Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heavy Cloud, No Rain

The rain stayed away, so there was a whole lot of tennis going on. You’ve got to stay on top of things on a catch up day like this, but that’s half the fun. Heaps to report, so I’m going to focus on the brave players who played two matches today.

Juan Carlos Ferrero looked very good. Play started at 10am with Ferrero taking on American Jesse Levine. Levine put up a good fight and impressed me more than Sam Querrey did on Monday, but Juan Carlos won the match without much drama 64 61. Later in the day Jurgen Melzer stepped up to block Ferrero’s path to the quarterfinals, but the former world number one would have none of it. Melzer showed some guts at the end, saving about five match points in the second set tiebreak, but Ferrero finally put him away 63 76(6). Ferrero’s quarterfinal opponent will be Nicolas Massu, who defeated the Spaniard in the first round last year. More on Massu later.

Top seed and defending champion David Ferrer took to centre court for the first time today, blasting his good friend Oscar Hernandez off the court 61 62 and then defeating Sergio Roitman 61 76(2). Roitman tested Ferrer a little, but the world number 5’s superior shotmaking was too good in the tiebreak. Ferrer looks like the man to beat. Tomorrow he’ll face Julien Benneteau, who upset 5th seed Nicolas Almagro 64 26 62.

Benneteau wasn’t the only Frenchman who had success on the courts today. Michael Llodra won both his first and second round matches in convincing fashion, with his big serve and big plays at the net looking quite hard to handle. First he eliminated loneliest man on tour Hyung-Taik Lee 61 64, before dismissing 8th seed Albert Montanes 63 64. Llodra won the title in Adelaide last week so he’s on a bit of a winning streak. But he’ll have to be playing his best tennis tomorrow if he wants to beat…

Juan Monaco! One of the interesting stories of 2007 was the rise of Monaco, who started his great year by qualifying and then reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland. This year the Argentine with the tight shirt is back as the number 3 seed, but I don’t think he’ll be satisfied with just a quarterfinal this time. Monaco looked awesome today, defeating Thomas Johansson 63 64 and Olivier Rochus 63 63. Last year Juan and Olivier had a long 3-hour battle in the second round, but Monaco took out Rochus a lot quicker this time, showing how much he has improved. His quarterfinal against Llodra tomorrow should be a good one, but it’s the Frenchman who will have to come up with something special to get the W.

Xavier Malisse also played two matches today. The Belgian with the short haircut has a protected ranking of 31 but isn’t seeded, so I assume that protected rankings get you direct entry into tournaments but that’s it. Malisse got started by shutting down 5th seed Jarkko Nieminen 76(3) 63 in a close match. Nieminen won the Heineken Open in 2006, but since then hasn’t got past the first round, losing to Olivier Rochus last year and now the X-Man this year. But those are some tough draws. Give Jarkko a New Zealand wildcard in the first round next year, he deserves it. Malisse ran into Nicolas Massu in the second round, losing 64 64. Or is that 46 46? Both players were serving well, but when Malisse did play a bad service game Massu pounced on it and took him out. Qualifier Massu looks like a man on a mission, and I’m looking forward to his match against Ferrero tomorrow.

Marin Cilic was in the same boat as Malisse, winning his first match against Tomas Cakl 64 63 but falling to 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 63 67(5) 64 in the second round. Cilic almost won that match and he looks like a great young player. The kid is very tall, has a big serve and can rush the net something fierce. One to keep your eye on. Cilic is very similar to Mario Ancic actually, they're both the same height even, 6 foot 5. As for Kohlschreiber, the German has a bit of an attitude on him. He has no reservations about snarling at ball boys, pointing out line judges’ shortcomings and complaining to the chair umpire. It makes him a more interesting player though. They can’t all be nice guys on court. In his quarterfinal match tomorrow Kohlschreiber will face a more pleasant German, Florian Mayer. Mayer upset the number 2 seed Juan Ignacio Chela 63 76(7). Chela looked vulnerable against King-Turner on Monday so it’s not a huge surprise he went out, but he did have some set points in the second set so it could have gone either way. Mayer played very well though, and could give Kohlschreiber some problems in the all-German match tomorrow. As Mayer said, his goal is to “make it difficult” for the higher ranked players that he faces.

See what I did there? I started talking about the guys who played two matches, but then I seamlessly transitioned into recaps of the other results. Well maybe not seamlessly, but thanks for bearing with me. Smooth like gravel. Quarterfinals day tomorrow, anything could happen.

Sticking with the orange theme here’s a picture of David Ferrer. His outfit may look a little red in the photo, but it’s as orange as a traffic cone. There’s a shiny silver pattern on the shirt as well, it’s retro yet space age. Juan Carlos Ferrero was wearing the exact same thing today, they’re Lotto buddies.

Two pictures today, here's Marin Cilic. He's not Ivo Karlovic tall, but he's still pretty tall.

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