April 22, 2009

Hot Potito

Half of the top eight seeds at this week's Barcelona Open were playing in their home country. Another two hail from South America -- clearly the Latin contingent fully intended to show their stuff on clay.

And two rounds into the tournament, it seems that they're well on their way.

World #1 Rafael Nadal sailed past Frederico Gil, winning his twenty-second straight match on the surface while Fernando Verdasco, followed through with his career-high #7 ranking with a win over veteran qualifier Nicolas Lapentti. David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo also advanced.

But perhaps the most impressive performance so far has come from a little-known Italian. Twenty-eight year old Potito Starace has been pro for over eight years and has played in an astonishing twelve tournaments already this year. Unfortunately for him, he's only gotten past the first round in four of them. He's been ranked in the top thirty as recently as 2007 when he won two teeny tiny titles in San Marino and Napoli.

In Barcelona though, he's poised for his best showing in years. He beat a plucky Ernests Gublis, the man who ousted Novak Djokovic in the first round at Brisbane, and fourteenth seed Robin Soderling, who won a challenger event in Sunrise, Florida last month.

In the next round Starace faces a resurgent Ferrer, who's made it to the finals in Dubai after a frustrating 2008. He hasn't beaten David in their two previous meetings, but Ferrer has been upset by lower-ranked players than Potito -- Kei Nishikori was ranked #126 when he beat the Spaniard at last year's U.S. Open.

It's going to be tough for Starace to take home the crown in Barcelona -- especially when he faces a bracket with such seasoned clay-courters. But a trip to the semis is not out of the question.

And with the world of tennis so clearly dominated by the likes of Nadal and Andy Murray this year, we will certainly appreciate some new faces in the mix.

Good luck!

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

Of course I was sad to see Starace lose his third round match. While he started out strong, winning the first set, the pressure must have gotten to him in the second -- after more than two hours, he fell to the Spaniard David Ferrer.

Incidentally Rafael Nadal advanced to the semis as David Nalbandian withdrew from his quarterfinal match. I'm sure the Argentine was eager to avenge his loss to Nadal in Indian Wells earlier this year -- previously he'd been an impressive 2-0 against the world #1. He'll unfortunately have to wait until next time.