I think the emergence of Milos Raonic should start my review of day four. The Canadian qualifier managed to completely outplay Michael Llodra as he beat the 22nd seed in straight sets. Before this tournament I had only seen him at the Canada Masters as a wild-card. From what I saw, he has a big serve and can pull off some top ground-strokes, but still has a lot to learn. After today I think we now have a star in the making.
Raonic’s serve has got even better and it reminds me of when Andy Roddick burst on the scene; that is how good I think this guy can be. If he has an injury-free year, I would not mind putting a small bet on him doing well on the grass this season. I can even see him winning a grass or hard court title by the end of the year.
Another player that is emerging from a large country is Australia’s own Bernard Tomic. This youngster has had much promise for years, but seems to have been as disappointing as Ernests Gulbis. Now I think Tomic could become an established player on the ATP Tour. A straight sets win over 31st seed Feliciano Lopez would put you on the map. I keep forgetting how Tomic looks really laid back when putting in those multiple ground-stroke winners. It actually almost reminds of Lopez, who is probably one of the most graceful players on tour. This surprising win may give Australia hope, but as world number one Rafael Nadal is next, I think that is enough fun for the home fans to have.
Another big hitter that emerged today in the Melbourne sun was Lithuanian Richard Berankis. Like Raonic, this youngster does have a lot of power, but in his ground-stroke rather than his serve, which is decent at the moment. It was a shame to see Berankis win against David Nalbandian who seems to have not recovered at all from his epic five-setter with Lleyton Hewitt. The Argentine clearly showed that it has been a while since he has had a long stint on the tour. The win over the former word number one showed he is back in terms of his ability, but the fitness still needs improving before the next slam in Roland Garros.
It will also take time for Juan Martin Del Potro to cope with the fitness of weekly tournaments as he was comfortably ousted by Marcos Baghdatis. The Cypriot was put under some pressure but not enough to make him nervous. Despite the loss it was a decent first month for Del Potro’s comeback. I hope he does some of the clay court tournaments in South America next month as he will feel more at home and on the surface that got him noticed.
The match of the day had to be the five-set thriller between 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny and Blaz Kavcic. It has been a while since I have seen my favourite player on the big screen, and it looks like he hasn’t changed. A good all-round ground-stroke performance and a sloppy net game, but makes up for it with a terrific single backhand. It was a tight match with a lot of top rallies which included a spectacular ‘tweener’ by Youzhny to win his second set.
But I think if Aleksandr Dolgopolov’s victory over Benjamin Becker was televised then that could have been my best match of day four. I am glad the Ukrainian was victorious, he is a great talent and has huge top ten potential.
As for the rest of the men’s matches only two didn’t go to plan with my predictions. Experienced Czech Jan Hernych amazingly beat 30th seed Thomaz Bellucci 8-6 in the final set, which I did not expect at all. Hernych hasn’t been that good for ages and I had it as an easy one for the Brazilian. The second match that didn’t go my way was John Isner’s four-set win over Radek Stepanek. It wasn’t a shock at all as both are brilliant players, but I gambled on the Czech to sneak it as I know how good he can play, and I thought he could cope with Isner’s serve.
For the women I’ll make it a short one as I think I have done enough typing for today. I will just talk about the matches that were close or I didn’t get right in my predictions.
Once again Jelena Jankovic falters in the early stages at a slam, this time at the hands of improving Chinese star Peng Shuai. Since the 2008 US Open final, the Serbian has rarely made the second week of any major. I don’t think I have watched a more frustrating player then her. We all know how well Jankovic can play but she just seems to prefer to have an argument with herself, the umpire or her mother when things don’t go her way. I hope she gets things sorted soon before she could be like Dinara Safina.
Another player that frustrates me is Russian Maria Kirilenko. She can be a brilliant player of top 20 class, but then can play like a pointless wild-card. Today it was even worse, Kirilenko had both sides of her tennis personality out. It wasn’t enough to beat experienced Czech Iveta Benesova who is probably a poor version of Kirilenko in my opinion. I never know what to make of Benesova, she could be annoying then Kirilenko and Jankovic combined.
Other surprises were the loss of Alisa Kleybanova who is not usually known for being knocked out down in the early stages but the Russian just didn’t have the magic today as she promising Romanian Simona Halep sent her packing. Another one was Alize Cornet who managed to beat Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. I wasn’t too surprised as the 26th seed is returning from injury and Cornet is another one that likes to be unpredictable.
With all this talk about frustrating players, I think I should end women’s tennis on a high note as there were two five-star thrillers. Second seed Vera Zvonareva was expected to be pushed, and she was against dangerous Serbian Bojana Jovanovski. A good match that I was glad was on a big stage, because Jovanovski deserves it and I hope she continues throughout the year. But the top match was Lucie Safarova’s tense three-set win over Klara Zakopalova. Both deserved the win, but the 31st seed just had more in the tank to beat her fellow compatriot. A great choice to put this in the evening, this match definitely stole the show for many over-hyped contests.
Day five is usually my favourite time of a grand slam as this is the stage where seeds start to face each other. But there aren’t that many ties that excite me. One match-up that may look exciting is the sixth seed Tomas Berdych against 28th seed Richard Gasquet. But I feel this one be fairly comfortable for Czech athlete. I just feel Gasquet has lost that spark he has had. It might be due to his drug allegations last year, but I just don’t think Gasquet is as attractive to watch as he used to be. The Frenchman can still pull off some great shots, especially on his backhand, but I’m still not that Gasquet who used to be in the top ten.
If I was in Melbourne I would definitely go to ‘Hisense Arena’. To open proceedings with a battle between Serbia’s best two players as third seed Novak Djokovic takes on last week’s Brisbane finalist Viktor Troicki. With Serbia recently collecting their first ever Davis Cup, the world expects for these players to make huge strides in 2011. I can see Djokovic achieve that goal with no problems, but if Troicki is to succeed then he has to change his game with immediate effect. The 29th seed does have a solid enough game to make it in the top 30 but I think a few sessions in the gym or with the coach practicing on the power of his ground-strokes should be useful as I feel his power just lacks a fraction compared to the current world’s top 20.
Later in the day we have a match that could put a name on the map of world tennis as Maria Sharapova takes on rising German star Julia Goerges. I saw a lot of Goerges in 2010 and I always saw her as a solid player who usually makes the second round of a tour event. But as the year went on, she raised her game dramatically and started to reach the quarters and semis on a regular basis. Already a few weeks into 2011 and I have seen real potential in this youngster. She is certain for top 20 status, and maybe even top 10 if she continues this rise up the rankings.
The evening sees Fernando Verdasco being involved in a tough contest with Kei Nishikori who has already made an impact in his return to the ATP Tour. Despite the ninth seed already doing better then I expected, I am still going against him and predict the Japanese star to win in a fairly tight match.
As well as Hisense, the Rod Laver Arena is another place to be if you want to see some classic matches. To open the day’s play, world number one Caroline Wozniacki plans to exact revenge over Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova after the 29th seed caused the upset last week in Sydney. Later on the same court is the eagerly awaited showdown between Justine Henin and Svetlana Kuznetsova. This match will definitely show if the Belgian still has it in her to win another slam. To finish things off in the evening is my featured men’s third round match, Stanislas Wawrinka against Gael Monfils. It should be a fairly close match, but not close enough for five-sets. I say it will be a Swiss victory.
To end day five it should be a battle with Venus Williams and her thigh. For all we know it could end up being a walkover, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Even if Venus doesn’t make it, it will be a great opportunity for Andrea Petkovic, which she rightfully deserves.Tweet Bet £10 and receive £20 free when signing up to Paddy Power
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