The ATP Masters Series inducted a new rule in 2007, where the Top 8 seeds received byes for their first round matches. This to make sure that they can get enough rest in between events, to compete in back-to-back Masters Series tournaments. It was a good move by the ATP, but Cincinnati is still suffering big time from players’ activity in Canada.
Rafael Nadal retired in his match against Juan Monaco, trailing 6-7(5) 0-2, with arm cramps and dizziness. Radek Stepanek, another semifinalist in Montreal, sustained back problems in his match against Mardy Fish, and was beaten in straights by David Ferrer in the second round.
And then there was the case of Novak Djokovic. The Montreal victor dropped the first set of his match against Carlos Moya, lost his opening service game in the second set, and didn’t make a real effort to get back into the match. Moya played excellent throughout the encounter, but it was clear that Djokovic wasn’t going to go all out on the day from the beginning. The Serb complained about feeling tired, but that’s what happens when you just played a full week against the best players in the world, and decide to play a doubles match the day after you arrive in Cincinnati.
Roger Federer was not affected by fatigue. The Swiss played a solid match against French qualifier Julien Benneteau and looked eager to perform after his surprise loss to Djokovic on Sunday. In his press conference, Federer said that he prefers to have back-to-back Masters Series events, over having an extra week off in between. “I’d rather have it back-to-back,” he stated. “Absolutely.”
In fact, the majority of the players like the consecutive tournaments. And so does Djokovic. “I support back-to-back, and 95% of the players which I talked to support back-to-back tournaments,” the Djoker said. Now all he’s got to do is learn to pull from doubles after just winning a MS title the week before.
Nadal and Djokovic may have been the highest seeded casualties, they were certainly not the only ones. Richard Gasquet retired with a hand injury against Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray expectedly went down to Marcos Baghdatis, Ivan Ljubicic fell to Spain’s Nicolas Almagro in straights (what’s going on Ivan?), Robredo was crushed by Jarkko Nieminen and Fernando Gonzalez succumbed to Juan Carlos Ferrero, although I’m not sure we can call Gonzo’s loss much of a surprise anymore.
The list goes on. 15th-seeded Guillermo Canas is losing form, as he was ousted by countryman Juan Martin Del Potro. Mario Ancic posted a great comeback win over Tommy Haas, and Sam Querrey pulled off quite an upset in taking out No.10 Mikhail Youzhny. The big-serving American teen has a great shot at making his first Masters Series quarterfinal, as he meets Argentine Juan Monaco in the third round.
The other two Americans face tougher draws, as Andy Roddick takes on David Ferrer and James Blake meets Juan Carlos Ferrero. Blake did well to beat Nicolas Kiefer on Wednesday, but he is still far from playing the kind of tennis that got him to No.4 in the world last year. Blake hasn’t won one of three meetings against Ferrero, most recently falling to the Musquito at Wimbledon. His other two losses both came here in Cincinnati. I’m picking the Spaniard again in this one. As for Roddick, he should be able to down Ferrer.
Roger Federer probably faces his toughest test en route to the final in his third round match against Marcos Baghdatis. If the Cypriot plays his best, this should be fun.
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