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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tomas Berdych Into the Semi's of the Aussie Open for the Second Year in a Row


Tomas Berdych gets into the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the second year in a row, this year, disposing of Rafael Nadal in straight sets, breaking a 17-losing streak against Nadal, in the process.  Berdych has been performing solidly in the Australian Open for the past four years. reaching the quarterfinals twice and now the semifinals twice.

He does have a very good chance of making the finals this time as he faces a resurgent Andy Murray in the semi's.  Berdych is playing very cleanly this time and if he continues to do that, he has a really good chance of winning this tournament.

Madison Keys Makes First Semi-Final Appearance in a Grand Slam


I haven't blogged much about American player Madison Keys but she's one of the more exciting and talented players in the women's tour.  She finally makes her mark today as she gets into the semi-final of a grand slam for the very first time by beating her own childhood hero, Venus Williams, 63 46 64.  Venus definitely did not make it easy for her and Madison also had to fight with her injuries.  Good thing her meds kicked in at the right time.

I just hope Madison can find the time to rest and heal herself before her semi-final because whoever her opponent will be is going to be really tough.  She has all the weapons though and as she has shown today, she has the mental and physical strength to fight a long three-set match.

Maria Sharapova: Back in the Aussie Open Semi's


Maria Sharapova returns to the semi-final stage of the Australian Open today for the seventh time in her career. She has passed this stage thrice before and went on to win the trophy once.  She looks very sharp though this time and disposed of current tennis darling Eugenie Bouchard 63 62. The score cannot even depict how close each of the game was. Maria just kept her unforced errors to a minimum so that made it really work for her.

On paper, she has a very good chance of winning this tournament with the way she's playing.  It's just important that the sharp Maria shows up on the day of play.


Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Australian Open Semi-Finalist: Ekaterina Makarova


After a great run at the US Open last year with a semi-final appearance, Russia's Ekaterina Makarova continues that streak here in the Australian Open at the start of the 2015 tennis season.  For years, Makarova has been at the outer periphery of the top echelons of women's tennis, not quite in the top 10, but had the ability to defeat champions like Serena and Bartoli at the grand slam stage.  So to any tennis observer, she had what it takes to break into the deeper part of the grand slam, if only she keeps her game consistent.

She was already a quarterfinalist here in '12 and '13, so reaching the semi's this year, after defeating Simona Halep of Romania, should push her finally, into the top 10 soon as the rankings come out, regardless of how deep she reaches into the tournament.

2015 Australian Open: Local Boy Treat Huey Reaches the Third Round of the Men's Doubles


Doubles specialist Treat Huey flies the flag for the Philippines during the grand slams.  He has actually reached two quarterfinals in the slams - once in the Australian Open last year, and the US Open, 2 years ago.

This year, he reaches the third round, with partner, Jonathan Erlich.  They lost to the pair led by the player affectionately called, the beast his peers, Max Mirnyi.  I think Jonathan is a new partner for Treat as it was Dominic Inglot who paired with him last time around.  I wish them luck in the future slams and I hope they achieve more success!

Male Breakthrough Player 2015 Australian Open: Dudi Sela



Veteran Israeli player Dudi Sela, currently ranked #106, is the Male Breakthrough Player in this year's Australian Open. He reached the third round and defeated Lukas Rosol or the Czech Republic and Struff of Germany.  He lost to Rafael Nadal in the third round.

He also reached the third round here in 2009.

This award is given to the player ranked outside the top 100 who reached the deepest into the main draw of the indicated grand slam.

Female Players Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round or Deeper in the 2015 Australian Open


Since it's very hard to be in the main draw of the grand slam, it's quite an achievement for those ranked outside the top 100 to find themselves in the main draw.  Furthermore, it's even harder to get deeper into the main draw.

The girl in the photo, Carina Witthoeft, was the highest ranked player among them. She reached the third round.

In this year's edition of the Australian Open, eight women ranked outside the top 100 reached the second round.  The following women went deeper into the tournament.

THIRD ROUND

Carina Witthoeft (GER) #104

Lucie Hradecka (CZE) #142

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) #258

SECOND ROUND

Irina Falconi (USA) #111

Anna Tatishvili (USA) #141

Oceane Dodin (FRA) #183

Vera Zvonareva (RUS) #213

Kai-Chen Chang (TPE) #402

Female Breakthrough Player Australian Open 2015: Bethanie Mattek-Sands


This year, the Female Breakthrough Player for the Australian Open is Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a veteran player from the United States, who is currently ranked at #258.  This award is usually given to the player ranked outside the top 100, who reaches the deepest into the draw.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands reaches the third round of the tournament this year.  It's the deepest that she has ever reached in this tournament, although she has reached the fourth round in Roland Garros and Wimbledon.  She had wins over Duan of China in the first round and Mladenovic of France in the second round.  She lost to Simona Halep in the third round.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Male Players Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reaches the Second Round or Deeper in the 2015 Australian Open



Everybody knows how hard it is to get into the main draw of a grand slam.  There are a variety of ways to be included in it but if one is ranked outside the top 100, the chances are even slimmer.  

That is why, every grand slam, this blog features all the players who are ranked outside the top 100, yet manages to reach the second round or further in the grand slam.  The player who reaches the deepest into the tournament is awarded the Breakthrough/Resurgent Player for that slam.

After today's round of play, the following men get into the second round.  More names will surely be added tomorrow as the second round continues.

Dudi Sela (ISR) #106 

Jurgen Melzer (AUT) #108

Tim Smyczek (USA) #112

Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) #119

James Duckworth (AUS) #120

Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) #147

Jan Hernych (CZE) # 201

Sam Groth and the Other Aussie Men On A Roll


Today, five Australian men barged into the second round of the Australian Open, showing that there is a group of players that could take the mantle carried by Lleyton Hewitt for the country for more than a decade already.

Nick Kyrgios (#53), Marinko Matosevic (#83), James Duckworth (#120), Sam Groth (#82) and Thanasi Kokkinakis (#147) all defeated their first round opponents and all find themselves in the second round of the 2015 Australian Open!  

A sixth one is expected to be in the mix tomorrow, Lleyton Hewitt, currently ranked #87 in the world.

Good thing is, one Aussie man is already assured to be in the third round, as Sam Groth and compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis are dueling it out in the second round.  I hope more can follow!  At least on the men's side, Aussie tennis looks healthy and competitive!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lucie Hradecka: Underrated Player Asserts Herself Again on Singles Play


When I saw Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, currently ranked #142 in the world today, play a few years ago, I think, against Serena Williams, I wondered why she did not concentrate too much on the singles since she can really do great damage if she did!  At that time, she was already making waves in the doubles circuit where her greatest performance was a silver medal in the Olympic Games in London.

It was obvious here again today in Melbourne Park, where she had to qualify just to be in the main draw - and what does she do - she promptly disposes of an in-form top 5 player in Ana Ivanovic - who is a crowd darling here in Australia - 16 63 62.  Good thing it wasn't a night match, otherwise, Lucie would have to deal with a noisy partisan crowd!

She will next face another crafty player like her, Polona Hercog of Slovenia.

Australian Open: Simona Halep Steps It Up


Simona Halep is one of the dangerous dark horses in the women's draw this year.  She opened her 2015 season with a title in Shenzhen, and she's currently ranked #3 in the world, which puts her in that position where winning a grand slam is a possibility.

In my earlier head-to-heads in her side of the draw, it was Ekaterina Makarova who came out tops, but interestingly, when Kristina Mladenovic of France defeated higher-ranked player German Sabine Lisicki today, major changes happened on her side of the draw, and Simona Halep came out as the player to beat!  Which is not surprising at all, since Simona already has experience on a finals stage of a grand slam.

Can she do it here in Melbourne Park?  I think she can!

Australian Open 2015: Roger Federer Tough Road to the Title


Among all the four sections of the men's draw, even on paper, Roger Federer faces the toughest road, if he's going to win his fifth Australian Open title.  He has to defeat three grand slam champions (Murray in the QFs, Nadal in the SFs, and Djokovic in the finals) if he wants this title this year.  

However, it's possible, considering that Federer is currently ranked #2 in the world which means he still can defeat almost everyone, including the #1 player in the world, given the right conditions.

Other potential opponents for the Fed could be baby Fed, Grigor Dimitrov and ace server Ivo Karlovic.


Australian Open 2015: Rafael Nadal Still A Threat



Rafael Nadal opened his 2015 season with a whimper in the opening tournament he chose to join, yet being the runner-up in this grand slam last year, and currently ranked #3 in the world, it would be foolhardy to count him out of the title contention in the first grand slam of the year.  

He does face a dangerous player in the first round, Russian veteran, Mikhail Youzhny - and that will truly be a test if he's fit to make a run for the title in the next two weeks.

On paper, he should readily top his side of the draw, with Czech Tomas Berdych as his most likely opponent in the QFs.  The only other potential player whom I think should give him trouble is Frenchman Richard Gasquet whom he should meet in the 4th round.

Australian Open 2015: Kei Nishikori A Dangerous Dark Horse



While I was doing the head-to-heads for the draw which has 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in it, the results ended with 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori as the player to watch in this side of the draw.  Interestingly, Kei has reached only up to the QFs in this grand slam, but based on paper, he has a very good chance of reaching the semifinals and topping his side of the draw.

The spoiler in this side of the draw for Stan is another dangerous dark horse player, Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, who has a 3-1 head-to-head with Stan.  They may meet in the QFs.  Another dangerous player in this side of the draw is David Ferrer.

Australian Open 2015: Novak Djokovic Aims for Fourth Title in Five Years



Novak Djokovic has undoubtedly been dominant in Melbourne Park these past four years, winning three years out of the four - and just losing in the fourth year - to the eventual champion last year - Stan Wawrinka - in the QFs -with the smallest of margins.

Interestingly, it may happen again this year (most likely in the SFs), as Stan is in the same side of the draw as he is.  However, in his own draw, Novak is expected to top it easily, as he still is the #1 player in the world for now.  Up-and-coming star Milos Raonic of Canada is his most likely QF opponent.  John Isner and Fernando Verdasco are also his other most likely opponents.

Australian Open 2015: Maria Sharapova Aims For Another Australian Open Title



It has been seven years since Maria Sharapova lifted the Australian Open trophy and she had a chance two years ago when she was runner-up to Victoria Azarenka.  She has another good chance this year now that she is ranked #2 in the world.  Based on just head-to-head's, it's not a surprise that Maria would be the one to top her side of the draw.

Her opponents going through the draw would most likely be Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Peng Shuai is also on this side of the draw and she could go as far as the fourth round.  Interestingly, Eugenie Bouchard, who was into her first grand slam semi-final last year, may be tripped on the first round by her first round opponent who is 1-0 against her.  However, in reality, Genie has shown the world that she can be a threat, especially during the slams.

Maria Sharapova would most likely meet Ekaterina Makarova in the semi-finals and Serena Williams in the finals.

Australian Open 2015: Maybe Another Semi-Final Appearance for Ekaterina Makarova



Using the head-to-head can be interesting especially in this part of the women's draw where Simona Halep and Ana Ivanovic are the top 2 seeds.  On paper, none of the two will make it to the QFs. Interestingly, it's Russian Ekaterina Makarova who comes out on top on this side of the women's draw, based on how everyone pairs out!  It is not a surprising result considering that Ekaterina Makarova reached her first grand slam semifinal in the last US Open in September of last year - so she is definitely on a roll!  And it's a possibility that she can be in another grand slam semifinal!

Another interesting result is that Makarova's opponent on paper in the QF stage would be veteran American player Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is now currently #258 in the world.  Other strong players in this side of the draw are Sara Errani, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Belinda Bencic.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Australian Open 2015: Kvitova Starts the Year With A Title




Showing the rest of the field that she is ready to rumble, Petra Kvitova snatched the Sydney title last week.  She is in a good part of the draw where she is expected to top - her potential opponents being the resurgent Venus Williams, Kaia Kanepi and Mona Barthel, all dangerous opponents, but players whom Kvitova had vanquished in the past.

Interestingly, Venus Williams is also in this part of the draw and using the head-to-heads, she also has a good chance of reaching as far as the QFs, her most dangerous opponent, being Agnieszka Radwanska.

Other notable players in this side of the draw are 2010 French Open champion Samantha Stosur, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Varvara Lepchenko.

Australian Open 2015: Time For Serena to Get Back to the Championships Podium


Serena Williams has won the Australian Open title five times in the past, but you'd have to go back in 2010, that's when she lifted the trophy for the last time - and in the four years that followed, she didn't even make it into the finals.

Looking at her side of the draw this year though, once again, on paper, she looks like the player to beat in Melbourne Park.  Her toughest nemesis could be good friend Caroline Wozniacki, who she might meet in the QFs.

Caro is now very vocal about her ambitions of winning a grand slam in 2015.  Well, she has a very difficult draw, starting as early as the second round where she might meet two time Australian Open champion Vika Azarenka! Then, a possible fourth round encounter with last year's runner-up Dominika Cibulkova!

As for Serena, her possible opponents that might cause her trouble are Elina Svitolina and Jelena Jankovic.

I still have to check who her most likely semi-final opponent could be.