Another win: Novak Djokovic has now strung together 22 straight wins to start the season. He’ll probably make it 23 tomorrow against Mardy Fish.
As usual, he made it look easy last night. Kevin Anderson played reasonably well, particularly from the baseline, where he was often able to match Djokovic shot for shot … at least for a while. He was aggressive, frequently forcing Novak to make an excellent shot to pass him at the net, though of course his opponent was usually up to the challenge. Djokovic wasn’t perfect, but the outcome was never in doubt.
What caught me by surprise is how easy it seemed to be for Anderson to return many of Djokovic’s shots. I’d never thought of Djokovic as someone defined by his topspin, but on groundstrokes and second serves, Novak’s balls often bounced right up into Anderson’s hitting zone–that is, above the hitting zone for anyone shorter than Anderson. That makes me think that Djokovic might be vulnerable to a player like Tomas Berdych, who beat him at Wimbledon last year and challenged him in Dubai recently, or Juan Martin del Potro, who he hasn’t played for nearly two years.
In any event, Anderson’s stature wasn’t a problem last night, and barring the unlikely event of Berdych reaching the final, it won’t be an issue this week.
New #1: By beating David Ferrer yesterday, Fish cemented his position as the new top-ranked American. He’ll also reach a new personal high of #12 (I think), and with a decent clay result or two, he’ll have a shot at breaking into the top 10.
I’m assuming he’ll only get semifinalist points for Miami, because he needs to beat Djokovic to get any farther. Novak has won all five meetings, though Fish has taken a set on three occasions, including last year at Indian Wells.
Two more quarters: Today, Roger Federer plays Gilles Simon, while Rafael Nadal faces Berdych. Neither match is projected to be close, but that’s no reason not to watch.
Both my system and the oddsmakers now give Federer an 82-83% chance of winning. That’s surprising, since Simon has won two of three head-to-heads, and Federer’s one win was the five-setter in Australia. Of course, there’s little doubt Roger is the better player, and Simon has hardly been impressive this week. He barely got past Janko Tipsarevic, so he doesn’t seem to be close to his best form.
Sportsbooks favor Nadal to the tune of 87%, while my system gives Berdych a much better chance, cutting Rafa down to 71%. Of course, my system hasn’t been watching as Berdych did anything but dominate Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, Carlos Berlocq, and Florian Mayer.
Federer plays the afternoon match, scheduled for 3:00 EST, while Nadal opens the night session.
In the minors: Wayne Odesnik’s comeback will have to wait at least one more week. After qualifying for the challenger in Barranquilla, he lost in the first round to Juan Pablo Brzezicki. He did take the first set. At least he didn’t suffer the fate of Norweigan wild card Sander Brendmoe, who was double-bagelled by Martin Vasallo Arguello.
Speaking of wild cards, the folks at Barranquilla are awfully open-minded. The majority of wild cards go to native sons, but none of the tourney’s four wild cards went to a Colombian. However, there are four local boys in the draw, and three of them advanced to the second round.
At the challenger in St. Brieuc, France, two up-and-comers are among the first men into the quarterfinals. Both Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire got through three-setters to win their second-round matches yesterday.
Finally, we have another run of upsets to report, this time at USA F8 in Oklahoma City. Six of the eight seeds, including the top three, fell in yesterday’s first round. Most notably, top seed Chris Guccione lost a three-setter to Vladimir Obradovic, a Serbian ranked outside of the top 600. The top-ranked player left in the draw is #300, the fourth-seeded American, Greg Ouellette.
See you tomorrow!