March 23, 2011

Follow Through

Virtually anybody can have one good tournament.

Mix together a few solid shots, a favorable draw and a little luck and you get Melanie Oudin at the 2009 U.S. Open or Gaston Gaudio at Roland Garros in '04. But the really great players are able to put together a string of wins, one tournament after another, and can repeat defeats the strongest opponents over the long haul -- and the action in March provides the opportunity to do just that.

Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina were playing just their third event as a doubles pair in Indian Wells and blew through some heavy favorites to claim the title -- it was the biggest success either has had on a tennis court in some time. They're entered as a team in Miami as well, but both kicked off singles main draw action today and faced some real challenges.

Vesnina took on #1 doubles player and Acapulco champ Gisela Dulko in her opener and simply destroyed the higher ranked Argentine. She won eighty-five percent of her opponent's second serve points and broke her four times. She defended well and played consistently, earning the victory in just over an hour. Mirza, who had to qualify for the big girls' bracket, was similarly impressive against Acapulco finalist Arantxa Parra Santonja. She played solid ball on her service games and was aggressive on the Spaniard's, scoring her first ever win at the Sony Ericsson. Hopefully both will be able to continue their momentum apart, as well as together.

Somdev Devvarman parlayed his fourth-round run in the desert to a career high ranking at the start of this week, and so far he hasn't let the adrenaline from that jump go to waste. In his opener against Potito Starace, he out-served, out-returned, and out-maneuvered his opponent, notching his fifth win over a higher-ranked player this year. Next up he'll face Milos Raonic, who's done nothing but prove his ability to follow through all year -- it won't be an easy task, but if Devvarman is going to really break out this year, this would be a good time to do it.

Of course, not everyone can prove themselves right away. Twenty-one year old Donald Young had the win of his career at the BNP Paribas Open when he stunned fifth-seeded Andy Murray in the second round. After qualifying for the main draw in Miami he faced Denis Istomin earlier on Wednesday, and wasn't able to keep up. Though he got ahead in the first set, he lost a slew of games in a row, eventually losing in straight sets. Looks like he'll have to wait a big longer to prove his Indian Wells Run wasn't a fluke.

Sure it's still early in the tournament, and in some of these players' careers, but it's reassuring that at least so far there hasn't been a letdown from their performances in California. And while they might not be riding the streak others are, I have hope we might see some big things from them this year.

So why not start now?

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