Saturday Topspin: Roger, Novak, and Evgeny

The rematch: Once again, it’s Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in a big match.  Last time they played, of course, was in Melbourne, when Djokovic scored a big win in straight sets.  The previous three matches, however, went Federer’s way.

I’ve watched pieces of all of Roger’s matches this week, and it’s amazing how much he pushes opponents around the court.  The commentators talked continuously about how far back Richard Gasquet was playing.  Djokovic (along with Juan Martin Del Potro) is one of the few guys with the guts and the skill to hold his ground near the baseline.

Neither player has had a particularly challenging road to the final.  Federer hasn’t played a seeded opponent, and the second set against Gasquet yesterday was the first time this week he was pushed to 5-5.  (In fact, Gasquet served for the second set at 5-4.)  Djokovic faced tough matches against Feliciano Lopez and Tomas Berdych, but the latter match was ultimately decided by injury.

Today, I’m betting on Federer.

Czech out: Another day, another Davis Cup withdrawal.  The Czech team is in trouble, as Radek Stepanek is out with the flu.  Berdych’s status must be in doubt, as well, after retiring from yesterday’s match in Dubai.

The 3rd-ranked nation suddenly looks very weak; if Berdych can’t play, their top singles player is 102nd-ranked Jan Hajek.

More young Russians: Yesterday I mentioned the strong future of Russian men’s tennis, with two players under 21 inside the top 250.  Just missing that cut was another up-and-comer, Evgeny Donskoy.  Currently ranked #259, he won’t turn 21 until May.

And he’s about to get a boost in the rankings.  He had to play qualifying at the Casablanca challenger, and has now won seven matches there.  He’s set to face Alessio Di Mauro in the final.  If he loses, he’ll be up around #225; if he wins, he’ll just miss the top 200.

Oddly enough, while Donskoy was one of the youngest players in the Casablanca draw, Di Mauro was the oldest, at age 33.

Di Mauro is also a clay specialist; he only played 1 of his 46 matches last year on a hard court.  Donskoy had more success on clay last year, as well.  I’m working on surface-specific rankings, and for 2010, I have Di Mauro as #133 on clay and Donskoy as #139.

Acupulco: Can David Ferrer stop Nicholas Almagro?  Ferrer dropped the first set to Alexander Dolgopolov last night, but came charging back, ultimately winning 5-7 6-1 6-1.  Almagro played a tight contest with Thomaz Bellucci, triumphing in straight sets for his 13th straight victory.  He’ll try to make it three straight titles tonight.

Delray Beach: For all of the withdrawals and upsets in Florida this week, everything went according to plan in yesterday’s quarterfinals.  Today, Kei Nishikori will face Janko Tipsarevic, while Mardy Fish will play Del Potro.  The latter match should another interesting test for the Argentine, as Fish plays a style of game that he hasn’t seen for a while.

Giant-killers: The doubles team of Feliciano Lopez and Jeremy Chardy beat yet another top seed yesterday, eking by Michael Llodra and Nenad Zemonjic 10-8 in a super-tiebreak.  To get to the finals, they had to win three matches, two against the 2nd and 3rd seeds, the third against Bopanna/Qureshi.

They’ve just taken the first set from the similarly-unheralded team of Mikhail Youhzny and Sergiy Stakhovsky.

See you tomorrow!

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