One Week Until the Australian Open: First Sydney and Auckland
By Mike McIntyre
With only one week remaining until the first Grand Slam of the year, the ATP World Tour turns to Auckland and Sydney this week for the final two warm-up tournaments.
Andy Murray (Brisbane), Richard Gasquet (Qatar) and Janko Tipsarevic (Chennai) have already earned titles in 2013 and have proved to be more than ready to start the year. Who else will hoist some hardware in one week's time?
In Auckland, David Ferrer is the top seed and will be tough to beat. Solid on any surface, Ferrer played some fantastic hard court tennis a year ago where he made the quarter finals of the Aussie Open and the semi finals of the U.S. Open. Ferrer had three wins last week in Qatar before falling to a very in-form Nikolay Davydenko. He gets a bit of rest at the start of this event with a first round bye as he attempts to win the Heineken Open for the fourth time (2007, 2011, 2012).
Ferrer has 8th seeded Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil in his quarter of the draw but should be able to come through unscathed.
In the second quarter German veteran Tommy Haas is the third seed and will look to build on his impressive 2012 season where he came back from obscurity and into the top 25 in the world rankings. Haas will have to contend with Jurgen Melzer and wildcard Gael Monfils in this section.
Further down, Sam Querrey is the third seed and will potentially have to face Jerzy Janowicz who captured everyone's attention with his improbable run to the finals of the Masters Series event in Paris last fall. One hit wonder or a star in the making...only time will tell.
In the fourth quarter, Philipp Kohlschreiber is the second seed while veteran Xavier Malisse could also cause some damage.
I like Ferrer to come out of the top half and I think Sam Querrey had such a strong 2012 that he could definitely emerge from the bottom half. A victory for Ferrer should be expected given his history at this event and the fact he has a little more match preparation coming in that most.
In Sydney, Richard Gasquet was supposed to have been the top seed but pulled out due to personal reasons following his victory in Qatar. Instead, American John Isner will take the top spot and no doubt serve his way deep into the draw. Isner took the number one position in 2012 for aces on the tour with 1005 and will be the favorite to repeat as the holder of that distinguished category again this year. An Isner vs Ryan Harrison second round match would entertain American tennis fans who are eager to see the potential the latter player can achieve as he continues to develop. Fernando Verdasco is the fourth seed and the most likely to see Isner in the semi finals here. Verdasco just finished helping Spain capture the Hopman Cup and has been playing well.
In the bottom half of the draw, second seeded Gilles Simon will be looking to improve upon his first week on tour where he fell to Marcos Baghdatis in the third round in Brisbane. Simon will have to deal with a potential meeting in the third round here in Sydney against local hope Bernard Tomic. I would bank on either of these two to have a strong event and face Isner in the finals with the American prevailing.
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