Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Wk.39- Berdych Bounces Back

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

In the Week 40 finals, Tomas Berdych and Feliciano Lopez played the role of the big servers, though Lopez serves more with incredible spin and angles. Berdych smacks the ball. And they played against the solid receivers David Ferrer and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, not as big a returner but he gets the ball back consistently, aided of course by his one-handed backhand.

As time has gone by the power of big servers has diminished. The Lavers and Beckers of this world have had become less and less effective. The big returners like Wilander, Chang, Agassi and Djokovic have slowly started to take control.

Of course, Agassi percentage-wise wasn’t as strong as Djokovic. He would pick a spot and if you went there he nailed you. But if you didn’t go there you probably won the point. But it was powerfully effective.

The reasons why servers have slowly become less potent may be to do with the fact rackets have given players more control at the expense of power. Wooden rackets have enormous power but not a lot of control which lead to shorter points. And also players are fitter and the surfaces are slower. But also players are more tactically astute and they practice returns for hours.

But it is still a classic battle. The serving coming up against the returner is offense against defence at perhaps its finest. Agassi had classic battles with Rafter, especially at Wimbledon. Sometimes you get blowouts, but sometimes they turn into five set classics. It’s the same in football. One year defence blew out offense [2014] but the next offense edged defence in the equivalent of five sets.

And so it was in the finals this week. With the servers showing off their thing against those returners. Of course, these days you have bizarre hybrids. Players like Del Potro and Nadal on clay have big serves and great returns.

Luckily next week the big boys come back so ATP BACKSPIN actually has something to discuss. But until then let’s focus on the middle range of players. Berdych is ranked five but, really, he feels like fifteen. So what happened?

QUESTION: Why can’t Ray Charles see his friends? Because he’s married!

No, not really. That question has nothing to do with tennis

Who won more hard court slams, Agassi or Sampras?

Top 32 - Paire holds 32 from Kohl at 33 and Kyrgios at 34. The Aussie rose seven places. Robredo moves up to 29, while Sock falls three to 30 but holds off Bellucci at 31 by 45 points.
Top 10 – Little change. Less than 300 points difference between Simon at ten and Cilic at 14. Gasquet is 85 points from the top ten.
Top 8 – Nadal falls to eight as Ferrer climbs thanks to his title. Ferrer is up by some 200. Is the 600 point gap betwixt him and 6th ranked Nishikori one he can bridge? Nadal up on number nine Raonic by 1000.
Top 4 - No change. Djokovic untouchable and Federer is extending his lead over Murray. Andy leads Stan by just under 3000 but the Swiss is ahead of Berdych by some 1000 points. Nishikori sits a shade under Berdych. Expect a shake up when the Masters and World Tour Finals arrive. If Federer is fully fit he could beat Djokovic to cap the year. Right now the top two look immovable.

S: Tomas Berdych def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3/7-6(7)
D: Erlich/Fleming d. Guccione/Sa

S: David Ferrer def. Feliciano Lopez 7-5/7-5
D: Huey/Kontinen d. Klaasen/R.Ram

Junior Davis Cup 16s (Madrid, ESP)
Canada def. Germany 2-1

...Yes it’s harsh to criticize such a consistent top player, but BACKSPIN defended him earlier in the year expecting him to turn into the player he should be. It never materialises. With the year-end BACKSPIN rankings a-coming, it's players like Berdych who make it difficult. What’s his big result this year? How many titles has he won? And he’s world number five? He doesn’t feel like it. But he has won in Shenzhen. And sometimes the key is to go to a smaller event with a weaker field and wreak havoc. Do it just like Agassi did. Get those wins and that confidence. Tomas opened against ATP BACKSPIN favourite Austin Krajicek and was too good in a 7-5 6-3 win. Austin had a great three set win over Duckworth the previous round but Berdych is in a different class. 6th seed Vesely was up next but he never threatened and soon fell away losing 6-3, 6-2. And Robredo combined with a monsoon was no match, either. The match was halted at 6-1, 3-3. But Robredo could not take advantage and would win just one more game. And in the final fourth seed Garcia-Lopez challenged but could not get past the world number five. Berdych ran out the winner 6-3, 7-6[7]. Now Berdych has the momentum and a high seed in the 500 tournament coming up. So once more he has a chance to show us what he can do. But will he?
...Ferrer seems to win so much. He has the kind of consistency Berdman wishes he had. A final every year since 2002, except 2004, and a title every year since 2006, except 2009. It’s impressive. And he has made the World tour Finals six times. And he hasn’t missed it since 2009. Throw in four titles this year and he is still relevant despite being 33. It’s incredible. He just never stops. And Ferrer took his consistency to Asia, to Kuala Lumpur. He has won titles on five different continents and on three different surfaces. His first round opponent was Stepanek, a familiar foe. Ferrer won 7-5, 6-3 and then played another big banana skin. But Kukushkin did not make Ferrer slip this time, going down 6-3, 6-4. Surprise package Benjamin (no-relation) Becker took the first set, but this is Ferrer. After losing the first set 6-3, he dominated the next and took it 6-2. And he can outlast anyone, especially at Becker’s level. So it turned out to be as he won the third 6-4. And beating Lopez [2] 7-5, 7-5 was the cherry on the perfect Madeira cake. Do cherries go on Madeira cake? You’d have to ask Ferrer.
...If Germany could get its act together the Davis Cup team could be quite formidable. Of course, the glory days are coming to an end with Haas and Kohlschreiber looking to be at the end of their respective roads. Zverev looks to be the future now. Still, it is surprising Germany hasn’t won the Davis Cup that much in recent years. Becker opened up with Groth and won handily 6-1, 7-6[6] but 6th seed Chardy would be up next. In an exciting match Becker came through 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 and the German had won two matches where he wasn’t the favourite. Next he beat 4th seed Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6[3]. The semi-finals awaited Cinderella but alas it was midnight all too soon. Becker took the first but succumbed in the end to the sheer Ferrer-ness of Ferrer and lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The 34-year old has been as high as 35. He dropped 16 places to 90 as a result of making the semi-finals in Japan last year. Blame the change in schedule. For Becker that extra week before Wimbledon has come at a price.
...The thing Kyrgios has that other ATP characters like Monfils don’t is the ability to win. He can always make a run and win matches. And seeded 7th he did just that. He even beat 3rd seed Karlovic in two breaker sets. He is already a consistent top 40 player and I like his slam prospects best of all the players in the under 22 category. Still, it was nice to see him doing well again even if he was predictably unpredictable as usual.
...We have a problem. Dimitrov is 25 next year. He is no longer young. So he has a window of about 20-26 slams where he will still be relevant. And with the big four still around you can take away about 10 of those. But he has to hang around for those ten. He has to make at least one final. He has to make a handful of semi-finals. He has the fitness and ability. He has the weapons and he has the ranking protection to a certain degree. Sousa taking him to three sets isn’t acceptable and the loss to Becker was awful. He has to avoid that in the future. A straight sets loss to a mid-thirties journeyman struggling to stay in the top 100 is inexcusable. So he must use the next two years to assert himself and his game.

Five notes from the week...
1 - Berdych won his first title since Stockholm in 2014. This is the second time recently he’s had such a long drought.
2 - James Blake being attacked by New York cops was an eye opener but luckily it appears to have been sorted out.
3 - Venus Williams. What a legend, what a champion. Is Venus the most universally liked player on the ladies side? She has to be up there. A class act since 1997. And before.
4 - Can Nishikori come back this week and show us what he can do? It is in Tokyo. And for some players there is a tournament they always win no matter how poorly they may be playing.
5 - Stacey Allastar is gone. If ATP BACKSPIN has not said so already, thank you for your services to tennis.

1. Shenzhen SF - GGL d. Cilic 1-6, 7-5, 6-3
...Played in between breaks while a monsoon was happening, the Spaniard came back from the dead. Cilic has a habit of letting big leads slip. He goes out of the blocks like Adrian Peterson out of the backfield and then slows. And it cost him here with the Spaniard taking the momentum then never letting go.
2. Shenzhen - Chung d. Wu 6-1, 6-0 and Chung d. Bedene 6-2, 6-0
...This guy is 19 and he not only dismissed experienced Wu, he also dismissed 7th seed Bedene. Bedene had just routed Youzhny. He almost beat Cilic, seeded 2nd, too, but went down 7-6[6], 6-4. Those are two massive wins. Not even the big guys administer beat-downs that severe.
3. Kuala Lumpur SF - Ferrer d. Becker 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
..Ferrer avoids the upset, and sometimes simply doing that is the key. Becker had already slain a few giants and giants to be, but Ferrer always has consistency. He just never leaves home without it. And here in Malaysia we saw glimpses of the old Ferrer.
4. Kuala Lumpur SF – Lopez d. Kyrgios 7-6[2], 7-6[5]
...Big match from Lopez to get to the final. The lefty was almost out-muscled but in the end had too much finesse for Kyrgios. The spins and angles that Lopez has mastered were too much for the Aussie.

Djokovic [1] d. [5] Raonic
Tsonga [8] d. [2] Berdych
Lopez [2] d. [1] Ferrer

...After losing three straight finals in Tokyo, Raonic has opted to try and win this event instead. And I think he’s got too much for Ferrer right now. Former winner Nadal is nowhere right now. And Tsonga has the firepower to do well. And he has made the final before. But five time winner Djokovic has to be the pick.

Wawrinka [1] d. [5] Anderson
Nishikori [2] d. [4] Gasquet
Cilic [2] d. [1] Berdych

...Nishikori will always be the pick in Tokyo. In ten years’ time he will be the pick if he enters. Form is irrelevant in an event he has won twice. I trust Anderson more than Simon and Gasquet is on form. He’ll get through a tricky section safely. And Wawrinka is the top seed and recent semi-finalist. He can work past the niggle.

Dellacqua/Tomljanovic withdraw from the doubles despite a round 1 win over Stosur/Kuznetsova. A wild card in the singles, Casey went down to Ivanovic 6-4, 6-0. She was the only wild card who was not Chinese. Shvedova is back, though, and they are seeded third in China. Arruabarrena/Klepac are up first and then probably Hlavackova/Hradecka [8]. If they win those two they get [2] Mattek-Sands/Vesnina. The winners are almost certainly going to be Hingis/Mirza, the top seeds.

ANSWER: Agassi took six and Sampras seven. Agassi made ten finals and Sampras eleven. But then Agassi has the career golden Grand Slam. The one thing Sampras always wanted was the French.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wk.38- Down Regret Lane to Apology House

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

First off watch this instructional video:

Now most of us have had a Long Island Iced Tea. It’s fantastic but it does lead you down Regret Lane to Apology House. Of that there is no doubt. The fact it doesn’t taste alcoholic doesn’t help. But after two glasses you begin to tingle and tangle and spangle.

And a slam is no different. It can leave you with a massive hangover. Just as one never feels like a drink after an affair with the Iced Tea, one cannot face a tennis match after a slam. And this hangover can last quite some time. After every slam tennis writers tend to want a break and then work themselves back into it.

Similarly, there is always that one annoying friend who drinks thrice what you did yet never seems to be hungover. Let’s all be honest -- we all hate that guy. He drank three times what anyone else did but the next morning there he is looking fine and dandy. No hangover. And you feel like -- well, we all know what one feels like after a night out.

And Todd is that guy. He worked so hard during the slam, harder than anyone else I know. But there he is looking just fine. And it bugs me. Gosh darn it I’m all burned out. And he just keeps on going. I couldn’t watch another match after the slam but he keeps knocking ‘em back. It’s hard not to be jealous.

And that’s why there’s always going to be a lull after a slam or even after an event like Indian Wells. Tennis collectively takes a breath after a marathon. It takes a breath so it’s ready for the upcoming events. Tennis is really the only sport that never sleeps. The break isn’t just in December, it’s whenever we can find one.

QUESTION: Raonic is the Canadian number two. That you should know. The Canadian number two is Pospisil. That’s pretty common knowledge. But who resides at number three?

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

Top 32 - Paire holds 32 from Bellucci and Robredo at 31 and 30. Both men fell this week. Garcia-Lopez rose a couple of places to 29.
Top 10 – Less than 200 points difference between Simon at ten and Cilic at 14. Gasquet is at 11, ahead of big serving Anderson and Isner.
Top 8 - Little change. Raonic is comfortably ahead of number ten Simon but way out from the top eight. Ferrer is close to usurping Nadal.
Top 4 - No change. Djokovic untouchable and Federer is extending his lead over Murray. Andy leads Stan by just under 3000 but the Swiss is ahead of Berdych by some 1000 points. Nishikori sits a shade under Berdych. Expect a shake up when the Masters and World Tour Finals arrive. If Federer is fully fit he could beat Djokovic to cap the year. Right now the top two look immovable.

METZ, France
S: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Gilles Simon 7-6(5)/1-6/6-2
D: Kubot/Roger-Vasselin d. Herbert/Mahut

S: Milos Raonic def. Joao Sousa 6-3/3-6/6-3
D: Huey/Kontinen d. Knowle/Peya

...Raonic is somebody you can never count out. If he’s in a draw he can win it. There’s no player he fears. He’s pushed Federer and Djokovic. He’s beaten Nadal, too. Though the head to head is 1-5 he won the last match, which was this year in Indian Wells. Strangely he has never played Murray but I would back him to beat the Scot right now. And I would back him to beat the Scot on clay every time. In ten years’ time he will be the kind of big serving veteran nobody will want in their section of the slam. Right now a slam semi run is not considered an upset. And in 250 tournaments he will always be a favourite. It isn’t just the big serve, it’s the simple game plan and big forehand that go with the big serve. And in this tournament Raonic ripped through the field like water through paper. Or Tom Brady through everyone this season. Donskoy fought hard but still lost 6-4,6-4. Robredo could muster only three games and Milos was in the semi-finals. Fourth seed Agut was always on the defensive and he went down 6-2, 7-6[2]. 7th seed Sousa impressed, but the young Canadian was good enough to see him off 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Raonic is a solid top ten player and that in itself is impressive.
...I wish I had the ability to call it. I wish I had the ability to know when Tsonga was going to make these runs. They usually occur in France or Australia. Most Frenchies struggle in their homeland due to the pressure. You used to be able to watch Gasquet actually melt but he and Monfils have gotten better. Still the point stands that they are hard to predict. And Tsonga more so, but with Tsonga when he goes big everybody had better watch out. When Gasquet went big Federer made him look like, well, me. And in Moselle, a tournament where Tsonga traditionally does well, he once more caught fire. He can sometimes start slow and this time he did. He beat Zverev 7-6[5], 6-7[8], 6-3. Then he scraped past Mahut 6-7[8], 6-3, 7-5. He was really grinding out the wins. But Kohl couldn’t touch the Frenchman in a 6-3, 6-4 loss. And it would be one more three setter for the road as Tsonga beat the only boring Frenchman, Simon, in three sets. There was even a tie-breaker. Simon is, of course, the most consistent presence for France, but who cares about that. It pays better to be exciting!!!!
...Even in the doubles all the seeds went to plan. There were no surprises. The retirements from the U.S. Open are still a surprise. Fish and Russell both bowed out. Fish was expected but I was surprised at the retirement of Russell. It just seemed like he would stick around forever. Alas, that did not transpire. Sousa beat qualifier Albot 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. After being inches from losing he went on a tear. Granollers, Bolelli and, most impressively, Thiem all fell. He even managed to steal a set off Raonic. And of all the surprises that might be the one that jumps out at me the most.
...Dennis is an American 21 year old who just won a challenger. Chase Buchanan lost to Tomic in the final of the U.S. Open boys, but Novikov swept him aside on the way. He wasn’t the only one. Kozlov and Kuznetsov are some names you should recognize. He even did Harrison 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Ryan has been out of sync for a long time so it’s good to see him finding some of the magic again. But in Colombus, Ohio it was not to be his day.
...What is up with the Czech? He has been on a bad streak this year. He‘s had a few fantastic results and won some titles but he has been wildly inconsistent. As the year has gone on he has faded more and more. The big results are not there anymore and suddenly he looks vulnerable and utterly beatable. If I were Berdych I would be tempted to go and win a challenger event. Just go and pick up a title. For somebody of Berdych’s standard it should be easy. And then he gets confidence and wins. If it worked for Agassi it should work for Tomas.
...Bolelli is very good looking. It’s pretty much a fact.

The kind of man pop stars have love affairs with in the Mediterranean. The kind of man who can undress you with a wink. Great sense of humour and just enough facial hair. And that earring. Well, it’s the whole shebang. But in this love affair it’s Berdman who’s been dumped. And beautiful Bolelli moves onto his next conquest.

Five notes from the week...
1 - Nadal is building a tennis academy. This is fantastic news for our sport. Uncle Tony should be president.

2 - Belinda Bencic continuing to impress. And you know a players made it when they have a big week and nobody bats an eyelid.
3 - Yogi Berra died. It’s not often the passing away of an athlete merits such attention, but Yogi was special. Here’s one of his quotes to make your week, but really there are so many to pick from.
4 - Hyeon Chung is up 17 places to 58. He’s just 19. Sure, the signs were there but it’s still amazing. He’ll crack the top 50 before he turns 20 and the top 40, too, most likely. At some point it looks likely he’ll be top ten.
5 – The link is up on WTA BACKSPIN, but a coma patient woke up after 11 years and was shocked when he realized Federer was still top two in the world.

1. Moselle Final - Tsonga d. Simon 7-6 [5], 1-6 6-2
...Simon has a fantastic record in finals. It used to be consistently over 75 per cent but Tsonga found the magic and took it. There’s been a little bit of resurgence from the French star lately. Will it continue? Will he once more be a big threat in Australia? It is his best slam, after all.
2. Moselle QF - Klizan d. Garcia-Lopez 4-6, 6-3, 6-7[4]
...Well, Klizan continues to impress on the tour. He beat GGL despite the Spaniard having rhythm. The wins just keep on coming but he needs to produce at slam level, too. Klizan upset the fourth seed but could not find his form in the next match. Alas, it is so often the way.
3. St. Petersburg 1st Rd. - Bolelli d. Berdych 7-6[5], 6-4
...”I’m not in a slump, I just ain’t hitting it,” is another Yogi gem. And Berdych ain’t hitting it. He is in deep trouble right now and a fall out of the top ten could be beckoning. Losing to a veteran journeyman is a poor loss. Berdych couldn’t even find a set.
4. St. Petersburg QF – Raonic d. Robredo 6-1, 6-2
...Two former top five players played in the quarters of an ATP level tournament. They were both also top five seeds. Both were on some kind of form. And that’s why it’s so impressive what Raonic did.

*Kuala Lumpur*
Ferrer [1] d. [4] Dimitrov
Lopez [2] d. [7] Kyrgios
Lopez [2] d. [1] Ferrer

...I’m just not sure Ferrer is back yet, but Lopez is on form. The Spaniards should be able to hold off the exciting young guns here. Kyrgios is looking for seeding for the Australian Open and a good ranking to end the year on. Actually, is Dimitrov still a young gun?

Berdych [1] d. [4] Robredo
Cilic [2] d. [5] Mannarino
Cilic [2] d. [1] Berdych

...Robredo’s experience should guide him through a weaker field, but Berdych is the pick here. It’s in these kinds of tournaments where the Frenchman shines, but how can one go against a recent slam semi-finalist? It’s now a coin toss, but logic would suggest Cilic has the edge in form right now.

In their opening round matches Kuznetsova/Stosur combined got four games. They are the opponent of Dellacqua/Tomljanovic in Wuhan. Hlavackova/Hradecka [6] likely await the winners with second seeds Babos/Mladenovic lurking there, too. While she will not be making strides higher, Casey only holds her world number five doubles ranking by a couple hundred points. She’s holding off Vesnina and her usual partner Shvedova. Still it’s strange the 5th ranked player wasn’t given some kind of seed.

ANSWER: Raonic is in at 9 and Vasek is at 44. Frank Dancevic at 203 and Phil Bester at 261 are the next two.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ramon Osa and the Perfect Toss

How would it feel to have an unstoppable serve? How many more matches would you win? The first key is having the perfect toss, and if you want the perfect toss, just watch this video!


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 www.osatennis360.com and enter your email address. You can also follow me @osatennis, go to my YouTube page or email me at ramon@ramonosatennis.com.

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Davis Cup Semifinals: One Man Band

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Britain and Belgium advanced to the Davis Cup final this weekend. But with it being held in Belgium in late November, the contiguous Europeans have a big edge. The problem for Britain is that it isn’t a team. It’s just Andy Murray.

Even in the five-set doubles win he was carrying Britain. And that is a problem. Belgium will just put the tie on extremely slow, thick clay. And they will wear Murray down. And after a long season and two matches on consecutive days will he really be able to out-grind Goffin?

The other problem is that if Murray even picks up the slightest of nagging injuries Britain is in trouble. If he isn’t fully fit Britain won’t win because he is the only guy, and the future is not bright for Britain because there is no depth. Australia will continue to be a force, whereas Britain will begin to fade as the years go by.

When was the last time the Davis Cup was won by one guy? The answer is it rarely happens. Switzerland, Spain and the Czech’s had at least two guys. And that’s why the Belgians should win. They will win because on slow clay they can handle Murray. Britain has some talent coming up but Murray is fading.

In Belgium, Argentina got 2-1 up but eventually succumbed to a 3-2 loss. Playing on indoor hard courts, Goffin was imperious. The Argentines were the last seed in the competition, but only at #5. Both Britain and Belgium have benefited from lack of attendance, choking and a bit of luck. And here we are set up for a forgettable final.

Belgium could really do with having Malisse back because Goffin badly needs a back-up. He really is the linch pin and the good news is that Murray is going to be going to the World Tour Finals. He has a jam packed schedule and that does play into the Belgian’s hands.

Another interesting story is that going into the Olympics there is no clear favourite to sweep the medals. Djokovic should win the Gold but Federer wants it more. Aside from those two, where the rest of the medals fall will be fascinating. Murray should take Bronze but Wawrinka and Nishikori threaten. And both are on the rise while he is on the wane. And can Brazil medal? The men’s doubles gives them their best chance where Melo/Soares will likely be a seed. And what about traditional powerhouse America?

All these questions will soon be answered.

QUESTION: With the NFL in full swing, do you know who was world number one on the ATP the last time we had a first-time Super Bowl winner? By that I mean a team that had not previously won the Super Bowl.

Well, let's look in more depth...

...Well, this is familiar. Murray wins again. Remember those 1990’s Chicago Bulls teams which Jordan essentially carried? This is the British Davis Cup ‘team,’ except the Bulls were more successful and weren’t utterly inept without Michael Jordan. Murray was always going to rebound from another disappointing slam campaign and he did so in style. Using the crowd from his native Scotland he gave Thanasi Kokkinakis a lesson. The scoreline was 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. All too easy for the Scottish star. The number two really doesn’t matter. It was James Ward last time and Daniel Evans this. Bernie Tomic really was out of Evans' league but failed to put him away several times until he finally got over the finish line 6-3, 7-6[2], 6-7[4], 6-4. Tomic had a lull but he did what he had to do. He actually played a pretty good match and it really wasn’t a close four-setter. Tomic seemed to pick up a small injury at the end of the match. And then the doubles, which was always going to be the deciding rubber considering the weakness overall of Britain. And Hewitt/Groth let the Murray brothers off the hook. They had a 4-1 lead in the third but lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-4 when a Groth volley sailed long. Hewitt in particular was fantastic and Groth served big and well. Australia will be consistent semi-finalists. This was merely a taster. Especially with Lleyton taking the captaincy, their future is bright. They even managed to break Murray when he was serving for the set at 6-5 in the fourth. But the Brits somehow found enough to close it out.
And Murray was good enough to put away an ailing Tomic 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. With the fifth rubber going to Australia via retirement, Britain go through to the final. And for them this is really the last chance. Murray is fading and there is nothing behind him good enough to make a team out of. And when can they be sure of twice being let off the hook again? Use it or lose it, Murray.

...Well, at least Argentina didn’t crumble on an unfriendly surface. Indoor hard was their worst nightmare aside from grass and they got it. And nobody really plays on grass anymore in this competition. Leonardo Mayer is turning into a solid prospect and his record this year and the titles he has won indicates that. But even more impressive is Davis Goffin, who has tested even Djokovic. And home advantage would eventually prove to be too much. Goffin started off with a fairly routine 7-5, 7-6[3], 6-3 victory over a tricky opponent. Federico Delbonis tested the top 15 player but could do no more. Goffin did his job. Belichick would have been proud. But back came Argentina as Mayer held firm in a 7-6[5], 7-6[1], 4-6, 6-3 victory. Mayer was severely tested by Steve Darcis, the veteran. But he has a mettle and a determination about him. He played sensible tennis on the big points and was too solid in the end. More breakers ensued in the doubles which Mayer/Berlocq took 6-2, 7-6[1], 5-7, 7-6[5], but it would prove to be the end for Mayer. However, surely the 2-1 lead for the South Americans would prove to be enough.
Well, they decided to gamble and focus on the final rubber. They sent in Diego Schwartzman to play Goffin. Diego isn’t bad and in all likelihood Mayer wouldn’t have won, either. Still the 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 scoreline is a big one especially for the semi-final of an event. Goffin had tied it up, but would the gamble pay off? No. Darcis was too good, too experienced in a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6[3] victory at home on the hard courts with the crowd behind him. Darcis may be a veteran but he still has some sparkling performances left in him. And so it proved to be as Belgium book a home date with the British in November.

After a break last year, the St. Petersburg is back with Gulbis technically the defending champion. I like Raonic [2] to defeat [6] Paire in one semi-final. Top seed Berdych should take care of business against [3] Thiem and then against the Canadian. And in Metz, Wawrinka [1] will account for Tsonga [3] then Simon [2]. The Frenchman will beat [6] Klizan.

Casey withdrew from the 2015 Korea Open. But it is likely she will appear at next week's Wuhan Open.

ANSWER: In 2003, the Buccaneers of Tampa Bay beat the Oakland Raiders and since then both teams have been consistently abysmal. And in January 2003 Lleyton Hewitt was still number one.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

U.S. Open Day 14: In Conclusion...

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Djokovic has made four slam finals this year and all have gone four sets. He won three out of four. And had Federer simply taken his chances against Wawrinka in that French Open quarterfinal, it might have been a clean sweep for Novak.

Novak’s 2011 and 2015 seasons have been two of the top five best seasons had by any player ever. In this day and age to dominate like that is exceptional. Even when Federer came steaming back from 5-2 down, Djokovic kept his cool. In the last two slam finals Federer has gone on a tear. But Djokovic has won in four twice despite Federer outclassing him for large portions of both matches.

Despite Federer coming to net over 50 times, Djokovic won through 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. And Djokovic was just too much of a wall. He was too strong for the aging Federer. But on that subject, Federer is still the second best player in the world. And he said to the press ‘see you next year.’ That means he intends to be back. And it is certain he will be a top eight seed and it is likely he will be a top four seed, too.

Djokovic has an awful lot of points to defend next year. And after such a great year will there be a comedown? Of course there will be. There has to be after a year like that. With Djokovic turning 29, the age factor starts to come into it. He has really pushed his body to extremes in the last few years and scientifically that has to catch up to him. Eventually he will run out of steam and start to drop. The same thing that is happening to Murray is happening to him.

A case in point is Mauresmo. She had a great 2006 but she dropped her level in 2007 and she fell down the rankings though she remained a Top 20 fixture. Two years afterwards she was gone. If Djokovic just starts a little low he could be in trouble. Defending over 5000 points just before May and over 5000 points after May leave him vulnerable. A bad loss or fluke injury here and suddenly the top ranking is under threat.

Add to that the pressure of winning the French Open and the Olympics and it might be enough to make Novak nervous. But Djokovic right now is supreme. He is confident and he riding a huge wave of form. He should be able to ride it all the way through to a victory at the WTF [they need to change the name] and victory at the Australian once more.

He just never seems to stop and that was never more evidenced than in the performance he just gave. He never let Federer get ahead of him too much. He never let Roger into the match. The amount of Roger’s errors that were essentially forced because Novak made him go big is huge.

There is a huge gap between world number two and the rest. But there is an even bigger gap above world number two. Djokovic was fantastic especially when he was down. He once again held off Federer and the crowd. But his fate is to be always overlooked. He will be remembered but not in the same way as Federer or even Wawrinka. Wawrinka will be remembered for disrupting the status quo and Federer for being Federer. For being the winner of the sportsmanship and fan favourite award the last 1500000 years.

And then of course the question will now be forever asked - Djokovic or Nadal? Who has had the better career? Does Nadal’s slam eclipse Djokovic’s longevity? These questions are difficult to answer at the best of times but without the ability to look back they become almost impossible to answer. One day perhaps you will see this question discussed in some kind of a BACKSPIN Volley special.

** ** ** ** ** **

The Davis Cup is coming up. Argentina and Belgium square off in one and Australia go against Britain in the other. Surely this is Murray’s chance to win it all.

I was impressed with the French number one and three at this tournament. Once more Simon is the fifth musketeer to Gasquet and Tsonga’s double act. And I like Federer’s performance, too. Back to back slam finals is not shabby at all. Djokovic was as imperious as Hingis. Cilic has earned Kudos, as well. But for the big men’s seeds like Berdych and Nishikori we saw their frailty. We didn’t see any of their resilience. And that’s disappointing.

And, finally, I am out. I will see you next Sunday as usual. But we are all out of slams. So thank you for eight weeks of watching the slams and the weekly update will welcome you again all too soon. But remember we are always here, Todd and I. Todd especially is always here. You could set your watch by him. In HQ we do set our watch by him. His office light is never off. Though he has been known to take a break. He likes to sit between the statues of Clijsters and Novotna in our garden of underachievement. I personally like the statue of Goolagong best. But then I would wouldn’t I?

QUESTION: When was the last time Djokovic lost in before the quarters of a slam and to whom did he lose?

Yaroslava and Casey were out of their depth and out of fight against the top seeds. The rest of the doubles field isn’t weak. Far from it. It just demonstrates the strength at the top. Hingis/Mirza have just become dominant. And right now there seems to be no team that can stop them. Even in the mixed Hingis has been imperious. And Casey/Yaroslava have had a great run and tournament overall. The Kazakhstani even skipped her wedding on Saturday to win the semi-final. They should reside around top five. That should be enough for a top four seed in Melbourne and top seedings at upcoming Premier events. Casey isn’t scheduled for any upcoming tournaments, but she is going to a wedding.

ANSWER: Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Djokovic in the third round of the 2009 French Open 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. The German, of course, is a repeat offender when it comes to upsets. He has taken the scalp of Roddick in Australia and Isner at the U.S. Open. Next time he wins a title and there will be a next time, I’m sure BACKSPIN will cover his upsets in more depth.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN. Don’t forget how hard Todd works to put together two weeks of fantastic slam coverage.

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U.S. Open Men's Final: The Cake Boss

For a while, it seemed as if the Tennis Gods just didn't want anyone to have any fun on this final Sunday of the U.S. Open. Hmmm, or maybe they just wanted to make us wait in order to garner our full attention.

In the end, it was worth it.

After (naturally) a nearly three-hour rain delay before the last U.S. Open final to be conducted before the roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is operable in 2016, world #1 Novak Djokovic and #2 Roger Federer faced off for the forty-second time in a match that promised to add a definitive footnote to the epic story about whether the Swiss 34-year old walking, talking immortal really COULD win another slam, or whether the Serb's still-growing collection of major titles was going to edge him even closer to forcing his name directly into every future discussion of an era otherwise dominated by the major event runs of Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Surely, this final would "settle things" on some level, right? Well, for now. On this day, at least. For a few hours... but that's about all.

Federer had been masterful on hard courts all summer long (even vs. Djokovic, who hadn't been in fine form of late). He'd been even more untouchable during the last two weeks in New York, bringing back vivid memories of his "clinic" days of dispensing with his "competition" as if pulling the wings off flies -- gracefully, of course -- while winning five straight Open titles from 2004-08. His form had gotten him safely and easily to his first final at Flushing Meadows since 2009.

But waiting for him there was Djokovic, who was surely going to bring a game and heart Federer hadn't seen this year in New York... nor when he faced and defeated him in straight sets in Cincinnati a few weeks ago.

As anticipated, the crowd was with Federer. And who wouldn't be under the circumstances? A possible Federer title run was a bit of history that WAS being talked about for this Open's future on Day 1, and in this case everything had played out to allow potential to morph into reality.

Of course, what some people sometimes forget is that to outwardly root for his opponent, or for that opponent to go out of his way to outwardly challenge him, often inspires Djokovic to call upon the fire-breathing champion's heart that has willed him to this place in his career. A place where there is NO one -- save maybe Rafa in the 5th set at Roland Garros -- that any ATP player would want to face in a crucial moment in the latter stages of a big match LESS than Djokovic. To poke him is to prod him, and when that happens he's usually the one climbing into the stands when everything is finished.

This day/night would be no different. Faced with match-long incursions by the veteran Federer into his service games -- including late "surprise attack" charges toward the service box on many second serves -- Djokovic was forced to put on his "big point pants" earlier in the match than might normally be the case. The Serb's personality is not to cower when faced with such situations, but to rise and fight and outlast. And he did just that on Sunday.

Djokovic rode a mid-set break all the way to the end of the 1st, winning it 6-4 after saving a break point in game #8 and then serving things out at love. He saved five BP in game #2 of the 2nd, only to see Federer finally convert on his ninth BP chance of the set to end it, taking the Serb's serve to win the set 7-5. It was a rare instance of Federer winning a truly big point in this match, a contest which he would have likely handily won against 99.99% of the rest of the players on tour. Or maybe against every one... except Djokovic.

With Federer's sneak attacks continuing, and with Djokovic sometimes thrown off by the tactic, the Serb still managed to persevere to hold serve and get a break in game #9 of the 3rd. Saving two break points one game later, he held to take the set at 6-4 and move to within one set of winning his second U.S. Open crown in his fifth final in New York in the last six years. In the 4th set, he jumped out to a fast start by breaking Federer in the opening game, then going up a double break at 5-2. Djokovic's surge toward the finish line all seemed to arrive in a rush as, having won seven of ten games, he was suddenly serving for the match.

Ah, but it wasn't going to be that easy.

After converting just three of eighteen BP chances in the match, Federer broke on his second of game #8 in the 4th, then held serve and forced the Serb to try to serve it out one more time. Again, Federer held three BP, but when the world #1 saved them all (making the Swiss just 4-of-23 on the day) he soon reached match point. A long Federer return ended the 6-4/5-7/6-4/6-4 match, as Djokovic made the historic "title turn" by moving into double-digit slam victory territory with #10, within arm's reach of Nadal and Pete Sampras' second-best total of fourteen and just seven behind Federer, once again denied the additional major title that he seems bound and determined -- and likely destined -- to eventually lift before he's finished.

Consistently undervalued, underrated and overlooked, even with what-will-one-day-be-seen-as-legendary slam consistency and an ability to put himself right in the place he needs to be, it's never a bad idea to recount some of the numbers that Djokovic has been putting up for years. Namely, that he played in all four slams finals in '15, as well as at eight of the last ten, had reached 21-of-22 major semifinals and twenty-six straight slam quarterfinals. Today's match was the eighteenth slam final of his career (tied for fourth all-time, and just two away from tying Nadal for second behind Federer's record twenty-seven... a mark which could eventually be in jeopardy).

Of course, with three finals in the last six slams, Federer's late-career pick-up could still push his accomplishments beyond the reach of any mortal for a very, very long time. After being written off as a slam (and #1) threat before in the past, a healthy and seemingly even fitter and stronger Federer has come back with a vengeance in 2015. And they'll be no retirement talk from him. Uh-uh.

Federer has proven this summer, and the entire year, that there's no reason to even lightly question the notion about him possibly being the "best ever." Whoever thought that to be the case before, but were made to wonder considering Nadal's big match mastery of the Swiss great during the height of the Spaniard's career, can be content with the knowledge that Federer appears to have both arrived before and has likely outlasted Nadal as a continuing slam threat.

Djokovic is another story.

In the last twenty-one slams, Djokovic has played in sixteen finals, winning nine; while Federer stands at five with one, and Nadal in ten with six.

While Federer is already a living legend, and anything that comes his way the remainder of his career is icing on a very large and elaborate cake, Djokovic is still in the cake-making business. As much talk as there was about Serena Williams' near-Grand Slam season, Djokovic won three slams himself this season, and finally knocked down Nadal in Paris, only to fall short in the final against Stan Wawrinka. He got closer to the feat than Serena did... and no man has pulled it off since 1969. Djokovic will once again head into '16 chasing his white whale of a Roland Garros title. The longer the quest goes on, the more epic it becomes.

A win in Paris may yet be the high water mark that elevates Djokovic's status not above, but at the very least nipping at the heels of Federer, and maybe surpassing Nadal when his full career accomplishments are considered.

But those are just numbers for, you know, that ever-present "Numbers Guy" in the back room who is slaving away over the large accounting book that will eventually tell the tale of a Djokovic career that has played out in the middle and now back-end of an era rightfully named for Misters Federer and Nadal, and will likely carry on beyond the playing careers of both. Meanwhile, the next generation of champions still looks very, very green. Who knows, Djokovic's thirties might prove to be more productive than even Federer's have been... without his own personal "Djokovic" to block his path toward a handful of mid-thirties slam titles to pad the stats.

The "Numbers Guy" is going to be busy. Don't wait up for him.

...#1-seeded American Taylor Fritz won the boys title, defeating #5-seeded fellow U.S. player Tommy Paul 6-2/6-7(4)/6-2. Americans have won three straight junior slams in 2015 (Paul won in Paris, defeating Fritz in the final, and Reilly Opelka took Wimbledon).

LIKE ON DAY 14: Flavia celebrates!

LIKE ON DAY 14: Fabio celebrates!

IT-SHOULDN'T-BE-NECESSARY-NEWS-BUT-IT-IS ON DAY 14: But it won't have to be after this Open... at least not at THIS slam.

Even better, Asderaki was eagle-eyed and on fire!

CROWD MASH-UP ON DAY 14: Bend it like Wolverine 007

HMMM...HERE'S AN IDEA FOR DAY 14: Maybe one of these two can enter the U.S. presidential race?

Did someone mention something about climbing into the stands... ON DAY 14?:

LIKE ON DAY 14: The LAST year of dealing with this.

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB def. #2 Roger Federer/SUI 6-4/5-7/6-4/6-4

#12 P.Herbert/N.Mahut (FRA/FRA) def. #8 J.Murray/J.Peers (GBR/AUS) 6-4/6-4

#4 M.Hingis/L.Paes (SUI/IND) def. B.Mattek-Sands/S.Querrey (USA/USA) 6-4/3-6 [10-7]

#1 Taylor Fritz/USA def. #5 Tommy Paul/USA 6-2/6-7(4)/6-2

F.Aliassime/D.Shapovalov (CAN/CAN) def. B.Holt/R.Smith (USA/USA) 7-5/76(3)

#2 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) def. #4 Gonzales Austin (Vanderbilt) 6-2/7-5

#1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN def. Stephane Houdet/FRA 6-7(4)/6-3/6-2

#1 S.Houdet/G.Reid (FRA/GBR) def. M.Jeremiasz/N.Peifer (FRA/FRA) 6-3/6-1

2007 Roger Federer d. Novak Djokovic
2008 Roger Federer d. Andy Murray
2009 Juan Martin del Potro d. Roger Federer
2010 Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic
2011 Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal
2012 Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic
2013 Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic
2014 Marin Cilic d. Kei Nishikori
2015 Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer

17 - Roger Federer, SUI
14 - Rafael Nadal, ESP
14 - Pete Sampras, USA
12 - Roy Emerson, USA
11 - Bjorn Borg, SWE
11 - Rod Laver, AUS
10 - Bill Tilden, USA
17...Roger Federer
14...Rafael Nadal
10...Novak Djokovic
2...Andy Murray
2...Stan Wawrinka
2...Lleyton Hewitt
2...Marin Cilic
2...Juan Martin del Potro

27 - ROGER FEDERER (17-10)
20 - Rafael Nadal (14-6)
18 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC (10-8)
8 - Andy Murray (2-6)
4 - Lleyton Hewitt (2-2)
2 - Stan Wawrinka (2-0)
2 - Robin Soderling (0-2)
1 - Marin Cilic (1-0)
1 - Juan Martin del Potro (1-0)
1 - Marcos Baghdatis (0-1)
1 - Tomas Berdych (0-1)
1 - David Ferrer (0-1)
1 - Kei Nishikori (0-1)
1 - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (0-1)
[Slam Finals - Open era]
27 - ROGER FEDERER (17-10)
20 - Rafael Nadal (14-6)
19 - Ivan Lendl (8-11)
18 - Pete Sampras (14-4)
18 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC (10-8)
17 - Rod Laver (11-6)
16 - Bjorn Borg (11-5)
16 - Ken Rosewall (8-8)
[U.S. Open - acitve]
3...Rafael Nadal (2-1)
2...Lleyton Hewitt (1-1)
2...Andy Murray (1-1)
1...Marin Cilic (1-0)
1...Juan Martin del Potro (1-0)
1...Kei Nishikori (0-1)
[2015 ATP]
6...Andy Murray, GBR (4-2)
4...Rafael Nadal, ESP (3-1)
4...Kei Nishikori, JPN (3-1)
3...David Ferrer, ESP (3-0)
3...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (3-0)
3...Dominic Thiem, AUT (3-0)
3...Kevin Anderson, RSA (1-2)
3...Tomas Berdych, CZE (0-3)

2007 U.S. Open - Roger Federer 7-6/7-6/6-4
2014 Wimbledon - Novak Djokovic 6-7/6-4/7-6/5-7/6-4
2015 Wimbledon - Novak Djokovic 7-6/6-7/6-4/6-3
2015 U.S. Open - Novak Djokovic 6-4/5-7/6-4/6-4

109...Jimmy Connors
94...Ivan Lendl
87...Roger Federer
77...John McEnroe
67...Rafael Nadal
64...Bjorn Borg
64...Pete Sampras
62...Guillermo Vilas
60...Andre Agassi
57...Ilie Nastase
49...Boris Becker
47...Rod Laver

44 - Djokovic vs. Nadal
36 - Lendl vs. McEnroe
35 - Connors vs. Lendl
35 - Becker vs. Edberg
35 - Connors vs. McEnroe
34 - Agassi vs. Sampras
33 - Federer vs. Nadal
[ATP Finals]
22 - Djokovic vs. Nadal
20 - Lendl vs. McEnroe
20 - Federer vs. Nadal
16 - Agassi vs. Sampras
16 - Becker vs. Edberg
15 - Connors vs. McEnroe
13 - Becker vs. Lendl
[Slam Finals]
8 - Federer vs. Nadal
7 - Djokovic vs. Nadal
5 - Djokovic vs. Murray
5 - Agassi vs. Sampras
5 - Lendl vs. Wilander
4 - Borg vs. Connors
4 - Borg vs. McEnroe
4 - Federer vs. Roddick

All for now.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

U.S. Open Day 12: Veni Vidi Vici Vinci

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Serena Williams has fallen short in her bid for the Grand Slam. When the Bryans fell short in their Grand Slam bid recently, they fell at the semi-final stage in New York despite dominating the whole tour that entire year. They have only won one slam and have faded dramatically since then. It shouldn’t happen to Serena, but it is a possibility.

Goosebumps were felt by all as Vici finally triumphed 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on a day for heroines, a day for heroes. Credit must go to Vinci for a brilliant come from behind victory against the greatest singles player ever to play the game. But at the same time it must be pointed out that Serena really went off the boil. This loss is more on Serena. She had the match but she let it go. At the end she was got so tight and she gave up. She lost the match.

There has never been an Italian in the final of the Ladies’ singles here in New York. Now there are two. Vinci is down 4-5 in the head to head and she lost to Pennetta in the quarters here in 2013 by 6-4, 6-1. Flavia is the big favourite but never discount Roberta. Not after that performance.

The ATP side is in the naughty corner for being unable to produce a good match in the latter stages of the slam. We can only hope the final doesn’t disappoint. Federer is the favourite there. While Djokovic is by no means out of it, things never seem to go right for him in the finals of the U.S. Open.

People seemed to ignore the fact that Novak has made four slam finals in one year. Everybody was so focused on Serena they forget that Novak has had a stellar year. Federer’s back half has been impressive, too. He could push for the top ranking next year as he has nothing to defend while Djokovic is defending thousands of points. With Nadal out of the way are all of Federer’s ducks lined up?

Apologies to anybody fluent in Latin, too. But really Vinci has conquered and conquered well. It was an inspiring victory for the Italian veteran who may yet win the whole thing.

Federer will win in four and Flavia in two. And now onto the semi-finals of the men’s. Though it will be only a brief look because, once again, the people of New York were robbed.

QUESTION: When was the last time Serena Williams lost in the semi-finals of a slam and who inflicted that defeat upon her?

...Cilic improved in each set of the 85-minute contest, demolition, but still came up short in a 6-0, 6-1, 6-2. Imagine the Redskins going to the Packers. And imagine Jordy Nelson is healthy and Washington have lots of bad luck and Rodgers is on fire. This is the tennis equivalent. The problem for us commenters is that there is no angle to work with. Cilic went 4-5 on the aces and 11-37 overall on winners to errors. He won just 13 points on the Novak serve but still managed to break. And this was the defending champion. This was the guy who won it last year. He sure didn’t look like it. It was a weak performance from Cilic to cap a good tournament. With that serve how could he not manage to at least make a fight of it in the second? Djokovic only went 16-13 but he broke the tournament’s biggest server eight times. Djokovic wasn’t particularly brilliant, Cilic was just awful. But you guys hear enough from me. So here is something stolen from ESPN, but directly quoted. So theft light if you will.

“Meanwhile, Djokovic beat Cilic in 85 minutes, an outcome clearly accelerated by an ankle injury that Cilic carried into the match.
In terms of games, it was the most one-sided U.S. Open men's semi-final in the Open era. Only Bjorn Borg's 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Corrado Barazzutti in the 1978 French Open featured fewer dropped games for the winner in an Open era Grand Slam."

...He has not dropped a set since he turned 34. If Federer serves 12 aces he will have 80 aces for the tournament, which would be good enough for bronze. He has averaged 11 aces a match and he served 10 against his compatriot. Federer beat Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 and that is really such an impressive win. Perhaps more so even than Novak’s. Wawrinka nearly broke Federer for 2-0 in the first. After Federer held he just went from strength to strength. 29-17 on winners and just four break point chances conceded. The most impressive numbers? Federer winning 63% of second serves is big. But so is winning 46% of receiving points. Federer also went to net 28 times and won the point 22 times. Sure Wawrinka went away. But he stuck around a tad longer than Gasquet. He also got one more game. But both times Federer was utterly, untouchably dominant. And that’s not something anybody saw coming. And there’s a real chance Djokovic could be blown away. Federer just blew him away recently and he has confidence, too. Anything could happen there. But with Federer in this kind of ridiculous form and wanting revenge he is the heavy favourite. As for the semi-final, well, Federer found his form and that was all she wrote.


Yaroslava and Casey come through against Groenefield/Vandeweghe 6-7[3], 7-5, 7-5. It was a match that matched and even exceeded the quality of the ladies singles match on Ashe. And now the fourth seeds face top seeds and world number one pairing Hingis/Mirza. With all the chaos during the tournament the final seems pretty logical. And in this tournament of upsets why don’t the fourth seeds have a shot?

ANSWER: Vinci stopped Serena from a fifth straight final this time. Last time it was Clijsters and in New York, too, in 2009. Bryan’s wife won 6-4, 7-5. But if you want the last time somebody converted a match point you’d be looking at the 2003 French Open. It was another Belgian. Henin won 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. But then she did cheat. Venus beat her in London 6-2, 7-6[3] way back in 2000. Only four times ever has she lost in a semi. Incredible.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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