Australian Open picks for Tuesday, January 27

Rod Laver Arena

3-Simona Halep v 10-Ekaterina Makarova
The Russian has become so much more important, rarely losing to mediocre players and raking the ball with power. Makarova isn’t super-fast but she moves better than she used to, can rip her forehands and backhands and is very consistent at the net. She can be had and can get nervous at times, but she is more mature now. But Makarova is not as talented as Halep, especially compared to what Simona has done over the past year and a half. The Romanian is quicker, more aggressive and steadier. There are times that she loses her control, but that has been the past now. Yes, Halep has to prove that she won’t back off a little bit, but she is too aggressive and thoughtful to go away. Halep will win in three sets.

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Sharapova is looking to beat Bouchard again in a Slam.
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

2-Maria Sharapova v 7-Eugenie Bouchard
The Canadian has hit her stride again and she really believes she can take down Sharapova for the first time. They have played three times, all wins for Maria. But the now 20-year-old Bouchard was basically a rookie. Yes, last year in the Roland Garros semis, Genie was old enough at that point to win. Still, Sharapova was smarter and she never backed off, winning 6-2 in the third set. The other day, Bouchard said she didn’t play that well overall, even though she almost beat her. Oh really? Now Sharapova will have heard about it, so she will go at her super hard.

Clearly, Bouchard is ready to rumble, She is faster than Sharapova, but the Russian/American does so many other great things that against many other top players, speed really doesn’t matter. Sharapova hits as hard as she can off the baseline, inside and out. Bouchard says that she will go for it and not back off. I believe that as she has been super-solid since the start of the tournament. But that does not mean that Genie can kiss the lines at crush time. Sharapova will and take the contest in three tough sets.

3-Rafa Nadal v 7-Tomas Berdych
As the ITF notes, “Nadal going for 18th straight win over Berdych tomorrow. If he wins would be longest h2h (head-to-head) winning streak in Open Era history.” So does Tomas have a real chance? I doubt it, although sometimes, (remember Vitas Gerulatis vs. Ivan Lendl) it’s possible once or twice. However, Nadal had a tough 2014 after winning Roland Garros due to injury – again. But he has looked darnn good during the last two matches. He’s running like the wind, his forehand is phenomenal and he is returning super steady. Yes, Berdych is a huge hitter and he owns a gigantic first serve. But he is not good enough from the nets, he can’t depend on his forehand and is not much better than his backhand. There is nothing he can do unless Nadal falls apart. The Spaniard won’t and will win in four sets.

6-Andy Murray v Nick Kyrgios
Murray looked wonderful and intelligent and took down the ambitious Dimitrov. The Brit knew that the only way he was going to take down the creative Dimitrov was to change it up and that is exactly what he did.

Murray is 27 years old and loves watching his own sport, which means that he knows just about everything and exactly what he has to do. That does not mean that he is perfect, not being able to hit every shot. But against most of the guys outside of the Big 3, he knows what he can do. That means that if Murray is healthy and is playing well, the young excellent player will have a lot of trouble. Without a doubt, the teenage Aussie Kyrgios has played excellent ball. He is tall, strong, can bash his first serve and can stroke his forehand and backhand. He appears to be a big deal. However, Murray is very good on his returns, even when he has to deal with a gigantic bomb that Kyrgios has. Yes, the Aussie will be loving the thousands of fans screaming for him on Rod Laver Arena, but Murray is too good for him now. Maybe the kids will be right there with him soon, but not yet as Murray will confuse him. It will be fun, but the Brit will win in four sets.

Australian Open picks for Sunday, January 25

Rod Laver Arena / Day
Eugenie Bouchard v Irina Begu
The Canadian keeps chugging along, not being perfect, but smart and aggressive. She loves to go out and bang the ball, and, even though she is only 20, she doesn’t seem to get nervous at the Slams. That is highly unusual amongst the kids. Begu has looked pretty darn good, shocking Angie Kerber in the first round, but she has yet to go deep at the Slams. Bouchard wants to go against Maria Sharapova in the quarters, which is why she will crush Begu in two sets.

2-Maria Sharapova v 21-Shuai Peng
Sharapova and Peng have known each other for a long time. The Chinese has settled down mentally over the past two years and now has a different look with her volleys. She can hit hard on both sides, but Sharapova is more powerful and can mix it up more. Peng might be able to find the zone and shock Maria somewhere, but its not going to be at the AO. Sharapova will win in straight sets.

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Kevin Anderson has a tough task today.
Photo: Tom Grason

3-Rafa Nadal v 14-Kevin Anderson
Nadal almost went out in the second round due to a sour stomach and Tim Smyczek playing in the zone. But two days later, he looked much better and he crushed Dudi Sela. This time, he is going up against the huge serveing Anderson, a very tall guy who isn’t slow and has improved his speed gradually. He has a big forehand, his backhand is pretty consistent and not bad with the volley. But how can he unearth Nadal now, given that the Spaniard is ready to begin playing extremely well again? Rafa isn’t quiet there yet, ashe missed much if the second half of last year to injuries. Now, he has turned the corner. As long as he can push his balls deep, then he will yank Anderson around. If he doesn’t, the South African can push forward and hurt him. Anderson will take a set, but in the end, Nadal will grab in four sets.

Rod Laver Arena / Night
3-Simona Halep v Yanina Wickmayer
Halep is in fine form. She will be super steady and attack the ball when she can. Her backhand is wicked and her forehand is deadly. It’s hard to understand why she keeps changing coaches, but at least during the past few weeks she has looked very good. The Belgian Wickmayer once was a potential top-5, but she never got there. She can crush the ball and move fast, but she has been so erratic. Her game worked fine in the first three matches, but Halep is way too good right now and will win easily in two sets.

6-Andy Murray v 10-Grigor Dimitrov
These two have played very close over the past two years, with Dimitrov winning Acapulco and Wimbledon, and Murray winning Brisbane, Miami and Paris. While Murray is obviously more solid, Dimitrov has as much more variety than the Brit does. The Bulgarian has a beautiful one-handed backhand and mixes it up, but he can be impatient and that can hurt him. Dimitrov thinks he can take out the best of them, but he can lose control. Murray has had an easy draw in the first three rounds, but he has played very well. He struggled in 2014, but now he looks like he is ready to challenge the Slams again. Dimitrov will push him in five sets, but in the end, Murray will shine.

Margaret Court Arena
7-Tomas Berdych v Bernard Tomic
Berdych has been here, many times, both good and bad. He has a terrific first serve, his forehand and his backhand, which is good but not spectacular. He isn’t very fast but more or less OK. It’s up to the Aussie Tomic to play great and take him out without getting upset or tired. But I really have felt over the past three weeks that Tomic has been very impressive overall. Yes, he wasn’t perfect, but he was getting there. He has a lot of variety and if he stays in there, mix it up and takes big swings than he can win. I could be wrong, but Tomic will play out of his mind and win in five sets.

10-Ekaterina Makarova v Julia Goerges
Makarova has really come to play. I thought that the young Pliskova was ready to rise and take down Makarova, but the Russian was a cool customer. She is tall, can smoke the ball, can defend and go into offensive and take over the nets. Her German foe, Goerges, has improved overall. Not only can she swing as hard as she can with her famous forehand, but she has played a lot of doubles, and as a result, she is much more consistent up at the net. Goerges believes she can win, but she has yet to prove that at a Slam. Right now, Makarova is more assured and will win in straight sets.

Hisense Arena
Nick Kyrgios v Andreas Seppi
The teenage Aussie is rolling through this tournament. His back has bothered him, but his massive first serve and gigantic forehand continue to carry him. He is enthusiastic and loves a big court. At this point, if he says healthy, Kyrgios will be in the top 20 by the end of the year – or better. Seppi played his best match stunning Roger Federer, but he is a veteran guy and he is not a fantastic player. Kyrgios will out hit him and win in four sets.

Australian Open picks for Saturday, January 24

Rod Laver Arena / Day

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Aga will have to battle on center stage.
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

6- Agnieszka Radwanska v 30-Varvara Lepchenko

This going to be a long three sets. Both can run forever and both can be very patient. Yes they can both find the lines. But, if the Pole can spin the balls around her and confuse her, Radwanska will win. If the lefty Lepchenko can bang her forehand, she can pull off the upset. Varvara will be very close, but Radwanska will throw in some beautiful drops and win 7-6 in the third.
1-Serena Williams v 26-Elena Svitolina
The Ukrainian Svitolina has not only grown stronger and faster but she is more composed now. But while she thinks she is ready to shock the world, Williams already looks very good and ready to rumble.  Svitolina might bew improvving, but she will only able to win seven games or so.
Stan Wawrinka v Jarrko Nieminen
This could be a lot of fun amongst these two, as the Swiss can hit his one-handed backhand with a yo-yo while the Finn can twist his left-handed on the lines.  The veteran can trouble Wawrinka, but Stan truly believes that he can go back to back at the Australia and against Jarrko he will win in four sets.

Rod Laver Arena / Night

1-Novak Djokovic v 31-Fernando Verdasco
Remember when Verdasco made it into the semis and nearly stunned Rafa Nadal but then he fell short in more than four hours? Verdasco can bang his forehand, but his backhand us so-so and he isn’t ultra fast. Fernando will have a ton of fun for about an hour and a half, but Djokovic will out nerve him and win in four sets.
4-Petra Kvitova v Madison Keys
The tall and super strong Czech thinks she can win the tournament and she knows it. She whips her first serve, her left hand is dangerous and her volleys are more effective. But the 19-year-old Keys is coming hard, too. She can blast her first serve at 120 MPH, she can gun off her forehand and backhand and she is put away balls at the net. But Keys is still a little young, while Kvitova is more mature now. She will win in two straights sets.

Margaret Court Arena

18-Venus Williams is steadier than Carmila Giorgi.
Jerzy Janowicz will upset Feliciano in five sets – again.
Victoria Azarenka is ready to go deep and will thrash over Barbara Strycova.
David Ferrer will last forever to best Gilles Simon.

Hisense Arena

Garbine Muguruza is coming hard and will easily beat Timea Bacsinszky
Milos Raonic has to work harder to get to Rod Laver  and will do so to blast Benjamin Becker.
CoCo Vandeweghe has a huge serve and will take down Madison Brengle in three sets, but it will be super close.
Kei Nishikori wants to be on Laver, but Hisense is packing in tons of Japanese fans this week. Steve Johnson is getting and better and will bring it to five sets, but Nishikori will triumph.

Australian Open picks for Friday, January 23

Rod Laver Arena

Lucie Hradecka v Julia Goerges
Theee two must be thrilled they are on Rod Laver as they thought that they would be put far outside. But, they are on center court. The Czech will attempt to strike aces one after another while the German will try to whip her big forehand. A few years ago, Goerges looked like she was ready to reach the top 10. She did not, fell and she has been more suited of doubles. But she looks more composed and she will run around Hradecka and will triumph in three sets.

7-Eugenie Bouchard v Caroline Garcia 
The Canadian is already looking good again. She looked lost in the fall (too much hype and publicity) but now she looks fit and is moving forward and showing off an aggressive posture. She can smoke both wings, has a pretty good first serve and jumps on the returns. However, the young Frenchwoman Garcia can mix it up, is fairly fast and believes that she can get into Genie’s head. She might be for a while. But Bouchard is ready dance and will do so in straight sets,

2-Roger Federer v Andreas Seppi
Federer has to face two Italians in a row? Yes he was upset after dropping his first set against Bolelli, but he turned it around, charged inside the baseline and twisted the match to his favor. Now he can be more patient against Seppi, who is very steady but who isn’t a huge hitter. Seppi will try to trouble Federer’s backhand, but the Swiss has way too many weapons and will win it in straight sets.

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Berdych faces a test against Troicki.
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

2-Maria Sharapova v Zarina Diyas
Sharapova nearly fell to Panova; a very talented Russian who played one of her best matches ever. Still Maria survived and while she was up and down, she still went at the lines. Fortunately she did it at the right time and now she will be more patient. Diyas is very consistent and can run from side to side. But, she hasn’t proven that she can smack the lines. Sharapova will win in two sets.

3-Rafa Nadal v Dudi Sela
The Spaniard almost went down when Tim Smyczek, who had him on the ropes. As usual, Nadal never gave in and pulled off an incredible five-setter. This time though, Sela is a different player. The Israel is intelligent and can mix it up, but Nadal should feel better physically and overwhelm him with some massive forehands. The lefty will win in straight sets.

Margaret Court Arena

10-Etkaerina Makarova v 22-Karolina Pliskova
This is an intriguing contest. The Czech Pliskova has improved vastly over the past year while the Russian Makarova has finally come of age. Makarova reached the 2014 US Open semifinal, while Pliskova just reached the Sydney final, nearly upsetting Petra Kvitova. Makarova can move from side to side, while Pliskova can hit it anyway she wants to. The Czech can sense that she is almost there and can go deep here. She will win in three sets.

7-Tomas Berdych v Victor Troicki
The tall Czech hasn’t been specular in 2014 and the start of 2015, but is he really ready to make a move of the Aussie Open? I doubt it, but Berdych could slip into the quarters. He usually does that, right? The Serbian Troicki played very well to win Sydney, but we will have to play much better to beat a top-10 guy. He is fast enough to bring it in five sets, but Berdych will grab a break and hold on to win it.

3-Simona Halep v Bethanie Mattek-Sands
The Romanian has improved quite a bit over the past year. She believes that she can win a Slam, and perhaps she has a true shot, but Mattek-Sands has beaten her before and she can take over the net. The American likes to get the ball on the rise and she loves to attack. She can pull it off, but Mattek-Sands was hurt a lot of last year and needs a few months before she hits 100 percent. Halep will live in three sets.

Hisense Arena

6-Andy Murray v Joao Sousa
The Brit has had a very easy draw and will yank Sousa in less than two hours and win in three sets.

Bernard Tomic v Sam Groth
Both of the Aussies have played well over the past weekend and a half. They know each other very well, and both can smoke first serves. But they are different in other areas. Tomic can change it around, while Groth is more straight forward, going to net any chance he has. Groth would be thrilled to reach a fourth round at a Slam, but Tomic knows what he is going to, pulling him around side to side and back and forth until he caves in. Tomic in four.

Australian Open picks for Thursday, January 21

Rod Laver Arena / Day

6- Agnieszka Radwanska v Johanna Larsson
The Polish ‘Aga’ went up to world No. 2, and make it all the way to the final Wimbledon, but she has yet to win a Slam. She came close last year, playing terrific back until she reaches the semifinal Aussie Open, but then she was too tired and was wiped out by Domi Cibulkova. She was upset and mad. Now she is being coached by Martina Navratilova, who knows her game inside and out, but they just started together so she will likely take some time. Nonetheless, she is too smart for Larsson and will win it in straight sets.

Vera punched out Ana |

Vera is back and in form.

1-Serena Williams v Vera Zvonareva
Remember Zvonareva who once pushed up to No. 2, reaching two Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open against Serena in 2010? Serena destroyed the Russian in both sets.  Zvonareva has been seriously hurt and she has been pretty darn good in the Aussie, reaching the semis in 2009 and 2011. Hopefully she will eventually come back at 100 percent, but not yet. Williams will easily push past year in two sets.

1-Novak Djokovic v Andrey Kuznetsova 
The Serbian has been sick over the past two weeks but he played reasonably well in the first round and is feeling much better. Kuznetsova has improved over the past year or so, but he isnt strong enough or smart enough to battle the big boy. Djokovic in three sets.

Rod Laver Arena / Night

Lleyton Hewitt v Benjamin Becker
Hewitt was inconsistent at best on Tuesday night but, once he got over, he struck with the ball for more purpose. Hewitt is super at anticipating where his opponent is going, but he does not hit as strong as the younger players overall. However, he and Becker are around the same age and he knows that he can fool his foe with the help of a raucous pro-Aussie crowd. Hewitt will win in four sets.

20-Sam Stosur v CoCo Vandeweghe
The Aussie Stosur was very pleased to take her first match – actually any win at the Aussie Open – but this is different. Now she will be on the tournament’s biggest stage in front of a packed house. American Vandeweghe is finally coming her own. Vandeweghe has a gigantic serve – just like Stosur does – and can smoke the forehands that bounce up high. If Stosur plays as well as she can, she will take it in front of fans screaming for her. But she consistently becomes nervous in her homeland’s Slam and will again. Take Vandeweghe in three.

Margaret Court Arena

18-Venus Williams v Lauren Davis
Williams has gone on and on. She began the AO back in 1998, reaching the quarters as a baby. Now she is 35 years old and still playing well, looking like she still has a threat. Maybe that is possible, but you never know depending on whom she has to play. We know is that she is very smart, which will help her against younger foes. Davis runs forever and never gives up. But Williams has the tools. Venus will win in two long sets.

8-Caroline Wozniacki v Victoria Azarenka
Without a question, Wozniacki has played much better since last August. She is more aggressive, her forehand in stronger, her first serve can kiss the lines and will move forward to attack her returns. But, you’ve got to wonder if she is feeling comfortable against Azarenka, who pretty much disappeared last year and wasn’t as motivated as she once did for years. Perhaps, but what we know is the two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka is ready to challenge the rest of the best and she is very close to racing up the tops. Azarenka is as fit as she was here in 2012 and 2013 when she won the titles. While she is not as fast as before, she can smoke the balls side to side. Vika will win in three tremendous three sets.

Other matches

8-Milos Raonic will take out the American Donald Young in four sets, because the Canadian is crushing his forehand, which is as powerful as any on tour.

4-Petra Kvitova thinks that he is ready to win the tournament, which means that she has to lock in quickly. She will defeat Mona Bartels in three sets, even though the German is a big swinger, too.

17-Gael Monfils almost went out against a French kid in five sets, but he hung in there and now he will do it again. He will survive the big hitter Jerzy Janowicz in a marathon.

Australian Open picks for Wednesday, January 21

Rod Laver Arena

10-Etkaterina Makarova v Roberta Vinci
The “other” Russian has quietly become much more consistent; she can rip her forehand and smack her shots to the corners. She is a pretty good net charge, and while Vinci used to mix up her one-handed backhand and trouble opponents, she is declining very quickly in the singles. Makarova will win easily.

2-Maria Sharapova v Alexandra Panova
The 2008 Aussie champion pines to win the Slam again and has looking very good since October. She has thrown much more variety in the past and is very self-assured in her mental game. She will smoke Panova in straight sets.

2-Roger Federer v Simon Bolelli
The Italian Bolelli can mix it up and who move around fairly quickly, but he cannot penetrate Federer’s forehand or crack his own forehand unless the Swiss is way off. Federer will struggle eventually in Australia, but he won’t be challenged in the second round. Fed will win in straight sets.

3-Rafa Nadal v Tim Smyczek
The American qualified for the Aussie and won his first matches, which is pretty good overall. He hustles and fights hard, but if Nadal is clicking away, he is too good overall. However, Nadal is still rusty, so Smyczek will take a set; the Spaniard will win in four.

3-Simona Halep v Jarmila Gajdosova
This should be an interesting match, given that Halep believes that she can win a Grand Slam but the Aussie Gajdosova thinks she is playing well enough to shocker her at home. Gajdosova is very powerful and will try to out hit her, but Halep is more consistent and stable. Halep will win in three sets.

Margaret Court Arena

6-Andy Murray v Marinko Matosevic
The Aussie Matosevic knows his buddy Murray very well. He also knows that he has to jump on the Brit very quickly and play lights out. But, even if Matosevic does, he doesn’t have enough oomph against Murray, who is smarter and better overall. Figure on Murray winning in straight sets.

7-Eugenie Bouchard v Kiki Bertens
While Genie isn’t ready to shine this week, she might be in better shape in the second week, if she catches fire again. Even if the Canadian doesn’t play incredibly well, she is simply better overall against Bertens and will win in straight sets.

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Tomic looks to have the edge over Kohlschreiber.
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Bernard Tomic v Philip Kohlschreiber
These two matched up last week in Sydney and Tomic got through. But, Tomic says they are neck and neck right now. However, to me, I like how Tomic is finally settled in and perhaps he will crack the top 20 – or better – this year. The Aussie will win in five tough sets over Kohlschreiber.

Hisense Arena

21-Peng Shuai v Magdalena Rybarikova
Peng finally looked like she was comfortable playing singles, moving well and she was in much better condition over all. She can strike inside the baseline and will do it again, easily pushing past Rybarikova in straight sets.

Sam Groth v Thanasi Kokkinakis
The Aussies will be extremely excited with this matchup and will pack the grounds. The 18-year-old Kokkinakis pulled off a terrific win over Gulbis in five sets, but he is very young and could be tired. Groth has been more composed over the past two weeks, is crushing his first serves and taking over the nets. Groth will push him around and win it in four sets.

Australian Open picks for Tuesday, January 20

Rod Laver Arena

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Sam Stosur can’t seem to get going in front of her country audience.
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

20-Samantha Stosur v Monica Niculescu
It is almost impossible to know how well Stosur will play. She has been terrific on times, but rarely in Australia. Sometimes she is very nervous, other times she is not, but that doesn’t mean she will be playing her best either way at home. She will find a way to best Niculescu, but after that, who know?

4-Stan Wawrinka v Marsel Ilhan
The defending champion Wawrinka appears very happy in Australia and did win Chennai the week before last. At times, he can lose his head, but he loves his somewhat slow hard court. The Turkish Ilhan wants the fans to notice him and perhaps they will, but the Swiss is much more bravado.

1-Novak Djokovic v Aljaz Bedene
The Serbian has been sick over the past week but he is feeling better and he is the man to beat. While Djokovic is not perfect at the Grand Slams, he almost always gets close. He will take down the Slovenia Bedene in straight sets.

Lleyton Hewitt v Zhang Ze
Hewitt admitted that he did not play well in Brisbane, but he has been at Australian Open many, many times before. However, he has aged and even though he is very smart, that doesn’t mean that he can crack the ball. Hewitt will win the match, but it will take him five long sets against China’s Ze.

Ajla Tomljanovic v Shelby Rogers
The young Tomljanovic is now an Australian … so that’s why she’s on the Rod Laver Arena schedule. The once Croatian is powerful, and moves fairly quickly, and played a solid win over Jelena Jankovic in Brisbane. However, the American Rogers has slowly rising and she outlasted Tomljanovic in Montreal last year. Rogers wouldn’t be nervous, while Tomljanovic will be. Take Rogers in three sets.

Margaret Court Arena

5-Kei Nishikori v Nicolas Almagro
The Japanese is a real threat to win the tournament, but finding out the former top 10 Almagro is back in the court after being hurt much of the year could be troubling. It could be, but the Spaniard isn’t ready for prime tie yet. Nishikori will win in straight sets.

8-Caroline Wozniacki v Taylor Townsend
Wozniacki has been pretty darn good since last August, but she hasn’t won a big title in a long time. However, if her wrist is hurting she could be in trouble. The 18-year-old Townsend still has a way to go, but she is very strong and ambitious. But she is not ready yet, as Wozniacki will win in two interesting sets.

17-Gael Monfils v Lucas Pouille
The flying Monfils can be so good – recall his amazing win over Roger Federer in the Davis Cup final (although the Swiss won the title) – and so impossible to figure out. Monfils has a lot more experience against 20-year-old fellow French Pouille, but is the kid ready to shock him? Perhaps, just not yet. Monfils will win in five aching sets.

Hisense Arena

Sloane Stephens v Victoria Azarenka
Imagine these two are not seeded when two years ago they played in the semifinals here in the Aussie Open. Azarenka says that she essentially wasn’t around much at all during 2014. Stephens faded quickly after June. So who know is ready to make a serious push again? Stephens might this year but she didn’t start during the past two weeks. Azarenka lost to Karolina Pliskova in Brisbane, but the Czech is very good now and it went 3 hours and 20 minutes. Azarenka is ready to battle again. She will take it in two sets.

8-Milos Raonicv v Ilya Marchenko
The Canadian is ready for prime time. Yes, he still needs to improve his return and his backhand, but his forehand is massive and so is his first round. The Ukraine Marchenko can hit the ball, but he won’t be able to hurt him enough. Raonic will win in straight sets.

Australian Open picks for Monday, January 19

The 2015 Australian Open is here and ready to roll. Here are our picks for the opening day.

Rod Laver Arena

3-Simona Halep v Karin Knapp

The Romanian believes she is ready now to win a Slam. She played excellent ball at the WTA Final, very aggressive, fast and full of life. She will out steady Knapp, but she cannot be conservative against the big women.

5-Ana Ivanovic v Lucie Hradecka

For the first times, you can feel Ana playing smartly and not becoming nervous. She has improved a ton overall and will be heard from during the tournament, bashing the huge server Hradecka.

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Kerber should get by Begu.

3-Rafa Nadal v Mikhail Youzhny

Who knows how well Rafa will play, saying that he isn’t right yet and still a little sore during the last half of 2014. But as he says that should he reach into the second week, then perhaps he will be competitive again. You know he will, nailing Youzhny side to side.

2-Roger Federer d Lu Yen-hsun

Here goes Roger again and in Brisbane towards the end he looks very, very good. Federer does not lose to the smaller guys in the Slams, so he will out think Yen-hsun, but Roger will have to be spot-on to win another Slam, as it’s been two-and-a-half years since his last triumph.

2-Maria Sharapova v Petra Martic

Sharapova had added a few new things, such as coming into the net more (I know, I know: it’s taken 10 years) and drop shots. She hasn’t played great in the past two years at the Aussie, but she is ready to rumble and knock the Croatian right off the court.

Margaret Court Arena

Jarmila Gajdosova v Alexandra Dulgheru

The Aussie Gajdosova looked very well in Sydney and while she can become wild, she wants the fans to see her again and take down a couple of seeds. She will begin run down Dulgheru in straight sets.

6-Andy Murray v Yuki Bhambri

Murray isn’t sure whether or not he can take out the best yet, but he doesn’t want to tell the big boys that, at least not yet. The young India Bhambri looked very good as a junior but isn’t strong enough. Murray will beat him down.

9-Angelique Kerber v Irina-Camelia Begu

Angie is all over the place. She tries super hard, but she doesn’t commit enough, which is why she can be had. But not yet, as the lefty will outlast Begu.

7-Eugenie Bouchard v Anna-Lena Friedsam

The Canadian has come a long way over the last year and wasn’t afraid to go after anyone, but she struggled the last four months in 2014. Now everyone knows who she is, which means it’s going to get even harder. Genie will hit through against Friedsam, but right now, she could be in for a fall.

Nick Kyrgios v Federico Delbonis

The Aussie Kyrgios is only 19 so he still has a long to go, but he has a gigantic serve and can crack his forehand. His back in hurting, meaning it is going to be very tough to reach very deep into the tournament. However, he could win a few rounds, like over the Argentine in four tough sets.

Hisense Arena

32-Belinda Bencic v Julia Goerges

I really like the Swiss teen overall as she is very smart and mixes it up, but she is a little up and down. The German Goerges has fallen in the singles but she can crush her forehand. How about an upset, stunning the Swiss in three long sets?

28-Sabine Lisicki v Kristina Mladenovic

I am not sure exactly where Lisicki is going (if she’s not on grass), but she will win in three long sets, as neither the German nor the French Mladenovic moves well enough.

Bernard Tomic v Tobias Kamke

The Aussie Tomic has been very good at times in Brisbane and Sydney, but he has not been able to take down the good boys. He is rising again, but he doesn’t want to get caught by a ton of up-and-coming Aussies like Sam Groth or Thanasi Kokkinakis. We don’t know yet, but Tomic will be good enough to best Kamke in straight sets.

Sam Groth v Filip Krajinovic

Speaking of which, Groth was also pretty darn good in Brisbane and Sydney. He has improved quite a bit over the past year or so. He has a massive serve and consistently charges to the net. The problem is, will he be too nervous at the AO? Perhaps, but not yet as he will edge Krajinovic in five sets.

Kvitova bests Pliskova in Sydney, ready for Aussie Open

kvitova fed cup 2013

Kvitova wants to get used to winning.

APIA Sydney International — Karolina Pliskova is tall, can crack both wings and is the owner of one of the biggest serves around. But she was not consistent enough as Petra Kvitova outlasted her 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) in the final.

Karolina is more confident now and looks like she should crack the top 10 by the summer, and yes, she could go deep at the Australian Open. But even though she isn’t’ afraid anymore, she was against Kvitova in the tiebreaks. She was right there, but Petra went for it immediately while Pliskova didn’t. She said that she isn’t sad, but wasn’t running fast as she could

“I must say a little bit tired,” Pliskova said. “Also in the match I wasn’t that ‑ I don’t want to say fast, because I’m not that fast normally ‑ but I felt a little bit tired, not that much power in my serve.  The shots were not that fast, like let’s say yesterday against Angelique [Kerber. I was playing doubles here as well, so maybe every day finished like at 11:00 in the evening, maybe that’s why.”

She then laughed: “Well, I would love to play the doubles final, but I feel now better if I’m not playing anymore.”

The world No. 4 Kvitova is flying now, but she has had trouble in the Aussie Open before. She now owns 15 titles and some pretty big wins, many on hard courts. But, let’s not forget 2012 when she looked like she might out hit Maria Sharapova but the Russian was more courageous and took her out by focusing on her weaker backhand side. Sharapova won the contest 6-4 in the third and waved her precocious smile. The Czech was simply angry.

“I had a lot of chances and I didn’t make it. I think it’s one of the more disappointing matches what I had. The past two years was just terrible and just didn’t really thinking about them nicely,” the Czech said.

Kvitova wasn’t really there in 2013 and 2014. She fell to Laura Robson 11-9 in the third set in 2013. “That was the worst ever from my serve in the second round,” she said. Last year, few knew who was Luksika Kumkhum, who shocked her in the first round.

“I need to do everything what I can this year to be better, because it’s not nice, to lose the first or second round in the Grand Slam,” she said. “It’s just bad and I know it, but it’s happened.  I’m not the only one.  But it was tough loses over there, so I will hope that I can do better.”

However, she says that she is faster these days and is bigger and stronger. She wants to be No. 1 this year. Perhaps she will, but she has to lock in very soon. The 24-year-old can smack the ball from both sides and kiss the lines. However, if she is going to win the title, she cannot get frustrated.

“I come to Melbourne tomorrow and I need to forget about the Sydney trophy to be ready and focused for the Melbourne,” she said. “It’s just really crazy world sometimes in tennis.  I’m more mature, but we will see how it’s going there.”

TR Retro: Collateral Damage: Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer in 2009 Aussie Open final

Rafa put a dent in Federer’s GOAT label.

EDITOR’S NOTE: JUST AHEAD OF RAFAEL NADAL AND ROGER FEDERER’S 33RD MEETING, THIS ONE IN  THE 2014 AUSSIE OPEN SEMIFINALS, WE BRING YOU WHAT HAPPENED ON A FAMOUS NIGHT IN 2009, WHEN THE SPANIARD WONA CLASSIC CLASH AND HIS FIRST SLAM CROWN ON A HARD COURT.

MELBOURNE – The so-called soon to be greatest player ever was out-fought by his most significant rival again, putting a long pause in the discussion of Roger Federer’s place in the history.

In a truly remarkable and gutsy performance, Rafael Nadal shook down Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2 in the final of the Australian Open on Sunday, grabbing his sixth Grand Slam title and becoming the first man since Andre Agassi in 1999 to win majors on three different surfaces.

“It’s a dream win here, one Grand Slam on hard court,” said Nadal, the first Spaniard to win the Australian Open. “I worked very hard all my life to improve the tennis outside of clay. I’m very happy for the title. Today was really lot of emotions on court.”

For the fifth straight time, the 22-year-old Spaniard proved that he has become a mentally stronger and physically more resilient player than Federer, beating down the normally cool-handed Swiss when the hours grew long and moments became tenser.

“There’s huge collateral damage from this match,” said the Tennis Channel’s Justin Gimelstob. “Now he’s beaten him on grass, clay and hard and there’s no barrier that hasn’t been broken. Hardcourts is the most fair surface and there are harsh realities to be dealt with.”

For all the talk of Federer’s automatic ascension to the accolade of the greatest of all time, it has been the much-improved Nadal who has been the more ambitious and resourceful player over the past 13 months.

“Roger can’t be called the greatest ever yet,” said US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe.

Since June, Nadal has won three of the last four majors as well as the Olympic gold medal. He torched Federer in the 2008 French Open final for his fourth straight Roland Garros crown, stopped Federer’s five title Wimbledon streak in a five set classic for his first major on clay and then on Sunday, won his first major on the surface that has troubled himself the most, hard courts, by contesting a near perfect fifth set, committing only two unforced errors to 14 from his worn down foe.

Other legends, such as John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg, have won marathon semifinals and went on to win Grand Slam finals, but Nadal’s feat, a 5 hour and 14 minute marathon victory over the red hot Fernando Verdasco in the semis, followed up by a 4 hour and 23 minute win over Federer, who went into the last day with a 8-0 record in hard court major finals, owns a special place in the record books.

“It was the greatest physical achievement in the history of tennis, said Gimelstob.” People talk about Wimbledon because of the drama, but you take the level of players and that the surface is so equitable, it was the greatest tennis shotmaking ever. There has never been anything close to that, how they challenged each other to come up with great stuff, until the beginning of the fifth set when there was huge depreciation Federer’s side. It was sick.”

Given that he had worn down at the hard court Slams before and was had trouble knocking off offensive players at the Australian Open and US Opens in years prior (think Gonzalez, Tsonga, Murray), the left-handed Nadal still needed to show that he could successfully combine a defensive and offense posture and find a winning formula on hardcourts. While his base is much the same — kick and slice serves into his foes’ backhands, hammer away with his huge forehand and use his legs to run down even the most impossible balls — his improvements are obvious. His slapping two handed backhand has become more powerful, he’s more sure handed at the net, he changes the direction of his groundstrokes more intelligently, and his one handed slice has improved, as has his use of drop shots.

While on the outside, it appeared that Nadal might not pull up fresh and healthy for the final, on Saturday, his camp and those members of the Spanish press who follow him closely had little doubt that he would arrive on court doing same boxer’s split steps that he has done throughout his career.

To him , Nadal is a Toro, with a capital T.

He gored through Federer in the first set, poking holes in his backhand with slice serves and hooking forehands.

The Swiss showed his champion’s heart in the second set, steeping more gamely into his backhand and mixing up the pace and angles of his groundstrokes.

In the third set, there was a little reason for doubt, when a after the seventh game and at up 4-3, Nadal called for the trainer to have his right leg massaged as he was no longer getting a good enough push off that leg, the one which allows him to crush two -handed backhand from an open stance. But it loosened up again and he found the vast fathomless inner reserve where his hellfire’s burn deep.

He dug in his pitchfork and once again struck.

He fought off six break points in his next two service games, three with ball-bursting groundstrokes.

In the tiebreaker, a nervous Federer played sloppy, while Nadal shot off some multi-colored fireworks. At 5-3, in rousing end-to-end rally, he stretched out for a rocket Federer crosscourt forehand and kissed a low backhand volley crosscourt for the winner. A stunned Fed then double faulted to lose the set

“Rafa believes in a different level than Federer does,” said four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier. “I think Federer only believes in that level against other players.”

The Swiss would not go away quietly and once again showed his champions heart and lungs, winning the fourth set by punishing himself to fly more quickly to the ball, to make better use of his forehand and not to shy way from the net, even though Nadal was crushing hard to handle passing shots.

It was assumed by his large amount of supporters at Laver Arena that Federer would once again rise to occasion, or at least bring the battle to the highest mountaintop and perish taking one last heroic swing at the edge of the cliff.

But he did not and in the first time off clay, he completely folded, playing a soft, directionless set where he was broken to 3-1 on three consecutive unforced errors and was broken again to lose the match on an oddly missed forehand.

Nadal soaked in the applause while later, when accepting the runner-up trophy, Federer cried a good three minutes and then cried again going into the locker room.

“God, it’s killing me,” he said to the crowd.

It sure must be. Federer has sunk deep into the spongy clay at Roland Garros after being smashed by Nadal, but he had never been so thoroughly beaten in a final set in major off dirt.

“Roger basically folded in the fifth,” McEnroe said. “He succumbed to the pressure. Chasing the record 14 is tough and obviously the guy in his head. It’s going to be difficult for Roger to come back from this.”

McEnroe believes that Federer plays Nadal all wrong, that he could make simple tactical adjustments that would allow him to grab victories rather than play on the Spaniard’s terms. Federer does not do enough in his return games, rarely attempting to step around and hit forehands and allowing Nadal to go into his backhand 90 percent of the time with his serves, even when those serves aren’t always of the high qualities.

“He needs a coach,” McEnroe said. “He’s never had to adjust to something because he’s been so talented he could go out there and figure it out. All of sudden he’s playing guy he can’t do it against. He’s so stubborn.”

Federer still sits one Grand Slam title from tying Pete Sampras’ all time Grand Slam mark of 14 majors, and as motivated and as talented as he is, it’s hard to think that he won’t break the record.

“I love this game.,” Federer said. “It means the world to me, so it hurts when you lose.”

But even if he does do it this year, Sampras will retain one major edge over him — that he owned winning records against his greatest rivals. Federer, who is now 6-13 against Nadal, cannot claim that very important distinction.

“It’s a huge tipping point in the greatest-ever debate,” said Gimelstob. ” I think Roger will surpass Pete, but if Nadal plays 6-10 more years, there’s endless opportunities for him to rewrite the record books. I don’t care how far Federer goes over Sampras, Nadal is still a threat. It all depends on his body. He’s getting better and he’s a physical beast. There’s no one comparable.”