And so our roadshow version of “Who Do You Trust” this week in Fantasy Tennis begins anew, with another hodgepodge of odd tournaments scattered across the globe on the ATP Tour. For the clay people, there is the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria and also the Umag event in Croatia. Will they ever run out of clay court events? Stateside we get the Countrywide Classic from Los Angeles, which has a really interesting field of guys and will end up being covered locally over the weekend on ESPN2. Too bad the purse sucks.
In Los Angeles, Andy Roddick was given a wild card into the event and promptly went into the Number One seeding. Lleyton Hewitt would have been Number One, but Roddick’s arrival changed that. I smell a grudge final shaping up, don’t you?
One of Andy’s interesting early round match-ups could be with American newcomer, Sam Querrey, also a wild card here. Querrey is one of our best up and coming guys, with a huge serve and the desire to play aggressively. It would be nice to see him cut his teeth a bit playing against Roddick. Jim Courier in the commentators’ booth spoke rather highly of Querrey during the weekend coverage of the RCA event.
Los Angeles has other interesting matches scheduled in the opening round. How about Marat Safin against Mardy Fish, two guys who can play well but haven’t gotten on track this year. I would think Fish could pull this one out, he was showing some good form at Wimbledon up until his stomach ailment forced him out. Hrbaty faces Andy Murray in another opener. I am still not convinced of Murray’s legitimacy in events; if he lands Brad Gilbert as a coach, that could turn things around. But for now I think the crafty veteran Hrbaty will win this match. Justin Gimelstob takes on Robby Ginepri in a duel of Americans in their opener. Gimelstob had a good run two weeks ago at Newport, and Los Angeles is a second home to him where he likes playing. But Ginepri is finally getting his game going, and he should beat Justin in this match.
The other interesting opening round features Andre Agassi against Belgium’s Xavier Malisse. I was keen on Malisse’s game for a number of years, but he has gotten to be as unpredictable as Safin. Sometimes I call him Baby Safin, he can make wonderful shots and then mentally he takes a hike, often never to return. But his game is so lovely to look at, and I am a sucker for the stylish lads, so here I am again. Lately he has been playing like he cares, which may or may not be good news for Agassi.
Surely Andre would like to put together a good run somewhere this summer going into the US Open, and maybe it could start here in L.A. I would assume he is fit physically and ready to play, so I am going to put my imaginary Fantasy dollars on Andre this week. I expect him to get into the quarters, where he could likely face Fernando Gonzalez. Gonzo is playing in Los Angeles for the first time. Don’t call this man a clay courter; he continues to try his hand on other surfaces besides just clay, and with some success.
So with a little drumrolling please, these are my quarterfinal picks for Los Angeles:
Hrbaty to face Ginepri
Haas to take on Hewitt
Agassi to meet Gonzalez
Tursunov to meet Roddick
But in terms of Fantasy Tennis, I am only picking Hewitt and Agassi from this tournament. Mostly because I want to save Roddick for the bigger purse events coming up, ditto Gonzalez.
The largest purse this week is in Kutzbuhel, where I have picked four guys for the Fantasy league, Verdasco, Massu, Robredo and Nieminen. Davydenko I can’t use, he’s been a major workhorse for me this season, I can only pick him one more time. Gaudio is also a non-pick here, mostly because I am just annoyed with him of late, his play has been every which way and he is losing to a lot of people he should not. So he gets slapped and relegated to the end of the train.
In Croatia we have the Umag event under way. Umag, what a grisly sounding name for a tournament. Couldn’t they drop the g and just call it “Uma?” You’ll rope in a few guys hoping to meet Uma Thurman. Here I went for Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer. Since Ferrer just won a big event this past Sunday, you’d think the competitive juices are flowing mightily and he’s eager for more. He probably is, but the bad news was he won in a gruelling five-setter, so let’s hope his body is up to the task. My co-writer Nina Rota may be correct that he could lose to Novak Djokovic, who also won his first ATP event this past Sunday. It’s just that Djokovic didn’t have to do his win in five sets. But he’s a new kid on the block, I want to see more of him before I make up my mind, and Ferrer has proven to be a pretty reliable workhorse himself this year. Juan Carlos I am picking because he should be able to get by Coria, even if he will probably go down in the final to Ferrer.
People are still buzzing about James Blake beating Andy Roddick on Sunday in a nifty final from Indianapolis. The good news here is that the two best men now in American tennis played a really good match, so much so that it really didn’t matter who won. From my standpoint especially, since I had picked both of them in the Fantasy league last week to get to the finals.
For the moment, the boys in the locker room can give the nod to James, he is the top American player right now in the world, with his ranking moving up to Number Five this week. But Andy showed some fire and enthusiasm, and whatever tips he picked up working in L.A. with Jimmy Connors they seem to have re-energized his game. The match had a lot of interesting turns, a lot of back and forth, break points being threatened and then saved. Not much separated these two guys on Sunday: a double fault at a key moment, a shot into the net, a sliced backhand when maybe one with more pace would have worked better. Credit to James Blake though who still had to take the match from Roddick, this was no freebee by any stretch.
Robby Ginepri played well too last week in Indianapolis, so all in all the American men are getting their act together. Now they have a road show to show, certainly more than the women. But Serena Williams made her return last week also, in a modest women’s event in Cincinnati. The word is she looks fit and trim, but the lack of match play gives the odd spectacle of her getting by Anastasia Myskina in the opening round, only to lose to Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals in a lackluster two sets. Stuff like that happens to you when you’ve been gone for a while. But a fit and healthy Serena Williams would be a welcome addition to the women’s game, and it’s good to hear she’s back on track and showing signs of being eager for tennis life.
This paragraph is written today, Tuesday, as a follow-up. Agassi did get by Malisse, but Ferrero is out already in Umag. And according to my co-writer Nina Rota, who is covering the Los Angeles event in person this week, Andy Murray pulled out of the event and he’s still not yet signed on with Brad Gilbert.
But Connors and Roddick are in love and have gotten married, so congratulations, guys, we look forward to your progress.
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