Monday, September 01, 2014

US Open: None Is the Number

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any other notes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

US Open: The NFL Really is Coming

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any other notes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

* = Yes even Sveta throws rackets.

Thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

US Open: Whatever Happened to Baby Ryan?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any other notes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

* = What’s she looking at?

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

US Open: Wherefore Art Thou, Rafa?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any other notes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

US Open 2014: The First Update

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Kuznetsova just served for the match, got broken, then double faulted match point down in a tie-breaker after playing an awful breaker. Todd and I have cursed her. We are like the witches of Eastwick.

The first day of a slam is a glorious day. It is filled with so many hopes and dreams, many of which turn out to be futile. It is a day of blood and glory, a day where one cannot win the title but one can certainly lose it. It is a day to be savored for there are only four like it in any given year.

I have changed the format. I know -- I’m playing God. This format means the transition betwixt the first and second week is much smoother. So I look at the big four matches and then choose from the Grandstand and outer court matches. It’s really pretty simple and this way I get to look at the big matches. There are no big storylines so far, but there will be soon, I am sure.

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

...I decided to use a table to illustrate Wawrinka’s slam performance this year. Impressive, isn’t it? And Wawrinka’s slam results are just as impressive as my factual and fabulous graph.

Anyway, Wawrinka needed to make the final to overtake both Djokovic and Nadal, though only winning it would really ensure he finishes the year atop my fabulous –- and factual -- table. He got off to a good start against Vesely, winning 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 in about two and quarter hours. The talented youngster has the shots [five aces, 21 winners] but not the experience of big matches and he was nervous. He hit 33 unforced errors and double-faulted 6 times. He saved eight break points but was still broken four times. He did manage to get four break points of his own and he took two of those. Vesely, with those tricky lefty shots, challenged Stan and forced him to bring his game. Stan did and came through against the future. Wawrinka was too good this time. Vesely played some good shots and he attacked the net, too, with 33 approaches. It was a good match from Vesely but, really, he was out of his depth all match. It is likely Bellucci will be out of his depth, but statistically it is likely these two will be the only lefties Wawrinka plays all tournament.
...And speaking of being out of one’s depth, that will lead me onto the next match quite nicely. Djokovic comes in looking to win the Wimbledon-US Open double again. Rafa has done it once. Roger has done it four times from 2004-07. Sampras has done it. Laver has done it, as well. Only once has Novak even won consecutive slams within a year. Since 2011, Djokovic has not even won two slams within a year. He is trying to have his best year since 2011 and he is close to that. The 27-year old is looking to finally start converting some of these slam finals into slam victories. He has been the premier hard court player for about half a decade now and he has a chance to add a sixth hard court slam to his resume. He opened against the Argentine number five and the world’s 79th best player. On paper it should have been a comfortable victory for the Djoker. And it was. It was an hour and a half of comfortable. Djokovic ripped winners from everywhere. The gulf in class was evident from the get go in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 romp. Schwartzman spent so long on the defensive he managed just 10 winners. He actually did manage to break Djokovic twice somehow. Djokovic broke seven times, however, and hit seven aces on his way to a very straightforward victory. Djokovic did hit 2 errors and needs to work on holding his serve. There is work to be done but not much. This is a much improved Djokovic and the rest of the field needs to be wary, especially his next opponent, Mathieu.
...It is always nice to have a match you can control in the first round of your slam campaign. It gives one a chance to find rhythm and to find one’s range. So many upsets occur in the early rounds and it is good to avoid them. Raonic won the US Open Series and comes into this as one of the dark horses for the title, like Venus and Dimitrov. Raonic has a big serve and a big forehand and with those weapons he can win any title. Raonic played the Japanese number three Daniel. His match was over quicker than the Djoker’s. It lasted just under two hours but it looked a little closer. Raonic hit 20 aces in a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 victory. He even won that breaker by 7 points to 1. Daniel is good at tracking down balls, but he had nothing with which to hurt Raonic. The Canadian also hit 58 winners in total in his victory and broke four times. He did get broken himself once. So it wasn’t perfect but, really, it was close enough. Next up is Gojowczyk, and I think that is going to go four. But, then again, I thought Sveta would do well here. I clearly know nothing.
...Tim Henman used to put the British public through all sorts. He used to go five sets for no reason. He liked to test the loyalty of fans. He liked to win difficult matches. Perhaps when one wins difficult matches it feels so much better than winning in a straightforward manner. Andy Murray has continued on this fine tradition, though he does actually win a fair amount. I mean you don’t get to number two without being good at winning. But Murray still does have a habit of putting his fans. Coming back from the dead against Verdasco last year is a good example. Murray prides himself on his fitness. It is one of his calling cards. So when he has issues with it all is not right in Whoville. Murray suffered from cramps and he did not look like a top ten player throughout his match. He looked off the pace. He looked, actually, almost like a beaten man. He has fight though and plenty of spirit. And he had to call on it in a three hour match. He won through in the end 6-3, 7-6, 1-6, 7-5. He trailed 4-2 in that last set, as well, against the dangerous and inspired Dutchman. Haase hit 16 aces to Murray’s 8 and he also hit 62 winners to Murray’s 47. Even the errors were not heavily in Murray’s favor. Haase hit 52 but Murray hit 51 unforced errors. That is not a sustainable rate of error. Qualifier Matthias Bachinger is Murray’s next opponent. He eased past Stepanek. He has weapons, he has form and he has belief. If he took a set I would not be surprised. Murray’s goal has to be just to scrape through to the quarterfinals.
Grandstand Selection: TSONGA D. MONACO
...Monaco’s woes continued whilst Tsonga found form, flair and firepower. It was a mighty big statement from the Frenchman. He got handed a nasty first round match but decided to simply win anyway. I thought the way Tsonga responded would tell us how his Open was going to go. And it has. On the evidence we have been given it looks as if Tsonga will sweep through this section and then take a set or two off Djokovic. Of course it is never that simple , unless of course your name is Serena. Tsonga came through in two hours and thirty five minutes. He hit twenty aces and 48 winners in total, but did hit 49 errors. He and the Argentine number three exchanged sets before they engaged in a length third set. Tsonga took his single break opportunity but Monaco had six and blew five. In a set where he hit just four winners, Monaco managed to still push it all the way. But then he crumbled to a 7-2 loss in the breaker. Once Tsonga had the breaker, the fourth set was almost a foregone conclusion. Tsonga sealed a 6-3, 5-6, 7-6, 6-1 victory with ever growing confidence and ever bolder shots. It is the positive way to win. Nedovyesov is up next for the fantastic flying Frenchman. And it should be straightforward. It should be.
...I bring you a gem from court seven. Ferver booked his place in the second round but he was pushed all the way. He won 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 in just about 200 minutes. It was a very tough performance from the fading Spaniard. Rola won more games but he only won 151 points. Verdasco won 152. It was a tight match full of long rallies. Unfortunately, Verdasco was playing against himself and the opposition. This is a fairly regular occurrence. Verdasco often has to battle with himself as well as the opposition. He once lost to Nadal 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in Cincy I believe, but it may have been in Canada. He simply did not believe he could win despite the many, many, many match points he had. If you don’t remember the match, this sums it up:

Verdasco has landed Kuznetsov [the Russian one] in the next round. That should be fairly straightforward. Kuznetsov really has no way to hurt the Spaniard.

Any other notes?

* - Sharapova says that perhaps players should pay for their timeouts. That is going to come back to bite her. But when it does she can pay the trainer $2500 to look at it. I could do with $2500.

* - I actually like Djokovic’s outfit.

* - In the battle of the old ones, Venus beat Date Krumm. They have a combined age of something close to 80. On the same day, Cibulkova lost to a fifteen year old.

* - I have a feeling I shouldn’t, but I loved the dress Venus wore. Is there a male version?

* - I had forgotten how hot it can get in NY. It’s not at Melbourne levels, but it is one of the hotter slams. Or it can be.

* - We’ve had a bit more than a day as I finish this and the US Open hasn’t messed up any schedules. It hasn’t made us shake our heads yet. It’s a positive start.

* - In honor of one of my favorite players and of the fact it’s been ten years since she won her maiden slam I am going to be putting up some Kuznetsova moments as we go down the days. Here’s one of my favorites:

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

U.S. Open Preview

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

I guess this is It. The last big event of the year, barring the odd Masters tournament and the year-ending championships. As I begin writing, on the 22nd of August, it is precisely 150 days till the Australian Open starts. The US Open is wide open this year. Who are the favorites? An old man and a distracted man off top form and looking lost. And on the ladies side, we have one huge favorite. The one who has won an event just before each and every slam, the lady who I have picked to win the Australian, the French and Wimbledon -- Serena Williams. The lady who gives her opponents a look, a look that says, "I’m going to break more than just your serve."

So you see, picking the winner is going to be more difficult than picking the Super Bowl winner [49ers def. Patriots, if you ask me] and to add to that I am awful at picking the right result. So, I shall look into my crystal ball and I shall choose the winner. I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and blame the Backspin Curse for these picks going wrong when they inevitably do. Why Todd? Why did you have to say Serena would win all four? Why did I agree?

Here are some pairs who will do well at the Open this year:

Women's Doubles
Hsieh Su-wei / Peng Shuai
Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci
Cara Black / Sania Mirza
Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears

Men’s Doubles
Bob Bryan / Mike Bryan
Alexander Peya / Bruno Soares
Daniel Nestor / Nenad Zimonjic
Julien Benneteau / Edouard Roger-Vasselin
Vasek Pospisil/ Jack Sock

1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB ...Djokovic got handed a dreadful draw. Every single player in his section has been seeded at an event this year bar, perhaps, two. Djokovic gets a simple start to his campaign as he starts against Diego Schwartzman. That will not last an hour. Next up is Muller or Mathieu and both have a decent slam record when they were at their peak. Djokovic should not be overly troubled by either of those players, but Querrey or Garcia-Lopez will likely be waiting in the third round. After that first test, Kohl or Isner, should be waiting in the fourth round. I think Novak will drop a set down the line. Then he plays Murray. Murray and Federer were both fortunate Nadal withdrew. Murray is seeded eighth but playing as if he’s ranked eighteen. I’m going to talk as if Murray does make the quarterfinal. Not bad, just not great. I think Djokovic will be pushed to five by Murray. I do not think Murray as he currently is can beat Djokovic over five sets. Djokovic is just too strong for this quarter.
2. ANDY MURRAY GBR ...I do not think Tsonga has the consistency to win over five sets against Murray unless Murray plays very badly, though that is a serious possibility. Murray therefore is the second best player in these rankings. Murray opens with Haase and will then almost certainly play Stepanek who has beaten him this year, but on grass. If he survives those two tests, he lands Verdasco in the third round. If Ferver gets there that will be very tricky for Murray. Ferver has a nasty ‘inside out’ serve on the deuce court that kicks into Murray’s forehand. Tsonga also has a fairly nasty three matches but he will be good enough to make the fourth round. And the winner gets Djokovic. This quarter is like The Hunger Games.
3. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA FRA ...Tsonga is here to take over if [and when] the big seeds crash and burn. Expect him to negotiate Monaco, Busta and Benneteau without too much difficulty. I think that on clay this would be a horror draw for Tsonga, but he should be able to win on hard courts over five sets. The match between him and Murray has ‘classic’ written all over it if both bring their "A"-game.
DARK HORSE: JOHN ISNER, USA ...Let’s be honest. If you come equipped with that serve, then you’ll always be a threat. Isner has Giron then possibly Kukushkin to open with. Kohl could beat him in the third round -- he has done so before, but I think Isner is really pumped and ready for this. Isner will push Djokovic to at least four in the fourth round, possibly more. Isner could easily just serve his way to the semifinals. This is his best slam.
WILD HORSE: PAIRE, FRA ...Paire opens with Bennyman in not too hard a match for him to win. Next he lands Beck and that, too, is an easily winnable match. Then he plays Tsonga. I could see Paire getting to the fourth round or even further. But then again, with the year he has had, I’m thinking embarrassing first round exit. *Sorry, I mean another embarrassing first round exit.
DONKEY: QUERREY USA ...Sam is having an OK year but nothing stellar. He has Lu in the first round and that has upset potential. It is a pity he landed in such a loaded section of the draw, as he probably had a chance to go deep if he’d landed in an easier section.
UNLUCKY HORSE: DJOKOVIC SRB ...Have you seen Djokovic’s draw? That is a nasty draw.
=In the End...=
Djokovic and Murray go five long sets. Either one could win. Djokovic has been number one and Murray hasn’t, and that means Djokovic is better at winning these kinds of matches so I’ll pick Djokovic.


1. STANISLAS WAWRINKA SUI ...Wawrinka does not have the easiest draw, but he has a manageable draw. I said his draw at the French Open [I was in America for the beginning of Wimbledon so the French was my last preview] was fairly easy once he got past his opening round, but this time I think he should be fine. He should beat Vesely, despite some of the youngster’s fantastic shots, and then he’ll come through another test against Mahut or Bellucci. I like Donald Young to be his opponent in the third round. Wawrinka will come through in three tight sets. A fellow one-handed backhand user awaits him in the fourth round: Youzhny or Robredo. Robredo has the form but this tournament is one Youzhny has a very good history in. Kyrgios may also blast his way to the fourth. I see Vavsy being challenged but coming through without being tested too hard. Then he gets to face the young player of the year Raonic.
2. MILOS RAONIC CAN ...This man won the US Open series. Don’t ask me why that was. Everyone knows Federer was the player of the summer. It’s like how Jankovic, Safina and the like used to be world number ones but everyone knew where the power really lay. Raonic has simply got too much power for his section. It’s weird to think Raonic owns a section now. On paper his draw looks simple. He should beat qualifier Daniel easily in his opener. Gojowczyk waits in the next round, I think. He challenged Nadal earlier this year [took a set] and has beaten Tsonga in the Davis Cup. He has been in the top hundred this year, too. He has weapons. Raonic should still be too much. Almost certainly Rosol will be the seed he faces first. Rosol has been to three finals and won one this year. Raonic has won in his only final (in Washington D.C.). Expect him to be tested but come through in four. Nishikori doesn’t have it physically in him to last to the fourth round, so he’ll face a surprise there. And then he must face Wawrinka in the quarters. What a match that will be.
3. TOMMY ROBREDO ESP ...Robredo actually got a good draw. He has made the quarters at every slam except Wimbledon with last year’s result. He will be happy with making the fourth round and challenging Wawrinka in that round. Roger-Vasselin, Pospisil, Youzhny is not the easiest path but Robredo should have enough form to come through it. Perhaps he can gain revenge for his loss to Vavsy at the last hard court slam?
DARK HORSE: MIKHAIL YOUZHNY RUS ...Kyrgios is a dark horse in this section, but Youzhny is a dark horse for the semifinals. Yes I am crazy. But let’s say Youzhny catches fire and the draw falls for him a little. Let’s say he beats Wawrinka in the fourth and then Raonic in the quarterfinals? The potential is there for a big run.
WILD HORSE: LUKAS ROSOL CZE ...He just won a title and he could easily break some brackets. He is at a career high ranking and has been winning lately. He should dismiss Coric and then Sijsling before having a serious go at Raonic. The key word there was should. His slam record this year is abysmal. I still think he will be able to put together a decent run.
DONKEY: KEI NISHIKORI JPN ...Form is bad. Game is good. Physically speaking, however, does Kei have enough in him to actually get through three best of five set matches? I do not think so. I think Sock will be too fit for Kei. Nishikori is seeded ten but if he wins three I will be so impressed.
UNLUCKY HORSE: JEREMY CHARDY FRA ...Chardy has had a pretty good year. I first watched him in a match when he played Djokovic at the 2009 or 2008 Aussie Open. He was a young, powerful guy who took it to Djokovic. Now he is heading towards "veteranship" but is still a solid top thirty fixture. Chardy opens with Falla and then Kavcic or Young. That is a nasty draw for Chardy. If he wins those, he gets Wawrinka.
=In the End...=
I place my faith in Wawrinka. I know that is a risky business but over five sets he should be to good. Also Sock is here and I think he will take advantage of a physically weaker Nishikori, who is out of form and injury plagued, too.


1. DAVID FERRER ESP ...Ferru gets the top spot here by default. Sheer consistency and tenaciousness may just be enough to get him through this section, this quarter. Džumhur and Tomic [or Brown] will be his first two matches. His sheer physicality and consistency will be too much for these players. Next up is possibly Simon. Simon does what Ferrer does but in a more boring and less effective way. Ferrer will have few issues until the fourth round. Cilic has a tricky draw but he should make it. If Cilic played Ferru on the grass we know who would win. But this is hard and Cilic’s serve is not big enough to break through Ferrer’s return game. Ferrer has a good slam draw. He is in a section and a quarter with players he can handle.
2. MARIN CILIC CRO ...Baghdatis is still hanging around, eight years and eighteen pounds removed from his prime, but Cilic should be too good for him these days. Next is a qualifier of some talent but still a negotiable match before the big one. Eighteenth seed Anderson plays Janowicz in a servers match with the winner being Anderson, I think. Anderson versus Cilic will again be a server’s match and one I think Cilic will win. If Cilic can somehow overcome Ferrer then the semifinals are likely to be his. I think that Ferrer has one last shot at a slam. And I think it is here with no Rafa, a lesser Djokovic and an old Federer. He may never get a chance like this again and nobody is going to stop him except one of the big guys. Cilic is big only in stature.
3. TOMAS BERDYCH CZE ...I just don’t know. Berdych is like one of my local bus routes -- when it’s good, it’s very good. When it is bad it is shockingly bad. I remember waiting for it for 45 minutes in the pouring rain once. The point of this bad analogy [I have so many bad analogies] is that for Berdych it is either very good or quite appalling. Every year since 2004 [except 2006] Berdych has lost in the first round of at least one of the slams. It has not happened yet this year. Hewitt is his opening match. I think he loses in the first round but that is not my official prediction, because I am not as brave as Todd is. But I feel the upset.
DARK HORSE: KEVIN ANDERSON RSA ...Three fourth rounds at the slams this year are complimented by a pair of Masters level quarterfinals [one in Canada recently] and two final appearances. Most of his achievements have come on the hard courts, too. Anderson has to beat Cuevas and then probably Janowicz. I think he can do it. I also think he has more than just a chance against Cilic. Anderson can’t beat Ferrer but he should make at least the third round, maybe more.
WILD HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS LAT ...I hate having to predict him in slams. So I’ll just imitate a horoscope. You know those horoscopes you get in free newspapers -- the ones where being free makes you feel like you’ve been ripped off. I sense something dramatic in your future. I see smashed rackets... big backhands... confused opponents... and ultimately disappointment.
DONKEY: GILLES SIMON FRA ...Simon has really fallen off the face of the planet with injuries and a serious lack of form. He will soon crash out of the US Open, probably in the first two rounds. Simon may even lose to unknown qualifier Albot of Romania. Simon’s career is just like the meadows he is playing on. It’s going flush. [Hey- Todd’s writing is better than mine. I never pretended any different.]
UNLUCKY HORSE: TOMAS BERDYCH CZE ...Four former champs reside in this draw. Three are seeded. Drawing the other was a one-in-96 chance. And it happened to Berdych. If this was a movie, Hewitt would triumph from two set to love down and go on to win the tournament. Berdych got a very nasty draw and I don’t know if he can survive what the Aussie brings. If he survives that then he gets Klizan and then Giraldo. Nasty, nasty draw. I don’t envy him.
=In the End...=
Usually Ferrer’s section is the most open with the most upset potential. Not this time, however, not this time. Ferrer is going to be tested, yes, but he will come through strongly in the end. Really, there is no one here capable of winning over five sets.


1. ROGER FEDERER SUI ...Please. Federer has not been handed an easy draw. The standard of the ATP is now so high that it is difficult to get an easy draw. But this is close. Matosevic and then Groth are his opening two matches. If the Aussies played together against Federer they might not win even then. Federer will then play Karlovic or Nieminen or Melzer or Granollers. Any of these players could make it. None will take a set. If Fognini makes it to the fourth then he will be Federer’s next opponent. If not Fognini then Bautista-Agut looks the most likely candidate. After those four matches, Fedex gets to play Dimitrov or possibly Gasquet. Federer is 12-2 against Gasquet and this is a weaker version of Gasquet. He beat Dimitrov fairly handily on hard courts in Basel last year, but that is Basel. Federer can roll through playing at 85 per cent until the QF against Dimitrov and save some energy, but he won’t do that.
2. GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL ...It must be so nice to own your very own section at a slam. Okay so Federer and Djokovic own a half [more in Djokovic’s case] but it is a good feeling to know you are the biggest fish in a pond. It comes with pressure but...

Anyway, Dimitrov has a nice test in his opener. He gets Harrison, who he beat earlier this year in a slam. Next he will have Berlocq or Sela and both of those are better on a different surface. I think Goffin will be his third round opponent. Goffin has done a lot of winning lately. He won in Kitzbuhel and he made the quarterfinals the past week. Dimitrov will win that in four entertaining sets. Gasquet and another entertaining four set win will be waiting for him in the fourth round. Both he and Federer have tiger papers on their routes through but, really, they will make their projected match-up with ease.
3. RICHARD GASQUET FRA ...This section is remarkably soft and that is the justification for Gasquet’s placement. He has the talent and the ability to do anything. Right now he is lacking in the fitness and form department. I think he is good enough to get round Monfils and his other opponents and make the fourth round.
DARK HORSE: ROBERTO BAUTISTA-AGUT ESP ...Fognini is too, well, Fognini. He can implode with more pizazz than Mardi Gras. Fognini’s head is a dark strange place and few understand it. Least of all himself. I think Agut will go through on account of the fact he is sensible. Yes, sensible. He is in the right place and he will go right through to the fourth round before being terminated by Federer.
WILD HORSE: MONFILS FRA/FOGNINI ITA ...Do you remember their match at the French Open? Yes you do, I know you do. Monfils won 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, and 6-2. Oh, and this happened:

I just don’t know. I shall continue my fine tradition of just not predicting how either of these two will do. When it’s good your world changes and suddenly you want to go and try that shot they just pulled off. When it is bad, however, you have to keep watching because it’s like a car crash. It’s impossible to look away. Everything they do seems to go wrong and they look ridiculous. Entertainment is guaranteed, but if you watch mental stress will almost definitely occur.
DONKEY: JOAO SOUSA POR ...Sousa is the lowest seed in the pack. He just got an unlucky draw. He got Goffin in the second round. I’m also not sure if he can even beat Dancevic. He is out of form and ranked as the lowest seed for a reason.
UNLUCKY HORSE: IVO KARLOVIC CRO ...So he recovers from a stroke, wins several titles and has a very strong year. He is seeded 25th and he hasn’t been that highly seeded for some time. He draws Nieminen in the first round and then Melzer or Granollers in the second. If he comes through those two difficult matches he gets to play Federer. That isn’t fun. That’s brutal.
=In the End...=
Federer reigns supreme and remains on cruise control throughout. I do not see another alternative here. Dimitrov is not ready to beat Federer in five sets.

QF: FEDERER D. DIMITROV [at night on Ashe]



...Yep, Todd and I are in accordance here. In fact our picks are kind of similar. I think the stars have aligned and Federer is going to do a "Sampras." If he wins here Nadal won’t be able to catch his majors total. Wawrinka will make it back-to-back semifinals, too, proving he is not a two slam wonder as it were.

#1 Serena d. #24 Stosur
#11Ivanovic d. #11 Pennetta
#20 Kuznetsova d. #3 Kvitova
#17 Makarova d. #7 Bouchard
#9 Jankovic d. #6 Kerber
#4 Radwanska d. #14 Safarova
#5 Sharapova d. #10 Wozniacki
#2 Halep d. #19 Venus #19 Venus d. #2 Halep (I changed my mind. I’ve been deliberating. I think on balance I’ll take Venus Williams here. Halep has suffered from some injury problems and lack of form. Venus looks red hot.)

#1 Serena d. #11 Ivanovic
#20 Kuznetsova d. #17 Makarova
#4 Radwanska d. #9 Jankovic
#5 Sharapova d. #19 Venus

#1 Serena d. #20 Kuznetsova
#5 Sharapova d. #4 Radwanska

#1 Serena d. #5 Sharapova

...Yep. Williams will win this but she will drop a set. Kuznetsova has an injured Vika and Kvitova in New York near here. A soft section for Makarova, and I don’t think Bouchard looks strong enough to take advantage of a fairly soft draw. Radwanska and Sharapova should get through a slightly less stacked lower section, but watch out for Venus here. And Serena will drop less than five games should she meet ‘Pova in the final.

Todd and I are clearly out of our minds. But at least we haven’t cursed her. Well, I haven’t. (Hey this isn’t my blog. Todd was nice enough to let me write for him. I’m already making excuses.)

Enjoy the slam everyone!

Another quick point: the more time Nadal spends away from the tour due to injury, the more I’m going to consider leaving him out of the Players of the Year list or put him lower down. Yes, that is far away, but I have to start thinking about it now.

Anyway, thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wk.33- Federer 5 Times a 6-time Winner

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Nadal has withdrawn with another injury. The wrist this time. Fedalovic have all qualified for London in November. Federer has done it for the thirteenth consecutive time. It looks as if Federer is going to finish the year ranked number two. If he wins the Open, he will rise to number two.

I think we should again go through some statistics. These statistics are all-time statistics.

Federer also becomes the only player to win five tournaments at least six times. Nadal is the only player to have won four tournaments at least seven times, but his were all on clay. Federer has won Halle and Wimbledon seven times apiece, Dubai and Cincy twice, and the World Tour Finals six times. There is something to think about -- he has won what is possibly the hardest tournament to win six times. Yes, Nadal is dominant on clay, but the Fed isn’t discriminatory about where he dominates. Federer’s 54 titles on hard courts and 14 on grass courts will likely never be surpassed.

In addition to this, only Connors [1253] and Lendl [1071] have won more matches than the Fed. Federer will be the last player on the men’s side to get to 1000 wins. It just does not look like it can happen again. Played 1000? Yes. Win 1000? I don’t think so.

The statistics speak for themselves.

I think the Spanish movement is still strong. I thought it was going to diminish. I thought it would weaken. It has not. In fact, it has done the opposite. Ferrer, Robredo, and the other experienced vets have held on. They have ushered in the new generation of Bautista-Agut and friends. The new generation may be a little thinner, but it is there. It has talent. Spain is a power that is here to stay.

But enough of my talking, lots of other stuff happened this week...

S: Roger Federer d. David Ferrer 6-3/1-6/6-2
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Pospisil/Sock

...In fifteen years time what will the world be like? Will the Democrats be in power? Will the British Labor Party? Will Dimitrov have five Wimbledon titles and a slew of Masters crowns, too? Will Tomic ever grow up? Will plane journeys be quicker? Will there be a strong Cleveland sports team? Will Peyton Manning be retired? I don’t know the answers to any of these. I do know one thing -- Federer will be talked about. Forever. They will name a stadium after him in Basel. Federer is the greatest player ever. Of that there can be no doubt now. Not with another Rafa injury following the kind of year the Spaniard has had. Federer has managed to almost outlast the span of Djokovic and Nadal’s careers and come out the other side. Federer will never again be rivaled. Not in the stats department and not in the way he played and what he did. To be honest, I could talk about Federer all the time. It really is incessant. I am obsessed. I shall therefore give you all a break from that talk and just talk about what everyone else did. We can touch upon Federer again later.
...Guess who is no longer in a slump. Ferrer will be seeded fourth for the upcoming event. And I think that is the correct seeding. Wawrinka is a semifinalist from last year and a grand slam winner this year. Ferrer, however, has not had a good 2014. He has a shot at what could be a final hurrah here, though. He has a shot here to win a major. A three-time semifinalist and someone who can play on the US Open courts is someone who is dangerous. There is no Nadal. There is a shaky Djokovic and a wobbly Federer. Murray and Berdych are a mystery. There are few who can stop Ferrer, but the draw does need to fall for him a little. Ferrer proved this week that he still has it. Just what ‘it’ is remains to be seen, but I think the Spaniard has ‘it’ back. He very nearly lost in the very first round. He struggled past Kohl 6-7, 7-6, 7-6. He was then pushed by Youzhny and it looked like he might be in trouble again. Nope. He rolled past Youzhny 7-5, 6-0 to make the quarters, his fifth Masters QF of the year. He was looking to add the Cincy final to his list. When he did get to that final, he added one more line on his big page of achievements. He has not reached the final of Indian Wells, Madrid or Canada. At the rest he has had some form of success. He then edged Robredo 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 though a well placed net cord definitely helped. Ferru handily swiped aside Bennyman 6-3, 6-2 to make the final. In the final, Federer dictated in the first set. He took it 6-3. He looked in control. And then he decided to serve-volley. A lot. Ferrer rebounded well and took the set 6-1. Federer regained control and outclassed Ferrer in the third to win 6-3, 1-6, 6-2. Ferrer, however, looks almost guaranteed to make the semifinals in New York, so all is well.
...The French. They are unpredictable. Politically speaking, financially speaking, language speaking and most other speaking that one can think of, the French are surprising and unpredictable. They do things we cannot comprehend. They do things which we would never think of, boring people that we are. They play tennis in this manner, too. It does not seem to them that winning is important. Playing nice shots is more important. If Paire, for example, had been coached by, say, Brad Gilbert or some such just think how good he would be. But no, he is French through and through. And he will reap the rewards for that, though he must also bear the punishment. It was the turn of Benny to be surprising this week. Benneteau should not have had a good week. He struggled past Rola. He really had to dig deep. He beat him 6-7, 6-3, 7-6. He won that breaker 9-7. He had lost the earlier breaker by the same score. Benny then dismissed Ward [6-2, 6-2] and Janowicz [7-5, 6-1] to make the quarterfinals of a Masters for just the third time in his career. Wawrinka dominated Benny in the quarterfinals. He won the opening set 6-1 and had too much of everything for the Frenchman to handle. So Benny decided to cut out the errors and be consistent. It worked. Suspiciously well. Benny rolled through the last two sets 6-1, 6-2 to make his maiden Masters event semifinal. And we don’t need to talk about the final. The semi was an achievement in itself.
...I can remember Buchanan losing to Tomic in the boy’s final of the US Open in 2009. Well, now he has qualified. He made his first Masters event. He managed to do it in spectacular fashion, as well. He dismissed Llodra 6-1, 6-3 and then edged Smyczek 6-4, 7-6 to make his Masters debut. He won the first set in the first round against Sousa but it was not to be. He lost 5-7, 7-6, 7-6. It was a promising start for the inexperienced youngster.
...The man named after a rock opera has been at the top of the game for a while. Robredo is a master at the comeback. He has come back from injury numerous times. He is also the only man to have won four matches in a row where he has been two sets to none down. And we aren’t talking journeymen; we’re talking seriously good players like Almagro and Monfils. Robredo has been around since 2005. He has been dirtballing for donkeys’ years and he just keeps on grinding. He just keeps at it. He knows his trade and he goes about plying it. Every now and then, usually on clay, he will put together a great week. This is why he will be the sixteenth seed at the US Open. With Delpo and Rafa out, the 32-year old is seeded to make the fourth round. If he does then he will not lose a lot of the points that he had gained from his quarterfinal effort last year. I think that if he has a fortunate draw, he could even make the semifinals. If, for example, he draws Berdych or Murray at the US Open, and then Ferrer or Wawrinka he could make a real go of it. I think he has dark horse potential. It’s always the wily vets and the big-firing young guns that are the ones to watch out for.
...Two weeks in a row Djokovic has lost, and lost to opponents he should not be losing to. The loss to Tsonga we can forgive. Tsonga can blow you of the court. Robredo cannot do that. Djokovic should have broken down the Spanish serve and then slowly taken over. He should’ve attacked that forehand wing, the wing that is merely solid. But Djokovic did not appear able to execute his game plan. Djokovic could only look on as Robredo took the first set in a breaker and then closed out the second 7-5. Djokovic will not win the US Open. I don’t even know if Federer will win it, though he looks the most likely. I think Djokovic has not looked himself over the past couple weeks and it will be a big ask for him to do well on the big stage.
....Djokovic has looked shaky over the course of this swing. Cincy has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for him. He looked out of sorts and he had looked out of sort the week before losing in straights to a good player having an on day. Robredo played that consistent, metronome style that can disrupt so many players’ rhythm and games. In the end it did for Djokovic, but the Serb’s number one ranking is not under threat, luckily for him.


....Master classes have been given before by this man and, indeed, Nadal has given him a master class. But Federer showed Murray, and then Raonic, just how far out of their league he is. We’re talking Bruce Hornsby and the Range here. We’re talking AFC South here. We’re talking Tina Turner doing karaoke in my living room. We’re talking a serious lesson. Federer showed that while Murray may have occasional periods of brilliance, Federer has consistent longevity and is not one to go away. Federer used the forehand to blow Murray away, and the return of serve for Raonic. Nobody can defuse big servers like Federer.
2. CIN 3rd Rd. - MURRAY d. ISNER
Isner has a big serve. Isner also has, uhh, a forehand and sometimes he can put two hands on his backhand. Despite mainly just being a big serve, Isner wins a lot of matches. He also pushes most of the top guys. He did Murray. He even had match points. But Murray had consistency and came through. The former number two is starting to fade, but still has fight in him.
3. CIN 1st Rd. – YOUZHNY d. TSONGA
Absolutely baffling. Tsonga was on frightening form, literally making craters in Canada with that serve. He played Youzhny in the first round. Youzhny should have been a nice test that Tsonga would eventually pass. The scheduling caught up with the dynamic Frenchman, though, and he succumbed to the Russian in two easy sets.
It would be an American setting for an all-Spanish clash. Ferrer needed a let-cord to strike the final hammer blow. Robredo plays a fantastic baseline game. He plays like a metronome. The ball always has similar, consistent pace but goes in a different place each time. Ferrer managed to combat it well in this break-fest.

*Winston-Salem, North Carolina USA*
Isner [1] d. [3] Robredo
Anderson [2] d. [4] Mayer
Isner [1] d. [2] Anderson’s Isner in America.

Thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.

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