With the first two rounds of the Australian Open in the books, I’d like to recap them and take a look forward into what the first weekend is going to have in store. Kim Clijsters and Shahar Peer have looked good on the women’s side, losing a total of 11 games in the first two rounds between them. As for the men, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are looking solid, but as always you can never count out Fed Express.
Let’s break down the round of 32 and see what the next couple days has to offer Down Under.
Matches to watch on the Men’s side:
Rafael Nadal ESP (1) vs. Bernard Tomic AUS. What gets the fans in Melbourne more fired up than an up-and-coming Aussie youngster? The 19-year-old Tomic has looked impressive in his first two rounds, beating a solid Jeremy Chardy in the first round and upsetting the big hitting Feliciano Lopez in the second round, both in straight sets. It will be interesting to see how the former world #1 ranked junior matches up with the best player in the world, and you know the fans will be going crazy in Rod Laver Arena. My prediction…a fun match to watch, but Tomic will be outmatched by the world #1. NADAL in 3.
Kei Nishikori JPN vs. Fernanado Verdasco ESP (9) . This is going to be a match up between two excellent ball strikers and shot makers. Coming off the thrilling 5-set comeback against Tipsarevic a couple nights ago, Verdasco is finding his form and with his improved conditioning will be ready to go for Nishikori. The youngster from Japan has just recently signed on Brad Gilbert (who has worked with Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray) to be his coach, and he has been playing well early on in 2011. Look for a hard hitting match, with both players going toe-to-toe from start to finish. My prediction: VERDASCO in 4.
Matches to watch on the Women’s side:
Justine Henin BEL (11) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS(23). This is by far the marquee match of the round of 32 on the women’s side. It’s a match up between two former grand slams champions, both playing well early on in the tournament. It pits the pure ball striking ability of Kuznetsova against the creativity and variety of Henin. Tune in for a good one! My prediction: HENIN in 2.
Shahar Peer ISR (10) vs. Flavia Pennetta ITA (22) . Another great match against two players who have been playing well early on. Peer has lost only seven games in her first two matches, and Pennetta is cruising early, not only in singles but in doubles too, where she is the number one seed with partner Gisela Dulko. The winner of this one also better be ready to do it again in the next round, as they will have a great match against the winner of the Stosur/Kvitkova match. My prediction: PEER in 3.
Stanislas Wawrinka SUI (19) vs. Gael Monfils FRA (12). This is going to be a great match! Both players have been two of the hottest players in the world since the US Open, and they both have been playing great in their first two rounds. Monfils used his incredible speed and athleticism to come back from two-sets-to-love down against the youngster Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands, and Wawrinka’s stellar one-handed backhand has propelled him to two straight set victories early on. I think the Wawrinka is a dark-horse in the draw (at least until he might have to meet Federer), and could give Monfils some problems, especially following the five-setter against de Bakker. My prediction: WAWRINKA in 5.
Monica Niculescu ROU vs. Francesca Schiavone ITA (6). Schiavone has been streaky since her French Open victory in 2010, and she has looked shaky early, winning two close three-setters in her first two matches. Niculescu has been playing extremely well early, disposing of both her early opponents in straight sets. Schiavone has never done that well Down Under (getting only as far as the round of 16 in her career), and I think the long matches in the heat are going to take their toll. My prediction: NICULESCU in 2.
Best potential Round of 16 match ups to look forward to:
Men: Berdych/Gasquet winner vs. Nishikori/Verdasco winner
Women: Stosur/Kvitkova winner vs. Pennetta/Peer winner
The tennis has been great early on, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for us next!! Thanks for reading!