The challengers keep emerging on the pro circuit, the latest being Japanese teen Kei Nishikori, who stunned James Blake to win the Delray Beach title earlier today.
I fully expected Nishikori to crumble after losing the first set to Blake, but credit to the 18-year-old for showing maturity and poise beyond his years to stay with it and take out James in three. The loss for Blake means the No. 1 seed at that tournament has still never won there in 14 years or so. And I seem to recall Blake blowing a final to Malisse in Delray last year in similar fashion.
As for Nishikori, if the kid grows a few more inches and gets a bigger serve he could certainly be a serious factor. He’s got explosive groundstrokes off both sides and is very fast around the court. I’ve already mentioned his poise – he also saved 4 mp in a semifinal win over Sam Querrey- but for him he’ll need a go-to weapon or some added variety in his game (he does have a decent drop shot) to separate himself from the cookie cutter crew of powerful and quick baseliners currently on the tour. And it doesn’t help that he’s from Japan, which isn’t exactly a tennis mecca. But if he’s really acclimated to American lifestyle than he’ll have plenty of opportunity to succeed, and hell, maybe Brad Gilbert will sign on, after all Kei did room with Brad’s son, Zach, while at Bolletieri’s.
Blake, meanwhile, still needs close that out and win that title, just like Andy Murray did in capturing Marseille (good to see Mario Ancic doing well) to join Delray doubles winner and brother Jamie in the weekly winner circle. Though for Andy, the pattern continues: Do well at the smaller ATP events, and come up short at the bigger ones. The more he wins these little tour events the more pressure that’s on him at the bigger ones.
Nishikori wasn’t the only teen making noise at Delray, Donald Young got into the mix as well. The Donald flung his racquet clear out of the stadium and onto a walkway after losing the first set 7-6 to Amer Delic. The Donald takes hits for lacking power, but that’s pretty darn good. That’ll show ‘em DY, good job!
Back to the toss, though. The Donald needs to get it that throwing a racquet after the first set is not the best of ideas because you still have one, maybe two more sets still to play, and you might need that racquet back. But I guess we can excuse DY a little in this case. Hell, I might have hurled that racquet as well if I’d have blown a 5-0 lead and a total of six set points, including a 6-3 edge in the tiebreak. The Donald went on to lose the match of course dropping his record to 2-15 in his career, and then he got slapped with a $5K fine from the ATP.
But I give him points for originality, power and frustration with the racquet lob. At least the kid is getting pissed by all the losing. He’ll come around eventually.
And surprise, surprise, Novak Djokovic is sick with the flu. Is it just me or is this guy only healthy when he wins? I guess all the post-Aussie partying caught up with the young Joker who got dropped in three sets by Gilles Simon in Marseille and has subsequently pulled out of Rotterdam with the flu. Djoko carried the bug with him to Marseille after he was too ill to finish his Davis Cup tie match against Nikolay Davydenko last weekend.
In case you missed it, with his team facing elimination, Novak was actually leading 2 sets to 1 when he quit at the start of the fourth set because of dizziness and exhaustion (bouncing that ball so damn much apparently does have side effects). That said I’d like to know if it’s ever happened before, a player with a lead in a live Sunday Davis Cup rubber retiring due to a non-physical illness. I can’t imagine there have been many such cases.
And just a thought, Novak, maybe you should take the rest of year off. Rest up for that 2009 Australian Open title defense. It’s never too early and you’ll have a ton of points to defend. Mull it over…
And lastly, if you live in the U.S. and you don’t get FSN (Fox Sports Network not to be confused with Fox) you will not be able to see the upcoming Indian Wells or Miami events (or the Masters Cup in November) on TV because it will not be on ESPN or the Tennis Channel. In yet another mind-numbing, head-scratching move the tournaments/ATP thought the uneven FSN offered the biggest bang for their buck. If the powers that be are trying to make tennis even less visible on TV here in the U.S., they are doing a great job. Well done guys. Can’t wait to see what’s next in your plan to grow the game in America.
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