OZ looms on the horizon

The 2013 Tennis Season is officially underway in the scorching heat Down Under…after New Year’s Week wins from Andy Murray in Brisbane, Janko Tipsarevic in Chennai, Richard Gasquet in Doha, Agnieszka Radwanska in Auckland and Li Na at the Shenzhen Open. At the Hopman Cup in Perth, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues defeated Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic in the deciding Mixed Doubles Final.

This week, the annual tune-ups continue in Sydney, Hobart, Auckland, and the historic exhibition in Kooyong.

As I write this on Thursday…

SYDNEY: Agnieszka Radwanska will play Dominika Cibulkova in the Final; while in the Men’s Semifinals, Julien Benneteau will face Kevin Anderson, and Andreas Seppi will play the oft-shunned Australian Bernard Tomic. No surprises in doubles – Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are in the Final vs. Nadia Petrova and Katerina Srebotnik; while the Bryan Brothers, Granollers and Lopez, Mirnyi and Tecau, Marrero and Verdasco are in the Semifinals (Marrero and Verdasco advanced in a walk-over on Paes and Stepanek).

HOBART: Semifinal matches include Kirsten Flipkens vs. Mona Barthel and Elena Vesnina vs. American Sloane Stephens.

AUCKLAND: American Sam Querrey will face Kohlschreiber in the Semifinals, while Gael Monfils will test his stamina against David Ferrer

KOOYONG: Lleyton Hewitt advanced to the Final with a win over Tomas Berdych; Juan Martin del Potro will play Marcos Baghdatis in Friday’s Semifinal.

The draw is out for the OZ Open – Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka are the top-seeds, but talking to those who cover the matches, Nole and Serena Williams are the favorites to win the first Grand Slam of 2013. Talking to the media this week in Melbourne, Roger Federer agrees Novak is the player to beat: “He’s been the best hard-court player in the world for the last couple of years…Andy Murray is playing great and only going to get stronger in the next couple of years. Unfortunately Rafa is not going to be there.”

And unfortunately John Isner will not be there either, after his loss to Ryan Harrison in Sydney this week, he dropped out of the Australian Open to rehab the bone bruise in his right knee – an injury he suffered during the Hopman Cup in Perth.

As we get ready for the Open, here are some TRENDS TO TRACK IN OZ, thanks to Peter Bodo of Tennis.com