So what’s going to happen first, Marat Safin wins a title or Guns N’ Roses finally releases their long-awaited, almost mythical Chinese Democracy CD? Unfortunately for Safin – and I never thought I’d say this – the way things are going I might have to lean to Axl Rose and the boys if I had to make a pick.
Safin today somehow lost to his journeyman compatriot Igor Kunitsyn 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in the Moscow final, keeping Big Marat titleless since his 2005 Australian Open win. That’s nearly four long years. Amazing. And Marat’s not in Madrid this week because iI think his ranking wasn’t strong enough at the time of entry. So he’ll have to waita few more weeks for another crack at Sweet 16.
Nalbandian, meanwhile, is revving up at the end of the year once again. Dave edged Robin Soderling to win in Stockholm earlier today, and now he’ll have the tall task of defending his Madrid and Paris titles starting Tuesday. And by the looks of the draw, at least the Madrid draw, “Fat” Dave’s got his work cut out for him.
Nalbandian landed in the Roger Federer quarter of a draw that overall is downright frightening for its level of difficultly and depth.
Rafael Nadal is perched at the top, and if things break right the Spaniard can salt away the year-end No. 1 ranking in front of his fans in Madrid. But it’s not going to be easy. Rafa will be tested right out of the gate by the streaky slugger Ernests Gulbis, a first round winner today over Nicolas Kiefer. Then Richard Gasquet, then maybe his countryman Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals. But I think Rafa will get through.
In the second quarter, the third-ranked Novak Djokovic will likely have to deal with Dmitry Tursunov, then Robin Soderling and in the quarterfinals I’ll go him to meet James Blake, who’s had Nikolay Davydenko’s number. It will be tricky, but I like Novak to emerge into the semifinals.
The bottom half is no easier. Andy Roddick is faced with Tommy Robredo in round two, then my man Gael Monfils, who I think beats Fernando Gonzalez in the second round. I like Monfils to come out ahead against Roddick and then face in the quarterfinals Andy Murray, who I think beats Marin Cilic to get there. The indoor surface is good for Monfils, but I think Murray beats my guy.
The final quarter is absolutely loaded. Federer, Nalbandian, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Mikhail Youhzny, Radek Stepanek, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. If Nalbandian’s got some energy left in his tank after his Stockholm triumph, I like his chances here. I think he beats Berdych, then his countryman Del Potro, who’s coming off a toe injury. Federer should get past Stepanek but I think Tsonga takes him out in round three. Indoors, fast court, no pressure should suit Tsonga well, and I think he can do it. But in the end it’s Nalbandian through to the semifinal.
So, that makes my semifinals Nadal v. Djokovic and Murray v. Nalbandian. And since we are in Spain, I think Rafa takes out Dave in the finale.
But like the GnR album release, don’t hold your breath on it happening just like that. We are in the end of the year silly season, where strange things can and do often happen, and where the form rarely holds in these year-end Masters events. So expected the unexpected. Vamos.
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