Predictions

By Jane Voigt

January 14, 2013 -- We don't need a Ouija Board and seance to predict who might win the Australian Open on either side of the gender split. 

The men's side is locked up, or we not-so-boldly assert. And the women's side is much the same. 

Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, is seeded #1. He's followed by Roger Federer and Andy Murray, at #2 and #3 respectively. If Rafael Nadal had kept his promise to play, he would have been the fourth seed. Instead it went to Spain's David Ferrer. 

These top four men minus Ferrer, have won 30 out of 31 slam titles since last year's U.S.Open. The outlier ... Juan Martin del Potro. He took the air out of Federer's balloon at the 2009 U.S.Open. 

Not only do these men have a tight grip on winning majors, they also have a tight grip on second place. Roger Federer has won 34 consecutive quarterfinals in slams, a record that will not be broken, plus a jaw-dropping 23 consecutive semifinals - another record chiseled in stone. 

These guys don't lose when it counts most and that's the bottom line of today's predictions coupled with the inevitable luck of the draw, which provokes a bit of conjecture yet not enough to sway the overall prediction: One of those three will win the Australian Open. 

Djokovic sits at the top of the 128-person draw, with Federer directly opposite in the last spot on the lower-half of the draw. If 'they make their seedings' these two will face off in the final. 

But ... here's where things get a bit tricky. Where did Andy Murray land? Top half or bottom half? 

Murray is on Federer's side and on course to meet Del Potro, the possible spoiler, in the quarterfinals. Murray should win this, pulling on his fresh confidence from his first slam title in New York last fall. If so, his next obstacle would be Federer.

Federer, however, has a bumpy road to the quarterfinals. Dangerous players loom in his quarter of the draw: Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Milos Raonic, Richard Gasquet, and Bernard Tomic, Australia's hope for glory. 

Federer has won the Australian Open 4 times, two more than Djokovic and 4 in front of Murray at zero. To say that the Suisse master comes alive at slams is superfluous. He can think of nothing better than to notch his 18th slam title in Melbourne. He is also seasoned enough to know that everyone's a potential threat, especially in the first week. 

If Federer gets past Raonic, Gasquet, and possibly Tsonga, he will march to the final no matter if Murray or Del Potro stands across the net in the semifinal. 

Djokovic's half seems much smoother for the Serbian. The only two players that could tarnish his armor are Tomas Berdych (seeded #5) and David Ferrer. Neither, though, has the consistency or mysterious elements to penetrate that which Djokovic easily reveals in the later stages of a slam. 

Given that, it's highly possible that we'll see Djokovic and Federer in the final. 

They have played each other 29 times, with Federer holding the head-to-head edge: 16-13. However, they have only played one final in a major, the 2007 U. S. Open that Federer won. All other matches in slams have been in semifinals, since then. Djokovic holds that head-to-head record: 5 to 4. 

With that much said, DownTheTee picks Novak Djokovic to win his third Aussie Open title, denying Federer his 18th slam.

On the women's side, the storyline comes close to that of the men. 

How many ways can you say: If Serena Williams is healthy and in the draw at a slam, she's the favorite to win it. Answer: Not many, so let's cut to the bottom line ... Serena Williams will win her 5th Australian Open. 

Speaking from a confident point of view, when she does hoist the trophy, she will have notched her 15th major title. This will put her within three of American icons Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, each with 18. 

Williams won Wimbledon, the U. S. Open, and two Gold Medals in 2012. It was her best show of dominance since 2002 when she won three of the four slams and then the Australian Open to start the new year, 2003. It was her 'Serena Slam.' 

Williams is seeded #3 behind Victoria Azarenka at #1 and Maria Sharapova at #2. Serena, though, landed on Azarenka's side of the draw. They are on a collision course for the semifinals, if they make their seedings.

Obstacles for Williams loom in a match-up with Yaroslava Shvedova in round three. The crafty Russian native came within a couple points of destroying Serena's U. S. Open hopes last fall. Shvedova has a boat-load of strengths in singles, and a solid foundation in doubles. She and Vania King have won two slams in doubles. 

However, and in the end, with all things considered ... Serena will find her way past Shvedova as she found her way past Azarenka who held a match point on Serena and couldn't convert in the 2012 U. S. Open final. 

This means a semifinal match against Azarenka. When Serena pulls that off she's likely to meet Maria Sharapova in the final, unless big sister Venus Williams puts a stop to Sharapova's fun in the third round. Given how well Venus played yesterday, in her 61 60 rout over Galina Voskoboeva, the unforeseen could appear. 

Could Venus be Serena's opponent in the final? Probable, but not likely. Serena will know in her heart, though, that Venus is her rock, her confidant and star that has shown her the route to a spot in tennis history destined to shine for decades. 

Perhaps Richard Williams fortuitous decision to name his eldest daughter Venus Ebony Starr Williams was not a chance occurrence.    

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013