Starting at the top in the Murray quarter, everything looks pretty status quo. I did see a bit of Murray’s match v Marchenko and whether it was the Ukrainian’s form, the heat or that lack of precision in Murray’s game, the No. 1 seed had his hands full.
I’m going to say this is more on Murray though Marchenko was playing very well in stretches, hitting deep from both wings down both lines (an inside-out BH that gave Murray no chance on several occasions). Murray’s FH is sitting up too high. He’s not necessarily ballooning the ball, but the pedestrian, playing-it-safe top-spin FH is giving his opponents all kinds of options. As much as we want to applaud Murray’s defense, his offense is missing and this could be all kinds of trouble for him.
He’ll beat almost everybody by just being more consistent, out working, and ultimately out-lasting his opponent. But he’s going to be wasted by the second week if he continues to hit from the BL like this. He closed-out the second set TB (7-5) with a much flatter inside-out FH that definitively established control of the match. It took two sets to see that kind of power and precision.
Was not very impressed with Murray’s form.
Other than that, looks like Nishikori struggled a bit but pulled it out in five.
Federer I did not see, but read Tignor’s write-up, which seemed both hopeful for Fedfans and a bit more of a reality check on the Express. As the story goes, he was tight the first couple of sets, looked way out of sorts, and according to him he was thinking too much. Once he relaxed and found his rhythm, he cruised in the final two sets 2 and 2. So, I would say looking good; in the end: no harm, no foul. He has the instincts to play a big match, but having been off since WB 2016, he needed to find that rhythm. He has one of the surviving young Americans in 2R, Noah Rubin.
You might wonder why I’m calling Pouille’s R1 dismissal status quo. Certainly there was reason to continually be fairly high on the 22 year-old’s prospects in any match. He made the QF of both WB and USO last year, beating Nadal in NYC as a highlight of that particular run. He then won his first title in Metz last summer, which helped consolidate the promise of this solid tennis player.
However, in Beijing he lost to Dimitrov in R16 (Dimitrov, to evidence some of why I have had my eye on him early this year, even before the Brisbane win, in China beat Pouille, then Nadal, then got a w/o from Raonic in the SF and lost to Murray in the F). Pouille followed-up that with a loss at Shanghai to Murray in the R16 1 and 3; he followed that with another loss to Murray in the R16 in Paris, this time 0 and 3. All this to say, Pouille has been seeing the exit sign pretty early in this last run of tournament play. At Brisbane he lost in the 2R to young Brit Kyle Edmund, retiring on a foot injury.
They have work to do over there in camp Pouille.
I hope Harrison gives Berdych some work. The American, never a threat in a match like this, played Jack Sock pretty tough in Auckland and he did straights on Mahut here in R1, so who knows. Berdych is big, but stranger things have happened.
Stan’s quarter is very unpredictable, as I said earlier. Both Wawrinka and Cilic just about saw the exit in their respective openers. Both needed five. Klizan actually had the match on his racquet, serving 4-3 in the fifth. Unreal. And Cilic was down 0-2 before he finally woke-up. We said Janowicz would be tough; the Croat has Daniel Evans next. Might be just what Marin needed, that scare in the first round. Evans should be tough too. After Evans, a victorious Cilic would get Tomic. That’s a major championship bracket!
Jack Sock v Khachanov should be interesting. The American is playing well and should advance but the young Russian can play, too. Perhaps a bit of the future there in that match.
Stan will probably be tested again by Johnson though Stan after a scare like that tends to wake-up? We’ll see. Keep your eye on Kyrgios here as he’s the sexy pick to emerge and play Murray in that first SF. Kyrgios has a very favorable draw, by the way, not seeing anyone until possibly Stan in the fourth round. Of course, that could be fatal. I want to see how the Aussie does in a tough 4-5 setter. That’s where his emotions come to play.
In the Raonic quarter, here’s what I’m watching: probably the best of the young American bunch (there are several aspiring teens with international potential) is Frances Tiafoe. I wrote about him briefly after IW last year. He has a ton of athleticism. He took care of Kukushkin and now he gets the German prodigy A. Zverev. This could be good.
I saw just the end of Nadal’s win over Mayer. He seems to be on track for his R3 match against Zverev, but let’s see if Tiafoe and (forever young) Baghdatis can complicate things a bit.
Other than that, I want to see if Raonic is finding GS finals form (Muller should be a tough out given his strong S&V) and how good Bautista Agut is really playing. Sorry, I can’t really find enough interest in Monfils at this point.
Lastly, the Djokovic quarter is a joke. The only thing I’m watching there is that Dimitrov gets through Gasquet. That’s going to be tricky for the Bulgarian. If he smashes him, great, get ready to play Djokovic (a match we need to see). I will not, unfortunately, be surprised if the Frenchman wins that R3 match.
That quarter needs Dimitrov (in form) v Djokovic. Otherwise, that entire bracket is simply an underachievement on the part of the tournament. Wawrinka’s quarter is bloated while Djokovic’s is malnourished.