It feels a little like Groundhog’s Week on both tours. The women move from a rich event in Doha straight to an even richer event, per capita, in Dubai. The men stay small and spread out—the Americans go from San Jose to Memphis, the Europeans travel south from Rotterdam to Marseille, and the clay-courters move from the dirt of Brazil to the dirt of Argentina.
The Big 4? Federer, Murray, Djokovic, and Nadal all bide their time.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (WTA)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Draw is here
There are 24 fewer players in Dubai than there were in Doha, but almost as much money—2 mil—is on the line. The seeds have a similar ring as well: Azarenka, Wozniacki, Stosur, Radwanska, Bartoli, Schiavone, Jankovic, and—too bad again—no Kvitova, who withdrew for the second straight week, this time with an illness.
There’s not much new in the theme department, either. We’ll see, first of all, whether Victoria Azarenka’s shaky ankle, and not so shaky confidence, hold for another week. She opens with Julia Goerges—winner over Kuznetsova in the opening round—and has Bartoli, Wozniacki, and either Schiavone or Ivanovic on her side.
Second, we’ll see whether Wozniacki can stop her slide and start doing what the world, and her father, have been telling her do—move up in the court. She showed a spark of defiant spirit this week when she shot back at her critics, the Martinas, Hingis and Navratilova. Now she just needs to take it out on the ball. Wozniacki will start with Simona Halep, winner over the still-reeling Pavlyuchenkova today. I’d like to see a Wozniacki-Azarenka semi, which could cement Vika's ascent and Caro's decline, or could turn everything back upside down.
On the other side, Kvitova’s absence opens a path to the final for Lisicki, Radwanska, the back-on-her-feet Sam Stosur, or maybe even Jelena Jankovic, who plays Flavia Pennetta next.
Regions Morgan Keegan Championships (ATP)
$1,155,000; 500 points
Draw is here
Little venue, big shots. The men are squeezed into a racquet club in Memphis, where the fans better look out for errant missiles this week. Three of the games biggest servers, John Isner, Andy Roddick, and Milos Raonic, will be headlining.
So far the event is off to a dramatic start—Ivan Dodig beat Bernard Tomic 10-8 in a third-set tiebreaker, a few hours before Donald Young beat Grigor Dimitrov 8-6 in another deciding breaker. Coming up, the biggest—tallest, too—story of the week will be John Isner’s. We know what he did against Roger Federer in Davis Cup last week, and it seems to have made Isner, who says it’s “my time,” and that matches are on his racquet, think he can do things like that all the time. He’ll start showing what he can do against Gilles Muller, and then, if that goes according to plan, Donald Young.
There’s a similar story on the other side of the draw, in the form of Milos Raonic. Another giant serve, another confidence-building win, in San Jose. But there's also a tricky draw: The Canadian opens with Ernests Gulbis. As with Azarenka-Wozniacki, an Isner-Raonic final would offer its own clarification, of which towering bomb-thrower is the more dangerous competitor, and bigger threat to the Top 4, coming into the heart of the season. My only request: Start the match at 10-all in the third-set tiebreaker. It still might take an hour.
Andy Roddick will try to hobble through on a bad ankle.
Sam Querrey, a wildcard, will play his first event after announcing a new coaching partnership with Brad Gilbert.
Two other, younger American wild cards, Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison, will play an intriguing first-rounder.
Open 13 (ATP)
$680,000; 250 points
Draw is here
Tsonga, check. Del Potro, check, Ljubicic, check, Tipsarevic, check. Dolgopolov, Llodra, Gasquet, check, check, check. Fish . . . wait, who? Yes, Mardy Fish got lost on his way to Memphis and ended up being the second seed in Marseille. We’ll see if the man who needs his dose of American coffee in the morning can build on his own Davis Cup heroics of last weekend. He has a manageable draw: Dolgo, Tipsy, and Ljuby are the seeds on his side.
In the other half, Tsonga and del Potro could meet in the semis and play for the title of World Champion Outside the Big 4—in boxing, the winner would be called the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World. First, del Potro has to get past a possibly resurgent Nikolay Davydenko.
Most flamboyantly named second round match: Edouard Roger-Vasselin vs. Flavio Cipolla
Most flamboyantly named qualifier: Roberto Bautista-Agut. As someone who types players’ names all day, I’m not sure I want him to get any better.
Copa Claro (ATP)
$484,000; 250 points
Not bad for a 250: Ferrer, Verdasco, Nishikori, Nalbandian, Wawrinka, Simon, Verdasco, and Almagro
Memphis International (WTA)
Draw is here
Whirlpool Monterrey Open (WTA)
Draw is here