Tuesday Topspin: Underachievers

Surprise: The top half of the draw continued to prove unpredictable–it seems the only thing we can rely on is that if Rafael Nadal faces someone outside the top 100, he’ll get the job done.  Amazingly, Rafa will face his third straight qualifier, Somdev Devvarman, in the round of 16 tomorrow.

The shock of the day belongs to Phillip Kohlschreiber, who defeated Robin Soderling is straight sets.  While Kohlschreiber is a solid player capable of great tennis, that match seemed almost as much of a lock as Nadal’s contest against Ryan Sweeting.  The German executed the upset with a stellar return game: Soderling won on 60% of his service points, and a mere 67% of first service points.  For a player with a big game like the Swede’s, the latter number should be around 80%.

The Soderling upset means that the top half of the draw is down to only one seed (Nadal) in the top sixteen.  Three of the eight spots belong to unseeded players: Devvarman, Ivo Karlovic, and Juan Martin Del Potro.

22: For one set, anyway, the most enjoyable match of the day was between Del Potro and Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukrainian was on his game for much of the first set, and the two players were trading both impressive winners and remarkably defensive shots.  Delpo ended up taking a first-set tiebreak and then running away with the second set.  Neither player made more than about half of their first serves–not a good sign for the Argentine going forward, but something that made for some enjoyable points.

Underachieving: Another upset: Sam Querrey beat Fernando Verdasco in straight sets.  Based on recent returns, you might think both of these guys would figure out a way to lose the match.  Coming into the tournament, Verdasco hadn’t won a match since the semifinal in San Jose, and his victory over Richard Berankis in the second round was thanks to a retirement.

Querrey has been even less impressive.  Before beating Verdasco yesterday, he hadn’t defeated a player ranked about #50 since last year’s U.S. Open.  In the round of 16, the American draws Tommy Robredo, which makes a great opportunity for him after the early upset of Andy Murray.

Doubles champions: The men’s doubles continues to fascinate.  I always wonder just how good the top singles players would be if they regularly entered doubles events.  Based on the evidence at hand this week, the answer is: Pretty good.  Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won their doubles matches yesterday; Djokovic and Viktor Troicki took down the 7th-seeded duo of Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach.

On the card today, Nadal and Marc Lopez will play specialists Paul Hanley and Lukas Dlouhy, while the Bryan Brothers draw another wacky team, this one of Dolgopolov and Xavier Malisse.

Today’s big match(es): In contrast to the top half, the bottom half of the draw has seen virtually no upsets, leaving us with a lot of semi-predictable contests, like Tomas Berdych vs. Thomaz Bellucci and Djokovic vs. Ernests Gulbis.

One match with some potential is on Court 2: Richard Gasquet against Jurgen Melzer.  The Frenchman has been playing solid tennis of late, albeit not at a level that seems likely to take down a top-10 player.

The match that I’ll be scheduling my day around is the result of the only two seeded losses in the bottom half.  Fourth match, Court 2: Milos Raonic vs. Ryan Harrison.  Raonic, obviously, has been playing outstanding tennis all year.  Harrison hasn’t been at the same level, but he’s beaten both Jeremy Chardy and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to get here.  This is a matchup we’ll probably be watching for the better part of the next decade, and in another year or two, it won’t be happening in the round of 32 any more.

Best of all, the winner draws Federer.

See you tomorrow!

One thought on “Tuesday Topspin: Underachievers”

  1. wow – Kohlschreiber really has The Sod’s number, even though he was carrying a foot injury.

    Gasquet is looking good and maybe he comes good again this tournament and into Miami. Melzer was no pushover.

    Boy, the depth of the top 30 these days is phenomenal.

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