People love talking about how some players always seem to get the easy draw. And based on my experience and what I’ve heard, Andy Roddick is usually in that conversation. Right or wrong, that’s not true at all this month. Roddick navigated an exceptionally tough draw to victory in Dubai and again he’s faced with a treacherous road at best in Indian Wells, a tournament he’s never won.
Roddick joins the rest of his Top 45 brethren, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, for the first Masters event of the season.
For the first time in many a moon, the top seeded Federer probably isn’t the consensus tournament favorite at a hard court event. Even though Fed says he’s over his mono illness, I’m not buying it just yet. My guess is is that he’ll still have good days and bad days for sometime longer, and his lack of match practice and fitness will be a factor (no, playing Pete Sampras on a hockey rink is not how you prepare for a Masters event).
Federer did get the good fortune of a pretty comfortable draw early on. In his top quarter section he should get through to the 4th round to face someone like Ivan Ljubicic. Awaiting the Swiss in the quarter, however, I think will be Mr. Roddick, in what will likely be the match of the tournament, or even of the year to this point at least for some of us Americans.
Roddick could face three guys consecutively that have beaten him before en route to the meeting with Fed, so the 25-year-old who didn’t drop serve once in Dubai will have some work to do. But I’ll ride the mojo, ride the serve and lean his way to beat Juliean Benneteau, Fernando Verdasco and even Andy Murray in the fourth round, setting up that clash with Fed.
The second quarter is a grab bag, but I’ll go with Nikolay Davydenko and Radek Stepanek to meet in the quarters. Mikhail Youhzny could get in there as well, but I don’t like Lleyton Hewitt right now, nor Fernando Gonzalez or David Nalbandian. I think Mario Ancic, who player my man Gael Monfils, could make some noise, as could California kid Sam Querrey.
In the bottom-half third quarter, I like David Ferrer and I like his draw out to the quarterfinals where he’ll likely run to Djokovic, who is sitting pretty himself in what I think is the weakest second section of the bracket.
And the final quarter boasts a few potentially intriguing match ups. We could get James Blake vs. Richard Gasquet in round four along with Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Dubai finalist Feliciano Lopez could meet The Donald, Donald Young in the second round in a rematch of their entertaining US Open clash. But I think we’ll get Nadal and Paul-Henri Mathieu and I’ll take Robby Ginepri and Gasquet, with Gasquet playing Nadal in the quarters.
When the smoke clears i’m left with Federer v. Roddick, Davydenko v. Stepanek, Ferrer v. Djokovic and Gasquet v. Nadal for my Elite Eight. And taking it further I’ll take Roddick to stun Fed, Stepanek over Davydenko, Djokovic to beat Ferrer and Nadal gassing Gasquet. At the end, I somehow have Roddick again beating Djokovic, and that’s about when someone pinches me or dumps ice water on me to wake me up.
Yeah, it will likely not happen – make that very unlikely – but if 2008 has taught us anything thus far it’s to expect the unexpected. With rare occurrence have the tournament favorites – Roddick in San Jose, Gonzo in Vina Del Mar and maybe someone somewhere else – gone on to win. Let’s hope the madness continues.
Men’s first round play begins later today. Top seeds, second round start playing tomorrow and TV and online coverage begin Saturday. You can click here to check the U.S. TV schedule and click here to weigh your online options.
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