So here we go. With only 3 days to go before the Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific kicks off, the build-up to the Australian Open has reached a fever pitch as the draw has just been announced. And unfortunately for us, Roger Federer has been handed the worst draw possible. With Nadal out of the Australian Open, the question was which half Murray would end up in. And just like the US Open last year, he’s on the Maestro’s side of the draw. Not only that, the Swiss will have to face a string of tough competitors which might be even tougher considering he has had no match experience coming into the Open.
First he faces upcoming rising star, the mercurial Benoit Paire in Round 1. Then he squares off against Davydenko in Round 2 (Davydenko is coming off as the runner up in Doha); once through that, it’s none other than Tomic who is returning to form as well, showing that 2011 wasn’t just a fluke for him. If he handles Tomic, that will only brings him face to face with Raonic in Round 4. He faced off against Raonic 3 times in 2012 and every time Roger lost the first set before scraping his way back to win the match. Should he win all these matches, Tsonga is waiting for him in the QFs unless Gasquet, Bellucci or Haas stop Jo in the process. And even if they do, Roger would not like playing them either. He barely defeated Bellucci in Basel last year and Haas defeated him in the Halle final in 2012. Meantime Gasquet just won Doha a week ago.
And then as we know, if Federer gets through these rounds intact, he will face Murray in the SFs. I see no problems for Murray till perhaps the QFs against Delpo whom he hasn’t played in a while. But Delpo has never bothered Andy, their H2H is 5-1. So I expect Murray to sail through to the SFs. At that point, it will depend on day form and how tired Roger already is. The only silver lining I see is that Tomas Berdych is not in Federer’s half but as I outlined above, he has plenty to worry about. If he reaches the final it will already have been a Herculean effort especially considering Djokovic’s draw. Here is the complete draw if you want to take a look at the big picture.
For me, I at least want Roger’s QF record to remain intact. Reaching the SFs will be a bonus and reaching the final will be icing on the cake. If he actually wins it will be the stuff tennis lore is made of. But that’s what Roger does best, create legendary tennis stories. The next fortnight will be excruciating but hopefully we can make it through and keep our faith in our hero. Allez Roger!