Although day one of the Australian Open saw safe passage for all title contenders in the bottom half of the draw; the spotlight on day 3 will be on the home players with no less than six Australians in action. Will that mark the beginning of revival in fortunes for a once dominant country in Tennis? Only time will tell.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych all won in straight sets but the only real casualty apart from the injury to Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo was the Latvian no 11 seed Ernest Gulbis who has done little since defeating Federer in the round of 16 at Roland Garros last year. His conqueror was the local lad Thanasi Kokkinakis who saved four match points in the fourth set before prevailing 8-6 in the fifth set match lasting over 4 hours. There will be at least one Aussie in the round of 32 as he takes on fellow countryman Sam Groth. The other half of the “Special K” Nick Kyrgios, who beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, will have his hands full against the in-form Croat Ivo Karlovic who recently upset Novak Djokovic in Doha and also crossed the 9000 aces mark. Little known James Duckworth should not trouble the Frenchman Richard Gasquet and Marinko Matosevic will need to recover quickly after his five set win as he faces the three time runner up Andy Murray. The last remaining Aussie in the bottom half will be the 2012 Wimbledon quarter finalist Bernard Tomic who will take on the highest ranked German Phillip Kohlschreiber.
Elsewhere Federer will play the man he beat in last years Davis Cup semi final; the Italian Simone Bolleli while his nemesis Nadal should have few problems against little known Tim Smyczek. The Czech Tomas Berdych who was last years semi finalist should prevail over the veteran Austrian left hander Jurgen Melzer who was ranked in top 10 a few years ago. Martin Klizan plays the fast rising Joao Sousa of Portugal. Djokovic’s Serbian compatriot Victor Troicki who has made an impressive comeback after serving a 12 month ban by winning last week in Sydney will be severly put to the test by the highest ranked Argentine Leonardo Mayer. Big serving South African should get past the Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis while Nadal’s 2012 wimbledon conqueror takes on the Israeli Dudi Sela. Two more Frenchman will be in the fray as Jeremy Chardy and Eduardo Roger Vasselin would be favoured to get the better of the Italian Andreas Seppi and Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri respectively. “Baby Federer” Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov should get past Lucas Lacko and set up an interesting clash against the winner of the match between fast rising Belgian David Goffin and the 2006 runner up – the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
The projected round of 32 in the bottom half
Tomas Berdych v. Leonardo Mayer
Phillip Kohlschreibber v. Sam Groth
Kevin Anderson v. Richard Gasquet
Lucas Rosol v. Rafael Nadal
Andy Murray v. Joao Sousa
David Goffin v. Grigor Dmitrov
Eduardo Roger Vasselin v. Ivo Karlovic
Jeremy Chardy v. Roger Federer.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]