Friday, January 18, 2013

Predicting the Final Four of the Australian Open: The Men

Contributed by Emma Booth.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

We’re starting to get to the most interesting section of the Australian Open; the deadwood has dropped out, and the contenders have been showing their tennis prowess. But because I am usually very bad at making predictions before a tournament starts, I have refrained from claiming I could work out who may make the semi-finals down under. However with the Round 3 draw now set, and more of a grasp of player’s form and fitness, here are my predictions for the men.

Novak Djokovic has a fairly easy 3rd Round match against 33-year-old Radek Stepanek. The Czech struggled in his first round match, with the game going to 5 sets, but I don’t think he will pose too much of a problem for Novak. This means a 4th Round meeting with either Sam Querrey or Stanislas Wawrinka – and I think the American Querrey will be Djokovic’s opposition. But again, Novak should steam through that round easily, setting up a probable quarter-final with Tomas Berdych, which he will again, win.

David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic are the likely candidates to match up in their quarter-final, with a fairly easy route into the last 16, and Ferrer will prove a tough task for Tipsarevic. However I think the Serbian could well upset the Spaniard, despite Ferrer having a cracking 2012 – he has looked a little shaky so far. This could be the biggest upset of the Men’s Open, and although the 8th seed beating the 4th seed is not exactly groundbreaking, the top four in tennis are moving away from the rest of the pack in terms of talent. And I think Ferrer will be the only one of that top four not to make it through to the semi finals.

Semi-Final 1: N. Djokovic vs. J. Tipsarevic

In the bottom half of the men’s draw, Andy Murray has a very easy run into the quarters – just not so much the semis. His only real competition to reach the last 16 will be Juan Martin Del Potro in the QF, and if last year had never happened, I would be predicting an upset. But Murray looks strong physically, mentally and tennis-ally (not sure that is a word), and I’m backing him to reach the semi’s here.

A victory against bad-boy and home favorite Bernard Tomic (now Hewitt is out!) will see Federer meet one of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Richard Gasquet in the quarter finals. And their likely match up in Round 4 looks to discover which of the French are most resistant. This is a tough one to call, especially as both are similarly seeded, and will have faced similar competition in the run up to this match. But based on Richard Gasquet’s fine victory in the Qatar Open in Doha in early January, I’m tipping him. Just. However it won’t really matter who goes through, as neither one will beat Roger Federer, as he looks in form and on track to power through to the semi-finals to meet a certain Mr Murray.

Semi-Final 2: A. Murray vs. R. Federer

The men’s tournament is not quite as open as the women’s but with Djokovic still looking as every bit his World No. 1 title suggests in 2013, he will be a hot favorite. But Murray’s 2012 was impressive and he looks a more complete player since the introduction of Ivan Lendl as his coach. And anyone that says the Fed Express is past it obviously hasn’t seen him playing in this tournament so far or indeed last year. Next week will see my predictions for the winner, and whether I was right with these.

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