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January 25, 2011

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Australian Open 2011, Melbourne, Australia
January 25, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

What Are The Chances
 
January 25, 2011 -- So now the betting begins.
 
How about Caroline Wozniacki? Can she get the monkey off her back? What about David Ferrer? Can he break Nadal's chokehold? Will Petra Kvitova ignite the emotional two seed, Vera Zvonareva? Can the Ukraine Alexandr Dolgopolov unsettle the Scot, Andy Murray?
 
Questions... questions... and no correct answers.
 
We could compare head-to-head records. Surely that will tell us. We could read projections from tennis pundits. They are the most informed. We could roll the dice.
 
Probability has been around since the middle of the 17th Century. That involves math, which is objective. But wait... it involves statistics, which is a highfalutin guessing game that dupes us into thinking we have the answer.
 
Here are a couple favorites... we could shake an Eight Ball or ask an Ouiga board. Get the metaphysical end of the fan spectrum in a circle and fire away. This might actually work.
 
Once we get our feet planted firmly back on Earth, we realize predicting is a game. And it's sure fun guessing. Around the world fans sit over cups of coffee, tea, and whatever else they care to drink -- probably beer in Australia -- to discuss and argue outcomes of the final quarterfinal matches.
 
Of the eight players remaining in the women's and men's singles draws, only one unseeded man stands: Alexandr Dolgopolov. He is so relaxed about his berth you might conclude he is abnormally detached. But as you've learned, Dolgopolov has hung out around tennis courts all his life. He's a sports' groupie. Why would he be flustered across the net from Andy Murray?
 
Don't let looks or quotes fool you. Dolgopolov is human, last time we looked. And all tour players get nervous. His first set against Robin Soderling was a jittery Alexandr; he recorded an illustrious 23% on first serves. Ouch!
 
Agnieszka Radwanska (#12 seed) is on fire. She saved two match points against a relentless Shuai Peng in the round of sixteen. The soft-spoken Radwanska has been in the quarterfinals of one other Australian Open: 2008. She had her right foot operated on toward the end of last year, and her rehabilitation has been successful. She doesn't look like she could harm Kim Clijsters, but Radwanska's style is deceptive. She has a tennis toolbox full of tactical choices.
 
Vera Zvonareva (#2 seed) definitely has her hands full with Petra Kvitova (#26 seed). Kvitova's passage through the draw has been formidable, taking out the fifth seed Samantha Stosur and the 22nd seed Flavia Pennetta. The Italian Pennetta was thrown by Kvitova's manic modes. She played well in one moment then the balls flew out in another moment. Inconsistency disrupts an opponents' rhythm.
 
Zvonareva likes rhythm as much as do all players. In order to make the semifinals, she will have to stay on her side of the court both mentally and physically. She should mix it up and get first serves in. Plus, she better cover the line when the lefty Kvitova goes for that wicked down-the-line forehand.
 
Rafael Nadal probably couldn't be happier about his quarterfinal opponent. David Ferrer is his friend and countryman, and Nadal is eager to see one Spaniard in the semifinals of the first major of the New Year. But let's not get too cozy.
 
Rafael Nadal is on a trajectory to be heralded as the first male player in 41 years to have won four majors consecutively. He say's he's not thinking about it. However, he is. He blocks it out, though. Nadal is extremely good at compartmentalizing, as are all the top ten players.
 
"I enjoy the competition and I enjoy playing well," Nadal told the press yesterday. "I enjoy the moments that you have to do something to play well. You have to do something to change some situations. These kinds of changes, mentality changes. I love that sometimes and other times it didn't work a lot and you can't enjoy."
 
We call his answer balanced. It's the yin-yang of Rafa's strategic thinking. Can't knock it either. Balanced on his feet and in his mind, Nadal will more than likely get past Ferrer. However, Ferrer is in the twilight of his career and has everything to gain from an all-out performance. If he knows Rafa's game, then get out there and show us how it's done.
 
Nadal is 11-3 over his countryman. The last time Ferrer defeated Nadal was in 2007 at the Tennis Masters Cup in China. You wanted to know their head-to-head, right? It proves nothing, but opens the door for speculation.
 
And all this was speculation.
 

 

Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
January 24, 2011 Australian Open: New Kid on The Block
January 23, 2011 Australian Open: You Don't Say
January 22, 2011 Australian Open: Aching Aussie Hearts
January 21, 2011 Australian Open: Venus
January 20, 2011 Australian Open: The Others
January 19, 2011 Australian Open: Back From the Brink
January 18, 2011 Australian Open: The Unluck of The Draw
January 17, 2011 Australian Open: Spanning The Globe
January 16, 2011 Australian Open: Off To The Races
 

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