Stay tuned to Nick's Pick throughout the 2010 Australian Open for in-depth coverage of the tournament!
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Igor Andreev (RUS)
Despite having lost in the semis to Doha last week, Federer comes into the tournament as the favorite to win it. If he does win the title it will be his fourth Australian Open trophy and the 16th Grand Slam title of his illustrious career. I'm sure Federer would like nothing more than to show everyone else that he is still the one to beat.
Andreev has always been someone that was touted as the next big thing, but he hasn't been able to live up to that billing yet. His best result at a Grand Slam came in 2007 at the French Open where he beat Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdatis en route to the quarterfinals. He's been to the third round of the Aussie Open three times.
Federer is 2-0 against Andreev, but the two haven't faced since the fourth round of the 2008 US Open. Andreev is more of a clay-court player, but don't be surprised if he is able to challenge Federer for a bit. He doesn't have a glaring weakness, but he also isn't extremely consistent. Federer's ability to mix it up and play with extreme variety is what will separate him in this match. Look for a good match, but in the end Federer will advance.
Nick's Pick - Federer in 3 sets
Ryan Harrison (USA) vs. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)
Harrison is one of, if not, the best young American right now and is appearing in his first career Grand Slam. He won a wild-card tournament that was held in Atlanta back in 2009 to earn a spot in the main draw. Ryan and his brother, Christian, both live and train at the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program and we think they both have a very bright future.
Tipsarevic just reached the semis earlier this month in Chennai and two years ago in Australia he played a fantastic five-set match against Federer in the third round where he lost 10-8 in the fifth. He comes into the tournament ranked #35 in the world, just two spots below his career high ranking of #33.
This is the first career meeting between the young Harrison and the veteran Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic is a fantastic mover, has solid groundstrokes, and is extremely competitive. Harrison is an aggressive baseliner with a big serve and a monster forehand. He covers the court well and does a good job of keeping the pressure on his opponents. Harrison will not back down from the challenge of playing a top 40 player in his first Grand Slam, and I feel like he will give Tipsarevic one heck of a match. He must stay positive throughout the match and keep his confidence high. You have to give Tipsarevic a slight edge because of his experience, but don't count Ryan out at all.
Nick's Pick - Tipsarevic in 4 sets
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) vs. Michael Russell (USA)
This is the first time that Del Potro will come into a Grand Slam with the expectation of winning the tournament. Having won the 2009 US Open, people are going to expect big things out of him throughout this year. It will be interesting to see how he deals with that new pressure. He reached the quarters here last year before falling to Federer in straight sets.
Russell is a 31-year old American veteran who has been around for a while now. He comes in ranked #79 in the world which is 19 spots below his career high of 60. His best result in a Grand Slam came back in 2001 when he reached the fourth round of the French Open
Del Potro and Russell are 1-1 against each other, with Russell winning their last match which came back in 2008 at Adelaide. Russell is a guy that on any given day he can play with anyone. He moves well, has excellent groundstrokes and could be dangerous. The issue for Russell here is that he cannot just keep the ball in play with Del Potro. He has to go for broke and try to hit a lot of winners because Del Potro will not give him anything easy. Look for the big Argentinean to use his sonic serve to keep Russell off balance and attack whenever possible.
Nick's Pick - Del Potro in 3 sets
Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs. Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
Stepanek comes into the tournament ranked #13 in the world and having reached the finals of Brisbane just a couple of weeks ago. He trains at the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program and is one of the most versatile men on the tour. He's been to the third round of the Aussie Open four times, including last year.
Karlovic comes into the Australian Open ranked #37 in the world and is looking to find the rhythm he had back in 2008 when he was as high as #14. He's been to the third round of this tournament once before (2008) and he needs a couple of big wins to get his confidence back.
Stepanek is 3-0 against Karlovic and beat him 16-14 in the fifth set of a classic Davis Cup match last year. I've been saying for years now that without a reliable offensive backhand, Karlovic is going to struggle against the better players. When he came to the Academy a couple of years ago we worked hard on this shot, but he hasn't implemented it into this game. In today's game, you cannot have a weakness like this and expect to consistently win big matches. Stepanek is very crafty, will hit powerful penetrating groundstrokes with not a lot of junk on the ball, will serve and volley and can cover the court with the best of them. There won't be many breaks of serve in this match, but when they do come, it will be Stepanek doing the breaking.
Nick's Pick - Stepanek in 4 or 5 sets