharsis, that the result of the game is a direct result of my actions and my actions alone. There isn't that feeling of letting your teammates down with a bad pass or having a judge decide the outcome. I can let my emotions fly after a winning shot, add a fist pump, and throw in a Hewitt-esque "C'moooon!!!" just for good measure. No other sport I've done allowed that kind of freedom, that kind of solitude and individuality that I feel tennis does. I guess in a sense, tennis allows me to be myself like no other sport.
And as I think about what my next career step will be, I hope that tennis will in some form be a part of it. I graduated in May 2009 from the University of Maryland with an undergraduate degree in Kinesiological Sciences but in a career change of sorts I've recently realized that my passion lies in sports and writing, particularly with tennis. I would have never thought that the tennis match between Sampras and Hewitt that meant nothing to me and that the new tennis racquet I borrowed from my Dad would mean so much to me now.