Arnaud Clement - Clement lost in the first round, and I quickly made unseeded Marat Safin my back-up choice. Safin's the quarterfinalist. Partial credit? Thank you.
Andre Agassi - Although I'm not as confident as I was about his chances to win it all, Agassi has made quick work of his opponents so far. I can't complain about that.
Dominik Hrbaty - I was trying to be crafty here, trying to pick the unexpected that always happens at the Australian. Although unseeded, Hrbaty—unlike the top seed in this section, Rainer Schuettler—had been playing awfully well. I just got too smart for myself. I was right to disregard Schuettler. I just shouldn't have overlooked the other seeds in the section, including Sebastien Grosjean—the actual quarterfinalist.
Martin Verkerk - They'll be using this pick at my competency hearing soon. Obviously, it wasn't Verkerk, who lost in the first round. It also wasn't Mark Philippoussis, my back-up choice. The actual quarterfinalist is Morocco's Hicham Arazi. (But, really, on January 17, was Arazi any more plausible as the quarterfinalist than Verkerk?)
Juan Carlos Ferrero - I hope tennis fans will stop saying that Ferrero's a clay-court specialist. He's not. He plays well on clay, hard courts, even grass. As I guessed, he's into the quarters.
David Nalbandian - I was right about this one, too. In fact, Nalbandian hasn't lost a set during the tournament. I'm still sweet on the Argentinian.
Lleyton Hewitt - This is the pick that I really want back ('cause, unlike Verkerk/Arazi, I actually could've gotten this one right). I should've just gone with the odds and the super-talented Roger Federer. I'm sure I was right about Hewitt's being hungry. I was just wrong about his being good enough to beat Federer.
So, I actually got five of the eight men's quarterfinalists correct. That's not great, but it's respectable—especially considering that (i) Safin was a good back-up choice and (ii) no one could rightly have expected me to pick Arazi as a quarterfinalist.
As for the rest of the tournament, I now see:
Semifinals: Roddick vs. Agassi (as I predicted from the outset); Ferrero vs. Federer (as I should've predicted from the outset).
Final: Agassi vs. Federer.
The match of the tournament ought to be the semifinal between Roddick and Agassi. The winner of that should take it all. (If Arazi wins it all, I'll consider hanging up the crystal tennis ball for good.)
Lindsay Davenport - I got this one right, too. Woo hoo! (Indulge me, ok? I won't get too many chances to do that.) As I said in my initial predictions, it's a shame that Davenport must meet up with Henin-Hardenne in the quarters. Davenport's playing well enough to be in a final....
Amelie Mauresmo - Yessss, three in a row! Unfortunately for Mauresmo, her tournament must end in the quarters due to a back injury. She looked like a real contender.
Elena Dementieva - Um, no, I didn't get this one right. In fact, I had Fabiola Zuluaga, the 32nd seed and actual(!) quarterfinalist, losing in the first round. I guess she showed me. At least give me credit for saying that this was "an interesting section of the draw," ok? Both my original pick, Elena Dementieva, and my back-up pick, Magdalena Maleeva, lost as soon as I sent positive vibes their way. (Seriously, Maleeva lost about 40 minutes after I mentioned her.)
Ai Sugiyama - This one didn't work out, either. Sugiyama lost to countrywoman Saori Obata in the second round. I didn't make a back-up pick; even if I had, it wouldn't have been Patty Schnyder, the actual quarterfinalist. Sigh.
Venus Williams - Well, I didn't get this one right, either. But give me a break! There's no way any sensible prognosticator would've picked doubles specialist Lisa Raymond over Venus Williams. (I'm thrilled for Raymond, by the way. Her hometown is about 90 seconds away from my apartment.)
Chanda Rubin - I'm always picking Rubin, and she's always disappointing me (not to mention herself). This time, though, she put up a real fight, losing to actual quarterfinalist Anastasia Myskina in three sets in the Round of 16. (In my defense, I said Myskina wasn't a slouch.)
Kim Clijsters - Clijsters is through, and very easily. I'm thinking she isn't as injured as many thought. In fact, I think she's an actual contender for the title.
In the end, I correctly predicted only four of the eight actual quarterfinalists. That's not good. Aside from Myskina, whom I really should've picked (and seriously considered picking), I just don't think I could ever have done much better at this tournament, though. Zuluaga, Schnyder, and Raymond? They've made the tournament exciting, but I could never have seen them doing it. How about you?
Since there've been so many, er, changes, let me update my picks for the second weekend:
Semifinals: Henin-Hardenne vs. Zuluaga (who's already in with Mauresmo's injury); Raymond vs. Clijsters.
Final: Henin-Hardenne vs. Clijsters.
Champion: Henin-Hardenne (this pick hasn't changed, he said self-consciously).
How did I do with my first-round picks? Of the 64 men's matches in the first round, I correctly picked the winner in 41. That's just a tad over 64%. Given the number of upsets, I guess I should be pleased with this result, but I'm not all atwitter or anything. It's actually the worst I've done in a year of Grand Slam forecasting. At last year's Wimbledon, for instance, I correctly picked about two-thirds of the matches. (I'm really not far behind that now, I know.) And at last year's U.S. Open, I correctly picked over 73% of the first-round men's matches. So, what I'm saying is this: I've done better. Sigh. (As always, to save myself a few dozen hours and a few dozen more gray hairs, I didn't make picks in every first-round women's match. I just haven't figured out a way go about picking matches between the likes of Camille Pin and Tathiana Garbin; Akiko Morigami and Marie-Eve Pelletier; and Evie Dominikovic and Trudi Musgrave. I pay enough attention to men's tennis to cope with Michal Tabara and Glenn Weiner, but Angelika Bachmann and Tatiana Perebiynis? Sorry.)
How are my projected quarterfinalists doing? Again, I'm not doing quite as well as I normally do. On the men's side, I've already lost two of my quarterfinalists—and, crazily enough, I'd seen one of them going on to the semis. Egad. First, Arnaud Clement (#30) was upset by Russia's Nikolay Davydenko. But you know what? I just can't feel too bad about it. After all, I correctly predicted that the other three seeds in this section of the draw (Carlos Moya, Nicolas Massu, and Mardy Fish) wouldn't advance beyond the first round. I was supposed to see that Clement, the final seed in that section, would go, too? Golly. At least the match with Davydenko went five good sets. Obviously, this section of the draw is now open wider than most dental patients. Given Clement's loss, I'll just have to go with my back-up choice, the wildly inconsistent Marat Safin.
My other botched men's pick was one I should've seen coming. Martin Verkerk (#17) lost to the Spanish veteran Alex Corretja in four routine sets. Obviously, given the way I had to go on and on justifying the pick to myself, I had some doubts. The problem is that there was never anyone in this section of the draw who was really a logical candidate for the quarterfinals. Obviously, there still isn't. The injured fifth seed, Guillermo Coria, lost in the first round. The remaining seeds in the section are #26 Albert Costa, whose win (attaboy!) over Greg Rusedski in the first round was the highlight of the first week (and maybe of all of 2004) for me, and #10 Mark Philippoussis. Costa is mostly a clay-courter, and Philippoussis hasn't been playing that well lately. I'm going to take Philippoussis now, but my confidence is shaky, you know?
On the women's side, one of my projected quarterfinalists—Elena Dementieva (#7)—lost (to Jelena Jankovic). As I said on Sunday, this was an interesting section of the draw. It definitely is now. Not only is this section now lacking Dementieva, but it's also missing #10 Nadia Petrova. I think that probably paves the way for the steady Magdalena Maleeva (#24), who has been around longer than the Rolling Stones (ok, I exaggerate), to advance.
How'd I do with the projected upsets? On the men's side, I saw five upsets. One couldn't actually happen, as the injured Carlos Moya withdrew before play began. Of the remaining four, I was right about three. I'll take that anytime. Absolutely. Jarkko Nieminen defeated #12 Nicolas Massu; #21 Mardy Fish lost to the big-serving Ivo Karlovic, last seen upsetting Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon; and Cyril Saulnier defeated the injured Guillermo Coria (#5). And as I said above, I was absolutely delighted to be wrong about the result of the Costa-Rusedski match.
On the women's side, I whiffed. I only predicted one upset, and it didn't happen. Fabiola Zuluaga, seeded #32, pretty systematically destroyed Shinobu Asagoe. Oh, well.
Were there upsets I didn't forecast? You bet there were. This is actually a big reason why I managed to predict only 64% of the first-round matches. There were a lot of upsets that I didn't have—including, of course, Davydenko's win over Clement and Corretja's upset of Verkerk. I also didn't see Galo Blanco's upset of (the apparently injured) Younes El Aynaoui (#18); Thomas Enqvist's upset of #29 Vince Spadea; Gaston Gaudio's victory over #20 Tommy Robredo (hey, at least I said this was a tasty first-round match); Robin Soderling's upset of #6 Rainer Schuettler; Andrei Pavel's win over #24 Max Mirnyi; the loss of #28 Feliciano Lopez to Alberto Martin; Thierry Ascione's win over #23 Felix Mantilla; and Sargis Sargsian's upset of #25 Jonas Bjorkman. Gee! I'm particularly annoyed with myself for not picking Enqvist and Soderling to win. I've been big on both players in the past, but I gave up on them when I shouldn't have. Grrr.
On the women's side, there were also unforeseen upsets galore: qualifier Mara Santangelo's upset of #16 Magui Serna; Nicole Pratt's win #17 Meghann Shaughnessy; Laura Granville's win over #31 Tamarine Tanasurgarn; qualifier Yuliana Fedak's upset of #26 Tina Pisnik (I'm still asking who she is, by the way); Aniko Kapros's win over Petrova; Jankovic's upset of Dementieva; and Kristina Brandi's win over veteran Conchita Martinez (#13). There's some comfort in the fact that I thought the Pratt-Shaughnessy and Granville-Tanasugarn match-ups were tasty, but it's small comfort. Small, small, small.
How'd my qualifiers and wild cards do? Not so bad, actually. Maybe I should just stick to predicting qualifying, huh? Wild cards Wayne Arthurs and Nicolas Escude won, as I—and everyone else—thought. And three of the four qualifiers that I mentioned—Berdych, Vacek (a lucky loser), and Mayer—advanced. And just to make myself feel better, let me mention this, too: On my draw, I picked qualifier Jeff Morrison to defeat Dennis van Scheppingen, and he did. I simply forgot to mention Morrison in my first post. ("Yeah, right," you're saying.)
So, in the end, I could've done better. Given how crazy the results often are at the Australian Open, I probably should be satisfied with what I've done. But I'm not. Still, I'm looking forward to 10+ more days of good Grand Slam tennis.
Justine Henin-Hardenne (seeded #1) - There's simply no one in this portion of the draw who can challenge the world No. 1. She won't even have to play well to make the quarterfinals.
Lindsay Davenport (#5) - Davenport seems to be healthy, and I could easily see her in the final if she weren't in the same quarter of the draw as Henin-Hardenne. As it is, she's a cinch for the quarterfinals.
Amelie Mauresmo (#4) - The other seeds in this section—Daniela Hantuchova, Elena Bovina, and Tina Pisnik (who?)—just can't compete with the Frenchwoman.
Elena Dementieva (#7) - This is an interesting section of the draw. None of the seeds seems terribly likely to make it to the second week. Dementieva is the best of the bunch. In my mind, the quarterfinalist will be the winnder of the third-round match between Dementieva and Japan's Shinobu Asagoe, whose form is excellent right now.
Ai Sugiyama (#8) - I just don't see anyone else in this portion of the draw who can compete with the sound Sugiyama.
Venus Williams (#3) - Ok, let me get this out of the way. I completely don't understand why the Open, on the apparent advice of the WTA Tour, felt it was necessary to bump up the eleventh-ranked Venus in the seedings simply because sister Serena withdrew. Is there a special, secret Williams seeding rule that we should know about? That said, Venus is surely the class of this section of the draw. And that's a pretty remarkable thing to say, since we haven't seen Venus play in six months.
Chanda Rubin (#9) - Finally, I break out of the mold—a little bit. You've probably noticed that I've picked the top-seeded player in every section of the draw so far. But give me a break, ok? Women's tennis, especially when there are 32 seeds, is just so according-to-Hoyle. In this section of the draw, it all comes down to Rubin and Anastasia Myskina (#6). I have a soft spot for Rubin, and I like the way she played at the Sydney tune-up. Myskina's no slouch, though.
Kim Clijsters (#2) - Clijsters has an ankle injury, so it's hard to know just how well she'll compete in Melbourne Park. If she were in tip-top shape, she'd probably have been my pick to win it all. As it is, I'm confident that she'll make the quarters, but I'm less confident after that.
Here's how I see the end of the second week:
Semifinals: Henin-Hardenne vs. Mauresmo; Venus Williams vs. Clijsters.
Final: Henin-Hardenne vs. Venus Williams.
And here are a few other things to watch for:
First-round upsets: Ok, let's make that first-round upset. The only one I see is Asagoe over #32 Fabiola Zuluaga. And don't get me started on why someone like Zuluaga is seeded. Grrr. (With all those seeds, there are never going to be many upsets in today's women's game.) I had to look Zuluaga up in the WTA's media guide to even have any idea what kind of game she played.
Other tasty first-round matches: I wish there were more. But I like Els Callens vs. Cara Black; Nicole Pratt vs. #17 Meghann Shaughnessy; #31 Tamarine Tanasugarn vs. Laura Granville; Karolina Sprem vs. #23 Lina Krasnoroutskaya; and Katarina Srebotnik vs. Virginia Ruano Pascual. Yawn.
It's time to watch some tennis. If only I could watch during my waking hours....
Andy Roddick (seeded #1) - The new year hasn't been that kind to Roddick (he lost to Jonas Bjorkman in Qatar), and he finds himself in a tough, tough section of the draw. I see him getting past people like Fernando Gonzalez, Taylor Dent, and Sjeng Schalken to reach the final eight. But it won't be easy.
Arnaud Clement (#30) - The top seed in this section of the draw is #7 Carlos Moya, who has been en fuego (sorry about that) in 2004. Moya, though, badly injured his ankle in a tournament in Sydney this weekend. He looks doubtful for the Open now. I think the other seeds in the section—Nicolas Massu and Mardy Fish—are good candidates for first-round upsets. That leaves Clement, a one-time finalist. If the quarterfinalist isn't Clement, the wildly inconsistent Marat Safin, another former finalist, is a fair back-up choice.
Andre Agassi (#4) - At 33, Agassi is the defending champion. He seems to be as fit as ever, and—at least until a few hours ago—his form coming in to the Open appeared to be unimpeachable. Even with the fresh loss to David Nalbandian, Agassi has to be the player to beat in this section of the draw. Only Paradorn Srichaphan or my favorite dark horse, Ivan Ljubicic, seems to stand in Agassi's way.
Dominik Hrbaty (unseeded) - No, I haven't taken leave of my senses. Hrbaty is undefeated in 2004 tournament action. That's got to count for something, right? Save perhaps for #20 Tommy Robredo, no one else in this section of the draw looks anything like a potential quarterfinalist. The top seed in the section, Rainer Schuettler, just hasn't impressed lately.
Martin Verkerk (#17) - Ok, maybe I have taken leave of my senses. Verkerk catapulted to prominence at last year's French Open, where he somehow made the final. He spent the rest of the year looking like he didn't belong in the Top 100. Still, he's suddenly looking pretty good again, and there's really no one else in this section who's a much more plausible quarterfinalist. The top seed in the section, Guillermo Coria, is injured. In addition to the big-serving Verkerk, the remainining candidates are the big-serving Wayne Arthurs and the big-serving Mark Philippoussis. In what came down to a choice between Verkerk and Philippoussis, Verkerk's recent form (somehow) made the difference for me. But, truly, I won't be surprised by anyone who comes out of this section of the draw. In fact, the winner of the tasty first-round match between Raemon Sluiter and Mario Ancic could well be the man. Oh, and one more reason to feel less than confident about Verkerk as the choice: He retired during a match this weekend, citing dizziness. I'm hoping it was just a 24-hour stomach bug.
Juan Carlos Ferrero (#3) - At about this point in looking at the draw, I began to feel dizzy. I mean, really. Look what I've just done: I've put Dominik Hrbaty and then Martin Verkerk in the quarters. Now, I'm putting Ferrero there, too, even though he lost in the first round of the warm-up event in Sydney to someone named Chris Guccione. Still, the draw looks pretty favorable to Ferrero, and I expect to see him in the second week—if only briefly. If the quarterfinalist isn't Ferrero, it might well be #24 Max Mirnyi.
David Nalbandian (#8) - Well, I'm on somewhat firmer ground now, I think. This section of the draw seems to lead, inevitably, to a Round of 16 match between Nalbandian and Britain's Tim Henman. Heman's form is good right now, but Nalbandian's seems to be a touch better. I'm sweet on the Argentinian.
Lleyton Hewitt (#15) - Everyone sensible is picking #2 Roger Federer as the last quarterfinalist. I gave up on being sensible about the time I was picking Martin Verkerk. I think Federer is probably the most talented player out there, and that could be all that matters. Still, Federer's playing without a coach right now, and my gut feeling is that he won't be able to get by Hewitt—the most motivated player on the tour right now (the former No. 1 must be fuming about being ranked outside the Top 10). Hewitt won the tune-up in Sydney, and I like his form. In fact, I think he might just be the player to watch all year long.
Here's what the rest of the tournament looks like to me:
Semifinals: Roddick vs. Agassi; Verkerk(!) vs. Hewitt.
Final: Agassi vs. Hewitt.
And here are a few miscellaneous picks:
First-round upsets: I like Jarkko Nieminen over #12 Nicolas Massu; Ivo Karlovic over #21 Mardy Fish; James Blake over the ailing Moya; Cyril Saulnier over the ailing Coria; and Greg Rusedski over #26 Albert Costa.
Other tasty first-round matches: Roddick vs. Gonzalez; wily veteran Kenneth Carlsen vs. Schalken; #9 Sebastien Grosjean v. Mikhail Youzhny; #20 Tommy Robredo vs. Gaston Gaudio; and, as mentioned, Sluiter vs. Ancic (I'm serious!).
Qualifiers and wild cards most likely to have an impact: Two players who shouldn't have needed wild cards—the big-serving Arthurs and Frenchman Nicolas Escude, who won this year in Qatar—should find themselves in the second or third rounds. As for actual qualifiers who ought to win a round against non-qualifiers, I'm picking Gilles Muller, Tomas Berdych, Jan Vacek (actually a lucky loser!), and Florian Mayer. (For the record, there are three other matches where qualifiers or wildcards meet their brethren.)
Tomorrow morning, I'll take a quick look at the women's draw.
1. What does it say in the signature line of your emails? I typically just use an informational signature line, but I am fond of this line from a Fred Eaglesmith song: You're spooking the horses, and you're scaring me.
2. Did you have a senior quote in your high school yearbook? No. I didn't even realize that any high school yearbooks still did that. How Class of 1957. If I could go back to 1984 now, I think I'd choose something like this: I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions. (That's a lyric from Elvis Costello's "Every Day I Write the Book," of course.)
3. If you had vanity plates on your car, what would they read? I would never purchase vanity plates. If I did, they'd have to say SOVAIN.
4. Have you received any gifts with messages engraved upon them? What did the inscription say? Happily, my friends and family don't shop at Things Remembered. That really cuts down on the number of engraved flasks and lighters that I receive.
5. What would you like your epitaph to be? Hey, you're in my personal space! (As my friends and co-workers know, I'm big on preserving my personal space.)
Nope, still straw.
And don't get me started on the good people who spend their time learning Klingon.
I have a chance to go to Utah this summer for a conference, and I may take that opportunity to visit Jetty. Who wants to join me?
By the way, I'm not saying that all of these songs are particularly interesting or worthy of thought or good. They just make me smile.
1. ...today? Sleep. Is that sad or what? But I stayed up, all night long, playing poker one night last week, and I'm still paying the price. Getting old is evil, huh?
2. ...over the next week? I'm headed to a Flyers game in the coming week, and I can't wait. The Fly-boys have had a great season, except for a little bit of a rough patch in December, and I'm psyched. (Yes, that's sort of an answer to Steve's question in the comments of my last post.) Plus, thanks to a generous Christmas gift, I have super seats.
3. ...this year? This is a tough one. I haven't made any real plans for 2004 yet. I intend to make a little trip to Chicago in the spring, and I'm sure I'll take a real vacation or two later in the year. (I might even go to my high school class's, gulp, 20th reunion. Surely, though, that won't be the high point of the year.) At this point, all I can say is that I'm looking forward to an adventure or two this year.
4. ...over the next five years? I'll turn 40 in 2006, and it recently occurred to me that I can plan my own party. As long as I choose something fairly reasonable, friends and family will feel obligated to go along. Hee. I'm thinking the party should be in Honolulu or Miami or London. Santa Fe, maybe. I've got time to plan. Feel free to send suggestions.
5. ...for the rest of your life? This is the toughest one of all, of course. I'll just say something sappy, ok? I'm looking forward to spending more and more time with good, good friends. (Ah, how sweet.)
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