Saturday, May 23, 2015

French Open Predictions: Eeny Meeny Miny Moe

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Grand Slam picks always create tension at HQ. Not between the people who work at HQ, but just in general. Todd takes 100 balls onto the clay court near the Clay Court wing and just serves till the frustration goes away. That's why he has such a good serve. The Clay wing of HQ is lovely, all red brick and sunshine. The French Open office is large and spacious. The statue of Chris and Rafa compliment each other nicely. The signed photo of Graf and the canvas of Borg hang side by side. But I digress.

This year I have no clue. I usually blow these and Todd does pretty well. But this year I am going to blow these big time. I mean really. Whoever said I had any clue? So be prepared for these to make no sense because the clay always throws up surprises. So to try and get it right it has to be a bit whacky.

Are you ready? If you are, that's more than I can say for myself. If not, well, then it's time to pull out the Stephen King quote. In one of the introductions to his book is the apt sentence, "Grab onto my arm now. Hold tight. We are going into a number of dark places, but I think I know the way. Just don't let go of my arm."

So, are you ready? Good. Just don't let go.

Here are some pairs who I think will do well at the French this year. Again these may not be necessarily to do with being highly seeded or even pairs who will win it. These are a selection of pairs who should all win three matches.

=Ladies Doubles=
* Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza
* Makarova/Vesnina
* Carolina Garcia/Katerina Srebotnik
* Yaroslava Shvedova/Casey Dellacqua
=Men’s Doubles=
* Vasek Pospisil/Jack Sock
* Marc Lopez/Marcel Granollers
* Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini
* Daniel Nestor/Leander Paes

1. RAFAEL NADAL, ESP...Well, well, well. Djokovic drew the short straw. Never before have we had a top seed not being here in his own quarter. Especially when it has been Djokovic. But my hands are tied. Figuratively. I think Djokovic had to meet Nadal as late as possible. But this is about the five time defending champion. Nadal, seeded sixth, has Halys before encountering Dolgopolov or Almagro. That will be a test, but it is five sets. The straw I am clutching at, eternally clutching at. It is five sets. Mannarino lurks as the first seed Rafa can meet. With the home crowd he should give Rafa a go but he won't beat the defending champ. Dimitrov or Robredo await in the fourth round. Rafa may lose a set but he dominates one handers on clay. And then he meets Djokovic in the quarters. Rafa will want that day to be really nice. I don't like having to pick it, but I'll go for Nadal.
2. NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB...Djokovic may now never win the Grand Slam. Physically will he be able to compete at 29 next year when he is already showing signs of wear and tear? Who knows. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Djokovic may yet win the Grand Slam. Djokovic has made 23 straight quarterfinals. Can he keep the streak up? Nieminen and then probably Muller await Djokovic. That's good -- that will get him used to the lefties, though nobody plays like Nadal. Kokkinakis and Tomic are both equally as likely to make the third round. Kokkinakis has won as much as anybody this year with all those wins in qualifying. But Tomic is the seed. Djokovic will beat either of them but will then likely run into Gasquet. He will play four different players, all with very different styles, and then Nadal. It shouldn't really effect him but it may well be a small factor. Djokovic will manhandle Gasquet, but he plays Nadal too early. Nadal won't be worn out.
3. RICHARD GASQUET, FRA... This position is as important as the Vice President in this quarter. Really, what does the Veep do? Dimitrov and Robredo have tougher draws than Gasquet. Gasquet has Anderson but it is on clay with the crowd behind him. I could've chosen any one of these one-handers. Gasquet should make the fourth round. And he should challenge Djokovic for a set. But really there is no third person here.
DARK HORSE: TOMMY ROBREDO, ESP...Yes, Dimitrov is here but this quarter is packed. Gasquet, Robredo and Dimitrov are interchangeable. Remember that Robredo has been to five quarterfinals here. How can you look past that? If we have a Dimitrov/Anderson quarterfinal I will look extremely foolish. But that's fine.
WILD HORSE: ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV, UKR... He has earned the right to always win this award. This is his award. If he finds form he could oust Nadal. But he has to find form over five sets. And he has to beat the consistent Almagro. Probably too big an ask.
DONKEY: GRIGOR DIMITROV, BUL...For no real reason other than he is the tenth seed and there's a chance he may lose in straight sets to Robredo. This whole section is just waiting for that quarterfinal. It's really the only relevant thing.
POOR GUY: QUENTIN HALYS, FRA...He drew Nadal. An 18-year old French wildcard. He is a sacrificial lamb.
=In the End...=
..Forget the experts saying Djokovic is the favorite. Yeah, they're right, he is. But I still back Nadal.


1T. ANDY MURRAY, GBR...See Murray and Ferrer are split here. Unlike above where Rafa just shades Novak, here both players are equal. Murray is on form and had one of the best swings on the tour. He has won his first two titles on the dirt. He has humbled Nadal. He looks good. But he has a horror draw. He is 0-4 against Ferrer on clay. Sadly, like last time, there are two big guys and it's going to be hard to stop them. Luckily these two are more beatable. But that's like saying Jeb Bush is slightly more competent than George Bush. Before he gets to clash with Ferru, Murray has to navigate a difficult draw. Arguello may only be 22. He may be around the 100 mark but he is dangerous. On clay he could be a nuisance. Murray will be given a small test to start with. Pospisil or Sousa await him after that. And then Kyrgios. Ryan Harrison took a set off Murray in Australia a few years back. On Murray's worst surface, an in-form Kyrgios will pose ore than a few problems. He could make it go five. He could win. If Murray wins that then Goffin or Isner await. That is not a fun draw.
1T. DAVID FERRER, ESP...Ferrer must be loving the fact Murray has such a bad draw. And Federer must love that all the big boys and Ferrer, too, are up here. It's like the Super Bowl. All the good teams are up here in the NFC. The AFC has Berdych [Denver -- talented but never seems to win in the big moments], Nishikori who represents the Colts and Federer who is like the Patriots. It's a good metaphor on ATP BACKSPIN at last. But I digress. Ferrer has Lacko and then Traver or Brazilian Souza [Muzza has Portuguese Sousa] but he shouldn't lose a set. Troicki is seeded around 30 and should be waiting in the third round. Mayer, Cilic, Vesely or possibly Janowicz could all be fourth round opponents. That is an acceptable draw. Ferrer and Murray looks close to inevitable here.
3. DAVID GOFFIN, BEL...Perhaps a run here is a possibility for the Belgian star. He nearly beat Federer here in 2012. He had a great run that year and his form is good. Krajinovic, Giraldo or Young and then Isner is a decent draw. Goffin could defeat Murray and then beat Ferrer to make a semi-final. He could do it. But it is sadly unlikely.
DARK HORSE: NICK KYRGIOS, AUS...Was anyone else going to get it? If he beats Murray another slam quarterfinal surely beckons. Kyrgios has the weapons and the belief to cause some serious trouble here. If he drags Murray into a five set, four hour plus war on a hot day, he may well physically scupper Murray. He could play a huge role in the tournament.
WILD HORSE: JERZY JANOWICZ, POL...He got given a kind draw. If he can take advantage and get to the third round he may be able to upset Cilic. Or he could lose to French qualifier Hamou.
DONKEY: MARIN CILIC, CRO...He looks ripe for the upset. Who really knows what will happen, but don't bet on Cilic doing anything much here.
POOR GUY: JOHN ISNER, USA...He drew Seppi. Now that is a nasty draw.
=In the End...=
I gamble because I just don't trust the consistency of Murray. Ferrer's consistency proves to be enough.


1. TOMAS BERDYCH, CZE...I don't think Berdych is out and out the favorite here. But let us give him the nod anyway. He bested Kei by ten ranking points to earn the fourth seed. Still, his quarter is a toss up. Kei himself lurks here. There are a few dangerous layers lurking here and there. Tread carefully, Tomas. Berdman would open with Japanese qualifier Nishioka but then he gets the winner of Dodig/Stepanek. Stepanek may push him to four. Fognini or Paire is a likely third round match. That is going to be a fiery second round clash and it'll likely be on a big court, too. Tsonga, Kohlschreiber or Andujar is next up. That is a tricky draw but not as bad as the draw some of his colleagues have. Nishikori and Berdych slugging it out on the clay is going to be brutal. Expect one of the most physical matches of the year.
2. KEI NISHIKORI, JPN...One of these days Nishikori has to win a slam. Most players of Kei's level have about 20 legitimate chances to win a slam. It's vital they aren't wasted. Had Nishikori just won a single match more he would be the fourth seed. Still, there is no use dwelling. He has to look forward. And forward he has a mixed bag of a draw. Mathieu with the crowd behind him is an awful first match, and you can bet it will be on Phillipe Chatrier. It just will be. Bellucci and Verdasco should be his next two opponents and he will lose a set to one of them. Bautista Agut or Lopez may well be the fourth round foe. That draw is not easy but it isn't too punishing. Kei and Berdych is almost certainly going to be what this comes down. Gosh this draw is boring.
3. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA...Lindell, Kukushkin and then Kohl. That draw combined with the French crowd give Tsonga a shot at getting some momentum. And if he can get some momentum then the fireworks will happen. Besides it's Jo. Isn't he magic?
DARK HORSE: BAUTISTA-AGUT, ESP...Lopez just wants to get on the grass. He will play well here but he is better built for the grassy havens of Wimbledon. Agut is great on clay and he can roll through to the fourth round. Ymer is also hanging around here. He is worth a mention.
WILD HORSE: FABIO FOGNINI, ITA...Some of these need no explanation.
DONKEY: n/a...nobody here really looks all that vulnerable.
POOR GUY: BAUTISTA-AGUT ESP...He lands German Mayer in the first round. Unlucky. But the German does best on the grass.
=In the End...=
...Nobody stops the Berdykori express. Entertainment and upsets abound here but it ends up being boringly straightforward. And Berdych chokes in the fifth set of an epic and bruising encounter. Nishikori has a habit of pulling out matches like that and he is 3-1 against the Czech.


1. ROGER FEDERER, SUI...I shall steal a tweet SI sent out. It was just a gif of this:

And how accurate it is. For old times sake Falla lurks in the first round. Federer has to make sure he puts Granollers [and his grunt] away quickly. He won't want the Spaniard hanging around dragging him into a long slugging match. Karlovic, Youzhny and Baghdatis await Federer in the third. Well, one of them does anyway. Then Monfils in the fourth will be a test, but Federer has to beat comfortably one of these days. And then Wawrinka. But Vavsy capitulates against Federer every single time they play. Federer should be fine until the semi-finals.
2.STAN WAWRINKA, SUI...Raonic withdrew and handed Wawrinka this spot. He also let in Verdasco. And boosted Isner up a seeding bracket. Stan should be so grateful. Due to a simple twist of fate he will now get a decent draw. Ilhan and Lajovic are his likely first two opponents. Nothing too threatening there. Garcia-Lopez, who upset Stan last year, lurks as a very dangerous opponent. Tiafoe, Gulbis or Simon all lurk, too. He will likely play Gulbis in the fourth, but who knows with that kid. Could Stan just go on a big run? Possible.
3. GAEL MONFILS, FRA...Draws don't matter. Seedings don't matter. Form doesn't matter. Monfils is in town. And he has sort of earned this spot. Here in Paris he could win. Doesn't matter who he's facing.
DARK HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS, LAT...He made the semi last time round. But, again, who really knows what will happen. If he crashed out in the first round to Sijsling he may drop out of the top 50. He will be dangerous at Wimbledon, too.
WILD HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS, LAT...He deserves two awards.
DONKEY: MARCOS BAGHDATIS, CYP...He plays Karlovic in the first match. We shall see what happens.
POOR GUY: IVO KARLOVIC, CRO...He probably gets Baghdatis and Youzhny back to back. That is not a kind draw.
=In the End...=
Federer reigns supreme and remains on cruise control throughout. Monfils makes a bit of noise and Wawrinka avoids upsets.



...Yep. I'm calling it. Federer sneaks into the final where Nadal is waiting. Federer somehow gets it to go four sets but Nadal will not be denied. Djokovic should win, but it's Nadal in Paris.

#1 Williams d. #15 Williams
#10 Petkovic d. #25 Jankovic
#4 Kvitova d. #23 Bacsinszky
#18 Kuznetsova d. #6 Bouchard
#5 Ivanovic d. #9 Makarova
#3 Halep d. #19 Svitolina
#8 Suarez Navarro d. #21 Muguruza
#2 Sharapova d. #13 Safarova
..Horrible draw for Williams. Azarenka lurks and so does Venus. But I say she edges them both in three. Venus makes Serena think twice. Stephens/Venus in the first round will be good to watch. Pironkova and Strycova also here. Petkovic can play her way into form. Errani is nowhere and Wozniacki on clay is an upset waiting to happen. Goerges and Sesil also here. Kvitova is the big name, but the Swiss ladies also lie in her bit: Bencic and Bacsinszky. Bencic plays Hantuchova. Mattek, Keys, Konjuh, Begu and Townsend all very dangerous. How can I resist picking Sveta? If she beats Bertens in the first round she could play Schiavone in the second round and then Pliskova in the third. Bouchard has 32 seed Diyas but Mladenovic in the first. She'll have home support. Still, I like Sveta here.

Never discount a former champ. Vekic plays Garcia in the first round and the winner likely plays Ivanovic. Shvedova may well upset Ana but let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Cetkovska and Jovanovski could win a couple matches. Peng opens against Hercog. Winner gets winner of Vesnina/Flipkens. Peng has never won a title. Makarova isn't built for the clay but she should still edge through to the fourth round. She has made back to back slam semi-finals, after all. Radwanska opens against Beck. Beck should beat her. Barthel and Krunic are also hanging around and can catch fire easily. Svitolina will beat Wickmayer then cruise to the fourth round. Halep gets past some combination of Cornet, Vinci and Davis to make it to the fourth. CSN has Razzano and Pennetta for company. Muguruza has Giorgi and Kerber. Australians are here, too. But really Muguruza should win all her matches easily. Navarro will be too good in the all-Spanish clash. Safarova has Pavylchenkova in the first but the winner of Puig and Lisicki should be her third round opponent. Pova opens against Kanepi. Stosur should beat Brengle, but not Maria.

#1 Serena d. #10 Petkovic
#4 Kvitova d. #18 Kuznetsova
#3 Halep d. #7 Ivanovic
#2 Sharapova d. #8 CSN

...Petkovic runs out of gas. Kvitova/Kuznetsova is a toss up, but the Madrid final indicates a Kvitova win. Halep frustrates Ivanovic. Halep will win a tight first set then run away with. Something like 7-5, 6-2. Sharapova just beat CSN. She should have too much firepower, but watch out for the Spaniard's variety.

#1 Serena d. #4 Kvitova
#2 Sharapova d. #3 Halep

...It's another toss up. I like Serena to win it, though. And Halep goes a set and a break up but Maria gives her that look and Halep only wins two more games as she fades in the Parisian dusk.

#1 Serena d. #2 Sharapova

...I think Sharapova can take this to three on clay. But it has to be Serena. Doesn't it?

Go to WTA BACKSPIN. They have Nachos.

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


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wk.19- When in Rome

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

You're thinking this will be all about Djokovic dominating in the Masters again. Well, it isn't. Nor is it about Nadal being poor. It isn't even about Ferrer or the world number two. No this is about Wawrinka.

Wawrinka made the quarterfinals of the French in 2013. He was ousted by Garcia-Lopez in 2014 in four in the first. It was a horror draw. But after an enormous slump the former top four player is back and he looks just as dangerous as he always does. And that is the confusing thing about Wawrinka. He can be good and bad in equal measure. He should be a dark horse for the French Open but he does tend to lose to players he should beat. And he has a serious match-up issue with the top four. He especially struggles with Federer. There is some kind of a mental block there.

With no points to defend coming into Paris, he has the chance to come back into the top five. Wawrinka should be given a favorable Wimbledon seeding if he can win just a few matches at the French. Vavsy needs a kind draw. Should he get it he would be the classic dark horse. If I were Wawrinka I would want Murray or Berdych as the big seed near me. Raonic or Nishikori is also a good draw for Vavsy. Even Djokovic he may be able to unseat. He should fear only Federer and Nadal, but for very different reasons.
As for the French Open, who knows what will happen? Neither Murray or Federer can win it right now, although a deep run for both of them is not out of the question. The problem for Murray is he is so susceptible to losing to a crafty clay courter in the first or being pushed to five. If he gets pushed to five in either of the first two rounds that is essentially game over.

Djokovic is the favorite and he should win it but he has a habit of choking. He just doesn't seem to be able to win it. No surprise player or dark horse is well placed to take it, either. And Rafa? Well, who knows? Rafa should win the French, but can he will hold it together and win 21 sets? Has he won 21 sets on clay all year?

See at the 29 minute mark and just before the 30 minute mark here:

Rafael Nadal Vs Novak Djokovic SF Roland-garros... by KingNadal

Djokovic lost his forehand in that match, too. The other thing to remember is that the traditional Big Four probably only have between two and four more shots to win this event.

But we are not in Paris yet...

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32: Troicki goes up two places to 32. Verdasco rises two and is at 33. He has just missed out on a seeding. He is exactly the kind of player you don't want in the first or second round. Sock and Klizan both fall. Mannarino is at 31, Kyrgios at 30 and Fognini at 29. All are dangerous.

Top 10:- Simon and Lopez swap. Lopez is 12th but is only 25 points ahead of Simon. Neither are defending many points. Dimitrov remains at 11 with the gap widening on both sides. He is isolated at 11. Ferrer, Wawrinka and Cilic all remain unchanged at 8, 9 and 10.

Top 8: Rafa and Ferrer still at 7 and 8. A Djokovic/Rafa quarterfinal would make the battle for number one interesting. Battle for number two is interesting if Rafa is in Roger's bit. Raonic down to six from four.

Top 4: Murray is well off the pace. By ten points Berdych sneaks into the fourth seeded spot ahead of Nishikori. Could go further if Murray bombs out.

S: Novak Djokovic def. Roger Federer 6-4/6-3
D: Cuevas/Marrero d. Granollers/M.Lopez 6-4/7-5

...Does anyone on the singles side really deserve this? No. They have no right to make it hard for people to pick the winner of the French. Usually the French is the only slam one feels confident in picking. And now that has gone up in smoke. On the men's doubles, chaos ensues on clay and so it is there where nothing has changed that Backspin will look. Being unseeded in a Masters is tough. But it's on clay and anything can happen in clay tournaments, especially in the doubles. Cuevas is 4-4 in clay doubles finals and has even won the French, though it was back in 2008. Marrero is 9-8 in doubles finals on the surface. They had the talent and the game to do it. They edged Klizan/Oswald 13-11 in their opening match before dismissing sixth seeds Nestor/Paes 6-2, 6-4. Third seeds Rojer/Tecau faded toward the end of their third round match as the Latin duo won 7-6[2], 4-6, 10-5. Anderson/Chardy had defeated the Bryans but in the semi-finals they succumbed 6-4, 6-4. Fifth seeded Granollers/Lopez are one of the top pairs on clay but they lost in straight sets 6-4, 7-5. The Latin duo will be seeded thirteenth at the French Open. Dlouhy/Vizner made the semi-finals in 2006 but since then the thirteenth seeds have never won more than two matches. That really is an unlucky number.

QUESTION: Who won the title in 2006? Answer is below!

...Djokovic is finally the French Open favorite. His performance in Rome has hardly been encouraging. In fact, it has been the opposite. He has played some poor tennis at times. He has been inconsistent and passive. He has also been tough and may have played his way into form. What if he gets Verdasco, Seppi, Garcia-Lopez, Wawrinka, Nadal, Berdych and Federer as his draw? Would he still be the favorite then? Djokovic has won a lot this year but he has not looked imperious while doing it. It's the mark of a good player that they can somehow dominate when not always at their best. But Djokovic won't win Wimbledon or the French this year. I'm almost definitely wrong but I have a feeling it just won't happen.
Djokovic edged Almagro 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-3. Almagro could have won that third set, too. Next he held off Bellucci 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. He got stronger as the tournament progressed. Nishikori pushed him but fell short 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. He beat Ferru 6-4, 6-4 before beating Federer 6-4, 6-3. He improves to 4-2 in Rome finals. Djokovic is once more the top seed in a slam. But really who knows what is going to happen at the French. Even Todd's crystal ball isn't sure. In fact, it is crisis in the Backspin office because the crystal ball and the magic eight ball are both being unclear.
...Yes a part of this is just so I can mention that name. And what a name it is. He beat Kukushkin in qualifying 2-6, 7-5, 6-2. The Kazakh was the second seed in the qualies. Stefano Napolitano was next and he was also duly dispatched. Andrea had made the main draw. And he celebrated that fact by taking the first set off Goffin 7-5. He got only three more games the entire match. The 27-year old made the main draw of the French last year but he lost to Bolelli inn three sets. He also has a passing resemblance to Lopez.

...Thanasi qualified for the Primrose Bordeaux event. His Georgian opponent retired in the first round and Thanasi faced Coppejeans. Coppejeans had upset second seeded Groth but he wouldn't beat two Australians in a row. Next Kokkinakis bested Baena 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Zopp challenged the Aussie but to no avail. Thanasi won 6-4, 7-5 to get to his maiden challenger final. He beat De Bakker 6-4, 1-6, 7-6[5] to win his first 'big' title.

He rises 15 spots to 83. He is one of the youngest guys in the 100 and has been given a deserved wild card into the French. If he wins one match he should crack the top 80. He wins two and he cracks the top 70. Win three, which is highly unlikely, and he will sit on the cusp of 60.
...Nadal has stayed in this spot for so long and it is simply unbelievable. But he has to stay here a little while longer. And, in fact, he could be in here indefinitely. Rafa looks tired. He looks like he has had enough. In some ways Backspin feels sorry for him but at the same time pity can be quite insulting. We'd like the old Rafa back please.
...This was a bizarre match. Wawrinka and Nadal traded breakers early in the first set before Nadal took a 6-2 lead in the breaker. Wawrinka won it 9-7 and then the match 7-6, 6-2. This shouldn’t be happening. Wawrinka shouldn't be beating Nadal. Nadal should not be doing so badly on clay. Nadal should be doing better than this. Wawrinka played out of his skin, but that was still a match Nadal should never have lost.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Kokkinakis wins his maiden title on the challenger tour
2 - South Korea has a player in the top 70 for the first time in a while in Chung. He could prove to be the real deal.
3 - Seeing Berdych hit a career best ranking is good. But will he really make the semi-finals of the French?
4 - How young the top 50 is continues to amaze me. So many young stars are proving they have it and not going down the Dolgopolov route.
5 - Suarez-Navarro is achieving her potential. It's good to see. She has a great game.

1. Rome Final – Djokovic d. Federer 6-4, 6-3
...Federer cannot wait to get onto grass. Djokovic proved his number one credentials again. Novak was fantastic at neutralizing Federer. But how is Novak going to defend all these titles next year? Every year it gets harder to do so.
2. Rome R2 – Djokovic d. Almagro 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-3
...Almagro played some fabulous shots but it was not enough to unseat Djokovic. Nicolas hit the ball brilliantly off both wings and threw everything at Djokovic. The Serb escaped relatively unscathed and moved through anyway. An entertaining match between two players with contrasting styles. On another day the Spaniard would have got it.
3. Rome QF - Ferrer d. Goffin 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
...Ferrer has been finding flashes of his old self here and there this year. A grinding three set win over a more talented opponent on the dirt looks like Ferrer. It feels like Ferrer. It must be Ferrer.
4. Rome R3 – Berdych d. Fognini 6-3, 3-6, 7-6[2]
...Consistency beats excitement once again and yet what is the one match I remember from last year? This one.

Simon [1] d. [8] Monaco
Isner [2] d. [6] Kyrgios
Simon [1] d. [2] Isner

...These pre slam tournaments are always whacky. Fireworks could happen....

Wawrinka [1] d. [3] Andujar
Cilic [2] d. Ramos
Wawrinka [1] d. [2] Cilic

...Home tournament for Vavsy.

Dellacqua is back in action for the French. She and Shvedova are seeded 13. She is not seeded in the French Open singles.

ANSWER: Bjorkman/Mirnyi defeated the Bryans in 2006. It was a long three set final.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wk.18- The Scottish Lion has Roared

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Thank you for the cover last week, Todd. Sadly the right wing triumphed but it would be a even worse if the right wing of America won next year. But I digress.

Our trivia question ties in with the intro, as usual. So here it is.

What Paul McCartney song was at number one when Hana Mandlikova made her slam debut?

Well, I was wrong. Murray has broken the clay hoodoo. I thought he never would. So congratulations to him. I am quite impressed. He just beat Kohl in his backyard before defeating Nadal in his in a Masters, too. And with Nadal's collapse, that is big news. I get posed the question "where does Andy Murray stand with regards to the all-time greats?" frequently. So in a Backspin semi-special dedicated to Murray [who I try and fail to be nicer to on here] let us take a look at that question. What if Murray were compared to a player with a similar career arc?

Two men in fashionable, if a little cheap, suits walk into a restaurant in the run down district of town. This restaurant serves excellent iced coffee and is a favorite of the staff at Backspin HQ. These men always meet to debate topics. They have debated the greatest San Francisco team -- 49ers or Giants? They debated Bush or Kerry. Every Thursday at 2pm they arrive and they debate. Since the shop opened they have debated. They don’t book a table. There is no need. They just come and sit. Oftentimes they are the only customers. Their suits and their look has changed over the years, but they have aged quite well. Remarkably well, in fact.

This week the gentleman with the hat who doesn't like bow ties announces that it's time to return to tennis. They've been here before but this is different. This time they're discussing two players who have never been number one. The gentleman with the bow tie who eschews hats says I will make the case for Murray. The other gentleman sips his iced coffee, always with a shot of hazelnut, and says I think I will go for Hana. And so it begins once again.

GENTLEMAN WITH HAT: Four slams and four Davis Cup wins. World number three consistently despite having to contend with Navratilova, Evert and, later, Graf. Beat Navratilova in the 1985 U.S. Open final 7-6, 1-6, 7-6. Not a lot of drama with her. Eight slam finals here.

GENTELMAN SPORTING BOW TIE: Only two slams here but has been number two despite arriving in the heyday of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. Beat Djokovic in five to win the U.S. Open. Ended the British Wimbledon drought. Eight finals for Murray, too. I admit you have the edge in the Fed/Davis cup. Murray will surpass her 12 years on the tour.

GWH: In those 12 years, Hana amassed 27 singles titles and 19 doubles crowns. She went 1-3 in doubles slam finals and was number six in doubles, too. She also made the final of every slam. Has beaten Evert and Navratilova in the same tournament. Mandlikova is 4-4 in slam finals. Murray is just 2-6. Murray has always struggled to do that. Has he ever beaten the top guys back to back in slam events?

GSBT: Mandlikova took the Australian twice when it was still grass. Murray has more titles than she does. He has 33 titles. And he may yet take number one. Murray is behind in finals by 51-49 but will overtake her. Let's not forget she has had some shaky losses. She lost in the second and fourth round of Wimbledon in 1982 and 1983. Both times Hana was a top eight seed and she lost badly in both. She lacked consistency.

GWH: Brave of you to bring up shaky losses. Murray has lost to Bogomolov Jr. He lost to Cilic at the U.S. Open in 2009. He was the second seed then. It was straight sets, too. A loss to Wawrinka as the fourth seed at the U.S. Open is also poor. Let's not forget his loss to Lee in 2007 or how poor he was in Paris against Berdych also in 2010. Mandlikova played better tennis.

GSBT: Murray has not missed a slam quarter for a long time. Mandlikova played more aggressive tennis, but Murray played more effective tennis. Murray won Wimbledon which Hana never did, and that is the most prestigious trophy.

GWH: But she did make the final. She could win on any surface. Murray never could win on clay.

And so it goes on. The problem, as we all know, with doing this is that most multiple slam winners have a case for being one of the 100 greatest. The problem isn't just whether they go in, but where they go in.

But enough of that. Those debates will be around for a long time yet. For now let us get on with this week..

=Rankings Watch=
Top 32 - Troicki drops a place. Still at 34. Verdasco rises three and is at 35. Anything around 35 and a seeding could be coming your way. Sock is up 4 to 33 with Kyrgios, Fognini and Klizan rounding out 30, 31 and 32.

Top 10 - Simon leapfrogs Lopez into 12th but is well adrift. Dimitrov remains at 11 with the gap widening. Ferrer, Wawrinka and Cilic all remain unchanged at 8, 9 and 10.

Top 8 - Rafa drops three to sit at 7th. It's the first time in ten years that the Spaniard is not in the top five. He could fall out of the top ten. Kei falls one place to six.

Top 4 - Murray is creeping up on Roger. Raonic is the first Canadian to make the top four. He is up two places. He could with luck snatch third.

S: Andy Murray def. Rafael Nadal 6-3/6-2
D: Bopanna/Mergea d. Matkowski/Zimonjic

...Well, this is a Backspin first. Like the time when it was revealed that Todd didn't mind Clijsters, I can reveal I don't hate Murray. In fact he is Player of the Week. It feels strange to have him here during Spring but he has earned it. He humiliated Nadal 6-3, 6-2. Nadal was very poor. His backhand was abysmal. Yeah Murray won it but Nadal was never in it. Not really. Murray was seeded second and he opened against Kohlschreiber. He beat him in Germany and he beat him in Spain, too. This time it was 6-0 in the third. He silenced Granollers 6-2, 6-0 to move through to the quarters. He even managed to break Raonic twice in a 6-4, 7-5 win. He wasn't troubled by a dangerous Nishikori in the semi-finals. In the final he dominated Nadal. Murray has designs on the top two but he won't get it for some time. Murray's next target is to get to number one. He won't do it, though. He has run out of time.
...Berdych once more showed how good he is at beating anybody not in the top ten. Berdman played some great tennis in the past week. He has risen to five. I didn't fully illustrate above how close it is right near that number four spot. Every top eight seed can make the quarters. The fourth seed has never been so crucial.

Anyway, Berdman beat Gasquet and Tsonga back to back although it was Gasquet who put up more resistance. Next he beat Isner in three very long sets to move through to the semi-final. Then the inevitable happened. One of those bigger, scarier guys turned up. And Berdman dutifully crumbled 7-6, 6-1. For all those players between #4-#7, the key is getting that fourth seed. It is the difference between a quarter and a semi-final.
...Americans on clay are like Spaniards on grass. Traditionally they just made up the numbers. All those years that Moya and Bruguera would be a big seed in London and one would just sit there waiting for the inevitable upset. The one or two times they actually did quite well was a pleasant surprise. it's the same for the Americans. Roddick and Sampras were seeded so highly at every French Open. It just never happened for either of them. Agassi was different. Nadal was different. And Isner can play on this stuff. He made a great quarterfinal run here. He lost to Berdych in a third set breaker in the quarterfinals after beating Kyrgios and Bellucci. That's impressive.
...The Canadiens just came back from 0-3 against the Lightning in the Stanley Cup conference semi-finals. They travel to Tampa down 2-3 in the series and I hope they lose. I like Raonic a lot more than I like the Canadiens. I like how simple his game plan is. It is the kind of game plan where nothing can go wrong. Big serve, big forehand and a fairly steady backhand. He will win a U.S. Open or two, of that you can be sure. But I digress. Backspin congratulates Raonic on being the first Canuck to break into the world's top four. And we all want to see Bouchard/Raonic in Rio next year.
...It feels as if Nadal is finished. I don't know if he can even win the French this year. He is looking very tired. When Graf and Henin retired they were at the top. They were number one and three respectively. Graf was the highest ranked player ever to retire at that time. Borg retired early. It's sad to see a great player retire five years after they're actually any good. Even Mauresmo, looking back on it, stayed a little too long. Retirement beckons for Nadal. He won't be playing the 2017 French Open.
...Kyrgios knows how to beat these guys. And he proved it again. He beat Federer 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[12] to earn his biggest ever victory. It is his most important win to date. If things stay like this going into the French Kyrgios will be the most dangerous 30th seed in recent memory. He can beat anyone on any surface right now. If he were to meet Djokovic on Wimbledon I would not know who to pick. Federer didn't play badly. He was just beaten by the better man. This has echoes of Djokovic losing to Dimitrov as the top seed back in 2013. But Kyrgios may well go on to have an even brighter future.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Two Aussies will be seeded at the French and at Wimbledon. When was the last time two Aussies were seeded at a slam?
2 - Kyrgios is finally all grown up
3 - Raonic deserves to be in the top four. When does he ever lose to anybody when he isn't supposed to? If the WTA has taught us anything it is that consistency brings reward. Wozniacki and Jankovic were good, but were they great? No. Just consistent.
4 - Seeing Tsonga play was good. He is starting to recover.
5 - Kokkinakis continues to plug away. So does Lucca. They rose 5 and 17 to 98 and 100, respectively.

1. MADRID R2– Kyrgios d. Federer 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[12]
...The baton has been passed. Kyrgios combined big serving with great movement to grab the upset and a seed at the French. If he makes the fourth round there, a very good Wimbledon seeding awaits him in England.
2. Madrid R3– Dimitrov d. Wawrinka 7-6[5], 3-6, 6-3
...The darkness in Wawrinka's world continues. Having split up with his wife again he now can't find anything on the court. Perhaps that isn't the reason, but it must be having an effect. He wins a match here and there, but Dimitrov was too good by far.
3. Madrid SF– Nadal d. Berdych 7-6[3], 6-1
...Let's celebrate vintage Nadal whilst we still have it. Nadal played like the Rafa of old. He played like a world number one for the second half of this. He was inspired. It's sad to think that it appears so infrequently.
4. Madrid R3– Ferrer D. Verdasco 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
...The latter round may have been dull but some of the earlier bits were good. Ferrer and Verdasco met on clay once again. Verdasco is playing well again but it wasn't enough. Ferrer edged it in three long sets.

Djokovic [1] d. [3] Murray
Nadal [4] d. [2] Federer
Djokovic [1] d. [4] Nadal

...The logic here should be clear.

Dellacqua and Shvedova had a good week. They opened up by beating sixth seeds Garcia/Srebotnik is straights before Marosi/Liang in two, as well. They beat Hsieh/Pennetta 6-4, 6-1. They were seeded fourth. They finally got pushed to three in the semi-finals by the seventh seeds. They came through 7-5, 3-6, 10-7. Third seeds Muguruza/Navarro were their final opponents and the Australian took it 6-3, 6-7[4], 10-5. Casey rises nine places to 22 in the world. She plays with Shvedova in Rome, as well.

Casey is at 42 in the singles. She appears to be letting that slide in favour of the doubles.

QUIZ ANSWER: Mandlikova had her slam debut at the 1978 French, where she made the second round. The answer was of course the cheesy...

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Monday, May 04, 2015

Wk.17- When Galileo Is Away, the Backspinner Will Play

Hello, all. Todd here.

Well, I'm coming to you to finally admit that this "Galileo West" character is actually a creation of my overactive imagination.


No, that's just a joke. Mister West IS real. But he's not here this week, as he's off helping the wheels of democracy turn as smoothly as possible across the big pond. At least that's what I've been told. But he'll be back next week.

In the mean time, I'm going to fill in for him with a quick Top 10 rundown of some of the notes of note from last week on the ATP tour.

S: Roger Federer def. Pablo Cuevas 6-3/7-6(11)
D: Albot/Lajovic d. Lindstedt/J.Melzer

S: Andy Murray def. Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(4)/5-7/7-6(4)
D: Peya/Soares d. Zverev/Zverev

S: Richard Gasquet def. Nick Kyrgios 6-3/6-2
D: Huey/Lipsky d. M.Lopez/Marrero

1. I'm sure Galileo would have been all over Roger Federer grabbing career title #85 in the inaugural edition of the ATP's event in Istanbul. His straight sets victory over Pablo Cuevas in the final adds Turkey to Fed's list of countries in which he's been crowned a champion, making him the first man to claim singles titles in NINETEEN different nations. This is Federer's third title of 2015 (one behind world #1 Novak Djokovic's tour-leading total), and he's now played in 128 ATP singles finals (third behind Jimmy Connors' 161 and Ivan Lendl's 146 in tour history).

2. Ah, I see. NOW I know why Galileo isn't here this week -- Andy Murray reached his first career clay court final AND WON IT on Monday after weather delays pushed the match back a day. The whole thing HAD to send G's world into a tailspin, right? He needs a week to recover from the shock!

The Scot defeated two-time champ Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 3:02 final, grabbing career title #32 and becoming the first man representing Great Britain to win a tour singles title on clay since Buster Mottram in Palma in 1976. So there's that. There's also the fact that Murray knocked off the German in a 12-10 5th set in the 3rd Round of Roland Garros last year. So there's that, too Oh, and this: Kohlschreiber has now lost thirteen consecutive matches vs. Top 5 players. So maybe Galileo shouldn't be TOO shocked.
3. Did you know that Jurgen Melzer has a tennis-playing brother? Well, he does. And world #155 Gerald, 24, just had a career week in Munich, qualifying and reaching the singles semifinals after notching a pair of Top 50 victories over Pablo Andujar and Dominic Thiem. Good for him.
4. Oh, something else that Galileo SURELY would have enjoyed talking about... Richard Gasquet returned to action for the first time since his Indian Wells back injury, winning his third career clay title in Estoril over Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who was attempting to win his first ATP singles title. The last time these two met was in last year's Wimbledon 2nd Round, where the big-hitting Kygrios saved nine match points and upset the Frenchman. The Estoril final only lasted 65 minutes, though, as Gasquet was never broken (he saved all three break points he faced in the match), and the win lifts him into a tie with Gilles Simon with twelve career titles, second most by a French player in the Open era behind only Yannick Noah (23).

5. In doubles, the Filipino-American pair of Treat Huey & Scott Lipsky combined to win their first title as a duo in Estoril...
6. ...while Alexander Peya & Bruno Soares scored their 11th ATP crown in Munich, defeating the Zverev brothers, Alexander and Mischa in the final. The siblings were trying to become the first all-German pair to win the title since 2008.
7. In Istanbul, the inaugural doubles champs were Radu Albot & Dusan Lajovic, who were teaming up in an event for the very first time.


8. In the USTA's three-event Wild Card Playoff to determine who'll receive a golden ticket into the Roland Garros main draw, 17-year old Frances Tiafoe's run to the final of the Tallahassee challenger proved to be the last piece to the puzzle of the what will be the former junior star's grand slam debut later this month. While he didn't win any of the three events, Tiafoe went a combined 12-3 and became the fourth-youngest American male to ever reach a final on the circuit, behind only Michael Chang, Andre Agassi and Tiafoe's friend, fellow 17-year old Stefan Kozlov (the current #5 Jr.). Tiafoe has climbed into the Top 300 for the first time in the new rankings.

9. There will be no Djokovic this week in Madrid, but there is the possibility of a Roger/Rafa semifinal. They've only played on clay once since the 2011 Roland Garros final, in the '13 Rome final won in straight sets by Nadal. Speaking of...
10. And, finally, I've heard that Federer and Nadal walk on water. But this is ridiculous...


5...Novak Djokovic, SRB (4-1)
4...Roger Federer, SUI (3-1)
3...David Ferrer, ESP (3-0)
3...Kei Nishikori, JPN (2-1)
3...Andy Murray, GBR (1-2)
3...Tomas Berdych, CZE (0-3)
2...Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, ESP (2-0)
2...Richard Gasquet, FRA (2-0)
2...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (2-0)
2...Pablo Cuevas, URU (1-1)
2...Jiri Vesely, CZE (1-1)

Casey Dellacqua wasn't in action last week, but she's already experienced highs and lows this week in Madrid. She opened with a weekend singles win over Francesca Schiavone, but lost on Monday to Aga Radwanska. In doubles, she's teamed with Yaroslava Shvedova. The pair has already put up a win over #6-seeded Garcia/Srebotnik, the Stuttgart runners-up from two weeks ago.

All for now, and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Wk.16- No Clean Socks in Sight

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

If you're unsure of the clean socks comment, then check out these two players.

They are of course Chris Evert and Guillermo Vilas. These two were the greatest clay court players of their generations. And look at their socks.

QUESTION: Evert famously won 125 matches in a row, but which grand slam champion snapped her streak? The answer is below.

Backspin is going to use so much ink, virtual ink, discussing the fall of the Rafa empire. But then so are many other people. It's the biggest thing to happen on the ATP tour since Sampras and Agassi handed over the reigns of power to Federer in 2005. Well, Federer took it out of their hands. Nadal withdrew in 2010 and the last two years he has lost to Almagro and Fognini. This isn't a hard court. This isn't Australia or even the U.S.. This is Barcelona. It's his surface in his back yard. Rafa is in a slump and is still the world number four.

He and Federer will surely retire at the Olympics next year. It makes sense not just because of the occasion but for health reasons, too. Physically these guys just can't keep doing it. Santoro and Haas are probably some of the last guys to be able to play into their thirties and forties. The way they play isn't as taxing as the way Djokovic or Rafa play, either.

This decade, Djokovic, Ferrer and Federer have taken seven 500 level tournaments. Nadal has taken six. In fifth is Nishikori with five, level with Del Potro. If he defends Tokyo and finds another one he will also have seven. By the end of the decade Nishikori should be ahead. And it's even more impressive that he has won his five at three different events. He is excelling everywhere these days.

Vesely has risen to his highest ranking ever despite having a singles record of 22-23. He has been junior number one and also made the third round of Wimbledon last year. He dispatched Mannarino 6-3, 6-2 in the final of Auckland this year to take his first title. Now he has his first clay title and that is one more than Murray.

The French Open is mere weeks away. If you're not excited then I have the cure for what ails you...

=Rankings Watch=
Top 32 - GGL rose 14 places to 31 and that will be a relief to many. Players like the Spaniard should be seeded at slams. Vesely rose 11 to 35 with Troicki, Monaco and Chardy hanging around, too.

Top 10 - Wawrinka and Cilic have swapped around in the rankings with the Swiss 90 points ahead. Cilic still leads number 11 Dimitrov by 420. Ferrer at 8 has a lead of a thousand.

Top 8 - No change here. Nishikori is challenging for the top four but if he usurps Rafa, then Roland Garros will be a mess.

Top 4 - This remains unchanged with Novak holding a big lead over Roger, who holds a lead over Murray. Far from tracking down Murray, Nadal now has to try and hold off Kei for a top four seed.

S: Kei Nishikori d. Pablo Andujar 6-4/6-4
D: Draganja/Kontinen d. J.Murray/Peers

S: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez d. Jiri Vesely 7-6(5)/7-6(11)
D: Copil/Ungur d. Monroe/Sitak

...Sometimes performances are so businesslike they have to be admired. Nishikori was the top seed and he took charge of this event like nothing else. The Japanese star fulfilled his seeding and took yet another 500 level title. And it was simple, in fact it was...

Nishikori beat a Mr. Bye in the opening round. Then he dispatched Gabashvili 6-3, 6-4 without too much difficulty. 15th seed Giraldo barely tested Kei as the Asian number one took out the match 6-2, 6-1. Bautista-Agut put up stern resistance at first but Nishikori got past him 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Klizan could only muster three games as he was defeated 6-1, 6-2 in the semi-finals. Then in the final Nishikori was the perfect professional. Andujar never got into the match and Nishikori took it 6-4, 6-4. Just like that. Nishikori takes a break now, but Rome and Madrid are coming up. He should have had Madrid last year but was defeated due to lack of match fitness. This year he is at least twice as fit. The result should be different. He has a lot of points to defend, though. Fail to defend those and he is in trouble.
...GGL had been in a slump, but no longer. Long ago the tennis gods decided that in certain events the top four seeds got a bye. In certain other events other seeds got a bye too. The gods decided that in smaller events the fifth seeds should be hung out to dry. And so it came to pass. GGL received no bye despite being so highly seeded. Giustino had beaten two seeds in qualifying just to make it to the big party. And he got the same amount of games against the Spaniard. He was simply overmatched. Baghdatis put up firmer resistance but GGL put him away in straight sets. Rosol was the higher seed but lost out 6-4, 7-6[7] to the Spaniard. Surely Monfils would prove too much? When La Monf took the first set in a breaker 7-2, he looked set for the win. Yet again the Spaniard had the answer and came through 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. He needed two epic breakers to beat Vesely in the final and the second one went all the way to 13-11 in what was an enthralling contest. Compatriot Carballes Baena is the 1st round opponent of the Spanish one-hander in Estoril. They play tomorrow. GGL will certainly be a dangerous player in that tournament. He can most definitely cause some trouble there. The race is now on to grab a seed, any seed in the French Open. Failure to do so will come with a heavy cost.
...He had no right to get to the final. That's quite a hackneyed phrase, but it is applicable here. Andujar had a hard draw though it was softened by the loss of Rafa, obviously. As anybody will tell you, you can only play whoever is in front of you at that time. If someone loses to someone they shouldn’t, it isn't your fault. Andujar beat fellow unseeded Spaniard Ramos 4 and 1. Either one of them could have made the run. Andujar followed it up with a topsy-turvy 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 decision over Mayer. He had his first scalp of the tournament and it was against the 11th seed. 5th Lopez barely troubled Andujar and the Spaniard triumphed 6-3, 6-4 to make the quarterfinals. He dismissed Rafa's conqueror to advance to the semi. He didn't show any signs of nerves and won 7-6[8], 6-3. Nishikori pulled out a superb performance to end Andujar's own superb performance but this was a confidence booster. Andujar opens against Souza tomorrow. If he continues to shine on the clay, he will soon return to the top 30. Pablo is one of the hottest Spaniards form-wise right now. Will it continue?
...Chung was a promising junior and he is climbing up the ATP ladder the sensible route. He is ascending towards relevancy by playing in the lower leagues. Hyeon has just won his third challenger and second of the year. He won the clay court Savannah challenger fairly comfortably in the end. After surviving Garanganga, a Zimbabwean tennis player, 6-7[8], 6-3, 6-1 the Korean came alive and blitzed through the rest of the field. He never lost more than six games in a match after the 1st round.
...Nadal was poor. He couldn’t even take a set. Fognini lost to Angujar 6-3, 6-1 the very next round. Nadal should have cruised to the title. If he doesn't improve soon I will really struggle when it comes to the French Open picks.
...First he did it to Rafa in South America and now in Spain. Fognini is dogging the footsteps of the Spaniards. Fognini has no fear of anyone. He can attack Rafa from the backhand and he has creativity. These days creativity is such a useful weapon. The Stuttgart final suffered because of it. Hitting drop shots is not creativity. It is part of that but creativity is angles and net play, for instance. Fognini plays like he isn't afraid. It's refreshing.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - The hug between Vesely and GGL.
2 - Kyrgios is back despite the loss to Ymer.
3 - Nishikori has finished developing. He has achieved great things and the way he dealt with Andujar was scarily professional.
4 - Wozniacki is finally getting it together on clay. She couldn’t do it when she was number one but now there's no pressure on her. Perhaps that helps.
5 - Nadal is gracious in defeat as always. He is a fantastic role model.

1. Bucharest SF– Garcia-Lopez d. Monfils 6-7[2], 6-4, 6-2
...Sometimes GGL just pulls out performances from nowhere. It is really astonishing. Monfils played well but GGL ground him down and then out. GGL is one of those Spaniards that never has clean socks. He upset Stan at the French last year and he will do well there again.
2. Barcelona Q– Nishikori d. Andujar 6-4, 6-4
...It was an impressive display, a professional display. Nishikori put Andujar away and it was watchable. The Kerber/Woz final on the other side was great quality but it wasn’t watchable in the same way that Nadal/Djokovic matches aren't watchable despite the quality.
3. Monte Carlo 3rd– Barcelona Fognini d. Nadal 6-4, 7-6[6]
...Backspin is still in shock. Nadal is in decline. The question now is will this French Open be the last he wins? He will definitely still win it. The question of whether he can best Federer's total of grand slams has been put to bed. Nobody will ever catch that record, not these days
4. Bucharest F– Garcia-Lopez d. Vesely 7-6[5], 7-6[11]
...This match will be one of the best straight setters on the ATP tour this year. Vesely saved so many match points, including one where it clipped the net. GGL had to actually win this match, there was no way Vesely was going to go away. Great match and a hug at the end. That really is the spirit of tennis.

Murray [1] d. [3] Agut
Kohlschreiber [5] d. [2] Monfils
Kohlschreiber[5] d. [1] Murray

...This is Murray's first clay event of the season. Not once has he even been to a clay final. He is not top 15 in the world on clay. He just isn't. He looks good in this field and he should do well but Kohl has been to three finals here and won two. And don't forget Philipp was born in Augsburg.

Federer [1] d. [4] Giraldo
Dimitrov [2] d. [7] Youzhny
Federer [1] d. [2] Dimitrov

...Well lookie here. Fed committed earlier in the year and he is here. This tournament is or should be a forgone conclusion. There are some surprisingly strong draws this week.

Robredo [3] d. [1] Lopez
Anderson [2] d. [5] Gasquet
Robredo [3] d. [5] Gasquet

...There's nobody here Gasquet need fear. If he can get hot he will be dangerous. But Anderson should be too strong for the Frenchman. It's really a toss up between those two Spaniards, but the winner will have Anderson on clay.

Dellacqua is not playing this week and time is running out to be seeded for the French. She lies at 44 and a decent performance in the swing is needed to push her into the seeding positions. Casey won the mixed at the French with Scott Lipsky way back in 2011. Can she repeat?

ANSWER: Tracy Austin beat Evert 6-4, 2-6, 7-6[4] in 1979 at the Italian Open. Tracy ended up winning the head to head 9-7.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wk.15- Somebody to Love

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Djokovic wants love. Not just love he gets from his wife and family. He wants to be loved. Roger walks onto a court he gets a standing ovation. Rafa walks onto court and the people rise like Pop Tarts in the toaster on a cold day. But Djokovic? Yes, he has fans. Yes, he is liked in many places, but is he loved? Is he even universally liked? The French crowd, in fact, actively dislike him. But then they don't really like anybody who doesn't speak French. Except maybe Graf and a few select others.

It's not an exact science. There is no real data on this and it doesn't affect rankings. It does, however, affect the players and the commentators frequently mention it. It is a key component of a match. To get the crowd on your side is difficult, especially in slams. The French crowd are a law unto themselves, Wimbledon cheers everyone equally if they aren't British and the Australian and American crowds just cheer and boo constantly. Those early-tournament five set matches at night on Rod Laver are one of the best spectacles in tennis.

Perhaps because of the constant withdrawing, or the obnoxious attitude that sometimes comes through, Djokovic is not as beloved as Federer or Nadal.

Williams wins all the time. She still gets a warm reception everywhere, she still feels the love. So, what then is the problem with Djokovic?
He does not play a very pretty brand of tennis, but then neither does Nadal and Rafa is still respected and adored across the world. He can be quite arrogant, but then Federer also comes across as arrogant, though a different type of arrogance so it mustn't be that.

For some reason, some indiscernible reason, Djokovic is not getting the standing ovations. It was obvious in the Masters in March. It was obvious in Monte Carlo, too. People don't fall in love with Djokovic in the same way they do with Federer or Nadal. He's the world number one and even at the Australian Open, where he is the five time champ, he doesn't get the attention Nadal or Federer does.

It's a mystery as to why certain players don't mesh well with the fans, but for some reason Djokovic just isn't a fan favorite.

But Novak did win Monte Carlo...

=Rankings Watch=
Top 32: Fognini has dropped to 30, with Giraldo and Chardy rising up a couple places each to 31 and 32. Troicki and Sock both rose and sit at 34 and 35, but Rosol fell two places. Rosol at 33 may still be seeded at a slam, of course.

Top 10: Wawrinka dropped down to ten but he and Cilic [at nine] both have 3,495 points. Dimitrov lurks at 11, just 300 points behind. Ferrer is 995 points ahead at eighth while Lopez is just under 900 behind at 12, which makes it a three horse race at present for the top ten.

Top 8: Berdych has leap-frogged Ferru into seventh and is some 500 points ahead now. Raonic sits at 6, just 110 clear of Berdych. Kei has fallen a place to fifth and is only up on Raonic by 210 points. Expect a big shuffle everywhere after the French.

Top 4: This remains unchanged with Novak holding a big lead over Roger, who holds a lead over Murray. Murray is only 600 clear of Nadal and this is the clay season. The top four spots are vital going into the French. If either Murray or Kei goes into the French seeded fifth, expect trouble.

S: Novak Djokovic def. Tomas Berdych 7-5/4-6/6-3
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Bolelli/Fognini

...Who cares if the crowd isn't with him. He doesn't care. Lendl didn't care and neither did Hingis. They did what they wanted. Having the crowd go against one only affects those without mental fortitude. Djokovic has become the first person to win the first three Masters of the year. He has lost twice, though. He has lost to Federer in Dubai, but who was the other? The answer is below. Djokovic is the world number one right now in every way.

Ramos is a good clay courter and tricky to play as he is a southpaw. Novak was tested but never troubled too much in his 6-1, 6-4 victory. The perfect match to kick off the clay court. Haider-Maurer was up next as Djokovic slowly started to roll. After inflicting a 6-4, 6-0 scoreline on his opponent Djokovic moved through to another Masters quarter. He beat Cilic and Nadal 6-0, 6-3 and 6-3, 6-3 respectively. Both those players won slams last year. One of them has won this event at least seven times. Berdych gave Djokovic something to think about as he put up stern resistance. Novak would not be denied and got by Berdych 6-3 in the third.

It's a rest now for Djokovic. He will not win the French Open but will he take out the other clay Masters? He could well take the first five Masters but ATP BACKSPIN is gonna go out on a limb and say that won't happen.
...Berdie just does his thing. He reaches finals, he makes semifinals at slams, he consistently challenges but he never has to defend all that much so he just stays at seven. Berdman is having a good year and will again be challenging for slam and Masters. Berdych has a very solid game but if it doesn't click, he can panic. He lost to Djokovic 0 and 2 in the China Open final not six months ago. But this week everything clicked. The serve fired and he found his forehand. If he can just not lose his forehand again over the next few weeks, he could take a Masters.
Stakhovsky lost to Berdych 6-4, 7-6[2]. Agut did better in the breaker but still went down 7-6 [7], 6-4. Berdych had been pushed but he had not collapsed. Raonic retired with a foot injury to hand Berdych the match. Berdman took full advantage by easing past Monfils 6-1, 6-4 to set up a cash with the world's best. He even took it to three, but Djokovic is too good right now. He made the semi-final here recently but lost to Wawrinka. It wouldn't be the last time Wawrinka denied him in an important semi-final, either. Berdych has also been to a final here but that was when the courts
...Aaah, La Monf! We have a room at Backspin dedicated to the most talented players. The common theme is that they never won anything big and most of them are French. All of them are underachievers, too. Monfils has one of the biggest files. So much talent and so much frustration.
The tournament doesn't matter. His upset of Federer was spectacular, his loss to Berdych disappointing and a big letdown. He beat Dimitrov handily in the quarters and lost just four games to the world's eleventh best player. Yet for all that, he should have lost in the first round to qualifier Alex Kuznetsov.

Here you go. It's so you don't have to:

Monfils continues to play the spanner in the works with aplomb. In general, Backspin on both sides has a soft spot for these players. It's been a while since this has been heard and one of the few times it will ever be uttered here. Oh, Gael. Oh, Nadia.
...Elias has had mentions on Backspin before. He lost badly in the last round of qualifying but he did win a match, He only turned 19 this month. He has done well in the men's Stockholm tournament and Bastad. Here he is. He is the one who isn't Dimitrov. The Swedish looking one.

...This kind of performance from the defending champion is unacceptable. Seeded seventh, the outlook was good after the first match. He eased past Monaco -- serious upset potential in that match -- 6-1, 6-4 and looked to have found his form. Then he lost to Dimitrov 6-1, 6-2. Enough said. With few points to defend coming up, Wawrinka has a chance to push back up the charts so to speak. If he makes the quarters at the French he would make a big leap. Combine that with solid performances at the Masters and maybe taking a smaller title along the way, and he would be a top eight see at Wimbledon almost certainly.
...It feels as if Berdych and Monfils just beat Federer all the time. In fact, Federer leads the head to head with Monfils 8-4 though he did win the first five matches. They first met back in 2006, in a final. Federer leads Berdych 13-6. They don't play as often as they used to but Berdych has always been able to trouble Fed. Some players can find the Fed backhand.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Nadal and Ferru resumed their clay 'rivalry' this week. It's comforting. It's like the ATP isn't changing so much, after all.
2 - Berdych makes another Masters final. He is sadly 1-3 in those finals and 3-11 in his last 14 finals overall. Still, this is progress. No, really it is.
3 - Kuznetsova is the most successful Russian tennis player ever in the Fed Cup. It makes a nice change for Sveta to be the bride.
4 - The Czechs are dominating the Fed Cup, but can the old empire stop them?
5 - Monfils is finally turning into the player we all knew he could be.

1. Monte Carlo Final – Djokovic d. Berdych 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
...Berdych is also showing encouraging signs here, too. He had an easier draw, yes. Raonic retired but he also beat players of the caliber of Agut and he dismissed Monfils. Nobody expected him to do much in the final but he refused to go away after dropping a tight first set. Then he rebounded from 4-0 down in the third.
2. Monte Carlo QF – Nadal d. Ferrer 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
...Some things never change. These two will still be duking it out in 2030 on some clay court far far away. How often does Nadal beat Ferrer?

3. Monte Carlo 3rd – Monfils d. Federer 6-4, 7-6[5]
...Fed escaped in America but not here. Monfils has really figured out how to play Federer. Monfils is showing he is a legitimate contender for the French. Not a dark horse, a contender. The problem for him is putting it all together over the stretch. Monfils outclassed Federer here.
4. Monte Carlo SF – Djokovic d. Nadal 6-3, 6-3
...Todd and I were chatting in the Clay Court wing of HQ over a cup of coffee about important matters like how excited we are for the new "Star Wars" as this match was going down. I remarked to him that it was sad and nostalgic at the same time to see Nadal lose on the same court he has bludgeoned so many to death before and to lose so convincingly, too. And this match was a sad one for Nadal fans.

Nishikori [1] d. [6] Tsonga
Nadal [2] d. [3] Ferrer
Nadal [2] d. [1] Nishikori

...Weirdly, Nadal will not be the top seed in Barcelona. Then again he will not be the top seed at the French, either. Chances of him winning both of these? Very good.

Karlovic [3] d. [1] Simon
Monfils [2] d. [4] Rosol
Monfils [2] d. [3] Karlovic

...A surprisingly decent field here but Monfils is the form player. Karlovic can actually return Simon's serve and that will be key if that semi comes to pass.

Dellacqua lost to Bertens in the Fed Cup 6-2, 6-3 after beating Rus 7-5, 6-3. She was let down by Gajdosova, who lost 6-0, 5-7, 5-7 after winning the first eight games against Rus. Jarmila also lost to Bertens.

In the doubles Dellacqua and Rogowska lost, too. They now fall to WG II. Dellacqua is not playing for a few weeks but remains in the top forty in both disciplines. What will Australia do if the young stars don't come through soon?

ANSWER: Karlovic was the other person who has beaten Djokovic this year, in Novak's first tournament.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Wk.14- Murray Married, Hillary Heroine and Jack's Back

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Murray got married.

Sock won on clay.

Djokovic has overtaken Nadal for weeks at number one. He got 142 and can now look to McEnroe's total of 171 or so.

In Backspin HQ we have a non-tennis floor. You have to go sideways for a furlong, then up a bit in the elevator, then- well it's confusing but there is such a floor. On that floor there is an office dedicated to politics. It's between sports and history. And above one of the desks is this picture.

ATP BACKSPIN would like to endorse Hillary Clinton. It's not worth anything but the official stance of ATP BACKSPIN is that Hillary is our woman. This is one of the greatest Presidential announcements there may ever be.

If this wasn't a tennis blog, this post would just be paragraphs and paragraph all about how amazing Hillary is. But I digress. Still, this introduction should be dedicated to her. And now that it has been, the rest of the post can begin...

S: Jack Sock d. Sam Querrey 7-6(9)/7-6(2)
D: Berankis/Gabashvili d. Huey/Lipsky

S: Martin Klizan d. Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-2/6-2
D: Junaid/Shamasdin d. Bopanna/Mergea


...The way Klizan plays is like a hybrid of Verdasco and Nadal. A big serve is complimented by a forehand with a huge amount of work and pace on it. He has a game that can disrupt any player on any surface. With a serve like that, even grass should be no problem. He barely made it through round one. He beat Brown 6-5, 5-6, 7-6[5]. He got by Almagro 6-4, 7-6[3] in what was an excellent performance. He had a big comeback in the next round, bouncing back to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-0. Beating someone 6-0 in a semi-final anywhere takes some doing. In the final, he cleared out Traver 6-2, 6-2 and barely broke a sweat. Klizan looks now to Monte Carlo where he plays Troicki first up. He should win that. He will be playing the role of dark horse for the rest of the year. He has that kind of a game which could see him dumped out in the first round or get him to the semi-finals of a slam.
RISER: Sam Querrey
...Querrey is yet another example of someone with a lot of talent having a smaller career than expected. Others in this category include Gasquet, Tsonga [actually anyone French] and even Murray. How has Murray won only two slams and never been world number one? He's a better player than that. Querrey once served ten aces in a row. I serve ten aces in a year if I'm lucky. He also has a great forehand and a surprisingly good backhand. He should be a top ten player. He should be challenging for titles every week. But he isn't and it's a mystery.
The Californian benefited from a Matosevic retirement in the first round before beating Johnson 6-1, 4-6, 6-0. The American then put paid to Lopez's hopes as he beat out the Spaniard 4 and 1. He won a three set war against Verdasco before finally running out of steam in the final.
The American as ever hovers somewhere around the 30 mark, but he is a better player than the rankings indicate.
SURPRISE: Teymuraz Gabashvili & Ricardas Berankis
...Alternates is a phrase which means there was no qualifying tournament so we found some guys from the singles and put them in.
Lajovic/Delbonis nearly had the pair but the Europeans won 4-6, 6-2, 19-17. Next they beat the Bryans [defending champions] 7-6[7], 7-5. After beating the top seeds, they eliminated the third seeds. Lindstedt/Melzer were no match and went down 3 and 4. They also proved to be too good against Huey/Lipsky and won 6-4, 6-4. This was their maiden doubles trophy. Alternates is a nice term. It should be used every time the phrase lucky loser would be used. Sometimes, you don't lose but you do get beaten. Alternates is the perfect phrase.
FRESH FACE: Austin Krajicek
...He won a challenger this week. It is the second he has ever won. He made the quarterfinals last time but went three better this time. He beat players like Falla to win the event. He is now ranked 121 and still pretty fresh faced. Backspin will continue to mention him. And when he makes his big break, Backspin will say I told you so.
DOWN: The Bryans
...The Bryans have been rubbish this year. When you're the best, you set ridiculous standards for yourself and your future self. The Bryans have lost their form and they have lost their magic, too. Could the Bryan lose the top ranking for the first time since...since...for a while.
UPSET: Lamine Ouahab
...Ouhab ousted top seed Garcia-Lopez in one of the biggest upsets of 2015. The Moroccan has little ATP experience but was still able to sweep to a 6-3, 6-3 victory. GGL will win a title this year. He will also make a run at the French again. Other than that, it's hard to make too many predictions.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - If Djokovic finishes with more weeks at number one -- but no French Open titles -- is he greater than Nadal? Each week a new dimension is added to the GOAT argument
2 - We’re on clay now. The Twitter and other social media accounts of players were interesting to follow.
3 - First ever Indian women's tennis number one. That's pretty special.
4 - Baseball season has started and my team are doing better than Todd's team. So Ha! [Ed.Note: That's for sure! But it's a 162-game schedule. :)]
5 - The Fed Cup is back. Now that's a special competition.

1. CASABLANCA SF – Klizan d. Dzumhur 4-6, 6-4, 6-0
...Klizan was down 6-4, 4-2. He recovered and never looked back, winning ten games on the trot. Klizan is now 3-0 in singles finals and 3-0 in doubles finals, which is pretty impressive. He has now won a title on the two main surfaces on the tour. Klizan then finished the job with a dominating 6-2, 6-2 rout of Gimeno-Traver in the final.
2. HOUSTON SF - Querrey d. Verdasco 7-5, 2-6, 6-4
...Querrey outlasted clay court expert Verdasco over the course of three sets to advance to the final. Querrey could not simply serve through the Spaniard and so had to use other methods to win. He used his forehand well and, more importantly, showed the grit needed to win through.
3. HOUSTON FINAL - Sock d. Querrey 7-6, 7-6
...In an all-American final, Sock outlasted Querrey over two breakers, winning them 11-9 and 7-2. It was the first all-American final since 2002. Sock rises to 34 in the world. If he can get a top 30 seeding before the U.S. Open [a slam he has won as a junior] he could be a serious threat there.

Nadal [3] d. [1] Djokovic
Federer [2] d. [4] Raonic
Nadal [3] d. [2] Federer

...Nadal has a point to prove. Would anyone pick against him? Federer has a fairly simple draw, especially considering how much form Wawrinka has lost. Don't rule out a surprise player making it to the semi-final. Still, Raonic does perform well here.

Casey Dellacqua again lost to Bencic. She now falls down to 44 in the singles rankings but she would still be seeded at lower level tournaments.
Dellacqua's loss with Jurak to Mirza/Hingis is a historical one. The WTA has its first Indian number one. This country is well in excess of two billion people. And yet only now does it have its first women's world number one. Casey rose six places to 31 in the world in doubles. She may well play in the Fed Cup in s-Hertogenbosch. Yes, that is misspelled.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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