Rain rain go to Spain! Unusual for this time of year in Paris but the rain has wrecked the Roland Garros order of play and scheduling. Most of us spent yesterday glued to those green ‘ Wimbledon’ tarpaulins covering the courts, looking skyward wondering if we were ever going to see some play. Eventually we did, Andy managed to cruise the 3rd and 4th sets in his second round match against Juan Ignacio Chela and book a safe passage into round 3.
Ana Ivanovic’ fall from grace has accelerated of late, the 2008 Champion was humbled by Russian 28 seed Alicia Kleybanova 6-3 6-0, despite Ana having break points in every one of her opponents service games. I wonder will she ever reestablish herself in the top echelon of the women’s game. The Monfils Fognini match left so delicately poised at 5-5 in near darkness on Wednesday evening, resumed and despite the partisan home support La Monf lost 9-7 in the decider. Fernando Gonzalez last years semi finalist, was surprisingly beaten by Ukrainian Doglopolov Junior.
Rafa took to the court today and resumed were he had left off against Gianni Minna, winning 2-3-2 against fellow clay court specialist Horacio Zeballos. Big serving American John Isner was comprehensively beaten by Czech Tomas Berdych. More major shocks in the ladies draw, as 8th seed Aggie Radwanska beaten by little known Shevdova, Katerina Bondarenka and Vera Zvonareva also suffered defeats to lower ranked opponents.
Stosur, Henin, Sharapova and Serena all made light work of their 2nd round opponents today, whilst Dementieva, Venus and Wozniacki all made serene progress into the last 16. Tie of the 3rd round for the ladies must surely be Justine Henin vs Maria Sharapova. The little Belgian must be favourite especially on clay, however on the back of winning in Strasbourg last week Maria is certainly not short on confidence.
Nadal faces off against Lleyton Hewitt in round 3. Fresh from his hip surgery in Febuary, Hewitt is eager to make up for lost time, but should prove no match for the might Matador Rafael Nadal on the hallowed clay of Philippe Chatrier. All the higher ranked players should make it through, will the majority of the clay court specialists still in the draw, there could be some very tasty 4th round ties come Monday!
Last weeks winner, Ivan Ljubicic I’m sure will be disappointed to end his run with an injury, especially as he was leading by a set yesterday, but a man his age has to think in terms of body conservation (a topic to be hit soon by the LTB!). Another person who has been plagued by the restrictions of his body is fat dave nalbandian. It’s brilliant to see him back in fighting form. Most people had him written off to lose to either Kubot or Troicki, but when Dave is on top form, he can beat anybody, literally anybody. Finally, last noteable result from yesterday was the exit of American star, Sam Querrey. I’m sure the home fans weren’t best pleased with Jeremy Chardy, someone they would have expected Sam to dispatch with ease given their recent form. After the exit of blake, it looks like they’ll be relying on ever present Andy Roddick for their cheers. Here is todays schedule…
 F Verdasco (ESP) vs D Sela (ISR) Winner: Verdasco
 A Murray (GBR) vs M Fish (USA) Winner: Murray
 R Federer (SUI) vs [LL] N Lapentti (ECU) Winner: Federer
[Q] S Giraldo (COL) vs  M Youzhny (RUS) Winner: Youzhny
 M Baghdatis (CYP) vs J Chela (ARG) Winner: Baghdatis
 F Gonzalez (CHI) vs [Q] Y Lu (TPE) Winner: Gonzalez
 G Simon (FRA) vs H Zeballos (ARG) Winner: Simon
A Falla (COL) vs  J Melzer (AUT) Winner: Melzer
P Luczak (AUS) vs  R Soderling (SWE) Winner: Soderling
S Robert (FRA) vs  M Cilic (CRO) Winner: Cilic
T de Bakker (NED) vs  T Berdych (CZE) Winner Berdych
 J Tipsarevic (SRB) vs P Petzschner (GER) Winner: Tipseravic
 S Wawrinka (SUI) vs [Q] K Anderson (RSA) Winner: Wawrinka
[Q] M Ilhan (TUR) vs  J Monaco (ARG) Winner: Monaco
M Berrer (GER) vs  F Lopez (ESP) Winner: TCTC
F Serra (FRA) vs  A Montanes (ESP) Winner: Serra
Every now and then the ATP tour throws up a completely unpredictable tournament. These usually happen in the clay court season, but this time it was not to be the case. This time it was to be the hard courts of Indian Wells. I mean what’s going on, the American hard court season is safe, it’s standard, it’s a foregone conclusion, or at least we thought it was. This is usually the playground of usual suspects such as Federer, Murray, Djokovic, Nadal, Roddick, Davydenko and more recently Del Potro and Cilic, whom none of which (save for Roddick) made the semi-finals of the biggest tour tournament there is other than the Grand slams.
There was simply shocks in abundance throughout the tournament, but one of more namely was the defeat of Federer by Marcos Baghdatis. I think this shows perhaps just a little bit of insight into his desire for these tournaments from now on. It could be put down a little to lack of match practice but I doubt it. I still think though Federer, if he decided he wants to, could easily bag another masters tournament.
Andy Murray was an early exit albeit not so shocking to an in-form Soderling. Despite losing ranking points, he still overtook Nadal into 3rd place in the rankings, but he’ll have to defend his title in Miami to have any hope of sustaining it. Nadal on the other hand showed some encouraging signs of a comeback, and if it wasn’t for an inspired Ljubicic, we could have been talking about a back on track Nadal. Still don’t think there’s much we can judge from him by this hard court stint; I will be looking forward to the clay season to get a true picture of where his game is at.
And speaking of Ljubicic, I take my hat off to you sir. 31 years old, fallen from grace about three years ago, just about everybody had written him off not even to make it to playing the quarter finals. Nevertheless he made it that far to beat Djokovic (world no.2), then Nadal (world no. 3) and then Roddick (on his home turf). Can he keep this performance up in Miami, I really don’t know, but my how interesting would it be for the tour if he could break back into the top ten…here’s waiting with baited beath for Miami.
I said yesterday that Soderling needed to be at the top of his game to beat Andy, and indeed he was. He was showing that kind brutal corner to corner tennis that beat Nadal in the semi-finals of the French Open. Andy Murray will be disappointed, but he rightly commented on his lack of match practice, something he will hope to rectify in Miami next week. But for the second big tournament in a row, we have found ourselves with a few unexpected semi-final appearances and here are some of our thoughts.
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  I Ljubicic (CRO)
Ljubicic has done really well to get thus far, especially his victory against Novak Djokovic. One might argue if he can beat Nole, then he can beat Rafa, but I just have a feeling that he doesn’t have enough to beat Rafa today, and Nadal will be hungry for confidence boosting title. That coupled with the fact that Nadal hasn’t lost to Ljubicic since 2005 should go in his favour to give him his first masters final appearance since last April.
 A Roddick (USA) vs  R Soderling (SWE)
Andy Roddick has been clinical this week, and is always around in the latter stages of big tournaments. He too will be desperate to win a long awaited masters, but he has never beaten Soderling in his two attempts and given the form Soderling is in, I would expect to see Robin meeting Nadal in grudge match final. That said, I have a suspicion that Roddick will be up for this one, and who’s to say another upset isn’t on the cards, especially in front of the home fans.
PS we would like for it to be known that we are not sexist here at the LTB! We are just as interested in the WTA as we are the ATP. Unfortunately at the minute we are short on bloggers and short on time, so if there is anyone out there who would like to be our WTA correspondant, please email email@example.com or comment here.
It was great to see Ivan Ljubicic fight back from a set down against Juan Monaco with some massive serving to book himself a slot in the semi-finals to play Nadal. Even though he is not expected to get past Nadal (although this tournament has not been one to go with expectation!), he should be proud of his efforts of being the first croatian to reach the semi finals of Indian Wells since Goran Ivanisevic in 1996. As for Nadal, he was beautifully clinical against and in-form Berdych. Should he make it to the final, to win his first tournament since Rome in April last year, he will have face one of the winners of today’s matches…
 T Robredo (ESP) vs  A Roddick (USA)
Tommy Robredo and Andy Roddick have a long history of playing against each other, and unfortunately Tommy has only ever taken one set in their ten matches they have played. He has even lost against Andy on his beloved (and Andy’s not so beloved) clay. I can’t see today being any different. I don’t believe Tommy has the weapons to cope or even retalliate with Roddick’s blistering serve and for that reason I believe it will be Roddick who progresses to the semi’s.
 A Murray (GBR) vs  R Soderling (SWE)
Murray hasn’t exactly been on the scintilating form that got him to the final of the ozzy open, but now he has the chance to make the semi-finals in a masters event on his favourite surface, I believe he will step it up a gear. Soderling is a dangerous opponent however, and depending which Robin decides to turn up today will have a huge bearing on the match. Soderling will need to be at his level best to stop Andy Murray moving into the semi finals.
This has been such a shocking tournament so far with some big name not making the quarter final draw such as Federer, Djokovic, Cilic, Davydenko. And there has been some unlikely inspired performances in Greul, Dabul, Berdych, Ljubicic, Sela and Baghdatis. Speakingn of whom, suffered from anti-climax, coming down from the highs of beating Federer, only to lose in the very next round in 3 sets to Tommy Robredo. Here are today’s predictions.
 J Monaco (ARG) vs  I Ljubicic (CRO)
Juan Monaco has had a solid draw, beating the inform Ferrero along the way. Ljubicic will be by no means an easy opponent for him as he also had an inspired win against Djokovic yesterday. Can he do what Baghdatis couldn’t? Can he sustain his form from such a big win? It seems like Ljubicic has been around forever, and I have a huge respect for him given his fall from the top four in the last three years, yet he still hovers around that top 30. I’m not sure really why but I am inclined to go for Juan Monaco here.
 T Berdych (CZE) vs  R Nadal (ESP) – ATP
Rafa has been given a stroke of real fortune here. The draw has seriously opened up for him now that he won’t meet Djokovic in the semi’s and Federer in the final. If he were to win here it may just give him that boost to reignite the flame just like Federer got when he won in Hamburg and Roland Garros. He’ll have to get past Tomas Berdych first who has been in lightening form this week and has been a poison to Nadal in the past. I hope for the sake of my bracket that Berdych wins, but as a Nadal fan I would love to see him back to winning ways, so for that reason I reckon it’ll be Rafa’s day.
3 ATP 250 tour events happening this week in Johannesburg, Zagreb and Santiago. These usually feel like non-events directly after Grand slams where people who had disappointing exits play to try to get some form. Nonetheless I will indulge them only a little.
The pick of the bunch seems to be the South Africa Open. Still in it’s first few years as an ATP tournament, it has gathered a descent profile quite quickly. There will be an interesting championship match as well if both top seeds make it in Gael Monfils and David Ferrer.
Elsewhere in Zagreb we have Old vs the New Guard in Ivan Ljubicic and Marin Cilic. Croatia have been responsible for some fantastic talent over the years (not forgetting Ancic, Karlovic & Ivanesavic). Jurgen Melzer, Victor Troicki, Janko Tipseravic could all throw a spanner in the works though. But I’m gonna tip one of the Croatians to take this and most likely Cilic. He could be tired but he will be looking to consolidate after such a great start to the season. Finally it’s hard to see past 4 time winner and current holder, Fernando Gonzalez winning down in Chile.