Haas Headlines Wednesday in Stockholm, Pim Pim Returns

Posted on October 10, 2007

The last seven first rounds and first two second rounds are all on Wednesday’s menu in Stockholm at the If Open.

The first match on Centre Court pits No. 8 seed Fernando Verdasco against unseeded Vincent Spadea. After an average start to the year, winning 11 matches in his first 15 starts, Verdasco has picked things up in a big way, winning 17 matches in his last eight events. He has been particularly strong this fall, making the semifinals of Bangkok two weeks ago (falling to Dmitry Tursunov in three sets) and the quarterfinals of Tokyo last week (falling to Tomas Berdych in three sets). The first hurdle on his way to another run deep into a draw comes in the shape of Spadea, who has reached the quarters or better seven times this year. Both players’ best runs here in Stockholm are the quarterfinals, Verdasco in 2004 and Spadea in 1996.

Next up is No. 4 seed Tommy Haas taking on unseeded Albert Montanes in one of two second round matches on the schedule. Haas has had another excellent season, winning his 11th ATP singles title in Memphis and performing well at the majors, including his third career semi at that level at the Australian Open (his first two Grand Slam semis also came down under). Since an impressive run to the US Open quarterfinals (where he beat World No. 6 James Blake before falling to Davydenko), Haas has struggled somewhat, getting crushed by Igor Andreev in Davis Cup play and crashing out of Bangkok in the second round last week; but he holds fond memories of Stockholm, reaching the semis in his most recent attempt three years ago (falling to Andre Agassi). Montanes has reached the quarterfinals or better six times this season (including his fourth career ATP final at Casablanca) but they have all come on clay courts. He is 1-5 against the Top 20 so far this year, although his one victory was a big one, against then-World No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez on the clay of Vina del Mar, right after the Chilean reached the Australian Open final.

An all-Scandinavian battle between wild card Michael Ryderstedt and lucky loser Kenneth Carlsen is next up on Centre Court. Ryderstedt made a splash here in his career ATP main draw debut three years ago, making it all the way to the semifinals (falling to Thomas Johansson); but this is his fifth ATP event since and he is yet to win another match. Carlsen, who turned pro in 1992, has played over 500 matches in his career and has won three ATP singles titles, and is playing his very last ATP tournament this week (he will play a Challenger in his home nation of Denmark next week before officially retiring from tennis). He made the main draw as a lucky loser when No. 2 seed David Ferrer withdrew with a hamstring injury. Carlsen has reached the second round in his last three attempts at this International Series event.

Joachim Johansson makes a welcome return to ATP competition as he plays Carlos Berlocq next. The Swede has been plagued by injuries since cracking the Top 10 during the first half of the 2005 season; he has had two shoulder surgeries and one elbow surgery in the past two years and a few weeks ago played his first match in eight months in Davis Cup semifinal action, falling to Andy Roddick. Now he contests his first ATP main draw since retiring during his first round match at the Australian Open in January at one of his favorite stops, having reached the quarterfinals or better in his last three tries (including one semifinal run a year ago, where he stunned World No. 2 Rafael Nadal en route). He faces Berlocq, who had made the quarterfinals or better three times this year but all on clay, and who is making his first attempt here.

Fifth seed Juan Monaco and qualifier Filip Prpic contest the other second round encounter of the day. Monaco has had a breakthrough season, winning his first three career ATP singles titles (all on clay) and cracking the Top 20 after a fourth round run at the US Open (falling to Novak Djokovic in a four-setter). Now spending his fifth straight week among the game’s 20 best players, he will try to make up for opening round losses at this event in the last two years, falling to Xavier Malisse in straight sets two years ago and retiring against Feliciano Lopez one year ago due to a knee injury. Prpic notched a milestone in the first round here, winning his first career match at the ATP level by taking out Oscar Hernandez in straight sets. The young Swede will be seeing something new Wednesday, however, as he has never faced a Top 20 player in his career; in fact, he has only once played a Top 50 player, losing to then-World No. 37 Nicolas Almagro in the first round of Bastad earlier this year (although he did push that match to three sets). (ATP Digital Services)