Friday, January 10, 2014

2014 AUS OPEN: The Draw Is Released!

The draw for the 2014 Australian Open has been released and there are some interesting features.
Here is my analysis of the women's draw:
World #1 Serena Williams has a pretty good draw, with 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka and World #3 Maria Sharapova in the other half of the draw. Serena's potential quarterfinal opponent is Sara Errani, whom she dropped one game against in her epic beatdown on the way to the 2013 Roland Garros final last year. However, in the other quarter in Serena's half are some powerful (but erratic) players like World #4 Li Na, who often plays her best tennis in Australia, and World #6 Petra Kvitova who will face off in an epic quarterfinal for the right to play Serena in a semifinal. However, the bottom half of the draw is also interesting, with an Azarenka-Sharapova semifinal looming (a reprise of the 2012 Australian Open final won by Vika). However before that happens Sharapova has to get past Bethanie Mattek-Sands in round 1 but if she does she sohuld have smooth sailing until she faces the winner of Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals. Vika has a slightly tricker road with Americans Jamie Hampton in the 3rd round and Sloane Stephens in the 4th round but Azarenka dispatched both of these players on her way to winning the title last year, although they both acquitted themselves well. Aga Radwanska would be her quarterfinal opponent. If seedings hold then the four quarterfinals should be Serena-Errani, Li-Kvitova, Azarenka-Radwanska and Sharapova-Jankovic.
In the men's draw things are even more unbalanced then on the women's side.
World #1 Rafael Nadal, World #4 Andy Murray, World #5 Juan-Martin del Potro and World #6 Roger Federer are all in the top half of the draw, with Murray-Federer, del Potro-Nadal the potential quarterfinals. However, Nadal has a pretty rough draw, with a 1st round meeting with Australia's #1 player Bernard Tomic, followed by Gael Monfils in the 3rd round and Lleyton Hewitt or Kei Nishikori in the 4th round and the winner of Milos Raonic and Del Potro in the quarters. The Federer-Murray quarter in Nadal's half may not even happen because Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could take out Federer in the 4th round while John Isner could eliminate Murray in the same round. Federer also has potential land mines in the presence of Sergiy Stakhovsky, Radek Stepanek and Gilles Simon in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
The bottom half of the draw contains 3-time defending champion Novak Djokovic who basically only has to worry about a quarterfinal match-up with Stanislas Wawrinka (the two played the match of the tournament and perhaps the match of the year in last year's 4th round but I doubt lightning will strike two years in a row) and then a semifinal with the winner of David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych which basically assures him of 5th final appearance in Melbourne, where he is 4-0 so far. The Ferrer-Berdych quarterfinal may be split up by Jerzy Janowicz who has the game to beat just about anyone if he is having a very good day. This is almost certainly the section of the draw where a surprise quarterfinalist or semifinalist could emerge.
The interesting first round matches to look out for are (of course) Nadal-Tomic, Ivan Dodig versus Ivo Karlovic, Tommy Robredo versus Lukas Rosol (best-looking duo!) and Ryan Harrison versus Monfils.

On the women's side, there are multiple 1st round matches to note: Serena's opener versus hometown youngster Ashleigh Barty might be tricky for the 5-time Aussie Open champ, Samantha Stosus plays Klara Zakapalova in the 1st round after losing to her in Hobart today, Ekaterina Makarova versus Venus Williams, Francesca Schiavone versus Dominika Cibulkova and Sloane Stephens versus Yaroslava Shvedova.

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