Formula 1 writer
Rafa, Roger rivalry could spice up Australian Open
Posted on: 10:55 PM IST Jan 16, 2012 IST
The first day of the first Grand Slam of the new year went off without any major upsets. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal cruised into the second round without much trouble. Fernando Verdasco's five-set loss to local boy Bernard Tomic was the only surprise element of the day. However, considering that Verdasco isn't a force to reckon with as he used to be a few years ago, his loss to a top-40 player isn't such a big deal.
The progress of Federer and Nadal in the opening Major would be interesting in order to get an idea as to the kind of form they are in. The two legends of the modern game were completely overshadowed last year by Novak Djokovic, who won three of the four Grand Slams and went on to dominate the ATP calendar on the whole. Needless to say, both Federer and Nadal would be desperate to avenge their losses to Djokovic at the US Open and Wimbledon respectively. However, before they reach Djokovic, they will need to slug it out against each other in the semi-finals (barring any upset). Their semi-final encounter should be a mouth-watering treat as they have exchanged verbal volleys in the run-up to the Melbourne event.
Going by their last year's end-of-the-season performances, Federer seems to be in a better shape to challenge defending champion Djokovic. The Swiss superstar easily won the Paris Masters and followed it up with another spectacular performance at the ATP Tour Finals in London, which boasted of the top 8 players of the 2011 season.
The other talking point of this tournament is the performance of the newly-formed pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in men's doubles. Bopanna created a stir after he decided to end his partnership with Aisam Ul Haq Qureshi, with whom he had won the Paris Masters, their first major ATP title. At the same time, Bhupathi and Leander Paes ended their reunion after just one season. Bopanna and Bhupathi decided to form this partnership in order to to increase their prospects of winning a medal at the London Olympics. Considering that Paes is still playing quality tennis (he and Tipsarevic won the Chennai Open title a few days ago. Bhupathi and Bopanna lost in the semis in the same tournament), it would be interesting to see which doubles combination makes it to the Olympics.
Back to men's singles and the perennial 'runner up' Andy Murray would be desperate to remove this tag against his name. He wouldn't want to be remembered as yet another British hope who couldn't win a Grand Slam title. Maybe having a multiple Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl as a coach could make that crucial difference. Lendl, during his playing days, was known for his dogged determination and robotic consistency. The next fortnight will tell if Lendl's winning qualities have started showing effect.