Monday January 16th, 2012

Ryan Harrison got a tough draw in facing Andy Murray in the first round. The two have never played before. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport/Icon SMI)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Hisense Arena is the worst court for viewing a match here. It's big, the crowd sits far away from the court, the ambiance is non-existent and the fans never gets into matches the way they do on the other courts. But it's the place to be on Day 2, with four great matches that promise to give ticket holders some bang for their buck. Click here for the TV schedule.

Andy Murray vs. Ryan Harrison (third match, Hisense Arena): Given Murray's penchant for being a bit unpredictable with his form in the early rounds at Grand Slam tournaments, this matchup popped off the page the minute the draw came out. Can Harrison pull a Bernard Tomic and score a first-round upset? Probably not. It's a tall task to take three sets off a top player, and Harrison hasn't yet developed the weapons that can disturb Murray. Still, the young American has a chance if he serves well and takes some pressure off his return game.

The weather likely will also play a factor as the forecast calls for highs in the mid-90s. Given their game styles (long groundstroke rallies that can be physically draining), this one could be a real grinder during the hottest part of the day. Murray trains in Florida, so he's used to the heat and humidity. Keep an eye on this variable; it might just turn out to be Harrison's best friend.

Maria Sharapova vs. Gisela Dulko (second match, Hisense Arena): The last time these two met, Dulko knocked Sharapova out of Wimbledon in 2009 with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory. Dulko, ranked 68th, has nine career top 10 wins and a history of upsets at majors beyond that Wimbledon result. Last year she eliminated Samantha Stosur at the French Open, and in 2010 she ousted Victoria Azarenka at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open.

Sharapova says her ankle is fine and that she's had enough practice for the tournament. But she didn't look sharp in her one semi-competitive match, an exhibition against Elena Vesnina, on Saturday. That was a meaningless match so I don't put too much stock in it, but we still don't know what to expect from Sharapova here. This match will be a good gauge.

Serena Williams vs. Tamira Paszek (second night match, Rod Laver Arena): This will either be one-way traffic for Serena or a tricky matchup against the hard-hitting but streaky Paszek. More interesting to me is the fact that this is the second day in a row where the women have had to play the second night match on RLA. That worked out fine for Caroline Wozniacki on Monday -- there was no way Roger Federer's match was going to run long. But Serena and Paszek will have to wait out Lleyton Hewitt vs. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. The organizers must have way more confidence in Hewitt's ability to quickly get that match in the books than I do. It's a good thing Serena's a night owl.

Andy Roddick vs. Robin Haase (fourth match, Hisense Arena): These two met here last year in the third round, where Haase caused quite a stir when he took the first set off Roddick. Then Roddick got into Haase's head by, well, firing a ball at it, and from there he romped to a four-set win. Roddick should get through this without incident, but drama has a way of following Haase at the majors. I'm still in therapy from his horrible-but-I-can't-look-away five-set thriller against Murray at the U.S. Open.

Vera Zvonareva vs. Alexandra Dulgheru (second match, Court 2): Dulgheru looked sharp when she took a set off Petra Kvitova in Sydney last week, and, due to injury, her talent outweighs her ranking. She appears healthy now and I'm backing her to pull off the upset against the No. 7 seed. Courtney's Pet Picks: Samantha Stosur vs. Sorana Cirstea (third match, RLA); Nicolas Mahut vs. Radek Stepanek (third match, Court 8); Maria Kirilenko vs. Jarmila Gajdosova (first match, Hisense); Ernests Gulbis vs. Michael Llodra (second match, Court 11); Janko Tipsarevic vs. Dmitry Tursunov (second match, Court 18); Madison Keys vs. Zheng Jie (fourth match, Court 8); Sloane Stephens vs. Silvia Soler-Espinosa (third match, Court 5); Viktor Troicki vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero (fourth match, Court 18); and Jelena Dokic vs. Anna Chakvetadze (second match, MCA).

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