Monday, February 08, 2016

Wk.5- Back to the Grind


Hey, all. Galileo here.

Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl and has (probably) retired. We will have a new president. Serena just lost in two consecutive slams and Russia lost in the first round of the Fed Cup. The times, as Bob Dylan said so famously, are a-changing.

But for us here at BACKSPIN HQ the world keeps turning. For us the tennis tour keeps going no matter what. And this week plenty of odd stuff happened, but also plenty of the expected like top seeds triumphing. It will always be hard to go from a slam back into the grind of the ordinary every day tour but that is what we must do. And so we shall do it.

But there is a conspicuous lack of things to actually say before we dive in. All the slam stories were wrapped up nicely and few top ten players, well only one actually, were even involved this past week. It goes quiet after a slam, as you know.

Be prepared though, because February heats up week by and week before turning into March, one of BACKSPIN'S favourite months. But we are not there yet - we still have to get through two weeks that, on paper, do not give one excitement before Dubai. And then after March madness we go onto clay. And clay is where it all gets jumbled up, the sun comes out and all manner of craziness occurs.

February is a month not loved here on ATP BACKSPIN - the first month is exciting and fresh but the second one feels tired. Then March is more invigorating. Poor old February is always dour. Right, enough talking. Let’s move in the general direction of tennis.

Well, that was a dismal Super Bowl. To cheer us all up shall we look at some tennis?

=RANKINGS WATCH=
Top 32 - Garcia-Lopez dropped seven places. With Bellucci and Kohl rising 5 and two places, the Brazilian goes to 30 and the German to 32. Dolgoplov sits in the middle at 31.
Top 10 – Tsonga is at 9, Gasquet is at 10 and Raonic sits at 11. Except Raonic to rise further than the Frenchies.
Top 8 – Berdych sits at 8, just 35 points from Kei at 7. Ferrer is only 100 points ahead but Nadal is 500 above his compatriot.
Top 4 – No change. Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Wawrinka.

*WEEK 5 CHAMPIONS*
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE
S: Richard Gasquet def. Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5/6-4
D: Pavic/Venus def. Zverev/Zverev

SOFIA, BULGARIA
S: Roberto Bautista Agut def. Viktor Troicki 6-3/6-4
D: Koolhof/Middelkoop def. Oswald/Shamasdin

QUITO, ECUADOR
S: Victor Estrella Burgos def. Thomaz Bellucci 4-6/7-6(5)/6-2
D: Carreno Busta/Duran def. Bellucci/Demoliner



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: BURGOS
...He is a colourful character with the heart of a lion. Or at least that’s what the ATP says. It does take a lot of gumption to defend one's title while being in a slump. Burgos is a strange player. Adept on the baseline and tricky to deal with, he has a very straightforward game. This BACKSPINNER saw him play at Queens and he can infuriate his opponents with just how solid he is. As pointed out on here previously, the money he makes is more than the average Dominican. He can really be an ambassador for tennis and sport to that country. Ranked 56 currently but never above 40 in the world, he has gotten past the second round of a slam just once. But perhaps this successful defence can spur him on to greater things. Seeded 5th he had a good window of opportunity and he took it. He ousted Pella and Martin in straight sets to make the third round. Verdasco had lost to qualifier Olivo and the match looked easy on paper. In reality it was anything but; Burgos won 6-4, 6-7[5], 6-4 to make the semi-finals. His first SF of the year, too. With 2nd seeded Lopez retiring, he faced 7th seed Ramos in the semi-final. He dispatched him 6-2, 7-6[5] to make the final. He beat lefty Lopez in three last year and lefty Bellucci in three this. So another successful week. But now he needs to back it up. The top 40 should be his goal.
=============================
RISER: GASQUET
...Gasquet’s back and, as you know, the Frenchman happens to always bring a smile to this BACKSPINNER’S face. Even when he loses spectacularly. Or perhaps especially when he loses spectacularly. But the backhand was very much on-song. In fact he looked much the same as always, though with a new haircut. The swashbuckling French number two was unusually composed throughout the week. He had not won a title since May of last year but in recent years he has found ways to usually win tournaments when the top seed. He did it in Moscow in 2014 against a determined Kukushkin.



Gasquet moves to 13-12 in finals, meaning he is 9th amongst active players. He is ahead of Tsonga and Wawrinka. In finals he is 8th, joint with Del Potro. And in active semi-finals he is eighth. Expect him to move up the rankings in those statistics. In his last ten finals he is 7-3. He has 426 wins and don’t forget that Bronze Olympic medal. It is quite the career, almost Hall of Fame worthy. He avoided the upset [remember that phrase] this past week, beating Gulbis and Baghdatis 6-4, 6-4 to make the semi-finals. There he was battered by Brown for a set and a half but didn’t panic and came back to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the final he cooly closed out Mathieu 7-5, 6-4. Another solid week and another great result for the Frenchman.
=============================
SURPRISE: KLIZAN
...Brown having a semi-final run and then blowing it is hardly surprising. Though it is impressive he got up 6-1, 3-0 on Gasquet in 35 minutes but still blew it. But we have talked so much about Paris and Ecuador. We have not looked into Sofia. In February the tour is stretched - it can be difficult to have three strong events simultaneously. There is a women’s event coming up in Brazil and the top seed is barely inside the top 50. Frequently events have one or two premier players and then the seeds fall away in terms of quality. Look at Memphis. After Nishikori is Johnson and that’s a big drop off. Sofia is the weak link this week, but Klizan showed some of the old magic. He dismissed Lazov, a Bulgarian, for the loss of just three games. He needed a third set breaker to overcome Rosol but, strangely, cruised against Seppi and beat the Italian 6-4, 6-3. Klizan is beautifully unpredictable and that would prove to be the case in the semi-final. He lost 7-5 in the third to Troicki, unable to produce anymore third set tricks. To describe him as a poor man’s Verdasco isn’t entirely inaccurate but we learned our lesson from calling Dimitrov ‘baby Fed’.
=============================
VETERAN: MATHIEU
...Mathieu, like Cornet, has had two careers almost. Both were very good players and then had a break before having a mini renaissance. Paul-Henri’s finest moment perhaps came at the French where Rafa edged him 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in what was an absolute gem. The match also included Nadal’s bizarre banana mishap. Highlights of the match are below. The 34-year old was once ranked as high as 12 and had a string of fourth round appearances at the majors. Inconsistent career results plagued him throughout his career and the promising junior seemed to literally disappear for years at a time. Still, as he edges closer to hanging up the rackets, this BACKSPINNER hopes he has many more runs like this one. The way he dismissed Paire was particularly impressive. The old fire burns still.


Highlights 2006 Nadal vs Mathieu by rolandgarros
=============================
FRESH FACE: ZVEREV
...Mischa is stepping up once again. It’s another positive result. At only 18 he is world number 70. By year's end he will be in the top 50. That is a safe prediction. Gutting out a tough three set win over Vanni followed by a straights sets dismissal of Cilic is more evidence of his rising. A doubles final with his brother is also positive. He will make his first final this year, but what surface will it be on?
=============================
DOWN: CILIC
...Every week, except in New York and other select tournaments, Cilic is abysmal. It’s just a horrible slump he is in. He is one of the worst slam champions ever. He doesn’t have the clay court specialist excuse Coria had. And Coria really was limited off the dirt but he still won on carpet and hard. Cilic needs to get his act together or get out. He has proven he is too good to simply be making up the numbers. With all his weapons and firepower he went down to Zverev in two breakers 7-4 and 7-1. On indoor hard courts with that serve he lost a tiebreaker 7-1. Now how is that possible?
=============================
UPSET: LORENZI
...You can tell Lorenzi has been aching to get back onto clay. Like a landlubber aboard a vessel or a penguin on grass, you know he is not on his preferred surface when on the hard-courts. Sure he’ll do fine there but, really, he wants to get back onto the dirty stuff. He wants to grind, to rally extensively and do crafty things. He hit 25 aces on the way to beating Tomic 6-7[5], 7-5, 6-3. Now Tomic did miss chances and he didn’t fight but this was the Italian’s victory. He earned it. Seeded 6th, the 34-year old rose to 52 in the rankings. His highest is 49. Surely he can crack that.
=============================

Notes from the week...
1 – Federer is having knee surgery. We wish our number three all the best and hope to see him before the clay swing!
2 – Del Potro is coming back to Delray Beach. He has told fans to be patient, but he can do this

3 – The Fed cup is funny in that is it usually of the same quality as the Davis. Usually joint events have a better men’s or women’s event. But part of the magic of the Fed/Davis is that they are of the same quality. But the women’s needs more than eight participants in the world group and also needs to change up the format.
4 – The French crop coming up on both sides is very promising and is complemented by some great veterans. Could they have a decent medal haul at the Olympics?
5 – Dustin Brown will always be a mystery. But he may be one of the most enjoyable players to watch.


1. Quito Final - Burgos d. Bellucci 4-6, 7-6[4], 6-2
...Bellucci blew chances to give the Dominican his second title in Quito along with a 10-0 record at the event. He also fell to 0-2 against the wily vet. In sunny and windy conditions the Brazilian could not quite take control. He is once more showing promise and rising up the ranks and another final is a great step.
=============================
2. Sofia QF - Troicki d. Klizan 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
...Troicki won this epic break-fest by lieu of having a slightly better second delivery. In the last set there was only the one break but it proved to be the most important one of all. It was a long grueling epic played on tough hard-courts. The kind that ruins knees. But Troicki was too solid, particularly on return, and he triumphed. But the positive signs are there for both men.
=============================
3. Montpelier Final - Gasquet d. Mathieu 7-5, 6-4
...Gasquet and his compatriot had a break-fueled match in which the one-hander used his variety to great effect. He has become so good at gutting matches out and not panicking. He knows how to hang around like he didn’t before.
=============================
4. Sofia Final - Bautista Agut d. Troicki 6-3, 6-4
...In the match-up between the top two seeds, Agut improved to 2-4 in hard court finals but 4-4 overall. He is 2-0 this year and those are all excellent numbers. He just has too much from the baseline for even Troicki. Both men play a similar, physical game but the Spaniard's higher level of consistency and better tactical mind gave him the win. This was their first meeting. Troicki slipped to 3-6 in finals with most of his 9 coming in Sydney.
=============================


*Rotterdam*
=SF=
Gasquet [1] d. [6] Bautista-Agut
Monfils [5] d. [7] Paire
=FINAL=
Gasquet [1] d. [5] Monfils

...Most of the bigger names here lack form. Gasquet, coming off a win in Montpellier, will do well here. Agut is in better form than Goffin and will make a good run. Cilic and Simon are both impossible to predict currently. Monfils and Paire should play out an entertaining semi-final. But Gasquet is, unbelievably, too solid for them.

*MEMPHIS*
=SF=
Nishikori [1] d. [4] Querrey
Johnson [2] d. [3] Young
=FINAL=
Nishikori [1] d. [2] Johnson

...At this former 500, Nishikori should again prove triumphant. Seeded first, he has no real competition and is the thrice defending champion. Querrey has won the singles and doubles here. He should roll to the semi-finals. The seedings should hold but someone like Becker could easily make a run here. Kei is a big fish in a puddle here.

*BUENOS AIRES*
=SF=
Nadal [1] d. [5] Thiem
Ferrer [2] d. [3] Tsonga
=FINAL=
Nadal [1] d. [2] Ferrer

...Vilas won this eight times from ten finals back in the 70s and early 80s. Since 2009 only Spaniards have won here. With Nadal and Thiem seeded 1 and 2 here that should continue. On clay, Thiem has the advantage over Isner but neither are a match for even this shadow of Rafa. On clay Ferrer should have too much for the Frenchman, but that isn’t certain. What is certain is a Nadal victory and a successful defence of the title.

Well, Kiki and Garcia are the future of the French Fed Cup and it is likely a bright future. They host the Netherlands, who upset the Russians - but this BACKSPINNER is getting ahead of himself. Giorgi beat Mladenovic 1-6, 6-4, 6-1. But then Garcia and Kiki both beat Errani in straight sets on the indoor clay. Giorgi went down routinely to the brunette Pastry, which gave France a 3-1 victory. In the dubs, Gladenovic triumphed 1 and 0 against Errani, a former number doubles number one. She must have been sick at the sight of them. Garcia and Kiki have records in the competition of 6-3 and 8-2, respectively. Against the Netherlands, why not play on grass? It would surely throw them off and both of the Pastries can play on the stuff. Her next stop is probably Dubai, but of course this BACKSPINNER could be wrong.



That could well soon turn into...




Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Introducing "The Simple Forehand," by Ramon Osa


Here are the three quick videos for my new training series designed to help you a killer forehand:

Hit a KILLER Forehand | Modern Forehand CONSISTENCY & POWER Series (VIDEO 1)


Hit a KILLER Forehand | Modern Forehand CONSISTENCY & POWER Series (VIDEO 2)


Hit a KILLER Forehand | Modern Forehand CONSISTENCY & POWER Series (VIDEO 3)



A little about me: I'm a tennis Coach/lover. I put the fun in fundamentals! Check out my website for HD video lessons at http://osatennis360.com, follow me @osatennis or email me at ramon@ramonosatennis.com

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Australian Open '16: Final Thoughts


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

This is the final, reflective Australian Open post. No stats, no more guesses at results or blind stabs in the dark.

In the men’s doubles, chaos reigned. All of the top eight bar the 7th seeds crashed out. Murray/Soares duly closed out the slam, though Stepanek/Nestor pushed them in the final. BACKSPIN wonders if this will be a recurring theme throughout the year, if the doubles side of things is due for four different slam champions, a complete smorgasbord of champions and no overall favourite. The top seeds wilted under the pressure and lost in a tight three setter to Mannarino/Pouille. They should dominate, not crumble in a three-setter. They at least made the quarters. Mind you, things are always a little funky at the first slam. Perhaps if we give it time, the tour will self-right.

In the ladies' final, Angelique Kerber made the final and rose to number two. She could be in for a banner year, which neither Todd nor I predicted. Or she could go the way of Cibulkova. Either way, as it stands, because of a German Steffi Graf has won the most singles slams in the Open era. Isn’t life funny? Serena Williams played alright, if a little sloppy, but Kerber was just too good. This was honestly one of the best matches I have seen in a while. Both women played to an incredibly high standard and Kerber’s defense was 1985 Chicago Bears-like. She was everywhere like a bad rash. She beat the last two Australian Open champions, more proof of just how far she has come all of a sudden.

Johanna Konta rose 19 places to 28 in the world but how will she defend those points next year? Zhang Shuai was the first qualifier to make the quarters since Gavaldon in 1990. The whole rankings have been shaken up, with Simona Halep at 3 now. Petra Kvitova is clinging onto the top ten. It’s like a shuffled deck of cards. The women’s tournament was of a higher grade than usual in the later rounds but the amount of upsets early on was embarrassing. And Aga Radwanska showed again her flaws. Solid enough and can put away inferior opposition, but so easy to overpower. And there was a lack of firepower in a 6-0, 6-4 rout handed to her by Williams. She couldn’t do anything. She has no weapons and certainly does not belong at number four though the top ten is where she should be.

Andy Murray lost again to Novak Djokovic. This time it was 6-1, 7-5, 7-6[3]. The rallies were close but Djokovic seemed to always have the upper hand. But this was forgettable despite the high quality. It was two counter-punchers ball bashing and some of the rallies were somnolent. Only 15 years ago, less even, Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic serve-volleyed their way through Wimbledon before playing a thrilling and heart-breaking final. What’s happened? Most of the top ten now are mindless ball-bashers with no finesse or sense of style. Where is the slicing and dicing, the volleying? Why is every point decided on the baseline? It make one nostalgic but also kind of sad. That’s why the Aussies, who are dreadful off-court, are so important. They bring some entertainment onto court as do the Frenchies.

Overall, this slam was good. It was a B plus at worst, probably scraping towards an A. It is a good benchmark for the ones that follow it.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman {W}
MS 4th Rd: Monfils [23] d. Kuznetsov {W}
MS QF: Raonic [13] d. Monfils [23] {W}
MS SF: Murray [2] d. Raonic [13] {W}
MS F: Djokovic [1] d. Murray [2] {W}
--
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}
WS 4th Rd: Keys [15] d. Zhang {L}


In Montpellier [France], Gasquet makes his return on their hardcourts. He is the defending champion and top seed. I like the Frenchman to beat Simon [3] in the semi-final. He will be rusty but the draw is kind to him. Monfils [5] should overcome Paire [4] and also Cilic [2] to make the final. But Gasquet is too rested and he likes this tournament. But keep in mind how funky tournaments are before and after slams.

The first edition of an indoor hard-court in Sofia is also taking place. Bautista Agut [1] will take care of Mannarino [8] and Garcia-Lopez [3] to make another final. Troicki [2] and Seppi [4] are both playing fine but I like the Serbian to make his second final in three tournaments. Still, the top seed here should hold serve, too.

The event in Quito, Ecuador may be on clay, but I still like top seeded Tomic to continue his momentum. He will even beat [3] Bellucci to make the final. However, Lopez [2] or Verdasco [4] will both have too much in the final. I like Verdasco’s fire to help him here.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN. They have the results of Iowa, a big wrap-up, and also pie. With cream or ice-cream. But not both, because it'd be too much of a good thing.


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Sunday, January 31, 2016

AO Final: Djokovic Blots Out the Sun


Hail the future all-time slam king, for Novak Djokovic is at it again. Or I should say, he's STILL at it. As a result, the ATP tour continues to experience a full-on Serbian eclipse.



Make no mistake about it, the unchallenged world #1 currently blankets the men's tour like not even Serena Williams has covered the WTA landscape in recent and past seasons. Djokovic's command of the moment is more akin to the dominant runs put together by Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf, only without even one in-their-prime future star reliably capable of rising up and truly challenging him for the tour lead. As 2016 stands just one month old, there are no men in position to play the same role of "eventual power usurper" as Graf did vs. Navratilova, or as Monica Seles later did vs. Graf. Milos Raonic seems to be methodically getting closer, but he's still only a mushy "maybe." Only maybe Stan Wawrinka, in something of a Chris Evert/Hana Mandlikova hybrid sort of role, seems capable or rising up under the right circumstances and truly making a push vs. Djokovic, but not on a weekly basis over the course of a long season.

As for fellow Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, well, the Scot continues to fill the "professional final opponent" slot in Melbourne. So much so that he should maybe consider donning a Washington Generals uniform-inspired outfit next year. Playing in his fifth AO final in seven years, there was little doubt on Sunday that he'd sport a mark of 0-5 in the those matches once Djokovic was through with him.

The Scot had just one brief glimpse of daylight offered up to him by Djokovic in this final, but it was quickly snuffed out.

Djokovic jumped out of the starting gate with great force, taking a 5-0 1st set lead before Murray got on the board. He won the set 6-1, as Murray won just 20% of his second serve points. In the 2nd, the two men exchanged breaks in games #7 and #8, setting the stage for the key eleventh game of the set.

Serving at 5-5, Murray led 40/love. But he was wrong on a replay challenge on a forehand called out on his first game point, meaning Djokovic had indeed lived to play another point in the game. Little did the Scot know that the millimeters by which he'd missed the shot had essentially taken away his only chance to make a match of things. Or maybe he did know. No player in men's tennis can carve out a comeback from less than Djokovic. A small hint of life, however short the breath, be it one game or a single point, is often the spark that lifts him from a seemingly "dead" position. That missed shot from Murray would prove to be just the latest example.

At 40/15, Djokovic's crosscourt shot was his first forehand winner of the 2nd set. At 40/30, a 36-shot rally highlighted by tremendous defense from the Serb ended with an extracted Murray error. At deuce, Djokovic reached BP with a backhand passing shot when Murray moved toward the net just a little too early and became a sitting duck/Scot. At break point, Murray clipped the net cord twice in the rally, while Djokovic was steady until his opponent fired a shot long to hand the Serb the break for 6-5.

A game later, Djokovic's back-to-back double-faults gave Murray a BP and a shot to crack open a small window, but when he didn't challenge a Djokovic first serve (it was out, replay showed) and then lost the point he didn't force the Serb to hit a second serve and try to avoid a third straight DF. After Murray pulled a backhand wide, Djokovic reached set point and when the Scot netted a forehand up the line he won the 2nd 7-5.

From there, it was essentially over. Everyone knew it. But the two still had to play the 3rd set to make it official. Djokovic got an early break, only to see Murray get things back on serve at 3-3, converting his second BP of the match after previously being 1-for-5. The set concluded with a tie-break dominated by Djokovic. He grabbed a mini-break lead at 1-0, then ran away to a 6-1 bulge. Finally, on his third MP he fired an ace to close Murray out 6-1/7-5/7-6(3).

Djokovic's sixth Australian Open title ties American Roy Emerson for the all-time AO lead, while career slam crown #11 brings him even with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver, who was in attendance for the final in the stands of the stadium named in his honor.



Eight years after he burst onto the scene as a 20-year old slam winner in Melbourne in 2008, Djokovic is now an Australian Open living legend. But that's only a small pleat in the cape he currently sports as he surveys the landscape of the sport from her perch high above the rest of the field.

From the start, Djokovic was a quick riser. He reached his first slam quarterfinal in the sixth major draw of his career (it took Federer, for example, eight), the semifinals in his tenth (Federer-17), and the final in his twelfth (17). At his thirteenth major, he won slam title #1. It took Djokovic three years to win #2 in 2011, the second longest stretch (12 slams) between any male slam champ's first two titles, behind only Marat Safin's 14-slam gap. But the big Russian never won another major title, while the occasion of HIS second crown shot Djokovic down the runway at great speed.

He's been busy hitting his stride every since. Now, he's sprinting.

At this AO, Djokovic ran his mark in Melbourne since 2011 to 39-1. He's 34-1 in his last thirty-five slam matches. He just played in his fifth straight slam final, his seventh in eight majors, and 17th of 22. He's reached 27 consecutive slam quarterfinals, and 22 of 23 semifinals. 94-6 overall since the start of the 2015 season, Djokovic has played in seventeen straight tour finals, is 39-2 in Masters events, has won four slam crowns and thirteen titles over the thirteen-month span. He's 36-5 vs. the Top 10 during the stretch, and has pushed his career head-to-head over the others in the "Big 4" of the era in his favor -- 23-22 vs. Federer, 24-23 vs. Nadal, and 22-9 vs. Murray. Djokovic was one match (the RG final vs. Wawrinka) from a Grand Slam last year when, frankly, he had a better season than even Serena Williams, and one of the best seasons the sport has EVER seen.

In a year in which a Grand Slam is once again in play, as is a "Golden Slam" -- the only major singles honor he may be yet to claim, much like Federer, is individual Olympic Gold... assuming he wins in Paris this spring -- there seems to be no quick end in sight to the Serbian eclipse.

At 28, an age which no longer has the same the-end-is-near connotation it once did in the sport, Djokovic is in his physical prime at the moment. His enhanced training techniques and diet, along with coach Boris Becker's guidance in playing/practicing in such a way early in slams that Djokovic doesn't sap his energy (something which likely cost him a few slam titles earlier in his career during that three-year drought), allowing himself to be mentally fresh in the latter stages of a major. It's put the Serb in the position of being THE favorite to win in every event he plays. And he almost always lives up to the expectation, or close to it. It's a "burden" he seems to have no problem shouldering.



With eleven major titles, Djokovic stands one from Emerson on the all-time list, and just three behind Nadal and Sampras (a gap which could be closed within the next year). At the moment, Federer stands six away, but that number is sure to shrink before the end of 2015. It's why it is essential for Federer to find a way to somehow chip out one more major title from the growing Djokovic numbers edifice if he wishes to have a chance to stay atop the all-time title list that, surely, a few years ago, he thought he'd be looking down from for the rest of his days, or most of them. Well, either that, or one of the NextGen challengers must truly emerge to take away a few of Djokovic's seemingly endless major trophy opportunities. If not Raonic or Grigor Dimitrov, then Nick Kyrgios or Dominic Thiem or another "mystery" candidate. Truthfully, though, none of those scenarios seem likely. Djokovic is going to catch, and surpass, Federer. It's just a matter of time.


And, somewhere, that Numbers Guy is rubbing his hands together with an evil grin on his face. He knew it all along.


=NOTES=
...in the mixed doubles final, #5-seeds Elena Vesnina & Bruno Soares defeated unseeded CoCo Vandeweghe & Horia Tecau 6-4/4-6 [10-5] as the Russian picks up her first career mixed title to go along with her two in women's doubles with Ekaterina Makarova. Soares also won this year's AO men's doubles title, becoming the first man to sweep the titles at the event since Mark Woodforde in 1992. The last man to do it at any other slam was Bob Bryan at the 2010 U.S. Open.




...LIKE FROM DAY 14: Serena has company in the "Six Club"



...LIKE FROM DAY 14: Going "au naturel"





*MEN'S SINGLES FINAL*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB def. #2 Andy Murray/GBR 6-1/7-5/7-6(3)

*MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
#7 J.Murray/Soares (GBR/BRA) def. Nestor/Stepanek (CAN/CZE) 2-6/6-4/7-5

*MIXED DOUBLES FINAL*
#5 Vesnina/Soares (RUS/BRA) def. Vandeweghe/Tecau (USA/ROU) 6-4/4-6 [10-5]

*BOYS SINGLES FINAL*
Oliver Anderson/AUS def. #7 Jurabek Karimov/UZB 6-2/1-6/6-1

*BOYS DOUBLES FINAL*
De Minaur/Ellis (AUS/AUS) def. #8 Klein/Rikl (SVK/CZE) 3-6/7-5 [12-10]

*MEN'S WC SINGLES FINAL*
Gordon Reid/GBR def. Joachim Gerard/BEL 7-6(6)/6-4

*MEN'S WC DOUBLES FINAL*
#1 Houdet/Peifer (FRA/FRA) def. #2 Reid/Kunieda (GBR/JPN) 6-3/3-6/7-5


**ALL-TIME ATP SLAM TITLES**
17 - Roger Federer, SUI
14 - Rafael Nadal, ESP
14 - Pete Sampras, USA
12 - Roy Emerson, USA
11 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB
11 - Bjorn Borg, SWE
11 - Rod Laver, AUS
10 - Bill Tilden, USA
[active]
17...Roger Federer, SUI
14...Rafael Nadal, ESP
11...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB
2...Andy Murray, GBR
2...Stan Wawrinka, SUI
1...Marin Cilic, CRO
1...Juan Martin del Potro, ARG

**AO MEN'S SINGLES TITLES*
[Open era]
6...NOVAK DJOKOVIC
4...Andre Agassi
4...Roger Federer
3...Mats Wilander
[all-time]
6...NOVAK DJOKOVIC
6...Roy Emerson
4...Andre Agassi
4...Jack Crawford
4...Roger Federer
4...Ken Rosewall
4...Pat Wood
3...Rod Laver
3...Adrian Quist
3...Mats Wilander

**SLAM FINALS - ACTIVE MEN**
27...Roger Federer, SUI (17-10)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
19...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB (11-8)
9...ANDY MURRAY, GBR (2-7)
2...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (2-0)
[all-time]
27 - Roger Federer (17-10)
20 - Rafael Nadal (14-6)
19 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC (11-8)
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)

**MOST MEETINGS IN SLAM FINALS**
8 - Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal
7 - Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic
6 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC/ANDY MURRAY
5 - Andre Agassi/Pete Sampras
5 - Ivan Lendl/Mats Wilander

**DJOKOVIC IN AO FINALS**
2008 def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6,6-4,6-3,7-6
2011 def. Andy Murray 6-4,6-2,6-3
2012 def. Rafael Nadal 5-7,6-4,6-2,6-7,7-5
2013 def. Andy Murray 6-7,7-6,6-3,6-2
2015 def. Andy Murray 7-6,6-7,6-3,6-0
2016 def. Andy Murray 6-1,7-5,7-6

**MURRAY IN AO FINALS**
2010 lost to Roger Federer 6-3,6-4,7-6
2011 lost to Novak Djokovic 6-4,6-2,6-3
2013 lost to Novak Djokovic 7-6,6-7,3-6,2-6
2015 lost to Novak Djokovic 6-7,7-6,3-6,0-6
2016 lost to Novak Djokovic 1-6,5-7,6-7

**DJOKOVIC vs. MURRAY IN GRAND SLAM FINALS**
2011 Australian Open - Djokovic 6-4,6-2,6-3
2012 U.S. Open - Murray 7-6,7-5,2-6,3-6,6-2
2013 Australian Open - Djokovic 6-7,7-6,6-3,6-2
2013 Wimbledon - Murray 6-4,7-5,6-4
2015 Australian Open - Djokovic 7-6,6-7,6-3,6-0
2016 Australian Open - Djokovic 6-1,7-5,7-6



All for now.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

AO Semifinals: Raonic Once More the Bridesmaid, But for How Much Longer?


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Milos Raonic is the first Canadian to reach four slam quarters, though he has not yet reached that stage at the U.S. Open. He reached the fourth round there from 2012-14. With a second career semi-final (w/ Wimbledon '14) in this Australian Open, I think he will eventually get the ‘Nalbandian Slam’ of semis in all four slam events.

The strange thing about the young Canuck is that he is boring. He’s so very dynamic but also dull. His big forehand, big serve game is simple. It’s easy and so effective. But he is such a Canadian. If you wanted a stereotypical Canadian, then look no further. But he is Canada’s best ever player and he is likely slam title-bound at some point, probably at Wimbledon.

He came onto the scene along with Pospisil, Marino and Bouchard. All four and Nestor brought in a great time to be a Canadian tennis fan. But with Bouchard on the comeback trail, Pospisil a doubles specialist, Nestor getting older and Marino retired, Canada’s tennis future is a more uncertain. They will do well in the Olympics, but what about in 2020? Only time will tell.

We’ll go straight into the semi—finals and then do a preview of the final.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman {W}
MS 4th Rd: Monfils [23] d. Kuznetsov {W}
MS QF: Raonic [13] d. Monfils [23] {W}
MS SF: Murray [2] d. Raonic [13] {W}
MS F: Djokovic [1] d. Murray [2]
--
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}
WS 4th Rd: Keys [15] d. Zhang {L}


ROD LAVER: DJOKOVIC D. FEDERER
...With the scandal about Lance Armstrong and other athletes, it would not surprise many if it turns out Djokovic was doping. Of course, that sounds crazy, but just think about it. It would explain a great deal, like how he suddenly became a fantastic player and all those physical issues just disappeared. That is not an accusation, merely one possible explanation for how he has risen so fast. Of course, the reason others may actually begin to accuse him is because he continues to blow opponents away. He beat Federer 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to make his 6th Australian Open final. He has yet to lose one. He has beaten Murray in three, none of them being memorable. When Federer won the toss, he let Djokovic serve first. Novak won the game, got the momentum and never looked backed. He just rolled right through. Federer won just over 20 per cent of second serve points in the first two sets. Federer wasn’t bad and even gutted out a tough third set. He fought hard but Djokovic just played at a higher level. He never even let the 17 time champion get a foothold. He even made the Swiss star's serve ineffective. And now he rolls on to face an opponent he has never lost to here. He is currently playing supreme tennis and will be a huge favourite for the tournament.
=============================
RLA: MURRAY D. RAONIC
...The Scot triumphed 4-6, 7-5, 6-7[4], 6-4, 6-2. It took him three minutes over four hours to get through. The Scot denied Raonic here but this feels like, well it feels like Raonic is inches away from being a slam favourite. This could be the last time Murray denies him. At next year’s Australian Open, Murray will be on the brink of 30. It just gets harder and with all his injuries, this could be his last shot. But he still crafted 16 break points, converting a quarter, and he still ground out a tough win just like he always has done. The Canuck went 72-78 on the errors, playing exactly as he was supposed to. Murray only went 38-28 but then he is not ever going to hit out. Raonic only broke once as both served very well. The area which proved to be the Canadian’s biggest weakness was on the second serve where Murray won more points than is the North American number two. He came to net 74 times and Murray just 28 times. He still won 50 of those 74 points, which is impressive. Milos is a future world number one, but this time it was not to be. He will be one of the favourites at the next three slams. And Murray must now run the gauntlet.
=============================


So, the final. Djokovic’s semi-final lasted 2 hours and 19 minutes. Borg played four U.S. Open finals and lost them all. My beloved, favourite female player of all time, Evonne Goolagong went to four consecutive U.S. Open finals. She lost the first three in tight three setters but lost the fourth badly. Nobody seemed to mind because losing in four consecutive finals was just so Evonne.

But Murray could be the first in the open era to go 0-5 in a particular slam’s final. Imagine making five finals and losing them all. He’s barely won sets. None of his finals have been memorable. His most memorable moment here was him falling short to Novak in the semi-final in 2012. Djokovic has bested him here in 2011-13 and in 2015. He is 4-0 here and 21-9 overall. Their rivalry is like the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady match-up. Not close and calling it a rivalry is generous. In five different seasons, Djokovic has beaten the Scot at least twice. He did it in 2007, 2011-12 and 2014-15. The Scot did it in 2008 and 2012. This decade, the Djoker is 17-6. In three years, since their dull and forgettable 2013 Australian Open final clash, Muzza has won twice. That’s abysmal. It is unforgivably dreadful. It is poor. It is embarrassing and it is not good for our sport. An old man and a broken man who can’t even beat Verdasco should not be Novak’s main competition. The useless Scot should be. It’s pathetic that Wawrinka, who has never even been number two, does better against Noel.

Murray is going to lose tomorrow. He going to lose in a mundane, average, final in four ordinary sets. It’s going to be Serena and Djokovic again. We need new blood. We need players who can beat these guys. Players like Sharapova and Murray are dreadful because they beat everyone else but cannot beat the biggest players when it really matters. It’s all mental for Murray and he is a head case against Djokovic. This is his last chance to win the Australian Open. That’s what it feels like, it has a ring of an ultimatum to it. It is do it now or you won’t get another chance for Murray. But more than that, it could be his last shot at a major. He will never be world number one. He will never achieve what he should have. But here he has one last definite shot at redemption. But folks, don’t bother staying up to watch him miss it. Who stays up till three in the morning to watch a grown man cry after losing in four?

When doing this last year with Dellacqua, the results were not as infuriating. Part of the reason was because Dellacqua was not a top 15 talent and rarely a big seed. So expectations were tempered. Here, however, Kiki should be alive until at least the quarters of the doubles and third round of the singles. The way she had been playing, I thought she was a lock for the semi-finals in the doubles. But this is the WTA. She and Garcia lost to the inconsistent pair of Goerges/Pliskova 6-1, 7-6[5]. Six doubles and 28 errors saw them lose serve four times. Their 13th seeded opponents thoroughly outclassed them from start to finish. This was pretty embarrassing and the French pair will have to do better as the year goes on.


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Thursday, January 28, 2016

AO Day 10: The Day of Rest…


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

This BACKSPINNER wants to go straight into the matches. Serena just won 0 and 4, barely breaking a sweat.

Tonight is the night where the bare minimum will have to suffice. Just wait until the summer majors, though -- missed posts galore (although the day BACKSPIN visits Wimbledon does not count).

Watch this hilarious video of Daria Gavrilova, which includes my quote of the year.



With the suicide, the gamble is that Murray will not be able to beat whoever gets into the final.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman {W}
MS 4th Rd: Monfils [23] d. Kuznetsov {W}
MS QF: Raonic [13] d. Monfils [23] {W}
MS SF: Murray [2] d. Raonic [13]
--
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}
WS 4th Rd: Keys [15] d. Zhang {L}

Now, without further ado, we can complete the men’s quarterfinals. BACKSPIN can promise that its writers are more fatigued than you are. It does take its toll in the end.


ROD LAVER: MURRAY D. FERRER
...It took Muzza 200 minutes to finally come through a four-set war against Ferrer 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-2, 6-3. The scoreline does not truthfully portray the match but, then, it rarely does. Ferru had not lost a set all tournament but came out flat for the first set against the Scot. He really improved in the second and hit all his groundstrokes deeper, forcing Murray back during rallies. While this was a match primarily fought along the baseline, there were forays into the net, too. It was unfortunately a scrappy match, with over 120 errors littering what was, in patches, a high quality affair. Ferrer really struggled to serve big but Murray hit eight double faults. He capitalised on the Spaniard's softer serve, breaking six times to two. Muzza also won 42 per cent of serve points, which he needs to repeat against the powerful Canadian. Ferrer will stay in the top eight after a good tournament from him. But Murray will have to improve and do it now. Raonic will be able to pray on his second serve and he will also be nigh on impossible to break. I like him to cause the upset but, really, the match could go either way. The biggest thing for Andy is to find a way to break. Even in a five-set match, as good a returner as he is, he may not see even ten break chances. He also has to avoid breakers because Raonic is tough to beat in them. After three hours here, it is imperative he wins quickly and he stops it going to five. He has to be as fresh as possible for the final.
=============================
RLA: RAONIC D. MONFILS
...Monfils set out to hit the shot of the match, just like he does every time he steps onto court, and he did so, too. This video shows two examples of his athletic, infuriating magic.



Raonic was too solid, too controlled and had too much for Monfils in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. With just three breaks to one, this match was of a higher quality than the higher seeded match. Monfils’ defence and return is one of his best weapons but he got just two break point opportunities. Over the course of their two and a quarter hour dance on the big stage, they wowed the crowd with their clash of styles. Monfils went a stunning 36-17 on winners and his opponent 47-36. La Monf! Will rise well into the top twenty following his admirable run here, and can go away having achieved and done a lot. His consistency has been one of this BACKSPINNER'S favourite things about this year’s edition. For once he didn’t disappoint and went down respectably. Milos won a third of his opponent's service points and even hit four return winners. He also volleyed quite competently and won 52 of 62 first serve points. He is just in such rich vein of form that the upset is more than on. Their match really is going to be one to watch. Can Raonic finally make a slam final?
=============================

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

AO Day 9: So Much for Parity


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The NFL tries to sell the fact that it has parity. It parades its parity, if you will. In reality, of course, the same teams win again and again.

In tennis, we have been ruled pretty consistently by just three men. Federer, Nadal, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Nadal and Djokovic have all controlled everything. So dominant have they been, that even a big four is a stretch. Murray is like the Baltimore to the other's Philly, New York and Washington. Around their level, but in reality not at all. The Brits like to overrate him and by now they have got very good at it.

On the women’s tour there is Serena and then complete chaos beneath her. Utter mess from number two to number 200. But on the men’s side, there is an order. It changes every now and then but, really, it stays very similar. One of those big three guys is always number one. Two of those guys are always in the top three. Sometimes all three are and usually there are two in the top two. It is astonishing that is has been a decade of dominance. The young guns are no longer young. Guys like Safin, Roddick, Davydenko, Hewitt and Gonzalez have all gone. Injuries have taken others like Del Potro and Soderling. Those guys were consistent slam threats. Being French is too big an issue for some of their challenges and others, like Isner, just lack the weapons.

So here we are again in the semi-finals of a slam and, you guessed it, we have two of them still in. But this time we will have a new challenger in the final and it would be a great storyline if it was Raonic. Fresh blood is a must in tennis because the old blood is becoming stale and boring in some ways. It would be great if Raonic, or Monfils, could sweep to victory.

The hierarchy is set in stone and those that defy it, like Berdych, soon get shown why it is such an exclusive club. Nishikori was put to the sword, especially on the return of his powderpuff serve. Unless they retire, it seems like the current pecking order is permanent.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman {W}
MS 4th Rd: Monfils [23] d. Kuznetsov {W}
MS QF: Raonic [13] d. Monfils [23]
--
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}
WS 4th Rd: Keys [15] d. Zhang {L}


ROD LAVER: FEDERER D BERDYCH
... What can I say? At one point Frew the commentator said, “If it were any other player, Berdych would be annoyed.” “But it’s Federer. You can’t dislike Federer” In full flow, there is nothing in sport quite like Roger Federer. Not David Ortiz, not Joe Montana, not even Patrick Kane. Not even Messi is like Federer. Neither was Thorpe or Phelps. The first set was Federer gutting out a tough one, but after that he let loose. Berdych was laughing by the end of the 7-6[4], 6-2, 6-4 decision. Drop-shots, exquisite backhand winners up the line and redonkulous returns. One can so easily forget it is two in the morning and that the world is in turmoil. Because it is Roger, because he can break with ease. Because sometimes the opponents don’t matter. Fed hit 48 winners to 26 errors and won a third of his opponents first serve points. Berdman was fine in this match, going 27-27 and even broke the Fed twice. He was fine, good even. But he was powerless in the end, powerless to halt the momentum of Federer. Even on Hawkeye Federer was perfect, until the end when the writing was on the wall and he seemed to challenge for fun. BACKSPIN is in agreement with Tomic. Federer probably doesn’t have it in him to beat Djokovic. He can over three sets and Simon really pushed Djokovic, but it is unlikely. So Federer needs to go out there, do his SABR, go for his shots and just have fun. He is sure to hit the shot of the day at some point. It will be a good match which will, I think, go five.
=============================
RLA: DJOKOVIC D. NISHIKORI
...A strange match here. Djokovic cruised through 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in just over two hours. But he only went 22-27 on the winners count. He had trouble on his backhand and again with the dropshot. He did break six times to two but it wasn’t as convincing as the score-line would lead you to believe. All is not right in Whoville. He definitely reacted after his disastrous performance against Simon and, really, it is not a good time to be facing an in-form Federer. He should be able to beat Federer, but he has to be less sloppy in certain aspects. He served better than Nishikori but not at the level he should be serving and he was also helped by the fact Kei really didn’t turn up. At all. He hit 56 errors and only won 51 per cent of his service points. That is where the match was won, really. Nishikori couldn’t win points on his own serve. It predictably lead to trouble. Of course, Federer will not be hitting 56 errors, maybe not even in a five set match and he will be winning about 70 per cent of serve points. He cannot rely on Federer to play badly Djokovic, he has to take this match…
=============================

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

AO Day 7: One of Those Nights


Hey Y'all. A sad Patriots fan here.

Well, yesterday was just one of those days or nights. There were so many near-upsets. Not Serena, of course. She predictably blew away Gasparyan. In the end it was child’s play. Djokovic was very poor and nearly self-destructed, but eventually edged through. He hit 100 errors in that match. In the tournament previous to that he had hit just 78.

There was also footage of Federer and Dimitrov relaxing in the locker-room. Right before they were due on, Federer was getting excited watching Sharapova put away Davis. The following is that agonizing moment Davis played a 27 shot rally perfectly but choked on the volley.



It is fascinating to see players in the locker room, to see how they are before the match. The two men are just sitting right there, relaxing. We will never truly know what happens in the locker room, which makes the glances in even more intriguing. It works much the same way as nature documentaries do. What do whales do down there? What do the players do in there?

And speaking of the Federer and Sharapova dynamic, here is a classic video from about ten years ago now, exploring their possible feelings for one another.



The other thing that is interesting in grand slams is that there is almost always, well, the majority of times, a match which is sticky. Nadal did not have a dangerous match in 2010 in Paris and nor did Federer or Graf in a few of their runs. But there is always one for most everyone else. For Sharapova’s maiden French Open title, it was against Koukalova in the fourth round. In 2009 at Wimbledon, it was Dementieva for Serena. If the player wins this banana peel, then they usually go on a roll. It can be anyone in any round. When Azarenka won her maiden slam, she nearly lost to Clijsters in the semi-final. But she obliterated Sharapova in the final.

For Djokovic, it was Simon. And that brings me nicely onto what happened yesterday. So, what did happen?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman {W}
MS 4th Rd: Monfils [23] d. Kuznetsov
--
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}
WS 4th Rd: Keys [15] d. Zhang


ROD LAVER: DJOKOVIC D. SIMON
...This immediately enters tennis lore and legend. In just short of four hours, it was Djokovic who got through 6-3, 6-7[1],6-4, 4-6, 6-3. He hit 62 winners to Simon’s 32 but also hit 100 errors to Simon’s 68. Ten breaks, but both players served fine. That was the issue - it was just fine. At best, it was just fine. Really, it was grippingly mediocre. Nail-biting in its averageness. It was dedicated to the art of being alright. But now there are pressing concerns and questions. Was this like Anderson at Wimbledon last year - a one off? Is he going to be able to make progress in the tournament or will he crumble? Is this setting the tone for his year? I think this is a one-off but these one-offs are going to keep coming and he is bound to lose one sooner or later. I think he is going to regress this year and the French Open will forever be his white whale. For now, though, he has to suddenly turn around and face off against Kei Nishikori. He cannot play like that against Kei. The 7th seed is on form right now and will punish him for it. He also has to win quickly. Two long five-setters in the heat are not what he needs right now or ever. His tank is running low, but how did Kei get here?
=============================
HISENSE: NISHIKORI D. TSONGA
...Sure, Tsonga was a little flat. In fact, he barely fought, even at the end. With Nishikori up 40-0 in the last game there was no swagger, no typical Jo antics. He just went quietly into the night, losing 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 with each set lasting 40-41 minutes. He only hit 13 aces and won just 63 per cent of first serve points. The Japanese man just blunted out Tsonga’s hopes and his aggressive style. Nishikori was 31-25 on the winners count and only lost serve once. He also returned well - five breaks and 43 per cent of receiving points won. It was a dominant, controlled performance from a very impressive world number seven. Tsonga really had no answers but, really, he didn’t look like he wanted to find any answers. If Nishikori can serve like he did and be the consistent wall he was in this match, he will more than trouble Novak. Forget the stats, Simon doesn’t miss. It just feels like he never ever misses and you have to win the point five different times. Imagine that with firepower. That’s Nishikori. An upset is on the cards. Kei will also make another big slam run this year somewhere. This was another odd match in a night packed full of them.
=============================
MCA: BERDYCH D. BAUTISTA-AGUT
...Another strange one. It goes five, the upset is on and Berdych doesn’t mentally disappear. Bizarre. Agut really pushed hum, as we expected, but Berdych had just enough chutzpah to find a way through 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. In the first set, both players were finding their way but it was Agut who struck and eventually held in a lengthy tenth game. He has a softer serve which makes it harder to hold. His fastest serve was at Berdych’s first serve average. In the second set, Berdman was just able to find a few more big shots, win a few more big points. He found a way. Berdie was an impressive 66-57 on the errors to winner’s ratio. They both broke four times but Agut won four more points. The one area Berdman has to up his game, especially against Federer, is on break point chances. He had 22 but only won four. That is abysmal. He won’t get 22 chances against Rog but he has to do better than a measly 18 per cent. He can improve on the 18 aces, too - the courts are quicker than usual this year. To beat Federer the game-plan is simple - outmuscle him. No other plan will work. The good news is that back in 2009 he almost had the Fed here. He is a vastly better player than that now, so surely he can do it. But will he?
=============================
RLA: FEDERER D. GOFFIN
...Yes, this has been done in a strange order. It is not often I leave Federer till last, but it was very whacky yesterday. On this night of upsets, oddity and strangeness, Federer would have been excused for feeling nervous. But as it turns out he wasn’t. When you see XYZ def. QRS, you don’t always get the full story just by the score. Here you do. The Swiss won 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. With seven aces and 39 winners to 20 errors, this was Federer in full-on rip apart opponent mode. He even won 47 per cent of his return points, breaking six times in the process. He needs to be a tad more accurate on the first serve but this was another glittering performance. There isn’t a more beautiful sight in sport than Federer in full flow. Federer has lost to Berdych 3 or 4 times and this time it will be all about whether or not Berdman can get a set. I think Federer right now is just too good. He will slice, dice and move the Berd around. He will, as usual, find the weaknesses of Berdych and mercilessly exploit them. He will win in three or four.
=============================

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

AO Day 6: Quotes and Things


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The funny thing about slams is how much there is going on. Only Miami and Indian Wells come close. The only event where there is more going on is the Olympics and, well, duh. There is more to see than can ever be seen and more to do than can ever be done. So it is easy to miss that which is not immediately obvious. A great example of that is quotes.

Which players are comediennes? Or comedians? Which players are boring and which never watch any tape? Who can speak multiple language? We know the answers to all these because we can ask. We can find out, we can see for ourselves.

"The last few days I couldn't really talk, maybe too many cigar, I don't really need my voice, if I can talk, I talk too much sh#t," he said.

"I can tell I just had a cold a little bit, but nothing serious, nothing big. As long as I'm feeling good on the court, that's the most important thing."

Stan has a cheeky sense of humour, though he also has a more serious side. He even swears in the media room, which shows he knows how to relax, how to be himself, in an interview situation. That is a really good trait to have.

The other thing that can happen is that players can talk about each other. It is almost always friendly, especially on the ATP tour, but sometimes it can be a little nastier. Some of the ladies on the WTA have been known to take swipes. Federer does it sometimes, but it is usually tongue in cheek.

This past week Federer has been talking about Tomic, about how he never makes the top ten and he hasn’t shown ‘it yet,’ which was a little uncalled for though it is true in some respects. Tomic responded by saying he was certain to get into the top ten. He also said Federer isn’t there against Djokovic. Which is not true and very petty.

But these are a just a couple of examples. I’m sure you could go look and find a lot.

So what else happened during the day? Well, let’s find out.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman {W}
MS 4th Rd: Monfils [23] d. Kuznetsov
--
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}
WS 4th Rd: Keys [15] d. Zhang


ROD LAVER: WAWRINKA D. ROSOL
...Wawrinka managed to survive a late fightback from Rosol to come through 6-3, 6-2, 7-6[3]. He just continues to dominate all before him. Rosol actually played a solid match, but really he had no chance. With 45 aces and four breaks, Wawrinka cruised to victory in under two hours. With Raonic up next, the Swiss is riding high. That will be a test but Stan is certainly up to it. In fact, he is more than up to it, he could well dominate. Raonic will have to serve huge the whole match and attack at every opportunity. I would expect very few breaks of serve in their fourth round match. Wawrinka returned well but needs to serve better with regards to accuracy. He has to do better than 58 per cent on the first serve. He should also attempt to come to net more. If he can take the net away from his younger opponent, he will be able to limit one of his methods of attack. It has been a good tournament from Rosol but he will not be the last to fall to Wawrinka here.
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ROD LAVER: TOMIC D. MILLMAN
...Tomic is back in the fourth round here. He has made it there twice before, but was schooled by Federer in 2012 and convincingly sent packing by Berdych in 2015. He now has Murray. He spent two hours getting rid of Millman 6-4, 7-6[3], 6-2. Murray has never lost to Tomic, going 3-0 and the Aussie has not even taken a set. There were times when people compared the two, excepting the fact Tomic hits flatter and Murray moves better. Hitting 48 winners, breaking five times and even returning well, Bernie looks set to at least challenge the world number two. If Murray does lose, he will forfeit his world number two position to Federer. If Tomic wins he could crack the top 15. What he needs to do against the Scot is serve as he has been doing but also attack Murray when he drops it short. Murray is predictable and can sometimes get passive. If he does then Bernie can use his good court knowledge to try and control the rallies. He also has to serve bigger in general. I think Murray wins in four.
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MCA: RAONIC D. TROICKI
...You can tell a player is confident when he dismisses a recent title-winner in a grand slam without breaking a sweat. Raonic rolled through 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. He hit 37 winners in just over an hour and a half. It was a remarkable performance from the world number 14. He won 84 per cent of his first serve points and broke five times. He did lose his serve but his opponent could only manage to win 17 receiving points. The Canuck is in impressive form, but I think it will be the variety of the Swiss that will be the deciding factor. The different spins and slices will be difficult to deal with. Combining all those different looks with the kind of raw power Stan has is a potent mix.
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MCA: MURRAY D. SOUSA
...It took Murray over two hours to finally subdue Sousa 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. He volleyed well but did not serve particularly well. He also lost serve twice. This was a grind, a slog. But Murray is used to doing that. He can play these dirty matches, he can get his clothes mud-streaked so to speak. This was a physical, rough match which Sousa was able to shine in. The Portuguese man is a tricky opponent and he really pushed Muzza throughout the tighter-than-it-looks four setter. But Murray is now through to face Tomic. It could go four but the Aussie is looking for his first set in the fourth round of this tournament. He has yet to win one.
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HISENSE: ISNER D. LOPEZ
...This was a mature performance from the tenth seed. He won 6-7[8], 7-6[5], 6-2, 6-4. But this match was a dud. It should have been an epic five-setter. Isner hit 44 aces but Lopez hit just 18. The Spaniard was just, well, disappointing. Lopez never found a break point but Isner got 7, converting three. Out of 124 points returning, Lopez won 27. Isner won twice, in percentage terms, that amount. If Isner is returning alright then the rest of the field is in trouble. It is another disappointing slam for Lopez but a second fourth round here for Isner. Can he beat 8th seeded Ferrer? Probably not, as he is 1-6 all-time versus the Spaniard. But if he could make a second slam quarter-final, wouldn’t that be good for him and for American tennis?
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OUTER COURT SELECTION: MONFILS D. ROBERT
...Monfils continues to cruise, though he has had an easy draw. He plays at a standard that is just higher than his opponents can play. Every match is in his hands. He can only lose if he mucks up. Stay solid and he is golden. He was on court for an hour and three quarters but won 7-5, 6-3, and 6-2. But don’t feel sorry for Robert - he get 97, 500 dollars for making the third round. Kuznetsov, Monfils’ Russian fourth round opponent, will get $200,000. Those two are sorted until the French Open with regards to finances. It gives them options, gives them choices. That’s why these runs are so important to the underdogs. Monfils has Kuznetsov, then Wawrinka and then Murray. He is in with a legitimate shot to make the final. And he is playing like it.
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Kiki and Garcia continue to dominate in the doubles, though it is against lesser opponents. Still, you can only play whomever is in front of you. They beat Sanchez/Vogt 6-2, 6-1. With 18 winners and 6 breaks, they run rampant. They even served at a 79 per cent first serve mark. The French ladies do have a test coming up. Thirteenth seeded Goerges/Pliskova are next and they’ve yet to lose a set here. They will also hold their serve more, unlike the opponents of the third seeds yesterday.


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AO Day 5: Roger Rolls to 300


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Roger Federer has amassed 300 wins at slam level. He has appeared in close to 70 slams. He has not missed a slam in his career due to injury and is just six wins from Martina Navratilova’s record. He is the oldest man to make the fourth round here since Andre Agassi 11 years ago. He continues to smash records and, aged 34, he is the second best player in the world. It is more than insanity, it is a defiance of science, proven science. He should be too old, too worn, to continue at this level. But no. A combination of a youthful game, great dietary work, freedom of schedule and a lack of competent successors all add into Federer’s longevity.

The strange thing is, the longer he sticks around, the better he is likely to do. He has already outlasted Nadal. Surely Djokovic and Murray, both of whom will shortly be 29, are entering their twilight. Or perhaps Federer is the harbinger of a long playing career for everyone. The key thing is just to enjoy the presence of the maestro while he is still around.

The other theme was the big guys getting past potentially difficult opponents. As discussed in this blog throughout the week, they avoided the upset. Well, Cilic lost to Agut 6-4, 7-6[5], 7-5 but that barely counts as an upset. He blasted 55 errors in his loss. Marin Cilic is a one-slam wonder and is consigned to be forever the answer to a pub trivia question. Federer and Berdych got through against very dangerous opponents with nothing to lose, while steady Seppi was swept aside by Novak.

And Nick Kyrgios has thrown another wobbly on the court. BACKSPIN does not usually like to talk about these things but the link is here. It’s just depressing to a player who should be a role model, should be a leader of the future generation behaving so recklessly. Both he and Tomic have had their problems, though Tomic has all his problems away from court. Bernie has worked hard and because his problems are not on-court it is easy to separate them. Both still have issues but I do worry for Nick. It could be he will be like Agassi and straighten out over the course of his career. I hope it happens soon because right now these incidents make me sad.

But what else happened during the day? Well, let’s find out.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dimitrov d. Lorenzo {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Kyrgios [29] d. Cuevas {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Tomic [16] d. Millman
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WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova d. Hradecka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Mladenovic [28] d. Gibbs {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Beck d. Siegemund {W}


ROD LAVER: FEDERER D. DIMITROV
...If you go and sit on a major court at a slam and the first match up on the order of play is this, you know you’re in for a good day. Federer is now 5-0 in the head-to-head but that doesn’t matter because they entertain and delight the masses. Dimitrov really tried here, just like in Brisbane. But Federer can find a level where others cannot follow. Even Murray looks mortal when asked to match Federer at that level. When Federer hits that level you have no chance. Luckily, Dimitrov could match him when it dropped. The Swiss rolled through in under three hours 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. He could only manage 48-55 on the winners. Dimitrov was very poor in that respect at only 23-44. Still, Fed broke four times and was only broken once. He served consistently and, of course, attacked the net. He does look in good form, especially if he can lessen the errors. It is likely another four-setter is coming in the shape of David Goffin. These earlier tests are good and bad, of course. One wants to be tested, but not overly so.
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ROD LAVER: BERDYCH D. KYRGIOS
...Very similar scoreline to the Federer match here. Berdych through 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. He was almost bageled, too. But in just over two hours, the Aussie was out. He will drop in the rankings and in his reputation. He only hit 26 errors and broke twice. But Tomas hit even more winners. He was solid, too solid for the distracted and erratic Kyrgios. We all saw what Kyrgios could do in the third set. We should fear him but only when he is on form. He only won 37 per cent of 2nd serve points and there-in lies the issue. Berdman wins their first meeting but now he has a much more different match. He must face off against the opposite to Kyrgios - the just as big-hitting but infinitely more patient Bautista-Agut. The Spaniard can whack the ball but he is so measured. He knocked out Cilic in three sets and will be feeling confident.
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MCA: NISHIKORI D. GARCIA-LOPEZ
...Nishikori is through to face Tsonga after defeating GGL 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. He ground out an unremarkable, error-strewn, four-setter. With 7 breaks and neither player managing to serve over 200 even once, this was one for the fanatics. There weren’t even really net points. This match is like a generic Bruce Willis film. Some exciting bits, a lot of potential but ultimately just not as good as some of his others. ‘Tis a pity. But congrats to the Spaniard for fulfilling his seeding. He can look forward to going back onto the dirt soon.
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MCA: TSONGA D. HERBERT
...First Mahut and now his doubles partner. Herbert is a really talented doubles player. He can already read the game to an impressive level. And he is still only a kid. Tsonga came through in two hours 6-4, 7-6[7], 7-6[4]. As expected, Herbert came to net 63 times. He won the point 41 times - it proved to be a successful tactic. Both players served big but inconsistently. The important thing for Tsonga is that he moves on. He has been having a very successful tournament thus far. His 50 aces in three matches put him 7th in the tournament, but he is set to rise. Next up is Nishikori and I think the Frenchman is the favourite. Kei leads the head to head 4-2 but Tsonga won their last. It was in Paris and it went five. Will Tsonga’s grand slam experience, particularly here, help him?
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HISENSE: DJOKOVIC D. SEPPI
...This is scheduling I understand. This match is not quite of RLA calibre when compared to the other men’s matches. When you add in the women’s matches, this was a perfect fit for MCA. Djokovic won 6-1, 7-5, 7-6[6] but Seppi was inches from forcing a fourth set. Djokovic ground through this sloppy match, going 34-37 on the winners count. BACKSPIN cannot remember the last time he made 37 errors in a three-setter or the last time he was negative on the winner stats. Luckily for him, Seppi was only 29-38. Novak never lost his serve, but broke three times. His serving stats were really good, including the fact he had over 70 per cent on his first serve rate. Gilles Simon just blew away Delbonis, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 and he should take a set. The easy matches ran out a while ago for the top seed, if there ever were any in the first place.
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OUTER COURT SELECTION: GOFFIN D. THIEM
...It took Goffin 120 seconds shy of three hours to come through a four set war against Thiem. Thiem had avoided upsets in the first two rounds, but this time he was the hunter and not the hunted. It is difficult to play such a different role. Goffin was simply too solid, winning 6-1, 3-6, 7-6[5], 7-5. Around 35-40 per cent of the points ended in errors - this was a real grind. Both service percentages were just above 55 per cent. Goffin broke six times, which is good but against Federer, he cannot surrender serve four times. When playing the Swiss, Goffin has to hold serve. If he can improve the second serve, he will be able to do that more easily. He also has to do more than just put it on Federer’s backhand side.
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Kiki is gone, but she did achieve her seeding at least. She and Gavrilova played a match that was just short of three hours. The Aussie triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 11-9. That last set alone lasted 96 minutes. Incredibly, Gavrilova hit just a single ace. Both ladies served more doubles than aces as there were a combined 13 breaks throughout the match. Kiki made the third round and performed well so she gets a pass. Next time she has to take advantage of the draw.

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