Category Archives: Fabrice Santoro

Let’s finish up this week’s picks and previews for Acapulco and hopefully I’ll get to Maria Sharapova on Wednesday.

I did pick one finalist and one semifinalist in Buenos Aires last week, otherwise everything is a total bloody mess and the week has barely started. Aj, would you please write the picks next week, you seem to know what’s going on. As you correctly predicted, Michael Llodra has withdrawn from Zagreb.

Not only that, but Fabrice Santoro retired against Olivier Rochus in Zagreb with an elbow problem and in Memphis, John Isner has already lost and James Blake pulled out with a knee injury of some sort. That’s three of my picks down and it’s only Monday. Oh, and Tommy Haas looks like his shoulder is o.k. and he eats Memphis up when he’s healthy.

Acapulco (clay)

It looks like they packed up last week’s tournament in Buenos Aires and shipped it here. David Nalbandianand Potito Starace sit in the first quarter along with two other players who were also in the top quarter at Buenos Aires. Unless Nalbandian is tired from taking the title at Buenos Aires, he should meet Starace in the quarterfinals again.

Unlike last week, I think Starace wins this because the match was close and Nalbandian struggled a few times in Buenos Aires.

Carlos Moya jumped over Juan Monaco in the rankings so Monaco is anchoring the second quarter with Juan Ignacio Chela. Chela won this tournament last year and got to the finals the year before. Agustin Calleri should be his second round opponent and Chela beat him here last year so Chela should get to the quarterfinals.

I’m picking Chela over Monaco because Monaco has a 1-3 record at this tournament and Chela has beaten him the last two times they’ve met.

Igor Andreev lost his first round match to Alberto Montanes. Montanes had a pretty good year on clay last year but he’s 0-4 against Jose Acasuso who’s in his quarter. If Acasuso can’t take out Guillermo Canas, Montanes is 0-2 against Canas.

Canas hasn’t played on clay this year and Acasuso got to the final last week so I’m putting Acasuso in the semifinals.

The bottom quarter is pretty strong. Nicolas Almagro, Filippo Volandri, and Moya are here. Almagro has a slightly better record than Volandri here and he’s beaten Moya in their last two matches so he’s the final semifinalist.

Acapulco Draw

Semifinalists: Starace, Chela, Acasuso, Almagro
Final: Starace, Almagro
Winner: Almagro

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Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin in five sets in the second round of the Australian Open, but Baghdatis’ career might look a lot like Safin’s by the time it’s over.

To be a championship tennis player you need the appropriate balance between intensity and amnesia. You need enough fire in your belly to slog through five set matches in ungodly heat for two weeks straight and enough amnesia to forget a stretch of bad tennis.

While I was watching Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, I spent a little time placing both players on the intensity/amnesia spectrum. The exercise brought up a number of interesting comparisons between these two players.

First of all, we know Safin does not have amnesia. He not only doesn’t forget his last bad shot but he’s very likely to respond to a stretch of bad tennis by getting into an argument with the chair umpire, or any other willing participant.

You could never, however, accuse Safin of lacking intensity or lacking effort. Safin had game point at 4-2 in the third set when Baghdatis hit a beautiful running forehand down the line. Safin was at the net and he lunged towards the sideline and hit what could only be called a stretch stab volley. I mean, he launched all six foot four inches of his body horizontal. The volley was perfect.

Baghdatis, on the other hand, is short on intensity. He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. He’s my top candidate to take Safin’s place as the player most likely to fail to fulfill his potential. Here’s a guy who made it all the way to the final at the 2006 Australian Open and got up to the number eight ranking and he’s been rattling around with a 15-20 ranking ever since.

Whereas Safin is a tall powerful tennis player who’ll attack the net – he’s the most powerful tennis player I’ve ever seen, Baghdatis has a lot of baby fat on that body and he ventures to the net only when the situation requires it. He could impose his game on opponents by moving forward much more but he seems to float above the game instead of get down and dirty.

Baghdatis started the match off doing what he does well: aggressive counterpunching. He was on fire for the first two sets and got out to a two set lead. Safin fought back to win the next two sets as he went through is own patch of exceptional tennis.

When the fifth set came around, Safin went on a walkabout. As he put it,

..unfortunately my concentration and my — everything went a little bit downhill, and he was just preparing himself for the fifth set. So it’s a little bit unlucky.

Consistency is neither player’s hallmark but I have hope for Baghdatis. He’s only 22 years old and he’s playing more aggressively than he used to. He plays very well indoors and on grass courts – he has a semifinal and quarterfinal at Wimbledon already. I could see him winning a Wimbledon some day, maybe even two.

Two slams. That exactly the number of slams owned by one Marat Safin.

Grinders/Retrievers

Safin hit the shot of the tournament but Roger Federer and Fabrice Santoro played the point of the tournament and it tells you why grinders and retrievers are such a pain in the butt. Those are the players with ugly games that get the ball back no matter what you do.

Here is a point from that match that demonstrates what I mean.

Santoro blocked a wide serve into the court then ran deep to the ad corner to retrieve Federer’s response. Santoro’s response was short so Federer came in and hit an approach to deuce corner. Santoro got to it and hit a lob to the middle of the court which Federer hit softly to the ad corner. Another short response by Santoro was followed by yet another Federer approach. This time Santoro’s lob hit the sky and landed just inside the sideline. Federer telegraphed his overhead and off went Santoro to retrieve it. By the time he got there he was at least ten feet beyond the sideline, but get to it he did and his lob pushed Federer back to the baseline where he….yup, shanked the ball and lost the point.

Federer beat Santoro easily, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, but this point shows you why most people want to strangle player like Santoro. Have any of you readers had a similar experience? I know I have and I was none too successful at dealing with it either.

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