Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wk.11- Fed: Skull Island

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Welcome to another Indian Wells wrap-up. It’s a bit late as this BACKSPINNER had to give his broken heart time to heal. Sveta Kuznetsova has broken it again. Anyway, there’s a lot to get through here.

There you go. Stan Wawrinka calling Roger Federer an as*hole.

Now how do we talk about Federer? He is the world’s best player right now. Even better, he has a legitimate shot at the top ranking. Could you imagine that? Looking at the form of the players around him it is more than possible. If he makes a final in Miami, does all right on the clay swing and makes a decent fist of it at Roland Garros he could be top four by Wimbledon. Two Masters titles in the summer, Wimbledon and a U.S. Open final could push him into the second spot. Keep in mind just how many points Murray is defending.

Anyway, this past week he was at his free-flowing best. He brutalised Nadal 6-3, 6-2. He executed the SABR perfectly. This was a week to celebrate for the 35 year old.

Well, let’s get on with it. There is so much to talk about...

S: Roger Federer def. Stan Wawrinka 6-4/7-5
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Kubot/Melo

...Who is your favourite rock star? Is it Bon Jovi or perhaps Springsteen? Does Eric Clapton send you through the roof? I hear Todd’s favourite rock star is, if I had to guess, I’d say he had a soft spot for Bryan Adams [Ed: Well, no, not really. I'd probably say the Beatles, original KISS w/ Ace Frehley, and Elvis in the "ages ago" categories, with a Sheryl Crow/Don Henley period in the middle, and Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars today... though some of those might not really be "rock stars," per se. Oh, and I can't believe I initially forget them, through it all, U2 and Bono, minus some of the preachy moments. - tds]

Anyway, they invariably have a farewell tour, say goodbye for a few months and then come back. If this is Federer’s farewell tour it is a heck of one. With the win last week he has risen four places to 6th in the world. He is 400 points from the top four. How about that? Of the top ten, just four made their seedings in Indian Wells. Federer stood firm amid the chaos. In his first match he played the role of the young man. Predictably, he saw off Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1 with ease. Stevie Johnson, the forgotten American, pushed the Fed hard like at Wimbledon last year. Once again he fell short, but he did not let Roger break his serve. Not once. Still the Swiss got six mini-breaks in the 7-6[3], 7-6[4] victory. Next he sent Nadal to the woodshed with a 6-2, 6-3 demolition job of a victory. This was not close; this was a battering. Nadal used to make Federer look clueless, but these days Nadal looks it. He can’t figure out how to combat Federer’s aggressive backhand. Now Federer leads the off-the-clay head to head 11-10. After that Federer got a bye when Kyrgios withdrew with food sickness. It had been a great tournament for the well-behaved Aussie. Then, still having not dropped a set, he taught Sock a lesson. He won 6-1, 7-6[4]. Sock had beaten Nishikori and Dimitrov before that, and had quite a run, really. Then, as usual, he saw off Wawrinka in the final. Stan struggled to assert his greater power and fell 6-4, 7-5. Normally at this point this BACKSPINNER provides a video of some preposterous bit of skill only Federer could do. And today is no different

Oh, and if you want to read a quirky story of the week here it is.
...Wawrinka is like Cuba. Overshadowed and yet better in so many ways than the bigger entity that clouds it. Wawrinka’s backhand is better. So is his record in slam finals, and he can actually live with Djokovic in longer matches. You kind of forget he exists sometimes. He doesn’t always come up with the biggest results, either, he just sort of hangs around. Then out of nowhere he has won Monte Carlo, the French Open and Indian Wells. Except not quite. Because this time America asserted its dominance. For therein lies the enigma that is Wawrinka’s career. At every turn Federer is there to deny him. At the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2014, Wawrinka had him and should have won. The same here in Indian Wells and several times in Australia. On clay Stan has found a way to beat him, but elsewhere Fedex is the immovable object. Just look at this:

You look at the 3-20 record and wonder just how good he could have been if he had been able to find a way to get past Federer even occasionally. He breezed past Lorenzi 6-3, 6-4 and played a very enjoyable 7-5, 6-3 match against Kohlschreiber. He survived Nishioka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[4]. The lucky loser twice served for the match but could not find a way past. That is the calling card of a champion. Getting through those horrible trap matches. He edged Thiem in a very similar match 6-4, 4-6, 7-6[2]. On courts he does not like, against opponents playing with nothing to lose, he was having to work so hard. In the semis he dismissed Carreno Busta at the cost of just five games and headed into the finals with momentum. But despite looking great throughout the first set he found himself down 0-1 at the start of the second. So once again he responded. He lead 2-0 in that second set. Yet somehow once again he lost it. Federer just never loses to him. It’s like witchcraft.
...Until very recently, around Roddick’s retirement, America had always had a top ten American man. They are in need of a hero. On the other side, they have Madison Keys, Madison Brengle and a host of talent. On the men’s side, they have the talent but only recently has it started to produce. Fritz, playing in front of a home crowd, with his gelled hair and all American boy smile, fits the role. He is a Californian, which was the reason for the raucous cheers and loud home support, no doubt. Given a wild card he knew this is not the kind of horse you look in the mouth. He blew Paire away in the first round 6-3, 6-2 and then beat Cilic in an epic match 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. He ran out of steam against Jaziri in a three set loss, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The kid is 19. He was playing in front of family. It was emotional. It was tough. Yet he carved out two solid wins and it moves him up ten places to 126 in the world. Incredibly he was, at 18, ranked 53rd. It’s another run from the young American and you know he’ll have his first slam win any time now.

...Mainly here to point out the fact that, look, this guy can do it off of clay, too. He turned professional in 2007 and had an all right year. Now ten years on he is ensconced in the top ten. It is where he belongs, where he ought to be. His greatest triumph came aged 22 when he won the French Open doubles with Luis Horna. It is few players who have been top 20 in both disciplines. In a career full of them perhaps the best quirky fact is this: he has been to one Masters quarterfinal. Yes this last week he made his debut in the quarters of a 1000 level tournament. How good is that? This week the Uruguayan has shown us it is never too late. So take this as inspiration to go and talk to that girl you never did or buy that chair you know your friends will hate. It is never too late to achieve or do something you’ve always wanted to...

Oh, if you want a throwback, here it is:

[N.B- BACKSPINTOWN is not liable for any life decisions you may make on account of what they say no matter how advice-like it may sound.]
...It would be great to say Sock, the Southern surprise super, stuns Nishikori. But it’s not possible because he is from Nebraska. So let’s just celebrate his marvelous run ,which included wins over Nishikori and 2017’s darling Dimitrov. Isn’t it nice for a young American to live up to his potential? Let’s see him back it up now.
...Tsonga, having had a winning streak this year and won two titles, gets put in a workable draw. He looks good, is on form, but then he remembers he’s French. And after that it went downhill really very quickly. The loss to Fognini is not so bad - he is a very talented player. He has beaten some of the best in our sport. But, like an '80s one-hit wonder, Tsonga collapsed into ignominy rapidly here. Unable to back-up his quarterfinals appearance from last year, he falls right back to the cusp of the top ten. But, hey, you can still expect to see him at Wimbledon.
...Let’s touch on it again, shall we? Pospisil has had a career moment here. The former Wimbledon champion comes through qualifying fairly straightforwardly and then struggled through against Lu 6-7[8], 6-4, 6-3. He goes up against the top seed and world’s best player during a night session. And he wins. He beats him 6-4, 7-6[5]. Then, with just one set dropped in four matches, he loses to another qualifier. And he loses 6-7[4], 6-3, 7-5. That has to hurt.


1. IW QF – Wawrinka d. Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 7-6[2]
...Wawrinka triumphs as Thiem runs out of steam. This was the kind of match they should show off in the Louvre. Today's Wawrinka against tomorrow's. If you’re going to get win number 450 this is how you do it. Thiem could have served it out, but the Swiss was far too solid on the break points.
2. IW QF – Carreno Busta d. Cuevas 6-1, 3-6, 7-6[4]
...This was a crazy match. The Spaniard dominated the first set, winning it 6-1. He at one point hit a truly astonishing forehand dropper. He has the best one of those around right now.

Pablo Carreno Busta drop shot that even Nadal... by allsports0

But then it went awry. Cuevas came back. He leveled it and, on a seven match win streak, held two match points at the back end of the second set. Just look at it...

This was a brutal match between two highly under-rated players. Indeed, Carreno Busta may be the most underrated guy on tour. He won it, finally, 7-4 in the breaker after over two hours of hard back-breaking work in the desert. Some things have to be earned.

We have talked about Dasha in Indian Wells. Now we talk about her draw in Miami. For fun shall, we outline a path to the title? She defeats Safarova in round two, shocks Vesnina in the next round and lines up against Cibulkova. Domi isn’t a terrifying prospect, so through Dasha goes. In the quarters, she faces off against Wozniacki and it’s another upset. It’s Pliskova in the semi-finals but - oh no! - she gets taken by aliens and has to withdraw. In the final, against all odds, it’s Daria Kasatkina.

Luckily, her doubles partner for this tournament is Konta, so Dasha has no qualms in spanking Kasatkina. And that’s how it could happen. But then this happened.

Our girl opens with Kuznetsova/Mladenovic in the doubles. After that is Atawo/Chan or, possibly worse, Stosur/Zhang. So it’ll be a busy two weeks for our girl. Maybe.

Picks now. Shall we start on the ladies’ side? No defending champion here. 2016 champ Vika is coming back this year, but not quite yet.

Kerber [1] d. [16] Bertens
Kuznetsova [7] d. [11] V.Williams
Barty d. [3] Halep
Keys [8] d. [10] Konta

There aren’t many names here that can threaten Kerber or Bertens. The seeds should hold and the number one seems due a big result. The next section is a bloodbath. The winner of Mladenovic and Venus gets Kuznetsova probably. The Russian again has a winnable draw. Can she take advantage? Let’s have a gamble here. Stosur is struggling for form. Halep is no certain thing. If this comes off this BACKSPINNER will look very clever indeed. Keys will ride her home form against Konta.

Wozniacki [12] d. [6] Muguruza
Cibulkova [4] d. [23] Gavrilova
Svitolina [9] d. [5] Radwanska
Pliskova [2] d. [18] Vandeweghe

The Spaniard had a fine run in Indian Wells, but she will struggle against the consistency of the Woz. Puig and Sevastova could both play spoiler and make a semi-final, too. When players win their first big title it either kicks them on or they crash and burn. How will Vesnina react? Cibulkova is too good right now. Radwanska will give another solid performance, but the match of the quarter is A-Pavs versus Svitolina. Finally, Pliskova should survive Brengle, Putintseva and Vandeweghe to make the quarters. Coco will win because, honestly, I chose her because I like her better.

Kerber [1] d. [7] Kuznetsova
Keys [8] d. Barty
Wozniacki [12] d. [4] Cibulkova
Pliskova [2] d. [9] Svitolina

Yes, they should rename this section the ‘K’ section. Kuznetsova backs up her run, for once, but will not break through Kerber’s game. Keys finally sees off Barty, her forehand proving the difference. Wozniacki leads the head to head 9-4 and has the form, too. Enough for me. Svitolina will beat one of these big names in a match that really matters soon, but not quite yet. Pliskova is a lock to reach the semi-finals of any given event right now.

Keys [8] d. [1] Kerber
Pliskova [2] d. [12] Wozniacki

I have already gambled so much. What’s a little more? Keys is so capable of a run here. Pliskova just keeps rolling. In fact, this BACKSPINNER would not be surprised to see Pliskova blow out the Woz.

Pliskova [2] d. [8] Keys

Pliskova is like the Packers. Always making the latter stages, but never winning it somehow. When will she finally win three or four big titles in a row? She has to start winning soon.

Wawrinka [1] d. [16] Zverev
Kyrgios [12] d. [8] Goffin
Federer [4] d. [14] Bautista Agut
Thiem [6] d. [10] Berdych

In his first ever tournament at this level as a top seed, Wawrinka will do very well. There’s something motivating about being the out and out top seed. Ruud was also here and could have played Zverev in a fantastic match, but he lost today. Dolgopolov and Isner will play spoiler here. Kyrgios versus Karlovic could produce the biggest ace match of the year on the tour. Ferrer is here, too, but Goffin is too metronomic. Kyrgios has played the Belgian once. Do you remember that superb Tokyo final? That was it. Federer leads the series with Delpo 15-5. Delpo also has a poor record here. Querrey is here and so is Robredo, but Agut, despite injury troubles, has consistency. It is boring but effective. It must be respected. Let us not forget just how good Thiem’s last tournament was. Berdych is good enough to make the fourth round, but he is on the way down.

Dimitrov [9] d. [5] Nadal
Sock [13] d. [3] Raonic
Fognini d. [21] Cuevas
Nishikori [2] d. [15] Carreno Busta

He should have done it before, but he will do it now. Lots of young American talent here and Taylor Fritz could make a run, but the top-ten clash seems destined to happen. Vesely versus Haas looked like the best first round match-up in the whole draw, and it turned out to be for an unexpected reason.

No idea where Raonic is right now, but Sock is on form. Cilic is rubbish, so this BACKSPINNER has decided to make a pick he knows is utter madness. There is no reasoning with the insane. Upset alert down the bottom. Anderson lurks in this section. The 15th seed could make a run, but the Japanese will be too good.

Wawrinka [1] d. [12] Kyrgios
Federer [4] d. [6] Thiem
Dimitrov [9] d. [13] Sock
Nishikori [2] d. Fognini

This tournament being so injury plagued is good news for the Swiss boys. Federer will see off Thiem, while Wawrinka is too solid for Kyrgios. Dimitrov continues his run, too. This BACKSPINNER is mad, but not Joker mad. Nishikori ends the Italian’s run.

Federer [4] d. [1] Wawrinka
Nishikori [2] d. [9] Dimitrov

Federer never loses to Wawrinka, especially on hard-courts. Nishikori will deserve to lose this match and be outplayed, yet somehow win.

Federer [4] d. [2] Nishikori

The Swiss has funny results here sometimes, but the five days of rest combined with a manageable draw should mean fitness does not come into play. Kei will achieve his seeding but come unstuck at Federer’s hands. Yes, Todd, this time I did pick Roger. Sue me. [Ed: I did, too, so perhaps he'll see fit to sue us both? Karolina, too. - tds]

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Indian Wells: Half-way Home

Hey, all. Galileo here.

So here is the ATP Backspin Indian Wells mid-way update. We like to mix it up here at BACKSPIN. Well, except when it comes with curses. Curses are a must. It makes BACKSPIN world go round.

...Well, it could be going better. First of all, last year’s quarter-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crashed out to Fognini. But then something even more disastrous happened. And it brought back memories. Do you remember back when there was a gap between the Belgians retiring, Sharapova going out and Serena coming back to full force? The WTA had a string of number ones from the 2008 U.S. Open to the 2011 U.S. Open who were utterly unreliable. Ivanovic is fine; she is not included in that, though she was erratic. She played like a number one. No qualms with that. That forehand was a huge weapon and she won a slam. But Jankovic, Safina and Wozniacki could never quite put it together. They all had foibles that ranged from being utterly crazy to total mental breakdowns to every now and then getting utterly blown out.

Well, we are now back in those times.

Andy Murray is having the worst year a number one has had in some time. Federer did not have a great 2008, making only three slam finals. His year then felt poor. This is something else. For no explicable reason Murray is seriously struggling with serve and volleyers. He lost to Pospisil 6-4, 7-6[5]. The key stat? 43-41. That, in percentage terms, is how much better Pospisil returned than Murray. Madness.

Now we have Goffin [11] and Bautista Agut [16] as our highest seeds left. Deliciano Lopez crashed out, too, losing in a third set breaker to Lajovic. All this means Goffin is likely to back up his semi-final from last year. Even better news is Wawrinka has been to two quarter-finals here in 11 years, neither of them recent. So this half is truly open.

If you want to put two dollars on some, put it on Fabio Fognini. He upset Tsonga in three sets, but he still gets you great odds.
...Wawrinka is notoriously shaky here at Indian Wells, but looked good in his 6-3, 6-4 win over Lorenzi. The Swiss can make up ground on the top two with a solid performance here. He has a tough match up next against Kohlschreiber, and that would be a great match to have on the night session. But it won’t be. It may look like there’s a chance for an upset, but the 4-0 head-to-head points to a Wawrinka win. The Swiss has dropped just one set to the German.

Berdych has just done what he needs to, as usual, but the Nishioka has had a great tournament so far. He lost in the final round of qualifying to Swede Elias Ymer, but drew him in the first round after he reached the main draw as a lucky loser. He lost 6-3, 6-1 to the youngster in their first match, but won the second 6-4, 6-1. Then he saw off Dr. Ivo 6-4, 6-3. How much does the third round run mean? $41,350. That’s enough to fund him for three months. And he rises 16 places to 70. That guarantees him a place at the French Open, as it stands. So what a superb tournament it has been for Japan’s number two.

Dominic Thiem versus Mischa Zverev will be a great match, too. Neither of them have dropped a set yet. And the winner gets either Isner or Monfils. So there is plenty to look forward to in the top half. The betting will be we get a surprise finalist. Not a Nishikori or Wawrinka level surprise. A Goffin or Berdych level surprise winner.
...Welcome to the bakery. Several bagels and baguettes on offer here. But first a game for the BACKSPINNERS. And this SPINNER will admit he struggled, especially on the WTA side. See, I couldn’t remember if Madison Keys was above Venus Williams or not.

List the current Top 5 Americans, in order, on both tours...

GALILEO: Sock & S.Williams
TODD: Sock & S.Williams
GALILEO: Isner & Keys
TODD: Isner & Keys
GALILEO: Querrey & V.Williams
TODD: Harrison & V.Williams
GALILEO: Johnson & Brengle
TODD: Querrey & Vandeweghe
GALILEO: Harrison & Bellis
TODD: Johnson & Rogers

(answers later)

Fritz is currently America’s thirteenth best player. That’s pretty much the population of Rhode Island. Right now he could shoot all the way up to 12th. If he wins a couple more matches he could be one of the ten best Americans at tennis. And he could cross over into that direct entry into slams cutoff. For Australia, it is 104 and above. That probably holds true elsewhere. The youngster is in the 120’s, so there is work to do. This week he beat Paire 6-3, 6-2 and then beat our 6th seed 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Which sounds impressive until you remember that player is Marin Cilic. Now he takes on Jaziri. This the kind of gift horse you don’t look in the mouth.

Jack Sock beat Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 to advance. Dimitrov has barely missed a beat this year and it has continued in the desert. He demolished Youzhny 6-4, 6-0. The winner of that will get Jaziri or Fritz. Looks easy on paper, but both those players will know what an opportunity this is. Dimitrov has a golden chance for a semi-final here, which would propel him towards the top ten. That Dimitrov Sock match could even be a slam final one day down the line. If you see a bet about that, take it. Put five dollars on it. One day you might reap quite the reward.

The real power in this quarter lies at the bottom. Kei Nishikori has dismissed Britain’s Dan Evans already. He has 25th seed Gilles Muller up next, but that isn’t the kind of match which will trouble him; he is too strong off the ground. Pouille looked good in his 6-3, 6-2 romp over Struff while Donald Young’s purple patch has stayed purple. This is a talented quartet we have in the sixth section of the draw. This BACKSPINNER hopes they put Young and Pouille on a match court. It would be a memorable match.

Nishikori has a beautifully carved path through to the semi-final here. Dimitrov is looking likely to be his quarter-final opponent. That will be another classic. This bottom half is really the one to watch.
...First watch this, the shot of the tournament. And it comes from this quarter.

It’s a lovely point, the dropshot well executed and the tweener lob superb.

But above that section is the Spanish section. Nadal and Verdasco will meet for the 19th time. And it is 15-3 to Nadal. He won the last match and it was in 2016, here in Indian Wells 6-0, 7-6[9]. But in the last five matches? 3-2 to Ferver. Yes, this is one of those bizarre rivalries that only seems to happen in our sport. Serena/Sharapova anyone?

Anyway, the winner of that gets American Steve Johnson, the 24th seed. He faces the 9th seed, but home advantage will get him past that old Swiss bloke. If somehow, that Ronal Ferdet guy gets past him, well, then he gets to face a lefty Spaniard. Are you ready for deju vu? Because it’s coming.

Props to Kevin Anderson for continuing the comeback. The South African beat Gaio 6-1, 6-4. Johnson beat him 6-4, 3-6, 7-6[4].

It’s big news as well in the bottom half - the first time Alexander Zverev plays Nick Kyrgios on the ATP. You can obviously expect fireworks. And Del Potro versus Djokovic. Recently it’s 1-1 between those two. What a brilliant quarter that is. Djokovic looked very nervy against Edmund. His opponent served for the second set at 5-3. The Serb only just escaped. But Delpo has looked good. He is moving well. The serve is working and that forehand is still hot enough to blister opponents.

The better match does not involve Djokovic. The best match is Del Potro versus Nick Kyrgios.

1. IW R2 – Fognini d. Tsonga 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4
...An astonishing match. Does anyone play spoiler better than the Italian? The last set had so many breaks. 12 break points apiece, but Tsonga could only take three, while the Italian took four chances. Tsonga could not find any rhythm and the Italian punished him for it. This BACKSPINNER does love a clash of styles and this has that attribute in spades. Tsonga was making so much progress, but now he needs a result in Key Biscayne. But it is excusable. The Frenchie's wife is expecting. Entering here was a last minute decision. He will go home now, most likely, and godspeed.
2. IW R2 – Pospisil d. Murray 6-4, 7-6[5]
...The data for tennis records is sadly incomplete. But ranked 129, this is certainly up there with the lowest ranked players to beat a world number one. The WTA records for that are Zhang Shuai [228] d. Dinara Safina in 2009 at Tokyo. Julie Coin [188] did it against Ivanovic at Flushing Meadows in 2008, in the second round. Zheng Jie did it to Ana [Again!] at Wimbledon in that same year, but in the third round. She was ranked 133rd as, bizarrely, was Clijsters when she did it to Lindsay Davenport in 2005 at Indian Wells. Chang Kai-Chen was 132 when she knocked out Safina in Beijing in 2009.

Those were all pretty poor except the Clijsters loss. Pospisil is right in that 130 area. This is the kind of loss that leaves a mark. Murray is struggling right now, really struggling mightily. He led 4-2 but lost four games in a row to lose the first set. No world number one should have that happen to them. Really, this BACKSPINNER is speechless. It has to be better.

Seeded 21st, it was going quite well for our girl. She beat Wickmayer 6-2, 7-6[5]. She was seeded 21st and Svitolina had only just scraped past qualifier Wang Qiang of China. But last night she imploded, crashing to a 6-2, 6-1 loss.

But at least we had this.

No doubles for Dasha, but she rises a place in singles. Go figure. And hey, if Todd and I played together against Svitolina we would struggle to get two games.

And, finally... the answers:
1.Jack Sock (#18)
2.John Isner (#22)
3.Sam Querrey (#26)
4.Steve Johnson (#27)
5.Ryan Harrison (#45)
1.Serena Williams (#1)
2.Madison Keys (#9)
3.Venus Williams (#13)
4.CoCo Vandeweghe (#22)
5.Lauren Davis (#38)
6.Alison Riske (#39)
7.Christina McHale (#44)
8.CiCi Bellis (#55)
9.Shelby Rogers (#59)

Thanks all. See you soon! And visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Indian Wells Preview

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Well, it's time...

Murray [1] d. [16] Bautista Agut
Tsonga [7] d. [11] Goffin
Berdych [13] d. [3] Wawrinka
Monfils [10] d. [8] Thiem

...Muzza is world number one with some great results at this tournament recently. But Agut will definitely make his seeding. Goffin comes in with major points to defend, but Tsonga is on fire. Wawrinka always does poorly in March, but Berdych has a nice draw, with only Karlovic to contend with, and he is due a run. Monfils has more stamina than Thiem right now. That will count for a lot.

Dimitrov [12] d. [6] Cilic
Nishikori [4] d. [23] Querrey
Federer [9] d. [5] Nadal
Kyrgios [15] d. [31] Del Potro

...The Dimitrov/Cilic pick is a no-brainer. Querrey is going to use the home support to beat Pouille. Donald Young also lurks. If Nadal gets past Verdasco he should set up an epic clash with Federer. That rivalry is at a point where, forget surface, you can break it down by event.
Djokovic is playing awfully. He will likely have to go through both Del Potro and Kyrgios. Both players can handle the Serb. Especially right now. However, does Delpo have the fitness to beat the Djoker and the joker back to back?

Murray [1] d. [7] Tsonga
Monfils [10] d. [13] Berdych
Dimitrov [12] d. [4] Nishikori
Federer [9] d. [15] Kyrgios

...Murray never loses to Tsonga. He leads their h2h 14-2. As usual, his superb return of serve will do the job. If you’re wondering about why the top ten will do so poorly, well just look at form and injuries. Last year's finalist and top five player Milos Raonic is not here. Anyway, Monfils will win this quarter-final. The next one is a toss-up -- it comes down to the fact this SPINNER trusts Dimitrov’s body more.
This bottom one is already a gamble. Who knows where either of these players are? Federer’s nous should be enough.

Murray [1] d. [10] Monfils
Federer [9] d. [12] Dimitrov

...Monfils’ run comes to an end here. He struggles against Muzza. Dimi comes up just short, but if this semi-final comes to pass, it is screaming for a night match billing.

Murray [1] d. [9] Federer

...I’d be more inclined to take the field right now. I don’t trust Murray to win this but he is the world number one. He should sweep to the title. He hasn’t beaten Federer in years, but he must have confidence after Dubai.

Here are the women's picks:

[4th Rd.]
Pliskova [3] d. [15] Bacsinszky
Svitolina [10] d. [7] Muguruza
Pavlyuchenkova [19] d. [33] Kasatkina
Kuznetsova [8] d. [11] Konta

...Pliskova is the biggest seed in the top half with Serena’s shock withdrawal. Muguruza just has question marks all over her right now. Svitolina right now is playing like one of the top five players in the world, don’t forget. Kuznetsova is usually ripe for the upset, but there’s nobody in her section that can do that. After eight years of never getting past round three, surely this is her year.

[4th Rd.]
Wozniacki [13] d. [9] Keys
Halep [4] d. [16] Stosur
V. Williams [12] d. [6] Radwanska
Kerber [2] d. [14] Vesnina

...Normally I’d take Keys, but Woz is in form, and Keys is returning. Stosur can play on these courts and there’s nobody threatening around her. Halep should bounce back soon. Radwanska has been nowhere this season, while Williams is on top form. Kerber has no pressure, which has to help.

Pliskova [3] d. [10] Svitolina
Kuznetsova [8] d. [19] Pavlyuchenkova
Wozniacki [13] d. [4] Halep
Kerber [2] d. [12] Williams

...Without Serena, there are three big seeds in the top half. Kuznetsova directly benefits from that, as does Pliskova. This isn’t one of those crazy pick-Sveta-at-all-costs things [like usual]. Look at the draw. Pliskova leads Svitolina 5-0 in the head-to-head. At this point you have to trust the Woz a shade more than you do Halep. Kerber has started to find a bit of form recently and she has made two semi-finals here before.

Pliskova [3] d. [8] Kuznetsova
Kerber [2] d. [13] Wozniacki

...Pliskova is too good right now. The draw looks set-up for her and she will take advantage. She will be world number one before next year’s out. This is part of her push to that ranking. Who remembers this?

Yes, that was the moment this BACKSPINNER lost all respect for the Woz. Unable to win normally, and outclassed by the German ,she resorted to the highest low tactic of them all. Hardly fitting for a former world number one. I cannot bring myself to pick the Dane. I just can’t.

Pliskova [3] d. [2] Kerber

...Pliskova wins this one surprisingly comfortably. She begins to make serious ground on the top two.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Wk.9- But First, a Game of ATP Empires Featuring the Capriati Scale

Hey, all. Galileo here.

The Roman empire crumbled eventually. Before it, so did the Greek and Egyptian empires. The Ottoman empire mysteriously disappeared. Even the British Empire, upon which the sun famously never set, eventually came to an end, though the Commonwealth Games remain a reminder of what was.

All things must come to an end, except Serena Williams winning slams. Graf, Navratilova and Evert won, at an estimate, 70 per cent of slams from 1975-1995. Two decades of dominance.

Australian men from 1960-1975 were dominant, winning the majority of slams. American men in the 1990’s won 21 of 40. If you take out the French Open, they won 18 of 30 slams, or 3/5. Since 2003, Fedalovic have won 44 slams. There have been 57 slams. Wawrinka and Murray have taken three. Seven slams. Seven in that period have gone to someone else. Cilic and Del Potro were five years apart. The last one before Del Potro was in 2005 - Safin.

But cracks have started to show. So let’s play a little BACKSPIN game. Using the Capriati scale, how much trouble are each of the top four in?

After a poor loss to Istomin, which you can make some excuses for, Djokovic had to show something in Acapulco. He didn’t perform at all well. He had a tough draw, but he has won 12 slams and been the world’s best hardcourt player since 2010. He struggled past Cilic and Del Potro before losing to Kyrgios. His record on the year is 9-2, with no titles. Sounds all right, doesn’t it? Last year at this time her was 14-1, with two titles. That one loss was a retirement, too. In 2015, it was 13-2 with two titles. He is playing poorly right now. He has a huge amount of points to defend and he doesn’t even look top five.

The Capriati verdict: Mugshot Jenny

Well, the loss to Zverev was one of the worst in his career. He lost to a predictable gameplan with the best passing shot and lob combination in the world. His big return couldn’t break down the German’s serve. He came into Dubai with a point to prove and he was totally ordinary. Even the final wasn’t great. Verdasco really blew it. But Murray has shown an uptick. He is starting to find form again, but it isn’t looking pretty.

The Capriati verdict: 2000 Jenny [Not pretty but recovering her career]

He just won a slam after being written off. He was supposed to lose to Murray in the quarterfinal. Instead he came back and beat Nadal, the one man he never could beat, in the final. But in Dubai he lost to Donskoy after having all those match points and such a big lead in the final set breaker. Yet, it just doesn’t matter. Four years after being written off Federer has his slam and will win three or four titles this year.

The Capriati verdict: 2002 Jenny [somehow relevant again after looking done eight years before]

A final in Australia followed by a final in Acapulco. It doesn’t matter at this point what happens. What a swan-song this is.

The Capriati Verdict: 2004 Jenny [Ending on a high]

After that slightly longer feature, let’s press on...

* – Mischa Zverev falls two places to 32.
* – In bigger news, David Ferrer is down three places to 31. The end is nigh for the Spaniard. He turns 35 next month.
* – Despite his brilliant effort, Kohl moves down one place to 30. Verdasco is up six to 29.
* – Goffin and Monfils swap, with the Frenchman in at 11. Federer sits at ten.
* – Thiem falls off a bit, but stays at 9. Cilic moves up one, above Tsonga into 7th. He leads by 10 points.
* – No change in the top six. Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic, Nishikori and Nadal. The number one ranking is safe. Wawrinka’s 115 point lead over Raonic is tenuous, however.

DUBAI, UAE (Hard Court)
S: Andy Murray def. Fernando Verdasco 6-3/6-2
D: Rojer/Tecau d. Bopanna/Matkowski

S: Sam Querrey def. Rafael Nadal 6-3/7-6(3)
D: J.Murray/Soares d. Isner/F.Lopez

RIO, BRAZIL (Red Clay)
S: Pablo Cuevas def. Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-7(3)/6-4/6-4
D: Dutra Silva/Sa d. Daniell/Demoliner

...It is simply a prediction, since Sunday's final in Rio was continued to Monday due to rain and hasn't finished as I write this. [Ed.note: as it turned out...]

Cuevas should win this event for the third time in a row. But since we have no clue here, let’s have some story time. Once up a time this BACKSPINNER was in his tennis club-house watching Rome. The tennis tournament, not the beautiful city. And the day’s play was badly rain interrupted. So what did this SPINNER do? Why he watched their epic four hour replay of the Coria/Gaudio French final. And what a match it was, too. A player like Coria could not exist today. A player like Gaudio would not crack the top 40. That era has passed, has moved on. In fact, it is almost an insult to all those, like Ferrer and Soderling, who deserved a slam, that he won one. But watching that match, the replay of that match, was an incredible memory. So whenever we have rained out play this BACKSPINNER thinks of that match. What do you think of when you think about play being washed out? [Ed.note: the Connors/Krickstein Labor Day match from '91 being replayed for twenty+ years during rain delays at the U.S. Open... another thing which has gone the way of the dinosaurs, since with the Ashe Stadium roof there is ALWAYS a live match to show now. - tds]
...Murray doesn’t deserve to be Player of the Week. He wasn’t good - he just wasn’t as bad as everyone else. The reason he is number one is because there was nobody else to do it and it is the same in the Dubai tournament. He is winning these titles because he is less rubbish than everyone else. When somebody like Zverev actually plays inspired tennis, he has no answer. But he did at least respond. Dourly, sourly and angrily he responded.

His performances this year have made this BACKSPINNER yearn for the days of classy world number ones, world number ones who breezed through tournaments and didn’t save match points on flukey drop shots. Edberg, Wilander and Lendl. Anyway, Murray did win this week. It is the first time he has won this 500 level tournament, too. This SPINNER should not be so harsh on our world number one, however. He had a tricky time in Dubai but finally managed to win the title, improving his record to 1-1 in finals at the event. His 4 and 1 win over Jaziri and 2 and 0 victory over Garcia-Lopez were a very good start. Just like in Australia. But he fell to bits against a German. Just like in Australia. This time, however, he survived. He edged Kohl 6-7[4], 7-6[18], 6-1. From there he just gained galleons of confidence. He knocked out Pouille 7-5, 6-1. In the final, he was poor again. He hit three doubles in his first two games and had Verdasco managed to find any consistency it might have been a different result. But the Spaniard never found a way to counter the Scot’s return, losing 6-3, 6-2. If you haven’t seen the final don’t bother.
...It is a career high, albeit of 271, for South Korea’s Soon-Woo. If you haven’t heard of him, don’t worry. Here he is.

He has great touch and a wicked out-wide serve. And just last week he got to a final on the challenger circuit. The result boosted his ranking up 70 places. Taking place in the Keio challenger, Yokohama, his beat Andrew Whittington and Tatsuma Ito to make the finals. Going up against Yuichi Sugita, the top seed, he put in a great effort but eventually went down 6-4, 2-6, 7-6[2]. Up 5-2, this is a loss that will sting.

But we like to keep you on your toes, keep you up to date with the rising stars, and the young Korean is one of those.
...This vet met another to open up his Dubai campaign. He saw off Seppi 6-2, 7-2. But then he claimed his first upset: a gritty 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Bautista Agut. Having done away with the 6th seed, he then dismantled Monfils, seeded 4th, 6-3, 7-5. Now, Verdasco is one of the most frustrating players on tour for a very good reason. Namely, the fact he beats good players but does terribly against players he should smack. He escaped Haase 7-6[5], 5-7, 6-1 in the semi-finals. That was quite an effort and it gave him his first hard-court final ever at 500 level. Put aside the horrendous final, again don’t bother watching it, and just focus on how good it is to see the Spaniard playing well.
...He has risen 14 places to 26 in the world. He has had a series of great moments in what seems like his late career. He beat Djokovic in Paris a few years back after losing the first set 6-0. He saw off the Serb again at Wimbledon, obviously. And now he has won his maiden 500 title. Here’s a great fact for you: 9-7. That’s Querrey’s mark in finals on the ATP tour. 1-3. That is how he’s done in 500 level tournaments.

...The Australian Open semi-final is becoming a fixture, with Wawrinka now 1-2 in those matches. But while that’s impressive he has to also impress outside of Melbourne. He has to defend his titles, especially at 500 level. Wawrinka is the most mystifying player this side of the WTA tour. He’d be considered par-for-the-course over there - three slams but zero consistency on the tour. That’s not an attack on the WTA, far from it. Until you’ve watched over a decade of Svetlana effing Kuznetsova you have no idea of true pain, true inconsistency. And she’s just the tip of the iceberg. Petra Kvitova, anyone? Anyway, Wawrinka could have been a world number one but he is in the wrong era and he loses to players like Dzumhur. He needs to work on it. He is better than this. But don’t worry - this BACKSPINNER already has ideas about what he’ll write come his inevitable victory at Wimbledon this year.

...The biggest upset in the 25 year history of Dubai. Donskoy has history - in Indian Wells in 2013 he pushed Murray all the way in a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 loss. He had the Scot for a while before he was finally overwhelmed. He managed to survive the lights going off and came back from 5-2 down against the greatest player ever. He won less points [six] and less games but still came through. Of course, the Federer curse struck in the next round, but this will give him confidence.

Notes from the Week...
1 – Nick Kyrgios had a touching moment on social media this week
2 – The last man before Kyrgios to see off Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in their first meeting? Lleyton Hewitt.
3 – In Indian Wells, Djokovic is going for his fourth in a row, Nadal his fourth title and Federer number five. Since 2004, only one man has broken their grip on this event - Ivan Ljubicic in 2010.

1. Dubai R2 – Donskoy d. Federer 3-6, 7-6, (7), 7-6 (5)
...Federer led 5-1 in the third set breaker, but lost six points in a row to lose the match. He had a fistful of match points. He was totally in charge. He had just beaten Paire 1 and 3. Then the world number 116, a qualifier, came out and beat him. The lights broke, Federer blew a 5-2 final set and went from a 48-5 record here to 48-6. This was an extraordinary match.

2. Dubai QF – Murray d. Kohlschreiber 6-7[4], 7-6[18], 6-1
...Just watch this:

That breaker is reminiscent of the Federer/Safin one in the Masters up in the early 2000’s. That was a classic breaker. This was also extraordinary. What a match. That tiebreaker was 31 minutes long, sixty seconds more than the last set. This BACKSPINNER believes that if Murray loses that match his career would be over. Done. This could be just the boost he needs.
3. Acapulco F – Querrey d. Nadal 6-3, 7-6[4]
...In four attempts Querrey has never beaten Nadal. To do it in a final and win in a tournament that had five top ten players is something else. A set and a break up, it took the American a while but he finally got over the hump to earn the win.

Our girl turned 23 on the weekend. As she noted on Twitter, she shares a birthday with Nicole Pratt.

This tweet was pretty cool from Dasha:

She will be the 23rd seed in Indian Wells, though ranked 27th. There aren’t many points for her to defend, just ten, so if she can upset two seeds in a row the top twenty could beckon. This March will present big opportunities for her.

P.S- Expect a proper draw analysis later on.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wk.8- Casper the Friendly Norwegian

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Who is Casper Ruud? Even this BACKSPINNER would have struggled to tell you last week. He sounds like a footballer or a ghost. A friendly one. His father Christian Ruud was a top 50 guy who did well on the challenger circuit. Not to be sniffed at. But he may be already outdone by his offspring.

The Nordic countries, Sweden in the 1980's aside, are not really known for producing incredible tennis players. They produce ice and great skiers.

Denmark has recently started to emerge. Caroline Wozniacki was number one and the least effective top ranked player in slams we’d ever seen. She excelled at being mediocre in majors, especially considering how long she was number one. Fredrik Nielson is a men’s doubles slam champion. Even Finland is coming on nicely with Jarko Nieminen and Henri Kontinen.

Poor Norway is left behind. It needs someone. Perhaps this new kid on the block is it. Norway is a country in need of a big international sports star anyway. Could this Ruud be it?

We also discuss Kei Nishikori’s baffling clay decision and look forward to next week. Do you know what happens this week? All our top four are playing, and so are Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are looking for momentum. Federer is looking for title number eight in Dubai, while Rafa is looking to trip Nole up.

Let’s get sucked in...

* – Delpo goes up ten places to 32, knocking Cuevas down to 33. It’s a career high for M. Zverev, who is at 30, while Feli and Kohl sit at 31 and 29.
* – Goffin falls out of the top ten, while Federer clings on. Cilic and Thiem both drop a place and sit at 9 and 10.
* – Tsonga rises four to 7th in the world. Cilic leads Thiem by less than 50.
* – No change in the top five. Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic and Nishikori. The number one ranking is safe.

RIO, BRAZIL (Red Clay)
S: Dominic Thiem def. Pablo Carreno Busta 7-5/6-4
D: Carreno Busta/Cuevas d. Cabal/Farah

S: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Lucas Pouille 6-4/6-4
D: Benneteau/Mahut d. Haase/Inglot

DELRAY BEACH, USA (Hard Outdoor)
S: Jack Sock walkover Milos Raonic
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Huey/Mirnyi

...Five years ago to the day, Tsonga hit his highest ever ranking of five. He has always played like a top five player though his results do not reflect it. He lacks the career consistency of Gasquet, the on-court consistency of Simon and the maddening consistency in defence that Monfls possesses. But his ceiling has always been the highest of those three. He has no weakness, not really, except for that inconsistency. Aside from turning off during a match every now and then and his injuries he doesn’t have an exploitable part of his game. You can hit Gasquet off the court, you can overpower Simon and you can play off Monfils' refusal to go on the offensive. But Tsonga, if he is playing well, can beat anyone. A very good returner can throw off his serve, which is why he struggles against Murray and Djokovic. But the Olympic Silver medalist is not done yet despite appearing to be in the twilight of his career. He is 14-11 In finals, but ten of those have come in France. He is 7-3 in home finals. Just last week, as you know, he reached final number four in Marseille. He made it 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Pouille. This BACKSPINNER wonders if home advantage in tennis is as big an advantage as in the NFL. Stosur and Mauresmo prove otherwise, but for some players, like Isner, Tsonga and Kyrgios, it works for them. Tsonga edging Kyrgios 7-6[5], 2-6, 6-4 in the semi-final is one of those matches where you feel it could have maybe gone the other way on another court. But Tsonga is champion and that’s good because nobody could possibly dislike Tsonga.

...Delpo could also win this award. A semi-final in your first event of the year? That is impressive. He will be seeded for the French Open, one of his best events. He continues to impress throughout his storied career. He broke out in 2007 and a decade on he is still ripping people up with that forehand. But Thiem has finally found a title this year. Heck, he finally found his first final. The Austrian is still young. His first year on the tour he made six finals and a slam semi-final. He was a top ten mainstay. He had the world at his feet. Like artists struggling on that second album, he didn’t know what to do next. Yes, this BACKSPINNER is critical of his scheduling but, really, that’s a little unfair. He has had his best result in Australia in making the fourth round. He didn’t, like certain world number ones, lose to a German outside the top 50. He lost to Goffin in a very close match. He’s having a fine year. He has won another 500 tournament to add to the one he won in Acapulco last year. Now he gets to go defend that title. Straight sets wins over Tipsarevic and Lajovic to open up in Rio were perfect. He followed that up with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Schwartzman. Once he gets rolling it’s hard to slow him down. He spanked 5th seed Ramos Vinolas 6-1, 6-4 in the semi-final. He finished it up by grinding out a tough 7-5, 6-4 win over Carreno Busta in the final. He won a 500 level tournament and did not drop a set. Oh, boy.

...Ruud, lanky and baby-faced, got into Rio on a wildcard. His forehand is an exquisite shot and he just floats on the clay. He looked good in his opener, as he saw off Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-3, 6-4. He looked good but he had a real challenge on his hands next. He has risen 75 places to 133. If he wins two matches in March in the main draw he could crack the top 110. Roberto Carballes Baena is one of those Spaniards who is always horrible to play on clay. Rudd showed us he grinds like a barista, winning 6-7[4], 6-4, 7-6[4]. He easily beat Monteiro 6-2, 7-6[2]. But heartbreak was next for the youngster. Up 6-2, 4-2 in the semi-final, he could not quite hold on. Pablo Carreno Busta saved a match point at 4-5, broke for love in the next game and won 2-6, 7-5, 6-0. But what a tournament for the young Scandinavian. This is the moment we heard about Casper Ruud.
...He has a career high of 23 right now. He made a doubles slam final last year, in New York. He is 2-3 in finals, this being his first 500 final. He made the semi-final of the Australian Open men’s doubles this year and is ranked 17 in that discipline. Suddenly, aged 25, he is having a quite spectacular career. And he feels like a vet. Keep it up Busta. You’re doing marvelously.

...We have waited for this for some time. And, in the end, it took an injury to one of the ATP’s most brittle players to give him that anticipated moment. It’s a win for Jack Sock on American hard-courts. We have been wondering where this has been all this time. Seeded third, he opened with a 6-4, 7-6[2] win over Albot before seeing off Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-1. He knocked out 5th seed Johnson 6-4, 7-6[4] and found himself in another 2017 semi-final. For the third time in the tournament he won 6-4, 7-6[2]. It was absolutely identical to the Albot match, but this time it was over Donald Young. Then he got lucky in the final - Raonic withdrew with a leg injury. It is a career high of 18 for the Nebraska native. And don’t forget that he is Thiem’s age. The next step is a big result in March at either tournament. He needs to ride those fans and that beautiful set of hard-courts.
...In trying to prepare for the French and taking on the clay swing, Nishikori has fallen back. It was a risk worth taking but it has not paid off. He needs to work on winning at the one slam venue he knows he can. If he can crack Flushing Meadows then he should try the others. Don’t bother trying to win on clay this early. You have time for that later. Make an assault on the top four. That top four seeding is the key to winning a slam. Derrick Rose is an NBA player for the New York Knicks (formerly of the Chicago Bulls). If you haven’t heard of him, well, maybe go outside or get out from under that rock. He is immensely talented but always injured, always broken. Both Nishikori and Raonic suffer from that curse. And it is really holding them back. When you see a loss like Kei’s 6-4, 6-3 defeat to Bellucci you think was it because of fitness?
...It is another semi-final run for Young. Last week it was Harrison who knocked him out and this week it was Sock. But back-to-back semi-finals for the young American is an unheard of thing. It really just doesn’t happen, well, ever. Could this really be a turning point? If so, then watch out at the two big Masters tournaments we have coming up. His win in two breakers over second seed Karlovic in round one is the kind you can build momentum off of. Plus, he held off the next generation - he beat Taylor Harry Fritz 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The Road to Success Is Always Under Construction. #yimlife @tecnifibre @delraybeachopen

A post shared by Donald Young (@donaldyoungjr) on


Notes from the Week...
1 – Raonic has hurt his hamstring. It’s a slight tear, but even that is horrible news for the world number four.
2 – Federer is five titles away from replacing Lendl as the guy in history with the second most titles ever. Connors on 109 is surely uncatchable.
3 – Serena randomly turned up to a match in San Franciso

1. Rio Final – Thiem d. Carreno Busta 7-5, 6-4
...The Austrian recovered from an early break to win the first set. Once he had that it was smooth sailing. He raced out to a 7-5, 4-2 lead and eventually won in 94 minutes.

2. Marseille SF – Tsonga d. Kyrgios 7-6[4], 2-6, 6-4
...Tsonga made it eight matches in a row with this one. Unbroken in two years at this event, the Aussie saw his serve snapped twice. He served 12 aces, but it was not enough. Tsonga used his wily veteran powers to win a match he should have lost.
3. Marseille Final – Tsonga d. Pouille 6-4, 6-4
...He had not won a title since 2015 before this month. It took him 69 minutes to win number fourteen. Pouille never found his form and was outclassed by his more illustrious compatriot in the finals.
4. Delray Beach SF – Sock d. Young 6-4 7-6[2]
...America has undergone a renaissance. The only question now is how long it will be before they can field a legitimate slam contender. Sock reminded Young just who’s boss with a straight sets win.

Djokovic [1] d. [4] Thiem
Nadal [2] d. Coric
Djokovic [1] d. [2] Nadal

...The quarterfinals are almost better than the semi-finals. Kyrgios versus Djokovic, Thiem versus Goffin, and Nadal versus Sock. Expect Cilic to be rubbish. Nadal and Djokovic will both turn up, but how can you look past the Serb?

Federer [3] d. [1] Murray
Wawrinka [2] d. [4] Monfils
Federer [3] d. [2] Wawrinka

...Wawrinka is the defending champion. Remember that excellent final where he edged Baghdatis? Murray is the world number one and Monfils is a tight Nadal loss away from having a superb start to the year. But how do you argue with nine-time finalist and seven time winner Roger Federer? The guy's already won a slam this year, too.

Cuevas [3] d. [5] Fognini
Ramos Vinolas [2] d. [4] Sousa
Cuevas [3] d [2] Ramos-Vinolas

...Cuevas on clay in the Americas is a different player to Cuevas anywhere else, and he is the two time defending champion. So there’s that. Fognini should spring a surprise here, while Vinolas is a good player in a weak field.

Dasha should be back for March, but who knows. This BACKSPINNER bets Kasatkina is missing her awfully.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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