Monday, June 25, 2012

Wimbledon Men's First Round

Seeds Moving On
Two of the top-three Seeds were in action today. Novak didn’t look terrific but took care of business in straight sets against Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former World No.1, and Fed didn’t have much trouble at all with Albert Ramos dropping just one game per set in the contest. 

No.8 Seed Janko Tipsarevic had the toughest opening match, on paper, of any in the top ten. Tipsarevic faced newly anointed bad boy, David Nalbandian, once known for his winning record against Federer, and more recently for injuring a linesperson during the Queen’s Club Final in London last week. Despite Nalbandian’s sometimes potent game, Janko jerked him out of Wimbledon in straight sets.

Seeds Upset
The upset of the day was scored by Ernests Gulbis, who ousted No.6 Tomas Berdych in three tiebreaks. Gulbis had opportunities to melt down, when Berdych saved big break points and match points (3) late in the third, but he held firm in overcoming the big serving Czech.

Gulbis has shown top-ten-talent for the past five years, but hasn’t fully capitalized on that talent. He broke into the top 100 and top 50 in 2007, reached as high as No.21 in the world last year, but came into Wimbledon at No. 87.  He had yet to get past the third round this year, reaching the third round just once in Delray before losing to the 173rd-ranked player.

So Berdych must have had a bad day, right? Nope, Gulbis just played the way he is capable of playing, spanking serves (30 aces with 72% first serves) and crushing groundstrokes (62 winners to 33 unforced!). Up next for Gulbis is a qualifier with the best name in the draw: Jerzy Janowicz. If Gulbis can keep his head together, he could go deep in the draw.

Isner Goes Home
One of my dark horses was put out to pasture in a surprise with local ties. No.11 Seed John Isner looked and played as though he really had little interest in moving on to the second round, and Alejandro Falla, whose dad Jorge is a teaching pro in Naples, took advantage.

Falla took the first set, lost the next two, then came back to win the match in five. Falla showed the same grit he displayed in taking Federer to five sets at Wimbledon in 2010, taking the fourth-set tiebreak from the big serving Isner to even the match at two sets all. Some time off might be in order for Isner because he does not look like he wants to play tennis. Falla should have a good shot at moving on to the third round as he plays either Nicolas Mahut or Paolo Lorenzi next, and both are unseeded.

Additional men’s Seeds to fall were No.23 Andreas Seppi and No.24 Marcel Granollers, both in five sets. This is Wimbledon, so look for a few more Seeds to be planted before this thing is over.

The Americans
The American men got off to a good start when 22-year-old Chicagoan Donald Young took the first set and went up a break in the second against No.26 Mikhail Youzhny. But then Young showed why he has lost 11 straight matches and is 2-14 this season. He won just five games the rest of the way. Veteran favorite James Blake looked like he might get through his first match after winning the first set in a tiebreak, but Benjamin Becker denied him, winning the next three sets.

Michael Russell, the elder statesman of U. S. Tennis at age 34, upheld his end of the bargain though, taking out Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in three straight.  Ryan Sweeting also moved through with ultimate ease, posting a 6-2, 2-0 (retired) over Potito Starace. Ryan Harrison also advanced to Round 2, winning in four sets over Yen-Hsun Lu. Events at Wimbledon are likely to go awry for the Ryans in their next matches, as Harrison gets Djokovic and Sweeting gets Tipsarevic.

On Tap Tomorrow
Notables taking the court tomorrow include No.2 Rafa Nadal and No.4 Andy Murray. Rafa should have little trouble with Thomaz Bellucci if he isn’t suffering from his French Open win, and Murray should be able to get past Nicolay Davydenko without too much of a struggle. Although Davydenko was once No.3 in the world, he is currently No.47 and not in Murray’s class…unless Murray doesn’t come to play.

My other dark horse, Jo Willy Tsonga takes the court against former World No.1 Lleyton Hewitt. Although Hewitt can be a tough customer, Tsonga won the only two times they played, and that was before Tsonga was as good as he is. I think my horse will still be kicking after this one.

Mardy Fish, the top American player in the world, is seeded 10th, but he hasn’t played an ATP event since a first-round loss to Michael Russell on clay back in April. Mardy has had some health issues, and I don’t know if he even knows what he’ll be bringing to the court tomorrow. He takes on Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, a journeyman who hasn’t won a match on tour since April. Mardy couldn’t have asked for a better comeback match.

American Jesse Levine, this one with ties to Naples, also will be twirling his sticks tomorrow against Karol Beck. Given their 2012 records, this is a “pick em” match, but given Jesse’s performance at the French, I think he gets the nod. 

Another American, Brian Baker, ranked No.126, takes to the courts tomorrow with a good chance of making the Second Round. He faces 96th-ranked Rui Machado. Baker has had some good results over the past couple of months, and should be playing with confidence.

Okay, last but not least, and you probably won’t care about this one, but I think somebody was having a bit of fun when they made this match up. No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov will play Alex Bogomolov, Jr. in his first match. The bets are “olov” on this one. Look for Dolgopolov to be “olover” his opponent as he moves to Round 2.

Can't blame a guy for having a little fun, can ya? Until next, game, set, match...T. A.

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