We’ll resume the Davis Cup previews in a bit, but first, I want to send out a salute to the guy who found this site yesterday by googling “Arnaud Clement v Stefan Seifert preview.” I knew you were out there, crazy men’s tennis fans, and I’m glad you found me.
As it happened, Seifert (remember, ranked outside of the top thousand two weeks ago) defeated Clement in straight sets. He’ll face Stephane Robert today.
In Dallas: It continues to be a successful week for American youngsters. Yesterday, Jack Sock had an easy time getting past Bjorn Phau, a match I had expected to go the almost exact opposite way. Sock will advance to the quarterfinals and next face Matthew Ebden, and you have to figure the American has a good shot at going even further.
Denis Kudla also has a chance to make further inroads, matching up with Australian Greg Jones later today.
Mighty Milos: Carl Bialik in the Wall Street Journal writes about Milos Raonic‘s epic serving of late–he’s on a pace to take down the all-time single-season ace record, among other things.
In light of my discussion yesterday of the career trajectory of tall, big-serving players, one wonders just how much farther Raonic can go. Certainly he hasn’t reached his peak yet, but is he a top-10 player? Personally, I think he has a huge amount of development left. By the time he’s done, he’ll be less of a one-trick serving pony and more like Andy Roddick in his prime, a huge server with a game that (mostly) backs it up.
Speaking of Milos: Raonic is one of the five men awarded a wild card into the main draw at Indian Wells. With his ranking in the 30′s, he certainly deserves to be there, but the entry list was determined before he started reeling off match wins, so he just missed the initial cut.
Other WC’s go to James Blake (of course), Ryan Harrison (ditto), Bernard Tomic, and Kei Nishikori. We’ll have to see about Tomic’s status, as he retired from yesterday’s singles match in Dallas.
Futures update: Here’s one player to watch who isn’t in the draw in Dallas: Australian 18-year-old Benjamin Mitchell. Mitchell has strung together some success of late, reaching the final of Australia F13 in November, then winning five matches in January to qualify for and reach the quarters of the Burnie challenger before losing to Tomic. He’s among the top 10 ranked players in the world aged 18 or younger.
This week, he’s the 5th seed at Australia F2 and has had two easy matches to reach another quarterfinal.
Oh, and the tournament, in Berri, Australia, is played on grass.
Davis Cup update: Before we preview two more ties, a quick update: The Serbia-India tie has gone from “lopsided but still mildly interesting” to “why bother?” Novak Djokovic is out, as are Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. I guess the one positive is that Rohan Bopanna will get to play doubles.
Preview: Croatia vs. Germany: This one should be fun. The Croats have Marin Cilic, who matches up favorably with both Phillip Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer, the German singles players. But Kohlschreiber and Mayer both outrank the other Croatian singles nominee, Ivan Dodig, and the German doubles team of Phillipp Petzschner and Christopher Kas looks better than any pairing the Croats can come up with.
And while Cilic is the superior player, he’s hardly known for his steel under pressure. Dodig, while new to the top 100, won a title last month and played well in Delray Beach. I’m going to predict Croatia, 3-2, but I can imagine it going as far as 4-1 in either direction.
Austria vs. France: Like Robin Soderling for Sweden, Jurgen Melzer needs to have a big weekend if Austria is to get out of the first round. France is weakened by injury, missing Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Richard Gasquet, but they still sport one of the best Davis Cup squads in the world.
Melzer is slated to play all three days, and he’ll have to win every match he plays. The singles are within reach, as he’s scheduled to match up with Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy. The doubles could be tougher, and the French are sending out a team of Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.
It’s a tall order for any player, and Melzer hasn’t had any major recent success since October, when he beat Rafael Nadal and won Vienna in successive weeks. I’ll predict France, 3-2.
See you tomorrow!