Thursday, January 15, 2015

Australian Open Draw: Murray and Nadal land on Federer's side

The Australian Open men's singles draw has been released and Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer all got lined up on the same side of the draw. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka are on the same half of the draw, setting up a potential rematch of last year's quarterfinal, which for many was the match of the year.

Before the draw, the most anticipated part was where Juan Martin del Potro would land and it didn't disappoint, playing another one of the dangerous unseeeded players in Jerzy Janowicz and has a potential second round match with Gael Monfils in the same part of the draw as Milos Raonic and Lleyton Hewitt, which is all in Djokovic's quarter of the draw.

Most exciting potential match ups per round
1st Round: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Jerzy Janowicz
2nd Round: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Gael Monfils
3rd Round: Rafael Nadal vs. Lukas Rosol
4th Round: Andy Murray vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Quarterfinals: Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka
Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

Toughest Path: Andy Murray
The Scot is going to have to pay the price for dropping out of the top four, receiving a difficult draw, most notably facing Roger Federer in the quarterfinal round. Getting there won't be that easy though. He opens with a qualifier followed by Marinko Matosevic, which he shouldn't have any problems with. However, the third round match is against an in form Martin Klizan. The left-hander can be a tricky opponent and when he is in form is capable of pulling off this kind of an upset.

The first real test though is against Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Murray twice last year, including in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. This time though, it will be in the fourth round. Then in the quarterfinals Murray will likely face Roger Federer, who is the No. 2 overall seed and has never lost in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, reaching at least the semifinals every year since 2004.

In the semifinal and final, he could face any number of players, so the big test is just getting there. Murray was also my pick for toughest draw at this past US Open.

Easiest Path: Stan Wawrinka
Could have gone with several people for this one. Both Nadal's quarter and Wawrinka's quarter of the draw are fairly weak. The defending champion opens with Marsel Ilhan followed by the winner of a qualifier and Pablo Andujar. It would be a bigger upset than his first round loss at Roland Garros if Wawrinka doesn't get through that.

In the third round he will face Pablo Cuevas, who is seeded because of what he did at two clay court 250 events last year. Just over a month ago Cuevas was playing a challenger on clay. The only times he has played in the Australian Open were 2010 and 2011 and he lost both times in the first round.

After winning his first nine sets easily, Wawrinka will play either Fabio Fognini or Alexandr Dolgopolov. Fognini would be an easy matchup for Wawrinka, while Dolgopolov could be tricky. However, Dolgopolov pulling off that upset would require him getting to that match and still being healthy enough to play in the form it would take to knock off last year's champion.

Then in the quarterfinals, he could face Kei Nishikori or David Ferrer. Nishikori has the ability to beat Wawrinka. However out of anyone seeded between five and eight, Nishikori was the best possible draw since he is susceptible to big upsets or injury. That is about as easy of a path to the semifinals as Wawrinka could ask for, but there is no such thing as an easy semifinal or final. He will have to play well at some point to defend his title.

Other impressions: 
-Djokovic reminded everyone that he does not like playing big servers following a three-set loss to Ivo Karlovic in Doha. He could have to face John Isner and Milos Raonic in consecutive rounds though at this year's Australian Open.

-Great chance for Tomas Berdych to make it to a semifinal. It is so hard to know how Nadal will do this fortnight, but he is the most vulnerable of the top four seeds. Before the potential match-up with Nadal, Berdych's biggest test is probably Viktor Troicki, who hasn't played a best-of-5 match since 2013.

-Qualifiers have little to work with. There are no matches between two qualifiers and almost every one of them is set to face a top 8 seed in either the first or second round. The coveted spot for a qualifier is the one right next to Pablo Cuevas. Potential easy third-rounder if it goes to the right player.

-This draw will solidify Djokovic as the favorite to win the tournament, since the other favorite, Federer, has it even worse than he does, but both guys have some tricky matches along the way.

-Adrian Mannarino has a great draw. Just two weeks ago he was in a challenger and he could soon be into the third round of a grand slam. He has two winnable matches to start, but Feliciano Lopez is always tough. He has played in over 50 slams in his career.


1 comment: