There’s some good in tennis world today. In particular I’m referring to the showdown tonight between Andy Roddick and James Blake in Memphis.
Roddick and Blake use to be the clear 1-2 punch in American tennis for what seems to have been the better half of the last decade. But Blake who was once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world has slid all the way down to the speed limit at 55. And at age 30 now it’s hard to see Blake getting back to the Top 10 or even the Top 20.
But Blake’s road back begins tonight. In some ways might this be his “last stand”? If he can beat Roddick, get some confidence and some momentum he could do some damage at upcoming events like Indian Wells and Miami. Problem for Blake is the same one that put him against Roddick today, that is his ranking is so low that he’ll be at the mercy of the luck of the draw. And bad draws do catch up with you.
As for the matchup, Roddick has won six of nine over James however James has won the last three (two on grass)! That said, I’ll go with Roddick in this one but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blake get through. Andy has to be upset about losing that San Jose final and James is ranked 55 for a reason.
But if he’s on Blake’s got the game to give the “new” Roddick a ton of problems. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in the last year or so Roddick’s really taken his foot off the gas pedal when it comes to being agressive. Instead of mashing and bludgeoning the ball around the court as he use to do he’s now become a more reserved and patient player. And that strategy backed up with still one of the best serves in all of tennis will earn him a lot of wins on more surfaces (yes, clay) against the lesser players. But I still question this approach against the bigger name players who are fearless and have the ability to go on the offensive against Andy.
Fernando Verdasco rose to that challenge on Sunday in San Jose. Let’s see if Blake can match that effort tonight.
By the way Verdasco was beaten last night at the event by Jeremy Chardy. Roddick does get the extra day to acclimate from his San Jose to Memphis trip so that should help his cause.
Elsewhere, in Dubai a few seeds have already fallen today. Shahar Peer, who wasn’t allowed to play the event last year because of visa problems, is getting her revenge and then some. The Israeli beat Yanina Wickmayer in the first round and now in the third round today she upset the top seed Caroline Wozniacki. Second-seeded Sveta Kuznetsova was also stunned by Russian qualifier Regina Kulikova and in a mild upset Jelena Jankovic’s downfall continued as she lost to Vera Zvonareva. Venus Williams is the highest remaining seed left.
In Marseille, Robin Soderling and JW Tsonga are the two top guys. Already today Marcos Baghdatis was beaten by Michael Llodra.
And in Buenos Aires the big news is the successful return of David Nalbandian. The injury-trouble Argentine collected his first ATP win since last May (I think) beating Potito Starache there yesterday. Let’s see how long David can remain healthy. Just imagine having him fit and healthy at the Slams again – wow!
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