I thought I’d do a summery of the past week’s tennis. Of course Roger withdrew from Doha with back problems and there is some concern for Melbourne. At least Roger made the right decision by withdrawing before his semi-final with Tsonga. It gives him some time to rest and get treatment while he played enough competitive matches to be ready for Melbourne. Tsonga ended up winning the tournament by beating Monfils 7-5, 6-3 in the final. He is certainly a dark horse for the Australian Open. He has already been to the final there once. But the big hype seems to be surrounding Murray, who beat Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-3 in the Brisbane final. It has to be said that Dolgopolov was struggling with an injury, but Murray would have been too good anyway. I was watching the match and the commentators were already making him the new Australian Open champ.
Such is the media hype I guess. On the plus side for Murray is that his partnership with Lendl started off with a title. I guess if there is one guy who can help Murray break through that mental barrier of a first slam title then it is Lendl. Lendl lost his first four slams finals and after hiring a new coach started winning slams. Lendl has said that his partnership with Murray is basically a perfect fit. Having a guy with the experience of Lendl in your corner does not hurt. But one should not get carried away. As I have said on countless occasions, no one that has never won a slam is the favorite to win a slam. You also have to take into account that Murray once again did not face a top ten player on his way to the title. The best players were all in Doha, while Djokovic did not play a tournament. Sounds familiar?
We have seen how quickly Murray faded away after the Asian swing last year as soon as the top three was back. Murray was expected to win Brisbane so he broke no new ground. He needs to win a slam to finally silence the doubters. Nothing short of that will do. He has failed time and time again on the big stage. I don’t particularly want Murray to win a slam but I will try to be a bit more positive about him from now on. I have criticized him a lot in the past but I will give him at least a 50/50 chance to win a slam from now on. Like I said, if anyone can help him win a slam then it is Lendl. So I believe there is a chance that he can do so now. With Roger and Nadal slowing down somewhat it could also help him. In the remaining event in Chennai youngster Raonic beat Tipsarevic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in the final.
Raonic was struggling with an injury last year after winning his first ATP title, but he seems to be back to his best now. He is certainly one to look out for in Melbourne with his bomb of a serve. The courts in Melbourne are of course pretty slow, but Raonic can do some damage nonetheless. Another youngster who raised eyebrows was Dimitrov, who destroyed Fish 6-2, 6-1 at the Hopman Cup. It is just an exhibition event, but it doesn’t seem like that match lacked any intensity as Dimitrov and Fish exchanged some serious words during that encounter. Dimitrov seemed to be quiet for the most part though, while Fish could obviously not handle being taught a tennis lesson by a guy that is something like ten years younger than him. The other youngster that did well was Tomic who made the semis of Brisbane.
He did lose 6-3, 6-2 to Murray, but the slower hard courts of Melbourne will suit him. So it looks like the youngsters are looking to make a statement early on in 2012. I am looking forward to see how the three youngsters that I mentioned will fare in Melbourne. They all have the ability to cause upsets. So after this week we can draw some more conclusions about who is the big contenders for the Australian Open. Djokovic is still the big favorite for me. The fact that he is not playing any other tournaments than Abu Dhabi doesn’t matter at all. He will only be more rested. Then Roger and Nadal have question marks hanging over them. Roger because of his injury and Nadal because of his form. If Roger’s back problem does not come back in Melbourne I still believe he is one of the favorites. Nadal on the other hand is hard to predict as always.
But he’s not a favorite for me. He has looked too vulnerable since the US Open last year. To win the Australian Open I feel he has to be at his very best. As far as Murray goes he looks in good shape but can’t be the favorite. Then there is Tsonga who none of the top four would want to see in their quarter of the draw. The draw will be important as always. I just hope they don’t fix the draw again and put Roger with Djokovic and Nadal with Murray. I would rather see a Fedal semi for a change and a Djokerer final. But of course it is not that simple. Tsonga, Ferrer, Berdych, Tipsarevic, and the youngsters would all like to stop the top four from making the semis again. It looks like it’s gonna be a pretty open one this year.