See, I told you not to go with David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero last week even though they were the number one and two seeds in Metz, they both lost in the first round.
The Madrid Masters Series event will be held next week in, of all places, Madrid and will pay the winner over $477,000, but this week is almost as lucrative. If you manage to pick the winner in all three tournaments – Moscow (indoor carpet, pays $142,000 to the winner), Vienna (indoor hard court, $137,270), and Stockholm (indoor hard court, $121, 3440) – you’ll win a total of $400, 614.
That’s a good thing for me because I need the money. Last week I figured out the draws, sent out my subleague email, posted on the Tennis Talk forum, then, for the third time this year, forgot to submit my fantasy team! I give up, I’m just hopeless.
Our guy Benjamin Becker is racking up more footnotes. His first footnote was being the player who beat Andre Agassi in the last match of Agassi’s career. Becker picked up his second footnote last week in Tokyo. He beat Jiri Novak in a match that ended at 3:24 am, the latest finish of a match in ATP history. Just as I was getting concerned that his career might consist entirely of footnotes, he managed to get all the way to the semifinals before falling to Roger Federer. Good work Benni.
It’s shouldn’t be a surprise that I have an all-Russian semifinals in Moscow, there are seven Russian players in this tournament.
Be careful about Nikolay Davydenko. He won this tournament two years ago but he could meet Max Mirnyi in the quarterfinals and Mirnyi has beaten Davydenko in Moscow. Also, Davydenko lost to Daniele Bracciali in the first round here last year.
Davydenko is 2-0 lifetime over Mikhail Youzhny and even though that was a few years ago, I’m still going with Davydenko because Youzhny lost in the first round on carpet last week. If that sounds like contradictory information about Davydenko, well, life is full of contradictions isn’t it. Besides, does anyone have any Davydenko choices left after the clay court season?
I have Igor Kunitsyn in the quarterfinals only because he made it to the semifinals here last year.
Dmitry Tursunov also got to the semis last year and he’s been doing well but he always makes me nervous. He insists on hitting the ball as hard as he can regardless of the score so his results are inconsistent. Sometimes I think it’s his revenge on an overbearing father who pushed him into tennis. When I was growing up I was extremely mad at my mother because she was so critical, but she’d hit you up the side of the head if you talked back to her so I proceeded to act out indirectly. I’d break things I was supposed to be cleaning and, worst of all, I’d take it out on myself by moping around instead of pursuing things I really wanted to do. That’s what Tursunov does: he plays mindlessly even though he’s a very intelligent guy as if to prove to the world that he really shouldn’t be playing tennis. He should be a writer for Saturday Night Live or performing with an improv group in a small theater in Hollywood, neither of which would thrill his father.
If Paul-Henri Mathieu gets to the quarterfinals and faces Marat Safin it could be interesting because Mathieu has beaten Safin here in Moscow and he beat him this year at Monte Carlo, though that was on clay. Safin should win it though.
Safin has played two indoor tournaments this fall while Tursunov has been fooling around on clay and outdoor hard courts so I’m picking Safin. And Safin has beaten Davydenko twice on hard courts this year so he’s my pick in the final too.
Ivan Ljubicic is the defending champion and he’s 13-2 indoors this year but remember that there are two Masters Series events left and they’re both indoors. Besides, Marcos Baghdatis is 2-0 over them and they could meet in the semifinals. I have Baghdatis in the finals but he’s had a strained shoulder so I’d save him for the Masters Series events too.
Whoa, Sebastien Grosjean is 8-0 over Xavier Malisse. I don’t remember seeing such a lopsided record outside of Roger Federer’s 11-1 record over Andy Roddick. On the other hand, Roddick is 7-1 over Grosjean should they meet in the quarterfinals.
Can you believe that Roddick and Richard Gasquet have never played before? If not, see Zero Counter below. They should meet in the second round. Roddick has an excellent indoor hard court record so I’m going with him.
David Nalbandian is an unknown. He’s had an abdominal injury and a case of wavering attention. I’d save him for the Masters Series events and use this week to see if his head is back in the game of tennis.
Mardy Fish versus Paradorn Srichaphan is a tough call. Srichaphan got to the semis last week but Fish got to the third round and Fish is 2-0 over Srichaphan. Fish has a better record this year so I’m going with him.
I give up on Robin Soderling, I keep picking him and he keeps losing.
James Blake should get to the final and beat Rafael Nadal but, and this is the mantra this week, save top players for Madrid and Paris. Choose second tier players and hope they can bring home some of the big money out there this week.
Safin has been on the tour for nine years and Fernando Verdasco for five and they’ve never played each other. Carlos Moya and Nicolas Almagro are both Spanish clay court specialists and they’ve never met. Moya has been on the tour for eleven years, Almagro for three.
Each week I add up the number of matches between players who’ve never met each other. I call it the Zero Counter. I’m keeping track so I can see if this improves when the ATP introduces round-robin tournaments next year. The ATP needs new faces but it needs rivalries more and you don’t get rivalries if players never meet.
Zero Counter for this week: 30 matches. That means that one third of the matches this week are Zero Counter matches, same as last week. Notice that this number would be even larger if I knew the names of the qualifiers because you can be sure that some of the qualifiers have never played their opponents before.
First tier picks: Davydenko, Safin, Nadal, Blake, Baghdatis, Roddick, Tursunov, Tomas Berdych. Second tier picks: Youzhny, Mathieu, Kunitsyn, Gonzales, Grosjean, Novak Djokovic, Jarkko Nieminen, Rochus.