The 7th week of the ATP Tour is coming up and so here is another preview. The preview includes Buenos Aires (Argentina), ABN Amro in Rotterdam (Netherlands), San Jose (USA).
The South American claycourt swing heads to Buenos Aires this week and all the usual suspects are there to try to win this title. Three of the top four seeds are hometown players looking to claim their first title of the year – #4 seed Juan Ignacio Chela especially will be looking to turn around an abysmal start to the year but faces a very tough opener in Santiago Ventura. We will have to wait and see if this is one of the weeks #1 seed David Nalbandian decides to care about tennis (though we’d like to think he’d care at his home tournament), and it is #2 seed Juan Monaco’s first tournament back after a pretty serious ankle injury that dashed his hopes for a title two weeks ago at Vina del Mar; he also faces a tough opener in Agustin Calleri. Also joining the party and poised to make deep runs are this week’s Brasil Open finalists Nicolas Almagro and Carlos Moya, depending on how they rebound physically. Filled with claycourters and possible upsets, it’s really impossible to know how this one might turn out.
Despite losing world #3 Novak Djokovic before the draw was made, this tournament is clearly still the strongest of the week, as it boasts half of the world’s top ten (in fact, all eight seeds are in the top 20) and 125 ranking points more than Buenos Aires or San Jose. This means there are no easy draws, evidenced by the fact that #1 seed Rafael Nadal must open against tough Dmitry Tursunov right away in the first round and a potential second round with Lleyton Hewitt. In the very same first quarter of the draw, Marcos Baghdatis faces no easy task in first round opponent and indoor monster Robin Soderling.
Headed by #4 seed and defending champion Mikhail Youzhny and #7 Juan Carlos Ferrero, this quarter is easily the weakest of the four, and Youzhny is the obvious favorite to make it through to the semis from this section, but Ferrero should not be counted out either. This quarter is not without dangerous floaters, though. Gilles Simon or Feliciano Lopez could make for a tricky second round match for Youzhny, and while not his favorite surface, the fact that Tommy Robredo is ranked 19 in the world and is unseeded just shows just how strong this draw is.
The third quarter of the draw is where things really get interesting. Fresh off his uh, challenger win this week, last year’s finalist Ivan Ljubicic sees himself unseeded and thus will have his hands full – very full – with #5 seed Tomas Berdych in the first round. Right next to them in the draw is perhaps the funniest-looking match on the ATP tour with pint-sized Olivier Rochus taking on the giant Ivo Karlovic. #3 Ferrer’s draw to the quarterfinals appears to be a fairly smooth one, but he cannot overlook Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
In the final quarter of the draw, #6 seed Andy Murray, fresh off his Marseille win, should make it through to the quarterfinals, where he’d also be favored against #2 seed Nikolay Davydenko. Also lurking in this quarter is Michael Llodra, who could be a formidable player indoors if he gets his serve-volley game working, and local players Robin Haase and Raemon Sluiter, who announced that he is making this Rotterdam event his last ATP appearance.
What can we really say except that this is Roddick’s tournament to lose (which means he probably will). Stopped by Andy Murray the past two years in the semifinals and champion the two years after that, Murray’s decision to play the European indoor swing, as well as Ivo Karlovic’s, conbined with the absence of Fernando Gonzalez, leaves this tournament Roddick’s for the taking. Whether he will take it, we will have to wait and see. He faces lucky loser Chris Guccione, a late replacement Vince Spadea, in the first round and could face Delray Beach champ Kei Nishikori in what would be a most intriguing second round. At the bottom of the draw, James Blake will have to rebound quickly from the disappointment of losing the Delray Beach final and could face Robby Ginepri again, if Ginepri makes it there (he opens in a rematch of last week’s match against Michael Russell).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this event is something not even related to the tournament draw at all. Tomorrow night, Pete Sampras will play an exhibition against Tommy Haas and the following night, the entire US Davis Cup team will be present with the trophy itself, which is making a stop in San Jose, for a nice celebration.