The clay court season will have its work cut out for it in terms of matching the fast paced start to the 2012 season on the ATP World Tour.
We are just over three months into the grueling professional tennis schedule but have already witnessed some outstanding performances and intriguing story lines.
World number one Novak Djokovic has won the first Grand Slam of the year and seems prepared to continue the brilliance we saw from a year ago.
Roger Federer has improved upon his end to 2011 and compiled a 44-3 record since the U.S. Open in September. Suddenly being thirty doesn’t seem so bad does it?
John Isner seems poised to carry the weight of American tennis hopes after nearly ten years of dominance from Andy Roddick.
Andy Murray is still a mystery containing all the talent one could hope for, yet waiting for his first Grand Slam triumph that many thought would have happened by now. Perhaps teaming with former eight time major champ Ivan Lendl will see him over that barrier.
Rafael Nadal’s season is already surrounded by question marks as his knees are once again threatening to stall the great heights he is capable of attaining. Will we see the king of clay this spring?
The shift in surface will force everyone to adjust and soon we’ll see if the players above can continue to dominate the headlines in the tennis world.
This level 250 event has Pablo Andujar as its defending champion from a year ago. With plenty of clay court events coming up over the next two months, many players see no hurry to dive into the field, which explains why this one is certainly weaker than what we will witness in the weeks to come.
The number one seed here is an under-whelming one with Florian Mayer from Germany holding the pole position. Mayer was never able to reach the same heights as Nicolas Kiefer and Tommy Haas were able to attain and he clearly is not the second coming of Boris Becker.
Unseeded Albert Montanes and Guillermo Garcia Lopez represent the strongest clay court opponents in this half of the draw, and I’d bank on one of them making it to the finals rather than Mayer.
In the bottom half, second seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov might state that clay is his favorite surface, but over the previous year where he has risen into the top thirty in the world, I’ve seen little evidence that he should be feared on the red dirt with the exception of a small tournament victory in Umag. That being said, I suppose this is the perfect type of tournament for him to step-up at.
The previously mentioned Andujar is the third seed and will surely be confident he can win a few matches once more at this venue. Ranked 39th in the world, Andujar lost five of his first six matches of the year, but recently took a set off Novak Djokovic on hard courts in Indian Wells before falling 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-2 in their fourth round encounter.
Why anyone would waste their time playing on the har-tru courts in Houston has always been beyond me, yet there is decent field vying for the $79,000 winner’s check.
Seeded first is Mardy Fish who did not participate in this weekend’s Davis Cup victory over France due to exhaustion. I wouldn’t bet for Fish to go too far due to the surface here. He gets a first round bye which also likely won’t do him much good when he potentially faces Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who is a decent clay court player.
Juan Monaco is seeded fourth and is my pick to navigate his way through to the finals. Monaco has had a good run lately on hard courts where he surprisingly made it to the semi-finals of Miami. Look for that confidence to translate into further success on clay as well.
The bottom half of the draw is fairly wide open. I’d expect for the confident John Isner to continue to build on his break-out season. Isner has made his first ATP Masters final in Indian Wells and has performed quite well on clay as well, with huge Davis Cup victories over Roger Federer and the Swiss as well as Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and the French.
Feliciano Lopez is seeded third but has been his usual inconsistent self of late, while big-serving Ivo Karlovic is always a threat even on a slower surface like this one.
Fans of American veteran James Blake might want to check him out in what I’m sure will be his last season on the pro tour. Blake is currently ranked 74th in the world but has been plagued by injuries for the past few seasons and I can’t see him continuing to trudge along for much longer in this state. He opens against sixth seeded Carlos Berlocq.
After this week, things will heat up with the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 event that will surely draw all the big names back into the mix. Enjoy the transition and the build-up to next month’s French Open!
With the opening round of the Davis Cup wrapping up on Sunday, the ATP World Tour will now shift back into form with three tournaments in Rotterdam, San Jose and Sao Paulo. Here’s a closer look at the draws from all three events and some analysis on who stands the best chance of making it to the final weekend.
The largest of the three being played this week, the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament is a level 500 event. An indoor hard-court event, Roger Federer will be looking for the surface to bring him some much needed success. A disastrous Davis Cup showing at home on clay has left Federer clearly confused about the status of his game. Rather than admit he played poorly, Federer instead shifted the blame onto country-man Stan Wawrinka. It was a rare moment of bad judgement from Federer. He opens with Nicolas Mahut from France and then could potentially face a dangerous opponent in Mikhail Youzhny who won the title recently in Zagreb.
The always tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov is also in the same quarter as Federer. The two have only played once, with Federer winning in Basel two years ago. Dolgopolov has come a long way since then and with the way Roger played this past week, you’d have to think this could be a great QF match.
Richard Gasquet, Feliciano Lopez and former top-ten presence Nikolay Davydenko are in the following quarter of the draw. I’d give a well-rested Gasquet (he did not travel to Canada for Davis Cup) the best shot of emerging here.
Juan Martin Del Potro is the third seed and should be able to navigate his way through the third quarter of the draw. He opens against Michael Llodra of France who has to get all the way from Vancouver, Canada to Rotterdam in the next twenty-four hours.
At the bottom of the draw is second seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic who has had some success lately with a big win in Montpellier over Gael Monfils. Berdych had a very solid 2011 where he won one event and reached eight tournament semi-finals and seven tournament quarter-finals. He is really starting to find that consistency that will make him a mainstay in the top-ten. A meeting in the second round with Marcos Baghdatis looms, but otherwise Berdych should be able to set-up a semi-final encounter with Del Potro that would be highly entertaining.
Regardless of the results, the tournament is guaranteed a new winner this year as Robin Soderling is not yet healthy enough to defend the title which he has held for the past two years. I’m gonna give the nod to Berdych in this one and I have a feeling that Federer’s recent troubles might continue with an early exit this week.
Played on clay, the Brasil Open attracts some of the usual dirt-ballers one might expect to see. Nicolas Almagro is the defending champion and also won this event in 2008. He has played some pretty decent ball on hard-courts so far this year so we’ll see if that continues on his favourite surface. Almagro is seeded first and gets a bye into the second round. His quarter is pretty sparse which should help him get his clay-court wheels going.
Fernando Verdasco is the third seed and has a nice section in his quarter as well. Take a look at veteran Fernando Gonzalez from Chile if possible as he has already announced his retirement to take place in Miami this coming March. Injuries have really taken away Gonzo’s physical and mental endurance but hopefully he has a little magic left in him before he says goodbye.
In the bottom-half of the draw, aging Juan Carlos Ferrero the eighth seed and Thomaz Bellucci the fourth seed will likely fight it out for a spot in the quarter, while the bottom quarter is the most interesting with David Nalbandian who is unseeded, Albert Montanes and second seeded Gilles Simon.
Almagro gets my vote of confidence to take this one based on his clay-court prowess and success at this venue in previous years.
A year ago the ATP World Tour took notice of fast-rising Canadian sensation Milos Raonic when he won his first-ever event here in San Jose. Unfortunately for Canadian tennis fans, a repeat will be very difficult to achieve for several reasons.
Firstly, Raonic was forced to pull-out of the Davis Cup tie against France on Sunday with pain in his knee that had been already taped throughout the event. Will he even be healthy enough to play in San Jose?
Beyond the injury debate, Milos has a tough draw that sets him up with first-seeded Gael Monfils in a possible semi-final match-up. He will also have to contend with having the entire draw gunning for him as the defending champ. Coming into an event as the title-holder is quite different from what he experienced a year ago.
In the bottom-half things will be pretty wide-open with Andy Roddick returning from an injury he suffered at the Australian Open and occupying the second seed. Who knows what kind of game the former American No. 1 will bring with him but his lack of match play will hinder his changes.
Underachieving Sam Querrey, aging Radek Stepanek and vet Julien Benneteau round-out the bottom half in terms of potential contenders. I’d look for one of them rather than Roddick to make their way to the finals against Monfils who appears to be over the knee problems that he was dealing with upon his arrival to Canada for the Davis Cup.
After a hectic two weeks of Grand-Slam action from Melbourne, life returns to normal on the ATP World Tour. There are three 250-level tournaments this week and while the pace will be perhaps less enthralling than what we’ve just witnessed in Australia, here are some of the big names we can look forward to watching.
Formerly held in Lyon in October of each year, the Open Sud de France has now relocated to Montpelier at an earlier date within the tennis season.
Tomas Berdych is the number one seed and will try to win his first ATP title since his victory in Beijing this past October. That was the only title the Czech won in 2011, but he had an incredibly solid year reaching the semi-finals of eight tournaments and the quarter-finals of seven others. That type of consistency has made Berdych a main-stay in the top-ten in recent years but success at the Masters 1000 and Grand Slam level have still mostly eluded him with the exception of his win at the Paris Masters in 2005 and his Wimbledon final in 2010.
Berdych has a very manageable quarter of the tournament with no major obstacles in his way and a first-round bye to ease him into the draw.
Richard Gasquet is the fourth seed and is also in the top-half of the draw and he will likely face Nikolay Davydenko in the second round. Despite Davydenko’s rapid drop in play these past two years, the Russian will still give Gasquet a good challenge and provide fans with an entertaining early round match.
In the bottom half of the draw, look for two Frenchman to navigate their way through to the semi-finals. Both Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon are the highest two seeds and also the most likely to ride the support of the French fans to a solid showing.
Canadian number-two singles player Vasek Pospisil will undoubtedly be keeping his eye on the French, as Canada is scheduled to host the French in the first round of the Davis Cup on February 10th in Vancouver. Pospisil opens against French wildcard Guillaume Rufin.
It was a moment for Croatian tennis fans to relish a year ago in Zagreb when Ivan Dodig captured his first ATP title against Michael Berrer. While the chances of Dodig repeating are not necessarily favored, he is one of three Croats who could lift the trophy on the final Sunday.
Veteran Ivan Ljubicic holds the top seed and opens against Karol Beck. Ljubicic has won the event before and has the best chance of emerging from his quarter of the draw.
Beneath him can be found monster-server Ivo Karlovic who will also receive plenty of home-country support. Mikhail Youzhny will try to bounce back from a disappointing first round loss in Melbourne as he holds the third seed and is my pick to emerge from the top-half of the draw.
In the bottom half, we have Marcos Baghdatis and the previously mentioned Dodig in one quarter. In the final section of the draw, Alex Bogomolov Jr. is the surprised second seed and leads the weakest section of the tournament. In other words, look for Baghdatis or possibly Dodig to have a good route to the finals.
Providing some contrast to the two hard-court tournaments this week, we have the VTR Open which is played on red clay. Last year’s champion in Vina del Mar is Tommy Robredo but he is not entered in this year’s edition. Meanwhile Fernando Gonzalez holds the most career titles at the event with four. Gonzalez has taken a wildcard into the main draw as he has struggled since returning to the tour last year from hip and knee injuries he sustained in 2010.
Clay court expert Juan Monaco takes the pole position this year and opens with a first round bye. Albert Montanes who is seeded fifth will likely be Monaco’s main source of opposition in the top-half of the draw.
In the bottom section look for Thomaz Bellucci, who won the event in 2010, to challenge once again for the title and for second seeded Juan Ignacio Chela to advance into the draw as well.
Don’t feel bad if you are feeling the effects of a tennis-hangover as these smaller events begin. Nothing can really compare to two weeks of elite level tennis like we have just experienced. There is a lot to look forward to however, with the first round of Davis Cup action just two weeks away and then a month after that we will enjoy back-to-back Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.
With just over a week until the start of the Australian Open, there is little time to tinker with one’s game for the first Grand Slam of the year.
While the top four players in the world will be taking the week to rest themselves in anticipation for a deep-run in Melbourne, there are plenty of other of the game’s great players who are in action.
The ATP has two tournaments, one in Sydney and another in Auckland, while the Kooyong Classic exhibition will boast a strong field as well. Here’s a closer look at what tennis fans can expect.
Juan Martin Del Potro starts his year in Sydney as the top seed. After making a strong return to the circuit last season following a wrist injury, the 2009 U.S. Open champion is ready to make some noise this year. Del Potro is certainly capable of challenging anyone in the top four and I would put him in the mix of the few serious contenders at the Aussie Open.
The Argentine could see Marcos Baghdatis in the quarters here and then Feliciano Lopez who is the fourth seed. I would however, put the winner of the first round match between Viktor Troicki and veteran Aussie Lleyton Hewitt to advance against Del Potro in this section of the draw.
Hewitt has won the even four times, in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005. Don’t expect a repeat as his career is clearly on the downward spiral and injuries have taken their toll on the two-time Grand Slam champion. This may be the last year we see Hewitt playing on the ATP Tour, so enjoy him while you still can.
John Isner from the United Statesis the second seed. Patrick McEnroe recently stated that he feels Isner has the potential to reach the top ten in the ATP rankings. While I do not see that as being a realistic assessment for the 6’9” Isner just yet, this guy is certainly a strong top-thirty player who can cause incredible damage on a hard court due to his imposing serve. It will be Isner’s first action of the year so it will be interesting to see how he comes out of the gate.
Isner could face either veteran Xavier Malisse or Radek Stepanek in the quarters and given his ranking he should be beating opponents like these. However, at this stage of the year anything is possible.
A likely semi-final opponent would be third seeded Richard Gasquet who had a solid week at the Hopman Cup where he defeated Fernando Verdasco, Lleyton Hewitt and Wu Di before falling to Tomas Berdych in the finals.
All-court wonder and the always hustling David Ferrer is the number one seed in Auckland. Ferrer started the year off by making the finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi and was the runner-up in that exhibition to Novak Djokovic. Ferrer starts his week off with a bye at the Heineken Open and will face the winner of the match between Albert Ramos and Lukas Rosol. In other words, a nice way to ease into the tournament.
Ferrer’s main opposition will be from third seeded Fernando Verdasco who has just competed in the Hopman Cup. There, the Spaniard defeated Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, knocked-off Wu Di of China 6-3, 6-4 and was beaten by Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-4. So essentially, he won the two matches he was supposed to win and could not find a way to be competitive against a solid opponent in Gasquet. Never any consistency with Fernando, but he has the tools to go deep in any draw.
The second seed here is Nicolas Almagro, but unless we’re talking about a clay court match I wouldn’t count on this guy to get too far. While he did make the semi-finals in Chennai, the field was rather weak and he was no match for Canadian Milos Raonic who took him out 6-4, 6-4.
Look for guys like Philipp Kohlschreiber, Donald Young and perhaps Sam Querrey to enjoy some success in this draw. It is nice to see Young seeded in the tournament (7th) and hopefully able to build on a nice season in 2011. There is still so much potential with the American and he still has many years ahead of him despite already being a presence on the ATP Tour for several seasons.
Always a high-quality exhibition tournament, the Kooyong Classic again boasts a strong field in 2012. Ten players make-up the draw that has both a championship and consolation side to it.
American Andy Roddick will be the most high-profile player involved and will make his season debut on the tennis court at Kooyong. Roddick’s buddy and current number-one American male tennis player, Mardy Fish, will also be present.
This year will be of the utmost importance to Roddick who struggled mightily a year ago. He needs to re-assert himself and prove to his fellow players that he is still relevant in the sport today. Usually a strong starter, Roddick will be one to watch closely here this week.
Continuing with North-American players, we have Canadian Milos Raonic who has just made the finals in Chennai. Raonic is going to be very exciting to watch this year, especially if he can stay healthy. This guy’s game is perfectly suited toWimbledonand it is no surprise that he grew up idolizing Pete Sampras.
The rest of the players here include Jurgen Melzer, Bernard Tomic, Tomas Berdych and recent Qatar finalists Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Of all the stops this week, Kooyong will be the one I’m most interested in due to its very strong field.
Keep checking back with us all week long for updates and check out my Twitter feed as well if you like. Only one more week until the first Slam of 2012 so we have lots to look forward to!
Federer was supposed to play against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France for a spot in the finals but recognized the possibility to further aggravate the injury and made the decision to prevent missing the Australian Open which begins January 16th.
Federer has made it a point of avoiding injury for the better part of his stellar professional career, but something was clearly wrong as he was stretched to three sets against the 38th ranked Seppi on Thursday. Federer had held a 7-0 career head-to-head against the Italian prior to the match and had never lost a set in any of those encounters.
It was Swiss journalist and Federer biographer, Renee Stauffer, who broke the news of the back injury via twitter shortly after that match.
Stauffer’s tweet read as follows, “Federer has a bad back: ‘I wasn’t sure if i was going to play ag Seppi’, he revealed in Doha. It happened ag Zemlja (Wednesday).”
The injury withdrawal is only the second time Federer has had to do so in his career but fans should not worry as the world No. 3 seemed pretty confident he would be fine for Melbourne with a little time-off to heal.
“I don’t feel a whole lot of improvement for today, and I just don’t think it’s the right time to risk anything more right now,” Federer said. “I still have pain, and that’s why it was the only right decision, a difficult one for me … So it’s a sad moment for me and for the tournament and for the fans, but health goes first.”
Instead of the semi-final, Tsonga played a one-set exhibition match against former world No. one and six-time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg.
Rafael Nadal will play against Gael Monfils later in the day for a chance to play against Tsonga for the title.
Federer’s withdrawal guarantees a new champion in Doha this year, as the Swiss star had won the event a year ago.
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship (an exhibition) in Abu Dhabi last week and now regular events in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha, have provided an alphabetically-related quartet of venues whose results may or may not mean anything by the end of the year.
Players who struggle initially and suffer early round losses will attempt to quickly put those disappointments behind them, while winners will try to keep an even keel moving forward. Still, we should not be so quick to discount these early results when looking at the big picture.
The mental consequences of victory versus defeat in the early stages will certainly impact a players progress in the first few weeks on tour. Banking some points in January provides a confidence boost along with either a jump in ranking points or at the very least the ability not to drop in the standings.
Losing yesterday in Doha to Roger Federer means that Nikolay Davydenko can kiss about 150 ranking points goodbye that he had accumulated in the same tournament a year ago. His current ranking of 41st in the world is about to take a big hit and he can clearly forget about any hopes of being seeded at the Australian Open in two weeks.
A player like American Sam Querrey will also be distraught about his opening round loss to Victor Hanescu in Chennai in the opening round. After missing three months midway through 2011 to elbow surgery, Querrey was no-doubt optimistic about starting on the right foot this season. On the plus side for Querrey, he suffered three opening round losses in-a-row a year ago, and thus has no ranking points to defend. There’s only one way for Sam to go in the rankings in January and that is up. Still, he must now regroup and move on to the next tournament hoping his luck will change.
For the top-four of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray, these first couple of week’s will be used to jostle for the available confidence and swagger required to conquer the first Grand Slam of the year in Australia. Putting the seed of doubt in an opponent’s head is of equal value to owning that self-confidence. We all know how Djokovic was able to get into Nadal’s head last season and reel-off six consecutive victories in ATP finals on three different surfaces. That kind of dominance goes a long way into determining the final outcome of a match between two foes and getting an edge early-on is what all of these guys are hoping for.
Djokovic has already sent that opening message to his opponents with a strong result in Abu Dhabi. After needing three sets to defeat Gael Monfils, he thrashed Federer 6-2, 6-1 and then beat David Ferrer in the finals by the exact same dominating score. Lookout everybody, because Novak came ready to play.
Federer will hope to shake-off the loss to Djokovic and then Nadal in Abu Dhabi and instead look back to his impressive 17-0 finish to the 2011 season where he won three consecutive tournaments. Still, his early defeats to Djokovic and Nadal can’t make him feel great.
With Federer and Nadal playing in Doha and Murray in Brisbane this week, we’ll see who is ready to join Djokovic as an early front-runner prior to the January 16th start date in Melbourne. Regardless of what players of any ranking say to the press, the importance of week one is something we cannot deny.
Andy Murray vs. Donald Young
American Donald Young will attempt to keep his best-ever Grand Slam showing moving along as he faces fourth seeded Andy Murray in the opening match on Arthur Ashe stadium at 11am. It is hard to believe that Young is only 22 years old as it seems he has been struggling on the ATP World Tour for years already. Actually, he has been struggling on the Tour for years as he rushed into his professional career at the tender age of 15.
Young has slowly begun maturing and making some strides this year that have signalled he is ready to move towards the expectations the tennis world has held for him for so long. Earlier this year he defeated Murray on the hard courts of Indian Wells. More recently he made the semi-finals of a level-500 tournament in Washington, D.C. as well.
That meeting in March was the only career encounter between Young and Murray, but expect a much different result on Tuesday. Young has been riding an emotional roller-coaster in New York with big wins over Stan Wawrinka and Juan Ignacio Chela, but faces a player of an entirely different calibre in Murray.
The Scotsman has amped-up his game over the past month and is not playing at the same mediocre level he was at earlier in the season when they first met.
Young can take home a lot of confidence from New York but he won’t take another victory.
Prediction: Murray in three
Gilles Muller vs. Rafael Nadal
No-doubt recovered from his press-conference cramping incident from Sunday that was highly and uncomfortably covered by television cameras, Rafa Nadal will be feeling just fine as he faces severe under-dog Gilles Muller.
Nadal has yet to drop a set in the tournament and the defending champion rarely bows-out of a Grand Slam early. While I still have doubts about his ability to defend his title from a year ago, I can’t see him getting bounced by Muller.
The pair have a career head-to-head record of 2-1 in Nadal’s favor, but Muller’s win was back in 2005 when Nadal was still discovering his game on hard-courts. More recently, they met at Wimbledon this summer with Nadal prevailing 7-6, 7-6, 6-0.
Muller has performed well in New York before, making the quarter-finals in 2008. He may give Rafa a challenge for a set, but otherwise will have to come up with the best tennis of his career to cause an upset.
Prediction: Nadal in four
John Isner vs. Gilles Simon
In a match that will offer fans a real contrast in styles, bit serving American John Isner will take-on the hustling baseline game of Frenchman Gilles Simon. This will be the first meeting between the two and the result is really anyone’s guess.
Simon’s best Grand Slam result was the quarter-finals of the Aussie Open in 2009 while Isner has made the fourth round at three majors including this one.
Both players have solid winning records on the Tour this year while Isner came into the Open with a tournament win in Winston-Salem. Both have had to beat top-level players in their journey here so far, with Isner defeating Marcos Baghdatis in the fist round and Simon just coming off a victory against Juan Martin Del Potro.
I see this one going the distance with at least a couple of tie-breaks given Isner’s outstanding service game. Could go either way but I’ll take a leap and go with Isner thanks in-part to the crowd support he’ll receive.
Prediction: Isner in five.
Andy Roddick vs. David Ferrer
In the opening match of the evening session, the third American man in action on Tuesday will be 2003 champion, Andy Roddick.
Roddick has finally found his game after struggling with injuries and consistency issues all summer long. He dispatched Julien Benneteau in routine fashion in the previous round and the Frenchman had been playing some great tennis coming in. Things are about to get a whole lot harder against Ferrer.
The Spaniard can hang on any surface and will never, ever, get tired. Ferrer holds a 5-3 advantage over Roddick in their prior matches and defeated him this year in Davis Cup play in straight sets on hard-courts. For those who don’t know Roddick well, he is a guy who lives for representing his nation. He gives 110% in Davis Cup matches, so you can imagine how well Ferrer must have been playing to attain the victory on that day.
While I feel that Andy may yet have a crack at going deep in another Grand Slam before the end of his career, I don’t see it happening here with Ferrer standing in his way.
Prediction: Ferrer in four.
Let’s take a quick look at the matches set for Sunday at the U.S. Open on the men’s side. The third round is set to finish-up and there are some great battles to keep an eye on.
Alex Bogomolov Jr. is having a career year and has made the third round of his second consecutive Grand Slam. At the age of 28 he is a career high of 44th in the world and that is likely going to rise even further following the completion of this tournament. Just how well has Bogo been playing this year in comparison with his previous years on tour? In this one season alone he has amassed almost a third of his career earnings!
Bogo’s run will likely come to an end against John Isner who is also having a terrific summer and has had more success in big-time matches. Isner has won both their career head-to-head matches on the ATP World Tour and both of those victories were earlier this year. I’ve got Isner in straight sets in this one.
Juan Martin Del Potro will continue to strive for another strong showing at the Open as he faces 12th seeded Gilles Simon of France. Despite being seeded 18th himself, Del Po will be considered the favorite in this one. Del Potro has lost to Ernests Gulbis, Marin Cilic and Roger Federer this summer and has yet to get on a roll since Wimbledon ended. Still, those are all quality opponents and he is no-doubt feeling comfortable at the site of his only Slam win.
Del Potro has a 2-1 head-to-head advantage against Simon and beat him here in New York in 2008 as well as in June of this year at the All-England Club. I’ll take the Argentine in four sets.
Donald Young is having the break-out moment of his career here at the Open as evidenced in his stunning come-from-behind victory over Stan Wawrinka in the second round. Young is going to take-down Juan Ignacio Chela in the next round to continue on his impressive form. Four sets is likely, but Chela could use his experience to push to five in a failing effort.
Andy Murray came back with a vengeance against Robin Haase in a strange second round encounter. He pulled out the victory in five sets and with a day to rest should be ready to go against Feliciano Lopez. Murray in three this time.
David Ferrer saw-off a potentially tough challenge from James Blake in the previous round. He’ll face Florian Mayer, a player who is having career-best results but ultimately is not talented enough to take it any further. With Ferrer’s tenacity and game that is tailor-made for best-of-five sets, the Spaniard will breeze through this one in three.
Andy Roddick has admitted he is still not back to where his game is capable of being, yet he finds himself in the third round against French vet Julien Benneteau. Andy should be able to use the home-crowd to his advantage, but Benneteau did reach the finals at Winston Salem a week ago and could be capable of an upset. Roddick’s serve will have to be sharp and he cannot hesitate to charge the net when the timing is right. Roddick holds a 3-1 advantage against Benneteau but the duo have not played each other in three years. I’ll take Roddick in four, but would not be shocked if Benneteau comes up with a surprise.
Coin-toss in the Gilles Muller vs. Igor Kunitsyn match. This should have been a Mikhail Youzhny vs. Jurgen Melzer match if the seedings had held true, but neither of those players were able to fend off their challengers.
Most casual tennis fans won’t be too familiar with these two guys, so here’s a quick breakdown:
Kunitsyn is 29 years old and is ranked 62nd in the world. He reached a career-high of 35th in the world in 2009 and attaining the third round here is his best result at a Grand Slam.
Muller is best remembered for stealing Andy Roddick’s mojo at the Open back in 2005. He is 28 years old and ranked 66th in the world at the moment. His career high ranking is 59th which he reached back in 2005. His best Slam result was here at the U.S. Open in 2008 when he reached the quarter-finals before falling to Roger Federer.
Kunitsyn leads their previous matches by a 1-0 margin coming by way of a victory in Washington earlier this summer. I’m going to go with Muller in this one due to his previous Slam experience and results but it’s gonna go the distance for sure.
Last but not least we have a match that would have been a whole lot of fun to watch about four or five years ago. Talented but oft-injured David Nalbandian takes on 2nd seeded Rafael Nadal.
Nalbandian has again struggled with injuries this season and has been burdened with lacklustre results all summer long. Nadal has been less than his usual stellar self since reaching the finals of Wimbledon, but has still performed decently on hard-courts leading up to the Open.
While Nalbandian is one of the few players who boasts a solid record against Nadal, he is in over his head Sunday. The pair stand tied at two wins each, with all four matches coming on hard court. Nalbandian has lost the last two however and has not beat Rafa since 2007. Nadal will take this one in three relatively easy sets.
Enjoy the long-weekend tennis everyone. Check back with us again soon for more updates and analysis.
As first round matches came to a close on Wednesday, thing appear to be progressing more or less according to plan thus far in the men’s draw at the U.S. Open.
Andy Murray advanced against former NCAA standout Somdev Devvarman by a score of 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3. Murray mentioned he felt some early match nerves and when asked to explain gave a rather humorous response.
“Well, I mean, try being a British player going into a Grand Slam. It’s not easy (smiling).”
With Roger Federer struggling this summer and Rafael Nadal also seeming less-than-perfect, Murray might have the perfect opportunity to attain that elusive first Grand Slam. He certainly seemed to be handling Novak Djokovic as well as anyone could in his first set against the Serb in Cincinnati. Djokvic would retire while trailing 0-3 in the second set of that match citing shoulder pain.
In other matches today, American John Isner beat a tricky opening round opponent in Marcos Baghdatis, 7-6(2), 7-6(11), 2-6, 6-4. With Robin Soderling withdrawing in this section of the draw due to illness, Isner has a great chance to make the round of sixteen and maybe even a quarter-final at a Slam for the first time in his career.
Isner will now face compatriot Robby Ginepri who only started his season in June after injury issues. He won today against Joao Suza in four sets. Many will remember Ginepri for his loss against Andre Agassi in the semi-finals here in 2005.
2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro destroyed Filippo Volandri 6-3, 6-1, 6-1. Known more for his clay-court exploits, Volandri has not won a match on hard-courts since 2007. Del Potro couldn’t have asked for an easier match in his return to Flushing Meadows.
Forced to miss defending his title a year ago due to a wrist injury, Del Po has returned to the top-twenty in the game and appears to have a good shot of advancing deep into the draw.
The Argentine mentioned several times after the match how happy he was to return to his favorite Grand Slam tournament following his inability to play a year ago.
“Well, I am feeling very special these couple of days, because I wasn’t here last year so I couldn’t see my name in the locker room,” DelPotro said. “That’s special, but are pretty little details. But, you know, it’s an honor be part of the champions of this tournament.”
Canadian Vasek Pospisil is giving fans in his country reason to cheer in the absence of Milos Raonic. The 20 year old Canuck won his first ever Grand Slam match against Lukas Rosol with ease 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. Pospisil will now face Feliciano Lopez the 25th seed.
12th seeded Gilles Simon survived a marathon five-set match against Ricardo Mello of Brazil, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. 3-6, 6-4. The Frenchman will now go up against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain who also required five sets to advance to the second round.
The only seeded player to fall on day three was Nicolas Almagro, the 10th seed, who was beat by French veteran Julien Benneteau 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. I’d hardly consider that result an upset since Almagro rarely performs on this surface while Benneteau made the finals a week ago of the inaugural event in Winston Salem where he was defeated by Isner for the title.
In the final match of the night amongst the men, Andy Roddick needed a four set struggle to finally overcome 33 year-old Michael Russell, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
Roddick seemed to be moving along quite well until Russell experienced a resurgence in the third set. It was not meant to be for the veteran however, as he fell to 0-7 in matches at the Open.
Roddick now moves on to face youngster Jack Sock who at the age of 18 is making just his second appearance in a major.
Roddick got a good laugh out of the crowd as he assessed his next foe in Sock.
“Well, I know he’s full of piss and vinegar and he’s from Nebraska. Sounds a little bit like an 18 year old I knew once upon a time. I like Jack a lot. He had a good win and I’m excited…I’ll take on the young American and I’ll enjoy it.”
It is nice to see Sock, along with Ryan Harrison and Donald Young emerging to form the next generation of American players. Thirty-one straight majors without a U.S. champion is a strange reality after so many decades of success. Perhaps one of these young guns can one day reverse this declining trend in tangible results at the Grand Slam level.
The final Grand Slam of the year got underway on Monday in New York and with hurricane Irene no longer looming, the tournament was able to get through all of its scheduled matches.
On the men’s side we saw third seeded Roger Federer advance with relative ease against clay-court specialist Santiago Giraldo in straight sets by a score of 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Federer very likely could have closed his opponent out in a much more devastating manner but was off his game at times throughout the match. He fully admitted afterwards that he rarely plays his best tennis in the opening rounds and is happy to be through to the next round where he will face Dudi Sela of Israel.
Elsewhere, seeded players Alexandr Dolgopolov, Tomas Berdych, RIchard Gasquet Janko Tipsarevic, Marcel Granollers, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek and Mardy Fish all advanced in straight sets as well.
Granollers, known more for his clay court exploits, dispatched tough veteran Xavier Maliss 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Monfils, the flying frenchman, took out a future star in Grigor Dimitrov, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4. He will next face 2003 finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero who needed five sets to get past Pablo Andujar. Ferrero is still capable of solid results on clay as evidenced by his recent title in Stuttgart, but forget about him making it far on the hard-courts here.
Another veteran player who had a decent result today was Germany’s Tommy Haas who advanced past French qualifier Jonathan Dasnieres de Veigy (good thing tennis players don’t wear their names on the back of their shirts!) Haas has had a real tough-go since returning from a year long layoff earlier this year. He is currently ranked 475th in the world and has a record of 2-8 so far this season. Haas actually has a pretty good draw here and if he can get on a roll is someone you can never count out.
Mardy Fish looked every bit the part as the top-ranked American in the world as he easily defeated Tobias Kamke 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Fish has somehow managed to top his solid summer of 2010 and made the finals of the Masters 1000 event in Montreal and then the semi-finals in Cincinnati the week after that. Seeded eighth in this event, Fish is no longer going to be content with making the round of sixteen in a major. With the way he has been playing the past two months, he must be considered a title contender for perhaps the first time in his career.
The only upset on day one was to see Serbia’s Viktor Troicki be beaten by Alejandro Falla 3-6, 6-3, 4-7, 7-5, 7-5. Fortunately for fans of that nation, there is a guy who opens tomorrow who has a decent shot of going deep into the draw. Novak Djokovic will open against Conor Niland of Ireland, a man who will need all the luck of the Irish he can muster.