Can Lleyton cruise through the draw? If son Cruz had anything to say about it, he would. (photo by getty)
No, “dark horses” is not the name of Martina Hingis‘ favorite Lifetime TV movie, it’s a look at the ladies and gents who might make a kangaroo hop in your draw into a round you just didn’t expect him or her to do. But before we get to those who have been springing spryly lately, let’s take a look at who’s been have a tough time chalking up any “Ws” lately.
Feeling down Down Under
Men: Things have been rough for Fernando Verdasco as of late. The current world no. 9 made quite the impression two years ago in Melbourne when he lost an epic semi to Rafael Nadal that many called the match of the year. But after a solid 2010 US Open, in which he made highlight reels with a spectacular around-the-net post shot to beat David Ferrer in the round of 16 (he lost in the quarters to – you guessed it – Nadal) Verdasco is a jaw-dropping 2-6, unable to win a match against a player inside the top 50. He’s 0-1 in 2011 and has a tough draw with Rainer Schuettler in round one and a potential second-match against giant-slayer Janko Tipsarevic. | On TSF: Shirtless Fernando
Honorable mention: Juan Martin del Potro. The 2009 US Open champ is ranked no. 236 and is 1-3 since his return in September.
Women: What’s the deal with Sam? For much of 2010 it seemed like Samantha Stosur – the no. 5 seed here – had the whole mid-career transition thing figured out. She made her first appearance in a Slam final (the French), battled past big guns, and held her own in the best women’s match of the US Open in the quarters against Elena Dementieva. But now, the hometown gal seems to have fallen apart. She finished 2010 3-5 and has started this year 2-2. She has the game’s biggest serve and a wicked forehand, but if she can’t corral the power, her backers might not see her get out of week two.
Honorable mention: The Russian duo of Nadia Petrova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are the latest ladies to leave us scratching our heads. Sure, there are plenty of WTA head cases out there, but these two veterans should be a bit more steady.
On the up and up (Down Under, of course)
Let’s start with the ladies: There’s Jarmila Groth, the home-country lady who has a sudden following after winning Hobart on Saturday. Her round one opponent? The “other” Belgian: Yanina Wickmayer. Wickmayer was a finalist in Auckland on week one of the year, so the 2009 US Open semifinalist is a tough cookie to take. Big hitters: Expect Petra Kvitova and Alisa Kleybanova to threaten for spots in week two. And Andrea Petkovic is starting to walk the talk of a big-time player. Petko could face a shaky Venus in the third round. Oh right, Li Na! Li Na!
Where do we even go with the men? Most namely (and recently) there’s David Ferrer, who took out David Nalbandian to win over the weekend in Auckland. Another winner over the weekend was Gilles Simon (Sydney), who is making something of a comeback after missing much of the fall to be a new dad. Stanislas Wawrinka, Kevin Anderson, Xavier Malisse and Janko Tipsarevic all had good starts to the year, as did Lleyton Hewitt who won the exhibition tourney in Kooyong. And another Serb, Victor Troiki, was who Simon conquered in Sydney for the title. The big-serving tall fella could be a test for countryman Novak Djokovic in the third round.