…in my virtual tournament Andy Roddick would beat Roger Federer just once so that he can regain a bit of his Federer confidence.


Tennis-x.com reports that IBM “has built a three dimensional facsimile of the Melbourne Tennis Centre complex inside a virtual world called Second Life. Over the duration of the two week tournament, data will be fed from games in the real Rod Laver Arena into the unreal one, nanoseconds after [it] happens.”

Wrap your head around this concept because IBM is creating a virtual Australian Open using the actual trajectory of the ball as it appears in the real matches in the tournament. The players will look and act like athletes in sports video games. In the future, instead of paying extra for that sports package so you can get The Tennis Channel, you’ll be able to log on to a virtual version. The virtual version might be free – if you don’t want to buy land, you can troll around Second Life without paying – but I also suspect that every free pixel would be plastered with advertising.

Second Life is a virtual universe with avatars that represent your body in virtual space. Your avatar can own land, create objects, attend virtual concerts and even work as a pole dancer and earn a few Linden dollars – virtual currency. Last year I gave the winner of our ATP fantasy subleague a pair of virtual tennis shoes from Second Life because we had no budget for the leather version.

I actually have an avatar on Second Life named Imriel after the character in Jacqueline Carey’s book Kushiel’s Scion, part of the Imriel Trilogy. If I ever get 48 hours in a day instead of 24, I want to build a virtual tennis world on Second Life. If I build my own virtual tennis tournament, what might it look like? First of all, in my tournament Andy Roddick would beat Roger Federer just once so that he can regain a bit of his Federer confidence.

Wait a minute! It happened. In the real world. Well, almost the real world. Roddick beat Federer in the Kooyong final this week but it’s an exhibition so it doesn’t count in the ATP world.

The virtual version of the Open starts Monday as does the real version. Meanwhile, let’s look at my version of the Open.

Lleyton Hewiit is injured again and his coach Roger Rasheed has abandoned him. Hewitt was evidently abusive to the members of his box during his loss to Igor Kunitsyn at Adelaide and Rasheed quit soon after. But Hewitt is often abusive when he’s on the court so it’s possible that Rasheed is unhappy with Hewitt’s conditioning or maybe he’s deserting a sinking ship. Rasheed’s public announcement of his split with Hewitt sounded like a job application for the next vacant coaching spot on tour. I have Hewitt through to the third round if that.

Rafael Nadal gets Robert Kendrick in the first round. That’s the same Kendrick who had Nadal down two sets to none at Wimbledon last year by relentlessly attacking the net. If the courts are fast enough it could be an exciting match. Nadal retired in the first round at Sydney with a groin pull or a hamstring pull of whatever it was. Does one go with the other? If Nadal gets as far a meeting with Andy Murray in the fourth round, I think he loses it. Murray and Nadal have never met before.

Marcos Baghdatis and Gael Monfils could be a very entertaining match in the second round. Two very emotional, very athletic players will be going at it for four or five sets. Monfils hasn’t been consistent enough yet but one day he’s going to set a slam on fire. The third round could be the same thing because Richard Gasquet might be there. Baghdatis and Gasquet have also never met before even though Baghdatis has been on the tour for three years and Gasquet for four. I have Baggy getting through both matches but just barely. He won’t get past Tommy Robredo in the fourth round.

Gaston Gaudio has a 5-2 record over Nikolay Davydenko but all five victories were on clay before 2006. I hope married life is better to Nikolay’s game than it has been to Lleyton Hewitt’s. I have Malisse over Davydenko if they meet in the fourth round.

David Nalbandian had a disappointing second half last year. I don’t know whether his abdominal strain bothered him or it was general malaise. Whatever it was, it’s continuing into the new year. He lost in the first round at Chennai two weeks ago then pulled out of Kooyong with tendonitis in his knee. He’ll lose to someone before the semifinals, probably to Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals.

James Blake will meet Carlos Moya in the first round after beating Moya in the final at Sydney last week. No contest – I hope – because I think this is the year that Blake finally wins a five set match. He’s currently 0-9 in five setters. His first big test will be Fernando Gonzalez in the fourth round and here’s where he’ll need that five setter. I think he gets it. In fact, I think he gets all the way to the final where he loses to… see below.

Roddick has a pretty good road to the semifinals where he should meet Federer. Marco Chiudinelli grew up playing tennis with Federer. He said that he always beat Federer in practice but Federer always beat him in tournaments – which is where it really counts. That’s how it’ll be this time. Kooyong was practice, the semis will be for real.

Zero Counter: each week we add up the number of matches between players who’ve never met before. We’re making two points here. First of all, if players never meet, how can there be rivalries? The closest thing to a rivalry on the ATP tour is Federer-Nadal and that’s dormant at the moment. Second, when there are two or three tournaments every week in far flung places, fans seldom get to see the top players in one place. This week is an exception because it’s a slam, but 28 out of the 127 matches in my version of the draw feature matches between players who’ve never met before. That’s 22%. Way too high.

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Australian Open 2007 (names in blue are my picks)
Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Quarterfinals

1. Federer
2. Phau
3. Bjorkman
4. Patience
5. Greul
6. Lu
7. Hernych
8. Youzhny
9. Ferrero
10.Hajek
11.Udomchoke
12.Arguello
13.Lopez
14.qualifier
15.Massu
16.Djokovic
17.Baghdatis
18.Schuettler
19.Monfils
20.bracciali
21.Simon
22.Delic
23.Volandri
24.Gasquet
25.Acasuso
26.Querrey
27.Serra
28.Devilder
29.Karlovic
30.Melzer
31.Ram. Hidalgo
32.Robredo
Federer 
 
Bjorkman 
 
Greul 
 
Youzhny 
 
Ferrero 
 
Udomchoke 
 
Lopez 
 
Djokovic 
 
Baghdatis 
 
Monfils 
 
Simon 
 
Gasquet 
 
Acasuso 
 
Serra 
 
Melzer 
 
Robredo
Federer 
 
 
 
Youzhny 
 
 
 
Ferrero 
 
 
 
Djokovic 
 
 
 
Baghdatis 
 
 
 
Gasquet 
 
 
 
Serra 
 
 
 
Robredo
Federer 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Djokovic 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Baghdatis 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Robredo
Federer 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Federer 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Robredo

33.Ljubicic
34.Fish
35.Mahut
36.Monaco
37.Koubek
38.Arthurs
39.qualifier
40.Calleri
41.Stepanek
42.Llodra
43.Dlouhy
44.qualifier
45.T. Johansson
46.qualifier
47.Pless
48.Ferrer
49.Ancic
50.Soeda
51.J. Johansson
52.Garcia-Lopez
53.Spadea
54.Andreev
55.Vanek
56.Hrbaty
57.Safin
58.Becker
59.qualifier
60.Srichaphan
61.Gicquel
62.Jones
63.Tsonga
64.Roddick
Ljubicic 
 
Monaco 
 
Koubek 
 
Calleri 
 
Stepanek 
 
Dlouhy 
 
T. Johansson 
 
Ferrer 
 
Ancic 
 
J. Johansson 
 
Andreev 
 
Hrbaty 
 
Safin 
 
Srichaphan 
 
Gicquel 
 
Roddick
Ljubicic 
 
 
 
Calleri 
 
 
 
Stepanek 
 
 
 
Ferrer 
 
 
 
Ancic 
 
 
 
Hrbaty 
 
 
 
Safin 
 
 
 
Roddick
Ljubicic 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ferrer 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ancic 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Roddick
Ljubicic 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Roddick 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Roddick

65.Nalbandian
66.Tipsarevic
67. qualifier
68.Lapentti
69.Guccione
70.O. Rochus
71.C. Rochus
72.Grosjean
73.Soderling
74.Mayer
75.seppi
76. qualifier
77. qualifier
78. qualifier
79.Montanes
80.Haas
81.Berdych
82.Lee
83. qualifier
84.Smeets
85.mirnyi
86.Horna
87. qualifier
88.Tursunov
89.Malisse
90.Clement
91.Santoro
92.Kunitsyn
93..Muller
94.Gaudio
95.Roitman
96.Davydenko
Nalbandian 
 
qualifier 
 
O. Rochus 
 
Grosjean 
 
Soderling 
 
Seppi 
 
qualifier 
 
Haas 
 
Berdych  
 
Smeets 
 
Mirnyi 
 
Tursunov 
 
Malisse 
 
Santoro 
 
Gaudio 
 
Davydenko
Nalbandian 
 
 
 
O. Rochus 
 
 
 
Soderling 
 
 
 
Haas 
 
 
 
Berdych 
 
 
 
Tursunov 
 
 
 
Malisse 
 
 
 
Davydenko
Nalbandian 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Haas 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Berdych 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Malisse
Haas 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Haas 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Malisse

97.Blake
98.Moya
99.Luczak
100. qualifier
101. qualifier
102. qualifier
103.Ginepri
104.Almagro
105.Hewitt
106. qualifier
107.Dancevic
108.Hanescu
109.del Potro
110.Di Mauro
111.Korolev
112.Gonzalez
113.Murray
114.Martin
115.Verdasco
116.Mathieu
117.Chela
118.Starace
119.Goldstein
120.Nieminen
121.Wawrinka
122.Kim
123.Benneteau
124.qualifier
125.Vliegen
126.Kohlschreiber
127.Kendrick
128.Nadal
Blake 
 
Luczak 
 
qualifer 
 
Ginepri 
 
Hewitt 
 
Dancevic 
 
Del Potro 
 
Gonzalez 
 
Murray 
 
Verdasco 
 
Chela 
 
Nieminen 
 
Wawrinka 
 
Benneteau 
 
Vliegen 
 
Nadal
Blake 
 
 
 
Ginepri 
 
 
 
Hewitt 
 
 
 
Gonzalez 
 
 
 
Murray 
 
 
 
Nieminen 
 
 
 
Benneteau 
 
 
 
Nadal
Blake 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gonzalez 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Murray 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nadal
Blake 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Blake 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Murray

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