As I write, the first rubbers of the weekend are getting underway. That means I had better get right to the remaining pair of previews:
Argentina vs. Romania: This is the one tie in which home-court–and by extension, surface–may be a deciding factor. The Romanian team’s hopes rest on Victor Hanescu and the doubles pairing of Hanescu and Horia Tecau. But against Argentines David Nalbandian, Juan Monaco, or even Juan Ignacio Chela, it’s hard to imagine Hanescu triumphing in singles on the clay.
With Nalbandian, health is always the issue, and he’s not at 100% right now. If he feels well enough to play, that’s probably sufficient for his country to win this round. My prediction is that Romania will win the doubles, and Hanescu will manage to win one of his singles matches, still giving the victory to Argentina, 3-2.
USA vs. Chile: The surface is important here as well, but switching to clay isn’t enough to give Chile the edge over the strong American team. The Bryan Brothers are as close to an automatic point as they come, and Andy Roddick isn’t helpless on clay, and John Isner reached the third round of the French Open last year.
If Fernando Gonzalez (who is planning a return to the tour soon) were available, it would be a different story–one top-ranked player comfortable on clay could reverse the outcome of this tie. But as is, I have to give the nod to USA, 4-1.
Kudla out: I watched most of Denis Kudla‘s match yesterday with Australian Greg Jones. Kudla lost in three, as his focus wavered and his game deserted him midway through the second set. He owns huge groundstrokes, flat and deep shots you don’t expect to come off the racquet of someone shorter than six feet. Those types of strokes also give him less margin for error, which was evident in the third set.
In the first and second sets, though, Kudla would string together one sensational groundstroke after another. Even the sound off the racquet was different–it sounded like he was hitting with a giant ping-pong paddle. Jones would think a rallying shot would come back, and then Kudla would launch a down-the-line backhand fully out of reach. Impressive.
While Jones won yesterday, it’s clear which player has more potential. The Australian, with his big but inconsistent serve, is a one-dimensional player who will have a hard time ever sticking in the top 100. Kudla needs to get more experience under his belt, but if he can improve his serve (especially his second), he’s a player to watch.
Also in Dallas: Ryan Harrison won handily over Lester Cook to reach the quarterfinals. He’ll play the second match today, against Alex Kuznetsov, while Jack Sock vs. Matthew Ebden is the first match.
Other results: Through to quarterfinals in challengers are Nicholas Mahut, Grigor Dimitrov and Horacio Zeballos. Mega-underdog Stefan Seifert faltered, though, losing in straight sets to Stephane Robert.
Also, Benjamin Mitchell, the young Australian I mentioned yesterday, is into the semifinals at Australia F2, where he’ll next face top-seed Vishnu Vardhan, a 23-year-old from India currently ranked 363rd in the world.
Enjoy Davis Cup today!