January 10, 2020

Playing Catch-Up

It was a busy Friday in Doha, where rain cancelled most of yesterday's play and caused a bit of a scramble to get the quarter- and semifinal matches wrapped up in time for the weekend. And those double headers made for some surprising results in what had already been an unexpected week.

I mean, only two seeds were still standing by the elite eight -- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic both lost their opening matches to players I'd never heard of before this week, and Frances Tiafoe, my dark horse pick to win a Major in 2020, didn't make it out of the first round.

And with more than a few double-headers scheduled for Friday, things got even more interesting. Top seeded Stan Wawrinka, who appeared well on his way back to the top ranks at the end of last season, and world #23 Andrey Rublev, a titleist in Moscow late last year, both got their first matches of the day wrapped up without drama, while France's Corentin Moutet won his fifth match of the event against one-time Australian Open semifinalist Fernando Verdasco.

But when the second matches of the day rolled around, Rublev dismissed Tsonga-vanquisher, Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic -- the only player who'd gotten his match in on Thursday. But while it at first seemed likely he'd battle Wawrinka for the crown, the Swiss #2 couldn't capitalize on winning his first set versus Moutet, and after more than two hours, it was the qualifier who'd earned his spot in the final -- the first of his career and quite a way to start the decade.

It seems obvious that Rublev will be the favorite to score the trophy tomorrow, but the action all week certainly sets an interesting tone for the men's game this year, well beyond the final. After all there were a lot of unknown players getting into the later rounds of the draw (and even a couple unknowns making it into the seeds -- who on Earth is fifth-seeded Laslo Djere?! I am again reminded that I need to study up on everything I've missed over the last couple years).

But perhaps we're getting a nice taste of who could fill out the ranks when the current top players ultimately, inevitably step to the side. And who knows, maybe Moutet will walk away with the trophy tomorrow and make his mark on the road to that new world early.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kecmanovic is not totally unknown, but rather still waiting for a big breakthrough. For Laslo Djere he is a ATP World Tour 500 titlist last year in Rio, so please stop ridiculing this professional players. Of they are seeded me as they deserved it based on computer ranking not because they are "unknown". Please follow and keep yourself more update on the world tour before writing such article.