Around the Corner: Home Stretch – Valencia and Basel
While the WTA has almost wrapped up its season, the ATP World Tour still has a few more events to go before we have reached the elusive “off season.”
As November is now upon us, the men’s tour will turn this week to two 500 level events in Valencia, Spain and Basel, Switzerland. Let’s have a closer look at what is around the corner at both locations.
Andy Murray returns as defending champion and is also the number on seed this year. Murray has claimed two tournament victories this season, both over Roger Federer, but would no-doubt call 2010 an off year. Still waiting for his first Grand Slam victory, there is really no way for Murray to salvage his year at this point. Anything less than a Slam at this point of his career is a let-down.
Murray opens against lefty Feliciano Lopez and could face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals and then Fernando Verdasco in the semis. Nikolay Davydenko is also in the top-half of the draw as the 6th seed but has been miserable during the second half of the season.
In the bottom half, Mikhail Youzhny is the player to beat the way he has played of late. The Russian played great at the U.S. Open and has followed that up with a victory in Malaysia and a loss in the finals of St. Petersburg just this past week.
Gael Monfils and Robin Soderling will try to emerge from the bottom quarter of the draw.
For any Canadian tennis fans out there, youngster Milos Raonic fell in the first round of qualifying to Pablo Cuevas by a score of 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. Hopes of cracking the top one hundred in the world rankings will have to wait for next year for Raonic.
Former tournament ball boy Roger Federer will be trying for his fourth career title in his hometown. Seeded first, Federer will try to avenge his loss from a year ago to Novak Djokovic. Prior to that result, Federer had won the event three years in a row.
The Swiss great will open against a tricky opponent in Alexandr Dolgopolov. This is the first career meeting between the two and I feel it has upset potential written all over it. Dolgopolov is a talented youngster who has yet to have his break-out moment or victory. He plays a game with a ton of variety, has a deadly serve that is hard to read and displays great touch with his frequent drop-shots. If Roger is not on his game he could find himself in a real battle here.
Beyond Dolgopolov, Federer could face Janko Tipsarevic and Jurgen Melzer in successive matches.
In the second quarter American Andy Roddick will face compatriot Sam Querrey in an entertaining first round. I put this one at 50/50 given Roddick’s questionable health of late. David Nalbandian and Marin Cilic are also lurking in this difficult section of the draw.
In the bottom half, look for number two seed Djokovic to emerge to the finals. It would be great to see him and Fed go at it again. The Djoker will have to navigate around big serving John Isner in his quarter, and then potentially Ivan Ljubicic or Tomas Berdych in order to make it back to the finals.
After this week the Paris Masters is on the horizon, followed by a brief hiatus prior to the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. Enjoy the tennis while it is still here and talk to you again next week.