Foot Fault!

Calling all the lines of professional tennis

Three Qualifiers To Watch In Melbourne

By now, all draws have been studied and previewed to within an inch of their lives. People have made their predictions and picks - some bold, others predictable - and are all set and ready to go. But, hey, there’s always room for one more.

Adrian Mannarino
24 years-old

As with seemingly every other male French tennis player on the planet (well, not all of them. Sorry Gilles), Adrian Mannarino falls under the ‘incredibly entertaining yet ultimately harmless’ category of tennis player. He has variety, a quick mind, a delightfully effortless and style of play and both his tennis and hair are the source of endless entertainment and confusion in equal measure. After an abominable 2012, it appears the flairsome Frenchman has arrived in 2013 with a completely clean slate and fresh mind. Already he has captured his first challenger title in Noumea and has carried this momentum with him into Melbourne, qualifying without the loss of a single set, with two beatdowns in his final two qualifying rounds.

He efforts have hardly been rewarded, however, with a disastrous first round match against fifth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro on the horizon. But if his two previous meetings with Delpo are anything to go by - a win at Queens in 2011 and an extremely tight four-setter at this venue last year - his imaginative tennis should provide more problems for the title contender. And if not, he’ll still entertain. Watch him. That’s an order.

Ricardas Berankis
22 years-old

Pocket Rocket is perhaps the most unintentionally inappropriate nickname in the history of unintentionally inappropriate nicknames, but what else can we call young Rikkie B? He stands at somewhere around 4ft1 yet is capable of serving in excess of 130mph, thanks in a large part to his distinct service motion - the motion uncoiling at the speed of light as his stocky legs launch him clear into the hair. The rest of his game is interesting too, with the talented Lithuanian armed with speed around the court (I said he was 4ft1, after all), an impressive forehand and a penchant for variety.

Since breaking the top 100 back in 2011, the former junior US Open champ has been plagued by a myriad of frustrating injures which have sidelined him during his most important development period and left him floundering while the Raonic, Dimitrov, Tomic, Harrison generation consolidated their places in the top 100. However, he is back and has been slowly regaining his old form and more. He qualified as the second seed with aplomb and has been handed a winnable first round against good ol’ Sergiy Stakhovsky. Should he defeat the mouthy journeyman, the ever-funky Florian Mayer will likely await with the chance to show off his skills on the big stage against a looming Andy Murray in the third round. Watch him too.

Daniel Brands
25 years old

Ah, the Brandwagon. The most mindlessly delusional fan following in tennis…until it wasn’t. Against all odds and despite those ironic declarations from fans of future ATP glory, Daniel Brands’ year kicked off in immense style as he braved his first ATP semi in Doha, defeating Chardy and a returning Monfils to cap off the second best week of his career. Brands previously held a reputation as a player who, at 6ft5, relied mostly on his serve, but he showcased the best of his thunderous forehand and deft touches at the net en-route to his Doha semi-final.

There hasn’t been a let-up since his surprise run. After a tight three-setter in the first round of qualies, the German strolled through his remaining two in straight sets. He has been placed in perhaps the most interesting early section of all, with a first round battle against Klizan and the ever-humble Bernard Tomic a potential second-rounder. Realistically, all three could advance to a third round match with Roger Federer. Only time will tell which player does.

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4 Responses to Three Qualifiers To Watch In Melbourne

  1. Jose January 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I took your advice and watched the two televised matches. Mannarino was a disappointment but Kuznetsov was amazing against Monaco !! new fan

  2. Victor Hugo (@21victor) January 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I’m fully expecting Brands and Berankis to make through the 3 round. Tomic vs Brands is looking very promising and we will see how much gas is left on the Bernie tank (of course it can be a rout by the Aussie but i’m not buying Bernieslam yet) You could write about the women’s teenagers breaking through this year, i would like to know your opinion on 2013 being a transition year for the WTA. I have really high hopes on Puig, Vekic, Beck and many others doing well this year (Genie too but I think she’ll need more time to mature her game) Anyway, great stuff!

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