Federer On Fire and 10 Things We Learned from the First Round of the Aussie Open
The first round of the Australian Open is a wrap, and while there is still a long way to go, we can start drawing conclusions based on the first round of play.
Who really is the favorite to win the title?
Who is on upset alert?
Who has the ugliest kit?
Stay tuned to find out the answer to these questions and more!
The Favorites: Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal and Kim Clijsters
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal entered the Australian Open as co-favorites, and they remain that way after they both cruised through their first-round matches.
Federer was impressive, as he steamrolled the 23-year-old Slovak Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. After winning the match in 90 minutes, he said that he couldn't have hoped for a better start, and it showed as he looked comfortable and fairly care-free during an interview with ESPN following his victory.
Top-seeded Rafael Nadal also cruised in his match, which ended when Marcos Daniel retired from the match with an obvious knee ailment while down 6-0, 5-0. There isn't too much that can be concluded from this match, but the Spaniard didn't look to be hampered by the illness that he struggled with in Doha, which is a good sign.
Kim Clijsters has been pegged by many as the favorite to take the women's singles title, and she lived up to the hype last night when she double bageled former world No. 1 Dinara Safina. Clijsters was good, so good that she felt the need to apologize to Safina after the incredibly one-sided match.
Upset Alert: Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro is the 14th seed in this year's draw, although I do not foresee him being around much longer.
The 25-year-old Almagro, who prefers the dirt to the Australian hard courts, like many of his Spanish countrymen, had a tough four-set victory over Stephane Robert. On top of that, he will be playing Igor Andreev, who has won their three most recent matches, in the second round.
It's not looking good.
The Darkhorse: Fernando Verdasco
Fernando Verdasco became a household name after his five-set thriller against Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open. Verdasco, of course, didn't win that match and to be honest, he has never shown that form since.
The 27-year-old Spaniard loves the attention of being on the big stage, and his aggressive style of play is always exciting to watch.
Though his season didn't start well, as he lost in the first round of both the Brisbane International and Kooyong Classic, he was impressive in his first-round victory over Rainer Schuettler.
Biggest Setback: Ana Ivanovic
Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, of course, lost to Ekaterina Makarova in a closely contested first-round matchup.
On one hand, Makarova played the match of her life and didn't crumble during the big points.
On the other hand, it's another early exit for Ivanovic, who is so beloved Down Under that she has been dubbed "Aussie Ana."
After getting in better shape than ever and ridding herself of the post-breakup woes that she suffered after ending her relationship with golfer Adam Scott, this was supposed to be her tournament.
And yet, she's already out.
Biggest Achievement: Regina Kulikova
Will Regina Kulikova be another Russian threat in the women's game?
The 21-year-old Kulikova defeated 28th-seed Daniela Hantuchova 7-6(3), 3-6, 9-7 in the first round of play.
It's only Kulikova's second year on tour, and after losing in the first round in three of the five major tournaments in which she has competed, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Best Kit: Novak Djokovic
In a tournament that is filled with far too many lime green and hot pink kits, it's nice to see "The Falcon" wear all black under the lights.
It's a simple design, yet classy and totally fitting of his role in this tournament: the villain.
Ugliest Kit: Venus Williams
Venus is all about making a fashion statement, but her latest kit isn't just ugly, it's annoying.
She looked like a Smurf and was forced to pull down her dress after every point.
The elder Williams sister played well in her first-round match, but her on-court fashion choices could use a tune-up.
Most Exciting Moment: Lleyton Hewitt v. David Nalbandian Fifth Set
Crowd-favorite Lleyton Hewitt led for much of this match, and David Nalbandian was able to fight his way back each time, but the fifth set would decide things once and for all.
Nalbandian served for the match at 5-4, but Hewitt broke his serve, much to the delight of the Australian fans.
At 5-5, Nalbandian led 40-15, but Hewitt again raised his level of play and fought through the break points to hold serve.
After that, Nalbandian stole the show, but for those few games, Hewitt carried the weight of the nation on his shoulders.
Saddest Moment: Dinara Safina's Loss to Kim Clijsters
Kim Clijsters v. Dinara Safina.
The battle of two former world No. 1s.
It was penned as a marquee match, but really, that's because we all hoped it would be competitive.
It wasn't. In fact, it was just a confirmation that Safina has fallen off of the map since being ranked No. 1 in the world in 2009.
Last year, she was the second seed in Melbourne.
Now, she may find herself out of the top 100 as a result of her latest loss.
Talk about a free fall.
Best Victory Celebration: Lukasz Kubot
Lukasz Kubot, who is ranked 72nd in the world, was excited about his five-set victory over the 18th-seeded Sam Querrey.
His response to upsetting the American: a bizarre can-can dance.
That's right. The 6'3", 190 lb Kubot was hopping around and kicking his legs up like it was nobody's business.
Don't just take my word for it. See for yourself.