Zagreb and Memphis: Picks and Preview

The Acapulco draw isn’t up yet and I have to prepare for my Oscars party. Vanity Fair canceled its usual after-Oscars bash in solidarity with the writer’s strike and I live in Hollywood so I’m having the party instead. I invited Cate Blanchett and Ellen Page. No word on whether they’ll turn up or not.

I’ll do Acapulco and look at the women’s event in Qatar on Monday.

Welcome to the U.S. hard court/European indoor hard court/South American clay court swing of the ATP season. There appear to be three distinct tours playing out in different parts of the world. How are we supposed to build up excitement when players are strung out all over the world – well, not strung out, oh you know what I mean.

Television executives aren’t feeling it either; the coverage is sparse to nonexistent. You could have watched San Jose last week for $39.95 on top of your $60 cable bill and that’s a subject I’ll look at in the future because tournaments are increasingly using the internet to generate income with their own pay-per-view policies. Anyway, enough ranting, let’s get started.

Zagreb (indoor carpet)

Last week’s event in Rotterdam was so topsy turvy that no seeded player reached the quarterfinals. Most distressing of all? Rafael Nadal lost to Andreas Seppi in the second round because, he said, he lost focus. No idea what David Ferrer’s excuse was.

Rotterdam had 8 players in the top 20, Zagreb has no players in the top 20. The top players are all resting up for Dubai and the big money.

I’m desperately looking for someone in the top half of this draw who can beat Ivan Ljubicic because his game has been going downhill and I don’t think he’ll win a tournament this year. Thank heavens Mario Ancic is here. Andreas Seppi was the guy who beat Nadal last week and he beat Ljubicic indoors in Vienna last year but this is indoor carpet, not hard court, and that means the court is fast and slick which is well suited to Ivan’s serve, about the only part of his game that’s still firing.

Ivo Karlovic is in the bottom half of the draw and he could meet Michael Llodra in the second round. Llodra just beat Karlovic in Rotterdam and he beat him here last year so I have to go with Llodra in that matchup.

If Llodra has to meet up with Janko Tipsarevic he’s in trouble because he’s lost to him three straight time but I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I say Mischa Zverev beats Tipsarevic because Zverev took out Ferrer and Philipp Kohlschreiber last week.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is in Fabrice Santoro’s quarter and Garcia-Lopez did get to the semis this week in San Jose but he didn’t beat anyone notable to get there so I say Santoro gets to his second semifinal of the year.

Zagreb Draw

Semifinals: Ljubicic, Ancic, Santoro, Llodra
Finalists: Ancic, Llodra
Winner: Ancic

Memphis (indoor hard)

I picked the finalists in San Jose last week so that ain’t bad. This week has pretty much the same players – five of the top eight seeds are the same – so I should be alright.

Andy Roddick is here because he skips Dubai to rest up for Indian Wells. The problem is that Robin Soderling is waiting for him in the quarterfinals. Soderling has been eating up the ATP since he returned from a wrist injury – he’s in the Rotterdam final – and he was in the final here two years ago, but Roddick has been in the finals twice and also won the title once so I’m going with Roddick again.

Marat Safin is down off the mountain but I don’t think that will mean much. Radek Stepanek is in the San Jose final and the only competition in his quarter is Thomas Johansson. For some reason, Stepanek’s record in the North America is excellent so I’m going with Stepanek again. Boring I know but it’s not my fault. Tell the ATP to shrink its schedule if you want to see more excitement.

I don’t know what’s happening with Tommy Haas. He injured his shoulder recently and he’s looked bad since he came back. His first round opponent, Diego Hartfield, beat him in Delray Beach two weeks ago and John Isner beat him last week. Haas hasn’t been serving well so I’m going to assume that he has a lingering problem and say that Isner comes out of this quarter.

James Blake is a strange case. After reaching the final in 2002, he hasn’t been past the second round since. But there’s no one for him to lose to in his quarter except maybe Sam Querrery, so I’m going to advance him.

Memphis Draw

Semifinals: Roddick, Stepanek, Isner, Blake
Final: Roddick, Blake
Winner: Roddick