On the eve of tennis' first grand slam of the new year, the Australian Open, I'm posting my picks for the
men's and women's fields. But before I do, let's do a quick rundown of the notable withdrawals.
For the men, only
Mark Philippoussis of Australia who withdrew with a right knee injury will be missed as this is his home country
and he is attempting to make a comeback of sorts. Also out is England's Tim Henman who is suffering a
right knee injury as well.
In women's tennis world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne
of Belgium withdrew citing "personal reasons." Some of the Belgian media are reporting a pending divorce for Justine. We
were lucky enough to get one of the American Williams sisters to entertain us this tournament as Serena Williams is playing, but
not so for her sister Venus Williams. Venus withdrew citing a lingering left wrist injury. Rumor is circulating now
that Venus may have had wrist surgery back in the fall.
As you'll see I'm going out on a limb in both the men's and women's draw. It's too bad none of the Australians
will do well on their home grand slam courts. Australian Alicia Molik is to return from a recent injury as was Philippoussis and will not be
in top form. Molik possibly will reach the quarterfinals, but Maria Sharapova of Russia should stop her there. Lleyton Hewitt of Australia always
looks to do well down under and all of Australia will be pulling for him. In the fourth round however American James Blake,
who shares some unpleasant history with Hewitt and is fresh off a title win a few days ago in Sydney, will be too strong for Hewitt.
Serena Williams struggled in her Melbourne warm-up tournament Hobart, but I think Serena can and will raise the level of her game.
She will not have to face two of her biggest rivals: Venus or Henin-Hardenne. As we saw in 2005 when Serena won here, Serena does not
have to play her best to win. If she can play close to her best or simply maintain a high level, she should be able to fight through a final round
win over Sharapova in three sets. Since this is a grand slam, Williams will also gladly enjoy a day off to regroup from her three sets wins.
World number one Roger Federer of Switzerland could cruise to another title or another 100 titles with his game. But I don't think he is
playing as well as he can the last few days. Andy Roddick of the USA defeated Federer in a recent Austrailian exhibition tournament, and I
think some of the other ATP Tour players are ready for a breakthrough. That being said, on the bottom half of the men's draw, I'm picking
Tommy Haas of Germany and James Blake to reach the semifinals. Haas has struggled with Federer (who hasn't) but won't have to play
him in Melbourne as I'm picking Roddick to beat him in the other semifinal. Haas showed so much potential years ago, I think he is overdue
for a big win. See you on the messageboards.
Round Of Sixteen
Maria Sharapova, Anna Ivanovic, Anna Chakvetadze, Alicia Molik
Kim Clijsters, Daniela Hantchova, Dinara Safina, Martina Hingis
Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Tatiana Golovin, Svetlana Kuznetsova
Elena Dementieva, Nicole Vaidisova, Francesca Schivone, Amelie Mauresmo
Maria Sharapova, Alicia Molik, Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis
Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nicole Vaidisova, Amelie Mauresmo
Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Nicole Vaidisova
Serena Williams def. (1)Maria Sharapova 7-5, 3-6, 6-4
Round Of Sixteen
Roger Federer, Jauan Carlos Ferrero, Marcos Baghdatis, Ivo Karlovic
Mardy Fish, Radek Stepanek, Joachim Johansson, Andy Roddick
David Nalbandian, Tommy Haas, Dmitry Tursunov, Nikolay Davydenko
James Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer, Marcos Baghdatis, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick,
Tommy Haas, Dmitry Tursunov, James Blake, Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Tommy Haas, James Blake
(12)Tommy Haas def. (6)Andy Roddick 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5