Saturday Topspin: American Underdogs

Good day for teens: It wasn’t easy, but both Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison find themselves in the second round at Indian Wells.  Tomic had a  hard-fought match against surprise qualifier and doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna, splitting two tiebreaks before the Aussie came out ahead in the third.  The two players won 75% of points on serve, an astonishingly high number for both sides to sustain.

Harrison’s match looks similar–two tiebreaks then a third set with a wider margin, but the profile is far different.  He and Jeremy Chardy broke each other seven times in a total of 22 break chances.  Harrison advances to face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, while Tomic draws Viktor Troicki.

Doubles upsets: When Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal win matches, you usually don’t think of them as upsets, but when they are playing doubles against the likes of Mirnyi/Nestor and Fyrstenberg/Matkowski?  Not only did Federer and Nadal win their matches, but Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray did, as well.

Come to think of it, this doubles draw is astonishingly good, and not just in the sense that it’s star-studded.  Tournament organizers like their top seeds to play doubles to draw the crowds, and often those players make quick exits, as when Djokovic partnered with his brother in Dubai.  But Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are Olympic champions, Nadal and Marc Lopez are the defending champions, and Murray and his brother won a title recently.

Most of the marquee doubles matches were on yesterday’s schedule, but today, Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi play their, opener, and the Bryan Brothers face the very unlikely team of Feliciano Lopez and Milos Raonic.  Is that more or less likely than Harrison and Thomaz Bellucci?  If only there were more televised doubles.

Home court advantage: Not only did Harrison win yesterday, but James Blake was also victorious.  Blake broke Chris Guccione three times, somehow winning 39% of return points.  That sounds a bit like the Blake of old, and we’ll probably get to enjoy it for exactly one more match this week, as he’ll play Andy Roddick in a promoter’s dream match tomorrow.

If my count is right, that’s six wins in seven tries for Americans so far–only Alex Bogomolov failed to advance.  Even more impressive, virtually every one of those Americans was the underdog, at least on paper.  Of the six winners, four were qualifiers and two were wild cards.

Of course, there are four more Americans in the draw; they got to the second round by virtue of their seeding.  Of those four, Sam Querrey is the only one in action today, playing Janko Tipsarevic; as a sign of how far Querrey’s stock has fallen, sportsbooks are giving Tipsarevic a 59% chance of winning the match.

Yes, he won: No shocker here, Raonic defeated Marsel Ilhan in straight sets.  It was his first 1000-level win.  He recorded 10 aces in the process, perhaps on his way to setting more records.  Sunday he faces Mardy Fish.

Elsewhere: Qualifer Cedrik-Marcel Stebe defeated top seed Go Soeda in Kyoto to reach the final there.  It’s only Stebe’s third tournament this year and his first challenger, but he’s undefeated thus far.  He’ll play countryman Dominik Meffert today for the title.

At the Sarajevo challenger, the scores are more interesting than the players.  All four quarterfinal matches were decided in straight sets, and six of those eight sets were won in tiebreaks.  Dmitri Tursunov lost to Bosnian wild card Mirza Basic; the second set tiebreak went to 13-11.

Today’s matches: Now that the seeds are in action, there are some higher-profile contests.  My pick is the first match on Stadium 2, pitting Fernando Verdasco against Richard Berankis.  Verdasco hasn’t won a match since his back-to-back losses against Raonic.  You have to imagine the Spainard will come through (sportsbooks give him a 75% chance), but you never really know where Verdasco’s head is.

Enjoy the tennis!

One thought on “Saturday Topspin: American Underdogs”

  1. I see a lot of hype around Ryan Harrison and I like his game but for me the other Ryan is the better prospect at the moment Ryan Sweeting.

    At 6’5″ he has a big game and is winning tour level matches instead of relying on wildcards to get into tourneys.

    I’m backing the The Sweet.

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