The draws are out. The players are all on site and Sunday night, during an NFL playoff game here in the States, live tennis will return to nationwide airwaves in the US. There wasn’t supposed to be an NFL game that night but weather conditions in the Mid-West forced a schedule change. Truth be told I’ll probably be watching the NFL on the TV while streaming matches on the tablet. What can I say? I can watch a replay of a match I’ve missed. Watching a replay of an NFL game is not an option. I mean you can but why?
So what do I think about the draws? The first word that comes to mind is “interesting”. I mean anyone with a brain knew Roger Federer was going to get a cupcake of a draw and there he is surrounded by players who had to qualify their way into the MD. Of course his fans want him to get a “Bye” into the quarter finals but I guess they’ll settle for what are called “walking byes”.
Not that ATP #1 Andy Murray has a particularly hard row to hoe either. The young Russian Andrey Rublev was thought to be one to watch but so far he hasn’t done anything to make you sit up and take notice. The rest of the players in his section should pose no problems for him. The other seed in his section is Sam Querrey and you know what I think of him. Did I hear you say “walking byes”? I did didn’t I?
Oh did I mention the other seed in Federer’s section is Tomas Berdych? What’s the phrase of the day kiddies? That’s right. All together now with feeling.
Did you look at Nick Kyrgios‘ section? Really? Once more with feeling. (Sorry Buffy)
The ATP #2 isn’t going to sweat his section either.
Looking at this draw made me realize that the ATP is at that point where it’s best is aging and those who used to give them fits are right there with them. Even so the ATP is handling its marketing much better than the WTA (I’ll get to that shit show in a minute) with its “Next Gen” promotion. There is also a group of players like Roberto Bautista Agut who have been around for awhile but are edging their way higher in the rankings and fan recognition. They might not have the most scintillating on court personalities but they play sound tennis that is nice to watch. I think that it’s this kind of player who will hold the fort for the ATP until some of the younger men mature physically and mentally and reach for their time in the sun.
In a time of transition you need players who are “fair to middling” with good skills.
Sigh. Now on to the WTA.
WTA #1 Angelique Kerber has a tricky opener vs Lesia Tsurenko who runs hot and cold. When she’s good she’s pretty good. When she’s not she’s awful. Kerber has to be reeling a bit mentally after her warm up tournament play. Mental lapses or “injuries” that suddenly appear during pre Open tournaments are sometimes strategic. I don’t know if Kerber’s play could be classified as strategic though. If it was it was a pretty damn good feint.
I was a bit annoyed to see Louisa Chirico scheduled to play Eugenie Bouchard first round. I guess the USTA was annoyed with Chirico’s assertion of independence hence this opening round match. Bouchard, horrible technique and all, has been showing signs of life during her warm up matches and with Stacey Allaster now being paid by the USTA for who knows what I’m sure she would like to see the woman she chose as the next face of the WTA make a good run here. The horrid Coco Vandeweghe is in that same section of the draw and will face Roberta Vinci in the first round.
Heading to the other side of the draw Serena Williams, WTA #2, has a tough first round match vs Belinda Bencic who looks to be in better physical shape this year than she was last year. I think this tournament is going to be a struggle for Serena but this is tennis and you never know. I’ve never been that impressed with Bencic but as we all know everyone goes up a level when she has to play Serena.
I actually have two dark horses for this event. One is Elina Svitolina and the other is Dominika Cibulkova.
Cibulkova has a lot to prove. She won the YEC with a spectacular display of tennis and has played strategically sound tennis during the run up tournaments playing hard enough to get used to the heat but not enough to wear herself out.
For Svitolina it will come down to conditioning and stamina. She will have to pace herself if she wants to make a deep run. Her movement isn’t the best though.
A lot of experts are picking Johanna Konta to surprise here. I don’t know but from what I’ve seen I don’t get why she’s such a big deal for some. Maybe she’s the RBA of the WTA, a better than average player who can give other players fits if they underestimate her. Of course the Brit’s would love to have a British woman win a Slam for the first time since the dinosaurs went extinct but I don’t know if she’s the one to put your money on. She’s scheduled to face Caroline Wozniacki who is either on or off these days.
I almost forget the young Australian player Destanee Aiava. She’s in the Simona Halep/Monica Puig section and will play a tough first round match vs Mona Barthel who had to qualify her way in. That is a very tough match up for the sixteen year old Aiava. I’m thinking that if she was so frustrated at not being able to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova she’ll be extremely motivated against Barthel.
These draws are asking interesting questions of both established players, those right behind them, and those trying to get into the conversation. Are there glaring soft spots? Yes. Are there cakewalks? Yes. But overall the draws are best described as interesting and for me, in this time of transition, that is all we as fans can ask for. There are bound to be upsets, results that boggle the mind. But that is tennis.
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