Sunday, June 26, 2016

Wimbledon Preview: Predicting the Unpredictable


Hey, all. Galileo here.

Now before we get to the Wimbledon predictions post, we have some housekeeping to do. This BACKSPINNER blew the Week 25 predictions, but not too much. It’s another heart-breaking loss for Gilles Muller in Nottingham, losing to Pablo Cuevas 3-6, 7-6[3], 6-4. Cuevas lost his first grass final to Steve Johnson 6-7[5], 5-7. It is also his third final this year, though it is his first off clay. He has now won five of his seven finals. Don’t forget, either, that he once won the French Open doubles. He won it with Luis Horna. Of course, he very nearly didn’t make it; he beat Bagman 6-4, 6-4, 7-6[8]. Kevin Anderson was another who had a good tournament, edging past Ivan Dodig and Fernando Verdasco to the quarters. Has he ground his way into form? Muller is ranked 41 and is so close to a seed at the U.S. Open, but where has he landed in the Wimbledon draw?

After losing in Vienna to David Ferrer last year, Johnson has won his maiden title. He is back in the top forty and will win another title this year, or so says this BACKSPINNER. Sam Querrey lost to Marcus Baghdatis 1-6, 7-6[8], 6-4. He should be able to do better than that. But Joao Sousa [3rd seed] was even worse. Dudi Sela beat him in straight sets. He is in for an unhappy Wimbledon.

We all know why we’re here. We’re here in our whites for strawberries and for big serves. If there’s drama and tears along the way, well then all the better. We all remember the chaotic day at Wimbledon a couple of years ago where everybody withdrew and there were thousands of upsets. This is our third slam of the year and Djokovic’s Grand Slam dream is on. So let’s dive straight into it.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Mahut d. Klein
==
WS 1st Rd: Makarova d. Larsson

No mixed, but we have the men’s and women’s doubles. Herbert/Mahut [1] d. [6] Bopanna/Mergea. The top seeds will have a point to prove. Plus Mahut loves Wimbledon and they just won in Eastbourne. The 6th seeds are in a fairly easy section with the exception of Matkowski/Paes. Rojer/Tecau [4] d. [12] Huey/Mirnyi. Pospisil/Sock [8] have been on form as of late and after surviving a rut. They will make another run here, defeating [3] Murray/Soares. Stepanek/Zimonjic [14] will be this year’s surprise package. There is always one. They will defeat Dodig/Melo [5] in the quarters and then beat Murray/Soares with experience. I like the Frenchies to win in the final, however. Will the five set format assist our top seeds?

In the ladies' doubles, Garcia/Mladenovic will make another run but lose in the final to Mirza/Hingis. Those two have got to find their mojos at some point. Right?

Now, finally on to the singles...

=DJOKOVIC QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB
...Here we go again. Djokovic will have to contend with the home crowd this tournament. He has James Ward and then Kyle Edmund in his first two matches. Neither of those will take two sets off him, and you’d not even expect him to lose a set. He will be a tad ‘rusty’ but he should be fine. Querrey in the third round, or possibly Rosol, will test him. Either of those players will push him to a breaker, maybe two. Herbert and Mahut could play each other in this section, but Djokovic will not be troubled by either. Nole will be fine until the fourth round but lurking in the quarters, one of his weakest slam rounds, is potentially Raonic. So this won’t scare him but it isn’t going to be easy for the two-time defending champ. His return once more has to be the difference maker. Return well and he is going to do very well. In his only match at Boodles, Djokovic lost in two to Goffin.
2. MILOS RAONIC CAN
...There is one big reason the Canadian is the number two in these power rankings.


Now imagine that on grass, not a slower hard court. The Canuck has a serve that you could use in a war. That thing is a cannon. Oh, you got a racket on it. Well, the forehand will mop up. And the second serve offers no relief. Plus the game is so simple, it isn’t a Santoro type game, or even a Coria-esque one. He never comes to net except to put balls away and the ground strokes are pretty smooth. Sure, he can’t rally but he doesn’t have to. Perhaps you can exploit movement but on this surface even that won’t work for long periods of time. Sock and Gulbis are both dangerous, but not for Raonic. His doubles partner will know his game well but how much of a difference will it make? Goffin in the fourth round is on the wrong surface to cause much trouble. No, this section is looking like a Djokovic and Raonic clash is inevitable.
3. PHILIPP KOHLSCHREIBER GER
...He and Ferrer are set to meet in the third round. Sure, he should beat a Ferrer on the way out but can he beat both the 1st and 6th seed? It is unlikely to happen. But he is the perfect spoiler. Look out for the chip and charge from the German, too.
DARK HORSE: KEVIN ANDERSON RSA
...He can play on this surface and was a whisker from defeating Novak last year. Can he do the same here? If he can continue his form from the last week, where he won two matches, he could cause trouble. He may well beat Goffin in the third round and he could make life difficult for Raonic in round four.
WILDCARD: ERNESTS GULBIS LAT
...By now this should need an explanation. Well here it is. Don’t forget his very frustrating propensity to implode, either.
EARLY EXIT: DAVID FERRER ESP
...Ferru is very much on the way out and will struggle to even make the fourth round. The Spaniard seems to just be hanging on until the Olympics. Surely this is the veteran’s final Wimbledon.
MATCH NOT TO MISS: ROSOL vs. QUERREY
...This will be an outer court gem, possibly on Court One if they aren’t feeling generous to us poorer folk. But this match will be a big-serving ‘muscly’ match. The winner gets the chance to most likely have a pop at Djokovic. Well worth a peek.
=In the End...=
4th: DJOKOVIC D. KOHLSCHREIBER
4th: RAONIC D. ANDERSON
QF: DJOKOVIC D. RAONIC

=FEDERER QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. ROGER FEDERER SUI
...Shocking, I know, putting a seven time champion here. The Fed is the greatest grass player we will ever see. Nobody’s game will ever be more suited to grass. Rog opens with Pella before facing Berankis and then probably Dolgopolov. All of those will be fine. Monfils and Simon have only ever had fleeting moments of brilliance here. Dimitrov is here, too, but is he up to much these days? Cilic and Nishikori are also here but, really, does either of those players faze Federer on this surface? This will be a procession to the semi-finals, possibly delayed a tad by Kei if he can get there. Federer said his back had won him 88 titles when asked about his health. He will be just fine. Watch out for the SABR and that slice serve, too.
2. KEI NISHIKORI JPN
...By default more than anything Kei finds himself second in our power rankings. There is nobody else here, really. Sure, Cilic could make a run. But he is not a top ten player in form, though he does have a good previous history here. That fourth round match between Kei and Cilic will be big if it comes to pass. Groth and Benneteau are the immediate threats. Recent finalist Cuevas will lose to Muller over five and then Kei will have his first big test. Alex Kuznetsov landed in a bad place but he has had a terrific year.
3. GILLES MULLER LUX
...Cilic is a big seed, yes, but would you trust him? Muller will ride his form and serve all the way to at least the fourth round. He could even make the quarters. He is a tricky customer on this surface and has been to a slam quarter before. It may have been some 30 slams previous but he is still more solid than Cilic.
DARK HORSE: MARIN CILIC CRO
...Would you be surprised if he made the semi-finals? No, me either. What about if he crashed out to Baker in the first round? No, I would not be surprised, either. He and Muller are really interchangeable here but Cilic has been so poor for so long that it is easy to forget he won a slam once.
WILDCARD: IVO KARLOVIC CRO
...Imagine this on grass.


That is his entire game but it is just so effective. He can serve his way past anybody and anyone. He and Cilic will face off in the third round. That match will exceed a combined total of 50 aces.
EARLY EXIT: GILLES SIMON FRA
...That loss to Novak at the beginning of the year seems to have broken the Frenchman. He is in the wrong place to make any kind of a run at Wimbledon. Sure, he made a quarter recently but not this year.
MATCH NOT TO MISS: GIRALDO vs. MULLER
...If you want physicality and a clash of styles this is it. Also you will get some good grass court tennis from Muller. This will be on a back court somewhere on the grounds. It will be worth going to see.
=In the End...=
4th: FEDERER D. JOHNSON
4th: MULLER D. KARLOVIC
QF: FEDERER D. MULLER

=WARINKA QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. STAN WAWRINKA SUI
...Now this quarter is where it gets a little more interesting. Here in the bottom half of the draw Thiem is seeded to make the quarters for the first time ever at slam level. Wawrinka has to deal with Del Potro, Pouille and Agut before he can focus on the Austrian. He also opens with talented youngster Fritz. The Swiss star goes in to Wimbledon on alright form but can he finally make a semi-final slam at the one slam at which he is yet to do so? His slice backhand and big serve are evidence he has the tools. With a quarterfinal here last year, he is here to prove he can go further.
2. DOMINIC THIEM AUT
...There are only a few indications he can perform on this surface, but all those signs have come this year. He is ready to do what Dimitrov never did. Become a solid top ten player. His kick serve is less effective here and he drew Mayer in the first round, but he should still be able to get past the Halle champion. Sousa will be no threat here, but Vesely could be. Berdych lurks in the fourth round if he can get past Zverev. Should he get past Berdych or the conqueror of the Berd, he will face a tricky test in the form of Wawrinka. So not easy then.
3. TOMAS BERDYCH CZE
...Due respect should be given to a former finalist. Tomas has been shown up by compatriot Kvitova and shut out by the top four, but he is still more than capable of getting past Thiem and Wawrinka. With his serve and forehand anything is possible.
DARK HORSE: ALEX ZVEREV GER
...Seeded 24th here, the German can make real inroads into the draw. Berdych is not unbeatable, though it will be difficult to do it over five sets. The German lost at Boodles to Kyrgios in straight sets but he will not lose early. He does need to use the slice a tad more on this surface but when he uses it it is very effective.
WILDCARD: BERNARD TOMIC AUS
...A run at Queens hints at a rise in form. Can the troubled rising star make good on those hints? He has a soft enough section that another quarter-final run is not out of the question, though how he would defeat Wawrinka remains beyond this BACKSPINNER.
EARLY EXIT: JOAO SOUSA POR
...This is simply not his surface. Expect Tursunov or Saville to see him off. He could also be our first seed to lose in the bottom half, if not in the entire draw. He will be fine once the tour returns to hard court. He will win more matches at the next slam.
MATCH NOT TO MISS: TOMIC vs. VERDASCO
...Dodig versus Berdych would be plenty exciting, too, but this match promises fireworks and who knows what. It could go five or it could be a blowout. But the clash of styles makes this a very exciting prospect.
=In the End...=
4th: THIEM D. BERDYCH
4th: WAWRINKA D. TOMIC
QF: WAWRINKA D. THIEM

=MURRAY QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. ANDY MURRAY GBR
...After all those soft routes through slams, Murray finally has a horror. Kyrgios, Lopez, Brown and Fognini are all in his section. He opens with Broady which takes away his home court advantage. Then he plays Lu and Paire to get through to the fourth round. And there Kyrgios will be waiting for him. After that is Gasquet, followed by Tsonga. No, he won’t be making the final. Sure Lendl is back and he is better than all those players, but together? Luckily the rain is not a factor for Murray. He will have to be tactically astute as well as being physically prepared.
2. NICK KYRGIOS AUS
...Here it is. This is the Aussie’s chance to go big at Wimbledon. This is his chance to make that run, the one we will all look back on. Stepanek and Brown are his likely first two opponents. Both those matches will be electric. And then he gets Lopez. It’s a horrible draw, but he can do it. He has the seeding protection and the gumption. He will be pumped up when he gets to Murray. He knows the Scot’s game well, too. Can he finally take out the world number two? If he does he will have Gasquet or Tsonga in the quarters.
3. RICHARD GASQUET FRA
...Yep. He has been better than Tsonga this year, but they are interchangeable here. One of them will meet Murray in the quarters. Neither have historically caused the Scot a lot of trouble. Indeed, on this surface neither have tested him much. Gasquet opens with Bedene. Next is probably Burgos and then Troicki. The fourth round is practically guaranteed. Tsonga has Cervantes, Monaco and Isner or Baghdatis. That is also pretty safe. That fourth round will be a fantastic match.
DARK HORSE: FELICIANO LOPEZ ESP
...Isner has the serve to do it but Lopez has been to more than just a couple of quarterfinals here. He knows how to do it. And he can turn it on seemingly at will. Can he do it this year, too?
WILDCARD: BENOIT PAIRE FRA
...Who really knows with the mad Frenchman? If he can get to Murray he should be able to really worry the Scot. Whether or not he can get there is another story. He should be able to negate Skugor and Millman. Murray has not imploded in a while. Could that implosion be imminent?
EARLY EXIT: ANDY MURRAY GBR
...Seeded 2nd, the Scot should make another Wimbledon final. It would be his third. But this BACKSPINNER doubts it’ll happen. Or maybe I am just so sick of seeing him and Djokovic playing the same match over and over on different surfaces I am picking him to lose. Their matches are eerily similar to the film Groundhog Day.
MATCH NOT TO MISS: KYRGIOS vs. STEPANEK
...Isner playing Baghdatis will be good and Lajovic versus Brown is a gem. Lopez and Ram going at it will also be a great watch, but for the highlight reel Kyrgios and Stepanek can’t be beat. Serve and volley will be the currency in this one.
=In the End...=
4th: GASQUET D. TSONGA
4th: KYRGIOS D. MURRAY
QF: KYRGIOS D. GASQUET



=SEMIFINALS=
#1 DJOKOVIC D. #3 FEDERER
#4 WAWRINKA D. #15 KYRGIOS

=FINAL=
#4 WAWRINKA D. #1 DJOKOVIC

...Here is where the wheels come unstuck. Forced to five by Federer, Djokovic is then beaten by Wawrinka in an upset for the ages. Wawrinka always wins a slam only if he makes the semi-final at the previous one. He also make the fourth round or quarter the year before. And nobody ever calls it. Plus, he has won in Australia and France the past two years. Wimbledon is next in the order. And has he ever lost in a slam final? I thought not.


*WOMEN*
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Williams d. #13 Kuznetsova
#11 Bacsinszky d. #6 Vinci
#3 Radwanska d. Bouchard
#10 Kvitova d. Pironkova
#9 Keys d. #5 Halep
#4 Kerber d. #14 Ka. Pliskova
#8 V. Williams d. #12 Suarez-Navarro
#2 Muguruza d. Lisicki

...Williams will either blow up early or win it all. She has almost reached boiling point after being denied in three straight slam semifinal/finals. This quarter is no murderers’ row, though Watson and Williams may well have a rematch in the third round. Sveta should see off Wozniacki. Peng is also here but this should be fairly straightforward for the Russian and the American. A-Pavs and Vandeweghe lurk but the Swiss and Italian are too good on this surface. Bacs will ride her French form and defend her quarterfinal points from last year. Seeded 16th ,Jo Konta will finally get her maiden Wimbledon win here though Puig will be tricky. Puig, Cibulkova and Konta all made the semi-finals in Eastbourne. But Bouchard will defeat Konta, despite her SF in Eastbourne, and the winner of Gavrilova and Cibulkova [who has reached a quarter here], before proceeding to roll to the fourth round. And Aga is at Wimbledon. Enough said. Garcia on another surface [read: clay] could cause the upset. Kvitova has to deal with Makarova and Strycova early. Paszek and Pironkova lurk near injury-hit Bencic. So our big seeds in this quarter will be on upset watch. But this is Kvitova and it has been cool in England of late. That will help the Czech. If Pironkova can make a run in France, she can do it here. But this BACKSPINNER once declared Petra would win five Wimbledon’s so she gets the nod.

With her only titles coming on grass [2-2 in all finals] and a quarterfinal last year, Keys has the game and confidence to go on a run. Like Konta [18], Keys is at her highest ever ranking at number ten, though she is seeded 9th. Schiavone lurks near Halep but she is a spent force. Errani is near Keys but she has never played well on this surface. Cornet and Flipkens could both play spoiler but Keys seems to have inherited Davenport’s grass magic. Kerber has to stop the rot somewhere and here at Wimbledon she’ll have a run. She opens with Robson, but she’ll win that and get past Brengle. Ivanovic is here, but who cares? If Pliskova gets past Wickmayer she’ll be fine. Venus has made 11 Wimbledon quarters and won eight. She has never lost in a semi-final. Neither Kasatkina nor Vekic will trouble the woman who was first seeded here in 1998. She will return to the quarters for the first time in some five years. Suarez-Navarro is also here and will be fine in getting to the fourth. Jankovic will do nothing. Lisicki landed in a great section. She and Stosur will hit about 40 aces combined in a tight three set match but expect the German to make the fourth round.

=QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#1 Williams d. #11 Bacsinszky
#10 Kvitova d. #3 Radwanska
#9 Keys d. #4 Kerber
#2 Muguruza d. #8 Venus

...Serena will out-muscle the Swiss on this surface. This is the most straightforward quarterfinal. Kvitova has won the only match on grass between these two and leads the head to head 6-4. Her serve will prove the difference in this match between grass specialists. Kerber is ripe for the upset here. It’s generous to think she’ll even reach the quarters. Keys rides her forehand all the way into the quarters. Muguruza makes another slam semi-final here. With the top five women in the world contending for the top ranking the Spaniard is under pressure to match her final result from last year. She will have too much for our resident elder stateswoman.

=SEMIFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#10 Kvitova d. #1 Williams
#2 Muguruza d. #9 Keys

...Kvitova causes a big upset here and beats Williams. If Petra wins a couple she’ll just roll. And Muguruza is the safe pick here. She is starting to make a run at that world number one ranking. She will be too consistent and experienced for Keys.

=FINAL PREDICTION=
#10 Kvitova d. #2 Muguruza

...It won’t be like that Bouchard final, but it will be Kvitova’s day. 2-0 in Wimbledon finals, the Czech has never even dropped a set in one. If she gets there she’ll win in straights this year.

Right, thanks all. Go to WTA BACKSPIN -- they’ve just got the BBQ going! Ask for the ribs!

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

Galileo.

As for Kiki, well, she beat Wickmayer and Bacsinszky in straight sets in Eastbourne. Then she edged Friedsam in two before running into Puig. The qualifier won 7-6[6], 4-6, 6-3. She didn’t enter the doubles but the run is still encouraging. She and Garcia are seeded 31 and 30, respectively. Like in Paris, if she wins two matches she gets Williams. She has to defeat Watson though.

In the doubles, Garcia and Mladenovic are seeded second. They open with qualifiers Schuurs/Voracova. The seeds in their section are Garrigues/Santonja. They should be just fine.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Wk.24- For Whom Does the Bell Toll?


[Ed.note: Galileo is back... albeit a little jet-lagged. - tds]

Hey, all. Galileo here.

The ATP is in flux. Nadal and Federer have collapsed akin to the way the Bulls and Celtics did in the NBA after their dynasties ended. Federer is still around but he is a paper tiger. He can still make a run at Wimbledon, but Murray and Djokovic look set to make it three finals in a row between those two. The previous two were forgettable four-setters. There has been more quality in some of the Federer/Nadal three setters than in either of the previous slam finals. Hamburg comes to mind, as does that Dubai match Rafa won. They were memorable.

But now that era is at its end. We all sort of expected the Fed to come back and look good, but he looks tired. He is not cruising on grass. Nobody has ever wanted an Olympic Gold quite as much as Federer does right now. And he is hanging on. It may not even be about Wimbledon, for once.





The losses to the up-and-comers are worrying. Those rising stars are the players Federer never loses to. But someone else did manage to defeat a young star. Florian Mayer was too good [this time] for his younger compatriot. Shall we find out more?



=RANKINGS WATCH=
Top 32 - Querrey drops out of the top 32 but sits at 33. Karlovic and Dolgopov fall but stay in the top 32. Zverev has risen ten places to 28 in the world.
Top 10 – Little change. Gasquet is at ten, followed by Goffin and Tsonga. Cilic is in 13th and amazingly Ferru is down in 14th. Who can remember the last time he was ranked that low?
Top 8 – Raonic rises two places to 7th, leaving Thiem and Berdych to sit at 8th and 9th. Kei in 5th is safe. Thiem and Raonic both have 3,175 points.
Top 4 – No change. Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal.

*WEEK 24 CHAMPIONS*
LONDON, ENGLAND
S: Andy Murray def. Milos Raonic 6-7(5)/6-4/6-3
D: Herbert/Mahut d. Guccione/Sa

HALLE, GERMANY
S: Florian Mayer def. Alexander Zverev 6-2/5-7/6-3
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Kubot/Peya



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: FLORIAN MAYER
...Forget Murray. He is very dull indeed. He does nothing like Mayer does. He is shiny, and slicey. The German will hit any shot he wants, whenever he wants. He is awful to play, awful to have to deal with and on grass he becomes even more slippery. He edged comeback kid Brian Baker 7-5,7-6[3]. The two both had a protected ranking. The former world number 18 got a lucky break when Nishikori handed him a walkover and he was going to capitalise. He was too good for Seppi in the quarters, winning 7-6[3], 6-3. Next he dismissed Thiem 6-3, 6-4. Once the German gets going he becomes very difficult to stop. He defeated Zverev in the final 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. He rose 112 places to 80 in the world after he won. Sure, it may have taken two hours and five match points but sometimes you have to earn your cake before you can eat it. This is his first 500 and grass title all rolled into one. The two time Wimbledon quarterfinalist is poised to make another run this.
=============================
RISER: ANDY MURRAY



=============================
FRESH FACE: MILOS RAONIC


=============================
VETERAN: DAVID FERRER
...This is a tragic tale, a story of a Spanish stallion on its final legs, enjoying its final days in the sun. Ferrer does not belong at fourteen in the world yet he has fallen that low for a number of reasons. He has done poorly on clay and lost form, and he is really getting on. One of the best players to never win a slam, Ferrer’s consistency in everything he does is admirable. Though grass was never his bag he nonetheless has a good record on the stuff. But his loss last week to Seppi is not the first. And it won’t be the last. Perhaps, like a lot of other players he is clinging on until the summer. Sadly for Ferrer the summer season is now upon us.
.=============================
DOWN: TOMAS BERDYCH
...Berdych collapsed, losing 7-6[3], 7-6[4] to Bagman. It is a poor loss and the Czech needs a big result somewhere. Constantly making quarters of big events and picking up a title or two is not what we have come to expect of the Czech. Of course, Baghdatis really can play on this surface, but that is no justification. Berdman is going to have a job on his hands trying to make it happen at Wimbledon but he can do it. He has done it before.
=============================
UPSET: ALEXANDER ZVEREV
...Yes, we have already talked at length about this, but just think about it. There is something very passing-of-the-baton like going on here. Will Zverev continue to take over from Federer or will we see the Fed resurgent? Here is Federer with stubble [!!] looking resigned to being lobbed. Zverev really had the Swiss on the run in this match. But if they meet again can he repeat it?
=============================

Notes from the week...
1 - It is nice to see serve and volley tennis, though it is on life support off the grass.
2 – The Sharapova suspension just keeps on going. Will she go to the Olympics?
3 – We are finally starting to see the younger generation coming through. Now Hyung of South Korea needs to make it into the top forty.
4 – Thiem has won a tournament and a semi recently. Can he match his seeding in London? His last three finals have been against Germans.
5 – Once again the women’s rankings are going to be all shook up in a few weeks.
6 – Strange the timing of Eastbourne. Why not switch it and Mallorca? It would have better attendance that way.


1. Queens R2 - Muller d. Isner 3-6, 7-6[16] 7-6[7]
...43 aces were rained down by Isner but he still lost the match. Combined the pair hit 69 aces in a match where Isner saw ten match points come and ten go. Isner missed a chance on his serve at 13-12. In a match like this it’s the smaller mistakes that can really cost a guy. Can Isner get it together in time for Wimbledon?
=============================
2. Halle SF - Zverev d. Federer 7-6[4], 5-7 6-3
...This is it. This is his big win. So few players have defeated Federer on this surface. Zverev is doing something Sampras never managed to do, doing something Murray has never been able to do outside of that Olympics final. And he did it so calmly in the end. This guy will be in the top fifteen come next year.
=============================
3. Halle Final - Mayer d. Zverev 6-2, 5-7, 6-3
...In the final experience was the winner. The extra-nous and ‘been there’ helped Flo to, well, flow. His unusual strokes reaped a fine reward on Sunday as he won his second title. Unbelievably it was his first on grass.
=============================
4. Queens R2 - Raonic d. Vesely 7-5, 7-6[3]
...The Canuck was at his best here, escaping the upset attempt of Vesely. This could be quite the rivalry one day. Vesely fired thirteen aces but never broke the Canadian. The Czech’s inside-out backhand did a lot of damage but Raonic held firm, winning on a big forehand passing shot that skidded down the line.
=============================


*NOTTINGHAM*
=SF=
Anderson [1] d. [7] Seppi
Muller [8] d. [5] Querrey
=FINAL=
Anderson [1] d. Muller [8]

...Another funky tournament like Nice from a couple weeks back. But this is grass and that makes predictions very difficult. Anderson has shown signs of his pre-injury form and as the top seed he should continue his comeback. Muller is on form and that serve will see him through to the final.

Mladenovic fell to 33 in the singles rankings while Garcia rose to 32. Despite Kiki's final run last week, Garcia’s victory has propelled her above her compatriot. Strangely the pair did not play doubles in Mallorca. Mladenovic fell to Lisicki in two sets 6-4, 6-4 but that loss is not totally unexpected. The German could be gearing up for another run. Mladenovic just won her first match in Eastbourne, defeating Wickmayer in two. She will play 4th seed Bacsinszky next. And after that you will see them at Wimbledon, of course.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, June 06, 2016

Roland Garros Recap: Djokovic’s Place in History


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Right now, in history, this BACKSPINNER’S top five is:

1.Federer
2.Laver
3.Sampras
4.Nadal
5.Djokovic

Of course, Todd’s would be different though at least three of those five would be in there.

[ Ed.Note: I don't feel I can adequately rank Laver, not having seen him play and feeling that I couldn't give him all the credit he deserves since so much of the ranking would be based on numbers -- and his are impacted by the pro/amateur issue, as well as three of four majors being played on grass in those days, which would have been a boon to, say, the likes of Federer, Sampras and Bjorn Borg (imagine their slam numbers, especially Fed and Pete, if three slams were grass events). From the players whose full careers I've seen, I'd put Federer at the top of the list, but then things get a bit murky. Nadal and Djokovic would be in the Top 5, with Djokovic maybe now barely starting to edge ahead of the Spaniard. He could be past him by the end of the summer with another slam run (or two, or a Gold in Rio or, gulp, all of the above, which IS possible). I'd have Sampras in the five, but I think I'd have Andre Agassi either equal or slightly ahead of him because of his great versatility -- AA won all four majors, plus the Olympics, and probably would have won more slams than eight had he been more serious early in his career. Sampras' success was based so much on one shot (his serve) and, much like Nadal, one tournament (Wimbledon - 7 titles in 8 years)... but at least Nadal DID get a Career Slam. So, as of this minute, I'd go with this: 1.Federer, 2.Nadal, 3.Djokovic, 4.Agassi, 5.Sampras for the last two-decade-plus stretch of play. - tds]

Laver would have won more slams than even Federer if not for cruel circumstances. He also won all four in a year twice amid heavy competition. Sampras dominated a much harder era for longer. Djokovic has mainly dominated at a time Federer and Nadal are in the twilight of their careers. He couldn’t live with them at their peak. And Nadal is such a one-surface guy, he really hasn’t performed consistently well out of Roland Garros.

France’s Geoffrey Blancaneaux won the boy’s tournament, beating Felix Auger-Aliassime [Canada] 8-6 in the third and final set of the final. So France do have some joy. It is the second boys’ slam in a row a home town hero has triumphed.

=RANKINGS WATCH=
In the rankings Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal round out our top four. Wawrinka is sitting in 5th. Thiem moved up eight places to 7th. Gasquet and Goffin move two places to 10 and 11. In the doubles Melo drops seven places to 8th. The Bryans are back in the top five, at four and five. Mahut is our stand alone number doubles number one, Murray sits at two and Herbert at three. It’s a career high for the Frenchies.


CHATRIER: DJOKOVIC D. MURRAY
...Most slam finals can be categorised on the memorable scale. Perhaps, like the 2002 AO final where Johansson triumphed, they are remembered for the big upset. Throw in the women’s 2016 FO final into that mix. Sometimes they are famous for being long like the 2012 men’s AO final. And that 1980 Wimbledon final is remembered because it was just so darn good. The 2004 French Open is memorable because Coria did an enormous choke. But some really are forgettable. There has yet to be a Djokovic/Murray grand slam final that is regular. Even regular finals are usually totally forgettable. And this one with its ten breaks and 80 unforced errors was just that. Djokovic won 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. What is there left to say when the two best players in the world can’t even play a very good final. People hated the duopoly of Fedal that existed for six years, but is this really better? No variety, no excitement. At least off the clay there was a Federer versus Nadal rivalry. On no surface is this rivalry close. The thing that is surprising is Djokovic won 27 out of 33 points at the net. Isn’t Murray’s passing shot meant to be one of his best? This BACKSPINNER find himself struggling to sit through even a set between these two. The ‘highlights’ are sometimes too much. There is a real danger that tennis could lose its fans. Few tennis people online and off gave the final a favourable review. To their credit they are a different flavour and if their tennis is your cup of tea this is a great time for you. And, honestly, nothing can be worse than that ’08 Roland Garros final. That was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Anyway, there are other events to focus on. And right now the women’s may just be the more watchable tour.

They’ve done it. Mladenovic/Garcia have won the ladies doubles and their first grand slam. She could have won a total of 18 matches (singles, doubles and mixed). Her total was 11, which is definitely a pass.

The Pastries defeated Makarova/Vesnina 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Garcia had never been to a final before. Mladenovic was 0-1 in ladies doubles slam finals. The Russians as a pair had been to five and Vesnina three more before that. With five breaks a piece and only four points separating the pairs, this was a dead even contest. The key was that the French pair won just a few more points on their opponent’s serve.

Kiki and Garcia are now ranked 3 and 4. Garcia is up five places from eight, while Mladenovic rises seven from 11th. They are now finally confirmed as the world’s second best pairing. With the second seed at Wimbledon and good history there, they can start to cement their position. With double their points the top ranked Hingis/Mirza are out of reach for the moment. Both Frenchies sit at their career high.

Despite the third round run Kiki slips two places to 32. Better than poor Safarova, who falls from 13th to 29th.

Instead of just linking to one image, this BACKSPINNER is going to send you to Kiki’s Twitter page. Scroll down and have a look. The video will warm your heart.

Mladenovic is also at the Ricoh. She is the third seed and opens with Shvedova. She is not playing the doubles with Garcia, though Mahut is playing the men’s doubles with Bopanna. Different strokes for different folks. These next few weeks are vital for her singles ranking. She has to make at least one or two semi-finals.


At the Rosmalen Ricoh championships played on grass Karlovic [1] will defeat Muller [7] in one semi-final. Tomic [2] will start to give a ‘you-know-what again’. He will beat Querrey [5] and then win the title. He needs to find form and motivation again and he did actually win a match in Paris, don’t forget.

At the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart Federer [1] will defeat Lopez [5] in the first semi-final. Thiem might have a bit of a down after his first massive result at a slam. And Lopez is a tricky quarter-final opponent. Kohlschreiber [7] will edge Dimitrov in the second semi-final. Del Potro is the Bulgarian’s first match on grass this year. Federer will win this tournament and drop a set at most.


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Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Career Serb Strikes Again


The people, places, and lists from the final Sunday in Paris:




*ROLAND GARROS CHAMPIONS*
MS: Novak Djokovic/SRB def. Andy Murray/GBR 3-6/6-1/6-2/6-4
MD: F.Lopez/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP) d. Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)
MX: Paes/Hingis (IND/SUI) d. Dodig/Mirza (CRO/IND)
BS: Geoffrey Blancaneaux/FRA def. Felix Auger-Aliassime/CAN 1-6/6-3/8-6
BD: Oliel/Rikl (ISR/CZE) d. Y.Chung/Luz (KOR/BRA)
WC: Gustavo Fernandez/ARG def. Gordon Reid/GBR 7-6(4)/6-1
WCD: #2 Kuneida/Reid (JPN/GBR) d. Jeremiasz/Olsson (FRA/SWE)







[ stats courtesy of "the numbers guy" ]



*MOST GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLES - OPEN ERA*
17...Roger Federer, SUI
14...Rafael Nadal, ESP
14...Pete Sampras, USA
12...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB
12...Roy Emerson, USA
11...Bjorn Borg, SWE
11...Rod Laver, AUS



*CAREER GRAND SLAMS - all-time*
[with title span; AO-RG-WI-US]
Fred Perry, 1933-36 [1-1-3-3]
Don Budge, 1937-38 [1-1-2-2]
Roy Emerson, 1961-67 [6-2-2-2]
Rod Laver, 1960-69 [3-2-4-2]
Andre Agassi, 1992-03 [4-1-1-2]
Roger Federer, 2003-12 [4-1-7-5]
Rafael Nadal, 2005-14 [1-9-2-2]
Novak Djokovic, 2008-16 [6-1-3-2]

*CONSECUTIVE SLAM TITLES - OPEN ERA*
[four]
1969 Rod Laver
2015-16 Novak Djokovic
[three]
1993-94 Pete Sampras
2005-06 Roger Federer
2006-07 Roger Federer
2010 Rafael Nadal
2011-12 Novak Djokovic

*WON ALL FOUR SLAMS, ATP FINALS & OLYMPIC SINGLES GOLD*
Andre Agassi
[needs Olympic singles Gold]
Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer
[needs ATP Finals]
Rafael Nadal

*CAREER ATP TITLES*
109 - Jimmy Connors
94 - Ivan Lendl
88 - Roger Federer*
77 - John McEnroe
69 - Rafael Nadal*
65 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC*
64 - Bjorn Borg
64 - Pete Sampras
62 - Guillermo Vilas
60 - Andre Agassi

**CAREER SLAM FINALS**
27 - Roger Federer (17-10)
20 - Rafael Nadal (14-6)
20 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC (12-8)
19 - Ivan Lendl (8-11)
18 - Pete Sampras (14-4)
17 - Rod Laver (11-6)
16 - Bjorn Borg (11-5)
16 - Ken Rosewall (8-8)

**SLAM FINALS - ACTIVE MEN**
27...Roger Federer, SUI (17-10)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
20...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB (12-8)
10...ANDY MURRAY, GBR (2-8)
2...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (2-0)

*SLAM MATCH WINS - OPEN ERA*
302...Roger Federer*
233...Jimmy Connors
224...Andre Agassi
222...Ivan Lendl
221...NOVAK DJOKOVIC*
217...Roy Emerson
203...Pete Sampras
200...Rafael Nadal*
178...Stefan Edberg
[Roland Garros]
72...Rafael Nadal*
65...Roger Federer*
58...Guillermo Vilas
55...NOVAK DJOKOVIC*
53...Ivan Lendl
51...Andre Agassi
49...Bjorn Borg

*MOST CAREER MEETINGS IN FINALS - OPEN ERA*
24 - Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic *
21 - Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal *
20 - Ivan Lendl/John McEnroe
18 - Novak Djokovic/Roger Federer *
17 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC/ANDY MURRAY *
16 - Andre Agassi/Pete Sampras
16 - Boris Becker/Stefan Edberg
15 - Jimmy Connors/John McEnroe
[slam finals]
8 - Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal *
7 - Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic *
7 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC/ANDY MURRAY *
5 - Andre Agassi/Pete Sampras
5 - Ivan Lendl/Mats Wilander
4 - Bjorn Borg/Jimmy Connors
4 - Bjorn Borg/John McEnroe
4 - Roger Federer/Andy Roddick
4 - Novak Djokovic/Roger Federer *

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




All for now.


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Saturday, June 04, 2016

Roland Garros Day 14: A Day Memorialised in the History Books


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.



In twenty, thirty, forty years time when the internet is a far cry from what it is now, when Todd and I are long gone Muguruza will be remembered. And this picture will be the one. This is her first clay court final. This was the moment she defied Serena Williams and let Steffi keep the record for one more slam at least. Her dismissal of Stosur and Williams back to back is a feat akin to Sharapova’s victories in Wimbledon in 2004.

And she’s so pleasant, so likable. With youth and no weaknesses on her side she has the ability to rule the roost for many years to come. We finally have a genuine world number two, a prodigy. Serena was extremely classy and gave her the hug. But there are problems for our elder stateswoman. Todd is probably discussing them at length right now. But for who else would three slam semi-final/final losses on the trot be a bad thing?

In fact this BACKSPINNER struggles to remember the last time she did not make it at least that far.

Moving on from Muguruza, the WTA, of course, being Todd’s specialty, other stuff happened.

The 42 year old Paes won his 10th mixed title and sealed a grand slam. He has eight men’s doubles titles and has won every slam in both disciplines. He has won four mixed slams since the 2015 Australian Open. He won it with Hingis against Dodig/Mirza 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
Hingis has just five [just!] mixed doubles titles, winning with Paes at those same slams from 2015-16. She has 12 doubles and five singles titles. All told she has won the Australian Open ten times. She has also won the tour finals five times. But she never did get that Roland Garros title did she?


Two mentions of Steffi in one post. A record? Possibly. She always did do those understated celebrations better than anyone.

And in the men’s doubles, Lopez/Lopez won their first doubles crown, denying the Bryans triumph number 17. It really is an incredible story. Mahut is now set to take the world number one position, stealing it from Melo. The Spaniards are the 11th different pairing to win in the last 11 slams. Parity much? They beat Duran/Gonzales 6-7[7], 6-0, 7-5. Having barely survived they went on to beat the 1st, 3rd and 5th seeds. They have had a magical, Cinderella-esque run. And with Wimbledon coming up, surely they can follow it up with at least a quarterfinal showing. In the final they won 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-3.

Stat of the day: Muguruza broke four times, Serena twice.

Righteo, let’s look at Friday's semi-finals...


CHATRIER: MURRAY D. WAWRINKA
...Dour Murray won in dour fashion on Friday. He beat Wawrinka 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Everytime Wawrinka makes the semi-final of a slam before a slam he has not won, he will win it. In 2013 he made the U.S. Open semi-finals. He won in Melbourne. He made the semis in Melbourne the next year and won the French. Now he has made the semi-finals in Paris and he also has the one slam a year rule. Honestly, he could go and win Wimbledon. 65 errors in four sets, most of them Wawrinka’s. This really was not good. The WTA has had a far better tournament than the ATP. Unless the final knocks our socks off, this will be life after Rafa. Awful semi-finals, the same players making finals and no variety in the biggest matches. The sport is going to lose fans. Djokovic and Murray haven’t shown enough charm [Murray’s weakest area by far] or the personality to carry the sport. To win in the final Muzza has to play big and try to outmuscle Djokovic if he can. The dropshot won’t work here so who knows how Murray is going to win points.
=============================
LENGLEN: DJOKOVIC D. THIEM
...What can you say about a match, a semi-final no less, as abysmal this? Djokovic was barely on court an hour, dismissing the Austrian with ease. He has now reached six straight slam finals. But with the Serb turning 30 next year, how much longer can he keep it up? This is it for him, surely. If he doesn’t beat Murray in the final, when will he win it? Djokovic broke six times to one in the 6-2,6-1, 6-4 victory. He hit just 15 winners and 15 errors. It was a tight, compact performance from the Serb. In fact, he just turned into a wall, one which Thiem could not break down. The Austrian has had a fabulous season but he felt Djokovic’s wrath in this match. Two forgettable semi-finals later and we have ourselves a really grim, nigh on unwatchable men’s final. To win and complete a career grand slam at long last Djokovic just has to return well. Murray’s serve is his biggest weapon right now. Take it away and he should do fine. He needs to also use that backhand up the line. Murray is going to be far more exhausted. Nole’s fitness is superior at the best of times, but here it will be a massive difference.
=============================

It will be Mladenovic/Garcia [5] against Makarova/Vesnina [7] in the ladies doubles final. The pair have met once. The French pair cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win in the semi-finals. They are the favourites but that along with come favour puts massive pressure on the two rising stars. A win here could propel them into the fourth seed position for Wimbledon. If they win here then they may well be the best pair in the world.

In the semis, they defeated Kuznetsova/Gasparyan 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. They won over 50 per cent of second serve points and broke four times. It was very successful by all accounts.

Of course, as Todd so cynically points out [ Ed.note: more "frustratingly," really - tds ], they cannot seem to put it together alone. Or without Mauresmo. This BACKSPINNER believes they can both still have a magnificent singles career but it remains to be seen as to whether that will come to pass.

The Frenchies open on Chatrier at 11:30 am tomorrow. Tune in for that one. It should prove to be good. Murray and Djokovic play next. That will not be good, it will be awful. I’d skip it if I were you. These Djokovic versus Murray matches are never very good. It’s a rivalry that will be forgotten by history. Djokovic is going to win in four sets and get his grand slam. Expect far more breaks than is respectable, too.


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Thursday, June 02, 2016

Roland Garros Day 12: The Drench Open


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The rain really has mucked everything up. Hingis/Paes had to play two mixed doubles matches in the same day. They won them both but it is still a difficult thing to do. The sooner RG gets its roof the better. Funny that both the French and U.S. Open be so far behind the other two slams. They don’t even have the tradition excuse. At least Flushing Meadows is large enough to contain a slam. More and more questions are being asked about Roland Garros and its size.

Tomorrow Djokovic plays on Lenglen. With the mixed final and four semi-finals in singles to squeeze in, the top seed and world’s best player has been relegated. That would never have happened to either of the past two world number ones. But Djokovic has been punished for being merely great rather than godlike. This BACKSPINNER has criticised him and was not alone in doing do.

It is still surprising that Stosur versus Muguruza is not played on Lenglen. I am sure that Sam would gladly swap; her run to the U.S. Open title was made on the back-courts. Speaking above of organization and lack thereof, shall we remind ourselves of Stosur’s run five years ago?


Anyway, moving away from Roland Garros, or the 2016 Drench Open as it is being referred to, let’s talk about post slam events. We have the Ricoh Open in Rosmalen, the Netherlands. Goffin, Tomic, Karlovic and Johnson are our top seeds. Watch out for 7th seed Zverev.

Federer will play the Mercedes Cup and Halle. He and Vilas are tied at 806 on the all-time outdoor wins list. Fed also trails Connors by 170-142 on the grass wins count. If he sweeps all three grass tournaments he will have 15 more victories. That would mean next year he would have a chance to overtake. He is also two behind Lendl on all time matches played and one behind the Czech on matches won. He could feasibly take second on the all-time semi-finals list this year as he trails Lendl by 9. So records are there for the Fed.

It should be noted Guy Forget has done admirably considering it is his first tournament as director. He has had a hellish baptism of fire but he looks to be competent. Now it is time to focus on our quarterfinals.


CHATRIER: DJOKOVIC D. BERDYCH
...24-2. That is now the head-to-head lead Djokovic has. But his 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory almost never came to pass. At one point he smashed a racket and nearly hit a line-judge. Why anybody would do such a thing when they were playing fantastic tennis and won pretty easily is a mystery to me, but then we’ve gotten used to our top seeds not being a—ah, bad tempered. This is the reason he will never quite be as celebrated as Fedal. Anyway, Berdych was fine. He played well but he could not hit through the Djoker. He played lights out for two sets but only a Djokovic blip made that second set close. Berdman hit just 28 errors but the Serbian defence gave him only 24 winners. It’s madness. Novak breaks six times to two and goes 30-22 yet chucks his racket. Why? Berdych attacked throughout, coming to net 28 times and constantly knocking on the door. He hammered down forehands and backhands. On one point he hit a ball on the reach crosscourt into the far corner. Djokovic half-volleyed it right onto the baseline. Time and time again the Czech would play a great point and be denied. Didn’t play badly, got outclassed and never gave up. He will stay at eight in the world but only because Thiem has risen eight places to 7th. Even then he is only 75 points behind the Austrian.
=============================
LENGLEN: THIEM D. GOFFIN
...Thiem’s rise to greatness took two hours and 51 minutes. He has smashed his previous best ranking to smithereens by rising to world number 7. Well, that’s the estimate in any case. Down 4-6, 3-5, he looked to be in big trouble. He had thrown away his 3-1 first lead. He was in fact two points from a double break before crumbling. He fought back to a 3-0 lead in the breaker but squandered that, too. This match-up between the 12th and 13th seeds was turning into a battle of who could miss the fewest opportunities. Finally at 7-7 they played another long baseline rally. Goffin was the rector, defending hammer blow after hammer blow but never able to get onto the front foot. Finally Thiem buried the Belgian with an enormous forehand down the line. Once he took the second and third Goffin went away very quickly. They are developing quite a fascinating rivalry these two. But this new rivalry they have developed is friendlier than you might think. It’s nice to have all these rising stars be fairly pleasant.


How much can Thiem dent Djokovic? Can he win? Thiem has to go for it; his 49-46 on winners is very good. His eight breaks to six is also acceptable but he has to win more second serve points than 50 per cent. He must also come to net every now and then. He did so in this quarter and it worked. So he should do it again.
=============================


Mirza/Dodig also had to play twice in one day. In the semi-final they defeated Kiki and her partner Herbert 4-6, 6-3, 12-10. Both sides broke 5 times and won 65 points. Go figure.

So our Kiki bravely departs. She is going to Rosmalen to play in the Ricoh Open. She can pretty much get the train there from Paris. It would take her under four hours and, being French, she would be a bit of an expert on European trains, no?

But hang on. She does not have to leave yet. She and Garcia are the highest seeded pair left. They face a very tough test in the shape of Kuznetsova/Gasparyan. They have lost just one set and could go through the tournament and win without having defeated a single seed.

But the Russian pair should not be taken lightly. Especially at Roland Garros, Kuznetsova is very dangerous. And they have nothing to lose. Kiki has never been to a semi-final here. Neither Gasparyan not Garcia have been to a slam level semi of any description. In her last Roland Garros doubles semi Sveta and Likhovtseva won 6-2, 6-4 over Navratilova and Raymond.

That was Navratilova’s final Roland Garros semi-final. Her first was in 1974. Insanity.



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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Roland Garros Day 11: Is That a Full Day of Play or am I Still Dreaming?


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Righteo, after two days of rain this BACKSPINNER is ready to dive right back in. We’ve a lot of matches, though no five setters, to get through. We have three of our original top four left and 50 per cent of our top eight seeds remaining. So let’s get to it right away...


CHATRIER: DJOKOVIC D. BAUTISTA AGUT
...Due to rain the BACKSPIN edition today is going to be a little different. Fourth round matches, four of them to be precise, have first order of business followed by the quarterfinal matches, of which there are two. Djokovic was on major upset alert the whole match. There were 15 breaks in total in his 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 victory. Neither player was very good in the 70 minute contest. Novak went 45-54 on the winners count, which is very poor for his lofty standards. Agut went 31-49 which is also pretty bad. The top seed may have won this match but it was very scrappy and he only just scraped through it. It should really have gone five sets, but the Spaniard crumbled at 5-5 in the third. By now Djokovic has learned to turn it on when it matters and he did so here. One thing he did which totally surprised the BACKSPIN crew is he played 50 points at net. That is very rare for Djokovic, though it paid off. Now he must face the winner of the next match. Let me tell you that won’t be an easy one.
=============================
LENGLEN: BERDYCH D. FERRER
...Berdman has reached his second consecutive quarterfinal at slam level with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory. He has made two quarterfinals in his career here and won one of them. You may remember him losing in five to Soderling in 2010. Anyway, he had a fourth round match against Ferrer. Playing against a wall like Ferrer can be frustrating. The Czech won 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 though Ferru certainly had his chances. It was a scrappy match, but strangely Ferrer didn’t break once. He had nine chances to do so but failed on all of them. It was closer than it looked, with Ferrer nearly stealing the second set, but Tomas eventually rolled through to the quarters. The 32 winners might well help him if he can do the same thing against Djokovic. If Djokovic lost it would rock the tennis world. Still, it looks as if Djokovic is finally bound for glory. Will the Czech be the one who stops him?
=============================
COURT ONE : GOFFIN D. GULBIS
...Yes, the four fourth round matches all ended up on different courts. One each on the four largest stadiums. This one, played on the bullring, went four. Goffin won 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Is this a Gulbis resurgence or a final farewell? This fourth round at a slam may be his swan song. And that’s sad. This is a player who could and should have won slams. He was the inspiration for the Tomic’s of this world and deserved better. Yes, he deserved better than this. But he didn’t work hard enough. He didn’t find the consistency. And so all we can talk about is the wasted potential, what could have been. Goffin, who went 18-16 on winners, is too solid, too effective to be beaten by mere talent. He broke 7 times to 2 and let Gulbis go 44-68 on unforced errors. That’s where the match was lost; 68 errors in 35 games. Though of course double faulting on match point did not help, either. You can’t hit two errors a game and hope to win. It’s too much. Goffin now plays a rising star. But in a career defining match can he triumph?
=============================
COURT TWO: THIEM D. GRANOLLERS
...When Nadal retired Thiem surely threw a party. His way was clear, unblocked. His match against Granollers was never going to be easy but the young Austrian was so professional it beggared belief. The thirteenth seed won through 6-2, 6-7[2], 6-1, 6-4. Granollers, with that grunt and the doubles experience, is a tough cookie. He has also been to a slam fourth round previously so he doesn’t fear the occasion. But the Austrian broke six times, losing serve just once. He also hit 55 winners to 41 errors. He was supreme throughout the match and did not let up. Thiem is the slight favourite against Goffin and could easily win the title. It no longer sounds absurd. Granollers has cracked the top fort again and can hold his head up high. He has a chance for revenge now against Goffin. The Belgian won in Melbourne this year in four in the third round. Goffin also leads the head to head 4-2. One of those wins for Thiem did come in the Gstaad final last year, however. With the winner being guaranteed a top ten position, who will crack?
=============================
CHATRIER: MURRAY D. GASQUET
...Murray won 5-7, 7-6[3], 6-0, 6-2 but it all hung on one point. Up 3-2 in the second set breaker, Gasquet’s forehand off another Murray drop shot clipped the net and gave the Scot an easy put away. Murray, because he’s quite unpleasant, fist pumped, of course, and went on to take the breaker. A quarter of an inch higher and who knows. The first set was remarkable - Gasquet came back from 2-5 to take the opening set in 65 minutes. Down 30-40 at five-all, Muzza double faulted. It took Gasquet almost ten minutes to hold but he did so. He also recovered from 2-5 and 3-5 in consecutive sets. Stats do not matter here. This was about grit and heart. And while Murray did hit 50 drop shots in the match, and that’s genuinely a low estimate, he was able to out-edge Gasquet. The maiden Roland Garros quarterfinalist had nothing left in the last two sets. He will rise to at least nine in the new rankings but he still cannot beat the one who will not shave. Murray faces Wawrinka. For the sake of a pleasant and watchable final we must hope the Swiss wins. Murray does have talent but his temperament and image are so dour and awful it is hard to appreciate his better attributes. As for Gasquet, well, can he defend all those hard-won Wimbledon points?
=============================
LENGLEN: WAWRINKA D. RAMOS-VINOLAS
...The Spaniard had already risen 23 places to 32 and had nothing to lose. He played alright, but he was never going to beat Wawrinka. The Swiss man was just in a different league to the Spaniard. 32 is the 28 year old Spaniard’s highest ranking by some way. Another late bloomer, like Stepanek and Benneteau, the Spaniard has come alive this year in particular. Wawrinka cruised to a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6[7] win in some two hours. Despite Murray leading the head to head 8-7, Wawrinka has more rest and will be more confident come Friday. The third seed admitted that even up 6-2, 6-1, 4-2 he knew the Spaniard wasn’t done. But the Swiss star hit 49 winners to 10. What more is there to say when the gap is that big?
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Mladenovic is back. She is the only player still in the mixed and the doubles. She and Garcia, The 5th seeds defeated Bertens/Larsson and will play Kuznetsova/Gasparayan for a place in the final. Played on court two, though in fairer weather it would have made Lenglen, the French duo won 7-5, 6-3. With five breaks of serve they were on fine form. They need to win more than 50 per cent of second serves, but Mladenovic making her fourth slam semi is still impressive. It's her third in a row here with one final back in 2014 to show for her run. They are the highest seeds remaining.




In the mixed, she and Herbert [3rd seeds] won against 8th seeded Vandeweghe/Bryan 2-6, 6-2, 13-11, saving two match points in the breaker. Both pairs broke twice, though the Frenchies were 100% on break points converted. In the mixed they are the second highest seeds still alive. Kiki has had a very impressive doubles tournament.


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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Roland Garros Day 8: Thirteenth Time Lucky


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.



Yes, at the twelfth time of asking, Gasquet has made the quarters of the French Open and is set to rise to eight in the world. With his seeding gaining a boost at Wimbledon, he is certain to be seeded to make the quarterfinals.

But let’s focus on yesterday. Circumstances out of this BACKSPINNER'S hands means a refresh is in order. Spain was the dominant country with a quarter of our entrants hailing from there. One had made it, but how many Comrades will?

Tsonga retired against Gulbis to give the Latvian a fourth round run out of nowhere. Suddenly he can do whatever he wants. He will be seeded at smaller events, perhaps, and hopefully he will find his form. With Goffin defeating Almagro 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, the Belgian and the Latvian will go head to head. Goffin finally has another shot at the quarters here. He could go all the way to the semi-finals.

Zverev again lost to Thiem. This time he once more won the first set but lost 6-7[4], 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Thiem was too good, too impregnable. He is turning into one of the most dependable of the next gen. And Thiem plays Granollers, who benefited from Nadal's withdrawal. And the winner of that plays the winner of the above match.

Berdych plays Ferrer again after he sent his compatriot packing in straight sets. Berdych edged past Cuevas 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. That match tomorrow is going to be an absolute ding-donger. The winner gets a shot at Djokovic. So there is a lot to play for. Swat Djokovic/Bedene aside like you would a fly. Bautista Agut is suddenly in fine form, blowing Coric apart. He will test Djokovic, maybe even take a set.

Well let’s see what else happened on the day...

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Sousa d. Dzumhur {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Chardy d. Pavlasek {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Isner d. Gabashvili {W}
MS 4th Rd: Raonic d. Ramos-Vinolas [L]
==
WS 1st Rd: Ivanovic d. Dodin {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Stephens d. Cepede Royg {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova {W}
WS 4th Rd:


CHATRIER: GASQUET D. NISHIKORI
...It was fifth time lucky in the quarters for Gasquet. He also leads the head to head with Kei 7-2. He trailed 2-4 in the first set of his four set win, but then the rain came. He recovered and raced out to a 6-4, 5-1 lead. From there he hung on to record a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory. Falling to his knees afterwards, Gasquet relished the victory he has waited so long for. Only Federer has ever defeated him in a slam quarter and he has taken Murray to five here before. He may be 3-7 in their head-to-head, but those wins have come on French soil or clay. Gasquet has now reached the quarterfinals of three grand slams, a magnificent record. Against Nishikori he hit 6 aces and 36 winners in total. While Kei hit four more winners, he also hit 45 errors. The Frenchman hit only 19. He needs to replicate this performance against the Scot because he will never progress unless he can be consistently aggressive and keep the errors down. Also 13 break point opportunities is what he needs to be getting against Murray. Kei was off his game but he will be back.
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CHATRIER: WAWRINKA D. TROICKI
...Well there was THIS. And there was also the defending champion moving into the quarterfinals. It took three hours for the Swiss to win 7-6[5], 6-7[9], 6-3, 6-2. His opponent did struggle with injuries, but Stan looked determined to at least make a decent fist of his defence. Wawrinka served 19 aces and hit 67 winners in total. While he did hit 50 errors, that at least is expected. Wawrinka likes to go big so you expect some errors. The most impressive stat? He won more than 60 per cent of Victor’s second serve points. It even led to five breaks. This was Wawrinka rounding into form. Up next for Wawrinka is the dangerous Ramos-Vinolas. He has nothing to lose and will be coming at the Swiss with everything he has.
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LENGLEN: MURRAY D. ISNER
...It was a bug server last time and this. Murray won 7-6[9[, 6-4, and 6-3 in some 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was a surprisingly long match and, perhaps even more surprisingly, Isner hit just 18 aces. Murray must have played some ten hours on court. He is also being very conservative and went just 32-23 on the winners. Isner was 45-57. It has been a great run from Isner, so unflavoured as he has been. But the American had five break points and converted not one of them. Against the best in the world that is unforgivable. But Murray will have to step it up against Gasquet. With so much on the line can Murray hold it together? Will the home crowd give Ritchie an advantage? It is bound to be fascinating regardless. So it’s goodbye to Isner, but he should make the fourth at Wimbledon, too.
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LENGLEN: RAMOS-VINOLAS D. RAONIC
...Troubled by a hip injury, Raonic barely lasted two hours. ARV beat him 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. It is a tremendous result for the Spaniard, who rises 23 places to 32. It was a scrappy match with the Spaniard winning 5 breaks to one. There were six breaks in the match but ARV still only hit 25 winners to 13 errors. It was a match where neither wanted to miss. So they both sat back and tried to rally. Some fantastic points ensued and the relative high serve percentage is good, too. Against Wawrinka he has nothing to lose.
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Mladenovic lost to Serena 6-4, 7-6[10] but she played well throughout the rain-delayed contest. Sure, the match was always on the American’s racket but it was a gutsy performance none the less. She will be one of the few to win multiple matches in each discipline. In second round women’s doubles she and Garcia beat Johansson/Parmentier 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. The match had an incredible 12 breaks of service. In the second round of the mixed she and Herbert won against Xu/Draganja 6-3, 6-4.

In the ladies doubles, the Williams have gone. The top seeded Hingis/Mirza also lost and badly; 6-3, 6-1. The only other seeded pair left in the bottom half are 9th seeds Xu/Zheng. Tomorrow it is Siegemund/Friedsam. In the mixed it is a quarterfinal against 8th seeds Bryan/Vandeweghe. That’s Bob Bryan, by the way.


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