Some of us may have Paris, the rest of us will be down to the scrapings of Paris as we rummage around in the nether regions of the draw, trying to round up a few good men for our Fantasy Tennis league that we have not used up yet. Or squandered, if you prefer.
This week we are shuffling through more unknown quantities than usual because most of the Top Ten has already pulled out. Gone are Ljubicic, Roddick, Baghdatis, Nalbandian, Nadal. Roger Federer was the last to decide he would bail. He apologized profusely. He’s that kind of guy. So did Nadal. So much for Paris, Humphrey. This week they couldn’t give her away. I would have thought Madrid last week would see a few withdrawals, not Paris. Wouldn’t you rather play in the latter than the former? I would, but then I’m one of those disgusting Californians who prefers French over California wines, so sue me.
Now we are getting acquainted with the likes of Robin Soderling, Stanislas Wawrinka and Marc Gicquel. What, you say bells of recognition aren’t ringing in your head yet? Actually there is no reason they couldn’t become familiar names in tennis. Soderling has steadily been showing up in the middle rounds of events lately, Gicquel made it to his first final last week even though he lost, and Wawrinka seems inspired lately by the play of his co-Swiss Mr. Federer. Hell, I even went for Bjorn Phau last week. Mostly because I hoped anyone named Bjorn in the world of tennis would be a good luck charm. He’s not Swedish, though, he’s German. On second thought, I decided to insert Henman in his place but missed the deadline. Bjorn it had to be. Until he exited of course, in the very first round.
Necessity therefore moved into the Fantasy selection process this week. I found I had only three somewhat big names I could still pick: Djokovic, Murray and Gasquet. I picked them as my main courses. Around them are a few tasty little appetizer sorts, namely Grosjean, Almagro, Mirnyi, Verdasco and Safin. As of Monday, Mirnyi and Verdasco were already gone. Almagro barely survived a squeaker with Bjorkman. (Today, Tuesday, Almagro had to retire from his match with Tursunov).
There are a good handful of Frenchmen in the draw but Gasquet is the only one I feel will get further along, and I would not necessarily bet my all on him. He’s in that corner of the draw where Wawrinka and Gicquel are playing; they face each other in the opening round. It will be interesting to see if Gicquel is still fired up after his success last week – and also whether he has enough stamina to make his way through the Paris draw. It could go either way. What the lesser ranked guys may possess in desire they may lack in stamina, simply because they usually aren’t around very long in most draws. (A close match, in which Wawrinka prevailed).
Some good rounds to watch for would be Gasquet facing Safin (I am still keen on Safin’s chances, as I question Gasquet’s consistency from week to week); Blake should get by Haas if they meet in the Round of 16; Djokovic (who can beat Robredo I think) will probably face Nieminen and beat him; Ginepri could face Berdych, assuming he can get by Ferrer and I think he can. (Ginepri beat Ferrer today).
The ATP Tour site apparently decided to add the Paris tournament to their online viewing package, so those of you without The Tennis Channel can probably see the Gonzalez-Ancic match this week. It will be a good one. I’ll get up at the crack of dawn for that one.
Fernando Gonzalez could have a shot at winning this tournament. He is probably salivating at the thought of making it into a final where the opponent won’t be named Roger, whom he has lost to in the last two weeks in finals at both Basel and Madrid, or Ljubicic, who beat him in the final in Vienna the week before that. Gonzalez has won 7 titles in his career, but never a Masters Series event. His appearance in three Masters finals in a row would suggest it’s high time he took home the trophy. He shows up week after week and he plays hard. Does he have enough energy to carry on through Paris? I hope so, the man has some heart.
A darker horse to pick to win all the marbles would be Safin. In fact, right now a Safin-Gonzalez final would be something to look forward to. Gonzalez has the edge in their duels, especially this year, having beaten the big Russian on all three surfaces. Just because Roger and Rafa aren’t here does not mean we are suffering a lack of good match-ups. The week may turn out to be more competitive than we think, as the players scramble around trying to seize the advantage in this event without the big names. Here’s your chance, guys, grab it!