Saturday, January 16, 2016

Australian Open Preview: Victor/Victoria?

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

- From The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (1883)

Ah, but who is up to the task of coming ashore and claiming the land of Victoria as her own?

Hmmm, it couldn't possibly be...?

Here's a quick overview of the women's draw, quarter-by-quarter:

1. Serena Williams, USA (#1)
...#1 until proven otherwise. She'll face Camila Giorgi in the 1st Round. Even with her injured knee, Williams surely remembers her LAST match that counted -- a U.S. Open slam semifinal loss to ANOTHER Italian. Either Serena will be having nightmares after this one, or she'll make sure Giorgi does. Williams has arrived in Melbourne many times before in bad form and/or injured, wearing an outfit full of question marks, and managed to still be the Soul Survivor in the end. Can she do it again at 34?

2. Maria Sharapova, RUS (#5)
...if Serena stumbles, '15 runner-up Sharapova immediately becomes the favorite in the quarter. But, then again, she arrives with no match play, and with a potentially tricky 3rd Rounder vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
3. Belinda Bencic, SUI (#12)
...her Week 2 semifinal run in Sydney ended with a retirement after she'd spent the morning ill and throwing up. Her draw isn't easy, with Alison Riske right out of the gates, then possibly Heather Watson and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #27 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, SVK'd be difficult to find a player who has gotten off to a worse start in '16. AKS has won just four games in her two '16 losses and faces off in the 1st Round in Melbourne with Daria Kasatkina, who put on a 3rd Round run at the U.S. Open as a lucky loser and has already opened her season with a win over Venus Williams in Week 1.
...the Brit was nearly last year's Wimbledon Bracket Buster with her near upset of Serena at SW19. If she can get past Timea Babos in the 1st Round, she'll likely get a shot at #12 Belinda Bencic, after which she could slide into the role of potential Russian slayer in the Hordette-heavy bottom half of the quarter.
THE WILD CARD: #23 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
...she's already been crowned a 2016 champ in Sydney, the earliest she's grabbed a singles title in any season of her career. She's had a close call in Melbourne before (she served for the match vs. Serena in the '09 QF), but hasn't posted a MD win in Melbourne since 2013. Plus, come on... she's Sveta. Anything is possible.
...the Swiss teen was the First Seed Out of last year's AO, and with all the uncertainty swirling around this year's event it wouldn't be a shock if she was dumped out early this time around, too.
THE POOR SOUL: Camila Giorgi, ITA #5 Maria Sharapova, RUS'd be easy to once again pick Serena's 1st round victim opponent as the Poor Soul but, well, we don't know what Serena's condition REALLY is and, of course, Giorgi is an Italian. So you never know. Surely Sharapova, though, wondered if Aga Radwanska's last second swiping of the #4 seed with her Shenzhen title run might mean she'd be unlucky enough to land in the same quarter as Serena. Well...

1. Aga Radwanska, POL (#4)
...she's earned her #4 seed, but her quarter is full of possible landmines. Bouchard in the 2nd Round. Stosur/Puig in the 3rd. Stephens in the 4th. She found her way through in Singapore, but Aga won't get a "pass" after a bad day here like she did in the fall.
2. Sloane Stephens, USA (#24) the Future now? It sure looked like it COULD be in Week 1, and Stephens is finely positioned in this quarter for her best slam run since her breakout semifinal in Melbourne three years ago.

3. A veteran... any veteran
...the quarter (especially the bottom half), barring a Gavrilovian uprising or an unexpected sign of strength from Kvitova, would seem to present a wonderful opportunity for a veteran to emerge and cobble together a possible SF run ala Roberta Vinci last summer in New York. Take your pick: unseeded Cibulkova, #22 Andrea Petkovic or #10 Carla Suarez-Navarro are the most likely suspects. Longer-shots like #25 Sam Stosur, unseeded Lucie Hradecka or even, wouldn't you know it, #13 Vinci herself, aren't unfathomable, either.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #28 Kristina Mladenovic, FRA ...the Pastry opens against '14 finalist Cibulkova, healthy again and fresh off her SF result in Hobart. It could be the best 1st Round match in the draw.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...the unseeded Slovak is looking to get back on the grand slam horse and the Australian Open is her best major. After her runner-up result two years ago, she followed up with a QF run a year ago.
THE WILD CARDS: #24 Sloane Stephens, USA & Genie Bouchard, CAN
...semifinalists, respectively, in 2013 and '14, both have looked good in the opening weeks of '16. Stephens won a title in Week 1, while Bouchard reached a final in Week 2. Stephens has a favorable draw to the Round of 16, where she could face Aga Radwanska. Well, unless Bouchard upsets the Pole in their potential 2nd Round match-up, that is. If things fall just right, the winner of a possible Round of 16 Stephens/Bouchard match could be the favorite to claim the quarter's semifinal berth.
...oh, Petra. She's already dealing with illness once again this season, and the Aussie heat will do her no favors. Neither does a draw that, after a qualifier in the 1st Round, could land her either Hradecka or Daria Gavrilova (which would likely be a night match on Laver, with a dangerous Gavrilovian pixie dust cloud surely settling in overhead pre-match). After that? Cibulkova or Mladenovic, then Petkovic or CSN. This doesn't look good. Kvitova hasn't reached the Round of 16 in Melbourne since '12, and will be hard pressed to do it this year. She opens with qualifier Luksika Kumkhum, the very same Thai player who upset her in the AO 1st Round in 2014. Gulp.
THE POOR SOUL: #25 Samantha Stosur, AUS
...the Aussie doesn't have a terrible draw. If she wasn't Sam Stosur playing in Australia, that is. She just put together her first back-to-back wins in Sydney in eleven years, but Melbourne will likely be another story. She's only escaped the 3rd Round twice in thirteen AO appearances, and not since 2010. She opens with qualifier Kristyna Pliskova.

1. Victoria Azarenka, BLR (#14)
...suddenly, Vika is the hot pick to win her third Australian Open title. Go figure. She certainly looked primed for title contention in Brisbane, and she's turned Melbourne into her personal playground in the past. In 2012-13, the Aussie crowd was definitely not with her. Three years later, after becoming an "underdog" and doing much work to soften her image, is the Australian state of Victoria finally ready, willing and able to cheer on and finally embrace its Belarusian namesake? We may find soon out.
2. Garbine Muguruza, ESP (#3)
...two weeks ago, the Spaniard was a definitive favorite for a deep run in Melbourne. But after limping away from Week 1 with a foot injury, disaster seems to lurk just over Muguruza's shoulder ("Duck, Garbi!"). If she's healthy, in two weeks time she could become "the next big thing," or at least run head-first into a much-anticipated Round of 16 clash with Azarenka. If she's not healthy, well, it'll be a real pity.
3. Angelique Kerber, GER (#7)
...Kerber is positioned rather well in this quarter. She's in the top half, away from both Azarenka and Muguruza, faced with going up against the likes of #19 Jelena Jankovic or #11 Timea Bacsinszky instead. Of the Top 8 seeds in the draw, the German might just be the most "safe" pick to (at least) hold her seed and reach the QF. If she does, she has to hope that Azarenka isn't there waiting for her. She's 0-7 vs. Vika.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #32 Caroline Garcia, FRA
...the Pastry has looked good in '16 (losing only a three-setter to Simona Halep), but her "oh-so-French" qualities tend to rise to the forefront at slam time. She was the First Seed Out in Paris last season, and she's dropped her opening match at four of the last five majors, and six of eight. She'll face Barbora Strycova in the 1st Round in Melbourne. Her best chance at success might be with Kiki Mladenovic by her side in the doubles. They just reached the Sydney final.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: (WC) Samantha Crawford, USA
...the Bannerette was all the rage in Week 1. Until she met Vika. She might get a second shot at the Belarusian in Melbourne in the 2nd Round. She wouldn't likely be any more successful. But if she was, she could turn the "new conventional wisdom" about who might win this slam immediately on its head. Remember, a first-time slam semifinalist hailing from North America has emerged at the Australian Open for three years running. She's a longshot, but Crawford is still probably the best shot for a fourth.
THE WILD CARDS: #18 Elina Svitolina, UKR & (Q) Naomi Osaka, JPN
...the Ukrainian is looking for a true slam breakthrough performance (SF+) in '16, but is still finding her form. She's looked both very good and slightly disappointing through the first two weeks. Svitolina has reached the 3rd Round the last two years, but BOTH Azarenka and Muguruza are in her section. She'll need a big break, or a career-making performance to emerge. But she CAN do it. And she knows it, too. Meanwhile, 18-year old Osaka makes her slam debut after making it through the qualifying rounds (after being so successful in Hobart last week that she almost missed out on the qualifying competition in Melbourne). The hard-hitting Japanese player won the Rising Stars competition last year in Singapore, and could make a name for herself in a 2nd Round match-up with Svitolina... with the winner likely getting Azarenka. Hmmm.
DON'T COUNT HER POLLOS: #11 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
...injury and inconsistency have been the Queen of Mexico's on-court companions since last summer in North America, and so far nothing has changed during this summer Down Under. She may well get past Katerina Siniakova in the 1st Round, but it wouldn't be a real surprise if she didn't. You'd just shake your head at the result and hope that Bacsinszky isn't about to experience as disappointing a season in 2016 as 2015 was a surprising one.
THE POOR SOUL: Alyson Van Uytvanck, BEL
...if Vika is truly in the sort of form that she seems to be, then her 1st Round opponent could be about to experience the sort of Belarusian buzzsaw that greeted her first opponents during her other great slam runs. Her two AO titles began with 1 & love and 1 & 4 victories in the 1st Round, while her two U.S. Open final runs included a love & 1 win and a double bagel.

1. Simona Halep, ROU (#2)
...ah, but is she really the top contender here? Probably not. But the draw may crack open and provide her a clean path to the QF or SF anyway. She looked suprisingly solid at times in Sydney, but her Achilles is still an issue. And that's probably not good for a defensive player who relies on her foot speed, in a two-week event where she may be called upon to play multiple three-setters in back-to-back rounds. And, of course, I didn't even mention the huge mental hurdle the Swarmette has to overcome. She might get a great opportunity for a "do-over," though. She could find the Russian who she gave up against (literally) in last year's QF on the other side of the net in the Final 8 once again.
2. Venus Williams, USA (#8)
...Venus comes in with just one match (a loss) under her belt in '16. She's likely fresh, and she ended '15 in fine form. But was the Kasatkina loss a sign that if she's going to put on a slam run this year at age 35-36 it won't be in Melbourne?
3. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (#21)
...quick! What was Makarova's result at last year's Australian Open? If seems like forever ago, but it should be noted that the Russian pulled off her second straight slam semifinal result last January in Melbourne (SHE was the Russian who browbeat Halep into submission). Injuries mostly scuttled the back-half of her '15 season, hence the low seed. But it really doesn't adversely impact her chances in the draw. She's positioned to possibly defend her points from a year ago if she catches the right tennis sibling (in this case, a Pliskova or a Williams, and maybe even both) on the right day.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #9 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
...the Czech still has to prove herself in a slam. She's only reached a 3rd Round twice, with her last coming in Melbourne a year ago. She opens with 17-year old Aussie Kimberly Birrell, who upset Danka Kovinic last week in Hobart. The 2nd Round could bring Julia Goerges, a Week 1 finalist in Auckland. The 3rd Round might mean Makarova, an AO semifinalist last year. Despite all her talent and potential, she may be the first Top 10 seed to fall once again.
THE BRACKET BUSTERS: Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL & Alize Cornet, FRA
...Pironkova is always a dangerous floater, and she could slide into '15 semifinalist Madison Keys' path in the 2nd Round. Cornet, who just picked up the Hobart title with a win in the final over Genie Bouchard, could square off with Simona Halep in the same round.
THE WILD CARD: #20 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
...AnaIvo upset Serena in Melbourne two years ago en route to the QF, her best AO result since reaching the final in 2008. Holding to form, she lost in the 1st Round last year. A 2nd Round match-up with Jarmila Wolfe would be interesting, while a 3rd Rounder vs. Madison Keys could be hard-hitting and super intriguing.
...last year, Keys was the latest North American to have a slam breakthrough with a semifinal run in Melbourne. Her results have been up and down since, and she's no longer being coached by Lindsay Davenport. Can she recapture her great form so soon after the change, and with so much pressure to defend the boatload of points she picked up in '15? She's got the sort of draw that could allow her to recoup a large chunk of those points, but if her propensity for unforced errors should crop up early she might not reach the second week.
THE POOR SOULS: The Aussie Wild Cards
...while it wasn't likely ever going to happen, the flickering mental images of what it would have looked like to see (non-)wild card recipient Francesca Schiavone scrambling around the courts of Melbourne in her 62nd consecutive slam main draw will likely linger in the mind far longer than the Australians who were awarded wild cards instead of the Italian. Three of the five WC Aussies are in this section, and none are likely to last beyond the 1st Round. 17-year olds Maddison Inglis (vs. Makarova) and Kimberly Birrell (vs. Ka.Pliskova), as well as Tammi Patterson (vs. Ivanovic) will have to pull out career-best days to survive more than seventy-five minutes in the competition. Of course, two of those players were awarded (or won, in Inglis' case) a WC well in advance of Schiavone being in the position of NEEDING one to get into the main draw. Only Birrell was a late choice earlier this week, but one who probably was more deserving than, say, Storm Sanders... who'll open up vs. Alexandra Dulgheru in the Muguruza section.

2003 Serena Williams (W)
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne (W)
2005 Lindsay Davenport (RU)
2006 Lindsay Davenport (QF)
2007 Maria Sharapova (RU)
2008 Justine Henin (QF)
2009 Jelena Jankovic (4th)
2010 Serena Williams (W)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki (SF)
2012 Caroline Wozniacki (QF)
2013 Victoria Azarenka (W)
2014 Serena Williams (4th)
2015 Serena Williams (W)
2016 Serena Williams

68...Serena Williams*
60...Margaret Court (w/ pre-Open era wins)
56...Lindsay Davenport
52...Martina Hingis
48...Maria Sharapova*
47...Steffi Graf
46...Martina Navratilova
45...Venus Williams*
* - active singles

1977 Kerry Melville-Reid, AUS
1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
1980 Hana Mandlikova, CZE
1995 Mary Pierce, FRA
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR

1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2007 Roland Garros - Ana Ivanovic
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone (W)
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2010 Wimbledon - Vera Zvonareva
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2012 Wimbledon - Aga Radwanska
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2015 U.S. Open - Roberta Vinci
NOTE: first-time finalists at 6 of last 8 slams
NOTE: Hingis, 1997 (W)

2012 AO: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2012 RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
2012 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2012 US: Serena Williams, USA
2013 AO: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 RG: Serena Williams, USA
2013 WI: Marion Bartoli, FRA
2013 US: Serena Williams, USA
2014 AO: Li Na, CHN
2014 RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
2014 WI: Petra Kvitova, CZE
2014 US: Serena Williams, USA
2015 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2015 RG: Serena Williams, USA
2015 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2015 US: Flavia Pennetta, ITA

6...Serena Williams (6-0)
4...Maria Sharapova (1-3)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
1...Dominika Cibulkova (0-1)
1...Ana Ivanovic (0-1)
1...Venus Williams (0-1)
NOTE: Hingis (3-3 in singles)

2005: S.Williams (W) - Davenport (RU) - Dechy/Sharapova
2006: Mauresmo (W) - Henin-Hardenne (RU) - Sharapova/Clijsters
2007: S.Williams (W) - Sharapova (RU) - Clijsters/Vaidisova
2008: Sharapova (W) - Ivanovic (RU) - Jankovic/Hantuchova
2009: S.Williams (W) - Safina (RU) - Zvonareva/Dementieva
2010: S.Williams (W) - Henin (RU) - Li/Zheng
2011: Clijsters (W) - Li (RU) - Zvonareva/Wozniacki
2012: Azarenka (W) - Sharapova (RU) - Clijsters/Kvitova
2013: Azarenka (W) - Li (RU) - Stephens/Sharapova
2014: Li (W) - Cibulkova (RU) - Bouchard/A.Radwanska
2015: S.Williams (W) - Sharapova (RU) - Keys/Makarova

Unseeded - 1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
#7 - 2005 Serena Williams, USA
#5 - 1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
#5 - 2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS
#4 - 1995 Mary Pierce. FRA
#4 - 1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
#4 - 2014 Li Na, CHN

Unseeded - 2000 Jennifer Capriati, USA
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA (W)
Unseeded - 2010 Zheng Jie, CHN
Unseeded - 2015 Madison Keys, USA
Wild Card - 2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
#32 - 2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
#30 - 2014 Genie Bouchard, CAN
#29 - 2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
#22 - 2004 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (RU)
#19 - 2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
#16 - 2010 Li Na, CHN
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA (W)
#11 - 2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
#10 - 2000 Conchita Martinez, ESP
#10 - 2007 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
#10 - 2015 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS

8...Serena Williams, USA (age 30-33)
3...Martina Navratilova, USA (age 30-33)
3...Margaret Court, AUS (age 30-31)
2...Billie Jean King, USA (age 30 & 31)
2...Chris Evert, USA (age 30 & 31)
1...Flavia Pennetta, ITA (age 33)
1...Virginia Wade. GBR (age 31)
1...Ann Haydon Jones, GBR (age 30)

1975 Natasha Chmyreva
2005 Maria Sharapova
2006 Maria Sharapova
2007 Maria Sharapova (RU)
2008 Maria Sharapova (W)
2009 Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina (RU), Vera Zvonareva
2011 Vera Zvonareva
2012 Maria Sharapova (RU)
2013 Maria Sharapova
2015 Maria Sharapova (RU), Ekaterina Makarova

2005 Victoria Azarenka/BLR def. Agnes Szavay/HUN
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS def. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2007 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS def. Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Arantxa Rus/NED def. Jessica Moore/AUS
2009 Ksenia Pervak/RUS def. Laura Robson/GBR
2010 Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Laura Robson/GBR
2011 An-Sophie Mestach/BEL def. Monica Puig/PUR
2012 Taylor Townsend/USA def. Yulia Putintseva/RUS
2013 Ana Konjuh/CRO def. Katerina Siniakova/CZE
2014 Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS def. Jana Fett/CRO
2015 Tereza Mihalikova/SVK def. Katie Swan/GBR

[won Girls & Ladies titles]
Evonne Goolagong (1970 Jr. Champion; 1974-77 Women's Champion)
Chris O'Neil (1973 Jr. Champion; 1978 Women's Champion)
Victoria Azarenka (2005 Jr. Champion; 2012-13 Women's Champion)
Lindsay Davenport (1992 Jr. Runner-up; 2000 Women's Champion)
Maria Sharapova (2002 Jr. Runner-up; 2008 Women's Champion)

306...Martina Navratilova
299...Chris Evert
285...Serena Williams*
278...Steffi Graf
231...Venus Williams*
210...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
198...Lindsay Davenport
180...Monica Seles
179...Maria Sharapova*
174...Conchita Martinez

AO (4): 1969,1970,1974,1993
RG (1): 1992
WI (10): 1973,1976,1978,1979,1988,1992,1995,2003,2006,2009
US (1): 1975

11 - 2002 Roland Garros, 2004 Wimbledon, 2015 Australian Open
10 - 2012 US Open
9 - 2005 Wimbledon, 2015 US Open
8 - 2002 Australian Open, 2012 Wimbledon, 2014 Wimbledon, 2001 US Open

*CAREER SLAM #1 SEEDS - active*
20...Serena Williams
6...Caroline Wozniacki
4...Maria Sharapova
3...Victoria Azarenka
2...Ana Ivanovic
1...Venus Williams
1...Jelena Jankovic

A: Aniek Van Koot, NED; Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
R: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER; Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
W: - ; Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
U: Aniek Van Koot, NED; Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
A: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER; Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
R: Yui Kamiji, JPN; Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
W: - ; Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
U: Yui Kamiji, JPN; Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
A: Jiske Griffioen, NED; Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
R: Jiske Griffioen, NED; Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
W: - ; Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
U: Jordanne Whiley, GBR; Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED

#1 S.Williams d. #16 Wozniacki
#5 Sharapova d. #12 Bencic
#24 Stephens d. #4 A.Radwanska
Cibulkova d. #10 Suarez-Navarro
#7 Kerber d. #19 Jankovic
#14 Azarenka d. #3 Muguruza
#21 Makarova d. #8 V.Williams
#2 Halep d. Wolfe

...I neglected to mention Wozniacki earlier, though she could surely be the big beneficiary should Serena's knee lead to an early exit.

#1 S.Williams d. #5 Sharapova
#24 Stephens d. Cibulkova
#14 Azarenka d. #7 Kerber
#21 Makarova d. #2 Halep

...oh, Simona.

#1 S.Williams d. #24 Stephens
#14 Azarenka d. #21 Makarova

...and now things get dicey. The "new conventional wisdom" seems to be leaning towards Vika. To be honest, that scares me a little.

#1 S.Williams d. #14 Azarenka

...there'd be a parade route through the heart of Backspinville should "The Face of..." climb into her slam throne once again, but we've seen Serena come into Melbourne with a question mark hanging over her head before. It usually turns out this way. Thing is, if she can get past the first round or two without her knee getting worse Williams might just coast into the semis. And if she gets that far, the odds would suddenly favor her. Azarenka CAN beat her, but she's had a hard time doing it in Melbourne no matter how big of a lead she's had on her. Remember '09 and '10 (the latter when Vika led 6-4/4-0), or the '12 U.S. Open final (she served for the title) or last year in Madrid (triple MP). Common sense says Serena would STILL win this match-up. But maybe not.

It'd be great to see her get the chance to try, though.

#1 Djokovic d. #9 Tsonga
#3 Federer d. #29 Kyrgios
#4 Wawrinka d. #5 Nadal
#2 Murray d. #8 Nadal

...unlike on the women's side, it's hard to NOT pick most of the top players (at least the top four or five) to hold their seeds.

#1 Djokovic d. #3 Federer
#4 Wawrinka d. #2 Murray

...could Stan the Man actually win a THIRD slam?

#1 Djokovic d. #4 Wawrinka

...this would be Djokvic's fourth slam in the last five, and five of seven. It'd be his sixth Australian, with five of the last six. He'd have eleven slams, tying Laver and Borg and moving to within three of Nadal and Sampras for second place all-time.

Somewhere, that "Numbers Guy" is getting out his accounting machine.

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

This should be a great two weeks. Even with Serena's history, she isn't the slam dunk she normally is, so this year is like out version of the Daytona 500. Some years you get the frontrunner(Jimmie Johnson), the consistent one(Matt Kenseth) or the wild card(Trevor Bayne). I am expecting a nutty versio since all of the top 9 pulled out of a tournament within the first two weeks. Plus, you have a season so strange that someone who had not won a tournament since 2013(Azarenka), 2014(Cornet), and the winner of the last meaningful tounament in 2015 won the first of 2016(Radwanska). Also have someone who has managed to win a tournament in the last 3 years already(Kuznetsova).

Also have had players like Stephens, Bouchard, and Keys make the SF the last 3 years, so would bank on a future top 10 to do so.

Think Bencic or Stephens, but literally have 20 people I think could win this.

Sat Jan 16, 02:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Forgot-I really can't quibble with your picks, but I will call you out on Wolfe. She has the game to make the round of 16, but her mentality has always held her back. My theory is that she puts so much pressure on herself to win for her country that she meltsdown-Wouldn't mind being wrong here. Actually hope she ends up on a smaller court and wins a couple of rounds.

Sat Jan 16, 02:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, I know the Wolfe pick is a bit out there. It wasn't my original pick, as I had Keys in that spot... but then decided to stick with the overall notion of Keys going down a bit more in '16 before she pops back up.

Truthfully, Ivanovic in that section of the draw might be the "best" pick (she could play Wolfe in the 2nd Rd.), but I have hard time picking AnaIvo to do much even if she SHOULD. Haha -- I think I pretty much maxed out on her by picking her to reach a slam semi last year. I just can't go back to that likely dry well again. :)

Although, Wolfe IS playing fairly well going in after holding MPs vs. Osaka in Hobart and then reaching the doubles final w/ Birrell. Usually in, say, Fed Cup she'll play a dramatic, tight match and then lose in the end... so that might just happen in Melbourne, too.

I kind of wanted to run out and pick Stephens to slip into the final, but with Serena there it was just a bridge too far.

Sat Jan 16, 03:47:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Stat of the week? Wolfe is 1-10 at the AO. Of course, you can joke that she is 0-0, with Groth and Gajdosova building that record.

Actually, the real stat is not building on an upset. Kumkhum has 14 WTA tour level wins since she beat Kvitova 2 years ago. Kvitova had 14 in 2015 from the start of the season through Madrid.

Sat Jan 16, 05:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I think the one who could do damage in that section is Tsurenko.

Sat Jan 16, 11:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I always consider that with Tsurenko, but I never seem to pick her for it because of her (so far) inability to call it up in a slam (only past the 2nd Round once).

Whoever wins that Tsurenko/Lepchenko 1st Round match, though, could prove to be a dangerous floater.

Sun Jan 17, 01:28:00 PM EST  

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