There will be no defense of a singles and doubles title this year at the Farmers Classic, the venerable Southern California stop on the ATP tour just days away and now in its 85th year.
And tournament director Bob Kramer will also lose a bit of the hometown feel, as well, as two-time defending singles champion Sam Querrey (recovering from elbow surgery) and last year’s doubles victors and six-time champions the Bryan Twins (scheduling conflict) – undoubtedly three of SoCal’s favorite pro players – will not be taking part in the longest running annual professional sporting event in Los Angeles.
But there are still 28 hungry singles players and 16 doubles teams who will vie for more than $1 million in prize money at the tournament being played at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the campus of UCLA. Main draw play begins Monday and concludes with the finals on Sunday, July 31.
The top two seeds for the 2011 tournament are Mardy Fish, the No. 1 ranked American, and Juan Martin del Potro, the 2008 Los Angeles champion who won the U.S. Open in 2009. Fish, del Potro, third seed Marcos Baghdatis and fourth seed Thomaz Bellucci all have first-round byes in the draw.
Here’s a quick look at some of the top singles players entered:
Mardy Fish, No. 1 seeded: Fish gets a first-round bye and will meet the Steve Johnson-Gilles Muller winner in the second round. Fish is the top-ranked American and No. 9 player in the world. He is coming off his best Grand Slam performance at Wimbledon where he made the quarterfinals before losing to Rafael Nadal. The Minnesota native now lives in L.A., so he should feel right at home on the UCLA courts.
Juan Martin del Potro, No. 2 seeded: The 2009 U.S. Open champion is also a former Farmers Classic winner, beating Andy Roddick on his way to the title in 2008. He will take on the Michael Berrer-James Blake winner in the second round. In January 2010, the Argentine reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world but injuries have sidelined him, most seriously a wrist injury that kept him out of action for most of 2010.
Marcos Baghdatis, No. 3 seeded:The fun-loving Cypriot is hoping Andy Murray’s former coach Miles MacLagan can lead him back to the top 10 where he spent time in 2006. Of course that was the year fans remember the unseeded Baghdatis breaking onto the scene and making it all the way to the Australian Open final. But injuries have taken their toll and he hasn’t been able to get back to a Grand Slam final and now has one more shot at it before the conclusion of the 2011 season.
Thomaz Bellucci, No. 4 seeded: It took the world’s hottest player Novak Djokovic to stop the 23-year-old Bellucci’s run back in the May at the Madrid Masters, but not before he made it all the way to the semis beating Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych in straight sets. The run took the lefty Sao Paulo, Brazil, resident all the way to No. 22 in the world and he now sits at No. 34. A holder of two tour singles titles, Bellucci has been coached by Larri Passos for the past eight months. Passos is the former coach of Gustavo Kuerten.
Xavier Malisse, No. 5 seeded: Another L.A. favorite, the X-man from Belgium is the only men’s player from his country to have been ranked in the top 20 of the ATP tour. The 31-year-old has reached 11 career finals and won three of them, Delray Beach in 2005 and 2007, and Chennai in 2007 and has won more than $4 million in prize money during his career. He has the distinction of losing to both Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in L.A., falling to Sampras in the semifinals in his first Farmers Classic way back in 2001 having beaten Justin Gimelstob, Marat Safin and Taylor Dent along the way.
Dmitry Tursunov, No. 6 seeded: The ankle he turned so badly last year is healed and Tursunov continues to climb in the rankings after starting the year at No. 198. He’s currently right around 50. The 28-year-old from Russia is no stranger to California having moved there when he was 12. He will be playing in his sixth Famers Classic – he was a finalist in 2006 losing to Tommy Haas – and wants nothing more than to have a solid enough run to get back to his career-high ranking of No. 20 which he got to in 2006. Tursunov has won seven career singles title. He will face American Michael Russell in the first round.
Grigor Dimitrov, No. 7 seeded: Wimbledon fans remember the guy with the hat turned backward and the amazing match he had against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, finally falling in the second round. L.A. fans will be glad to hear that Dimitrov’s game has been compared to that of Roger Federer. He began the year ranked No. 105 and is currently right around No. 60. He will face veteran Tommy Haas in what will undoubtedly be a very entertaining match. The 20-year-old from Haskovo, Bulgaria, was the No. 1 American junior and won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon junior titles.
Igor Kunitsyn, No. 8 seeded: The pride of Vladivostok, Russia, Kunitsyn was raised by his grandparents on the eastern coast of the country and took up tennis at 7. He reached a career-high of No. 35 in the world in 2009 and currently sits around No. 60. He has played L.A. every year since 2006 but has yet to get past the second round. He will play Fernando Gonzalez in the first round. James Blake: At No. 91 in the world, he is the last direct acceptance into the tournament and will take on Michael Berrer in the first round with the winner playing del Potro. Last year at the Farmers, Blake lost a heartbreaking three-setter to Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals and drew one of the loudest ovations of the tournament. Before that, the last time L.A. fans had seen Blake was in 2007 when he made it all the way to the final, falling to Radek Stepanek.
Somdev Devvarman: Currently enjoying the biggest amount of success he has experienced as a pro, Devvarman can be happy with the fact that he is into the main singles draw without having to qualify, which wasn’t the case the past two years in L.A. Sitting at No. 68 in the world, Devvarman won back-to-back NCAA singles title while at Virginia and represents India during Davis Cup. In the first round this year, India fell to Serbia 3-1 with Devvarman capturing the only point with a win over Janko Tipsarevic in straight sets. Devvarman needs to prove he can play with big boys now and had a chance to impress this week at the Atlanta ATP stop, but fell to Mardy Fish in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Devvarman will play American Ryan Sweeting in the first round.
Ernests Gulbis: Gulbis’ current No. 78 ranking has dropped off a bit since he reaching a career best of 21 in February because of illness and injury. The hard-serving 22-year-old from Latvia was a quarterfinalist at 2008 at Roland Garros. Gulbis probably figures there’s no better time than now to win his second ATP singles title with the first coming in 2010 at Delray Beach when he beat Ivo Karlovic in the final. Gulbis will also be starting the U.S. Open hardcourt season with an eye on improving his best finish in New York, a fourth-round appearance in 2007. Gulbis will play No. 5 seeded Xavier Malisse in the first round.
Tommy Haas: One of the four coveted wild cards goes to the two-time Farmers Classic champion. The 33-year-old from Hamburg, Germany, won here is 2004 and 2006. He will play No. 7 seeded Dimitrov in the first round.
Ryan Harrison: The 19-year-old earned a spot in the main draw as a special exempt by reaching the Atlanta semifinals. Harrison is the first American teenager to reach an ATP World Tour semifinal since Sam Querrey at the Indianapolis tournament in 2007. Harrison survived a match point to win a third-set tiebreaker against Rajeev Ram in the Atlanta quarters. With his win, Harrison will crack the top 100 of the ATP World Tour rankings for the first time in his young career when the rankings are released on Monday. He will be one of only two teenagers in that elite field. He draws Richard Berankis in the first round.
Gilles Muller: L.A. fans remember Muller making it so the semifinals in 2005 and he’s still looking for his first ATP title. He is down to the final four in Atlanta and has a shot to come to L.A. with that first title. He draws former USC star and NCAA champion Steve Johnson in the first round. Said Muller recently: “I feel like I have my swagger back. It’s all about confidence now.” The pride of Luxembourg, Muller is always fun to watch and always comes up big in the clutch evident by his career wins over Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon and Andre Agassi.
Marcos is set to play doubles with Michael Russell. sounds too good cause Iron Mike is a player i like a lot.
brilliant idea to play doubles as Marcos needs to sharpen his net skills, just in case he meets Mardy Fish in the semis. Marcos and Mike will play Feña and Massú in the first round, the team that won men's doubles for Chile's first gold medal in Olympic history seven years ago in Athens...
Marcos is gonna play Lu in his opening match. clearly it's not an easy match. remember the epic 5 setter in last year's Wimbledon where Lu produced a superb performance and kicked Roddick's ass? hmm, also three years ago Murray suffered a shock straight set loss to Lu and miserably crashed out of the Beijing Olympics... perhaps Miles has something to say about it...
i'm expecting a tough match, just hope Marcos (and Miles) make a convincing start to his (their) Los Angeles campaign.
"Today at the Tennis Warehouse tent onsite at the Farmers Classic we have 2 autograph sessions, first up at 3pm is top seed Mardy Fish followed at 3:30 by the 3rd seed, Marcos Baghdatis. Come on out and meet some of our top players"
Marcos endured mixed success at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles on Wednesday. In his opening singles match, he was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Yen-Hsun Lu, but later rebounded with American Michael Russell to win his first-round doubles match.
Playing his first match since Davis Cup, Marcos suffered a straight-sets defeat to Lu of Chinese Taipei. The former World No. 33, a quarter-finalist in Atlanta last week, broke serve once in each set and denied Marcos any break back opportunities.
“I didn't play very good,” Marcos told his web site. “I lost my serve twice a bit stupidly and had some chances on his serve but never took them. Towards the end I felt that I could get into the match, but he actually played really well.”
The disappointment did not linger too long for Marcos, though, as he and Russell dismissed Brazilians Bruno Semenzato and Marcio Torres 6-0, 7-6(5) in 72 minutes to reach the doubles quarter-finals. Semenzato and Torres were a late replacement for Chilean wild cards Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu. “The positive thing is that I am feeling really good in practise and that I just need to transfer it in the matches,” added Marcos. “Doubles was a help to get a win and I could work on my serve and return a bit. Michael is a great guy; it’s fun to play with him.”
Marcos will be back in action on Friday at the ATP World Tour 250 hard-court tournament, looking to advance further in doubles and get more valuable match practice at the start of his US Open Series campaign. He’ll spend Thursday on the practice court and working out in the gym to tune up for the quarter-finals.