Saturday, 23 January 2010

Melbourne: Round of Sixteen Preview.

Oh goody! I love the round of sixteen.

Not only is it the business end of a Slam, it’s the heart of a Slam.

I almost think of rounds one to three as a second phase of qualies within the main draw – a testing ground for new talent to make their presence known and for the top seeds to rid themselves of any remaining foibles and vestiges of rust.

I’ve learnt not to place too much stock in predictions – this year it’s proving nigh impossible.

There’s almost too much parity.

Federer v Hewitt

Guessing how many sets Fed will gift Hewitt before once again (very nicely) putting paid to the fairytale, is beginning to seem unnecessarily cruel and too much like betting on the results of an underground pit fight.

Still, Fed does seem more eager than he ever has, to gift at least the opener.

Fed in four.

Verdasco v Davydenko

Dasco’s not faced ‘credible’ opposition since the beginning of the event – and went to four very hard fought sets with Carsten Ball in his opener.

To put it bluntly, I didn’t expect to see him here.

To go from such lack of credibility to the incredibility Davy seems steeped in, might prove too much of a jump up. There’s also that 6-1 H2H to consider.

Davy in four.

Djokovic v Kubot

Kubot’s ranking’s gonna soar after this events over – though it’s largely Youzhny’s withdrawal in round three that’s responsible for that.

I’m not thrilled with what little I’ve seen from Djoko – too many overly-engineered forays to the net (you can thank Todd Martin for that), and not enough depth from the back of the court.

Still, early days and all that.

Djoko in straights.

Roddick v Gonzalez

Having seen neither play here, nor for that matter towards the back end of 09 – this one’s tough to call.

All I’m certain about at this point is that it could quite easily go five sets.

Roddick in five.

Tsonga v Almagro

Jo-Willy really ought to win this one easily. Almagro has already played two tough five setters he shouldn’t have, and Jo-Willy should have had his last very thorough tune up against Haas in the last round.

Tsonga in straights.

Cilic v Del Potro

This is where any self respecting tennis addict ought to find themselves.

A win for Cilic here makes his claim for entry to the big boys club that much more credible.

Though Delpo ought to be able to weather the best Marin sends his way and make the most of the inevitable let downs whenever they appear.

Delpo in five.

Murray v Isner

Murrays been deathly silent, clinically efficient in his journey through the draw so far.

Isner is very credible opposition, though also exactly the kind of lumbering target Murray enjoys taking aim at should he manage to return that serve.

Muzz in four.

Karlovic v Nadal

Bit sticky this one.

On the one hand it’s difficult not to be convinced by Nadal’s performance to date; however facing off with Ivo usually means getting embroiled in multiple tie breaks.

I still think he’ll find a way through mainly on the strength of his last round, where not all of Kohlschreiber’s best homoerotic hip-swivels were enough to derail him from a cause he’s obviously taken to heart.

At times it almost seems he’s less concerned with winning than finding his form and further flattening that forehand.

Nadal in four.

S. Williams v Stosur

I may as well say it - that injury Serena’s nursing is either not as bad as it looks, or she’s not played a tough enough match to expose it’s severity.

Either way it’s not impeded her so far.

With her serve and athleticism, Stosur can push her to three, but will have a hard time once Serena ups her game – which, injured or not, she does with infuriating regularity from the round of sixteen onwards.

Williams in two.

Zvonareva v Azarenka

Oh this ought to be good.

Both these girls have developed something of a taste for inflicting beatdowns at this event, and I have Azarenka only slightly ahead.

My head says Vika, my heart says Vera.

The longer it goes on the less likely Vika is to pull through

Vera in three/Vika in two depending on which side of bed I got out of.

Wozniacki v Li

Criticising Caz-Woz about her lack of initiative, and nicely-carefully-does-it approach to tennis is my favourite pastime.

But it’s in matches like these where that ability comes into its own.

Li’s one of the most natural strkers of the ball but it doesn’t take too much for her to unravel.

Caz-Woz in two.

Henin v Wickmaye

Surprising as it might seem, I know nothing about Wickmayer as a player other than that encounter she had with WADA last year.

Henin in two.

Petrova v Kuznetsova.

Yes Clijsters “sucked”, but Nadia’s one of the least appreciated players in the game.

And you know what? Kuznetsova sucked in her last round too.

Nadia in three.

Bondarenko v Zheng Jie

Big fan of both players.

Could go either way, though I currently have Alona as a slight favourite.

Alona in three(?)

Safina v Kirilenko

Safina’s been devastating in Oz. If she tames that unruly serve of hers, she’ll be as complete as she was during her best periods of 08-09.

Kiri’s had a great run but just hasn’t that sort of firepower.

Safina in two.

Schiavone v Venus Williams

There’s nothing to suggest that Venus won’t win this one – except a nagging suspicion I have that she’s not at her best.

I’ve seen her lose matches playing better than this.

Schiavone, on the other hand is having a fine run, and will be quick to make good on any sign of vulnerability.

Francesca in three.

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