One of the strongest ATP 500 tournaments on the calendar, Dubai follows its Premier women’s event by hosting six of the top ten men in the first significant outdoor hard-court tournament since the Australian Open. This tournament claims pride of place in our weekly preview, although events in Acapulco and Delray Beach also feature key storylines that relate to what we can expect at Indian Wells.
Dubai: A three-time champion at this event, world #1 Djokovic did not bring his best tennis to the Persian Gulf last year in the wake of a draining Australian Open. The medium-paced hard court showcases his game splendidly, though, so he might bounce back in 2013 with a less exhausting Melbourne marathon behind him and a comfortable quarter ahead of him. Not since his first meeting with Troicki has he lost to his compatriot, and rarely in the current twelve-match winning streak has the other Serb seriously troubled him. That said, Djokovic did drop a set when they met here in 2010. Also unlikely to threaten him on a hard court is the seventh-seeded Seppi, while Lukas Rosol does lurk but so far remains a one-upset man.
While three qualifiers form a soft center to the second quarter, its edges might feature some intrigue. Seeking to avoid a third straight first-round loss here, former semifinalist Baghdatis faces a tall task in Del Potro, but he has won their last two clashes. That battle of flat groundstrokes and inspired shot-making should offer some of the first round’s best entertainment. Of lesser note is the encounter between the eighth-seeded Youzhny and rising Slovene Blaz Kavcic. How much does the aging Russian with the graceful one-handed backhand have left?
Like the second half overall, the third quarter looks stronger than the two above it. Top-eight threats Tsonga and Berdych bookend it, the former of whom faces a stern test in compatriot Michael Llodra. Neither of those Frenchmen will relish the relatively slow courts here, nor will potential second-round opponent Tursunov. A smart wildcard choice after his astonishing charge to the Marseille weekend as a qualifier, he ranks among the draw’s most notable dark horses. Two comfortable rounds await Berdych, who excelled in Marseille as well as Tsonga and Tursunov. Not known for his consistency, the Czech has maintained some of his steadiest tennis to date over the last several months, and he should fare better against Tsonga on an outdoor hard court than on the fast indoor court where he lost to him on Sunday.
After the hubbub last year when the tournament declined to offer Malek Jaziri a wildcard, the organizers may have smirked a bit when, having received that privilege this year, the Tunisian has landed adjacent to Federer. More worthy of Swiss steel, surely, is the resurgent Tomic in a sequel to an Australian Open encounter closer than the score showed. Never a man to doubt his own chances, the brash Aussie will feel confident of toppling whoever emerges from the Tipsarevic-Davydenko opener. Although that match could present a battle of crisp two-handed backhands, both men have struggled this year and would enter a meeting with Tomic at a significant height disadvantage. Realistically, however, only one man will come out of this quarter.
Final: Djokovic vs. Federer
Acapulco: Of the four top-ten men not participating in Dubai, two lend their illustrious presence to the clay 500 tournament in Mexico. The end of the South American February swing, Acapulco usually offers an opportunity for top-seeded David Ferrer to bolster his rankings points. While the presence of Nadal at the base of the draw will complicate his quest, the man who displaced Rafa as the top-ranked Spaniard brings momentum from winning Buenos Aires and faces no significant clay threats in his quarter. Starting against left-handed compatriot Albert Ramos, Ferrer might face flaky Frenchman Benoit Paire in the quarterfinals, but another Spaniard in Pablo Andujar looms just as large. Outside Nadal, the top seed has enjoyed plenty of success against his countrymen.
The last victim of Ferrer in Buenos Aires, Wawrinka faces a much more intriguing series of tests to secure a rematch in the semifinals. Opening against Fabio Fognini of the famous eyebrows and unpredictable temperament, he might encounter the returning Nalbandian afterwards. A finalist in the first tournament of his return, Sao Paulo, Nalbandian took a set from Ferrer at his home tournament last week before his stamina waned. The fifth-seeded Jurgen Melzer has struggled this year outside a run to the Zagreb final on an indoor hard court, so Colombian clay threat Santiago Giraldo might seem a plausible dark horse to reach the quarterfinals.
Denied by Wawrinka in Buenos Aires, Almagro still looks to steady himself after that strange combination of breakthrough and breakdown that he endured in Melbourne. His draw looks comfortable in its early stages, featuring nobody more dangerous than the long-faded Tommy Robredo. In the quarterfinals, Almagro could meet one of three players who have recorded a strong result each during the South American clay season: Vina del Mar champion Zeballos, Sao Paulo semifinalist Simone Bolelli, or Vina del Mar semifinalist Carlos Berlocq. But Zeballos has not won a match since that stunning upset over Nadal, while Berlocq should struggle to match Almagro hold for hold despite winning a set from Nadal in Sao Paulo.
The easiest pre-semifinal route of all would seem to belong to the man who needs it least, or is it most? Far from bulletproof in his two-week swing through Vina del Mar and Sao Paulo, Nadal managed to scrape out results that looked stronger on paper than on television. He cannot face anyone of note in his first two matches, however, and the week-long respite may have freshened his body and spirits. The heavy left-handed groundstrokes of sixth-seeded Thomaz Bellucci might pose a threat in view of the Zeballos result. All the same, the Brazilian has accomplished nothing during this month’s clay tournaments so far and probably lacks the belief to threaten Nadal.
Final: Ferrer vs. Nadal
Delray Beach: In his last tournament before Indian Wells, where he defends finals points, top-seeded John Isner desperately needs to halt a slide that has seen him lose 10 of his last 17 matches. Although a semifinal at San Jose hinted at a resurgence, he dropped a lackluster straight-setter in Memphis, where the indoor hard courts should have suited his massive serve just as well. Fortunate to receive a modest first-round opponent in Jesse Levine, Isner then could meet Memphis semifinalist Marinko Matosevic. The Aussie upset similarly powerful American giant Querrey last week and the talented Dolgopolov, so he brings much more momentum into this match than the top seed. Before he succumbed to injury, Kevin Anderson enjoyed an excellent January by reaching the Sydney final and the second week of the Australian Open, the first South African to do so in a decade. He could match Isner serve for serve, or more likely surpass him if his pre-injury form revives.
Quite a contrast to Isner’s week in Memphis was the breakthrough delivered by Jack Sock, who upset second-seeded Raonic in the most significant victory of his career. Sock received a reward in a wildcard here, although he may not fancy a second-round rematch with the man who finally stopped him last week, Feliciano Lopez. The American will have gained experience in facing a serve-volleyer in an opener against Aussie Matthew Ebden, which could stand him in good stead against Lopez. And a third straight could loom in the quarterfinals if Karlovic can solve former champion Nishikori. Suggesting otherwise is the recent form of both men, for Nishikori has produced generally solid results so far in a 2013 where Karlovic’s age and nagging injuries finally may have caught up with him.
A semifinalist in San Jose and gone early in Memphis, like Isner, third-seeded Sam Querrey inhabits a section filled with his compatriots. That quirk of fate seems auspicious for him in view of his preference for straightforward opponents who allow him baseline rhythm and lack impressive retturns. Surely able to overpower battered veterans Russell and Blake, he may need to raise his motivation a notch for the ever-impassioned Ryan Harrison. That youngster has accomplished even less than Querrey lately, though, and a recent illness may have dulled his energies. The other seed in this section, Xavier Malisse, retired last week in Memphis.
Also withdrawing from Memphis was San Jose runner-up Tommy Haas, who holds the second seed here but faces an intimidating opener against Igor Sijsling. The Dutchman suddenly has burst into relevance after reaching the Australian Open doubles final, upsetting Tsonga at his home tournament in Rotterdam, and nearly toppling the top-seeded Cilic in Memphis. If Haas can weather Sijsling’s impressive serve, he must slow the surge of Denis Istomin’s second straight sold February. Ever an enigma and ever an entertainer, the fifth-seeded Dolgopolov rounds out this quarter and shares Tommy’s predicament of a dangerous first-round opponent. As his 2011 victory over Nadal proved, Ivan Dodig can trouble anyone on the occasions when his high-risk game explodes rather than implodes.
Final: Nishikori vs. Querrey
Like last week, the upcoming ATP slate features two European tournaments on indoor hard courts and a South American tournament on outdoor red clay. Only one of the Big Four participated in last week’s action, but this week his archrival returns to the spotlight as well.
Rotterdam: Back in action for the first time since those consecutive five-setters in Melbourne, Federer prepares for a title defense closer to home soil. He often has produced his crispest tennis on indoor hard courts late in his career, and he finds himself near familiar victim Youzhny. Tested by rising star Raonic last year, Federer could meet another rising star in Jerzy Janowicz at the quarterfinal stage. Massive servers trouble him more than they once did, although Janowicz has looked less intimidating in the early events of 2013 than he did while reaching the Paris Indoors final last fall. Of further interest in this section is the first-round clash between doubles partners Benneteau and Llodra, both of whom should shine on this surface.
Continuing the French theme from Benneteau-Llodra, the second quarter lies in the shadow of two top-20 Frenchmen: the third-seeded Tsonga and the fifth-seeded Simon. No player of note would bar their routes to a quarterfinal, which their recently solid form suggests that they should reach. Both Frenchmen charted a course to the second week at the Australian Open, and Tsonga in particular excelled by extending Federer to a final set in their quarterfinal. His meeting with Simon should present a compelling contrast of styles, in which one would fancy the third seed’s chances on a surface that favors aggression.
Although both men enter the tournament unseeded, Tomic and Dimitrov offer the most notable storyline of the third quarter with the looming first-round clash between these two phenoms. Greatly celebrated for reaching the Brisbane final in January, the latter has not built upon that breakthrough but instead slipped back into the inconsistency that has slowed his progress. A hero on home soil again, Tomic recaptured much of the reputation that he lost with his 2012 antics by showing a more professional attitude to start 2013. Meanwhile, a strong week in Montpellier continued Gasquet’s strong start to the season and leaves him the favorite to reach the semifinal here. The fourth seed could repeat the Montpellier final against compatriot Benoit Paire in the second round.
Leaping from the lowest part of the draw is the first-round match between wildcard Gael Monfils and second seed Del Potro. While the former left Melbourne in mildly promising fashion, the latter fell well short of expectations in suffering a third-round exit to Jeremy Chardy. Del Potro can waste little time in recapturing his rhythm at a tournament where he finished runner-up to Federer last year, for Monfils’ two finals at the Paris Indoors prove his ability to succeed on this surface. Less likely to shine is the sixth-seeded Seppi, a player who prefers slow courts and lacks the firepower of either projected quarterfinal opponent.
Final: Tsonga vs. Del Potro
San Jose: In the last edition of this tournament, long a mainstay of Bay Area sports, Milos Raonic attempts to complete a title three-peat on the scene of his first trophy. Among the faster indoor hard courts on the calendar, San Jose will showcase a serve nearly unanswerable at its best. In the last two years, opponents struggled even to earn a break point against Raonic. Fresh from his Davis Cup heroics, last year’s top seed could repeat the 2012 final against Denis Istomin in the quarterfinals, or he might meet home hope Ryan Harrison in a rematch of a 2012 semifinal. Both of those men struggled to match Raonic hold for hold last year with their modest serves, and neither has taken a significant step forward since then.
Someone who can match the Canadian hold for hold, the third-seeded Sam Querrey seeks to continue building on his recent upward trend in the rankings. Returning to relevance midway through last year, Querrey plays his best on American soil and mirrored Raonic’s contributions last weekend by lifting Team USA past Brazil with two singles victories. He faces the possibility of consecutive matches against Australians, first the fading Lleyton Hewitt and then the surging Marinko Matosevic. Near his career-high ranking, the latter man will meet the teenage sensation Jack Sock, still in the process of refining his explosive serve and forehand.
If North Americans dominate the top half of the San Jose draw, a more European flavor emerges from the third quarter. Following his best season since his prime in the mid-2000s, Tommy Haas lurks near the edge of the top 20 after starting 2012 outside the top 200. Injuries and recurrences of his volatile temper hampered him in January, but expect his forecourt skills to flourish on a court where he can shorten points. Female fans would enjoy a quarterfinal between Haas and Fernando Verdasco, two slots below him in the rankings. Unfortunately for them, former finalist Ivo Karlovic might topple the Spanish lefty in the second round, although he lost to him here two years ago. Can wildcard Steve Johnson, who took Almagro to a fifth set at the Australian Open, build on that momentum to upset Dr. Ivo?
The only man in the ATP shorter than Karlovic, the second-seeded Isner needs to build momentum much more urgently than Johnson, for he defends finalist points at Indian Wells. Still the top-ranked American man by a small margin over Querrey, Isner withdrew from the Australian Open with a knee injury and looked unimpressive in Davis Cup last weekend. No player in his vicinity looks like a convincing dark horse, however, with the most notable resistance coming from Xavier Malisse. Otherwise, this section features a handful of promising-but-not-quite-there-yet figures like Vasek Pospisil and Evgeny Donskoy, the latter of whom defeated Youzhny in Melbourne.
Final: Querrey vs. Verdasco
Sao Paulo: In a draw that greatly resembles Vina del Mar last week, Nadal again shares a half with Jeremy Chardy amid a collection of players from South America and southern Europe. Few Spaniards have shown the determination to challenge Rafa on his favored red clay, and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo should prove no exception. One of the few Spanish journeymen to defeat him on any surface, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez could meet the man whom he defeated in Bangkok at the quarterfinal stage, although Vina del Mar semifinalist Carlos Berlocq seems more plausible. Yet another Spaniard, the eighth-seeded Albert Ramos, opens against Garcia-Lopez.
Splitting his two Davis Cup rubbers in the United States, Thomaz Bellucci transitions back to his homeland and a friendlier surface for his traditional lefty game. The fifth-seeded Brazilian would meet Chardy in the quarterfinals with no legitimate threat between them. Fellow Brazilian Ricardo Mello, known better for his doubles success, received not only a wildcard but a winnable opening match as a reward for his victory over the Bryans in Davis Cup. Facing aging Federer-killer Volandri is Vina del Mar quarterfinalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who mustered some decent resistance to Rafa last week.
World #15 Monaco looked nearly certain to meet Nadal in the Vina del Mar final until the unheralded Guillaume Rufin upset him, only to issue a walkover a round later. At least the Argentine enjoyed accompanying Nadal through the doubles draw, which gave him plenty of opportunities to refine his clay skills before this second opportunity. A former top-10 player, Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo could become Monaco’s first opponent in a grinding match of counterpunchers who rarely miss. Cast from a similar mold is Robredo’s compatriot Albert Montanes, situated near the seventh-seeded Pablo Andujar. The latter must start the tournament on a high note to escape Santiago Giraldo, a Colombian who has upset much more notable players on clay before.
The key difference between the draws in Vina del Mar and Sao Paulo, Nicolas Almagro hopes to rebound from a memorable fortnight in Melbourne. While he reached an Australian Open quarterfinal, he may need time to forget his repeated inability to finish off Ferrer there and perhaps also to recover from a leg injury. Like Nadal, though, Almagro will find the clay accommodating to his ailing body, and he has won a set from Rafa on the surface before. Opening against surprise Vina del Mar champion Horacio Zeballos, he finds himself near the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw, David Nalbandian. The grouchy gaucho languishes in a semi-retirement from which he emerges just often enough to remain relevant, and a player lacking in fitness, confidence, or both would seem plausible prey. Nalbandian has tested Nadal severely before, even during his decline, but can he string together the solid efforts necessary to produce that tantalizing final?
Final: Nadal vs. Almagro
Check out the companion preview of the WTA Premier Five tournament in Doha, and return on Friday for the next entry in my column.
While some of the stars opening play in Melbourne should encounter little resistance, others might want to tread carefully. We look at some of the most notable matches on Day 1 from Rod Laver Arena to the outer courts.
Chang vs. Stosur (Rod Laver Arena): A flustered bundle of nerves on home soil, Stosur has lost six of her last seven matches in Australia and exited in the first round here last year to Sorana Cirstea. Despite her smooth game, Chang lacks Cirstea’s intimidating weapons and thus should pose a less severe test. But an 0-2 start to 2013 with losses to unheralded opponents in Brisbane and Sydney inspire little confidence in Stosur as she rebounds from an ankle injury.
Hewitt vs. Tipsarevic (RLA): Quite the contrast to Stosur, the greatest Aussie champion in recent memory typically thrives under the adoring gaze of his compatriots. In his 17th Australian Open appearance, Hewitt thoroughly deserves this showcase setting in the first night session on Rod Laver Arena. Recent years have seen him deliver upsets over opponents like Baghdatis, Safin, and Raonic on this court, so Tipsarevic cannot take this match lightly. The second-ranked Serb looked solid but mortal while winning Chennai, and he won’t overpower Hewitt like many opponents near his ranking.
Ivanovic vs. Czink (RLA): This match may start very late indeed in the aftermath of Hewitt-Tipsarevic, possibly a bad sign for Ivanovic. A morning person, the Serb can grow weary quickly when she plays late at night, and she has struggled against lefties sporadically in her career. That said, Czink has declined since she upset Ivanovic on the much faster court of Cincinnati in 2009, and the former finalist built confidence with three decisive wins at the Hopman Cup before Medina Garrigues outlasted her in the final. She should aim to avoid a third set whenever possible, and probably will here.
Goffin vs. Verdasco (Hisense Arena): Four years after he reached the semifinals (and nearly the final) here, Verdasco has regressed back to his former incarnation in which he can win or lose to anyone on any given day. Startlingly boyish in appearance, Goffin reached the second week of Roland Garros last year and recorded fall upsets over Troicki and Isner, among others. The 22-year-old must refine his game, especially his shot selection, to rise further into the top 50, although Verdasco can teach him little in that area.
Cibulkova vs. Barty (Hisense): The Slovak pocket rocket unleashes impressive power when on a hot streak and can collapse completely when she loses her range even a little. Last week in Sydney, Cibulkova showed her best and worst in defeating three top-eight opponents before eating a double bagel from Radwanska. Which memory lingers longer in her mind may define how far she goes here, while Aussie prodigy Barty will try to gain confidence from the Hopman Cup memory of upsetting Schiavone.
Bobusic vs. Radwanska (Margaret Court Arena): For winning the Australian Open wildcard playoff, Bobusic received a berth in the main draw—against the world #4. Radwanska also happens to have won both of her tournaments this year, so the challenge looms very large for the home hope. The Pole sometimes does need time to settle into an event, though, wobbling through uneasy three-setters in the first round here before.
Youzhny vs. Ebden (MCA): Yet another Aussie faces a Russian well into the twilight of his career. Still lovely to watch with its one-handed backhand and crisp volleys, his game matches up well to the net-rushing style of Ebden. Both men feel comfortable all over the court, which should create some variety in the ways that points unfold.
Dellacqua vs. Keys (MCA): After reaching the Sydney quarterfinals, the 17-year-old American should have soared in self-belief by proving that she could compete with much more experience and accomplished opponents. She eyes a winnable match against an Aussie returning from injury, not for the first time, but with a memorable run here five years ago to inspire her.
Medina Garrigues vs. Bartoli (Show Court 3): The Spaniard enters on a somewhat hot streak from winning the Hopman Cup with Verdasco, although she defeated no notable opponent other than Ivanovic. Bartoli has dominated their head-to-head on hard courts but has suffered a series of early upsets at the Australian Open in recent years. The match will rest on her racket, for better or for worse.
Harrison vs. Giraldo (Court 8): From their last meeting at the Olympics came the regrettable temper tantrum that led to Harrison’s equally regrettable apology. He still lets his competitive fire burn too brightly at times, although a victory over Isner in Sydney may bode well for this fortnight. Not averse to emitting some sparks himself, Giraldo will fancy his chances in the best-of-five format if he can claim an early lead.
Bolelli vs. Janowicz (Court 8): The toast of Paris last fall when he reached the Bercy final, Janowicz reverted to ordinary toast this month in a sloppy loss to Brian Baker. The moribund game of Bolelli, an Italian with much more flair than power, should not trouble the huge-serving Pole as long as he stays out of his own way better than he did in Auckland.
Barthel vs. Pervak (Court 11): Reaching the fourth round here last year, Barthel recalled her strong start to 2012 when she finished runner-up in Hobart (becoming the first woman ever to lose a final to Vesnina in the process). The gawky German owns a formidable but fickle serve and can climb into double digits in aces and double faults during the same match. Russian by birth and Kazakh by passport, the lefty gunslinger Pervak upset Wozniacki in Brisbane by showing more fortitude than usual.
Benneteau vs. Dimitrov (Court 13): At Wimbledon last year, the French doubles specialist came within two points of upsetting Federer as he proved again how lethal his game can become when all of its parts coalesce. A strong server with a penetrating two-hander and excellent net skills, Benneteau held match points in the Sydney semifinal last week before his habit of losing close matches resurfaced. The bad news for him is that he faces a man who served for the first set in the Brisbane final the previous week. The good news is that Dimitrov never has brought his best game to any major, nor has he developed a habit of stringing together solid results.
Makarova vs. Larcher de Brito (Court 19): Once at the vortex of the shrieking controversy, Larcher de Brito plunged into the tennis wilderness shortly after her uniquely piercing yodels had alienated fans. She returns to the main draw of a major for the first time in years. Is she ready for her comeback? Perhaps more to the point, are we?
Bogomolov vs. Baker (Court 20): From an American perspective, this match presents a good guy vs. bad guy narrative. Fans around the world warmed to Baker when he completed an odyssey through several injury absences to rejoin the ATP with a bang last year by reaching the final at his first tournament. His results faded a little afterwards, as one would expect, so his confidence probably rose when he defeated Janowicz in Auckland. Whatever one thinks of Bogomolov’s shifting national allegiances, they did nothing to disturb his reputation as one of the players least likely to induce empathy in the ATP.
Hradecka vs. Bertens (Court 22): Half of the world’s second-ranked doubles team, the Czech with an explosive serve faces one of last spring’s most surprising headlines. Bertens became the first Dutchwoman to win a title since 2006 when she took home the hardware from Casablanca as a qualifier who never had played a main-draw match at the WTA level. Summer upsets over Safarova and Petrova consolidated that breakthrough, so she will look to take the next step forward in 2013.
Excited about these matches and others on Day 1? Join our live chat at newyorkobservertennis.com, which extends from the start of play through the Rod Laver Arena night session.
Born in Moscow but representating Germany, Mischa Zverev advanced to his first career ATP Tour semifinal (6th quarterfinal’s attempt) in dramatic fashion. Zverev was losing to Vicotr Troicki 1:5 in the third set but managed to win 6 consecutive games, attacking at the net almost at every opportunity. The German saved two match points with service winners at 1:5 and was 4 times two points away from defeat at 4:5 on Troicki’s serve.
The other Moscow-born player Marat Safin ousted the defending champion Nikolay Davydenko 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4 after 2 hours 28 minutes. Davydenko was serving to win the first set at 6:5 and was two points away from taking the set in the tie-break. Decisive break in the third set came in the 5th game when Davydenko lost his serve despite 40-0 up.
Top-seeded David Nalbandian and two-time Stockholm finalist Jarkko Nieminen have each won their matches against Spanish opponents, dropping just 5 games. Nieminen had very promising start of the year but since Australian Open hasn’t won 3 matches in a tournament.
Mario Ancic withdrew prior to the match against Kei Nishikori due to acute bronchitis. Ancic has been health problems from the beginning of the week.
Robin Soderling served 13 aces in straight sets victory over Rainer Schuettler.
Former Vienna’s champion Feliciano Lopez disappointed local fans beating Jurgen Melzer 4-6 6-3 6-4. Lopez had only two break points in the match and converted both of them.
Philipp Kohlschreiber playing his first tournament since US Open, advanced to the semifinal after easy win over Fernando Verdasco. Kohlschreiber during the week has dropped only 9 games (4 in the 1st round, 5 against Verdadco). Kohlschreiber’s countryman Petzschner reached first ATP semifinal after 6-4 6-2 over Carlos Moya in the late match.
Moscow – Quarterfinals
(7)Marat Safin (RUS) d. (1)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4
Michael Zverev (GER) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-4 3-6 7-5 – 2 M.P.
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (4)Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3 2-0 ret.
Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4 6-2
Stockholm – Quarterfinals
(1)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (7)Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-4 6-1
(3)Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Oscar Hernandez 6-1 6-4
(4)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (5)Rainer Schuettler (GER) 6-2 7-5
(WC)Kei Nishikori (JPN) d. (2)Mario Ancic (CRO) w/o
Vienna – Quarterfinals
(q)Philipp Petzschner (GER) d. Carlos Moya (ESP) 6-4 6-2
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. (5)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-2 6-3
(8)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (2)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) 6-3 7-6(2)
Moscow champion from year 2005, Igor Andreev lost his second round match against Jeremy Chardy despite comfortable leading 6-3 5:2 (40-30). 21 year-old Frenchman has reached second quarterfinal this year.
Also tight match won another Frenchman (Moscow champion 2002, last year’s finalist) Paul-Henri Mathieu who needed 2 hours 48 minutes to beat Dudi Sela 6-7(3) 7-5 7-6(0).
The tournament has been dominated by the French and Russian players. Beside mentioned two players from France a place in the last eight booked their compatriot Fabrice Santoro and three players from Russia (Davydenko, Safin and Kunitsyn). Russian number 1 Nikolay Davydenko smashed Guilermo Garcia-Lopez in just 55 minutes and almost secured himself a spot in year-ending Masters Cup.
David Nalbandian finished Pim-Pim’s comeback on ATP circuit with surprisingly easy win 6-3 6-2. The match was equaled till 3:3 in the first set with a little optical advantage of the Swede who had 30-0 on Nalbandian’s serve twice. Since the 7th game of the first set Nalbandian overwhelmed his opponent breaking his huge serve three times.
Two Spaniards, clay-court specialists, Albert Montanes and Oscar Hernandez have reached indoor’s quarterfinal for the first time in career. They both lost easily first set to win without bigger problems two another sets.
One of the promising stars, 18 year-old Kei Nishikori of Japan, was two points away from losing his match against veteran Dominik Hrbaty at 4:5 in the third set. In the previous game the Japanese had triple break point. “I just concentrated on keeping my serve,” Nishikori said. “I’m glad that I did not go down after failing to break his serve from 0-40. The next game was difficult.” Hrbaty, former no. 12 in the world (now rank. 396) hasn’t reached an ATP quarterfinal from one and a half year.
Ernests Gulbis proved once again that has big potential to play on a very high level but has problems with concentration in the most important moments as well. Young Latvian wasted 5 match poins in the tie-break (6:4, 7:6, 9:8, 11:10) of the second set against Fernando Gonzalez. Gulbis has already lost four matches this year being one or two points away from vicotry (against Davydenko, Nalbandian, Acasuso and Gonzalez).
Juan Martin del Potro withdrew from the match against Philipp Kohlschreiber. It wasn’t a surprising decision in view of Del Potro’s previous tough match which was preceded by long flight from Tokyo where Del Potro had played a final last Sunday. Tired Argentinian has officially withdrew due to injury of his right big toe.
Moscow – Second Round
(1)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-1 6-1
(7)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-4 0-6 6-2
Michael Zverev (GER) d. Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-2 2-6 6-1
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs (8)Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 6-3 6-4
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (q)Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-2 6-4
(4)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Dudi Sela (ISR) 6-7(3) 7-5 7-6(0)
Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d. Robby Ginepri (USA) 6-4 6-3
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. (2)Igor Andreev (RUS) 3-6 7-5 6-4 – 1 M.P.
Stockholm – Second Round
(1)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (WC)Joachim Johansson (SWE) 6-3 6-2
(7)Albert Montanes (ESP) d. (q)George Bastl (SUI) 1-6 6-3 6-2
(3)Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2
Oscar Hernandez (ESP) d. (6)Jose Acasuso (ARG) 2-6 6-3 6-4
(5)Rainer Schuettler (GER) d. Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) 7-6(6) 6-3
(4)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (LL)Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-3 6-3
(WC)Kei Nishikori (JPN) d. Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) 6-1 1-6 7-5
(2)Mario Ancic (CRO) d. Steve Darcis (BEL) 7-6(4) 6-4
Vienna – Second Round
(q)Philipp Petzschner (GER) d. (q)Jan Hernych (CZE) 6-3 6-4
Carlos Moya (ESP) d. Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-2 6-3
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 7-6(4) 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. (LL)Santiago Giraldo (COL) 7-6(5) 6-3
(5)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Guillermo Canas (ARG) 6-1 6-2
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. (3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) w/o
(8)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 6-3
(2)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 4-6 7-6(11) 6-1 – 5 M.P.
[Editor’s note: For those of you who have Facebook, please join our group by clicking here]
Marat Safin has notched 400th win in professional career beating 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4 Noam Okun of Israel. Safin places on 8th position among active players who have won the most matches in ATP Tour. Safin ended the match in bizarre fashion thinking that broke Okun’s serve to lead 6:5 in the third. He had gone to his chair before realised that won the match.
Nikolay Davydenko has extended the number of consecutive wins in Moscow to 11, after a routine win (6-1 7-5) over Florent Serra. Two-time defending champion Davydenko lost only one set in those 11 matches (against Safin two years ago in the final).
The biggest surprise of the first round was made by Uzbek Denis Istomin overcoming 7-6(2) 6-3 Mickael Llodra. It was Istomin’s first ATP win since Australian Open. Apart from Aussie Open, Istomin had won earlier matches only on lower levels and in Davis Cup.
The first round produced mixing emotions for the home crowd. After 17 years on the Tour the last singles match in professional career played Jonas Bjorkman. The Swede who debuted in Stockholm in 1992, lost in straight sets (2-6 4-6) to “lucky loser” Juan Monaco.”I felt I could have played a lot better than I did because I was playing well during practice during the last weeks.” said Bjorkman who will play in doubles till the end of the regular season.
On the other hand fellow Swede – Joachim “Pim-Pim” Johansson dignified with a win his comeback to ATP circuit after 12 months’ break. Johansson beat Nicolas Mahut 7-5 7-6(5) serving 20 aces at 75% of 1st serves in. “I didn’t feel anything on my shoulder” said 26 year-old Pim-Pim who officialy retired from professional sport at the beginning of 2008.
Juan Acasuso has won for the second time in 2008 a match from extremely difficult position. The Argentinian who beat Gulbis in Toronto being 1:5 in the deciding set, this time overcome a qualifier from Germany – Matthias Bachinger 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(4) despite match point down at 2:5 in the third set.
In contrary to Joachim Johansson, Stefan Koubek hadn’t a promising comeback to ATP after 6 months injury-break. The Austrian lost 1-6 2-6 to 10 years younger “lucky loser” Santiago Giraldo. It was Giraldo’s first ATP match at the European indoor. After the match Koubek said he wants to play as many matches as possible to the end of the season and rebuild his form on the practice sessions in off-season in December.
Feliciano Lopez has won first ATP match after losing 6 in a row, beating in two tie-breaks Agustin Calleri.
Stanislas Wawrinka and Gilles Simon, Masters Cup contenders, have cutted down chances to qualify to Shanghai. Both players lost in the first round 6-7(5) in the third set (Wawrinka lost to qualifier Petzschner, Simon to Schwank).
Their stumble creates Shanghai hopes for Fernando Gonzalez. The Chilean, 11th in the ATP Race revenged Simone Bolelli for bitter Wimbledon’s loss beating the Italian 4-6 7-6(2) 6-2. They have met each other 4 times and 9 out of 13 sets have finished in the tie-breaks (Gonzalez leads 3-1 in Head to head; Bolelli leads 5-4 in the tie-breaks).
The revelation of the last couple of months – Juan Martin del Potro was struggling in two tie-break sets with unkown Austrian “wild card” Martin Fisher (No. 219). Del Potro saved set point in the first set tie-break (at 6:7) and was two points away from losing the second tie-break when Fisher was serving at 5:4. It was first indoor match for the Argentinian this year.
Moscow – First round
(1)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-1 7-5
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-2 6-4
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. (q)Harel Levy (ISR) 6-4 6-3
(7)Marat Safin (RUS) d. (q)Noam Okun (ISR) 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4
Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) d. (3)Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 7-5 4-6 7-6(1)
Michael Zverev (GER) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-3 7-6(7)
Viktor Troicki (SRB) d. (WC)Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 6-1 6-3
(8)Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. (WC)Alexandre Koudriavtsev (RUS) 4-6 6-3 7-6(6)
(q)Denis Istomin (UZB) d. (6)Michael Llodra (FRA) 7-6(2) 6-3
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (WC)Yuri Schukin (KAZ) 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4
Dudi Sela (ISR) d. Victor Hanescu (ROU) 6-3 3-6 6-2
(4)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-3 6-2
Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d. (LL)Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-1 4-6 6-1
Robby Ginepri (USA) d. (q)Jiri Vanek (CZE) 6-3 6-4
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 3-6 6-1 6-4
(2)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 2-0 ret.
Stockholm – First round
(1)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-1 6-1
(WC)Joachim Johansson (SWE) d. Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 7-5 7-6(5)
(q)George Bastl (SUI) d. (q)Frederik Nielsen (DEN) 7-6(6) 3-6 7-6(4)
(7)Albert Montanes (ESP) d. Thomas Johansson (SWE) 6-3 4-6 6-3
(3)Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5
Arnaud Clement (FRA) d. (q)Bjorn Rehnquist (SWE) 6-2 6-1
Oscar Hernandez (ESP) d. Ivo Minar (CZE) 6-4 6-3
(6)Jose Acasuso (ARG) d. (q)Matthias Bachinger (GER) 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(4) – saved 1 M.P.
(5)Rainer Schuettler (GER) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-0 6-3
Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 3-6 7-6(7) 7-5
(LL)Juan Monaco (ARG) d. (WC)Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) 6-2 6-4
(4)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Benjamin Becker (GER) 7-5 6-3
(WC)Kei Nishikori (JPN) d. (8)Marcel Granollers (ESP) 2-6 6-4 6-2
Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2 6-1
Steve Darcis (BEL) vs Christophe Rochus (BEL) 2-6 6-3 6-3
(2)Mario Ancic (CRO) d. Olivier Rochus (BEL) 7-6(6) 6-2
Vienna – First Round
(q)Philipp Petzschner (GER) d. (1)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 6-7(5) 6-2 7-6(5)
(q)Jan Hernych (CZE) d. Roko Karanusic (CRO) 4-6 6-4 7-6(5)
Carlos Moya (ESP) d. Michael Berrer (GER) 7-6(5) 7-6(6)
Eduardo Schwank (ARG) d. (7)Gilles Simon (FRA) 4-6 7-5 7-6(5)
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) d. (4)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 6-4 7-6(4)
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 7-6(3) 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 7-6(2) 7-6(4)
(LL)Santiago Giraldo (COL) d. (WC)Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-1 6-2
(5)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (q)Victor Crivoi (ROU) 6-4 6-4
Guillermo Canas (ARG) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 7-6(2) 6-3
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-2 6-2
(3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) vs (WC)Martin Fischer (AUT) 7-6(7) 7-6(5)
(8)Gael Monfils (FRA) vs (WC)Alexander Peya (AUT) 3-6 6-1 6-3
Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. (q)Pavel Snobel (CZE) 6-4 6-2
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Filippo Volandri (ITA) 6-2 6-3
(2)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) vs Simone Bolelli (ITA) 4-6 7-6(2) 6-2
Last week on the challenger circuit, clay-court specialists prevailed in the biggest red dirt events on the men’s and women’s side, while we also got a sneak peek of coming attractions for Wimbledon at the first grass court tune-up of the year.
The $150,000 challenger in Prostejov, Czech Republic, has always attracted a strong field and this year was no exception. Top-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic is ranked among the world’s top 15 and all the seeded players were ranked in the top 100. In the end, Agustin Calleri of Argentina used his clay court prowess to overwhelm Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Spain 6-0, 6-3. The win propels Calleri back among into the top 50 in the rankings.
Daniel Kollerer of Austria, known as “Crazy Dani” on the ATP Tour, has attracted an infamous reputation for his bad attitude on the court and was even suspended from playing ATP tournaments for six months. He’s finally starting to become known for his tennis, winning his first title of the year at the $50,000 challenger in Furth, Germany, with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Santiago Giraldo of Colombia. This result takes some of the sting out of Giraldo’s Roland Garros performance, where he had match points to qualify for the main draw before losing to Frederico Gil of Portugal.
The $50,000 challenger in Surbiton, Great Britain, featured a top 20 entry in Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, but he withdrew from his second round match with an injury. Frank Dancevic of Canada, always a dangerous threat on the grass with his serve, won a hard fought 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 contest over Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Both Dancevic and Anderson are competing at the ATP tour event in London this week.
In other results on the men’s side, Michael Yani of the United States came through qualifying to win the $50,000 challenger in Yuba City, California, while Frederico Gil of Portugal won the $35,000 challenger in Sassuolo, Italy.
On the women’s side, Tathiana Garbin of Italy delighted the home crowd by winning the $75,000 event in Rome, Italy, rallying from being an early break in the final set to defeat Yvonne Meusburger of Austria 6-4, 4-6 7-6. This tournament also snapped a four-match losing streak for Garbin and a six-match losing streak for Meusburger.
At the $50,000 challenger in Surbiton, United Kingdom, Marina Erakovic of New Zealand continued her strong form by defeating Anne Keothavong of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2. Erakovic, who gave Jelena Jankovic a tough match in the second round of Roland Garros, could truly break through at Wimbledon on a surface which is tailor made for her game. Despite the loss, Keothavong has much to be proud about, becoming the first British woman to crack the world’s top 100 since Samantha Smith in 1999.
After coming close twice this year, Patricia Mayr of Austria finally broke through and won her first title at the $25,000 event in Grado, Italy, narrowly beating Jasmina Tincic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6. Mayr is now on track to compete in her first ever Grand Slam qualifying event at the US Open this summer. We could be hearing more from Tincic in the future though; this was only the fifth professional event she has ever played in.
Marseille, France hosts the top event on the women’s side this week as Martina Muller of Germany leads the way at the $75,000 event held there. Yvonne Meusburger of Austria is the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zlin, Czech Republic, Lauren Albanese of the United States leads the way at the $25,000 challenger in El Paso, Texas, and Ana Vrljic of Croatia takes top billing at the $25,000 challenger in Campobasso, Italy.
On the men’s side, Adrian Cruciat of Romania is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Sofia, Bulgaria. Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia is the top seed at the $35,000 event in Milan, Italy, while Eric Prodon of France leads the way at the $35,000 challenger in Kosice, Slovakia.