Friday, September 04, 2015

U.S. Open Day 4: In Ceremonies of the Horsemen, Even the Pawn Must Hold a Grudge

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The title comes from a Bob Dylan song, which means it’s probably nonsense.

And so you assume so the first time you hear it. But actually it has deep meaning. Essentially even when the big boys are playing, the smaller guys can still have an impact. And that, if Dylan isn’t pulling this stuff out of his nether-regions, is relevant here at the U.S. Open, where even a journeyman can impact the whole tournament.

And another cryptic line from that song goes a little something like this: "There’s no success like failure but failure is no success at all."

We learn from our losses, but they are still losses. They are still painful no matter what we learn from them. But these questions and musings are far too deep for this lighthearted blogpost. Maybe tomorrow I’ll steal song lyrics from the Bee Gees.

But if I start doing that I’ll end up going nowhere. Somebody help me.

And back to serious matters now. The tennis is on and one big seed and favourite very nearly went out. Jack Sock had to retire due to cramps and the heat. And that is really serious. Up two sets to one, he was stretchered off. And in the doubles we have lost seven seeds despite the fact not all the first round matches have even been played. That includes three of the top five seeds.

QUESTION: Who won the U.S. Open the year the Bee Gees sung "Stayin’ Alive?"

...While Federer cruises through a match like this, it’s watchable. He has an ethereal beauty about him when he is in full flow. There may be no better sight in sport than watching Roger in full flow. Having dropped five games last time, he decided to drop only four this round. This one last exactly 80 minutes, some three minutes longer than the last one. 46 winners and 53 per cent of return points won saw Federer through to the next round. There’s nothing more to be said here except that Kohlschreiber is the litmus test. He is a challenge and a seed, Federer’s first. There will be one close set here but the German won’t extend it to four.
...The danger signs were there. They were right there. We knew and Murray knew that the Frenchman would be no pushover. But Murray was saved by the format as he came back to win 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. It took Murray three hours and fifteen minutes. That’s more time than both Federer’s first two matches. Just 45 winners over the five sets and a loss of serve three times were some of the low-lights for Murray. His 21 aces was a good number, however. Murray couldn’t afford to drop any sets when the other big names were all steaming along nicely. And to come is Bellucci, then Anderson or Thiem. All those players are on form. And if Bellucci steals a set and then his fourth round opponent forces a couple of breakers, suddenly Murray is under mental and physical stress. And the problem for him is not Federer. The problem is that he potentially has to face Wawrinka and Federer back to back.
...Chung never went away. To his credit he just kept fighting. It took everything Wawrinka had to keep this match to just the three sets. With just two breaks a piece the match concluded in Wawrinka’s favour 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. Chung got 2, and 6 points in those breakers. Wawrinka hitting 26 aces is ridiculous and an ominous sign for the rest of the field. If his serve is on-song then watch out. But this match was a perfect introduction for Chung, who is a rising star. He has a really good forehand and in particular the cross-court is wickedly effective. He used it time and time again. Just watch him is the homework assignment. You just have to watch this kid to understand. But he is really effective. And the top five is perhaps not a possibility, but a likelihood. But then we said that about Donald Young, too. And speaking of, Young lurks in Wawrinka’s section. If/when Wawrinka beats Bemelmans, he faces the winner of Troicki and Young.
...No deviations. No strange things happening. Not even the good old fashioned blowing of a two sets to love lead. Clearly Isner has been abducted by aliens and replaced with some weird other John Isner from a different dimension. Perhaps the same aliens who orchestrated the shooting of JFK? Isner beat Youzhny 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and gave the Russian just two chances to break. He took none of them. With 45 winners overall compared to a mere 26 errors this match was perfect from Isner. He even managed to win just about 30% of receiving points, too! But will he be too consistent for Vesely?
...This match had to go five. It was always going to go five. Even when Bernie got up 6-3, 6-2 you knew Hewitt would come back. And he did, but Tomic clung on for a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5 victory. With that victory Tomic is set to go to around the 20 mark and break his own highest ever ranking. Hewitt had 5-3 in that last set and two match points but he could not take it. But it generated our picture of the year.

And Hewitt departs, but he is reforming Tomic. Tomic is turning into quite the tennis player. Not to mention the fact that he is getting better, too! And what a way for Hewitt to go out. BACKSPIN HQ has a statue of him in the Australian Courtyard of champions. Tomic now gets Gasquet. Richard has had Kokkinakis and Haase. Now Tomic, and after that Berdych. Talk about a rough draw.
...Vesely came through 7-6[3], 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6[4]. Karlovic hit 43 aces and won two more points than his opponent, but it didn’t help him much, as the young lefty rolled through to take it in five long sets. Up next is Isner and then Federer. So an easy path then.

ANSWER: Seeded fourth, Guillermo Vilas won the U.S. Open in 1977, the year the Bee Gees sung "Stayn’ Alive." He beat second seed Jimmy Connors 2-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-0. Of course, it was played on green clay at that time.

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Thursday, September 03, 2015

U.S. Open Day 3: Doubles Troubles

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The women’s draw on the doubles side has descended into chaos. Withdrawals and injuries have knocked out several big names in what is usually one of the more consistent events. And now the top seeds have a pretty easy route to the final. If the fourth seeds crash out they will be the highest seed by a long way. The other half is the loaded one.

The Bryans lost in the first round and now may face losing the number one ranking. With no slams won this year, this has been their worst year in that regard since 2004. Johnson/Querrey edged them 7-6[4], 5-7, 6-3 and the loss was particularly bad because usually the Bryans never lose in three. They can out-tough anybody. In a very similar scoreline, Inglot/Lindstedt won 7-6[3], 5-7, 6-4. With Pospisil/Sock also going down the men’s draw for the doubles is starting to look really open. Hopefully the favourites will be obvious by the third round, but for now the doubles draws are both a little bit up for grabs.

QUESTION: Who won the men’s singles at the US Open twenty-five years ago?

...He may be the defending champion, but I just don’t feel I can open up with Cilic. No, Djokovic is the go to choice here. And he struggled for the first half an hour before he surged to victory. Coming out a little flat is nothing new to Djokovic and one always had the feeling once Novak found the right gear it would go quickly. And so it turned out to be. He won 6-4, 6-1, and 6-2. Venus taking a little longer than estimated may have thrown him out. His opponent hit 33 errors but he was obviously going for his shots, so that number is understandable. Djokovic won 81 per cent of service points and 48 per cent of return points. Apart from the 19 errors it was a clinic. And now a test of sorts --- 25th seed Seppi is up next.
...Cilic was not snubbed this time and he was imperious in a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 victory over his tricky Russian opponent. He couldn’t repeat, could he? We’d all look very foolish if he did. He hit 39 winners in the match but he could up the second serve points won. He won just 57%, which is fine but not brilliant. Cilic is in the section of the draw that is very open. Nishikori withdrew and that combined with Ferrer’s struggles this year indicate Cilic could be set for another deep run. If he beats Kukushkin, Ferrer and possibly Tsonga are his next two opponents if we follow logic.
...Well, its goodbye to Mardy. In a thoroughly enjoyable match Lopez finally ended the Fish love affair with New York. Fish and Lopez dueled it out in a five set thriller. But the match changed when Fish served for it at 5-4 in the fourth, but let nerves overcome him. Lopez bounced back to win 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, and 6-3 in some three and a half hours. With 34 aces and over 80 winners combined, this was an aggressive themed match. And for two big servers there were a surprising amount of breaks. Fish broke 6 times to 5. Fish came to net 37 times and his opponent 32 times. Both men had more success than failure, too. This was an old-school match with old-school tennis. It was a fitting end to a career.
...The scoreline says 7-6[3], 6-3, 7-5 but it was so much tougher than that. Diego was a break up several times including in the last set. He had the twice former champion on the ropes. But Nadal just has a way of digging in and he hasn’t lost a set here yet. Going 38-40 on the winners to errors ratio is worrying. Losing his serve thrice isn’t great, either. And winning just 52% of second serve points is poor. But this is Nadal, and he is grinding into form. Fognini is next and he has beaten Nadal on clay twice this year. So on hard he should be able to do so again. But the silver lining for Nadal is that over five Nadal is the heavy favourite. If only because there’s no way Fognini can maintain form over five sets, even if he can find some in the first place.
...Raonic hit 57 winners to the Spaniard’s 30 in the 6-2, 6-4, 6-7[5], 7-6[1] victory. Incredibly, Raonic never lost his serve. Verdasco won just 24% of his return points. But the really worrying thing is that Raonic’s health has been compromised. He had the trainer on several times and he has been experiencing problems with his leg. But the important thing was simply to get through and he has done that. Next up for Raonic is Lopez. The winner of that likely gets Nadal. So the road does get somewhat tougher here and for an injured Raonic the future does not make for pleasant reading.
...Mikhail is just one of those players you desperately hope you don’t see in your section. He’s just a horrible land mine. He’s effective on every surface and he has the kind of game that doesn’t break down. Yet somehow he is never ranked so he ends up permanently playing spoiler. But really this is the kind of match Dimitrov just has to start winning. Instead he lost 6-3, 7-6[2], 2-6, 4-6, 6-4. The fight back was good. It showed steel and nerve. It’s understandable he couldn’t maintain the effort level he was putting on. But he lost that breaker so badly and he had the momentum in the fifth. 67 errors and 9 doubles are awful numbers. He needs to work on his overall consistency. Cilic is up next and, really, the Kazakhstani isn’t incapable of causing another upset.

Casey and Yaroslava triumphed today in their opening round. They defeated Gavrilova/Van Uytvanck 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. With all the funny happenings going on in the Women’s Doubles, like the second seeds (Makarova and Vesnina, the defending champs) splitting and then the new second seeds (Mattek-Sands/Safarova) pulling out (due to Safarova's injury), the news is good for Casey. Makarova decided not to compete and that leaves Dellacqua/Shvedova as not just the fourth seeds but the biggest seeds in their half. And the biggest seeds bar one in the whole draw. The final sits there waiting for them. Up next is Tsurenko/Govortsova.

ANSWER: In 1990, Edberg sensationally lost in the first round. Fourth seed Agassi did make the final and lost to 12th seed Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

U.S. Open Day 2: Broken Players and Broken Records

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Ten men and two women retired in the first round. That is the bad news, but the good news is that it broke an era record! That silver lining isn’t great, to be honest, but it does send out a warning signal.

Firstly, the signal it sends is that there payers who enter the U.S. Open simply to get a cheque. It happens at every slam. I think there should be a mandatory medical check-up before the slam to weed out those who are denying other the chance at a cheque. But there is a more important issue, which is that the player’s safety comes first and perhaps we aren’t respecting that. Perhaps the ATP and ITF should take further steps to ensure safety. The heat rule is a good step forward. It should be duplicated.

QUESTION: Who won the mixed doubles at the U.S. Open last year?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Janowicz d. Carreno Busta {L}
WS 1st Rd: I-C Begu [28] d. Govortosova {L}

...Janowicz choked and lost in four. Begu lost in a third set breaker despite winning the second set at love.

...It took Federer 77 minutes and the loss of five games to see off Mayer. That’s six more minutes than Novak and two more games lost. But Mayer is a far better player than Souza and Federer looks in worrying form right now. He looks nigh on unstoppable. And that really is dangerous. Try 29 winners and just one break point conceded in the 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 drubbing. Federer hit 13 aces, which is about one a game. That’s very good. And he won 76 per cent of serving points, too. If you’re looking for a perfect match this was close to it. Five double faults may be a bit high but he did win 67 per cent of second serve points. Federer is through to play Darcis next. Steve got through when Baghdatis retired.
...Purely for the fact he made McEnroe lose his mind in the booth, this was worth watching. But that aside, this was a poor four-setter. The strange 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 scoreline is the only stat that matters. Kyrgios kept trying ‘tweeners and other ridiculous shots. At one point, he walked up to a smash. He was far too casual throughout, which made no sense because when he focused he played some world-beating rallies. Kyrgios was aggressive throughout but he was wildly inconsistent. He half-volleyed frequently and poorly. He came to net at all the wrong times and could find no consistency anywhere in his game. For Murray it was a job well done but the young Aussie needs to go back to the drawing board. With the Davis Cup coming up, it was helpful for Hewitt to see how Kyrgios did against Great Britain’s team. Which is just Murray, really. Mannarino is up next for Murray and that is not a match to be taken lightly. Expect a tight three-setter there. Mannarino has weapons but whether or not they’ll trouble Murray remains to be seen.
...24 aces and 54 winners for Isner as he eased through on Armstrong. Isner lived up to his reputation as America’s number one. Malek improved in each set, going down 2-6, 3-6, and 4-6. He also extended the length of each successive set. Really, though, he was no match for the on-song Isner. Isner was on the ball so much he even managed to win 44 per cent of receiving points. It was another one-sided contest on the second day, which is unfortunate for spectators that pay to watch the big matches. It has ever been thus, and thus it will ever be. Isner is second in the aces leader board but Anderson did hit 32 in one match. Next up for Isner is Youzhny and then Karlovic.
...Stan now wants his name pronounced ‘wah-rink-a’ and as McEnroe says, once a double slam winner wants to change his name you change it. So it’s goodbye to Wawrinka, I guess. It was another straight sets match but this one lasted two and a quarter hours. Wawrinka [did you say it right in your head?] played well and is really starting to hit the top form we all know he is capable of. He came through a really tough test 7-5, 6-4, 7-6[6] in a match that was never going to be easy. Especially on clay, the lefty Spaniard is a tricky opponent. And to deny him a set when it would’ve been so easy to drop one is an achievement. Wawrinka’s nine doubles and 45 errors are cause for concern no matter how many winners he hit. Talented teenager Chung is up next for the 5th seed and that match will be very interesting. It deserves to be on a big court…
...Shall we check in on Berdych? After losing to Robert 9-7 in the fifth at the French Open despite leading two sets to none, anything is possible with Tomas. It’s very rare that a big player loses after going deep into the fifth set. Today there were no problems. Berdych got it done 6-3, 6-2, and 6-4. It nearly lasted an hour and three quarters, too. But with 13 aces to just one double along with 37 winners the win was never in doubt. But this was a flawed performance. Berdych lost his serve. So his grade is a big fat F. No, BACKSPIN is just kidding. This was really an A- performance.
...Young got one of his biggest victories today. He came back from the dead to defeat world number 11 Simon 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. For Young, Bedene is up next. He beat Gulbis by retirement. A fourth round run is on the cards here. He could get back into the top 50 again. He has shown maturity and the ability to win in tough situations. It’s the mental toughness he lacked. As for Simon, well, he will face a drop in the rankings. Both Isner and Gasquet are likely to overtake him in the London Race. He is way out. He needs to really work hard after the Open to rectify that. Gasquet is ahead of him and so, too, is Isner. With the Spaniards looking vulnerable in 7th and 8th in the race, there could be spots open. This was a match Simon could ill afford to lose.

Casey lost to Kontaveit in the 1st Round in two straight sets, but do not fret. She and Shvedova (the fourth seeds) start their doubles campaign tomorrow. They open with Gavrilova/Van Uytvanck.

ANSWER: Top-seeded Mirza/Soares defeated Spears/Gonzalez 6-1, 2-6, 11-9.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

U.S. Open Day 1: Messages

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

We both know why we’re here, so shall we get on with it? There’s always a lot the first day.

QUESTION: The last time a U.S. Open finalist lost on the first day was?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Janowicz d. Carreno Busta
WS 1st Rd: I-C Begu [28] d. Govortosova

...The crowds paid good money to see 71 minutes of the Djokovic show. 6-1, 6-1 and 6-1 tells one everything one needs to know about the match. It wasn’t close. In fact, it was an absolute lesson. But that’s the point of the early rounds for the big seeds. That old phrase about you don’t win slams in the first three rounds but you can certainly lose it comes to mind. The first three rounds are used to send a message. And with 24 winners and no unforced errors Djokovic is sending that message. His opponent only won 32 points. That’s about one and a half a game. Ten winners for Souza or one every two games. And it’s easy to use those stats to show how good Djokovic is but, really, is Souza a player of the calibre of Djokovic? No. Not really. Djokovic moves on to Haider-Maurer now. We await the next message...
...Nadal got the night session. And his dance partner would turn out to be Coric. With Nadal taking the lead, they danced a pretty waltz for those still in attendance. With 71 winners in the 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 Nadal victory there was plenty of firepower on display. Nadal managed to keep the youngster at bay even on his worst surface. Nadal has now been to at least ten U.S. Opens. And that’s the experience that really shines through when one needs it. Coric lost because Nadal has his number, but also because the more one plays on a certain court, the better one becomes on that court. The most impressive thing about Nadal’s win is that he won almost 40 per cent of return points. That’s a big number. Schwartzman is next for Nadal, but Fognini looms after that and the Italian has beaten Nadal before.
...With the usual chaos going on over on the WTA side, the ATP tour decided to have an upset of its own. Nishikori also used his first round match to send a message. His message said, "I’m not ready now." It’s not as good as the message Djokovic sent. Kei had Paire at several points during the match but succumbed 6-4,3-6, 4-6, 7-6[6] 6-4 in three and a quarter hours. For some reason the U.S. Open decided the defending finalist and fourth seed didn’t warrant the top court. As usual they really missed a trick. Paire hit 21 aces as he went 64-67 in the winners department. Nishikori went 34-36. The game styles were apparent. There were just four breaks of service in the entire match. Paire has in his section Ilhan, then Robredo. And those are both winnable matches. With Monfils retiring Tsonga is the remaining seed in that section. And he can beat a run-down Ferrer. The semi-finals are there if he wants them.
...Snubbed by the U.S. Open, Cilic turned the other cheek and put on a professional display. The U.S. Open thought they should put their defending champion on Armstrong during the day instead of on Ashe. It’s pretty rude when you think about it, but then Cilic hasn’t done anything since winning the U.S. Open. He broke twice in a 6-3, 7-6[3], 7-6[3] victory. It was a consummate performance considering he had nerves and a tricky opponent. He could have been another big seed loss. But 13 aces and 44 winners later he’s still here. Pella went 22-28 and was far too cautious at times. Marin has so far not let the pressure get to him but things only get harder from here on in. Donskoy, the Russian qualifier, is his next opponent but after that could be Dimitrov. He cannot afford to lose a set against the Russian. He needs to be as fresh as possible for that winner takes all. The message Cilic sends is that he is ready to defend. But can he back up that message?
...Italy’s next star made his slam debut against the exiting Mardy Fish on the exiting Grandstand court. And he put up a spirited fight, especially as he wasn’t on his more comfortable surface. His best surface is, of course, clay. When Fish retires it will be a sad day. He had the talent to win a slam but just not the body. And it’ll be sadder still to lose Grandstand. For all its problems, it has a lot of memories. Fish asked especially to go on Grandstand. His message was one of farewell. He won through on his goodbye tour 6-7[3], 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. Outhitting his opponent in winners by 49 to 20, it was like Fish had never left. And we’ll just let the unforced error count be. Lopez is up next for Mardy. And that could be the last match for our American hero. That has to be a night match on Ashe.
...It just had to go five, didn’t it? Verdasco took it 3-6, 6-1, 6-7[3] 6-3, 6-1. The message coming from both men is the same. I’m still here. And Verdasco could beat Raonic, who is his next opponent. Verdasco hit 22 aces to just one. He even hit 57 winners to just 42 errors. It was a surprisingly complete performance from Fernando. Haas hit 45 errors and only 27 winners. Those are just the wrong numbers. But these two aged grizzly veterans fighting it out on an outer court over the course of three hours brings to mind duels in the Wild West. They first met in 2006. Tommy won. He leads their head to head 3-2. Both Fernando’s wins have come at the U.S. Open in five.

ANSWER: Rafter in 1999 lost in the first round. He was he twice defending champion. Ah, Pat. An all-round good guy. He even has a statue.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wk.34- The Small Opening Before the Open

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Our little tradition of a shorter post before the big event is a nice one. And considering the work that BACKSPIN has put in the last few weeks and the upcoming weeks, this shorter post is a godsend for the BACKSPINNERS.

Somebody has to win these pre-slam events and it’s usually one of the top two or three seeds. And Winston-Salem would be no different. Won by a player with serious weapons who is a threat at the U.S. Open, the event was a nice warm-up for the big meal. It was the perfect starter. Kevin Anderson won another title, again on hard courts. The South African will rise in the rankings and top ten is a real possibility, especially if he makes the fourth round in New York. If Cilic falls early there will be a lot of moving and shaking.

QUESTION: Kevin Anderson has the most wins at which slam?

S: Kevin Anderson def. Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4/7-5
D: Inglot/Lindstedt d. Butorac/Lipsky

...With there being just the one event on this week, the winner was always going to take Player of the Week. And really, Anderson deserves having more written about him. Not flashy, not particularly exciting, but effective, solid and consistent. France could follow his example. He knows his style and he applies it. And because it is so simple it always works. It worked against Djokovic at Wimbledon. It works everywhere. And it’s more than just the big serve, big forehand combination. He has a well-rounded consistent game. He’s even a solid volleyer. Slated to reach the fourth round and play Murray, he needed a good warm-up tournament. And he had one. At what is possibly the biggest 250, Anderson was seeded second but once top seed Simon lost he became the favourite. He edged Kukushkin 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Then he beat 16th seeded Janowicz to make the quarter-finals. Eighth seeded Coric was waiting but Kevin had too much in a 6-2, 7-6[1] victory. He was solid in the semi-finals, beating Jaziri 6-4, 6-3. He then won the final against Herbert 6-4, 7-5. A good week from Anderson surely signals a good U.S. Open. Anderson improves to 1-2 in finals this year and 3-8 overall.
...America is showing signs on weakness in a lot of its sports. And it must be worrying. In the track events and the swimming their stranglehold is loosening. On the golf links they are no longer a power (Editor's note: well, there IS that Jordan Spieth fellow, soooo... - tds). And in tennis they are not as strong as they seem. Once the Williams sisters go are the women really that strong? Once Isner starts to go down that really will be it. And he isn’t even a slam threat. Steve Johnson is capable of making the third round. And that is exactly how one rebuilds. Seeded 12th, Johnson was not supposed to have a run here. He opened up by beating Groth 6-4, 6-7[4], 6-1. Then came the big win. He ousted third seed Tsonga 6-3, 4-6, 7-6[4] to go through to the quarters. And there he received a bye from Lu. Then when he was the favourite he blew it. He let Herbert come back at him and win it 3-6, 7-6[5] 6-2. Isn’t sport funny like that?
...In a tournament where the script was shredded then burned, it’s hard to recognise the great play of everyone. But Jaziri had a great tournament here and he really is a journeyman. He beat Souza 6-3, 6-4. That is expected and winning as the favourite when one is a journeyman is absolutely key. But then he beat 4th seed Troicki 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Worn out by his exertions in taking out Kokkinakis, 15th seed Gabashvili went down 7-5, 6-4. Jaziri then allowed 6th seed Bellucci just five games in a medieval style beat down. Anderson had way too much for the African player and Malek could only win seven games against the African number one.
...Already a solid doubles player, he has been trying to improve in singles. He even has a junior doubles slam. But this was his first ever final. He got through qualifying without dropping a set. He even beat sixth seed Coppejans there. Then in the first round he beat Stahovsky 6-3, 6-2. He showed it was no fluke when he took on 14th seeded Baghdatis. He beat him 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 before beating Bedene 3 and 0. Don’t forget the Brit had beaten the top seed the round before. Then he came back from the dead against Busta to win 4-6, 7-6[4, 6-2. He had made the semi-finals. And he recovered again to beat Johnson 3-6, 7-6[2], 6-2.
...There’s nothing worse than coming off a loss and going straight into a slam. Simon didn’t just lose he lost in three breakers. He is supposed to be able to out-grind the rest of the tour but he lost 6-7[5], 7-6[5], 7-6[76]. That is an insane score line. Simon had match points in the three minutes shy of three-hour contest. He served for it and still managed to blow it. Sometimes you can’t help but be impressed.
...See above.

Casey is seeded sixth at the Open along with Shvedova. They reached the quarters in the doubles in New Haven. Casey did not draw a seed in the singles. Qualifier Kontaveit is up first, then possibly 31st seed Pavlyuchenkova. 8th seed Pliskova is the big fish in her section.

Now for the answer: If you had said the French and Australian you would have been right. He has 11 wins at both. It was a trick question.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

U.S. Open Predictions: Bring Balance to the Force

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

It’s a shorter predictions post today as Todd and I just finished an exceptionally long feature.

It is nice to see a balanced draw on the men’s side. Rarely these days do we get a balanced draw, but here at the U.S. we do. Neither Federer nor Djokovic will be happy with their draws, respectively, though Federer may have the slightly wider smile. So by now how this works is obvious. Todd and I do some picks and I blow mine. He doesn’t. Mind you I did pick Kvitova at Wimbledon, which wasn’t totally illogical. So enough from me, as you’ll be seeing oh so much of me the next couple weeks, and onto the draw.

QUESTION: And now a question for you. How many seeded players hail from island nations?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Janowicz d. Carreno Busta
WS 1st Rd: I-C Begu [28] d. Govortosova

We have the luxuries of the doubles draws being released already. So, let's have a look.

*Ladies Doubles*
Hingis/Mirza [1] are the favourite and rightfully so. Mattek-Sands/Safarova [3] are twice slam finalists this year. They won both, too. I rate them as second favourites above the Russian second seeds. Also in with a good chance of a run here are Dellacqua/Shvedova [9] and Kops-Jones/Spears [7]. Dark horses are the Chinese Taipei sister team of Chan Hao-Ching & Yung-Jan [10]. Could Errani/Pennetta [12] make some noise here?

*Men’s Doubles*
Bryan/Bryan [1] are starting to look a little vulnerable in the rankings. Since losing that 2013 semi-final in New York in 2013 when they could have won the calendar slam, they have won just once at the slams. Defending champions here, if they lose early they could be in trouble in the rankings. Dodig/Melo [2] are dangerous and looking to take the title should the Bryans falter. Matkowski/Zimonjic [4] and Bolelli/Fognini [5] are also likely to meet their seedings. Will Granollers/Lopez [7] crash and burn? Sock/Pospisil [11] now have a ‘prove it’ slam.

Now, finally on to the singles...

1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB....Here we go again. Djokovic opens with Souza, Pospisil and Seppi. And that’s a good start for him. Some early tests there that should get him all limbered up for greater challenges to come. Djokovic made two Masters finals back to back and has reached four finals in a row. Actually, the last time he lost before the final was to Karlovic back in January at his first event. He is 56-5 this year. Two of those to Federer and three to Swiss men. He is not just on form, he is on some kind of super-form. So unless he gets injured he won’t really be troubled. Goffin is seeded fourteenth. He has sat at fourteen in the world for two months and been in the top fifteen longer than that. He has made two finals and the fourth round of Wimbledon. He knows how to beat Djokovic. And he is the archetypal banana skin. Should Djokovic be off his game, perhaps in the heat, Goffin could put in a big upset. But it is unlikely. After that Djokovic gets Nadal. Mentally, Nadal still has the ability to exhaust Djokovic. It was beating Nadal and Murray back to back that did for Djokovic in Paris. Still Novak is a lock to make the semi.
2. DAVID GOFFIN BEL... Nadal is winding down. He is on the way out. Especially off the clay he is barely a top ten player. We just associate the name Nadal with greatness automatically. So Goffin steps up to number two. It’s doubtful Rafa can even make the quarterfinals so it could well be Goffin versus Djokovic, then a lesser ranked player. Bolelli and Berankis are the first two most likely opponents of the Belgian. And those are tricky tests but he should be fine. Janowicz or Agut also lurk. But he should be able to come through to the fourth unscathed. He may even come through more unscathed than the top seed.
3. RAFAEL NADAL ESP... An embattled Nadal should be able to beat an injury plagued Raonic even here on hard courts. One feels as if it’s simply the percentage pick right now. Raonic is very dangerous seeded out there at 10 and Djokovic is going to have a very difficult quarter-final. Coric, Ymer and Fognini is the most likely route for Nadal. I think Raonic has an easier path, but it’s Nadal.
DARK HORSE: JERZY JANOWICZ POL...The perennial question mark in any and every draw. He can power his way to the fourth round. He opens with Busta then probably Agut. After that Goffin lurks, but he can win that. Ranked 47, he can make it back to the top forty with a solid performance here. He might well get it, too.
WILDCARD: FELICIANO LOPEZ ESP...He plays the same man who beat him at Wimbledon. Fish resides in this section and so does the winner of Verdasco versus Haas. Lopez will run into Raonic or Haas/Verdasco as well as Fish. But should he make it through he could beat Nadal. He can throw a huge spanner into the works here. We here at BACKSPIN expect nothing else.
EARLY EXIT: RAFAEL NADAL ESP...He’s either going to crash and burn or go on a run here. It’s one or the other. No middle ground. There’s really no way of knowing. But a Nadal/Djokovic clash would be fascinating.

POOR GUY: NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB...He drew Nadal and Goffin. That’s got to be tough on Djokovic. If there’s rain or bad organization and he has to play those matches back to back he could be in trouble.

=In the End...=

1. KEI NISHIKORI JPN... Nishiori heads the weakest quarter of the whole draw. This whole thing is a mess, but last year’s finalist and winner both reside here. And ooh look there’s Ferrer. But really Nishikori has this section in his pocket. He’s even more of a lock than Djokovic. But what the heck do I know? Paire and Stepanek are his first two matches but they aren’t capable of five set consistency. Kei will grind them down into dust. They play exciting dynamic tennis that just doesn’t work against this type of player. Robredo and either Monfls or Tsonga are the two seeds lurking. Kei will not be troubled by either of those if one looks at it from a logical point of view.That Tsonga/Monfils car-crash match will be one to watch. Nisikori got handed a tough road but not a road that’s too intimidating. And his quarter-final opponent could be anyone. This quarter is just a hot mess.
2. MARIN CILIC CRO... The defending champion gets extremely fortunate with his draw. But surely the defending champion has earned a little luck? In any case there really is no second player here. Ferrer looks very uncertain and he has been injured this past year. And Cilic is on a win streak here at this event. Pella the qualifier and then Pouille is the most likely route to the third round. But he drew 17th seeded Dimitrov there. And that match is going to be the real test. If he can best Dimitrov he could well defend his title. But if he can’t then he falls back down the rankings, possibly as low as 20 and his career will need resuscitation.
3. DAVID FERRER ESP... A former world number three and twice semi-finalist here is somebody who you can never discount. If he wasn’t injured he would be a serious threat here and particularly in this section. He has had a so-so year thus far and one can’t help but think his career feels like one that is winding down. But he is still dangerous and he can still grind his way into the quarterfinals. Albot, Krajinovic and Chardy [27] is his likely route through to the fourth round. There he meets Cilic which should be good.
DARK HORSE: GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL...Just barely missing out on a seed is the young Bulgarian star-to-be. He has slipped out of that nice cushy top 16 bracket which means he no longer has protection for three rounds. He runs into the defending champ but if he can beat him he will have a great shot against a fading Ferrer.
WILDCARD: GAEL MONFILS FRA...How does one predict La Monf! correctly? The story remains the same here with Gael just sneaking into that top 16. We could have a fourth round match between the 16th and 17th seeds which would be interesting on more than just paper.
EARLY EXIT: TOMMY ROBREDO ESP...Not this time Tommy. With Dolgopolov lurking and the Spaniard out of form the upset is coming.
POOR GUY: KEI NISHIKORI JPN...Simply for drawing Benoit Paire. Because nobody wants to draw this guy in the first round.

=In the End...=
It’s still likely a total surprise comes out of this group. It’s still likely that someone like Dolgopolov makes the semi-final. But I think a name I haven’t even mentioned yet becomes the Cinderella story.


1. ANDY MURRAY GBR... Federer and Djokovic are the out and out favourites. Nishikori is the fourth favourite. And sitting in a huge gap all on his own between them is Murray. He won’t win another slam. He’s done. But he does have an excellent chance of making the semi-final at least. He is on form and is a great player here. Picking Wawrinka here isn’t the percentage play but he is more likely to make the semi-final than the Brit is. Murray opens up with Kyrgios who will take at least one set. Murray is going to struggle against the fiery Aussie with nothing to lose. Mannarino will certainly meet him next and then Bellucci is the seed. Those two are both around 30 in the world and both have had a good year. If Murray comes through all those, like he should, he then gets Anderson and Wawrinka back to back. Both those players can trouble Murray but really it’s only Wawrinka who may actually beat him. His reward for all that? A semi-final with Federer.
2. STAN WAWRINKA SUI... This quarter is a two horse race. Murray leads their head to head 8-6. But this decade it is 3-3. Murray hasn’t beaten Wawrinka since 2012. Wawrinka won their last two meetings and is 2-1 against the Scot here in New York. But surely Murray is still the favourite given Wawrinka’s sketchy form of late. There were signs of a pulse in Wawrinka’s form, however. He opens with Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas which should be a very quick match indeed. Chung or Duckworth are next. Both are young but both have a bright futures. Sock or Muller are possible opponents for the third round. So he should have a test before the fourth round but he really is a lock to reach the fourth. Simone or Troicki are his two most likely opponents in that round. Over five sets especially he should be nigh on untouchable. But can he beat Murray?
3. GILLES SIMON FRA...Yes, it won’t happen, but if the upsets should occur Simon is ready to step in and make it two slam quarterfinals in a row. But it won’t happen.
DARK HORSE: DOMINIC THIEM AUT...Seeded 20 THE Austrian can improve his ranking by just meeting his seeding. Gimeno-Traver and Istomin are his first two opponents and he should be able to make the third round. That will be enough to get his ranking moving steadily towards the top ten. And should those stars align he may well find himself in the quarters.
WILDCARD: NICK KYRGIOS AUS...Do I really need to justify this? I thought not.
EARLY EXIT: ERNESTS GULBIS LAT...He always deserves a mention and he can have this one.
POOR GUY: ANDY MURRAY GBR...He drew Kyrgios. We knew someone would, we just didn’t know who. And now we do. And is there any chance that won’t be a night match?

=In the End...=
I think it is difficult to pick against Muzza. But if Wawrinka scrapes through the first few rounds then mysteriously picks up some form things could get interesting…


1. ROGER FEDERER SUI... Federer is surely destined to make another U.S. Open final. Well, with all the stars now aligned is this his last and best shot? He has timed his run into the Big Apple perfectly form-wise. He is on top form and he just isn’t losing his serve. He has a genuine sot to win this slam, but Djokovic will most likely be waiting. Mayer then the winner of Darcis/Baghdatis should be good. Federer hasn’t played the Cypriot in what feels like a decade. Maybe it is a decade. Rosol is here. Isner Just avoided his boobie trap Kohlschreiber but they could meet in the fourth round. Federer will have to go through Kohl then Isner back to back. It’s a tough workload for anyone. Then Federer plays Berdych if they both make it. It isn’t a hard section for Federer but it is a very tricky one. Still, the five time champion must be able to remember how to win here. He did it so often.
2. TOMAS BERDYCH CZE... I wonder which Berdych this is? It’s always the question to ask. Is this the Berdych who crumbles in the first round and dissolves into a mess or is it the Berdych with lasers for arms and a serve that can shatter brick walls? How is his second serve? Because that is the shot that makes all the difference for the Czech star. Fratangelo and then possibly Melzer are the most probable first two opponents. Garcia-Lopez or Tipsarevic are probably up next. Then Gasquet. But the Frenchman has his own problems.
3. RICHARD GASQUET FRA... Ah, Gasquet. Someone to be admired actually. He has come back from a suspension for being a naughty boy and he has tried. He has put in the effort and the hard-yards. He has gone for it. He has consistently tried his best and despite a few poor losses he has put together an enviable career. Whatever you may say about him his effort cannot be questioned. And he has been rewarded. Kokkinakis, Hewitt and Tomic [24] are all in his section. So is Brown. Gasquet will be pushed but he should be up to the task. This whole section is Gasquet v. Berdych in that fourth round.
DARK HORSE: JOHN ISNER USA...This is the time, the year, the edition and the slam it doesn’t go wrong for Isner. There is no reason for him to lose early. He is a deserved top fifteen player. Jaziri and Youzhny do lurk but that should be no problem. That Karlovic match in the third round will be worth seeing. I predict a breaker in every set. Then Isner can lose with dignity to Federer. But if Fed falters or Isner beats him he could find himself in a semi-final.
WILDCARD: JANKO TIPSAREVIC SRB...A former top eight player is back. This guy went to the world tour finals and he has a manageable early draw here. He could really shake things up here.
EARLY EXIT: GUILLERMO GARCIA-LOPEZ ESP...He is a good player on the clay. But drawing Janko here is perhaps too hard a match for him to handle.
POOR GUY: RICHARD GASQUET FRA...Poor guy drew Thanasi. It’s a pity because both men are on form and looking to make a run here. But it’s especially unfortunate for Kokkinakis.

=In the End...=
Federer cruises. Berdych threatens. And the Aussies have a good time here. Bernie should make the third round. Who’d have thought he'd be a model of consistency?




...I picked Djokovic to win Wimbledon, but this time Fed gets the nod. Djokovic just looks tired and worn out. He really isn’t on top form and something always happens to him in the U.S. Open finals. And Federer has beaten him here on a few occasions. Besides three slams in a year is greedy.

#1 Williams d. #19 Keys
#12 Bencic d. #8 Pliskova
#3 Sharapova d. #17 Svitolina
#7 Ivanovic d. #21 Jankovic
#5 Kvitova d. #9 Muguruza
#26 Pennetta d. #22 Stosur
#20 Azarenka d. #6 Safarova
#2 Halep d. #14 Bacsinszky

...Williams might lose to Sloane and I have a feeling it’ll be there she wins or loses this championship. But Stephens is not quite there yet. I suppose that’s down to Future Sloane. I like Keys over Radwanska right now. Honestly I think Radwanska might be in a permanent slump. There’s been no evidence to indicate that she’ll come out of it any time soon.

Why is Pliskova seeded higher than Muguruza? That seems foolish to me. I see Bencic beating Venus and then dispatching Pliskova. Pliskova is very good, clearly, but she has been past the second round just twice at slam level. This year she has won four matches at slam level. She’s only won one title. And she’s the eighth seed. Above a slam finalist. Well, great job there WTA on your ranking system. The Russian section is a mess. All the Russians are off form. But Sharapova can grind past Kuznetsova and Makarova. Kanepi lurks here, too. And Svitolina is one to watch.

Vinci and Bouchard are trying to recover some form here and there’s a question mark above Suarez-Navarro’s head. Ivanovic and Jankovic seem destined to meet. Diyas is also hanging around.

Schmiedlova is one to watch seeded 32, but Petra should have too much. Garcia and Petkovic here, too, but I like Muguruza. Wozniacki is the kind of fourth seed only this generation of players could produce. She will go nowhere. Errani is another seed here but Stosur and Pennetta will both go to the fourth. And Pennetta always beats Sam.

Pironkova and Begu won’t stop Safarova. But Azarenka will. Kerber and Schiavone are the has-beens in this section. Nobody here to challenge Timea. She will make the fourth round for sure. Giorgi is the only player who could beat her. But I just don’t think she will. Halep should get past Cornet and then Timea.

#1 Williams d. #12 Bencic
#7 Ivanovic d. #3 Sharapova
#5 Kvitova d. #Pennetta
#20 Azarenka d. #2 Halep

...Serena exacts revenge and rolls through to the semi-finals. I really hope the ladies event isn’t dull again. I’d love for Serena to lose just so we have something different to talk about. But nobody is capable of beating her right now. Or in the foreseeable future. Not when it matters. Sharapova runs out of steam. Kvitova continues her best performance here. And Azarenka beats down Halep.

#1 Williams d. #7 Ivanovic
#20 Azarenka d. #5 Kvitova

...Predictable again, I’m afraid. And Azarenka beats Kvitova in what is hopefully a classic.

#1 Williams d. #20 Azarenka

...If Azarenka takes this to three I’ll light some fireworks.

I'll be seeing you all soon and far too frequently for your liking.


ANSWER: The third seed [Britain], the fourth seed [Japan] and the 24th seed [Australia] all come from island nations.

Go to WTA BACKSPIN. They’ve just got the BBQ going!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Wk.33- It's Better to Be Over the Hill than Under It

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Last week Seattle and this week Portland. But not that Portland. Unless you were thinking of the correct one. Were you?

This week is another shorter update, but regular service should be resumed soon enough. Possibly there may even be a draw review. But enough of me and my life.

Djokovic has five finals. Federer has seven titles. Will this be the Masters that eludes the Serb? It makes no sense for it to be this one, but in five finals he has won no sets. Sharapova is 0-5 in Miami finals. The tournaments are rich hunting grounds except for that final round. Federer has thrice defied Djokovic in finals there. He leads the head to head 21-20. Murray has benefited from a walkover against Djokovic, but did beat him in 2008 in a pair of breakers. It would be a great anomaly were the Djoker to never win this title.

Federer beat the top two in the world back to back, including holding his serve 49 times in a row. It's not often a guy beats the best returners back to back and doesn't drop serve. This Federer guy was supposed to be old and past it. Apparently he isn't and he made sure that Murray's third stint at number two was very brief. Federer seems to be rested and on form simultaneously. And that is a dangerous combination. If the U.S. Open draw puts Murray on Djokovic's side it may put Federer as the favorite. Djokovic should win but he could get a very nasty draw indeed.

Driving out of New York there are four posters advertising the U.S. Open. One had Serena. One had Sharapova. One had Federer. One had Nadal. The top two men's players were absent. Why are Federer and Nadal still the big draws? Why are Djokovic and Murray unmarketable? Or at the least not as marketable as the old[er] guard.

Well, the final slam rapidly approaches. Are you ready? Are you prepared? After the U.S. Open, football comes in. Following that is the World Series and then the hockey and baseball. Are you ready for the sporting season to begin?

QUESTION: Who was the last non-slam winner to beat Federer in Cincinnati?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini, Garcia-Lopez and Bellucci are the three lowest seeds at the U.S. at 32-30. Mannarino just misses out as does Mayer, though the Argentine did rise two places.

Top 10 - Little change. Raonic holds off the Frenchman in 11 and 12 as Gasquet rises a spot. Richard is still down 500 from Simon. In the race, Isner is at 9 and Gasquet at 10 just ahead of Simon.

Top 8 - No change here. Berdych at 6 is out of sight. But the Spaniards at 7 and 8 are ahead of Cilic by under 200 ranking points.

Top 4 - Federer takes third in the race and second back from Murray in the rankings. Kei is building a lead on Wawrinka in fourth position, but I'd back the Swiss to win the slam over Nishikori. Where do Nadal and Murray land? It's possible for Federer or Djokovic to get them both.

S: Roger Federer def. Novak Djokovic 7-6(1)/6-3
D: Nestor/Roger-Vasselin d. Matkowski/Zimonjic

...Deja vu has struck Backspin. Federer still wins a lot. And the thing about his season is there is still room to pick up points. If Djokovic falters Federer can make a run at the top ranking. And the fact he even has a chance is shocking. What he is doing is as impressive, if not more so, as what Serena is doing. In a game where he is no longer at his physical peak he is still making finals of slams and winning Masters events. He is fighting off old father time. It is improbable that Djokovic or Murray will still be around at the Swiss man's age. Federer was too good for Agut, winning 6-4, 6-4. Anderson and his big serve were useless against Federer and the South African lost 6-1, 6-1. Federer edged out Lopez 6-3, 6-4. Lopez had edged out Nadal only the day before. We will have to wait for the classic rivalry to renew. Federer was too good for Murray in a 6-4, 7-6[8] victory, and the next day a 7-6[1], 6-3 victory in the final was sealed with a big serve. Forget dropping sets, Federer barely dropped service games. Federer now has to hope for a decent draw. The draw is likely to stack heavily on one side. If he can get a kinder draw he could well win it. But there are so many land mines and so even an easier looking draw could have pitfalls. But this is the man who was around before and after Rafael Nadal. The comparisons between them and Evert and Navratilova practically write themselves.
...There were a few candidates for this, really. Making the quarters of a Masters just before a slam is a great way to find one's mojo. Gasquet and Berdych also found some magic. Gasquet was especially impressive in dismantling Kyrgios. But Stan [the man] is more than capable of winning this slam, of winning any slam. He could be the first player to win three slams and never ascend to world number two or above. It was all about the daily grind for Stan. A 3-6, 7-6[3], 6-3 victory against Coric was just the start of a grueling week. He edged Dr. Ivo 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[5] to make the quarterfinals. Djokovic sent him packing 6-4, 6-1, but that's irrelevant. The important thing is he has wins. He has found wins. And that is like nectar from the gods. Wawrinka has form and even though he lost to Djokovic the signs are good. He fooled us in Australia last year. He fooled us in Paris this year. Will he fool us in New York? We're expecting it this time, but he could still surprise us all. He was so close last year to making the semifinals again in his third quarterfinal appearance in New York. And, of course, who could forget his memorable five set loss to Djokovic at the semifinal stage just two years ago?
...Whenever Dolgopolov pops up on this blog in a positive aspect or in the slam pick [usually as a dark horse] he is accompanied by a video of him doing something ridiculously flashy and this week is no different.

Every stroke was perfect. And it was his week writ small. Djokovic is excellent at escaping out of holes and so the loss in the semifinal in three very tight sets is admirable. Both he and Goffin had their boot on the Serb's throat but neither pressed down hard enough and so he escaped. Dolgoplov qualified by beating Ward and the higher ranked Giraldo. He took the spot of Nishikori, who withdrew. So technically he was the fourth seed. And he made the semifinal. He dismissed Tomic in two easy sets. Then he edged Janowicz in three tight sets before ousting Berdych 6-4, 6-2. It should worry the rest of the field that he is finding form right now. He's up 27 to 39.
...Cilic is 18-13 on the year. He has no titles. No finals. He just lost to Gasquet with a whimper. He is looking in very poor form but for some reason is still ranked ninth. He is 21st in the race. And he is the defending champion which means his ranking is going to drop unless he can summon a miracle out of thin air. Marin Cilic, undeservedly at ninth, is going to crash and is going to burn.
...Nadal has an excellent record against lefties, Spaniards and one-handers. Lopez is all of those things. On no surface should he beat Nadal. On no surface should he even trouble Nadal. But he outlasted the Spaniard in a war of attrition. That shouldn't be possible. But he did so 5-7, 6-4, 7-6[3]. And to win in the third set breaker 7-3 is particularly impressive. Lopez really showed his abilities in the win. He deserves his top 20 seeding at the U.S. Open, though how much it will help him remains to be seen.

*New Haven*
Simon [1] d. [3] Tsonga
Anderson [2] d. [4] Troicki
Simon [1] d. [2] Anderson

...The seeds will play out here if there are no withdrawals. Sadly there are always withdrawals in pre-slam tournaments. It is a part of life. Simon should be just too consistent for the heavy hitters. Anderson should find some form. Losing badly to Federer on that surface is an acceptable loss.

Casey withdrew from the New Haven Open because she was still in the doubles in Cincinnati. She and Shvedova lost to the Chan Sisters after beating another Chinese-Taipei pair in the semifinals. Chan Hao-Ching is her partner in Connecticut this week and they are seeded third. Srebotnik/Vesnina are the top seeds and are their projected opponents in the semifinals. First up for them is King/Savchuk.

ANSWER: In 2011 Berdych beat Federer 6-2, 7-6. Murray won the title that year when Novak Djokovic retired in the final.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Learn to Serve the FUN Way!

It’s been great tennis weather here in California, so I shot a video that will turn your serve into a powerful, consistent weapon. I got a little more silly with this one with a few jokes, but hopefully you’ll find the instruction clear and easy to follow. Enjoy!


A little about me: I'm a tennis coach/lover. I put the fun in fundamentals! To get immediate free access to new videos, visit and enter your email address. You can also follow me @osatennis, go to my YouTube page or email me at

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wk.32- Murray's Momentum Mounts

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

I sit in a Seattle hotel room as I write this, so it will have to be a shorter update, a mini update if you will, this week. It always seems to coincide with a week when Murray wins a title. It's not intentional, I promise. It's just what seems to happen.

Something else that happened this week was that in the Pan American Games Para series of events that concluded their wheelchair tournament.

Goolagong-Cawley and Ashe. These two faced persecution, or at least their races did, back in their home countries. In Australia the government stole a whole generation of Aborigine children. In America, well just watch "Mississippi Burning." Heck, visit Texas today. When Jesse Owens won the race it was the President back home who snubbed him, not Hitler. He was made to walk through the kitchen.

In tennis if you're gay, lesbian or somewhere in between we have a home for you. If you're an ethnic or religious minority we have a home for you. If you have a disability we can work with that. I think our sport may be the most excepting and welcoming. The NFL seems to do a double take whenever women get involved in however small a capacity. In other sports racism is rife and homophobia is unofficially acceptable. But not in our sport. Not in the sport we hold dear. Of course, as we move through the years and decades acceptance is everywhere. But we were first. We were the first to give homes to those who had none. We have wheelchair tournaments. And they are a key part of the grand slam. The thing that could be great to see is more coverage and more events. At the Masters they should have mixed doubles and wheelchair tennis. It would draw crowds.

It's nice to be able to look at the sport you love and say to yourself actually we're an inclusive sport that only dislikes those that truly deserve it. Mostly.

On that note, BACKSPIN officially condemns the comments made by Kyrgios [you know the ones and they're not being repeated here] and we hope the situation can be resolved shortly. Kokkinakis gets a big gold sticker for how he handled the situation. He is well liked and respected within the locker-room. He has a flawless character and it is was bad that he was dragged into it. He and Kyrgios could meet in the second round.

QUESTION: When did Murray last beat Djokovic on a hard court?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Kyrgios up 4 to 37 with a seed at the U.S. Open a possibility. Australia will have three seeds at the 2016 Australian Open. Mannarino and Fognini fall two and four places respectively. They hold 32 and 31. Up five places to 30 is Sock. Up 22 places to 27 is Chardy.

Top 10 - Little change. Raonic holds off the Frenchman in 11 and 13. Isner is in at 12 but expect him to drop off after the U.S. Open when he leaves U.S. soil. Simon and Raonic have fourth round points to defend. Cilic at 9 has a lot, obviously. Gasquet and Isner will gain points in New York.

Top 8 - Nadal knocks Cilic into ninth and that will make it nigh on impossible to defend his title unless the draw falls for him. Nadal is 15 points behind Ferrer. He didn't do the U.S. Open last year, though. Ferrer has little to defend.

Top 4 - Murray overtakes Federer and holds second by a few hundred points, but he is not the second best player in the world. Federer is still miles ahead of fourth. Djokovic is clear by a little under 6000 points.

S: Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic 6-4/4-6/6-3
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Nestor/Roger-Vasselin

...After losing to Gabashvilli last week in Washington, Murray rises to world number two after winning the title in Montreal. Season long, Murray has earned it. He has done better than Federer, but then he has played about 15 more matches. He does play better at the U.S. Open, but would you back him against Federer anywhere right now? Murray moved past Robredo, Muller and Tsonga without losing a set. The defending champion Tsonga seemed powerless to stop him. Murray is really having a zenith right now. Considering slams are now beyond him he is still making a decent fist of it. Next he rolled over an apparently injured Nishikori. Kei is always injured, though. Djokovic stopped Murray from losing no sets. It would be the Scot who'd hold onto his third set break and win 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. It was a match filled with long rallies and a few drop shots. So what else is new? As he and Djokovic turn 29 within weeks of each other next year, just before the French, the question quickly becomes and is becoming "How much longer?" It looks as if Djokovic can just keep this up for longer. What will be very interesting will be the Olympics. For many of the players it will be their last chance for Gold.
...And he keeps on rising. He has gained about 1000 points in the last two weeks and a thousand of anything is a lot. Perhaps Djokovic should be in the risers slot, but how can one rise from winning Wimbledon? It's like inventing a rocket one week and then inventing a small model airplane th next. Both are impressive but it's hard to improve from the rocket. The fourth seed manhandled Andujar 6-3, 6-3 and then eased past dangerous Goffin 6-4, 6-4. Then he dismissed Nadal 6-2, 6-4. There was no mercy, only a kind of thrilling, beautiful brutality. Nadal is no longer able to live with power and accuracy like he had been able to previously. He ran out of energy against Murray and is now apparently injured. But whether it is a genuine injury or an Azarenka injury remains to be seen. I've said it before and no doubt this is not the last but the population of Asia exceeds 4.4 billion. And he is the best tennis player out there in that continent. But is that more impressive than being the Spanish number one? There's a real culture of rackety stuff in Spain and there isn't really in Japan, so which is more impressive?
...Last week Mathieu surprised us all and this week it would be his compatriot Chardy. Chardy knew a solid performance here would give him a seed in New York. He knew that if he could be given protection for a few rounds a run in a slam could be on. And he was proved correct. Chardy got past Mahut in straight sets. Then he escaped Mayer 4-6, 7-6[4], 6-2. Then he just barely got away from Karlovic but won 4-6, 7-6[1], 6-4. Then he beat Isner in the most incredible three set match for some time 6-7[9], 7-6[13], 7-6[4]. He even managed to make Djokovic work for it in a 6-4, 6-4 respectable loss. Chardy is one of a handful of French players with big weapons who are very dangerous and very seeded. Some are not seeded at all but still dangerous, like Paire. Gasquet and Simon are the highest ranked and most dangerous. Both have recent slam form and both will like their chances in New York. But why can't Jeremy win three or even maybe four matches?
...Young qualified, beating recent titlist Ram, then beat qualifier Kudla in two easy sets. Then he actually did something. For once in his career he did something. He beat fifth seeded Berdych 7-6[5], 6-3. He looked good and he looked ready for a run. Then he lost to qualifier Gulbis meekly in two straight sets. Easy come, easy go, little high, little low.

*Cincinnati Open*
Wawrinka [5] d. [6] Berdych
Federer [2] d. [3] Murray
Federer [2] d. [5] Wawrinka

...Welcome back, Mr. Federer. He could meet Rafa in the quarters, but Nadal has to get there first. Murray is in his bit, too. Murray is the second best player in the world in number only. Djokovic can't ever seem to win this event. He has made four finals but it is a bogey event. And so this year it will be Wawrinka who ends his run. Federer should win here.

After losing in the qualies in Canada, Casey lost in the first round of the doubles, too. She has a point to prove in Cincinnati. This time Casey did qualify. She was seeded 14th. After beating Glatch in straight sets she got past 6th seed Lucic-Baroni 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. In the main draw she gets qualifier Barthel. That match is winnable, but then she gets the winner of Sloane and Suarez-Navarro.

The Aussie is currently languishing around 60 in the world. In doubles, she is inside the top 15 at 14.

ANSWER: Murray beat Djokovic in the U.S. Open Final in 2012 and that was the last time. Strangely ,the first time he was world number two was August 17th, 2009.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Wk.31- Washington Today, New York Tomorrow

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The World Swimming Championships have concluded. They were held in Kazan, Russia and the host country came second behind the scarily dominant Chinese, but ahead of America and Australia. With over 2 billion people, the odds are good that someone is going to be very good at something. It is still somewhat of a mystery as to how China doesn't just dominate all of sports. If it really set its mind to it it could. The same goes for the USA, of course.

And watching the swimming in particular made this BACKSPINNER realize something. In very few individual sports does one compete into one's thirties. In tennis this is commonplace. In fact, there's more likely to be a surprised reaction if somebody retires before thirty. Look at Graf and Henin. Hingis and Soderling were shocks, as well. Although injury played a significant role in all those retirements the point still stands. Tennis is a unique sport with regards to how long you can go on playing it.

And it isn't because it's less physical. A five set clay court match in the heat actually carries health risks. There are players who become non-factors from September onwards because they simply do not have the fitness. If Nalbandian or Baghdatis had been as fit as say a Hewitt or a Ferrer how good would they have been? Nalbandian should have won a slam. It's a travesty he didn't. Date-Krumm this week beat a seed and a top twenty or thereabouts player. She beat a recent slam finalist in Lisicki. That should never have happened. It wouldn't happen in swimming or in any other individual sport. Golf doesn't count.

The other thing is, and this has been explored at length previously, every tennis player is an island. In swimming and in other individual sports you will usually be part of a team at an event. Even in badminton and other racket sports there's a feeling of team spirit. Or at least there is to an extent. But in tennis you are on your own. Even in Davis Cup and the Olympics there isn't a big bond. Yes, the players are usually friends with their compatriots, but not always.

And it was while watching these swimmers hug and congratulate each other that this BACKSPINNER realized, hey, our handshake is cold. Not unfriendly but not always warm. You get it on both sides. And, boy, our sport is a selfish sport. But it's also forgiving. If you lose a few tournaments you can always come back and win. You have time. Swimmers have usually about two Olympics where they're relevant. And that's if they're lucky. The very, very good ones may have three.

Next time you're watching a sport, look at it and wonder to yourself how is this different to tennis. Of course, you will be far more coherent than I am. But, to conclude, swimming has more of a sense of community but, in another way, just as much loneliness. You also have less time in a career but probably longer at the top of your game.

QUESTION: Who won the first Washington Open on the ATP tour?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Kohl moves up 11 to 28. Cuevas goes up to 30. Bellucci up eight to 31. Querrey still holds 32 over Bellucci. The Brazilian fell two from 31. Sock and Mayer are knocking on the door.

Top 10 - Tsonga fell 12 because the Rogers Cup is a week later this year. So he lost 1000 points. Ouch. Isner is up six to 12. Simon and Gasquet sit at 11 and 13. Nadal is at nine and Raonic sits at 10.

Top 8 - Little change. Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but behind six. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 -No change in the top three but Murray could make a run at two. Wawrinka and Kei swap places. Could Kei be the fourth seed at the Open? It's crucial for him that he secures it. It could make all the difference as the defending finalist.

S: Kei Nishikori d. John Isner 4-6/6-4/6-4
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Dodig/Melo

S: Philipp Kohlschreiber d. Paul-Henri Mathieu 2-6/6-2/6-2
D: Almagro/Berlocq d. Haase/Kontinen

Korea def. Spain 2-1

...Perhaps, yes, I should have opted for the guy who won the 500. But that does not always denote the best player of the week. For example, if Berdych loses in the quarters and Kokkinakis loses in the fourth who would you say has had a better tournament? And it's the same here. Nishikori is expected to do well and win those tournaments. Kohl was expected to lose quietly to somebody he is far better than. He was supposed to disappoint. But he didn't. And that's commendable. Also tempting to put here was Lleyton Hewitt, who just never gives up. But Philipp Kohlschreiber doesn't have many days. And today is the day this Dachshund has his day. Seeded sixth, he ran into Struff in the first round. He won 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3. He could easily have fallen pray to the upset but did not. He beat Giraldo down 6-0, 6-2 next, which is an impressive result. That's the kind of scoreline only Nadal is really capable of. Next he bageled Fognini in the breaker to win 7-6[0], 6-4. And another bagel followed. He beat an in-form Thiem 6-0, 7-6[8] to make the final. In an entertaining three setter he outlasted qualifier Mathieu. It was an impressive week from the German and now he needs to back it up. Suddenly he looks dangerous coming into the U.S. Open. He should have taken a set off Djokovic at Wimbledon. It was a bit of a let down that he failed to do so. It wasn't totally unexpected, however. Still he has waves to make at the upcoming Masters and the slam. Is a deep run at all three of those out of the question? No. And it's not many players who have had made two finals this season.
...Do you collect anything? Stamps, sports memorabilia, states, cities and books are just some of the things one can collect, though the choice is vast. Kei collects 500 level finals. Eight of his 15 finals are at this level. He is 6-2. This is his third 500 final this year and he is 2-1. He's 3-1 in finals overall. But this was his maiden final in Washington and he excelled. Somehow for Kei it is never simple or straight-forward. Something complex always happens. Maybe he makes it complicated. Maybe he doesn't know how to make it easier on himself. Or perhaps he is just forever cursed with bad draws. He barely got past Duckworth but won 6-7[8], 6-1, 6-4. But then Mayer and Groth were both dispatched 6-4, 6-4. He then edged Cilic 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Marin had beaten Zverev in a tight three setter in the round before. The 18 year old German is now closing in on 80 In the world. In the final, Nishikori, who will shockingly turn 26 this year, had just too much for Isner despite the stature difference. Nishikori is now fourth in the world. He and Wawrinka keep swapping around. And really they’re both legitimate world number fours but surely the slam champion should be ranked higher. It's an interesting query. Does the defending finalist or a current defending slam champ have higher precedence? Cilic may not even be seeded eighth.
...The Frenchman is one of those delightful enigmas. He has an eternal question mark above his head. What if? What if he had been fully fit and had stayed on the tour? What if he had achieved his potential, his full potential? What if he had been destined to be France's best player, not one of the others. Sadly the answers to none of these questions will ever be answered now. Still, he had a good week. In qualifying, the Frenchman was the top seed. He beat Munar, the Spaniard mentioned here last week. He bounced fellow qualifier De Schepper in the first round 6-2, 6-2 before ousting fourth seed Klizan in just two sets. Next he beat Argentine Delbonis in a weird match 6-3, 0-6, 6-3. He was too good for Almagro in the end, ousting him 6-4, 6-3. When he gets on fire he can still pull off all the tricks and he showed that in Spades. P-H Mathieu rises 31 spots to 78. Just think about that. 31 spots. And if he can string together a few wins at the next three events, he will be cracking the top 50 in no time. Of course being French means that he was never taught consistency. Still, he has a good chance to roll into the top 50 now. As it stands he easily gets direct entry into the U.S. Open.
...Dennis is only 21, but he has his first win. He won through qualifying and then beat Bedene. Fognini finally dismissed him for the loss of only three games but he played some impressive tennis. He and Thiem could make some big waves for Austria on the circuit. Here he is beating Bedene and in three sets, too.

...He served for it and still blew it. He literally had this match won and blew it. Murray is here for not only being a bit rubbish but also for losing the match in the way he did. He cannot lose matches like this. This is exactly the reason he never felt a part of the big four. He never quite had their level of their numbers. No matter which way you slice it he was never at their level. They didn't lose matches like this. They never played badly and lost. They played badly and their opponents played the best tennis of their lives. Sometimes it still wasn't enough. The worst thing is that we're just used to Murray losing matches he shouldn't throughout the years.
...Beating a world number three is always a fantastic experience. Beating any top five or top ten player is great. Heck, beating a player better than you is a fantastic achievement and feeling. Gabashvili did it and he did it on one of Murray's best surfaces. He outlasted the ultimate grinder and that is a huge win.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Isner finding some consistency. At last.
2 - Congratulations, Sloane. Your first title and it's a big one. Not only that but to win it in front of home support is tremendous. She was born in Plantation [FLA], a mere 15 hours away from the Citi Open. Pretty special.
3 - Kohl won a title near where he lives. It's always nice to win a title in a tournament close to where you live, in a home tournament.
4 - The Spanish number one has a losing record against the Spanish number two. A really bad one. This isn't usually the case.
5 - Raonic is going for win #200. Good luck to him.

1. Washington Final – Nishikori d. Isner 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
...Little and large took to the final stage. Isner had Kei right where he wanted him but the Japanese man has learned how to grit it out. He kept plugging away and eventually did the American in in an exciting final out in Washington. Both have risen in the rankings and both are dark horses in New York.
2. Kitzbuhel 1st Rd. - Almagro d. Vesely 6-7[2], 7-5, 6-4
...Jiri was seeded seventh, but it was an inspired Almagro who was able to come through and deny the young star. The Spaniard had a fantastic tournament and made the semi-finals. He is steadily climbing back into the top 70. He also won the doubles with Berlocq.
3. Kitzbuhel Final – Kohlschreiber d. Methieu 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
...The surface gives a lot. It gives the ball a lot of kick and results in high bounces. It also means aggression is a viable tactic. You can really go after the ball. It meant that his final was not played as you may expect. It was played quickly and with no small amount of quality. From 2-2 in the third the German just ran away with it.
4. Washington SF – Gabashvili d. Murray 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4)
...Perhaps lacking a little in quality, there are no excuses. Despite serving for it, Murray fell at the first hurdle. No world number three should ever lose a match like this. To make it worse the Russian then went down to Berankis.

*Rogers Cup*
Djokovic [1] d. [3] Wawrinka
Nishikori [4] d. [2] Murray
Djokovic [1] d. [2] Nishikori

...Sure, Murray has played well here. So has Berdych. But neither of them will win this. Berdych is too close to Djokovic and Murray is playing badly right now. Wawrinka will bounce back a little and Nishikori will continue his run of form. He's a different animal on hard courts. Defending champion Tsonga is dangerous but could lose a lot of ranking points, too. Nadal is a non factor here.

Dellacqua lost to Doi in the final of the qualifying for the Rogers Cup singles. Doi prevailed 6-3, 6-4 but Casey did at least beat Paszek in straight sets the round before. In the doubles she and Shvedova are seeded fifth. And they open with Mladenovic/Pliskova. With a good performance here they can find form before the U.S. Open. The second seeds do lurk in their section, however.

ANSWER: Thomaz Koch won in 1969. He beat Arthur Ashe in five sets in the final.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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