To play tennis or write about it? That is the question.
The answer: I'm sitting here resting my sore feet (I figure it's gotta be the shoes), a couple days late, but not a penny short for my Aussie Open overview, shall we say. Instead of the regular rundown, then, we're going to play "Hot and Cold". Here's how it'll work. I name a player and discuss how likely it is they'll win the first major of the year. Cold means "cold day in hell". It can only get better from there.
1. Roger Federer: WARM-ISH -- It's hard to bet against the Fed, but I gotta say: I was not convinced by his first round play. If Igor Andreev hadn't punked out in the third set, our World No. 1 would've been going five with some guy. (But look what having the swagger of being Roger Federer does to a guy serving for the set.) Anyway, he's got a cushy draw. I don't think he'll have to worry about Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round. For some reason, I think Donald Young might be ready for an Aussie upset. Anyway again, Fed might get Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters, and Davydenko took him down in a warmup tournament. Is he ready for that? Or Djokovic in the semis?
2. Rafa Nadal: HOT -- It's the beginning of the year. Spring has sprung. This is Nadal's time of the year. He's got an interesting draw, what with maybe Ivo Karlovic or Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth round, and Andy Murray in the quarters. Perhaps Juan Martin del Potro in the semis. Murray and del Potro are people he's had trouble with at the end of the year, but without any injuries to run him down yet, maybe he's got a run to the final in him.
3. Novak Djokovic: HOT -- Here's how you make a Grand Slam cake. You start with a contender with something to prove and add a cupcake draw. Then you stir the ingredients together with just the right amount of pressure (Jo-Jo Tsonga in the quarters and perhaps Federer in the semis) and put it in the oven (the final in Australia). Let bake in the sun for three, four hours and ...
4. Juan Martin del Potro: LUKEWARM -- Iffy wrist, tough draw ... I can't see him in the semis, past Roddick in the quarters and Marin Cilic in the fourth round.
5. Andy Murray: HOTTISH -- I'm telling you, Murray's winning a Slam this year! It might even be this one. To do that, he'd have to have to take Nadal down, then either del Potro or Roddick. He can do that. Federer or Djokovic in the final? He can do that! Right?
6. Nikolay Davydenko: LUKEWARM -- Yes, he just beat Federer and Nadal in a warmup tournament. The key word there is warmup. It's funny -- I think that because Davydenko is bald, we might think he's older than 28. He's still got time to make a run. Fed's playing with shaky knees, right?
7. Andy Roddick: LUKEWARM -- Yes, he can ride his serve past most hacks, but around the quarters is when they learn to block that sucker back. I see Roddick's trying the play the net more and that's admirable.
8. Robin Soderling: COLD -- Ha ha ha! I know he's the hot stuff now, but I've never liked Soderling, especially after that Nadal thing. He's a jerk! And you know what? That forehand's too flat! There is this one thing called "the net." And there's this other thing called "an ego." I bet it's hurting after that first-round loss. And ... Soderling's just a journeyman who's had his moment. This time next year, he'll be back where he belongs, ranked somewhere in the 80s.
9. Fernando Verdasco: WARM -- Can the Hot Truth make the semis again? Maybe do one better? I dunno ... in a five-set tussle against Davydenko? Or was last year once-in-a-lifetime? You know, like Robin Soderling in a final of the French Open.
10. Jo-Jo Tsonga: LUKEWARM -- Been out with injury, and although he can still hit the cover off the ball, I wonder if he can get past Haas in the third round.
1. Serena Williams: WARMISH -- Right now, I'm watching Serena play doubles, and they're cruising, 5-1 in the first set, but geez. Every time Serena plays a match, she's got more and more bandages on her. Not only that, but I think Sabine Lisicki's got a shot against her in the fourth round.
2. Dinara Safina: LUKEWARM -- Favorable draw, but her reaction to big moments were not so favorable. Example: the 2009 U.S. Open. Safina's wandering through early rounds, begging someone, anyone: "Beat me, beat me! Take me out of my misery!" Seriously, she has a big chance to really do something with her draw here. The second-highest seed in her quarter is Jelena Jankovic.
3. Svetlana Kuznetsova: WARMER -- Form's looking good. Draw? Maybe Clijsters in the fourth round and possibly the upset-minded Aravene Rezai. Look, Clijsters spends most of her time chasing a kid around the house. I'm sure tennis is like a back rub to her. Good luck, Sveta.
4. Caroline Wozniacki: WARMER -- I'd be all about Wozniacki if she wasn't content to just keep the ball going. She's such a passive player that I wonder if she won't run herself ragged just to get to the second week. But if she doesn't, I'd give her a decent shot against Venus Williams in the quarters.
5. Elena Dementieva: HOTTISH -- Arguably the player with the best form right now. The trouble is that she has to play Justine Henin later today in the second round. As a TWA reader recently pointed out, Henin has NOT been eating Bon-Bons all day while she was retired. I think Dementieva can make the semis if she can get past Henin. Big if.
6. Venus Williams: WARMER -- I think I've noted before that Venus' season is like me in the mornings. Slow, sluggish, don't talk to me until noon. Venus is like that in the first half of the season. She's got a cushy draw -- with the likes of Casey Dellacqua and Francesca Schiavone floating around. Is she ready for her sister, dressed for the Aussie Open as a mummy?
7. Victoria Azarenka: LUKEWARM -- Not yet showing any consistency at majors. If she were, I bet she'd be able to take on Serena in the quarters (or Lisicki).
8. Jelena Jankovic: WARM -- It's January. It's hard to tell where anyone is right now, but Jelena Jankovic has been flat for some time now. Being stuck with Marion (Candy) Bartoli and Dinara Safina in your half won't help much. But, as Jankovic will tell you, she had a lot of drama last year. Including "woman troubles." Which should count for something. Will there ever be an end to her drama? If there were, she could win a major for a change. Now that would be drama.
9. Vera Zvonareva: WARM -- Nestled in a part of the draw where she can do some damage. That is, if she's over her hysterics. And, of course, we won't know until she's blown a second-set lead in a major fourth round match again.
10. Aggie Radwanska: COLD -- Not until she gets some meat on her bones.
And, OMG! Rennae Stubbs and Lisa Raymond are playing together again! Say what?