Nick’s Picks- Mens Australian Open 1st round
Kei Nishikori Vs. Victor Hanescu
Victor is a big man but his movement is pretty darn good. He has a very good feel for the baseline and also at the net (he will come forward). He has a one handed backhand, a good slice, and has his best results on clay. With his size, you would think he would have a big serve but he does not. He does compete well.
Kei has been at the IMG Academy since he was 13 years old. It was a very different culture for him and it took several years to be comfortable. Kei is a magician with his hands and a Muhammad Ali with his feet. He can hit any type of shot, including jumping off his feet with his two handed backhand, very similar to Marcelo Rios. You cannot find a more suited coach in Dante Bottini. He knows what to say in just a few sentences.Olivier Van Lindonk of IMG does a great job setting his schedule and making sure that Kei is ready to compete.
With his improved serve and coming to the net more often, we look for Kei to get into the top 10 of the world. He is a crowd pleaser and even smiles every now and then. IMG Academy is very proud of him.
Nick’s Pick- Kei in 4 sets.
Novak Djokovic Vs. Paul Henri Mathieu
I could write volumes of information on Novak, but no matter how much I write, it all boils down to him being able to do everything and not having a big weakness. Keep in mind that he hits the ball very early, giving his opponent less time to reach it. He has a darn good 1st and 2nd serve, he is comfortable at the net, has a fantastic drop shot, and is very aggressive on the return of serve. His movement is off the charts.
Paul Henri was a full time student at the IMG Academy for 2 full years when he was 14 and 15 years old. He is a super person with no evil in him, both on and off the court. Paul’s forehand is his weapon. He can hit any type of shot including driving the ball, hitting heavy spin, angles, drop shots, and slices. His backhand is steady but does no damage. He has a reliable 1st and 2nd serve but gets very few quick points.
Paul cannot just be steady, he must go for broke. Come up with some surprise attacks and get out of his comfort zone.
Nick’s Pick- Djokovic in 4
Andy Murray Vs. Robin Haase
Many years ago, I flunked the test to be a pilot for the Navy, but in my mind I said that I would fly in a fighter jet some day. In the late 90’s I flew with the Blue Angels in an F-18 fighter jet. England waited almost 4 generations for a grand slam champion. Andy Murray finally won the Olympics and the US Open.
Andy’s ground strokes could not be better, especially with a more powerful forehand, a superb 2 handed backhand and a darn good slice. Ivan Lendl brought a great deal of patience and calmness to Andy. He also brought some adjustments in his confidence and his overall gamer including standing closer to the baseline and being much more aggressive. No one moves better than Andy Murray.
Robin is a big man with a big serve. He hits cross court with his backhand most of the time. He prefers to go around the backhand and hit his killer forehand. He lacks strength, he must get stronger.
Andy will move him around and not let him get to his forehand weapon. He will also attack Robin’s 2nd serve.
Nick’s pick- Murray in 3, but he could drop a set.
Tommy Haas Vs. Jarkko Nieminen
Tommy has been a part of the IMG Academy since he was 14 years old and is still with me, almost like a son. He has had a super career being ranked as high as #2. Then all sorts of body break downs took place including 3 major operations on his shoulder. He started 2012 with a ranking of over #330 and so many people said his career was finished. Tommy knew it wasn’t, he ended the year #21 and was named the comeback player of the year. He has one of the best one handed backhands in the world, he has a super serve and a great slice. He is very comfortable at the net and is in excellent physical condition.
Jarkko is a crafty player who will keep the ball in play and then go for the big one. He has a steady 2 handed backhand. His serve is solid but not explosive. His game plan is to drive you crazy and force you into unforced errors.
Haas must keep his cool, but still play aggressive and come in. It will help to get a lot of first serves in and then take advantage of defensive returns.
Nick’s Pick- Haas in 4 tough sets.