I am back to start off 2013 with a bang! Finally the first Slam of the year is under way! Some thoughts from the first day of action.
- Novak Djokovic got through a routine opener, taking out Paul-Henri Mathieu 62 75 64. The Serb was never in trouble and cruised on serve. He takes on Ryan Harrison in the second round, who won a 4-setter against the ever-inconsistent Santiago Giraldo. Logic dictates Djokovic handles Harrison handily, but Harrison could eek out a set if the stars line up for him ... they won't.
- #4 seed David Ferrer cruised by little Olivier Rochus 63 64 75 and he'll play American Tim Smyczek next, who defeated big Dr. Ivo. Looks very much like he will make the QF easily.
- Janko Tipsarevic got by Lleyton Hewitt 76(4) 75 63. The Serb went down a double break in the second set, but Janko on 7 of the final 9 games of the set to win it, which pretty much won him the match. Facing Lleyton at the Australian Open is difficult and Janko even admitted that the first two sets could have gone either way. As for Rusty, we are left wondering whether or not his 17th straight Australian Open appearance will be his last.
- Maria Sharapova blanked her opponent Olga Puchkova of Russia 60 60. No surprise there, of course, but Maria played very well. She is definitely motivated to win this tournament as she could gain the #1 ranking under the right circumstances. Maria has won Down Under once, in 2008, and behind Serena, she looks like the second favourite to win the title.
- Venus Williams routed her opponent, Kazakh GalinaVoskoeboeva 61 60, and she looked much more energetic than she did for much of 2012. A matchup with Sharapova awaits in the 3rd round, and that would be absolutely awesome to see. The past vs the present, almost.
- Samantha Stosur fought past a tough opening set, which she won in a tiebreak, to prevail in her first round 76(3) 63. Good win for her, but knowing the troubles she has had at her home Slam (lost last year in the first round), I can't see her making it past the quarters.
- Nicolas Almagro, the #9 seed, needed 5 sets to beat American Steve Johnson 75 67(4) 62 67(6) 62. The Spaniard plays another Spaniard in the 2nd round, Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who is not an easy opponent. That could go 4 or 5 as well if Nico isn't careful. With the draw he has, he could wind up making it to the quarterfinals against Ferrer (most likely), but now that he's had a 5-setter in the first round, it's unsure of how he'll respond. If he gets by DG-T, he could play Jerzy Janowicz in the 3rd round, which could result in an upset. You never know...
- Fernando Verdasco, the #22 seed and 2009 Australian Open semifinalist overcame a two sets to one deficit against David Goffin to win 63 36 46 63 64. After the disappointment of losing a two-set lead to Bernard Tomic last year, this has to be a confidence-boosting win against a player on the rise lke Goffin. Verdasco has being working hard in the offseason with former trainer to Andre Agassi, Gil Reyes, and he looked much more fit than he did last year. He plays the X-man, Xavier Malisse in the 2nd round, and if he gets by that, he'll likely play Kevin Anderson.
- Grigor Dimitrov, surprise finalist in Brisbane where he lost to Andy Murray, lost in straight sets to the 32nd seed Julien Benneteau 64 62 64. It will be a tough learning experience for the Bulgarian since he must have had high hopes heading into this Slam. Technically it isn't a bad loss since Benneteau is a very solid player but Grigor had to have wanted to go a bit deeper, like the 3rd or even 4th round. And he would have had his chance to if he had beaten Benneteau, with Roger-Vasselin or Bemelmans in the 2nd round and Lacko, Muller, Hewitt, or Tipsarevic in the 3rd round.
- Juan Monaco, the #11 seed, lost shockingly in straight sets to Andrey Kuznetsov. He lost the first set in a tiebreak but after that he lost two 6-1 sets. Quite the upset on day one, not only in the result but in the way it happened.
- Agnieszka Radwanska won the final 9 games of her match to beat Aussie Bojana Bobusic 76 60. She is on a 10-match winning streak to start this year. She looks really good and she could cement herself as one of the big 4 in the women's game with a final or even (gasp) a win.
- The Doctor himself, the Youz, Mikhail Youzhny, came back from two sets down to take out Australia's own Matthew Ebden. Great win for the Russian, and he's set to meet Kei Nishikori in the third round, which would be a great match-up.
- Young 17 year-old American Madison Keys advanced to the 2nd round. Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez held her in high regard as a key part of the future of women's tennis so she is someone to keep an eye on in the next half-decade.
- 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis came through in 5 against Albert Ramos 6-3 in the 5th. Bag is likely to go through to the 3rd round where he'll very likely play Ferrer.
- Ana Ivanovic, Li Na, Julia Georges, Angelique Kerber, Dominka Cibulkova, Marion Bartoli, Jelena Jankovic were also among the winners on the women's side. Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Sam Querrey (the only seeded American), Stan Wawrinka, Jurgen Melzer, Kevin Anderson, Feliciano Lopez and Brian Baker were among those that advanced on the men's.
The match of day two on the men's side could be Tsonga vs Llodra. With both guys being great shotmakers and enigmatic Frenchmen, it could be a good show. Also watch out for Monfils vs Dologopolov. Gael is back and he looks good and if he wins he could very well get to the 4th round and take on del Potro, which would be an awesome comeback to the tour. Also, Federer and Tomic start their road to each other
On the women's side on day two, watch out for Wozniacki vs Lisicki. If you recall, Sabine beat Wozniacki at Wimbledon in 2009 and Caroline could certainly go out in the first round yet again if Lisicki gets on a roll. Azarenka, Serena, Errani, and Kvitova should ease through.
Until next time,