Archive | Sunday , January 13 , 2008

2008 Australian Open Contenders And Pretenders

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I know I am late but I decided to make a list about the contenders and pretenders for the 2008 Australian Open. Since I live in the Eastern time zone in the greater Toronto area the Australian Open actually starts tonight. There is a sixteen hour time difference between Toronto and Melbourne Australia.

Justine Henin the world number one on the WTA tour has not lost a match since Wimbledon last year. Justine Henin is the favorite to win the women’s event. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are the two players on Justine’s side of the draw that can beat her. Lindsay Davenport has an outside shot if she can beat Sharapova in the second round.

However, Justine is  an amazing player she is on an incredible twenty eight match winning streak. Justine won the Sydney title even though Svetlana Kuznetsova choked a 3-0 lead in the final set. Justine has Maria Sharapova in her quarter. Sharapova for once has a tough draw. If Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport win their first round matches they could meet in a tough second round match. Davenport is 18-1 since coming back to the WTA tour in September 2007. Davenport has beaten world number three Jelena Jankovic to win the Bali event. Davenport also won Quebec City last November 2007 and the WTA Auckland event last week.

However, Maria Sharapova is one of the elite. Sharapova may be marketable for the WTA but her results last year were not impressive. Sharapova was dismissed by Serena, Venus, and Ana Ivanovic in the first three slams of 2007 in lopsided scores. Sharapova’s game in my mind is just not developed enough. Maria needs more variety in her game she has the determination but what about adding more dimensions to her attacking style? Maria needs to play doubles more learn to volley, slice, drop shot, use the court. Davenport reminds me of Sharapova she’s a clean ball striker but the quicker players can beat her because she simply isn’t fast enough. Davenport hits a hard heavy ball but she doesn’t come to net much, she doesn’t volley, she doesn’t hit drop shots or lobs.

Everyone knows Davenport can beat most of the players on the WTA. I wasn’t surprised when Davenport hammered the competition. The problem for Lindsay Davenport is she can’t seem to beat the best players in the grand slams events in the big matches. Davenport has the big serve and powerful ground-strokes but in the grand slams she doesn’t have the nerve.

Can Davenport beat Sharapova if they do meet in the second round? The answer is yes but only if Sharapova is somehow off her game. If Sharapova is not serving well then Davenport has a chance. Sharapova is eleven years younger then Davenport and she moves better then her. The pressure is actually on Maria Sharapova here she has 700 points to defend and her pride. Sharapova has 4-1 edge against Davenport. The match could be close. I simply cannot predict the winner of this match. Although, I do believe both of them could lose to Justine Henin in the quarterfinals. Justine looks so strong right now.

Serena and Venus Williams actually are on opposite sides of the draw. Serena is in the top half. Serena is lucky because she is not in Justine Henin’s quarter. Serena and Henin can meet in the semifinals. Serena could meet rising Serbian star Jelena Jankovic’s quarterfinals. Jankovic is ranked number three but I am not impressed with her. Jankovic needs to set up to the plate and prove she is worthy of the world number three ranking. Jankovic talks a lot about being a contender but she has not proven to me that she is one of the elite. Jankovic must win a slam to become one of the elite. Of course Jankovic has the talent the question is does she have the nerve? Jankovic has failed to reach a grand slam final and she has failed to beat the elite women in the grand slams.

Serena was impressive last week when she won the mixed doubles event the Hopman Cup in Perth Australia with Mardy Fish last week. Serena is very fit and is confident. We can never count Serena out as she proved last year when she destroyed Sharapova to win the Australian Open. Serena is my second pick behind Justine Henin to win the women’s title. Serena is a great champion and I expect to see her in the late rounds of the event. Serena and Justine Henin are the best players on the WTA. I believe both Serena and Justine are the real contenders for the women’s title.

Venus Williams is always a question mark? As usual the media underestimate Venus. Venus has been ignored once again. Venus is a quiet star I think this is why I love her so much. I love Venus but I am also realistic because girlfriend can be inconsistent. Everyone knows when Venus is on she is dangerous. Everyone knows when Venus is off she can be beaten. Venus last two trips to the Australian Open were disasters. In 2006 Venus lost in the first round. I honestly don’t know about Venus? Venus is lucky she is in the bottom half of the women’s draw which is the weaker half of the women’s draw.

On paper Venus is the favorite to make the finals. However, it all depends on how Venus is playing. Venus could have problems with Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Anna Chakvetadze. Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, or Chakvetadze could reach the Australian Open women’s final as well. I love Venus but I am not holding my breath. The question is which Venus Williams will show up at the Australian Open? Will it be the great champion that blasted the field at Wimbledon or will be the sloppy Venus Williams that can lose early? We don’t know?

I almost forgot to mention Amelie Mauresmo, my goodness what has happened to girlfriend? Amelie has fallen to number eighteen in the world. I will not count Amelie Mauresmo out because she has proven to be dangerous when we least expect it. Amelie had surgery last year on her appendix and I think she returned to the WTA too soon. Amelie has been in a slump but she can beat everybody when she is on including the Williams Sisters. Amelie has no pressure on her and this is a good thing she just can’t seem to handle pressure. Can Amelie win the Australian Open? I don’t know? I do know it would be foolish to ignore her.

On the men’s side of the draw various media outlets have predicted doom and gloom for Roger Federer because they are sick of his dominance. The media are trying to hype Nalbandian . David Nalbandian has been a chronic underachiever in the men’s game he has problems with his weight and motivation. Is David Nalbandian ready to win a grand slam. The answer is I don’t know? Nalbandian was impressive defeating Federer and Nadal in Madrid and Paris. However, men’s tennis in the grand slams are best of five sets. The question is can Nalbandian or Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in a best of five set match?

Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick have the luck of the draw both men are the favorites to reach the final they are in the bottom half. Nadal was humiliated by Mikhail Youzhny in the finals of Chennai last week losing 6-0 6-1 the worst loss of his career. It appears the organizers have changed the surface to help Nadal and slowed the courts. Nadal once again has a dream draw to the semifinals. Can Nadal breakthrough and get past the quarterfinals at a hard-court grand slam? Only time will tell? Nadal has an easy path and he defeated Andy Roddick on hard courts last year in Indian Wells easily. Roddick may be hyped by ESPN television but his game has regressed he has gotten too bulky and muscular and he is just too slow. However, Roddick has the benefit of being on the weaker side of the draw he does have a chance to win because he is on the weaker side.

WTA Contenders In No Particular Order:

Justine Henin

Serena Williams

Maria Sharapova

Venus Williams

Lindsay Davenport

Possible Pretenders If An Upset Occurs

Jelena Jankovic

Ana Ivanovic

Amelie Mauresmo

Svetlana Kuznetsova

ATP Tour Contenders

Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal

David Nalbandian

Novak Djokovic

Andy Roddick

Possible Pretenders

Fernando Gonzalez

Andy Murray

David Ferrer

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