AO: The Draw

Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Little did I know when I was enjoying a replay of the 2009 Australian Open semifinal epic between Rafa and Fernando Verdasco yesterday that I was getting a preview of the first round of the 2016 AO. Yes, that’s right, Rafa opens his 2016 campaign against Verdasco. Alrighty then. There’s good news too: he’s not in Djokovic’s half!

Seeds in Rafa’s quarter are: Chardy, Monfils, Anderson, Raonic, Troicki, Sock, and Wawrinka.

Seeds in the rest of Rafa’s half are: Ferrer, Johnson, F. Lopez, Isner, Tomic, Fognini, Sousa, and Murray.

Seeds in the top half: Djokovic, Seppi, Karlovic, Simon, Tsonga, Paire, Garcia-Lopez, Nishikori, Federer, Dimitrov, Thiem, Goffin, Cilic, Bautista Agut, Kyrgios, and Berdych.

You can view the full draw in PDF or HTML format.

Play will start on Monday. Vamos!

21 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    Could be much worse.

  2. Geez Louise, I really, really hope that 2009 semi was NOT a preview of this year’s first rounder!

  3. Elizabeth Howard says:

    I think it is an okay draw. Remember how the other players in Rafael’s side feel!! All support for our great champion.

  4. Cowboyal says:

    The draw is not a bad one. If he gets through the first round he should have a good chance of doing well in the tournament.

    Verdasco is not the player he was in 2009! So hopefully Nadal will make it through.

    I also have watched highlights of the 2009 semi-final again.

    I do not want to be negative, but I have to say what I think Nadal is missing now is the retrieving ability he had back then,

    When you watch that match, it is incredible the number of Verdasco’s shots that you think are unreturnable, Nadal put back into play and then went on to win the point as well! That match was incredible from Nadal and I remember at the time watching it in disbelief! I don’t know how he managed to win the match!

    That ability to retrieve shots from all over the court and from impossible angles seems to have gone. You rarely see that from Nadal now days. I guess it is the culmination of age and injuries and I am not sure that he will be able to ever get that back.

    And that is where he has fallen behind Djokovic now. In the final in Doha, Nadal played well. His shots were quite good. Unfortunately he no longer seems to have the ability to run down balls and stay in the points as well as he used to in previous years.

    And staying in the points as long as possible is what is crucial against Djokovic. Djokovic is excellent at retrieving shots from all over the court and Nadal needs to do the same to stay with him. But unfortunately he does not seem capable of doing that these days.

    One other comment I would make is that against Djokovic, Nadal needs to change the direction of the ball much more often and move Djokovic around. Nadal has a tendency against Djokovic to get into a rut and keep hitting the ball straight at Djokovic and let Djokovic be the first to change the ball direction and take control of the point.

    Whenever possible Nadal needs to be the first to do this and try to take control of the point. Start moving Djokovic around more and not let him stay in his comfort zone.

    To Nadal’s credit in the matches I have watched this year, he is doing much more of this. He his hitting the ball deeper and changing direction more – especially against other opponents.

    When it comes to Djokovic, he is under more pressure and I believe he also plays with a fear factor that is not present against other opponents and that inhibits Nadal, causing him to be less proactive and more reactive in the rallies.

    He needs to overcome this and just really go for it when playing Djokovic. Move him about and impose his own game on Djokovic.

    This year he has started off playing much better than last year and against other opponents he has been doing much of what I said. He just needs to push up that extra 10% when playing Djokovic to have a good chance of beating him.

    After all that, I have faith in Nadal. I believe he will go on to win more Majors and I am looking forward to the Australian Open:-)

    Vamos Rafa, you can do it!!

    • TennisMenace says:

      Agree. Djokovic now has the same retrieving ability that Nadal used to have, when he returned everything and with interest. In Doha, Djokovic played first strike tennis, fully going for his shots at the very first opportunity. Then it’ll always be difficult for Nadal to strike even earlier. He’s just not that kind of player. For me his biggest weakness today is his defense on his forehand wing. His forehand cross court doesn’t do much damage (none compared to Novak’s) and many players can dispatch it way too easily. He already struggled against Kuznetsov on that wing. The Russian just couldn’t make him pay as often as Novak, made more unforced errors and didn’t handle Rafa’s other strengths as well. Whenever Novak managed to really attacked Rafa’s forehand the point mostly went one way from there on. Being this open to attack will make it very difficult for Rafa to consistently keep Djokovic under attack himself. We have to wait and see how much Nadal can still improve throughout this season.

      • Roxitova says:

        Well, it could also be said that no-one has tested Rafa’s retreiving abilities like Djok has; no-one has been able to drag him around the court like Djok has.

        Mainly because Rafa’s big weapon, the ISOFH, is neutralized by Djok’s incredible two handed BH out wide. I think that was the initial issue, and still is to a degree.

        But also those short balls! Especially on the ROS.

        And the serve.

        These are the issues against Djok. Rafa may have already caught up with the others, we’ll see more clearly at the AO.

        • Cowboyal says:

          Nadal had 4 matched leading up to the final. In none of those matches do I recall him making many incredible return shots from seemingly impossible positions.

          A few year ago you routinely saw him making such shots in all the matches he played. This is what has led me to believe that he may no longer possess the retrieving capability that he had previously.

          I agree that Djokovic’s backhand out wide (BHOW) hurts Nadal. However, the killer shot is not usually the first BHOW. It is the second or third BHOW.

          This situation arises when Djokovic hits that shot and Nadal retrieves the first one or two but in doing so he just hits the ball back to where Djokovic is standing. This enables Djokovic to bascially set up camp in that corner and batter the ball at will.

          Nadal has to keep moving back to the center to cover the down the line shot leaving him exposed to the BHOW shot. After the second or third one he can no longer get to it and loses the point.

          What Nadal needs to do is to try and change the direction of his return shot on the first BHOW that Djokovic hits. He needs to return the shot down the line and not cross court again into Djokovic’s hitting zone.

          Now I am not saying that Nadal needs to hit an incredible winner down the line! Any shot of reasonable depth with a good margin of error against the lines would do.

          This would force Djokovic to move from his backhand corner to hit the ball and prevent him hitting two or three BHOW shots in a row.

          Also it would have the effect of creating some doubt in his mind. He would not be able to comfortably set up camp in his backhand corner waiting to batter the ball where ever he likes. He knows that he may have to cover the down the line shot and this in itself would affect his positioning and degrade the quality of his BHOW shot. It would take him out of his comfort zone and put some doubt in his mind.

          Making the opponent move in tennis is essential!

          When it comes to Djokovic, Nadal becomes too passive in points and seems to hit a lot of shots straight back to the area where Djokovic is standing.

          I am rubbish at tennis. But if I just stood in the corner and Nadal just kept returning all my shots directly at me, then sooner or later I would hit a shot that he could not get!!!

          It is imperative that he constantly changes the directions of his return shots at every opportunity he gets against Djokovic to get him moving and to create doubt to in his mind as to where the next shot will come.

          This has the double effect of making Djokovic hit shots while on the move rather than just simply moving slightly around his hitting zone and puts some uncertainty in his mind which actually can effect his level of performance and confidence.

          This is actually what he is doing to Nadal now – Nadal has to change this dynamic by inserting far greater variety in the direction of his returns.

  5. RAFAFAN1 says:

    Not an easy first round, but at least it is not an ‘unknown’ first time opponent which Rafa always needs time to adjust to. Although a fellow leftie and hard hitter, he at least know his weaknesses and strenghts and can start the match by knowing…. . Good luck and vamos Rafa.

  6. SAM12 says:

    Remember there is also a battle of wills going on. Spanish players play their other Spanish opponents really with a lot of pride. Rafa’s head to head against Verdasco is not so great in the last couple of years. Let’s hope Rafa is fully tuned up and Verdasco has an off day. I feel its a really tough startup for Rafa but will just watch the match as a neutral for the sake of tennis. Draw looks fairly balanced for all the top guns.

  7. SAM12 says:

    I would have liked Kyrgios to be in the Djokers quarter to see how the match went. Kyrgios is really looking very dangerous and am sure he will drop a couple on the way.

  8. SAM12 says:

    Fabio is in a bad half, he will be out soon. Feeling sad for Ferrer, he is not really good these days after Abu dhabi where is played well. He lost to Sock today. Hope he can go deep in the tournament.

  9. Aero says:

    The best I can hope for is that Djokovic gets taken out earlier so hopefully Nishikori is on his game, can step it up and challenge him. Only then do I think Rafa has any sort of chance. Honestly I don’t want to see another predictable and humiliating Djokovic Nadal final. If Djokovic is going to be there, I want an exciting final so I’d rather see someone like Wawrinka there instead who can actually challenge him for the title.

    Rafa though has too get through his quarter first, which is a tough one with Wawrinka, Raonic and Sock in the mix, but at least they are all towards the other end of his quarter so he’ll only have to face one of them.

  10. materijalmen says:

    Nadals biggest enemy is his own Team.

  11. crossy says:

    I like Rafa’s chances. Yes the first round could prove difficult but Verdasco is not the force he once was so Rafa should be ok. I think he has a good chance of getting to the final. We can only hope that Djokovic is beaten somewhere along the line and then our champ will lift his 15th trophy. Vamos Rafa you can do it!!!!!

    • Aero says:

      Rafa still has Wawrinka and Murray in the way (providing they all progress to that point), so no easy task!

  12. SammyT says:

    I actually think it’s a very tough draw; a potential QF with Wawrinka, who excels on those courts and where he not only won before but delivered probably Rafa’s most crushing defeat in the process, and semis with Murray, who stated that winning the AO is his no.1 priority, is bad news. Not to mention that Raonic and Sock are currently on fire, and Anderson and Chardy are extremely dangerous when on (not that he’ll have to go through all these players of course).

    The only bit of silver lining is that he can only meet Djoko in the final, provided they both get there.

  13. Susanna728 says:

    I’ve come to think that, if Djokovic can be beaten at all, he (like Serena) is easier to beat earlier in the tournament. So I’m not necessarily glad anymore if Rafa isn’t in Novak’s half. But who knows – anything can happen – that’s part of the fun.

  14. Roxitova says:

    Well I’m glad he’s not in Djok’s quarter or half. If he gets to the final, that means he likely beat Waw and Murray, in which case he has a chance of beating Djok.

    I realize how much better Djok is than either of those two (and Rafa, at the moment) but Rafa always gets better as he progresses through a tournament, and hones his game on the better player’s games in a way that he can’t against the lesser players.

    In Doha Rafa went from a really weak player player (the Ukraine, forget how to spell his name) to Djok, which gave him little preparation.

    Anyhow, vamos, here’s hoping for a great result.