Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bring On The Warriors!

by Craig Hickman

David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Fernando Gonzalez, Nikolay Davydenko, Rafael Nadal, Richard Gasquet, and Andy Roddick are set to battle it out in Shanghai. Photo by Quentin Shih. Click to enlarge.

That's my half-hearted attempt to muster up some excitement about the Masters Cup which begins in about seventeen hours. Suffice it to say, I'm more enthusiastic about it than that WTA mess, but that's not saying much. Here's the Order of Play for Day 1:

CENTER COURT start 2:00 pm
R Nadal (ESP) vs R Gasquet (FRA)
N Djokovic (SRB) vs D Ferrer (ESP)

M Damm (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs J Bjorkman (SWE) / M Mirnyi (BLR)
P Hanley (AUS) / K Ullyett (ZIM) vs J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR)

Shanghai Time
- 7 hours for Central European Time
- 13 hours for Eastern Time, USA

I was all set to do a similar preview like the inaugural one I did last year, but why bother? Roger Federer will go undefeated in the Red Group, keeping his round robin record unblemished, unless Andy Roddick finishes the job he started here last year.

I'm not holding my breath.

But the American, if healthy, ought to defeat the cockpecked Nikolay Davydenko, to whom he's never lost a set, and a struggling Fernando Gonzalez, who worked very hard to surrender his spot at this World Tour Final (WTF).

The Gold Group is poised to be alot more interesting. Most pundits assume that Novak Djokovic will finish first in this group. I don't. What has he done lately other then crash and burn and blame oral surgery? Oh yeah, he won Vienna over a weak field. Big deal. And this is his first time at the WTF, so he's bound to be a little nervous. The same can be said for David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet. I'm inclined to believe Richie will fare better than David, and both of them can beat Djoke if they feel like it. Rafael Nadal looks to be in fine form, but only if he can recover from his humiliating loss in the final of Paris. Something tells me he will.

This group will likely come down to sets won and loss between three players with the same match record, as did Raja's group last year when all Andy had to do was win a set against David Nalbandian to make the semifinals, but failed to capitalize on the Argentine's second set choke. I think Rafa will exact some revenge on David and Djoke and go undefeated. Richie will beat Djoke who will beat David who will beat Richie. Or Djoke will beat Richie who will beat David who will beat Djoke. Although I wouldn't be shocked if Djoke goes the way his fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic went in Madrid and loses all three of his matches, which would put both Spaniards through to the semifinals.

I may change my mind about all this before the end of the post. Meantime, let's talk about those Terracotta Warriors a bit, no?

The Art of War
I'm an artist. My primary medium these days is creative non-fiction, though at the core, I'm a poet who's dabbled in fiction, screenwriting, and playwrighting. Back in another life, I had a career as a theatrical performance artist and my solo performance pieces fused poetry, dance, monologue and visual art. I used to paint watercolors and have produced a few pieces of sculpture, though nothing anyone would want to see.

As an artist, I enjoy art and write and speak often about the role of the artist in telling us who we are. I was excited, then, when I first read about the Terracotta Warriors project. A perfect intersection of art, history, sport and culture. Since I've always believed sporting competitions are the best (and only) way to civilly fight global wars without bloodshed, the tennis player represented as ancient Chinese warrior underscored that belief.

I'm sure the life-size statues will loom large wherever they are unveiled in Shanghai, eliciting a few oohs and aahs upon viewing. But French sculptor Laury Dizengremel missed the mark in creating the busts of the eight players who ultimately qualified for Shanghai. She began taking measurements of potential players way back at TMS Montreal, and while she likely had to work overtime to complete the busts of the final qualifiers, she had all the time in the world to get the likenesses of Raja, Rafa, and Novak right. But she didn't. Color me a perfectionist and unrepentant critic, but I'd like to think a sculptor with her resume would be able to create busts that are dead ringers for their subjects. She didn't.

Still, it's nice to see the incorporation of art into all aspects of life, including sport. Here's hoping a trend has begun and we will see more of this in the future.

Terracotta Warriors Photo Gallery

Back to the tennis. I just read that Rafa's having injury issues again. So, I'm going to go out on a looooong limb and predict the following (and, no, I'm not on drugs - I have never done drugs - but if I want something unpredictable to happen [of course, if it happens and I predicted it, then it ain't unpredictable], I'm going to put it out there) :

Roddick d. Gasquet
Federer d. Ferrer

Roddick d. Federer

If Rafa turns out to be fine, replace him with Ferrer in the semis and Federer in the finals.

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