Tennis Preview – January 7, 2012

Well tennis fans, it’s good to be back in the swing of things.  The 2012 season is kicking off and there are a number of top players in action in three different venues including the ATP Newcomer of the Year and six top 20 players.  Our first champion of the year will also be crowned tomorrow with the Doha finals scheduled.

Here are your previews for what should be a great day of action.

BASELINE RALLY’S MATCH OF THE DAY:

GAEL MONFLIS VS. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA – DOHA FINALS

Two of the top three Frenchmen face off in what should be a thrilling match in Doha tomorrow as world #6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes on world #16 Gael Monfils.  Expect a competitive match between these two countrymen as both have been in good form recently – Monfils won Stockholm at the end of 2011 while Tsonga reached the finals of the last two tournaments of the 2011 season.

Monfils and Tsonga have met three times before – all in the semifinals of tournaments – with Tsonga holding a 2-1 edge.  Their last meeting was in Montpelier in 2010 with Monfils winning in three close sets.  A common trend in the matches between these two is Tsonga’s effectiveness with his 2nd serve.  He has managed to win over 60 percent of 2nd serve points in each of his meetings with Monfils.

Expect this trend to continue with Tsonga putting a lot of pressure on Monfils with his serve and booming forehand.  I think Monfils will come out strong but Tsonga will weather the storm and ultimately prevail to win the first tournament in 2012.

PREDICTION: TSONGA 6-7 6-3 6-2

CHENNAI SEMIFINAL PREVIEW

MILOS RAONIC VS. NICOLAS ALMAGRO

In the first semifinal of the day in Chennai, India, ATP Newcomer of the Year and Canadian #1 Milos Raonic takes on world #10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain.  Expect some fireworks in this one as Raonic usually dictates play with his feast or famine huge first serve and explosive forehand.

There is no history between these two men, as this is their first career meeting.  Raonic has certainly been playing better this tournament, dominating Romanian Victor Hanescu and then besting top Israeli Dudi Sela without dropping a set.  Meanwhile, Almagro faced three match points against Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita before rallying to win in three tough sets to reach the semifinals.

Although Almagro is the higher ranked player, this match-up certainly favors Raonic.  For one, the young Canadian has a good career record on hard courts, reaching both of his career finals on the surface.  Almagro, on the other hand, has never reached a final on the hard courts among his 14 career finals and has a losing record while playing on the fast courts.

Raonic’s serve will ultimately prove to be too much for Almagro who is not known as a great returner.  The Canadian will try to pick his spots on Almagro’s serve and will likely break once per set to reach his first final since last February.

PREDICTION: RAONIC 7-5 6-4

JANKO TIPSAREVIC VS. GO SOEDA

Japanese journeyman Go Soeda has had a career week in Chennai.  After getting through qualifying, he has defeated a top 40 player in Ivan Dodig and a top 20 player in Stanislas Wawrinka to reach his first career semifinal.  Soeda, however, has never defeated a top 10 player and he will have to do so to get to his first career final as he takes on world #9 Janko Tipsarevic.

Tipsarevic – the tournament’s #1 seed – should thank the tournament organizers at Chennai for his remarkably easy draw.  If he defeats Soeda, he will make the tournament finals without defeating a player ranked in the top 115.

Although Soeda has played great this week, including really taking control of his match with Wawrinka, he does not have the weapons to compete with a great all-around player like Tipsarevic.

Look for the Serb to continue the great run that he had at the end of 2011 by reaching his first final in his first tournament of 2012.

PREDICTION: TIPSAREVIC 6-3 6-3

BRISBANE SEMIFINAL PREVIEW

ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV VS. GILLES SIMON

In the day’s only battle between top 15 players, world #15 and Ukranian #1 Alexandr Dolgopolov takes on world #12 from France Gilles Simon in Brisbane, Australia.  This should be a grudge match between two talented players who track down a lot of balls, play a beautiful brand of tennis and can also hit with power when the time is right.

Dolgopolov and Simon have met once before in 2011 in Sydney, with Simon taking the match in two sets.  Simon’s 1st serve was particularly effective that match as he won 81% of his points off his first ball.  That usually is not a strength of Simon’s game as his 70% first serve points won in 2011 was the lowest among top 20 players.

Dolgopolov is an average to below average returner – especially off the first serve – but I expect him to find some more success with Simon’s first serve this time around.  Dolgopolov was wearing down at the end of 2011, but I think his one and a half months off have served him well.  He scored an impressive win against Radek Stepanek earlier in the tournament.

I think Dolgopolov makes his first final of 2012 with a victory over Simon.

PREDICTION: DOLGOPOLOV 3-6 6-3 7-5

BERNARD TOMIC VS. ANDY MURRAY

Australian young gun Bernard Tomic takes on world #4 Andy Murray in the other semifinal in Brisbane.  Tomic should have a bit of a home field advantage, but that is the only advantage that he has in this matchup with the talented Scot.

Tomic and Murray have never met on tour – but this first meeting promises to be a good one.  Tomic is a talented and gritty young player, but Murray’s all-around weapons will likely be too much for him to handle.  The strength of Murray’s game is that he has potentially the best return of serve in the game (if Novak Djokovic is reading this – yes – you have an argument for that mantle as well).

Unfortunately for Tomic, his first serve is not a great weapon, with him winning only 71% of points off his first serve.  Additionally, Tomic’s first serve return, where he wins only 26% of points, also will not be enough to prevail against Murray.  Murray on the other hand wins 75% of first serve points and 37% of first serve returns – a good recipe for being a top player.

Murray should make the Australian home crowd go home disappointed as he easily dispatches the hometown boy.

PREDICTION: MURRAY 6-4 6-2

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