Returning from our two-week “WTA vacation,” we were delighted to see that many of you were eagerly anticipating our next entry. Yet we were even more delighted to see that the Serbian Sleeping Beauty awakened in Cincinnati to overcome a recently revived Azarenka in a memorable three-set collision. Forcing herself to remain positive after a lackluster first set, Ivanovic steadied her emotions and mentally outlasted the blazing-tempered Belarussian, who twice failed to serve out the match. Two points from defeat on three different occasions, Ana somehow found the inner steeliness necessary to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Serb’s confidence surely will soar after winning the type of closely contested encounter that she had been losing all too frequently. We hope that she can capitalize upon her triumph to profit from a second half during which she will have little to lose and much to gain in the rankings. Meanwhile, though, we head back to the business of bracketology with a somewhat tardy analysis of the draws at the WTA Cincinnati and ATP Toronto events.
First quarter: Following the premature demises of Cilic and Roddick, Nadal’s path to the semifinals suddenly yawns open before him. His only potential seeded opponent is Querrey, who won the LA tournament from Murray but so far has fallen a little short in his meetings with the Spaniard. Moreover, the four-time titlist this year may be fatigued from his recent heroics; the unheralded Michael Russell managed to extend him into a third set on Tuesday. With a reinvigorated, freshly treated pair of knees, Nadal should be able to wear down Wawrinka with minimal ado before confronting the American. If he progresses past Querrey to the final eight, he shouldn’t be excessively challenged by the likes of Troicki or Lu, credible all-court players without the physicality, groundstroke depth, or relentless focus vital to conquering the world #1. Although Querrey possesses the groundstroke depth, he remains lacking in the other departments despite maturing steadily this year. (Interesting fact: a Nadal-Querrey meeting would feature the two players who have won more titles in 2010 than anyone else in the ATP.)
Second quarter: Question marks hover ominously above the two maindramatis personae in this section; Murray must adjust to his separation from coach Miles Maclagan, while Soderling withdrew from Washington for “personal reasons” and only narrowly withstood the weapons of Gulbis in his opener. Lurking in the shadows is the Washington champion, David Nalbandian, who is riding a nine-match winning streak that started with Davis Cup and who already has dispatched the ever-tenacious Ferrer. The third-round duel between the Argentine and the Swede should enthrall, as should the encounter between Murray and Monfils. Flamboyant, enigmatic, and notoriously unreliable, Nalbandian has developed a habit of alternating prolonged surges with prolonged slides, and he’s in the midst of a surge at the moment. When one ventures out on a limb to expect something from him, he generally cuts the limb down himself. Nevertheless, the current uncertainty surrounding Murray and Soderling persuades us to perch out there anyway.
Go to http://sharapovanovic.com to read more of this double preview!