2012 Australian Open – 1st Round Picks and Thoughts
I can’t wait for the 2012 Australian Open to kick-off next week. The fans down under are great and all the players just rave about how well they are treated. I just took a look at the draw for the first time and here are my thoughts on some of the first-round match-ups.
Mardy Fish (USA) vs. Gilles Muller (LUX) – This should be a good test for Mardy. He had an unbelievable year in 2011 and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain that momentum in 2012. He has a great two-handed backhand, he is one of the best returners in the game, his forehand is improved and he is really comfy at the net. The difference here should be Fish’s mentality and his ability to return the serve. Muller has a big-time serve and he has monster groundstrokes, but Fish should be able to win this match if he is playing his game. Fish in 4 sets.
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs. Bernard Tomic (AUS) – This is the match that all the Australian fans are going to be honing in on. Tomic is one of the best up-and-comers in the world and after a third round appearance last year, there is going to be plenty of pressure on him to repeat that performance. Verdasco clearly isn’t the player he was a few years ago, but he can still whip it around with a killer forehand. Tomic has the ability to lull his opponents to sleep and when you combine that with his big serve, excellent forehand and his outstanding two-handed backhand he is very dangerous. This should be a fun match to watch, but I am going with the upset. Tomic in 4 or 5 sets.
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Ryan Harrison (USA) – Wow! Another great first-rounder. Harrison needs to get into this match early and he needs to control his emotions throughout. If he allows Murray to get off to a fast start, then he will be in trouble from the outset. You know what Murray is capable of, and while Harrison is a bit of a wild card he has the potential to pull of a big upset. We will all be rooting for Harrison here at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy and wish his good luck! Based on history and experience, I have to give the edge to Murray here, but this should be a close one. Murray in 4 sets.
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) – Can Djokovic repeat his 2011 numbers in 2012? Well, anything is possible, but I am not sure if anyone can have a season like that again. He shouldn’t have any troubles with the Italian, Lorenzi, in fact he should send him back to the pizza parlor real quickly! The real thing to watch for in this match is how well Djokovic plays. Djokovic in 3 sets.
Na Li (CHN) vs. Tsenia Pervak - After reaching the finals here last year, Na Li went on to win the French Open, but after that she struggled throughout the rest of 2011. Can she recapture her magic from early 2011 or will she continue to play like she did at the end? Pervak can definitely push Li around the court, but Li thrives off her opponent’s pace and she should be able to win this routinely. Li in 2 sets.
Kim Clisjters (BEL) vs. Qualifier – At this point, Clijsters opponent is unknown, and it really shouldn’t matter. She is the defending champion down under and will be favored again for a deep run. Questions about her health will remain until she can prove she is good to go, but she shouldn’t have any issues reaching the second round. Clijsters in 2 sets.
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. Gisela Dulko (ARG) - Sharapova spent plenty of time at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy during the off-season, and it was all business for her. She worked a lot on her physical strength and her base, and you know when healthy she is more than capable of winning this tournament. Dulko is a cagey veteran who should be able to test Sharapova, but as long as Sharapova remains healthy and focused she should advance. Sharapova in 2 sets.
Heather Watson (GBR) vs. Victoria Azarenka (BLR) - Here is another match that features a young IMG Bollettieri student, Heather Watson, against a top seed, Victoria Azarenka. Watson has had some close matches against the top players, but she hasn’t been able to pull one out yet. I told her to let her game do all the talking and when she gets into those tight situations to relax and don’t over-think it. Azarenka is certainly favored to win this match as she is one of the best in the game, but don’t be surprised if Watson pushes her to three sets. I have to go with Azarenka, but I will be rooting for Heather! Azarenka in 3 sets.