If you’ve found your way here from the Wall Street Journal, welcome! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read what Carl Bialik has to say in today’s paper, and in an online follow-up. I’ve written at length about my rankings and prediction system and published full odds for Indian Wells here.
Big day for qualifiers: 10 of the 12 qualifiers played in opening round at Indian Wells yesterday, and six of those came through with victories, including four Americans. Because the top 32 players are seeded with byes, those six qualifier wins don’t include any massive upsets, but that doesn’t take away from the individual accomplishments.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is Michael Russell‘s victory over Kevin Anderson–Anderson is near his career high ranking and is only six weeks removed from his first career title. Also of note is Ryan Sweeting‘s win against Marcel Granollers, a strong player on hard courts.
There are only two qualifiers in the bottom half of the draw: Rohan Bopanna, who plays the young Aussie Bernard Tomic, and Chris Guccione, who drew James Blake.
Del Potro serves a bagel: Radek Stepanek may be past his prime, but he’s still a tricky opponent. That didn’t stop Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated the Czech 6-4 6-0. Del Potro won an astonishing 58% of points against Stepanek’s first serve.
Next, the Argentine faces Ivan Ljubicic, and he has to be favored in that match as well. Sure, Ljubicic is the defending champion, but his body isn’t 100%, and we have to resume looking at del Potro the way we saw him 18 months ago–he’s certainly playing that way.
On the card: The two best matches today are the ones with qualifiers involved. Guccione played two solid matches in qualifying, going straight sets in both, needing a tiebreak only once. Both contests were against Spanish clay-courters, though, so they hardly guarantee a good showing against Blake. Their styles presage quite the battle, as the match pits Guccione’s serve against Blake’s once world-class return game.
And then there is Bopanna-Tomic. Tomic is rapidly becoming a tennis “bad boy,” and not in the vaguely charming sense of Andre Agassi wanting to wear black at Wimbledon. Bopanna, on the other hand, is impossible not to like, between his inspirational doubles partnership with Aisam Qureshi, his persistence in singles, and his hard-fought battle in last weekend’s Davis Cup.
Betting odds heavily favor Tomic, as does common sense. But if you’re ever going to cheer for an underdog, this is the time to do it.
Everybody in: When I said “best matches” a moment ago, I might have been limiting myself to singles. Seven of the top 10 singles players in the world are playing doubles–and that’s just on today’s schedule.
Last week I marveled at the doubles entry list, saying that “for now, all that’s missing is Federer/Wawrinka.” Not any more. The Swiss players are not only in the draw, but they’re on Stadium 1 today, facing in the second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor. Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez are also playing a center-court doubles match today.
More results: Indian Wells is rightfully dominating our attention, but there’s still plenty of tennis being played elsewhere.
I haven’t mentioned the Kyoto challenger at all this week–not that great of a draw, really. But credit where credit is due: Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, a 20-year-old German, qualified for the main draw and has since plowed through the likes of Yuichi Sugita and Andre Begemann to reach the semifinals. He’s building a great start to the season, having won two futures tournaments in Turkey. This week’s showing should get him into the top 300 for the first time.
In Texas at USA F7, Devin Britton has qualified and reach the quarters, his best result since last September. Also in the quarters is Wayne Odesnik, who isn’t finding the level of competition very challenging.
A little later on today, I’ll post the hard-court-specific rankings generated by my system. Be sure to check back in a few hours.