Goodbye, Americans: Jack Sock had his chance, and he let it slip away. The Miami draw gave him a great chance of racking up plenty of ranking points through a first-round matchup with Carlos Berlocq, a clay-court specialist. Neither player made more than 55% of first serves, and Sock won barely half of his first-serve points.
It gets worse. The American earned 13 break points, of which he only converted three. I don’t want to be too hard on Sock–he’s 18 and ranked outside of the top 500, so it’s not like he came in with high expectations. Yet, I’m sure he knows as well as the fans do that he was awfully close to a 1000-level win.
Measured by points, Sock outperformed his countryman Ryan Harrison, who fell 7-5 6-2 to Rainer Schuettler. As in Sock’s match, the culprit was the first serve percentage: Harrison barely made half. Schuettler is too consistent and too smart to lose when he gets all those second balls.
Youth, gone: It wasn’t a good day for other youngsters, either. Grigor Dimitrov lost in straights to Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Richard Berankis failed to convert a second-set tiebreak and lost to Feliciano Lopez in three.
The result I’m happy to see is Kei Nishikori over Jeremy Chardy. If nothing else, it tells us that Nishikori is able to successfully focus on tennis very shortly after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Kei’s performance is the flip side of Sock’s and Harrison’s: He made 78% of his first serves, a figure that may have made the difference in a fairly close match.
As a reward for his hard work, Nishikori gets to face Rafael Nadal tomorrow.
One more: Just when you think Ivo Karlovic is unstoppable, he reminds you that the serve is fallible and the rest of his game will never save him. Florian Mayer, who my hard court rankings place in the top 25, took down the Croat in straights, withstood 10 aces and took advantage of Karlovic’s weak return game. Mayer won an astounding 86% of his own service points.
Today: Half of the seeds are in action, each facing one of Wednesday’s winners. In a way, the second round of these 96-player events is less exiting than the first, because so many of the seconder-rounders seem to be lopsided. Still, here are a few matches worth following today:
- Milos Raonic vs Somdev Devvarman: Before Indian Wells, Raonic was hot; after, Devvarman’s the one with the momentum. I suspect that Devvarman’s speed won’t play terribly well against the Canadian’s big game, meaning that the result will depend heavily on whether Raonic is able to bring the game that won him so many indoor matches.
- Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Juan Martin del Potro: Last week, this was one of the highlights of the tournament, as Del Potro fought with stomach issues to defeat the German in two tiebreaks. Kohlschreiber should feel like he has a chance here.
- Thomaz Bellucci vs James Blake: Bellucci has yet to post many good results on hard courts, and Blake is unlikely to be fazed by the lefty spin off the Brazilian’s racquet. It’s about a good a draw as Blake could have hoped for.
- Mikhail Kukushkin vs Sam Querrey: If you’re looking for a possible upset, look no further. Kukushkin is about an anonymous a player as you can be inside the top 100, yet he snuck by Jarkko Nieminen to reach the second round. And as we’ve seen, Querrey has it in him to lose to almost anybody.
- Igor Andreev vs John Isner: Another upset chance. Andreev has a solid return game and, when he’s on his game, he’s remarkably resourceful on the court. Not a very favorable first match for Isner.
As you can see, lots of good tennis today, especially if you’re willing to look past the lopsided matches on center court.
Stebe watch: Regular readers will have noticed that I’m obsessed with the progress of the young German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Last week, he reached his second straight semifinal then lost 6-2 6-0 to Uladzimir Ignatik. This week, in Pingguo, he got to the quarters, where last night, he faced Ignatik once again.
Apparently the German learned something: He beat Ignatik in three sets, winning the first and losing the second in tiebreaks. In the semifinals, he’ll face top seed Go Soeda, who he defeated in the semifinals two weeks ago in Kyoto.
See you tomorrow!