Busted Racquet previews the 2012 men's Australian Open.
Luck of the draw -- The first major upset of the 2012 Australian Open came three days before the start of play. For the first time in seven years, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are on the same side of a Grand Slam draw, making for a potential blockbuster semifinal and ever-so-slightly clearing Novak Djokovic's path to the final. Not since the 2005 French Open have Federer and Nadal been on one half of a Slam draw. For most of the time, that had to do with their respective Nos. 1 and 2 ranking, though the streak continued last year, even as Federer slipped to No. 3 (and then No. 4) in the world. It got to the point where a Federer-Djokovic semifinal was every bit the Grand Slam tradition of American reporters questioning "what happened to American tennis?"
Most likely upset semifinalist -- Given his recent injuries and inactivity, Nadal seems to be the most likely candidate to go out before the semifinals. A look at his draw says otherwise. He drew Tomas Berdych on the top and John Isner/Feliciano Lopez in a possible fourth-rounder. The big serve of Isner gave Nadal trouble in the 2011 French Open, but a recent loss to Bobby Reynolds suggests the American may have trouble getting to Nadal.
Toughest draw: Andy Roddick, Ryan Harrison (tie) -- If Roddick gets by Robin Haase in the first round (and that's a big if), he could have to play, in order: Lleyton Hewitt, Milos Raonic and Novak Djokovic. In a way, 19-year-old Ryan Harrison getting Andy Murray in the first round seems like a more humane way to go.
Best first-round match: Fernando Verdasco (22) vs. Bernard Tomic -- Was it only three years ago that Verdasco played in one of the all-time great matches in Melbourne? This year, the Spaniard gets a tough first-round test in Australian teen, and fan favorite, Bernard Tomic. The 19-year-old made a run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last year and is looking to win a match in his native Slam for the fourth time in four tournaments.
Best possible quarterfinal: Andy Murray (4) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6) -- The Frenchman was going to have to play one of the "big four" (quotes used to address Murray's membership status with maximum derisiveness) in the quarters and Murray is as good a draw as any. Neither of them should have much trouble getting to this match. The potential winner would play Djokovic in a semifinal that would either be a rematch of last year's final (Murray) or the '08 final (Tsonga).
Semifinalists: Djokovic vs. Tsonga, Federer vs. Nadal
Finals: Djokovic d. Federer
What better way to kick off the 2012 season than with a replay of the best two matches of the 2011 campaign?
Djokovic and Federer have played in seven Grand Slam semifinals since their last (and only) finals meeting at the 2007 U.S. Open. The current world No. 1 holds a 4-3 advantage in those meetings, including a 2-0 record at the Australian. He's yet to play in 2012 and tailed off toward the end of his historic 2011, yet there's no reason to think he won't pick up where he left off at the U.S. Open.
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