“Approach Shots” is Ricky’s weekly look at what’s ahead (or “approaching”) on the ATP Tour. Every Sunday he’ll preview all the tournaments scheduled for the upcoming week.
For the first time since his U.S. Open final loss to Juan Martin Del Potro, Roger Federer is taking center stage on the ATP Tour. Federer headlines the action this week as the top seed in his native Switzerland at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors. With two 500-point tournaments on the schedule, however, Federer is far from alone this week. Andy Murray is making his first tournament appearance since the Open as the No. 1 seed in Valencia. Murray will be joined there by Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, and Gilles Simon, while Federer will face Basel competition in the form of Novak Djokovic, Fernando Gonzalez, and Marin Cilic.
Davidoff Swiss Indoors
Where: Basel, Switzerland
Surface: Indoor Hard
Top Seed: Roger Federer
Defending Champion: Roger Federer
Draw Analysis: The select few who are not fans of Roger Federer will likely be crying foul—again—over the world No. 1’s draw. Federer will begin against qualifier Olivier Rochus on Monday, after which he will face either Andreas Seppi or little-known Swiss Stephane Bohli. Federer's nearest seeded opponent, whom he could face in the quarterfinals, is an out-of-form James Blake.
Assuming he reaches the semifinals without any trouble, Federer will go up against whomever emerges from an up-for-grabs second quarter of the draw. Among the contenders in that section are Fernando Gonzalez, Philipp Kohlschreiber, John Isner, St. Petersburg runner-up Horacio Zeballos, and Switzerland’s own Marco Chiudinelli.
In the bottom half of the draw, Novak Djokovic—like Federer—should have a remarkably easy time getting through his first two matches. After that, however, things will get difficult. The second-seeded Serb could face Lyon champion Ivan Ljubicic in the quarterfinals and Marin Cilic in the semis. Cilic has two recent runner-up finishes; to Djokovic in Beijing and last week to Jurgen Melzer in Vienna.
First-round matches to watch in Basel include Gonzalez vs. Inser, Ljubicic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka, Cilic vs. Philipp Petzschner, and Zeballos vs. Richard Gasquet.
First-Round Upset Alert: Ljubicic over (6) Wawrinka. Ljubicic has been rock-solid all season long (four Masters Series quarterfinals) and is enjoying especially stellar play at the moment. The 30-year-old Croat is coming off a title in Lyon, while Wawrinka has done almost nothing since the spring clay-court season. If Ljubicic recovers from his long week and does not have to play until Wednesday, he should have too much for Wawrinka on a fast indoor hard court…even in Switzerland.
Blake also has a good chance of going down in his opener as he takes on Jeremy Chardy. Neither man has been in good form, so that one looks like a toss-up. Isner generally struggles outside of U.S. hard courts, but he can trouble Gonzalez if he is making first serves. Petzschner also has the game to beat Cilic if the fourth-seeded Croat is still feeling the effects of a long week in Vienna.
Momentum Builders (Players looking to continue recent good form): Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic, Horacio Zeballos, Julien Benneteau, Ivan Ljubicic
Slump Busters (Players hoping to resurrect their games): Stanislas Wawrinka, James Blake, Andreas Seppi, Jeremy Chardy, Ivo Karlovic, Rainer Schuettler, Benjamin Becker, Jan Hernych
Semifinal predictions: Federer over Kohlschreiber and Djokovic over Cilic
Final: Federer over Djokovic
Where: Valencia, Spain
Surface: Indoor Hard
Top Seed: Andy Murray
Defending Champion: David Ferrer
Draw Analysis: While the Basel draw appears to be evenly distributed, the Valencia Open is extremely bottom-heavy on paper. That’s music to the ears of Andy Murray, who headlines the top of the bracket as the No. 1 seed.
Playing in his first tournament since the U.S. Open (he has been sidelined with a wrist injury following a Davis Cup appearance), the fourth-ranked Scot should be able to coast through a few matches as he gets back in gear. Murray’s nearest seed is defending champion David Ferrer, but Ferrer has been slumping and should not be able to trouble Murray on an indoor hard court. In fact, all three of seeds other than Murray in the top half of the draw are Spaniards (Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, and Tommy Robredo).
The bottom half, meanwhile, is just loaded. No. 2 seed Nikolay Davydenko is joined by a trio of in-form Frenchman—No. 3 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 5 seed Gilles Simon, and No. 6 seed Gael Monfils. Also looking to contend in this section are Juan Carlos Ferrero and recent Moscow champion Mikhail Youzhny.
Notable first-round matches will feature Tsonga against Youzhny and Ferrer against Almagro. Possible second-round showdowns include Simon vs. Tomas Berdych, Verdasco vs. Janko Tipsarevic, and Tsonga (or Youzhny) vs. Ferrero.
First-Round Upset Alert: Almagro over (8) Ferrer. Ferrer has done nothing recently to suggest that he has any chance of successfully defending his title. Furthermore, his 2008 success on the indoor hard courts of Valencia is more of an exception rather than a rule for the eighth-seeded Spaniard. He is far more effective on clay courts. Almagro, too, is much better on clay, but he has a huge first serve that can work well on faster surfaces.
None of the other seven seeds should have much trouble in round one. Tsonga recently blasted Youzhny in the Tokyo final, so there is no reason to think anything will change this time around.
Momentum Builders (Players looking to continue recent good form): Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Janko Tipsarevic, Mikhail Youzhny
Slump Busters (Players hoping to resurrect their games): David Ferrer, Victor Hanescu, Igor Andreev, Igor Kunitsyn, Marcel Granollers
Semifinal predictions: Andy Murray over Fernando Verdasco and Nikolay Davydenko over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Final: Murray over Davydenko
Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!
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