Friday, January 13, 2012

The Deuce Court: 8 Men's Must-See First-Rounders

Make no mistake, watching Roger Federer in an empty Rod Laver Arena is exciting, but when Monday rolls around, Melbourne Park will be packed with throngs of the tennis-mad and an air of electricity will be pumping through the venue.

Here are eight matches that are sure to keep the energy of the crowd high throughout round 1:

1. Radek Stepanek vs. Nicolas Mahut: If you're a serve-and-volley aficionado, this matchup is sure to delight you. Two eclectic, captivating scissor-handed veterans in a serve-and-volley duel to the death. Mahut beat Stepanek in the pair's only meeting in 2006.

2. Andy Murray vs. Ryan Harrison: The buzz surrounding Murray, even if he played a qualifier in round 1, was going to be huge. He's got Ivan Lendl in his box, and that alone is cause for packing an arena to the rafters. Now that he's drawn upstart American Ryan Harrison for his first match, this is perhaps the match to see of the whole first round.

3. Ernests Gulbis vs. Michael Llodra: You never know what you're going to get when the mercurial Gulbis is on the ticket. But you can pretty much bet that it will be entertaining. Throw left-handed serve-and-volley tactician Michael Llodra into the mix, and you've got another must-see match. Gulbis is 2-0 vs. Llodra.

4. Janko Tipsarevic vs. Dmitry Tursunov: Tursunov hasn't quite managed to get himself into top 20 form, but he is a dangerous foe for Tipsarevic. At No. 41, the kooky Russian has proven that he can still play. The fact that he split two matches last autumn with Tipsarevic is proof of that.

5. Bernard Tomic vs. Fernando Verdasco: It's a tough draw for the 19-year-old Aussie. But you know what? It's an even tougher draw for Verdasco. Tomic has come so far, so fast in the last 12 months, that I don't see him losing this match. Not here in Australia, where he's proven he can handle the expectations of a star-hungry nation.

6. Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Juan Monaco: Tough draw for both guys here too. Both are cagey veterans with beautiful flowing games. This one has the potential of going the distance.

7. Jurgen Melzer vs. Ivo Karlovic: Karlovic, even as with his skills diminished due to injuries and lack of match play, will always be the guy that nobody wants to draw. Melzer, though, is 4-0 vs. Dr. Ivo lifetime.

8. Andy Roddick vs. Robin Haase: Roddick went headhunting in their hotly contested third round affair last year in Melbourne (literally). The strategy worked, as it seemed to provide the impetus for another Haase disappearing act. Haase has beautiful game, but he has yet to reach his potential, and many fear he never will. Roddick, meanwhile, is sporting a mohawk. Forgive me, I just had to mention it.

Others: Sela vs. Bellucci (what are the odds that these guys meet in the first round two years in a row?); Chardy-Dimitrov (tres chic); Fish-Muller (Muller is a tough out, even for a player of Fish's caliber); Troicki-Ferrero (have never met); Del Potro-Mannarino (Mannarino leads h2h 1-0)


  1. Thanks for the tip on Mahut-Stepanek! That one seems like it could be an old-school tennis matchup, style-wise. Will have to check it out.

    Based on current form, I think Tomic has a decent chance to upset Verdasco. They'll play at Rod Laver Arena, so maybe the Aussies believe the same thing too!

  2. I think Tomic should beat Verdasco with ease what with the horrid form that the Spaniard is in. Mahut- Stepanek should be a treat to watch. All this aside am mainly interested in how my man Rafa does and hoping he can get into the groove and hit form nice and early on in the year. Great read as always


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