career advantage

Around The Corner: More Masters 1000 From Cincinnati

It’s back-to-back Masters 1000 events on the ATP Tour as the focus shifts to Cincinnati this week. One last major tournament before the U.S. Open is upon us and one last chance for the top players to find their game and show us who the front-runner might be for the final Slam of the year.

As was the case in Toronto this past week, the top eight seeds benefit from a first round bye. That comfort seemed to treat the top players well at the Rogers Cup and I’m sure the top-four will benefit from the few extra days rest after their strong showing in Canada.

In his quarter of the draw, Rafael Nadal will play either Feliciano Lopez or a qualifier in his first match. Nadal fell to a very sharp Andy Murray in Toronto in straight sets and will be looking, by his own admission, to tighten up his serve. Another early round encounter with Stan Wawrinka looks likely and a meeting with Tomas Berdych would make for a great quarter-final match-up.

Despite having the No. 2 ranking back in his possession, Federer has the No. 3 seed and is in Rafa’s half of the draw. He will play either a qualifier or James Blake in his opening match and has a nice path for the first few rounds. An unpredictable Gael Monfils and a struggling Nikolay Davydenko are in his section of the draw but should not trouble him with his current rediscovery of form. Philipp Kohlschreiber may be the toughest opponent in Roger’s vicinity, but even he should not pose much of an obstacle, especially given Federer’s 5-0 career advantage against him.

In the third quarter of the draw, Andy Murray will face either Jeremy Chardy of France or a qualifier in the second round. Fernando Verdasco is the 8th seed and could meet Murray in the quarters but after his meltdown versus Chardy in Toronto the other day I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Mardy Fish gets the wildcard and has been on fire this summer. It will be interesting to see how he measures up against some stiffer competition. The talented but inconsistent Richard Gasquet and Ernests Gulbis are also lurking in this section of the draw.

Finally we have Novak Djokovic as the second seed at the bottom of the draw. He will face either Radek Stepanek or fellow-Serb Viktor Troicki in his first tilt. This represents without a doubt the toughest quadrant in Cincinnati as it contains Robin Soderling, Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian and a returning Andy Roddick.

Soderling was upset by Nalbandian in three sets this past week but looked terrific in practice. Hewitt is returning from a slight injury while Roddick apparently has been struggling with a mild case of mono for the past two months. Fans will hopefully be treated to some great matches if these guys are healthy and ready to go.

While the field in Cincy looks strong, there is always the possibility for upsets following a fantastic week in Toronto where the top four players in the world advanced to the semi-finals. Another deep run by all four as the U.S. Open approaches is not something I would bank on. While the top guys will all be trying to keep their momentum going, they are also less likely to push themselves to the brink and risk showing up at Flushing Meadows in less than perfect form.

Personally I like Berdych to go on a strong run following his heart-breaking collapse against Federer in Toronto. He took that loss very personally and I think that will motivate him to push hard this week. With Roger’s draw I think he will very likely advance to the semi’s this week and I also like Soderling’s chances.

Enjoy another week of great hard court tennis everyone and check back starting later in the week for some U.S. Open preview coverage.

Around The Corner: Hamburg And Atlanta Hit It Off This Week

The International German Open – Hamburg, Germany

The German Open offers European clay-court specialists another opportunity to pad their ranking point totals for the year.

Russian Nikolay Davydenko is seeded first but given his play as of late I wouldn’t expect much in terms of results here. Struggling to find his game after returning from injury, Davydenko was bounced in the first round in Stuttgart last week and is 3-4 since returning from a three month layoff. While Davydenko is the returning champion, he will have considerable difficulty in defending this time around.

Nicolas Almagro is seeded fifth and is always dangerous on red clay. The Spaniard just captured the title in Bastad, his first of 2010, and has a favorable draw here in Hamburg. One knock against Almagro however is that he usually disappoints after a big result. Consistency is lacking and it will be a challenge for him to put together back-to-back titles.

Veterans Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo are both in the draw and have the ability to raise the trophy as does Albert Montanes who won in Stuttgart last week.

Third seeded Jurgen Melzer has performed well at the last two Grand Slams, where he made the semis at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon, but then bowed-out 4-6, 1-6 to Montanes a week ago on clay.

Second seeded David Ferrer is my favorite here and performed well in Bastad where he lost just a few days ago in the semi-finals to Robin Soderling in three sets.

The Atlanta Tennis Championships – Atlanta, Georgia

The city of Atlanta gets to host an ATP event for the first time since 2001 when Andy Roddick won his first ATP tournament. Previously this tournament was held on green clay, but returns as a hard-court event leading up to the U.S. Open. The city is no stranger to big tennis events as it hosted the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Roddick gets a first-round bye and could face Xavier Malisse in the third round. Roddick holds an 8-0 career advantage against the 58th ranked Belgian, who is climbing his way back up the rankings as of late.

If you’re a fan of American tennis you’ll want to keep a close eye on the second quarter of the draw. There you’ll find a quartet of aging American players who will fight for the chance of facing Roddick in the semi-finals.

Twenty-nine year old Taylor Dent gets an opening round match against thirty year old James Blake that should be a crowd pleaser. Blake has dropped out of the top-hundred while Dent is working on moving back towards the top-fifty. Blake is taking his departure from the upper-echelon of the game with much difficulty and has talked recently about how this could be his last year on tour if things do not improve.

Also lurking in this section are twenty-seven year old Robby Ginepri and twenty-eight year old Mardy Fish. I would look to Fish to have the best chance of breaking out of this section of the draw as he won the title in Newport, Rhode Island just over a week ago.

Third seeded Lleyton Hewitt should be able to have a solid run in Atlanta and his presence here indicates to me that he is serious about taking a good run in Flushing Meadows. The veteran from Australia can still hit a good ball and is always a threat when healthy.

In the bottom quarter look for second seeded John Isner to advance quite deep in the draw. I’d imagine that Isner has more than recovered from his epic first-round victory at Wimbledon over Nicolas Mahut. Let’s hope that Isner has found some time to practice around his recent media blitz that included reading the top-ten list on Late Night with David Letterman and winning an ESPY award for greatest record-breaking performance.