Saturday, January 23, 2010

Writing From Afar

Usually, the dude that sneaks through the draw totally unnoticed until the fourth round or so is Nikolay 'playstation' Davydenko. This year is a bit different, because everyone's talking him about it (and I don't think he likes it much, though it hasn't hurt him at all so far - he's sliced through his opponents like a knife through hot butter). But it means that the role of 'dude no one talks about' is vacant.

And it's been filled by a pretty unlikely contender - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

I haven't seen much of Jo-Jo this tournament - largely because he's been playing on Hisense, where I have not been. But he's been quietly coming through the draw, and he's suddenly looking ominously good. He played very well against a dangerous Tommy Haas last night and came through in four, though it could very easily have gone five (Tommy was up 5-2 in the fourth before Jo-Dub came back to win it 7-5). I don't understand why he hasn't always been a major contender at Slams with the way he plays... injuries, I suppose.

But he is a scary good player. I'll be interested to see how far he goes!

Lleyton Hewitt also won in a prematurely-ended match against Marcos Baghdatis, and will now play Federer in the next round. He's already posturing about how he can beat Roger... which he hasn't done since 2003. Roger had a battle in the first round but he's been cruising over Hanescu and Montanes, who are not crapulent by any standard. I don't want to jinx Roger or anything... but let's say I will be very surprised if we see an Australian man in the quarters.

I also will be surprised if we see an Australian woman, though Sam probably has a better chance against Serena than Lleyton against Roger. I think there's one more round before Serena hits that Grand Slam place where she's virtually unbeatable and if Sam doesn't get too tight, I think she could take a set at least. But thinking is one thing, wishes are another... so we'll see.

I write this from my parent's house in Wollongong, having left the Open yesterday morning. I miss Melbourne already. There is nothing quite like being in the thick of it. Next year, next year, Jodi.

We had a lot of retirements in the men's draw yesterday - three, in fact. Baghdatis, Koubek and Youzhny all pulled out... I feel for Mikhail Youzhny in particular. He had a really good shot against inexperienced-at-this-level Lukasz Kubot, who, by virtue of his inexperience, has practically already given Novak Djokovic a pass into the quarters. But we have a lot of the top guys left, and so we're in for a blockbuster week!

Surprisingly, most of the top women are still in as well - the only huge names to topple have been Clijsters and Dementieva, which is not bad for the WTA these days. Both men's and women's tournaments are unpickable at the moment. It is going to be so, so interesting to see how this tournament plays out...

...I wish I was there to see it!

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