Soooo… the Australian Open concluded with Novak Djokovic defeating Andy Murray in four sets, 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 to win his fifth Australian Open title. It was an up-and-down match that had it’s moments, particularly the second half of the second set. Some of the criticism labelled at Djokovic was, in my opinion, complete twoddle. Murray did seem to affected by what was going on down the other end with Djokovic and he did seem to run out of gas in the fourth set. Djokovic never gets the credit that he deserves… he was best player over the two weeks full stop.
As one tournament ends, a flurry of new tournaments begins. It’s strange not having Paris on the calendar anymore, but we have a new WTA event in Antwerp next week which has a excellent entry list. Moo’s Tennis Blog will be following that tournament… for now, there are three ATP events in Montpellier, Zagreb and Quito this week with six top 30 players in action. Here’s a quick look at the three draws…
Montpellier’s draw has a French theme this week; Three of the top four seeds are French with another seven home players residing in the draw. The number one seed, Gael Monfils has won this event twice before and returns as the defending champion. His first match of the week will be against either Kenny De Schepper or Marsel Ilhan. He survived a five setter against Lucas Pouille in Melbourne coming back from two sets down to win, but fell in the second round to Jerzy Janowicz. The player he defeated in last year’s final, Richard Gasquet is the next highest seed in the top half. He could play Pouille in the second round; the 20-year-old reached the semi-finals of Auckland coming through qualifying and winning a total of five matches.
Gilles Simon bookends the draw and will play Edouard Roger-Vasselin or Andreas Beck in the second round. Simon is a difficult player to read as he can often fall early in these kind of events. Out the 25 events he played last year, Simon lost in the first round at nine of those tournaments. Once he gets going though, Simon can be a handful and he’s got much more in his locker than people give him credit for. After a disappointing straight sets loss to James Duckworth in Brisbane, Simon had two straight set wins in Melbourne before tiring out David Ferrer in a four set loss. Philipp Kohlschreiber is the number three seed and will be one to watch in Montpellier. He lost his first two matches of the year, won a round in Melbourne and then lost to Bernard Tomic in what was highly regarded as one of the best ATP matches of the Australian Open. On paper, his draw looks respectable and if he can get some wins under his belt, he should go deep in Montpellier
Highlight of the first round matches: You can’t go wrong with the number five seed, Jerzy Janowicz up against Dustin Brown. Winning the Hopman Cup with Agnieszka Radwanska seems to have had a really positive impact on Janowicz, who had one of his best wins in the last year against Gael Monfils at the Australian Open. Dustin is one of my favourite players to watch and you just don’t know what you’re going to get from him from one point to the next. Brown leads the head-to-head 2-0 with both wins coming in a Challenger tournament in Bath. This time round, i’d take Janowicz to prevail in three sets.
Final Prediction: Monfils d. Kohlschreiber
The number 27 player in the world, Ivo Karlovic is the top seed in Zagreb. He could meet Marcos Baghdatis in the second round, which would be a tough encounter. The pair haven’t played a completed match since 2008. Baghdatis, boosted by a number of Challenger victories in 2014, ousted David Goffin in Melbourne before falling in five sets to Grigor Dimitrov. Another in-form player in the top half of the Zagreb draw is Viktor Troicki. Rapidly rising up the rankings, the world number 54 has already won 12 matches in 2015 including winning a second ATP title in Sydney as a qualifier. He is seeded to meet Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the quarter-finals. GGL is a very watchable player with a wonderful one-handed backhand; however he does have the tendency to come unstuck against players he is expected to beat. Despite some excellent results in 2014, he lost to a player ranked outside the world’s top 100 on eight occasions last year.
The bottom half features two more players who enjoyed noteworthy results down under. In the third quarter, Andreas Seppi and Gilles Muller are the two seeds. Seppi started the year with a semi-final appearance in Doha before famously ousting Roger Federer in Melbourne. He had a match point against Nick Kyrgios but just came up short of a career best result at a Grand Slam. At the age of 31, Muller will reach a new career best ranking on Monday. Five Challenger titles helped Muller launch back into the top 100 last year and he’s continued that good form in ATP events. He won five matches in the first two weeks of the year in Chennai and Sydney, and then made the fourth round of the Australian Open. It was only the second time in his career that he has reached the second week of a Grand Slam. In terms of dangerous floaters, I’d pick out Ivan Dodig. In a weak fourth quarter of the draw, the 30-year-old will have the home crowd on his side in a tournament he won back in 2011.
Final Prediction: Troicki d. Dodig
Quito kicks off the start of the five-week-long South American clay court swing. This tournament in Ecuador is a new addition to the calendar replacing the event in Vina del Mar. The draw features Feliciano Lopez, Santiago Giraldo, Fernando Verdasco and Martin Klizan. Apart from the top four seeds, the rest of the draw is very uninspiring. The top seed, Lopez will open against Facundo Bagnis or Alejandro Gonzalez. Bagnis’s most memorable result on the ATP tour was an extra-time win over Julien Benneteau at last year’s French Open, winning 18-16 in the fifth set. He played Gonzalez twice in clay court Challengers at the end of 2014, losing both in three sets.
There really isn’t a great deal else to mention with this draw. Giraldo, who is the number two seed, has Thomaz Bellucci in his section. The Brazilian player has always had his best results on clay. Equally, the unseeded Horacio Zeballos is always one to watch on this surface. He won the Vina del Mar title in 2013, beating a returning-from-injury, Rafael Nadal in the final. Although there is little competition for the top four seeds, at least on paper, it’s difficult to separate the four and pick out a winner.
Final Prediction: Klizan d. Verdasco
Racket Rally Standings: Now is when Racket Rally will really get going… tweissinger1997 is the current leader of the Moo’s Tennis Blog league. Moo has got some serious work to do. Make sure to get your changes in by tonight (Sunday)!