Teenagers have some growing up to do

Several teenagers were supposed to challenge at the Australian Open. But Chris Fowler writes they have some growing up to do.

Updated: January 18, 2006, 2:37 AM ET
By Chris Fowler | Special to ESPN.com

What jumped out at me on the second day of the first round was the real collapse and poor performance of the so-called next generation of men's players.

Great Britain's Andy Murray had a very poor performance against Juan Ignacio Chela (losing in straight sets), and then a poor performance in his press conference. He really seemed to direct blame at the press. Murray has to look within himself. He was awful on the court and has too much talent to play like that in a major. But he does have a good future ahead of him.

France's Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet both were sent out in straight sets. No disgrace for Gasquet losing to Tommy Haas, but he never seemed to get his teeth into the match. Monfils, predicted by some to go deep into the draw and into the second week, had a very dispiriting loss to Luis Horna. He was broken often, and Monfils has to figure out ways to beat pros more consistently when he can't just dominate with his serve and forehand like he did in juniors.

I'm not writing these guys off, but we look for the breakthrough from guys who are almost 19 years old and it didn't happen. Other players have made big impacts and even won majors at 19, so I was just a bit disappointed.

Serbia and Montenegro's Novak Djokovic is another talented young player who also lost in straight sets in the first round. So it's not just losing, but it's not being competitive and that's what I saw as a theme from Tuesday.

Martina's Magic
It was great to see Martina Hingis return. I have to say I was surprised because I didn't know what to expect. She was vintage against Vera Zvonareva.

Very few players, much less with some rust, came out and played that cleanly in the first round. She didn't make an error for about the first five or six games and was rock solid in every phase of her game, even her serve which is a potential liability. She was placing the ball well and didn't get hurt at all on her serve.

I'm looking forward to the potential Hingis-Mary Pierce third-round match, because that will be a real measuring stick for Martina to see if she is going be able to quickly rise back toward the Top 10. Pierce is a big hitter and the kind of player who could give her trouble and did before she retired. That, and Pierce is playing really well. It would also be a rematch of the 1997 final that Hingis won in straight sets.

Hewitt vs. Chela
The headline match in the second round will be Lleyton Hewitt vs. Juan Ignacio Chela. There's no love lost there. The camps almost got into a brawl after the spitting incident last year.

More importantly, Chela has a very solid and penetrating game from the backcourt that is going to make Hewitt grind and have to work. And Hewitt is coming off almost a four-hour match in the first round, while Chela had a very easy time with Andy Murray.

I'm eager to see if Hewitt can find some form. He didn't have typical Hewitt energy on the court against Robin Vik. To me, his shots had no stick and his serve is really an issue (13 double faults and was broken nine times). This is going to be a fierce battle.

ESPN's Chris Fowler will provide analysis for ESPN.com during the Australian Open.

Chris Fowler

College Football
Since 1989, Chris Fowler has been ESPN's primary college football and men's college basketball studio host. He's anchored College GameDay, the network's award-winning Saturday morning college football preview show, since 1990.