Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Davis Cup Semifinals Recap

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

France and Switzerland are nations with a proud history. France especially have a proud sporting history, having hosted the Olympics, both summer and winter, won the soccer World Cup and also been finalists in the rugby World Cup. America’s sports are usually only played in America. It has always confused me why the MLB calls its finals the World Series. Anyway. France have also had relative success in the world of tennis with recent Davis and Fed Cup victories and finals. They have also had some of the greats of our sports from Lenglen to Mauresmo [world number one and two slams alone is enough to be a Hall of Fame career for me] to Noah to Pierce. Yes, they have all been so talented and so fickle but they have been entertaining. I cannot remember the last time I watched a Frenchie play a tennis match and gone away not entertained. Confused, yes. Mystified, yes. Disappointed, yes. But not entertained? Never.

Switzerland has distinguished itself in winter sports. It has held two Winter Olympics and has a proud history in football, too. It is eighth on the all-time list of Winter Olympic medals just behind Sweden. They both have fifty gold and forty silvers. The Swiss are nineteenth overall with ninety-seven medals across both. France are sixth with 233 but fourth in the summer games with 202. Switzerland also has a good tennis history with strong performances in the Fed and Davis Cup. Rosset signaled the beginning of a period of Swiss dominance.

Wawrinka and this French team have both come of age at last. Federer was always waiting on a second man to help him win the Davis Cup and it looks like he has have found it. Wawrinka needs to just win one of his rubbers and Switzerland will win. Federer is usually going to win two and if Wawrinka is on form there are few who can stop them. It has long been baffling how this French side hasn’t dominated this competition of late. I think it is clear now they are starting to live up their potential. It is good to see Gasquet and Tsonga leading the way and showing the nation how to do it. The Davis Cup is great for inspiring younger generations to join in the tennis movement.

Right. Let’s get on with the two ties.

S: France d. Czech Republic 4-1
D: Switzerland d. Italy 3-2

...Roland Garros is a fine venue. And it played host to a fine win. The French crowd are a factor like no other slam crowd is. You can win with the crowds against you in all the other slams, even in New York, but go against the French crowd at your peril. Hingis found out to her cost what happens if they don’t like you. Djokovic, too. They are fickle in their tastes. They respect Nadal but do not love the nine time champion. They prefer Federer and his class. They also cheer raucously for their own no matter what.

That crowd and the surface was the combination needed to see off the Czech challenge. Gasquet opened by dismissing Berdych in a display of brutal power and soft finesse we have not seen him play in many a month. The French now had the ‘break’ but they had to hold serve. Tsonga eased past Rosol in a similar scoreline to Gasquet’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 decision to leave the Czechs hanging on by a thread. Stepanek and Berdych have proved themselves to be a dangerous doubles duo in the past. Tsonga and Ritchie usually take a while to warm up before really clicking. They were slow starters in their win against Australia last time out before coming through fairly easily in the end. And this time would be no different. They lost the opening set in a breaker but took the second before coming to a second breaker in the third set. And from there they cruised, winning the breaker before dropping just one game in the fourth.

They face the Swiss next. Both teams are equally good on each surface, but I think the Swiss will choose either fast hard or fast hard indoors. I’m still surprised grass is so rarely chosen.
...Sounds close, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. Federer and Wawrinka looked world class against a determined Italian side. It happens, sometimes, in Davis Cup matches where there is such a gulf in ability, even on a basic level, that it only looks like one team is ever going to win. Italy had upset Great Britain in the previous round with great tactics and crafty play, but against two of the world’s best four players they never had a chance. Federer and Wawrinka won their three singles rubbers and that was enough to progress. Stan pushing the Italians to five in the doubles was a bonus. Federer was initially pushed in his match against Bolelli with the Italian using his forehand to push the Fed around, but the Swiss soon started to take control. After a close first set, Federer smoothly slipped into first gear and was never troubled after that. Wawrinka dropped less than ten games against Fognini and was never in any danger of losing. Despite the Italians eventually running away with the doubles, Federer was less dismissive but equally untroubled in dealing with Fognini. The Italian almost threatened to look like he might take the third set but Federer snuffed out whatever threat there was.

If I was the Swiss I would put this tie on very quick grass. Yes, the French are strong there but it would throw them off, and Federer and Wawrinka are so strong on that surface. Indoor clay with the home support would be too much for France to handle. Gasquet and Tsonga were both disappointing at Wimbledon this year.

1. Davis Cup Rubber 1 - GASQUET d. BERDYCH
That score line doesn’t happen in Davis Cup at this stage when the top player of one country plays the second ranked in another. Gasquet looked a complete player, he looked like the player he was for most of last year. Berdych was not able to match that level and Gasquet cruised through. The one handed backhand and volleying skill was all there in a vintage Gasquet display.
The Italians pulled out a win from their hat to keep the tie alive. The problem the Italians had was that they did not have enough quality to upset the Swiss. They won the doubles tie and pushed it to one more but had to come back from two sets to one down to do so.
3. Davis Cup Rubber 3 - FEDERER d. FOGNINI
The surface proved to be the right call. It was unlikely that the Swiss would lose on any surface except, perhaps, extremely slow clay or ice. But the quick surface complemented the power of the Swiss stars and it helped them to get through to the next round.

Tsonga [1] d. [3] Kohlschreiber
Monfils [2] d. Seppi
Monfils [2] d. [1] Tsonga
Going on form I can only pick one winner here

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Big Four No More: What Caused Andy Murray’s Disastrous 2014 Season?

[ ATP Backspin guest blogger ]

In maritime law it is a criminal offense for a captain to abandon his ship no matter how dire the circumstances. His job is to stay with his vessel, even if it is sure to go down, and ensure that all passengers and crew members safely, and quite literally, jump ship. It goes without saying, it doesn't usually end well for the captain. This dichotomy exists in many facets of life where responsibility falls squarely on someone’s shoulders while the others “jump ship” in hopes of saving face. Whether one can do it in time is another matter. In the case of Ivan Lendl, he seems to have perfected the art of knowing exactly when to abandon a sinking ship.

Andy Murray, Lendl’s former employer, was last seen dumping a tired cross court backhand into the net gifting Novak Djokovic a quarterfinal victory at the US Open. It was the final act of, to put it lightly, yet another disappointing showing at a Grand Slam for Murray. As he walked off the court and the unapologetic camera panned to his new coach Amelie Mauresmo in the stands, it was impossible not wonder if and when Lendl knew it was going to be a rough 2014 for Murray.

Slightly over a year ago Murray was on top of the tennis world having just won Wimbledon on home soil, his 2nd Grand Slam title in four tries, and was pushing for the world #1 ranking. Today Murray sits outside the top 10 at #11 and could only muster a single semi final appearance in all Grand Slams this season. Is it possible to pinpoint a turning point or has it been a succession of setbacks that have held back Murray this year?

It must be said that dating back to the 2013 French Open Murray has been dealing with lower back problem. Many forget that his status for Wimbledon that year was very much in the air after having to withdraw from the French Open. Later that year, shortly after he had been named 2013 BBC Sport Personality of the Year, he opted to have surgery on his nagging lower back problem. Murray was seemingly ready to go for the start of the 2014 season but his form on the court suggested otherwise. He lost to two players outside the top 40 to kick off his first two tournaments and failed to make the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time since 2009. From there he never really recovered.

There’s no reason to beat a dead horse and recount each tournament setback. His struggles through the remainder of the season (he failed to even make it to a single final let alone win a tournament) are well documented and are reflected in his #11 world ranking. In between disappointing results at Indian Wells and the Miami Masters, he parted ways with his coach Ivan Lendl, who was instrumental in getting Murray over that Grand Slam hump. Considering all of Murray’s success over the year and a half prior it was a surprising announcement to say the least.

Lendl finally spoke up concerning their parting of ways after Murray announced he would be working with Amelie Mauresmo until after at least the conclusion of the US Open. Lendl cited family time, passion projects and excessive travel as reasons for his departure, but his answer to a particular question was quite telling. When asked if part of the reason he decided to step down as coach was because of the difficulty that came with of matching the high and intensity of a Grand Slam victory he responded, “Yeah, and that too. Everyone is different, and when you win a big tournament like Wimbledon, it’s not easy sometimes. Some people find it more difficult than others, and I’m glad Andy found Amélie [Mauresmo] who can give him the time he needs.” Did Lendl believe that Murray was no longer committed to becoming the best after tasting the victory he’d been working towards all those years?

I might be unfair to make such a sweeping generalization, but I wrote about the possibility of complacency in Murray’s corner leading up to Wimbledon. It seems as though the claim was not unfounded considering Lendl publicly voiced similar worries. I think a combination of that 2013 season high and his inability to practice a 100% for the majority of the year held him back but it still doesn’t hide the fact that Murray’s struggles have coincided with Lendl’s leaving. Even with a full month of training leading up to US Open Murray looked visibly fatigued at times during the tournament. In his first round match with Robin Haase it looked as though he would have to withdraw after he hobbled through a cramp-filled third set yet he managed to pull through. He looked sharp at times during his aforementioned quarterfinal match-up with Djokovic but it became clear in the fourth set that Murray did not have enough in the tank to take down Djokovic. Once the most fit player on tour, he seemed to labor through the latter end of the match. It wasn’t easy to watch.

With the surge from the rest of the field, in the form of Slam wins from both Wawrinka and Cilic, Murray could not have picked a worse time to tank a season. Whether complacency really is the reason for his decline he’ll have to find a way to pump himself up to get back into the top five, let alone the top 10. The tennis landscape has changed with the blink of the eye and the “Big Four” is firmly a thing of the past. Lendl may have been aware of a leak in the ship long before the rest of us noticed it sinking, but don’t expect Murray to go under without a fight.

John Hayes is a blogger and entrepreneur who helped launched MyTennisLessons.com in Austin TX. His mission is to help people stay active by making tennis a more accessible and affordable option for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

US Open: Look Behind You

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The U.S. Open quarterfinals are special. There have been so many classics on both sides, but since men’s tennis is the focus here, it is time to look behind you. Yes, there and there and also over there.

The year is 1974 and the month is September. The number one is "(You're) Having My Baby" by Paul Anka. And Arthur Ashe was due to play John Newcombe, the Australian great. In those days talent was rife, in a way it simply isn’t these days. After a four set classic in 1970 they played each other once more. Newcombe would triumph in the most dramatic of styles in a classic match full of great tennis. Ashe took the first set before exchanging a pair of 6-3 sets with the Aussie. Up two sets to one, Ashe played a great fourth set but lost it in the tiebreaker. And that would prove to be the hammer blow as Newcombe took the momentum with him and closed it out 6-4 in the fifth.

The year is 1992. Disappointingly Boyz II Men were atop the charts with their song "End of the Road," but there was a big match on between two great players. Ninth seeded Ivan Lendl had struggled throughout but had beaten seventh seeded Boris Becker in five epic sets in the fourth round. His reward was that he got to face off with second seeded Stefaf Edberg. Edberg has been on shaky form all year, losing his number one ranking in April. He re-found form on the American hard courts and he took it with him into the U.S. Open. He dismissed an exhausted Lendl 6-3, 6-3 in the first two sets. Lendl managed to win the third 6-3 and ignite some hope. But Edberg, one of the greatest closers, served for it at 5-4 in the third. Lendl survived four match points and won the set 7-5. The next day, after the rain interruption, Lendl lost the shootout in a breaker with all of New York seemingly on his side.

Andre Agassi was a quarterfinalist back in 1992 with long hair and a great amount of ‘tude, too. In 2005, he was again a quarterfinalist. This time he faced James Blake, but back then he had lost to top seed Jim Courier in four tight sets. In a month where "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey was at number one he was seeded second. Blake was a wild card who had beaten Greg Rusedski [28], Rafael Nadal [2] and Tommy Robredo [19] to make the quarters. Blake then rolled through Agassi 6-3, 6-3 to go up two sets to none. I remember watching a replay of this a few years later during a rain delay. The standard and quality was incredible. Agassi looked out of his depth. But then Agassi used his champion qualities to fight back, and fight back he did. He took the next two sets by the exact same score. In the fifth set James had his chance and took it. He served for it at 5-4 but could not hold on. Agassi came back and into the final set breaker they went. He reached match point but, no, Blake saved that. On his second, however, there would only be one outcome.
I just picked three matches from different eras. I can always talk about more if you want. Right, let’s get on with it then...

...This might well go down as the best half a match in the tournament. In fact, it probably was the best two sets of the entire tournament. Murray and Djokovic both knew the importance and they both showed it. There was intent from both men from the first ball struck. Djokovic came out on top in four long sets, 7-6 [1], 6-7 [1], 6-2, 6-4. You can see there the difference between the two. Djokovic is the perennial contender, Murray the perennial pretender. Murray could not find a consistent level as high as the Djoker’s. It would prove costly. The first two sets took two hours and thirteen minutes and the match lasting three hours and thirty-two minutes. Djokovic went 46-48 with the winners whilst Murray went 47-65. Those errors would prove too costly to undo for the Scot. Djokovic broke seven times but did lose serve four times. As we thought, Murray served bigger [nine aces to eight and a higher top speed on serve] but struggled to consistently serve bigger. Murray played well and hit the right shots but was, eventually, outclassed by Djokovic. Djokovic has Nishikori is the next semifinal. Nishikori wasn’t even born before two of those classic matches. Djokovic has to be more physically in shape than Kei. Djokovic has to extend the rallies and force Kei to go for more. Djokovic will need to make Kei play out of his comfort zone. Djokovic can also punish the weaker serve of the Japanese. What is also important is that Djokovic raises the second serve point win percentage.
...Well I was wrong. I thought there was absolutely no way Wawrinka could lose. He was in better shape physically and he had a lot to play for. It almost looked like a foregone conclusion. Nishikori has far exceeded what I expected of him. He has already had an excellent U.S. Open by anyone’s standards and that makes him dangerous. This match would turn into a modern classic. In four and a quarter hours, Nishikori overcame the Swiss star 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 [7], 6-7 [5], 6-4. He was done 3-0 in that third set. Wawrinka broke just twice but Nishikori broke thrice. Wawrinka also threw down eighteen aces and 68 winners overall. The 78 errors were forgivable. Nishikori went just 41-51 with the errors to winner ratio. Kei must hit more winners against Djokovic. Nishikori had an average first serve speed of just 109. That is not going to cut it in his next match either. Wawrinka had opportunities to wrap this up in three sets but could not seem to shake the Japanese man despite having an advantage in both the power and variety department. Nishikori comes through despite winning fewer points than his opponent. Nishikori has to win points quickly, although going for it will play into Djokovic’s hands. Kei cannot outlast Djokovic in those long rallies, so he must try to play one-strike tennis. He has got to out-return Djokovic, as well. Also, try to avoid letting Djokovic get an opportunity on that backhand wing.
...This was the least exciting of the quarterfinals. Cilic is having a banner year and Berdych is always there. Berdych has mastered the art of staying in the top ten -- achieve positive results but nothing too stellar which will cost points if he fails to defend those points. So he is always around in the quarterfinals or semifinals. Cilic simply overpowered Berdych. Cilic hit 19 aces and 46 winners overall. He won 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 in two and a bit hours. It was a routine match for Cilic. Berdych provided little resistance for two and a half sets. Cilic broke five times but did somehow lose service twice. Berdych it 29 errors but, more worryingly, he hit just 21 winners. For a powerhouse like Berdych 21 winners is unacceptable. There were only 24 combined net approaches with 15 of those being converted. Apart from the occasional drop-shot there was no variety here. It was two ball strikers sitting behind the baseline serving big and exchanging very similar shots. Cilic has Federer next. For Cilic it is simple. He must serve huge and hit bigger than Federer. That is Cilic’s entire game plan. And if I were the Croat I would cut out that drop-shot. It is a smart tactic against Berdych but Federer will snap that up.
...Where do I even begin? I don’t quite know. Monfils has yet again shown his brilliance, talent and his flakiness. He has advertised the very best and very worst he has to offer. I think there is a chance this match may break or make his career. He lost, but either it will give him new confidence or it will break his spirit utterly. Some players never quite recover from heartache -- Coria can attest to this. Federer came through in an absolute epic 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 but it did take him exactly 200 minutes. Federer was down two sets to love and playing very badly. He clawed his way back into it by taking the third set. In the fourth he was in trouble again. He was barely clinging on but Monfils could not quite finish him. Federer’s race looked to be run when he was down 4-5, 15-40 but he played two brilliant, all or nothing points to get to five all. From there it was all Federer to the end. Monfils hit 43 winners and 49 errors. Federer had similar stats of 48 winners and 44 errors. Monfils hit ten double faults and they were a thorn in his side. Federer also broke six times but was broken six times .That is not sustainable against either Djokovic or Cilic. Federer did win 40 per cent of receiving points, which he needs to keep doing. Federer needs to return well against Cilic but he has been the master of defusing bombs over his career. He has a great return especially because most servers are not varied but readable. It doesn’t help when they are 145 out wide but by getting a read on them one does get an advantage. Federer will have few troubles on his own serve but he needs to cut out his errors. Another useful thing for Fed to do would be to use lots of different shots. He needs variety like slices, chip and charges and different spins and paces. Luckily nobody in history has mastered this art with as much competency as the Fed.

Any other notes?

* = The U.S. Open scheduling always confuses me. I wanted to write before the semifinals. I think I have succeeded.

* = The WTA, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, it is always like this.

* = Is this as good as Japanese tennis has ever been? I think it might well be. A seed in men’s and women’s events is pretty impressive.

* = Nadal will be twenty-nine at next year’s Wimbledon. I believe his birthday is during the clay swing if not the French Open. Tied with Sampras at fourteen majors but riddled with injuries, can he catch Federer’s slam total? Not if Federer wins one more.

* = The best Spaniard at this year’s U.S. Open? Bautista-Agut, of course. Silly question.

* = Can we have Jim Courier commenting more please? I miss that guy.

* = Did you know Sveta and a certain Miss Backspin [an ex-Miss Backspin] used to dine together?"

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

US Open: Knocking at the Door of Djokovic/Murray

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Murray and Djokovic have a rivalry -- a good one -- though they are very good friends and occasional doubles partners. Born just a week apart, the two have similar games. Djokovic leads the head-to-head by about two matches but it really doesn’t matter in a match like the one on Wednesday night. It is not important in a rivalry like this what has happened before. In the big matches it has gone either way. Murray has not had the stellar career his opponent has. Murray does not quite have the champion’s factor that Djokovic has. He is also more susceptible to upsets and can struggle when not on his best. Djokovic is better at winning ugly but, really, both have had great careers though I cannot see Murray getting into the Hall of Fame as things stand.

Mentally Djokovic has a big advantage. He is so so tough mentally. He just never goes away. I think this is the area where there is a huge gulf between Djokovic and Murray. Djokovic can come back from two sets down. No problems. Djokovic is never out till you win on match point. You can bet he won’t miss match point down. The area Murray has the big advantage is in the serve. He just has a much beefier serve, though his second is a weaker delivery. He never had a problem with his serve like Djokovic did. Murray is harder to break.

The forehand and backhand are very similar, though I think Murray’s forehand on top form just shades it. He has worked so hard on that wing. Neither of them is particularly distinguished at the net, but I like the way Murray volleys more. Djokovic has struggled in that department previously. They both have good areas and not so good areas, but the basic model of their games is the same. They have built them on great defense and great movement. This is always the problem when two great counter-punchers play. They have nothing to counter-punch. Murray has the tendency to be both more aggressive and more passive. He seems to slip in and out of passages playing both ways. Going in, I thought there would be long rallies in this match, and plenty of them. First strike tennis will have no place here. This is purely about physicality. This is all about endurance and physicality.

I can’t pick this, but the winner is going to the final.

I am going to be focusing on the two main courts from here on in. I will be looking at the four big matches on yesterday. There were several good matches and one exhibition. I have attempted an analysis so now I will get on with the rest of my report.

...Monfils won in straights back in 2011 here in New York. It was a very entertaining match. Dimitrov has never beaten the Frenchman before and it is interesting that Monfils seems to do well against those with a one-handed backhand. Monfils, I guess, just has that kind of style that can make one-handers think twice. Dimitrov was unable to find a way through or past him. Monfils won 7-5, 7-6 [6], 7-5 in 145 minutes. It was a tight match from start to finish with some breathtaking rallies. Like this one. Dimitrov hit 31 winners and 38 errors but Monfils managed to be more solid. He went 29-30 with fourteen aces thrown in. Dimitrov broke just once, but his opponent broke three times. Neither of them won more than 35 per cent of receiving points. Incredibly Monfils approached the net just ten times. For Dimitrov and Monfils the second serve win percentage is too low. Both were just under 60 per cent. You want to be winning 65-70 per cent of second serves, ideally. Neither of them was performing on first serves either. Monfils is going to have to step his returning game. His next opponent will exploit any weakness, especially one that glaring. Monfils has Federer. That is going to be entertaining, but how close depends on how consistent Monfils can be.
...Agut has never been more out of his depth. He has had a career year this year. He has been one of the breakout players. He showed why for some of this match but he was completely out-matched. He longer the match went on, the more apparent that was. Federer played so well. He played like he was teaching somehow how to play tennis. He used his forehand to rip the Spaniard apart. Roger Federer makes his 43rd quarterfinal. He has also been to 35 semifinals. I do not see anybody breaking either of those records. If Federer retired now, Djokovic could only overtake him on both counts in three years. Nadal is further behind because of injury. Really, Federer has achieved some crazy things. Federer won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in less than two hours. He blasted 36 winners with eight aces thrown in, too. He was broken just once and broke his opponent six times. Federer was majestic throughout. The Spaniard was never given a look in. Federer moved onto a higher plane. Federer headed into the stratosphere those last two sets. Agut kept trying new things because he had to but each time Federer would just trump him. It was as dominant a display as you are likely to see all year on hard courts. That Nadal/Murray semifinal made for painful viewing. Fedex gets Monfils next and if he can cut down those errors by five or ten but keep those other stats then I can only see one winner. I can forgive the five double faults, but Federer does need to not give Monfy any free points.
...Ouch. This was also pretty devastating, with Thiem managing to win just seven games. Even Agut managed to get nine. Berdych literally ripped right through Thiem as if he was nothing more than smoke and air. Ten aces and 24 winners were somewhat blighted by the 23 errors Berdych hit. He needed just an hour and a half to progress, breaking five times and holding in every single one of his service games. Berdych also won 44 percent of receiving points and made Thiem go for everything. Thiem could not make everything and ended up with 35 errors. He got put through a trial of fire and next time he will be prepared. Next time he will be wary of what lies in wait. Berdych needs to get rid of the errors, but otherwise it was a clean match. Berdych gets Cilic next. Expect a similar match to the one they had at Wimbledon: big serving and big shots in abundance. Berdych and Cilic are going to knock seven bells out of one another. They are both looking for a chance at Federer, one they will both feel they can take.
...Simon is steady. He is steady to a point of being boring. I am sure he cannot be French as he plays in such an un-French manner. Simon has somehow developed a big serve somewhere down the line. It seems to not fit with his steady game. Gilles is the ultimate pusher and remains as one of the few players who can really find Federer’s backhand. He is one of those players who just grinds you down with sheer consistency. Robredo does it with style and class. Robredo does it with pizzazz. Simon does it with solidness. Simon does it by being consistent. And that is the most frustrating thing of all. Simon and Cilic played a long, and nigh on unwatchable, match on Armstrong Stadium. In a little under four and a half hours Cilic prevailed 5-7, 7-6 [3], 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 Cilic hit 23 aces to the Frenchman’s 16. Incredibly they each had just three breaks and neither of them returned particularly well. Cilic has to win a few more second serve points if he wants to go further in the tournament. Cilic hit 70 winners but did make 76 errors. Simon opted for the steady approach and hit 45 winners to just 31 errors. In the end, firepower proved to be too much for steadiness. Cilic gets to play Berdman next and I think he has a chance there. Berdych has not yet been properly tested and I don’t know if he is ready to go five long sets. Cilic has got a good chance but he needs o be mentally tough too.

Any other notes?

* = We’re starting to get to that point in a slam where my sleeping pattern looks like it was knitted by Ray Charles.

* = Federer volleys like a god. McEnroe may say that Nadal has the best volley, but if he had watched the match last night he would agree with me. When Federer volleys he makes angels smile.

* = Djokovic is going to choke. I’m not saying this as a Federer fan. I frankly don’t think Fed will get past Berdych. I just have a feeling Djokovic will choke. He won’t be beaten, but he will lose.

* = The Bryans are back. They surely have the slam now. They are on great form with crowd support.

* = German tennis is finally at ebb. After consistent success it finally looks to be having a recess, though it is likely a temporary one.
I think it would be a full turning of the circle if Britain and Australia both returned to prominence, though Britain has been waiting so much longer.

* = Sveta's first title, in Helsinki, Finland in 2002.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

US Open: Thiem, a New Antique?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

As you know, I love the one-handed backhand. I love the one-handed backhand because it is fluid, it is beautiful. And it looks so much better when hit properly. I’ll let Robbie K guide you through this.

And then you have power, as well as finesse.

And if that wasn’t enough, check out this defense with the use of the one-hander:

And yet it is falling out of use. It is a beautiful thing but, much like the running back and the book, it is starting to be used less. It is starting to be usurped by different technologies and tactics. The two-hander is less ‘flimsy’ and is more defensive, which is an important quality to have on one's backhand these days. Slice, too, is starting to fall out of use, well, at least a little bit. I think a Henin or a Graf would be less effective these days.

It is being taught less and less to hit with only one hand on the backhand. It is going the way of the serve-volleyer. I have written about this a lot because it is an issue close to my heart. I hit with two hands but I love the one-hander so much. It is a beautiful shot and so it is nice to see such an ‘antiquey’ shot being used by the young stars. It is essentially dead on the WTA, but on the ATP Thiem and Dimitrov still use it. They are the last bastion, it seems, of the one-handers. So, as the title says, Thiem is a new antique. He is a European one-hander, with a big serve. He goes for broke. He plays an old fashioned style, but far more physical. As far as backhands are concerned, Rod Laver has the last word.

Well, I shall now get back to what happened in New York. As we are now at the stage where the outer courts are being used less and less, so I will be bringing you matches from the top three courts only.

...Tsonga against Murray might be a slam-defining match. When we look back in five years will we think ‘had Tsonga played his best and beaten Murray would he have upset Djokovic?’ or perhaps ‘if Tsonga had won Murray would never have had the chance to upset Djokovic.’ This is a match which goes beyond just a win or loss. If Tsonga had won he would have cracked the top eight again. He might have made the final. It might have been the end of the Scot's career. It was a match which had the potential to change a slam and several careers. This was no ordinary quarterfinal match. Tsonga was flat. He was not on fire here. The flame was extinguished. He lost 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 in two and half hours. He hit 43 errors. That is not an acceptable stat; especially given the only hit 32 winners. Murray hit an incredible 48 winners with just 18 winners and if he can keep that up Djokovic will have a serious handful. Murray won 71 percent of his serve points and broke five times. He lost his serve just twice. He keeps this up he could have Djokovic. He is serving at the right level. He played at a level that was too high for a flat Tsonga. Will it be good enough to do Djokovic? Murray is running out of time at the majors. He has maybe six more majors at which he has a legitimate shot to win. He will want to take this chance. He is going to give everything he has in that match. Will it be enough?
...Well, Kei has blown up my picks. He now has a 23-10 record in the hard court slams. It is a very impressive win from him. He has a chance to go one better and make his maiden slam semifinal. Raonic did what I thought he should do: make it physical, make it a long battle. It went four hours. It was four hours of physical exertion and Kei’s body held up. How much it is recovered we shall soon know. Nishikori did have to overcome a foot injury. How well he overcame it we shall soon find out.Kei won 4-6, 7-6 [4], 6-7 [8], 7-5, 6-4 but he needed four hours to do so. Raonic hit ten doubles but 3 aces whilst Nishikori went eight and seven. 86 winners for the Canadian but 72 errors do make that winner’s stat look less impressive. Nishikori could only managed 53-41 on the winners to errors count. Raonic served huge with an average first serve speed of 127 miles an hour. Incredibly Kei broke five times making up for his own serve being snapped four times. It was a highlight competitive match, too, with Raonic winning just six points less [181-175] than his opponent. Raonic returned well better than he usually does but it was not enough and he loses in the fourth round in a heartbreaker for the second year in a row. It just gets easier for Kei. He gets the world number three who is starting to hit dizzying heights. Nishikori cannot match him for variety or power and so it is going to be interesting to see the tactics the Japanese man employs. If I were him I would try to really attack the return and put pressure on Stan’s serve.
...Djokovic has a better gear box than Kohl does. Djokovic wasn’t in the mood for any funny business here. He was looking for a comfortable match and that is what he got. Djokovic did not allow Kohl to get even a foothold in the match. Djokovic is looking for slam number eight here. He will equal Agassi but, of course, Agassi won the grand slam. Two hours. 34 winners, with six aces, to just 29 errors plus winning 74 per cent of serve points were all positives for Djokovic. No breaks conceded and four breaks gained further illustrate the dominance. Kohl served big but he did not much else big. He hit 27 winners and 36 errors in all. It was not a great performance from the German who went down 6-1, 7-5, 6-4. The scoreline accurately reflects the match in this case. We have a candidate for match of the tournament here. We know what happened last time these two met here. Murray may not be in form but he will be fired up. This is a chance to salvage his year. There is a chance for redemption here. If the Brit wins he will most likely be headed to the WTF. If Djokovic loses, Federer has the chance to go for year-end number one.
...Robredo has the kind of style designed to disrupt, to frustrate and to annoy. He does not have the power to simply out-hit the great majority of the ATP. He relies on guerrilla warfare for success. He relies on making his opponents miss, on frustrating his opponents till they submit to his will and to his game. He has a good head to head against Wawrinka and has beaten a number of very good players. He also has a certain tactic which always works brilliantly -- he will hit seven balls in the same place and then vary it only slightly on the eighth ball. And it works so well, especially on slower clay. The third set proved to be decisive as the Swiss took it 7-5, 4-5, 7-6 [7], 6-2. In the three hour one minute match, Wawrinka hit 75 winners [18 aces] but did hit 58 errors, too. Robredo was disappointing. He only hit 19 winners and hit 31 unforced errors. Robredo did not fully turn up but he still managed to push Wawrinka all the way. Wawrinka broke four times whilst holding every game but two. Wawrinka also won 79 per cent of second serves. That is a big number. I interrupt to point out Fed has just gone up to two sets to none.
Up next for Wawrinka is the man who has ruined my picks. Nishikori is surely going to struggle to go the distance there. Wawrinka should have too much game for the Japanese man, but Kei will be coming out all guns blazing.
...There is a certain pressure that comes with being defending champs, but pressure is privilege. It is something you have to earn. The pressure can sometimes be too much. And sometimes this combined with other factors can spell doom for the defending champions. The Baltimore Ravens dropped back a notch and the Red Sox stunk the year after their famous wins in their respective sports. Incredibly the two combined for 65 winners in just two hours. For doubles that is a big number. And only 27 unforced errors in total. This match, won by the eleventh seeds 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, was a high quality affair. There were seven breaks [the sixth seeds broke twice] because the level of serving was not particularly high, but despite this both teams played out a very entertaining match. Up next for the eleventh seeds are the on-form second seeds. Peya and Soares have had a strong year and are looking to cap it off in the best possible way. They are not as vulnerable as the sixth seeds were, so it will be a much harder match for the eleventh seeds.

Any other notes?

* = The French in Tsonga was too much to overcome. I think he has been poor this whole tournament.

* = Djokovic has not yet dropped a set on the way to the quarterfinals. Andy Murray has found his range but been inconsistent throughout. And yet, Murray still has a chance in that match.

* = There was no way I was going to be able to call those ladies quarterfinals, but I did call Makarova right.

* = I have a tennis related note. I was looking at Sanchez-Vicario’s career today. She was always in the shadow of Graf, waiting. Then Graf started to weaken but Seles came along. Then both Graf and Seles had bad periods, but Hingis came along. She was ranked number two for a long while and behind some very good players. And yet she managed to win four slams. Why do we not admire her more?

* = Wozniacki played in her first quarterfinal since 2012? And is in her first semifinal since 2011?

* = Why can’t Gasquet be more like Robredo?

* = Umm you can caption this. I sure can’t.

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US Open: Kei and Milos Take on Europe

Hey Y'all. Galileo here .

“You know, the problem with being the last of anything by and by, there be none left at all.”
- Captain Barbosa

Europe has dominated this sport. No finalist this year at any slam has been from out of Europe. In fact, I struggle to remember the last slam finalist not from Europe. Del Potro, Gaudio and Roddick are the last non-European winners of slams. There will be seven European quarterfinalists. There are eight Europeans in the top ten. The two that are not face each other for a quarterfinal place. The dominance of Europe is an incredible feat. Nothing like it has been seen in tennis for some times -- it has always been a global game.

Raonic and Nishikori have a god rivalry going. Nishikori leads it and that includes a final in Japan a few years back. They are the future hope of the world against Europe along with Kyrgios. If they cannot win a slam, I cannot see an end to the dominance of Europe. Home advantage does not mean as much as it once did. It has been a long time since we had even three players win their home slam in a year on either side. In the ladies game the European dominance is not so pronounced, although once Williams retires [which, let’s face it, is sooner rather than later] it will be.

Those two have a blockbuster clash in the fourth round with the winner not only going through to a maiden US Open quarterfinal but also becoming the last player not from Europe left standing. Kevin Anderson bowed out and so is also not in contention, with the same going for Kyrgios. Kyrgios is the future, however, and not the present so there is still room for improvement there. I think Australia is on the comeback trail. After a miserable Olympics and a miserable few years in sport, they are starting to comeback. But for now, Europe is dominant.

Well I shall now get back to what happened in New York...

...Rain interrupted the great one. Luckily it also gave the great one a respite. The rain assisted him, though he would likely have come back and won anyway. Federer has been in many holes in many different events. He knows the standard procedure used to get out of holes. He has been down so many times and has managed to stay not out. Federer showed his class against Granollers by simply rising to a level the Spaniard does not have. Granollers did challenge Federer as I predicted [ I GOT SOMETHING RIGHT!] but he went down fairly easily as the match progressed. Federer could win a record sixth US Open title here. Yes, Bill Tilden won six titles in the twenties. But that was close to a hundred years ago now and as impressive as that is the sport was a different game back then. Change makes me sad. Federer hit thirteen aces and no doubles on his way to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory. Down 5-2 in that first set, Federer would only go on to lose four more games. Fed hit a total of 57 winners and just 27 errors. It was a pretty much perfect match, though that error count should be lower. Federer won 52 per cent of points he was receiving and 66 per cent of his service points. He also managed to break 9 times although he shouldn’t be getting broken twice. Federer and Granollers served at similar speeds pretty consistently throughout. Next up is another solid Spaniard who likes clay the best. Agut has won a grass court title, though, unlike Granollers. Federer is unlikely to drop ten games against Bautista-Agut or a set like he did against Granollers. Federer has a very open path to the finals now.
...And with that stunning upset Federer has an open section. In matching his best result here, Simon has ensured Federer will be in the final; for surely none now remain who can challenge Federer in this half. Of course, Ferrer was never really a threat. Could this be Simon’s last big win? He snapped Ferrer’s sixteen match win streak in this slam round. Simon could be having his last hurrah. He missed a slam this year for the birth of his second child but he is back. It took Simon two hours and fifty minutes to come through 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Ferrer hit 62 errors. That is inexcusable. Simon hit 9 aces and 30 winners in total, but the 30 errors could do with being cut. Simon has returned and suddenly has a big serve. Simon broke the Spaniard's serve seven times. That is almost unheard of. Ferrer never loses his serve that much. Ferrer was a mess and he is going to drop down the rankings for this, In fact, this loss may move Raonic into the top five. Simon played well and struck the ball brilliantly, but Ferru was all over the place. Simon plays Cilic and he is aiming for his second hard court slam quarterfinal. In 2009 he lost to Rafa in Australia at that stage. Cilic is looking for his third quarterfinal here. It is a big opportunity for both men. Simon will try to be too solid for the fiery Cilic. Whether that will work remains to be seen. The winner is likely to get to Berdych.
...Berdych had too much power and too much game for his Russian opponent. Berdych was always going to cruise through this match. Gabashvili has now made the third round at a slam for the third time, with a fourth round appearance at the French [2010] being his best effort. Berdych beat him 2 and 2 in Bastad in 2011. Thirteen aces and thirty-one winners overall in the near two hour match were enough to see Berdych through. He never looked troubled in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory. Worryingly, the Russian hit ten doubles faults and lost his serve four times. Berdych also managed to win 57 per cent of his opponent's second serves. Tougher tests await but Berdych was suitably dismissive toward the Russian. Berdych gets to play Thiem now. And the winner is most likely to face Simon. Thiem has looked very good so far and he has a shot at the upset. He is a different proposition to anything that Berdych will have faced so far. He has more variety and a lot more weapons.
...The number one spot in the disappointment rankings belongs to one man and one man alone. Richard Gasquet disappoints me. It feels like he has tailored his career to disappoint me. He disappointed me when he threw away all that talent. He disappointed me when that cocaine scandal occurred. He disappointed me every time he blew two sets to none leads. He disappointed me when he didn’t even take a set in either of his semifinal appearances. He disappointed me yesterday when he put no effort in at all. He just didn’t care. He just let Monfils win. It was pathetic. His entire tactic was to come to net. He approached forty times and won the point just 24 times. He hit no aces, no faults. He went 18-20 on the winners front. It was Monfils hitting 50 winners in the one hour fifty-six minute match that really did it for Gasquet. Gasquet did not even try to do anything to stop Monfils in the 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 decision. Monfils won 51 per cent of receiving points and 74 per cent of serving points. He was utterly dominant against an uninspired Gasquet. Gasquet is going home to think about what he’s done and rightfully so. In fact, he should just quit the year right now and come back next year. Monfils gets to face Dimitrov in the battle of the talent. Dimitrov lost to Monfils in a classic back in 2010 or so. This time Dimitrov will win in four sets. Well, so long as he doesn’t go away as easily as Gasquet did.
Grandstand Selection: THIEM D. LOPEZ
...Sometimes one will watch a match and it is so one sided it sticks out. Thiem blasted the Spanish veteran clean off the court. Thiem was hitting shots so big Lopez could not even predict where they were going, let alone do anything with them. Lopez was comprehensively outplayed from the start to the finish. Thiem hit that level. It is the level Nadal can hit and Federer can hit. It is the level that Laver decided to build his career upon. I think he would have taken out a lot of guys on that day, Thiem. Usually the difficulty of staying at that level undoes players but Thiem managed to keep it up. The Austrian won 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and fifty minutes. Lopez made 43 ‘errors’ and Thiem hit just 13 winners. That sounds misleading to me. The stats do not back up the match I watched. It was not the cleanest match from either, but Thiem was imperious for the last two sets. Thiem needs to recapture the magic he had then but also make it consistent. If he does then he should have a real shot against Berdman. Thiem gets Berdych next. The question is how hot is Thiem’s fire? Is it still burning? Is it hot enough to burn Berdych? I think he will surprise Berdych for two sets before going down in four.
...Continuing with our doubles theme, I bring you the first real upset in the doubles tournament. The American pair are already proven as a strong pair in both men’s doubles and the mixed event. They have won several titles together and have been playing together for a while. They know how the other operates and they know how to coordinate their games. That makes them dangerous and so it proved to be. They hit 27 winners, with six aces thrown in, too, on their way to a 6-3, 6-4 win. They made just ten unforced errors in the 75 minute contest. They got broken just once but managed to break three times themselves. They also won 40 per cent of points on their opponents' serve. It was a well played, efficient display from the unseeded surprise pair. The surprise package gets to play another surprise package. They have Butorac/Klaasen up next. They surprised everyone and made the finals of the Australian Open. Surely they couldn’t do it again? Lipsky/ Ram are looking for their first slam semifinal. Neither has ever progressed beyond the quarters, but they have made it to the quarterfinals at all four majors.

Any other notes?

* = Granollers is starting to make this look like his best slam.

* = We have had our first weather interruption. It sure is starting to feel like the US Open now.

* = Serena makes sure the Americans have their singles slam quarterfinalist.

* = I have another unrelated tennis note. We are half way to the next Olympics. That feels strange. That also means we are halfway to the next US Election. The real world tennis gods decided to put the two together for some reason.

* = The Bryans may finally win a slam this year but they left it a bit late. Are they just number ones permanently now? You know, to save time and all.

* = Be wary of Sveta. She has the Radwanska on her side.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

US Open: None Is the Number

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

None sure is the number. No American’s have reached the quarterfinals of a slam in singles this year. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a one. Only one chance still remains for the Americans. If Williams loses to Kanepi they will have reached a new low. Serena should win. Never before has there been a year where no men or women have reached the quarterfinal of a slam. The American men are already in a serious drought. The situation is pretty serious. It is now abundantly clear the American system is broken. They had so many riches and now have but a few battered semi-precious stones and some fossils. They are in dire straits. A hard rain has fallen.

In the 1970’s the American men won twelve slams. It was ten in the 1980’s. It was 21 in the 1990s. That is over half. In the first decade of this century it was eight. That is respectable. So far it is zero in this decade. It looks as if the Americans are going to win less than five slams this decade. There is still time, of course, but who is there to win the slams? They would have to be coming through at the moment. And nobody is coming through. We can assume the current top ten will dominate for the next five years. Maybe the Americans will never win a slam this decade. Maybe the Americans are permanently finished as a major force in this sport.

The future of American tennis on the WTA looks far better. It looks more solid, more reliable. That is probably because it is. There’s a plethora of young talent coming through now. They look to be doing fine, but that does not make up for what has happened to the men.

Well I shall now get back to what happened in New York...

...Querrey has been a solid player throughout his career. Despite some dips in form, and some occasional injury issues, he has been able to make a great career. He has seven titles. He has been up as high as 17 in the world. He has won titles on three different surfaces, including more clay titles than Murray. He has been to the fourth round here four times. The surgery on his elbow may have done lasting damage. Perhaps not physically, but mentally. He has made semifinals this year and he has started to look back to his old self. He beat Djokovic in Paris last year despite losing to love in the first set. Querrey was stifled 6-3, 6-2, and 6-2. In the 85-minute contest Querrey won only 44 per cent of points on his own serve. He hit just seven aces. He went 18-33 in winners, but Djokovic went 25-19. Djokovic broke seven times and looked imperious. He never let the American into the match. He returned too well. And for all his dominance he only won 66 per cent of serves. And he got broken twice. In his armor I see some chinks. I see that there are gaps that can be taken advantage of. Djokovic gets a test next up. He gets very tricky German Kohlschreiber. He was the last man to beat the Djoker in a slam before the quarterfinals. That was at the French Open way back in 2009. He has made the fourth round of every slam at least twice except Wimbledon, where was a quarterfinalist. He is in his third consecutive fourth round appearance here. Is this the year he finally steps up?
....Kyrgios is here to stay. He made it to the third round here, backing up his supreme Wimbledon debut. If I made the quarterfinals on my Wimbledon debut [HA!] then I would be pleased. Robredo had too much experience for the youngster. He knew how to handle the power and the rocket shots. He knew how to defeat wild reckless abandon with nothing to lose. He is a veteran. It’s what he does. Kyrgios tried to hit through him and that would have worked on grass. This is a different surface to my beloved grass. Robredo had to be solid. And he was. Kyrgios went 20-3 in the aces count but went 55-47 overall. Big numbers. Robredo managed 33-15. In the two hour, twenty minute contest the turning point would be the fourth set breaker. Robredo took it and Kyrgios had not the energy to come back. Robredo would end up taking it 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. He won that breaker 7-4 because he knows how to handle those big moments. He knows how to win those big points. Somehow Robredo won 37% of receiving points. Kyrgios had an average first serve speed of 120 MPH. This Robredo win is mighty impressive. Robredo gets Wawrinka next. Last year he beat a highly seeded Swiss one hander to reach the quarterfinals. Wawrinka has not played for several days and match practice may be an issue. Wawrinka beat Robredo in this round at the last hard court major. Robredo couldn’t do again what he did last year. Could he?
...I don’t know what has happened to Murray. Is it age? Is it fitness? Is it, most likely of all, just a complete lack of form? Murray is a very good player and at his zenith he did belong in the three-four ranking area. Now he belongs in the 6-10 area depending on the time of year. During the clay court season, for example, he should be ranked around ten but closer to six when we move to grass. I find it surprising that Murray would lose a set to Kuznetsov. I was not even aware Kuznetsov had anything he could hurt Murray with. Apparently Murray’s lack of form was enough. In the two hours, thirty-five minute match Murray came through eventually, and inconsistently, 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. I just don’t understand. Murray played a horrible match and would have been made to pay against a better opponent. He won the break duel, breaking eight times to his opponent's four and went 47-37 in the error count. Muzza won just 63 per cent of his service points though he did win 49 per cent of receiving points. He did not play a very good match but he should still have run way with it. It is a baffling scoreline. Murray currently looks shakier than the Republicans' grasp on reality. Tsonga has been on fire. He has come through against tricky, inspired opponents. Murray has dropped sets here and there. Murray has looked vulnerable. Tsonga is going to have him. I call Tsonga in four.
...There is a horrible feeling when lightning strikes twice. It hurts me when...

* = I watched the Patriots lose in the AFC Championship in back to back years
* = I watched George Bush get elected TWICE
* = I lost in chess to my friend 9 times in a row [none were close and I’m not a bad player]
* = I had to fly back to London from Sydney all those times

For Isner it must hurt him to face the same man in the same round with the exact same seeds. I know I’d be annoyed. Really, though, Isner should be winning these matches and especially with the form that he has. In the three hour long four set epic , Kohl failed to break but won anyway 7-6 [4],4-6, 7-6 [2], 7-6 [4]. What stands out immediately? Three breakers and Isner winning just ten points is ridiculous. That is a horrible statistic. Isner hit 42 aces and won 76 per cent of his service points. Isner even won 151 points to Kohlschreiber’s 147. Isner also went 77-38 on the winner, much better than his opponent's 55-28. Isner played a good match but fell apart when it mattered. Ah, it seems I have summed up his career pretty much in just one sentence. Isner now leads in the aces department but as he is out that is now rather pointless. Kohlschreiber and his whippy backhand now have a path through to the final. If Kohlschreiber can upset Djokovic, he gets to face Tsonga for a place in the semifinals. If he beats Tsonga, he might get Wawrinka or Raonic. He can handle them. So, if he beats Djokovic, he has it. Sadly, he will do not much more than perhaps nick a set off the top seed.
Grandstand Selection: RAONIC D. ESTRELLA BURGOS
...I mentioned earlier how good the debut of Kyrgios was. It was very impressive, but so is this US Open debut from Estrella. He has bloomed onto the ATP tour in his thirties which makes him a late bloomer. At the age of 34 he has debuted at the US Open. Not only that, but he has made the third round. That is an impressive accomplishment. It is so difficult to do that, especially at the age of 34. Burgos played Raonic tough in a match where there were three breaks apiece. Raonic won 7-6 [5], 7-6 [5], 7-6[3] in a match where he served 22 aces. The sets lasted 52 minutes, 55 minutes and 56 minutes, respectively. Estrella his 32 winners and 33 errors in what was an even performance. Raonic decided on aggression as usual and hit 51 winners. In his next match he has to cut down on his 46 errors, however. I was wrong. Nishikori has had the physical fitness to last this far. Now we have one of the best fourth round matches, though they are all pretty good. Raonic needs to test the physicality of the Japanese man. Raonic needs to be physical and drag this match into lengthy tiebreaker sets. Raonic is going to have a horrible match but he should be able to win it anyway.
....And now for something different. I am going to start focusing on the doubles a little now. Guccione and Groth, an experienced doubles pairing though they usually play with different partners. The second seeds needed 82 minutes [three minutes less than Djokovic needed] to finally come through 7-6 [5], 6-4. With just one break in the match, it was a serving exhibition though that was expected. The Australians won 67 points, just eight less than their more illustrious opponents. Next up is Kukushkin and Michael Venus, the less known Venus in tennis. The second seeds are unlikely to be tested. They will have a test in the quarterfinals with either the eleventh or sixth seeds waiting for them. The sixth seeds are defending champions.

Any other notes?

* = Djokovic loves to prove people wrong. Perhaps he decided to look shaky on purpose so as to throw everyone off.

* = I don’t understand how Venus got bageled by Errani. The US Open should have given her a friendlier schedule. I think that once a player gets to a certain set age the schedulers should make it easier for her.

* = I liked Nadal’s and Federer’s ice bucket challenges.

* = On a completely tennis unrelated note: the Eagles are a great band. Definitely worth a listen. Hang on. Eagles are a band but share a name with a football team. That team plays in a division with the New York Giants. New York is where the US Open is. There’s the connection.

* = Why do they bother with seedings in the mixed doubles?

* = Pain doesn't kill me, I kill the pain.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

US Open: The NFL Really is Coming

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

There are certain signs the NFL is coming. American TV starts to go mad. Everyone talks about Brady or Manning. Cowboys and Steelers fans once again get confident and those Dolphins fans pray those Dolphins of '72 remain unbeaten. Browns fans pray for it to be over and the Bengals fans pray desperately for a playoff win. The Ravens and the Giants plot [I am sure they plot] to finish 9-7, sneak into the playoffs, sneak into the Super Bowl and then win. They usually win against a far superior team with a far superior quarterback, too.

And nobody will shut up about the Redskins. Frankly I don’t see what the deal is with the name. But those ‘political correctness for all even if they don’t want it’ people insist it is wrong and it must be changed. Meanwhile, they ignore the prejudices going on across America and they refuse to try and educate cops whilst more and more innocent teenagers are getting shot. No, the more important thing for them to do is to try to get a franchise to change its name.

Baseball is forgotten and left to gather dust. Ice hockey may be starting in a month or so but nobody cares about that right now. And basketball is still a long way away. But, really, who cares about those sports because it is football season. I personally enjoy November-February greatly as I get to follow three American sports simultaneously.

And, of course, injuries are talked about. Injuries are always a big concern for the NFL. Super Bowls will come and go. I mean who really remembers who won the Super Bowl in 1987 for example apart from fanatics and fans of that franchise. No, the thing the NFL must deal with year-in, year-out is injuries. Concussions, ACL ligaments, backs, feet, wrists, arms, pectorals, shoulders and necks are just examples. The list goes on and on. One expects injuries in football and rugby. One expects injuries, too, in ice hockey, but surely golf and the racket sports are safe from this? No. Tennis has had some of the most horrific injuries you can imagine. Seles, Nadal, Pierce, Baker, Fish and Del Petro are all good examples of this. But injuries in tennis are rising in number. When there were bigger injuries but fewer of them that felt more acceptable. That felt like, “OK, it’s terrible when it happens, but it rarely does so it’s fine”

Well, I had better start talking about what happened in New York. And so I shall...

...This match promised a fair amount. The old Mathieu would have been able to challenge Djokovic. He would’ve pushed the Serb. But this Mathieu is a shadow of what he once was. He has lost form like nothing else. He has suffered through injury and the former number 12 has fallen on seriously hard times. He once pushed Nadal to four long sets on the dusty French clay. He very nearly had him, too. No longer does he have that ability to challenge the upper echelons. I don’t know how his game could have become weaker after that break but it has and it is quite alarming.
It’s difficult to analyze a match that lasted 88 minutes. Djokovic romped home 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. 13 aces and 33 winners overall and just 16 errors came from the Serb's racket. 55 per cent of receiving points won and 81 per cent of serving points are other impressive stats. Djokovic broke seven times but he did give his opponent one break chance so it isn’t a perfect match. It was a merciless match, however. It was a brutal match. The only good thing for Mathieu is that at least it was quick. Querrey is up next. Picture this for me: Querrey serving lights out under lights on. Picture Querrey dragging Djokovic into tiebreakers, maybe sneaking a break by hitting like he has nothing to lose [he hasn’t] and then can you maybe, possibly picture Querrey winning? I can but it probably won’t happen. Still, Djokovic should watch out.
...Murray was not really tested here against an opponent who did well just to reach this round. He will be happy with the way he dismissed Stepanek for the loss of just 7 games. That for him was a career win. He had not a chance against Murray, a former champ here. It is not as if the German played a bad match. The German played a solid match but you cannot just be solid against the world's finest. The German out-aced Murray 7-6 but could only manage 24 winners and errors. Murray went 36-17 in that department. Bachinger also failed to convert thrice on break point chances. Murray broke four times against his opponent. This is where I understand the agreement for having just sixteen seeds. The opening two rounds can be just too one sided. Mind you I would not want to draw a Lopez or a Robredo in the first round for example. It is a third easy match for Murray in a row, though Kuznetsov has nothing to lose. He should beat Kuznetsov in three straight sets. Tsonga will be waiting in the next round most likely.
...Struff is one of many Germans. He is ranked 77 but is the German number six. The Germans have seven players in the top hundred. That is not a particularly large amount, but it is a solid amount nonetheless. Struff has been hanging around the 60-70 mark this season. He has been having a banner year, but in that journeyman range the rankings are continually fluctuating. He has turned up here at the US Open without needing a wildcard. His ranking of 77 guarantees him entry. Struff is six foot five and is about 200 pounds. Tennis players are getting more and more physical these days but that does also lead to more injuries. Two hours. 30 aces, 54 winners and 81 per cent of service points won were complimented by three breaks of Struff’s serve service by the American. Isner goes through 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. And that is the tale of the match. Struff did hit 26 winners: Four less than Isner’s aces alone. Isner’s serving skills scare me. Speaking of aces, check this out. The data did only start in 1991 when umpires began to record it but it is still interesting. Isner gets the man he lost to last year -- Kohlschreiber. You won’t believe me but last year they were playing to play a recent slam winner [Nadal last year, Djokovic this] and Isner was seeded 13 with Kohl seeded 22. This year they are playing to play a recent slam winner and Isner is seeded thirteen, too. It is the same round -- 3. Kohlschreiber is seeded 22. Freaky.
...Gojowczyk does not know the meaning of fear. He has conquered fear, but not by becoming it, though I have heard that works as well. Gojowczyk will hit and hit. He nearly hit through Nadal earlier this year, though that was on indoor hard courts. Raonic knew it would be a test. It was going to be interesting to see whose firepower would come out on top. Raonic only managed 26 aces. Rubbish. Poor effort. Isner hit 30 and he only played three sets. Raonic had to go four [over three hours] sets in his 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 victory. Surprisingly there were three breaks apiece. Raonic only won 9 more points than his opponent. In fact this wasn’t a big server’s match. Raonic went 64-41 with his winners but his opponent could only manage 46-47. The Canuck did manage a 143 MPH serve. That is very impressive. Average serve speed of the Canadian? 100 MPH. Forget poor effort, that is bravery. After a test, Raonic gets another. Estrella Burgos. He made his debut at 34 and has nothing to lose. Raonic has far too many weapons for him to handle but playing someone with nothing to lose is still difficult.
Grandstand Selection: TSONGA D. NEDOVYESOV
...Some matches just look like they are only going one way. Take an experienced veteran with experienced firepower who is on form and pit him against a journeyman who has never been ranked higher than 71 and is ranked third in his country. What do you get? You get a very one sided affair. I know paper doesn’t mean anything in this sport but here it proved to be too much. The Kazakh did well, though, certainly better than expected. Tsonga is explosive. He may not be hitting as many winners as he was before, but he makes opponents think and forces opponents to go big. It’s about first strike tennis with him. If he gets the first strike in, it is over. Tsonga hit thirteen aces over the course of an hour and forty-five minutes yesterday. He was never troubled but the scoreline still looked respectable in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 decision. Tsonga managed to hold his serve in every game but one and broke four times. He also knocked 38 winners down. He only erred 27 times. It was an aggressive, well-rounded performance from the Frenchman. He is hitting his stride at the right moment. Murray does look there for the taking. It’s another good match up for Tsonga next. Carreño Busta, the youngster, has made a good run that should move him into the top sixty. He is best on clay and Tsonga should be too good for him here.
...It is always interesting to see two players who are specialists on the same surface play each other on a different surface. It is hard sometimes to know who the advantage goes to. Here, logically speaking, Robredo should have the advantage because of his three hard-court slam quarterfinals. But Robredo likes to play five sets. On clay Robredo would also have the advantage, especially as Bolelli has not had the best year. Roby needed three hours and thirty-seven minutes of exertion in the midday sun to finally come through 5-7, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. I think he does it for fun. He only hit ten aces but then again his opponent hit just ten. He went 29-36 with the winners but his opponent went 64-67. Incredibly Bolelli broke just once, three times less than the Spaniard. It was a funny match. Robredo managed to win 72 per cent of his service points. He played well but he needs to stop getting into holes and there need to be a lot more winners. It was still a strong performance. There is a serious test in the third round for Robredo. Kyrgios has proved his Wimbledon run is not a fluke. With the third round run he is going to hit the cusp of the top fifty or fall into it. With a forth round run he will hit the top forty. If Robredo loses this then he falls back to around 25. There is a lot at stake for these two men.

Any other notes?

* = I can’t believe Robredo’s longevity. He has been around for so long and he hasn’t had to adapt his game style. Even Fed has had to adapt.

* = Djokovic is on cruise control. It really illustrated the difference between the slams and the regular tour events.

* = We were all distracted by Tomic but it turns out Kyrgios is the real deal. But my question is what of Kokkinakis?

* = Where does Switzerland go after Fedrinka retire? Bencic is going to have very weighed-down shoulders.

* = It is the first time I can remember the top eight seeds all look good so far. It does look like we’re going to have the quarterfinals but, really, anything can happen.

* = Dellacqua and Kyrgios have confirmed for the Hopman Cup. Excellent. They should do well.

* = Yes even Sveta throws rackets.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

US Open: Whatever Happened to Baby Ryan?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Ryan Harrison and Grigor Dimitrov were the next generation. They were the future. Dimitrov had more flair, yes, and he had more about him, too. But Harrison was just as athletic, perhaps more so, and he had so many great weapons. They were both going somewhere. And Dimitrov is now a slam semifinalist and world number seven. Harrison has never been to a third round. He is ranked 184 though has been as high as 43. Harrison was one cut out of the typical American cardboard -- big serve, great forehand, shaky backhand, movement could be better and the less they get to the net the better. He had talent, though, he had something extra. Where did that all go?

Ryan upset Ljubicic in the U.S. Open a few years back. He then had multiple match points against Stakhovsky but could not take them. Was that his moment? His Oudin moment? Would he have disappeared even if he had beaten the Ukrainian like Melanie has? Harrison has been cursed with bad draw after bad draw after bad draw. He has so many matches where he was oh so close. He almost had Ferrer at Wimbledon. He has come close so many times. The fact he had to play such good players was disguising the fact he has lost what he had. Draws have been opening up for him this year and he has merely watched them pass on by. It is a worrying trend for the man, boy, who was once the future of American tennis.

What I hope for him is to slowly make a comeback. I think, I hope, he does what Young does and finds his way back. I hope in three years or when we’ve forgotten him he will come back to life. I hope he will fulfill his potential. I don’t want to watch as another tennis talent gets wasted. So much talent has been wasted -- Gasquet, Monfils, Tsonga, Mathieu. Wait they’re all French. Perhaps Ryan Harrison has French heritage? Anyway, here is one person who hopes we get to see Ryan back soon. Well, when he feels he is ready.

Dimitrov dismissed Harrison at Wimbledon in the opening round, as well. It was 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 then, a similar scoreline to now. Harrison is young, he still has time. But that kid's long gone and this old man is all that’s left. So I ask once more: whatever happened to baby Ryan?

Well, I had better start talking about what happened in New York. And so I shall...

...The oldest former champion was handed a rough draw. It’s strange to think of it, but the Aussie has had a similar career to Murray, though it is of a better career due to the Australian reaching number one. That is something it looks like Murray will now not achieve, though one never knows. Hewitt beat Sampras in the U.S. Open. That I find incredible. Safin, Agassi and Hewitt were among the best players in the world at the time. Roddick was not yet a phenomenon, but the future. Federer hadn’t won anything yet. Fast forward ten years and Djokovic and Federer are among the best players in the world. The previous Wimbledon winner was not Ivanisevic, but Djokovic. Djokovic is world number one today and not Kuerten. The twin towers happened just after Hewitt flew out of New York and Berdych was 15. Hewitt fans should look away now. Hewitt went 2-9 in the aces count. He also only broke twice. He went 11-36 overall in the winners ratio. That contributed to him going down 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 in two hours and twenty minutes. Hewitt won just 52 per cent of his own service points. Berdych had 9 aces and didn’t double fault. He did however have 43-51 with the errors count. It was not perfect from Berdman, but it didn’t need to be. He did enough. He won 65 per cent of his service points and broke six times. With Hewitt averaging just 102 miles an hour on serve this was too easy. There is another test coming up, after the Czech so easily bypassed this one. Klizan came back from the dead to win in five. Klizan will be waiting in the next round. He has nothing to lose and a lot of power. Good luck, Berdman.
...Match of the day? Wawrinka and Bellucci combined for a cover album. It was a cover album of a Fedal match. In this cover version, however, the righty outclasses the lefty. In the real thing the Swiss righty has no chance. The rallies look similar, the styles of play contrast in a similar way and there is a similar feel to it. There is a lot of slice and a lot of feel off the racket of the one-hander, but so much power off the lefty, though in this case the righty also has a lot of power. Wawrinka needed just over two and a half hours to negotiate a very tricky match. He hit sixteen aces on his way to a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 decision. Wawrinka even won that breaker 7-1. Bellucci showed his problems during the math. He went 31-37 in the winners department and only managed to knock down 7 aces. He did break three times from three chances, which is good. Wawrinka had fourteen chances to break, though, and he took four. It was enough. Bellucci did put up a fight in those last two sets but it was too little too late. He needs confidence and belief. Wawrinka won only fifty per cent of second serve points. That has to improve. After a couple of tricky lefties he gets a righty, though it is a righty with tremendous talent. Kavcic is the next man to go up against the gauntlet that is playing Wawrinka.
...Disappointing. 6-3, 3-1 was all Bagman could last for. This is the former world number seven. This is a man who has beaten Federer, Murray, Nadal and a host of other good players. This is a man who has a lot of talent but put on weight and lost his edge, his fitness. Baghdatis has gone from the darling of men’s tennis to the drag. No form, no fitness and no flair. And now he has come into a slam just to win money. I know money is important. I know that one needs money, but what Marcos is doing is robbing a journeyman of a check. Marcos came in with no intention of winning, just of collecting a check. Cilic goes through but this match has left a bad taste in my mouth. Cilic goes through for a serving test. He can expect tiebreakers in his next match. He should still beat Marchenko fairly easily in the end.
...Some matches are hyped and live up to that hype. Some matches do not and then there are those that look bad on paper but turn out to be classics. Once upon a time in a slam far far away, a young European girl [Serbia?] who would later play under the Australian banner drew Hingis in the opening round of Wimbledon. On paper Hingis, a former champion and the world’s best player by some way, should have come forward fairly straightforwardly. She lost two and love. Or was it love and two? I think it was the former. That is more than just an upset. That is a rout. That is a demolition. That is brutal. That young girl went on to have many great career highlights and she was proof that paper means nothing. Where is she now? Hers is a story that is not mine to tell though it certainly is a great story. You want the story? Find WTA BACKSPIN and they’ll tell you the story. That place is the place that knows her best. Harrison barely lasted two hours as Dimitrov dismissed him 6-2, 7-6 [4], 6-2. He came to net 31 times but converted just 14 times. That is part of the problem. The other is going 25-37 in the winners count. Dimitrov went 37-19, which was most impressive. Throw in Dimitrov winning 45 per cent of returning points and 76 per cent of serving points and this is starting to sound like a dominant performance. It was. Dimitrov also hit eight aces, which is an area Harrison really should edge him. Dimitrov was supposed to face a test from Harrison. Suffice to say this was not the case. He gets tricky Israeli, and former top thirty player, Sela. Dudi was a finalist in Atlanta just this year. He has few weapons that can hurt Dimitrov. And on paper this looks straightforward, but the thing about paper, well it can be misleading. Just ask a certain little girl.
Grandstand Selection: GULBIS D. DE SCHEPPER
.. .here was a retirement in the other match. Yes, another one. That means that I have to talk about this match. Sadly there is not much to talk about in matches such as these. I really am looking for an angle in which this match is interesting. But there just isn’t one. I don’t know why this was on Grandstand. Gulbis needed only an hour and a half to dismiss the Frenchman 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. Ten aces and 35 winners overall are complemented by six breaks, but he did lose his serve once in the match. His opponent double faulted ten times. Gulbis turned up and his opponent quite simply laid an egg. Thiem is up next for Gulbis and that is going to be a test. If Gulbis does not turn up then Thiem will likely take advantage of that. In fact Gulbis got handed a nice little section here. If he can upset Berdych then he has the section.
...Anderson has been one of the most consistent slam players this year. He has made three fourth rounds and that is very impressive. He notched his tenth slam victory against Cuevas, though he was pushed to the limit. For a player ranked at about the twenty mark that is especially impressive. He has not been seeded to make that round all year and yet he has. It is a good slam year for a player if they notch anything more than 12 victories. Anderson needs to win two more matches and he has had a very strong year. He has a lot of grit and determination whilst also being very solid. Throw in a good serve and you have a good combination. In this first round match the African number one [I’d love to be the number one of a continent] was surprisingly challenged by a dirtballer. Anderson won out in the end 6-3, 6-7 [3],4-6, 6-2, 7-6 [1]. He served 29 aces in the four hour epic. He only double faulted five times. His opponent hit 47 winners and errors but the South African went 61-53. Anderson broke five times and managed to hold serve in every game but three. Anderson will need to win more than 49% of second serves in his next matches, however. Anderson has Janowicz up next. There are going to be breakers in that match. In fact I predict 50 aces plus in total in that match. The winner of that then gets another serving duel. That time it will be Cilic they have to out-serve. The winner of that does get Ferrer. This section is open. Now the question is who wants it?

Any other notes?

* = I think we have finished the first round. So the US Open is on schedule. For me, a slam really starts in the third round. The first two rounds are the warm-up.

* = The amount of injuries is an eye opener, or it should be. I also think players shouldn’t come into slams not in full fitness just so they can retire and get a check. There are fit players who want it so bad and deserve it more.

* = Radwanska is gone. On paper this is a big upset. In reality? I’m not so sure. This also blows up my WTA year end top ten. At this rate I’m going to have to just list twenty candidates.

* = H and M keep messing up Berdych’s outfits. Berdych is an attractive man and has a great body shape. So why design awful clothes that don’t properly fit him?

* = It’s taken a while but I think that the ‘big four’ is no longer a thing. Wawrinka, Ferrer, Raonic have all disrupted them this year. Nadal is injured and Murray is nowhere.

* = Wawrinka moves well. He is all over the place and so, unfortunately, is his shirt. The longer you stare the more weird features you find on it.

* = What’s she looking at?

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

US Open: Wherefore Art Thou, Rafa?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

It still feels early in the slam. It feels strange that Rafa is not here. Wherefore means why not where. In the Shakespeare play which made that line famous, the question posed is, "why did you have to be a Capulet?" The question I pose to the Tennis Gods is, "Why Rafa?" I mean, of course, why did Rafa have to be injured?

It is a little odd for a Federer fan to be sad that Nadal is not here due to another injury. It would be like Todd being a Sharapova or Henin fan and being sad that Williams is out due to another injury. Rafael Nadal should be discounted from the greatest of all time simply because he cannot stay fit. Would Michael Jordan be the greatest if he could not condition himself? Would Joe Montana be up there if he had missed seasons and playoff games? Would Babe Ruth? The reason Rafa is not the greatest is the same reason that Manning is not close. They both have a long injury history. Never mind the fact that Manning has only won one Super Bowl. It is injuries. Injuries stop sports players from achieving their full potential.

Think of, if you will, the slams Nadal has missed, the slams he has lost early in and all the other events he has struggled in. Since the start of the 2009 season only twice has he played all four slams. Yet from the seventeen he has played he has won eight. He has also lost several Australian Open matches [to choose but two] due to injury. Throw in that French Open in 2009, as well, where he was definitely not at 100 per cent. In fact, the last three Wimbledons he has played have gone disastrously for him. Injury affected him there.

I think the Nadal question is a big one, just like the Seles question. What if Nadal has been fully fit? What if Nadal had had Federer’s longevity? What if Nadal had not been so injury prone? What if...?

Well, I haven’t much else to say so let’s crack on...

...Isner was the first men’s match scheduled on Ashe. I disagree with the scheduling. I think that there were bigger matches on the men’s and women’s side. I think this belonged on Grandstand. If Isner is seeded top eight I am happy to let this slide. Isner is seeded thirteen. Isner is not even a dark horse to win the thing. Isner is a nice guy and a pretty handy player, but to stick him on Ashe? Really? I don’t mean to disparage such an event or to belittle it, but sometimes you have to put your own players on a slightly lower court. It’s give and take. I like Gasquet and Federer but I don’t make them the centerpiece of every single post I do. I try my hardest not to. It’s different and, of course, the slams want their guy to do well. And the other slams also do it. Still I think sacrifices do need to be made. The crowd paid for a serving exhibition, one they were expecting. Isner hit 26 aces and no double faults on his way to a 7-6 [5], 6-2, 7-6 [2] victory in precisely two hours. The greenhorn was shown the meaning of aggression by the veteran. Isner conceded just 14 points on serve. This will surprise you but Isner faced no break points. Overall Isner had 60 winners and just 17 errors. His opponent managed 41-24. There was just one problem with Isner’s otherwise flawless performance -- he had fourteen break chances and took two. But we already knew his return game needed work. So it remains the same old with Isner. The man who has the fourth most aces [joint] in the tournament must now face Struff of Germany. No doubt that will be on Ashe and no doubt I will get annoyed then, too.
...Matosevic actually did give Federer a bit of a match in the end. No, seriously. Matosevic only won his first slam match this year. He also won his second. It was always going to be a struggle for him playing against Federer. Marinko broke Fed's serve once in the match. Federer broke three times [though he had fourteen chances] in the 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory. Federer had 41 winners, including ten aces, but did have 28 errors. If he cuts the errors out, then he looks to be in fine form. He has not hit top gear yet but surely that is coming. Federer won 78 per cent of serving points and 42 per cent of receiving points. It was a dominant display from the Swiss star. Something telling is the net points from Federer. Federer came to net 30 times and won the point 22 times. That points towards the fact he is in form. Federer is easy to find in the draw. It certainly makes my life easier. He plays another Aussie, but this time Groth. Groth has a big serve and can certainly give it back to Federer. Federer will still have too much game for his opponent.
...I am a fan of Querrey and I have been since 2009. I like Querrey and I like how he plays. But to stick him on Armstrong was a bit cheeky. In any case it did turn into a classic, so I can forgive the US Open for this one. Wimbledon has put some lower tier players on the higher court, as well. That is forgivable because they aren’t ever around for very long. The American’s have got some quite good players who will stick around for a couple of hours. Far be it for me to tell the Americans how to run their slam [although someone should -- Wimbledon misses a day and always finishes on time] but perhaps all unseeded American players should play on Grandstand. That way you get the crowds and the television people are happy. Anyway, moving on to the actual match is what I should do now. In a surprisingly quick five setter, Querrey won 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. It’s not often a three setter goes under three hours, but these two are big hitters. Sam lost serve just thrice and that was due in part to his 30 aces and 66 winners overall. His opponent could manage only 32 winners and hit 40 errors [Sam himself hit 53 errors] but still managed to take it to five. Despite being such a huge server, the man who once hit ten aces on the trot won just 69 per cent of service points. Querrey has been up and down over the past few years but he appears to be finding some form now. It goes slowly for him but small steps must be taken before large ones. Querrey gets to play Garcia-Lopez. That is going to be a great match. Please put that on Ashe under the lights. The winner of that gets a great reward -- they get to play the world’s best player over five sets on his best surface.
.... Ferrer has lost a set to a player ranked barely inside the top 120 in the world. That is perhaps the biggest upset we have had so far. Damir was born in Sarajevo and he was born during that big war they had over there. He is a big fan of Rafter and is also an actor, or has been. In addition to this he is studying Political Science at Sarajevo University. He has won bronze at the 2010 Youth Games. He also made the third round of a slam. I have now introduced you to Damir. Let’s hope that name isn’t cursed. Damir lost 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 to Ferru. His US Open journey lasted two and a half hours. He didn’t play very well for most of it but his opponent was not perfect, either. The players combined for a 55-77 winner error deficit. Damir lost his serve eight times and should have been out way sooner. Ferrer is a better fourth seed than Radwanska [already gone, but more on that tomorrow] but he also looks very shaky. Ferrer has at least been given warning. It is surprising how far Ferrer has fallen in form since last year. His ranking remains similar but it feels like someone is missing. Up next for Ferrer? A horrible match is what’s up next. He must face an opponent with no fear, an opponent who is unpredictable and an opponent who is red hot. Ferrer is definitely there for the taking but he does have the advantage over five sets. Who is it? You’ll find out soon.
Grandstand Selection: MONFILS D. DONALDSON
...Sock retired and left this as my only choice for a Grandstand match. Monfils is an entertaining player to watch. Sometimes he will drop a set just to make us all a bit more nervous. Yesterday, however, he was all business. Monfils does actually have the ability to thrash players. He just doesn’t usually use this ability. In fact, Monfils usually battles himself and his opponent. This time he conquered both the voices in his head and his opponent. He needed just two hours to get past his American opponent 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. It wasn’t even that he out-hit his opponent [he went 29-34 on winners to unforced errors] but more that his opponent was inexperienced and could not find a way past Monfils. Monfils only lost serve once and won 67 per cent of first serve points. He broke five times. It was a complete performance from Monfils. Alejandro Gonzalez is the next man to face Monfils. After that, Monfils will almost certainly have to play Gasquet.
...This was always going to be a candidate as my choice for a match on the outer courts I enjoyed. Two players with enormous talent, big wins under their belts and in need of serious psychiatric help representing two different countries but born in two different countries from the one they represent did battle on a court way out in the so called back of the US Open. Now how could I not cover that? Tomic played a fantastic match throughout and prevailed in less than two hours 7-6, 6-4, 7-6. He lost just five points in those breakers. As the scoreline suggests, Tomic got the only break of the match. He did have nine break points, however, three times the amount his opponent had. Tomic hit no doubles and 21 aces. A set of aces is very impressive going. Throw in 49 winners overall and the fact he won 75 per cent of his serving points and you have something that adds up to a very good day at the office. Tomic did find it hard to break, but the chances were there and he is hitting some serious form at the right time. Up next is Ferru. That has to be on Arthur Ashe. If it isn’t I will complain.

Any other notes?

* - Serena wore something outrageous. Who’s surprised? Not I. Still I thought it looked quite good and, let’s be honest here, she has worn worse. I don’t need to put up a picture. We all remember it just fine.

* - Federer does like his tweeners. He has single-handedly turned it into a used shot. As in it is at its zenith of popularity and it is the Swiss' "fault."

* - We have had no big upsets yet. On the men’s side this is especially true.

* - I think that Hewitt is a good commentator. He really knows the game. I would like to see Gulbis commentate, too. Wouldn’t that be excellent?

* - Did Cibulkova just lose to a fifteen year old?

* - I like Federer in black. He looks good in black at the US Open. I wish I could pull off that headband.

* - I have another Kuznetsova clip for you. Watch to the end of the highlights reel and you’ll see a classic Sveta moment.

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