From Qatar to Cali

Monday, February 13, 2012 /by

VaFebruary . . . continues. Isn't that profound? The men had a bigger platform over the weekend, with Davis Cup, but now attention shifts back to the women’s side. After an injury-ravaged event in Paris, the WTA moves to the bigger draw and more lucrative purse at their Premier tournament in Doha. The men, most prominently Roger Federer, roll on as well, at indoor tournaments in Rotterdam and San Jose. All three events are underway; let’s see what we might see this week, and what has already transpired. It can be tough to keep up.

*****

Qatar Total Open
Doha, Qatar
Hard courts; $2,188,400
Draw is here

A lot of marquee names have lined up for the $2.2 mil on offer in Qatar, and there's turmoil at the top of that list. Victoria Azarenka will make her first appearance as the No. 1 player in the world, while Caroline Wozniacki will make her first appearance in more than a year as the non-No. 1 player in the world.

We’ll see how that flip affects each player. Azarenka’s confidence coming out of Melbourne should override any extra pressure she may feel or let down she may have. Her draw should help, too. After a potentially tricky opener against Mona Barthel, who tested her in Melbourne, Vika's half includes Radwanska, Jankovic, Hantuchova, and Schiavone. As for Caro, she has Kuznetsova, Bartoli, Lisicki, Safarova, and Paris champ Angelique Kerber in her vicinity. Wozniacki has generally thrived in tournaments like this over the last two years; an early loss would feel like the next step down the mountain.

Also back is third seed Sam Stosur, as well as the woman who beat her in Australia, Sorana Cirstea; the two could play in the second round. Vera Zvonareva’s may be the most distressing case. She’s the defending champion, but that fact just serves as a reminder of better days. The Russian is only the 6th seed here and has gotten out of the gates slowly this season. The fourth seed is Agnieszka Radwanska; this tournament might be seen as a referendum, if we want to be so bold, on her winning streak of last fall. Was it a signal of more to come? Or just a nice, off-the-radar run in a series of tournaments that somebody had to win?

Maria Sharapova is not here; nor is Serena Williams. More unfortunate is the absence of Petra Kvitova, due to an Achilles’ heel problem—we’ll have to wait to see her face Azarenka another week.

Disappointing Upset: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova loses early again, to Ksenia Pervak

Encouraging Win for U.S. Fans: Christina McHale, over the fabulously named Chanelle Scheepers

Encouraging Reappearance: French prodigy Caroline Garcia took Barthel to two tiebreakers

First-round matches to watch: Lisicki-Kerber, Zheng-Kirilenko, Pennetta-Cibulkova

Potential second-round match to watch: Ivanovic vs. Cetkovska. Because, well . . . just because.

*****

ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Decoturf; $1,592,000
Draw is here

Roger Federer is probably happy he added Rotterdam to his schedule this time around. He can head straight there and leave the weekend’s Davis Cup debacle behind. He also has the distinction of playing John Isner in Fribourg one day, and playing his partner in time, Nicolas Mahut, in the first round in Holland a few days later.

It isn’t just Federer who should make this draw a good and watchable one. He’s joined by Berdych, del Potro, Gasquet, Dolgopolov*, Troicki, Youzhny, Baghdatis—not to mention a local wild card with the superb name of Jesse Huta Galung. He knocked off Ivan Ljubicic in the first round.

Third-round match to hope for: Federer-Dolgopolov*

Player who could use a title: Del Potro

*Dash that hope: Dolgopolov has, apparently, already lost

*****

SAP Open
San Jose,
Hard courts; $531,000
Draw is here

The ATP’s walking wounded have converged on poor old San Jose. Each of the top three seeds, Gael Monfils, Andy Roddick, and Milos Raonic, come in with their share of niggles. Raonic’s knee kept him out of the all-important fourth rubber for Canada this weekend. More worrying is that it continues the defending champ’s injury-prone tendencies.

Other Americans here: Ryan Harrison, Ryan Sweeting, Donald Young, Sam Querrey, collegiate champ Steve Johnson, and wild cards Robby Ginepri and Jack Sock.

First-round matches to watch: I’m curious to see how Young fares against Michael Russell, and how Harrison does with Olivier Rochus. Young should handle Russell, and while Rochus is seeded eighth, you feel like it’s a match Harrison should win as well.

San Jose was the scene of breakthroughs by Andy Murray and Milos Raonic in recent years. With a tottering set of top seeds this time, it could be the same for another young player this time around.

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