May 3, 2013

Vets vs. Newbies

It's become a bit of a contest between old and new in Munich -- with top seeds getting upset throughout the week, we're left with a somewhat unusual crop of semifinalists. A couple have been decorated time and again while the others are fairly new to the winner's circle -- if they've been there at all. And as action winds down we might just find out if the seasoned pros are ready to give up the reins to young guns.

Top seeded Janko Tipsarevic ceded his spot in the final four earlier today when world #69 Daniel Brands notched his first top-ten win in nearly three years. The German had already delivered some solid results this year, reaching the quarters in Dubai and the semis in Doha, but this run might be the most impressive. He's made the semis in Munich before -- back in 2009 he beat Potito Starace and Julien Benneteau to get here -- but with wins over the Serbian #2 and Gael Monfils before him, he's faced and bested his biggest competition here. He has played three three-setters in a row, though, and might be a little more spent than his next opponent, Phillipp Kohlschreiber. His compatriot, the defending champion in fact, is going for his fifth career title and his third at the BMW Open. He hasn't dropped a set yet this week and won the pair's only previous meeting, so history is on his side. But twenty-five year old Brands might just be ready to make a move into the sport's top tiers, and a trip to his first ATP final would certainly put him solidly on that road. If he's able to keep the momentum he's seemed to have all week he could just make the statement he's been waiting to make.

Ivan Dodig has made a statement here and there in the past, but after a string of first-round losses last year pushed him out of the top fifty, it's been a while since he said anything above a whisper. He's made some strides to turn things around this season, though, making the third round in Indian Wells and beating Alexandr Dolgopolov in Delray Beach. This week in Germany, the Croat beat 2011 champ Nikolay Davydenko to start, ousted countryman Marin Cilic in his opener and earlier today repeated his victory over fifth-seeded Dolgopolov in straight sets. His task only gets tougher from here, of course -- next up is uber-veteran Tommy Haas, who's somewhat surprisingly never won the title in his homeland. Haas was challenged early by on-the-rebound Ernests Gulbis, but needed less than an hour to dismiss fellow German Florian Mayer earlier today. He also won his only match against Dodig, actually ending the underdog's run in Delray, so if Ivan's going to make another final, he's going to have to come out swinging from the start.

Clearly the burden will be on the non-seeds to deliver on Saturday, but given their performances so far this week there's no reason to believe they're incapable of big things. But the veterans will be out to stop them short, and won't go down easy. Whether it's ultimately time for them to step aside and let the upstarts take over remains to be seen, but this weekend's battles might just be a turning point for one of these guy's careers.

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