Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters Pull Tough Draws

Australian Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, January 14th, 2012
Novak Djokovic to Defend His Australian Open Title

Novak Djokovic to Defend His Australian Open Title

The 2012 Australian Open draw gives defending champions Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters no quarter. Both champions will be tested early and often in this year’s exciting kickoff to the Grand Slam events.

En route to a 70-6 won-lost 2011 record, Novak Djokovic started the season with incredible momentum that did not slow until the end of the year when injuries hampered the Serb’s effectiveness. Always respected for his game, Djokovic got off the staring blocks fast with his Melbourne title. His bold, courageous play not only provided Novak with considerable financial rewards but also re-shaped the composition of the top four player and the entire ATP field.

Novak Djokovic put distance between himself and Andy Murray (4), and Roger Federer (3) and usurped the world’s top ranking from Rafael Nadal (20). For most of the season, Djokovic emergence as the top player was surprising but not nearly as impressive as his ability to play at a level where Nadal and Federer could not equal. Novak Djokovic became the bookmaker and fan favorite in 2011.

He will start the 2012 Grand Slam quest on Monday in Melbourne, where all the tour’s top players will play in the midst of what appears to ban and extremely hot Australian summer. The challenge for the field will be to break through one of the top four’s dominance in big events. Even though Murray did not win a Grand Slam, he compiled one of the best records on the tour. In many ways, 2011 was a breakthrough season for the Scotsmen.

Djokovic must wonder what happened to the draw for the top seed. A thorough review of the draw has earned the top seed, the toughest draw. Just one example is Djokovic’s projected quarterfinal opponent, fifth ranked David Ferrer of Spain. Novak will be tested several times before reaching the quarters against the tenacious Ferrer.

Djokovic will coast through the first two rounds before meeting probable opponent Czech Radak Stepanek (28) in round 3. Either Andy Roddick (16), veterans Robin Haase, Lleyton Hewitt or fast rising star or the always dangerous Canadian Milo Raonic (33) will emerge to challenge Djokovic in the Round of 16. Roddick is coming of a bitter season. Raonic has all the weapons and performed well in Melbourne last year. Look for Raonic to present a strong challenge to the defending champion.

If form holds, Djokovic would play Murray in the semis. Murray enjoys a favorable draw but will have to be aware of treacherous Frenchmen Gael Monfils or the hard-hitting Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters.

In the finals, the winner of Murray – Djokovic are projected to face the winner of Federer - Nadal. Federer (3) took some hits in last year’s Grand Slams. Coach Paul Annacone says The Swiss is in top form, but with Del Potro in the top half of his bracket, Federer must start fast.

Federer may face America’s new number one, Mardy Fish (8) who will have to meet Juan Martin Del Potro (11). We like Del Potro to meet and defeat both Fish and Federer.

The second seeded Nadal is slated to meet Roger in the semis, but his health and an unfavorable draw will put pressure on Nadal, the world’s number 2.

Nadal may get resistance from Ivan Lubicic, Feliciano Lopez, John Isner, who took Nadal five sets at Flushing Meadows or Tomas Berdych (7). We like Nadal to meet Del Potro in the lower bracket’s semifinals. We look for Del Potro and Djokovic to meet in the finals where Djokovic defends his title.

The early odds are as follows:

Djokovic – 11/10
Federer - 7/2
Murray - 5/1
Nadal - 11/2
Del Potro – 14/1
Tsonga – 18/1
Berdych - 33/1
Ferrer - 40/1
Tomic - 50/1

Kim Clijsters Against The Odds

Kim Clijsters

After starting 2011 with great success, Kim Clijsters was benched for most of the season. She was favored last year but is seeded 11th this time around and is the bookmaker’s third pick. Kim’s fortunes will be decided by her conditioning and fitness. If form holds, Clijsters will need to survive Li Na (5) in the round of sixteen and tor seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarters. For a player coming off injuries, it is hard to look forward to back-back matches with the game’s most defensive players.

Wozniacki is desperate for a Grand Slam title. The vigorous Dane has reason for concern. Her bracket not only has Clijsters but also features improved Lucie Safarova (24), Jelena Jankovic, an Li Na.

Victoria Azarenka, who has risen to number 3 in the world will anchor the lower bracket on Wozniacki’s page. Azarenka has Radwanska (8), and hard hitting German Julia Goerges (22) and Yanina Wickmayer (28) in her bracket.

Surprise! Surprise! The tournament favorite is Czech lefty Petra Kvitova. Although a disappointment at The U.S. Open, Petra has skills and personal strength to take the title. Kvitova has a tough, tough bracket that includes Aussie favorite Samantha Stosur (6), Maria Kirilenko (27), a resurgent Ana Ivanovic (21), dangerous Russian Anastasia Pavyluchenkova (15), and Nadia Petkovic (28). This is the biggest hitting bracket in the women’s draw.

Maria Sharapova climbed up the ladder in 2011. The media dream is seeded fourth in a bracket that has many potholes, including the force that is Serena Williams (12). Other potential stumbling blocks include Vera Zvonareva (7), another German hard hitter, Sabine Lisicki (14) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (18).

We like Williams to meet Kvitova in the semis with Kvitova capturing the Australian Open in the finals against Victoria Azarenke.

The bookmaker selection and odds are:

Kvitova - 5/2
Williams, S - 3/1
Clijsters - 6/1
Azarenka - 6/1
Stosur - 10/1
Li- 10/1
Wozniacki - 12/1
Kanepi - 12/1
Sharapova - 20/1


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