Djokovic Sends Early Message to Australian Open Field With Straight-Set Win Over Verdasco

As you can see Djokovic was as nervous about this match as I was as a fan. Verdasco is not the name you want to see next to your name in the first round of the Australian Open. When his game is on he is top five material.

But he is mentally extremely fragile which is why he never consistently performed. That said, Djokovic did extremely well to defeat him 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-2. The first set was very good from Djokovic while Verdasco appeared nervous as he kept shanking forehands.

In the second set, Verdasco seemed to settle down a bit as he went a break up twice but couldn’t consolidate on either occasion. This was a dangerous time for Djokovic because had Verdasco held onto a break and won the second set there was no telling what could happen.

The draw seems rigged that he got Verdasco in the first round but he was on a mission and after Verdasco went up a mini-break to lead 4-3 in the tiebreak Djokovic won the next four points to effectively shut Verdasco out.

The second set was always going to be a key set and it was a rollercoaster ride with both Djokovic and Verdasco playing some brilliant and average tennis. But in the end, Djokovic won it by being mentally the stronger player.

As I expected Djokovic is looking in fine form after winning Doha and by shutting Verdasco out as easily as he did he sent a strong message to the rest of the field that he is in Melbourne to win a 7th Australian Open title.

He is going to be awfully hard to stop that’s for sure. This is exactly the position he wanted to be in after what happened in the second half of 2016. The slump was understandable but he needs to prove a point now at his favorite slam.

His draw looks pretty good until the final but there is still a lot of tennis to be played.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

Nadal was also in action today against Florian Mayer who he defeated 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 which is a good start for him. The bad news for him is that Zverev won too after needing five sets to defeat Haase.

A third round encounter between Nadal and Zverev would be a delicious scenario. Then Raonic and Dimitrov both had straight-set wins as well. Only one seeded player lost which was Lopez who lost to Fognini.

I won’t be making a post every day but I will be making posts to my Facebook page like I did for the first day’s action when Murray, Wawrinka, and Federer were in action.

Tomorrow is the turn of the top half again where Murray will play against Rublev, Wawrinka against Johnson, and Federer against another qualifier Rubin.

Berdych will also play Harrison and if both him and Federer win there will be another very interesting third round match!

  • Highlights

Australian Open 2017 Draw

  • Federer and Nadal’s Draws

The Australian Open 2017 draw was always going to be an interesting one with Federer as the 17th seed and Nadal as the 9th seed. Federer ended up getting a pretty good draw while Nadal got the tough draw with Zverev in the third round.

Federer also got two consecutive qualifiers which seems shady because he also got qualifiers in 66 out of the 68 slams he played so far. Nadal had no such luck but he will probably make the third round where there could be a blockbuster third round awaiting us between him and Zverev.

The two have met once before in Indian Wells last year where Nadal only just prevailed 7-5 in the third. If that match happens Zverev is good enough to win it and he may also be ready to make a big move at a slam.

I could potentially see a quarterfinal between him and Raonic but that is looking very far ahead.

To get back to Federer, he gets Berdych in the third round which will be a fun match to watch. If he wins he will likely play Nishikori who views the Australian Open as his home slam and has made three quarterfinals.

I’m sure he will be looking to go one further this year but that is not an unwinnable match for Federer if he gets there. Whoever goes through to the quarterfinals then meets Sir Andy Murray.

I kind of hope it is Federer but we will see. Federer usually always had the upper hand against Murray in slams but Murray did defeat him at the Australian Open semis in 2013 and he will surely be too good for Federer now.

That is looking way ahead though because Federer has his work cut out to make quarterfinals. That said, he is a dangerous floater in the draw and none of Berdych, Nishikori, or even Murray will be happy to see him in their section of the draw.

  • Djokovic Gets Verdasco First Round

The other thing that seems potentially shady about the draw is that Djokovic got Verdasco in the first round who he saved five match points against in Doha. The odds that Djokovic would get him in the first round in Melbourne was 1/96.

And yet Federer got two consecutive qualifiers. Interesting that. Anyway, the way I see it it is a chance for Djokovic to beat Verdasco more convincingly. Djokovic also has Dimitrov in the fourth round who just won Brisbane defeating Thiem, Raonic, and Nishikori along the way.

That’s not the easiest draw for Djokovic but he avoids the likes of Wawrinka, Federer, and Nishikori before the final. Raonic is also the highest seed in his half who he leads 8-0 in the head-to-head.

As a fan of Djokovic, I am not worried about Dimitrov, Raonic, or whoever he gets in the semis. I am more worried about Verdasco in the first round who played well in Doha and can cause upsets.

There will be no chance for Djokovic to play himself into the tournament. He will have to be close to his best in his first round, which he should be after winning Doha. If he gets through that his draw is quite good and it is likely that he will win a seventh Australian Open.

  • Wawrinka Gets Good Draw

Stan’s quarter looks pretty good aside from the potentially dangerous Kyrgios and Cilic. Stan is always a big threat at the Australian Open and will look to keep improving his consistency in slams after winning the US Open last year.

He is definitely a big danger in the draw so Djokovic would be happy to see him in Murray’s half. Murray has the tougher draw between him and Djokovic with the likes of Pouille, Nishikori, Federer, and Wawrinka in his half.

Djokovic just has the tricky first round after which it could be smooth sailing for him into another Australian Open final.

I think it is a pretty well-balanced draw aside from the anomalies I mentioned. Looking forward to an entertaining fortnight!

Let me know what you think.

Who will win the 2017 Australian Open?

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Djokovic Sets the Record Straight Against Murray in Doha Final

If the Doha final was a taste of what’s to come in the 2017 tennis season then it is going to be one hell of a year. Djokovic got his revenge over Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in maybe their best match yet.

Djokovic appeared nervous at the beginning which was understandable after what happened in London but he soon found his rhythm from the ground and he went through a stretch where he won 16 consecutive points on serve which put pressure on Murray’s serve.

The pressure eventually got to Murray as Djokovic broke in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead. Djokovic continued to exert pressure on Murray in the second set with that incredible baseline consistency and broke serve again at 3-3 after a Murray double fault.

At 5-4 he was serving for the match which looked like it would be a masterclass win but Murray saved three match points in the game and broke back. I didn’t feel like Djokovic choked but he wasn’t quite convincing in putting Murray away either.

I’d rather give Murray the credit for how well he played in that game as he took break point with a tremendous inside out forehand winner. The momentum was now with him as he held serve and broke Djokovic again to win the second set.

Going into the third set, the commentator said that Djokovic could tire after the match with Verdasco but I wasn’t quite buying it. Becker also tweeted that the momentum was now with Murray and I wasn’t quite buying that either.

How many times have we seen Djokovic smash a racquet after losing a set and coming back to win the next set? Many times and that is exactly what he did after losing the second set. Djokovic was playing like his old self even though Murray found a way back and I was confident that he would bounce back.

  • Djokovic Goes In for the Kill

Serving at 2-3 in the third set it looked like Djokovic was doing the rope-a-dope again but it is always tough to tell with him. He may well have been feeling tired after the match with Verdasco.

Either way, despite visibly looking in trouble physically he found a way back in that game after being break point down to level at 3-3. The seventh game had a feel about it that Djokovic might break and that is exactly what he did.

He made the decision to take the initiative and be aggressive which paid off handsomely as he broke serve to love. At that point, he looked across the net at Murray and gave an intense stare.

He knew that was a big moment that even stubborn Murray was very unlikely to come back from. The quality of the tennis was just unreal and Murray was really stretching Djokovic to his very limits.

But as usual in their rivalry Djokovic just found something extra and I think it is safe to say now that he is back, although it will probably only be official if he wins the Australian Open.

That said, Djokovic still went 0-30 down on his serve when serving for the match for the second time and I thought here we go again. Fortunately, he spared me the anguish of losing serve again as he won the next four points and fittingly ended the match with a forehand winner.

It was pretty much the perfect ending to a perfect match. It lasted just short of three hours and as far as best of three set matches goes it is going to be very had to top this year.

  • How Significant Was This Result?

I think there was a fair amount of significance to the match as well with the upcoming Australian Open and after what happened in London last year. Murray went into the match as the favorite according to the bookies with odds of 10/7.

The bookies reflect most people’s expectations but as you well know if you read my blog regularly I said after the World Tour Finals that Djokovic was on his way back and that I can see that trend continuing this year.

I certainly was not ready to write him off like so many and today he proved a lot of people wrong again. The key to the match for me was always going to be who was going to be the most aggressive.

Djokovic was not quite decisive enough when he served for the match but he certainly was decisive at 3-3 in the third set. He started out slightly tentatively because of nerves and then towards the end of the second set he was not aggressive enough either.

But overall he played a brilliant match with a good balance between defense and offense. To me, the old Djokovic was already back in London bar the final against Murray where he didn’t show up.

Beating Murray today was the next logical step if he continued that trend and winning the Australian Open would be the next. To me, he is the favorite for the title now. This was the perfect preparation.

A brutal match against his biggest rival with him coming out on top. As a fan, I am delighted to see Djokovic playing this well again and to see my faith in him paying off. I missed that incredible level of tennis and intensity from my favorite player.

  • Highlights