2012 Australian Open – 3rd Round Picks and Thoughts
The third round is upon us and with each passing round the matches just get more interesting. The top guys really haven’t been tested yet so I will be keeping a close eye on all of them in this round to see how they fair against better opponents. Well, let’s get into the picks…
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) vs. Roger Federer (SUI) – When you play Mr. Karlovic you must know going in that he has some big weapons, but he also has some areas that are very attackable. His serve is like a rocket coming at you and he can also hit a big, kicking second serve as well. His forehand is excellent and he hits with with very little spin. His backhand is where he lacks the punch. When he spent a month at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy a few years ago I started my conversation with him by telling him that if I had him as a youngster I wouldn’t have let him hit a backhand with slice until he was 18 years old. Why? With a ballistic serve, killer forehand and his touch at the net he should be a more consistent player, but the backhand holds him back. Almost 99% of the time, he slices his backhand. When you play against the best they will hit it wide to your forehand and then make you move to hit your backhand. Quite often, your slice will be defensive and that’s all it takes for your opponents like Djokovic, Murray, Federer, etc. to get the upper hand.
Federer will not be overly impressed or worries about Karlovic’s big serve, as he knows he only has to break serve one time in each set to win it. Roger has no real weakness, he seems to be healthy and he just got a walkover in the second round. It will be interesting to see his strategy against Karlovic, but he should win this going away. Federer in 3, maybe 4 sets.
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) – Wawrinka knocked off Marcos Baghdatis (and forced him to break four rackets) in the second round and that is no easy feat as Baghdatis always plays well in Australia. Wawrinka is a big, strong dude with the ability to hit any type of shot with his one-handed backhand. He’s also got a monster forehand and a very aggressive serve. On the other side, Almagro is Almagro. He isn’t going to hurt Wawrinka, but he isn’t going to hurt himself either. He stays within his comfort-zone by playing very consistently. He gets to darn near every ball and this takes a toll on his opponents and often times forces them to overhit. This is going to be a long match and if played under real hot and humid conditions that could help Almagro. Keep in that both men had longer matches in the second round so you don’t know if that is going to have any effect. I have to give a slight edge to Almagro, but this could really go either way. Almagro in 4 or 5 sets.
Milos Raonic (CAN) vs. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) – I watched Raonic play his last match and as I got into the match I found myself thinking how the heck can he hit the serve 140-150 mph consistently without his arm coming lose from his shoulder!! He is winning close to 90% of the points on his first serve, which is amazing and he also has a great forehand, a steady, offensive two-handed backhand, he’s a darn good volleyer and he moves well for his size. He is still young and at times he gets frustrated, but nothing overly bad. On the other side, you have the cagey veteran Hewitt. He just knocked off Andy Roddick and has been through many battles. He fights like no other and he will try to keep Raonic on the court for at least 5 sets! He knows that the longer this match goes the more it favors him. I just don’t know if he has enough firewpower at this point. I am going to go with Raonic, but watch out for those Aussie fans, they may be enough to inspire Hewitt to a victory! Raonic in 4 sets.
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Julien Benneteau (FRA) – Nishikori had a great comeback win against Australian Matt Ebden in the second round as he was down two sets, but came back to win it in five. Kei is the definition of a shot-maker , with his fantastic ability to move and force errors from his opponents. Benneteau is really tough though, he has a big serve, he isn’t afraid to come into the net and his backhand is sweet. The longer this match goes, the more it favors Benneteau, but I am sticking with Kei! Nishikori in 4 sets.
Christina McHale (USA) vs. Jelena Jankovic (SRB) -This should be a good one. Jelena has slipped down in the rankings a bit and comes in seeded #13. She came to the Academy when she was a very young girl and joined the likes of so many talented youngsters like Maria Sharapova and Tatiana Golovin. There is no two ways about it – she is truly a character and that has helped her and hurt her at times. Her major strength is her movement. Her forehand is compact, with limited spin, and is consistent but it is not a major weapon. Her backhand is her bread-and-butter shot especially when hitting down the line. Her first serve is solid, but her second serve is a weakness and is a good volleyer. Jelena must not start complaining and looking to the stands for help. She is strong enough to control the situation and she doesn’t need any distractions out there.
McHale is a spit-fire out their and she is very competitive. Her style of play is very simple. She is aggressive and wants to hit as many forehand as possible and when she hits those forehand she knocks the tar out of the ball. She moves well and she knows how to get the crowd on her side. She still needs to work on her serve as her first serve could be bigger and her second serve is tentative at times. Pat McEnroe has done a great job working with her and he is very high on her potential and if you are an American tennis fan that is a really good sign. If you look strictly at the rankings here, the edge would go to Jankovic, but she better be careful especially if they get into long rallies and Jankovic is struggling with her serve. I think I am going to go with the upset here, but this could really go either way. McHale in 3 sets.
Kim Clijsters (BEL) vs. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) – Hantuchova is a former student of mine and trained at the Academy when she as between the ages of 14-16. She is truly an outstanding person and has always been a major asset to the WTA. Her game is simple. She has superb groundstrokes and excellent techniques from both wings. She is also a top doubles player and because of that she is really comfy at the net. Yes, she has no apparent weaknesses, but she doesn’t have the aggressive weapons to push Clijsters around the court. Clijsters, on the other hand, is totally different and will come after Hantuchova from the first ball. Her movement is beyond description and no matter where the ball is she gets there and turns defense into offense. I know Clijsters hasn’t played much as of late, but she is still the favorite to win this match and advance deep into the tournament. Clijsters in 2 sets.
Sabine Lisicki (GER) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) – Lisicki has trained at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy for several years. She is a big, strong young lady who only knows one way to play tennis. She takes the ball early, hits it hard and then she hits it harder! She has had several injuries have sidelined her, but she keeps coming back and if she stay physically fit she has a strong chance of being a top-10 player very soon. Kuznetsova is very strong as well and even though she has fallen back in the rankings a bit, she is still a very tough out. Lisicki must get in a high percentage of first serves and be ready to attack any defensive returns. She must also move Kuznetsova around with controlled offensive shots. This should be a close match, but I am going with my girl! Lisicki in 3 sets.