It was a busy first weekend of 2012 on the ATP Tour, with three 250 tournaments being finished, Doha, Brisbane, and Chennai. Usually these 250 events aren't an indicator towards the Australian Open, but in the instances of these three finals, they may give us clues as to how things may play out in a few weeks in Melbourne.
On Saturday, in an all-French final, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Gael Monfils 75 63. The result could be expected because Jo had a good week, and even without having to play his semifinal because Federer withdrew, he had had enough match play in the rounds before to not lose his momentum. The win for Jo certainly gives him some confidence heading into the Australian Open, where his best result was the final in 2008. It has been his best Slam in large part, and he could be ready to make a run deep in the tournament with the way he is playing. He has been a much improved player ever since Wimbledon last year and he could be a quarterfinal nightmare for one of the top 4 (chances it will be Federer?). Jo has such an explosive game that he could go very far in a few weeks, and I think he is the most dangerous player coming into the event because of his unpredictability. He is virtually impossible to stop if he gets rolling.
On Sunday, Andy Murray defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov 61 63 to pick up his 22nd career title, and first title under new coach Ivan Lendl. Certainly with this win, the tennis media, and especially the British media, will be all over Murray once again to win his first major. He has made the final the past two years, so if he can make it there once again, then the only obstacle would be getting past his mental block in the big moments. He has brought in Lendl to help him with that, and for his sake, I hope the 8-time major winner can. After his good form in Brisbane, Andy will certainly be suspected by some to win the event and finally break through, while there will be others like me who have their doubts, even with Lendl as his coach. I personally don't think that Murray will win the Australian Open, but he should be a threat to make the final again, though that might depend on the draw. If he gets Djokovic in his half, it could be very troubling with the Serbian's imperious form.
In the third and last final of the weekend, Canadian Milos Raonic picked up his 2nd career title in a hard-fought win over Janko Tipsarevic 67(4) 76(4) 76(4). He is the first player since Federer in Halle 2008 to win a title without dropping serve, which is a great achievement and it definitely shows how hard his serve is to break. As a Canadian myself, I could not be happier for Raonic, and I certainly think he has the potential to have a superb 2012 season if he can stay healthy. He is my dark horse to upset a top name at the Australian Open. His serve is untouchable, his movement is good, and his power is up there with the likes of Soderling, Berdych, and Del Potro. Big things should be expected from this Canadian youngster, and I sincerely hope he can do great things in tennis the next few years.
Sydney and Auckland are being played in the week ahead, and then it's Australian Open time!
Until next time, Kyle.