Sunday, January 15, 2006

Australian Open 2006: Predictions Yet Again

It's the time again for the Grand Slam predictions! Yipee. Gents first, I'd like to reserve the energy for the Women's Draw because that seems to be where all the action is.

Men's Draw
Defending Champion: Marat Safin

Q1. We've been asking who can stop the Federer Express since 2003, and the only ones to do so in 2005 are notably absent. However, the latest victory over Federer was claimed by Tommy Haas might probably show a chink in his armor. Nah. Besides, Haas has a tough first-rounder against 13th seed Richard Gasquet. I'd pick the German to win that, but not against the Swiss in 4R.

To complete this side of the draw, steady ATP achiever Nikolay Davydenko faces big (and I do mean tall) Karlovic in the opening round. Tough. Should he get past this, I see a 4R encounter with Slovak Hrbaty. I did notice that he has no apparel sponsor yet. Top 5 in the world and no sponsor? Yet Hrbaty has that pink cutout of a shirt?

QF Match: Federer vs Davydenko

Q2. Homeboy Hewitt again lost the draws lottery again - primed for a semifinal clash with Federer. Roadblocks to the quarters? None really, Kiefer would've been a good pick on hardcourts, but since limping out of Kooyong last week, I'm more likely to say no. Ferrero has yet to find consistency to string a series of victories, and the others have yet to make a splash at Melbourne Park.

The other hometown hero, who was able to enter on a wildcard entry is another victim of a draw gone bad. Mark Philippoussis plays seasoned veteran Sebastian Grosjean in the opener - although a potential matchup with 6th seed Coria does not sound too alarming, meeting up with either Gonzales or Monfils would most probably end his run in Down Under. Methinks 1R will do for The Scud.

QF Match: Hewitt vs Coria

Q3. Riding high from his success in Shanghai, Nalbandian hopes to score his maiden Slam immediately right after. And why not, momentum is high, the field depleted, and the draw more than inviting. Past Henman (who by the way is already unseeded), Robredo and Tursunov, Blake seems to be the most compelling challenge for David towards his first Slam. It's a fairly even toss up, with the latter claiming the title in Adelaide.

As for Nalbandian's compatriot Gaudio, I would expect an upset from Ancic. Gaudio honestly is an okay hardcourt player, reaching the semis of the Championships last year. However, since that whitewash by Federer, the respect for him has been thrown out the door. He'll get over that, similar to Sharapova's double bagel in Indian Wells. Sorry, thinking out loud.

QF Match: Ancic vs Nalbandian

Q4. Based on the draw, this looks actually trans-Atlantic battle held Down Under. Europe will grab a seat for the quarters, be it Croatia, Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Russia even. Team USA will place themselves on the other side of the pond - Ginepri? Dent? Roddick?

QF Match: Ljubicic vs Roddick

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