Jonathan and James return to discuss a wild opening week of the 2016 Australian Open. The first few rounds featured upsets galore, a match-fixing scandal and a slew of entertaining matches. We also report the findings of our (very scientific) Twitter polls asking our listeners to tell us who their least favorite tennis commentators are. As always, we look forward to yourfeedback, and give us a review on iTunes if you like what you hear!
The 2016 Australian Open began under the cloud of a BBC/Buzzfeed report alleging match-fixing in tennis. The chaos surrounding the story was matched on court by a slew of upsets, particularly in the women's draw. By the completion of the second round, only 14 of the 32 seeded women remained in the draw. The men's seeds experienced a less turbulent time of it in Melbourne, with only seven failing to advance to the third round. Week one will also be remembered for the final match of Lleyton Hewitt's career. The long-time Aussie stalwart lost to David Ferrer in the second round, in his 20th appearance at the Australian Open.
Check out who's left in the WOMEN'S DRAW
The Chinese player, ranked as high as #30 in 2014, scored one of the biggest upsets of the first week when she dismissed #2 seed Simona Halep in straight sets. Compounding the loss for Halep was the fact that Zhang had failed to advance past the first round of a Slam in each of her previous 14 attempts, and lost in qualifying at Slams a further 13 times. Yet, the world #133 summoned her best tennis, and finds herself in the fourth round, where she will play Madison Keys on Monday.
In just her third attempt at qualifying for a Grand Slam main draw, Osaka made it all the way to the third round before losing to a resurgent Victoria Azarenka. She will leave Melbourne with yet another career high ranking, having announced herself as a player to watch for the 2016 season and beyond. Osaka beat Donna Vekic in the first round and then #18 seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets two days later.
After an eventful opening week to the 2016 tennis season, chock full of big-name stars, week two was a much more low key affair. The biggest name in action this week was WTA #2, Simona Halep, still dealing with lingering Achilles/leg problems. On the men's side, David Ferrer at #8 was the top ranked player on the circuit. Nonetheless, there was plenty on offer to delight tennis fans: a resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova, an improved Bouchard, Fast 4 Tennis, a Troicki defence, and 32 qualifiers who battled their way into the main draw of the Australian Open. While we're on the topic, be sure to check out my preview of The Happy Slam!
Week 2 Winners
Once dubbed "Baby Fed" for the uncanny similarities to Roger Federer in style of play, Grigor Dimitrov now finds himself struggling to stay afloat inside the ATP top 30. From a career high of #8 in August 2014, Dimitrov now resides at #28 after a disastrous 2015 season, when he advanced to the final eight only six times. However, his quarterfinal showing in Brisbane and run to the finals in Sydney promise to spark a comeback of sorts for the beleaguered Bulgarian. Both losses -- to Federer in Brisbane, and Troicki in Sydney -- were in three sets. Along the way, he scored wins against: Troicki (Brisbane), Simon, Cuevas, Dolgopolov, and Muller. While his name won't be mentioned as a favourite in Melbourne, Dimitrov is at least able to carry some momentum into the rest of the season as he begins the climb back to the ATP top 10.
Other events this week: Kooyong Classic, Fast4 Tennis, Australian Open Qualifying
Don't miss the Season 2 opener from The Body Serve! As usual, Jonathan and James are serving up the laughs, the shade, and all the info you need to know about the 2016 Australian Open.
In a world where Roberta Vinci can defeat Serena Williams in the semifinals of the U.S. Open to halt a Calendar Slam bid, I've learned my lesson about making predictions. Accordingly, this 2016 Australian Open preview will not try to name the winners, but rather assess the state of the top 8 seeds' chances on both the ATP and WTA tours.
1. Novak Djokovic
The world #1 and defending champion had a season for the ages in 2015. He reached the final of every tournament he entered, save for his season opening effort in Doha, and came within one match of potentially winning the Calendar Slam. But for Stan Wawrinka, I'm hard pressed to think of another player who could possibly derail him given all that we've seen the past 12 months. Perhaps a massive server like Karlovic, who beat him in Doha last year, or Kevin Anderson, who stretched Djokovic to five sets at Wimbledon?
1st Round: Hyeon Chung
In his quarter: Kei Nishikori
In his half: Roger Federer
2. Andy Murray
You will likely hear a fair bit about a "Murray Baby Watch" in Melbourne over the course of the fortnight. Murray has said he will withdraw should he get the call during the tournament that his wife has gone into labour. Grand Slams are difficult enough without having such an enormous life change swirling overhead. That said, perhaps the lack of expectation will spur Murray into a spell of the carefree and aggressive tennis that he will need to summon for a title run.
1st Round: Alexander Zverev
In his quarter: David Ferrer
In his half: Stan Wawrinka/Rafael Nadal
3. Roger Federer
Federer is one of two players (Wawrinka) who could realistically pose a threat to Djokovic in Melbourne. However, his uneven performance in his Brisbane final loss to Raonic clouds his readiness for a deep run. Reports from Brisbane also suggested that Federer was dealing with an illness during the tournament. If so, making the final at all was a notable achievement. If close to 100%, Federer is a safe bet to make the 39th Slam semifinal of his career.
1st Round: Nikoloz Basilashvili
In his quarter: Tomas Berdych
In his half: Novak Djokovic
Watch: A visibly displeased Federer drops his racquet during Brisbane final defeat to Milos Raonic.
Welcome to the first installment of "This Week in Tennis," a weekly series recapping the goings-on in the world of tennis. The first week of the 2016 season delivered it all: familiar champions, new faces, retirements, withdrawals, drama, marquee match-ups, and young guns on the come-up. If this week is any indication of what's to come in 2016, we're in for quite a ride.
Week 1 winners:
Tennis fans were treated to the 47th edition of Djokovic vs. Nadal right off the bat in Doha. Those hoping for a reversal of fortune for Rafael Nadal were made to suffer through yet another convincing win by Djokovic; he has now won 11 consecutive sets versus Nadal spanning their last five matches, and 9 of 10 matches overall since Nadal beat him to win the 2013 U.S. Open. The 6-1 6-2 scoreline in a mere 73 minutes -- with Djokovic winning two-thirds of the total points -- underscores just how good the world number one has been over the last 12 months. For Nadal, a final to start his 2016 campaign is something he can continue to build on as he looks to ensure a more successful season this year than last. Incredibly, Djokovic actually increases his lead at #1 as his Doha title comes after losing in the quarterfinals to Ivo Karlovic last year. Spanning the last calendar year, Djokovic has not lost before reaching the final of any tournament he's entered.