July 30, 2009

Triumph of the Underdogs

I have to admit that most of my focus has been on the West Coast tournaments this week, as some of the best men and women take to the courts of Los Angeles and Stanford, respectively. But I didn't mean to ignore some of the great matches still going on in Europe -- especially a couple of new faces making their mark.

Brazil's Marcos Daniel has already won three challenger events this year, and now in Gstaad he's trying to make his mark on the Tour. At thirty-one years of age he's not exactly a stranger to the circuit, but in the twelve years since he's gone pro he's never really made a dent. But last week in Indianapolis he avenged a loss to Taylor Dent at the Hall of Fame and he began his quest in Switzerland by notching a tight win over eighth seed Paul-Henri Mathieu and following it up today by defeating Julien Benneteau.

It marks only the second time this year he's scored back-to-back wins in a main draw. Next up for Daniel is Frenchman Florent Serra, a man who beat him easily in Memphis earlier this year. Obviously it will be a challenge for the #73 player in the world, but stranger things have happened.

Take, for example, the recent ascendancy of German Andrea Petkovic, the twenty-one year old who won her first Tour title last week in Bad Gastein. Before that tournament, she'd only won three matches in the big leagues -- ironically, all in Majors: the 2007 French and U.S. Opens and this year's Australian. But in Austria she won five in a row, only dropping one set to seventh seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

This week she's been equally impressive, losing only four games in her first two matches in Istanbul -- today she beat Paraguay's Rossana De Los Rios in under an hour, winning seventy percent of the points. Though she'll have to face her first seed of the tournament in the quarters, I'm not sure there's any reason for her to be intimidated by Olga Govortsova -- actually ranked lower than Andrea, Olga has lost both their previous matches and should be a fairly easy opponent.

It may be premature to call for her second straight title, but if Petkovic ever had an opportunity, this might be it.

Good luck to all!

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