Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wk.29- Mayer Sails Maiden Voyage into Top 30

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

There is a phrase used in sporting circles. It is especially heard in British soccer where certain teams with a long period of dominance used it. It means right now we suck but we have not always stunk and there will again come a time when we will not stink. The Boston Celtics, Pittsburgh Steelers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Knicks, White Sox and Marlins are all good examples of this adage. This is that saying:

There have always been four nations at the heart of tennis. In a nice symmetry, they each got a slam. Yes, they are the four nations who have generated the most players, the nations who usually have multiple female and male players in the upper echelons.

From Pierce to Davenport to Court to Murray to Laver to Wade to Leconte to Henman to Mauresmo to Stosur to Tsonga to Sampras to Rosewall to Connors to Lloyd to Agassi to Goolagong [Cawley] to McEnroe to Emerson to Smith to Teacher to Noah to Gerulaitis to Newcombe to Courier to Tauziat to Seles to Reid to Barker to Navratilova to Ashe to Rusedski to Rafter to Roddick to Cash to Bartoli to the Williams sisters to Mandlikova to Capriati to Julie Halard-Decugis to the Bryans to Grosjean and to Hewitt.

Yes I have missed out some and, yes, I didn’t really even touch on doubles. But my point is obvious and it stands. These four nations have been there and they have dominated. Yes, of course there have been challengers and they have even stuck around for a while. But few have managed to stick around for a while in both the men’s and women’s games. Spain has managed it and so have Switzerland. The Czechs, too, and the Germans have managed sustained challenges. The Russians are worth a mention, spearheaded by a brother-sister team. Argentina has also challenged in both, as has Italy. These nations have come and gone, however. But the "big four" could not be dominant forever. Yes, their stranglehold looks as if it is slipping, but since the turn of this decade [2010] ten slams out of thirty-four have been won by players from those four countries. There is still a presence, albeit a faint one.

Talking specifically about men’s tennis, in the past fifteen years the hold has weakened. Australian and British tennis has declined whilst since the turn of the decade American tennis has declined, if possible, even more rapidly. French tennis has been in no-man’s land for the past thirty years. It has been neither here nor there; sometimes very good, but always very frustrating. Now, though, a promising crop of Australian and British young talent is coming through. The French as always, have a conveyer belt of mid-level players with a ridiculous, selfish amount of talent but with a baffling lack of success. The Americans are down but they, too, have talent coming through. Australia’s Tomic and the ‘Special K’s’ are here. For the first time in a long while the Australians have swept the men’s doubles and singles in tournaments in back to back weeks. Hewitt is literally passing the baton. He has stuck around long enough to outlive a whole generation of pretty much non-existent Aussie talent and then bought in a second generation. I think that Australian tennis is going to swiftly become a powerhouse carried by the likes of Saville, Kubler, Sanders, Kokkinakis, Tomic, and Barty to name but a few.

But enough of my talking. Stuff happened this week.

S: Leonardo Mayer d. David Ferrer 6-7(3)/6-1/7-6(4)
D: Draganja/Mergea d. Peya/Soares

S: Bernard Tomic d. Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5)/3-6/7-6(4)
D: Groth/Guccione d. Barrientos/Cabal

...The courts changing from clay to hard no doubt helped him. It helped him to win and it helped him to move 54 places in the rankings, back up to 70. It seems he is trying to outdo Kyrgios. They have two contrasting styles and two contrasting careers so far. Tomic is a press favorite, Kyrgios the anonymous one. You would’ve had to have been paying attention to see Kyrgios coming but with Tomic the sound of the hurricane alerted us. Here is one of my favorite Tomic related articles.

But that is enough of Tomic’s fabulous hat. I have a Boston Red Sox hat which I love and would happily talk about. I also have a Roger Federer hat which I would just love to talk on and on about. I am not here to talk about the exciting world of hats, sadly. I am here to talk about what goes on in the mysterious and intriguing ATP tour. And nobody is more mysterious than Tomic. Tomic is the one who talks the talk but cannot necessarily walk the walk. Tomic is the one who is a world-beater in January but as soon as we move away from his homeland [and mine] suddenly starts to struggle. He struggled, too, here in Colombia. Title-less since winning in Sydney [Sydney and Boston are probably my two favorite cities] Tomic came in unseeded and in bad form. If you aren’t seeded in a tournament where the fifth seed is ranked outside the top fifty either you’re injured, out of form or you’re playing at my kind of standard. Tomic opened up by easing past Dustov 6-3/6-3. The Uzbeki number two did not quite have enough game to prevail this time. Tomic landed the fifth seed himself, Colombian Falla, but was not troubled. He cruised through the first set 6-1 before Alejandro began to find some answers. The second set went to a breaker but Tomic won it handily 7-2. Next up for the young Aussie was Pospisil. Pospisil has just begun to find form and he would surely trouble Tomic. Apparently not. Tomic needed just two breaks to seal it 6-4/6-4. Next he faced Estrella Burgos and won after exchanging three breakers with the Dominican number one. Then he beat Karlovic in another third set breaker. In two finals he has beaten two big servers. Clearly he knows how to diffuse them. Tomic will start the US Open trail with a bit of form, which is always a positive.
...I have resigned myself to the fact I will be talking about Spaniards a lot. Basically Ferrer has sort of righted the ship. He has improved from two disappointing slam campaigns and has also, you feel, gotten back a bit of form. One feels now that he can use this to gain confidence and move on from there. He should not play so many events, but that’s none of my business, as Kermit would say.
...Mayer is a journeyman and a good one at that, a solid one at that. He has been a Davis cup stalwart and has missed just two slams since the 2009 French Open. This year he has had a career best performance at all three of the slams we have had so far. If he achieves his seeding at the US Open he will make it four. He has more than 2 million dollars in prize money and also has a doubles title, back home in Argentina. He has showed the depth of men’s tennis in the past two slams. He has showed how somebody ranked as low as he is can do well in a slam. He made the third round of the French and then played the highest level he could against Rafa. He lost the second set 7-5 and that was a pretty strong showing but, really, he was dismissed. Then he goes to Wimbledon and he makes the fourth round before being dismissed again. It’s clear he is not at the level of the top players but he is at the level of the top thirty players. He is having a banner year and, after losing in Chile in the final in February, he has finally won his first title. Not seeded here, he defeated Gojowczyk with ease 6-3/6-2. Perhaps the firepower the German has was diluted by the clay. Next Mayer won two breakers to come through against Garcia-Lopez. Impressively he only dropped four points in those breakers. Next he beat Thiem [the talented future of Austrian tennis] 6-3/6-2. In dismantling Lajovic 6-1/7-5 he had reached the semifinals, having lost zero sets. He was too tough for Kohl, winning 7-5/6-4. And then he beat Ferru in an epic match, 6-7/6-1/7-6. I think he may be the only person to have figured out how to out-grind Ferrer on clay. Kudos needs to be given to Mayer, the Argentine number two. His first ever title was at 500 level. No wonder his fast rise up the rankings. He is up from 46 to 27, 19 places. If he wins a 250, he will be looking at the top twenty, though his view will be from just outside. Win another 500? The top fifteen awaits…
...A top junior, Zverev appears to be making the transition smoothly. He won the junior Aussie Open this year as the top seed. He beat the second seed 6-3/6-0. He has looked very good for a while but sometimes junior success does not translate. Monfils is a good example. He won three junior slams. How many senior slams? Exactly. Edberg was a set away from winning the junior and senior grand slam. Zverev finally showed us how good he can be at this level with a sterling performance. His backhand proved to be a particularly strong shot, especially as a key part of his rather loopy game. He plays very loosely and he moves with so much grace. He also plays fearlessly it seems and the spin he manages to generate is incredible. He dismissed Haase [a good player in his own right] 6-0/6-2, which nobody seemed to pay much attention to. He made us all sit up and take notice, however, when he beat Youzhny 7-5/7-5 in round two. He beat Giraldo in straight sets to follow up with on his win over the fifth seed. He also beat Giraldo in two tight sets [7-6/7-5] but struggled against Kamke. He showed real grit, however, to win in three tight sets. He dropped a bagel in that match but recovered to win anyway. And, yes, he got blown away by Ferrer, but we can forgive him that.
...He has bloomed at age 33 into a top 60 player. The Dominican Republic is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The capital is called Santo Domingo and there are not quite ten million people who live there. Baseball is the chief sport and people do the meringue. They have probably never heard of Bryan Ferry, nor Earth, Wind and Fire. They have had to take independence from both Spain and Haiti [who live next door] but not America despite the fact the yanks are very close -- two hours away by plane. Most importantly, though, David Ortiz was born there. He has made the Red Sox stink just a little less. And believe me they have stunk this season. But, anyway, it is from this paradise that VEB hails. And he does bring a fresh approach to a tennis court. I watched him play at Queens. He is very physically striking and you notice him immediately. He beat Benneteau at Queens by being deceptively good. He honestly does not look like a lot until you see him play. He has a very solid and effective game style. It disrupts an opponent’s rhythm and it also doesn’t seem to go wrong. He is using it to climb slowly up the rankings.
...No, not Gasquet. Yes, the Frenchman is playing poorly but Fognini is playing, if possible, even worse. He lost, as defending champion, in his first match. He also lost to a player outside the top hundred who had to qualify to get into the tournament. An inexperienced opponent, moreover, with no top twenty wins and, probably, no top thirty wins. Fognini lost to this player 6-4/6-0. Yes you heard that right -- four and love. He also karate-kicked his racket and broke it during the match. This guy is now playing like Gonzalez except without the firepower [but nobody has his firepower anymore, so this is excusable] and with the passion. Fognini needs to see a sports shrink. Is that a real thing? If it is he needs to go to one. He knows how to hit all the shots, he just needs to know when to use them. I miss Gonzo. That forehand used to scare even me when I was only watching. Fognini scares me but not with his shot-making. His antics are childish and ridiculous but he has not gone too far. Well, not yet anyway.
...Seed death can be fun. Who remembers Wimbledon’s Whacky Wednesday last year? One expects the seeds to crumble at a WTA event but surely not at an ATP event. I love the WTA. I think both tours are great but some of the top players are susceptible to upsets -- Errani, Kerber, Li, Radwanska and Stosur are all great examples. Heck, why not throw in Serena and Sharapova, too? In the ATP the top seeds usually fare better. Not so in Hamburg. A great number lost one of their first two matches. Most lost in very tight three setters or straight sets. Both are hard to deal with, mentally speaking. Verdasco [9] lost to Brown in a third set breaker in the second round. He led by a set but lost 10-8 in that final set breaker. Fourth seeded Dolgopolov lost 7-5 in the third to Kamke in the third round. Kamke had beaten thirteenth seed Delbonis the round before. Youzhny [5] lost to a seventeen year old in the first round. A seventeen year old who had never won an ATP match before. Robredo [3] fell to Rosol in straight sets in round three. Granollers [8], Garcia-Lopez [10], Berlocq [15] and Fognini [2] all lost in the first round in that bottom quarter. Granollers at least pushed Thiem to three before falling. Hamburg’s top seed did do quite well, but the amount of seeds that lost in the first three days was rather alarming.

TOMIC D. KARLOVIC 7-6/3-6/7-6

...Tomic has really started to work on his serve. The last two matches he played help to push him up to 167 aces for the year. He has played just 20 matches. He is hitting eight aces a match and that is pretty strong going. Karlovic averages easily 17 aces a match. Still Tomic found a way to get past the mean lean serving machine. The Aussie did struggle against Burgos but found a way. He overcame two tough matches to win his second title. Tomic is hitting form at just the right time. He has nothing to defend and a couple of deep runs at the right tournaments and he is back in the top fifty again. He becomes the first Australian man to win in South America since Rosewall in 1968.
...6-7/6-1/ 7-6.
This was another tight final and another match which asks the question, "Where is David Ferrer?" Mayer had two breaks in the first set but could not capitalize. His time would come. Despite being broken whilst serving for it in the third set he came back to win. He demoted Ferru to a finals record of 21-23. Mayer is consistently solid but also possesses weapons and he used these to shock Ferrer. Mayer reached the fourth round of Wimbledon and has now backed that up with a title. It now looks like Mayer is going to be a low seed at the US Open. This final is reflective of his strong form over the past couple of months.
This is disappointing. Gasquet should not lose this match. He should not be losing any kind of match like this. It is very poor from the experienced Frenchman. He needs to work on his comeback from injury a bit more.
Two German wildcards played each other for the right to face Ferrer in the semifinal. Neither had been in a quarterfinal on the ATP this year and the stakes were high. In the end, Zverev’s power was too much for the more experienced German. Both had knocked out two seeds but it would be the seventeen year old who would advance to the semifinal.

Garcia-Lopez [3] d. [1] Youzhny
Thiem [8] d. [2] Granollers
Garcia-Lopez [3] d. [8] Thiem

...Thiem has a serious opportunity here. A questionable Verdasco and an inconsistent Granollers are all that stand in his way. If he plays his best the final surely awaits. As for GGL, he is very good on clay with a great draw. So why not?

Isner [1] d. [3] Monfils
Anderson [2] d. [9] Querrey
Isner [1] d. [2] Anderson

...Out of the last ten years, we have had eight American winners. Combine that with Isner’s great US record and the fact the American has been on form and that is reason enough for me. Expect breakers in this rematch from last year.

Fognini [1] d. [6] Seppi
Cilic [3] d. [2] Robredo
Fognini [1] d. [3] Cilic

...An Italian semifinal sounds good. Seppi has a do-able draw. Cilic will find hot form but eventually be outdone by someone who knows clay better than he does.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wk.28- Hewitt’s Last Hurrah?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The World Cup is finished. Congratulations Germany. You guys really were the best team. In fact, you were frighteningly good. Goodbye to Wimbledon, as well, though not the grass. Not yet.

Who likes old finals? With a combined age of 68, two very old people took to the court and played young tennis on an old tennis court. It was reminiscent of the good old days. Karlovic, now up to 29 in the world, lost to Hewitt, who has risen to 41st in the world. When was the last time they were both seeded at a slam? 2009 US Open. It could happen again, exactly five years after the last time it happened. Also, Federer and Hewitt are back as the respective number one of their nations. So is the norm finally happening again?

I consider any tournament older than 35 years to be respectably venerable. The Hall of Fame Championships are 38 years old this year. Former winners include but are not limited to Teacher, Masur, Paes, Dent, Rusedski [who won it once for Canada and twice for Britain], Philippoussis, Santoro, Isner and Hewitt. The Mercedes Cup is sixty-five. Former winners include von Cramm [aged 45], Drysdale, Emerson, Gerulaitis , Borg, Leconte, Lendl, Mecir, Agassi, Ivanisevic, Stich, Muster, Corretja, Kuerten, Norman, Coria, Nadal, Ferrer, Del Potro and Agut. The Swedish Open is now sixty-six years old. Some of the former winners are Rosewall, Santana, Emerson, Nastase, Orantes, Smith, Borg, Wilander, Sanchez, Norman, Moya, Nadal, Ferrer, Soderling and Cuevas. So we have three historical tennis tournaments with a great list of former champions and three champions from three different backgrounds from three different nations with different careers and career trajectories. Is tennis the most diverse sport?

But enough of my talking, lots of other stuff happened this week...

S: Lleyton Hewitt def. Ivo Karlovic 6-3/6-7/7-6
D: Guccione/Hewitt d. Erlich/Ram

S: Pablo Cuevas def. Joao Sousa 6-2/6-1
D: Brunstrom/Monroe d. Chardy/Marach

S: Roberto Bautista Agut def. Lukas Rosol 6-3/4-6/6-2
D: Kowalczyk/Sitak d. Garcia-Lopez/Oswald

...winning your thirtieth career title and second of the year is impressive. Winning your third doubles title at the same time is also very impressive. In 1998, Hewitt won in Adelaide, beating Stoltenberg in three tight sets. The home crowd was a factor in the match for the South Australian. Enqvist beat him in the final of the same tournament the next year, but Hewitt won in Delray Beach, beating Malisse in the process. Malisse is now retired. His first 29 opponents in finals are all retired. He bested Enqvist in Adelaide in 2000 and won Sydney also that year. He won Queens and Scottsdale in 2000 as well. He was ushering in a new era, one he started almost all on his own [Safin helped] and one he molded. In 2001, he won Sydney and Queens again plus a first title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. He won the US Open, too, and flew out just a couple of hours before all planes were grounded.

Hewitt would go on to win titles in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. He won Sydney so many times. He slowly started to win less and less. He won none in 2008, 2011, 2012 or 2013. He has won two this year and I think he will retire after the Australian next year. I understand the feeling. I always feel different in the country I was born in. I’m an Aussie, too, and I just feel different. I couldn’t explain and I don’t know if it is just me. Hewitt always did very well there. So well you felt the surface didn’t matter. Hewitt was seeded third here. He should have lost to Harrison in the first round -- he was literally hit off the court. He came back like he has done so many times to win 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Next up he faced dangerous qualifier Pavic. Dangerous to some perhaps. Hewitt dropped just four games and moved on. Hewitt was in a bad mood when he faced Sock. He blew the American away 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the final, his first in six months. That’s not a real drought. Just ask Murray. Hewitt scraped past Karlovic and his cannon to win title number two. He is now thirtieth in the race. How’s that?
...I have talked about this man a lot over the past couple of weeks. Not only did he win the title but he also became the third ranked Spaniard. That is a fantastic achievement. I am going to be talking about Spaniards again below. I am bored of talking about Spaniards. Where have all the Russians gone?
...this man has never won a match at a slam. He has only qualified thrice. He has an 8-13 record in singles and 6-8 record in doubles. He has no titles. Until March of this year he had never even won a challenger. He has never been in the world’s top hundred until now. He lost the match he hit the fastest serve ever in. He was married to someone even more erratic than himself (Jarmila Gajdosova), though more talented. He's been winning futures for so long one has to wonder when he is going to achieve this bright future. Here was a man who always seemed to run into a seed in the slams when he did manage to qualify. And this man, this journeyman, this journeyman of journeymen. This man with the big serve and seemingly nothing else has finally made a run. He dismissed Young in round one. He then beat Jaziri, but needed a pair of breakers. He rolled past Mahut 6-3, 6-4 to make his maiden semifinal. It was not to be but it was a great tournament nonetheless. He did not lose a set all the way to losing to an even bigger server. Groth moves on now, full of confidence. And he should be confident. He has nothing to defend and he has hit form. He should aim for the top 60 next.
...a first time titlist at the age of 28. The man born on the first of January has finally won one and it was on clay, wouldn’t you know. Cuevas has always been dangerous on clay, though questionable elsewhere. He has a game suited for the dirt. He has a game that is perfect for winning on the dirt though he did need help from the draw, but then again who doesn’t? Look at Bartoli winning Wimbledon last year. Did she play anyone ranked higher than twenty? No. Did she play whoever was in front of her? Yes. Did she get an enormous slice of luck? Yes, of course she did.
Cuevas was much the same here but on a smaller scale. He eased passed Chardy 6-2, 6-2. The good form was not to be continued, however. He struggled past Lindell [a Swedish wildcard] in over two and a half hours 4-6, 6-2, 7-6. It looked as if Verdasco would simply sweep him aside. Nope. Cuevas won the first set breaker 8-6 and never looked back, taking the second set 6-3. Once in the final he decided to dominate and did so. He demoralized Sousa [in his second final] 6-2, 6-1. It was an incredible performance, a far cry from his struggles with Lindell. Cuevas rose to about sixty in the world.
...he won this title at Queens, too. Lopez is putting together quite a year, especially for a vet. He should have played on the grass. For a veteran that was not an experienced decision. It used to be Lopez was dangerous at every tournament. It used to be Lopez could string together months of consistent play and push even the best to the very limit. It used to be that Lopez could out serve anybody and volley in a god-like manner. It used to be his serve was nigh on unbreakable and he would win epic five set matches and only break serve once. It used to be that forehand could always find your backhand. It used to be he was one of the best all-courters in the world. It used to be was not only an incredibly gifted player but also incredibly gifted in the hair department. It used to be he was the best lefty Spaniard on hard courts. But ‘used to be's’ don't count anymore, they just lay on the floor until we sweep them away.
...by all means, have a poor Wimbledon. By all means, make it plain just how much you want to get back on the dirt. But then why would you, once you are back on the dirt, decide to crash out? Ferrer inexplicably lost 6-3, 6-3 to Berlocq. No fight, no resistance. The only question that remains is does he deserve an E or an F?
...Isner is having a banner year. A return to the top ten is the jewel in his 2014 thus far. Title number eight was also acquired, and title number two off US soil and number two on New Zealand soil. He also had a career performance at the French [fourth round] not to mention a third round performance at Wimbledon. He lost to Lopez there, an acceptable loss. Isner eased past Odesnik and Krajicek without looking troubled. He was laughing and joking with Sock before the match. Then the men’s doubles titlist won the first set 6-4. He and Isner held all the way to a breaker which Sock won 7-4. Sock had not read the script and Isner was sent packing.

I have officially given up writing out the Spaniard’s name in full. Anyway he ground out the in-form Rosol. Despite Rosol hitting some big shots and threatening to make it go the distance, Agut held firm. The Spaniard had never been to a final before 2013 and now he has won two and even been to the fourth round of a slam. He is up to eighteenth in the world. It is an impressive late career ‘bloom’ so to speak. It echoes of Benneteau except the Spaniard actually knows how to win titles. Expect the Spaniard to win a third title this year and excel in the remaining Masters.
...6-3/6-7/ 7-6.
Being a foot smaller than his opponent appeared not to affect Hewitt a great deal. This classic huge server versus great returner battle could have gone either way. After breaking once and holding on to take the first, Karlovic decided to serve even bigger. It worked. He won the second set breaker 7-4. He dragged the match into a third set breaker. Hewitt managed to win that 7-3 and win his second title of the year. Hewitt is now fourth all time with regards to grass court titles won, with eight. McEnroe also has eight but Connors has nine with Sampras just ahead on ten. Federer has fourteen. How in the heck is anyone going to catch him? Even with the expanded grass ‘swing’ that looks like an impossible record to break.
...7-6 /6-3.
Olivo came through qualifying as the fifth seed. Renzo was 282 in the world. When the 282nd best player in the world is being seeded fifth in the qualifying the standard of the qualies is low. Olivo dismissed fourth seed Zopp 6-2, 6-2. Olivo then won his first round when Mathieu retired. He snuck the first set against Robredo 8-6 in the breaker. He just got better and better. He broke four times in the end. Robredo had been made to look his age.
Why on earth Lopez elected not to play on grass I will never know. He did not play well against Traver in the second round and was then not at his best against Rosol in the quarterfinals. He has only himself to blame.

Gasquet [1] d. Tomic
Karlovic [2] d. [4] Stepanek
Gasquet [1] d. [2] Karlovic

...The field here is weaker than bad instant coffee. Gasquet is the only player who has been to more than one slam quarterfinal. He is by far and away the best player here. I should not be so cautious about picking him and yet I am.

Ferrer [1] d. [4] Dolgopolov
Fognini [2] d. [3] Robredo
Fognini [2]d. [1] Ferrer

...With Ferrer in bad form, the rest of the field will all have a chance to win. It is a very talented field, too.

Now it’s goodbye to grass....

Thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Djokovic Done with Drought, Wins #7

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

This is my last slam post for a while. Well, it feels like a while, but it will go by oh so quickly. In fact, the US Open is already talking about the women’s dark horses. Too soon, US Open, too soon -- 49 days as I write this.

The top seeds played the twelfth seeds in the Wimbledon doubles semifinals, but when those twelfth seeds are Mahut/Llodra the seedings don’t matter. The Bryans, however, decided that it didn’t matter what their pedigree was. They needed 53 minutes to win the opening set in the breaker [7-4] and there were signs it might be a close match. They took the next two 6-3/6-2 in a combined 53 minutes. With fifteen winners and just one error they were supreme throughout. They had nine aces in there, too. The Bryans ended up running away with what could be Llodra’s final hurrah. Mahut has now reached the semifinals or better at all four whilst Llodra has won three and been to the final of them all at least once except for the US Open. Wouldn’t it be fitting for him to make the final of the US Open?

Meanwhile the fifth seeds [Stepanek/Paes] had a fairly straightforward task. Beat the boys who came from nowhere. They merely had to beat ‘Popsocks’ to make the final. It sounded easy, but it would not prove to be so. As it turned out, the fifth seeds would get swept. In a very tight three setter, the North Americans came through in two hours and twenty 7-6/6-3/6-4. They broke four times on their way to an historic victory. Popsocks serve big and hit huge winners. They go for a lot because they have nothing to lose.

Surely the free swinging underdogs would lose to the Bryans. Surely they would falter here. They split two tiebreakers, neither of which were close. After about an hour and a half or so, it was best of three. The "nobody’s" had even taken the first set against the "somebody’s" and that in itself was a big surprise. Then the underdogs took the second 6-4. In the match, they broke thrice whilst their opponents could only do so twice. The Bryans struck back as everyone knew they would. They took the fourth by six games to three. They won more points in the match [165-162] but it would do them no good in the end as they lost in the final set, succumbing 7-5. It took three hours and six minutes but we have our champions, who blasted 27 aces [and 39 total winners] on their way to victory over the favored partnership.

...The problem with being a fan of a player in an individual sport is that they come and go. Supporting a team is easy [certain teams are exempt -- Cubs, Bills, Maple Leafs etc.] but supporting a particular players is not. Even in team sports supporting a player is difficult. It’s difficult to watch them become old; it’s difficult to watch them get beaten after giving everything. Do I dislike Djokovic? No. Do I respect him? Yes. His movement, his backhand... they are incredible shots and I am constantly in awe of him. The way he moves, the way he can reach balls he has no right to. His defense and retrieval skills are second to none. And yet I can’t fall in love with his game. I think he has developed a game which has so few gaps and is easily good enough to obliterate just about anyone in his path, but it’s too machine-like. That is a good thing -- winning must be achieved no matter the cost. However I almost think Djokovic would be even better if he made his game a little bit more varied. He smothered Raonic in the semifinals and Federer in the finals. Nobody strangles and suffocates quite like Djokovic on a tennis court. Federer stole the first set a little against the run of play. Djokovic broke early and hung on. Djokovic then [with the help of some suspect line decisions and bad calls from the umpire] took the third in a breaker. He soon led 5-2 and was so close. But no. Federer came up with more magic and took five games in a row. We were going five, but could Federer’s body hold up? No, as it turned out. Djokovic wore him into the grass and broke at the right moment to take the fifth set by 6 games to four with more great play. Three minutes shy of four hours was how long it took the Djoker to come through 6-7/6-4/7-6/5-7/6-4. There were seven breaks in this match that twisted and turned. Federer hit 29 aces and 29 errors but he hit 75 winners overall. Federer’s 29 aces means he has hit the fifth most aces in the tournament with 98. It is an impressive tally. Alas and alack, for ‘twas not enough. Djokovic is the master of grass and sure the Wimbledon/US double is now on his radar.

Players I was impressed with:

Djokovic [A+]... He has won Wimbledon twice now. That is such an impressive record on his worst surface. Nadal is making sure the French continues to elude him. Djokovic did not look convincing. In fact, he may not even have been the best player but he was the winner and that stat is the most important. Wherever he is now, he is smiling. World number one and Wimbledon champion? Oh yes, he’ll be smiling.

Pospisil/Sock [A] for flying the flag. Canada was the most successful country at Wimbledon. This team went mostly unnoticed until it was too late. That doubles final was an instant classic.

Kyrgios [A] He dismissed Nadal and then did very well against Raonic, nearly taking him to five. And all that after saving nine match points against a great grass courter in Gasquet. Here is something from Kyrgios’ Facebook that clearly illustrates his rise. It is his first time in the top 100.

Ivanesevic went up 109 spots after winning Wimbledon. The largest ever jump? Well, according to the ATP:
“He reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals (via wild card) only three weeks after surgery. He went from 413 to 99 following Wimbledon on the ATP computer, the biggest one-tournament jump of any player since the rankings began in 1973.”
I am not sure about the Aussie changing coaches, though. Hmmmm.

Gulbis [A] for being himself and somehow still winning.

Raonic [A] for that serve. Nothing has looked so beautiful or so deadly since, well, Sigourney Weaver in space.

Wawrinka [B] Solid performance from the Swiss, meeting his seeding and having a career best performance were both very impressive achievements.

Bryans [B-] they look to be back, but after winning three slams last year they haven’t won any since then. In fact, this was their first slam final since last year’s Wimbledon.

Federer [B] In a way, I am more impressed with Federer than Djokovic. Federer was the best player of the Championships, but Djokovic deserved to win the final. Federer is still here despite it all. That is an amazing achievement.

Players who have work to do:

Nadal [C+] Nadal made the fourth round on his worst surface. He had a horrible draw, a truly appalling, horrible draw. He navigated it successfully, pulling several Houdini acts only to be outclassed in the end.

Ferrer [D] Losing to Kuznetsov in the first round in five? That is unacceptable at the best of times. Losing to him at the biggest event of the year, an event, moreover, that Ferrer has made back to back quarterfinals at is almost criminal. Ferrer has a little time to enjoy the clay before he is forced onto the punishing hard courts of North America.

Murray [D] 0 sums up his year -- it is the number of top ten players he has beaten this year. It is also how many titles he has won. It is also the amount of finals he has been to since winning here last year. Before he lost his match there was apparently an incident. He was seen shouting at his box in the third set "five minutes before the fu--ing match" and his girlfriend later left alone. I’m not one for gossip and whatnot, but the British press has opinions.

Fabio Fognini [F-] He already has two 'F's and he has earned a third with that performance. Yes, that was my diagnosis for the French and it remains the same except this time he gets a fabulous F-.

Richard Gasquet [F-] 9 match points 9. Has he heard of this thing called a ‘return’?

Isner [1] d. [4] Wawrinka
Mahut [4] d. [2] Karlovic
Isner [1] d. [4] Mahut

...This is grass. And it is grass on American soil. Isner will therefore defeat Mahut.

Fognini [1] d. [3] Bautista-Agut
Kohlschreiber [5] d. Monaco
Fognini [1] d. [5] Kohlschreiber

Ferrer [1] d. [5] Sousa
Robredo [2] d. [3] Verdasco
Ferrer [1] d. [2] Robredo

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Wimbledon Men's Final: The Survivors

At the end of a Wimbledon that was highlighted by the emergence of a new generation of stars, the men's final featured a continuation of what has been "the norm" over the past decade -- another match-up of two men from a small group of elite players who have dominated the sport's major titles for what seems like ages.

Well, if you can call taking 36 of the last 38 slams "dominating" for what seems like "ages." And I think we can.

In the men's final, top-seeded Novak Djokovic faced off with seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, with both men looking for a bit of redemption on a Sunday afternoon in London. Djokovic, the 2011 champ at SW19, came into today having lost in his last three appearances in slam finals, and in five of six over the last three seasons; while Federer, still looking for career major #18 and trying to end a two-year slam title drought since winning at the AELTC in '12, was seeking to extend his amazing era of heroics into an area of a tennis career where few players in the sport have ever thrived. After all, only five times had men older than the 32-year old Swiss legend managed to lift slam singles trophies in the Open era. Yet, here he was... looking for still more.

Federer, who would become the oldest Wimbledon men's champion in the Open era with a victory (topping the run by a 31-year old Arthur Ashe in 1975), has been written off by some as a continued slam contender more times than one can count over the last few seasons, only to win #17 and briefly return to the top ranking just the year before last. But after an early exit at Roland Garros, the whispers grew louder even as the Swiss legend got an early start on his grass court preparation. As it turned out, he seemed to turn back the clock at the All-England Club over the past two weeks, serving as well as he has in years and easily putting young up-and-comers in their place en route to his record twenty-fifth appearance in a slam final.

Time has been infringing on the property of the 27-year old Serb, as well. Set to soon join Federer as the only members of the "Big 4" who have dominated the men's game over the past decade to become a married man and, in a few months, a father for the first time, Djokovic came to Wimbledon off yet another failed attempt to complete a Career Slam in Paris, being unable to take out Rafa Nadal in the final as the Spaniard claimed career Roland Garros crown #9. After fighting to escape his early-career label of a player who couldn't win the big match, Djokovic's recent slam results were bringing back a slew of bad memories, even if he IS still a player against whom no lead is safe, and no close match isn't capable of being taken over by the six-time slam champ down the stretch. Just ask Grigor Dimitrov, Djokovic's fallen semifinal opponent. Looking to make a '14 slam stand at Wimbledon, even before his loss to Nadal last month, the Serb brought former Wimbledon champ Boris Becker on as his "head coach," seeking to utilize the history of big match prowess sported by the Hall of Fame German at the AELTC (he won three Wimbledon titles) to help him get "over the hump" and return to the top of the men's game.

In just the second slam final match-up ('07 U.S.) between the two, Federer played as well as he has in years at the All-England Club, maybe even better than he did while winning the final over Andy Murray in '12. Still, he had a hard time shaking Djokovic. In the 1st set, which was ultimately decided in a tie-break, Federer saved two set points before converting the first of his own to take the TB 9-7 and grab the lead in the match. After Djokovic took the 2nd set at 6-4, Federer put on a serving display of great mastery in the 3rd, firing in thirteen aces in the set. Still, it wasn't enough, as the Serb went a third straight set without dropping serve in the final and took a 7-4 TB to edge ahead in the match.

In the 4th, Djokovic looked ready to close out his second Wimbledon title, getting a break to go up 4-2 and then serving for the title at 5-3. But Federer broke his serve for the second time in the set, putting away a forehand winner into the open court as Djokovic slipped and fell behind the baseline. A game later, Djokovic held a match point, only to see Federer save it with an ace -- ruled his point via a replay challenge -- and hold, and then break the Serb yet again, on his third break point of the game after having taken a 40/love lead on Djokovic's serve. Suddenly looking the fresher of the two men, Federer was in control, with the Centre Court crowd decidedly on his side, as he closed out a 7-5 set and forced a deciding 5th set.

Djokovic, 2-0 vs. Federer in five-set matches, led 2-1 in the 5th when he called for a trainer to look at the calf he'd injured in game #3. After the break, the Serb seemed to be refreshed, or maybe pain-free, down the stretch. Federer held a BP at 3-3, but Djokovic held. After falling down 15/40, Federer saved three BP in game #8, holding the final one with a masterful half-volley that barely cleared the net, to which Djokovic raced to collect the ball and scoop it back, only to see the Swiss precisely angle a backhand volley that the Serb couldn't get back. Federer held for 4-4, but at 15/15 a game later, he failed to put away a leaping overhead that might have given him the momentum to take control in the closing moments. Instead, Djokovic held as the 35th match-up between the two men became their longest ever, edging past 3:50.

In the tenth game of the set, Djokovic went up 30/love on Federer's serve then reached his second MP when a Federer forehand went long. A netted backhand quickly ended things as the Serb grabbed career slam win #7 with a 6-7(7)/6-4/7-6(4)/5-7/6-4 victory.

Federer isn't going anywhere, as he made crystal clear in his post-match comments. And the game he displayed in London makes it easy to believe he still might be able to make room for a future 18th slam trophy on his mantle, after all. But Djokovic's staying power likely will be longer lasting.

In this era of Roger and Rafa (and, to a lesser degree, Andy Murray), Djokovic will always be a "third wheel" in the minds of many, but he's still managed to put together a career that would rank as one of the all-time best, even with such fierce competition standing guard at the four majors over the last decade. Djokovic has now won as many slam crowns as John McEnroe, and he now stands just one behind Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi. Just beyond that? The likes of Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver. And, remember, the Serb is still the youngest spoke in the "Big 4" wheel and will likely be the last of the group to still be winning slam titles a few seasons from now. Well, I guess we can't rule out Rafa winning in Paris even as he creeps into his 30's... but Novak would surely be able to swipe ONE RG crown from the Spaniard's grasp at some point, right? Come tomorrow, Djokovic is back in #1 ranking, knocking Nadal off the top perch, and could be coming to New York as the favorite to win there.

The NextGen is barking at the door, but the current owners of the ATP home aren't ready to sell. Not yet.

To be continued in NYC...

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

Vacek Pospisil/Jack Sock (CAN/USA) def. #1 Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA/USA) 7-6(5)/6-7(3)/6-4/3-6/7-5

#15 Samantha Stosur/Nenad Zimonjic (AUS/SRB) def. #14 Chan Hao-Ching/Max Mirnyi (TPE/BLR) 6-4/6-2

(Q) Noah Rubin/USA def. #6 Stefan Kozlov/USA 6-4/4-6/6-0

#3 Orlando Luz/Marcelo Zormann (BRA/BRA) def. #1 Stefan Kozlov/Andrey Rublev (USA/RUS) 6-4 3-6 8-6

#1 Stephane Houdet/Shingo Kunieda (FRA/JPN) def. #2 Maikel Scheffers/Ronald Vink (NED/NED) 5-7/6-0/6-3

2003 Roger Federer, SUI
2004 Roger Federer, SUI
2005 Roger Federer, SUI
2006 Roger Federer, SUI
2007 Roger Federer, SUI
2008 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2009 Roger Federer, SUI
2010 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2011 Novak Djokovic, SRB
2012 Roger Federer, SUI
2013 Andy Murray, GBR
2014 Novak Djokovic, SRB

17...Roger Federer *
14...Rafael Nadal *
14...Pete Sampras
12...Roy Emerson
11...Bjorn Borg
11...Rod Laver
10...Bill Tilden
8...Andre Agassi
8...Jimmy Connors
8...Ivan Lendl
8...Fred Perry
8...Ken Rosewall
8...Max Decugis
7...Henri Cochet
7...Rene Lacoste
7...Bill Larned
7...John McEnroe
7...John Newcombe
7...William Renshaw
7...Richard Sears
7...Mats Wilander
* - active

25...ROGER FEDERER, SUI (17-8)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
7...Andy Murray, GBR (2-5)
4...Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (2-2)
[Open Era]
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)

1998 Roger Federer, SUI
1999 Jurgen Melzer, AUT
2000 Nicolas Mahut, FRA
2001 Roman Valent, SUI
2002 Todd Reid, AUS
2003 Florin Mergea, ROU
2004 Gael Monfils, FRA
2005 Jeremy Chardy, FRA
2006 Thiemo de Bakker, NED
2007 Donald Young, USA
2008 Grigor Dimitrov, BUL
2009 Andrey Kuznetsov, RUS
2010 Marton Fucsovics, HUN
2011 Luke Saville, AUS
2012 Filip Peliwo, CAN
2013 Gianluigi Quinzi, ITA
2014 Noah Rubin, USA

2004 Lleyton Hewitt, AUS
2005 Andy Roddick, USA
2006 Andy Roddick, USA
2007 Roger Federer, SUI *
2008 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2009 Sam Querrey, USA
2010 Andy Murray, GBR
2011 Mardy Fish, USA
2012 Novak Djokovic, SRB
2013 Rafael Nadal, ESP
* - also won U.S. Open title

"Wimbledon By the Numbers," courtesy of Wimbledon Debenture Holders. Click on image for larger version.

All for now.

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Wimbledon: The Final 2

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

It is Federer/Djokovic in the final. I am going to talk about three of their previous matches from a position of unbias. Well, I will attempt to. Is "unbias" a word? I am sure it is. The problem with being a Federer fan is that I tend to be irritating. I know we are an annoying bunch. In fact, I can't stand certain Federer fans, but that is by the by. They have not always endured the best relationship. I will let Federer tell you all about it:

"I was just upset at him calling the trainer out for no obvious reason against my buddy, Stan, in a five setter," said Federer. "That was it. We had a quick chat about it in Madrid after that, and things are cool since a long time between me and him. I've always respected him. Have I gone out for dinner with him? No. But we have had many meetings at the players council, and then now with the grand slams. He's been nice to work with. We've met on several occasions because of other things together. I have no issues with him, and I hope you believe me."

The first one... Monte Carlo 2006. Federer defeated Djokovic 6-3/2-6/6-3 in one hour and forty-nine minutes. As a qualifier, Djokovic was dangerous, especially on clay. Federer went on to lose in four to Nadal in the final. Djokovic had beaten Bollelli and Zimonjic in straights to qualify. Who would have thought this would soon become one of the premier rivalries in the sport. It was full of long rallies and classic clay courting nous. Federer had a lull in the second but was too good in the first and third sets. It was a decent start to a classic rivalry but there was nothing to suggest just how big a rivalry it would become. Djokovic would go on to make the final of three tournaments -- the Dutch Open, Metz and Umag. He won two. He had a successful year, especially considering it was his first on the tour. He would slowly rise in 2007. Then suddenly he would shoot to the top and form "The Big 3." Who can forget all those years he was ranked 3-4?

The day the streak was broken: French Open 2011. A Federer supposedly on the way out outdoes Djokovic 7-6/6-3/3-6/7-6 in three hours and thirty-nine minutes. Their third-longest match and the longest outside of the US Open by some forty minutes. It can be summed up by this.

Federer's eerie calm throughout the match punctuated by moments of fiery passion proved too much for Djokovic. 43 matches in a row Djokovic won. Not even Nadal could solve him. It took Federer to finally beat him on his second-worst surface. Djokovic would go on to win the US Open to complete the three-peat. He would not get the Serena-Slam but he did win three in year. Federer would go on to have the worst year of his career.
In the match, Federer proved to be, if possible, almost more agile than Djokovic. His forehand was excellent and his defensive play was better than it had ever been. Djokovic did not know how to handle Federer. Federer aged pretty well but can you imagine if Federer had aged like Tina Turner? He'd be winning slams aged forty.

That forehand: US Open 2011. Djokovic won through 6–7/4-6/6-3/6–2/7–5 in three hours and fifty-one minutes. This was their longest match. Some say the forehand was skill, some say luck. I think it as desperation and I also think Djokovic thought he was finished. He just took a swing. He had given in. It could have gone anywhere. He essentially said "I don't really care," but then it landed in and it changed maybe the careers of both. Federer lead 5-3, 40/15 in that fifth set. The maestro could not close it out. Djokovic was out-classed here. Federer showed in the slams that year he was better than Djokovic over five. Federer would go on to have a stellar 2012 and reclaim the number one ranking. He could reclaim the number one ranking again this year. He would need a lot of luck, but he could do it. Djokovic has not looked the same since 2011. Maybe players have started to figure out how to play him. Maybe he just hasn't been able to recapture the magic. Who knows if he will ever win another slam?

But there were semifinals on Friday in several disciplines...

...Guess who get sent back to school. It was a grass court master class from the greatest grass player ever. Federer showed Raonic how one plays on grass. He showed the youngster that he is 32 years young. That is the best grass court match I have seen Federer play since 2008, I think. Perhaps the most flawless. Raonic was a bit nervous, yes, but he would not have beaten Federer in that mood. He won 6-4/6-4/6-4. The first two sets both took 34 minutes. The third was much quicker at 33 minutes. An hour and forty minutes of subtle demolition. Federer's defense was incredible. I love his chip return. Yes, it pales to near insignificance when compared to more aggressive returns. I think it is so old-school and it works so well against just about everybody. The other thing that was oh so impressive -- Federer's up the line backhand. Time and again Raonic would be sitting comfortably in the left hand corner hammering at Federer's backhand inside out. Then Federer would just redirect it down that wing. It wouldn't be too hard or too quick, just enough for the winner. A fantastic percentage shot and far away from the lines. He can use that against Djokovic. Raonic went 36-17 in the winners with 17 aces thrown in. Federer managed just 32-11 with 6 aces only. The stats say Raonic looked good. That's because he was dominant on a lot of his service games. Federer just picked his moments. Here is a stat that shows you what really happened -- Federer had to save one break point and did so. Raonic had to save seven and did so four times. I have also stolen data from Wimbledon to present to you in a table like fashion:

1st Serves in: (Federer) 52/80 = 65%; (Raonic) 46/84 = 55%
1st Serve pts won: (Federer) 42/52 = 81%; (Raonic) 37/46 = 80%
2nd Serve pts won: (Federer) 19/28 = 68%; (Raonic) 19/38 = 50%

Raonic may well make the semifinals of the US Open. He may well win the whole thing. Tomorrow, however, is not to be his day.
...Dimitrov had it. He had the fourth set and then he didn't. Dimitrov played a fairly good match he just did not quite get over the hill this time. After losing the first set and being very nervy during it, Dimi improved. The hunk managed to take the second set. From there it became a three set match. And Djokovic needed two breakers to triumph. On another day he might not have. Yes, there were some very bad games from Dimitrov [three doubles to go down love/40] but he really acquitted himself well. In the end, Djokovic proved to be too good. Down 6-3 in that breaker he won it 9-7. He was mentally strong enough to win the breaker despite having one of his match points saved. Djokovic looked a little off the pace. Grass is his worst surface, he just outstrips such a large majority of the field so it becomes irrelevant. If he played a Kohlschreiber or a Petzschner or a Roddick early on he would really struggle. Stepanek nearly took him to five. Djokovic will use his backhand up the line to out-do Federer. Djokovic has been serving big and that will help him. He served pretty big against Dimitrov -- 17 aces to 15. Djokovic has also been returning well. Surprise, surprise.

I know you want another fun little table. Well here is one.

Winners: (Djokovic) 45; (Dimitrov) 48
Unforced Errors: (Djokovic) 26; (Dimitrov) 33
Total Points Won: (Djokovic) 140; (Dimitrov) 136

Dimitrov will go away in the world's top ten. That will mean he will be consistently a top two seed at 250 tournaments. I think he will win at
least two more titles this year. I think he will crack the top five before the Olympics. I think he will also win a slam before we have a Republican president. Yeah, I know what a bold statement that is. I'm going to go off topic here and say that one of my big fears is the Republicans getting elected again.

Any other notes?

* - Federer's total of 17 grand slams will never be matched if he wins on Sunday. I just don't think anyone will be that dominant again. It can happen in the women's game, but Federer's 2004-2007 sphere of dominance was almost uninterrupted. If Nadal had not been around, it would have been like the Graf or Navratilova days of the WTA.

* - Raonic now has big match experience.There is only one stage bigger than the Wimbledon semi-finals. I think even other grand slam finals may not be of more importance.

* - Dimitrov seems to have no weakness in his game. The double-faults were a little alarming but other than that he seems to have a finely sculpted game style. It seems Sharapova has been working on the mental side.

* - Serena Williams is rumoured to be pregnant. No comment.

* - I like Roger Rasheed. Maybe it is because we both have Australian passports or because he knows his stuff. Can I hire him? To be honest I don't need a coach, I need mental sports therapy. My shot selection is terrible. Ahem.

* - Jimmy Connors is another great American commentator. Yes, there are some shocking ones, Todd can attest to that [Wickmayer Gate] but there are a lot of fantastic commentators. Navratilova and Connors I like very much, with Chris Evert. My favourite, and it's not close, is Jim Courier. He makes me laugh and he explains the game so clearly. Even my friends who don't know anything about tennis can get a good decent understanding of why Nadal is so dominant on clay.

* - This year marks 50 years since Barbra Streisand sang "People." Yes, that has nothing to do with tennis. Babs has been in showbiz some 65 years. I'd be relatively happy if I lived that long. I found a way it related to tennis:

...My pick? Federer in four. Federer will use his backhand up the line to defeat Djokovic. He will return well and he will attack the net well. I think Djokovic will actually struggle to pass Federer. Djokovic is not a grass courter and Federer will use old school tricks to win through. Federer is old, yes, and he is not as good as he was, yes, but nobody will ever be as good as Federer was. Djokovic will make him run, will make him hit one more ball. I just think an on-sons Federer is too good.

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Wimbledon QF: Guess Who's Back

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Well, we have our doubles and singles semifinalists. Wimbledon sure has gone quickly. It has been a year for the young stars and it has made us wonder such questions as, "Why isn't Bouchard a top five player?" and "What has turned Dimitrov into a fantastic match player?" It has shown us that the future is here and that the future to this future is not yet even playing in junior events. The youngest person ever to win the Orange Bowl [Tiafoe] could be the future. Or his losing opponent could be.

Either way, the 'Big Four' appears to be the 'Medium Four' or perhaps the 'slightly faded Big Four' because there doesn't appear to be anything big or fourish about them at the moment. The biggest tennis tournament in the world and only two of them have made the semifinals with only three making the quarterfinals. Only one of them has made it in convincing fashion. And that one turns 33 later this year. How much power will the big four have by the start of the next Olympic season? That's the one Federer wants. He wants it oh so badly. It's also the one Djokovic wants. So, how many will be around in that Olympics and in what state? Probably in about the same state the stadium will be in.

Paes/Stepanek won the doubles third round. The fifth seeds then dismissed third seeds Nestor/Zimonjic. It took them a shade over two and a half hours to come through 3-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4. The match turned on the breaker which they won 7-5. Nestor/Zimonjic hit 20 winners to five but still lost. 15 aces to 3 to the third seeds who lost in four was another surprising statistic. Despite being more aggressive, the new and strong partnership of Paes/Stepanek was too much. Sock and Pospisil came through against another unseeded pair, Mate and Pavic. They then faced the second seeds. The winner would face the fifth seeds. In a similar scoreline, the North Americans came through 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. The North Americans brought it to the second seeds, hitting fifteen winners. They will face the fifth seeds for a place in the final. In five sets who knows what could happen.

In the other half of the draw, the top seeds were again troubled. in a replica of the Swiss quarterfinal score, the Bryans won 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 with the breaker going to them 8-6. In about two and a quarter hours, the Americans hit 21 aces on their way to a come from behind victory against the ninth seeds. They are now in their tenth Wimbledon semifinal. They have won those semis six times and then the finals three times. So it looks like the Woodies will keep one record. If they win Wimbledon or the US this year, they will have won at least a slam a year since 2005. How's that for dominance? Anyway they will face the tweflth seeds. They won 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours twenty minutes or so. Llodra/Mahut defeated Benneteau/Roger-Vasselin in what could be Llodra's last hurrah.

A lot of very good four set matches on quarterfinal day, then one five set meltdown. All in a day's work for Wimbledon.

But what happened in the rest of the fourth round matches?

CENTRE COURT: FEDERER [4] D. [5] Wawrinka
...No doubt the match of the day. In terms of quality this was the match to watch. For three sets the quality was of the highest standard but Federer just kept his standard consistent and high after being blown away in the first. Wawrinka could not match the consistent brilliance of Federer in those final three sets. Wawrinka ,though, had simply too much power in the opening set. Federer was simply unable to control the power coming off the Swiss number one's racket, especially off that backhand wing. Federer found a way again, however. He began to get back the balls, began to serve and volley. He began to put the seed of doubt into Wawrinka's mind. Then he stole the second on a breaker and slowly began to exert control over his compatriot. More and more of Stan's service games went to deuce. Fed was holding pretty easily. Soon Federer slipped into cruise control and Wawrinka slipped out of the match. Federer eventually cruised to a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Wawrinka complained of feeling unwell during the second set but asked to see the doctor at the end of the set. It was curious. 46 winners to 14 from the Fed with ten aces thrown in for good measure. Wawrinka managed a pretty strong 51-24 but it was his errors that proved to be the first and the last nail in his coffin. Federer managed to find 7 break points and took two. It proved to be enough even though it took Fed a long time to break. Wawrinka managed just one break from four chances. The final game was riddled with break and match points. Federer could not close it out, losing some four match points before finally sealing the deal with the help of a big serve. Wawrinka may prove to be a tougher test than Raonic but there are few easy matches in a grand slam from the fourth round onwards. Federer now plays Raonic. The whole match is going to depend on whether or not Federer can work out a way to return the Raonic serve. I do not think Raonic can beat Federer over five sets. Raonic has pushed Federer close several times, in Madrid and Halle. He has not yet beaten him in best of three. There is nothing to suggest he can do it over five. I will take Federer in four.
...Dimitrov has about 50 ways to hurt you. For most of the match Murray did not know if he was coming or going. Dimitrov ran riot in the match, winning 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 and, yes, the match was as big a thrash as the scoreline suggests. The first and last sets combined lasted an hour but 2nd set with the breaker was 61 minutes long. Murray got only four points in that breaker. Murray did not turn up. He lacked intensity and he just could not find a way. That is a difference between him and Fedalovic. They find a way and they never lack intensity. They find a way to win when playing badly. He does not have that ability. If he is playing badly and the opponent is playing very well he usually struggles to find a way unless the opponent chokes. That is part of the reason he won't make it to number one. He is not quite as good as Fedalovic. Make no mistake. Dimitrov played excellently and Murray played below his best but still decently in patches. Murray went 24-37 in the unforced errors. That really illustrates how badly he was playing. He could not seem to lift himself from the mire. Five aces and five doubles. Dimitrov went 32-18 with ten aces in there, too. Murray broke just once. He only had two chances to do so. Dimitrov went 5 from 9. Dimitrov played well but he will still have to lift his level. Djokovic will not play badly. Roger Rasheed was a great hire. He will give the right help. Dimitrov plays Djokovic. That is a tough assignment to be sure. I think Dimitrov needs to come up with something new, something Djokovic won't be expecting. If I were him I would chip the ball low to the forehand. Dimitrov needs to try to break that wing down if he can. He should also try to attack the second serve of Djokovic. I think Djokovic will win in five but Dimitrov will not choke. Djokovic is going to have to take it from him.
...Raonic won this match not on his serve, which was tremendous, but on his return game. He surprised his opponent with just how well he returned. He didn't quite render the Kyrgios serve useless but he won the return battle. I thought it was going to be an ace fest. It was not the case. It was a tight match and Kyrgios played very well, but Raonic showed the qualities of a champion. He managed to beat an opponent blasting everything, an opponent with nothing to lose. It took him three hours and four minutes to prevail 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6. The breakers were both 7-4 with Kyrgios taking the first against the run of play. Raonic led 6-1 in the final set breaker. He was pegged back but overall played an amazing breaker. He won the aces battle by 39-15. He also hit 73 winners and just 25 aces. The Aussie could only manage 34-22. Raonic played like a champion here. If you can serve forty odd aces you have a chance in any match. He needs to be hitting that against Fed. That is for sure. Raonic also won 37 per cent of his returning points while Kyrgios won just 18. What a returning match. Raonic needs to hit everything to the Federer backhand. He needs to serve and volley. He needs to mix it up. If he is too one or even two-dimensional he is going to be in trouble. He needs to be multidimensional but still solid. He also needs to mix up his serve direction and try to keep the errors low. He and Dimitrov have a tough task to try and take part in the youngest final since 2002.
...Yes I left this match for last. It ends in disappointment. It ends in complete choking and the beginning of the choking was started by the tying of a shoelace. Cilic led the world number one by two sets to one. He had the momentum. Then Djokovic did something unexpected. He changed his shoes. He managed to regain his footing. Then Cilic decided to melt down. He decided that despite the fact he had played amazing tennis for two sets he would just crumble. He saved so many break points in winning that third set -- 6 of 7. Typical Djokovic. Conservative to the last. He broke even going 32 for both errors and winners. Cilic went 42-48. If Cilic had just cut out the errors he might have won. Yes, Djokovic upped his level but Cilic should not have crumbled so easily. Cilic did not even out-ace Djokovic. They both hit ten. Djokovic won 44 per cent of receiving points. That is woeful, especially for such a big server and hitter. Cilic has once again had a big player by the throat, had a chance to prove himself and blown it dramatically. Disappointing. Djokovic plays Dimitrov next and he just has to be solid. He needs to be a wall. If he can be solid and not make errors and make Dimitrov go for his shots he should win. I think he needs to play his own game and not get caught in the trap of trying to beat Dimitrov at his own game. He needs to also use that backhand up the line a lot. I think he will win in five. This match has potential to be the best of the tournament.

Any other notes?

* - In the doubles, the talking and hand slapping happens so often. Does it need to be that frequent? Can it not just be between games? Doubles used to be a really quick sport but now it has slowed down.

* - No, I don't know why there weren't three quarterfinals on Centre Court. I do know, however, that Wimbledon knows what it's doing. I think it worked fine and at least it was clear which matches deserved to be on Centre and which did not. Well, on paper at least.

* - The top four were shown up yesterday. I have a feeling the traditional 'top four' of Fedalovic and Murray [he's difficult to fit in there] will not all be in the semifinals of a major again. The last time it happened was at the 2010 Australian Open.

* - I don't know who is going to be the favourite at the US Open. Thankfully we have a large hard court swing to tell us. Novak Djokovic, I think, is one of the favourites, but Nadal should never be counted out. And Federer? I think he could make one last run at the US Open. He has won it five times don't forget.

* - There is going to be a big change up in the rankings. I was wrong. It looks like Murray is slipping down to ten. Don't count on him returning to the top two again. I don't think he will ever be number one. In fact, I think he will slip out of the top ten this season, though he will finish just inside it.

* - John McEnroe is a good commentator. He has worked for broadcasters both here and in the USA. I think he is a great commentator, but he annoys me sometimes. To be honest, he annoys me frequently. He can sometimes be biased towards a player. That annoys me even when it is players I like. And sometimes he states his opinion as fact. No, Mr.McEnroe, Nadal is not the best volleyer in the Top 100. Stepanek, Federer, Llodra, Lopez and Mahut are all better.

* - I don't know what has been more surprising this tournament -- Dimitrov's defense or Raonic's return game.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Kyrgios the King Killer

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

We are getting to the business end now. In every discipline the end of the tournament is nigh. Even the seniors are getting going. Bahrami has been wheeled out to display his magic tricks again. Bahrami could only be French. The style he plays with, the tricks he has mastered. He and Leconte make a deadly partnership. Luckily for us the Frenchman now take the game seriously. Well, some of them anyway.

In the doubles, the quarterfinals have been mostly set now. The Bryans beat fifteenth seeds Cabal/Matkowski 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 to progress to the quarterfinals. They hit 14 aces in the hour and 50 minute contest and never faced a break point. They face ninth seeds Melo/Knowle who beat Guccione/Hewitt in four tight sets. Australian open finalists Butorac/Klaasen lost in four to French Open champs Benneteau/Roger-Vasselin. The fourth seeds are a match away from the semifinals and a probable clash with the Bryans. The twelth-seeded Llodra/Mahut defeated sixth seeded Granollers/Lopez 7-6, 7-5, 7-5. A French pair will face the Bryans. In the other half of the draw, the second seeds were pushed to the limits. They beat fourteenth seeds Murray/Peers 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. Peya and Soares will play the winner of Sa/Pavic and Sock/Pospisil. If the North American pair lose, there will be a Brazilian in the semifinals. Third seeds Nestor/Zimonjic came through against Cuevas/Marrero in straight sets. The sixteenth seeds nearly won the first but lost it in the end, 10-8 in a breaker. They never threatened again and lost 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. In the other third round that has yet to be played, eleventh seeds Rojer/Tecau play Paes/Stepanek the fifth seeds. The winner of that plays Nestor/Zimonjic.

Chardy lost in the fourth round to Cilic. He has never reached a slam quarterfinal before. This was a career best slam performance for him. He has played very well to get to this stage. He beat Cox, Matosevic and Stakhovsky to make it to the fourth. He may not have faced a seed but you have to beat who's in front of you and he did that. Cilic won the first set in a break 10-8 and then cleaned up, winning it 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Cilic needed just a little over two hours to finally get by the determined Frenchman. Cilic hit 33 aces to Chardy's 17. Cilic overall hit 59 winners, an astonishing amount.

Cilic now plays Djokovic. I think he will take a set but it will not be enough. Djokovic will win in four, Murray will win in five and they will have an epic semifinal. The players' fitness is the key to that semifinal match. It looks fine for both sides but it could change. Also, Dimitrov beat Mayer. It took him two hours nine minutes, the same time exactly as the Cilic/Chardy match. After a big win ,like Dimitrov's over Dolgopolov, the next match can be hard. But Dimitrov cruised, winning 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. Dimitrov played well but Mayer was never really able to match the young Bulgarian.

Dimitrov plays Murray now. I would love a Federer/Dimitrov final but it is highly unlikely.

But what happened in the rest of the fourth round matches?

...I know this is a huge upset. But I just had a feeling this was coming. Kyrgios was free swinging and he had the kind of attitude that Soderling and Rosol had when they beat Rafa. The 'I don't care who you are' attitude. Kyrgios beat a struggling Rafa easily. On paper it is one of the greatest upsets ever but, really, was it? Rafa is starting to really struggle off the clay. And sometimes on it. It's funny how he and Roger are struggling at Wimbledon and the French, respectively. Rafa and Roger are starting to look like they are the other's age. For two minutes shy of three hours Nadal was out-hit and out-thought by the 19 year old. 7-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3. Remember that scoreline. It is going to be brought up again and again and and again and again for the next 15 years. And then referenced for the next 50 years after that. 70 winners, 37 aces, from the racket of Krygios. Nadal could only respond with 44 of his own, just 11 aces in there, and that was a major advantage to the Aussie. In this match Nadal was taken to the woodshed. Kyrgios just took it to Rafa. I think he would have beaten every and anyone on that day. He was that good.

From the BBC:
"Ranked 144, Kyrgios is the first man outside the top 100 to beat a world number one at a Grand Slam since 1992." "...since Jim Courier's loss to world number 193 Andrei Olhovskiy at Wimbledon 22 years ago."

Kyrgios plays Raonic next. That is going to be an excellent, if boring, match to watch. The rallies and breaks will be few. The momentum will not matter so much and the two biggest servers left will do battle to see which can out-serve the other. I love Kyrgios' service movement, how loose it is and how much power comes off it, but I also appreciate how good Raonic's is, too.
...This is called sending a message. Djokovic did not even need two hours to dismiss Tsonga. Djokovic hit 44 winners and 11 errors. Tsonga managed just 19 aces. Though Djokovic broke just twice, he was never in danger. Tsonga did not turn up. There is not much more to say. Djokovic is playing Cilic as I write. He is in trouble. So is Federer. Looks like Wawrinka and Cilic have both turned up.
...The even-tempered, big hitting South African has been one of the surprises of the tournament, and I mean a positive surprise like finding ten bucks, not one like buying a CD that you later find out is scratched. Anderson kept his temper during the Fognini meltdown. He kept his focus. He is a very underrated player. Not only does he have a great physical strength, but he also has a great mental strength. He just keeps going. He doesn't lose it, he doesn't over think anything, he just keeps chugging away. Murray knew he would be facing a big serving opponent with an uncanny ability to just stay calm. Murray came through 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in over two and a half hours. Murray hit 49 winners with Anderson hitting 41. Surprisingly, they combined for only 20 aces. Murray managed to find 17 break point chances. Anderson very nearly nicked that last set, losing the breaker 8-6. Murray managed to play his usual counter-punching role with even more aplomb. He took all Anderson had to throw at him and gave it back. The South African could not handle it and Murray came through. Murray just lost to Dimitrov. He double faulted on break point down 2-3 and down two sets to love. He didn't play well, but Dimitrov was on another planet. On another nebula almost.
...Robredo has been there. He has been here. He has been over there. He has hit that shot and this shot. He has come back from two sets down. He has rallied and he has serve-volleyed. But he has never been to the Wimbledon fourth round. For a player who has featured in the Fedal era, not winning a slam is understandable. He has won Masters titles and he has been to more French Open quarterfinals than Murray and Djokovic. He has done it all. He has even beaten Federer, Djokovic and Murray. This match, however, was only ever going to go one way. 94 minutes. That was all the Fedexpress needed to come through 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Federer. Federer barely missed. He cruised through the first set and a half or so. He hit winners with ease and moved Robredo around. He made the Spaniard look ineffective. But the wily veteran responded and responded well. He tried new things, gave Federer different balls to look at and generally made him think. This worked to an extent. The next sets were a little closer but Federer was still too good. Possibly the most impressive stat: one break point. One. He plays Wawrinka next. He will win in four, at the most. If he plays like he has been doing, then it will be in straight sets.
...It is a career best for the Swiss number one. He has now made the quarters at every slam. Both he and Lopez had quietly moved through the draw without too many people noticing. He is now the fourth highest seed here. It won't do him much good, though. Lopez and Wawrinka played out a very straightforward two hour [one hour, fifty-eight minutes] match with Wawrinka taking a 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 decision. He won the breakers 7-5 and 9-7. I don't think Wawrinka can win but he might take a set. Wawrinka was oh so impressive, hitting 55 winners, 31 aces, and just 8 errors. Just 8 errors. Wawrinka never faced a break point. The Swiss star faced a tricky opponent and simply swatted him aside like he was an insect. It was an impressive display from the fifth seed. It tells the rest of the draw he could win two slams in a year. Wawrinka plays Federer next. I cannot see a way in which he can win that. Yes he beat Fed in the principality, but that was on slow clay. Federer on grass, quick grass, serving well...
...Nishikori finally exits Wimbledon, but he, too, has a career best performance here. He is full of surprises. Another surprise was that this was on Court Four. I know that it isn't Murray or Nadal or what have you, but these are two top ten players who have been up there or thereabouts for some time. They have risen. This would have been great on Court One or Two. It is a storied rivalry. Two-love in the head to head with some breakers. All won by Nishikori. Nishikori can bother Raonic on clay and also on hard. He can nullify the big serve and then overpower him in the rallies. He can also hold serve easily because Raonic does not return particularly well. On grass, however, Raonic has the advantage. The gulf betwixt Nishikori's serve and Raonic's cannon is highlighted by the grass. The power difference is also clearly emphasised. Raonic came through 4-6, 6-1,7-6, 6-3. Once the Canadian won that third set breaker 7-4, he never looked back. Nishikori managed to break just once from 7 chances. Raonic took three from seven. The big gap came in winners [66-26] overall, not to mention aces [35-11]. Raonic on grass doesn't have to exchange in lengthy rallies and that gives him an advantage over Nishikori. On clay and hard he has to rally. And he can't beat Nishikori on those terms. Raonic plays Kyrgios next. I except more than 80 aces in that match. I expect more than 150 winners in total. I also expect there to be no rallies longer than 5 shots. I also expect this to go five sets.

Any other notes?

* - Kyrgios leads the ace count with 113. 113 in four matches. It is an average of 28 a match. So, effectively, he is serving about a sets worth of aces in a match. Isner has 110 and Raonic has 108. Cilic and Tsonga round out the top five so far with 98 and 91, respectively. Raonic and Raonic will feature tiebreakers.

* - I have a feeling that Federer/Wawrinka could go very quickly. Federer has been supreme recently, albeit with a fairly straightforward draw. He might just sweep Wawrinka.

* - My upset special is Dimitrov/Murray. It probably won't happen but Murray is facing something very different today. If Murray loses today he will drop down the rankings. He will fall to around 9 in the world if he loses. Cilic is headed to back inside the top twenty.

* - The Wimbledon scheduling has been spot on. They have made tough decisions. They have really outdone themselves this year. Putting Djokovic/Cilic on Court One is the right call. Court One is a fantastic arena anyway.

* - No American is in the fourth round for the first time ever. New records keep being made by Americans. It's just a pity some of them aren't so good. What will the Americans do when the Williams retire?

* - Russia is also in trouble. Russian men's tennis is in trouble and the women's is not great either. Not anymore. Not really.

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