Upset central: Indian Wells is turning into a huge event for American tennis. As I noted yesterday, U.S. players took six of their seven first round matches. I assumed that all those qualifiers and wild cards would collapse in the second round once they started playing the big boys.
Not exactly. To start with, Donald Young beat Andy Murray in straight sets. I was only able to watch the first-set tiebreak, but as usual, we can cast this match as a Murray disappointment, not necessarily a Young triumph. The Brit was counterpunching against a guy without a lot of big weapons, and wasn’t doing it well enough.
Murray made fewer than half of first serves, and even against a qualifier, that’s not going to do the job. Young made only 53% of his first offerings, but managed to win nearly half of his second serve points, while Murray won nearly a quarter. Ugly match for Andy.
That said, it is a huge step for Young. After that tiebreak, I assumed Murray would put his game back together and Young would collapse under the pressure. If anything, the exact opposite happened. The upset is the best result of Young’s career–by far–and allows us all to remember that he’s still only 21, younger than the likes of Alexandr Dolgopolov, Ernests Gulbis, and Thiemo de Bakker, and only a few months older than Kei Nishikori.
Murray was the American’s first top-10 scalp–indeed, the only matches I found where Donald beat a top-50 player were two victories over Feliciano Lopez. Wow.
The other two American qualifiers in action went to three sets in equally surprising fashion. Ryan Sweeting, coming off a solid week in Delray Beach and a clean win over Marcel Granollers, beat Juan Monaco with one of the weirdest scores you’ll ever see: 6-1, 0-6, 6-1. Despite his reputation as a clay-courter, Monaco has posted some good results on hard courts, so I didn’t see this one coming.
Tim Smyczek lost his match to Phillip Kohlschreiber, but he will go home proud of his effort. Outside of the top 150 for his entire career, he edged past Ilya Marchenko in the first round, and took Kohlschreiber to a third-set tiebreak.
Finally, if we’re keeping score for the Americans, we have to mention Sam Querrey‘s straight-set win over Janko Tipsarevic and Michael Russell‘s loss to Nicholas Almagro. That’s 9 wins in 12 matches so far for the locals.
More upsets: Somdev Devvarman scored a victory almost as big as Young’s. Marcos Baghdatis is as inconsistent as it gets, and Devvarman simply outran him, winning the second set 6-0. Perhaps the Indian’s solid showing against Federer in Dubai and in Davis Cup have given him some confidence; it’s quite possibly his best career match result, and only the second time he’s beaten a top-20 player.
Two matches I didn’t see: David Ferrer lost to Ivo Karlovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fell to Xavier Malisse.
All these upsets really open up the draw. Tsonga and Baghdatis were set up for a third-round match; instead, it’s Devvarman and Malisse. The winner will face Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, meaning that Rafa (assuming he beats Sweeting tomorrow) won’t face a seeded player until at least the quarters.
What to watch: For the second, round, there are some phenomenal matches on the slate:
- Milos Raonic vs. Mardy Fish: A big test for the Canadian. Sportsbooks give Raonic a 58% chance of winning; that’s really saying something against a hard-court-friendly U.S. player inside the top 20. The winner is probably punching his ticket to a fourth-round matchup with Roger Federer.
- Nikolay Davydenko vs. Stanislas Wawrinka: My ranking system still loves Davydenko on hard courts, thanks in part to his win over Nadal in January. Wawrinka, though, has to be considered the steadier player at this point; Vegas odds favor the Swiss at about 57%.
- Andy Roddick vs. James Blake: Even though we know how this one’s going to turn out, there will be some spectacular shotmaking along the way, and the crowd will love it.
- Novak Djokovic vs. Andrey Golubev: Remember, Golubev just won two matches in Davis Cup, including the triumph against Tomas Berdych. He’ll make Djokovic work for this one.
See you tomorrow!