First of all, I would like to wish everybody a Happy New Year. I hope 2011 was great for you and I hope 2012 will be even better!
The tennis season officially begins in Doha with the 250 event. The field for the 2012 tournament is not that strong, with only three top 10 players heading the event - Nadal, Federer, and Tsonga. After that, the seeds are Monfils, Troicki, Bogomolov Jr, Youzhny, and Seppi, so you can see that there is not much star power in the field this year. Nevertheless, it should be a fun tournament. The courts are quick, the atmosphere is fun, and the trophy is beautiful, so it should be a good week filled with great tennis.
Looking at the draw, Roger certainly has the harder side. He has Tsonga in his half, who always gives him a tough match, but even before he can think about a potential match with the Frenchman, he must get past long-time rival Nikolay Davydenko in the first round. These two met in the final in 2011, and I must admit it is a little weird seeing that they are set to meet in the opening round this year. I guess that's what happens when you have a guy in Davydenko who has fallen off the charts lately and has a very low ranking (currently number 41 in the world). After that, Roger should have a routine path to the semifinals where he would most likely meet Tsonga. This would be a tough match for the Fedster but if he plays well he could duplicate the results at the end of the 2011 season against Jo.
On Nadal's side, he faces German Philip Kohlschreiber in the opening round, who is personally one of my favourite players on tour. Expect Nadal to get by easily there, and then in the quarterfinals he could run into big Ivo Karlovic, Ernests Gulbis, and Mikhail Youzhny, all of whom are capable of playing great tennis on the fast Doha surface. However, this is Nadal, so I would expect him to make it through regardless of the difficulties he faces, and make the semifinals where he would most likely meet Gael Monfils. Personally, I will be interested to see how Rafa's shoulder holds up. Logic would normally dictate that a guy taking the month of February off due to suspicions of injury would want to limit his match play heading into an important Grand Slam, but I guess not Rafa. I am almost positive his shoulder will be fine, but it would be interesting to see Rafa further aggravate his shoulder, which would have us all questioning his decision to play in Doha.
Overall, I expect Federer and Nadal to make it through to the semifinals with relative ease, and that is where things could get really interesting. Federer vs Tsonga and Nadal vs Monfils matches would be exciting, and as a Federer fan, I hope the Swiss Maestro plays some decent tennis and gets some good preparation for the Australian Open. Win or lose, as long as he shows some good form, I will be happy. After all, in 2010 he lost to Davydenko in the semis of this event, but then went on to win the Australian Open, so that result shows that winning the title at the end of the week does not guarantee anything.
Final prediction: Tsonga defeats Monfils
Hope to see some great tennis this coming week. Happy New Year to all!