By TW Contributing Editor, Ed McGrogan
Hi everyone. Been away for a bit, but I return with the results and brackets which you crave. Plus a bit on Andy Murray, who continues to justify the attention he's been receiving of late.
Expect the Monday Net Post to be in this template going forward - though feedback is always welcome - as my duties at TENNIS.com are expanding by the day. One of these tasks, of course, is to stay up through the night and keep you all abreast of what's happening in Melbourne in a week's time. No complaints there - this is why I love what I do.
I made two New Year's resolutions for 2009: become a better tennis writer, and become a better tennis player. Thanks to Pete, I've been given the opportunity to contribute to this tennis think tank in a very prominent manner with the Monday Net Post. It's helped my writing considerably, and hopefully you continue to enjoy this weekly entry, now in its third year. It's "the evolution of the Net Post," as I said to Pete this morning. Hopefully my play on the court will also evolve positively.
Last Week's Tournaments
Brisbane International (ATP & WTA - Outdoor Hard - Brisbane, Australia)
Men's Singles: Radek Stepanek def. Fernando Versdasco
Men's Doubles: Marc Gicquel/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Fernando Verdasco/Mischa Zverev
Women's Singles & Doubles: Victoria Azarenka def. Marion Bartoli
Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Vania King def. Klaudia Jans/Alicja Rosolska
Chennai Open (ATP - Outdoor Hard - Chennai, India)
Qatar ExxonMobil Open (ATP - Outdoor Hard - Doha, Qatar)
ASB Classic (WTA - Outdoor Hard - Auckland, New Zealand)
Singles & Doubles: Elena Dementieva def. Elena Vesnina
Nathalie Dechy/Mara Santangelo def. Nuria Llagostera Vives/Arantxa Parra Santonja
This Week's Tournaments
Heineken Open (ATP - Outdoor Hard - Auckland, New Zealand)
Medibank International (ATP & WTA - Outdoor Hard - Sydney, Australia)
Moorilla Hobart International (WTA - Outdoor Hard - Hobart, Australia)
Beyond the Bracket
Let's cut right to it - is Andy Murray the favorite to win the Australian Open? I haven't made my official pick yet (though I'll make it later in the week, in the TENNIS.com Editors' Picks), but he's among my top two contenders.
At the moment, I would call Murray the favorite in a match against Federer in Melbourne. Obviously, Murray hasn't beaten Federer at a Slam, but since the U.S. Open final, Murray has defeated him in every manner possible, and four times in total. The Scot is riding an incredible wave of momentum when playing Roger, slightly reminiscent of how Nadal won the mental battle between the two in many of their matches. A Federer/Murray showdown at the Australian Open would be one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament, and I really hope we see it.
I also like Murray against Djokovic, based on current form. That leaves Nadal. Rafa is actually heading into the Australian Open with little fanfare - Federer won the last Slam, Djokovic won the Masters Cup, and Murray is the flavour of the week. What I'm trying to say is, don't sleep on the world's top-ranked player, who reached the semifinals of both hard court Slams last year. The emperor is going to want to justify his new (sleeved) clothes. I'll also say this - Nadal would love to see Gael Monfils in someone else's quarter, though so would everyone else.
It's eerie how much Murray resembles Djokovic at this same juncture last year; it's very tough to pick against him. The desire to win that first Slam is a passion that even Federer or Nadal can't match right now. But, if any of the "Big Four" win the championship, would you be surprised? I wouldn't.