Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 1 Preview: Lights, Camera, Action!


Greetings Tennis Obsessed,

Well, it's that time of year again. I always equate the days before a Grand-Slam starts to the days before Xmas when I was a young child. Everything is similar: The anticipation, the anxiety, and the fact that you almost don't want it to start because that will mean that it's almost over...

But alas, here we are — less than 6 hours from tennis thunder down under - so, without any further ado, I'd like to preview some of the first day's match ups.

While many of us have been busy projecting semifinal participants, there is still lots of business to be taken care of between now and then, and as always, there are always be a few supposedly nondescript matches that will inevitably spontaneously combust into classics before our eyes.

Perhaps one of the following five could be that match?

1. Radek Stepanek (13) vs. Ivo Karlovic (court 6, 11:00)

If this match is one half as good as their Davis Cup World Group Semifinal match was in September, this might be the best match of the first round. In that match Karlovic served a record 78 aces, but was not able to keep Stepanek from beating him for the 3rd straight time, 16-14 in the 5th set.

2. Elena Dementieva (5) vs. Vera Dushevina (Margaret Court Arena, 3rd match)

Dementieva is 3-0 lifetime against Dushevina, but their last match went 3 sets. Dementieva, the Sydney champ, would like nothing better than an easy match — she'll need every ounce of energy for her projected 2nd round tilt with Justine Henin.

3. James Blake vs. Arnaud Clement (Court 6, not before 5 P.M.)

Blake is 7-0 vs. Clement, winning 14 of 16 sets, but Clement just went to the finals of Auckland, and he's a former Australian Open finalist. Something tells me this one is going 5 sets.

4. Justine Henin vs. Kirsten Flipkens (Hisense Arena, 4th match)

Justine has drawn a fellow Belgian in her First Grand-Slam match since retiring in 2008. After a run to the finals and a 3-set loss to Clijsters in Sydney, it appears that Henin is picking up pretty much where she left off. All that remains to be seen is how well she'll respond to the pressure of a Slam. Today should be a good first test.

5. Marin Cilic vs. Fabrice Santoro (Show Court 3, 3rd match)

High-flying 21-year-old Cilic will face the legendary Santoro as he extends his Grand-Slam playing career into its fourth decade. "The speed of the game has changed a lot and when I look at the matches I played 22 years ago and now, it's two different sports," said the 37-year-old Frenchman.

While Santoro is revered by all the players on tour, Cilic would like nothing more than to give the magician a taste of the essence of baseline behemoth tennis. More than likely, he will do just that, but this one will be entertaining regardless of the final outcome.

Click here for today's Order of Play: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/scores/schedule/index.html

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