The Deuce Court is about to go crazy. Australian Open qualifying is underway. Petra Kvitova is playing Li Na today. Ivan Lendl photos are more popular than Scarlett Johansson photos on the Internet right now. And everything I see is fuzzy, yellow, and pops off the strings. In other words, life is good.
Deuce #1: Baghdatis?
Check the highlights at the top of the page and realize two things: 1. Marcos Baghdatis is, was and always will be a must-see player down under, and 2. Matthew Ebden can play (props to @bgtennisnation for pointing that out on Twitter yesterday while the match was going on). No. 97 in the world gave the Bag Man a run for his money yesterday, and the highlight reel shows that the kid has chops. Ebden, too, will be a player to watch next week in Melbourne.
Deuce #2: Madison Keys, totally low key.
This is not Madison Keys Twitter page. This is Madison Keys' homepage. Neither says anything about her Australian Open preparations. This young woman put up a very strong US Open performance last summer, losing a closely contested three setter to Lucie Safarova in round 2. I'm anxious to see what she can do a million miles from home, and so are a lot of other American tennis fans. She wont turn seventeen until February, and I like that a lot of what she's doing is being kept under wraps. That said, I'm dying to hear some news, see some practice photos, read a canned Q and A -- ANYTHING!
Deuce #3: Match of 2012? Kvitova-Li
Na Li and Petra Kvitova are both running the table in 2012. That will end today, and it promises to be quite a show, as the pair of sluggers are both emerging as Australian Open favorites as we speak. In addition to emerging as favorites, both appear to have completely distanced themselves from their post-Slam-winning slumbers that caused many to question their long-term viability at the top of the game. Kvitova has won 14 straight (not including the three at Hopman Cup). Li has been decidedly demonstrative of late too, winning all three Hopman cup matches and her first three at Sydney. Both women are for real -- we'll find out who is realer tonight.
Previously the pair have split two matches on clay, with Li winning the bigger match, a French Open 4th-rounder last year.
Ad In: Aussie Kim in her last Aussie Open?
Say it ain't so, but it very much looks that way. So get her while you can, and read this must-read piece in the Guardian, written by Donald McRae.
Deuce #4: What the hell is up with John Isner?
My guess (and I'm going out on a limb here) is that he played a bad match against American qualifier Bobby Reynolds and it won't happen again soon. Yes, Isner could have used a few more matches, but let's not forget that his last two Australian Open appearances have been pretty solid (4th and 3rd rounds). I think he'll still be a factor in Melbourne.
Ad Out: Who's in top form, and does it matter?
The most difficult thing for me this time of year is to try and decide which results will actually correlate with Australian Open results. For example, Fish destroyed Milos Raonic at the Kooyong Classic yesterday, and Bernard Tomic beat Tomas Berdych. Those are some pretty eye-opening results, but it's an exhibition. Who knows what it all means. What if Na Li crushes Petra Kvitova in Sydney today? Naturally, we'll all be penciling Li in as the Aussie Open favorite, but is that what it really means? Sometimes the best thing for a player is to suffer a nice thrashing just prior to a big event. It tells the player: get your ass in gear because you have to be better. Then the player proceeds to work like a maniac, focus like a guru and train like a mensch. The message? Results in the lead-ups matter, but not as much as we armchair prognosticators would like to think.