Everyone who lost early in Hamburg is in Poertschach or Dusseldorf for a few more clay court matches before the French Open starts next week.

Rear View Mirror: a look at last week’s picks

Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals at Hamburg? Please, even a betting genius couldn’t have predicted that. By the way, check out this site: pUnt.com, the musings of a professional gambler who bets on tennis. This punter has great insight into the scope of knowledge and discipline necessary to make your livelihood from gambling. Punter, by the way, is a British term for a gambler.

Okay, so I was wrong, Rafael Nadal is still here in Hamburg – I said he’d find an excuse to stay home, and Guillermo Canas is not – he lost in the first round to Juan Ignacio Chela. I was right about Novak Djokovic though, I said he looked tired. He went out to Moya in the quarterfinals.

And I did have Roger Federer in the final. He looks to be about 80% of his old self which won’t be enough to beat Nadal, his opponent in the final. Think of it like this: if Federer is still the second ranked player on clay and he’s playing at about 80% of his clay court self, that makes Nadal 20% better than everyone else on clay at the moment.

POERTSCHACH (clay)

Check out the bottom quarter of this draw, it looks like the misfits’ happy hour. Andy Roddick, Sam Querrey and Hyung-Taik Lee are fast court lovers while Gael Monfils has lost his way to the point that he is now playing challengers. I read a rumor that Monfils has signed with Renaissance Management, the tennis group coached by Tarik Benhabiles. Tennis is so conservative these days that one of it’s most demonstrative and distinctive young talents – Mr. Monfils – can’t seem to find a coaching situation that accommodates his unusual talent. That’s too bad because he has exceptional physical skills and we need a personality like him in the regular draw.

Hyung-Taik Lee could survive the misfits’ quarter and meet Lleyton Hewitt in a semifinal.

Nikolay Davydenko is the defending champion but I’m gonna say that Juan Monaco beats him then loses to Ivan Ljubicic in the semifinals because Monaco put up a good fight against Federer in Hamburg and made it to the quarterfinals here last year.

That puts Ljubicic and Hewitt in the final. Hewitt fought Nadal to 5-5 in the third set in Hamburg before finally succumbing, believe it or not. Hewitt will be back up to a ranking of #16 after this week and he’s had two quarterfinal appearances at Roland Garros so it’s not that far fetched.

Poertschach draw

Picks:
Quarterfinalists: Davydenko, Monaco, Ljubicic, Albert Montanes, Stanislas Wawrinka, Hewitt, Lee, Roddick
Semifinalists: Monaco, Ljubicic, Hewitt, Lee
Finalists: Ljubicic, Hewitt
Winner: Hewitt

DUSSELDORF (clay)

Dusseldorf hosts the World Team Cup which is basically an excuse to have another tournament in Germany. The eight best tennis countries in the world judged by ATP year end rankings break into two groups and play that dreaded round robin format that caused so many problems earlier this year.

There’ll be no problem here because the results don’t count in the rankings. Why bother to play then, you ask? Because players know they won’t lose in the first round since it’s round robin and they can count on three or four clay court matches to warm up for the French Open.

Each country plays two singles matches and one doubles match against another country and I’m obviously not going to look at all of those matches so let’s just look at the strongest countries and leave it that.

Argentina is bringing Juan Ignacio Chela, Agustin Calleri and Jose Acasuso and they look the strongest. Spain is bringing David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro and they look good too. Almagro had a good match in Hamburg against Tommy Robredo then lost to Acasuso and Ferrer lasted until he met Federer. Those two countries should be in the final.

Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu will play for Chile and should come in third and Germany might manage fourth place with Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer and Benjamin Becker if they’re lucky.

Take it easy this week and rest up for the second grand slam of the year and those long, long five set matches at the French Open.

See you then.

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