Just a couple (i.e. a whole bunch) of interesting tennis tidbits going into Miami this week:
1. The Sony Ericsson Open Draw
Wow, Roger and Rafa on the same side of the draw. How 2010. Perhaps they’re cowering in fear, far from the wrath of the Great Djokovic? Whatever, at least things have gotten interesting at the top of the men’s game. Instead of Nole and Murray battling it out for the title of King of the Masters, we have a real competition going on for things that matter – like the number one ranking. And no matter how the guys waffle about it, I think they all remember Roger’s famous quote (perhaps I’m paraphrasing here out of laziness): “It’s No. 1 that matters.”
2. Nole’s publicly come down on Rafa’s side of the Fedal GOAT debate (via Tennis.com):
“I think he’s the best ever because, even though he’s 24 years old, he has done so much already,” Djokovic said. “Many years in front of him too, I think even to overtake Roger in the Grand Slam trophies.”
3. Bodo made me chuckle, in his latest piece on Sampras Federer:
“TMF may not be motivated to bag more Masters titles, or perhaps even Grand Slam trophies. But he needs to want something if he’s going to to continue to be a force. Why not a desire for Djokovic’s head on a platter?”
4. But come on, how can Pete and I be so callous and childish, when guys like Nole and Rafa and Murray are spending their limited free time raising funds for victims of the disaster in Japan. How f’ing cool is this?
Responding to the tragic events unfolding in Japan, ATP World Tour #2 player Novak Djokovic will lead a team of ATP men’s stars in an exhibition soccer match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a professional soccer team to raise money for the disaster in Japan.
The match will take place at Ransom Everglades High School tomorrow (Wednesday, March 23) at 7:00 p.m. Joining Team Nole are the likes of Rafa, Andy Murray and David Ferrer. A dinner and auction follow (tickets available via www.gr8miami.com) Here’s the full list of confirmed participants via the Sony Ericsson Open website:
Uh, yeah, that will be completely, utterly and completely AMAZINGLY FUN! And what a great idea and gesture, as the Japan crisis struggles to harness much fundraising mojo, despite the suffering its people are enduring. These tennis stars make me so proud – now go kick the Strikers’ asses, Team Nole! (And I hope Roger donated something big to the auction.)
5. Back to the draw. . . Rafa has some tricky early rounds vs. Jeremy Chardy and/or Feliciano Lopez or even Lithuanian young gun, Richard Berankis. And holy smokes, he could get the winner of Tsonga vs. Dolgopolov in the Round of 16! Oh, if only I had the sick days. . . Only hard core Rafa fans wouldn’t look forward to a Karlovic vs. Nadal rematch in the quarters, though Berdych and Almagro are the more likely seeds to get through.
Roger faces the winner of Stepanek vs. Fognini in the second round. Grigor “Baby Fed, II” Dimitrov is the young gun in his section and a possible 3rd round opponent, though Juan “I got dissed at Ristorante Mamma Gina” Monaco is the more likely opponent. Baghdatis or Youzhny are his possible Rd. of 16s. Simon and Roddick (who could play each other in the third round) lurk as tantalizing quarterfinal possibilities for the Fed.
Soderling is the high seed in the third quarter, but he’s hardly the fan favorite in the third quarter, what with Milos “King of the Snowbirds” Raonic and Mardy “local” Fish in this section. Add Kohlschreiber, Gasquet, Wawrinka and Llodra to the mix, and this is – barring Almagro – the flashy one-hander section of the draw ie. my favorite. Just take a look at some of the likely third rounds: Ferrer vs. Raonic, Llodra vs. Wawrinka, Fish vs. Gasquet and Kohlschreiber vs. Soderling (oh wait, Del Potro’s in Robin’s section, too!) are absolutely ridiculous tennis geek fodder. This section of the draw would make one hell of an ATP 500 tournament.
Djokovic, who we assume will be in full Terminator mode, gets Andy Murray as his seeded quarterfinal opponent. John Isner’s a possible third round for the struggling Murray, though I could see the Brit turning things around on his “home” turf. Verdasco’ is Murray’s seeded Rd. of 16 opponent. In Nole’s section, countryman Troicki is his seeded Rd. of 16, though the streaking Serb has a gauntlet of moody yet dangerous Americans to get through including the likes of Donald Young, James Blake, Michael Russell and Sam Querrey.
Sounds like fun to me!
6. Not fun: no Williams sisters at their beloved Miami tournament. But there are still some amusing matchups coming our way on the women’s side of the draw. No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki could face Bethanie Mattek-Sands in her first match, then the winner of Oudin vs. Hantuchova. Andrea Petkovic is a possible Rd. of 16 opponent and Jelena Jankovic is the seeded quarterfinalist in her section.
Sam Stosur and Li Na anchor the second quarter, with Maria Sharapova and Sveta Kuznetsova making up the creamy Russian center. Lots of talent to burn in this section. . .or is it fizzle? I’m kind of pulling for Aravane Rezai to do something.
You know I’m rooting for Francesca Schiavone, opposite Vera Zvonareva in the third quarter. Look out for an awesomely angsty first round in WC Dinara Safina vs. Q Jelena Dokic, the winner to play Vera. Last week’s finalist, Marion Bartoli, is Vera’s seeded Rd. of 16 opponent.
Vika Azarenka and Kim Clijsters are the top dogs in the bottom quarter, with Ana Ivanovic a tantalizing Rd. of 16 match-up for Kim.
7. Here’s second seed Kim Clijsters on the top ranking (via the Miami Herald)
For Clijsters, mother of 3-year-old Jada, No. 1 is an annoyance.
“It’s a number,” she said. “When you’re No. 1 there’s even more things to do. I say, ‘Oh, let her do that.’ ”
Pete is all smiles now — we’re told a private investigator working the case for Sampras got a tip the boxes (of trophies and memorabilia) would be dropped off behind a Los Angeles hospital on Saturday.
According to law enforcement, the PI tipped off security at the hospital, who eventually spotted the boxes and called LAPD. We’re told cops have no idea how they got there, but they are investigating.