Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Awesome Tennis Facts You May Not Know About



1. The first tennis versions weren't as elegant as today because people hit the ball with their palms. Can you imagine the pain and the colors of the palm after one match? No wonder people decided to use racquets.

2. The moment the racquet became a mandatory part of tennis it was important to use the right string materials. One of the things used in the past was a net made from animal gut.

3. Tennis courts didn't always look like they do today. Today's rectangular court was introduced in 1875. Before that, the court was smaller and actually in the shape of the hourglass.

4. The grass was a part of a tennis court for hundreds of years, but it is not very popular today. New modern materials like carpet and specialized rubber have kicked the grass from most courts. Wimbledon is one of the last tournament played on the grass.

5. The first modern tennis ball was actually white, and that was good when TVs were black and white. With the first colorized TVs, people had trouble finding the ball on the screen so the white ball was changed to a brighter color. Three colors which were taken into consideration were yellow, orange and bright pink.

6. When you look at the Wimbledon trophy you will notice that it is made with care and so many details. But, did you notice the pineapple on the trophy?
Nobody actually knows why there is a pineapple on the trophy, but there are theories. One of them is that the fruit was so rare in the past (especially in England) that one who had pineapple was considered rich and powerful. Due to that, it symbolizes wealth.

7. The title of the fastest serve ever recorded goes to Aussie Sam Groth, who struck the ball with 163.4 mph speed. The serve record is "unofficial," though, having occurred in a challenger event. John Isner holds the official record at 157.2 mph. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, on another hand, hit the ball with an amazing 131 mph speed and holds the same record for women.

8. The oldest tennis players are still pretty impressive at tennis. In 2017, the oldest active players were Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui, who is 46 years old, and Japan’s Kimiko Date, who announced her retirement a few weeks before turning 47.

9. Tennis matches usually last for hours, but the longest match ever held was long even for the tennis criteria. The match lasted for three and a half days, to be exact; 3 days, 11 hours and 5 minutes. The rivals were John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, with the winner of the marathon being Isner by a 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 score.

10. What kind of list would it be if we didn't mention one of the shortest matches along with the longest? The shortest grand slam final in the modern era lasted for 34 minutes, with Steffi Graf defeating Natalia Zvereva 6-0/6-0 to win the 1988 French Open.


Author's bio:
Mark Cop is a soccer player and a fierce foosball player who loves to write about foosball on his blog. There he shares his knowledge by writing about foosball, foosball tables and maintenance. If you want to learn more about foosball make sure that you check out his blog the Foosball Zone.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Wk.43- Happy Fed-oween

Hi All. Galileo here.

Do you ever look at a player and wonder if they will make the Hall of Fame? It is something commentators love to say; great shot from the "future Hall of Famer." If Roger Federer is playing, then that’s fine. If it is Andy Murray, that would be fine, too. If it’s Stan Wawrinka you’d feel comfortable saying that he's in.

On the WTA, it gets murky. There are several players who have never been number one in singles who would get in for sure. I’d say Sam Stosur is more likely than Caro Wozniacki to get in, though they’ll both be fine, of course. But then she has all that doubles experience and is the only player outside a Williams to have won a slam in all three disciplines and be currently active (now that Martina Hingis is retired again). Both are likely to be inducted.

But what about Juan Martin Del Potro?



Andres Gomez is not in the Hall of Fame. There is no Michael Stich (though he is a nominee for the upcoming Class of 2018). But surely Del Potro would get in, right?

Well, he won the Davis Cup. He has had about four careers. He has that slam. When he beat Rafa Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to win that semi-final in 2009, well, he played the best match of anyone to beat a top three player that decade. His forehand is a legendary weapon and his mental strength is an underrated attribute.

His 20-9 record in finals isn’t good. He should be up around the 30 mark to have a shot. He is 0-3 in Masters finals. He has, however, got two Olympic medals, a good record at the Finals tournament. His career has been full of ups and down. He has played like a world number one before and he would have been a top ten mainstay if not for injuries. If he can stick around for another year, win a few more titles and take a second slam he should be good. But right now he won’t get in and that would be a real shame.

Wawrinka doesn’t have his flashes of brilliance, but he has three slams and the Davis Cup. He has been to four slam finals, and has been a solid player for five years. He should get in. If Delpo hadn’t been injured he would have been a lock by now, as well.

Oh, and during the offseason, Todd and I will talk about a little mini Martina Hingis featurette. Top five female player in the Open era? She is up there. We’d just like to wish her all the best in her new life.





*WEEK 43 CHAMPIONS*
BASEL, SWITZERLAND (Hard Indoor)
S: Roger Federer def. Juan Martin del Potro 6-7(5)/6-4/6-3
D: Dodig/Granollers d. F.Martin/Roger-Vasselin

VIENNA, AUSTRIA (Hard Indoor)
S: Lucas Pouille def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1/6-4
D: Bopanna/Cuevas d. Demoliner/Querrey



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ROGER FEDERER, SUI
...Only one man has ever won one tournament eight times or more on different surfaces. Federer has won nine times in Halle and eight in Basel. He also has eight Wimbledon titles, but that’s an obvious one. This man has 1,378 matches under his belt. He has 1,129 wins. His 81.9% win rate is the second best of all time for those with at least 1000 matches. Nadal is 82.6. Jimmy Connors is 81.8. If you play Roger Federer on an even footing you have a one in five chance of winning. He has 144 finals, just two behind Ivan Lendl. He has 191 semi-finals, two more than Lendl. This guy’s longevity, ability to win and weaponry is, if anything, even better than it was before. He wins for the same reasons that Venus does. It is like clockwork. The shots have a rhythm. The forehand feels like an old friend and the serve is still the same basic motion. The opponents change, sure, and your movement isn’t what it once was, fine. But if it worked against Canas and Agassi, why wouldn’t it work against Goffin and Kyrgios? And if it worked against Mauresmo and Graf why not against Halep and Garcia? This week he beat Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3 in his first match. The youngster was born in 1998, the same year that Federer made his first tournament main draw. Next Federer beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3. In the quarterfinals he was pushed to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Adrian Mannarino. In the semi David Goffin made a brief cameo in his 6-1, 6-2 loss. In the final, Del Potro actually managed to challenge him. Federer recovered to win 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-3. Federer was awesome. He has never looked better.
===============================================
RISER: JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA
...Out of nowhere we had a classic Tsonga run. He edged Karan Khachanov 6-7[2], 6-4, 6-3 to open up his campaign. The key for the Frenchman has always been finding consistency. The aggression he has, but he cannot always find the consistency to match. In the next match he should have lost. Instead he survived Damir Dzumhur 6-7[5], 7-6[7], 6-1. Dzumhur should have found a way in the second set but he couldn’t even get a match point. This happened at the tail end of the match and it really is a good call from the umpire.

Having escaped twice, Tsonga was looking for better form. And he found it as he upset top seed Alex Zverev 7-6[6], 6-2. He was starting down the barrel at 0-3, 30-30 but recovered, forced a breaker and then clung on to nick the first set. But Zverev responded with an immediate break. The German, very strangely, then fell apart. Tsonga kept himself in the hunt for London. His 7-6[5], 7-5 nervy win over Kohl put him in another Vienna final. It is his second in a row. He also won the event in 2011. In the final he was denied again. He was very limp in a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Lucas Pouille. Still it was a good run from the Frenchie.
===============================================
FRESH FACE: CORENTIN MOUTET, FRA
...Have you heard of Stefanos Tsitsipas? Of course, you have. Well, what about the guy who beat him in the final of the Brest challenger? Have you heard of Corentin Moutet?


He looks 12 but is actually 18, and his lefty forehand is enormous. He also has a pretty nice backhand up the line. At a tournament where none of the seeds achieved their seeding, he started off with a solid 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Norbert Gombos. In the next round he saw off French qualifier Tristan Lamasine 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-3. He spanked Gleb Sakharov, also of France, 6-1, 6-3 in the quarters. He edged past Yannick Maden of Germany in the semi-finals, taking four of 11 break points and scraping a tight set second set to win 4-6, 7-6[2], 6-4. And in the final it was a massive upset, as he beat the Greek wunderkid 6-2, 7-6[8]. And if you want to check out that one you can.




Moutet rose 64 places to 160 in the world. It is a career high. One day these two might meet in the latter stages of a slam. You never know.
===============================================
VETERAN: RICHARD GASQUET, FRA
...The Frenchman is coming to the end of a charming, if underachieving, career and we should enjoy the shot-making and upsets while we can, because he is still effective and he can still produce extraordinary things on occasion. That backhand still sings and stings. He has a unique game-style which is starting to die out. This week he beat Feli Lopez 6-2, 6-3 in the first round. There are over 900 wins on that court and more than 1100 matches worth of experience, too. He outgunned Domi Thiem 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the second round. Down early in the first set he recovered and dominated the second set but couldn’t seem to take any of his myriad of opportunities to win it. Despite being in front of a home crowd Thiem crumbled to a 6-1 loss. He is assured of a spot at the WTF, but it is still a poor effort on home soil. In the quarters, Gasquet went down extremely quietly to compatriot Pouille 7-6[5], 6-1.
===============================================


SURPRISE: LUCAS POUILLE, FRA
...We have another one of these mystifying, incomplete, overly talented, unpredictable, brilliant Frenchies. Who knows when they’ll turn up? Who knows if they can keep the form up from point to point, let alone set to set. Tournament to tournament? Forget about it. Unseeded in Vienna he opened with a win over hometown favourite Ofner 6-4, 6-3. Then he beat Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 7-6[8]. He spanked Ritchie Gasquet 7-6[5], 6-1. And in the semi-final he came back from a set down to beat Edmund. He saw six break points come and go in the first. He got a 4-0 love lead in the breaker only to see it disappear. He has multiple set points erased and then he lost the set. But he responded by taking the next two fairly routinely. He shrugged and went right back to it. And then in the final he, of course, routed Jo-W Tsonga 6-1, 6-4. It was such a French performance. With the French nothing seems to faze them or bring them down. This is a weakness, too, but sometimes it can be their biggest strength. The ability to just get on with it is so valuable.
.===============================================
DOWN: KEVIN ANDERSON (RSA) AND SAM QUERREY (USA)
...Diego Schwartzman, ranked outside the top 25, is in contention for the WTF. Isner, Sock and Ramos-Vinolas could also qualify by winning Paris. All Querrey and Anderson had to do was win a couple of matches in Austria. Do that and they had a great chance. But they couldn’t. It is disappointing to see two very good players not wanting it enough. Anderson lost 6-4, 6-4 to Garcia-Lopez while Sam Querrey choked. The American cracked 26 aces and a racket during the match. He held two match points during the second tiebreaker. And he got another one on his opponent’s serve in the third set but still couldn’t close out the match. It’s insane that he couldn’t find one of those match points when he was fighting for a spot at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.
===============================================
UPSET: KYLE EDMUND, GBR
...Ending the year both on a high and a disappointment, Edmund capped off a good season with one last run. He started off with a great win over Ferrer, taking out the Spaniard 6-2, 7-6[5]. He met Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak in the second round, and he edged him by the slightest of margins. He was up a break in the first but lost it when he served for the opener. He won the breaker but lost a break [again] and then the breaker in the next set. With no breaks in the third it went to ANOTHER breaker. The Brit clung on to move through. In the next round it was straightforward against J-L Struff, Edmund winning that 6-2, 7-5. But in the semi-final he choked. He went down to Pouille 7-6[7], 4-6, 3-6. He wasted a good comeback and the momentum. The difference between the top guys is the mental strength. Edmund didn’t have it when it counted. He should finish this year at about 50 in the world. He finished last year knocking on the top 40. So whilst he’s gone backwards a bit, at least he hasn’t totally lost ground.
===============================================


1. VIENNA R1 – Ramos-Vinolas d. Querrey 3-6. 7-6[7], 7-6[3]
...Have you ever seen Sam Querrey smash a racket? Nope, neither have I. But he is frustrated because he knows you probably only get one or two shots at the WTF in your life if you are the American. And he just blew one. He didn’t just blow all those match points, he blew break points and had a mini-break in the third set breaker, up 2-1. But he lost four points in a row. The crowd enjoyed two hours and 52 minutes worth of drama.
===============================================
2. Basel Final – Federer d. Del Potro 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-3
...Del Potro took a lot of momentum from his 6-4, 6-4 win over Cilic in the semi. And he dominated Federer throughout the first set. But Fedex slowly began to come back. And when he won the most epic of points at 4-5 30-40 in the second set the whole thing turned on its head. The Swiss began to roll and roll and soon had the title won.


===============================================


*PARIS*
=SF=
Del Potro [13] d. [1] Nadal
Tsonga [11] d. [17] Pouille
=FINAL=
Del Potro [13] d. [11] Tsonga

...Funny things always happen at the last tournament of the year, and Delpo and Tsonga both know they need a big result to get a big reward. They are both capable of it. Nadal doesn’t do well here, generally. And Zverev has already gone. I like Pouille to finish in the top 15 in the world again. He did it last year too, right?


Dasha is finished, but if you want Aussie action then you can watch Ash Barty. She is a set away from reaching the semi-finals at that funny WTA "Elite" thing. If she can take a set off Kerber she should win through to the final, though it all depends on games and stuff.




Thanks all.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wk.41- The Empire Strikes Back

Hi All. Galileo here.

Usually this BACKSPINNER will ramble, go on tangents, and then call it an intro. But today we will do something different, something unusual. To celebrate Rafa and Roger playing, with the top ranking on the line for the Spaniard, we will do a sort of live text stream thing. The next exciting BACKSPIN experiment we know you love. We wouldn’t do this with any old match. No Milos Raonic versus Gilles Simon affair would warrant this.



The tone was set in the first game. Federer took an early 15-40 lead on the Rafa serve. He took the game in deuce off back-to-back booming backhands. The first clipped the line and the second was an ambitious pass, which Federer would not have made two years ago. He guessed right - how many times have they played?

And suddenly it’s 0-2, 30-30. If you’re prepping for a big match and then you go down a break immediately it is such a whiplash effect. Nadal clung on to his serve the second time, but to be down so early on is never encouraging.

An epic, brutal, exchange christens the fourth game. A gem from the commentator: “You know, I’ve come to the conclusion that this guy’s pretty good.”



Federer hits a few errant ones but hangs on, thanks to a huge booming serve down the tee. In the next game, the Swiss forehand is still singing while Nadal begins to find his serve a bit more. Indeed, he finished the game with an ace.

In the 6th game it is one of those minute-long affairs that seem to be a Swiss specialty. Two aces. No rallies. 50 seconds. Is that even possible? Nadal, predictably, does not seem phased. Commentator in with the “he has to weather the storm and hope his level drops” comment.
That one is a classic. We’ve been hearing it for years. With Federer you know his level may not drop.

Key moment now. 30-15, second serve. Nadal is totally on top of Federer, dominating the rally but great defence from the Swiss and Rafa errs on the booming forehand winner down the line. Now 30-30 and second serve. Rafa finds a bit of magic, handling a huge crosscourt backhand from the Swiss with aplomb. An ace seals the deal, but a shaky hold from the Spaniard.

Federer holds easily again in the eighth game. Spaniard races out to a 30-0 lead in the 9th. Federer wins another Hawkeye challenge, but Nadal is up 40-0. He wraps up a routine hold to love with a beautiful angled ace.

Federer takes the first set on an ace, winning 31 points to Rafa’s 23. 7 aces to 4. Federer is winning 83 per cent of his second serve. That’s insane. The winner of the first set in this rivalry wins over 60 per cent of the time. That’s reflective of the tour, you would imagine.
Federer is a set away from five wins in a row. Nadal did that from 2005-06. He also did it from 2008-09.

We open with a lovely rally, Federer forced into going big. He misses. On the next big shot he hits a crisp winner down the line. Another rocket for Federer down 40-15 on Rafa’s first service game. But he runs around the backhand on the next point. Rafa reads it and strikes.
More crisp volleying from Federer sees us to 1-1. Rafa has to change tactics. But he holds to love with ease.

Roger knows he will get a chance at the break. All he has to do is wait patiently. In the 4th game, Federer goes right back to Nadal and gets away with it. The smarmy sun of a gun. But a few sloppy errors and it’s 30-30. Is the door open a crack? No. It is emphatically shut by a serve-volley and then a big serve.

A shaky start to the game. From 0-15 to 15-30. Only a huge forehand saves him from 15-40. Federer hits another beautiful stroke down the line, on the backhand this time, to bring up deuce. A Rafa error gives up the first break point of the set. But a humongous canon down the line saves it. Federer finds a beautiful drop volley from nowhere to bring up another break point. No 36-year old should be this good. Pressure now as Rafa misses his first delivery.

And Rafa misses a routine backhand. Federer twelve points away. Fed hits a beautiful angled backhand. And he pressures him at the net. Rafa’s started to swing. Commentator unfairly says the Spaniard is getting "spanked." But at a set and 4-2 down it is almost over.

Nadal goes up 30-0, but he looks beaten. Federer has won 85% of his first serve points. But he blows the simplest of backhand putaways. It was a nasty bomb of a serve, too. But he seals the game with an exciting rally. He puts the Fed away with a gorgeous drop volley.

And two games later it was over.






*WEEK 41 CHAMPIONS*
SHANGHAI, CHINA (Hard)
S: Roger Federer def. Rafael Nadal 6-4/6-3
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Kubot/Melo



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ROGER FEDERER, SUI
...He didn’t drop a set. It’s a vintage week from Federer. He is 94-49 in finals and 64-24 in hard court finals. He is now equal with Lendl with 94 career titles, too. But by 190 to 189 he has more semi-finals. The Czech does have three more finals, though. Federer has only made three finals in Shanghai, but has won twice. We could talk about Fed all day, but in the end why bother? It’s all the same things. We have had 17 years of winning. We have had seventeen years of magic. What else is there to say?

===============================================
RISER: MARIN CILIC, CRO
...That Wimbledon final loss is enough to mentally debilitate a player for years, but the Croat has recovered so quickly. He strung together wins in New York and now wins on this streak. He achieved his seeding here and sometimes that is all you have to do. He didn’t lose a set until Rafa stopped him, and the serve has been working brilliantly. He has decent results in Paris but the big test is what he can do at the tour finals. He needs to win a small title somewhere to really boost his confidence again and to find form before he has to take on the world’s best, but this nice run will be encouraging. He could win the WTF. There are so many injuries and Thiem is bound to disappoint. Aside from Federer, he really could beat anyone.
===============================================
FRESH FACE: MACKENZIE MCDONALD, USA
...This is the kid who won singles and doubles at NCAA level in 2016. He has just won the Fairfield challenger, his maiden title. He beat Kozlov, King and Sandgren for the loss of just one set. He beat another riser, Chris O’Connell, in the semi-finals, 6-4, 7-5. In the final he beat Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-2. It’s so hard to keep track of all the up and coming players, but this American is one to watch out for. It is so hard to win the NCAA. And now to win a challenger in the year he turns pro, well, he just looks to be the real thing. So keep an eye out for the name McDonald. You’ll be seeing him on centre court soon, no doubt.


===============================================
VETERAN: GRIGOR DIMITROV, BUL
...Dimitrov is probably ten wins against the biggest players away from a potential Hall of Fame career. You have that Wimbledon semi-final against Djokovic and one this year against Nadal. If he had won just ten of those matches he might be a top three player with higher aspirations like enshrinement in Newport. If he had beaten Nadal every time they had played this year, well, can you imagine the results? But for Baby Gasquet it has always been a bit disappointing, just like the player he resembles. He might be the most underachieving player around. He needed over two and a half hours to win his first round match, against Ryan Harrison. He won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[6]. He had to save three match points.
===============================================
SURPRISE: RAFAEL NADAL, ESP
...Before the summer swing in the U.S. this BACKSPINNER thought Rafa would choke and capitulate on the brutal hard courts. Instead he has been imperious. He has risen to the challenge and dominated the tour. Only Roger has been able to stop him all season long. His form and the way he has been hitting the ball have been reminiscent of 2008 Nadal. The final this run saw him escape Dimitrov [again!] and dismantle Fognini. He will be finishing as the number one and it is his best achievement to date. This is the comeback to top off all comebacks. After all the injuries, all the pain, all the tears, he is back. It is a pleasant surprise.
===============================================
DOWN: DOMINIC THIEM, AUT
...The Austrian always fades down the stretch. How many times must we talk about his lack of scheduling nous? There are some sports stories that get boring - ask Todd about the inability of Washington’s teams to turn amazing regular season form into actual results. [Sad, but true. The Nationals losing Game 5 of a five-game 1st Round series at home in excruciatingly -- and, in this case, truly weird -- fashion is getting old... though the Capitals have a few decades on them on that front, so there's that. Go Skins and Wizards. Please. - tds]


Ask this BACKSPINNER and his fellow New England fans about Deflategate. And this Thiem nonsense is the latest in tradition. He is brilliant until July before he steadily gets worse and worse. But will he change his scheduling? Of course not. Every season the same. It gets irritating after a while. He could have made a run at the top ranking if he’d wanted to.
===============================================
UPSET: VIKTOR TROICKI, SRB
...Viktor Troicki (or tricky Troicki) rode his luck in a few breakers this week to record some big wins. He has been a part of Serbia’s impressive tennis empire. Djokovic needed a deputy and he got two. Alongside a strong women’s team, Serbia was one of the best countries in the world for a spell. Now, with no Ivanovic or Jankovic, and the other young talent not showing up as expected, with Nole injured and Tipsarevic on the cusp of retirement, it’s all gone. But three or four tournaments a year Troicki puts in a huge result. This tournament was one of them. He beat Denis Shapovalov in the first round 6-7[3], 6-3, 6-0. In the next round he sprung a surprise on Domi Thiem, taking out the 5th seed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6[5]. With his first top ten win of the season under his belt [0-4 previously] he grew in confidence. He beat Isner 6-4, 7-6[4] to make the quarters. He almost made the semi-final, winning the first set against Delpo 6-4. But the Argentine won the next two sets to escape 4-6, 1-6, 6-4. A good week for Troicki and one that will see him back into the top 50.
===============================================

1. Shanghai R2 – Dimitrov d. Harrison 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[6]
...Down 4-2 in the final set he bounced back from 3-6 in the breaker to win. This was a high quality contest between two players we thought would be top 10 mainstays. The Harrison forehand going into the Dimi backhand combined with their awesome athleticism is always something good to see. But tell me this, if you lead a breaker 5-2 with two serves to come how do you lose? Harrison missed a volley and a forehand. And that was the match.
===============================================
2. Shanghai R3 – Del Potro d. Zverev 3-6, 7-6[5], 6-4
...Zverev came out firing in this match. He made Delpo look a bit silly for the first 40 minutes. But the Argentine, like he did against Thiem in New York, slowly fought his way back. He took the second set and looked as if he would roll to a win. But instead Zverev found another gear and didn’t let himself lose any momentum. The forehand of Delpo found top gear and after that it was always going to be an uphill battle for the German. He still had a good match, hitting 22 aces and doing more off the forehand wing than expected.
===============================================


3. Shanghai F – Federer d. Nadal 6-3, 6-4


===============================================

*MOSCOW*
=SF=
Carreno Busta [1] d. [4] Kohlschreiber
Mannarino [3] d. [2] Ramos-Vinolas
=FINAL=
Mannarino [3] d. [1] Carreno Busta

...The player that you can trust the most is the third seed. Busta will do fine, as will Ramos-Vinolas, but Mannarino has the form. Seppi is also here and has done well here previously. But he is way past it.

*EUROPEAN OPEN*
=SF=
Goffin [1] d. [5] Ferrer
Kyrgios [3] d. [2] Tsonga
=FINAL=
Goffin [1] d. [3] Kyrgios

...Yes, the European Open. What a name for the tournament. It is going to be in Antwerp. Surely it should be in Berlin or Paris. There is a lack of uninjured talent here. Goffin is in great form and at home. Ferrer should do well in this weak draw. And Kyrgios has weapons.

*STOCKHOLM*
=SF=
Dimitrov [1] d. [6] Fognini
Del Potro [4] d. [2] Anderson
=FINAL=
Dimitrov [1] d. [4] Del Potro

...It’s more fun when Fognini does well. Dimi and Delpo are in fine form, of course. Anderson will have confidence from his run at the U.S. Open. This is the tournament with the most depth and best storylines.

Not playing the doubles in Hong Kong has paid dividends for Dasha. She beat Japanese qualifier Kato in her first match and then saw off Shelby Rogers in three. Lizette Cabrera was up next for the 7th seed and that was a tricky encounter, with Dasha edging through 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. Todd can tell you all about her. In the semi, she spanked Jenny Brady 6-0, 7-5.

But in the final she couldn’t get over the line. She took the first set but lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-7[5]. The match, played through a typhoon, saw 16 breaks of serve [taking away the breaker, that is roughly half the games] and A-Pavs served for it only to blow two match points and get broken. But in the breaker she managed to win one of the longest matches, including interruptions, that we’ve had this year.

Will skipping the doubles help out in Russia, too? At an event without a defending champion (Sveta withdrew) the defending finalist can step up. So far, she's defeated Kristyna Pliskova to reach the 2nd Round.

Currently on WTA Backspin...

As a follow-up to the original Court of Appeals, The Best Player Never to be Number One: The Men.... it's time for The Best Player Never to be Number One: The Women.


Thanks all.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wk.40- Kings and Queens, Those Kind of Things and Up-and-Coming Teens

Hi All. Galileo here.

A common theme on BACKSPIN is the defense of whoever happens to be the world number one. Rafael Nadal, with his title in China this week, has locked up the world number one ranking for the year. Not mathematically, no, but can you see Fedex tracking him down now? But the WTA has done it once again. The best female player in the world has won a title this year. Thats right - one. She got there by making a final. She is only number one because other players lost. It’s the most Simona Halep way to ascend to the top. Not by her own hand.

She lost to Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-0 in Cincy. She has just been dispatched by Caroline Garcia. And the title she won, in Madrid, she won because her opponent, Kiki Mladenovic, choked. She is not a top five player. There are five active players better than her. There are ten players I'd choose above her on grass and eight on hard-courts. She has collapsed in two grand slam finals and lost in the first round of two slams this year. Two!

Her slam record this year is a mediocre 10-4. Venus has won twice that. Pliskova, who has had a solid if under-achieving year is 14-4. Muguruza managed 17-3. Ostapenko is 15-3. Kuznetsova is 11-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova has had a better slam years by wins than the world number one.

So to recap - she is rubbish in finals [1-4], above average at getting to finals, and average in slams. And that makes her the world’s best player? It’s a meaningless title at this point. It’s utterly irrelevant. It has been drifting in and out of relevancy for years. You don’t deserve applause and admiration for it.

On the men’s side Rafa Nadal has won title after title. He has won two hard-court titles in one season for the first time in an age. He has taken two slams and made a final at a third. He has reached a level we haven’t even seen from Djokovic yet. This has been one of the all time great seasons. He has locked up the top ranking for the year and if we’re lucky he might play Federer again, too. The contrast between the number ones has never been greater. Todd will try and defend the WTA but even he must be getting tired of the top spot’s irrelevancy. Does it even matter as a prize anymore?


*WEEK 40 CHAMPIONS*
BEIJING, CHINA (Hard)
S: Rafael Nadal def. Nick Kyrgios 6-2/6-1
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Isner/Sock

TOKYO, JAPAN (Hard)
S: David Goffin def. Adrian Mannarino 6-3/7-5
D: McLachlan/Uchiyama d. J.Murray/Soares

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DAVID GOFFIN, BEL
...After two wins in a row, Goffin must be feeling like his maiden Masters title is in the works. It is one of the hardest things to do in our sport, the threepeat, but he has a chance to achieve it. Winning back-to-back titles is not so hard. You usually play eight-ten matches in that period, but it's only in a three-set format. So it's actually less effort than you'd need to take out a slam. And if you've got the form there's really no limit to what you can achieve. Goffin really got going during the Davis Cup and that has given him a surprising boost. He opened with the veteran Deliciano Lopez but won easily 7-5, 6-1. His next opponent looked like a gimme. It was Aussie qualifier Matt Ebden. It turned out to be extremely difficult, what you might call a trap game. He ground out a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6[1]. Goffin opened up a 5-3 lead in the second but couldn't put it away. He opened up a 5-2 lead in the third set, but then lost four games in a row. He recovered and took 11 of the last 12 points to run out the winner. Ebden started the year at 699 in the world. He is now 103. In the semi-finals he ousted Diego Schwartzman 7-6[3], 7-6[6] to make it seven in a row. He is also 8-1 at the Japanese tournament. He was put under pressure in the 9th game but survived and endured a spirited fight at the tail end of the second set, winning in two hours despite failing to serve it out at 5-4. In the final he negated Adrian Mannarino’s tricky lefty serve with that big backhand. He beat the Frenchman 6-3, 7-5.



Goffin is now 49-18 on the year, which is an excellent mark. He's almost certainly made the finals, too.
===============================================
RISER: RAFAEL NADAL, ESP
...He has got nowhere to rise to. His level is the highest of any since Roger Federer in 2007 and ‘09. He was and is the best defender in the game. His movement and shots kept him in a rally four more shots than you'd ever expect. His rise from the ashes, Phoenix like, has been the second best storyline all year. It took Federer winning two slams to knock it into second. In the first round he recovered from a slip (literally) but edged out Lucas Pouille 4-6, 7-6[6] 7-5. He saved two match points against the Frenchman. It must be so hard to put away the Spaniard. You've seen him come back time and time again, against you, your compatriots, your friends and even your idols. And that's an added layer of pressure. The next match Nadal dismissed Khachanov 6-3, 6-3. Then he knocked out John Isner 6-4, 7-6[0]. To beat Isner to love in anything is almost impossible, but there are few better closers in the game than Rafa. In thw semi-final he ground poor Dimitrov into dust, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. In the final, Nick Kyrgios was never at the races and crumbled. He argued with the line judges all day and couldn't mentally recover. He lost 6-2, 6-1. It's another great title run from the Spaniard, and if he does finish number one he can look back at this.


===============================================
FRESH FACE: CAM NORRIE, GBR
...Australia should have kept Jo Konta. And New Zealand should have kept Cam Norrie. He is a very handy player. In the last week of September he won in Tiburon. He was seeded 8th and dropped just two sets. He was seeded 8th in Stockton and lost just one set. He also made a final last month. On the last Monday of August he was 200 in the world. He's now 111. Keep watching this guy. He could be another British success story.


===============================================
VETERAN: RICHARD GASQUET, FRA
...There won't be many more times we can talk about overly talented Frenchman after this year. His fitness has collapsed the last two years, but when he actually gets onto court he can be very effective. You saw it against Sam Querrey in his 6-4, 7-6[2] win. He has a deceptively good forehand return and the backhand is still an enormous weapon. He can hurt you. It'll be a sad day when he hangs up his rackets because he brought a unique style to the table.
===============================================
SURPRISE: ADRIAN MANNARINO, FRA

===============================================
DOWN: MILOS RAONIC, CAN
...He played a match and a game. He beat Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4. But he called it quits after just one game against Sugita. Now he's not a bad player, but Raonic at his peak would have no trouble. What is the Canuck still playing for? He's injured and not recovering properly, so he should sack it off. He should call time on his season or play just the Masters. If he worked on recovery now he might have a shot at the Aussie Open title.
===============================================
UPSET: STEVE JOHNSON, USA
...As usual, Domi Thiem is playing too many events. There'll be a season where he has a sensible schedule eventually but it isn't this year. He was in control against Johnson, but the American found his return game just in time to win 4-6, 7-6[5], 6-4. The Austrian will need to go deep in Shanghai to recalibrate his Finals run. The American backed up his upset of the 2nd seed by taking down Alex Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4. The Ukrainian had good recent form, but the American had found his groove. Schwartzman ended his run in the next round but a quarterfinal run is good for ranking, confidence and the wallet.



===============================================

*SHANGHAI*
=SF=
Cilic [4] d. [6] Dimitrov
Federer [2] d. [3] Zverev
=FINAL=
Federer [2] d. [4] Cilic

...Cilic always pulls out one great result towards the end of the year. Nadal won’t win two hard-court tournaments back to back. Kyrgios has health struggles. And Federer will know that if he doesn’t pull something out here it could mathematically be impossible to finish at number one.

Garcia is just the third person to do the Asian double and her incredible journey makes for a great week which Todd has you covered on. But our Dasha also did well. She beat Anett Kontaveit. In the next round, she benefited from the retirement of CoCo Vandeweghe. She lost to Strycova in the quarters 6-4, 6-0. That is a classic Gavrilovian scoreline.

Ever heard of Miyu Kato? She is the Japanese qualifier that Dasha Gavrilova defeated in the first round in Hong Kong. The 7th seed will next play Shelby Rogers. That has game of the week potential. She has not entered the doubles, which is surprising. She could have asked Sam Stosur.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Wk.39- The End is Nigh

Hi All. Galileo here.

Let's be honest. This hasn’t been the best season. Injuries, loss of form and a lack of star power have all contributed to what feels like a bit of a letdown season. Just as the NFL feels off kilter, so the ATP this year has felt a bit average. No Wawrinka or Djokovic. No titanic three-way battle for the top ranking. The doubles has been consistently good and the off-court stuff has not overshadowed the play, either, but it took Federer and Nadal to rescue this season.

I think sports across the board are seeing an increase in injuries and it means the top ten aren't as good, the quarterfinals and semi-finals lack bite and there aren't enough storylines. Pablo Carreno Busta is a very good player. Top ten? I doubt it. We have these periods in tennis, from 1998-2004 was the last time, where you look at the top ten and you say they just aren't that good. Juan Carlos Ferrero and Marcelos Rios both failed to make good number ones. And then you have those players who are fantastic and watchable and exciting...during the regular season. But come the ‘playoffs’ they mysteriously disappear. Alex Zverev is the Detroit Lions - fun and exciting, but then it means something and poof! He's gone.

But the long season is almost at it's end. We've got one more blast before we get a nice three day rest.

And that brings me to this week.

This week we had a retirement in a final, withdrawals and collapses from the big seeds. We had comebacks and drama. Plus David Goffin’s comeback continued. He has recovered so well from that Roland Garros incident.

In fact, we'll start with David...




*WEEK 39 CHAMPIONS*
CHENGDU, CHINA (Hard)
S: Denis Istomin def. Marcos Baghdatis 3-2 ret.
D: Erlich/Qureshi d. Daniell/Demoliner

SHENZHEN, CHINA (Hard)
S: David Goffin def. Aleksandr Dolgopolov 6-4/6-7(5)/6-3
D: Peya/R.Ram d. Mektic/Monroe

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DAVID GOFFIN, BEL
...This BACKSPINNER always forgets that David Goffin, like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and Bryce Harper, don't do this for entertainment or even fame. They do it because it's their job. It's what they do for a living. So when they get hurt it's a big deal. It's like taking cement away from a bricklayer. They have overheads like you wouldn't believe - coaches, flights, hotels and physios. They get hurt for six weeks and they could lose 20000 bucks. And on top of all the other costs they have to pay for their own rehabilitation. So when Goffin got hurt, at his best slam no less, he lost form, money and ranking points. On top of losing money for weeks afterwards he also faced an increased amount of overhead costs. He's come back so quickly considering how badly he fell and it’s good to see that from one of our stars. It wasn't easy and he will still be feeling a little drained from the Davis Cup, too. He opened up with a great result, edging out Evgeny Donskoy 7-6[3], 6-3. Donald Young has risen steadily in the rankings, but five years too late for American tennis to really care. He was seeded eighth and had recent form. But players that mercurial tend to struggle against the steady, patient players. The Belgian eased to a 6-2, 6-3 win. It wouldn't be the ATP without a strange match and Henri Laaksonen provided one, pushing the second seed all the way. But he missed chances in the first set and eventually lost 7-6[7], 5-7, 6-3. In the final he outlasted Alex Dolgopolov in a see-sawing three setter. Once again the wall was impenetrable.
===============================================


RISER: DENIS ISTOMIN, UZB
...Honestly, he had a better week than Goffin. But his opponent retired in the final. He only had to play five games to win the match. Marcos Baghdatis had to play two matches in one day the day before. Istomin became the 10th player outside the top 50 to win a title this year. He had a good tournament, with plenty of upsets. He played JL Struff first and won 6-3, 7-6[6-3]. Then he spanked Karen Khahanov 6-3, 6-2 to make the quarters. He edged past Jared Donaldson 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5). In the 5th game of the second set he had to survive a slew of break points. But after that he slowly turned the tide and, on his second match point, took out the match. In the semi-final he won 6-2, 6-7[4], 6-0 against Sugita. And then in the final the retirement of the Cypriot sealed the title, the second of his career.
===============================================


FRESH FACE: YUICHI SUGITA, JPN
...on his home continent Sugita has made a semi-final showing. He is another one of these Asian sensations that are coming along so frequently now. But most of them are young and up ‘n coming. He's been a journeyman until this year. Now he's the 40th best player in the world. Not bad at all. He had good wins against Monteiro and Lajovic. And despite the odd scoreline in his loss to Istomin he has still had a fantastic week.
===============================================
VETERAN: MARCOS BAGHDATIS, CYP
...We could probably do a BACKSPIN special on fat players. Nalbandian's nickname was Fat Dave. Andy Roddick struggled with his weight. Marcos hasn't been in great shape for years. His last title was in 2010, but he did play a very entertaining final against Wawrinka in Dubai last year. We're very much seeing the end of that 2004-07 generation now. Even Gonzalez has moved on. It is heartening to see another run from Bagman even though it's probably one of his last.
===============================================
DOWN: ALEX ZVEREV, GER
...Absolutely rubbish from Alex Zverev. Why was he even playing in China? He doesn’t need to. He should be saving his energy for the push to London and the finals. He should have made the semi-finals of a slam by now and he should be world number three or higher. He is the future, but not like this. Hopefully next year he breaks through even bigger because this isn’t enough. He shouldn’t be losing to Dzumhur in straight sets anywhere in the world. Except he is. It’s just a poor result.


===============================================
UPSET: GUIDO PELLA, ARG
...Pella beat Coric 6-4, 7-6[2]. The Croat is a better player, but Pella still found a way. Then he beat Domi Thiem 7-6[6], 6-4. The Austrian is also a better player, but never paces his schedule well. Then he beat American qualifier Fritz 6-3, 7-6[3]. That's another player better than him. Baghdatis is probably a better player than him...and against the Cypriot his luck finally ran out.
===============================================


1. Shenzhen 2nd – A.Zverev d. Darcis 4-6, 7-6[5], 7-6[5]
...Steve Darcis is the ultimate trouble maker. He loves nothing better than causing trouble. He was inches away from beating the German and causing a huge upset. Yes the German went and crashed out in the next round, but still. Darcis led by a break in the third set and served for a 5-3 lead. In the breaker he led 4-2 but then shipped four straight points to the German. It doesn’t matter who you are, Darcis will cause you problems.
===============================================
2. Shenzhen Final – Goffin d. Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-7[3], 6-3
...Goffin wins the first set in half an hour. Goes down 1-5 in the second set. Recovers to force a tiebreaker. Loses the second set. Wins the third set at a canter. He goes a step closer to locking up a spot in London. If you get a chance to, watch the point at 5-5 in the breaker. It’s one of the best you’ll see this year. Plus, this match had a clash of styles which is always a win in the BACKSPIN books.

===============================================
3. Chengdu SF – Baghdatis d. Pella 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
...An epic battle this one. Baghdatis flashed some of the old Marcos en route to a final appearance. The Cypriot had to play twice in one day but threw down 12 aces to outlast his South American opponent. He hasn’t won a title since 2010 in Sydney. The streak continues.
===============================================

*CHINA OPEN*
=SF=
Del Potro d. [6] Isner
Kyrgios [8] d. [7] Berdych
=FINAL=
Del Potro d. [8] Kyrgios

...At this point I have no shot at making the right picks. So I have instead picked what would be entertaining. Delpo and Kyrgios both usually do quite well post-U.S. Open. Murray isn't here and Nadal never looks good on hard.

*JAPAN OPEN*
=SF=
Anderson [5] d. [3] Raonic
Thiem [2] d. Gasquet
=FINAL=
Anderson [5] d. [2] Thiem

...The health of Gasquet and Raonic should hold until the semi-finals. But how can you think they can even play five matches in a week, let alone win them? Sometimes players collapse after their best result. But the South African seems a lot more grounded than that, more together. He will rebound nicely and beat Thiem who, once again, has overpacked his schedule.


In her first match in Wuhan, Gavriloav lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to Julia Goerges. In the doubles, she and Strycova also failed to win a match. Melichar/Smith eased past them 6-3, 6-3.

This week in singles in China, Dasha has already won twice. She beat Anna Kontaveit 7-5, 7-5 in the first round. Then Coco Vandeweghe retired and Dasha is now through to the third round. Muguruza has withdrawn leaving the top half open. Ash Barty and Gavrilova are within one ranking spot of one another, so there's that angle to think about, too.

No doubles in China for Dasha I’m afraid. She is headed to Hong Kong next.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wk.38- Brothers in Arms

Hi All. Galileo here.

We have had a very rare occurrence. Federer and Nadal have played together. Yes, the greatest rivalry on the planet has a new chapter.



But this is not unprecedented. Oh, no. This has long been coming...


Now the funny thing is that they actually complement each other. The big lefty and the slicey-dicey righty. Federer has finesse, Nadal brutal groundstrokes. They were pushed all the way in the inaugural edition of the Laver Cup team international competition in Prague, but held on for a 6-4, 1-6, 10-5 victory. And they looked good together. Well, for the most part.



But, much like coffee, once you have a taste for it you want, need, more. So let’s look at the possibilities.

Low chance
Shanghai: Fed played doubles here in 2013 and won a match

Wimbledon: It’s five sets in doubles, so we can rule this out

Madrid and Basel: As a favour they might play in the hometown of either one. Fed made the final in 2000 in Basel. Nadal played in 2007-8.

Good Chance
Miami: It’s a long enough tournament and one they both like, plus Federer won it 2003 with Max Mirnyi. They made the semi-finals the year before. The Swiss also played here 00-01.

Best Chance
Indian Wells: In 2000, Fed qualified with Dominik Hrbaty and went all the way to the SF. The next year they lost in the second round to Hewitt/Rafter. In 2002, he lost in the final while playing with Mirnyi. Federer made the final in 2011, beating Nadal/Lopez in the semi-finals. Wawrinka was his partner. Nadal played with Tomic this year and he won it in 2010 and 2012.

Roland Garros: Yes, it sounds crazy. But think about it. Federer likes Paris, he has fans there. The doubles is easier than at Wimbledon.

Suppose as a one-off Nadal says hey I feel I can play both this year. Federer could do the doubles and the mixed. He could keep up his form and he would have a shot at a deep run. Why wouldn’t he? If he just played the doubles he could still prepare for Wimbledon easily enough.

Nadal is 11-4 in doubles, playing with either Juan Monaco or a compatriot. He won in Beijing last year and is the reigning Olympic champ. He has good results in Qatar and Barcelona, but Federer never plays there.

Federer is 8-6. He has played with a mix but, most interestingly, he played with Marat Safin and won a title in Switzerland. It was in 2001, but so what? He hasn’t won since the 2008 Olympics, however.

Something amazing happened this past week. Nick Kyrgios behaved well and played some awesome tennis. Yes, that Nick Kyrgios. He even did a really good thing-



The Americans kneeling have every right. And his support, along with the Athletics player who did so are inspiring. These events are going into history textbooks people. And after the match, which he lost 4-6, 7-6[6], 11-9, he burst into tears. Time and time again he gets so close to upending Federer but he can’t seem to get win number two. Team Europe staged an amazing comeback from 7-1 [and 9-3 on the final day] down to go into the final with a shot at a tie.

The most curious thing we learned is that the world is not quite as far behind Europe as we thought. Once Rafa and Roger go will Thiem and Zverev really be able to hold up against the rest of the continents?

As it is not officially a part of the ATP tour we must move on to things and events that are. But we can safely say that was a success and it should continue. The tour needs more publicity, needs more 'fun' events.





*WEEK 38 CHAMPIONS*
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (Hard Indoor)
S: Damir Dzumhur def. Fabio Fognini 3-6/6-4/6-2
D: Jebavy/Middelkop d. Peralta/Zeballas

METZ, FRANCE (Hard Indoor)
S: Peter Gojowczyk def. Benoit Paire 7-5/6-2
D: Benneteau/Roger-Vasselin d. Koolhof/Sitak

LAVER CUP (Prague, Hard Indoor)
Team Europe def. Team World 15-9



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: PETER GOJOWCZYK, POL
...This is the guy that almost beat Nadal in Doha a few years ago. We have been waiting for an age for a title from this guy. He has risen to a career high of 66 as a result and maybe now he can kick on. He has a fun game with plenty of big shots and up-and-at-em. He was the top seed in qualifying and did not drop a set. It's funny how the qualifiers can sometimes be considered the most dangerous because they have wins and are adjusted to the court. He should have lost in the first round to the epicly named Norbert Gombos. He was a set and a break down but came back to win 3-6, 7-6[5], 6-3. He edged 8th seeded Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-6[4]. Next was Marius Copil, who he beat 6-2, 6-4. He was rolling and and Mischa Zverev's retirement in the semi-final gifted him a place in the final. Benoit Paire was his opponent and it was the funny forehand derby. He had to endure a very tight first set but did so, winning 7-5. He broke at the end of a long rally which came at the end of a long game. But from there it was pretty simple, as he rolled to a 6-2 final set victory. After starting the year ranked 189 he has to be delighted with his progress. He has momentum now and is almost highly ranked enough to get seedings in smaller tournaments.


===============================================
RISER: FABIO FOGNINI, ITA
...He was a disgrace at the end of the U.S. Open, having acted like an awful person and, deservedly so, been criticized by everyone. Fognini is he most frustrating player on the tour because he has a nice side, a horrible side and a talented side.


And this week we saw everything he has to offer in St. Petersburg. Seeded third he toughed out a match against Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Then he manhandled Berankis 6-3, 6-0. It was a consummate performance where we saw the very best he has to offer. In the semi-final he was pushed all the way by Bautista Agut but held on for a 2-6, 7-6[7], 7-6[5] win. In the final, he blew the match from a winning position but we expect that from him by now. When Vika cheated in Australia against Sloane, Todd defended her. Now I won't defend the Italian, but we need characters in tennis. And that’s what he is. He has bounced back a little from disgracing himself. He looked good and composed, too. We want more of it.
===============================================


FRESH FACE: DAMIR DZUMHUR, BIH
...At long last we have our title. The new world number 40 (career high) has become one of the best open coaching jobs available. He doesn't currently have one and he's in the top 40. It's very Tsonga of him. He lost to Bautista Agut in Winston Salem last month and now he finally has his moment in the sun. That top 40 ranking means he can enter any tournament, pick up seedings at some of the bigger 500 tournaments and it also gives him a great shot at more prize money. This week is a key to unlocking further career riches. It wasn't easy, either, in the first round he beat Paolo Lorenzi 7-5, 7-5. In the second he edged out Baghdatis 6-4, 7-6 [4]. After looking great for two matches he had to labour past qualifier Liam Broady 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. He knocked out the 8th seeded Struff in the semi-final 6-3, 7-5. In the final, he was battered by Fabio Fognini early on. But he mounted a comeback to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Three seeds dealt with and one title. Not a bad week's work, eh?
===============================================
VETERAN: NICOLAS ALMAGRO, ESP
...For a guy who is worth 10 million dollars aged just 32, you can't help but feel a little disappointed about what has happened to Almagro. He was one of the best players to watch and had more variety than Federer at his zenith. But injuries and bad luck have taken away another fantastic tennis career from us. This week he won a match. He beat Benneteau 7-6[3], 7-5. He even took a set off Goffin, but lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. He is ranked 132 in the world and it’s a crying shame. In twenty years time we'll probably forget about Almagro. But I hope not because he was a top ten stalwart with a world-class ground game.
===============================================
SURPRISE: NIKOLOZ BASILASHVILI, GEO
...Why is it always the long names? Sometimes it feels like it only happens to BACKSPIN writers. Millot led Basil 6-2, 4-2. But he broke on a lengthy game and eventually the set went to a breaker. He won it 7-5 and hung on to win the match 6-4 in the third set. After that escape the Georgian went on a roll. He dismissed Muller 6-4, 6-4. Then he beat Denis Istomin 7-5, 6-3. But he was unable to beat the fizzing Frenchman Paire. He lost 6-1, 7-6[5]. Paire can also find form at the drop of a hat and his big serve and dropshot combination is very off putting. Still, despite the loss, it was a memorable week for the Georgian number one.
.===============================================
DOWN: JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA
...He should have played in Moselle. He is one of those players who always does so well at hone. So to lose in his second match is frustrating. Why is the three time champ playing in St. Petersburg? It was a catastrophically stupid decision. So much success on the tour is down to playing on your best courts and at your best events. You have to maximize the schedule.
===============================================
UPSET: JAN-LENNARD STRUFF, GER
...It isn't often the 8th seed comes into this category. Struff defeated Borna Coric 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The Croat is the better player with stronger weapons. He has more game and a brighter future. But he is still young. He is still finding his way. His career thus far has been remarkable. But in the colds of Siberia he found himself lacking. Struff also edged out Tsonga 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The last two sets were brilliant. It took eventual champion Dzumhur to see him off in the semi-finals. It was a very encouraging run from the German.
===============================================

1. Prague RL Cup – Federer d. Kyrgios 4-6. 7-6[6], 11-9
...Kyrgios is denied once again by Federer. He had a match point and he had already won a doubles rubber, too. His win over Tomas Berdych kick-started a come back from Team World. He is playing exceptional tennis. But he couldn’t quite get over the hump. Team world didn’t have Raonic or Del Potro. Kyrgios led from the front. Incidentally, Del Potro turned 29 last week, on the same Day Bruce Springsteen turned 68.
===============================================
2. St. Petersburg SF – Fognini d. Bautista Agut 2-6, 7-6[7], 7-6 [5].
...He was down 2-6, 4-5 but held his serve. At 30-30 he was two points from defeat but still clung on. At 5-6 and 30-30 a very lengthy rally ensued. But the Italian survived once more. At 6-5 in the breaker, Agut had the match on his racket. But he netted a simple backhand. At 7-7 there was a correction at the end of another lengthy rally. But it went the Italian's way and soon after so did the set. It was a break-filled final set which the Spaniard should have won. He had the mini-break in the tie-break and was 4 points away but collapsed. Fognini saves two match points and moves on.
===============================================
3. Moselle Open QF – Paire d. Goffin 7-6[3], 5-7, 7-6[7]
...Goffin threw away a 4-2 final set lead and a match point in the third-set breaker, too. He had this match done and his opponent bang-to-rights. But he let him escape, slip away. It was a costly error. He might regret that come November.
===============================================

*CHENDU*
=SF=
Thiem [1] d. [4] Rublev
Khachanov [3] d. [2] Ramos-Vinolas
=FINAL=
Thiem [1] d. [3] Khachanov

...Thiem tends to over-pack his schedule, but he is the favorite here because he is the best player. How can you look past him? The ATP is, as you’ve noticed, trying to branch out even more into the Asian markets. This tournament gives us a lot of young-gun action and it could be crucial in determining their weird end-of-year tournament. Khachanov is the defending champion, which has to help.

*SHENZHEN*
=SF=
A.Zverev [1] d. [3] M.Zverev
Goffin [2] d. [4] Lorenzi
=FINAL=
A/Zverev [1] d. [2] Goffin

...A.Zverev likes the indoor hard-courts. And this isn’t a slam, so there’s that. Goffin has found his mojo again, meanwhile. These points are going to be important if players want to qualify for London, so expect the competition to be fierce.

So Dasha lost to Linette in the first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open. She had a great first set but collapsed to 2-6, 6-0, 7-6[3] loss. She lost to the player who lost to the player who lost to the player who lost in the final. But in the doubles, the Dashas won 1-6, 7-5, 10-7 against Kichenok/Srebotnik in the first round. After that they rolled to the final where they lost to Klepac/Martinez Sanchez.

So, quite a week. In her first match in Wuhan she lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to Julia Goerges.

(Meanwhile, Ash Barty, who has defeated CiCi Bellis and Johanna Konta, has had another fantastic week and now looks like the best player in Australia.)

In the doubles, Dasha has lost to Melichar/Smith. For some reason she played with Strycova. Kasatkina is there. They just aren't playing together. It's bizarre, but what can you do?


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