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Djokovic, Nalbandian on Tap Thursday in Vienna
Posted on October 11, 2007
The first match on Center pits non-seeds David Nalbandian and Stanislas Wawrinka against each other. Though this season has seen him dip out of the Top 10 (and Top 20), Nalbandian has still had a solid year, maintaining a win-loss of over .500 (19-16 now) and making one quarterfinal at Barcelona. He has earned over half his wins on the big stages, reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open and Roland Garros and the third round at Wimbledon and the US Open.
After over a month off after falling to David Ferrer in five sets at Flushing Meadows (having held match point), he made his return to action here, where he was a quarterfinalist in each of the last three years. After a shaky start to the year that saw him win only three matches in his first 11 events, Wawrinka had an excellent summer, reaching his third career ATP singles final at the International Series Gold tournament in Stuttgart (falling to Rafael Nadal), notching his first Top 10 win of the year en route to the quarterfinals of New Haven (over Tommy Robredo) and reaching his first Grand Slam fourth round at the US Open. The Swiss was a quarterfinalist here in Vienna last year (taking out Novak Djokovic en route). The winner of this match on Thursday will break a 2-2 head-to-head tie.
Another match between unseeded players is next, as Feliciano Lopez takes on Stefan Koubek. Vienna has been a special venue for Lopez in the past; he has reached the quarterfinals or better in all of his three previous appearances, including winning his first (and so far only) ATP singles title here in 2004 (defeating Guillermo Canas in five sets in the final). This is his third straight week of competition since a fourth round run at the US Open, and although he fell in the first round of Bangkok two weeks ago he did get to his third quarterfinal of the year last week in Tokyo (falling to David Ferrer). This has also been a special venue for Austria’s own Koubek, who has reached the quarters or better in four of eight previous attempts, including a semifinal finish in 2001 (beating then-No. 12 Roger Federer in straight sets en route) and a quarterfinal finish last year (beating then-No. 9 Marcos Baghdatis en route). The left-hander has also been impressive since the US Open, reaching his fourth quarterfinal of the year in Mumbai two weeks back. These two also have a competitive head-to-head, with Lopez leading overall, 3-2, which includes 2-0 in Austrian events.
Next up is No. 7 seed Juan Ignacio Chela against unseeded Jurgen Melzer. After dropping out of the world’s Top 20 in October 2004, Chela broke back into the elite after Roland Garros in June and has spent 15 of the 18 weeks since inside; this resurgence is all thanks to an incredibly consistent season, which has seen him reach the quarterfinals or better nine times coming in, including capturing his fourth ATP title (at Acapulco) and most recently reaching his second Grand Slam quarterfinal (at the US Open). He will try to reach his first Vienna quarterfinal in four attempts as he takes on Melzer. Melzer enjoyed a strong start to the year, reaching the quarters or better at four of his first 10 ATP main draws; although he hasn’t gotten that far at any of his last 10, he has played well in Vienna before, reaching the quarters on two occasions, in 2002 and last year. He has also posed problems for the Top 20 so far this season, notching wins over Tomas Berdych (at Sydney) and Richard Gasquet (at the ATP Masters Series tournament in Hamburg).
Top seed Novak Djokovic takes on lucky loser Tomas Zib next. Djokovic has had a breakthrough year, earning the No. 3 ranking on the strength of reaching the quarters or better at 12 stops; among those runs are his first ATP Masters Series shields at Miami and Montreal and his first major final at the US Open. He is the only player to have wins over both men that precede him in the ATP Rankings, namely World No. 1 Roger Federer and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal. The Serb will kick off his quest to add to his four prior titles of the year (he has a total of six titles coming in) and will try to erase the memory of a second round loss in his first appearance in Vienna a year ago (falling to Stanislas Wawrinka) as he plays Zib. Zib will have to defy the odds to overcome World No. 3 Djokovic - he is 0-9 lifetime in completed matches against Top 10 players, and more so hasn’t even won a set in his last seven attempts against the game’s 10 best. Also, Djokovic is 13-1 this year against non-Top 100 players (falling to World No. 176 Viktor Troicki in Umag). (ATP Digital Services)