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Men's Australian Open: Five potential first round upsets

Can Lleyton Hewitt keep his Kooying form going at Melbourne Park?

"The Aussie proved last year with good performances against Novak Djokovic both here and at the Olympics that he can still mix it with the best when fit.."

The opening matches in the 2013 Australian Open begin on Sunday night and tennis expert Sean Calvert has selected five matches where the favourite may not have it all his own way..

Finding an attractively priced underdog in the first round in Melbourne is no easy proposition, as history shows.

Last year, of the 64 first round matches, there was only one winner at 4.03/1 or bigger and that was Nicolas Mahut, who beat Radek Stepanek and just five others at 3.02/1 or bigger. And it was a similar story in 2011 when there were a total of five winners at 3.02/1 or bigger.

But, as ever there are plenty of matches that have the look of upsets about them that should make great trades at least and here are my top five:

Florian Mayer 1.222/9 v Rhyne Williams 5.104/1
The German is certainly far from at home in Melbourne, where he has only once made the last 32 and he has suffered some severe thrashings here over the years too. He was beaten convincingly by Jack Sock in the first round in his most recent Slam appearance and another young American could give him a tough time here. Williams is highly thought of and had to earn his place in Melbourne through the USTA Wild Card play-offs. The 21-year-old has had some solid wins lately and if Mayer is off his game - which can happen on a regular basis - then Williams is more than capable of taking advantage. Mayer's warm up tournaments haven't gone well and I wouldn't be anywhere near backing him to win this at 1.222/9.

Marinko Matosevic 5.104/1 v Marin Cilic 1.222/9
At a similar price to Mayer is Marin Cilic, who faces a rematch of the first round US Open match last year in which he was two sets down to Marinko Matosevic. The Aussie has improved his ranking considerably of late and will be keen for another shot at Cilic after blowing that lead in New York. Cilic's one tournament appearance in 2013 resulted in a bad loss to Benoit Paire in Chennai and he has shown on a number of occasions that he's vulnerable in the early stages of Grand Slams. This one could well go long again, as Cilic will give Matosevic the rhythm that he likes and he has a shot of the upset at a handy price.

Gilles Muller 2.588/5 v Lukas Lacko 1.625/8
This wouldn't be the biggest upset in the world, but I wouldn't be touching Lacko at that sort of price against pretty much anyone, especially considering that he lost to Muller on clay of all surfaces last year. Muller is a player that tends to save his best for the Slams and although his best usually arrives in New York he could easily take down party boy Lacko, who has nine first round Slam losses to his name already in his career. Oddly, Lacko did make the last 32 here 12 months ago, but the awkward lefty style of big serving Muller could be too much for the Slovak, who will have to be at his best to win.

Lleyton Hewitt 2.427/5 v Janko Tipsarevic 1.684/6
This could be a cracking match and as usual with a Hewitt match there's a high likelihood that this one will go the distance. The Aussie proved last year with good performances against Novak Djokovic both here and at the Olympics that he can still mix it with the best when fit and I'm not convinced that Tipsy has the power to hit through Hewitt with enough regularity to win this. Rusty reckons he's in good shape and he has beaten Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro this week in the exhibition in Kooyong, which although doesn't mean much it does show that he's fit. Hewitt leads the series 3-1 over the Serb and although those matches were a while ago, the underdog will fancy this.

There are three more matches in which there could be a shock and they are David Goffin v Fernando Verdasco, Aljaz Bedene v Benjamin Becker and Grega Zemlja v Marcel Granollers. Bedene isn't a big enough price, while Zemlja may still be unwell, so I'll plump for the former match.

David Goffin 2.466/4 v Fernando Verdasco 1.674/6
This one is a fairly obvious upset chance, with the very talented baby faced Belgian taking on Spanish underachiever Verdasco in their first career meeting. Verdasco has slumped since being involved in a stunning match with Rafa Nadal here in 2009 and for the life of me I have no idea why he's stopped serving as big as he did that day. Neither of these players has much current form, with Verdasco being carried to Hopman Cup glory by Anabel Medina Garrigues having lost three of his four matches. Goffin has taken time to adapt to the tour and he's sometimes a slow starter, which doesn't help in three set matches. Over five sets I like his chances against an out of form Verdasco, who has two wins from his last 12 matches against top-50 ranked opposition.

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12 January 2013

Australian Open

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