Sunday, 12 January 2014

Rafa v Novak - can this final be denied?

So here we are on the Eve of another Australian Open, and people are waiting still for my predictions on who will prevail in the Doubles Events.

Well to be honest I don't know that the partners in some of the teams have had the good fortune to be introduced to each other yet or even are aware that they will be partnered.

So I will resort to some inane chatter about the second tier Men's Singles.  World number one Rafa Nadal has not fared well in parts of the draw, but let's deal with the miserable lot of the Australians first.

Tomic, we knew, could face a seed in the opening round, but to throw him Nadal was savage in the extreme.  Bernie is talented, but talent doesn't grow - working with it improves a player, and insufficient effort has been made to this point to develop that talent to a point to seriously worry Rafa.  True the Spanish star may have enjoyed a simpler road to the second round, but a high profile Tomic workout will end up being a good thing.

James Duckworth has Roger Federer in round one, but a loss was the expected result even if the opponent was several rungs below Roger, so pointless crying over that.  Of more concern is the initial opposition for our other top ranked players Hewitt and Matosevic.  Lleyton has Seppi, the 24th seed, and will actually start favourite when considering the respective form sheets.  Marinko has Nishikori, fresh from success in the Kooyong Exhibition event, and the 16th seed will hold serious problems for the inconsistent Aussie, although Matosevic is in reasonable touch himself, having reached quarters in Sydney and Brisbane.

Back to Rafa and the top half of the draw.  None of the players in the early part of his draw have played or beaten him, except for Gael Monfils, the French number 25 seed and third round prospective barrier.  The second and last time Monfils prevailed was two years ago in the Doha semis, and the pair met again there this year but in the final, which Rafa won but for the cost of a set.

Monfils is a difficult player to counter with his mercurial style and unpredictability.  Rafa should find a path through the hardship and set up a fourth round clash with either Nishikori or Hewitt if my predictions are correct.
Hewitt defeated Nishikori in Brisbane and has the means to repeat the dose and manufacture a night match against Rafa for the second Monday in which tournament organisers would delight.

Rafa's quarter final will in my forecasting require him to lock horns with 5th seed Juan Martin Del Potro, another ridiculous result of a stupid random method of allocating seeded players to the draw.  Why the top seed should have to play the highest ranked of the players ranked 5-8 is unfathomable, just as is the reason why the highest of the 5-8 should play anyone but seed number 4 in the quarters.

Del Potro will successfully navigate his way through talented Canadian Raonic, with Lu from Taipai the one unseeded player in that area who may cause an upset or two.
A five setter between Rafa and Del Potro with the Spanish bull through to the semis.

Roger Federer will stroll through to a fourth round clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, although Stakhovsky is hanging around there and we know what he did to Roger at Wimbledon last year - not gonna happen here!  By the way Jo-Wilfried will not be as friendly as he was the other night for Roger Federer and Friends.

Andy Murray has not had the best lead up to an Aus Open that he would want, but still looks the goods to reach a quarterfinal with I am thinking Tsonga.  Federer gone on the second Monday is a big call but going on my record Roger must be breathing a sigh of relief at the selection.  Murray will need to bring a better game to the court than the one currently being produced or Isner will do him over, having just won in Auckland.  However Isner has an appalling Grand Slam record, including at Melbourne Park where he has made the final 16 only once in five attempts.

Nadal will play Tsonga in a replay of the 2008 semi but with Rafa proving the better on this occasion.

The bottom of the draw sees a smooth run for the three time defending champion Novak Djokovic, and none of his opponents or possible opponents for the first three rounds offer credible resistance to the world number two.  He has either not lost to or not played any of them.  If he plays Fognini in the fourth round as the seedlings suggest, he will know that the Italian triumphed over him once.  It was their first meeting in Qualifying in 2006.  The three times they met last year - all in Masters series events - were resounding wins for Novak.  Stanislas Wawrinka looms large as Novak's quarter final opponent, and only Richard Gasquet appears capable of preventing that meeting.  Already the Chennai champ this year, Stan will be itching to avenge the five set defeat suffered at the hands of Djokovic in last year's Open, 12-10 in the fifth.

I believe that Novak is primed to take enough of what Stan can throw and win through again - whether it is against third seed David Ferrer in the semis is the difficult question.
Ferrer began 2013 winning anything on which he laid his hands, whereas this year he has lost in the second round in Doha and the semis in Auckland, both to players outside the world top 50.
I believe he will be better focused come Melbourne Park and should be too accomplished even for the seeds in his section, Youzhny, Janowicz and Chardy.  His problems commence with Tomas Berdych in the quarter final - Berdych has too many guns for each of his prospective opponents including Tommy Haas.

Ferrer has been the more consistent at Grand Slam level and once more he will participate in a semi final at Melbourne Park, only to be denied by Novak Djokovic.

We will see another final at the highest level between the two best in the game.  If it comes anywhere close to what they gave us in 2012 then fasten your seat belts for part two of the ride of your life.  This one is seriously a coin toss.  I cannot predict a winner pre-tournament.  I hope it is Novak, and I can make a case for him winning, but equally I know where he is vulnerable to Rafa.

Force me and I pick Djokovic.

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