Tenaciously Tennis

Harrison and Capra Win, Roddick and Oudin Fall in Second Round

American Teen Ryan Harrison secured the biggest win of his young career during one of, if not the, biggest tournaments. Harrison routed 15th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the US Open. Another young American talent to look out for is the 18-year-old wild card Beatrice Capra, ranked 371 in the world. A changing of the guard, however, welcomes these two Americans into the equation as veteran Andy Roddick lost to Janko Tipsarevic in four disheartening sets, while Melanie Oudin, last year’s breakout American star, lost to Alona Bondarenko  6-2, 7-5.

Harrison next draws a strong player in Sergiy Stakhovsky, who won his fourth title at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven last week. Stakhovsky, currently ranked a career-high of 36, won’t have the crowd’s support, but he does have the form needed to get to the third round and end a good run by the youngest man left in the draw. Then again, Stakhovsky could be fatigued after winning the title. Plus, he escaped an intense first round match against Peter Luczak. Stakhovsky needed four sets, 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, to advance.

As much as I like Harrison, and what he means for American tennis, I’m going with the Ukrainian to reach his career-best major showing. Harrison, on the other hand, has a bright future. We’ll see what kind of tennis he produces tomorrow, and if he can handle the pressure associated with scoring a big upset in the previous round.

The Maryland-native Capra, who trained at College Park’s Junior Champions Tennis Center before heading to Chris Evert’s tennis academy, defeated the 18th seed Aravane Rezai 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Her next opponent: Maria Sharapova. Can Capra channel Oudin, who had success over the Russian champion last year, to get to the fourth round? I’m guessing not. Sharapova’s on a mission: her strong US Open Series and dominating performance in the first two matches of the US Open show she means business.  I don’t see Capra overcoming Sharapova anymore than I expected Oudin’s run. But, of course, Cinderella stories do happen in tennis, and they’ve happened quite frequently in the majors this year, especially on the WTA tour.

On the flip side, it’s sad to report that both Roddick and Oudin failed to meet expectations. While Roddick was outplayed by a sharp Tipsarevic, Oudin looked lost in the first set against Bondarenko, before putting up a fight in the second. She looked shaky thoughout, not holding serve effectively, while committing a staggering 38 unforced errors to only nine winners. She has the game, she’s proven that. Now, it’s all about coming to terms with the pressure success brings. It’ll happen one day. Look for Oudin to reemerge in 2011 with the same belief and courage that got her to the 2009 Wimbledon fourth round and the quarters at the US Open.

In other news:

  • Robin Soderling defeated Taylor Dent 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
  • The 19th-seeded Mardy Fish advanced against Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.
  • Wild card James Blake fended off Peter Polansky 6-7 (1), 6-3 6-2, 6-4.

US Open Predictions – ATP Tour

The US Open is finally upon us. The stage has been set, the qualifying is over, and the last major of the year is underway. Here’s my review of each section of the draw.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter:

This section of the draw is owned by one man: Rafael Nadal, the number one player in the world, and the winner of both the French Open and Wimbledon. He’s primed to take home his first US Open title on paper, but his US Open Series has been severely lacking, raising some questions about his most recent form on the hard courts. Regardless, this is a major tournament, and there’s no one that enjoys the grind more than Nadal.

The first real test for the Spaniard seems to be Ivan Ljubicic, but even that’s a stretch. I’m going for Nadal to get through to the quarterfinals in dominating fashion.

Other notables: Ryan Harrison, the young American qualifier, plays Ljubicic in the first round. Can he get the upset? Probably not.

Fernando Verdasco’s Quarter:

Verdasco and David Ferrer, both Spaniards, own this section of the draw. There is, however, a very dangerous 31st seed in the Argentinian David Nalbandian. Something about Ernests Gulbis, the 24th seed, is also enticing. I’ll pick Gulbis to face against Nalbandian for a spot in the quarters. In that match, I’m going with Nalbandian to find himself across the net from Nadal.

Other notables: None. I’ll just stress that Gulbis and Nalbandian are ones to watch.

Andy Murray’s Quarter:

With a strong US Open Series, including his win over both Nadal and Federer in Toronto, I like the looks of Murray going into this event. And his path doesn’t look to difficult until getting to the fourth round. There, I’m going with Sam Querrey to fight for the chance at the second week.

Murray, however, will win in three or four sets. He’s too masterful of a tactician to get shocked by Querrey’s power.

Other notables: Can the 14th seed Nicholas Almagro make any noise by defeating the home favorite Querrey in the third round?

Tomas Berdych’s Quarter:

The tennis world hasn’t heard too much from Berdych since his stunning run to the Wimbledon finals, where he was promptly dominated by Nadal. This section of the draw won’t make a repeat performance any easier. With Mikhail Youzhny, Xavier Malisse, and John Isner looming in the background, Berdych will need to prove he’s ready to continue his success at the majors. He made the semifinals at the French Open, too. Can he keep up the form when the pressure’s really on?

I’m going for the compelling match-up featuring Isner and Berdych. Although Isner’s health looks questionable, get injured in the last tournament he played, I’m looking for a good showing for the American giant. In the fourth round, however, Berdych stops the big guy without a problem.

Other notables: Youzhny could very well break my prediction with some inspired play against Isner in the third round. Watch out.

Nikolai Davydenko’s Quarter:

While this is called Davydenko’s section — he’s the sixth seed?! — it really belongs to Andy Roddick. Davydenko has been suffering recently with injury, and while Roddick isn’t doing too much better health-wise with his mono, he’s proven he’s on the fast track to recovery. I say it’s already a thing of the past.

Roddick shouldn’t have too much trouble making it to the fourth round. Gael Monfil had a lot of trouble in his first round match, barely getting by Robert Kendrick in the first round. I predict Roddick gets into the quarterfinals.

Other notables: The Frenchman Richard Gasquet may very well have the form to take out Davydenko early on. Even so, I’d say Roddick can dispatch Gasquet without too much trouble.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter:

This section also reads incredibly tough on paper. While Djokovic stands out as the heavy favorite to get through by seeding, one American, Mardy Fish, has been playing some incredible tennis recently. At the top of the quarter, the 16th seed Marcos Baghdatis is more fit than ever before. I call Fish advancing in a tight and dramatic four-setter against the Cypriot. The winner faces Djokovic without a doubt.

Other notables: Wild card James Blake and Robby Ginepri might become inspired by the home crowd. Both made the US Open quarterfinals a few years ago.

Robin Soderling’s Quarter:

Although Soderling, the 5th seed, looked shaky in the opening round, he gains confidence as the tournament progress. He’ll make the fourth round without dropping another set.

Marin Cilic finds good form — he looked good in practice when the qualifying tournament was going on — and doesn’t drop a set on his way to play Soderling. That is, unless one Japanese qualifer doesn’t get in his way (explained below) In the probably match Cilic-Soderling, however, Soderling prevails in five sets.

Other notables: Qualifier Kei Nishikori, who made the fourth round before injury set in, has looked sharp so far in his four matches. With a withdrawal after two sets in the first round, he’ll have the extra rest to do some damage. He may give Cilic a real test in the third round. In fact, I hope he does.

Roger Federer’s Quarter:

This section, of course, belongs to Federer. He’s gunning for his second major in a year and number 17 in total. After losing in two straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, he’s hungry for the win. With Paul Annacone as his full-time coach and his new, aggressive brand of tennis, he’s looking very, very good. Federer cruises into the quarterfinals in straight sets all the way.

Other notables: Jurgen Melzer and Lleyton Hewitt are promising, but there’s no way either can get past Federer in a major tournament.

The Quarters and Semis:

In the top half, Nadal defeats Nalbandian in four, while Andy Murray loses to Berdych in five sets. In the semis — a rematch of Wimbledon — Nadal dispatches Berdych, although this time in four sets.

In the bottom half, Roddick faces Djokovic, a player he’s beaten four times in a row. He continues the streak to make the semis. There, he faces Federer, the winner versus Soderling to avenge his quarterfinal defeat at Roland Garros. Federer beats Roddick in three.

Wimbledon Predictions – The ATP Tour

Roger Federer’s loss to Lleyton Hewitt last week and a tough draw for Rafael Nadal signify a tough time for the two previous champions. Can both overcome the tough challenge that lays ahead of them? I think so. Let’s take a systematic look at the draw and crack this year’s Wimbledon code.

The First Quarter:

Notables – Roger Federer (1), Tommy Robredo (30), Feliciano Lopez (22), Jurgen Melzer (16), Tomas Berdych (12), Stanislas Wawrinka (20), Victor Hanescu (31), Nikolai Davydenko (7)

In this section, the obvious person to pull through is Federer, the five time champion. I see him advancing to the fourth round without much trouble. Once there, however, I see a tough test against Tomas Berdych in the future. Also noteworthy, Lopez of Spain, who beat Nadal a couple weeks ago. While Federer didn’t play too sharply against Hewitt in his pre-Wimbledon warm-up, it’s a different story in a Grand Slam. Watch Davydenko, whose been having a tough year so far, falter before the fourth round.

The Final Four: Federer faces Lopez, and Berdych handily defeats an ailing Davydenko.

The Second Quarter:

NotablesNovak Djokovic (3), Taylor Dent, Albert Montanes (28), Gael Monfils (21), Lleyton Hewitt (15), Marin Cilic (11), Mardy Fish, Ivan Ljubicic (17), Philipp Kohlschreiber (29), Andy Roddick (5)

This is a difficult part of the draw for Roddick, the guy I’m rooting for. He’s had some poor results this past few months, including a basically non-existent clay court season. Yes, he made it to the third round, which is as good as a showing as any for the top male American, but his third showing at Queens Club was his worst ever. Hopefully, this 2009 Wimbledon finalist can recall the drive and belief that took him to a fifth set against Federer last year. That match his to win. I see Roddick making it to the fourth round without losing a set. There’s no one to do any damage to his exceptional serving game and strong baseline rallying capabilities. The rest these past few months might also help. If anything, he’s fresh. It’s all up to the Roddick serve. Once he makes it there, I see a tough match against Marin Cilic in his future. He should, however, pull through.

The Final Four: Hewitt looks to be a difficult opponent with his win against Federer. I say he dismantles Djokovic. In the bottom half, Roddick proves to be too much for Cilic.

The Third Quarter:

Notables – Fernando Verdasco (8), Julien Benneteau (32), Nicholas Almagro (19), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10), Juan Carlos Ferrero (14), Sam Querrey (18), Gilles Simon (26), Andy Murray (4)

Out of this slew of players, the only one that I feel holds a chance at victory is Sam Querrey, which is surprising given his lackluster Grand Slam performances in the past. With his best performance coming in the fourth round of the 2008 US Open, and only making it to the second round at Wimbledon last year, he has a lot to prove. Regardless, his career high ranking and win over compatriot Mardy Fish in the finals of Queens Club shows he’s ready to do well on grass. With three titles to his name already this year, I see at least a quarterfinal run for the giant American. It won’t be easy with Murray as a potential fourth round opponent, but I like his chances. A lot.

The Final Four: Tsonga surprises Verdasco in five close sets in the top half. In the bottom section, Querrey gives everything to take out Britain’s hope Murray in another five set blockbuster to make his first quarterfinal showing in a Grand Slam.

The Fourth Quarter:

Notables – Robin Soderling (7), Robby Ginepri, Thomaz Bellucci (25), Marcos Baghdatis (24), David Ferrer (9), Mikhail Youzhny (13), John Isner (23), Philipp Petzschner (33), James Blake, Rafael Nadal (2)

Notice Nadal’s section as probably one of, if not the, most difficult in all four sections. I think he needs to watch out for John Isner big time. There’s no saying how Isner will play on a given day. But if he’s at his best, and his baseline game mirrors his wicked serve, the American can take out anyone, even Nadal. I’m not saying that’s probable, but it’s a slim possibility. On the top section, Soderling has a difficult match afainst Ginepri to go through. Other than that, it should be an easy time to make it to the fourth round. There, I see him facing Marcos Baghatis.

The Final Four: Soderling defeats Baghdatis in three sets, and Nadal faces a test against Isner in four.

Second Week Predictions:

  • Federer fends off Berdych
  • Roddick stops Hewitt’s string of grass wins in three
  • Querrey, assuming he plays the match of his life against Murray, faces a pumped up Tsonga. Querrey wins in five for a second straight top ten victory.
  • Nadal notches another win against the Swedish Soderling in a three set repeat of the French Open final.

In the semifinals, I don’t see Roddick repeating the excellent play against Federer. I think he’ll bow out in four sets, much to my chagrin. As for Querrey (or Murray with a serious asterisk), Nadal’s too much to handle in a Grand Slam semifinal. Get ready for much-needed Federer – Nadal final. We’ll leave that prediction for another day — it’s just too close to decide in my mind.

For the men’s official draw, look here.

Pre-Wimbledon Woes – The Curious Case of Upsets

So, Wimbledon is still just around the corner. In the tournaments leading up to the Grand Slam, the top tennis players are dropping out like flies. All over the place. Tons of seeds just wilting on the grass, their games completely grounded by far less skills tennis players. Okay, well, maybe not far less skills since anyone can beat anyone these days. But still, it’s been a shaky couple days of results. Here’s just a list of the top disappointments:

  • James Blake loses his return match in straight sets after recovering from a knee injury; he’s fallen outside of the top 100.
  • Americans Ryan Harrison and Donald Young falter in the Wimbledon qualifying, continuing to fail to make their mark on the pro level.
  • Elena Dementieva, although not technically an upset, pulls out of Wimbledon due to the calf injury that forced her to retire from the French semifinals.
  • Both the French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and the world’s number thee play Caroline Wozniacki lost in Eastbourne.
  • Ivan Ljubicic, Ana Ivanovic, and Maria Kirilenko fall at the Unicef Open.

There we have it, an unlikely crowd of players all unable to get it together before the big event. Maybe it’s kind of like acting where it’s good to have a bad dress rehearsal right before the show starts. Who knows? Out of the big names to fall, I’m most surprised by the exits of Dementieva and Wozniacki. It’s sad to see such a good player succumb once more to injury, especially on a surface that’s treated her so well in the past. In fact, just last year she gave Serena Williams a run for her money during the Wimbledon semifinals. I feel for Dementieva, and I hope she gets her chance some day. She deserves it.

And that got me thinking, I was recently talking to my Uncle, a fellow tennis aficionado, and he reminded me of Schiavone’s momentous win and what that must mean for other players at her age. For example, take the case of Patty Schnyder, who he mentioned. She’s around the same age as Schiavone. Not only that, but her favorite surface is clay, and she was in the top ten for ages. Schiavone? Not at all. How must she be feeling to have had her run cut so short in Paris, while her fellow veteran not only advances to the second week, but wins the whole thing? You gotta think not very good.

But, regardless, there’s the other way to look at it, too. Maybe veterans like Schnyder who’ve been flirting with success for years feel energized by Schiavone. Instead of being discouraged, they’re recharged. I certainly hope it’s the later. And, yes, their dreams won’t all be realized, but anything can happen with a little belief. I’m a firm believer in that.

Nadal, Federer, or the Field – Who Will Win?

Well, I recently took a look at the WTA tour, and the potential winners for the French, deeming Justine Henin and Venus Williams as probably finalists based on their draws. However, the decision to name both was not an easy pick. On the men’s side, things are a little different. Okay, much different. Right now, I can say with some confidence that the final will once again be like the days of old. Yes, that’s correct. I’m going with the safe bet and betting on a Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal final.

Just for the heck of it, we’ll take a look at the draw. Can anyone follow the lead of Robin Soderling last year, the David to Nadal’s Goliath? Probably not, but with tennis, or sport in general, you never really know.

The First Quarter: The players of note include – Federer (1), Gael Monfils (13), Marin Cilic (10), and Soderling (5).Without too much worry, I’m writing Federer into the quarterfinals. There, I see him facing Soderling. I seriously doubt, however, that Soderling can do the unthinkable and take out Federer before the semifinals of a Grand Slam. So, I won’t even entertain the thought. Yes, Soderling’s confidence will be at a high, but this repeat of last year’s final will see the same three set ending.

The Second Quarter: Here, we have Andy Murray (4), Marcos Baghdatis (25), John Isner (17), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (8). From these names, Murray is the obvious pick for the first spot, while Tsonga looks strong for the second. However, Murray will be the one with the much more difficult time with Baghdatis and Isner in his section. Look for the Brit to pull-out his magic against these two in four or five sets.

The Third Quarter: The only real names that can be a real threat to dethrone the Nadal-Federer rivalry are Andy Roddick (6) and Novak Djokovic (3). And those two won’t be able to pull it off anyway. I see them meeting in the quarterfinals with Djokovic coming out the victor. Roddick is highly susceptible to falling early in Paris and will probably do so with very little play on clay in the season leading up to Roland Garros. Actually, scratch that. Roddick hasn’t played on clay at all, or on any other surface since his win in Miami at the end of March.

The Fourth Quarter: Plain and simple – Nadal (2). Enough said. Good luck to compatriot Fernando Verdasco (7), Fernando Gonzalez (12), Ivan Ljubicic (14), and the veteran Lleyton Hewitt (28). They’ll all need it to put even a dent in Nadal’s superior clay game.

In sum the results will look something like this: Federer will beat out Soderling; Murray will take out Tsonga; Djokovic will dismantle a rusty Roddick (if the American can even make it that far); and Nadal will just win, probably against Verdasco, who really has no business being on the same court as the other Spaniard.

Federer will win in three against Murray and Nadal will beat Djokovic, unless the Serb retires from the match as he is accustomed to doing. Thus, we have ourselves a pretty clear-cut Grand Slam.

Take a look at the full draw here.

Roddick Reigns Supreme Over Berdych

Andy Roddick’s defeat of Tomas Berdych at the Sony Erricsson Open in straight sets signals a surprising show of success for the veteran American. With his 7-5, 6-4 victory, Roddick proves he’s still fighting and improving to claim the titles that have been somewhat elusive these past four years. In fact, this Masters Series event win marks the first for the big server in just that amount of time.

Getting to the finals, and winning, was no easy accomplishment that’s for sure. In fact, in order to get past the semifinals, Roddick had to face Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who continues to recover from a nagging knee injury. The match’s results, however, should not be discounted. In an epic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 thriller, Roddick shut down the fourth-seed. With strong serving and steady play, he broke Nadal’s serve three times, firing approximately 15 aces along the way in the last two sets.

According to the article, “Andy Roddick Beats Rafael Nadal to Secure Place in Sony Ericsson Final,” “Roddick had played Nadal seven times previously, losing five times including their most recent three meetings.” Therefore, the accomplishment was that much sweeter and the victory that much more meaningful.

Roddick’s win against Berdych also signified a step strong than his showing in the final at Indian Wells, the largest tournament outside of the Grand Slam events. There, he lost to the surprise finalist, Ivan Ljubicic, who was having a dream run under the California sun.

If Roddick can keep the momentum going, especially while other plays like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are fading with injuries, maybe the American will find himself holding the elusive third Grand Slam.

Djokovic Dismissed; Henin Heats Things Up in Miami

In not-so-surprising fashion, Novak Djokovic was defeated by Olivier Rochus, 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-4. This second round upset, Djokovic’s opening match of the tournament, will surely hurt his recent ascent in the rankings to number two, putting further pressure on the rest of the top ten to step of their games. Djokovic’s play these past few weeks has been nothing fitting of the second best player in the world, especially one trailing Roger Federer. Yes, he came out victorious at Doha, but he was taken to three sets in many of his matches.

At Indian Wells, the same shoddy play sent him out in the fourth round against the eventual winner of the event, Ivan Ljubicic. Despite a 15-3 record going into Miami, the three, now four losses, signify more in my mind than his wins, which have been lately three set spectacles. I predict Djokovic’s play to continue on a down slide, before this Aussie Open champion re-emerges as a real threat for a major title.

On the flip side, Justine Henin, who played a disappointing Indian Wells, reclaimed the top form that took her to the finals at this year’s Australian Open with some superb play against Russia’s Elena Dementieva, winning 6-3, 6-2. Henin needs a strong showing here, and I think she can take the whole tournament, to get herself back into the top ten in the world. Currently at number 33, Henin’s result thus far, which include a couple wins over Dementieva already, show she’s set for center stage. Maybe she’ll even take a shot at the Wimbledon crown, the one major that has alluded her so far.

New Rankings In – Henin Hones in on Top Ten; Nadal and Ivanovic Slide Slippery Slope

With impressive play to start off the year followed by a blip at Indian Wells, Justine Henin finds herself well on the way to cracking the top ten. Henin, who entered the ranking system by playing in her third tournament, is now ranked 33. If she can avoid poor play as in Indian Wells and concentrate on strong showings at the Grand Slams, I see Henin cracking into not only the top ten, but the top five by the year’s end. She has the dedication and conviction needed to make a move back to the pinnacle of woman’s tennis, especially with shoddy play of many of the top players currently.

In contrast to Henin’s impressive ascent in the rankings are the cases of Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic. Both fell in the rankings due to injury and bad form. In Nadal’s instance, injuries have continued to hamper his physical game, including in his upset to Ivan Ljubicic at Indian Wells. Last year, Nadal won the even, explaining why his semifinal showing simply was not enough to protect his ranking. Assuming his health is back on track, Nadal should be able to not only reclaim the number three ranking, but catch up to Roger Federer, regaining his number two ranking. Federer, despite an early lose to Marcos Baghdatis at Indian Wells, continues to shine as the world’s number one.

Along with Nadal’s ranking dip comes a much more disappointing figure: Ivanovic’s leaving the top fifty for the first time in year’s with her loss to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in her opening match at Indian Wells. Last year, Ivanovic was runner-up at the event. If Ivanovic can somehow find her form and improve upon her fourth round showing at the French Open, the event she won in 2008, things might just start looking up for the Serb. Maybe she can take some confidence in compatriot Jelena Jankovic’s win at Indian Wells. Hopefully, she does not burn out like the young Nicole Vaidisova, who recently announced her retirement from the sport after years of poor play.

Indian Wells Concludes in Surprising Fashion: Ljubicic, Jankovic Win

Ivan Ljubicic and Jelena Jankovic proved ready to battle the California heat to win the fifth largest tournament in the world. While Ljubicic took out American Andy Roddick, Jankovic upset the second-seeded Danish player, Caroline Wozniacki. Their wins concluded an already surprising tournament that saw early exits from top players such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Justine Henin, and Kim Clijsters, among numerous other champions.

What do their wins mean? For Ljubicic, it shows the depth in the men’s field at a time where both Federer and Rafael Nadal are suffering. On the women’s side, there is just the opposite. With so many top seeds bowing out early on and the Williams sisters absent from the event, the tournament lacked any sort of consistency from the top players, showing the WTA tours weaknesses. Moreover, the early exits from the Belgians Henin and Clijsters means that they might have a lot more work to do in their respective comebacks.

Kudos and respect go to Ljubicic for returning back inside the top fifteen for the first time in the past few years and for Jankovic to win her first title in about seven months. Both players proved strong and steady, beating out expectations and coming home with moving upset victories.

Federer Fades, Djokovic Destroyed, and Nadal Nears Defeat at Indian Wells

In a tournament already full of surprises, who would’ve guessed that the biggest were still to come? In a re-match of the 2006 Australian Open, the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis took his game to a whole new level, defeating Roger Federer in three sets, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4). In the other major upset, Novak Djokovic struggled to find his game against Ivan Ljubicic, bowing out with a meek 7-5, 6-3 loss. Whereas both the number one and number two players in the world failed to advance, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, the world number three, scraped past the American giant, John Isner, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

With results like those, it justifies Indian Wells as not only the unofficial fifth Grand Slam, but one as wholly unpredictable as the rest. Maybe been more so. Especially given the Australian Open’s expected winners in Serena Williams and Federer.

The nature of the tournament being so difficult to read, it may not even be worth attempting to predict future results. However, let’s take a look at the draw regardless. Let’s keep in mind, however, that anything truly can, and, probably will, happen.

With Andy Roddick playing well and off the record, I see him advancing to the semifinals. There, he could meet Andy Murray, who’s fresh off a walkover and should defeat Robin Soderling. I take Andy Murray to make the final as I predicted before the tournament began.

On the bottom half of the draw, I don’t see anyone taking out Nadal. He’s proven that he’s in the tournament to win, no matter the state of his knees. Nadal is hungry and ready for a fight. He should feel confident coming off of that strenuous match against Isner. Therefore, I’m writing Nadal in straight to the finals. If he makes it, I take Murray over him in three lopsided sets.

But, then again, who can tell with such a crazy tournament.

In terms of Federer’s loss, I don’t see it as anything to worry about. That Baghdatis went on to lose to Tommy Robredo in three sets, although disappointed, was not in any way surprising. Federer will shake off the defeat and come back strong for the rest of the hard court season before the French Open. Djokovic on the other hand could be in for much less success. He’s been squeaking by these last few rounds. It’s bound to catch up with him eventually.

On the WTA side, I’d like to give my kudos to Agnieszka Radwanska for her superb play against Elena Dementieva. Who knew Radwanska had the ability to out play one of the women with the best ground strokes in the game. I see her beating Caroline Wozniacki to make this breakout final.

Her opponent? I really like the way Maria Martinez Sanchez has been playing even since defeating Victoria Azarenka. Should Martinez Sanchez get past Stosur, I’d take her over Jelena Jankovic. At this Indian Wells, only time will tell.

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