March 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Photo: Yahoo! Sports
I quote the old Arabic proverb to start this one. It says: “What the desert, in all his mystery and magic, saves for the fortunate men is, always and will always be, unknown and dark for the blind humans, but clear as the Dakar’s sun for the wise Tuaregs”. Not really. I made it up. But you liked, didn’t you?
Well, I came up with that to talk about the first and the second days of seeding activity at Indian Wells, a lovely place I’ve never been to. I’m clearly trying to make up for the ATP preview I never wrote. I can live with that. I can live with my pageviews going downhill without an intriguing post you’d like to read. Here it is. So, read, grasshoppers. Read and enjoy.
To tennis, then. Isn’t it a lovely, yet so deadly sport? (took it from Alice Cooper’s Black Widow, and will stop with the digression, otherwise this will get a little bit too long). When the draw was first announced, and you pick your players – the one who have the conditions to advance to the further rounds – you always think the best. Let’s say you’re a Murray fan. And at the first glance you took at it, BAM, Qualifier or an Italian player (I could call them all Seppi, btw). “He’s the Mr. Masters 1000”, you thought. “Potito ain’t a new Pannatta, and there are no scary faces on the qualy draw”, you so naively wondered, and then clicked on Murray’s rectangle, and advanced to him to the third round, to the fourth and who knows how further.
The updated draw is out, and the qualifier is Donald Young. Who? Some people might have though. Donald, the not so Young anymore prospect, in whom was put whole lots of money, and no decent results ever came, a more experienced tennis fan would point. And someone who’s “in” tennis news would remember the episode when DY publicly criticized P-Mac, then USA Davis Cup capt., on Twitter, because he had called Harrison not him to go to Colombia. That’s the D.Young who could play Andy Murray, ’09 finalist at Indian Wells and five-time Masters Series champion. Cakewalk.
Yeh, but heh, when the green balls are flying and being hit and propelled over 200 km/h, one should take nothing as guaranteed money. Nah, joking. Would never pick De Voest over Nadal, and right now Rafa is leading him 6/0, 4/1. So, there are few surprises in the early rounds, mainly over the highest seeds – read here Murray, Nadal, Nole, Federer. Taking Nadal as an example, do you guys have an idea when he last dropped an opener? Her second round at Rome, 2008. Yes, 2008. So, no surprised 99,8% picked Muzz’o to win his 1st match. This 99,8 percentage is the very same of people not reading this piece. Life, deal with it 😉
But this match was one of those you watch and just can’t believe the outcome. Murray lost. Yes, that’s right. Murray lost his 3rd straight match – and is yet to win after the Australian Open final run – and his first Masters’ opener since Miami 2010. Donald Young is also the lower ranked played he has lost to in almost four years – when was downed by a world no.139, Fabio Fognini, in the second round of Montreal. Wrist injury or AO hangover, I don’t believe there are enough excuses for this. It was a near perfect opener, and Murray blew it.
Game on. He will rebound. All in all, he has no points to defend in Key Biscayne, the next tournament of his agenda – hence, nowhere to go but up. But this loss will always be there for both Andy and Young. For the first, probably as “the match I shouldn’t have lost”. And for the latter, “the biggest win of my life”. And now the 5th seed is down, we ought to turn our eyes to the guy who defeated him. Not only at Indian Wells – big wins can do wonders for players that need confidence. And Donald Young knows – more than anyone else – how HUGE this win was. Who knows if he can now finally grow and develop as a player, and soon get in the top-100 for good, maybe even becoming the top-flight player the United States need and want?
Curiously enough, only to close this one out, last year, when Baghdatis pulled the first of a series of upsets Federer suffered, at the same Indian Wells Masters, he fell in the next round to Tommy Robredo – which happens to be Donald Young’s 3rd round opponent
Murray’s upset was the headline of the day so far, and since Nadal and Caro both got past their openers without any trouble – Rafa barely broke a sweat vs. the 30-yo S.African qualifier – is likely to remain. But it’s not like nothing interesting also happened today. What to start with? Let’s see…
A streak that remains – for the 5th straight year, a champion won’t defend his Indian Wells’ title – since Federer won the last of his three-peat in 2006. Ljubicic, the kind and experienced Croat who triumphed over Andy Roddick last year, said hello and goodbye in the very same day. Of course, wasn’t like “Hey, hello, goodbye” – he didn’t easily go down to DelPo. No, no, au contraire, mons amis. And that’s the best part of it. Ljubicic is not on his heir (or hair) day, fact. But he’s a former no.4, currently ranked inside top-20 (will brutally fall in the next rankings), and JMDP is still making his comeback tour – other former no.4, but he went where Ljubi has never been, a Grand Slam final, and more than this, won the title. So, it was more a “Hey, hello, will stay here for two hours and a half playing a helluva match with this young beast, then I say goodbye” from Ivan.
They went to three, and I didn’t watch the match, so can’t make any further comments, but before the start of the third set, Ljubicic asked for the trainer – let’s not forget he’s nearly 32. Despite that, he put up a good fight, eventually losing to the once again ascendant DelPo, who’s climbing the ladder up in the rankings and has no more points to defend until the end of the year. Ljubi’s probably saying goodbye to the pro circuit, and this Indian Wells much likely to be his last chance to defend a title – which he only successfully did once -, but on the other side of the weighing machine, Del Potro says “hello” again to the circuit – he’s definitely back, but don’t expect him to win three Masters and the US Open again this year, these things take some time. And even though he lost to the only top-10s he played this year – Roddick, whose form is improving (I hope) and Verdasco, who’s not the most reliable top-10 (Can’t be unbiased) – I bet NONE of the top-players would like to face DelPo in an early round at any given tournament.
And you know what? I will love when Martin gets back to the top-10, but I’m already loving the excellent match ups we could get in the early rounds with him as a sleeper. Not that much at Indian Wells, because he’s in the same quarter as Soderling, and the odds on a 4th round match up are fair.
Closing this one out, Del Potro’s imposed to Ljubicic the first opener loss to a defending champion at Indian Wells since ’07 – when Roger Federer lost to Guillermo Coria – curiously, also an Argentine.
A giant win – How bad was this topic’s name? I bet you got it from the moment you read it… Dr. Ivo – a Florida resident to whom was denied a QUALY WC for Miami (Shame on you) – may not be back for good (still a long way back from outside top-200), but he recorded a win just as big as himself today – his first over a top-10 in nearly two years, since Verdasco in Wimbledon – over David Ferrer, who never got along very well with Indian Wells, given he lost his last two openers. Ferrer, the first top-10 to leave the singles draw, lost the first set in a tie-break and got broken only once in the second, but that was enough. As for Ivo, whose ’10 season was hampered by injuries, he wins back-to-back Masters matches for the first since 2008, when beat Soderling and Djokovic to reach the Quarterfinals at Madrid (still as the 8th Master), before falling to eventual runner-up Gilles Simon. Karlovic will now play Gilles Simon again, who dumped Opa Schuettler in two sets.
Not backing me anymore… – Richard Berankis, one of the most talented prospects of the past years, and serious candidate to join the top-10 in one or two, played today Fernando Verdasco, who had troubles with another prospect, Milos Raonic, not so long ago. FeVer, as the chicks (that accounts for… hmm… can I say 95% of his fans?) call him due to his tennis skills, soon found himself troubled, as he was one break down and Rykas served for the 1st set, but managed to break, won three straight games and the set. And then the secret was unveiled: Berankis was fighting an opponent ten times (at least) tougher than Lil’ Nando – his own body; the back, to be more specific. And Ricardas-turned-Richard can perfectly beat a top-10 any time he wants, but can’t himself. The trainer wasn’t enough, but being as gentle as a tennis match requires, he came back to the second set, got broken to start – all in all, you just can’t serve with back problems – and by then he already have had it. Called it ballgame, shook hands and Verdasco is through to play Sam Querrey, who beat Tipsarevic 4&4.
The first time – The exotic Alexandr Dolgopolov won today his first match at Indian Wells, defeating a never threatening Victor Hanescu in two sets decided by a single break – 6/4 both; Dolgopolov will have a REAL test now as he faces Juan Martin Del Potro, trying to equal his best result at a Masters event – the R16, or the 4th round, as you please – where could face Robin Soderling – who’s playing later vs. Michael Berrer; The Dog set his best performance at Toronto last year, ousting Petzschner and Youzhny before losing to Berdy Boy.
Slow and easy – THAT UNIMPORTANT – Rafael Nadal’s cakewalk over some South African qualifier whose name I will only mention because I felt sorry for him today (just like I felt over Marcos Daniel at the AO) – Rik de Voest. Even though Nadal already entered the court with an assured win, he kept working hard (the dude just never slows down) en route to his 500th straight opener win – congratulaciones, Rafa! – with a 6/0, 6/2 (so merciful, letting De Voest get on the board) scoreline, and now waits for either Ryan Sweeting – whom he totally schooled at the Australian Open – or Juan Monaco – whose Latin origins can’t deny: he will lose to Nadal just like the Spaniards do. Nadal’s last opener loss was to Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2008, and each day I get even more amazed by his capability and mental strength. The guy never chokes, never leaves a door open. He just goes there and does his thing. In other news, sorry to disappoint you, but he’s an android, and when the machines take over the control of the world, he will be crowned King of the Planet Earth. U just wait n’ c.
Look what you just did, Alexa – There will be a topic for the ladies, but I can’t avoid mentioning here what Alexandra Dulgheru – that cute Romanian – did today. She blew a one set, one break in the second AND in the third en route to her SIXTH LOSS TO ONLY ONE WIN IN 2011. Get yourself together, Alexandra, or you’ll soon join Pironkova as the former top-30s who faded into irrelevance. By the way, she lost to Lucie Hradecka, who hadn’t defeated a player ranked this high in ages – until today. Hradecka will now be crushed by a rising Shuai Peng, who handed the fourth straight loss to Li Na (she might be asking if the next Australian swing is still far away).
Did I miss anything? No? Right. Tomorrow’s preview will be up shortly after. Stay tuned!
Peter Stevenson Liguori, aka the guy behind Daily Scores, hopes Soderling gets to the SF, but fears the possibility of seeing him losing to Nadal again