Monday, August 22, 2016

Wk.33- A Week for Comebacks

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Well, we have some serious questions for the U.S. Open to answer. Some of them, like, "Can it run a successful tournament just once?," we already know the answer to. Some, like who will take the women’s world number one ranking, are yet to be determined. And the question of the winner is obvious now, but may leave us looking foolish come September.

Murray had his 22-match win streak snapped, but has looked very good recently, especially with his victory at Wimbledon. But can he beat Djokovic? Wawrinka has looked poor for months, but he could easily snatch the U.S. Open. Djokovic looks fatigued and Murray does not look infallible. In fact, his run in Rio had plenty of tight matches, with the Scot almost going down to Fognini. Djokovic is the favourite, but this BACKSPINNER would take the field over our world number one.

And then we have the drop-outs. Federer and Berdych dropping out moves all the seeds up. Thiem, Kyrgios and Goffin are all playing the role of dark horse, but Dimitrov or even Tomic could make a run. This slam is a great chance for a couple of surprise semi-finalists. Nadal is winding down his career. In Rio, we saw everything he had left. He isn’t even a paper tiger, he’s a paper tiger moth.

So, plenty of questions. And then we have Cilic.

He’s just won a first Masters title. He is seeded 7th, the withdrawal of Federer and Berdych putting him over. Well, he and Thiem over into that top eight seed bracket. With all this form and his history at the U.S. Open, where he has won twelve matches out of fourteen the last two years. Could he make it nineteen out of twenty-one? His serve and forehand are clicking, and he will not meet an opponent out of his comfort zone until the quarters. He just beat one of the favourites.

Is Cilic, and it pains this BACKSPINNER to have to even think about it, a contender and not a dark horse? This is the tournament he does best in. Is another run so far fetched? No. He has been abysmal all year and should not be seeded 7th, but if he can get cooking early and ride the form through, he could make a serious impact on the field. The problem is if he runs into, say, Karlovic and Gasquet back to back he could have some problems. He has to have a kind draw, but if he gets one who knows how far he can go.

And now we must delve into yet another Masters 1000 tournament. Not many to go now, in fact our year is almost up.

Top 32 - Simon falls again, but only one place. He will sit at 32, behind Querrey, who dropped two places. Klizan and Zverev, who dropped two places, as well, are at 30 and 29, respectively. Dimitrov is up to 24, a ten place jump. He has guaranteed himself a seed in New York.
Top 10 – Cilic moves up five spots, consequently everyone else falls a spot. Thiem is a solid 10th, and could rise two places at the U.S. Open.
Top 8 – Little change. Raonic putting daylight between him and Nishikori. Berdych is only just holding onto the eighth spot. Cilic will take it in New York, barring a disaster, being only 55 points behind.
Top 4 – The gap between Murray and Djokovic is getting slimmer, while Wawrinka nips ahead of Federer. He is establishing himself as the world number three.

S: Marin Cilic d. Andy Murray 6-4/7-5
D: Dodig/Melo d. Rojer/Tecau

...For Cilic, our resident grumpy Croat, the issue has always been consistency. Forget tournament to tournament and match to match, his consistency wavers game to game. The power has never been questioned, with that serve and forehand being paragons of brutal power, similar weapons to that of Soderling. He has struggled with the harnessing of those enormous weapons, the actual application of them. When he can do it, the results begin to flow like in Melbourne in 2010, where he should have had Murray and moved onto the final, but choked. Another familiar occurrence. During that tournament we got a taste, a hint of what he could produce and it was exhilarating. We saw glimpses in his three successive runs to the Wimbledon quarters. And, of course, the memorable 2014 run to his first major title, in which his dismissal of Nishikori still strikes this BACKSPINNER as maybe his best victory of the whole campaign. And he followed it up with an admirable attempt at a defence of his crown, though that Djokovic loss was quite embarrassing. It turned into a blowout very quickly. But now he comes into his best slam with form and confidence. His weapons are working and it looks like he believes. Now watch him crash and burn. His straight sets victories over Troicki and Verdasco were a great start. Edging Berdych in three and getting a retirement victory from Coric saw him through the semi-finals. After escaping Dimitrov, though just barely, he took out Murray in straight sets in the final. What a week from Cilic. No, he really is grumpy.
...Raonic is back. But did he ever really leave? Apart from Rome, he has made the quarters or better at every Masters tournament. He has beaten Federer in a final and lost several tight ones to Murray and Djokovic at Wimbledon, Queens and Indian Wells. He has been an ace machine and also found a high level of consistency. The Canuck may never have been past the fourth round of the U.S. Open, but he has gotten personal bests at two of the three slams so far and also made the fourth round of the French. Not a bad result. He has the benefit of seeing how Nishikori responded after losing his first major final, though at least Raonic wasn’t the favourite, means he can avoid the motivation issues that have at times affected the Asian number one. Indeed, it seems at times that Kei has settled comfortably, and happily, into the role of an also-ran. But with the simplicity and explosiveness in the Canadian’s game, surely he can respond better than Kei did to the ultimate disappointment. With so many of the big names out of the U.S. Open or irrelevant [Nadal], anything less than a semi-final showing will be a disappointment. The relative ease of his run here will give him confidence; knocking out Isner in two breakers and seeing off Thiem in straight sets were both impressive victories. Even in the 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Sugita he looked fairly good. The Murray result was poor, but this run will have given him a boost. Are we going to have a North American winner of the American major for the first time in thirteen years?
...When Roddick began to fade, we had an Open era first. No American male tennis player resided in the top ten. It had never happened before, but now it is the norm. But now there is a slew of promising young talented Americans coming through. The sad truth is, however, that most of these U.S. juniors fizzle out. The Harrison brothers, or worse, Donald Young, are all examples of how it can go very wrong very quickly. But players like Taylor Harry Fritz could start their own trend, their own way of doing things. Tiafoe is another who could go either way. This result is only the latest in a long, long list of good results throughout Opelka’s short career. He edged Chardy 3-6, 7-5, 7-6[11] and then pushed Tsonga hard, but ultimately fell 7-6[5], 7-6[3]. It’s encouraging for the youngster, who is ranked 291. That’s a career high.
...The signs were there that Dimitrov might be making a recovery, a return to form. But it can be hard to tell if they are genuine or if they are more like when Ana Ivanovic wins two matches in a row. Fortunately, the semi-final run here has shown that if it is only temporary, it is a fairly lengthy temporary rise in form. He rose ten places in the rankings, which is pretty good. One day the kid who saw off Murray in Acapulco could return. But we love him for another reason. Sure, dismissing Simon 1 and 3 is impressive. And edging past Lopez 5-7, 6-3, 7-6[6] is a fantastic result. Knocking out the second seed in straight sets and then rolling past Johnson 7-6[8], 6-2 are all noteworthy results. But he also did this:

And because he can always be relied upon to pull those out we can forgive him being a tad inconsistent.
...Forget the retirement. He beat Paire 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. He edged Kyrgios 7-6[2], 4-6, 7-6[8] and then dismissed Rafa for the loss of just four games. He served for it at 5-3 in the third against the Aussie and then had to save a match point in the breaker, but he came through in two and a half hours. All three of those results are outstanding and they see him deservedly rise back up to 40. Coric was a breath of fresh air this past week.
...Where has the Swiss been all year? Despite being a double major winner, his ranking of #3 deceives one. He is not the third best player in the world. On his day he is the best, but if he isn’t on top form he is fallible. The way he tamely folded in a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Dimitrov was poor. It is another shocking result in a long list of them. He will be a contender for the U.S. Open crown, but not a favourite. He only just got past Donaldson 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. The silver linings are that he is going into a tournament he always does fairly well in and the losses have not been utterly awful. They have been winnable, they have been matches that could have gone either way. Honestly, this could have gone to Ferrer, but we expect him to do poorly. Wawrinka can, and should, be doing better than this.
...Murray led the head-to-head 11-2 and had lost just once in seven years. But now he must bow down to the superiority of Cilic. For once. The Croat moves to 3-11 in that head-to-head, but don’t expect him to beat the Scot in New York if they meet. He breaks the 22-win streak Murray had and he looked good doing it. A turning point for Cilic?

Notes from the week...
1 - Mahut and Herbert have to respond after an abysmal Olympics campaign.
2 – The Davis Cup is right after our last slam. How bad will attendance be?
3 – Can Nishikori ride his Bronze and turn it into another positive result in New York?
4 – If Djokovic crashes early and Murray wins it all, could the Scot take the top ranking this year?
5 – Serena is going to tie (at least) Graf's consecutive weeks at #1 record of 186 weeks (she has 184). As Kerber pointed out, she is a woman not a machine.

1. Cincinnati SF - Cilic d. Dimitrov 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
...Up 4-2 in the third, Dimi could not quite hang on and fell to the determined Croatian in controversial style. A crowd member declared a ball out, but play continued and it led to Cilic breaking. It would be the crucial break of serve.
2. Cincinnati QF - Tomic d. Nishikori 7-6[1], 7-6[5]
...Good use of backhand here from the Aussie. He saw off the Bronze medalist in two tight sets. Against Kei the most important thing is to shut him out. Do not give him even a sniff. He is too hard to put away.
3. Cincinnati R3 - Coric d. Nadal 6-1, 6-3
...Look at the scoreline. Is there anything else to add?
4. Cincinnati Final - Cilic d. Murray 6-4, 7-5
...This was a scrappy match highlighted by flashes of brilliance. Cilic missing an open court with an easy forehand and Murray scrambling everywhere on several points were the highlights. Murray just couldn’t quite crack the enigma that was Cilic this time. Despite a late, or possibly early, finish, Cilic came out blazing and won his maiden Masters title.

Gasquet [1] d. [5] Anderson
Johnson [4] d. [2] Agut
Gasquet [1] d. [4] Johnson

...Defending champion Anderson should be able to make a run here. Gasquet is the best player here by a long way, but his form is questionable. And Johnson is playing on home soil with good form of late. Can any big names find form before the U.S. Open?

Mladenovic beat Bondarenko in the first round in straight sets, but then fell to Kerber 6-0, 7-5. And in Connecticut she just fell to Rogers 6-1, 6-1. And top seeded duo in the doubles last week, she and Garcia lost to King/Niculescu 3-6, 6-2, 1-0 [10-4]. It’s pretty poor from the world’s top seeded pair. That French Open title will not always be their saving grace.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wk.32- The Return of the Argentine (and Andy wins, too)

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Let’s put the Olympics aside for a minute. The reason for that is that last week we had an event going on simultaneously. Of course, this was a ridiculous decision, but the ATP has had scheduling issues all year long. Putting the Davis Cup with four other events and then having Atlanta on its own.

The Olympics is special, sacred. It goes on its own.

Anyway, who won the Cabo San Lucas tournament? It was actually Ivo Karlovic, making his third final in two months. The two victories in those finals are enough to give Karlovic a new ranking of 20. Bernard Tomic and Sam Querry both crashed and burned, losing to Dusan Lajovic and Santiago Giraldo, respectively. The Australian, in particular, has had a lacklustre year. Feliciano Lopez saw off Reilly Opelka and Julien Benneteau in straight sets, then edged Pablo Carreno Busta in three to make the final. But the Croatian with all the aces was too good. He’d taken out Mischa Zverev, come back to defeat Marcel Granollers 2-6,7-6[3], 6-1 and made the final courtesy of a retirement from Lajovic. In the oldest final in forty years, Karlovic won 7-6[5], 6-2 on a Lopez double fault, of all things.

It was another poor event for the seeds, with only four making the quarters.

Now, the next event is a 1000 level, in Cincinati. Because this BACKSPINNER was so late with the update this will be a quick preview. Gasquet returns here, but will not threaten Murray. Kei will either use his Bronze as a stepping stone or crash. Murray will be fine either way. He'll win the event, but we will get a deep run from a surprise.

Right, on with the Olympics. The thing we’ve waited for years for, and it didn’t let us down.

Top 32 - Little change. Paire from Simon from Klizan.
Top 10 – Tsonga drops a place to ten but is still only 200 from Thiem. Neither of them is anywhere near Berdman.
Top 8 – No change. Raonic is holding off Nishikori but looking like he could take Rafa’s spot.
Top 4 – No change. Novak, Andy, Roger and Rafa are the top four. And that despite the Olympics.

MS: Andy Murray/GBR def. Juan Martin del Potro/ARG 7-5/4-6/6-2/7-5
BRONZE: Kei Nishikori/JPN d. Rafael Nadal/ESP

MD: M.Lopez/Nadal (ESP) d. Mergea/Tecau (ROU)
BRONZE: Johnson/Sock (USA) d. Nestor/Pospisil (CAN)

MX: Sock/Mattek-Sands (USA) d. Ram/V.Williams (USA)
BRONZE: Stepanek/Hradecka (CZE) d. Bopanna/Mirza (IND)

S: Ivo Karlovic d. Feliciano Lopez 7-6(5)/6-2
D: Rasa/Sharan d. Erlich/Skupski

...The forehand is back, and with a bang, too. None of Djokovic, Nadal or Murray could handle it. The Argentine found form last week that was of his 2009 vintage. His serve and forehand clicked perfectly, he even managed to hit his slice backhands with authority. But it was also the confidence and the movement in his feet that came back, that really allowed him to swing. After getting trapped in an elevator the Argentine came out and beat the Djoker in two breakers [7-2, 7-4] and in the process he set the tennis world on fire. Against Sousa he almost failed to back up the victory, but hung on for a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory. He should have had an easy ride against Daniel but struggled to a 6-7[4], 6-1, 6-2 victory. He was extremely impressive in his 6-4, 7-6[4] dismissal of Agut and was suddenly the name of the moment in tennis, if he wasn’t before. This comeback had quickly become the stuff of legend. It was Clijsters-like. The semi match between him and Nadal was characterised by the baying of the crowd and the sheer physicality. Delpo should have won it a lot earlier, but again he held on for a 5-7, 6-4, 7-6[5] victory. The Gold Medal Match is a contender for match of the year. Murray may have won 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, but it was Delpo who captured hearts and minds. He played all the tennis in the four set loss. Can he ride that wave into New York?

...Well, he has another Olympic Gold. He took out the men’s dubs with good friend Marc Lopez and also came in fourth place in the men’s singles tournament. So is this Rafa’s parting gift? Is his run here the farewell he deserved? He looks unlikely to win a slam anytime soon and with his age and injuries, will this be the last bow? If so, then it is quite the final hurrah. His forehand whipped and snarled, the backhand was hit with more aggression than it has been in years and Rafa’s combativeness hit new heights. It was the old bull, out to charge once again. It is Rafael Nadal in his purest form. Grizzled and a little bruised, but still intact and able to put beat-downs on players like Delbonis. He won that 6-2, 6-1. He beat Seppi 6-3, 6-3 and never let the Italian get any kind of a foothold. Gilles Simon went down 7-6[5], 6-3 and Rafa had not lost a set until he played Bellucci. In that match we saw the fighting spirit, the never say die attitude. He came back to win in three sets in front of a crowd cheering vociferously for his opponent. And against Del Potro he kept coming back before finally being downed in a breaker. That match was the best three setter of the year. And Kei led 6-2, 5-2 but finally won 6-2, 6-7[1], 6-3. Rafa clawed his way back as he has done so many times. And it was good to see. It was good to see it even if it is the last time.

FRESH FACE: RAJEEV RAM (w/ V.WILLIAMS), USA ...Honestly, this BACKSPINNER was a huge fan of this combo. They should reprise it at several slams. Experience and experience here combined for a memorable run. Edging Bertens/Rojer in three (saving MP) was memorable and their straight sets victory over Fognini/Vinci was another great victory. And then defeating Bopanna/Mirza 10-3 in the final set breaker in the semi-finals was just one more triumph to add to the list. After beating the fourth seeds they had an excellent shot in the final. But they were edged out by compatriots Mattek-Sands/Sock in the final 6-7[3], 6-1, 1-0 [10-7]. Still, it was a great run by the Americans in Rio. Another medal for Williams, who is now tied with Kitty McKane as the most decorated tennis Olympians of all time.
...The Scot’s last Olympics, and the strange thing is he looked poor. He didn’t look like the world number two. He got very fortunate several times and looked off the pace. It won’t happen for a year or two, but Andy Murray could be in for a big crash one of these days. He could hit a massive dip in form - he has done it before. He looked good at first, dismissing Troicki and Monaco for a combined loss of nine games. Two tricky opponents put to the sword there. But against Fognini he should have lost. Fognini was up 1-6, 6-2, 3-0. He had Murray, but he choked. And Muzza escaped. And then Johnson. Murray won the first set at love but only just scraped home 6-0, 4-6, 7-6[2]. He should have gone down there. He did at least dominate Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4. And his four set victory in the final was impressive, though Delpo served for the fourth set and blew it. In that match the umpire was bad. He made several poor decisions on the HawkEye and on time violations that definitely helped Murray. By hook and crook, however, Murray scraped home to win another Gold. He impressed nobody, but he is a double Gold medal winner and the first to win back-to-back in singles.
...The slayer of seeds here. The young Brazilian lefty has not shown much this year on the whole, but in his home country he found inspiration. Could the Rio Olympics kick-start his second career? He got a first round retirement from Dustin Brown and then edged fellow South American Cuevas 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. After beating the 11th seed he took out eighth seed Goffin 7-6[10], 6-4. He even started well against Rafa, taking the first set 6-2. But he faded to a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat in the quarterfinals. He won’t rise in the rankings, in fact he fell a spot, but he can use this. It was such a positive result for the youngster to have success on one of the biggest stages he’ll ever stand on.

...Even Simon went on a run before finally being put away by the almighty Rafael Nadal. But with Tsonga, you know immediately if he is going to do a "Tsonga." When he scraped past Jaziri 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 the signs were grim. And so it proved to be as Muller swept him 6-4, 6-3. Tsonga has been disappointing most of the year and it is frequently looking like this year could well be his swan song. We know better than to doubt his powers, but is old Father Time finally beginning to take its toll? It’s been a while since he’s had one of his infamous purple streaks, where he has gone months looking unbeatable. Does he have one last big run in him? He has never progressed beyond the quarters in New York, but has done so everywhere else. Will that change this year?
...His win over 10th seed Sock was a massive surprise because Sock was the dark horse, he was meant to be the one who did the upsets and not the one who got upset. But in Rio the American went down 6-4, 6-4. It is exactly the reason nobody quite trusts him yet. The Olympics happen once every four years and now he has to live with his poor play until Tokyo. Sock could of course make a big run in the remaining events and does do well on home soil, but this has put a slight damper on what has been a pretty stellar year.

[Ed.Note: at least he came away with Gold and Bronze medals in doubles, though. - tds]


Notes from the week...
1 - Big props to such a well ran tournament in Rio. The tennis tournament went fairly smoothly and the court held. It went alright.
2 – Just weeks from Serena breaking a Graf record, Kerber could save her compatriot with a winning week her in Cincy.
3 – Another awful interview from John Inverdale. Classy of Murray to correct him. Inverdale is the same pundit who was so rude about Marion Bartoli.
4 – Sad news on the doubles circuit. Mirza and Hingis have decided to split.
5 – Puig is Puerto Rico’s first ever Gold medal. It’s a prime example of what makes the Olympics so special.

1. Olympic Gold Medal Match - Murray d. Delpo 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
...Murray was the better player here, but again he just doesn’t play tennis that ignites crowds. He doesn’t play the exciting points or get people's pulse racing, but he does win. The rallies and the drama were fantastic, second only to the Brazilians and Argentinians having a massive go at each other in the crowd. They were disruptive, rude and had no sense of etiquette and, frankly, it was brilliant.
2. Rio SF - Del Potro d. Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 7-6[5]
...This was the best three-set match of the year, with Del Potro needing just one point on the Rafa serve in the deciding break to finally close it out. Both forehands worked tremendously well, both serves were better than they had been in years and the fiery nature of the match only added to the drama. It was a great spectacle and one that had to be seen live to be appreciated. To be in that stadium must have been mindblowing.
3. Rio Bronze Medal Match - Nishikori d. Nadal 6-2, 6-7[1], 6-3
...Nadal’s comeback from 5-2 down in the second was slightly overshadowed by Kei’s 11-minute bathroom break. This was a bitter affair and a sad end to Nadal’s illustrious Olympic career. Kei has been overly liberal with breaks before, but it really seemed to rile Rafa. Otherwise, this was a great match with Kei’s backhand wreaking havoc, in particular. In the end, the Spaniard ran out of steam.
4. Rio 1st Rd. - Millman d. Berankis 6-0, 6-0
...Imagine going to the Olympics only to get double bageled. And by John Millman, who is hardly Boris Becker. It’s got to sting, this loss for the Lithuanian. The good news is he got an extended holiday, at least.

Mladenovic and Garcia crashed out in the first round of the Olympics. Kiki did last a tad longer in the singles, but this was a disappointing campaign for her. The tough three-set loss to eventual semi-finalist Keys was 7-5, 6-7[4], 7-6[5], so there is no shame. But we would still have liked to see more. She and Herbert lost in the mixed first round, too. Enough said. She lost in the 2nd Round in Cincinnati to Kerber, and she and Garcia fell in 2nd Round in doubles to King/Niculescu, as well.

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Wk.31- Kyrgios with the Last Laugh, and Del Potro Defeats Djokovic (Again)

Hey, all. Galileo here.

John Isner's spell is broken. He no longer reigns in Atlanta. Nick Kyrgios rises to his highest ever ranking of 16 and behaves himself. Well, as much as he ever behaves anyway. But nobody notices.

And that was because Juan Martin Del Potro was busy getting stuck in elevators and into Novak Djokovic.

For forty minutes Del Potro languished in the athletes' village elevator before help arrived in the form of the Argentinian handball team. They heard him crying for help, the Argentine having no cell phone reception, of course, and forced the doors open to rescue him in dramatic fashion. And then he had to begin the defense of his Bronze medal with an opening round clash against the world number one Novak Djokovic, the same player defeated for that medal in London four years ago.

But Delpo handed Nole his second Olympic loss in a row in two and a half hours. He cracked over forty winners as his forehand came back from the dead. Djokovic had no idea what to do or how to react. It was an inspired 7-6[4], 7-6[2] victory from a South American playing on "home" soil.

But Nole losing is just the latest in a series of shocks. Venus, Radwanska, the Williamses and the top-seeded French pair in the men's doubles have all waved goodbye to us. It is a mass seeds exodus that nobody saw coming. For the first time in a while we have stability at the top of all our disciplines. Strange then to see the seeds crumble at the rarest and hardest event to win.

The Olympic times for certain events, like the swimming for this BACKSPINNER, have been really tricky, but the tennis has been at a decent hour for all. Well, unless you live in Australia. In fact, these games have been fun, festive and atmospheric. The upsets are just part of the unique happenings here in Rio.

Well, let's get started then on this one off focus on Atlanta. Next week the Olympics will be the big focus, but for now we have to turn our eyes to Georgia. We should have Georgia on our mind.

Top 32 - Little change. Dimitrov stays at 34. Simon, Paire and Ramos-Vinolos round out the rankings from 30-32.
Top 10 – Little change. Tsonga still leads Thiem, with the Frenchman ahead by 130 points. Monfils, Ferrer and Goffin sit just behind them.
Top 8 – Kei has fallen behind Raonic, as they swap. Kei moves clear of Raonic, but Nadal still holds firm.
Top 4 – Novak, Andy, Roger and Wawrinka are the top four. There is still a massive gap between 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.

S: Nick Kyrgios def. John Isner 7-6(3)/7-6(4)
D: Molteni/Zeballos d. Brumstroem/Siljestroem

...Well, shall we start with this?

Yep, Kyrgios won and won well. He got an NBA tour, his mum turned up and so did his friend. He had a superb week chilling out off the court and resisted the temptation to have a fight in a hot-tub, unlike Tomic. He also matched that performance with a solid one on the court. Kyrgios works hard and plays hard, but he sure gets results. And with this one he puts two fingers up at Kitty Chiller. She should have taken him to Rio. With this capabilities and attitude he could have gone far. But a toxic atmosphere cost the Aussies four years ago. In four years time, Nick could be the top seed. This week he showed us yet again he has guts. The phrase of the year this year has been 'avoiding the upset'. Kyrgios opened with a 7-6[4], 6-3 victory over Donaldson and then saw off Verdasco in three to reach the semi-finals. But there he would face an on fire underdog with nothing to lose. He still managed to dispatch Nishioka in three, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. In the final, Isner was clearly off, perhaps with a virus or similar, which gave Kyrgios the perfect opportunity. And it would be one he would fail to miss. It took him two missed breakers and a thousand missed opportunities, but he scraped through to win his second title. In 41 matches he has hit 537 aces. He is 6th on the year on the aces count. Isner and Karlovic are top of the pile there.
...Sticking with aces. In 34 matches Isner has 845 aces. Karlovic is down on 694. With every passing match Isner gets closer to nailing down the title of ace king for the year. The heat did in Isner in Atlanta, with the humidity giving the 90 [in American currency] degree weather added punch and bite. He looked woozy and slow throughout the match and Kyrgios, from a very hot country, had no trouble in putting away the lacklustre American. In breakers this year he is 24-23. This has always been the big problem for Isner; his lack of weaponry apart from the serve. A big serve will only get one so far these days, sadly. Here in Atlanta it was good enough to see him through to his sixth final. But he is now 3-3 in those. Isner said during Wimbledon he thinks of his delivery as better than Roddick's. He may be correct, though Andy thinks differently. It was another solid week on U.S. soil for Isner. He eased past Mannarino in his first match 6-4, 6-0 and saw off Fritz 7-5, 6-4. He had another semi-final down in Atlanta. But then the trouble started. Opelka seriously pushed him, though Isner did win the last set 6-2. Despite being overpowered in the final, Isner is buidling up steam. He has to have a positive result in New York this year. He is too good not to.
...At 6'11" he towers over Isner, who is a paltry 6”10. He and Frtiz, along with Tiafoe, are carrying American hopes for the new generation. On both sides things look bright, but it is this trio where the power lies, quite literally. Opelka won Wimbledon last year and the tennis world has held its breath while waiting for him to arrive. Unlike Fritz he has not rocketed up the rankings. But this week we got a taste of what he can do. He dismissed compatriot and qualifier Eubanks 7-6[9], 7-6[5]. Then he edged past Kevin Anderson 7-5 in the third. He had caught fire and kept going, blazing past Young 6-4, 6-4. Despite the loss to Isner, he has proved that he really is the next big thing in American tennis. Well, one of them at any rate. He leaped from 556 to 395 in a week. It will not be the only massive leap he makes during his career. Wanna get to know him a bit?

...That's it. The win over J-P Smith of Australia was encouraging, but losing 1 and 3 to Verdasco is probably it. His protected ranking shield expires soon and once that happens he will have little help to come back. He has had knee injuries, is over 32 and just made the Wimbledon men's doubles final. Could he be about to stick the singles and focus fully on the doubles? If he did so he could have a lot of success. Benny has had a good run, despite going 0-14 in finals, and he could have a very successful second career on the doubles circuit. He is a Bronze medal winner and has made finals at multiple slams, too. Whichever way you look at it he has to make a tough decision soon. If he crashes out in New York could that be the straw that breaks the camels back?
...A great victory over Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-4 was backed up with a straight sets victories over Kamke. For Zeballos, the only non-slam winner to beat Nadal in a clay final, this is what his career has sadly been reduced to. A few quarter-final runs here and there. A few decent results every now and then. A classic case of what could have been. Can he come back to what he was or will this be it for him? Still, this could be a good start if he wants it to be.
...It gets old so quickly. Seeded fourth Dolgopolov collapsed again. Nishioka cruised past him. I interrupt briefly to inform you Williams won against Cornet, but smashed a racket. Up 3-2 with a break she just went off on a big tantrum after trying to execute an overly ambitious serve. Strange signs from the world's best player there. Anyway, Dolgopolov went down quietly again. He needs to find some kind of rhythm before the next slam. And Flushing Meadows is rapidly approaching us. It's not just the players he's losing to, it's how. He is too good, too talented, to lose a third and deciding set 6-1. Over two and a half years removed from his last final and languishing around 40, when will things change?
...For the defeat of the fourth seed and the run he made after that. The Japanese man has been in the shadows of Nishikori for a long time. Results like this help with the shade. It also helps that the Olympics has done funny things to the schedule and strength of current fields in the ATP. But take nothing away from the Japanese man. He did well to get past Evans in the first round. He escaped 6-2, 6-7[2], 7-6[4].

Notes from the week...
1 - Kokkinakis returned in Rio and though he lost in two breakers it was still impressive.
2 – The Williams sisters have had a shocker. Venus crashed out and then the Williams sisters failed to get a set in the doubles.
3 – Just two of our top seeds remain now.
4 – This BACKSPINNER disagrees on principle with holding another event during the Olympics. But in Los Cabos, Lopez, the top seed, will see off fourth seed Querrey in the first semi. In the other, Tomic, seeded two, will edge out Karlovic and then make it two Aussie winners in a row.
5 – Cold showers for Stosur, amid problems for other tennis athletes. Sure there have been problems, but the atmosphere in Rio is still electric.
6 - Happy Birthday to Roger Federer. The goat has turned 35.

1. Atlanta SF - Isner d. Opelka 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-2
...He may be thirteen years the senior of the rising junior, but that didn't mean anything on the day. Isner was given everything he could handle and more. He broke three times in the tight contest and proved his day is not yet done. Born just one state over (in North Carolina), Georgia is a special place for Isner. On another day at another tournament Opelka may have had him.
2. Atlanta R2 - Opelka d. Anderson 6-7[5], 6-3, 7-5
...Well, this could be the match. Perhaps not remembered in the history annals, but in Opelka's career this may be the win that kick-started it. He rises 200 places and sees off a top thirty player. Anderson served for it at 5-4, but even with his serve he could not close it out. From there the American took control. With Tiafoe winning his maiden title on the challenger circuit, things are looking bright for American tennis in the future.
3. Atlanta QF - Kyrgios d. Verdasco 6-4, 6-7 [3], 6-3
...From one firebrand to another. Kyrgios leads the head-to-head 2-0. With Kyrgios at 16 and his opponent down at 46, these two are trending in different directions. Kyrgios, with that big serve and tough attitude, is this future generation's version of Verdasco, but with less to recommend him off the court.
4. Atlanta QF - Isner d. Fritz 7-5, 6-4.
...Fritz's time is not yet. He showed up here and was seeded eighth. It may be the first time he is seeded at any event and he achieved his seeding, too. But Isner had too much for the star of the future this time. His wins put him at 56, his highest ever ranking. He can get into any tournament he wants with that ranking.

Seeded 2nd in Rio, Garcia and Mladenovic crashed out 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 to Doi/Hozumi. That's an appalling loss for a pair with a legitimate shot at Gold. In the singles she dismissed Krunic in the first round, but lost in the 2nd Round 7-5/6-7(4)/7-6(5) (in 3:14) to 7th seed Keys after serving for both first and second sets, and leading 5-3 in the deciding tie-breaker. Garcia lost to Johanna Konta in the 2nd Round, as well.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Olympic Tennis Medal Stand


Come one, come all (well, not ALL) to Rio... where still more Olympic tennis moments are about to become reality.

The 2016 Summer games will be the eighth straight Olympiad in which tennis will be a full medal sport, having been reinstated as such in 1988 after being eliminated following an original Olympic run that lasted from 1896 until 1924, a period during which the likes of Suzanne Lenglen ('20) and Helen Wills ('24) were the most successful all-time greats who claimed Gold. Since the sport's return, nearly every major player over the last quarter-century has added an Olympic chapter to their career resume, from the "Golden Slam" achieved in 1988 to the series of historic triumphs that occurred in 2012.


With quite a few Olympic feats of note taking place since the last time I compiled this list before the 2012 games in London, I've updated the rankings, as well as made a few slight adjustments here and there. Thus, it's time for another look back at the greatest moments in the contemporary Olympic tennis era (1988-2012)... in Gold, Silver and Bronze position.

*Graf's "Golden Slam"*
1988 Seoul Singles Gold - Steffi Graf (FRG) def. Gabriela Sabatini (ARG)
The most-difficult-to-get cog in the wheel that was Steffi's "Golden Slam" -- winning all four slams and Olympic Gold in 1988. Graf was the more-than-appropriate winner of the Gold medal as tennis returned to the games for the first time in sixty-four years. The German had an overall record of 72-3 in '88. Graf's Golden triumph wasn't just the most expected of all Olympic tennis results, but it was also the most historic. Her run in South Korea came in the midst of a 45-match winning streak (tied for the longest of her career) and stretch in which she went 76-1 during a period spanning the 1988-89 seasons. In fact, from 1987-90, Graf strung together the four best statistical years of her career, putting up a stunning combined won-lost mark of 305-12.
*Great Golden Scot!*
2012 London Singles Gold - Andy Murray (GBR) def. Roger Federer (SUI)
Great Britain's long national tennis nightmare (well, the first of them, anyway) came to an end as the Scot became the first British man to claim Olympic singles Gold in 104 years, since Josiah Ritchie stood atop the medal stand at yet another summer games held in London in 1908. The result in the final was a complete reversal of Murray's fortune on the very same Centre Court grass at the All-England one month earlier, when Federer defeated him in a four-set final to win career slam title #17. The loss prevented Federer, who'd had to go 4:26 to win his semifinal over Juan Martin del Potro, from finally claiming Olympic singles Gold, the only major singles title to elude him during his career. Murray's win provided the foundation for a more confident, aggressive game that allowed the Scot to conclude his summer by claiming his first career slam crown at the U.S. Open, ending Britain's 76-year drought (Fred Perry '36) of men's slam champs. In 2013, Murray won Wimbledon, as well, to become the first home-grown British men's winner at SW19 in seventy-seven years.
*Serenativity Unbound*
2012 London Singles Gold - Serena Williams (USA) def. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
As great as Williams has been at various stages throughout her long career, she may have never been better than she was in the London games. She never lost a set, was broken just once, defeated three players who'd been ranked #1 (and another who'd been #2), including the reigning #1 (Victoria Azarenka) and #3-ranked (Sharapova) players in the world to complete a Career Golden Slam while becoming the first woman to sweep both the singles and doubles Golds since her sister Venus in 2000. Serena was so good her spectacular serve wasn't even necessary. When she did see fit to use it at full power and effectiveness, sometimes it felt like an additional weapon she'd found reason to pull out of her back pocket to bludgeon her already beaten, bloodied and bedraggled opponent just a little bit more. You know, simply to remind them who they were dealing with. Truthfully, it was almost overkill. But not really. For Serena-at-her-best is all about the absolute destruction of anything in her path. In the final, that poor soul was Sharapova. A couple of months earlier, she'd completed her Career Grand Slam in Paris, returned to #1 and was the toast of tennis once again. But a month after winning Wimbledon (her first slam win in two years), Williams returned to the AELTC to hand Sharapova her worst defeat on the very same court on which Serena had lost to the Russian in the '04 SW19 final that launched the then 17-year old's superstar career. That summer, after returning to action following what could have been a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, Williams found a late-career fountain of youth that would see her go on to win three of the next five slams. From the start of the summer of '12 until the Rio games of '16, Williams had jumped her career major total from thirteen to twenty-two, tying Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era.
*La Petit Taureau's Greatest Victory?*
2004 Athens Singles Gold - Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL) def. Amelie Mauresmo (FRA)
Smack dab in the middle of her bout with the cytomegalovirus that kept her out of action for the three months prior to Athens, Henin put together maybe the most remarkable performance of her career. She survived a 5-1 3rd set deficit against Anastasia Myskina in the SF, then took out Mauresmo for the Gold. It was only later, once the full knowledge of her illness was known, that we found out just how deep Queen Justine had had to dig to pull this one out. Following her Athens win, still fighting the virus, Henin only played one more tournament (losing in the 4th Round of the U.S. Open) the rest of the '04 season.
*Venus & Serena: Together Forever*
2000 Sydney Doubles Gold - S.Williams/V.Williams (USA) def. Boogert/Oremans (NED) 6-1/6-1
2008 Beijing Doubles Gold - S.Williams/V.Williams (USA) def. Medina-Garrigues/Ruano Pascual (ESP) 6-2/6-0
2012 London Doubles Gold - S.Williams/V.Williams (USA) def. Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE) 6-4/6-4
as has pretty much been the case throughout their careers, the toughest out in all of tennis is the Williams Sisters on the doubles court. They've played together at three Olympics. Naturally, they're 15-0 and have three Golds for their efforts. With both having also won singles Gold (Venus in '00, Serena in '12) their four career Golds are the most won in Olympic tennis history.
*The Russians Have Their Day*
2008 Beijing Singles Gold - Elena Dementieva (RUS) def. Dinara Safina (RUS) 3-6/7-5/6-3
2008 Beijing Singles Bronze - Vera Zvonareva (RUS) def. Li Na (CHN) 6-0/7-5
after populating the WTA landscape with their deep pool of talent during the 2000's, the Russians went into China and took care of business, completing the first sweep of the medal stand in Olympic tennis in one hundred years. Showing the Hordettes' depth, the women who earned the honors weren't any of the three Russians who'd won grand slam singles titles, but instead were three of their countrywomen who'd all failed to do so in their careers (going 0-7 in slam finals). Dementieva retired two years later, hailed as possibly the best player never to have won a major title. After winning in '08, the Russian held up her Gold-winning moment as not only the best of her career... but also one that she'd cherish even more than she ever would an actual grand slam crown.
*The Golden Summer of Venus*
2000 Sydney Singles Gold - Venus Williams (USA) def. Elena Dementieva (RUS)
The conclusion of Williams' spectacular summer of 2000, during which she notched grand slam victories at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, came with her claiming of Olympic singles Gold Down Under. Also grabbing the Sydney doubles Gold with sister Serena, Venus became the first woman since Helen Wills in 1924 to sweep both medals at the same Olympics. Twelve years after Venus accomplished the feat, Serena finally matched it in London, taking her first singles Gold and third in doubles (w/ Venus, of course).
*The Surprise Medalist*
2004 Athens Singles Gold - Nicolas Massu (CHI) def. Mardy Fish (USA)
Talk about a stunner! With his win, Massu became Chile's first-ever Olympic Gold medalist (and then the first two-timer when he won in doubles with Fernando Gonzalez). He was the first man to sweep the singles and doubles Golds since Vincent Richards in 1924.

*The Kid Before the Comeback*
1992 Barcelona Singles Gold - Jennifer Capriati (USA) def. Steffi Graf (GER)
At 16, with all her long-talked about promise still seemingly in front of her, Capriati took down the defending Olympic champion to become the youngest-ever tennis Gold medalist. But, by the end of 1994, Capriati had been arrested for drug possession and would miss nearly two full years of WTA action. She'd finally return in '96, but wouldn't play a complete season until '99. In 2001, eight and a half years after winning Gold, her gradual comeback took flight as she won the first of what would be three slam titles and reached #1. Twenty years after her Olympic triumph, Capriati was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
*Keeping It In the Family... eventually*
1996 Atlanta Singles Gold - Andre Agassi (USA) def. Sergi Bruguera (ESP)
Agassi and Steffi Graf are two of the three players (w/ S.Williams) to have ever won all four slams, plus Olympic singles Gold and a season-ending tour championship title. Before he won Gold on American soil, Agassi had already won titles at three different slams, but he was still viewed as something of an "underachiever." After Atlanta, he'd win five more slams and go down as one of the game's most respected ambassadors. Agassi finally won his first Roland Garros title in 1999, completing his career "Six Pack" of the sport's biggest singles crowns, something that Graf had finished up eleven years earlier. Agassi and Graf were married in 2001 and have had two children.
*Home is Where the Heart Is*
1996 Atlanta Singles Gold - Lindsay Davenport (USA) def. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (ESP)
Since the sport's Olympic return in '88, the only woman to win singles Gold in her home nation has been Davenport. A 20-year old Davenport was the second of three straight American Olympic women's champions (sandwiched between Capriati and Venus). She'd go on to win three slams from 1998-00 before essentially being overtaken at the top of the game by the crafty Martina Hingis, then the Williams Sisters.
*When They Were Young*
1984 Los Angeles Women's Final - Steffi Graf (FRG) def. Sabrina Goles (YUG) 1-6/6-3/6-4
1984 Los Angeles Men's Final - Stefan Edberg (SWE) def. Francisco Maciel (MEX) 6-1/7-6
four years before tennis became an official medal sport again, it was a demonstration, non-medal event in L.A.. As it turned out, the results in L.A. proved to be quite prophetic. The winners? A 15-year old, #8-seeded Steffi Graf of West Germany, three years before her first slam victory (she'd go on to win 22), and 18-year old Swede Stefan Edberg (#3), who'd win the first of his six career slams the next season in Australia. Four years later, Graf would win the first singles Gold in tennis' official return to the games, then pick up a Silver in '92. Edberg won the Bronze in '88.
*First of Her Kind*
2012 London Singles Bronze - Victoria Azarenka (BLR) def. Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 6-3/6-4
2012 London Mixed Doubles Gold - Azarenka/Mirnyi (BLR) def. A.Murray/Robson (GBR) 2-6/6-3 [10-8]
just days after celebrating her 23rd birthday, the world #1 from Belarus reacted to her Bronze medal-winning feat in a joyous way that was very similar to how she'd likely have reacted to winning Gold. Azarenka won Belarus' very first Olympic tennis medal with a Bronze Match victory over Kirilenko, then a day later teamed with Mirnyi to claim the nation's first Gold, as well, by defeating the home favorite Brits to become the champions of the first Mixed Doubles competition held at the Olympics since 1924.

*Roger "versus" Rafa*
While Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done battle numerous times in their grand slam pasts, they've never met in the Olympics. In fact, their fates at the games couldn't be more different. Federer, the all-time men's slam title leader, has participated in four Olympics (as the #1 seed three times) but never won Gold in singles. Defeats in '04 (2nd Round to Tomas Berdych) and '08 (QF - James Blake) were preceded by a Bronze Medal Match loss to Italy's Arnaud Di Pasquale in Federer's Olympic debut in '00. In 2012, on his favored grass at the All-England Club after having just won slam title #17 at Wimbledon, the stage seemed set for one additional Golden coronation. But Federer was forced to play a 4:26 semifinal vs. Juan Martin del Potro. He won 3-6/7-6(5)/19-17 in the longest three-set men's match in the Open era, with the 3rd set alone lasting 2:43. In the final, he simply wasn't the same legendary Fed. Whether the marathon win cost him his best chance at Gold will forever be a "what if?," but the fact remains that, one month after defeating Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final, Federer lost in straight sets to the Scot in the Olympic final at the AELTC. The resulting Silver was the first medal won by the Swiss in singles play, but the loss to Murray looks as it will be Federer's Olympic swan song, as he was forced to withdraw from the '16 Rio games with a knee injury.

2008 Beijing Singles Gold - Rafael Nadal (ESP) def. Fernando Gonzalez (CHI)
Meanwhile, Nadal has played in just one Olympics, but he won Gold in Beijing in '08. One day after the games, Rafa became #1 in the rankings for the first time, ending Federer's record 237 week streak in the top spot, after having spent a record 160 consecutive weeks at #2.

2008 Beijing Doubles Gold - Federer/Wawrinka (SUI) def. Aspelin/Johansson (SWE)
Federer HAS won an Olympic Gold medal, though. In the same Beijing games in which Nadal was crowned singles champion, he and Swiss teammate Stan Wawrinka claimed the top spot on the doubles medal stand.
*The Argentine Survivor*
2012 London Singles Bronze - Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) def. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
After losing a marathon 19-17 3rd set in the semifinals vs. Roger Federer, at 4:26 the longest three-set men's match in the Open era (the 3rd set alone lasted 2:43), del Potro would have been given a pass had he suffered a letdown and not had enough left to fight for a medal. But this was a player who'd shown great promise while winning the U.S. Open at age 20 in 2009, only to have to battle back against a possibly career-altering wrist injury pretty much ever since. In London, he looked as good as he'd looked in years, pounding those thundering groundstrokes that he used to take down both Federer and Nadal in Flushing Meadows. Rather than go home from London empty-handed, he took Bronze by taking out Djokovic, who actually hit more winners (28-21) and aces (10-5), was fairly even in unforced errors (15-13) and had a better 1st serve win percentage (74%-64%). But Djokovic was 0-for-6 on break point attempts, while del Potro was 2-for-6. And that was the difference in a straight sets victory that brought him to his knees... in a good way.
*The Twins Have It*
2012 London Doubles Gold - B.Bryan/M.Bryan (USA) def. Llodra/Tsonga (FRA)
The Bryan twins -- Bob & Mike -- complete a Career Golden Slam by taking men's doubles Gold at the London games in 2012. The only other doubles duos to accomplish the feat are three-time Gold winners Serena & Venus Williams and the Woodies, Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde, who won Olympic Gold in 1996 four years before completing their major title set with a Roland Garros title in 2000.

In 1992 in Barcelona, Marc Rosset becomes the answer to a trivia question, becoming the only Swiss man to win Olympic singles Gold. In the 20+ years since, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka have combined to win nineteen singles slam titles... but Rosset still stands alone atop Switzerland's tennis medal stand.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov defeats Tommy Haas in the '00 men's singles final in Sydney, becoming the first Russian to win Olympic tennis Gold
In Seoul (1988), Slovak-born Miloslav Mecir, playing for Czechoslovakia, wins the men's singles Gold. To date, no other player representing either side -- Czech Republic or Slovakia -- of the former Soviet era nation has won Olympic tennis Gold.
In the 2012 2nd Round in London, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeats Canada's Milos Raonic in an Olympic record 25-23 3rd set. In the final set alone, Tsonga led 129-128 in total points. Although, for the match, the losing Raonic held a 180-178 edge.
Before the Williams Sisters, another U.S. women's duo -- Florida-born Mary Joe Fernandez & Puerto Rico's Gigi Fernandez (no relation) -- team to win back-to-back Olympic doubles Golds in 1992 and 1996
After Jelena Dokic came up short in her medal quest Down Under in the Sydney games in '00, losing in the Bronze Medal Match to Monica Seles, Alicia Molik pulled off the feat by taking Bronze four years later in Athens, defeating three seeds (#4 Dementieva, #8 Ai Sugiyama & #3 Myskina). Molik defeated Anastasia Myskina, months after the Russian sparked her nation's tennis revolution by winning at Roland Garros, in the Bronze Medal Match. Myskina had blown a 5-1 3rd set lead to eventual Gold medal winner Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals. Molik is still the only Australian singles player, male or female, to win a medal in Olympic history.

And a miss...

*The Best Laid Plans...*
2004 Athens Doubles Gold - Li Ting/Sun Tiantian (CHN) def. C.Martinez/Ruano Pascual (ESP) 6-3/6-3
2008 Beijing Doubles Bronze - Yan Zi/Zheng Jie (CHN) def. A.Bondarenko/K.Bondarenko (UKR) 6-2/6-2
2008 Beijing Singles Bronze - Vera Zvonareva (RUS) def. Li Na (CHN) 6-0/7-5
in 2004, four years before China hosted the games in Beijing, Li Ting & Sun Tiantian earned the first Chinese medal in tennis. The Chinese tennis federation put much effort into building up the sport within the nation in time for Beijing, banking on even greater success there. Right on schedule, the Chinese Fed Cup team reached the semifinals for the first time in '08. Then came the Beijing games. The Russian sweep of the singles medal stand (medalists Safina & Zvonareva went 4-0 vs. Chinese opponents) meant zero medals were earned there for the home nation, as Li Na succumbed to the pressure of the moment and lost in the Bronze Medal Match. Meanwhile, Yan & Zheng's Bronze in doubles was actually a step back (or two) from the success the Chinese had had four years earlier. China failed to win any tennis medals in 2012.

1988 Steffi Graf, West Germany
1992 Jennifer Capriati, USA
1996 Lindsay Davenport, USA
2000 Venus Williams, USA
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium
2008 Elena Dementieva, Russia
2012 Serena Williams, USA
1988 Gabriela Sabatini, Argentina
1992 Steffi Graf, Germany
1996 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain
2000 Elena Dementieva, Russia
2004 Amelie Mauresmo, France
2008 Dinara Safina, Russia
2012 Maria Sharapova, Russia
1988 Manuela Maleeva, Bulgaria & Zina Garrison, USA
1992 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain & Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
1996 Jana Novotna, Czech Republic
2000 Monica Seles, USA
2004 Alicia Molik, Australia
2008 Vera Zvonareva, Russia
2012 Victoria Azarenka, Belarus

1988 Miloslav Mecir, Czechoslovakia
1992 Marc Rosset, Switzerland
1996 Andre Agassi, USA
2000 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia
2004 Nicolas Massu, Chile
2008 Rafael Nadal, Spain
2012 Andy Murray, Great Britain
1988 Tim Mayotte, USA
1992 Jordi Arrese, Spain
1996 Sergi Bruguera, Spain
2000 Tommy Haas, Germany
2004 Mardy Fish, USA
2008 Fernando Gonzalez, Chile
2012 Roger Federer, Switzerland
1988 Stefan Edberg, Sweden & Brad Gilbert, USA
1992 Goran Ivanisevic, Croatia & Andrei Cherkasov, Unified Team
1996 Leander Paes, India
2000 Arnaud di Pasquale, France
2004 Fernando Gonzalez, Chile
2008 Novak Djokovic, Serbia
2012 Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina

1988 Pam Shriver/Zina Garrison, USA
1992 Mary Joe Fernandez/Gigi Fernandez, USA
1996 Mary Joe Fernandez/Gigi Fernandez, USA
2000 Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA
2004 Li Ting/Sun Tiantian, China
2008 Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA
2012 Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA

1988 Ken Flach/Robert Seguso, USA
1992 Boris Becker/Michael Stich, Germany
1996 Todd Woodbridge/Mark Woodforde, Australia
2000 Sebastien Lareau/Daniel Nestor, Canada
2004 Fernando Gonzalez/Nicolas Massu, Chile
2008 Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland
2012 Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan, USA

2012 Victoria Azarenka/Max Mirnyi, BLR

4...Serena Williams, USA
4...Venus Williams, USA
4...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, ESP
3...Mike Bryan, USA
3...Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
3...Fernando Gonzalez, CHI
3...Steffi Graf, FRG/GER
3...Conchita Martinez, ESP
3...Jana Novotna, TCH/CZE
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Bob Bryan, USA
2...Elena Dementieva, RUS
2...Roger Federer, SUI
2...Gigi Fernandez, USA
2...Zina Garrison, USA
2...Goran Ivanisevic, CRO
2...Nicolas Massu, CHI
2...Andy Murray, GBR
2...Miloslav Mecir, TCH
2...Virginia Ruano Pascual, ESP
2...Helena Sukova, TCH/CZE
2...Todd Woodbridge, AUS
2...Mark Woodforde, AUS
[other actives w/ 1 medal]
Julien Benneteau, FRA
Juan Martin del Potro, ARG
Novak Djokovic, SRB
Richard Gasquet, FRA
Andrea Hlavackova, CZE
Lucie Hradecka, CZE
Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
Max Mirnyi, BLR
Rafael Nadal, ESP
Daniel Nestor, CAN
Leander Paes, IND
Laura Robson, GBR
Maria Sharapova, RUS
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, FRA
Stan Wawrinka, SUI
Zheng Jie, CHN
ALSO: Haas,M.Kirilenko,N.Petrova,Zvonareva

All for now.

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Monday, August 01, 2016

Wk.30- Ghosts of the Past

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Federer, for the first time, is facing a major injury crisis. He hurt himself while giving the twins a bath. Is it game over for the star, is it the end for Roger Federer? If he came back and won a major would any of us be surprised? No, probably not.

It says something that our community is discussing Federer and not Djokovic's latest triumph. So beloved, so great a player is Roger that even when he is in dire straights he is still talked about. But with both him and Rafa out, the tennis landscape looks barren and desolate. Who will generate our major storylines outside of the top two? We can see clearly the flaws of the rest. Kei and Wawrinka struggle to break the glass ceiling. Del Potro is still a huge question mark.

If Roger does come back and is fit he could make a serious run at number one if several factors go his way. With so few points to defend next year he could make a speedy comeback. He does face the prospect of falling out of the top ten for the first time in about 14 years, but every run must eventually come to and end. The injury is not like Mary Pierce's, either. Or even like Clijsters' myriad of health problems. Neither is this a Marcelos Rios deal. No, if Roger says he will be back then he will be. He could also opt to become a doubles specialist if singles is too much. He and a big lefty, like a Verdasco type, could probably do quite well.

This week we have had some actual play. The ghosts of Harrison and Dimitrov resurfaced. Who remembers when they were supposed to be the next big thing? Nishikori was supposed to dominate and win multiple slams. Our community sure is bad at calling it, eh?

Top 32 - Dimitrov up six to 34. Is he merely having a little rise or has he genuinely turned things around? Paire falls four but still clings onto the 32nd spot.
Top 10 – Tsonga and Thiem swap, with the Frenchman now ahead by 130 points. Monfils moves up three to 11th.
Top 8 – Little change. Kei still barely leads Raonic. Kei moves clear of Raonic and will soon take 5th off Nadal.
Top 4 – Novak, Andy, Roger and Wawrinka are the new top four. There is still a massive gap between 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.

S: Novak Djokovic def. Kei Nishikori 6-3/7-5
D: Dodig/Melo d. J.Murray/Soares

...Who else? If you are sitting there thinking this will be the same you are right. Djokovic has always dominated the hardcourt Masters. But the reports coming through that he could threaten Federer's greatness are unfounded. It's as much about the aura, about the feel, more than anything else. Henin had it. Murray does not. Federer has it, but Kvitova does not. And Nadal has it, but Djokovic doesn't. It is hard to quantify, but there has to be a little bit of magic nobody else has. People will talk about the forehands of Nadal and Federer, of Laver's volleys and Sampras' serve but Djokovic's return is uninspiring. Brilliant and technically flawless but dull, mechanical and unwatchable. His highlight reels don't make you smile. Federer's do. Agassi managed to make his return famous and stylish. Why can't Djokovic? This week he saw off Muller 7-5, 7-6[3]. Stepanek went down 2 and 4 and Berdych collapsed to a 7-6[6]. 6-4 loss. Again. He dismissed Monfils 3 and 2 in the semi before coasting to yet another routine win over Nishikori. The problem is, like Serena's WTA, the opposition just isn't there. [Ed.Note: Hmmm, yet Serena has won just one of the last four slams, while Djokovic has four of five, and five of seven. Hmmm.] Murray doesn't count. He faces a tough field and still won easily. At least when Roger and Nadal did that they hit nice shots.

...Well, silver linings come with clouds. Vavsy mentally imploded in a 7-6[6], 6-1 loss in the semi-final. Up 6-3, he double faulted while serving for the set. Now, as a two-time slam champ he should be more mentally prepared and he also knows how Kei plays. So, yes, he should have done better, but he makes the semi-finals of a Masters for only the eighth time in his career. On the way he edged Youzhny in two breakers and also saw off Sock 7-6[3]. 6-2. He blew Anderson away 6-1, 6-3 to record a superb result here in Toronto. Sure, it took him a while to find his form but he can still do the U.S. and Olympic double. With three titles under his belt already a fourth is surely on the way. And we're now at the point where he has confidence and the knowledge he can do it. Watch out for Stan in the next 12 weeks, what's left of the 2016 season.
...It's nice to see the precocious talent back in form. It may be brief, but even a brief reappearance is worth somthing, no? The one-hander flashed on our biggest stage again, the serve snarled and spat once more. We really saw Dimitrov again, saw him properly. He made only his sixth quarterfinal at this level, but there will be more. This BACKSPINNER believes another slam semi-final is in the works for the Bulgarian. It will come eventually. Of course, in true Dimitrov style, he almost bombed out. He escaped Sugita 5-7, 7-6[5], 6-4. Down 4-0 in the first and 2-5 in the tiebreaker in the second, Dimi showed the grit that has long been missing from his game. He came back twice before holding for a two and a half hour victory. Straight sets victories over Shapovalov, conqueror of Kyrgios, and an in-form Karlovic followed. He even took a set off Nishikori but ran out of steam in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 loss. He strung together three matches in a row of good tennis combined with guts. Is it the start of something or a sad reminder of what could have been? [Ed.Note: I'm giving my "unofficial nod" to Denis Shapovalov for this award this week. :) ]
...Another rare thing this - two correct ATP BACKSPIN calls in two weeks! Kei is the typical Ferrer type journeyman. Goffin will follow in his footsteps. A very good career with decent slam success and plenty of joy at Masters level, but unable to beat the big guys. Kei has made plenty of finals this year but he needs to win the big ones, too. Two Masters finals in one year is impressive, but allow statistics to once more reveal the truth. He is 1-9 against Nadal, 2-10 against Djokovic, 1-6 against Murray and 2-4 against Roger. He cannot beat the top guys. Sure, this week was nice for him and he had another impressive run, but it always ends the same way. He cannot break that glass ceiling and he has to do it one day. He does not have time on his side. He cannot just wait for the bigger guys to run out of steam, he has to take charge and do it now. It was still a very good week. Maybe one day he can routinely have great weeks.
...Up 27 places to 117, is it too late for Ryan? He is only 24. He was 43 in the world once and that is attainable again if he can use this momentum. In qualifying, he defeated Zverev 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. No, it wasn't the younger Zverev but it was still a massive scalp. It was a victory which are few and far between for Harrison these days. In the main draw, he dismissed Russian Kuznetsov 6-1, 6-3 and then upset Isner 7-6[3], 6-7[4] 6-4. In the next round he gave Berdych all he could take, with the Czech winning 6-4, 6-7[3], 6-4 and just barely escaping the upset. After a couple of wins in Washington and now this, things are finally looking up for Harrison. He is also sticking with matches and not just going away meekly at the first sign of defeat. Throw in a wiser approach to the world and there just might be something here. Oh, and watch this:

Of course, this waxing lyrical now practically ensures he goes out and loses badly next week. Ah, well.
...Back to regular service, sadly. Sure, during four tournaments a year he is a top ten player. The rest of the year he is a paper tiger. A really flimsy tissue paper tiger. Used tissue paper even. The eighth seed lost to Karlovic 6-4, 7-6[3]. A man with that big a serve lost a breaker 7-3 and also let himself get broken? It's preposterous. Cilic is too good to let this happen. He couldn't even take it to three. Cilic should be made to give his slam to Ferrer. He deserves it more. Or Tsonga. How the disappointing Croat ever won a slam is shocking. [Ed.Note: hmmm, maybe it was because he played Nishikori in the U.S. Open final? ;) ]
...Not once but twice did La Monf! cause the upset. And even when Novak blew him away he still managed to hit the shot of the match. And what a shot of the match. Honestly this BACKSPINNER would rather watch Monfils lose 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 than watch one of those miserable Djokovic/Murray finals. Here is that shot of the week.

Monfils had a hard draw but he dismissed Sousa and Pospisil easily. He also caused two kinds of upsets. In his three set win over Goffin he ground out a very tough win, taking it 6-4 in the third. He was not smooth, but he knew how to win. But against Raonic he was smooth and controlled. He knew exactly what to do and did it. He managed, somehow, to be everywhere. Raonic never knew where to put the ball. Maybe Monfils is finally maturing.

Notes from the week...
1 - Kokkinakis returns in Rio. It will be his first match in ten months.
2 – Serena is just five weeks from taking away Graf's consecutive number one weeks record. Still think this era is strong, Todd? [Ed.Note: Yep, in the necessary pockets, and deeper down the rankings. Remember, Graf had 186 consecutive weeks at #1, too... so a long streak at #1 for Serena isn't exactly a definitive tip in favor of Graf's era.]
3 – Can Murray begin to make moves on the number one ranking?
4 – Gilles Simon is world number 31 and will be seeded in Rio.
5 – Expect a slew of retirements post-Olympics. Verdasco, anyone? Maybe even Nadal. The Williamses? [Ed.Note: Venus has made it pretty clear she's not going anywhere, but as for Serena... well, we shall see at the end of this year, I guess.]

1. Rogers Cup QF - Monfils d. Raonic 6-4, 6-4
...You may not see a better, more cleverly played match all year. Raonic didn't play badly. He was just outdone by the sheer talent of Monfils. From the guy who bought you this:

Comes this and on a big point, too:

2. Rogers Cup QF - Djokovic d. Berdych 7-6[6], 6-4
...up 5-2 in the first this match should have been simple. But it was very up and down. Berdych has a golden chance to finally take a set off one of these guys, up 6-3 in the breaker. But when he let Djoker win five points in a row the match was done. Looks like Berdych has finally run out of time to beat one of the big four. Thirteen losses to Djokovic in a row now.
3. Rogers Cup QF - Nishikori d. Dimitrov 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
...Kei has a way of winning, a way of triumphing where one questions how on earth it happened. Similar to Halep, he can be outplayed in a match but win in straights. Halep has won matches in an hour and not blown her opponent off the court at all. They both really do leave us wondering how they do it. In the semi, Kei should've lost the first set but the scoreline never tells you that. This match was won mentally; how can Dimi out-determine Kei?
4. Rogers Cup R3 - Anderson d. Tomic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
...classic clash of styles saw Anderson's comeback continue with aplomb. Tomic achieved his seeding, but this was a match he should have won. With the win the South African moved up six to 28th in the world.

Isner [1] d. [3] Anderson
Kyrgios [2] d. [4] Dolgopolov
Isner [1] d. [2] Kyrgios

...Since 2003, Americans have won this event 11 times. We have had five all-American finals. Isner lost two finals in a row from '10-11, but has won three in a row coming in. This event is his baby. Kyrgios is gunning to become only the second Aussie winner after Rafter. Big servers abound here, but Isner is playing on American soil.

Seeded 2nd in Montreal, Garcia and Mladenovic edged Gronefeld/Peschke 4-6, 7-5, 10-4. They got out of jail, but lost to Halep and Nicelescu 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 in the quarters. But the top seeds crashed out in the quarters, too, and they failed to get a set vs. McHale/Muhammad. Mladenovic sits comfortably at four. A push for the top ranking is not out of the picture for our Frenchies. But in the singles she languishes at 38. Qualifier Kudryavtseva defeated Kiki 7-6[5]. 1-6. 6-3. It's a poor loss to a player she should never lose to.

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