The first few days at any Grand Slam are a landmine of exiciting matches spread out across the grounds. With the second round getting
underway in Melbourne tomorrow, here is our look at the matches to keep an eye out for on Wednesday in the men’s draw.
(24) Jerzy Janowicz vs. Somdev Devvarman
This would not be very high on the radar unless, of course, you’re an Indian. Somdev Devvarman may be ranked only in the 500s and still far away from his 2011 form, but there’s no stopping us from hoping and dreaming that he will upset the 24th seeded Jerzy Janowicz.
The 6 ft 8 inch Pole burst into the spotlight in November when he rode his big serve and powerful groundstrokes to reach the finals of the Paris Masters Series event. Janowicz qualified for Paris and went on to beat four top 20 players including Andy Murray and Janko
Tipsarevic. The Pole has way too many weapons compared to the counterpunching Devvarman. The Indian missed a major part of the 2012 season due to shoulder surgery and then barely managed to win a match in the second half of the year. But with a first round win in Chennai and in Melbourne this week (over the 78th ranked Bjorn Phau), Devvarman seems to be finding his feet again. The two have played once before, with Somdev winning that encounter in straight sets in the US Open qualifying event in 2009. Janowicz should win this in straight sets. The only hope Devvarman would have is to try and engage the Pole in long baseline rallies and hope that he is more adept at handling the scorching Melbourne heat than his opponent.
Prediction – Janowciz wins in straight sets
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Ryan Harrison
Ryan Harrison is labelled as the future of American tennis. The only problem is that Harrison has been carrying that tag for a few years
now and is still waiting for his big breakthrough. The 20-year old has an all-round game. He can engage the best in baseline rallies, can
sneak into the net to put away volleys and moves efficiently around the court as well. The downside for him is that Harrison can get quite temperamental. While it may fire him at times, his temper also gets the better of him often. Harrison comes into the match having won 9 of 11 matches this year (most of them in qualifying events), but unfortunately for him, his second round opponent, the world no. 1 Novak Djokovic does everything better than him. Djokovic is a three-time champion in Melbourne and the best hard court player in the world these days. While the tennis should be great, you’d have to be a very brave man to be against the Serb, who has beaten Harrison on both the occasions they have met so far.
Prediciton – Djokovic wins in four sets
(22) Fernando Verdasco vs. Xavier Malisse
Two phrases to describe this match – five-setter baseline-slugfest. Both Verdasco and Malisse are among the best ball strikers in the
business. And both are known to have mental letdowns. And for both players, their best years are behind them rather than ahead. 29-year old Verdasco’s career highlight was his semi final appearance here in Melbourne in 2009 where he lost a five set classic to Rafael Nadal. 32-year old Malisse, currently ranked no. 55 in the world, reached the semis at Wimbledon in 2002. All-in-all this should be a fascinating battle to watch. Verdasco leads their head to head 2-1 but Malisse won their most recent encounter at Wimlbeodn last July, and going by their current form (Malisse is 2-1 for the season while Verdasco is 1-4 if you include his Hopman Cup singles results), the Belgian could cause an upset again tomorrow.
Prediction – Malisse wins in five sets
Also, keep an eye out for some attacking tennis in the showdown between 31st seeded Radek Stepanek and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. Both players will be looking to attack the net – something you don’t see often in the sport these days!!Published 15 Jan 2013, 22:43 IST