Monday, November 23, 2009

ATP Tour Finale: Day 2

Day Session -
Max Mirnyi (Belarus)/Andy Ram (Israel) def. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA) in straight sets
Robin Soderling (Sweden) def. Rafael Nadal (Spain) in straight sets

Mirnyi has always been one of my favorites. He is one of few doubles stars who's also had success on the singles tour, rising as high as #18 in the world and winning one title. He's another one who has a body seemingly more suitable to another sport. His father was a top volleyball player. Nicknamed The Beast, Mirnyi is a nightmare at the net for opponents in singles or doubles.

I have to admit that the Bryan twins creep me out a little bit. They're almost robotic in their execution: The Stepford Doubles Team.

One of the most interesting differences between the singles and doubles players is their ages. The average age of the eight singles players this week is 24 years. For the 16 doubles players, it's 32. With two people to cover the court, you don't accumulate mileage on the legs so quickly. It also stands to reason that in a more tactical game, the wisdom of experience is more valuable. I'd love to see doubles become a career extender for the top singles players. Say, for instance, that rather than riding off into the sunset forever, Federer might spend a year on the doubles tour. He could play a bit longer and it would be fantastic publicity for the doubles discipline. I'd love to see him team up with Nadal. It's bad enough having to face one of them. How about both?

Soderling v. Nadal was, of course, a rematch of perhaps the most significant match of the entire year: Soderling's defeat of Nadal in the fourth round at the French Open. It was Nadal's first ever defeat at Roland Garros and ended his four-year reign as champion. Was it a great day for Soderling or a bad one for Nadal? Rafa, gentleman that he is, gave full credit to his opponent. Indeed, today's match served as further proof that he is vulnerable to Soderling's style of play. I think that if Rafa had won that match, the rest of the summer might have gone quite differently. I believe he would have claimed both the French and Wimbledon again. Of course, it was an injury that caused him to pull out of Wimbledon but I'm sure it's easier to play through pain when you're on a win streak.

Soderling only made it to the Tour Finals as an alternate when Andy Roddick pulled out. He will finish the year with his highest ranking ever and can take credit for changing the narrative in 2009.

Night Session -
Lukasv Kubot (Poland)/Oliver Marach (Austria) def. Lukas Dlouhy (Czech Republic)/Leander Paes (India) in straight sets
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) def. Nikolay Davydenko (Russia) in three sets

There are three Poles in the doubles draw this week making Poland the best-represented country for the event. Who would have thought? The Poles have done well so far, too. Kubot/Marach is the youngest doubles team here and tonight, they topped a legend. Leander Paes has quite the resume: 41 doubles titles overall, 6 men's doubles Slams, 4 in mixed doubles plus an Olympic bronze medal in singles. But that's nothing compared to the fact that he survived a parasitic brain infection - one that was initially thought to be a tumor.

Djokovic is the hot player on tour at the moment and has to be considered a threat to defend his title. I've always been fond of Davydenko, though, and nearly always root for him. The man has been camped out in the top 10 for years now and yet he goes virtually unnoticed. A few years ago, as Andy Murray was first getting attention, he had a fourth round match against Davydenko at the US Open. The match was essentially even when its completion was delayed until the following day. Murray, the little snot, couldn't stop himself from complaining to the press about having to get up early in the morning to prepare. Davydenko was not impressed and delivered an absolute pasting to finish him off, tatooing him 6-0 in the fourth set. It was a delightful, welcome-to-the-big-time-now-quit-your-whining moment.

This really is a wonderfully television-friendly event. In two days, we've seen all 24 players involved in the tournament and no one's been sent home yet.

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