Australian Open Day One Notes

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY ONE NOTES – ESPN RESEARCH

* The tennis season’s first Grand Slam, the “Happy Slam”, gets underway today in Melbourne with crowds expected in excess of 650,000 over the next two weeks. This marks the 99th edition of the Australian Open and one of its most important as this flood-ravaged nation turns to tennis for a modicum of relief.

* With its early position on the tennis calendar, the Australian Open is often the Slam where the surprises happen – we’ve had at least one first-time Australian Open men’s finalist every year starting from 2001. And it’s the fittest players and those who train the hardest in the off-season who usually have the edge in Australia.

* For the 20th time in the last 22 slams (’06 Oz, ’09 Wimby), co-favorites Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are seeded in the first two positions as they lead a very top heavy field for the men. Still in chase of the Federer-Nadal reign are former champion Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick.

* Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both have their share of history at stake this week. A year after Nadal left Melbourne with an uncertain future after retiring with knee pain to Murray in the QFs, the Spaniard improbably returns seeking his fourth straight Major (“Rafa Slam”), a feat that hasn’t been seen in men’s tennis since Laver won all four in 1969. Federer, who has been shut out of the last three Major finals, is also out to make history as the Swiss bids to win a fifth Aussie Open and extend his record Grand Slam haul to 17.

* For the second straight year Kim Clijsters has been installed as the women’s oddsmakers’ choice to win it all, but the tennis mom will be threatened by former champions Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova, along with No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, 30-year-old Venus Williams and top Russian Vera Zvonareva.

* Because of a lingering foot injury suffered after Wimbledon, 5-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams will miss her second straight Major. Also among the absentees this year are 2007 finalist Fernando Gonzalez (hip), former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero (knee), Paul-Henri Mathieu (knee) and 2010 SFs Jie Zheng (wrist).

* No. 1 Races – Men: Rafael Nadal will maintain his No. 1 ranking regardless of outcome. Federer is defending his title points from a year ago and an early exit could drop Roger down to three. Women: It’s a three-way race among current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters. For either Zvonareva or Clijsters to pass Wozniacki they must reach the final to have any chance.

* The Day One 64-match schedule at the Australian Open opens with the bottom half of the men, top half for the women (32 matches each). That means Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey for the men. The women are led by former champions Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova, No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams.

* Aussie hopes: Jarmila Groth opens evening play on Rod Laver Arena against former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer. Jelena Dokic is on MCA against Zuzana Ondruska.

* American Watch: Exactly 20 American players (8 men, 12 women) start at the 2011 Australian Open. Today, 10 are in action. Men (4) – Harrison (v. Mannarino), Roddick (v. Hajek, 2nd HI), Fish (v. Hanescu, 2nd CT3), Querrey (v. Kubot, 1st CT2). Women (6) – King (v. Paszek, 2nd CT11), Hampton (v. Baltacha, 4th CT10), Mattek (v. Rus, 4th CT8), Riske (v. Kuznetsova, 4th CT3), Venus (v. Errani, 3rd HI), Craybas (v. Petkovic, 3rd CT5).

* Upset Alert: Caroline Wozniacki, the No.1 singles player, takes on Gisela Dulko, the No.1 doubles player. Wozniacki had an opening round exit in Sydney last week, adding doubt as to whether she can win her first Grand Slam here; with eight Top 10 wins to her name and having upset seeds at three of the four Grand Slams last year, Dulko could pull off the upset.

* Forecast: Mon – isolated showers, high 72F; Tues – chance of morning showers, high 71F; Wed – sunny, high 73F; Thurs – sunny, high 84F; Fri – isolated showers, high 82F; Sat – sunny, high 82F.

* Betting favorites to win (tabbet): Men – Federer/Nadal ($2.75), Djokovic ($9), Murray ($10), Soderling ($14), Roddick ($34). Women – Clijsters ($3), Henin ($6), Wozniacki ($8), Zvonareva ($10), Stosur ($13), Azarenka/Sharapova ($15).

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One Response to “Australian Open Day One Notes”

  1. Katie says:

    Brad,
    I’m glad to see yet another demonstration that the drama with Roddick is water under the bridge. But I think you’ve swung way to far in the other direction. Roddick– a contender? No more than Mardy Fish, if you are going to pick a random American. (In fact, after having seen his performance in Cincinnati, he may be my darkhorse favorite, perhaps even more because rather than in spite of his 5-set performance yesterday).
    Katie

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