It says a lot for the depth of the men’s game right now that Frederic Niemeyer, a guy ranked 487 in the world, could take Roger Federer to a first set tie-break in the second round of the Montreal Masters. The Canadian wild card made the most of his moment on Tuesday night, playing tough before the World No. 1 beat him 7-6(3), 6-4. Good for Frederic, but I was just happy to see Federer back on court. It was a little strange – after this crazy season and all that Roger’s accomplished – like, “Oh yeah, the guy still plays tennis.” Not that I’m complaining.
Rafael Nadal was also on court Tuesday, again with his “old” friend and sometime-coach, Francisco Roig. As much as I wish Rafa would pace himself, I’m impressed that this odd couple almost took out a top notch doubles team, barely losing to the experienced duo of Mirnyi/Ram:4-6, 6-3, 10-8. Rafa’s real test will come on Wednesday, when he takes on David Ferrer in a night match.
Another former No. 1 from Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero beat an injured Lleyton Hewitt on Tuesday: 6-1, 6-4, in the battle of the wild card vs. the qualifier. JCF, who is ranked 29 in the world, was the qualifier. Lleyton Hewitt, ranked 40, was the wild card. Someone asked why the Spaniard had to play two rounds of qualifying, considering the top 52 players are automatically entered into the Masters draws. The Montreal draw was determined using ranking from 6 weeks ago – considering that Juan Carlos jumped from #70 to #37 in the world between June 22 and July 6 of this year, you can see how quickly things have changed for the guy who talking about the “R” word earlier this season.
Here’s Juan Carlos in Washington last week: “I’m motivated again. I think I can play at the same level I did before. I want to keep going, be motivated all the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s here (Legg Mason) or the U.S. Open.” (via Washington Post.)
Juan Carlos Ferrero is the anti-Safin, a 29 year-old former World No. 1 and Grand Slam Champ (Roland Garros, 2003) who – unlike the Russian – is determined to squeeze every drop of potential out of his wiry frame. (Love this quote from JCF on Tuesday: “Of course, it’s very tough to play quallies when you’ve been blah, blah, blah.“ It’s just “blah, blah, blah” under the bridge, Juan Carlos.)
Andy Murray beat Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-2 on Tuesday in his first ATP singles match since Wimbledon, saving all 10 of the breakpoints against him. The big Murray story this week? If he wins this tournament Andy will elbow past Rafa to become World No. 2. The Telegraph U.K. crunched the numbers:
“But Murray does not have to win the tournament to improve his ranking. A statistician for the men’s tour has calculated that Murray could also move up the list if he reaches the semi-finals in Canada, and Nadal loses in the second or third round, or if he features in the final and the Majorcan goes no further than the semi-finals on the cement.”
Spare a thought for Novak Djokovic, who was ranked No. 3 from July 2007 to May 2009 and has, unlike Murray, actually won a Major. The rankings can be cruel sometimes. (Nole’s through to the third round after beating Peter Polansky in a tough two sets.)
Speaking of rankings, Marat Safin had some choice words on Monday (after losing to Monfils) on the Battle of the Real No. 1s (that would be Dinara vs. Serena, who are both playing in Cincinnati this week): “I hope (Dinara) can be No. 1 for a long time so she can prove to everybody that they can go f*ck themselves.”
(Don’t worry, Serena, you could take him!)
When asked if Marat might coach Dinara now that his career was coming to an end he answered: “Oh, you want me to hang myself?” (via Forty Deuce)
Marat may be fading on court, but he’s sharp as ever in the press room (another quote from Monday via ASAP Sports ):
Q. Can an old journalist make a suggestion here?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah.
Q. How about, when you get nervous, a little vodka?
MARAT SAFIN: I’ll have a lot of plans to do it afterwards.
Marat should pass the bottle to Dinara, who squeaked by Roberta Vinci in Cincy on Tuesday: 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Vinci served for the second set and Dinara had to fight back from a break down in the third. On second thought, maybe it’s Vinci who needs the vodka. Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova also advanced.
Wednesday’s killer matches include: Jelena Jankovic vs. Maria Kirilenko, Patty Schnyder vs. Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams vs. Kateryna Bondarenko in Cincy and Ferrero vs. Monfils, Roddick vs. Andreev and Nadal vs. Ferrer in Montreal.
Rogers’ Cup coverage continues Wednesday on Tennis Channel – click here for the TV schedule. (Sorry, no Cincy on TV until Thursday.)