Miami Projections

While Roger Federer still holds a very slight edge in my hard-court rankings, Novak Djokovic is the favorite to win in Miami.  My simulation gives the Serbian a 27.4% chance of winning back-to-back tournaments, while Federer comes in at 19.7%.

For more background on how I generate these projections, click here.  I’ve tweaked the system a bit since then; most notably, I discovered that my rankings were slightly underrating the chances of younger players and overrating those of older players.  I’ve adjusted my forecasts accordingly.

Enjoy!

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W 
(1)Rafael Nadal      100% 84% 76.8% 62.0% 48.8% 28.5% 14.3% 
Jeremy Chardy        50%   9%  5.2%  2.3%  0.9%  0.2%  0.0% 
Kei Nishikori        50%   8%  4.5%  1.9%  0.7%  0.2%  0.0% 
Feliciano Lopez      69%  43%  7.3%  2.7%  0.9%  0.2%  0.0% 
Richard Berankis     31%  12%  1.5%  0.4%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(26)Juan I Chela     100% 45%  4.8%  1.4%  0.4%  0.0%  0.0% 
(21)Dolgopolov       100% 74% 40.0% 12.8%  5.8%  1.7%  0.4% 
Andreas Seppi        52%  14%  4.3%  0.7%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0% 
Mischa Zverev        48%  12%  3.7%  0.7%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0% 
Teymuraz Gabashvili  44%   9%  2.4%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Daniel Brands        56%  13%  3.6%  0.6%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(15)JW Tsonga        100% 78% 45.9% 14.4%  7.5%  2.6%  0.6% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(11)Nicolas Almagro  100% 87% 54.4% 25.3%  8.3%  2.7%  0.6% 
Federico Gil         61%  10%  2.8%  0.4%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Paul Capdeville   39%   4%  0.8%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Leonardo Mayer       35%  12%  3.6%  0.9%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(WC)Ivo Karlovic     65%  30% 11.7%  4.2%  1.0%  0.2%  0.0% 
(20)Albert Montanes  100% 58% 26.7%  9.5%  2.5%  0.6%  0.1% 
(28)Ernests Gulbis   100% 91% 34.6% 17.1%  5.0%  1.3%  0.3% 
Carlos Berlocq       82%   8%  0.5%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(WC)Jack Sock        18%   1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Adrian Mannarino     72%  11%  3.5%  0.9%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Ramirez Hidalgo      28%   0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(7)Tomas Berdych     100% 89% 61.4% 41.5% 17.4%  7.5%  2.3% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(3)Roger Federer     100% 92% 80.4% 64.1% 50.0% 34.3% 19.7% 
Fabio Fognini        39%   3%  1.4%  0.4%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Radek Stepanek       61%   5%  2.5%  0.9%  0.3%  0.1%  0.0% 
Sergiy Stakhovsky    56%  18%  1.8%  0.5%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Grigor Dimitrov   44%  11%  0.9%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(32)Juan Monaco      100% 70% 13.0%  5.5%  2.2%  0.6%  0.1% 
(22)Marcos Baghdatis 100% 85% 54.0% 18.1%  9.6%  4.0%  1.1% 
Blaz Kavcic          43%   7%  1.9%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Olivier Rochus    57%   8%  2.2%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Pere Riba            39%   6%  0.8%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Yen-Hsun Lu          61%  14%  2.2%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(13)Mikhail Youzhny  100% 81% 38.9%  9.7%  4.3%  1.4%  0.3% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(10)Jurgen Melzer    100% 76% 37.0% 16.3%  4.8%  1.8%  0.4% 
Philipp Petzschner   64%  18%  3.9%  0.9%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Florent Serra        36%   6%  0.9%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Janko Tipsarevic     57%  15%  6.5%  2.2%  0.5%  0.1%  0.0% 
Robin Haase          43%   7%  2.5%  0.7%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(18)Marin Cilic      100% 78% 49.1% 26.4%  9.1%  4.0%  1.2% 
(25)Gilles Simon     100% 78% 34.7% 16.9%  4.7%  1.4%  0.3% 
(WC)Ryan Harrison    62%  17%  3.7%  0.9%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Rainer Schuettler 38%   5%  0.3%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Pablo Cuevas         52%  10%  3.9%  1.1%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0% 
Michael Berrer       48%   6%  2.0%  0.5%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(8)Andy Roddick      100% 83% 55.3% 33.9% 13.5%  6.4%  2.3% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(6)David Ferrer      100% 96% 65.3% 40.1% 18.5%  5.9%  2.5% 
(q)Robert Kendrick   49%   2%  0.3%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Igor Kunitsyn     51%   2%  0.3%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Somdev Devvarman     49%   6%  0.8%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Potito Starace       51%   8%  0.7%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(31)Milos Raonic     100% 86% 32.6% 16.0%  5.9%  1.6%  0.5% 
(23)Michael Llodra   100% 67% 26.5%  9.1%  2.6%  0.5%  0.1% 
Xavier Malisse       67%  25%  5.6%  1.2%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Ryan Sweeting     33%   8%  1.4%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Benjamin Becker      54%   9%  3.7%  0.6%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Marcel Granollers    46%   8%  2.4%  0.4%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(12)Stan Wawrinka    100% 83% 60.3% 32.1% 14.5%  4.5%  1.8% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(14)Mardy Fish       100% 73% 40.4% 12.3%  5.5%  1.4%  0.4% 
Julien Benneteau     61%  18%  6.0%  0.8%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0% 
Gimeno-Traver        39%   8%  1.9%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Ivan Ljubicic        85%  39% 19.3%  4.8%  1.7%  0.3%  0.1% 
(q)Paolo Lorenzi     15%   1%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(17)Richard Gasquet  100% 60% 32.3%  9.5%  4.0%  0.8%  0.2% 
(29)Kohlschreiber    100% 16%  5.1%  2.2%  0.7%  0.1%  0.0% 
(PR)Del Potro        100% 83% 50.8% 38.6% 25.8% 11.5%  6.1% 
Richardo Mello       0%    0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Ivan Dodig           38%   5%  0.4%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Andrey Golubev       62%  12%  1.6%  0.5%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(4)Robin Soderling   100% 84% 42.1% 31.0% 20.1%  8.5%  4.2% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(5)Andy Murray       100% 99% 87.6% 65.1% 30.5% 18.9% 10.8% 
Victor Hanescu       55%   0%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Alex Bogomolov    45%   0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Santiago Giraldo     56%  21%  2.4%  0.6%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Igor Andreev         44%  15%  0.9%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(30)John Isner       100% 65%  8.9%  3.5%  0.5%  0.2%  0.0% 
(24)Garcia-Lopez     100% 35% 15.9%  3.1%  0.5%  0.1%  0.0% 
Nikolay Davydenko    87%  61% 39.6% 15.1%  4.9%  2.3%  1.0% 
Kevin Anderson       13%   3%  0.8%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(WC)Bernard Tomic    68%  11%  1.8%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Pablo Andujar        32%   3%  0.3%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(9)Verdasco          100% 86% 41.5% 12.0%  3.1%  1.1%  0.4% 

Player               R64  R32   R16    QF    SF     F     W
(16)Viktor Troicki   100% 77% 43.0%  5.9%  1.4%  0.4%  0.1% 
Tobias Kamke         51%  13%  3.3%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Marsel Ilhan      49%  10%  2.6%  0.2%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
Jarkko Nieminen      59%  22%  9.6%  0.8%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Mikhail Kukushkin    41%  12%  4.1%  0.4%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
(19)Sam Querrey      100% 66% 37.4%  6.6%  1.9%  0.5%  0.1% 
(27)Thomaz Bellucci  100% 69%  8.5%  3.9%  0.8%  0.2%  0.0% 
(q)Michael Russell   31%   7%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(WC)James Blake      69%  25%  0.4%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(q)Donald Young      47%   3%  1.1%  0.3%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0% 
Denis Istomin        53%   0%  0.2%  0.1%  0.0%  0.0%  0.0% 
(2)Novak Djokovic    100% 97% 89.7% 81.5% 55.9% 41.2% 27.4%

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!

Hard Court Singles Rankings, 3/21/11

About two weeks ago, I introduced my ranking system.  Much of the rationale is explained here.  The important thing to keep in mind is that the system is designed to be predictive–that is, it values the things that tend to correctly forecast the outcome of matches.

Since then, I’ve made a few tweaks under the hood.  For the most part, the changes don’t affect the rankings, they just adjust the differences between players to better reflect surface-specific skills.

Still, Roger Federer is hanging on at the top, though it’s so close that it should be considered virtually a tie.  My algorithm to predict the outcome of individual matches also takes head-to-head results into account, and given Novak Djokovic’s recent dominance, that algorithm now gives Djokovic the slight edge in a battle with Federer.

The real value, here, is a little further down the list, as this system is much better than the ATP rankings at measuring the skill level of players who are scoring big upsets and enjoying recent success.  To wit, Ivo Karlovic is up to #33 here, in part thanks to his giant-killing run last week.  Also, my system places Ryan Harrison at #71 and Donald Young at #82 for similar reasons.

I intended for this to be a top 100, but #101 is Somdev Devvarman, notable due to his string of upsets, which moved him all the way up from #147.

1   Roger Federer          8191 
2   Novak Djokovic         8076 
3   Andy Murray            4749 
4   Rafael Nadal           4654 
5   Robin Soderling        4205 
6   Juan Martin del Potro  4047 
7   Nikolay Davydenko      2853 
8   David Ferrer           2772 
9   Stanislas Wawrinka     2660 
10  Andy Roddick           2494 
11  Tomas Berdych          2268 
12  Gael Monfils           2088 
13  Marcos Baghdatis       1879 
14  Mardy Fish             1838 
15  Marin Cilic            1666 
16  Fernando Verdasco      1603 
17  Jurgen Melzer          1565 
18  David Nalbandian       1547 
19  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga     1475 
20  Ivan Ljubicic          1449 

21  Michael Llodra         1385 
22  Richard Gasquet        1367 
23  Florian Mayer          1335 
24  Milos Raonic           1308 
25  Mikhail Youzhny        1276 
26  Gilles Simon           1235 
27  Nicolas Almagro        1209 
28  Alexander Dolgopolov   1124 
29  Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 1038 
30  Philipp Kohlschreiber  1030 
31  Viktor Troicki         1020 
32  Juan Monaco            1011 
33  Ivo Karlovic            994 
34  Radek Stepanek          989 
35  Albert Montanes         974 
36  Tommy Robredo           885 
37  Samuel Querrey          840 
38  Lleyton Hewitt          835 
39  John Isner              834 
40  Ernests Gulbis          782 

41  Jeremy Chardy           780 
42  Feliciano Lopez         765 
43  Janko Tipsarevic        728 
44  Julien Benneteau        695 
45  Kei Nishikori           666 
46  Xavier Malisse          634 
47  Jarkko Nieminen         624 
48  Dmitry Tursunov         603 
49  Fernando Gonzalez       597 
50  Juan Carlos Ferrero     596 
51  Thomaz Bellucci         586 
52  Andrei Goloubev         513 
53  Andreas Seppi           484 
54  Benjamin Becker         482 
55  Michael Berrer          465 
56  Thiemo de Bakker        453 
57  Juan Ignacio Chela      450 
58  Olivier Rochus          444 
59  Pablo Cuevas            441 
60  Igor Andreev            430 

61  Fabio Fognini           427 
62  Philipp Petzschner      423 
63  Santiago Giraldo        417 
64  James Blake             416 
65  Sergey Stakhovsky       399 
66  Ivan Dodig              384 
67  Denis Istomin           382 
68  Michael Zverev          369 
69  Robin Haase             364 
70  Arnaud Clement          364 
71  Ryan Harrison           360 
72  Daniel Gimeno           350 
73  Marcel Granollers       346 
74  Leonardo Mayer          343 
75  Robby Ginepri           338 
76  Paul-Henri Mathieu      335 
77  Lukasz Kubot            332 
78  Daniel Brands           330 
79  Alejandro Falla         327 
80  Mikhail Kukushkin       320 

81  Dudi Sela               309 
82  Donald Young            304 
83  Victor Hanescu          296 
84  Teimuraz Gabashvili     295 
85  Grigor Dimitrov         280 
86  Florent Serra           277 
87  Lukas Lacko             276 
88  Horacio Zeballos        276 
89  Ryan Sweeting           273 
90  Adrian Mannarino        272 
91  Yen-Hsun Lu             271 
92  Kevin Anderson          269 
93  Rainer Schuettler       267 
94  Edouard Roger-Vasselin  266 
95  Richard Berankis        266 
96  Bernard Tomic           263 
97  Marco Chiudinelli       261 
98  Nicolas Mahut           261 
99  Simon Greul             259 
100 Frederico Gil           258 
101 Somdev K. Dev Varman    258

Tuesday Topspin: Qualifying for Miami

Back at it: Only a day after the tournament wrapped up in Indian Wells, the qualifying tournament in Miami is underway.  All 24 first-round matches took place yesterday, setting up the 12 qualifying battles for today.

A few Americans took advantage of the home soil to post good results.  Tim Smyczek, who qualified last week and took Philipp Kohlschreiber to a third-set tiebreak, knocked off another higher-ranked player, beating Dudi Sela 6-1 6-4.  Donald Young, himself coming off the biggest win of his career in Indian Wells, advanced past Arnaud Clement in three sets.

Less impressive were the youngsters wild-carded into qualifying.  Jordan Cox won only two games against Marinko Matosevic, and Alexander Domijan lost 6-2 6-3 to Julian Reister.

The upset of the day might have been Daniel Munoz-de la Nava’s 6-2 6-2 victory over Horacio Zeballos.  Munoz-de la Nava plays almost all of his matches on clay, and while Zeballos also spends plenty of time on clay, his game is more suited to faster surfaces.  I saw Zeballos at U.S. Open qualifying a couple of years ago, when he first broke through into the top 100.  It’s been disappointing that he hasn’t broken through since then–there’s no question he’s got the raw talent to do so.

Finally, Grigor Dimitrov got past Rik de Voest in a tight match, 6-4 7-6(2).  Dimitrov was in Europe playing challengers until this week, so it will be interesting to see if he can be a factor on the bigger stage.

Meteoric Milos: Milos Raonic rose to #34 in the ATP rankings with his third-round showing in California.  Assuming that Miami uses current rankings to determine seeds, it makes for some remarkable trivia.  When the Miami field was first determined, the tournament used the rankings of Feb. 7, where Raonic was #84.  That wasn’t good enough to make the cut–if he hadn’t been given a wild card, he would have been playing qualifying yesterday.

While the entry list is ranked far in advance, seedings are not.  And after the withdrawals of David Nalbandian, Gael Monfils, and Tommy Robredo, that makes Raonic the 31st-highest ranked player in the main draw.  That should give him a seed, despite not having the ranking to make the main draw just six weeks ago.

In the challengers: Cedrik-Marcel Stebe just keeps rolling.  At the Pingguo challenger, Stebe advanced to the second round by defeating Alexander Kudryavtsev, 7-5 in the third set.  Kudryavtsev was the 4th seed, ranked at a career high of #132.  Next he’ll face Harri Heliovaara of Finland; after that, it’s a possible quarterfinal matchup with Uladzimir Ignatik, who beat Stebe in last week’s semifinals.

Not all young stars were so lucky: Evgeny Donskoy, the Russian who has had so much success of clay of late, fell in the first round in Marrakech yesterday to Martin Klizan.  Klizan, a promising young player in his own right--he’s the 17th-ranked player under the age of 23–advanced to the second round easily, 6-2 6-2.

See you tomorrow!

Prospect Rankings, 3/21/11

Some of the ATP’s top young stars have put up great results in the last two weeks, so I figured it’s time to revisit the prospect rankings.  You can see the lists from two weeks ago here.

18 AND UNDER
130 Ryan Harrison           USA   5/7/92 
180 Bernard Tomic           AUS 10/21/92 
334 Facundo Arguello        ARG   8/4/92 
397 Diego Schwartzman       ARG  8/16/92 
436 Benjamin Mitchell       AUS 11/30/92 
447 David Souto             VEN  3/26/92 
462 Denis Kudla             USA  8/17/92 
490 Alexander Rumyantsev    RUS  8/16/92 
499 Yuki Bhambri            IND   7/4/92 
512 Tiago Fernandes         BRA  1/29/93 
543 Jason Kubler            AUS  5/19/93 
551 Agustin Velotti         ARG  5/24/92 
565 Carlos Boluda           ESP  1/22/93 
595 Jack Sock               USA  9/24/92 
610 Yasutaka Uchiyama       JPN   8/5/92 
628 Suk-Young Jeong         KOR  4/12/93 
657 Roberto Carballes-Baena ESP  3/23/93 
673 Micke Kontinen          FIN 12/18/92 
678 Stanislav Poplavskiy    UKR   4/2/92 
695 Robert Rumler           CZE  12/1/93 

20 AND UNDER
34  Milos Raonic        CAN 12/27/90 
70  Grigor Dimitrov     BUL  5/16/91 
75  Richard Berankis    LTU  6/21/90 
130 Ryan Harrison       USA   5/7/92 
138 Federico del Bonis  ARG  10/5/90 
168 Jerzy Janowicz      POL 11/13/90 
176 Vladimir Ignatik    BLR  7/14/90 
180 Bernard Tomic       AUS 10/21/92 
200 Evgeny Donskoy      RUS   5/9/90 
216 Marius Copil        ROU 10/17/90 
226 Andrey Kuznetsov    RUS  2/22/91 
227 David Goffin        BEL  7/12/90 
234 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe GER  10/9/90 
242 Filip Krajinovic    SRB  2/27/92 
257 Alexander Lobkov    RUS  10/7/90 
263 Jonathan Eysseric   FRA  5/27/90 
271 Gastao Elias        POR 11/24/90 
272 Pablo Carreno       ESP  7/12/91 
277 Ilya Belyaev        RUS   8/9/90 
290 Daniel Cox          GBR  9/28/90 

22 AND UNDER
20  Marin Cilic           CRO  9/28/88 
23  Alexander Dolgopolov  UKR  11/7/88 
31  Ernests Gulbis        LAT  8/30/88 
34  Milos Raonic          CAN 12/27/90 
51  Juan Martin del Potro ARG  9/23/88 
52  Thiemo de Bakker      NED  9/19/88 
60  Adrian Mannarino      FRA  6/29/88 
62  Kei Nishikori         JPN 12/29/89 
70  Grigor Dimitrov       BUL  5/16/91 
74  Pere Riba             ESP   4/7/88 
75  Richard Berankis      LTU  6/21/90 
124 Benoit Paire          FRA   5/8/89 
125 Joao Souza            BRA  5/27/88 
128 Donald Young          USA  7/23/89 
130 Ryan Harrison         USA   5/7/92 
138 Federico del Bonis    ARG  10/5/90 
164 Martin Klizan         SVK  7/11/89 
168 Jerzy Janowicz        POL 11/13/90 
169 Tatsuma Ito           JPN  5/18/88 
174 Thomas Schoorel       NED   4/8/89 

Monday Topspin: Djokovic Keeps Winning

Another day at the office: Novak Djokovic is still undefeated in 2011.  For the second time, he earned a championship the hard way, beating Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the same tournament.  He wins the Indian Wells crown for the second time as well, and his victory moves him into the #2 spot in the ATP rankings.

Nadal may not be playing his best tennis, but the first set, at least, was absolutely gripping.  Both players are so athletic and skilled on the defense that many rallies made them look like counterpunchers, except both guys were hitting the ball too hard for that.  In the first set and the beginning of the second, Djokovic appeared to suffer the same lapse that lost him a set against Federer.  But as in the semifinal, he came back in plenty of time.

It was Nadal whose racquet ultimately let him down.  The biggest difference between the Rafa of last September and the Rafa of right now is his serve.  In the sets he lost, the first serve percentage was dreadful: 25% in the second and 45% in the third.  Even when it was going in, it was hardly a weapon.  Nadal’s return game alone is good enough to beat most people, but not Djokovic, certainly not right now.

In Miami, Djokovic can pad his lead over Federer, but #2 remains in play.  Last year, Djokovic lost in the 2nd round to Olivier Rochus, while Federer fell in the 4th to Tomas Berdych.  To take back #2, Federer needs to win the tournament, and even then, he’ll need Novak to lose in the semis or earlier.

Federer at #3 makes every tournament draw a little more interesting: There’s the possibility of a Nadal-Federer semifinal.  If not, Federer could line up to face Djokovic is the semi.  The latter is a familiar sight, and it’s still an exciting one.

New rankings: With Indian Wells on the board along with two weeks worth of challengers, there is an enormous amount of movement.  The biggest winner is Djokovic, moving one spot closer to #1.  Both Juan Martin del Potro and Ivo Karlovic made big strides in their comebacks: Delpo jumped 39 spots to #51, and Karlovic is up 86 places to 153.

Four players reached a new career high thanks to their performances in California: Milos Raonic gained three more places to #34, Somdev Devvarman goes up to #73, Ryan Sweeting breaks into the top 100 at #91, and Ryan Harrison advances 22 spots to #130.

Several players made triple-digit jumps as well.  Cedrik-Marcel Stebe moves into the top 250, landing at #234 after challenger semifinal appearances in two consecutive weeks.  Amer Delic, a former top-60 player returning from injury, gains 141 places to #303 after his championship in Sarajevo.  Rohan Bopanna, on the strength of qualifying for Indian Wells, jumps 119 spots to #510, and Wayne Odesnik, winner at USA F7 two weeks ago, lands at #538, an 135-place improvement.

Challenger results: Yesterday I reported on the final in Guangzhou, which leaves us four more challengers to touch on.  In Le Gosier, Olivier Rochus triumphed over countryman Stephane Robert.  It’s a bigger accomplishment than the usual victory at that level: Le Gosier is at one of the highest rungs of prize money ($100,000), and the draw was full of top-100 players who made early exits from Indian Wells.

In fact, while Rochus won the title and advanced back into the top 100, Robert could be said to have had the better week.  En route to the final, he defeated Dustin Brown, Pablo Andujar, Marsel Ilhan, and top seed Jarkko Nieminen.  As if that wasn’t enough, he teamed with Riccardo Ghedin to win the doubles–over Rochus and Arnaud Clement.

At an indoor tourney in Rimouski, Canada, the field wasn’t nearly as strong.  The title match was plenty exciting, as Fritz Wolmarans defeated Bobby Reynolds in a third-set tiebreak.

The San Jose challenger, in Costa Rica, attracted plenty of South American talent, despite its hard courts.  Returning to the winner’s circle was Ecuador’s Giovanni Lapentti, who won in straight sets over Igor Kunitsyn.

Finally, a clay court challenger took place in Rabat, where the Czech Ivo Minar won the title, getting past Peter Luczak in the final.  The surprise performance of the week belongs to the unheralded Tunisian Malek Jaziri, who entered on a wild card.  His second and third round opponents were a wild card and a qualifier, respectively, but to get there, he had to defeat fourth-seed Jaroslav Pospisil in his opening match.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the fields in the coming week.  See you then!

Sunday Topspin: A Nadal-Djokovic Final

1 and 2: It’s only fitting that the new world #2 takes on the world #1 in the Indian Wells final today.  Let’s see how they got there.

Rafael Nadal‘s semifinal went more or less as expected.  It was close, about as tight as a 6-4, 6-4 match can be, but once Nadal went up a break in the first, the result was never really in doubt.  Juan Martin del Potro is close to his pre-injury form, but he didn’t show quite the confidence necessary to boss Nadal around the court the way that he does at his best.

The semi may well have been Nadal’s best win since the tour finals last November.  The highest-ranked player Nadal has beaten this year is Marin Cilic, and del Potro is at a higher level than that right now.  Given the weak draw and the less-than-convincing wins over Somdev Devvarman and Ivo Karlovic, a straight-setter yesterday was the best possible outcome for Rafa.

The other semifinal, the battle for #2, was oddly inconsistent.  Roger Federer‘s service game was below his usual standard which, combined with Novak Djokovic‘s rock-solid return game, meant that Federer was constantly stuck in ground battles that he isn’t terribly well suited to win.  Djokovic’s steady, deep groundstrokes expose holes in Roger’s game that few other players can, forcing errors that make the Swiss look like he barely belongs on the same court.

Yet Federer won the second set, and he seemed on the brink of taking control of the third before his service game completely collapsed.  It’s a big win for Djokovic–his third in a row over Federer–and it puts him back at his career-high ranking of #2.

The final matchup: Rafa is probably the better overall player; Novak might have the edge on hard courts, and he definitely is the hot player right now.

Yet the last two times these two guys faced each other on hard courts–the only two head-to-head encounters in the last 15 months–Nadal won, on big stages in London and New York.  Djokovic leads the hard-court head-to-head 7-6, and the two players have split a pair of matches at Indian Wells.

The sportsbook line gives Djokovic the slight edge, suggesting he has a 54% chance of winning.  My system concurs, favoring the Serb at 53.5%.

Doubles: I don’t really know what to say about a championship for Xavier Malisse and Alexandr Dolgopolov in the most loaded doubles draw in recent memory.  They won every single match in a super-tiebreak of 10-7 or 10-8, and had to beat either a top-10 singles player or a top-10 doubles team in all five rounds.

Oddly enough, they aren’t slated to team up in Miami: Malisse is on the entry list with Jamie Murray.  And Murray’s brother, his partner this past week, is apparently planning to join forces with Djokovic.  We aren’t likely to see a doubles draw in Miami quite like this week’s, but it is nonetheless shaping up to make for another event full of surprises.

Challengers: A couple of times recently, I’ve mentioned the young German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, who qualified in Kyoto last week, reached the semifinals, then made it to the semis again this week at the challenger in Guangzhou.  He lost to Uladzimir Ignatik, another promising young player, who went on to win the tournament.  Ignatik, from Belarus, is only 20 years of age, and the win yesterday will inch him further inside the top 200.

Both Stebe and Ignatik will play the challenger in Pingguo next week.  Ignatik is seeded eighth and will play a first-round matchup with a qualifier, while Stebe drew Guangzhou finalist Alexander Kudryavtsev, the fourth seed.

The Indian Wells final is on the card after the women’s final, not before 1 P.M. local.  I’ll be watching!