Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aussie Open picks: the men's edition

One of my favorite things to do over the course of the season is to try and predict the quarterfinalists at the Majors (I know, I need to get out more!) The Australian is the toughest one to pick because it's within the first three weeks of the season and it's hard to gauge what type of shape players are in. But what kind of prognosticator would I be if I didn't venture forward? So here goes my picks for the quarters, semis, finals and winner:

Roger Federer vs. James Blake: R-Fed ended up with the easiest draw in the whole tournament! I think the winner of that Fabrice Santoro-John Isner match in the second round could force him to sweat a little, but other than that, things should go good for him. Blake's draw is filled with very streaky guys like him, such as Sebastian Grosjean, Ivan Ljubicic, Jurgen Melzer and last year's finalist, Fernando Gonzalez. Any of those guys could come through and I wouldn't be surprised, but for the sake of making a firm decision, I'm going with JB.

Novak Djokovic vs. Radek Stepanek: There's a lot of talent in Djoko's section--Xavier Malisse, Dmitry Tursunov, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Marcos Baghdatis--but I think this kid is really focused on winning majors and should be primed to take thes guys out. But he was kind of limping around at the Hopman Cup. I'm sticking with him though. As for Stepanek, if I was more sure about David Nalbandian coming in, I would pick him in this section. Stepanek should be able to take him in the fourth round, though. Look for a "worm dance" sighting on the court after that match!

Andy Murray vs. Mikhail Youzhny: I literally flipped a coin to pick the winner of the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Murray first rounder! I had to get up out of my chair, go find a nickel and flip it because I had no idea who to pick in what could be one of the best first rounders in a major in years. Murray won Doha, but Tsonga just got through winning a doubles title in Sydney with Richard Gasquet beating the Bryan brothers, which is a pretty big thing to do, to say the least. However Murray won the toss, so I'm going with him. Like Federer, Youzhny's draw is pretty easy, too, with the high seed in it being Nikolay Davydenko. I think Youzhny's in better form, having won Chennai this year. And I think Davydenko will run into trouble in the first round anyway against Michael Llodra, who's won Auckland this year.

Andy Roddick vs. Rafael Nadal: It kind of gets overshadowed, but A-Rod actually does pretty well down here. And if the weather gets crappy or too hot and he has to play indoors, forget about it. There should be aces-a-plenty coming off the old Babolat there. Nadal should get through pretty easily unless the winner of that Carlos Moya-Paul Henri Mathieu third-rounder really steps it up.

For the semis:
Federer vs. Djokovic: Nobody's game has progressed like Djokovic's over the past year and a half, but I'm still expecting him to take lumps from Federer at the majors for a while. Federer in four.

Murray vs. Roddick: Murray will have had a great run this tournament, making his first quarter and semi at a major, but unfortunately for him, I'm expecting the run to stop here. I think winning the Davis Cup just a few weeks ago and taking the Kooyong exhibition shows A-Rod's in pretty good form. Roddick in four, too.

Federer over Roddick: Another major final for Andy, another loss to Federer. R-Fed's getting closer to history!

The women's picks will be made soon.

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