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Rising stars Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic, Coco Vandeweghe, and Christina McHale were granted wildcards into the main draws for the BNP Paribas Open, to be held March 7-20, 2011 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it was announced today by Steve Simon, tournament director.
So there you have it. Confirmation that Canada's Milos Raonic will be in the main draw at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, California. The draw itself hasn't been posted, so we don't yet know who his opponent will be in the opening round. Here's what else the article had to say about Milos:
Raonic, currently ranked No. 37 on the ATP World Tour (from No. 156 at the end of 2010), advanced through qualifying at the Australian Open this January and proceeded to blaze into the fourth round. Just a few weeks ago the 20-year old Canadian captured his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose and reached the finals at Memphis in back to back weeks. With his results he became the highest ranked Canadian singles player in the history of ATP Rankings (since 1973).
Good stuff. The first round for the men gets underway Thursday, March 10. All the top players will be at the BNP Paribas Open, including (but not limited to) Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Söderling, and Murray. It's basically a mini-major.
Can't wait for March 10.
Without explicit confirmation from the tournament websites for Indian Wells and Miami, I must admit there's been a little confusion or uncertainty as to whether Milos Raonic will be playing those events. His ranking may not have been high enough at the appropriate time to receive automatic entry into the tournaments, but it looks like he'll be playing. This isn't exactly news, but here is a tweet by Milos from last Friday:
Tmrw I fly off to mexico city to drive to Toluca for davis cup after that I will go to indian wells and miami
We'll be watching for when the draws for the tournaments are finalized.
Raonic is currently gearing up to play for Canada in the 1st round in the Americas Group 1. Canada will be facing off against Mexico this weekend, who will have the 'home team' advantage on their clay courts. Take a look at the details here. The Canadian players are doing much better in the singles rankings (aside from Nestor, obviously), but Mexico is currently leading in the head-to-head record.
Other than that, there won't be a whole lot going on in this week in the world of pro tennis.
This afternoon in Delray Beach, FL, Juan Martin del Potro defeated Janko Tipsarević 6-4, 6-4 in slightly under 2 hours at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.
Del Potro had been seeking his first title since going out with a wrist injury after the 2009 season and Tipsarević was looking for his first ever ATP World Tour title. Before the match, both del Potro and his coach had mentioned that he was tired after playing 3 weeks of tennis leading up to this final and that did show during the match, with del Potro frequently attempting to end points quickly. In their one previous match Tipsarević was only able to win 5 games against del Potro in defeat (link).
In the first set Tipsarević came out well, winning the first game (on his serve) at love. In the 4th game he was upset with the referee over a call that would have given him the break but he eventually did break del Potro anyway and consolidated with a win in the following game to make it 4-1 in his favour. Up to that point, del Potro's body language had not been positive and he seemed to be showing the fatigue he'd mentioned before the match. Del Potro really stepped up after this though, at about half-way through the set, and outplayed Tipsarević to win the next 5 games - taking the set at 6-4.
The first 4 games were holds in the second set, with the only break in the set on Tipsarević's serve by del Potro in the 5th game. The rest of the games were holds and were mostly unremarkable until del Potro held his serve in the 10th game to win the second set 6-4. With this Juan Martin del Potro won his first title since making a comeback after missing the 2010 season due to injury.
After this week's tournaments in Dubai, Aculpoco, and Delray Beach, the Davis Cup first round is on deck next week followed by two hard-court ATP Masters (1000 point) tournaments in Indian Wells, California and Miami. Florida in March. Milos Raonic's name is not in the draws for those tournaments right now (link1, link2) but whether he gets a wildcard or has to qualify, he will surely make an impact.
Top seed David Ferrer (ESP) successfully defended his title in Acapulco last night, defeating Nicolas Almagro in three sets, 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-2. The match was very much a back-and-forth type affair, especially for the first two sets. Ferrer jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first set before Almagro came back to force an absolutely thrilling tiebreak. The second set was also pretty tight, each player getting broken on their serve just once. Almagro was able to edge out Ferrer in the second tiebreaker and looked to carry that momentum into the third set.
But Ferrer was not deterred by losing the second set. He broke Almagro straight away and ran away with the match. Ferrer's tenacity proved to be too much for Almagro to handle. Here are the stats for the match:
Perhaps the most telling match statistic was the number of break points converted by each player. Almagro had his fair share of chances, but only managed to win 4/13 break points. Ferrer was almost perfect in this category, converting 6/7 chances. The one point he didn't convert came late in the third set when he was already ahead. Ferrer's efficiency in this department was key to winning such a tight match (well, tight for the first 2 sets anyway).
Read more about the match and what the players have to say about their performance here.
In other news, former US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro has reached his first final since coming back from injury. He'll play Serbian Janko Tipsarevic for the championship in Delray Beach later today.
As I alluded to in a previous post, the Major title hogs at the top of the game will not reign supreme forever. The proverbial changing of the guard will eventually take place sometime in the not-too-distant future. It's physics. But is the future now?
If we are to believe No.1 ranked Rafa Nadal, then the future is now. In this article, Nadal states that the Age Of Dominance (mainly by one Roger Federer, but Rafa himself is also to blame) is coming to an end. Despite Djokovic claiming his second major title win in Australia this year, I think this observation is a little premature. Regardless, Nadal took it upon himself to name some of those responsible for the shift. Murray and Djokovic are obvious, but take a look at who else he mentions:
“I’ve never seen so many new talents,” he added. “Of course there is [Milos] Raonic, the Canadian, who has started the year very well, and there is [Grigor] Dimitrov. They are the two youngsters who have improved the most."
Rafa, you read my mind. (...and blog posts, apparently.)
I stayed up "late" to watch the Ferrer vs. Dolgopolov match live last night (it ended shortly after 1:30AM Newfoundland time). I was looking forward to an entertaining match, given the apparent clash of playing styles that would be employed. It's hard to know what to expect from a player like Dolgopolov, but as a general rule you know that Ferrer will work hard and play a solid match.
The first set was close, but neither player was doing well to protect their serve. First serve percentages were low (Alexandr was at 43%), and service breaks were had by all. Dolgo was able to capitalize on some shaky play to capture the first set, but then the trajectory of the match started to change.
Ferrer started playing like Ferrer. He wasn't perfect, but he cleaned up his game enough to let Dolgopolov gift the rest of the match away. Dolgo made a lot of shots, but he missed even more. His inconsistency was his undoing. And you just can't afford to be inconsistent against a player like Ferrer, who ultimately went on to win the nearly 2-hour-long match 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. The stats aren't very impressive, but here they in all their ugly glory:
Top seed David Ferrer (ESP) will face fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the finals tonight in Acapulco. Almagro is currently on a history-making run -- if he can defeat Ferrer, he'll become the first player ever to win three out of the four Latin American clay tournaments in the same season. Read more about it here.
As for watching the final, Rogers Sportsnet One will be airing the match live beginning at 10:00PM ET. It doesn't look it'll be on the other regional channels, unfortunately. I was hoping to watch it in HD, as I only get Sportsnet One in standard definition here in Newfoundland.
I was right -- Nole showed up.
Reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, with a total match time of 71 minutes. He has now won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships three years in a row. Here are the stats from the match:
Djokovic got off to a great start in the match, breaking Federer's serve twice in the opening set. Novak's serve was impeccable in the first set, getting 85% of his first serves in and winning 15/17 of those first service points. His serve dropped off slightly in the second set allowing Roger to open up a 3-1 lead. At this point, it looked like Federer was stepping up his level of play just as Djokovic was doing the opposite.
But that lead didn't last long. Instead of Roger holding on to force a third and deciding set, Nole set off on a mad dash for the finish line and won 5 games in a row. I guess that qualifies as an impressive way to win a championship. More on Novak's hat-trick here. As the article suggests, Djokovic appears to be the man to beat on tour this year.
Can't argue with that.
The semi-finals are set to go later today in Acapulco. First up, No.3 seed Nicolas Almagro (ESP) will take on Thomaz Bellucci (BRA). In the other semi, top seed David Ferrer (ESP) will face No.6 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR).
Of all the semifinalists, only Dolgopolov was able to win their quarterfinal match in straight sets. Dolgopolov upset fourth seed Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) last night, 6-4, 7-6(6). Each of the other three quarterfinal matches went the distance, including Ferrer's match against Argentinian Juan Manco which lasted a whopping 2 hours and 43 minutes. For a complete breakdown of the matches, check out this article.
Alexandr Dolgopolov hasn't been pushed to 3 sets yet in this tournament, so he should be pretty fresh for his match with David Ferrer. Almagro is riding high on an impressive winning streak and is carrying a lot of momentum into his semifinal against Bellucci.
If I understand the Rogers Sportsnet schedule correctly, the first semi-final from Acapulco will air on Sportsnet One starting at 6:00PM ET, and the second semi will air on Sportsnet Pacific at 10:00PM ET. At least that's how it looks at the moment. Not certain if what they're showing on the Pacific channel is a replay of an early round because the description given on my cable guide says "Live, quarterfinal-round play". Guess we'll find out soon enough.
We have a big final to look forward to in the Dubai tournament tomorrow. The top two seeds in the draw, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, will face off in a repeat of their Australian Open semi-final match. Federer has won Dubai several times, but Djokovic has claimed the title the last two years in a row. Here's how this dream-final has come to be:
Tomas Berdych retired due to injury in the third set of his semi-final match against Djokovic. Berdych won the first set in a tiebreak, but Novak took the second set and was leading in the third before Berdych retired. Read what Nole had to say about the match here.
Except for a slight hiccup late in the second set, Federer was able to run over Gasquet in a straight sets win, 6-2, 7-5. Gasquet had a chance to serve for the second set when he broke Federer at 4-4 to take a 5-4 lead. But Roger decided not to let Richard take the match to a third set and broke Gasquet right back. From there it was business as usual for the top seed, breaking Gasquet again to win the match in just 73 minutes. Roger talks about the match and the upcoming final here.
I don't expect the slight shakiness displayed by Djokovic today to carry into tomorrow's final against Federer. Nole will show up. He's not just defending a title, he's going for a three-peat. And he's got to do it against a man who is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time. If nothing else, Novak can go into the match knowing that he beat Federer recently at the Australian Open. Also, Federer is not RoboCop. That's got to be a huge relief for Djokovic.