ATP: A couple of days ago, I suggested that Grigor Dimitrov might have trouble with Rainer Schuettler in his opening round match in Houston. I’m sorry, Grigor; I’ve been shown the error of my ways. Dimitrov won 6-0 6-2.
Dimitrov’s was one of only a handful of main draw matches played in Houston yesterday, while the four qualifying matches took center stage. An American was in each of the four, but only one U.S. player came out of qualifying. Tim Smyczek scored the victory over Frank Dancevic, his first straight-setter of the week. Smyczek plays Ryan Sweeting in the first round today.
The player who made a statement in qualifying was Ivo Karlovic. He didn’t lose serve in three matches and handily disposed of Donald Young yesterday, 6-4 6-4. (For Ivo, that’s a blowout.) He draws Benjamin Becker today, in a match that may set records for most aces on clay.
A couple more highlights of the day in Houston are James Blake vs Carlos Berlocq, and Ryan Harrison vs Horacio Zeballos. (I commented on those a couple of days ago.) Nine of the 28 players in the main draw are Americans, which is by far the highest proportion you’ll see all year for a clay court event.
Most of the first round is complete is Casablanca, as well. I can’t imagine a more yawn-inducing draw.
Wild cards: By contrast, the Monte Carlo Masters, taking place next week, has a positively electrifying draw, and it just got better. Neither Andy Murray nor Tomas Berdych were originally intending to play, but both have accepted wild cards. That means nine of the ATP top 10–that is, everyone but Robin Soderling–is slated to be there.
Challengers: The strongest Challenger field this week is in Monza, Italy. The most notable entrant, however, is the lowest-ranked man in the draw. The tournament gave another wild card to Thomas Muster, who plays his opening-round match against Frenchman David Guez. Also of interest in Monza is young Russian Evgeny Donskoy, who easily handled Lithuanian wild card Laurynas Grigelis, 6-1 6-2.
Two other challengers are taking place in South America. The event in Pereira, Colombia is mostly worth mentioning because tournament organizers did what the planners in Barranquilla did not: They stacked the draw with Colombians. Seven of 32 contestants are local boys, including top seed Alejandro Falla and three wild cards. They are still drastically outnumbered by the Argentines, of whom 12 are in the main draw.
Finally, the challenger in Recife, Brazil, started out with a weak field and has already gotten weaker. The cut was over 400, and top seed Marco Chiudinelli retired from his first-round match. That leaves the highest-ranked player in the draw as #166 Tatsuma Ito. There are futures events that are not so heavily tilted toward local players: 16 of the 32 men in the main draw are Brazilians.
Interview: Last week, I did a Q&A for a site called The Let Tennis about statistics in tennis. You can read it here.
Finally, check back later today — I’ll be posting something this afternoon. See you then!