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2012 Australian Open Mens' DRAW

January 13, 2012 | 07:43 PM

The first glimpse of Major draw can be filled with anticipation or apprehension, and it can be overwhelming for anyone who's not a bit of a tennis geek. Where to start?

First, where do the top 4 seeds fall in the draw?

- Fed is in Rafa's half for a change - he was in Joker's half in almost every Major last year and before; they

have Fish/Del Potro and Berdych in their half

- This leaves Murray in Joker's half, along with Ferrer and Tsonga (big wood)

NEXT, well look at:

- The Odds to date (because they remind us of the stories of the Fab Four coming in this year)

- Some 1st Round Match-ups that have Future Round Significance

- The 8 Best 4th Round Potential Match-ups

- The Qualifying

Before that, here's where a few guys that have been on my radar lately fall in the draw (#8 seed Fish, #32 seed Bogomolov, #13 Dolgopolov and Baghdatis):

- For FISH, this is only the 2nd Major he's been seeded in the top 8. The first was The US Open, in which he came within a set of making the quarters, losing in 5 to Tsonga after being up 2-1 in sets (his leg muscle strain played a role in that loss and hampered him through the fall, but as far as we know is better now). His draw isn't bad after the first round when he faces Muller, who can be difficult. In the 4th round he faces #11 seed Del Potro. The Argentine's best showing in OZ was reaching the quarters in '09, when he lost in 3 to Fed, 3-6, 0-6, 0-6 (hard to believe he beat Fed 8 months later in the Open final...). Last year Delpo lost to Baghdatis in the 2nd round in 3 sets, the man who upset him this week in Sydney. H2H Mardy has a 3-2 edge over him, with all of their matches on hard courts and none going longer than 2 sets. Advantage FISH.

- For BOGIE, the first seed he meets is the only one he beat last year: MURRAY. Should he get by Andy, the likely opponent would be #14 Monfils or #19 Troicki. Both beat him last year, but not easily (Troicki needed 3 sets and 2 breakers).

- DOGGIE's 3rd round opponent is one of the most inconsistent top 20 players on tour: VERDASCO.

Fernando made it to the 4th round last year and lost to Berdych (on form, for him), and has liked Australia in the past, but he's drawn #37 Bernard TOMIC in the 1st round, the man who's hopes Australians now ride on after his 2011 (he upset Lopez in the 2nd round here last year). Verdasco and Dolgopolov have never played each other. The winner should face Federer, who's 3rd round opponent is #31 seed Melzer (not likely to be a problem).

- BAGMAN gets Becker in the 2nd round, and the winner of #21 Wawrinka and #11 Almagro in the 3rd round. Marcos just lost to Ferrer in the semis in Sydney, but should be rested and happy to be in a section of the draw where the seeds have not distinguished themselves lately.

The Odds are a little upside down...

Compared, that is, to where we were a year ago when Rafa was the odds on favorite to win his 4th Major in a row. This year? He trails Joker, of course, who leads the odds at about 1/2.5. Though it's too early for the actual odds to reflect enough volume to be meaningful, perhaps because Federer finished the year so strongly and Rafa has alluded to a physical problem which will require him to be absent from the tour for a month after this tournie, the #2 also trails #3 Roger. The fact that he also trails #4 Murray reflects that Murray has been finalist two years in a row, beating Rafa in the quarters in Melbourne 2 years ago when Rafa retired down 0-2 in sets, and 0-3, and that last year, Rafa came in to Australia with a virus that had killed his chances in Doha, and talked alternately about feeling fine and not; he went on to the quarterfinal, breezing through the first week, before whatever he had dropped him to a tenacious David Ferrer.

But all this reasoning aside, the top 4 are still a very strong likelihood to move quickly through the first week as they mostly have in the past in Majors. For an excellent review of how quickly they have won in Majors and here before, read Australian Open Betting: How do the Big Four win their matches?:

http://betting.betfair.com/tennis/australian-open-betting/australian-open-betting-how-do-the-big-four-win-their-m-120112.html

One conclusion from this article is that looking at the Fab Four's match-ups in the first week is a waste of time. In the last 5 years here, only Murray has lost in the first week (Murray drew Ryan Harrison in the 1st round this year, which is interesting to us because the opponent is a fearless young American). Moreover, the Four tend to win in straight sets without a lot of fuss (The Fed Express has slowed a little since before '07, but he still finishes as fast as the rest on the clock, even if he plays a few more breakers than the others).

Some Good 1st Round Match-ups with Future Round Significance:

- Nieminen,v. Nalbandian: The Finn, a finalist tomorrow in Sydney after beating Istomin today, is 4-7 with his 30 year old peer in close encounters. Winner to play #16 ISNER.

- #25 seed Juan Monaco (Fish's 3rd round opponent) v. Kohlschreiber. Winner in FISH's bracket.

- Michael Llodra v. Gulbis (winner to play Bogie in the 2nd round).

- RODDICK v Haase: winner has Hewitt or Stebe, then #23 seed RAONIC or Petzschner.

The 8 Best 4th Round Potential Match-ups:

1. Fish v Del Potro [close H2H, with Fish up 3-2 and holding the last win]

2. Rafa v Isner [remember the 5 set come-back at Roland Garros in 2011?]

3. Joker v Roddick or Raonic [Roddick has won 4 of their last 5 matches; Milos has yet to play Joker]

4. Berdych v Baghdatis [Bagman is 2-2 with Byrdman, and won their last match, in Cincy 2010]

5. Ferrer v Tipsarevic [Ferrer lost to him in the Beijing Olympics, their last match]

6. Murray v Monfils [Murray leads 2-1 life time, but lost their last match in Paris indoors in 2010]

7. Federer v Dolgopolov or Tomic [Fed is 1-0 with both; beat Tomic in 4 sets in their only match, last fall on grass in the Davis Cup in Australia]

8. Tsonga v Simon [Jo 4-1 life time with Gilles, hasn't lost in years]

QUALIFYING:

Tim Smyczek, Denis Kudla, and Alex Kuznetsov [3 Americans of 6 competing in the 128 draw] made it through the 1st round two rounds, and have 1 more round to win before qualifying. If any make it, they will join the 9 other Americans who are already in the draw. Most are ranked in the top 100 (Sam Querrey at #94 and Michael Russell at 98 barely made the cut). Only #57 James Blake is out with an injury. The others - in order of their ranking include:

Fish, Roddick, Isner, Young, Sweeting, Harrison

This weekend we'll look at the Women's Draw, the 1st day's matches, and the schedule.

Rick


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