Must be nice living in a place where oil flows like water in your backyard. With oil comes – among other things – money. And with money comes the ability to erect giant hotels that look like sailboats, build indoor ski slopes in the desert, throw down new islands in the ocean and basically resurface and reshape our planet. Of course I’m talking about Dubai, which is also putting some of that oil money into tennis, and from the looks of the field they are not shy about opening the wallet.
Tiger Woods was reportedly paid $3 million just to show for a golf tournament in Dubai a few years back, so just a guess, but I’ll say that if they are tossing one golfer $3 mill, I’m sure they’d budget that near that amount for a bunch of tennis guys like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and a few others, maybe my man Gael Monfils even got some!
Okay, enough guarantee talk, I’ll leave it to the math wizzes to work out fair values. On to the draw. How rare is it to see a field in which it seems just about everyone has a tough draw? There really are no easy matches (okay, maybe Davydenko has one).
Starting from the top, top seeded Federer opens with Andy Murray, no easy task, and then may run into Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals. No. 4 seed David Ferrer meets Tommy Haas in round one, while his slotted quarterfinal opponent, Tomas Berdych, draws Monfils.
The bottom half is just as tough. Richard Gasquet’s Dubai bid begins with Dmitry Turnsunov and if the Frenchman’s lucky and gets to the quarterfinals Djokovic may await. Then again, Djokovic may not get there as the Serb faces teen Croat Marin Cilic in a first rounder that will garner attention back in their respective homelands.
Roddick makes his Dubai debut against fellow former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. If the American advances past the Spaniard and then Paul-Henri Mathieu in the second round, a tasty showdown with Rafael Nadal on Friday could be in the cards. But Nadal will likely be tested immediately in the first round from Phil Kohlscreiber who could backhand his way to an upset.
And there you have it. Quite a draw. Thank God for oil money, thank God for 32-draw fields and no byes. I just wish this event was on TV here in the U.S. because that, folks, is a fascinating draw.
Looking at it closer, seven of the Top 8 seeds could very well tumble in the first round. I’m not saying it will happen, but unlike just about every other draw I’ve ever seen, this one in my opinion, offers that possibility.
That said, Federer’s still the default the favorite. The guy basically lives in Dubai, so he should be the most comfortable. Then again, he hasn’t played in a month, and he really didn’t play well in his last three matches at the Australian Open, so who knows. But I’ll stick with him, though I could see him losing to Davydenko in the quarterfinals. I also like Berdych to come through to the semifinals.
I like Gasquet for some reason in the bottom half. I’m not convinced of Novak’s health or Nadal’s form right now, so I’ll lean to the Frenchman beating the Spaniard in the semifinals. But really, this event’s a toss up, which, after a dull February, should make for a real intriguing week of tennis, and a perfect start to March Madness.
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