Backwards: Just when you think you have it all figured out, there’s a day of tennis like yesterday’s. The upsets I suggested didn’t happen, and the automatic wins turned into disasters for the seeds.
At least Novak Djokovic is keeping things predictable. He beat Denis Istomin 6-0 6-1. The big question is not whether he can bagel James Blake in the third round, but whether he can bagel Blake twice. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s four 6-0’s in seven matches, and three opponents who only managed a single game. And Istomin, Viktor Troicki, and Ernests Gulbis are hardly unqualified to play at this level.
Center court: Before Djokovic took care of business, it was bad news for the big names. Ivan Dodig was up a break on Robin Soderling in the third set before the Swede came charging back and escaped the upset. He’ll live to see another day, meaning he gets to play Juan Martin del Potro, himself a narrow victor over Philipp Kohlschreiber. At this point, Soderling can hardly be considered much of a contender for the title.
The shocker came a bit later, when Andy Murray fell to Alex Bogomolov. I’m not sure whether this is better or worse than a loss to Donald Young; both make you wonder how much longer Murray can stay in the top 10. Bogie is hardly a master returner, and Murray failed to win even 55% of first serve points. I can just imagine him standing six feet behind the baseline, sending unforced errors in every direction.
Two more surprises: I didn’t think Pablo Andujar could beat Bernard Tomic; almost all of Andujar’s success has come on clay. Once he beat Tomic, it was a no-brainer that he’d make easy picking for Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco won the first set on schedule, then lost a second-set tiebreak and fell in the third. It must have been very close, as there were only two breaks in the match, and Verdasco won more than half of the total points.
Then there’s Stanislas Wawrinka. Marcel Granollers somehow bagelled him in about 20 minutes to open the match. Stan made it interesting, winning a second-set tiebreak, but it Granollers eventually came out on top. The last time Wawrinka lost a set at love was in April; the last time he was bagelled on a hard court was to Jurgen Melzer in the 2008 Olympics.
Today: I’m going to say it again: It looks like a fairly predictable day of tennis. It can’t possibly turn out like yesterday, right?
Of the top few seeds, Rafael Nadal has the relatively tough draw, facing Kei Nishikori in the night session. I can’t imagine Roger Federer will suddenly forget how to beat Radek Stepanek, or that Andy Roddick will stumble against Pablo Cuevas.
According to sportsbook odds, the tightest match of the day is Juan Ignacio Chela against the slightly-favored Feliciano Lopez. The Vegas odds give Lopez about a 53% chance of winning; my system goes further and favors the Spainard to the tune of 63%.
The other “close” match is Florian Mayer vs. Albert Montanes. Montanes is the seed; Mayer is the better hard-court player. Sportsbooks say Mayer has a 60% chance of winning; I give him 65%.
Finally, Olivier Rochus will see if he can continue his current hot streaks, both in March and at Miami. In last year’s second round, he defeated Novak Djokovic. This year’s task is much easier: he faces Marcos Baghdatis, who hasn’t won a match since early Februrary in Rotterdam and lost his last set in Indian Wells to Somdev Devvarman at love. Sportsbooks give the Belgian about a 40% chance of pulling the upset.
Challengers: This time, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe couldn’t beat Go Soeda. Stebe still reached his third straight challenger semifinal, so his ranking will continue to climb. In tonight’s final, Soeda faces Matthias Bachinger, another German having a solid 2011. Bachinger is in his third challenger-level semifinal this year.
In Bath yesterday, Nicholas Mahut fell in the quarterfinals, while Dmitri Tursunov kept his comeback churning. The Russian will face Brit wild card Daniel Evans today.
See you tomorrow!