http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis ... -Half.aspx
There will be no repeat of the 2011 Australian Open men’s final, as defending champion Novak Djokovic and the man he defeated in last year’s championship, Andy Murray, are in the top half of the draw for the first major tournament of the 2012 season. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are in the same half of a Grand Slam event draw for the first time since Roland Garros in 2005.
World No. 1 Djokovic will begin his quest for a third crown in Melbourne against Paolo Lorenzi. Fifth-ranked David Ferrer is the featured seed in the Serbian's quarter of the draw. Ferrer will face Portugual's Rui Machado in the first round. The Spaniard, a semi-finalist last year, defeated Djokovic in their most recent meeting at the 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Also in Djokovic’s section is home favourite Lleyton Hewitt. If Hewitt, a wild card this year, gets past Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the first round, his potential second-round opponent is long-time foe Andy Roddick. The 15th-seeded Roddick, a four-time semi-finalist, plays Robin Haase in his opener. No. 25 seed Milos Raonic, the Aircel Chennai Open champion, could also play Djokovic in the fourth round. Possible threats to Ferrer include No. 9 seed Janko Tipsarevic and 17th seed Richard Gasquet.
World No. 4 Murray, the finalist two years running, starts his campaign for a first major title against 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison. The Scot triumphed in his 2012 tournament debut, winning the Brisbane International over Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Looming in Murray's quarter of the draw is Qatar ExxonMobil Open tilist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the sixth seed. Tsonga upset Murray in the first round four years ago en route to reaching his first Grand Slam final, where he finished runner-up to Djokovic. Tsonga plays Denis Istomin in his opener.
Two other Frenchmen will look to challenge Murray and Tsonga. Gael Monfils, the No. 14 seed, is a possible fourth-round opponent for Murray, while 12th-seeded Gilles Simon could meet his countryman Tsonga in the round of 16.
Four-time champion Federer is seeded third. Riding a 20-match win streak entering the event, Federer’s opponent is yet to be determined, as he will square off against a qualifier. The Swiss could meet top-ranked American Mardy Fish in the final eight. Fish has a tricky first-round match against Gilles Muller.
Juan Martin del Potro is Fish’s biggest obstacle in his path to the quarter-finals. Should both get through their first three rounds, they will face off in a fourth-round clash. Alexandr Dolgopolov, the 13th seed, will look to play spoiler again should he meet Federer in a fourth-round encounter. Dolgopolov knocked off Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last year to reach the quarter-finals.
At the bottom of the draw is World No. 2 Nadal. The Spaniard lifted the trophy in 2009 and, like Federer, will play a qualifier to start his tournament. The highest seed in his quarter of the draw is Czech Tomas Berdych. Seeded seventh, Berdych faces Albert Ramos in the first round.
John Isner, the 16th seed, is a potential fourth-round opponent for Nadal. The American pushed Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros in 2011. Other players to watch include 10th seed Nicolas Almagro, 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis, and three veterans who enter the event unseeded – David Nalbandian, Nikolay Davydenko and Tommy Haas.
http://www.thesportreview.com/tsr/2012/ ... -no1-spot/
With the tennis telescope firmly focused on Australia for the first Grand Slam of 2012, it comes as no surprise that the stars of the courts are hitting the headlines with growing urgency.
What may be more of a surprise is that those headlines are being made not in Melbourne but 1,000km up the coast in Sydney. For here, rubbing shoulders in the schedule with the Australian Open, is a top-quality Premier event that boasts every woman in the top 12 bar two—and even they were in the news.
World No4 Maria Sharapova pulled out of the first event of the year in Brisbane last week to nurse the ankle injury she sustained in Tokyo last September, and has bypassed Sydney in favour of Melbourne Park for her final preparations. The former Australian champion—she won in 2008—returned to something like her old form during 2011 and will be, subject to that ankle, one of the favourites for the title.
Also absent from Sydney is reigning Australian champion, Kim Clijsters, whose winning start in 2011 was quickly overtaken by a succession of injuries. An ankle stopped her from entering Wimbledon, a stomach tear from the US Open. She confessed to Donald McRae in The Guardian this week: “There have been many moments over the last year when I thought it was all over.”
Many began to agree with her when, last week in the Brisbane semi-final, she retired from a set up in her first tournament for five months. The cause proved to be a muscle spasm in her hip and she will be all present and correct to make the 2012 draw in Melbourne tomorrow.
But what promised to be the biggest coup for Sydney was an anticipated battle in the final for the No1 ranking between the top woman for 64 weeks, Caroline Wozniacki, and the most improved woman of the last 12 months and current No2, Petra Kvitova. Should Kvitova win the title, she would enter the Australian Open as the new No1.
The drama started before the two women even arrived in Sydney, for they faced one another in the team-based Hopman Cup in Perth last week. It was only their second meeting in 16 months, and Kvitova won—just as she had in their only 2011 meeting at the WTA Championships.
Once in Sydney, it looked as though neither woman would make it beyond their first match. Wozniacki battled past the woman who beat her at the same stage last year, Dominika Cibulkova, in a two hour 22 minute three-setter, while Kvitova took just three minutes fewer to win her three-setter.
Come the quarters, and the campaign for No1 took a dive for Wozniacki. After winning the first set against Agnieszka Radwanska, she became increasingly troubled by a wrist problem, sought medical treatment, and finally lost the match in tears. Both her No1 ranking and her participation in the Australian Open looked in jeopardy. Meanwhile, her rival powered to the quarters for the loss of just four games.
But a new day reconfigured the scene. Wozniacki was boosted by an MRI scan that showed no serious wrist damage while Kvitova was beaten in her semi despite winning the first set 6-1. There would be no change at the top until the Australian Open had run its course
And that seems entirely appropriate. Wozniacki and Kvitova ended 2011 with six titles apiece and deservedly filling the top two spots. Now, at the same age, both seem on the cusp of an important phase of their careers.
The former, who has performed at a constantly high level for more than two years to earn 18 titles, seeks that illusive Grand Slam. The latter, already with the kudos of the Wimbledon and end-of-year Championships, seeks the consistency to earn the No1 ranking by asserting her considerable talent throughout the year. The Dane reached the semis in Melbourne last year, the Czech reached the quarters. A final shoot-out between them in this year’s Australian final, with the No1 ranking at stake, would make a suitably dramatic denouement.
The Sydney tournament, however, has thrown into the headlines a few more women who could upset that Australian scenario.
In beating Kvitova, Na Li came back from a set and a break down to make her second consecutive final appearance in Sydney. Last year, she won the title and went on to reach the final of the Australian Open before winning her first Slam in Paris. After a dreadful falling off in form during the remainder of 2011, she went back to basics at her training camp in Munich—away from the pressures of stardom in her home country—and appears to have returned to Sydney like the Li of 12 months ago.
Conversely, a couple of rising stars in 2011 who looked set to make the big time this year have begun 2012 with health problems. Sabine Lisicki, who stormed back to a career-high ranking of 15 after injuries affected her promising early progress, retired in the quarters of Auckland last week with an abdominal strain and withdrew from Sydney, too.
Julia Goerges, a top-20 debutant in 2011, retired in the first round in Sydney with viral illness.
Meanwhile, two veterans of the tour have also come undone in Australia. Svetlana Kuznetsova retired in Sydney’s second round with heat illness and Flavia Pennetta did not even make it to the starting line having retired in the final of Auckland with a lower back injury. Thus far, however, all of these remain in the Australian draw.
So the stunning city of Sydney, generally seen by the rest of the world as Australia’s bride to Melbourne’s bridesmaid, has made a worthy stab at stealing the limelight from its Victorian sister again. Many of these storylines, and a few others, will certainly follow the winding road south to the Australian Open.
Will Clijsters be fit enough to defend her first Australian title or Sharapova strong enough to regain her crown of four years ago?
Will home favourite Sam Stosur bounce back from early exits in two straight Aussie tournaments to regain her US Open-winning form?
Can Serena Williams recover from the ankle sprain that forced her to withdraw after two rounds in Brisbane, her first matches since losing the US Open final?
And who, when all is done, will be No1 by the end of January?
Love, be free, you have to live for all of us now, that's how we win.