Wednesday Topspin: Counterpunchers and Clay Specialists

Counterpunching to the top: I watched parts of two matches yesterday, first Roger Federer (mostly) cruising through his first rounder with Somdev Devvarman, then Gilles Simon finally defeating Mikhail Youhzny.

During the Federer match, the commentators got to talking about how high Devvarman could climb in the rankings.  One guys suggested he could break the top 40, implying he would have a hard time getting any higher.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, that seems like a fair assessment.

Given the state of the top 10 in men’s tennis right now, it would be easy to conclude that to reach that level, you need at least one major weapon, especially if most of your success comes on hard courts.  That’s something Devvarman will probably never have, which is part of the reason that we watch guys like that and assume they will only climb so far.

Then there’s Simon.  He has broken into the top 10, and has spent a lot of time in the top 20.  Yet, where’s the weapon?  Like Andy Murray, he succeeds by getting one more ball back, but unlike Murray, he doesn’t have a big serve.  If Simon has a world-class weapon, it’s his speed.  That has been enough for him to take down the top players in the world, at least when healthy.

A world of clay: Since Milos Raonic withdrew from Acupulco, that meant Carlos Berlocq‘s first-round matchup was another clay-focused player, Daniel Munoz de la Nava.  It took three sets, but Berlocq took the victory.  He’ll face Alexander Dolgopolov today.

In looking at some numbers yesterday, I happened to notice that Berlocq played 85 matches last year–84 of which were on clay.  Yes, he spent an entire season playing tournaments on clay, only pausing once when his ranking was sufficient to get him into the main draw of the US Open.

He has already played a couple more matches on hard court this year.  His ranking crept into the 60s, meaning it’s probably smarter for him to take direct entry into 250s (and, of course, grand slams) than to keep playing challengers.  What amazed me what that it is even possible to play so much on clay.

Many players around #100 in the world manage to put together a similar season, but no one’s 2010 was as extreme as Berlocq’s.  In fact, Munoz de la Nava played 40 of his 46 matches last year on clay.  Another extreme example is Pere Riba.  71 of his 77 matches last year, including all 49 of his victories, came on the red stuff.

Yesterday: The big upset of the day was Thomaz Bellucci over Fernando Verdasco.  Also in Acupulco, Nicholas Almagro and Stanislas Wawrinka advanced to the second round.

In Delray Beach, Janko Tipsarevic needed to win a first-set tiebreak 16-14 to get past Ivo Karlovic.  Dudi Sela took advantage of Andy Roddick‘s withdrawal and got past Marinko Matosevic in three.

Viktor Troicki was the only seed who struggled in Dubai, losing at the hands of Phillip Kohlschreiber.

Today: Kohlschreiber is already gone, losing today to countryman Phillip Petzschner.  The most compelling match on the schedule in Mexico is Wawrinka against Fabio Fognini.

In Florida, the organizers have to be disappointed with Sela versus Ivan Dodig, as that was supposed to be Roddick’s second rounder.  But as some consolation, we have Kei Nishikori up against James Blake, a nice contrast of youth and age, speed and power.  ESPN had a nice feature on Blake yesterday.  It would be nice to see him play more consistently; he’s not a top ten guy anymore, but if he stays healthy, I could see him in the top 40 or 50.

Futures: If all goes according to plan here at HeavyTopspin, I’m going to do a little commentary even on the lowest rung of professional tennis, the Futures circuit.  By Wednesday, the draws are in place, so I can pass along what I find.

Most notable this week is Croatia F2, which has a surprisingly strong field–the cut was barely above 500, and recognizable names such as David Guez and Michael Lammer are playing.

In Brownsville, Texas, USA F5 has a typical smattering of notable players.  Among the seeds are Moldovan hero Roman Bormanov and young Indian hope Yuki Bhambri.  Former NCAA champ Devin Britton is in the draw as well.  Wayne Odesnik was on the entry list for qualifying, but it seems that he didn’t play.

See you tomorrow!

One thought on “Wednesday Topspin: Counterpunchers and Clay Specialists”

  1. Good to hear you’ll be commenting on the lower rung levels. I follow the results but really don’t have the time to blog on them much.

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