Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Thoughts from the Men's Draw Midway Through the Miami Open

Rafael Nadal:  Nadal seemed to be making steady progress in his comeback heading into the Miami Open, and his surprising loss to Fernando Verdasco is certainly a set back.  However, it's not likely to have much of an effect on Nadal going forward as he enters the clay court season.  If Nadal isn't himself on the clay it may be time to worry, but we shouldn't overreact from one bad loss in a tournament Nadal has never won.  That said, more players seem to be taking the court against Nadal thinking they can win, and Nadal will be looking to reestablish the fear everyone in the locker-room once held of him.

Stan Wawrinka:  For the second year in a row, Wawrinka had a surprisingly bad Indian Wells/Miami swing.  Wawrinka had been off to a great start to the year, wining a 250 in Chennai, reaching the semis of Australia and winning a 500 level tournament in Rotterdam.  However, he suffered an early loss to Robin Haase in Indian Wells before going down to Adrian Mannarino in the third round in Miami.  While Wawrinka's highs have been higher over the last few years than they ever had been, it's clear he's never going to be the most reliable top guy.  As deep as the men's game is it shouldn't be shocking when guys in the top ten lose to lower ranked opponents, but for some reason Wawrinka seems to suffer more bad losses than his fellow members of this group.  Wawrinka should be able to rebound with a strong clay court season, but he'll be sure to throw in a couple of losses to the James Duckworths and Jarkko Nieminens of the tennis world.

Young Guys:  The current crop of 17-19 year olds continue to make their mark on the tennis world.  In Miami, Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev, Hyeon Chung and Andrey Rublev all won matches.  So many teens have been doing well lately that tennis analysts appear to have overstated the case that tennis is too physical for teens to compete with guys in their mid twenties.  While this is certainly true to some extent, in hindsight part of the problem was we were simply dealing with a fairly unimpressive group of young players (i.e. guys currently in the 21-24 range).  It's unlikely all of this young crop will become superstars, but tennis should be in good hands for several years to come.

Americans:  American men seemed to be off to a good start in Miami (we're counting the first day here), however things soon went south.  Only John Isner remains following his straight set win over Dimitrov (which isn't as meaningful of a win as it should be given Dimitrov's slump).  Steve Johnson went down in the first round in a very winnable match against Mikhail Kukushkin, and Ryan Harrison couldn't get past Jurgen Melzer.  Jack Sock won his first two matches, but couldn't get past the struggling Dominic Thiem in round three.  Sam Querrey expectedly blew a lead against Kevin Anderson and Querrey's junior rival Donald Young went down meekly to Andy Murray.  Austin Krajicek and Tim Smyczek played well in their matches, but fell to higher ranked opponents in round two.  A lot of American men appear headed in the right direction, but as Miami has shown they still have a ways to go.

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