This week’s submission deadline is Monday morning, May 5, 4am (EST) in the U.S./10am (CET) in Europe.
Juan Carlos Ferrero pulled out after I posted my picks last week so remember to take a quick look at the draw before the submission deadline to see if one of your players has dropped out. Phillipp Kohlschreiber also pulled out – he had the flu – and I was not happy about that. If a player drops out before his first match, it does not count as one of your five uses of that player.
This week we have the clay court Masters Series event in Rome. The first prize is a whopping $553,846. We need two players from each quarter to make up our eight player team so let’s go.
The U.S. players have arrived on the clay court Masters Series circuit in the person of James Blake and Andy Roddick this week and they’re messing things up a bit because it’s unlikely they’ll get far. Roddick is not a terrible clay court player – he got to the quarterfinals here in 2006 and the semifinals in 2002 – but he hasn’t done much on clay in a while so I’m saving him for Wimbledon, Toronto, Cincinnati, the U.S. Open, and Paris. Jo-Wilfired Tsonga is back from a knee injury but as far as I can tell, he’s never won a main draw clay court match. Simone Bolelli is in the semifinals at Munich but I’d still pick Gilles Simon over him, so Simon is my guy.
I don’t know what happened to randomness in this draw because the section below Roddick is packed. Tommy Robredo, Mario Ancic, and Nikolay Davydenko should all play each other within the first three rounds. First of all, can Ancic beat Davydenko here? Ancic is pretty good on clay but he hasn’t been past the third round in a clay event this year whereas Davydenko has a semifinal and a final. Davydenko has a 4-1 record over Robredo and beat him here last year so I’m going with Davydenko.
Blake’s section is tough to pick for the same reason Roddick’s was: there aren’t a lot of good players in it. We probably should choose between Carlos Moya, Filippo Volandri, and Fernando Verdasco, and they’re all having terrible years. Moya has lost in the first round here the last three years while Volandri got to the semifinals last year, so Volandri it is.
Obviously Rafael Nadal is the choice in his section and the European Masters events pay a whole lot more than the Masters events in the U.S., so pick him here.
Should I pick Roger Federer or not? It’s a tough decision because he looks like he can get to the final here but he’s much more likely to beat Nadal in Hamburg. He won the Hamburg title the past three years and that’s where he has his only victory over Nadal. For sure I’m using him at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open, but what about either Toronto or Cincinnati and Paris? I’d be taking a chance if I save him for Paris because he could be injured or skip it, but he’s likely to win either Toronto or Cincinnati so I’m saving him till next week in Hamburg.
Instead of Federer I’ll settle for Paul-Henri Mathieu and hope he gets to the third round.
That’s the theme this week, by the way: patience. Don’t use all your top players up and jump out to a good standing in the fantasy game only to run out of players in the fall. Also, don’t use a player who could reach the quarterfinals in a Masters event now but win a Masters event later on. Remember, you can only use a player five times and that’s it.
David Ferrer should reach the quarterfinals. His record over Richard Gasquet is 3-0 and he beat Radek Stepanek twice last year. But I used him in Barcelona because he’ll get more money for his final in Barcelona than he will for a quarterfinal here and, besides, his record in Hamburg is much better than here. Instead, I’ll see how far Gasquet can go.
Novak Djokovic should be able to get to the quarterfinals but he’ll have to go through Fernando Gonzalez and David Nalbandian and possibly Nicolas Almagro to get to the semifinals. So I’m saving Djokovic for the remaining three slams and a Masters event or two on a faster court. Instead, I’ll see how far Juan Monaco can go.
If Fernandez and Nalbandian meet in the third round, that’s a tossup. Gonzalez is 10-0 on clay this year but his highest ranking opponent was number 21 and that match ended up being a walkover, so take the streak with a grain of salt. Nalbandian is 15-3 but his only big win was a victory over Tommy Robredo and he lost to Stanislaw Wawrinka this week. Almagro could beat either of them but he’s too inconsistent in big events for me to pick him. Nalbandian reached the final last year so I’m going with him.
My picks: Mathieu, Gasquet, Monaco, Nalbandian, Simon, Davydenko, Volandri, Nadal.