Tennis News Wire -
Sony Ericsson Open
This is the week Novak Djokovic finally starts to feel the pressure.
Oh, Djokovic is #1 by such a wide margin that he cannot be threatened this week, even if he loses his opener. But an early loss combined with a big result by Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer could put Djokovic under real pressure for the rest of the spring. After two straight relatively early losses, it's getting to be "put up" time.
And he will, naturally have to do it in a very strong field. They used this week's new rankings to do the seeds, and of the 32 potential seeds, only three are missing: #29 Stanislas Wawrinka, #30 Robin Soderling (naturally), and #31 Mikhail Youzhny. We have every one of the Top 25! So the full seed list is as follows:
11. del Potro
19. F Mayer
The draw does not appear at all kind to Djokovic. He could face Marcos Baghdatis in his opener, and in the quarterfinal he would face David Ferrer or Juan Martin del Potro. Then Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal's early rounds are easier, and his quarterfinal opponent would be John Isner or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, then Andy Murray. Not a cakewalk, but easier than Djokovic's path.
Of course, all those seeds have to make it to at least the third round. Djokovic isn't the only one who might face a challenge in hos opener. Del Potro may well have to start against Ivo Karlovic. Ferrer's first opponent is likely to be Bernard Tomic. Andy Roddick will either get to match big serves with Gilles Muller or face Alex Bogomolov Jr. Juan Monaco might open against Jarkko Nieminen. Nicolas Almagro could face Donald Young. Fernando Verdasco could be facing Most Improved Player candidate Carlos Berlocq. Berdych might face Fernando Gonzalez in what might be Gonzalez's last match; he is in on a wildcard, and we know he is about done. (And, if you're wondering -- Ivan Ljubicic is not in the draw at all. Juan Carlos Ferrero is the only other Top Fifty player missing.) .Tipsarevic is likely to face David Nalbandian. Andy Murray may face Denis Istomin, who is off to a hot start this year. Kohlschreiber opens against Thomaz Bellucci. Isner will have to take on either his countryman James Blake or else Nikolay Davydenko. And Granollers may well open against Michael Llodra.
Since Miami is a required event, all the points here are sure to count. That makes them especially important. Not so much to defending champion Novak Djokovic, who will stay #1 no matter what, but to everyone else. Rafael Nadal was the finalist in 2011; the semifinalists were Roger Federer and Mardy Fish; Tomas Berdych, Gilles Simon, David Ferrer, and Kevin Anderson made the quarterfinal; the players who lost in the Round of Sixteen were Alexandr Dolgopolov, Florian Mayer, Olivier Rochus, Janko Tipsarevic, Marcel Granollers, Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner, and Viktor Troicki.
That means we could see a significant change in the American "depth chart." John Isner is #9 in safe points, Mardy Fish only #11.
We might see even bigger changes. Yes, Novak Djokovic is safe at #1 -- but Rafael Nadal is no longer secure at #2. He is less than 600 points ahead of Roger Federer. That means that if Federer makes the Miami final and Nadal loses his opener, or if Federer wins Miami and Nadal loses by the semifinal, then Federer is again #2.
Andy Murray will remain #4 no matter what.
The contest between David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is almost a dead heat. The one who lasts longer almost certainly be #5, although there is a theoretical chance that Tomas Berdych could take that ranking if he wins Miami and the other two both lose early. In practice, it's between Ferrer and Tsonga, with the one who lasts longer getting it. Berdych will be #7.
The last three Top Ten spots are very close. In safe points, it's Tipsarevic #8, Isner #9, Del Potro #10, Fish #11, but Tipsarevic leads Isner by only 55 points, Del Potro by only 70, and Fish by only 90. Odds are that the three who last longest will have the final Top Ten spots. It is not at all likely that anyone else will make it; Nicolas Almagro, #12 in safe points, is almost 400 points off the pace and would need a final to have a shot. Anyone else would need a title.
Feliciano Lopez, #15 in safe points, leads #16 Kei Nishikori by almost 200 points. So we probably won't see many new faces in the Top Fifteen. The odds are a little better in the Top Twenty, but even there, we probably won't see much. And Kevin Anderson is the only player particularly likely to lose his Top Thirty spot.