This is what we in the tennis blogging world call a “slow news day.” Davis Cup is over, and the Indian Wells main draw hasn’t been released. Oh well, we’ll make do.
Star maps: Indian Wells has done a great job ensuring that the game’s young stars are in the main draw, granting wild cards to Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Ryan Harrison, and Richard Berankis. Any tournament that gives more than half of its wild cards to foreign players gets a thumbs up from me.
Missing from the draw, however, is Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian followed the European challenger circuit to Sarajevo, where he will again be the top seed. Also following the circuit is Nicholas Mahut, Dimitrov’s opponent in last week’s final. The more interesting potential opponent for the Bulgarian, though, is in his half of the draw: fourth-seeded Russian Dmitri Tursunov.
Others to watch: Like I said, slow news day, so let’s glance through the futures draws. Bizarrely, Marc Gicquel is playing France F4 in Lille. His stock has fallen in the last couple of years, but one would hope that (a) he’s getting a nice appearance fee, and (b) he wins easily.
In McAllen, Texas, at USA F7, here’s an unlikely pair of wild cards: 16-year-old Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and drug cheat Wayne Odesnik. Odesnik has been on entry lists the last couple of weeks but hasn’t played; I wonder if he decided he wouldn’t play qualifying and has waited for his next wild card. It’s an interesting draw beyond those two, as well. Joining the Texas futures swing are two American 19-year-olds, Jordan Cox and Andrea Collarini.
That Russian Davis Cup team: Without Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youhzny, Russia’s Davis Cup team last weekend was the weakest it has put forth in a long time. While Russia lost to Sweden, Kazakhstan triumphed over the Czechs and moved into the quarterfinals.
Of course, Kazahstan (among many other countries in Europe and Asia) used to be part of the USSR. The Soviets were generally not much of a factor, spending only five years in the World Group. But my oh my, what a team they would have right now.
Of course, the Russian contingent isn’t that bad. You have the Kazakhs. There are two Ukrainians in the top 40. Belarus sports one of the best doubles players in the world in Max Mirnyi. Even Latvia and Lithuania each have a player in the top 100.
Which got me wondering: What would Russian tennis look like if it still spanned the entire USSR? Here are the singles rankings:
13 Mikhail Youzhny RUS 23 Alexander Dolgopolov UKR 34 Ernests Gulbis LAT 38 Sergey Stakhovsky UKR 39 Andrei Goloubev KAZ 42 Nikolay Davydenko RUS 55 Denis Istomin UZB 62 Mikhail Kukushkin KAZ 74 Richard Berankis LTU 77 Teimuraz Gabashvili RUS 96 Igor Andreev RUS 99 Ilia Marchenko UKR 103 Igor Kunitsyn RUS 104 Dmitry Tursunov RUS 125 Yuri Schukin KAZ 144 Alexandre Koudriavtsev RUS 153 Konstantin Kravchuk RUS 197 Jurgen Zopp EST 200 Vladimir Ignatik BLR
Pretty impressive, huh? With a potential doubles team of Mirnyi/Stakhovsky, you could come with a Davis Cup team on par with anyone except for a healthy Spain or France.
Alas, the Russians will have to settle for watching their former compatriots.
See you tomorrow!