Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breaking Down The Men's Singles Main Draw, Part 2


BYES: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Thomas Berdych, Andy Murray

The first round will not feature any of the big names as they enjoy the fruits of their top 8 ranking. I am severely disappointed that once again (a) we have a Nadal-Federer Quarterfinal...I don't think it is too much to ask to pair Roger with David Ferrer so that we are left with the off chance of getting all of the Big Four in the semifinals and (b) the fact that three of the big four are on one side of the draw. I know this is supposed to be random and all, but at some point do it for the fans. No offense to Berdych, Ferrer, Del Potro or Gasquet, but I think I speak for all red-blooded American tennis fans...we want the possibility of the Big Four together, give it to us.


Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Mardy Fish:

Besides the most obvious feature of this match (which of course are is the names of the players...a guy whose last name is Fish versus a man who spells Phillip in an incorrect way...who goes with one "L" and two "P"s), this first round battle is mostly notable for one final push by Mardy Fish to make noise. The American has had great success in Cincinnati over the years, reaching the Semifinals twice and with his limited schedule this year (only three ATP Tournaments all year), this may be a bit of a swan song for the #76 ranked player. Expect the Cincinnati fans to root him on with all their might, but incorrectly spelled Philipp to move on.

Marcel Granollers vs Lukas Rosol:

You have to be a tennis junkie to care about this one, but since you, the reader of The Outer Courts are a junkie, you will care. Both players are ranked similarly (#44 and #36 in the world), and neither has had a great deal of success in Masters 1000 events. So to make this match interesting, let's do what anyone else would the jobs of their parents. Granollers' father directs tv commercials and Rosol's mother is an ice skating instructor. It is the dead of summer in Cincinnati, so there is little use for ice. Spanish commercials are always entertaining (they usually involve talking babies), so I will go with Granollers.

Kevin Anderson vs Tommy Haas

No offense to Kevin Anderson, but my entire attention on this match will be focused on Tommy Haas. We have a lot in common. Our age is similar, (he is 35, I am a virile 34). our mindset is akin, (we both believe we are younger than we are, as seen by my hooded sweatshirt apparel and Haas' propensity to wear hats backwards) and we are both holding on in a young man's game (he tennis, me blogging). I root for Haas and have enjoyed his resurgence this year. I have a feeling he has a run in him in New York for the Open and I think he gets the momentum started with a solid showing here.

Nicolas Amalgro vs Grigor Dimitrov

I admit that I am completely fascinated by Grigor Dimitrov. Everything about him seems counterintuitive. He is most famous for dating Maria Sharapova and being the "black heart boyfriend" that Serena Williams mentioned in her recent diss. But think about this...Dimitrov is rumored to have dated Serena in the past and is currently with Sharapova, arguably the two most famous women's tennis players in the world. Yet he is much younger than both (he is only 22, while Maria is 26 and Serena is 32) and is a middle-level player, while they are tennis elite. How does he do it? And why is he a black heart? Is it because of his temper (shown in his Wimbledon meltdown) or some other nefarious trait? Whatever the case, Dimitrov has convinced two of the most confident, talented women at their craft in the world to get in a public fight, with him as the centerpiece. If he can do that, how is it possible his tennis can be so mediocre?

Brian Baker vs Denis Isotomin

Baker is a tour veteran and was given a Wildcard into this event, which is nice, but his #188 world ranking suggests his time here will be short. Isotomin gave Djokovic all he wanted in Montreal, before bowing out in three sets. While the performance was impressive, his look needs work. Isotomin plays in sports goggles, which may be necessary from a vision perspective, but does very little to suggest a career of great success. Name the best athlete to wear goggles on a regular basis...maybe Bill Walton...but even he eventually agreed to contacts. It is 2013 and while I like the moxy Isotomin has shown, he needs a fashion/vision consultant to move him into the modern era. #NoGogglesinTennis

Qualifier vs Qualifier

One of the qualifiers is going to make it into the second round and face Rafa Nadal. A huge opportunity for either one. I will take Qualifier #2, in a marathon match that keeps the crowd entertained and leaves Qualifier #1 heartbroken.

Qualifier vs Jarkko Niemenen

Niemenen is the classic example of a tour grinder. He has been on the tour consistently since 2001, with his ranking never getting higher than #15 and never lower than #77. Through that time, he has won only two titles, but has had a number of consistently solid finishes and has produced the occasional upset in the big event. If he were a basketball player, he would be AC Green (presumably minus the chastity vow), someone you want on your side, but you are never scared of seeing in your draw. Unlike a lot of ATP players however, he served in the Finnish Army from 2008-2009. That is a toughness that a Qualifier could never muster. Niemenen does it for his Finnish homeland and moves on.

Tommy Robredo vs Thomaz Bellucci

This match comes down to a classic cultural battle about what is truly in a name. The name Thomas is international, one can find people who utilize it in countries all over the world. However the derivatives of that name tell us a lot about the individuals blessed with it. Robredo uses the version "Tommy", a more informal, younger use of Thomas that suggests to all who meet the individual that he is fun, laid back and not ready to grow up. Bellucci comes from Brazil and chooses "Thomaz", a spelling that isn't a regular variant of the name and suggests creativity, flair and individuality. In the same way that "Tommy" connects with Spain's laid-back atmosphere, Bellucci taps into the Brazilian spirit with his unique take on the Thomas name. This match represents much more than tennis, and famous Thomases and Toms throughout history, from Jefferson to Hanks to Cruise to Petty, will anxiously be watching to see which is deemed best on the sports battlefield.

Andreas Seppi vs Stanislas Wawrinka

From a competitive standpoint, this may be the best first round match of them all. Wawrinka is seeded #9 and has quietly been putting together a great last 18 months, moving up the world rankings and becoming the top ten player that he has teetered so close to being over the last five years. Seppi comes in ranked #23 and with a number of points at stake for him over the next few weeks, this match becomes one of great importance. It will likely be the match with the most at stake in Round 1 and will probably produce the best tennis. But because both players have the star power in America of a second string offensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, unfortunately most (besides you, the Outer Courts reader) will miss it.

Fabio Fognini vs Radek Stepanek

If you like temper, personality and hotheads, the bottom part of this draw was taylor-made for you. At Indian Wells, we became a huge fan of Fabio Fognini, as we watched the young Italian slowly win over the Centre Court crowd in a great battle with Novak Djokovic. Part of what makes Fabio fascinating is also what makes him on the surface, unlikeable. He is a living embodiment of the kind of person one doesn't think exists in, handsome, stylish and named Fabio, almost like a cultural stereotype of the kind of person that no one would like and was destined to be a complete jerk. And that he may be, but on the court, he grinds out points and is able to scramble for points as well as anyone on tour. He is having his best year ever and now finds himself seeded in a Masters 1000 event. If you aren't familiar with him, don't let your first impression bias you too greatly. He comes off initially as an imminently hateable character...but give him a chance and he may win you over...unless he is wearing a headband and then he probably will be too much to take.

Ernests Gulbis vs Mikhail Youzhny

While Fognini looks on the surface to be tough to like, but deep down could be lovable, Ernests Gulbis is a tough guy to cheer for both on the surface and in actuality. He is the loudest mouth on tour, complaining, harassing linesmen and ball boys and generally being a total bore on the court. He has uber-talent and has long been pegged as a player who could challenge to be in the top ten. But he is also potentially a lunatic and seems one bad point away from finding newborn calfs in the crowd and beheading them for his own pleasure. He too is having the best year of his career and his temper has tamed somewhat. But he is due for a blow-up and in the heart and humidity of Cincinnati, I can easily see a Gulbis storm for the ages brewing.