On the road: I’m travelling for most of this week, so blogging will be light. Moving on…
Belgrade: It’s a good thing the top four seeds got byes into the second round, since all the seeds who were in action yesterday fell in their first match. Ernests Gulbis is perhaps most disappointing–he is encouraging us to forget his strong clay season last year, now with a straight-set loss to Ilya Marchenko. Also out is 5th-seed John Isner, less of a surprise on clay. I guess we should give Isner credit for showing up; he and Robert Kendrick are the only Americans to play on clay since Houston.
Congrats to Fernando Gonzalez, winner of his first match in nearly a year. He made it look easy, getting past Martin Klizan–himself a big hitter–in straight sets. I doubt he’ll be much of a factor in the bigger clay events, but it’s great to have him back. He’ll play Feliciano Lopez later today, and the sportsbooks give him only a 33% chance of reaching the quarters.
Estoril: Much credit is due to Pedro Sousa, a 22 year old from Portugal. Currently ranked #488, he worked hard to qualify–in fact, he hadn’t so much as qualified for a challenger-level event since November. His run came to end yesterday, but he went out in style, taking a set from Juan Martin del Potro.
In today’s second round, Delpo plays Alejandro Falla for a probable quarterfinal with Robin Soderling. If Soderling is back in form and health, that could be the match of the week.
Munich: For whatever reason, Stanislas Wawrinka sat out the first few clay events, failing to defend his Casablanca title from last year. That strategy didn’t look very good yesterday, when he fell to Dustin Brown in three sets. It’s a huge win for Brown, who had never before won a ATP-level match on clay.
The bottom half of the draw is now ripe for the taking. 3rd-seed Marin Cilic is favored by ranking; he’ll probably draw Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters, and if all goes according to plan, Phillip Kohlschreiber in the semis.
Challengers: James Blake is playing again this week in Sarasota, and he beat Marinko Matosevic in his opening match. That gives him a second-round matchup with Donald Young, the man who defeated him two weeks ago in Tallahassee.
As you may have heard, Young has plenty of his mind these days, with a highly-publicized spat with the USTA over (in part) the French Open wild card. (If you haven’t heard, Greg Couch has written a good summary.) It’s unfortunate that this is happening when Young is playing his best tennis in recent memory, fresh off the Tallahassee title and the upset of Andy Murray. It’s always amazed me just how many wild cards Young was awarded over the years; it’s too bad he didn’t get them when he could use them.
Speaking of young Americans, Ryan Harrison also played Sarasota, but made an early exit to Amer Delic. The less young Wayne Odesnik qualified again, but also fell in the first round.