ATP Tennis 360

January 15, 2010 1:04 AM

AO 2010 preview-No easy draw for Nadal

339816-mac_draw.JPGJohn McEnroe, who wore a questionable shirt, fit for the new Rafa' shorts, contributed to design a slightly unbalanced draw with Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray, fifth seed for just 5 points, and Juan Martin Del Potro confined in the low part.

Roger Federer, the only player with Ivan Lendl to have lost a final in all the majors, pursuing the fourth AO title (eventually he would equal Andre Agassi's record) will open with the Russian Igor Andreev, n.36 in the last world rankings, who is 2-10 in match victories since the last Us Open. Theorically Federer would face Nikolay Davydenko to gain a spot into the semifinals. The Russian, who never played a semi at Melbourne Park in career, is the highest ranked palyer not to have played A Slam final yet. Should he cancel this zero, he would became the third player, after Petr Korda in 1998 and Federer in 2006 to win back-to-back titles in Doha and Australian Open.

But in Roger's quarter there are many possible loose cannons, starting with Lleyton Hewitt. Rusty, if he could pass through to the third round, would face Gilles Simon or the rejuvenated Marcos Baghdatis (who starts with Paolo Lorenzi from Italy), who has just defeated Hewitt in Sydney. Hopefully the eventual match will be scheduled on the Rod Laver Arena, as it was two years ago: also then it was a third round meeting. The epic match started at 23.47, Hewitt won a dramatic 63 fifth set and cheered at 4.33 am in the latest-ending encounter in the Grand Slam history.

Last but not least, Roger Federer, pursuing the nth record (winning at least a Slam for eight year in a row like Pete Sampras), could find a hard hurdle in Fernando Verdasco.

The other supposed quarterfinal in the high part of the draw sees, in a theoric line, Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling. The Serbian, heavily defeated by Verdasco in the Kooyoong exhibition, is the youngest player to have reached at least the semi in all the four Grand Slam events, but he has never won twice the same tournament. He is starting with Gimeno-Traver from Spain and then the winner between Matosevic and Chiudinelli. The first seeded player on his road could be Jeremy Chardy, the French risen from n.79 to n.32 thanks to Frederic Fontang, his long-time coach in Pau, who once gave Chardy the novel "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho and it changed Jeremy's life.

He could face Youzhny or Gasquet (who survived to a series of fans who shouted at him "Give us a kiss, please"), protagonist of the most intriguing first round match, or Tommy Robredo. In Soderling's eighth, instead, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Haas are the greatest dangers. But the Swede has also to defeat the elbow injury that forced him out at Kooyong: as he documented on his Twitter, anyway, he took comfort in a clock by Graham someone gifted him in his hotel room.

Big servers are concentrated in the lower section. Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro could face each other in the ideal first quarterfinal of this part of the draw. The Omaha-born kid is starting against Thiemo De Bakker, the Dutch ex junior Wimbledon champion, with a good one-handed backhand. And then he could find "Samurai" Querrey in the third round and Thomas Berdych or Fernando Gonzalez for a "full force" fourth round match. A-Rod, the only player in the Open era with a 1-4 record in the Grand Slam finals, in case of success could break the record for the longest span between two major titles (Ashe won the Australian Open in 1970 and then Wimbledon in 1975). But the American reaches the AO semis only in the odd years, and should face Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarters. The Argentine has a more than probable round of 16 against the rising Croat Marin Cilic, who will debut against the Magician Fabrice Santoro, next to become the first player ever to cross four decades in activity. The other seeded players in this eight, Stanislas Wawrinka and the Serbian Troicki, haven't seemingly appreciable chances to cause meaningful upsets. Palito will open his tournament against the American Michael Russell and will face James Blake or Arnaud Clement in the second, could become the second in the Open era after Jimmy Connors to win his first two Slam titles back-to-back.

The Argentine leap-frogged Andy Murray for just five points in the world rankings. The Scot will debut against a qualifier before playing the Frenhman Gicquel or Simone Bolelli from Italy. Muzza, the highest ranked without any major title, seems destined to a likely fourth round match against David Ferrer or Gael Monfils, although the Guadaloupe-native is passing through a shoulder injury started before the Atp 250 in Brisbane.

Murray could have Rafa Nadal in the quarterfinals.The Mallorcan, defending 6760 points from now to the French Open (more than anyone else) and is the only with Federer to have won three Slam titles on as many different surfaces in 12 months, will open against the adopted Australian Peter Luczak. He risks a third round against the German Philipp Kohlschreiber, already defeaten by Nadal in the 2007 AO, or the big server John Isner. But he could collide in the fourth round with Ivo Karlovic or Radek Stepanek, facing each other in the first round. The organisers, remembering the epic 6 hours long Davis Cup tie, have better to not schedule the match in the evening session.

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