It isn’t 2006 anymore: Both Nikolay Davydenko and Ivan Ljubicic were in action yesterday, and both are headed home early. Davydenko lost in straight sets to Kevin Anderson, never even earning a break point chance against the South African. Ljubicic fell to qualifier Paolo Lorenzi, which must be at least partly due to lingering health issues.
Holding out hope for a return to mid-2000′s form is James Blake, who squeaked into the second round against American qualifier Michael Russell. Blake had to win it the hard way, taking tiebreaks in the second and third sets. He’ll next face the Brazilian lefty Thomaz Bellucci, a matchup that gives him a decent shot at getting through to the third round.
Bad day for Americans: Russell was representative of the U.S. qualifiers. Robert Kendrick had to retire midway through his match against Igor Kunitsyn; Donald Young fell to Denis Istomin, and Ryan Sweeting failed to follow up on his strong showing at Indian Wells, losing to Xavier Malisse.
In fact, the only American besides Blake to win yesterday was Alex Bogomolov, who needed three sets to get by Victor Hanescu. That’s a solid win for the resurgent Bogie, who will try to do his best Donald Young impression tomorrow when he faces Andy Murray.
More upsets: It wasn’t a good day for favorites. Going by sportsbook odds, 9 of yesterday’s 16 matches were upsets, and one of the 7 non-upsets was the no-brainer contest between Juan Martin del Potro and Ricardo Mello.
Perhaps the most disappointing loss was Bernard Tomic’s failure to get past Pablo Andujar. Tomic lost serve after going up 40-0 at 5-6 in the third set. Andujar was a fantastic draw for the Aussie, as he’s a clay court specialist with very little success on hard courts.
One last result that catches my eye is Marsel Ilhan’s 6-2 6-1 victory over Tobias Kamke. The decision isn’t a big surprise; sportsbooks had the match about even. Whenever I’ve watched Ilhan, he’s been very streaky–the sort of guy who will win a match 7-6 0-6 6-1. Outside of a few good challenger results, this is the first time he’s dismantled someone in the top 100 since he beat Pablo Cuevas 6-2 6-2 in the Miami first round last year.
On the card: Lots of good stuff on the schedule today. Both American 18-year-olds will be playing: Ryan Harrison takes on Rainer Schuettler in the night session, and Jack Sock plays Carlos Berlocq this afternoon. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s a big opportunity for Sock. He might have drawn the weakest hard-court player in the field.
Many more young stars are in action today, as well. Kei Nishikori takes on Jeremy Chardy; sportbooks give the Japanese a slight edge, while my projections put the match exactly even. Richard Berankis draws Feliciano Lopez, and Grigor Dimitrov, straight from a comfortable trip through qualifying, will face Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Doubles draw: Without Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the doubles field isn’t nearly as headline-grabbing as that of Indian Wells. There are still plenty of top players involved.
Murray and Novak Djokovic are teaming up, and they face a possible second-rounder with Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor. For that to happen, Mirnyi and Nestor will have to win their opener against Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco.
Sadly, last week’s champions Malisse and Alexandr Dolgopolov aren’t reuniting, though both are in the draw. Dolgo is teaming with Nicolas Almagro, and Malisse is paired with Jamie Murray. Dolgo and Almagro are set for a second-round match with the Bryans; the American duo will start their tournament against the wild card team of Harrison and Sock.
One more: Much later today–it will be Friday in China–there’s a great match at the Pingguo challenger. Uladzimir Ignatik and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, two fast-rising youngsters, face off in a quarterfinal. Stebe is attempting to reach his third consecutive challenger semifinal is as many weeks, while Ignatik will try to beat the German for the second time. These are both guys who you can expect to see in the top 100 within another year or two.
At the rate Stebe is climbing, he could get there by fall.
See you tomorrow!