An interesting couple days here at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. I’ve never been to a tournament so early in the season before. You just don’t know how hard a player has been working in the off-season or whether they’re looking to play their way into shape before the Australian Open. Add to the mix a trio of 26-year-old former junior superstars–Viktor Troicki, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils–who are often accused of not living up to their potential, and you don’t know what you’re going to get.
The results have been mixed. Number six seed Troicki crashed out to Slovakian Lukas Lacko who was then crushed by Gasquet (and his beautiful backhand) in the quarterfinals. After recording his 300th career win on Wednesday, Gasquet looks like he’s put his (alleged) partying days behind him, cruising into the semis.
Monfils contributed to one of the more entertaining matches of the tournament in his quarterfinal upset of rock solid Philipp Kohlschreiber, seeded number three. At issue was the ATP’s stricter enforcement of the amount of time allowed between points. According to Caroline Cameron at SportsNet:
“In September, the ATP board approved a change in the time violation penalty so that players would be given a warning and penalized the first time they went over 25 seconds. For all subsequent time violations, it would be considered a fault and the receiver would win the point. This became the new rule when the clock struck midnight Jan. 1, ringing in 2013.”
Some players are not happy. Monfils repeatedly used the argument “I’m black so I sweat a lot” arguing that after every point he had to call for a ballkid to bring a towel over so he could wipe the sweat off his racquet and hands. Check out the video. Incidentally, that’s me at the 1:45 mark sitting next to ATP Supervisor Thomas Karlberg while Monfils barked at us!
As one YouTube commenter put it: “S Williams + J Tsonga – please confirm this, thx.”
Anyway, Monfils managed to overcome his self-diagnosed hyperhidrosis to upset Kohlschreiber then went down in flames last night to 153th-ranked Daniel Brands. Nope, I’ve never heard of him either but his glasses are sweet!
No major surprises in the top half of the draw, as Nikolay Davydenko continued to party like it’s 2009, upsetting countryman and number four seed Mikhail Youzhny. I’ve never been a big fan of Davydenko but it’s nice to see the humble veteran (and former world #3) out there grinding. He’s constructing beautiful points and it’s clear why he was a finalist here in 2011 and defeated Nadal for the title in 2010.
David Ferrer’s still showing why he was the winningest player on the ATP World Tour last year dominating Tobias Kamke 6-1, 6-2 followed by Paolo Lorenzi 6-0, 6-4. In Nadal’s absence, it’s been amusing to see the usually shy Ferrer thrust into the “face of the tournament” role. He’s getting huge ovations from the crowd and was pulled onstage at the gala dinner for various awkward shenanigans. And, of course, following in the footsteps of his countrymen Verdasco, Lopez and Nadal, the reluctant model was dragged around Doha for a glamorous photo shoot.
Just three matches today starting at a very reasonable 4:30 pm: Brands vs. Davydenko and Ferrer vs. Davydenko in the semis followed by the doubles final with Philipp Kohschreiber and Christopher Kas taking on Julian Knowle and Filip Polasek.
I’m off to do some shopping at my favorite Doha “hypermarket” Carrefour!