The Week in Preview: Feb. 18

Monday, February 18, 2013 /by

This year in Australia, Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer were each asked to assess what Bernard Tomic, the great young mystery-hope of Aussie tennis, needed to do to “take the next step.” Each of them said that Tomic had to learn to “bring it every day of the year,” the way the best players do. Berdych and Federer claimed that this daily sense of dedication and professionalism had taken some time for them to learn as well (one of them obviously learned it a little better than the other). But making the sport into your life, 24/7, was the only way to succeed on tour today.

Those words came to mind this afternoon as I watched and followed matches featuring three of the game’s up-and-comers, Sloane Stephens, Laura Robson, and Tomic himself. The two young women, each of whom has established herself as a WTA player to watch in the last six months, were beaten in three sets by lower-ranked players in Dubai. Tomic, meanwhile, managed to escape the same fate in a third-set tiebreaker against Martin Klizan in Marseille. 

This isn’t to say that Stephens and Robson, who won a total of one match between them in the desert swing through Doha and Dubai, aren’t dedicated enough to succeed. But it is to say that, as Berdych and Federer mentioned, the tours are tough, and that maintaining a high level week after week, often in the face of demoralizing defeats, may be the toughest part of all to learn. Just ask Bernie.

Those were the most interesting results from Monday’s tennis. Here’s a look at what we might see the rest of the week.

*****

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Dubai, UAE
$2,000,000
Decoturf II; WTA Premier
Draw is here

Twenty-eight women have made the trip from Doha to Dubai to duel in the desert again. That’s half the number who were in action last week, but at $2,000,000, the prize money in Dubai isn’t all that much less. 

Whether it’s the cash, their appearance fees, the chance to be No. 1, or just because they happened to be in the area, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, champ and runner-up respectively in Doha, will be lacing them up again this week. Vika opens against the winner of Dominika Cibulkova and Nadia Petrova. Serena will start with Marion Bartoli; the Frenchwoman has one win in their four meetings, at Wimbledon two years ago. If Azarenka reaches the final and Serena doesn’t, Vika would take the No. 1 ranking back. 

I have a feeling that’s what might happen. Serena has the tougher draw, from her opener against Bartoli to, potentially, Wozniacki, Kvitova, or Radwanska in later rounds. Azarenka, meanwhile, has Errani, Kerber, and Stosur on her side. We know that when Vika gets rolling at this time of year, she can roll for a while.

*****

Open 13

Marseille, France
$706,539; 250 ranking points
Indoor hard courts
Draw is here

Marseille’s Open 13 offers just 250 ranking points to its winner, but you wouldn’t know that from the strong field assembled there this year. Four members of the Top 10, the aforementioned Berdych, last week’s Rotterdam winner, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Janko Tipsarevic are all in attendance. You have to think, for three of them, the proximity to their European homes, as well as to next week’s event in Dubai, has kept them from crossing the ocean for the 500 points on offer in Memphis this week.

What else are they playing for? Del Potro can keep his indoor momentum going; he opens with the winner of Goffin and Llodra. Tsonga, who went out early in Rotterdam, can right the ship; he’ll begin with the winner of Davydenko and Stakhovsky.

Below the top four, Marseille seems to specialize in the raw—as in talent—and the occasionally cooked, as in brain waves:

—Ernests Gulbis, who showed signs of life, as well as a weirder forehand than ever, last week, starts with Jarkko Nieminen.

—Jerzy Janowicz beat Lukas Rosol today in a first-rounder. He could get Rotterdam runner-up Julien Benneteau next.

—Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils might face each other in the second round.

—If Benoit Paire wins his first-rounder, he’ll face his wonder twin in gifted unreliability, Tomic.

*****

U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships

Memphis, Tenn.
$1,212,750; 500 ranking points
Indoor hard courts
Draw is here

Memphis is offering twice as many ranking points and nearly twice as much money as Marseille, but its draw features four fewer Top 10 players. The top seed, Marin Cilic, is No. 12; second seed Milos Raonic is No. 14. Between this and the closing of San Jose, it’s a tough time to be a tournament in the United States. The best thing that Memphis has going for it this year is that it has returned to its original name, the U.S. National Indoor Championships. Compared to its most recent title, the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, it at least sounds important again.

Raonic, the runner-up here the last two years, opens against young American Jack Sock, who struggled in a first-round loss in San Jose last week. The winner could play James Blake. Cilic starts with a tough one, against Croatia’s dogged Ivan Dodig.

Also here: Kei Nishikori, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Haas, and Americans John Isner, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Rhyne Williams, Michael Russell, and Donald Young.

One Statesider who is no longer in the draw is Ryan Harrison, who lost a third-set tiebreaker to Lukasz Kubot today. With the defeat, Harrison will fall to No. 74, his lowest ranking in a year. As the guys at the top will tell you, bringing it every day isn't as easy as it looks.

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