St. Pete seeds lack Simon survival skills

The St. Petersburg draw is already in shambles after just two rounds of the tournament, as seeds are tumbling out at an alarming rate. No. 5 Marin Cilic, No. 6 Dmitry Tursunov, and No. 7 Mario Ancic were all upset in their openers. No. 2 Nikolay Davydenko, No. 4 Mikhail Youzhny, and No. 8 Marat Safin followed suit in round two, much to the chagrin of the Russian fans. Davydenko pulled out after his first-round win with a wrist injury, while Youzhny lost to doubles partner Mischa Zverev and Safin fell to qualifier Andrey Golubev.

The only seeds to reach the quarterfinals were No. 3 Fernando Verdasco and–not surprisingly–No. 1 Andy Murray. Murray won the Masters Series Madrid last week and has had no problems so far in St. Petersburg taking care of Viktor Troicki and Ernests Gulbis.

Pehaps the six unfortunate seeded players in St. Petersburg should be taking notes from Gilles Simon. The Frenchman won five matches in three sets–four in third-set tiebreakers–last week en route to the Madrid title match, and he is already up to his old tricks in Lyon. Simon recovered from being a set and a break down in the first round to outlast Juan Monaco in three. He went to three again on Thursday with Andreas Seppi, but was far too strong mentally and physically in the end for the Italian.

Simon will play countryman Josselin Ouanna, who got into the event as a wildcard, in the quarterfinals. Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are also through, while Richard Gasquet got upset by Steve Darcis in the second round.

Over in Basel, top two seeds Roger Federer and David Nalbandian have been doing their best Simon impersonations. Federer struggled with Bobby Reynolds in his opener and lost the second set in a tiebreaker, but he outlasted the American in three. The Swiss then saw Jarkko Nieminen serve for the first set on Thursday, but Federer came back to win the match in two tiebreakers. Nalbandian cruised in his first match, but the Argentine needed a third-set breaker to overcome Kristof Vliegen.

James Blake and Juan Martin Del Potro are still looming large as potential semifinal opponents for Federer and Nalbandian, respectively.