Whew! After dominating the clay-court season with my Rafa-winning picks in Monte Carlo and Rome here at VANtage Point, a much-needed break was in order. See, there’s a lot of work involved in looking at a draw that has Nadal in it, particularly on clay, and tapping him as the winner. I have to use something that I don’t always put into play: common sense. Anyway, I’m back and ready to keep on digging in the dirt here at the Point!
A Look Back: Well, the last time I was here was around Rome time, which Nadal won, but that’s old news. How about that week of tennis that just transpired? It started off with Serena Williams saying she’s the true number one, then promptly losing her first-round match in Rome. Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova met in the finals of an event for the second week in a row, this time with top-ranked Safina winning. James Blake made his first European clay-court final (and the first by an American since 2003!) and there was a Mikhail Youzhny sighting in Munich, but he lost to another guy that’s been MIA, Tomas Berdych, in a wild three-setter in the finals. Novak Djokovic won that tourney his family runs and Yanina Wickmayer won the women’s Estoril event.
All this and news breaks of Richard Gasquet testing positive for coke (not “a-cola”, but the powdery stuff)! What a week!
This Week’s Spotlight: Madrid is the place to be for the boys and gals we call professional tennis players as the last major event before the French has kicked off. The only big-time player missing in either draw is Ana Ivanovic, who pulled out with a knee injury. I mean, even newlywed Andy Roddick, who hasn’t seen a clay-court event since 2003, it seems, is here. It must be a big deal!
Players to Watch: Let’s start with the guys and I want to mention something I just noticed looking at the draw. In Nadal’s quarter, there are eight Spaniards. Now that’s a lot of Spaniards! And it’s almost all the big ones: David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, Juan Ferrero, etc. I guess the organizers want a lot of all-Spanish matchups! Watch Verdasco, though. I think he can push Nadal in the quarters. And in the semis, Rafa’s drawn to play Djoko, who is someone else I’d say keep an eye on. He’s played a LOT of tennis the past few weeks. How will he hold up? See the full men's draw here.
On the women’s side, can Serena snap this losing streak she’s on? That’s a tough first-rounder she has against Francesca Schiavone. Big sis Venus looked real good in Rome, and I like her to keep it up here. That’s rough to see Safina and Kuznetsova drawn against each other in the quarters when they’ve been the star dirtballers so far. Check out the full ladies' draw here.
The Final Fours: For the guys, I’m going to go with Nadal over Andreas Seppi (his upset of Djokovic will be the biggest call made by VANtage Point of the season!) and Roger Federer over Tommy Robredo.
For the women, I like Safina topping Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva beating Venus Williams.
And the Winners Are: A week off will have done both Rafa and I good as he picks up the crown and I look like a genius (yeah, right) for picking him, and Safina goes back-to-back with tournament wins.
Van Sias writes the blog Tennis Talk, Anyone?
(images via getty)