The first Grand Slam of the season historically has thrown up surprise winners and finalists. These days, with the Top 4 locking down the Grand Slams, it’s less common.
The Big 4 look all set to continue their domination with a resurgent Federer the surprise package of sorts going into 2012.
The best of 5 format and hot conditions can catch players off guard who might still be ramping up from the New Year break. Some of the surprise finalists down the years lay testament to this.
Tsonga finished strong in 2011 and may finish the job he started in 2008 as a finalist. Conditioning in the off season entering this tournament is key and the fittest survive, so David ‘The Wall’ Ferrer will be a factor. Rusty by name and nature Lleyton ‘Rusty’ Hewitt, receives a wild card and you have to wonder if this will be his last Aussie Open. The prospect of a Hewitt vs. Roddick for old times sake awaits if they reach the 2nd round.
Milos ‘Baby Face’ Raonic is a big threat in the first quarter and could meet Djokovic in the quarter finals, while recent Auckland champion David Ferrer seems to have a quiet passage to the other quarter final. Mardy Fish finds himself in a loaded quarter and could meet his good friend Del Potro in his quarter final match should he make it.
Aussie hope Bernanrd ‘Atomic’ Tomic gets a tricky opener against Fernando ‘Hot Sauce’ Verdasco, who was on fire a few years ago Down Under and desperately needs to find that form again. Federer, provided his back holds up should be on cruise control before having to negotiate a Tomic or Dolgopolov in his quarter.
Tomas ‘T-Bird’ Berdych and Nadal have nice draws and I expect them to clash, with only ‘Long’ John Isner potentially upsetting the Apple cart. In-form Jarkko Nieminen gets old foe David ‘Nails’ Nalbandian, which will be a fun veterans encounter. Quick Watson, the game’s afoot!
Let’s break it down:
Surface: Outdoor Hard
Defending Champion: Novak Djokovic
Wildcards: Lleyton ‘Rusty’ Hewitt
Dark Horse for the title: Jo Willy Tsonga
My pick: Novak Djokovic
Did You Know? The last unseeded winner was Mark Edmonson, way back in 1976.
Thanks for reading and check back next week for more!