Oh-for-three: A couple of days ago, Dustin Brown blew open the bottom half of the Munich draw by upsetting Stanislas Wawrinka. Yesterday, three men’s matches were completed, and each one knocked out one of the remaining seven seeds.
Potito Starace was most impressive of the three underdogs, winning 58% of total points and landing 86% of his first serves. That was more than good enough to get past Sergiy Stakhovsky. Starace is putting together a very solid clay season, at least at the 250s, as he reached the final in Casablanca a few weeks ago.
Starace will next face Phillip Petzschner, who needed three sets to get past Mikhail Youzhny. That’s becoming a less-impressive feat–I’ve always been a big Youzhny fan, but he’s only had one solid tournament all year, and that was back in Marseilles, when he beat Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in back-to-back rounds. The Russian mounted a fantastic comeback season last year, but if (when) he fails to defend his semifinalist points from the U.S. Open, it could well start a downhill slide that will knock him out of the top 20 for good.
Speaking of Tsonga: Perhaps beating Tsonga doesn’t count for as much as it used to, either. Though the Frenchman is healthy, he is struggling to get back into match form. The latest setback was yesterday’s loss in Estoril to Pablo Cuevas, in which he lost a second-set tiebreak at love. Never a good sign for someone like him to lose at least three of three service points in a tiebreak.
There’s still plenty of firepower left in the Estoril draw. As predicted, both Juan Martin del Potro and Robin Soderling advanced to the quarters, though Soderling needed three sets to defeat Jeremy Chardy. Delpo crushed Soderling only a month ago in Miami, and on clay, tomorrow’s result will depend even more on the Swede’s health. It’s only a quarterfinal, but the match could well determine the tournament champion.
Cakewalk: I’ve got a bold prediction for the Serbia Open: Novak Djokovic will beat Blaz Kavcic tomorrow (one oddsmaker has Kavcic as high as 44-1), then he’ll beat somebody else, and then he’ll beat somebody else. Making things a little more interesting–at least for the home crowd–is that those two “somebody else’s” could both be Serbian. Novak’s semifinal opponent could be Janko Tipsarevic, while the man seeded to face him in the final is designated whipping boy Viktor Troicki.
In the meantime, we can follow the rest of the contenders as they advance to slaughter. Feliciano Lopez quickly ended Fernando Gonzalez’s comeback, beating him yesterday in straight sets, and he’ll next face Albert Montanes. Sportsbooks have set that match dead even, while my system gives Feliciano a 58% chance of moving on.
Sarasota: Even the challenger fields are a bit uninteresting this week, partly because some of the guys who usually contend for those titles got into ATP-level draws, instead. The possible challenger highlight of the week is coming on in a few hours, as James Blake will have a chance for revenge against the distracted Donald Young. Oddsmakers give Blake about a a 57% chance, while my system favors Young, with his more recent success.