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CanIGetAWhat
Jan 20th, 2008, 05:54 PM
Aussie Open's second week could be a stunner

Forecasting no title for Federer and a solid shot at a Williams sisters final

http://msnbcmedia3.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/040521/040521_wms_sisters_hmed8a.hmedium.jpg (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5030768/displaymode/1176/rstry/22756198/)
Venus Williams (left) walks next to her sister Serena as both have their games going at a level where they could meet in the Australian Open final, writes Bud Collins of MSNBC.com.

COMMENTARY
By Bud Collins
MSNBC contributor

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/Components/ColorBoxes/Styles/img/byline_msnbcDotCom.gif
http://msnbcmedia4.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Bylines/mugs/NBC%20Sports/nbcsports_collins_bud_cropped.thumb.jpgBud Collins

MELBOURNE, Australia - The first week of the Australian Open was marked by police macings, multiple upsets, and a match -- Lleyton Hewitt's marathon five-set win over Marcos Baghdatis -- finishing at 4:33 a.m. Even the Ethereal One looked human when Roger Federer barely escaped from Dostoyevsky-reading Serb Janko Tipsarevic 10-8 in the fifth set. All this leaves us primed for some high-octane action in the second week of the year's first major.

Nadal scaling heights on hard courts
Second-seeded Rafael Nadal's chances to reach his first major final on hard courts are looking up. He is in the lower half of the draw, which is clearly the weaker section. Besides Nadal, the other three players who'll take part in the quarterfinals in the lower half are unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 14th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, and 24th-seeded Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, who will go against the Spaniard.

In some ways we never know what to expect of clay king Rafa, but he seems to be improving all the time on the hard stuff. He pulled himself out of some tough holes and hasn't lost a set in the tournament. He's shaken his numerous injuries from last year, too. Nadal caught a break in his fourth-round match when Paul-Henri Mathieu, seeded 23rd, retired at 6-4, 3-0 with a left calf muscle injury after losing 11 of the first 12 points of the second set. Despite such a short outing against Mathieu, Nadal came away from the match in a very positive frame of mind. He played well and afterwards offered that his performance was perhaps his best tennis in Australia this year.

Nadal's form should see him through to the semifinals, where I expect a tough contest against Youzhny, who upset fellow Russian and No. 4 seed Nikolay Davydenko to reach the quarterfinals. Youzhny knocked off Rafa in the 2006 U.S. Open quarterfinals and utterly destroyed him 6-0, 6-1 in the Chennai finals two weeks ago, but the muscular Mallorcan was spent after beating longtime friend and mentor Carlos Moya in a marathon the day before. Youzhny won't find a depleted Nadal this time. Making the final is there for the taking for Nadal.

Djokovic's dream realized at Federer's expense?
Top-ranked Federer looked a tad vulnerable in his third-round win over the 49th-ranked Tipsarevic. Still, he showed that he could lift the quality of his game when he's not at his best, similar to when the top-seeded Swiss came back in the fifth set to beat Nadal at Wimbledon last year. His major susceptibility is that he just hasn't played that much since wining the Masters Cup in Shanghai in November. He missed the Kooyong Classic warm-up exhibition event due to a stomach virus, so this is his first tournament in two months. Federer's fourth-round opponent Tomas Berdych, who is seeded 13th, beat him at the 2004 Olympics, but that was best-of-three sets and I don't see that happening here. Nor do I see the James Blake-Marin Cilic winner stopping the Fed Express in the quarterfinals.

However, Federer's potential semifinal opponent Novak Djokovic is a different matter altogether. The No. 3 Serbian hasn't dropped a set and looks to be on a collision course with Federer in the upper half of the draw even though he'll have a tougher road to travel on his way to a potential showdown against the World No. 1. Aussie Hewitt, the "C'mon!" man, will test the Djokster in the fourth round, especially with the hometown crowd behind him, but expect the 20-year-old Serbian to prevail. Then in the quarterfinals Djokovic will have to grind through the winner of a collision of two Spaniards -- former French Open champ Juan Carlos Ferrero or No. 5 seed David Ferrer.

Then we get what could be the match of the tournament: Federer vs. Djokovic. In my view the winner of this semifinal will go on to become the Australian Open champ. Djokovic is 1-5 against Federer, including last year's U.S. Open final, where he lost in three tight sets. I'm guessing the peer-imitating Djokster is ready to take the next step, and he did beat Federer for the first time on his way to the title in Montreal last August. He's my pick to stop Federer's run of 10 consecutive major finals and win the title here.

A Williams sisters final could be in the cards
The women's draw is heating up, too, and I'm not sure anyone can stop one of the Williams sisters from bringing home the trophy, even though top-ranked Justine Henin is on a 33-match winning streak. The diminutive Belgian remains on form and she's still a slight favorite, but I just feel a Williams is going to win the title. I don't know if it will be defending champ Serena or Venus, but an all-Williams final wouldn't surprise me.

The match between Henin and No. 5 Maria Sharapova will be the marquee quarterfinal clash on the women's side. Former Wimbledon and U.S. Open winner Sharapova is bombing her serve again after struggling with a shoulder injury last season. She pushed Henin in three tough sets at the year-end championships in Madrid and is playing with a lot of confidence. It will come down to execution -- Henin's speed and variety versus Sharapova's bludgeoning baseline power.

Like Henin and Sharapova, No. 7 Serena is in the top half -- and stronger half -- of the draw. She'll face No. 3 Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and should be fresher for whoever survives the Sharapova-Henin battle. In the fourth round, Serena brushed aside last year's Aussie Open semifinalist Nicole Vaidisova, 6-3, 6-4 and looks in fine form, especially her serve, which is the best in women's tennis. Henin managed to beat both Williams sisters on her way to her seventh major title at the 2007 U.S. Open, but the Williams sisters are in better shape now. To get by Sharapova, Serena, and then possibly Venus in the final will be a tall task for the 5-foot-6 Belgian.

Venus will be awful tough to push aside
In the bottom half of the draw, I can't see how anyone can stop Venus from reaching her second Melbourne final. Like the first one in 2003, she might be staring at younger sis Serena from the other side of the net if she gets there. Four-time Wimbledon winner Venus can be erratic, but the No. 8 seed has looked strong and fast through her first three rounds and she only gets better as a tournament progresses.

Surprise round-of-16 opponent Marta Domanchowska of Poland won't offer much resistance to the 27-year-old American. Her biggest test will be No. 4 seed Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals. The 20-year-old Serb mashes her forehand, but hasn't proved to me she's a big-match player yet. Venus is, and stopped Ivanovic at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in straight sets last year and hasn't lost to her in four encounters. I see no break in this pattern.

In the other quarter of the bottom half of the draw, the highest seed remaining heading into the round-of-16 is No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. That after second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova was stunned by 29th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the third round. The 18-year-old took out the Russian in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Whether it's Hantuchova, Maria Kirilenko, Nadia Petrova, or Radwanska in a potential semifinal against Venus, the American won't be derailed. If the final pits Venus against Serena, it's a toss up and a can't-miss match for tennis fans, especially Americans.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

Shoulderpova
Jan 20th, 2008, 05:57 PM
i stopped reading after the second line with him predicting Federer is not going to win

In The Zone
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:01 PM
Awh, Bud. :hug: Like a little grandpa.

Destiny
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:05 PM
Preach--ish

nhissan
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:12 PM
they stole my avatar :p

goldenslam888
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:13 PM
and we know how accurate bud is. good news for the field.

ninanina19
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:26 PM
Thanks Bud, now we know it's not going to happen. And I bet on Venus too.

Wuornos
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:30 PM
Bud Collins Predicts that both the Williams Sisters are playing at a standard where they could meet in the final.

Sorry, if I'm being obtuse but isn't this stating the obvious?

Especialy as the two biggest threats to them, Henin and Sharapova are due to meet each other in the next round.

Tim

serenus_2k8
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:35 PM
:lol: I agree with him that an all williams final wouldnt be surprising. Its ideal draw for Venus tbh and as he mentioned the winner of the Henin - Masha match is likely to be quite a lot more tired, so if Serenas form is on their energy levels will be really drained!! :bounce:

jj74
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:53 PM
I bet on Venus as finalist, Serena i'm not so sure, the top half is very tough

hingis-seles
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:08 PM
I agree with the all-Williams final. Only Henin can stop that. Ugh.

KoOlMaNsEaN
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:12 PM
i stopped reading after the second line with him predicting Federer is not going to win
same here

K-Dog
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:18 PM
He always bets against Rog. And he's almost always wrong. I could see the Williams sisters final happening IF Venus can raise her level 2 notches and improve her footwork. The chances also increase if Maria beats Justine. Maria is a better match-up for Serena than Justine.

dya74
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:31 PM
bud who? what title? :wazzup:

Maria Croft
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:37 PM
Well, I think it's definitely possible here, I don't see anyone stoping Venus in her side of the draw leading up to the final (just maybe Ivanovic) and Serena is playing good tennis as well.

Princeza
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:37 PM
Classic Bud, we now know the winner will not be a Williams.

dya74
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:42 PM
Classic Bud, we now know the winner will not be a Williams.

I was pretty slow, but finally I've got the point: the guy is trying to jinx them :lol:

Princeza
Jan 20th, 2008, 08:02 PM
I was pretty slow, but finally I've got the point: the guy is trying to jinx them :lol:

:lol: yeah the guy is known for his awesome predictions.

tennis ace
Jan 20th, 2008, 08:32 PM
FUCK! why would he say that:(

serenus_2k8
Jan 20th, 2008, 08:42 PM
:lol: I hope it takes more than an article to take the WS out of a slam!

SV_Fan
Jan 20th, 2008, 09:11 PM
I have to see. How has Henin been looking?

Now Serena I love the way she's playing. Hard hitting, sharp angle 01,02,03 tennis. She looks really really good, and I like that. Venus she looks okay to. I am very proud of her. I hope both make the 2nd week of the Open (iT's Sunday here). THat's when they change dramatically.

scoobsuk
Jan 20th, 2008, 09:16 PM
The man hasn't been right since Carter beat Ford for the White House in 1976.

Why they still let him open his mouth and predict is beyond me

By a bizarre series of events we will now end up with a Henin Petrova final.

You heard it here first.

ce
Jan 20th, 2008, 09:22 PM
i love his mens prediciton :inlove:
Novak is gonna be n1 and gonna win GS,Federer cant stop him :devil:

DaMamaJama87
Jan 20th, 2008, 09:39 PM
I agree with Bud for once!

Il Primo!
Jan 20th, 2008, 10:10 PM
I agree with everything he says! I so want Maria or Venus to win, it would be awesome!

venusdemilo
Jan 20th, 2008, 10:27 PM
How many times has Bud Collins been wrong again?

Tennisstar86
Jan 20th, 2008, 10:34 PM
How many times has Bud Collins been wrong again?

Im sure hes due to get one right then now isnt her? lol... I agree with fed possibly losing... I think Blake might knock him out. A couple years ago when fed wasnt losing to anyone he was losing to blake....so i wouldnt be surprised if he loses in the quarters
I have to see. How has Henin been looking?

Now Serena I love the way she's playing. Hard hitting, sharp angle 01,02,03 tennis. She looks really really good, and I like that. Venus she looks okay to. I am very proud of her. I hope both make the 2nd week of the Open (iT's Sunday here). THat's when they change dramatically.

Henin hasnt looked that sharp.... Especially when closing her matches..... shes gotten tight in all the 1rst 4 rounds...

Buitenzorg
Jan 20th, 2008, 10:37 PM
He's only human same like the rest of us

I don't agree with his predictions

YES, The Williamses are playing great tennis at the moment, but this is tennis! and anything can happen in tennis

I know VENUS is the favorite to reach the finals, but please don;t forget Ivanovic, Hantuchova, Kirilenko and Radwanska are waiting for her!

SERENA also has a chhance to reach the finals, BUT HENIN, SHARAPOVA and JANKOVIC will fight for the place in the finals as well!

RenaGOAT
Jan 21st, 2008, 01:29 AM
I was going to give a sarcastic reply about Bud going out on a limb with the Williams pick... but he's picking against Fed too, so I'll cut him some slack. Maybe not the smartest call, but certainly a gutsy one.

LeonHart
Jan 22nd, 2008, 03:34 AM
haha Bud strikes again :)

homogenius
Jan 22nd, 2008, 04:06 AM
poor old man...

dylan24
Jan 22nd, 2008, 04:20 AM
bud collins is a douchebag who is always wrong w/ his predictions

sweetpeas
Jan 22nd, 2008, 04:24 AM
Nice job J.J !!!!!!!!!!Jelena on the way to her first slams.GREAT JOB JELENA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LeonHart
Jan 23rd, 2008, 03:02 AM
Bud STRIKES AGAIN! (Bwahaha)

bye bye williams right after he makes his prediction :sad:

dylan24
Jan 23rd, 2008, 03:06 AM
go fuck yourself bud.
you couldn't pick your nose

homogenius
Jan 23rd, 2008, 03:19 AM
well done bud...:worship:

ZeroSOFInfinity
Jan 23rd, 2008, 03:53 AM
The "prediction killer" Bud Collins, ladies and gentleman....

A piece of advice... don't try again. :lol:

dwynn10
Jan 23rd, 2008, 06:00 AM
This doddering guy's predictions have been a joke. The only thing predictable about his predictions is how wrong they've been over and over again.

Polikarpov
Jan 23rd, 2008, 09:51 AM
Bud Collins' jinx strikes again.

Prizeidiot
Jan 23rd, 2008, 10:12 AM
It's just stunning with all the dominance of Justine and Roger in recent times that he could have picked wrong every time in the past 5 years or so.

Roger's just dodged a bullet with his mid Open switch to Novak.

clementine
Jan 23rd, 2008, 05:02 PM
The Bud Collins curse lives! Players must live in fear of Collins calling their name. No wonder Federer avoided him at the French Open. :lol:

Aravanecaravan
Jan 23rd, 2008, 05:12 PM
You guys should know better than to trust a guy who picks out pants like that...

:haha: