The Australian Open is starting to get into its groove in the opening days of play, even thought most of the discussion is about tennis fashion disasters and, at least here in the States, the lack of any Americans left in the draw aside from the go-to names of “Roddick, Williams, Isner and Sharapova,” (Remember, ESPN is hoping that viewers here in the U.S. don’t realize Sharapova is really a Russian). Meanwhile, those who follow the sport are still trying to figure out if Roger Federer’s five set victory over Gilles Simon “means anything” other than that there are human beings capable of beating the “GOAT” on any given day (Shocking, I know) But the real news is that the event is starting to get into the business end, at least as far as having some big names meet each other, early on in the first week.
Caroline Wozniacki will be looking to get some revenge on Dominika Cibulkova after Cibulkova beat the world No. 1 in straight sets in Sydney while after them on Rod Laver Arena is a marquee matchup with former Grand Slam winners Justine Henin and Svetlana Kuznetsova. “Sveta” is hitting her forehand better than she did in most of 2010, but I still expect the Belgian, dodgy elbow and all, to get through in three sets. Following them will be Roger Federer against another veteran Belgian, Xavier Malisse.
The night matches for those crawling out into Melbourne Park on a Friday evening will feature what could be an extra long encounter between the rejuvenated Stanislas Wawrinka and the always flashy but perhaps more focused these days Gael Monfils. After them, will be the return of Venus Williams after her protracted battle against style makers and her own body as she takes on the originator of the “Petko” dance, Brisbane finalist Andrea Petkovic. Many think Petkovic has a chance at the upset, but somehow I still think Williams, who proved excruciating pain is not enough to keep her from playing, will get past the German in two close sets.
Finally, many are tipping the young Dutch player Robin Haase to possibly upset American Andy Roddick, especially with Roddick preferring to slice and dice his way into rallies rather than open up the court with his sometimes, though rarely seen flat forehand. Although an entire nation and, lately it seems, a sports network, openly and frequently suggest that Roddick “grip and rip” his way into each match, the likelihood of that happening is becoming, dare I say it, extremely unlikely. After all, Roddick has said his preferred style of hanging around in rallies has kept him in the “conversation” with the top players of the ATP Tour. Roddick’s style may get the job done, but the conversation that his fans continue to have on how they wish to see him be more aggressive in matches will, in my opinion, fall on deaf ears.