Aussie Semifinals

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I was wrong on several counts in my last prediction. Yes, I did predict three of the four winners on the women's draw, and three of the four in the men's, but I was off on many of the set predictions. There were surprises.

Federer, for example, wasn't playing like Federer and Davydenko was actually, in my opinion, capable of taking the game. He played magnificently and it's a shame he caved in four. But that's Roger for you. A bit like Sampras in that he pulls out victories out of nowhere, even when he looks beaten.

Clijsters beat Martina but what a fight it was. Martina fought back, as I expected her too, but really, what can you expect when Clijsters is playing her top game. Sharapova played like a dingbat and only won because Petrova, while talented, is an emotionally unstable player.

Both French players played heartbreakers. Santoro's heartbreaker was in being completely demoralised by a dominant and overpowering Nalbandian. He ran out of steam but, frankly, I'm still bloody proud of the guy. He's 33 and has never been played the type of power tennis than can win Slams. What he does is entertain with endless panache. A shame to step out on two bagels, but really, he should hold his head high. Grosjean, the poor thing, cracked after a marathon 5-setter with icky bad-sportsman Kiefer. There was a rather ugly incident with Kiefer throwing his racket on the court during a pivotal point. That should have been called as a let, but sometimes referees, being human, show poor judgement. A bitter bitter loss for a gutsy performance. I hate that Kiefer guy, a man who could give Hewitt a run for the gold medal in bad sportsmanship.

Women's Draw

Justine Henin-Hardenne vs. Maria Sharapova
While normally not a great fan of the Belgian doberman, I hope Justine thashes the heck out of Sharapova. Justine looks tough, and hungry. Even though she showed some severe lapses in her serve during the match against Davenport, and even though Sharapova historically holds the advantage over her on hardcourt, I think Justine can pull this out. I don't expect Maria to curl up and shrivel in her babydoll dress, though I do think she'll be shaky in her outting. Still, a tough call but I'll pick the Belgian in three tough sets.

Kim Clijsters vs. Amelie Mauresmo
Technically, this should be the final. Clijsters is the world number 1, and is showing excellent form. Her forehand passing shots, down the line or cross-court, are eating everyone up in its path. But, will she make Swiss cheese out of our girl Mauresmo? Hell no! Amelie is looking confident, relaxed and consistent. I do think Amelie would have profitted from having a more severe test earlier on but what can you do? A steamroller cannot be stopped! Three sets Mauresmo.

In the Men's draw, there is one runaway and one major clash.

Roger Federer vs. Nicolas Kiefer
Like I said, I hate Kiefer. He bites. Plus, after a five-hour marathon against Grosjean, who has never really threatened Roger either, Kiefer should be primed for a good drubbing. This is all very possible only if Federer doesn't show the same uncharacteristic weakness and error percentage he showed against Davydenko. Roger, please, stay Roger and make some Schnitzel out of this boy. Roger in three sets.

Marcos Baghdatis vs. David Nalbandian
Baghdatis is this year's Aussie Open story. He's young, flamboyant, lovable and positively electric. A champion is born! We, here at Holy Smokes, have never been the type of persons to be easily won over but Baghdatis has done it, chewing favourites and seated players everywhere. Faltering only slightly in the quarters, Baghdatis is up for a major major mental test against a steely and determined Nalbandian. There's no doubt that mentally, Nalbandian is one of the toughest around and I think he's a smarter tactical player. He's got something to prove since everyone thinks that the only reason he beat Federer in last year's Masters was because Roger was injured. Not so. I think Nalbandian has cranked up his game just that little bit. Still, the last time they met in Basel, on hardcourt, Baghdatis won easily. They have an even 1-1 record so this is probably the hardest call. I'd like to say Nalbandian, and really, normally I would but Baghdatis has some kind of secret legend aura hanging over him right now. Either way, I'm happy. Nalbandian in 5 screaming cheering sets.

And no, I don't think the crowd will be able to disturb Nalbandian because, hell, nobody seems to cheer for him anyways. Why he's not a crowd favourite? Could be because he never smiles foolishly, and is quite reticent. Looks like a surfer, acts like a fisherman. And, if there's one thing fishermen have, it's stoicism.