Sunday, January 14, 2018

Australian Open Preview

Hi All. Galileo here.

Let’s get into some predictions. As you know the WTA rankings are totally random right now. There could be a new number one every week. In the ATP things are hardly any better. There are a lot of big names missing in both games. No Andy Murray or Kei Nishikori. No Serena Williams or Vika Azarenka. It is shaping up to be a fascinating tournament.

=Doubles SF=
Herbert/Mahut [4] d. [9] Lopez/Lopez
Kontinen/Peers [2] d. [5] Murray/Soares
=Doubles Final=
Kontinen/Peers [2] d. [4] Lopez/Lopez

1. RAFA NADAL ESP...The opponents don’t matter. The tactics don’t matter. It’s all in how hurt Nadal is. We know he is on borrowed time with those knees. But we don’t know how much time he has. We have no idea if he has weeks or years left. And if he gets another bad knee injury does he pull the plug on his career? He is the best player in this quarter by far but the injury surrounds him with question marks. Victor Estrella Burgos is a horrible opening round match-up for the Spaniard. The Dominican is going to move him round the place. He is going to make Nadal work. Damir Dzumhur and John Isner shouldn’t trouble Nadal too much, but rising stars Casper Ruud and Nicolas Jarry are looking for a breakout performance. He also has to make the quarterfinals to stay as number one in the world.
2. MARIN CILIC CRO...The Croat seems to have recovered from the mental trauma of that Wimbledon final. If Nadal falters or withdraws he has a very easy path to the semi-finals. He has not performed here since he made the semi-finals in 2010. But he has a huge serve and forehand. He has won a slam before. You count him out at your peril.
3. PABLO CARRENO BUSTA ESP...It is going to be Cilic or Nadal who makes the semi-finals from this group but the Spaniard is well placed to make a deep run if the stars align.
DARK HORSE: JOHN ISNER USA...He has weapons. He has played well here before. He knows he can beat Nadal. He has a beautifully easy path to the fourth round. But he is not in America. And that will always impact upon his chances.
WILD HORSE: GILLES MULLER LUX...He has some seeding protection and a simple gamestyle. He is a savvy veteran with a knowledge of how to win. He has a workable draw and could knock off some pre-tournament favourites. And Nadal certainly does not want to see him.
DONKEY: PABLO CUEVAS URU...This BACKSPINNER had forgotten he was even a seed. Even making his seed would be a surprise. He is better on clay and that is also where he makes all his points and his living.
R1 MATCH TO WATCH: Quentin Halys [Q] vs. [Q] Casper Ruud
=In the End...=
Nadal’s injury woes come back to hurt him. He is clearly struggling and his lack of warm up tournaments should prove problematic. Look for Muller to go on a nice run and then for Cilic to capitalize on an opportunity.


1. GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL...He is the third best player in the world. You could argue it is because of injuries to other players if you like. But the truth is the form he has displayed and the shots he is hitting are world class. With Rafa Nadal’s injury he should go on a run here, but the quarter he is in is very difficult. He has J-W Tsonga, Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock around him. It makes for a very difficult path to the latter stages. The key match-up is Dimitrov versus Kyrgios in the fourth round. The winners going to the finals.
2. NICK KYRGIOS AUS...He plays his best tennis here and at SW19. He is healthy and coming off a title. He is playing the best tennis we have seen him play for some time. The forehand and serve are really clicking and we know how well he can ride the crowd. It all comes down to his matchup with Dimitrov who he has already beaten this year. I think he is going to attack the Bulgarian’s second serve and bully his forehand wing. It is going to be a night match classic that.
3. JACK SOCK USA...We need consistent slam results from the young American. And we aren’t getting them at the moment. But he has the eighth seed. So let’s see what he has. Kohl does lurk nearby and he knows how to beat favored Americans in Melbourne.
DARK HORSE: JO-WILFRIED TSONGA FRA...A former finalist with nothing to lose and limited time left in the game makes him very dangerous indeed. He has to beat Kyrgios and Dimitrov in back-to-back matches to go on a run here, but why isn’t that possible?
WILD HORSE: ANDREY RUBLEV RUS...The young Russian has an amazing game and immense promise. Is this when he makes his run? He has Ferrer and Baghdatis in his path before he has to face the third seeded Bulgarian. It won’t be easy.
DONKEY: DAVID FERRER ESP...No, I don’t have any faith in the Spaniard. He had a good result in Auckland but a long run here is out of the question.
=In the End...=
Dimitrov has a great shot at the title. There isn’t anybody too scary in his part of the draw and he can handle Rafa Nadal. But he will be undone by a crowd-backed Nick Kyrgios.


1. ALEX ZVEREV GER...He has earned the benefit of the doubt. And he should go all the way to the semi-finals but he could end up having to play former champions back-to-back-to-back. He has Nole in his section and Stan Wawrinka in his quarter. His brother and Hyeon Chung loom large in the third round but aside from that the opening three rounds shouldn’t worry him. The big questions lie with Djokovic and Wawrinka. Zverev is going to be solid, predictable and dependable. He will hit great backhands. And he will not knock himself out.
2. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB...He comes into this as the 14th seed and six time champion. But he hasn’t won a slam since the 2016 edition of Roland Garros. He has not looked himself in ages. And it remains to be seen if 14 actually is where his ranking should be. But this is his slam and he could win number seven. He has to deal with Donald Young right out of the gate. He has Albert Ramos Vinolas and Zverev near him. He is 30. How many shots left does he have at winning a slam?
3. STAN WAWRINKA SUI....There is no pressure on the ninth seed. He can win three rounds and look good. He could win the whole thing and we wouldn’t be surprised. He has a really nice path to the quarterfinals. If he can make it there who knows how far he can go?
DARK HORSE: HYEON CHUNG KOR...He is due a breakout run at some point. Taking out Zverev on the way to the quarters would do it.
WILD HORSE: DONALD YOUNG USA...He has a chance to upset Djokovic. He has the weapons and talent to do it. He has had the big wins before. He could take advantage of an aging Djoker.
DONKEY: DOMINIC THIEM AUT...I don’t see any red clay and that means in week two we won’t see any Domi Thiem.
=In the End...=
Novak Djokovic does well and sees off Zverev in round four but cannot do it twice. It seems we are destined for another Djokovic/Wawrinka classic. And it will live up to the billing.


1. ROGER FEDERER SUI...Is there any point writing anything here? The only seed near Federer is Ritchie Gasquet and we all know how that match will go. He has Milos Raonic in his section but the Canuck is hurt. His body cannot hold up over the course of a tournament. Federer should ease to the quarterfinals.
2. JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO ARG...David Goffin deserves to be a top eight player. And he is hard to beat but he lacks the weapons to spar with the giant Argentine. Delpo is going to bully him when and if they end up playing. But to get there he has to face Frances Tiafoe, Tomas Berdych or Alex De Minaur. Oh, and Benoit Paire is in there, too. So there are a lot of mines. But the serve and forehand are tremendous. Plus he is in seriously good form and was in slam winning form for some of last year.
3. DAVID GOFFIN BEL...He should play Fabio Fognini in the third round. And that will be entertaining. He could make a run to the quarters, but can he really handle Delpo? Goffin’s best chance of a big slam result will come France.
DARK HORSE: JORDAN THOMPSON AUS...Sam Querrey’s form is a mystery. Raonic’s health is a mystery. So why couldn’t "Thommo" make a go of it?
WILD HORSE: FABIO FOGNINI ITA...For as long as there is breath left in my body and his career...
DONKEY: SAM QUERREY USA...Every now and then the American just throws in a funny loss.
=In the End...=
We get another Federer and Del Potro quarterfinal classic.




...Why not? We’re due a big Kyrgios run somewhere, and Federer will want the top ranking.

=Doubles SF=
Safarova/Strycova [4] d. [5] Babos/Mladenovic
Barty/Dellacqua [3] d. [16] Krejcikova/Siniakova
=Doubles Final=
Barty/Dellacqua [3] d. [4] Safarova/Strycova

#18 Barty d. #1 Halep
#6 Ka. Pliskova d. #9 Konta
#3 Muguruza d. #21 Kerber
#8 Garcia d. #17 Keys
#5 V. Williams d. #23 Gavrilova
#13 Stephens d. #4 Svitolina
#7 Ostapenko d. #10 Vandeweghe
#2 Wozniacki d. #16 Pavlyuchenkova

...Simona Halep has made 7 singles appearances in Melbourne. Four of them ended in the first round, including the last two. At the three other slams her win percentage is 67-68 per cent. Here it is 58 per cent. She faces Destanee Aiava. It will be under the lights and her opponent will have nothing to lose. That is a trap game. That is the kind of game she could lose. Petra Kvitova is also here, but she hasn’t done anything here recently. No, the biggest threat here is Ash Barty. Ajla Tomljanovic is in the second quarter and she is a dark horse to do quite well. You can’t trust Lucie Safarova here. And this is Jo Konta’s best slam. But Ka.Pliskova has made the quarterfinals at the last four non-grass slams. And she is due a big result.

Garbine Muguruza is the best player on the planet and must be eyeing the Grand Slam. She made the quarters last time and is too good not to get there this time. As usual, she comes in with a couple of injury concerns, but that’s no reason to count her out. Her nearest seed is A-Rad, but she is a spent force. In the third round we get a clash between Ana Sevastova and Angie Kerber. That should be a great match. Kerber has looked better and a fourth round [or further] run is the next step. In the end, Mugu has a workable draw and she’ll take advantage.

In quarter four we have a great third round match on the horizon: Mladenovic versus Keys. And I’ll take Keys because she has a 3-1 h2h advantage, with all the matches played on hard courts, and she has been here before. In 2015 she made the semi-finals and I think the crowds will barrack for her. But I have a sneaky feeling this year is going to be the year of Caroline Garcia. And the last of Lucic-Baroni’s career.
Venus Williams has nothing to lose. She can just do whatever she wants. She is so dangerous at a slam she has never won. She won’t win the French but she has another shot or two to win the Aussie. She will use her final appearance from last year and go on another big run. She opens with Belinda Bencic but I think she coasts to the quarters. Dasha Gavrilova has to play a revitalized Julia Goerges in the third round, but she is a different player at home. She will make it three fourth round appearances in a row. Do watch out for Elise Mertens, though.

Belgian women have done well in Australia in the last 15 years. It is very hard to buy Elina Svitolina anywhere except on clay. On the dirt she is fantastic, there’s no questioning her. But off it at slam level she has to prove it. Sloane Stephens loves this slam. And she’s won one now so she will be extremely dangerous.

There’s nobody in Jelena Ostapenko’s way who could beat her. Anett Kontaveit is likely to giver her a stiff challenge in the third round and that will be quite the match between two rising stars. Sam Stosur, Carla Suarez-Navarro and Monica Puig are all here and unseeded. But we should give CoCo Vandeweghe the benefit of the doubt. I like Taylor Townsend’s draw here. But A-Pavs has good seeding and a nice path through to the round of 16. But she has a 1-7 record against the Dane.

#6 Ka. Pliskova d. #18 Barty
#3 Muguruza d. #8 Garcia
#5 V. Williams d. #13 Stephens
#7 Ostapenko d. #2 Wozniacki

...Pliskova’s experience and huge serve will prove too much for Barty. Muguruza has more consistency than Garcia and is a lot more mentally stable. Williams should get revenge here. Stephens should be hit by the maiden slam hangover. It is nigh on impossible to win two slams in a row if you have never won one in the past. And Ostapenko goes from 4-0 to 5-0 against Wozniacki in the h2h. We know Woz doesn’t win slams and she’ll lose in the quarters here.

#3 Muguruza d. #6 Ka. Pliskova
#5 Williams d. #7 Ostapenko

...Muguruza adds another chapter to a thrilling rivalry and takes charge of the battle for the top spot. Williams edges out Ostapenko in a gritty semi-final.

#3 Muguruza d. #5 Williams

...Muguruza again denies Williams in the final.

Go to WTA Backspin. They have tater tots.

I'll be seeing you all soon and far too frequently for your liking.


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