Tuesday Topspin: Back in the USSR

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!

One thought on “Tuesday Topspin: Back in the USSR”

  1. Nice List!

    The Russian’s need to figure out their next move in Davis Cup. Tursunov and Andreev are not getting any younger and I don’t see anyone else of note to fill the void left by Davydenko and Youzhny. Safin may have to come out of retirement!

    When is Mahut gonna win an ATP level tour title? Seems like he prefers the Challenger circuit sometimes…

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