Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wk.32- The Art of Saving a Match Point

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

In a tennis match you have several key components. You have the shots, the commentary, the tactics, the illicit coaching and the umpire. You'll also need a ball, a racket, a functioning court and, perhaps most importantly, a crowd. Tennis players may choose to use the crowd or not. The ones who do it well often gain points from it. The ones who the crowd dislike may struggle or use the hate. Tomas Berdych used the boos to see off Rafael Nadal in Madrid. That match is in our Hall of Shame. It's close to the 2004 U.S. Open match between Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams. But that one had nothing to do with the crowd. And sometimes the crowd helps you even if you don't ask it to. See Williams in 2011 at the same venue.

Last week in Canada, the men's tournament was one of the best we have had in years. It was a handful of points away from being totally different and the crowd was heavily involved.



And how about Roger Federer having the nous to talk to them in French. He even tried to be funny. Well, I think he did.



The best crowds in tennis can be found at the majors. The worst tend to be in Asia. The huge stadiums and lack of spectators make the problem look even worse than it is. And with the U.S. Open coming up we are no doubt about to get another great week of crowd interaction and noise. Arthur Ashe is so big and the Americans so loud that the atmosphere in there is like being in a maelstrom. And again, some players can use it. Some can't. Would Monfils have been able to pull off his heroics without the loyal fans backing him?

Now, a quick update on the number one race. Andy Murray clings on. Roger Federer making the final has put a tonne of pressure on Rafa. If Roger wins Cincy for the billionth time he can be mediocre in New York and still take that top ranking. Well, that will not happen as he has just withdrawn. Nadal can take over the top spot with a win. But if Federer wins the U.S. Open he will be top dog. The Scot has 7,750 points. Rafa Nadal has 7,555. Roger has 7,145.

Before we go on it should be noted that this week marks the 18 year anniversary of the retirement of Steffi Graf. The only person to ever win each major four times, she was dominant in a way nobody was or will ever be again. She played like she was double parked. She was mentally tough, had the biggest weapon the game had ever seen [until Serena came along] and had several big career comebacks. She visited Monica Seles in the hospital, a surprise considering their relationship, and famously said during the 1999 Roland Garros, “Can we just play tennis, OK?”

The French crowd that day played a vital role in the match. Graf may have been known as icy, cold and occasionally emotionless, but what you saw was exactly what you got. Martina Navratilova has a reputation for being catty and for being overly critical. Graf was only ever a cold fish. She was a constant from 1987 to her retirement 12 years later. She even managed to do that with dignity. So today reflect upon a legend. Few women affect the very landscape of our sport. She did. And why there isn't a famous stadium named after her anywhere is anybody's guess. There should be.

But eough of the almighty Stefanie Graf. It is time for us to begin.


*WEEK 32 CHAMPIONS*
MONTREAL, QUEBEC CAN (Hard)
S: Alexander Zverev def. Roger Federer 6-3/6-4
D: Herbert/Mahut d. Bopanna/Dodig



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ALEX ZVEREV, GER
...If you were to say Alex Zverev has been the third best player all year you'd be dead on. It is so rare to ever win a Masters title during your career. To do it twice in a year is insane. Especially when you have the Big Four sharing your career arc. But this year the German has been something else. That backhand is a wrecking ball of Bruce Springsteen-like proportions. He has been measured, consistent yet aggressive and he has even played some excellent doubles at times. Fitting that on Graf's anniversary Germany finally has a new hero. But there is a Caroline Wozniacki style twist. He has a rubbish record at the slams. He is only 11-9. Granted, he has run into Nadal, Verdasco and Raonic at the last three, but he should still be doing better than that. But how many players go 2-0 in their first two Masters finals? How many do it on different surfaces? In the last 14 months he has made nine finals and lost just three. He and his brother have also gone 1-3 in doubles finals. He won two titles at this year's Open Sud de France. This month he has not lost a match. He has gone 10-0, and beat Kevin Anderson twice. The serve is working nicely, the backhand is well oiled and he has variety for days. In his three-set match against Gasquet, where he cruised for the first hour but was taken to a third-set breaker, he looked a world-beater in patches and a nothing in other parts of the match. But he turned out a memorable performance against Kyrgios, who has had his number the last couple of times they've played, defeating him 6-4, 6-3. He eased past Anderson 7-5, 6-4. Denis Shapovalov was next, with both men playing for a spot in the final. But the youngster looked tired and the German's heavy weaponry proved too much. He beat Shapo 7-5, 6-4. In the final he rolled past an injured Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4. But can he now convert this into a slam win? Or at least can he convert this into a slam result?
===============================================
RISER: ROGER FEDERER. SUI
...We have talked so much about Roger Federer. We have gone over his forehand, described once as a great liquid whip. We have pored over his SABR and been awestruck by his aggressive backhand. This week was just so standard. He beat Peter Polansky in the second round, David Ferrer in the third and Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters. It is so bog standard. It is just what Roger Federer does for work. He wasn't perfect, but he was efficient. He was measured. And he managed to get past banana peel Robin Haase in the semi-finals. There are so many names we never talk about. We can, and will, talk about the GOAT at length. This week he tied Ivan Lendl by making his 189th semi-final. That is second all time. His 142 finals are third all time. Had he won it would have been title number 94, the same amount won by Ivan Lendl. History beckons for Roger as usual. But this week he was denied. And that really isn't usual at all. If his back is ok he will be more than fine at the U.S. Open.
===============================================


FRESH FACE: DENIS SHAPOVALOV, CAN
....Not many players announce their arrival on the world stage by assaulting an umpire. Few are then forgiven after that. But the swashbuckling youngster, who so resembles Jana Novotna, who has never won a main draw slam match, is already a recognizable figure. He plays a fast, exciting brand of tennis with a big one-handed backhand and a devil-may-care attitude. But his epic run in his homeland almost wasn't. Check this out...


The quality of match points this week has been sensational. The volley on that second one is not possible. It is freakish. You cannot do that shot. It defies physics. It goes against nature itself. After winning that one he dismissed Delpo 6-3, 7-6[4]. He saw off Nadal in a dramatic third set breaker. And he came back from a set down to edge Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. It took Alex Zverev playing lights out to finally end his run. But for a kid with no senior slam experience, or very little, he's being talked about an awful lot. Maybe all the upcoming juniors should consider hitting an umpire in the face.
===============================================
VETERAN: DAVID FERRER, ESP
...Nobody thought the Spaniard would go quietly, though going he most definitely is. He taught some youngsters valuable lessons this week. He beat Kyle Edmund 6-7 [5], 6-4, 6-3. Then he beat Jack Sock 7-6[7], 3-6, 6-1. His usual level of grit and determination were present and correct. He even managed to push Roger Federer around for a bit, as he went down fighting 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. He knows that this U.S. Open and next year's French are his last shots for deep runs. He first made the semi-final here in 2007. He beat David Nalbandian in five sets in the third round, Rafa Nadal in four in the fourth round and JI Chela in the quarters. It has always been one of his favourite venues. Could there be one last happy memory there for him? This BACKSPINNER's heart says yes, but the head says no.
===============================================
SURPRISE: ROBIN HAASE, NED
...Haase does this about four times a year. This time it was at a Masters. He beat 7th seeded Dimitrov but no other seeded players. He knows how to take advantage of a weakened draw. Haase even put up a decent fight against Roger Federer, recovering from 0-2 in the second set breaker. But even in this day and age of a weaker ATP journeyman can only go so far. He will have chances in New York to do some damage. With a bit of luck multiple wins are on the cards.
===============================================
DOWN: RAFAEL NADAL, ESP
...This BACKSPINNER doesn't get it. Rafa is playing for the top ranking. Rafa Nadal -- the toughest, tightest player ever. He never blows a chance. He smacked Borna Coric 6-1, 6-2. But he is out-gritted by Denis Shapovalov? A little kid beat Nadal? After he was dominated for a set and a half the Canuck came back to take the second. But with the sets at 3-6, 6-4, he kept going. And the third set went to a breaker. Once there Rafa took a 3-0 lead. He would win just one more point in the whole match. He was taken apart. It just isn't Nadal. If he wins the title this week he will take the top spot. But it just doesn't even feel on the cards. Oh, there was also this...


===============================================
UPSET: ADRIAN MANNARINO, FRA
...Last week it was Medvedev. Now Adrian Mannarino has usurped him. He defeated him 6-3, 6-1 in the first round. After that he beat Milos Raonic and his home crowd 6-4, 6-4. Hyeon Chung was next and the Frenchman won through 6-3, 6-3. Equipped with good mental stability and a whippy forehand, nobody wants to play Mannarino. Even the top guys, like Djokovic, do not enjoy playing against him. He is slippery and tricky and hits awkward shots. He doesn't miss often and yet still has firepower. So for youngsters like the Russian and Korean this is a nightmare. He even took the first set against Denis Shapovalov 6-2 before fading to a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss. But it is a good week for the veteran. He is now ranked 36th. It might be enough for a seed. Two more wins should secure it.
===============================================

1. Montreal R3 – Schwartzman d. Donaldson 0-6, 7-5, 7-5
...The American got up 6-0, 2-0. Then he blew it. He had the mental strength to come back in the third set, but still lost. In American tennis most of it has to be mental. Because there's no problem with their tennis, just their brains. Don't be like Novotna, unless you are at the net. The most wonderful thing about our sport is the scoring system. It is never over. That is both a blessing and a curse.
===============================================
2. Montreal QF – Monfils d. Nishikori 6-7[4], 7-5, 7-6[8]
...We've all seen it by now. It is insanity.


Monfils does it again. He comes from nowhere to save a point. Then from nowhere to win the match. And in his round three clash with Bautista Agut he lost from match point up. This is why Todd cannot watch a Monfils match without bursting into tears or flames. [Flames. - tds] Because all this talent, all this ability, all these amazing shots are being wasted. We wish there was a way to give another player these attributes. If you could combine Nalbandian and Monfils. Oh boy. Unbeatable.
===============================================
3. Montreal R2 – A.Zverev d. Gasquet 6-3, 4-6, 7-6,[3]
/..The German was cruising for two sets against the Frenchman. Gasquet could barely move at times. His back is troubling him deeply and you can tell he's at the end of a successful career now. But at 4-5 Zverev made a couple of errors and suddenly it was a set all. Gasquet's backhand suddenly came alive. And the upset was on. And at 5-6 Gasquet had his chance.


Words are useless. You will never see such good defence. It is the point of the year. And the Frenchy did that with a bad back.
===============================================




*CINCINNATI*
=SF=
Thiem [3] d. [1] Nadal
Zverev [4] d. Khachanov
=FINAL=
Zverev [4] d. [3] Thiem

...This BACKSPINNER doesn't trust Rafa right now. All the big names are injured because the season is just too gosh darn long, and that means there will be a surprise winner. Karen Khachanov should benefit. Thiem should do well. But how can you look past the German? David Nalbandian used to get hot and win three tournaments in a row and he had a similar game style to the German. Yes, he'll be tired but he is just playing too well.

Well, she beat Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 6-3 last week, in her first round match. She appears to be on song, her ground game strong. But she blew a lead against Barbora Strycova in the next round, going down 4-6, 7-6[5], 6-3. The Czech promptly lost to Simona Halep 6-1, 6-0.

In the singles in Cincinnati she just beat Kiki Mladenovic 6-0, 7-6 [6]. She will now play fellow qualifier Camila Giorgi. The winner may play the world number one. But on the WTA right now how much does that really mean? All it means is you're unlikely to win the next slam. He said in a catty manner. Secretly Todd agrees. [Waiting for Ostapenko to reach #1 ;) - tds]

Big news! The Dashas are back. They open against An.Rodionova and Nadia Kichenok. They should win that. If they do then they will most likely get to face off against Aussies Barty/Dellacqua. In fact, she and Raquel Atawo lost to Rodionova/Kichenok in the second round last week.

Something else to keep an eye on- Ash Barty is coming for her number one Australian ranking.


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Monday, August 07, 2017

Wk.31- A German in America

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

As we go into the American swing, which could be called the Americas swing, we are reminded of a once-great empire. It is like playing tennis in Pompeii or in Atlantis. American tennis is a lost empire. In Serena's absence, it is a stark and shocking reality. But America needs to calm down and stop worrying about the tennis. This summer they dominated the World Aquatics Championships, particularly in the swimming events, are dominating the Athletics and also look better than they ever have in soccer.

Right now they are a third-world tennis nation. But this BACKSPINNER thinks it is a good thing that America is not having it all its own way. It's a good thing to lose on occasion. And you know that it will be only a matter of time before they come back. In the sporting world, America has always been the dominant force. Forget the USSR and China. Forget Australia and Britain. It is always America. Feeling sorry for them because they no longer dominate a sport is like feeling sorry for Tom Brady because he lost 20 bucks. Or like feeling sorry for Roger Federer when Lenny is sick on him.

America will be fine. They're allowed to be average at something. Just this week Tommy Paul made the quarters while Jack Sock went one better. They aren't even that bad. With nine guys in the top 100 and five in the top 50 they are still a threat at any slam that isn't staged in France. Just because they aren't Jimmy Connors or Johnny McEnroe doesn't mean they've fallen on truly hard times.

This week we saw comebacks. Henri Kontinen and his partner John Peers responded well to a heartbreaking Wimbledon loss. Sam Querrey responded well to losing such a tight match to Marin Cilic, and Alex Zverev backed up a superb tournament. In other tennis news, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have both pulled the plug on their seasons. It leaves Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to fight it out for the number one crown. With hard being the surface for the rest of the year, injury concerns and more points to defend, Rafael Nadal is the slight underdog. But it could swing either way. Yes, the tour has a very 2008-09 feel to it. Let's look at what happened this past week...

*WEEK 31 CHAMPIONS*
WASHINGTON, DC USA (Hard)
S: Alexander Zverev def. Kevin Anderson 6-4/6-4
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Kubot/Melo

CABO, MEXICO (Hard)
S: Sam Querrey def. Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3/3-6/6-2
D: Cabal/Huey d. Galdos/Maytin

KITZBUHEL, AUSTRIA (Red Clay)
S: Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Joao Sousa 6-3/6-4
D: Cuevas/Duran d. Podlipnik/Vasilevski


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ALEX ZVEREV, GER
...We have a rule here on BACKSPIN. If there is one 500 and two 250's then the winner of the big event comes in here. It just makes sense. So the German. He's had a good year. He is the only player to win one of the big events outside of the Fedal. He has played spoiler the best, but lost in heartbreaking five-set fashion in Melbourne and London. His backhand is the best on tour right now, and the scariest thing is that you never know where he is going to put it. Will he go inside-out? Will he spank it crosscourt? Nope. It's a dropper and the point is over. Last week he climbed to 8 in the world, a career high. He has consolidated that with a great run in Washington, home of the NL's second-best team. Since May last year he has made eight finals and looked competent at slam level, too. Five titles from eight attempts is an excellent mark. He has also engaged the services of Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Spaniard knows how to play in New York. In the capital, he opened by edging Jordan Thompson in a third set breaker. Next he beat Tennys [Ha-Ha] Sandgren 7-5, 7-5. By now he was on a roll, confirmed by his 6-4, 6-2 beatdown of Medvedev. He put Nishikori to the sword 6-4, 6-3. In the final he swept by Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4. He forced the big man into several errors, used his variety and generally made it hard for the South African to get anything going.



Now he needs to repeat in Canada. But can he do so?
===============================================
RISER: PHILIPP KOHLSCHREIBER, GER
...The German first won the Kitzbuhel doubles title in 2006. He and Stefan Koubek beat Marach/Suk. Nine years later he took the singles title. Now he has won for a third time. Unseeded, he beat Bagnis in three sets, dismissed Vesely 6-3, 6-3 and then edged Lajovic 4-6, 6-4, 7-6[5] in the quarters. He just could not get out and away from the Serb. He knocked out the last seed remaining in the semi - number two Fabio Fognini. It was a tight match but the German always plays well in German speaking countries. Kohl won 7-5, 6-3. In the final, Joao Sousa couldn't muster up anything and Kohl ran away with it 6-3, 6-4. It was a superb week for the German. He is now ranked 37th. That Flushing Meadows seed is there, looking him in the face.


===============================================
FRESH FACE: THANASI KOKKINAKIS, AUS
...This is a rare occurrence - a sensible Australian tennis star under the age of 25. It's the run that's glorious more than anything. He edged Frances Tiafoe in two breakers in round one. He beat Peter Polansky in a third set breaker in match two. He held off Taylor Fritz 7-6[5], 6-2 in the quarters before edging Tomas Berdych in the semi. Despite the loss in the Cabo final it is the kind of performance you can look back on with so much pride. He now has momentum going into the summer swing. But can he use it?
===============================================
VETERAN: KEVIN ANDERSON, RSA
...Kevin Anderson is awfully reliable. Unlike the Miami Marlins, who are reliably awful. Another point for tennis - anybody can win. In the big four you can be dreadful for years, and years and years. The Bills haven't made a playoff appearance since Bill Clinton was president. When were the Browns last good? When have the Padres ever been relevant? Will the New Jersey Devils ever be good again? Why haven't they disbanded the Knicks and started again? In tennis you have good weeks and bad weeks. A drought is never more than a year or two. And you can make ten semi-finals a year and call that a good year. Anderson's big serve is one of the most consistent weapons on the tour. Combined with a wicked forehand and a good mental game it is a weapon to be feared. Season after season he turns up and plays the same way. But it is unbeatable. He even came back from injury and was just as relevant. In Washington, he made another final on hard-courts. His last final was two years ago the month. He is currently 3-9 in finals. With his ranking at 32 he should get a seed in New York.
===============================================
SURPRISE: YUKI BHAMBRI, IND
...Bhambri was part of that initial Indian Wave. The one which went as quickly as it came. They had Sania Mirza, Somdev Devarrman and the men's doubles talents, too. But they just disappeared. We never saw them again after a while. It was really strange. Bhambri is now 159 in the world. He won the junior Australian Open in 2009. In Washington qualies, Ramkumar Ramanathan also did very well. He is Bhambri's compatriot. Rankumar was the top seed, Bhambri second. He beat Liam Broady 6-2, 6-4 to qualify. In the first round he defeated Stefan Kozlov via a retirement. In the next, he edged Gael Monfils 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Pella ran out of steam and crumbled, as Bhambri defeated him 6-7[5], 6-3, 6-1. It took the huge weapons of Kevin Anderson to finally subdue the Indian. The South African won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The odyssey is over for now. But there may be a spark of a new career forming, and perhaps it could ignite.
===============================================
DOWN: PABLO CUEVAS, URU
...The Uruguyan is one of the steadiest players on tour. He is Mr. Reliable. But he was undone by a rain delay and a vociferous home crowd. He lost to Ofner 6-3,2-6,7-6 (7-3). Going into the event he was one of the favourites, but his sudden departure set the tone for the rest of the seeds to collapse. Incidentally, this event is more historic than you might think. Santana, Panatta, Orantes, Vilas [4-1 in finals], Gerulaitis, Sampras, Muster, Ivanisevic [winners in 1992, '93 and '94], Costa [3-2 in finals], and Juan Martin Del Potro have all won here. Cuevas may yet add his name to that illustrious list. But not yet. At least he won the doubles title this year.
===============================================
UPSET: DANIIL MEDVEDEV, RUS
...What a summer! The Russians aren't just in the Kremlin and the White House, bad action movies and good James Bond flicks. No, they are now firmly ensconced in the ATP hierarchy. Andrey Rublev is 19 and number 53 in the world. Medvedev is 21 and 48th. And we all know about Karen Khachanov. In D.C., He edged Reilly Opelka 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (6), saving a match point with a 130 MPH ace along the way. In the second round he edged Stevie Johnson in a third set breaker. It was a fiery, fractious match. According to an online source, here’s what happened: #34 ranked Johnson won the first set 6-3 and was up a break in the second set. Both players were resting on a changeover and the chair umpire called “time.” That’s when Medvedev, ATP 50, suddenly asked for a medical timeout. It took the physio three or four minutes to get to the court and a further delay ensued. Johnson was understandably irritated at Medvedev’s stall tactic which, of course, was designed to distract the American's following service game.

And, of course, it did. Medvedev broke Johnson, who then shouted across the net at the young Russian, who is based in Nice, France since age seven, “Nice injury time out you piece of sh**!” – according to the photographer who was present.

In the third round, the Russian spanked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-2. But he got his comeuppance at the hands of Alex Zverev. He lost 6-2, 6-4. He moves on to the Rogers Cup. A seed in New York is in play after all.

For more on the controversy.
===============================================


1. Los Cabos QF – Kokkinakis d. Berdych 3-6, 7-6[5], 6-4,
...After 18 months spent making his body work, and ranked 454 in the world, the Australian has defeated a Wimbledon semi-finalist. With the win he has risen 234 spots to 220th in the world. Sure, he nearly blew a 6-2 lead in the breaker. And, yes, he squandered four match points and 5-2 in the third, but a win is a win. And for the Australian to just get on court is awesome.


===============================================
2. Washington QF – Nishikori d. Paul 3-6 7-6(8) 6-4
...Saving three match points and barely clinging on to beat a player out of the top 200 is not very impressive, even if they are a rising star. The Japanese man recovered from 3-5 to edge through in the final set. A win is a precious thing for Nishikori these days. How will he defend all those points in New York?
===============================================
3. Kitzbuhel 1st Round – Zeballos d. Dutra Silva 2-6, 7-6, [11], 7-6[4]
...The Brazilian won 119 of the 237 points played in this three hour epic. This BACKSPINNER's theory is that there are a handful of people who tuned in to watch the entirety of this. We salute those brave souls. There were just four breaks in the whole match.
===============================================


*ROGERS CUP *
=SF=
Nadal [1] d. [4] Zverev
Federer [2] d. [3] Thiem
=FINAL=
Nadal [1] d. [2] Federer

...Even in 2007, Roger did not win in Montreal. He has always played worse there for some reason. He has skipped the previous two. But Tsonga, Zverev and Kyrgios are all in the top half. Kyrgios knows how to beat Zverev. Tsonga is such a big question mark. Nadal is going to win this and take the top ranking along with it.


Next year we will be following Valentini Grammatikopoulou. No, not really. But it was worth it just to mention that name.

Last year Dasha only made the Rogers Cup second round. She has already matched that this year. She beat Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 6-3 on Monday. Now she must face Barbora Strycova (rather than Mladenovic, who lost). If she wins, then defending champ Halep is almost certain to be the one standing in her way.



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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wimbledon Recap

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.



Welcome to the final post from Wimbledon 2017. And we’ll open with a fun graph.

Comparing the Big 3 at Their Best Slam!

NADAL (RG) FEDERER (WI) DJOKOVIC (AO)
TITLES 10 8 6
FINALS 10 11 6
SEMIS 10 12 6
QF 11 15 9
Won/Lost 79-2 91-11 58-7
Win Pct. 97.5% 89.22% 89.00%

Firstly, we can deduce that Rafa is awesome on clay. But when you consider 10/15 of his slams have come in Paris it feels a little one-surface wonder. Novak Djokovic has won 50 per cent of his slams in one city. But Federer’s 8/19 is a lot less than half. He has won five each in New York and Melbourne plus that one in Paris. That’s where the longevity comes in. If the other two were to have that length of career they might also rack up some serious numbers. As it is, Federer is the only player ever to rack up five singles finals at every slam, in the men’s game in the Open era. Did you know that Chris Evert got to more finals at slam level than Martina? Well, it’s true.

You can draw your own conclusions from the data above. But in the men’s doubles, Kubot/Melo became the champions with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-6[3], 3-6, 13-11 victory over Pavic/Marach. It took four hours and 39 minutes with both sides going 3/9 on break points. Spectators eagerly watched the 390 points played. It was an incredible match that featured injuries, clutch serves, missed smashes and nerves from Melo. It had some superb rallies, and the last set is one of the best sets of doubles you’ll see for many a year. It was the perfect way for the Brazilian to ascend to number one.

And the women’s doubles match that followed was one of the worst things ever seen on Centre court. It was truly abysmal. Don’t watch that. But do see if you can re-watch the men’s doubles.


FEDERER D. CILIC
It was too easy in the end. Federer broke twice in the first set of his 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory and then Cilic got a blister. Or he called a trainer and then we knew. We knew about the injury, and we knew what was going to happen in the final. Federer looked fantastic from the off. He had a tough deuce early in the first set, but once he broke the match started to get away from Cilic mentally. Federer strolled through the next set 6-1 and then Cilic had a proper timeout. He had some pills and, much like Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, suddenly he was recovered enough to put up a fight in the third set. It was a foregone conclusion, of course, but he did turn up in that final set, he turned up and fought. Cilic cannot afford to let this affect his career or his mental state. He has to think about the fact Federer would likely have beaten him anyway and that he will get another chance. Jana Novotna got three. Marion Bartoli got two. Roddick got three. Nadal got three. Murray got three. He will be back. The stats are all irrelevant. He needs to move on. If he burned the tape that would be a start.

Afterwards this happened.

Cilic has, remarkably, stayed at 6th in the world. Roger Federer is now the favourite for the year-end top spot. He will play at most of these events - Cincy, Toronto, U.S. Open, Shanghai, Basel, Paris, London WTF. I would think he’ll play a minimum of six events and a maximum of eight. He might skip Paris because it is right after Basel. He may skip Toronto. But what Cilic has to do is go into the hard-court season and use all the lessons he has learnt, and all the experience he has now, to try to get slam number two.
=============================

That really is it for Wimbledon.




In Newport, Ivo Karlovic will defeat Adrian Mannarino in one semi-final. In the other it will be John Isner seeing off P-H Herbert. Dr. Ivo will defend his title.

In Bastad, in the top half Pablo Carreno Busta will defeat Karen Khachanov. In the other Andre Ramos-Vinolas will see off David Ferrer before losing in an all-Spanish final.

In Umag, Fabio Fognini beats David Goffin in the top semi. Gael Monfils will defeat Paolo Lorenzi in the bottom half but lose in the final.




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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wimbledon SF - The WTA Plays Its Joker

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The grand slam is sacred to us here at BACKSPIN. Todd and I get to pass comment on the other, if we so desire. Mine usually start with 'congratulations to Serena Williams' or 'Serena has been upset by blah blah.' But today it is different. Ever since the second round I have known Garbine Muguruza would win. I have watched all of her matches and I have known that her awesome smile would ring out around Centre. I knew she would get past Williams today. But I had not wanted to jinx it. And when she dismissed Sveta I wasn't sad. Because I had made myself ready. In fact, I was happy that the Russian had done so well. That is twice now Muguruza has eased past her on the way to a title.

Muguruza is...



She is the WTA player who's game I would like the most. Right now if I had to have any WTA player play for my life it would be her. Even before the tournament I would have picked her. Forget Pliskova, Kvitova or even Azarenka. Serena, Sharapova and the Belarussian all have huge question marks over them now. The Spaniard is the complete player on tour. Today her forehand wasn't working for the first ten games. She managed to right it and then took control with it. She survived several break points early on, at 2-3. She and Venus had several chances to break. But at 15-40 two long points both went her way. Well, one of them was long. And when she held there and then broke Venus the match swung towards her.

The telling blow game when she broke in deuce in the next set. You could see her begin to rise. Venus didn't play awfully, she just slowly went away, overpowered totally in the last set. The Tennis Gods have decided that the Spanish girl is to be their joker, their top trump. Every now and then they play her and BANG! She'll just win that tournament. I think she could well never be world number one and yet always be the best player in the world. She already has a better Hall of Fame claim than Caroline Wozniacki.

And now we come onto the complaint. 121 weeks. That is the total of weeks, which is about two and a half years, we have had a world number one with no slams. Wozniacki has not even been to a semi-final at two of the slams. Jelena Jankovic is not much better. Dinara Safina was pretty tragic from start to finish and never felt like the world's best. She never even felt like a top five player for much of her tenure. Who could forget her infamous match against Venus in 2009 at Wimbledon? She got a game. She served a double fault match point down in the final of Roland Garros. Now we have Pliskova. She 'won' the top ranking by blowing a lead to a player coming back from multiple surgeries in the second round of our greatest tournament. She has been to one semi-final and one final. She has a dreadful record at Wimbledon. It is why women's tennis is, undeservedly, a joke.

The best players are never ranked number one. Two of the top five have won a slam. Four of the top ten have, but Venus and Kuznetsova haven't won one in years. On the men's side, every one of the top six has won a slam. Evonne Goolagong Cawley won seven slams and went to 18 finals. And she only got given two weeks at number one. It's so stupid. So I propose a new rule. You cannot be ranked number one until you have won a slam. Pliskova is going to win one eventually. But that rule should be in place. I would rather have in place a top player who has won but is not playing so well than one who has no clue how to win one.

Muguruza is the darling of the women's game with a backhand that is effective as any shot out there. Even her forehand isn't really a weakness. And you just know she will have a terrible summer in the U.S.. The WTA is better than this. It is better than the world number one meaning nothing. And hopefully the bigger players win a slam soon. Simona Halep right now is a total choke artist. She can't get out of her own way. This modern crop of players are incapable of winning the biggest titles and being consistent. Doing both at the same time is too hard.

Before we move on, a word on Venus Williams. She is a force of nature and she may yet win a slam. Nobody else this year has made two slam finals. She is a top ten player and her backhand still has real zip to it. Finally, Jelena Ostapenko is something else. She will always have a good summer.

We have our mixed final and it is a doozy. As expected, Martina Hingis is through to final with partner Jamie Murray, and she will be trying to win the title for the second time. She also won it in 2015 with Leander Paes. She did not drop a set in 2015. She has won every slam except the ladies singles in Roland Garros.


And, to be honest, it is totally her fault she doesn't have that. Well, I suppose the French crowd had a little to do with it.

Defending champions Henri Kontinen and Heather Watson won through in dramatic fashion. They defeated second seeds Soares/Vesnina 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-3. They could not convert on that match point in the second set breaker, but managed to edge it in the third. They broke twice, never lost serve, and hit 23 winners to six. It was an excellent performance. Vesnina has had disappointment in the singles and now in the mixed, but she woin the Wimbledon title in the ladies doubles (love & love!!), so she has that, at least.

Now let's dive into the singles and we'll see if we can get through some of the duller ones more quickly.

CENTRE COURT: CILIC D. QUERREY
It always felt as if Sam Querrey, with three consecutive five-setters under his belt, was going to be found wanting. Indeed, he ran out of puff in the end. The first set featured no break points. Against the run of play, Querrey took the first in a breaker. He had looked a little shakier at points, but both men were pretty solid. In the breaker, Cilic was interrupted at 6-6 by a spectator fainting in the crowd. He had lost it. It was the American's chance. He took the breaker 8-6. He had to capitalise on the opportunity. But he couldn't. He let Cilic find himself in the second set. Had he broken he might have won rather quickly. Instead the Croat found a way and then held on. He broke to 15 in the 7th game and rolled through the rest of the set. It was now 6-7[6], 6-4. At 1-1 in the third, Cilic broke but could not consolidate. They served out the rest of the set until there was another breaker. At 3-4, Querrey hit two bad errors, one on each wing, and that was all she wrote. In the fourth, he looked spent. Cilic was in the ascendancy. But there was another twist in the tale. From 2-4 Cilic won three games on the trot as he finally found his forehand. Querrey clung on at 4-5 but he could not do it at 5-6. With a roar, Cilic became the first player seeded 7th to make the finals at Wimbledon. Querrey has had the result of his career. If I were the American I would go to Rhode Island and ride this form to another title. He'll be tired, but it would be worth his while. As for Cilic, well, he will have to go all out against Roger Federer. Error count doesn't matter. Just go for it. Attack everything. Do not get into rallies. Serve and volley, mix up the points and serve in different places. And go to the backhand side of Federer.
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CENTRE COURT: FEDERER D. BERDYCH
For Tomas Berdych it must have felt like a walk to the gallows. He held on for as long as possible, played some lovely tennis and impressed the crowd. But even the Czech playing at a very high level could only push the GOAT so far. In the first set Roger broke early and then got a tad arrogant. It was a mistake. He was a little too casual and Berdman broke back a couple of games later. But in the breaker Federer just went into 17th gear and won it 7-4. Against anyone else in the world Berdie might well have taken a set. In the second he again gamely held on. The pressure on his serve throughout was immense, but he refused to back down. So focused was he on holding onto his own games he failed to take several good opportunities to break. It was 7-4 in the breaker again and suddenly it was an even longer road back. The last time Tomas came back from two sets down was in 2005. He wouldn't do it this time, either. Roger's constant pressure eventually told in the third and he closed it out 6-4 to claim victory. Fedex blasted 53 winners and won 36 per cent of return points on his way to a memorable victory. Berdych stays in the top 20 with this rather excellent result. He will be a top 16 seed next year, too, if not more. Federer will move on to the final. There he has to move Cilic around, he has to use low slices and make his opponent move. If he can return decently, too, he will win. He needs to block back a lot of the bigger serves.
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Now, a prediction. Your first time in a Wimbledon rarely goes well. Rafa Nadal lost the first set in a bagel. Monica Seles was humiliated. Andy Murray struggled with the pressure. It is not easy. Cilic will come out firing and take the first set 6-3. It will be 4-4 in the second where Federer slowly takes charge. The Swiss is going to figure out the Croat and win 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. Or thereabouts. Federer wants this and he has not dropped a set at Halle or Wimbledon. He has looked awesome and he will know exactly how to beat Cilic.

I leave you only with this:




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Friday, July 14, 2017

Wimbledon QF - Brace Yourself, There's a Storm Coming

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Welcome to the men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon 2017. We have a lot to talk about, as now there's a clear favourite for the men's title. If it isn’t Roger Federer then this BACKSPINNER is Mary from the song "Thunder Road."

We have come to the final days of Wimbledon. On Friday we had the men’s semi-finals. But first let us have a look back to Wednesday, talk about the men’s and mixed doubles. The seedings in mixed double are whacko. The defending champs don’t get seeded? The Australian Open champs were unseeded at the French.

By the time we got to the quarters we had only three seeds left. We usually get left with four quality pairs, but the seeding needs to be worked on. The semifinals included the top two seeds and the defending champions. But how is it that every slam the top eight seeds do so badly? At the last slam, the 7th seeds won. Last year Kontinen and Watson were also unseeded. They beat the 15th seeds in the final.
The mixed tournament at Wimbledon is the biggest in the world. There are 16 seeds, and six rounds of play. You would think that with the biggest seeds getting a bye the results would be better.

It is the same story in the men’s doubles, too. The seeds just don’t last. Wimbledon is the slam with the funkiest results. Every year we have about four surprise winners across the events. Yesterday we had the battle for the top ranking. It now belongs to Marcelo Melo. He saw off Kontinen/Peers with a lot of help from partner Lukasz Kubot. It was a seesaw match. They looked the better pair for the first four sets. But the top seeds fought hard and dragged it into a 5th. But the 4th seeds had survived two long five setters already.

Serving second did it for Henri Kontinen in the end. He and Peers lost 6-3, 6-7[4], 6-2, 4-6, 9-7. While the epic three and a half hour match was going on, with the crowd going wild, the other semi-final was taking place.

Over the course of more than four and a half hours, Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic triumphed over Frank Skugor and Nikola Mektic. They decided early on to beat the 9-7 mark set in the other match. They won 4-6, 7-5, 7-6[3], 3-6, 17-15. They won eight more points, but both teams broke thrice. There was a point in that last set where five consecutive games went by without a single point against serve. Eight of the last ten games before the final break did not see a point against service.

It was a classic match with the 16th seeds making their maiden slam final. And now we come onto the main items for today - the men’s singles quarters.

CENTRE COURT: QUERREY D. MURRAY
You could see how tired both men were by the end of this. Querrey had played his third five setter in a row. Murray had been carrying a long term injury. In the beginning, Sam was tight, he was nervous. He had a real chance this time. At 3-3 in the second set Murray broke and it looked as if the tide was going to flow in one direction from there. But Querrey swept the last three games of the set to tie it up. He only lost five more points from a set and a break down, to win the second. The third went without a break. Murray edged the breaker 7-4 and looked to have all the momentum. But his legs were gone and the American won the last two sets 6-1, 6-1. It was an incredible match, where Murray looked like he was going to win but choked away advantage after advantage. It is clear that Murray’s heath and form are two huge issues. The answer might be six months off. It worked for Agassi. It worked for Federer. It worked for Rafa. Hey, Rafas done it multiple times. Murray won just 40 per cent of his second serves, 15 per cent behind Querrey. He needs to work on that area, too. It was just a total mess. While the American went on to face Cilic, Murray faces a long, hard summer of trying to defend points.
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CENTRE COURT: FEDERER D. RAONIC
Last year Federer was broken, tired after his epic with Cilic, out of form and about to chuck in his whole season. It took Raonic five sets to do it then and even then he nearly didn’t. This year Federer has reigned supreme. He has been in charge all year, winning with reckless abandon. He wanted a measure of revenge and got it, winning 6-4, 6-2, 7-6[4]. Federer won 90 per cent of his first serve points, 20 more than Raonic. Out of 89 return points the Canuck won just 19. They both served 11 aces. This was a supreme serving day from the Swiss master. In the first set, Roger had break points on his opponent's second and third service games. He broke in the 5th game and never looked back. In the breaker he got out to 3-0, but a god-like passing shot changed the momentum. Federer won seven of the last eight points to take it. Querrey is going to win the aces race barring something extraordinary from Cilic. But Raonic will place third there. Federer has cracked 10,000 career aces at this tournament. He is close to second all-time, being just 100 or so behind Goran Ivanisevic. The Canadian played alright but, like in Australia, was unable to worry his opponent. Nadal outclassed him then and Fed’s done it here.
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COURT ONE: CILIC D. MULLER
On Friday, Cilic became the first player seeded 7th to make the final. It’s a bizarre stat. In this match it was a server’s duel. Both players broke three times, but it was the Croat who won 3-6, 7-6[6], 7-5, 5-7, 6-1. It took three and a half hours to advance to his fourth career semifinal. Considering he was 7-8 on the year going into Istanbul, this has been an extraordinary tournament for him. He served 33 aces to 17 and hit 74 winners to 54. He won 30 per cent of his return points, one more than his opponent. In the end the big difference was actually Nadal. The 15-13 match took it out of his opponent. The Croat has been gifted a lovely draw and he has taken advantage of it. His forehand is looking very good and he can definitely trouble Federer on Sunday. But how will he handle the occasion? He has played so much more tennis than the Swiss.
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COURT ONE: BERDYCH D. DJOKOVIC (ret.)
Novak’s health has gone. Maybe it was playing Mannarino the day before and then playing again the next day. Up a breaker and 2-0 Nole called it quits. He had a great match win against the Frenchman the day before, too. But his health, like Murray, is not what it was once upon a time. He has a fight on his hands to get back to world number one, too. Where does the Serb go from here?


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Monday, July 10, 2017

Wimbledon Day 7- Just Another Manic Monday, Oh I Wish It Were [Finals] Sunday

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Well. by now you have heard the news, the big news. Yes, Svetlana Kuznetsova has made her fourth Wimbledon quarterfinal. A decade after her last, she is back. And the fact that just making her seeding is a major shock is more proof of just the kind of player she is. She has dropped zero sets. She has dominated all before her. Should she beat Garbine Muguruza, against whom she is 1-3 and not the favourite, she is likely to make the final. This is, and I never thought I'd say it about Wimbledon, her best chance to win a third slam.

Oh, and Gilles Muller beat Rafa Nadal in five hours. There is so much to talk about, including the match of the year, so let's go through the dubs before we hit the singles. Today was undoubtedly the day of the year tennis-wise. So much happened, so many dreams were crushed and so many players had a career day. Angie Kerber lost the world number one ranking while Andy Murray held his. The men's doubles ranking is there for the taking, too.

Todd also got a great day's tennis. He will have to take a careful approach to discussing the demise of The Radwanska. Due to my rabid obsession with a certain Russian tennis player I might be forgiven, but Todd must be careful. We had to make our HQ and Academy monster-proof, but even so... she does know our address. The only force greater than that of The Radwanska may be the 1988 Graf. That is what old texts and lore indicate, but further tests need to be done.

The last seeds remaining in the men's doubles are the 1st, 4th, 10th and 16th. And those first three are all in the top half. Marcin Matkowski and Max Mirnyi have to be considered favourites in the bottom half now. They saw off Monroe/Sitak in four sets today. Kontinen/Peers edged Nys/Sancic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in two and a quarter hours. If Kubot/Melo go one round further than the top seeds then Melo becomes the new world number one. Seeded fourth, they could meet in the semi-finals. Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus continued their excellent form by beating Dodig/Granollers 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7[7], 6-3.

Now let's dive into the singles and we'll see if we can get through some of the duller ones more quickly...

CENTRE: MURRAY D. PAIRE
Andy Murray played some of his best tennis. He has not looked this good so far but, all of a sudden, he looks fantastic. Benoit Paire turned up, hit some great shots and played some lovely points. But his formidable attack was blunted out by the wall that is Andy Murray. Paire hit 50 winners, twice Murray's tally in the 7-6[1], 6-4, 6-4 loss. He broke the Scot's serve three times, but lost his own five times. He played the right game but he didn't serve well all day. He gave Muzza far too many looks at a second serve, far too many chances on what is his best weapon. Now, against all odds, Murray is in the quarters. With Sam Querrey his next opponent, followed by Gilles Muller or Marin Cilic he should be feeling fairly confident. If he doesn't choke he will make a fourth Wimbledon final. Paire will be ranked 37th next Monday. Well, approximately. He should use that as a springboard.
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CENTRE: FEDERER D. DIMITROV
Federer now leads the head-to-head 6-0. And, no, there wasn't a close match in there, this BACKSPINNER is afraid to say. Brisbane was tight, but apart from that Fedex has never been troubled by either Dimitrov or Gasquet. It took the Swiss just over an hour and a half to win 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Federer felt his way in the first set, before taking control of the match. With five breaks and 24 winners it was an easy performance from Federer. He breezed past a slightly off Dimitrov. It promised so much but delivered so little. Had Dimitrov won that match against Nadal in Melbourne he might not be having such issues now. That match has thrown off his whole season. He has not been the same since and that combined with this mental fear of Roger made for a dull match. There were a few sparkling rallies, but not enough to give life to the match. Roger has made his 50th quarterfinal at slam level. Chris Evert had 54 and Martina Navratilova 53. That's the kind of level he is at now. He has won 88 matches at Wimbledon in his career. That is another record. Two more wins will see him overtake John Newcombe for second place on the list for grass court wins at slam level. Newcombe has won 89 matches. Overall on grass, Federer is ten away from passing Jimmy Connors. His next opponent is 6th seed Raonic. Federer will be wanting a measure of revenge for last year. If injured Federer loses by an inch then healthy Federer should cruise. He will exploit the movement of Raonic and take the net away from his opponent.
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COURT ONE: MULLER D. NADAL
First just check this out:



That was the norm. This was a match where the 5th set lasted 132 minutes. The other four lasted two hours and 35 minutes. This was a match that we had earmarked as a doozie from the start. And when Rafa started it by bumping his head we thought there might be trouble. Sure enough the 34 year old took the first two sets 6-3, 6-4. Rafa couldn't find a purchase or his groove. But when he's down by two sets it's Rafa time. He broke early in the second and then took it 6-3. He broke the veteran for the second and last time in the next set. The Spaniard had 0-40, blew it and then won it in a breaker anyway. So there we were. All set up for the 5th set. There were no breaks for the first nine games. And nobody ever takes Rafa into 'overtime' except Djokovic and Federer. It looked as if it would stay that way when Muller got two match points with Rafa at 4-5, 15-40. But when he was denied both with big booming serves we entered into the insane territory. That's when winning by two gets so hard. It took him an age to get another match point - 55 minutes later to be exact. That was at 9-10. After 31 games in a row without a break, something which will shock you if you only ever watch women's tennis, it was still even. But, on his 5th match point, and 90 minutes after the first, the Luxembourgian triumphed. His reward is a clash with on-fire Marin Cilic. With zero sets dropped, Cilic is looking the most dangerous player left in the draw. His serve is booming and he has so much self belief. But if Muller's serve gets going anything could happen. Nadal misses out on the chance to take the top spot for now. Meanwhile, Muller's 30 aces give him 102 for the tournament, three ahead of Anderson and Querrey. Both are on 99. Raonic is fourth with 92 and Cilic 5th on 72. Expect a lot of aces and a breaker or two in Muller's next match.
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COURT ONE : RAONIC D. ZVEREV
Out on Court One we had another classic. In fact, there really wasn't a bad fourth rounder. Both Zverev and Raonic have looked good throughout the tournament. The German has looked like he might make his slam breakthrough here. But at the fatal moment he choked, he couldn't quite get over the line and that was it. In an ironic twist, the old 'new gen' saw off the new 'new gen'. It took everything that Raonic had, but he won 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. With five breaks to three, and 61 winners to 50, it was the tightest of margins in this match. At 5-5 in the fourth, it was deuce. It was the German's moment. But he blew it, losing his service from 40-15 up in his own service game. Yet again he has gotten within inches but been denied. The Canadian was lucky to escape with a win here. And now he gets to play Roger Federer. He just needs to hit out and try to find the backhand as much as possible. He needs to go for broke and watch tapes of last year's semi-final. For Zverev this was a good result. He needs a top eight seed to be truly effective in slams.
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COURT THREE: BERDYCH D. THIEM
Berdych edged through 6-3, 6-7[1], 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. The entire key to the match? Berdych won 29 percent of his return points. His opponent got 26 percent. In these situations, three per cent is the difference. In matches between two incredibly talented players it is little things. Berdych felt like the favourite coming in, with all the grass court experience and that big serve. He got 74 per cent of his first serves in. He served up a storm. Thiem only broke once. Once in three hours of play. The Austrian is set to rise a place to 7th, whilst Berdman is going to be falling down the rankings. To make the finals the Czech will have to likely get through Djokovic and Federer. The silver lining is Djokovic (who didn't get to start his match on Monday) now has to play on back-to-back days. Could he have one more deep run? This is his big chance.
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OUTER COURT SELECTION: QUERREY D. ANDERSON
The American won 5-7, 7-6[3], 6-3, 6-7[9], 6-3. 31 aces apiece. Two breaks to one. Anderson hit 66 winners to 58. Both men won just 25 per cent of receiving points. This was a big-hitting match full of quick games and physical points. It was only three hours long this match. It was quick because of just how big each of them can serve. Anderson had the early runnings but Querrey broke open the match in the second set breaker. But in the fourth the South African struck back. He saved four match points and forced it to a 5th. Anderson was serving at 2-3 in the 5th when a double fault gave Querrey 0-30. He ended up breaking to love. The American finally took it on match point number six. Querrey admirably matches his performance from last year. Now he has to go for everything against Murray. He can cause an upset. But will he?
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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Wimbledon Day 6- Hello Darkness, My Old Friend, I've Come to Talk with You Again

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Wimbledon seems to be the slam where the most famous upsets happen. Lori McNeil and George Bastl can tell you. So can the big names they conquered; Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras. Of course, you also have Luis Horna taking out Roger Federer at the French, the legend of Robin Soderling, Stefan Edberg's shock defeat in New York and Mark Philippoussis taking out Sampras in Australia. And you can look back at Iva Majoli, Mark Edmondson and Richard Krajicek and think about what they did.

But the most famous runs, like Goran Ivanisevic, like Jelena Dokic and like Marat Safin in 2008 all seem to feed off the one thing Wimbledon has that the others don't. It has, hidden somewhere, a large reserve of magic. And every now and then it fuels a run or a match or a memorable occurence. Other slams don't have that magic, don't have that fairy dust.

Melbourne's slam is rightfully called the happy slam. It is fun, it has night tennis and it specialises in giving old champions a second chance - see Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Justine Henin and Venus Williams. It is also the sunniest slam, though that may not count as a good thing. But it is excellent at being sunny. Roland Garros has this magnificent exoticness about it. It feels almost as if one were on a beach. It feels somewhat like being on holiday. And that slam is the one which loves to be different. Nowhere else would dislike its ten-time champion, or love Guga Kuerten the way it does. Nowhere else boos its home players with quite the same fervor. That is the slam that will forever be the one that made Hingis cry. The U.S. Open has so much passion, with the singing, the dancing, the music and the 3am finishes. It is the party slam. Utterly unorganized, it is always messy and always fantastic. The U.S. Open is like apple crisp. Chaotic, not good for your well being, but totally delicious.

What tends to happen at Wimbledon, from an upset point of view, is that big names, big seeds and other people of renown get trapped at 7pm on a smaller court, from No.2 downwards, and there, in the dying light of English dusk, they are trapped and slowly removed. Li Na went in such a way a few years ago. Who can forget Stan Wawrinka pushing Murray to the brink on Centre a few years ago?

The champions hear the sound of dusky silence, feel the blackness coming. They are told 'it'll be fine. You'll beat them easily. Playing on Court 18 is fine.” And slowly they realize they have been caught in a web. And they fight, in the growing gloom, for survival. One of two things will happen at 8:37 pm. The champion, in a tight spot, will pray for play to be called. Or the opponent, feeling their challenge fade, will cling on in desperate hope to push the match another half an hour.

The crowd, roaring for death, like in Roman times, are either very helpful or the total opposite. And they can choose on a whim. It is not helped by the fact that, by 7PM, they are all very drunk. Drunk on the occasion, drunk on the champers and reveling in the once-a-year atmosphere, the crowd becomes very French, as the politeness drains out of them.

Second seeds in this year's doubles tournament, Nicolas Mahut and P-H Herbert, found themselves the latest victims of The Dusk. With the Bryans, who are now 39, going out in straight sets earlier the signs were already ominous. Throw in British pairing of Marcus Willis and Jay Clarke - Cinderella and an 18 year old - and you could smell trouble. The defending champs seemed to be fine for the first half an hour, but soon began to toil. The Brits led going into the fourth set 3-6, 6-1, 7-6[3]. In the fourth set at 4-5, on the Mahut serve, the Brits led 0-40. But with the help of some big serves the Frenchies dug their way out of it and took the fourth set 7-5. That should have been the end of matters. But no. The Brits would not be denied. They sealed the final set 6-3 with an ace. And they won in five despite winning five fewer points. And so The Dusk claimed another big name.

Now they face Mate Pavic/Oliver Marach, the 16th seeds. With the Bryans gone, the semi-finals are there for the taking. But how much magic will Wimbledon alot Marcus Willis?

And now for Saturday's singles wrap-up...

CENTRE: DJOKOVIC D. GULBIS
It was a consumate performance from Novak Djokovic, a lesson in how to deal with a banana skin. The Latvian broke early, with a blistering backhand, and then served big throughout the first set, and looked like he make take it. Indeed, the commentators were talking about how good he was. But then he lost his serve at 4-3, lost his nerve, and disappeared. Nole took the first two sets 6-4, 6-1. Gulbis went walkabout after losing his serve and didn't re-emerge until the final set. He made that one tight and almost sneaked it, but Djokovic took the crowd out of the match. Once a crowd believes a match is dead it probably is. They just wanted to see Roger Federer. The Latvian was 38-37 on the winners count, so he was at least effective. But you cannot go off mentally when you're taking on a top five player on Centre Court. Any lapse and you're down a set. He went away for two hours. And in the breaker Novak just put his level up, knowing he couldn't let it go four. Andy Murray could learn things from the Serbs' approach.
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CENTRE: FEDERER D. M.ZVEREV
Federer can do this:


Sometimes you think to yourself, did he just invent that shot? He doesn't just hit all the shots, yes, he invents them, too. Fedex swept past Mischa Zverev 7-6[3], 6-4, 6-4. It took three breaks and a little shy of two hours to win through to another third round here at Wimbledon. The German is a fantastic volleyer and played some nice shots, but it had the feel of a match where Federer was happy to sit back and break a couple of times. In the breaker the Swiss star hit some awesome shots and adjusted his level when he knew he had to. The veteran has never taken a set off the third seed and he didn't look like it today. He should have been more aggressive, he should have stepped in and attacked Federer's second serve. He should have been more proactive. But when your opponent goes 61-7 on the winners ratio and serves at 60 per cent first serves in, it can be a little daunting. Zverev did his job, but Federer now has a very tough ask. Grigor Dimitrov just beat Dudi Sela 6-1, 6-1 retired. But before you get excited you should look at the head-to-head. It is 5-0 Federer and the Bulgarian has won just one set. But that was a year ago. Still, if Dimitrov does win it will be an extraordinary result.
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COURT ONE: RAONIC D. RAMOS-VINOLAS
It appears that the Canadian has taken over the role of 'Wawrinka'. Really good, wins a lot, but never gets noticed. He made the final last year. He has been top ten for years. His serve could break bricks and his forehand is a legitimate weapon on its own. His gameplan is so simple even I could operate it. He has dropped one set this tournament. And his 7-6[3], 6-4, 7-5 victory over the Spaniard on Friday was another impressive one. Plus he has now closed the gap in the aces race. His 21 aces saw him rise to third, with 68. That is joint with Anderson and Querrey, but two behind Isner and four behind Muller. The first set was a real grind, with the Canuck struggling to break down the wall. But as the match wore on, his forehand combined with the surface eventually did in Ramos-Vinolas. Raonic only won 2 out of 13 break points. In tennis, at the big levels, you have to take your break points. For only the third time he has made the fourth round here. But now he has to face Alex Zverev. There are so many good matches on Monday, but if you get a chance, tune into that. This BACKSPINNER predicts a five set Raonic victory, with two breakers in there somewhere.
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COURT ONE : THIEM D. DONALDSON
It was an unusual experience for Thiem on Friday, when he played a kid. Thiem was the elder statesman. Jared Donaldson is only 20. And that kid, who just made the third round of Wimbledon, will rise some ten places to 58 in the world. That is seven places higher than his career high. Even better is that with that ranking he will not only be allowed to enter most events, he may even be seeded in the smaller 250's. In Munich the lowest two seeds were ranked 52nd and 54th. In Istanbul the bottom seeds were 48th and 53rd. And if he makes a few quarterfinals he could crack the top 50. He doesn't turn 21 until the end of the season. It's a big achievement. Thiem dismissed him 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 but he fought so hard for two sets before fading away in the last. He showed mettle, weaponry and not a little mental fortitude. Next time he meets the Austrian he will do even better. America is building a fantastic generation of new talent. Thiem's next match is against Tomas Berdych. They have met just once; Berdych spanked him in the fourth round of the U.S. Open three years ago. The Czech will know if he can win again he may be able to break back into the top ten. Thiem needs to use low slice and also hit a couple of dropshots. If he can move the big man around he will be successful.
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COURT TWO: QUERREY D. TSONGA
Querrey has defeated Tsonga 6-2, 3-6, 7-6[5], 1-6, 7-5. This BACKSPINNER was at this match, all the way from the end of the first set. He saw four sets of brilliant, aggressive, grass-court tennis. The crowd, who were totally pro-Tsonga, bellowed and hollered to get their man over the line. And I joined in, happily, shouting at both men to do their best. Chanting in French, calling out go go Jo Jo and cheering when Querrey won a point. It was like the feeling you get after a third glass of wine but you know you'll feel great in the morning. It was a match played in the spirit of Wimbledon. Both men hitting some fantastic shots, and congratulating each other on points well played. Tsonga couldn't quite break Querreys game down. The American's gameplan, and enormous serve, were perfect. In the fourth set he basically chucked it in once he was a break down. He knew that light was fading. He knew if he wanted to get it done that night he had to get the fourth over with quickly. And at 5-6, after 11 games of brutal serving where both men had had break chances, the umpire finally called time. He was heartily and deservedly booed. And the next day it was over in two minutes. But during that magical evening, where The Dusk nearly took another soul, the packed court and high quality of tennis felt like a little slice of heaven, a little oasis. A live tennis match is like nothing else. It is incomparable, just seeing your favourite player two metres away. But the Frenchman is out and Querrey moves on to play Kevin Anderson. And what an opportunity that is.
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OUTER COURT SELECTION : MANNARINO D. MONFILS
Mannarino won 7-6[4], 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. Monfils blows it again. If you've sat through one of his five-setters you've sat through them all. This BACKSPINNER has no wish to go through it and analyse it - just ask Todd why the Frenchman is so frustrating. Still, it is a good result for Mannarino. But now he has Novak Djokovic. After coming back from two sets to one down twice in a row he must be exahausted. He lost to Nole in straights last year. Expect the same this time.
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