2011 Australian Open: 10 Potential First Round Upsets

Alex FungContributor IJanuary 16, 2011

2011 Australian Open: 10 Potential First Round Upsets

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    With the Australian Open less than one day away, everyone is getting excited for the first round of play,  which is full of surprises and high quality matches.

    It's difficult to predict the first Grand Slam event of the year, so let's take a look at the potential upsets that could await us in the opening round.

David Nalbandian (27) Vs. Lleyton Hewitt

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    David Nalbandian takes on home favourite Lleyton Hewitt in the first round.

    Neither of the two can be too excited for this matchup.

    The last time they faced each other in the Australian Open was back in 2005, when they bumped shoulders during a changeover in Rod Laver Arena.

    The then-third and ninth seeds met in the quarterfinals, with Lleyton Hewitt taking the fifth set 10-8. 

    Now ranked No. 54, many may expect David Nalbandian to be able to run through him. Hewitt says though, "[He's] done everything possible that [he] could have done so far." As the home favorite, he will definitely have the crowd behind him.

    Hewitt will not win easily, but he should come through again, despite Nalbandian's recent run to the finals at Auckland.

    Pick:  Lleyton Hewitt

Feliciano Lopez (31) Vs. Alejandro Falla

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    Does anyone remember Roger Federer being just two points away from losing in the first round at Wimbledon last year?

    If you do, then you'll remember that match was against Alejandro Falla. Now, just two Grand Slam matches later, he faces a less skillful opponent in Feliciano Lopez.

    Perhaps Falla was just inspired against Federer, having lost to him twice in a row within the span of a month or so before that match, but he definitely has what it takes.

    Falla is left handed as well, which negates Lopez's advantage he usually uses against right-handers.

    Pick:  Alejandro Falla

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (13) Vs. Philipp Petzschner

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Philippp Petzschner can be a tricky player.

    With a potent forehand, biting backhand slice, powerful serve, amazing hands at the net and bursts of speed around the court, one should not take him too lightly, regardless of his No. 57 ranking. Plus, at Wimbledon, he pushed Rafa to five sets, and took the doubles title.

    Jo-Wilfred Tsonga has played only a few matches after coming back from a knee injury, but the 2008 finalist and 2010 semifinalist should be able to squeeze through this first round.  Plus, the hard court is not Petzchner's best surface.

    Pick:  Jo-Wilfred Tsonga

Juan Monaco (26) Vs. Julien Benneteau

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Juan Monaco is not in his best form right now. After receiving a bye into the second round at the Auckland Open, he hasn't won a single match.

    That being said though, Julien Benneteau hasn't done that well either after losing in the first round at Sydney. He at least got to play more doubles matches though, and beat the second seed duo of Max Miryni and Daniel Nestor before withdrawing from the tournament due to a hand infection.

    More recent match experience should help Benneteau rise to the occasion and defeat the 26th seed.

    Pick:  Julien Benneteau

Gael Monfils (12) Vs. Thiemo De Bakker

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    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    This pair will be the opening match at Hinsense Arena tomorrow and is more competitive than it may seem to the average fan.

    Thiemo De Bakker has the skill and talent to take the match a bit farther than expected, not to mention the eagerness to go farther than his first round entry last year.

    Unfortunately for De Bakker, Gael Monfils recently made it to the finals at the BNP Paribas Masters and is also the last man so far to have beaten Federer in an ATP-recognized match.

    Pick:  Gael Monfils

Mardy Fish (16) Vs. Victor Hanescu

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    Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

    Similar to Petzchner, Victor Hanescu is a hard hitter and trickster—remember his "missed" overhead at the U.S. Open?

    Mardy Fish probably isn't too happy about his recent 78-minute loss to Radek Stepanek at Auckland, whereas Hanescu should be content with himself after beating Kevin Anderson in three tight sets (even though he lost to Nicolas Almagro in the next round). 

    Fish's expectations are higher though, as are his form and fitness. Hanescu shouldn't prove to be too much of a problem. 

    Pick:  Mardy Fish

Fernando Verdasco (9) Vs. Rainer Schüttler

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    Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

    The only reason this is being included is because 34-year-old Rainer Schüttler was once upon a time a world No. 5 and finalist at the Australian Open.

    Coupled with the fact that Fernando Verdasco was upset by Benjamin Becker in the first round at Brisbane, Schüttler has a remote chance.

    However, chances are Verdasco will come through this match fairly easily. Nobody knows for sure though — maybe he's in for another upset.

    Pick:  Fernando Verdasco

Ernest Gulbis (24) Vs. Benjamin Becker

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    Mark Nolan/Getty Images

    Ernest Gulbis is exactly in the position where everyone expected him to be.

    He is playing simple, solid tennis. With only losses to Rafael Nadal in Doha and to Gilles Simon in the semi-finals at Sydney, after completely running out of steam due to humid conditions, he shouldn't be too worried about this matchup with Becker.

    That is, until he realizes the conditions at Melbourne will be the same. Oh, and the fact that Becker just recently beat world No. 9 Verdasco.

    But with Gil Reyes still there to help his physical fitness, he's only a tad bit worried.

    Pick:  Ernest Gulbis

Michael Llodra (22) Vs. Juan Ignacio Chela

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Both of these players are 30 years or older, but it has been Michael Llodra making the greater impact on the tour in the past months with a first round win over Tomas Berdych at the U.S. Open and a semi-final appearance at the BNP Paribas Masters.

    On the other hand, the most Juan Ignacio Chela has done is recently beat serve-and-volleyer Radek Stepanek in Sydney.

    But that should not be taken lightly.

    Like Stepanek, Llodra is a serve and volleyer, and if Chela can recreate his form against Stepanek, he can defeat his first round opponent at the Australian Open.

    Pick:  Juan Ignacio Chela

Dudi Sela Vs. Juan Martin Del Potro

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    Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

    Ranked No. 259, Juan Martin Del Potro may still be in recovery mode, but the 92nd ranked Dudi Sela should not be much of a problem.

    His name may sound familiar since beating Andy Roddick on grass in straight sets last year at the AEGON Championships, but that is about it. He hasn't even won a Grand Slam match since Wimbledon in 2009.

    If Del Potro wins, does this even count as an upset?

    Pick:  Juan Martin Del Potro