Linda Pierce's breakdrown of the men's and women's draw. Much angst over Philippoussis, with whom she is obviously in love.
Top Australians draw contrasting fortunes
By Linda Pearce
January 17, 2004
Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt share the same half of the Australian Open draw, but yesterday's fortunes were contrasting. Hewitt's first match will be against a qualifier, while Philippoussis must face 2002 champion Thomas Johansson in the Swede's Melbourne Park return.
Hewitt's opponent will not be known until this afternoon, but 10th-seeded Philippoussis has the satisfaction of knowing he has beaten Johansson in each of their three previous matches, all of them on hardcourts.
Johansson, preparing for just his second tournament since February knee surgery, has already admitted a title repeat is beyond him; some early damage, however, is not.
The winner will play either Fabrice Santoro or local wildcard Peter Luczak, before a likely third-round assignment against French Open finalist Martin Verkerk, who eliminated Philippoussis 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) in the Sydney quarter-finals on Thursday. The injured Argentinian Guillermo Coria and world No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero are the highest-ranked seeds in the quarter.
For Hewitt, the 15th seed, there is a potential second round against Xavier Malisse or Karol Kucera, followed by Spain's Felix Mantilla, before a tantalising rematch with Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.
He has beaten the Swiss in seven of nine meetings, the last through an inspired comeback in the Davis Cup semi-final at Melbourne Park in September.
Johansson described his draw as "very, very tough. Mark is one of the best players in the world (and) is always a very tough opponent, but hopefully he feels the same way when he looks at the draw."
While the Australians are concentrated in the bottom half of the men's draw, the top half features top seed Andy Roddick, defending champion Andre Agassi and former finalists Carlos Moya and Rainer Schuettler.
Agassi, who starts against Australian wildcard Todd Larkham, is seeded for a third-round contest with countryman Vince Spadea who, in 1999, was the last player to beat the four-time titleholder at Melbourne Park.
As he did at the US Open, where he started against Tim Henman, Roddick received perhaps the most brutal draw of all, against Chilean slugger Fernando Gonzalez in a match billed as the biggest serve in the game against the heaviest forehand. "That's a tough first round," Roddick said of his prospects against the world No. 35, with whom he has split two previous career meetings.
"He's a very good player, he plays big. I don't know what he's ranked but I thought he would have been seeded. It's good; it means I'm going to have to play from the start. But he's dangerous, definitely, he hits huge balls and goes for broke, so we will see how it goes."
There will be two all-Australian wildcard first rounds: Evie Dominikovic and Trudi Musgrave, and Canberra's Alun Jones against local teenager-of-the-moment Chris Guccione, who stunned Ferrero in Sydney on Tuesday before an honourable loss to Wayne Ferreira.
"I played (Jones) a couple of months ago . . . and I went down four and four, but that was on a slow court, so hopefully things will change," Guccione said. "This match we'll both probably be a little bit tighter, so we'll see what happens. If I beat Alun, I'm sure I'm going to come up against a seed, so (the Ferrero match) just shows me that I can beat the seeds."
Women's favourite Justine Henin-Hardenne opens against 15-year-old South Australian Olivia Lukaszewicz, and shares the top of the draw with Lindsay Davenport - her possible round-of-16 foe - and fourth seed Amelie Mauresmo.
Venus Williams appears to have the benefit of a softer half, where much will depend on the state of Kim Clijsters's injured left ankle. "No news is good news as far as I'm concerned," said Open chief executive Paul McNamee. "I would anticipate she'll be there for the first round."
- with Karen Lyon