American tennis is on display next week at the mouthful ‘Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and Cellular South Cup’ in Memphis, where Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Sam Querrey are among the seeded players, with land mines galore within the draw.
Roddick opens against a qualifier, but former roommate Mardy Fish, who Roddick edged in three sets last week in San Jose, awaits in the second round. Donald Young, the touted American prodigy who has been trying to make his breakthrough on tour for the last couple years, will face the No. 2-seeded Blake in the first round. Young has made headlines of late, not for his play, but for throwing his racquet completely out of the stadium a couple weeks back at the ATP event in Delray Beach, for which he received a hefty fine.
The No. 5-seeded Querrey opens against American countryman Michael “Iron Mike” Russell. The two have never faced each other in tour play, but Querrey beat Russell in straight sets on the Challenger circuit in 2006. Russell is reportedly dealing with a shoulder problem, the injury-du-jour on tour of late.
Other seeded players in Memphis are the shoulder-addled Tommy Haas, Nicole Vaidisova’s boyfriend Radek Stepanek, former Aussie Open champ Thomas Johansson, Austrian Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer, and hot-handed Swede Robin Soderling, who today competes in the Rotterdam final against Frenchman Michael Llordra.
The No. 6-seeded Johansson will start against wildcard Marat Safin in a battle of former Grand Slam winners. Safin returns to tour play with a leg injury that forced him to withdraw from San Jose last week.
If Soderling’s conditioning holds in Memphis after reaching the Rotterdam final, he can look forward to a likely quarterfinal meeting against the top-seeded Roddick, who he has yet to meet on tour.
The No. 7-seeded Melzer will start his campaign against towering American wildcard John Isner, who has failed to replicate the success at the tour level achieved last year in Washington where he tip-toed to the final via five consecutive wins in third-set tiebreaks.
Haas is the defending champion in Memphis, last year easing past the top-seeded Roddick 6-3, 6-2, and failing to face a break point on serve the entire tournament.
Roddick originally planned on skipping Memphis to rest-up or Dubai the following week but took a last-minute wildcard.
“Basically, he’s had good success here, so he changed his mind,” said Tournament Director Phil Chamberlain, speaking to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “We held out our final wildcard for him because he always plays here and the crowds love him. And from a players’ standpoint, it makes sense for him to come here and defend his points (from reaching last year’s final) and play in an arena he’s had success.”
Roddick had won the first set as of 11:29 p.m. (EST) in the Saturday night San Jose semifinal against Spaniard Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, with the winner to face Stepanek in the Sunday final.
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