A comprehensive preview for the tournaments that are being played this week. First up is Dubai that features prominent players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And then there is the tournament in Las Vegas. It doesn’t have the starpower of Dubai but it’s still an interesting one feating Fernando Gonzalez among others.
What can we really say about this tournament except that money talks. When you have 8 of the top 10 players and a cutoff of 57, this tournament is almost tougher than a Masters Draw, in the sense that the top seeds can face people at the top of the game in the first round. This is no more obvious than at the very top of the draw, where #1 seed and record four-time champion Roger Federer has to open against none other than Andy Murray, ranked #12. With so many fascinating early matchups in this draw, it would take us all day to really do it justice. But here’s a more realistic preview. The toughest opponent in Federer’s quarter is arguably Murray. Should he get past that, he would likely face friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka or #5 seed Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals. Of course, it’s Federer, so it’s hard to see him losing before the semifinals, at least. This is Federer’s first competition since losing in the Australian Open semifinals, and he said today that he is rested, ready to go, and that the break has been good for him.
The second quarter is highlighted by #4 seed David Ferrer against Tommy Haas. Haas had a good run in Dubai last year, making the semifinals before losing to Federer. But considering the bad losses Haas has had since coming back to the tour a few weeks ago in Delray Beach, we see Ferrer winning this one comfortably. This quarter is chock full of solid players who, should they find some form, could produce some upsets; Jarkko Nieminen, Feliciano Lopez, Janko Tipsarevic, and Olivier Rochus are all capable of showing up on the big stages against the very top players. #8 seed Tomas Berdych opens against Gael Monfils, playing his first match since last September, when he retired due to injury.
Things get no easier in the bottom half. #7 seed Richard Gasquet opens against Dmitry Tursunov. Though Gasquet might be the favorite on paper, he is 0-2 against Tursunov, including a loss in their most recent meeting earlier this year in Sydney. Another interesting match in this quarter is last year’s runner-up Mikhail Youzhny against 2002 Dubai champion Fabrice Santoro. Should Youzhny make it through that match, we would likely see an intriguing second round between Youzhny and #3 seed Novak Djokovic. Though this quarter is an excellent one, Djokovic should advance to the semifinal if he has fully recovered from the flu that plagued him during Davis Cup.
And to the final quarter of the draw, where things get no easier. Making a rare appearance overseas when there is a US tournament to pick from, #6 seed Andy Roddick makes his debut in Dubai against 2001 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. Roddick, however, is 3-0 against Ferrero, all matches on outdoor hardcourt, and should fancy his chances if he is not too jetlagged after the long trip from Memphis. This section contains local wildcard Mahmoud Nader, who isn’t worth mentioning except that he’s so obscure that he doesn’t have a ranking and is not even mentioned on the ITF website. Rounding out the draw is #2 Rafael Nadal, who has a tough opener in Philipp Kohlschreiber. A Roddick/Nadal quarterfinal should be in the cards, and we can hope that should that match come to fruition that Roddick would play better than in their match at Indian Wells last year, which was played under similar conditions.
In stark contrast to Dubai, Las Vegas’s Tennis Channel Open lacks major starpower but still has a respectable field that includes three top 20 players. And the draw still holds plenty of interesting matches. Right at the top of the draw, #1 seed Fernando Gonzalez, returning after a short injury layoff, will look for revenge against Dudi Sela, who beat Gonzalez last year in Israel in a memorable Davis Cup playoff tie. Surely, the loss still stings for Gonzalez and he will be looking forward to the chance for revenge. Also in this section is American wild card John Isner and #6 seed Michael Llodra, who has already won two titles this year. A quarterfinal between Gonzalez and Llodra would be an interesting contrast in style.
The stronger 2nd quarter of the draw is headed by #3 seed Marcos Baghdatis, who has a tricky opening meeting with always-entertaining Vince Spadea. Right below them is an interesting matchup between two players trying to rebuild their form and ranking – wild card entry Robby Ginepri and Xavier Malisse. Rising star Ernests Gulbis is in this section and Robin Soderling, coming off his two consecutive indoor final appearances, will try to take his sky-high serve toss outdoors to windy Las Vegas.
In the bottom half, the third quarter contains several players who came from the Latin American claycourt swing who will try to get their hardcourt feet before the two masters events coming up. Potito Starace will take on fellow claycourter Carlos Berlocq, and #4 seed Guillermo Canas has an interesting opener against Thomas Johansson.
The bottom quarter has undoubtedly the most interesting first round match of the event – and quite a shame considering the relatively weak field – between defending champion and #2 seed Lleyton Hewitt and last year’s semifinalist (he lost to Hewitt then) Marat Safin. Also in this section, #8 seed Nicolas Kiefer plays only his second event of the year, and the highest ranked American in the draw – Sam Querrey – will try to make an impact.