Wednesday Topspin: Young Sneaks In

Miami draw is set: All 96 players, including 12 qualifiers, are placed.  Matches begin with the first round of the bottom half of the draw in a couple of hours.

One of the few surprises out of qualifying was another strong effort from Donald Young.  Unseeded, he advanced into the main draw by beating Frank Dancevic, 6-1 1-6 7-5.  Young faces Denis Istomin today, setting up a possible second-rounder with Novak Djokovic.

Young is one of five Americans who made it through qualifying. Robert Kendrick, Michael Russell, and Ryan Sweeting were all seeded in the top 12, and they won the matches they were supposed to win.  Alex Bogomolov scored a minor upset with his three-setter over Simone Bolleli.  The only U.S. player to lose yesterday was Tim Smyczek, who put up another strong effort in forcing Olivier Rochus to a third set.

Rochus, you may recall, had a big tournament in Miami last year, beating Richard Gasquet in the first round and then shocking Djokovic in the second.  He’s coming off a challenger victory last week, and is in a relatively weak section of the draw.  He’ll open the tournament tomorrow against Blaz Kavcic; if he wins, he’ll face Marcos Baghdatis, and the winner of that contest is seeded for a third-rounder with Mikhail Youzhny.

The big picture: As was the case in Indian Wells last week, all the action was in one half of the draw.  This week, the bottom half is by far the more fluid of the two.  The top half seeds Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for a semifinal matchup, and with the possible exceptions of Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych in Nadal’s quarter and Andy Roddick in Roger’s, there isn’t much in their way.

The bottom half, despite featuring Djokovic, is much less likely to go as planned.  Juan Martin del Potro opens the tournament today against Ricardo Mello; if he wins, he faces Philipp Kohlschreiber (again!).  The winner of that match gets a third-rounder with Robin Soderling.  To say the least, this is not the draw Soderling would’ve hoped for.

Also in Soderling’s quarter are Gasquet, David Ferrer, and Milos Raonic.

Djokovic doesn’t have quite as hard going, at least until a possible quarterfinal with Andy Murray.  Other possibilities there are John Isner and Fernando Verdasco.

In a few hours, I’ll run predictions on the draw and post my forecast for the tournament.

A dozen Americans: There are a total of 12 U.S. players in the draw: the five qualifiers, the familiar four seeds, plus three wild cards in Ryan Harrison, James Blake, and Jack Sock.  Blake faces Russell today, while Harrison opens against Rainer Schuettler for a chance to face Gilles Simon.  Given the draw, I have a hard time seeing Ryan match his success from last week–both players are smart counterpunchers who will be able to outlast the youngster.

Sock, the youngest player in the draw, is the one who has been granted a big opportunity.  He faces Carlos Berlocq, a clay court specialist whose challenger-level success has gotten him inside the top 75.  Here’s an amazing bit of trivia: Berlocq hasn’t won an ATP main draw match on hard courts in five years.  The kicker: That last win was a 6-0 6-0 drubbing of a 16-year-old American wild card … in Miami.  That time, it was Donald Young.  Blake avenged Young’s loss by double-bagelling Berlocq in the following round.

New wild card: Turns out Raonic didn’t need his wild card after all; a last-minute withdrawal got him in to the tournament the old-fashioned way.  He’s the 31st seed, set to face Ferrer in the third round.  Karlovic was granted the newly-available ticket in, and he’ll face Florian Mayer tomorrow for a shot at Albert Montanes.

Enjoy the tennis, and remember to check back later today for my complete draw forecast!

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