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September 22 04:14
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Basel, Valencia 500's

Trouble resuming the season for top stars

November 01, 2011 | 09:30 PM

To start with in Basel, Joker needed all of 3 sets to win his first match in 6 weeks against veteran Xavier Malisse, 7-5 in the final set. Joker pointed out that 42 days is a long time to be away from competition (ok, it's not 72 days), but he said he'd had to do nothing for 4.5 weeks because of 'the worst injury of his career' [his back pain]. I haven't read details on his injury, and his play and demeanor didn't give away any hints (he didn't play in the Halloween mask that he had on court). He did give away points with over 30 errors and a couple of games with double faults on break points in the 2nd and 3rd sets, but movement and velocity didn't seem to be his problem. He's rusty, but may be well enough to resume about where he left off after he gets some matches under his belt. This was a good one to get past feeling 'good on the court physically.'

Berdych wasn't so lucky in his 3 setter, and lost to Nishikori 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Fish , the other top seed in Berdych's quarter/Joker's half, didn't get past the first game before retiring with a left hamstring injury to Blake. If Mardy's injury isn't just needing another week of rest, this could mean the end of his hopes to qualify for London.

The #3 seed, Federer, has said he feels physically good on court as well, and needed only two sets in his first round yesterday. We'll see whether the other 3 seeds in his half do likewise tomorrow with him, when:

- Roddick takes on Haas

- Tipsarevic takes on Mayer

- Murray takes on Haase

Roger will play in 2nd match against Nieminen tomorrow.

In Valencia, Spain, Racer Nick Almagro dropped his 1st round match to Juan Monaco in 3 sets, while top seeds Tsonga (now only 50 points behind #6 Berdych and ready to pass him with his next win), Ferrer and Monfils all won 1st rounders (Jo needed 3 sets).

Tsonga's 2nd round will be against Sam Querrey, who missed 3 months after Queens to injury and dropped to #116. Since mid-September Sam's played several Challenger level tournies and one qualifier (in Vienna last week) to re-tune his game. His win today against Gulbis, 6-3, 6-4, was his first tour level win in 4.5 months.

Del Potro, Cilic and Raonic will all play 1st rounds tomorrow in Spain in the Monfils-Tsonga half. Ferrer's half favors him at least until a possible semis with Lopez.


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