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Men's Look Forward: Memphis, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires

Guessing point values on the ATP is a challenging task these days. Between listing events in dollars and euros, a frequently-changing points table, and the simple fact that prize money often gets changed as tournaments get in trouble, we're never quite sure how many points an event will award until the ATP tells us.

But we can state with confidence that Rotterdam is this week's biggest event. Not only does it have the biggest prize money, but it has a very strong field. There are four Top Ten players here: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Roger Federer, Marat Safin (making his post-injury debut), and Albert Costa. (Amazingly, Costa isn't even the only big clay name here; also in are Alex Corretja and Tommy Robredo.) The other seeds are Tim Henman, last year's finalist and another guy who is just getting started after injury; Sebastien Grosjean; Corretja; and Sjeng Schalken. Unseeded players include Xavier Malisse, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Nicolas Escude, Robredo, Jarkko Nieminin, Fabrice Santoro, Andrei Pavel, Thomas Enqvist, Ivan Ljubicic -- a true powerhouse. As witness the a fact that Richard Krajicek, Raemon Sluiter, and Martin Verkerk all needed wildcards, and Mario Ancic had to qualify.

In such a field, there is much to be said about nearly every match. So let's just march down the draw, looking at what each seed faces.

#1 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero will need to have his returning skills ready; he'll have to deal with big-serving Wayne Arthurs. Arthurs lost early last week, but he was just in from Australia. He's had a week to adjust and catch up to the surface. And Ferrero last played on clay at Davis Cup. And the winner will have to face another attacker -- either Jonas Bjorkman or qualifier Peter Wessels. Wessels isn't much of a threat on slow surfaces, but he likes things fast. And Bjorkman has to be bone tired -- he played three long Davis Cup matches, then made his way to the Marseilles final.

#7 seed Corretja opens against Jarkko Nieminen, who has a pretty good indoor history considering his age, then will face a local player, either Martin Verkerk or Raemon Sluiter. The way things have gone recently, it's likely to be Verkerk. Anyone (except maybe Sluiter) could come through this section.

#4 seed Albert Costa opens against Nicolas Escude, who has won this event two years running. This is a big match -- and a big evebt -- for Escude, who needs these points. We'd say Costa is toast -- except that Escude will be facing expectations (which seem to trouble him) and had to pull out of Marseilles with an injury. How Escude will perform in context is anyone's guess. But even if Costa can survive, he'll be tested in the next round, when he faces either Robredo (also a clay specialist, but one who is clearly happier on faster surfaces than is Costa) or Richard Krajicek. Krajicek still hasn't really gotten back to his peak form -- but indoors in the Netherlands against Costa, it's not likely to matter. Escude might make things much more interesting.

#6 seed Sebastien Grosjean is another guy who hasn't really played his best this year, but his draw is one of the easier ones. He opens against qualifier Renzo Furlan, then Dominik Hrbaty or Adrian Voinea. Hrbaty is in his best form in a couple of years, but the indoor court probably helps Grosjean.

#5 seed Tim Henman returns to the sound of heavy artillery. It's all big servers for him. Lots of Croats, too. He opens against Ivan Ljubicic, who doesn't have Henman's net skills but who has him dead to rights on the serve -- especially given that Henman has been struggling with his shoulders. Of course, so has Ljubicic. The winner will face another big server, either Croat qualifier Mario Ancic or Max Mirnyi. This is another completely open section.

#3 seed Marat Safin won't be much happier with his first match of his return; he opens against Xavier Malisse, who barely missed being seeded. If he survives that, he'll have to contend with either countryman Yevgeny Kafelnikov or Feliciano Lopez. This isn't Lopez's surface, but he looks like he could develop into a threat on all surfaces. Much depends on whether Safin is really ready to come back.

#8 seed Sjeng Schalken had better prepare for a steady diet of Rochuses. He'll open against older (and taller) brother Christophe, who after a tough 2002 seems to be springing back a bit in 2003. The winner of that will face the winner of a match between Olivier Rochus and Stefan Koubek in what may be the scramblin'-est match of the season. And, yes, that means the brothers Rochus could meet in the second round. Though Schalken really ought to be able to handle either or both.

#2 seed Roger Federer, coming off his first title of the year, had better be ready for anything. Because that's what he's going to see. In his first match, he'll face the power of Thomas Enqvist -- though Enqvist still isn't right this year, so that may be easier than it "should" be. But after that, Federer will face a complete change of pace in either Andrei Pavel or Fabrice Santoro, shotmakers both. Pavel can't quite produce the improbabilities that Santoro does, but he'll pick on any flaw. After Davis Cup and six straight matches, how much energy will Federer have left?

If all the top Europeans are in Rotterdam, that leaves all the Americans at Memphis. The initial draw had 13 Americans out of 28 players with direct entry. No Agassi and no Sampras, but just about everyone else is here. Andy Roddick returns to action as the #1 seed; also seeded are James Blake (#3), Jan-Michael Gambill (#5), and Todd Martin (#6). Unseeded are Justin Gimelstob, just off his best result since Los Angeles 2000; Robby Ginepri; Brian Vahaly; Taylor Dent; Jeff Morrison; Vincent Spadea; Mardy Fish; and three wildcards, Bob Bryan, Michael Chang, and Brian Baker. Though Chang is paying the price for all these wildcards he's taking: Last week he faced #1 seed Andre Agassi in the first round. This week, he starts against #2 Paradorn Srichaphan. And we doubt Srichaphan will suffer two straight losses to players ranked below #90.

The other three seeds at the event are #4 Wayne Ferreira, #7 Nikolay Davydenko, and #8 Kenneth Carlsen. Despite the strong American cast of the field, it's a pretty diverse bunch.

Interesting floaters, especially on an indoor surface like this, include Dent and Fish, both of whom serve well, plus radar-gun-lighters Mark Philippoussis and Vladimir Voltchkov. Hyung-Taik Lee doesn't have such heavy artillery, but he's turning into a very steady player who should do well on this surface.

Looking over the draw, we'd pick these as highlight matches:

First Round

Gimelstob vs. H. Lee. Actually, given Gimelstob's fitness problems, this might well prove a complete bust. But if Gimelstob can keep up his current form, he just might give Lee some trouble.

Dent vs. Philippoussis. Do they make body armor for linespeople? The ones who are calling the sidelines might want it....

Chang vs. (2) Srichaphan. Actually, this won't be much of match; Srichaphan is likely to crush Chang. But it might let casual fans see what a hot property the Thai has become.

Second Round

(1) Roddick vs. H. Lee. This is probably Roddick's ideal surface, but what sort of shape is he in? Lee just might find a way to take advantage.

(5) Gambill vs. Dent or Philippoussis. Big serves everywhere. Gambill has the best return, but the others are happier coming to net. The contrast could be quite nice.

Voltchkov vs. (4) Ferreira. Big serve against a guy who likes to face big servers. And both have been moving up this year.

Fish vs. (2) Srichaphan. If Srichaphan has another off day, such as he had in San Jose, then Fish might just give him some trouble; despite Davis Cup, Fish has clearly taken a big step forward this year.

Among all these indoor events, Buenos Aires is definitely the odd surface out. But it is an event with tradition. Even though the prize money has been cut to the bone due to Argentina's economic troubles, it has a field much stronger than last week's event at Vina del Mar. The Chilean tournament had Gaston Gaudio as its #1 seed; Gaudio is #4 here, behind Carlos Moya, David Nalbandian, and Fernando Gonzalez. Rounding out the seeds are Juan Ignacio Chela, Gustavo Kuerten, Nicolas Lapentti, and Guillermo Coria, which leaves such clay powerhouses as Marcelo Rios and Felix Mantilla unseeded. Also unseeded is last year's champion Nicolas Massu. Of course, the big reason for this is that the event is in Argentina. No fewer than ten Argentines are in the draw, and only two (Edgardo Massa and Mariano Puerta) are wildcards. And that's with Guillermo Canas still out with an injury. This is one tough tennis nation. It all adds up to a pretty stiff draw for a clay event.

How tough? Well, consider these first round matches: Kuerten opens against Rios. Coria starts against Jose Acasuso. Nalbandian will have to contend with Fernando Vicente. Moya will have to face rising talent David Ferrer. It's another of those events where there really are no bad matches.

Our early-match picks:

First Round

(1) Moya vs. Ferrer. Experience vs. a very talented youngster. We still don't know exactly what Ferrer brings to the court -- but Moya may not know either.

(3) Gonzalez vs. Sanchez. Gonzalez missed Vina del Mar, so he's not in the best of shape. Sanchez just had a great result. How much energy does Sanchez have, and how ready is Gonzalez?

Mantilla vs. Portas. How energetic will Mantilla feel? He'll have a lot of drop shots to run down.

Rios vs. (6) Kuerten. Two past #1 players. This is a first round match? Though Kuerten, apart from being Kuerten on clay, has the advantage of extra rest.

Calleri vs. Massu. How healthy is the defending champion?

(8) Coria vs. Acasuso. Two Argentines. Two very young players -- Coria is a month past 21, Acasuso is still only 20. Both give evidence of potential greatness. Both like clay. Wow.

Vicente vs. (2) Nalbandian. A tough test for Nalbandian, though he did well in Davis Cup and should be ready.

Second Round. After that first round, this seems almost an anticlimax.

(3) Gonzalez vs. Mantilla (or Portas). The question mark here is Gonzalez.

(5) Chela vs. Massu. Again, Massu's health is the big question.

(8) Coria (or Acasuso) vs. Zabaleta. No matter what happens in the Coria/Acasuso match, it's Argentine clay expect vs. Argentine clay expert.

Squillari vs. (2) Nalbandian. Another case of two Argentines. Nalbandian is clearly the far better player, but Squillari has a big edge in experience.

The Rankings. Rotterdam is this week's biggest event in terms of points, and that's very big both for champion Escude and finalist Henman. Escude already lost a few points at Marseilles. He could fall out of the Top 50 with a bad result. As for Henman, his Top 15 status is starting to look just a little shaky.

Buenos Aires has fallen steadily down the points ladder this past two years. That's bad news for Massu even if he defends (which seems most unlikely anyway). A very bad result might leave him below #80.

Andy Roddick, the defending Memphis champion, has less to worry about; he's Top Ten no matter what, though Safin might have a shot at passing him if he does badly. But finalist James Blake could lose several spots with an early loss.
 

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thanks! ;) ;)
 

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psychotic banana
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Thanks for the post.
 

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Blown Out On the Trail
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Nice recap...... or precap. :)

And of course BA is "clayish." It's on clay and the SA players are supporting it along with a few who wandered in from Spain.

The Rios/Kuerten match up is interesting. I heard Rios has lost weight.. maybe 8 or 9 kilos and is in fighting trim. That is good news.

I'm keeping an eye on Nalbandian. He has seemed rather petulant following his big splash at Wimbledon. If he is to regain his fight and determination, this seems to be the tournament for him.
 

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star said:
I'm keeping an eye on Nalbandian. He has seemed rather petulant following his big splash at Wimbledon. If he is to regain his fight and determination, this seems to be the tournament for him.
I still wondering where's that petulant personality of Nalbandián? I have watched almost all his matches after Wimbledon(the networks who transmit tennis are argentines...so it's obvious they show David) and I haven't seen any petulant action by his part.:rolleyes:
 

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Well, for the majority of 2002 post-Wimbledon he was on something of a downer and displayed racket-smashing skills that rivalled Marat Safin's; I particularly remember his first-round loss to Sargsian at the US Open where after practically every point he lost he was hurling it onto the court in disgust, doing himself and his morale no favours at all.

Since his resurgence in the autumn he has obviously done far better and returned to form, but he's still vulnerable to collapsing in a match when his opponent can combat his game effectively; witness the 6-0, 6-2 drubbing by Santoro in Madrid where he lost the first nine games, and then his QF with Schuettler at the AO this year where, having split the first two sets, he completely fell to pieces and got only one more game in the match.
 

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Sjengster said:
Well, for the majority of 2002 post-Wimbledon he was on something of a downer and displayed racket-smashing skills that rivalled Marat Safin's.
I know there are many times in which he behaves kinda bad; but according to me that's not what "petulant" means, you know, I think petulant is like arrogant or cocky.
By other part, there was many people who said that he had decreased in his level specially after Wimbledon because he had been dedicated mostly to parties or social events, etc., and i believe it.
 

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Ma. Estefania - David has done his fair share since WImbledon, but I think that he gets crapped on because he went from a Grand Slam final to making quarterfinals in small tournaments and losing in the first round. He's posted a few good results and wins since that, but it gets clouded over by the ton of crappy results. I seem to recall he was on a 5 match losing streak at some point after Wimbledon, but don't hold me to that.

Regardless, he can be a bit of a hot head, but he's getting better.
 

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Yes, he was on something of a downer throughout most of the summer and the first few indoor tournaments of the year, though he held it together in Toronto long enough to save those matchpoints against Henman and make the quarters. :mad:

Mind you, I don't think he helped himself right after Wimbledon when he failed to adapt his schedule properly; having just played two weeks of a Grand Slam on grass, he then went to play in Gstaad just two days later, which is not only clay but high-altitude clay in the Swiss mountains, the most different surface imaginable to grass. Confidence is a fragile thing, but he now seems to have it back and he's certainly proved that he's no Slam fluke with his QF at the Aus Open this year.

I always think of Nalbandian as the prototype player for the modern game in men's tennis - nothing particularly big or flashy, but solid groundstrokes on all surfaces, determination and physical and mental stamina. He certainly has the beating of both Henman and Federer at the moment, suggesting that he doesn't mind having a target at all.
 

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Ma. Estefania said:
I know there are many times in which he behaves kinda bad; but according to me that's not what "petulant" means, you know, I think petulant is like arrogant or cocky.
To my knowledge, petulant does not mean arrogant or cocky. Here are some definitions:

Unreasonably irritable or ill-tempered; peevish.

Capriciously fretful; characterized by ill-natured freakishness; irritable.

easily irritated or annoyed

Moved to, or showing sudden, impatient irritation, esp. over some trifling annoyance.


In my opinion, these are perfect descriptions for his recent behaviour. In all the post-Wimbledon matches I saw (ok, not that many, but enough), he argued just about every call without any basis and was extremely unreasonable. He delayed play so many times that I began to groan loudly and yell "Get on with it!" at the TV screen. :eek: That is one of the main reasons why I dislike him.
 

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Oh thank God Marat is back in action this week. Without my top 2 bad boys (LH and MS), tennis lacks some spark/zing/spice whatever you want to call it. Well for me at least.
 

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I was not aware David had bad boy tendencies. He's getting more and more interesting by the day. I'll have to add him to my list.;) :D
 

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Sjengster said:
Well, for the majority of 2002 post-Wimbledon he was on something of a downer and displayed racket-smashing skills that rivalled Marat Safin's; I particularly remember his first-round loss to Sargsian at the US Open where after practically every point he lost he was hurling it onto the court in disgust, doing himself and his morale no favours at all.

At the Aus Open this year against Federer he smashed his racquet down really hard which got him a warning from the umpire. He responded to this by walking up to the umpire and saying "This is a warning?" then bouncing his racquet down again. It was quite funny.
I think petulant is a good way to describe his behaviour. He looks like hes generally got a bad attitude, and it was annoying to say the least when this year when i went to see one of his matches he made a big show of pumping his fists to the crowd when his opponent had to retire in the 3rd round.
 
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