Monday, June 29, 2015

Wimbledon Day 1: Hewitt's Greatest Hits

Hi all. Galileo here.

Goodbye Lleyton. And thank you.

QUESTION: Who did Lleyton beat in his slam debut?

*Suicide Picks*
We all know how this works. Pick a player to win each round but you cannot pick them again. And these are the picks I picked last week when the draw was announced.

MS 1st Rd: Dolgopolov d. Edmund
WS 1st Rd: Wickmayer d. Kulichkova

World number one at just 21 and winning everything, Hewitt was the favourite for Wimbledon. There was no real evidence he could even play on grass. Well, that's not true. He had won three Queens titles and all back to back. He'd defeated Henman and Sampras in the final of two of them. One of those was in 2002. He had also won the title at the Ordina Open played on grass courts. But he hadn't put together a Wimbledon run yet.
With all of the top 16 seeds not even making the fourth round except Hewitt and Henman, the draw was always going to throw up irregularities. And so it was that Nalbandian, seeded 28, defeated Malisse, seeded 27, in the semi-finals. Nalbandian was talented. He had already won a title that year and had game. But from the off he was never in contention. In the first Wimbledon final in an age to feature no serve-volleying, Hewitt dominated from the off and won 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. It would spawn a bitter rivalry. Much like Wawrinka now, the second slam showed that he was the real deal. The similarities with the Swiss end there, of course. But Hewitt had risen and he had dismissed Nalbandian. Of course, all the quarterfinalists are now retired. All but a handful of the draw now are retired. Well, except Hewitt. And again only one person from then is still relevant. Federer was seeded 7th. And the fact that every player just about at a slam that happened 13 years ago is now retired is a little sad.

Here is the man himself 16 years ago with a ponytail and everything. He always did have exciting hair. That must be where Roger gets it. And as he got older he got more mature and more like an elder statesman, though he still maintained his gritty edge. In that respect he was like Roddick.

Federer looked a little like Philippoussis. The Poo is returning and has taken a wildcard into the qualifying of Newport where he won his final title in 2006. At the 1999 Wimbledon edition he made the quarterfinals seeded seventh and led Sampras by a set before retiring.

At the 1999 Wimbledon edition Federer made his debut while it was the Wimbledon farewell of two great German champions. Hewitt beat Filippini and then Alami. But then he lost in straight sets to Boris Becker. Becker would only play one more match at Wimbledon. Sampras would win it, defeating Agassi in the final. Hewitt was in Rafter's section, with Enqvist and Bjorkman. Hewitt rose 4 places to 31 with the run to the third but it wouldn't be until the 2000 French Open he would be seeded at a slam.

Even if briefly, we must talk about 2003. In 1967, Santana was the defending champion. A combination of two of his opponents retiring, big seeds crashing out and sneaking through five set matches had given him the 1966 trophy. In 1967 he lost in the first round and was the top seed. Only once more would it happen. In 2003, with Hewitt. Karlovic beat him 1-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 He had played only ten matches on the tour before that and it was his slam debut. He had been ranked 203 in the world at the time but he invoked the spirit of Charlie Pasarell. He was involved in the longest Wimbledon match by games until that record was snapped. Well, utterly decimated in a match that still causes me to wince. Hewitt looked set to cruise but his insistence on continuing to try and lob proved foolish. And really a world number one should know different. And be able to try different things. Possibly because of that early Hewitt exit, Federer would drop just the one set on his way to the title. The fourth seeded Swiss lost that one set to a Mardy Fish. It was a different world back then.

Hewitt went 4-3 in finals, but went 0-5 against Federer. He never really solved the Federer puzzle. Interestingly he lost to the winner of the slam in every slam. He lost to Federer in the fourth round of Australia, in the quarters of Wimbledon and in the final of the US. Gaudio bested him in Paris. Hewitt may have had a slightly disappointing Australian Open campaign and a surprise loss at the French but he had gone two for two in finals that year. He was still firmly in the top ten. But at Wimbledon he had to make up for a surprising first round loss from the year before. And that Wimbledon would prove to be a bridging of the eras for Hewitt. He beat Melzer, Ivanisevic and Moya on the way to the quarters. He beat the future, the past and the present. Hewitt did beat Fed 7-1 in the breaker of their quarterfinals but if you take that set out, Federer really dominated. He won 6-1, 6-7[1], 6-0, 6-4. Just imagine what the ATP would be like if Federer had decided to play football instead.

Federer really haunted Lleyton's footsteps. It just seemed that wherever and whenever Lleyton seemed to be making a good run or building some momentum, Federer would just stop him. Here's why in a nutshell Federer could beat Hewitt: he had variety and so many weapons and different game styles. He had a lot of ways of hurting you and he was hard to grind down, especially on hard courts. Only one man has ever been able to grind Federer down and that really is as much mental as everything else.

Hewitt had to do an endless amount of these types of rallies:

Nevertheless, he was seeded fourth and had won a title that year. He had been to three finals, too. Federer was still a problem and Safin was, well, Safin. But Lleyton had struggled at Queens. Karlovic knocked him out in straights in the quarters. As the third seed at the slam, Hewitt cruised to the fourth round before facing 24th seed Dent. He beat the big server in four and then edged past Lopez in three very tight sets. The top three seeds were Federer, Hewitt and Roddick. That was ten years ago. Seems somehow so long ago. The top sixteen seeds all crashed out apart from those three and one or two others. In those golden days all the slams threw up upsets galore. Hewitt has made 64 slam appearances, exactly one less than Federer. He's third all time, behind Santoro on 70 and Federer on 65. He is also fourth all time on the grass court titles list. He is joint with McEnroe on eight. Federer [15], Sampras[10] and Connors [9] round out the top three. He's had quite the career. Rusty and the numbers don't even tell it all. But do they ever?

That was a brief and slightly fractured look at Hewitt and his best Wimbledons. His last tournament will be in Melbourne in 2016. 19 years after his debut at Melbourne in 1997.

ANSWER: He played Bruguera. He lost in three straight sets, but he did come through qualifying.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Wk.25- The Night Before Christmas

Hi all. Galileo here.

This is the schedule:

Like with the post just before the French Open, this is just a brief tidying of the house. Todd has written a lot of great stuff, as usual, and there's a big pre-Wimbledon post hanging around Backspin. That post is good enough so that I can serve you a slice of apple instead of an apple.
And to get you really in the mood, here is a Wimbledon question.

Q: Which player in the Open era who won Wimbledon has the lowest total of grass court titles?

S: Denis Istomin def. Sam Querrey 7-6(1)/7-6(6)
D: Guccione/Sa def. Cuevas/Marrero

...Yep. It is only rarely a finalist gets this but Querrey had tougher opponents and he did not get a walkover in the semi-finals. Seeing as there was just the one event on, there's no winner to look to, so Sam gets it for walking the hard road with ease. Querrey is too talented not to be seeded at Wimbledon. He is too close to Fed in the draw but he could still trouble the Swiss in the second round. A bye for Querrey is not the same as benefiting from a walkover, as you have probably earned the bye. And the American edged Giraldo 7-6[4], 6-4 to advance to the third round. There the twelfth seed needed a pair of breakers to get through against fifth seeded Cuevas. And he got it, winning them 9-7 and 7-3. Then he beat the second seed Simon in three long sets. He finally triumphed 5-7, 7-6[8], 6-4. After that he beat Dolgopolov in three long sets before Istomin overcome him in the final. Querrey goes into Wimbledon knowing he will get a win and a visit to Centre Court. And that is a pretty good Wimbledon by anybody's standards. And if he can drag Fed into a couple of tiebreakers he could make something happen.

...That's why. I've only ever seen something like that once before. And I've never seen it in the top 100 after a 250 event. The biggest jump I can recall is this one.

...The former junior number one has been making strides on the tour. Wait. Hang on. That's this guy's brother. Mischa is a lefty and his brother is a righty. A righty with long flowing blonde hair. Alex was given a wildcard and then beat Kukushkin 2 and 0. He also beat Bellucci before Baghdatis just had too much. But while all the attention was on the young star, Mischa put together a run. He beat third seed Lajovic in the first round of qualifying. Then he dismissed Zemlja 6-4, 6-2 before routing Rola 7-5, 6-0. But then he lost to Sam Groth in two straight sets, a strange result after being so good in qualifying. Still, both brothers rose in the ranking. Mischa still sits around 340 but Alex is in the 70's now and closing.
...Another Italian is just what we need. I suppose that we are running out. He has won a challenger before. He did so in 2013 and he made a semi-final at challenger. Seeded four he lost to Dutra Silva on the clay of Milan. It pushes his ranking to its highest ever. He has now reached 113 in the world. He has made some progress in the qualifiers of slams but his ranking may soon be at the point where he gets direct entry.
...Lopez is slumping and it's worrying. What can possibly go wrong with his game? He is usually a Wimbledon dark horse but this year he has simply not delivered. And it's been full blown meltdowns. He really crashes. He lost to Lu 6-3, 6-2. This is the Asian man's best surface but that is not justification for the Lopez loss. It's also hard to imagine any kind of match where Lopez gets broken that many times.
...Well, well, well. Look who's getting hot just in time for the biggest event of the year. Is Wimbledon the biggest event of the year? For our sport, on balance, it probably is with the US taking a close second. He beat Ferrer 6-2, 7-6[4] but Ferrer is not a grass court player. It was still a big upset and Baghdatis is so dangerous. And this is the man who made Djokovic smash his racket. Or at least attempt to.

That was a classic four set thriller from 2011. And with Bagman in the draw hopefully more are just around the corner.

Well, we shall see a lot of each other. Casey is seeded in the doubles at nine with Shvedova. She drew qualifier Paszek in the singles and then if she wins that she gets Svitolina, so it's tough. Dellacqua lost to Jankovic at the Aegon Classic in the second round. Seeded top in the doubles, she and Mirza didn't even win a set.

ANSWER: Jan Kodes won one grass court title in his career. But it was Wimbledon. He made 26 finals and won eight. What a strange record to have.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wimbledon Predictions: The New Big 4 Rising & Venus' Last Hurrah

Hi all. Galileo here.

I'm bored. Yep, bored. I'm bored of picking Serena every time. I'm bored of Serena winning all these slams. Serena's great, and a great ambassador for our sport. But even Federer lost during those dominant years and Serena just doesn't. And watching her play sure is incredible. And we'll probably never see anything like it again.

I'm not bored of Wimbledon, though. Every year Todd and I pick fairly sensibly [he pulls up our average] and we always get it wrong. But this year I have decided to be whacky, especially on the women's tour. It has to be said that some of the big names have been given a horror draw here. So these picks will be like the Wimbledon seedings. They will reflect recent performance.

Now on the men's side, you can absolutely guess who I'll be picking to win. The same guy I always pick to win Wimbledon. Although I refrain from picking him to win everything, I do think he is the favorite to pick up the trophy. There are obstacles in his way but right now he looks strong, very strong. Murray is a favorite. You can't count out Nadal and, of course, Novak is the top seed. I think the winner comes from one of these four.

And a bold prediction now. Kvitova will win five Wimbledon titles in her career. At least. She is nigh on unconquerable on grass. She has won 84 per cent of her matches at Wimbledon. She's the defending champion and second seed. She has a manageable draw here. I rate her as the favorite. But that may not mean she wins.

The above pick is supposing Kvitova does not get some horror injury, like Pierce.

And now a question for you: What edition of Wimbledon is this? If you get within five that's a correct answer.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dolgopolov d. Edmund
WS 1st Rd: Wickmayer d. Kulichkova

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

=Ladies Doubles QF=
[1] Hingis/Mirza d. [9] Dellacqua/Shvedova
...a winner this decade and a finalist very recently should be good for the quarterfinals. I'm not sold on Hradecka/Hlavackova.
Williams/Williams [12] d. [3]Mattek-Sands/Safarova
...wise of the AEC to seed the Williams sisters. They've won this doubles event five times. But BMS and her partner have swept the slams so far this year. But I refuse to pick against the Williams in doubles. That is rule #54 in the Backspin's rule book. Thou shalt not pick against the Williams in doubles, especially at Wimbledon. Kops-Jones/Spears are also here and have had a good year, but it's not happening against V.W and S.W.
Babos/Mladenovic [4] d. [7] Hsieh/Pennetta
...finalists from last year, they could go one better this year. The seventh seeds should beat Garcia/Srebotnik but the grass court throws up strange results. The 14th seeds are nothing remarkable, but Koukalova/Pironkova could be dangerous. Or first round fodder. But Pironkova and Wimbledon have a kind of "Shining" thing going on.
Vesnina/Makarova [2] d. Black/Raymond
...this is a weak section. Even the big seeds don't have a history of Wimbledon success. The second seeds play Robson/Keys in the first round. That could be dangerous. Really, the second seeds will come through what is an average section.
=Ladies Doubles SF=
Williams/Williams [12] d. [1] Hingis/Mirza
Babos/Mladenovic [4] d. [2]Vesnina/Makarova
...the finalists return to the final this year. And the Williams once again remind Hingis who is boss. How many number one pairs have they beaten in their time?
=Ladies Doubles Final=
Williams/Williams [12] d. [4] Babos/Mladenovic
...They lost 6-1, 6-3 to Vinci/Errani last time out. If I'm correct and the Williams get to the final, it will be an achievement for them to get more than four games.

=Men’s Doubles QF=
Bryan/Bryan [1] d. [9] Bopanna/Mergea
...Klaasen/Ram may be dangerous. But the Bryans over five is a convincing argument. Mind you that was my basis for picking Nadal. Marc Lopez/Marcel Granollers never do well here. That's why Bopanna/Mergea will be the quarterfinal opponents of the Bryans. Kubot/Mirnyi will upset the Spaniards in round two. They could go on a run.
Rojer/Tecau [4] d. [10] Herbert/Mahut
...seventh seeds Matkowski/Zimonjic look shaky on grass. But it really is a toss up in that bottom bit of the second quarter. Muller/Qureshi also lurk here. Doubles is a mess, especially on grass. Winning the first set just isn't as important. And it's harder to put the opposition away. Tecau is the Novotna of the men's doubles. He and Lindstedt made the final in 2010, 2011 and 2012. They have yet to win it.
Pospisil/Sock [3] d. [11] Nestor/Paes
...there's something to be said for defending a major bit of silverware. Sock has that experience [Oudin turns 24 this year, amazingly] and that should help. Murray and Peers will test them in the third round. And the eleventh seeds will beat Peya/Soares I should think. Wimbledon is not a happy hunting ground for the eighth seed.
Dodig/Melo [2] d. [5] Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini
...the fifth seeds land in a soft quarter with the other seeds preferring dirt. But they themselves aren't that strong on the grass. Still they have won a slam this year so they earn the benefit of the doubt. The second seeds were finalists the year before last. A word of warning -- famous 2012 winners Nielsen/Marray are wild carded here. Could they make a run?
=Men’s Doubles SF=
Bryan/Bryan [1] d. [4] Rojer/Tecau
Posipisl/Sock [3] d. [2] Dodig/Melo
...maybe predicting a top two seeded final just feels dangerous to me. The Bryans are fading, yes. But they are still the Bryans. Pospisil/Sock are looking for the world number one ranking. They may soon have it.
=Men’s Doubles Final=
Sock/Pospisil [3] d. [1] Bryan/Bryan
...I'm more confident of the young pair reaching the final than the Bryans. And that really says something.

Now, finally on to the singles...

1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB...Here we go again. Doesn't it feel as if we were just here yesterday? Anyways, he will still be world number one for the foreseeable future. He is safe there for a while yet. But he is the defending champion and with pressure comes privilege. So said Billie Jean King, a beloved figure at Backspin HQ. And now onto the draw as Djokovic looks to add to his haul of two Wimbledon slams. But he comes into this somehow lacking the Career Grand Slam. Here's Federer breaking the news about Djokovic's failure once again to get that elusive French Open to the other grand slam winners.

And here's Rafa whispering to Stan "thanks".

Of course, the above could just be Backspin speculation but you never know.

Djokovic opens with Kohlschreiber and that is going four. The German is going to push that to four long sets. And it's just such a horrible opener. A big serve, low slice and grass court prowess and experience is a tricky combination for Djokovic to overcome. Then he gets Hewitt. Almost certainly. And Hewitt is going to drag that match out. Hewitt should lose but he is not going quietly. And it may be the last time old Rusty graces these courts. He was always able to find it when it mattered. And he loves five setters. Then he gets the Aussie number two. He gets Tomic. And Tomic is again going to test him in all kinds of ways. The hardest thing, really, is that they're all great on grass and they all test Djokovic in different ways. Three contrasting styles. And then a fourth against Anderson. It's madness. Djokovic could lose six sets just to get to the quarters. And then it's Nishikori. So to get to the semi-finals he might have to play 22 sets. Wawrinka, his projected SF opponent may only have to play 15. And that makes a difference. Djokovic is ultra fit. And he won't be fazed by losing a set here or there. But it isn't just that. He only plays one grass tournament a year. And he has to find his footing. And if he loses all those sets , it's going to affect him mentally and physically.
2. KEI NISHIKORI, JPN... Two quarterfinals this year says he can do it. But I still hold reservations. He is not making the mistake that so many young stars do. He is having a slower but consistent rise. It means he can't drop suddenly. And it means he's always seeded in roughly the right place for a deep run. He opens with Bolelli and Cuevas is his seed. Young star and great junior Zverev is here but, really, this all comes to one thing. Can he beat Cilic? He lost to him in that US Open meekly. He can sometimes struggle with the enormous hitters. The winner gets Djokovic and is capable of winning that. That is the crux of this section.
3. KEVIN ANDERSON, RSA... So dangerous and so solid. Always achieves his seeding and always plays consistent tennis. His level rarely drops. One of the most underrated players on the tour. It took Gasquet with a home crowd on the South African's worst surface over three and a half hours to get the win. He does not get the credit he deserves for how he plays and how he comports himself. Kokkinakis and Janowicz lie on his path. But he should be able to get past them with sheer consistency. What he does is quite simple but it is oh so brilliant. Djokovic will probably end his run but he should and probably will take a set off the top seed. And that's pretty good.

That's why he will always be a dark horse. And particularly here where he has the slice and the big serve. And his volleying ability isn't exactly a hindrance. Hindrance. Now that is a call famous throughout tennis.

Yeah I bet that wasn't the clip you expected, though it does feature Eva Asderaki. Doesn't Serena take it well. Enough of my frivolity. Jerzy runs into Anderson and that is the worst kind of player for him to run into. Can his explosiveness blow down the South African's wall of consistency?
WILDCARD: JOHN ISNER, USA... If only this were America. How is Isner only 9-7 at Wimbledon? With that serve. If he can beat Cilic he has a chance against Anderson. I predict a five setter somewhere for Isner. Isn't that bold?
EARLY EXIT: LEONARDO MAYER, ARG... He landed Kokkinakis, who has the game and the nous to be a top two player if not more. He has a big serve and a solid baseline game. Apart from experience and perhaps net play he isn't really weak anywhere. He is the ying to the Kyrgios yang, though both are going to win slams. And both will win in Australia.
POOR GUY: NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB... That draw is punishing. Usually you look at a draw and you can say right fine, that match is easy and that one will be no trouble. That's a player you can dispatch. There is not one easy match on the horizon.

=In the End...=

1. STAN [the man] WAWRINKA, SUI... It's a crime that Wawrinka has only gone 2-1 in three fourth round appearances here. With that serve and that forehand. He also has a fantastic slice. He could be world number one. Right now I think he is. Right now I can't think of a player who could beat him. Except perhaps Djokovic in Australia. If he were to get a calendar Grand Slam I would also not be surprised. He is for real. He is the real deal. And it isn't many players who go 2-0 in their first two slam finals. Edberg, who plays kind of similar to Vavsy did and he went on to win six, though he started younger than the Swiss number two. Sousa, then possibly Burgos await the fourth seed. Thiem or Verdasco lurk and both can trouble Wawrinka, though on grass the Swiss has an advantage. Goffin is almost certainly going to be his fourth round opponent. Then the other section is a mess, but possibly Kyrgios or Raonic. A big server or Dimitrov is headed his way. It's not easy but it isn't impossible, either. Stan will definitely reach the semi-final stage. Of that I am fairly convinced. But then after that the question is can he deliver for two straight slams. It is now easier to do the French and Wimbledon double. But can he?
2. MILOS RAONIC, CAN... Raonic made the semi-final last year before Federer gave him a grass master class. Usually he would be a quarterfinal lock but this time there are question marks. He withdrew from a slam, a recent slam. Is he fully fit? The answer is probably close enough. Will it affect him? Yes. The next is will that tough draw be a serious problem? Again the answer is likely yes. If he can prove the answer is no to both those he will go far but Backspin is unconvinced. Gimeno then Haas are his first two opponents. Haas has been a world number two and has made a Wimbledon semi-final. He is a fantastic player and he could cause an upset. After that Kyrgios awaits and I think he probably gets revenge. Then Gasquet likely awaits in the fourth. It's a horror draw for the sixth seed. The serve guarantees him two wins usually but that is negated. Gimeno-Traver should be less of a challenge but Haas will be surely too much to overcome with just the serve. That's the kind of second match you don't want when you're still finding your feet. Still, Raonic will have other shots at Wimbledon and one day he may even be the favorite.
3. RICHARD GASQUET, FRA... I think experience sees Gasquet through to another fourth round here. He seems to be the king of fourth rounds though not the king of winning them. He has only won 2 out of about 20, but he is 2-0 in the QF. Still he should beat a slumping Dimitrov. And there is nobody else dangerous here. But can he beat Kyrgios?
DARK HORSE: NICK KYRGIOS, AUS... Was anyone else going to get it? He is in a workable section with a chance for revenge. He can beat Raonic here in the third round and he definitely has a solid chance to do so.
WILDCARD: DAVID GOFFIN, BEL... A run here or anywhere is never out of the question. Zeballos then Broady is a likely route and both have big games but Zeballos is best on clay. And Broady is a junior Wimbledon finalist with a big lefty serve but it probably won't be enough.
EARLY EXIT: GRIGOR DIMITROV, BUL... He has been slumping this season. He has struggled. He has been barely putting together wins. And now he has to defend semi-final points. It just looks so unlikely he'll come out of his slump.
POOR GUY: TOMMY HAAS, GER... He is finding his way back into Wimbledon and he ends up in this section of all sections. It really is bad luck.

=In the End...=
Well, to be honest, this section is a mess. But Wawrinka should be good enough.


1. ANDY MURRAY, GBR... As usual, he has been over-rated by the British media. He has a shot at winning this title but he is not the favorite. The British have rated him as the second favorite which does make some sense but his draw means he will struggle to even make the final. And if for any reason he has a match dragged over to the next day he could be in trouble. The key for him is to conserve enough fight to take on Federer in the semi-finals. Kukushkin and then Haase or Falla await in the first two rounds. Murray should not be too troubled. But then again if any of those players can get into the groove they could make things slightly problematic. Coric also lurks, as does Stakhovsky. Then he probably gets Tsonga or maybe Karlovic and you can bank on that match going four. If it's Tsonga a five setter may ensue. Tsonga has a better serve and a better forehand than Murray. But he does have weak points and Murray will know how to find them. Then Nadal beckons. Can Murray handle Nadal? Murray has taken one set off him on grass in his life. Nadal is 3-0 on this surface and 15-6 lifetime. And they call it a rivalry. Murray may not be the outright favorite but he is one of three, maybe four guys, who could win it. And that is a big thing. But there is no doubt he got handed a rough draw, possibly the roughest draw.
2. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA... Right now I would pick Jo over Nadal on every court on the world over five except for clay courts. And probably over three, as well. Jo, like Gasquet and Mahut, is a better player on grass. He is top eight easily on grass and he has proved that. I thought a Wimbledon final was almost inevitable but he seems to be always denied in the semi-final stage. Muller is a tough first round but Istomin in the next is more doable. Dolgopolov and Karlovic are also hanging around here and all could be tricky. But Tsonga has his eyes on that fourth round clash and he should get there. He is the most dangerous player in the draw and he has slam momentum. He has the ability to win this event. I certainly think that on his day he could beat Murray in four, but he does need Murray to be less than 100 per cent on his game.
3. RAFAEL NADAL, ESP... Discounting a two time winner and the winner of the greatest match ever to grace this event would be foolish. But Nadal has been poor on this surface since making the 2011 final. I can accept the Kyrgios and Rosol loss to a certain extent. In the Darcis loss Nadal was definitely injured. But he is still Rafa. Sadly he has a difficult draw. But that is no reason to discount him. Bellucci and Brown should be his opening opponents. Troicki and Stepanek lurk here, too. And of course Ferrer himself is seeded eighth and he could beat Nadal. These days it would not be considered that big an upset.
DARK HORSE: IVO KARLOVIC, CRO... Seeded 22 in 2009, he made the quarters. This year he sits at 23 and is just as dangerous.
WILDCARD: FABIO FOGNINI, ITA... A nice little Backspin tradition continues here...
EARLY EXIT: ANDREAS SEPPI, ITA... That final run in Halle was deceptive. He doesn't do so well on the grass. He should beat Klein, who defected from Australia to Britain, but Coric or Stakhovsky should have the beating of him.
POOR GUY: RAFAEL NADAL, ESP... He can't seem to catch a break. To do well he needs easier early matches. He is most definitely on the wane. It will be interesting to see what he decided to do after the 2016 Olympics.

=In the End...=
I think it is difficult to pick against Muzza. I think it is difficult to pick Ferrer here, too. And a Murray/Nadal clash here would be fascinating. Could Nadal intimidate Murray into a loss?


1. ROGER FEDERER, SUI... Seven Wimbledon titles and nine finals. Any questions? Win this and Nadal can't catch his haul of majors. Neither can Djokovic. In fact win this and he probably has that record till kingdom come. You're definitely sick of me by now so why not have a read of this. Federer has Lopez in the fourth and Berdych in the quarters. That's his route. Aside from that you know the drill with Federer by now.
2. TOMAS BERDYCH, CZE... Since that final he is just 9-4 here. He is really patchy here. He could make the final. He could go out in the second round. He could make the quarterfinal and then get just a handful of games. He opens with Chardy and then he gets Mahut. Should he manage to survive those mines he probably gets Gulbis and then possibly Monfils. Or maybe Simon. It's a weaker section and he should get to the quarters but Federer will have too much. Berdych, Berdych, Berdych. Always the guy just on the cusp. But has he fulfilled his talent, has he made the most of what he has? Is he an over-achiever or an underachiever? And the answer I think, though it may be different for you is that two slams would be an over-achievement and one would be just right. But if he makes another final or two at that level, beating a big guy along the way, that may suffice.
3. FELICIANO LOPEZ, ESP... The one Spaniard who loves grass more than he loves clay. Well, on the men's side currently, at least. I see you there Conchita! He always wins a couple of matches here, hits some lovely shots and generally has fun until he runs into a big fish. His simple yet ridiculously effective game does wonders and never more so than on this surface.
DARK HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS, LAT & LUKAS ROSOL, CZE...These two form the basis of both the wildcard and dark horse. They play one another and then the winner likely gets Garcia-Lopez. Then Berdych looms. Gulbis has upset Berdman before and he could do it again. He has done it here, too. Both are capable of big wins and both can ride their luck and their form as far as they need to go. And I think they are both due a big run. It could happen.
EARLY EXIT: GILLES SIMON, FRA... He gets Almagro first up and Almagro is better on grass than one would think. He has upset potential abound. Then Kavcic and then Monfils. If any of those players can hit and maintain their top form, Simon could crash out on his worst surface.
POOR GUY: SAM QUERREY, USA... He could have been very dangerous here, but Federer is far too close. He has to serve his way through the great man and it just isn't going to happen.

=In the End...=
Federer cruises. Berdych threatens. And Gulbis makes me weep with frustration. So what else is new?



...I was tempted to pick Wawrinka to win this. I really was. The hangover from the French may still affect Djokovic. But Wawrinka crashed and burned at the last major he played where he had won the previous slam, and that was on his best surface. And there has gotta be a reason the Swiss number two has never done well here before. There was a time when Murray could reliably beat Federer on this surface. I think that time has passed for Murray. I think Fed will have too much and I just think that in the final Djokovic wins in five. But I'm not confident about that. There is an asterisk. And if Djokovic should falter, Federer may take this title for the loss of only two sets.

#15 Williams d. #1 Williams
#23 Azarenka d. Pironkova
#4 Sharapova d. #24 Pennetta
#6 Safarova d. #11 Ka Pliskova
#10 Kerber d. #31 Giorgi
#18 Lisicki d. #26 Kuznetsova
#8 Makarova d. #21 Keys
#2 Kvitova d. #13 Radwanska

...The seeds and some of the players in the sections are similar to that of the French, though not so similar it's boring. The Williams are again slated to meet in the fourth round. But this time I have picked Venus. Something always happens to Serena. Usually something so unforeseeable nobody even dreams of calling it [Lisicki was callable, but Cornet was left field] but this time I've decided to call it. There's just something about Venus. And something about Venus here at SW19. Watson and Garcia is a great first round match. So is Cibulkova against Hantuchova. Brengle and Vinci are here. Schiavone is a sure fire upset over compatriot Errani.

The next section is a mess. CSN and Ivanovic are the seeds here. Bencic against Pironkova is the big clash. The real power lies with Azarenka and Pironkova. Both got decent draws, draws they would have taken with all four limbs at the start. The winner of their clash could be the tournament Cinderella. If you can call Vika a Cinderella.

'Pova has to break through this 'curse' at some point. And with only the winner of Begu and Gavrilova looking dangerous, this is likely the tournament she'll break her 'curse.' Pennetta and Diyas play in the first round. Petkovic is here, too, but does not share her compatriots' love of SW19. Stosur/Pliskova is the key match and that favors Pliskova. But if Stosur can get to the second week, the courts begin to suit her more. If Sam can win she could go further than expected. Kanepi and low-seeded Strycova are here, too, but Safarova is in world beater mode right now. But it could all come crashing down. Still, the lefty had a great Wimbledon last year. She should be fine. And then she should have too much for whoever wins that third round match.

Wozniacki on grass combined with the fact there's nobody else vaguely threatening here, means Giorgi makes a second fourth round here. Kerber has a tougher draw but Muguruza prefers clay and Lucic-Baroni isn't as dangerous as she was. Shvedova is here but, really, Kerber won't drop a set until the fourth round. Kerber's experience should be too much for the younger Giorgi who lost to Radwanska in the fourth in 2012. Here lies the traditional crazy Kuznetsova pick. Halep on grass is susceptible to an upset. And Puig lurks. So do Niculescu and Kuznetsova. Three quarterfinals here for Kuznetsova and she could do it. But if Lisicki can get past Gajdosova's big serve [which she will] she will beat Timea and cruise through.

Cornet plays Konjuh. That's the best first round match in this section. Makarova has just too much for anyone else in this section, though. Keys will beat Vogele and Wickmayer. She may not need to get past a slumping Bouchard but can if need be. And probably will. But then can Keys really beat Makarova? I doubt it but she does have the ability. Paszek/Dellacqua is a great first rounder to watch. The winner gets Svitolina and then they get to have a real go at Radwanska. Tomljanovic adds a bit of spice but Radwanksa should be too good here. Kvitova has a recovering Robson and a Jelena Jankovic, who is in nowhere land. Kvitova breezes through here, maybe dropping a bagel on an opponent en route to the quarterfinals. Five consecutive quarterfinals beckon.

#15 Williams d. #23 Azarenka
#6 Safarova d. #4 Sharapova
#18 Lisicki d. #10 Kerber
#2 Kvitova d. #8 Makarova

...Well, once Venus wins, if it happens how I think it will, the draw just opens right up. And she leads Vika 4-2 in the head to head. And this is grass. 'Pova has had a real problem with Lucie and it continues. But a quarterfinal here is a solid bounce back from that disappointing French Open campaign. Kerber never should have beaten Lisicki in that quarterfinal. Lisicki wins through to another semi-final here.

And that Kvitova match will be great, especially for you lefties watching. But nobody can out Kvitova Kvitova on her turf. Podj!

#15 Venus d. #6 Safarova
#2 Kvitova d. #18 Lisicki

...Venus just keeps rolling. Picking her to beat Serena is risky but after that every match she can win. And Kvitova beats Lisicki in a classic with a breaker somewhere. If the Kvitova/Lisicki quarter comes to bear, look for there to be 25 aces in that match at least.

#2 Kivitova d. #15 Venus

...I think if Venus wins I may tear up. It will still be sad to see her lose this final in some ways. But Petra will be too strong.

Anyway, thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please. They have milkshakes.

ANSWER: This is the 129h edition of the event.

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


Read more!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Wk.24- Roger & Andy... but no Galileo

Hello, all. Todd here.

Yep, Galileo is away yet again. Lucky for you (or not), I have no life... so I'm here for a quick Top 10 tip-in after another historic ATP weekend involving a Roger Federer title run that coincides with our regular recapper being unable to bathe in the joy of it all.

Hmmm, the last time I was here after a regular season week was also -- just as this one is -- following an Andy Murray title run. Coincidence, or something more? Oh, I'm sure it's nothing. (Wink, wink.)

S: Roger Federer def. Andreas Seppi 7-6(1)/6-4
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Bopanna/Mergea

S: Andy Murray def. Kevin Anderson 6-3/6-4
D: Herbert/Mahut d. Matkowski/Zimonjic

1. Roger Federer's title run in Halle gives him eight at the event. It's just the fifth time a man has been crowned champion so often at a single tournament, but only three different men have managed to pull off such a feat in ATP history. I'm guessing you can figure out one of them, as he holds the overall record with his nine titles at that little get-together in Paris that comes around every spring. Federer's just-completed run didn't include a win over a Top 20 player (his highest-ranked opponent was #27 Ivo Karlovic in the SF), and he barely escaped his match with Philipp Kohlschreiber early in the week, barely pulling away to win the 3rd set tie-break. But the joy he showed in winning the final (his tenth in Halle) over Andreas Seppi shows that he's heading to Wimbledon with confidence. He's serving well -- something that's a LITTLE important at SW19 -- and is knocking out tie-breakers like he's Ronda Rousey (Ha! That might be the first-ever MMA reference on ATP Backspin! See the history that Galileo is missing?). He won all six of the TB he played last week.

2. After having the best clay court season of his career, Andy Murray has picked right back up on the grass. At the Queen's Club tournament in London, even after being forced to play two matches on Sunday, the Scot locked away his Open era record-tying fourth crown at the event. Rain forced the resumption (at 3-3 in the 1st) of Murray's Saturday semi against Viktor Troicki, which he wrapped up in a decisive 1:05. Later in the day, Kevin Anderson didn't have any luck, either, as Murray looked fresh and was dominant in a straight sets win. He's won this title every other year since 2009, and the last time he did (2013) he went on to win his first Wimbledon (non-Olympic) title a few weeks later. So, one has to ask, who's the favorite when next week starts? Murray or Novak Djokovic? Something that may be important: four of Murray's six losses this year have come against the Serb. But, of course, nothing says they have to meet at the AELTC. Murray will be the #3 seed, though, so a semifinal clash is a possibility.
3. So, one expects Djokovic to be ready next week. And Federer, Murray and Nadal have all won tune-up events on grass heading into SW19. What about the new ATP stars, one year after Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic reached the SF at the '14 Wimbledon? Well, things aren't particularly looking encouraging. Dimitrov lost in the 2nd Round in London to Gilles Muller, while Raonic returned following surgery on a pinched nerve in his foot and lost in the QF of the same event to Gilles Simon. Nick Kyrgios was taken out by Stan Wawrinka in the 1st Round at Queen's Club, and then the Roland Garros champ was put out by Kevin Anderson a round later. Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori retired with a calf injury in the Halle semis.

Of course, none of that matters until next week.
4. Dimitrov is at least saying all the right things about remaining positive. Still, aside from the usual annual nominees (del Potro, Monfils), the Bulgarian is likely in the lead in the "Most Disappointing Season" race as the summer begins. He's fallen outside the Top 10 (even below Rafa, who at least won a grass title the other week), is just 18-11 and has reached just two semis in twelve events, and zero finals.

5. In doubles, Nicolas Mahut was playing on grass. So you just knew SOMETHING was going to happen. As it turned out, he won his ninth career title, teaming with Pierre-Hugues Herbert to take the London crown. The duo reached the final last week in the Rosmalen event, as well. Mahut has won twelve singles/doubles titles on the ATP tour, and this is the fifth that has come on the grass, with all coming since 2013 for the now 33-year old Frenchman.
6. Ivo Karlovic may have lost in the Halle semis to Federer, but the big Croat set the ATP record for aces (45) in a three-set match earlier in the week against Tomas Berdych. Naturally, Ivo already shared the mark, having previously been tied with Aussie Mark Philippoussis with 44 aces in a match.

7. Stan Wawrinka will be the only tennis player to pose nude in ESPN's Body Issue this year. The issue goes on sale in July.

8. Kei Nishikori, who retired in the Halle semifinals with a calf injury, says that he expects to be fine for Wimbledon.
9. On that note, Wimbledon qualifying is already underway.

The wild cards into the Gentlemen's draw have been handed out:

Liam Broady, GBR (brother of WTA player Naomi, by the way)
Matthew Ebden, AUS
Kyle Edmund, GBR
Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (Rusty's last trip to SW19?)
Brydan Klein, GBR
Denis Kudla, USA
Nicolas Mahut, FRA (shocker!)
James Ward, GBR

Also, what do you think the odds are of Mahut drawing John Isner again? Speaking of odds...

And I guess that answers the previous question posed in #2.
10. Murray is raffling off a tennis ball signed by himself and Fred Perry, the last British man to win the Wimbledon singles title before the Scot ended the 77-year drought in 2013. It's believed to be the only item signed by both Murray and Perry, who died in 1995.


7...Novak Djokovic, SRB (5-2)
5...ANDY MURRAY, GBR (3-2)
3...David Ferrer, ESP (3-0)
3...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (3-0)
3...Kei Nishikori, JPN (2-1)
3...Rafael Nadal, ESP (2-1)
3...Tomas Berdych, CZE (0-3)

9 - Rafael Nadal (Roland Garros)
8 - Rafael Nadal (Barcelona)
8 - Rafael Nadal (Monte Carlo)
8 - Guillermo Vilas (Buenos Aires)

136-19 - Roger Federer
128-40 - Lleyton Hewitt
83-16 - Andy Murray
60-15 - Novak Djokovic
59-31 - Feliciano Lopez

4: Boris Becker - 1985, 1987, 1988, 1996
4: Lleyton Hewitt - 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006
4: John McEnroe - 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984
4: Andy Murray - 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015
4: Andy Roddick - 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007
3: Jimmy Connors - 1972, 1982, 1983

109...Jimmy Connors
94...Ivan Lendl
77...John McEnroe
66...Rafael Nadal

The Aussie put up a main draw win over Lauren Davis last week in Birmingham before falling in the 2nd Round to Jelena Jankovic, losing in straight sets after dropping a 13-11 1st set tie-break. In doubles, with regular partner Yaroslava Shvedova out with an injury, Dellacqua teamed with Sania Mirza, whose regular partner Martina Hingis was taking a week off before rejoining her this week in Eastbourne. Unfortunately, as the #1 seeds, Dellacqua/Mirza lost in straights to Chan Yung-Jan & Zheng Jie, who then went on to hand Halep/Watson a walkover victory in the next round. Yeah, I know... the nerve.

Casey has opened with a singles win over Anna Schmiedlova in Eastbourne.

All for now, and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wk.23- "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." (sic)

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

That quote in the title is attributed to Mark Twain, but it is incorrectly quoted. The full story is very interesting but that is for another time and place. This misquoted quote, one of the most popular along with, "Luke, I am your father," can be attributed to Nadal.

And yes, Vader never said that. He said "No, I am your father."

But getting back to the point. Nadal is baffling everybody. He is still the best lefty. Still the best Spaniard. Still the best clay courter. He still has the second greatest forehand the game has ever seen on every surface except clay, where he has the best. It really is a toss-up between Roger and Rafa's forehand. This is still Rafael Nadal. And in the most important statistic he is still second all time. BACKSPIN loves tables and here comes one now.

Slams matter the most. And if you include the Olympics, it looks even worse for Novak.

So Rafa is playing with house money now. Yes, BACKSPIN said Nadal was finished several times and the fact that the old Rafa is gone is pretty much undeniable now, but Rafa is still dangerous and still one of the best. And perhaps winning an event with a weaker field is not evidence of any kind of resurgence. It is not evidence of a Nadal comeback. Especially because he struggled throughout the week.

So what is the point of all this? What conclusion is BACKSPIN trying to draw? Or is it the usual crazed ramblings with some hidden meaning tucked away while the WTA side provides the relative sanity? No. Here comes the point. Nadal won an event amongst a field of talented grass court players and Monfils. Whatever Monfils may be -- and he is many things, like ridiculous, beyond the laws of our planet, beyond the laws of physics, frustrating, brilliant, watchable and oh-so-French. But he is a good grass player.

This win is evidence of a pulse in Nadal's career. There's a flutter there. Not unlike the flutter in my heart when Lopez flicks his hair in that way or the way Todd's heart flutters when Dokic wins two matches in a row. [ Editor's Note: oh, Fair One, wherefore art thou? ] For that same reason, if Wawrinka wins four slams he will have had a better career than Murray.

And with Nadal showing a pulse, and being seeded so low for Wimbledon, sparks are going to fly. If Murray draws Nadal in the fourth round can he really be trusted to beat the Spaniard?

In other news, happy birthday Steffi Graf. A great ambassador for the game and a great ambassador for German tennis, too.

QUESTION: Who was the first Spaniard in the Open Era to rise to number one?

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

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - GGL rose 14 places to 31 and that will be a relief to many. Players like the Spaniard should be seeded at slams. Vesely rose 11 to 35 with Troicki, Monaco and Chardy hanging around, too.

Top 10 - Wawrinka and Cilic have swapped around in the rankings with the Swiss 90 points ahead. Cilic still leads number 11 Dimitrov by 420. Ferrer at 8 has a lead of a thousand.

Top 8 - No change here. Nishikori is challenging for the top four but if he usurps Rafa, then Roland Garros will be a mess.

Top 4 - This remains unchanged with Novak holding a big lead over Roger, who holds a lead over Murray. Far from tracking down Murray, Nadal now has to try and hold off Kei for a top four seed.

S: Rafael Nadal def. Viktor Troicki 7-6(3)/6-3
D: Bopanna/Mergea d. Peya/Soares

S: Nicolas Mahut def. David Goffin 7-6(1)/6-1
D: Karlovic/Kubot d. Herbert/Mahut

...I believe you were expecting Nadal. That would have been logical, but logic seems to bypass our HQ. If logic had any bearing on tennis, the rankings and the slam winners would be far more easily predicted. Mahut is one of the many Frenchies that seem to be everywhere on the tour. And he is one of the more fun to watch. Mahut was seeded sixth in the qualies. He eased past Marach and Zopp as expected. But De Schepper took a set. Still, Mahut didn’t panic and won through in three sets. He had qualified. Then he ran straight into Hewitt, but again he managed to get past the aging Australian. After beating Hewitt in straights, he beat third seeded Agut in two easy sets. He had momentum, now. And he rode it to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over sixth seed Mannarino. He edged Haase in three long sets before dispatching Goffin for the title. He has won three titles now and all on grass. The former junior doubles number one has won a title. And nobody saw it coming. Mahut opted to skip Queens but may decide to enter Nottingham. Gasquet, a former Nottingham winner, has hit 400 wins. He should become part of the illustrious 500 club before he retires. But it is very hard to see the future at the best of times
...We've been here before and frequently. So I'll just let you watch this video.

...It was good to see Muller make a semi. He has made three finals in his career but never won a title. In 2004, 2005 and 2012 he made final appearances in America. He also reached his highest ever ranking of 34 this year. Now ranked 48, he will be very dangerous at Wimbledon. After beating Ilhan 0 and 5 in the Topshelf Open in the Netherlands, he faced tricky Canadian Pospisil. But he defeated Pospisil 6-4, 4-6, 7-6[8]. His nasty lefty serve made life very difficult for the Canuck. And sometimes the way a player plays can disrupt you. He is still the greatest Luxembourgian Davis Cup player ever. Yes, I thought you'd be impressed.
...If you've heard of Gombos then you really do know your tennis. He won his second challenger of the year to go 2-4 in challenger finals. The 24-year old may not be so young, he is older than Dimitrov, but he has gone 2-0 in finals this year. And the Bratislavian born may prove to be a future star. He is one to watch. His highest ranking is 103. He was seeded 6th in the French quallies but lost to Nishioka in the second round. He is currently hovering around 120.
...3-6, 7-6[5], 7-6[6] was the scoreline. And Lopez is now in a slump. And that is strange because Lopez has the kind of game where it's difficult for things to go wrong. His game works on every surface. There's no surface his game doesn't work on. But he hasn't won back to back matches in what feels like ages. And grass is by far his best surface. So why is the slump still on-going? Never count out the three time Wimbledon quarterfinalist. Should he get an opening, he could roll to the quarters. The way the Wimbledon draw blows up helps him, too.
...Groth used his big serve to beat Lopez. But why is this so big. BACKSPIN called in some 'experts'...


Five things I liked this week...
1 - Mahut inspires us all. With all the riches the French has, it's a great story that one of the forgotten, famous for just the one match, won here.

2 - Cilic is showing he doesn't just turn up at the slams. He needs to be consistently making the last four. With the talent he has he should make the semi-finals or better at every event he plays.

3 -Konjuh was born December 1997. Date Krumm retired around then. And she just rolled through a solid field. She just won her first title at the age of 17. To Hingis that's no big deal, but then the early success at a young age may have been the undoing of Hingis. Like it was with Capriati.

4 - How long before a player born in this century wins a slam? It's inevitable it will happen. I'm tempted to guess 2021.

5 - Great new ATP website and great decision to make Halle and Queens 500 tournaments. There just isn't room for a Masters, sadly.

1. s'Hertogenbosch Final – Mahut d. Goffin 7-6[1], 6-2
...Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact a qualie beat a second seed so easily? An old veteran who prefers doubles beat a young up and comer who has won over forty matches since October. Mahut had little form and Goffin was red hot. But the veteran triumphed. Isn't our sport great?
2. Stuttgart Q – Nadal d. Tomic 6-4, 6-7[6] 6-3
...Credit to Tomic here. He beat Rafa 8-6 in a breaker. He gets to the quarterfinal playing great tennis and meets Nadal. This week he has Federer lurking. Someone has made the tennis gods mad. Maybe they liked Tomic to misbehave. Whatever the case, he proved how he is finally ready to match the big boys. This is grass. He does better on grass and in Australia, but it is still a big step. And we know what the next step is.
3. Stuttgart SF – Troicki d. Cilic 6-3, 6-7[1] 7-6[2]
...Several matches this past week were archetypal grass court matches. This is like when two grandmasters play one another. A stalemate is a distinct possibility. But in tennis it is a fight to the death. And in the end Cilic crumbled at the crucial moment, losing the most important breaker 7-2.
4. s'Hertogenbosch Final – Mahut d. Haase 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
...This match was full of aggressive tennis and great all court play. It was a nice return to grass court tennis which we now have more of. And having more grass tennis is a win for everyone. Few breaks is another calling card of grass court tennis. This match was a perfect example of how a grass court tennis match should be.

Murray [1] d. [4] Cilic
Wawrinka [2] d. Gasquet
Murray [1] d. [2] Wawrinka

...Yes. I am crazy. But with Raonic returning, there is a gap and Gasquet is a great grass player. Kokkinakis/Chardy and Wawrinka/Kyrgios are both brilliant first round matches. Nadal/Dolgopolov and Querrey/Dimitrov are also must watches.

Federer [1] d. [3]Berdych
Nishikori [2] d. Haas
Federer [1] d. [5] Nishikori

...This is more straightforward. Federer on grass is formidable. And he rarely loses here. But the rest of the draw is a toss-up. Tomic is
dangerous. Monfils/Rosol and Federer/Kohl are good matches. Janowicz is here and Thiem plays Nishikori. And Young Coric should be good, too.

Dellacqua and Jurak lost to the second seeds in the doubles. They lost in the first round, but Casey still sits at sixteen. She had a good draw as the sixth seed in the singles but lost in straights to teenager Konjuh. But then Konjuh did go on to win, so fair enough. In the singles she has dramatically fallen. She fell from 50 to 67. She is Australia's number three. If you factor in Gavrilova she is number four. She just beat Davis 4 and 1. She plays Smitkova or Jankovic next. She is in Prinkova's section, though.

ANSWER: In 1999 Moya was number one for two weeks.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Au Revoir, Paris

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Bad circumstances struck me at the climax of the French, leaving me out of town and then the last two days quite unwell. But let's move on to more important matters. What happened in the final stages of the French?

Serena Williams flawlessly played the role of Lion. The Gazelle, perhaps called Lucie, has done well to make it this far in life. Lucie is always on the back foot here. She can run or perhaps hide but she can't outdo Williams by being aggressive. Usually once Williams gets the teeth in it is game over. In fact, when Serena got to 6-3, 4-1, Navratilova said in the box this match is over. But it wasn't and that is a dangerous thing to say at the best of times.

At 5-5, Bartoli scalded Martina, saying that you should never say this but when does Serena ever let the Gazelle go? A set and two breaks should be enough. Only two players not named Venus have ever beaten her in a slam final. One hasn't beaten her since Andre Agassi was playing. The other perennially causes Serena trouble but can rarely get to Serena, so it's irrelevant. After releasing her hold around the Gazelle's neck, Serena broke back to serve for it at 6-5. She lost the set in the breaker and then Safarova took all the momentum. She even grabbed an early break. But Williams finally sunk the teeth in. She won five games on the trot to win 6-3, 6-7, 6-2.

The Gazelle knows some nice moves and can evade and annoy the Lion. It can escape, too, sometimes. It can claim victory. But too often the Lion is just too strong and some chases just have a feel of the inevitable about them.

Dodig/Melo swapped breakers with the Bryans in their first two sets before the third seeds took out the third set 7-5. The Bryans have now won one slam in the past seven. Guga watched on approvingly and had a big cheer when his countryman won.

Well before we do our final match review of the tournament we should have one last question: Exactly ten years ago Wawrinka made his debut at the slam level. He beat fellow qualifier Blake in the second round of the French in five after being two sets down. He lost to eventual finalist Puerta in four in the third round. But which seed and former top ten player did he oust in his first ever main draw slam match?

*Suicide Pick*
Well, in the final had I had been in town I would have had to pick Djokovic, so I lose out in the final. Ah well.

Men's Singles 1st: Verdasco [32] d. Daniel [Q]
Men's Singles 2nd: Cilic [9] d. Arnaboldi [Q]
Men's Singles 3rd: Ferrer [7] d. Bolelli
Men's Singles 4th: Nishikori [5] d. Gabashvili
Men's Singles QF: Tsonga [14] d. Nishikori [5]
Men's Singles SF: Wawrinka [8] d. Tsonga [14]
Men's Singles F: Djokovic [1] d. Wawrinka [8]
Women's Singles Barthel d. Kania

...See this is why my predictions go wrong. The world number nine took out this slam. I picked the nine-time champion and five-time defending champion, but the guy who has made one quarterfinal here in nine attempts and who plays best in Australia and who has been drifting between mediocre and abysmal for the past four months won instead. Now if I had picked Wawrinka would I have been called crazy? I think so and I would have earned it. I thought I was crazy for picking him to get to the quarters. Todd didn't even pick him to win three matches. Todd said he would lose before round three. So yes I was wrong, but I was slightly less wrong than Todd. [Editor's note: Touché . But I did have my champion pick in the final, at least. Oh, yes I did say that - TDS ] And I called Serena right. And so the marvelous tradition of me defending my faulty picks can continue for another year. Of course Todd has written a fantastic piece entitled "Wowrinka!" which I would strongly advise and insist you go and read right now. No really. But this is my take on the final:

Djokovic won the first set but tired due to his exhausting semi-final five set win over Murray. Wawrinka came through 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. The rallies were long and grueling but, unlike Ferrer, Vavsy actually has the weapons to back up the grind. He aced Djokovic nine times to the Serbian's six and he was only broken twice. He broke Djokovic four times. The Swiss star hit 60 winners and Djokovic only 30. It was a dominant performance from the world number four. Wawrinka looks more likely to complete the grand slam than Murray does right now. And that is a statement I never though I could or would be making. Wawrinka beat Jo in four tough sets but the fact Djokovic has to grind out a really hard win over Murray may have been a contributing factor in Djokovic's loss.

Well, that is it. For Wimbledon expect the coverage on this side to be tighter, though life always has a way of finding a way in. And really the week after Wimbledon is the week all tennis writers love a lot. And the next week is one they hate because it's boring and it's so far away until the next slam, but it just isn't as holiday-esque as the previous week. This season from the top four point of view is the most exciting. Any of the top four could win a slam. This feels like the top four in tennis and they will be who I pick to make the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Well, unless one of them lands Nadal.

Well, thank you French Open and Au Revoir....

Any other notes?

* - What a tournament Safarova had. Two finals. Clijsters made six slam semi-finals in 2003. She won the Wimbledon and French ladies doubles. She made the singles final of the French and of the U.S. Open. She also made the single semi at Wimbledon and in Australia. She was world number one in both disciplines that year.

* - Will Djokovic ever win the French? It isn't like he has unlimited shots at it. If he is somehow not in the top two next year he may have a very difficult path.

* - Nadal is in the later part of his twilight years. And Federer is still in the sun. Federer may outlast the whole of Nadal's career. That would be funny.

* - Jon Wertheim's Fifty Party Shots

* - Casey Dellacqua and her partner Shvedova dominated the first two sets of a very good final. They eventually lost to seventh seeds Safarova/Mattek-Sands. But the pair have both flown up the ranks

* - Speaking of Casey, she is in Nottingham. I like her to get to the final as the sixth seed before losing to top seeded Radwanska. Casey is playing with Jurak again in the doubles. They open against the second seeds Zheng and Chan. Radwanska is 26. That seems weird. Both she and Bouchard are competing for the biggest slump award.

* - I like Bouchard to find a bit of form actually. She will lose to Bencic in the ladies Rosmalen event. In the men's, Hewitt plays Mahut in the first round. I like Karlovic to do well but that draw really is a mess. Goffin should also win a couple matches.

* - And in the men's doubles in Stuttgart, Lopez and Nadal play together. So do Monfils and Simon. The Bryans have withdrawn. In the men's singles, Haas is back. Tomic, Kohlschreiber, Lopez and Cilic will make the semi-finals. I do not buy Nadal at all. Not now. And when will he admit he is broken?

* More on the return of Haas

Well, I'm out for now.

ANSWER: Wawrinka beat Massu in four sets. Massu had been as high as number nine, but was seeded 22 at the time.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Roland Garros Final: WOWrinka!

Stan Wawrinka didn't come to the Roland Garros final armed with a Swiss Army knife. He came with his backhand. And that was more than enough.

Who knew a Swiss could be so stubborn?

Of course, maybe if we'd just looked at his forearm. It was all right on there.

Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals, Wawrinka saved sixteen of seventeen break point chances, and he saved eight of ten today against Djokovic, the game's best returner of serve. There's something to be said for the will involved in weathering so many storms on such a big stage, especially with the crowd pulling for the Frenchman and the Serb playing for all the history within his grasp in the final.

Riding a 28-match winning streak, Djokovic was looking to complete a Career Grand Slam by adding a win in Paris to claim the only slam title that has so far eluded him. In past years, it was Rafa Nadal (six times, twice in finals the last three years) that brought an end to the current world #1's dream. But last week Nadal (seeded #6 after missing time with injury and having a mediocre clay season) was conquered by Djokovic in the QF as he completed as thorough a win as you'll ever see of an all-time great on the stage that he's dominated his entire career. The Serb not only defeated Rafa on the scoreboard, he seemed to take away a bit of his heart for safe keeping down the stretch, as well. Maybe it was too early to peak, though? Djokovic struggled to put away Andy Murray a round later, a match that had to be extended over two days and to five sets when the Scott won back-to-back 7-5 sets to knot the match. As a result, Djokovic never got a day off in the closing stages of this Roland Garros.

Early on, though, nothing seemed to bother him, including Wawrinka. Djokovic took a break lead in the 1st set when Wawrinka double-faulted on break point to fall behind 4-3. It took the Serb three set points to serve things out three games later, but he did to win the set 6-4. In the 2nd, he held back the tide of the Swiss man's powerful groundstrokes -- especially a one-handed backhand that was unleashing thunderous shots all match long -- to keep a nose ahead. He saved four BP over three straight service games as the set remained on serve at 4-4, but with Wawrinka serving first the Serb had to hold in order to keep the set knotted. He had no margin of error. On his fifth BP of the set, Wawrinka converted when Djokovic ended a rally by firing a shot long and suddenly the MATCH was tied.

Wawrinka broke to take a 4-2 lead in the 3rd, saved a BP a game later and then served out at 6-3 set to take a one set advantage into the 4th. Djokovic jumped up a break at 3-0 there, but couldn't hold the lead. Wawrinka won three straight games to get to 3-3, then held double break points on the Serb in game #7. After saving the second BP with a beautiful backhand volley winner, Djokovic punched the sky, showing the emotion that had been curiously missing from him during the first three and a half sets. If the Serb's old fire had returned, Wawrinka was likely doomed. But it didn't, and he wasn't.

Djokovic had three BP on Wawrinka's serve a game later, but couldn't convert any. The old "Comeback King" Novak would have. On the third BP, Wawrinka's serve up the T was called out, but Djokovic played the ball and was unable to return it. The chair umpire checked the mark and called the ball in, awarding the point to Wawrinka, who'd go on to hold for 4-4. The Swiss fired a backhand passing shot from behind the baseline in game #9 to reach break point. Djokovic pulled out one of coach Boris Becker's old hallmarks -- a serve-and-volley combo -- to save it, but when he tried to do it on the next point on a second serve Wawrinka fired a backhand return winner down the line. Another backhand winner to the corner ended a rally and gave Wawrinka a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve out the match.

There, things seemed over for a moment when Wawrinka appeared to serve an ace on his first match point, but the chair umpire looked at the mark and called the ball out, extending the match. Djokovic saved the MP, then reached BP after his shot -- which appeared to be heading out -- bounced off the net cord and landed in the court. Wawrinka fired a crosscourt forehand that the Serb dug off the baseline, sending a backhand winner down the line. He had his chance to get back into the match. But he sailed a forehand long, then Wawrinka's big serve went off the Serb's racket to give the Swiss a second match point. He won it, naturally, with a perfect backhand (winner #60 on the day, though oddly only his eleventh off the backhand that had controlled so many rallies) off the baseline on his first groundstroke of the point, winning his second major 4-6/6-4/6-3/6-4.

Wawrinka, winning another slam as the #8 seed taking out the #1 in the final, immediately ran off court to find a path into the stands to celebrate with coach Magnus Norman, to whom he credits so much of his success. Meanwhile, Djokovic sat on his chair in the changeover, contemplating a sixth loss in his last nine slam finals, three of them coming in the last four years in Paris. During the trophy ceremony, the Serb was greeted by an extraordinarily long ovation from the French crowd (yeah... who'da thunk it, huh? The French crowd!). It had to help. But not enough to take away ALL the sting.

Of course, with this result, one has to wonder if Wawrinka is really this good or just an expert at being in the right place at the right time. After all, he won his first major in Melbourne against an injured Nadal in the final, and we'll probably never know if Djokovic having to prepare to play three straight days after his semifinal with Murray was suspended on Friday had anything to do with the way he was gradually overtaken in today's match. Whatever the truth is, the OTHER Swiss man is a multiple slam winner, as well.

A single slam win might be a fluke. Two is not.

As for Djokovic, he NEEDED to win this title. Sure, he's still having a superior season, and this is his first loss in twenty-nine matches. He'll still be the favorite to win in BOTH London and New York, too. He's the unquestioned #1, but not winning today may have cost him his seat at the table of history somewhere down the line. A Grand Slam season is something that neither Federer nor Nadal will be able to claim once their careers have wrapped. 2015 may have been Djokovic's best chance to pull it off. He still could win three slams in a season for the season time in his career, but that's only enough to get a mention ALONG WITH Roger and Rafa. A subversive "numbers guy" case cannot be made for him to be a true "equal" without it. At least not at this point.

He'll likely complete his Career Slam in Paris, possibly as soon as next year. Though you have to think that if Nadal is going to ever get #10 it might be in 2016, after having gone out the way he did at this event. But Djokovic's consummate take down of the Spaniard last week in Paris ultimately went for naught. It's lost to history. A footnote. It could have been the linchpin in his calling card for greatness.

Now it's just a nice victory, and will forever be seen as more of a comment on the state of Nadal than that of the Serb. It's a shame, really.

But, hey, congrats to Stan. He truly was The Man on Chatrier on this day.



...SOMEONE WAS EXCITED: Even if he mispelled "holy." Well, unless there's actually a cow in Switzerland named Holly, I mean.


Well, at least we won't see any copycats at Wimbledon.


#8 Stan Wawrinka/SUI def. #1 Novak Djokovic/SRB 4-6/6-4/6-3/6-4

#1 Serena Williams/USA def. #13 Lucie Safarova/CZE 6-3/6-7(2)/6-2

#3 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA) def. #1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) 6-7(5)/7-6(5)/7-5

#7 Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE) def. #12 Dellacqua/Shvedova (AUS/KAZ) 3-6/6-4/6-2

#2 Mattek-Sands/M.Bryan (USA/USA) def. Hradecka/Matkowski (CZE/POL) 7-6(3)/6-1

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

#12 Paula Badosa Gibert/ESP def. #16 Anna Kalinskaya/RUS 6-3/6-3

Lopez San Martin/Munar (ESP/ESP) def. #4 Blumberg/Paul (USA/USA) 6-4/6-2

#1 Kolodziejova/Vondrousova (CZE/CZE) def. #6 Dolehide/Stewart (USA/USA) 6-0/6-3

#1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN def. #2 Stephane Houdet/FRA 6-1/6-0

#2 Jiske Griffioen/NED def. Aniek Van Koot/NED 6-0/6-2

#2 Kunieda/Reid (JPN/GBR) def. Fernandez/Peifer (ARG/ARG) 6-1/7-6(1)

#2 Griffioen/Van Koot (NED/NED) def. #1 Kamiji/Whiley (JPN/GBR) 7-6(1)/3-6 [10-8]

25...Roger Federer, SUI (17-8)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
8...Andy Murray, GBR (2-6)
4...Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (2-2)
2...Robin Soderling, SWE (0-2)

25 - Roger Federer (17-8)
20 - Rafael Nadal (14-6)
19 - Ivan Lendl (8-11)
18 - Pete Sampras (14-4)
17 - Rod Laver (11-6)
16 - Bjorn Borg (11-5)
16 - Ken Rosewall (8-8)

2011 Rafael Nadal def. Roger Federer 7-5,7-6,5-7,6-1
2012 Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic 6-4,6-3,2-6,7-5
2013 Rafael Nadal def. David Ferrer 6-3,6-2,6-3
2014 Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic 3-6,7-5,6-2,6-4
2015 Stan Wawrinka def. Novak Djokovic 4-6/6-4/6-3/6-4

5 - Roger Federer (3-2)
4 - Andy Murray (2-2)
3 - David Ferrer (3-0)
3 - Kei Nishikori (2-1)
3 - Tomas Berdych (0-3)

All for now.

Read more!