nodot nodot
Between The Lines
January 14, 2005 Article

Contact Ray Bowers

Latest Between The Lines Article

Between The Lines Archives:
2003 - 2015
August 1998 - 2003
1995 - May 1998

Tennis Server

Do You Want To Be A Better Tennis Player?

Then Sign Up For A Free Subscription to the Tennis Server INTERACTIVE
E-mail Newsletter!

Tom Veneziano You will join 13,000 other subscribers in receiving news of updates to the Tennis Server along with monthly tennis tips from tennis pro Tom Veneziano.
Best of all, it is free!

Tennis Features Icon TENNIS FEATURES:

TENNIS ANYONE? - USPTA Pro John Mills' quick player tip.
TENNIS WARRIOR - Tom Veneziano's Tennis Warrior archive.
TURBO TENNIS - Ron Waite turbocharges your tennis game with tennis tips, strategic considerations, training and practice regimens, and mental mindsets and exercises.
WILD CARDS - Each month a guest column by a new writer.
BETWEEN THE LINES - Ray Bowers takes an analytical and sometimes controversial look at the ATP/WTA professional tour.
PRO TENNIS SHOWCASE - Tennis match reports and photography from around the world.
TENNIS SET - Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D. looks at tennis science, engineering and technology.
MORTAL TENNIS - Greg Moran's tennis archive on how regular humans can play better tennis.
HARDSCRABBLE SCRAMBLE - USPTA pro Mike Whittington's player tip archive.

Tennis Community Icon TENNIS COMMUNITY:

Tennis Book, DVD, and Video Index
Tennis Server Match Reports
Editor's Letter
Become a Tennis Server Sponsor

Explore The Tennis Net Icon EXPLORE THE TENNIS NET:

Tennis News and Live Tennis Scores
Tennis Links on the Web
Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
Green Dot
Tennis Warehouse Logo
Green Dot

Australian Open Preview 2005

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

Can anyone beat Roger Federer at his best? Probably not, especially on a non-clay court, but there are several contenders who, at their best, could prevail in Melbourne if Roger is slightly below form.

To sort out the candidates for Australian Open 2005 in a purely objective way, we calculate probable results at the Open by weighting results in predictor tournaments of the preceding 12 months. The weights are determined by correlating actual results at the past five AusOpens with results at the preceding predictors. Thus the heaviest-weighted event for predicting AusOpen 05 here is U.S. Open 04. The second-heaviest is AusOpen 04. (See the footnote at the end of this column for the weights and further discussion.)

Here are our top eight candidates and their weighted scores from the calculations. Players not entering or who have already withdrawn are excluded. Odds for winning the tournament are derived from the scores and are also shown here.

#1. FEDERER, score 6.76 (odds 3-5)

Last year Roger captured the three non-clay Slams. As 2004's undisputed male champion, his superior offensive and defensive skills sometimes seemed to approach perfection. The previous year's champions have won only four times in the last 20 years of Australian Open. But Roger is no ordinary defender and he stands as our clear odds-on favorite to win AusOpen 05.

Roger won the tournament last week at Doha, Qatar, and reached the final at Kooyong Classic this week.

#2. RODDICK, 4.48 (odds 5-1)

Year 2004 showed that Andy's big serve is not enough to overcome Roger. Andy was spectacular in winning the first set of their Wimbledon final but could not sustain the necessary level of play. Roddick can defeat Federer, but he must play with resolute aggressiveness at a level close to his very best. Like Roger, he also reached the final at Kooyong this week.

#3. HEWITT, 3.88 (odds 9-1)

Lleyton's superior foot speed, good countering ability, and an improving serve at U.S. Open 2004 destroyed Joaquin Johansson--conqueror of Roddick. But these weapons scarcely bothered Federer in the final. Hewitt's W-L record at Adelaide and Sydney this month is 6-1 to date.

#4. AGASSI, 3.13 (odds 26-1)

Andre has won Australian Open four times in his career--three times in the last five years--and he reached the semis last year, losing to Safin in five sets. At age 34, he seems unlikely to win the tournament, but in a head-to-head match-up against an on-form Roger, he may be the only player having the knowledge and weaponry that could enable him to prevail. He carried Federer to five sets at U.S. Open in one of last year's premier matches. But he left the court at Kooyong this week with recurrent hip trouble.

#5. J. JOHANSSON, 2.66 (odds 63-1)

Our calculations lift Joachim seven places above his 2003 final ranking. He beat defending champion Roddick at U.S. Open 04 in a splendid five-set quarter-final. A strong server and net player, now age 22 at 6-6 in height, this Swedish star can be trouble for anyone. He won the tune-up event last week in Adelaide but withdrew this week at Sydney with hamstring injury.

#6. HENMAN, 2.63 (odds 68-1)

Can it be that Tim Henman is now 30? Surprisingly, the British star has never passed the fourth round at AusOpen. He defeated Nalbandian this week at Kooyong but lost to Federer.

#7. SAFIN, 2.60 (odds 71-1)

Safin's strong finish in 2003 makes the above odds seem too long. Marat won last fall's Masters Series indoor tournaments in Madrid and Paris, and he reached the semis at Masters Cup in Houston, where he lost to Roger 6-3, 7-6. He was runner-up at AusOpen 04, losing to Roger 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. Undoubtedly Safin has the power weaponry and mobility to duel it out with Federer on even terms if all goes right.

But he lost to all three of his singles opponents at the Hopman Cup tune-up last week.

#8. MOYA, 2.39 (odds 118-1) Moya's best results last year were on clay, and clay-court events are lightly weighted in our calculation. But Carlos also achieved consistent early-round success on the summertime fast courts, lifting him into our prime group here. Carlos is now 28, and eight years have passed since his runner-up finish at AusOpen 97.


Roger will probably have to defeat two or three members of our Top Eight. He will probably also face one or two members of the Second Eight, where each player's odds for winning the tournament are longer than 100-1 but where all can be expected to play hard and competitively. Prominent is David Nalbandian, age 22, who was held back by injuries after carrying Roger to four sets in the quarters at Melbourne Park last year. Despite wrist, knee, and ankle troubles, David achieved #12 position in our calculations. Another quarter-finalist last year was Grosjean, ninth in our calculations and a semi-finalist four years ago. Heavy-hitting Hrbaty won four singles matches without loss at Hopman Cup last week but then lost early at Auckland. The careers of German stars Kiefer and Haas, age 27 and 26, respectively, have been plagued by injuries, but both have shown flashes of superstardom. They complete our Second Eight, along with Pavel, Srichaphan, and Robredo.


In a past column we identified two separate populations of players--one dominant in non-clay events where the bounce of the ball is "fast," the other on clay, the "slow" surface. Years ago it was believed that a fair meeting place would be Australian Open, where the hard surface was designed to give a slow bounce, thus allowing the two populations to compete on even terms. But the reality is--seen in our correlations calculations--that AusOpen has been far more similar in its results to other non-clay events than to events on clay. Thus clay artists Coria, Gaudio, and Canas, all of whom finished well inside the first sixteen in the world rankings for 2004, by our calculations are not among the Top Sixteen candidates for AusOpen 05.

I understand that Australia's Rebound Ace surface has been adjusted somewhat over the years in order to reduce the surface traction and the prevalence of ankle, leg, and lower-body injuries. Thus the bounce is probably faster than previously, perhaps explaining the strong evidence from our calculations.

A Melbourne paper, The Age, this week quoted an official of the court manufacturer, who said that "extra fibre" had been added to the surface coating this year in order to speed up the bounce. We will see the fastest surface ever at the Open, the source continued, except for year 2000. (Agassi became champion in that relatively fast court year.) The guidance in taking this action was from Tennis Australia, the national tennis association, according to the source. Meanwhile Lleyton Hewitt publicly argued that the courts should be made fast in order to benefit Australian players. Several other pros voiced disagreement with Lleyton.


Here are the eight sections of the men's draw, as ranked by our calculations (calculated scores shown). My predictions follow the numbers in all cases.

--Federer 6.76, Srichaphan 1.76, Robredo 1.75, Santoro 1.33, Ljubicic 1.18, Gambill 0.79, Horna 0.72
--Agassi 3.13, J.Johansson 2.66, F. Lopez 1.49, Dent 1.46, Schalken 1.21, Enqvist 1.01, Schuettler 0.57
--Safin 2.60, Kiefer 1.68, Haas 1.65, Ancic 1.30, O.Rochus 1.10, Karlovic 0.98, Malisse 0.94, Costa 0.84
--Moya 2.39, Hrbaty 2.04, T.Johansson 1.26, Soderling 1.16, Fish 0.85, Gaudio 0.82, Calleri 0.72, HT.Lee 0.72
--Nalbandian 1.91, Ferrero 1.53, Coria 1.18, Gonzalez 1.17, Berdych 0.98, Ferrer 0.66, A.Martin 0.48, Zabaleta 0.43
--Hewitt 3.88, Pavel 1.97, Mayer 1.25, Chela 1.15, Nadal 1.15, Blake 0.87, Arthurs 0.38
--Henman 2.63, Spadea 1.59, Canas 1.59, Davydenko 1.09, Saulnier 1.01, Stepanek 0.98
--Roddick 4.48, Grosjean 2.08, Melzer 1.46, Llodra 0.94, Massu 0.78, Bjorkman 0.78, Rusedski 0.44

The numerical scores predict the late-round outcomes for us. Federer over Agassi, Safin over Moya, Hewitt over Nalbandian, and Roddick over Henman. In the semis, Federer over Safin, and Roddick over Hewitt. Federer will then win the tournament, thus capturing his fifth career Slam on an apparent path to many more.


In the wild year of women's tennis just passed, four newcomers--all Russians--finished the year in the officially ranked Top Six. With New Year's 2005 came the question whether the four displaced members of the Six, all still at or close to prime tennis age, could overcome their recent injury problems and challenge for their former high places. If they succeed, the women's game should see an unprecedented level of talent, depth, and balance at the top. In what could be the most interesting year ever in women's tennis, Australian Open 2005 provides the first major battleground.

Or so it seemed just a week or so before the tournament. But then the injury reports among members of the Old Guard began to roll in. Henin-Hardenne and Capriati withdrew with knee and shoulder trouble, respectively, and Clijsters determined that her long-standing wrist injury would not permit her to enter. Questions remained as to the readiness of Davenport, Mauresmo, and the Williamses.

In my opinion there are four prime favorites to win this year's Open. (The odds shown are my estimates.)


Just two years ago in Australia, Serena completed her "Serena-Slam," having achieved four consecutive Slam triumphs. Her position atop women's tennis was remindful of the dominance of the greatest champions of the past. A strong performance at Garros 03 would continue her run, along with yet another Slam triumph at Wimbledon 2003. But a quadriceps strain and persisting pain would require knee surgery in August and a prolonged recovery. She returned to win Key Biscayne in March 2004, but amid lingering leg troubles she played in a total of only 12 tournaments in 2004. Only briefly during the year did she produce and sustain the kind of overpowering dominance seen throughout her earlier great run. Sharapova beat her in two important finals, including Wimbledon 04. She did not competed in the tune-ups for Melbourne.

SHARAPOVA (odds 6-1)

At Australian Open last year Maria Sharapova, then 16 but already six feet tall, won two matches before losing a split-setter to Myskina. She had good results thereafter, maturing her power game about her excellent court mobility and superb mental strengths. Her surpassing achievement, capturing Wimbledon, was perhaps the most historic moment of tennis year 2004. She also won the year-ending event in Los Angeles over a field composed of the year's top performers. Maria already belongs among the game's elite even as her further improvement seems likely. The Australian summer, the slowish courts, and an array of experienced, strong opponents stand in her way at Melbourne Park. But the weapons making another conquest possible are assuredly there.

MYSKINA (odds 7-1)

Anastasia, now 23, defeated Sharapova three times in 2004 prior to a split-set loss at Los Angeles. Her crowning success was in winning Garros, but she did well at many of the hard-court events, reaching the semis at the Olympics and triumphing indoors in Moscow. Her lifetime record at the Australian is 9-3, her best among the Slams. Her game is beautifully balanced, her movement ballerina-like, and her competitive intensity strong. She began 2005 by winning three matches without loss at Hopman Cup but then lost to Chinese player Peng at Sydney.

KUZNETSOVA (odds 7-1)

Svetlana, now just 19, lists at the same height as Myskina but at 30 pounds heavier. The extra poundage is solid bone and muscle, suggesting readiness to sustain two weeks of heavy duty in the Aussie sun. Kuznetsova won U.S. Open last September with loss of just one set (to Lindsay Davenport in the semis). But her year ended disappointingly with two losses at Los Angeles and two more in the final round of Fed Cup, all indoors.


The above four are the glamour candidates--Serena and three Slam winners of 2004. But there are several other elite women stars, all capable of defeating any of the above players or several of them in sequence. Several have injuries that could reduce their effectiveness.

MAURESMO (odds 10-1)

Amelie played in her first Slam nearly ten years ago but she is still just age 25. She played consistently well after returning from back trouble in spring 2004, winning the German, Italian, and Canadian Opens and finishing the year #2 in the WTA point standings. Mauresmo finished the year strongly, winning in Philadelphia and losing a close semi-final to Serena in Los Angeles. She is battling a mid-section injury.

DAVENPORT (odds 10-1)

At age 28, Davenport is starting to think about retirement. Her yen to win remains strong, however, as she returned from foot surgery and a hamstring strain to attain first place in the WTA points standings for 2004. Her best assets are her power serve and groundstrokes, which work well in Melbourne, where she is better able to set up for her artillery than on faster surfaces. (She won AusOpen in 2000, and she won four matches there last year before losing to eventual champion Henin-Hardenne.) Recent knee trouble is a concern, and she withdrew at Sydney with bronchitis.

MOLIK (odds 20-1)

Alicia Molik, now 23, has been a rising Australian star for several years. Always favored with a splendid serve, she raised her results sharply in the second half of 2004. She defeated Myskina for third place in the Olympics, and she won the Tier One at Zurich with a final-round victory over Sharapova. She plays aggressively and at nearly six feet tall can be an effective presence at net. Like Myskina, Alicia won three matches without loss in Hopman Cup team play to start the New Year, and this week she reached the final at Sydney.

DEMENTIEVA (odds 25-1)

Elena, 23, is another near-six-footer whose court movement and power groundstrokes are in the class of the other Russians mentioned here. She is handicapped in her serve, which is erratic and seldom forcing, but she finished 2004 ranked #6, showing runner-up finishes in two Slams. It is hard to imagine that her serve will not improve in 2005. She withdrew this week at Sydney, citing the heat.

VENUS WILLIAMS (odds 50-1)

At 24, Venus's magnificent mobility and striking power remain, but the unorthodoxies in her techniques seem to have limited her improvement. She has not won a Slam since 2001. For Venus 2004 was not a good year, marked by an assortment of injuries and disappointing performances. She has not competed in over two months.


It is difficult to choose against any of the highest-seeded players in each section, except that by recent form Molik has at least an even chance of unseating Venus in the second section. By custom we pick upsets in four sections--Sprem over Davenport, Molik over Venus, Zvonareva over Kuznetsova, and Petrova over Serena.

--Davenport, Sprem, Likhovsteva, Kostanic
--V. Williams, Molik, Smashnova, Jankovic
--Myskina, Schiavone, Dechy, Raymond
--Dementieva, Schnyder, Golovin, Hantuchova
--Kuznetsova, Zvonareva, Zuluaga, Dulko
--Sharapova, Farina Elia, Pierce, Asagoe
--S. Williams, Petrova, Maleeva, Pennetta
--Mauresmo, Sugiyama, Frazier, Benesova

The late rounds should go this way. Molik over Sprem, Dementieva over Myskina, Sharapova over Zvonareva, and Mauresmo over Petrova. Winners in the semis should be Dementieva and Sharapova. Sharapova should win the all-Russian final.


Our count of matches won by nation will include the singles, doubles and the mixed. Without question Russia will win the most matches among the women. On the men's side, the Americans with Roddick, Agassi, and strength in doubles should prevail. It will be interesting to watch the success of the Chinese women, whose readiness to compete at high level is becoming evident.

One expects that the tennis people of the world, in watching and sharing what should be a magnificent sporting event, will exemplify a standard for international relations in the larger realms.

--Ray Bowers
Arlington, Virginia, USA

FOOTNOTE: Here are the weights used for predicting AusOpen 2005, from five years of correlations data.

--AusOpen 04, 14.09%
--Indian Wells 04, 0.53%
--Miami 04, 7.70%
--Monte Carlo 04, 0.60%
--Italian 04, 2.51%
--German 04, 0.66%
--Garros 04, 1.76%
--Wimb 04, 13.44%
--Canada 04, 7.03%
--Cincy 04, 5.12%
--Olympics 04, 0.12%
--U.S.Open 04, 21.54%
--Madrid ind 04, 7.35%
--Paris ind 04, 5.72%
--Mast Cup 04, 9.06%
--Aus tun-up 05, 2.76%
Total 100.0%

The weighted scores are dimensionless but are loosely related to the probable number of matches each player is likely to win at AusOpen 05. Conversion of the scores to probability and numerical odds for winning the tournament requires an indexing--in this case to Federer's 3-5 odds for triumphing--along with adjustment to reach overall sum of probabilities 1.0. Federer's probability for triumphing is from his overall and his weighted W-L percentages in the predictor events raised to the seventh power.

Green DotGreen DotGreen Dot

Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2015

If you have not already signed up to receive our free e-mail newsletter Tennis Server INTERACTIVE, you can sign up here. You will receive notification each month of changes at the Tennis Server and news of new columns posted on our site.

This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.


Web tennisserver.com
nodot nodot
The Tennis Server
Ticket Exchange

Your Source for tickets to professional tennis & golf events.
Australian Open Tickets
Dallas Open Tickets
Delray Beach Open Tickets
ATX Open Tickets
Mexican Open Tickets
BNP Paribas Open Tickets
Miami Open Tickets
Credit One Charleston Open Tickets
US Men's Clay Court Championships Tickets
Wimbledon Tickets
Citi Open Tennis Tournament Tickets
Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Tickets
National Bank Open Womens Tennis Canada Tickets
Odlum Brown Van Open r Tickets
Tennis In The Land Tickets
US Open Tennis Championship Tickets
Laver Cup Vancouver Tickets


Popular Tennis books:
Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis-Lessons from a Master by Brad Gilbert, Steve Jamison
The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald
The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
Most Recent Articles:
October 2022 Tennis Anyone: Patterns in Doubles by John Mills.
September 2022 Tennis Anyone: Short Court by John Mills.




"Tennis Server" is a registered trademark and "Tennis Server INTERACTIVE" is a trademark of Tennis Server. All original material and graphics on the Tennis Server are copyrighted 1994 - by Tennis Server and its sponsors and contributors. Please do not reproduce without permission.

The Tennis Server receives a commission on all items sold through links to Amazon.com.


Tennis Server
Cliff Kurtzman
791 Price Street #144
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Phone: (281) 480-6300
Online Contact Form
How to support Tennis Server as a Sponsor/Advertiser
Tennis Server Privacy Policy