Sunday, January 18, 2009 Updated: January 19, 12:07 PM ET
Hewitt-Gonzo headline Day 2
By Ravi Ubha Special to ESPN.com
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Here's a look at the notable matches on tap for Day 2 at the Australian Open.
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Fernando Gonzalez (13): Australian tennis fans must be a little nervous. If the rankings stick, their best hope of winning the tournament is gone before you can say, "G'day mate."
The predictable Lleyton Hewitt meets the unpredictable Fernando Gonzalez on Tuesday in easily the pick of the first-round encounters.
Hometown favorite Lleyton Hewitt hasn't ventured past the fourth round in Australia since 2005.
Hewitt brings dogged determination, elevated further since he's on the comeback trail from a debilitating hip injury, and steely ground strokes. He'll be backed by a packed crowd on the main Rod Laver Arena, likely resulting in an atmosphere that rivals Davis Cup.
"It's going to be tough, but the whole time I've been preparing the last couple of months to be ready for whoever I came up against," Hewitt proclaimed. "Hopefully I can knock him out."
Once a world No. 1 and the owner of two Grand Slam titles, his ranking sits at 70, however, and how his hip fares in a best-of-five sets encounter remains to be seen.
When he's on, Gonzalez is a match for anyone. His thunderous forehand is potent, and he can produce the deftest of drop shots at will. En route to becoming the second of three consecutive unlikely Australian Open finalists in 2007, the Chilean dispatched Hewitt with relative ease. Expect a few Chilean flags in the crowd, too.
Not so encouraging for Gonzalez is that he hasn't played a competitive match in 2009. Leading up to the Australian Open, he was saying how nice it felt to take a prolonged break at the end of 2008. If he's disinterested, like he was against Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open last summer, watching Gonzalez is far from pretty.
"It's going to be one of the toughest first-rounders of all the tournament, but I am ready for that," countered the No. 13 seed.
Prediction: Hewitt in four. Other interesting matches on Day 2: Kei Nishikori vs. Jurgen Melzer (31): Isn't the Australian Open supposed to be the Grand Slam of Asia? Organizers put this tasty-looking encounter featuring Japan's Nishikori in the wilderness of Court 6. The exciting 19-year-old baseliner is looking to back up his performance at the U.S. Open, where he reached the fourth round. An arm injury he suffered last week apparently isn't that serious.
Melzer, a lefty from Austria, has the tools to trouble nearly everyone, evidenced by his showing against Andy Murray at Flushing Meadows. He led by two sets in the third round, only to fade physically and lose in five. Consistency, though, isn't his forte.
Prediction: Melzer in four. Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) vs. Anastasia Rodionova: Worth watching here is Kuznetsova's health. The underperforming Russian pulled out of the Medibank International in Sydney last week with a stomach strain and seems susceptible to an early exit. The locals wouldn't mind the 2004 U.S. Open champion exiting. Rodionova, born in Russia, lives in Melbourne and awaits Australian citizenship.
Prediction: Kuznetsova in three.Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.