Tennis Preview – January 8, 2012

The first champion of 2012 was crowned today with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeating French compatriot Gael Monfils in straight sets in Doha. The next two champions will be decided tomorrow with two compelling match-ups in the Chennai and Brisbane finals.

CHENNAI FINALS – MILOS RAONIC VS. JANKO TIPSAREVIC

In an extremely exciting match in Chennai, India, world #31 and rising star Milos Raonic of Canada takes on world #9 and one of the hottest players on tour, Janko Tipsarevic.  Both players have been in great form in this tournament, with neither having dropped a set.  Raonic has faced stiffer competition beating a top 10 player in Nicolas Almagro in the semifinals and also defeating two other players in the top 100.  Meanwhile, Tipsarevic has cruised to the finals without defeating a single player in the top 100.

These players have never faced each other, but it is a contrast of styles.  Raonic is known for having one of the best serves on tour, but also has a monstrous forehand and is fairly capable at the net.  His backhand stroke is average at best – it is an inconsistent stroke but can be quite heavy when it is on.  Raonic’s real bugaboo is his movement which is less than stellar.  He has worked hard at this aspect of his game, but he is still a big lumbering man with limited mobility.

Tipsarevic, on the other hand, is a great all court player who does not have as big weapons as Raonic, but does not have any glaring holes either.  His serve is above average, his movement is fairly good and he is quite capable off both of his wings.  Tipsarevic’s biggest weapons may be his second serve and his second serve return.  He wins 55% of 2nd serve points and 54% of 2nd serve return points – a good recipe for a winning player.

This matchup will prove to be tight, but I think that Tipsarevic’s 2nd serve and 2nd serve return will prove to be crucial.  Raonic is capable of winning this match, but he will have to have a first serve percentage in the 70s and hope to win a tiebreaker or two.  If he is not in tip top form, expect Tipsarevic to break a couple of times and prevail in the match.

PREDICTION: TIPSAREVIC 6-7 6-4 6-3

BRISBANE FINALS – ANDY MURRAY VS. ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV

In the other Sunday final in Brisbane, Australia, two top fifteen players square off with Scottish world #4 Andy Murray taking on Ukrainian world #15 Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Dolgopolov has a breakthrough year last year until tiring at the end of the season.  Dolgopolov is likely very satisfied with his performance in Brisbane to date as he has defeated two top 30 players in Radek Stepanek and Gilles Simon and has also reached his first career final on hard courts.

This is a tough match-up for Dolgopolov as he has a similar game to Murray’s but does nothing better than him – with the possible exception of a slightly bigger first serve.   These two have faced off twice before – once in 2006 on clay which Murray won in straight sets and much more recently in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last year where Murray won in 4 sets.

What stands out most from their Australian Open match last year was Murray’s success against the Dolgopolov 2nd serve.  The Ukranian only managed to win 34% of his 2nd serve points and Murray was able to dictate play when Dolgopolov did not get his first ball in.

I expect that Murray’s potent returns and capable service game will once again be the difference in the Brisbane finals.  Look for Murray to handle Dolgopolov in two competitive sets.

PREDICTION: MURRAY 7-5 6-4

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