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More than the 2012 election is underway

Doha, Brisbane include all but one: Joker

January 03, 2012 | 08:40 PM

The way he started out in the Abu Dhabi exhibition round robin against Monfils, it still looked like Joker can do pretty much anything he wants with someone like Monfils. He left him flat-footed and overcome by power in the first set before the play settled into an exhibition mode between these two entertainers. Joker ended up winning with some help from Monfils in the 3rd set, after looking a little tired, but he could have been tired from off court activities in that locale.

Against Roger in his next match, which Joker won 6-2, 6-1, he was more focused on winning than Roger. He's said he wants to repeat his feats from last year, and certainly has the game and the confidence to try. But it will take some breaks to have another year like 2011.

I agree with John Wertheim who expects Joker to finish 2012 at #1, while expecting both Rafa and Roger to win a major this year. It was a different Roger who played his first real match of 2012 today in Doha, where he destroyed Davydenko 6-2, 6-2. He's seeded 2nd behind Rafa (who also destroyed him in Abu D). Perhaps we'll see evidence of the shoulder ailment that Rafa says is going to sideline him between Australia and Indian Wells, but I doubt it. [Ever hear of a player announcing that he's fine and will play at 100% for the next month, but that after that he'll have an injury that forces him to miss other action for 5 weeks? Rafa would tell you that it isn't him that's crazy, but the world of tennis. And speaking of such craziness, Serena is saying that she doesn't like tennis and doesn't know why she became a tennis champion {forgot her father's name?}, but that she can't live without it now... maybe she hopes her book On the Line will sell like Agassi's Open?]

There could be possibilities for Murray and/or Del Potro this year. Tsonga may be the most likely surprise winner Down Under, but let's not forget who's been in the finals the last 2 years: Andy.

The Scot has hired Ivan Lendl as a coach, an obvious grasp for what propelled Lendl's career trajectory upward after he lost in his first 4 Major finals. Ivan won his first Major when he was a month shy of 24; Murray will be 25 in May and has been a bridesmaid 3 times. Question is: will Lendl be any good with Andy? If Andy doesn't win Australia and he retains Lendl through the year, then arguably he is trying to acquire the persistence which made the Czech a great champion (Lendl had a winning record with McEnroe overall and in Major finals, 4-3).

Andy's playing in Brisbane this week, where he's seeded first ahead of Simon and Dolgopolov. He has Muller, Baghdatis, Nishikori, Istomin, Haas, Ito and Tomic in his half. It will be a good test for the 20+ crowd that can stop a Major push in the first 2 round.


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