Two 500 events are underway in eastern Asia, in Tokyo and Beijing respectively. To order them thus is to rank them by draw quality, which is hard on Beijing, since it wasn’t their idea for two-time defending champion and reigning Cincinnati finalist Novak Djokovic to pull out. It is interesting to note that the Chinese event is offering almost double the prize money of its Japanese equivalent, a gap of about a million dollars all up. Interest becomes fascination when we realise that notwithstanding its inflated prize pool, Beijing’s biggest drawcard is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whilst Tokyo managed to procure the services of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Word is that Nadal’s appearance fee for Tokyo last year left little change from a million bucks, far outstripping his winner’s purse. Fascination thus begets cynicism, especially in light of Murray’s recent complaints that mandatory events hurt his earning power, since the Masters don’t pay players to turn up. Beijing gambled on Djokovic – the surest wager in tennis – and lost.
Anyway, on to the tennis, with no respect paid to round or locale. Andy Roddick is already homeward bound, pathetic when he needed to be bold against a rampant Kevin Anderson. Passive noodling worked back in Brisbane – I don’t recall seeing them spar since – but Anderson has grown mightier since. Roddick’s sour press conference has by now made the rounds. Depending on your prevailing sympathies towards the American No.2, you will view his retort – ‘I think you should retire!’ – as the greatest verbal riposte since Churchill, or as the latest boorish flare-up from an entitled brat. Or you may think it a storm in a tea set.
Grigor Dimitrov has once again displayed fabulous skill and flair in losing a close match to a top player. As he did at Wimbledon, he pushed Tsonga hard, but didn’t win. It is unquestionable that his big breakthrough is merely a question of time. The question of how much time is harder to answer. It might well be a lot. Bernard Tomic is the aesthetic opposite to Dimitrov, although he more or less matches the Bulgarian for mercuriality, with his results oscillating wildly from week to week. Last week he lost badly to Flavio Cipolla, ranked 95. This week he’s beaten Viktor Troicki, ranked 17, although Troicki won’t be ranked that high for much longer. The Serbian reached the Tokyo semifinals last year, where he held match points against Nadal. Points will be shed.
Kei Nishikori carried the hopes of his nation into the first round against David Ferrer, but no further. Japan is, for the moment, a nation with hopes uncarried, and Project 45 remains tantalisingly unrealised. Janko Tipsarevic has followed up his maiden title with a first round exit the following week – to the fabulous Dimitry Tursonov – a pattern that seems common among first time titlists. Put that one down to, well, Tursonov winning more sets than him.