I didn’t have great luck with my predictions on Day 1 but in my defense, it was a while since we saw them play a Grand Slam (especially given the hectic tennis calendar). Nonetheless, I’ve had better luck since and am here with my predictions for the final weekend.
Mixed Doubles Final: (Sunday, 31st January, 2010)
Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky vs. Cara Black and Leander Paes
The unseeded Europeans come up against the top-seeded pair in this final. Black and Paes had a tough semifinal and at many times looked like they could be out of it, but came through after two tough tiebreaks and a super tiebreak. In sharp contrast, Makarova and Levinsky cruised through the first set without dropping a game, lost the second set and came back strong to win the super tiebreak 10-8. It’s a tough call between the two, but I think the pair from India/Zimbabwe will pull through, if only on experience.
Prediction: Black and Paes in the super tie break.
Men’s Doubles Final: (Saturday, 30th January, 2010 following ladies' singles)
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan vs. Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic
Both the ladies and the men’s doubles finals have the No. 1 and 2 teams facing off. On the ladies side, it was the No. 2 pair Williams sisters winning it, but it may be a different story here. The Bryan brothers are high on confidence in their first Grand Slam tournament since they regained their No. 1 ranking, and they’re hungry to hold on to it. Both teams had tough quarterfinals, making it through on tie breaks, but the Bryans did it a little bit better. They should be adequately rested for this final though, having relatively simple semi finals. It’ll be interesting to see who takes the first set, as it may set the tone of the match.
Prediction: The Bryans in the three tough-fought sets.
Ladies Singles Final: (Saturday, 30th January, 2010)
1930 Melbourne Time, 4:30 a.m. Eastern Time
Serena Williams vs. Justine Henin
The wildcard Justine Henin has shown the true spirit of the game. Coming back after her 20-month self imposed exile, Henin is in already in her second consecutive championship match. On the way to the Aussie Open Final this year, she has claimed the scalps of Jie Zheng, Elena Dementieva (in the second round, no less), Yanina Wickmayer and Nadia Petrova (who took out the reigning US Open queen Kim Clijsters). She’s toiled through some of them, used tact through others, but in her semifinal match against Zheng she used sheer class and brilliance and walked all over her opponent 6-1 6-0, not dropping a single game after the opener.
Serena Williams, however, is quite another story. She’s a genius player, a fighter, and a winner. As the defending champion here, she recently became world No. 1 and is also the top seed. She defended her doubles crown with sister Venus and is looking for her fifth Australian Open championship. She had a tough match with Li Na in the semifinal, but came through after two tie breaks. She knows the ropes, has the experience, and has the desire.
It’s as tough a call as any between these two, with Serena leading the head-to-head history 7-6. It is interesting to note though that in the last five times these two have played, as well as in the last five Grand Slam meetings they’ve had, Henin leads 3-2. This is the first time they play each other in the Australian Open, but as Henin said, if she wants to become a Grand Slam champion again, it is only fitting that she beat the best in the world to do it.
Prediction: Henin in three sets.
Men’s Singles Final: (Sunday, 31st January, 2010)
Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray
The match that everyone wanted at last year’s Wimbledon will finally be played out on Sunday at Rod Laver Arena. Murray, long called a contender has to prove he isn’t just another pretender. Federer has a chance to make it 16 Grand Slams.
Murray made it quietly through his draw. Without much fuss or expectation, the Scottish lad had a relatively flip-floppy last year, rising as high as No. 2 and subsequently falling to No. 5. The one big hurdle he faced, defending champion Rafael Nadal, succumbed to a knee injury in their quarterfinal and Murray must’ve heaved a sigh of relief. Marin Cilic, who had to go through Juan Martin Del Potro and Roddick, not to mention a brilliant Bernard Tomic, could not match the Scot in their semifinal and, despite his early lead and perhaps due to fatigue from his many five set matches, fell to Murray in four sets. For the second time in his career, Andy Murray is at the brink of tasting Grand Slam success.
Meanwhile, Federer has had the toughest draw amongst the top seeds, starting off with Igor Andreev. He dropped a set early, but shook off the early nerves and marched on 6-0 in the fourth set to wrap up the match. He had an easy couple of matches against Victor Hanescu and Albert Montanes before he reached the round of 16. Federer was placed against former No. 1 but currently 22nd-seeded Lleyton Hewitt. The difference in their rankings wasn’t key though, as everyone knows a Grand Slam champion on a good day is as good as any other player in the world. Federer played unbelievable tennis against Hewitt and walked out of that match in straight sets as well.
Federer’s biggest challenge also came in the quarterfinals. Playing the always dangerous Nikolay Davydenko, who beat him in their last two meetings, Federer himself admitted he was worried his streak of 22 consecutive Grand Slam Singles semifinal appearances might be broken. The match started off on a misstep, and the harsh sunlight and a slew of unforced errors meant the World No. 1 was down two breaks on his way to losing the first set. The second set seemed to follow suit, until at 2-3 and down a break, something happened. Federer would win the next 11 games en route to leading 2-6 6-3 6-0 1-0. The fourth set was tough as Davydenko fought back, and the two traded breaks until Federer finally found a way to wrap things up at 7-5. The semifinal was as easy as it could get as Federer routinely broke the Tsonga serve without offering a single break chance on his own service. In straight sets, and perhaps his best form of the tournament so far, Federer won 6-2 6-3 6-2 in less than 90 minutes.
Murray leads the head-to-head 6-4, but in their only other Grand Slam meeting (the 2008 US Open finals), Federer won in relatively simple straight sets. Federer also recently broke Murray's four match winning streak against him with back-to-back wins in Cincinnati and London. With their current tournament form, and Federer’s ruthless annihilation of the otherwise brilliant Tsonga, it’d be hard to place a bet against him.
Prediction: Federer in three or four sets.