Bye bye bye: It only happens a few times a year, and it entertains me every time. Both Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych had byes in the first round of Barcelona, and both withdrew. They were replaced by lucky losers, who then got byes straight to the second round. Good deal, right? Lose in the qualifying round, then find yourself in the round of 32.
Unfortunately, neither Rui Machado nor Mischa Zverev could convert on their opportunity. Machado, who replaced Berdych, lost to Kei Nishikori, while Zverev, who took Murray’s place, fell in a close contest to Juan Carlos Ferrero. Ferrero may benefit the most from Murray’s departure–Nicholas Almagro is the main obstacle now between JC and a semifinal berth.
In fact, the bottom quarter is the most interesting in the draw. Earlier today, 16th-seed Juan Monaco won only five games in a loss to 5’8″ Italian qualifier Simone Vagnozzi, about as lowly an underdog as you’ll find in an ATP 500. Vagnozzi only advanced to the second round thanks to Fabio Fognini’s retirement in the first, and today’s victory marks the highlight of his journeyman career. Vagnozzi is Ferrero’s next opponent.
Almagro may have his work cut out for him, as well. Nikolay Davydenko reminded us that he’s still alive by knocking out Alexandr Dolgopolov yesterday, and he faces the relatively easy challenge of qualifier Eduoard Roger-Vasselin in the second round.
Catching up: I wasn’t able to follow Barcelona qualifying over the weekend, and looking back at how it played out, there are a couple of things worth mentioning. Doubles specialist Marc Lopez, who rarely plays singles these days, took a wild card, then got to a third-set tiebreak against Jarkko Nieminen in the qualifying round. Not bad–he might have fared better against Carlos Berlocq than Nieminen did yesterday.
Up-and-coming clay courter Evgeny Donskoy was the lowest-ranked player in qualifying, yet he beat 9th seed Jesse Huta Galung in the first round, then lost Vagnozzi in the qualifying round. Oddly, those two faced each other only a couple of months ago in a Futures-level final, and that day, the Russian came out on top.
Looking forward: Still on the card for today is Milos Raonic’s second-rounder, against Simon Greul, as well as the Davydenko match. Robin Soderling will begin his Barcelona campaign as well, against Ivan Dodig, who took a set from the Swede back in Miami. Soderling’s standing as the last man to beat Rafael Nadal on clay makes him one to watch. He’s seeded to face Nadal in the semis this week.
By the time you read this, Nadal will probably be into the round of 16. He’s up 5-0 on Daniel Gimeno-Traver, in a match where at least one oddsmaker set DGT at 81-1. Rafa’s next victim will be Santiago Giraldo, who you wouldn’t think has any more of a chance.
See you tomorrow!