Thursday, January 22, 2004

Aussie Open: I've not been able to see a single match yet, though there don't seem to have been many surprises (well, six-seed Rainer Schuttler is out, for those who care). Here's what I see: Grosjean/Hrbaty will be a good match for those who like to see finesse. Look for Grosjean to advance. Dent/Roddick will be all serves. Dent is one of the few who can go serve for serve with Andy-boy, but he doesn't have the return quality to win. Enqvist/Agassi will be the battle of the old men. Enqvist always struck me as destined for better things, maybe Sweden's next Edberg, but he's managed to sneak quietly through a career of startling averageness. Finally, the talent on view in Kuerten/Srichiphan will be quite a display. Kuerten is a clay courter who rotates through the number one ranking every time he wins a French Open; he has made a couple of hard-court charges (albeit all in Queens, none down under) to the late rounds and quarterfinals. Srichiphan is a gifted guy in mid-career who may or may not be able to win a slam. He has the talent, and a win over Kuerten will give him a boost. Both are fighters. This is the best matchup today (er, tomorrow . . . tonight?).

Expect Roddick and Agassi to meet in the semis; Nalbandian or Philippousis will meet Federer. Dark horses: Srichiphan, who needs a major to break beyond being a good second-tier player; Ferrero, who could prove that his runner-up in Queens was no fluke (it was).

On the women's side, Venus and Kim Clijsters seem destined to meet, with the winner taking on Justine, who will likely face Mauresmo in the semis. Dark horses: Davenport, who needs a big win to dispel the "gift" label on her seeding; Rubin, who has been to the semis here and who, like Lindsay, has only a year or two left in her.

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