For those men currently battling the elements and, sporadically, each other in the Australian Open qualifying tournament, the news that two of their number have drawn Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the opening round of the main draw must inspire both consternation and anticipation. Other potential opponents include Steve Darcis and Olivier Rochus. With due acknowledgement that they have no choice in the matter, it remains a nice question who they would rather face. While either Belgian is a winnable proposition, they’d be forgoing a prime time match on centre court, facing an all-time great. On balance, I suppose they’ll take the fighting chance at a win. Copping a hiding they can bore their grandchildren with is one thing, but one has to earn a crust.
Assuming these theoretical qualifiers overcome Federer and Nadal – surely a safe assumption to make – and that this victory propels each to four further wins apiece, then they will collide in the semifinals. This is because, for the first time in almost seven years, Federer and Nadal have been drawn in the same half at a major. This stat is less astounding than it seems at first glance, since they spent about five years at Nos.1 and 2. Perhaps more interestingly, this marks the first time in seven majors that Federer and Novak Djokovic have been drawn in separate halves, a configuration whose relentless reoccurrence was coming to seem almost inevitable, and therefore nourishing for those convinced the whole thing is rigged. To what end I cannot say, since of all the ways one might pursue world domination, staging endless Federer-Nadal finals seems like a curious method, but each to their own. I have already heard it said that these shady powers-that-be doctored this draw specifically to throw everyone off the scent. (Those dastards.) If that was indeed the goal, then they’ll have to try harder. Conspiracy theorists are by nature hard to deflect, and even harder to reason with, since their cherished notions are too often arrived at unreasonably.
Anyway, a quick QA on the draw, because a QA is a clever way to gussy-up point-form, for when you’re too lazy to continue with actual paragraphs.
Q: Who has the most difficult draw?
A: Paolo Lorenzi, who will face Djokovic first up.
Q: Which of the top players has the most difficult draw?
A: Andy Murray
Q: Will there be a surprise semifinalist?
A: If there is, it will be a surprise. I won’t spoil it by telling you who it is.
Q: Does Andy Roddick have any chance of winning?
A: It’s hard to say a player has no chance of winning, except in Roddick’s case. I suppose nothing is impossible (and according to the miracle of advertising, impossible is nothing). After all, even Thomas Johansson won here. Roddick winning is rather less likely than that.
Q: So who will win?
A: It seems unlikely that you’re reading a site like this and haven’t made up your own mind. I’ll just say that any bet against Djokovic is a brave one.
Q: Which are the pick of the first round matches?
A: Tomic v Verdasco (very winnable for the Australian); Haase v Roddick; Troicki v Ferrero; Melzer v Karlovic; Wawrinka v Paire (winnable for the Frenchman); maybe Dimitrov v Chardy. The more able hardcourters seem to be scattered quite evenly through the draw (probably because it’s rigged). Assuming these guys survive their openers, expect things to really get going in the second and third rounds.
The full draw can be found here.