I’m not crowing or anything, well, yes I am, I picked two upsets in Moscow. I had Jan Hernych over Filippo Volandri and Teimuraz Gabashvili over Gilles Muller. Okay, that second one was a minor upset but Volandri was the fifth seed. More incredible than that, I actually remembered to submit my team.
I picked four of the six finalist and it would have been five if Rafael Nadal hadn’t crashed out to Joachim Johansson in the second round. That was totally unpredictable. Johansson has a big game, in particular one of the best serves on tour, but this is only his second ATP regular tour event in more than a year after having shoulder surgery. He played in San Jose in February but dropped all the way to the futures circuit – the bottom of the minor leagues – in recent weeks.
By the way, here’s a bit of insight into how the ATP tour works: tennis-x.com and tennis.com cited an article in the Austrian newspaper Obersterreichischen Nachrichten that put Andy Roddick’s appearance fee in Vienna at $150,000.
The Madrid Masters plays on indoor hard court and pays $477,792 so get it right!
If you’re wondering why Johansson got into the main draw despite his ranking of 690, I am too. I believe it has to do with the concept of protected ranking, a player who loses time to injury gets special consideration. But that’s been addressed by using two different rankings: the Indesit ATP rankings stretch over the last 12 months to account for time off during that period and the Indesit ATP Race rankings count results during the calendar year only. Nikolay Davydenko should take Johansson out so it shouldn’t end up being an issue.
Tommy Haas has a career record of 42-16 on indoor hard court but Dominik Hrbaty beat him this week in Vienna with a bagel in the third set and also beat Haas last year in Madrid so I’m going with Hrbaty. Not only that but Hrbaty is 3-1 over Nadal winning all of their matches on hard court. Who knew?
I have two Nadals left so I have to use him in Madrid and Paris but the bigger question is whether to use my one remaining Roger Federer here or in Paris. Federer has been known to drop out of Masters Series events if they’re too close to each other. He essentially pulled a no show in Cincinnati after winning the week before in the Toronto Masters. Madrid and Paris don’t follow each other but the Masters Cup is one week after Paris and that’s enough for Federer to find a way to skip Paris. I will use Federer this week because I know he’ll show up.
In fact, you should use your big guys in Madrid because players come up with “opportune” injuries so they can skip Paris when they’re already in the year end Masters Cup.
Mikhail Youzhny is a bit of a wild card. He’s in the qualifying tournament because the seeds were drawn up before he made his semifinal run at the U.S. Open. He’s not that good on indoor hard court but check at the very last minute to see where he is in the draw and adjust your picks if necessary.
Mario Ancic has been in two finals and three quarterfinals in his last five tournaments. He’s highly motivated because he’s close to getting into the final eight at the Masters Cup in Shanghai and that should get him to the quarterfinals again this week.
Marcos Baghdatis is fighting for a final eight spot too but his second round opponent is likely to be Marat Safin. Baghdatis had an exceptional record on indoor hard court in challenger and futures tournaments but he’s only won one match there on the regular ATP tour so I’m going with Safin.
In my upset pick I have Novak Djokovic over Jarkko Nieminen. Nieminen got to the final in Stockholm this week but Djokovic is 11-3 on indoor hard court and 44-15 for the year.
I’m picking Davydenko over Fernando Gonzalez because Davydenko is 3-0 over Gonzalez lifetime. If Davydenko gets as far as the quarterfinals and meets Ivan Ljubicic, he should lose because Ljubicic has beaten him the last two times they’ve met including indoors at Metz.
Roddick is 5-3 over Ljubicic and it could have been 6-3 if he hadn’t been injured at Paris last year. Still, I’m going with Ljubicic because he won this week and got to the finals last week.
Each week we add up the number of matches between players who’ve never played each other before to explain why the ATP doesn’t have any rivalries – you don’t get rivalries if players never meet after all. You’d expect the number to be lower this week because this is a required tournament and these are the top ranked players on the tour and you’d be right. Up until now, one third of the matches have been Zero Counter matches but this week it’s one fifth of the matches.
Still, look at some of the players who’ve never met before: Andy Roddick and Tomas Berdych who’ve been on the tour for a combined total of nine years; Dmitry Tursunov and James Blake who’ve been on the tour for a total of thirteen years; David Nalbandian and James Blake, also a total of thirteen years on the tour. See what I mean, these guys never meet.
First tier picks: Federer, Ancic, Nalbandian, Blake, Davydenko, Ljubicic, Roddick, Hrbaty. Second tier picks: Robin Soderling, Tommy Robredo, Tim Henman, Safin, Gonzalez, Djokovic and Berdych.
Thanks to vive le beau jeu! on the Talk Tennis forum, the issue of protected ranking and Joachim Johansson has been cleared up. The protected ranking rule is described here. If a player doesn’t compete due to injury for more than six months, he can petition to keep a ranking equal to his average ATP ranking during the first three months of his injury and he can use this ranking for his first eight tournaments back on the tour.