Monday, July 18, 2016

Wk.28- Murray Finds Love in the Eternal City

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Let's go straight into the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Great Britain def. Serbia 3-2
Great Britain defeated Serbia on Belgrade clay 3-1 with the home team claiming the dead rubber. This was a Britain that won without Murray, with Edmund leading the charge. The blonde defeated Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. Despite Lajovic beating Ward even more comprehensively 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, when Britain won the doubles the tie was done. Inglot/Murray won in the drizzle in four, sending Zimonjic packing. And Edmund sealed it with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6[5] decision to seal a clash with Argentina.

Argentina def. Italy 3-1
On the clay in Pesaro, Italy, Delbonis set the tone early. He defeated Seppi in four grueling sets 7-6[4], 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[3]. This whole Davis Cup weekend was affected by the rain and here it cost the Italians. Fognini had to finish his 6-1, 6-1, 7-5 victory over Monaco on Saturday and then play the doubles. Pella and Delpo winning in five fiery [Del Potro’s passion] sets was the breaking point. Fognini could not muster much the next day as he fell to Delbonis 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. It was a tie played in good spirits, a tie with great tennis and an occasion where Delbonis got to play hero.

Great Britain faces Argentina in the semi-finals. It’s being played on British soil, so read Glasgow. Britain will lose two singles rubbers and win three-two. With it being right after the U.S. Open concludes it is uncertain who will turn up. If Murray doesn’t the Argentines will win 3-2. The doubles pairings of Great Britain are very good but can be beaten. That’s the key to the whole tie for the Argies. Win that and they probably have it.

France def. Czech Republic 3-1
When Rosol bested Tsonga in five the Frenchies looked in trouble. Coming back from two sets to one down, Rosol won 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6[8], 6-4. He saved match points and even came back from a break down in the fourth set. But Pouille impressively outmuscled Vesely 7-6[2], 6-4, 7-5. Even though Herbert/Mahut looked a little off they still took care of Stepanek/Rosol 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. They should have clinched it in the fourth but Stepsy held his serve in a 12-minute 9th game in the fourth, giving his team momentum. And Tsonga, with not an inconsiderable bit of help from Noah, came back to seal it with a 4-6, 7-6[3], 6-4, 7-5 four set victory. France have dropped just the one rubber thus far. The Croats have dropped four, Great Britain two and the Argies two.

Croatia def. United States 3-2
We had a rare occurrence where all four ties were alive come Sunday. No whitewashes to be found. The funny thing, though, was that only one went to five. Up two-nil with the Bryans on tap, America squandered its lead and fell 3-2 to Croatia. Sock coming back from two to beat Cilic was a highlight. The 23-year old showing his chutzpah and his wicked forehand. Isner dismissing Coric was equally impressive. What followed, though, was disastrous. America’s first ever defeat from two rubbers up. Croatia through, the U.S. in disarray.

Now the problem Croatia has is that there is no team better across all surfaces than France. Even on grass they have the edge. They are also the team with the most talent comparative to least wins. Very little bang for their buck. But Herbert/Mahut will win a rubber. And with Tsonga, Gasquet, Pouille, a healthy Monfils, Simon and Benneteau to choose from, they will find the two other wins somewhere. So Croatia are massive underdogs there. But if I were them I would choose the surface Cilic feels best on. The other wildcard is the consistency of the French. It definitely varies.

Right, let’s take a look at post Wimbledon tournaments now. And we have clay and grass for you to sink your teeth into.

Top 32 - Sousa and Simon fall two but sit at 32 and 30 respectively. Ramos-Vinolas up two to 31. Klizan is up 19 places to 28.
Top 10 – No change. Thiem, Tsonga, Goffin are 9-11. Cilic and Ferrer have the same amount of points but Ferrer is at 13.
Top 8 – No change. Kei still barely leads Raonic. While Kei is 500 points behind Wawrinka but he and Raonic form a little island.
Top 4 – No change. Novak, Andy, Roger and Rafa are the top four.

S: Ivo Karlovic def. Gilles Muller 6-7(2)/7-6(5)/7-6(12)
D: Groth/Guccione d. Marray/Shamasdin

S: Martin Klizan def. Pablo Cuevas 6-1/6-4
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Nestor/Qureshi

S: Albert Ramos-Vinolas def. Fernando Verdasco 6-3/6-4
D: Granollers/Marrero d. Daniell/Demoliner

...Ramos-Vinolas lost just one set in four matches in Bastad as he took out the title in Bastad, watched on by the mighty Borg. He defeated Baena 7-6 [5], 6-3, which on clay is a good victory. Up against unheralded Arnaboldi next he barely escaped 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, but after that he slipped into cruise mode. You get that a lot - players escape then go on a roll. He sent Ferrer packing 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-final, though that is not the scalp it once was. Riding high he was very impressive in seeing off his powerful compatriot Verdasco. His fellow lefty had dropped no sets, let alone games on the way to the final. But Ramos had the consistency and that was enough in a 6-3, 6-4 win. The third seed had won his first-ever title just a month after making the quarters of the French Open. He is cementing himself as a top 32 player with his consistent, crafty tennis. How will he react to the switch onto hard courts? He has never been to a final outside the clay in doubles or singles, whether on the challenger circuit or on the ATP.

...Put him in as player of the week, as veteran, as surprise. Really, Dr. Ivo ticks all the boxed this week in Newport. He’s just so compelling in a way Isner isn’t. There’s no reason, no rhyme, for it. No particular quirk or habit. But Karlovic just draws attention to himself, in the best way possible. And this week the serve was sizzling, was cooking. During the week he hit over 80 aces and went 5-1 in breakers. He survived Canadian Dancevic 3-6, 7-6[5], 6-4 in the first round before dismissing Chiudinelli 6-3, 6-4 in the quarters. He then took out Bagman in a pair of breakers to come through to the final where he beat Muller in three breakers to triumph. That is the magic of Karlovic, really. He has, in an age of returners, made his serve such a feared weapon that he can give even dull baseliners like Murray trouble. He is ageless and emotionless, robotic almost.

...Curly hair and a baby faced. Olivo has the game to be very good, well, at least on this surface. In Hamburg, he beat Youzhny 7-6[5], 2-6, 6-1. He dismissed Gonzalez 6-3, 6-4 and then he edged the top seed, Kohlschreiber, 7-5 in the third. He has played in a slam just once but did reach the second round. It was in Australia this year. He is at 109, which is his highest ever ranking and if he can rise into the top eighty or so he should get direct entry. He is also perhaps more of a doubles player, having won three titles from five finals on the challenger tour. Partners have included Zeballos and Delbonis. With friends like that a rise seems inevitable.
...Ranked 43rd the Bagman has gone from fat to fit and is now looking at a comeback into the top 40. He made a semi-final in Newport, beating Brian Baker and Dudi Sela in straight sets. Even in the loss to Karlovic he looked alright. He looks motivated again and he still has a small window to find another run somewhere. Wouldn’t it be good if he could string together wins in Australia again?
...Honestly, considering he won a 500 in Hamburg and only dropped a set he should be the player of the week. But he was an enormous surprise, akin to Trump’s nomination. Because Klizan is somebody who could make a semi-final run at a major. But he is also somebody who could lose to the world number 500 in qualies. That forehand is a serious weapon, it can wreck games and wreak havoc. He edged past Sjisling 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 but he had momentum and he rode it. He beat Wessels 1 and 1, before besting Gimeno-Traver 6-4, 6-3. Klizan dismissed Robert 6-3, 6-4 to make the final. Of the three events we had just two right-handed finalists. Having reached the final Klizan blew Cuevas away 6-1, 6-4. Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen, was it? Now ranked 28, he is just four away from equaling his highest ever ranking. He won his 5th title. He made a run to the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 2012. Repeat that and he could be on the cusp of the top twenty.
...Another first round loss. It is just beyond disappointing. The second seed in a weak field in Hamburg, he had a massive chance. A loss to Gimeno-Traver in a 500. It’s really quite embarrassing. It’s no wonder he was there and not in the Davis Cup. Would you call him up to represent your country? It’s the seeming lack of interest and occasional burst of brilliance that makes it all the more frustrating. We rightfully expect more from Paire.
...When Donald Young gets it right one wonders how he fell to such a low ranking. He was on a higher plane this week in Newport before he had his wings clipped by Muller. He dismissed Donaldson 6-1, 6-3 and Kozlov 6-0, 6-4. Having seen off two of his compatriots he had to face a third. But this was top-seeded Johnson riding a career-high ranking. And it was the way Young dismissed him so routinely, 6-2, 6-3. It wasn’t close, it was a statement victory, a stamp. Which just made his loss in straight sets to Muller all the more mystifying.

Notes from the week...
1 - Mahut and Herbert have sealed their place in London at the end of the year.
2 – With four events happening twice and the Olympics throwing things out of whack expect the U.S. Open seedings to be funky.
3 – Is that Federer’s last shot a major? Will he have regrets?
4 – Nations who gain promotion in the lower tiers of the Davis Cup will now win medals. Which is nice.
5 – Congratulations Azarenka on being pregnant. I hope she comes back faster than Kirilenko, who has disappeared.
6 – Nice to see Borg with Klizan at the Swedish Open. Good to see how Borg has developed into a statesman and ambassador of the game.

1. Newport F - Karlovic d. Muller 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[12]
...Absolute madness in Newport. Karlovic becomes the oldest winner of a title since 1979. He also saved three championship points and wins his first title here in his third final. It took three hours but the Croat won his 7th title.
2. Hamburg F - Klizan d. Cuevas 6-1, 6-4
...It must be nice to come back after missing over two months earlier in the year and dominate your first final back. I don’t know for sure, but Klizan does. He dominated Cuevas in the final, like he did against Monfils in Rotterdam in February. Klizan was happy to win the same tournament Mecir once did.
3. Hamburg R3 - Olivo d. Kohlschreiber 1-6, 6-0, 7-5
...Occasionally this BACKSPINNER likes to throw in a match because of the bizarre scoreline. But this one also has an upset factor, too. Olivo saved match point down 3-5 in the third, before sweeping the last four games and taking victory. Here’s one way to break back, too.
4. Bastad R3 - Ferrer d. Brown 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
...The clash of styles here is remarkable. Throw in a decent attempt at an upset and this was a decent match. Ferrer is definitely trending downwards, but does he have one last big run left in him?

Johnson [5] d. [3] Tomic
Querrey [8] d. [14] Muller
Querrey [8] d. [5] Johnson

...It will be interesting to see the response of Tomic and Johnson, who both reached the same round at Wimbledon. Nobody in the bottom half can be trusted and so it falls to the form players of Muller and Querrey. Zverev could make a run here but he still has a slam hangover. There will be a surprise winner here and with a home crowd, why not an American?

Lopez [1] d. [4] Bellucci
Ramos-Vinolas [4] d. [2] Simon
Lopez [1] d. [4] Ramos-Vinolas

...Anything really could happen here, but at the least the seeds are in alright form. Well enough that they can be relied upon. The Spanish fourth seed is really dangerous here but Lopez is the better lefty. Sure he’s better on grass but he’s due a surprise title. Why not here?

Thiem [1] d. [4] Lorenzi
Kohlschreiber [2] d. [3] Granollers
Thiem [1] d. [2] Kohlschreiber

...Welcome to event three of four. With four events the field is really spread thin, too thin. And it means the seeds will almost always have their way. This tournament should be a cakewalk for the Austrian, especially with that home crowd.

Cuevas [1] d. [4] Fognini
Klizan [7] d. [8] Vesely
Cuevas [1] d. [7] Klizan

...How will the South American react to not being a dark horse? He should be able to roll through this field. And the other semi-final, if it comes to pass, will be an excellent match. Two big-hitting lefties who somehow have different styles. But Cuevas has too much form and too much experience. Whew, finished. But four again next week!

Mladenovic is seeded fourth at the Washington Citi Open. She opens with Crawford, but Lisicki and Brengle lurk. Stephens is the bigger seed in her half. So she has ended up in a manageable section. No sign of Garcia, though. She and Bencic won this last year so she will lose points next week. She has not even entered the doubles. She is ranked 34th in singles and 4th in doubles.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Wimbledon Final: Take a Bow

Hey, all. Galileo here.

We shall dissect the match properly below. Some thoughts first. Who goes to a Wimbledon final and decides that looking like a hobo is acceptable? Apparently Andy Murray does. He didn’t shave or get a haircut. He looked so scruffy and undignified. No hair was in place, a direct contrast to Milos Raonic. For any other tournament, it’s whatever. But for a Wimbledon final? It’s important. Particularly if it is your home slam.

Murray did not beat Federer or Djokovic. He played no top five players on his run. He played just one top eight guy. This run will, like Bartoli’s, have an asterisk. He was never going to beat Federer or Djokovic here; he can’t do it. It’s why he will never deserve to be a number one. Even though he is five times more accomplished than about four different WTA number ones.

Congratulations to Murray on winning Wimbledon twice and making all of Britain happy. He has played well this past fortnight. Of course he has.

Now this is the moment we look at pictures of Andy and Serena together. Well, this BACKSPINNER won’t let you down...

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Congrats to Henri Kontinen and Heather Watson, who won the mixed by defeating 15th seeds Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 7-6[5], 6-4. It is Kontinen’s third title of the year and his first mixed title. He and Watson played attractive tennis, matching his youthful good looks. Just one break in it but Kontinen/Watson hit thirteen winners to their opponents' three. Both of the champions' first two matches were walkovers, including second seeded Soares/Vesnina. After beating Hingis/Paes in three, they didn’t drop a set.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Despite being a lefty, junior Denis Shapovalov has a zippy one-handed backhand. He used it in his three set win over 7th seeded Alex De Minaur of Australia. The 5th seed won 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. Canadian tennis is certainly very healthy right now. The Aussie went an abysmal 8-27 on the errors. The Canuck went 25-34.

Strangely the boy’s doubles tournament saw the top four seeds make the semi-finals with the final being between the top two seeds. And Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime lost despite being seeded first. Kenneth Raisma of Estonia and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece beat the Canadians 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

In the rankings, Federer and Nadal are on 5000 points, Murray at 10 and Djokovic at 15. Berdych and Thiem swap, seeing the Czech back into the top 15. Raonic stays at 7th but is just 5 points from the broken Kei. Tsonga is up two to 10th while Gasquet falls to 14th. Cilic only rises a place. Kyrgios and Tomic stay while Pouille is the big jumper. He is up 9 places to 21st. Querrey moves up 12 places to 29th but relatively speaking Pouille is the bigger mover. Anderson and Troicki fall 6 and 5 places to 31 and 32, but expect them to rise.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Davis Cup now in this stupidly packed week. The ATP messed up organizationally and it really isn’t all the Olympics' fault. In fact, blaming the Olympics is a lazy excuse. Anyway, on the bottom of the draw America wins in Portland [ORE] against Croatia 3-2. Sure, Cilic will get a win but the Bryans along with two top thirty players should be enough. France will go to the Czechs, but they are that rare thing - a team that has no weak surface. Tsonga and Pouille will be enough to get a victory each. Throw in Mahut and Herbert with rocket-high levels of confidence and you have 3-1 France. Italy and Argentina always do better than one thinks they should. Expect a lot of grinding on outdoor clay in Presaro, Italy. Del Potro is the wildcard here. Argies to win 3-2 because of Delpo. And at the top of the draw is Britain versus Serbia without either of their best players, most likely. Without the big guns this is a dog’s dinner. Outdoor clay combined with home-court advantage should see the Serbians win this.

As well as the Davis Cup we have two 250’s and a 500. Eight events in two weeks mean a loss in profits and surprise winners. At Hamburg top seeded Kohl beats 3rd seed Cuevas in the first semi. In the other Zverev [4] defeats 2nd seed Paire.

Johnson will ride his confidence in Newport and defeat third seeded Muller on his way to the final. Second seeded Karlovic gets past defending champion Ram but loses in the final.

In Bastad Ferrer [1] defeats [3] Ramos-Vinolas. Granollers seeded 4th will take out second seeded Sousa in the other semi, but this is Ferrer’s to win. Ferru is 2-0 in finals here.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Finally, Serena swept the doubles, as well. There’s now a discussion about greatest overall, though Navratilova still wins for this BACKSPINNER. When asked if she was one of the greatest female athletes of all time she replied simply...

She and Venus are a tribute to our sport.

...When Chang won that French Open he never kicked on, he never rose to the heights of which he was capable. Ditto for Philippoussis in that U.S. Open final. For Mecir, reaching that final in 1986 and defeating Wilander [2nd in the world] and Becker [3rd] on route was not the start of something. Aged 22 he would make just one more final. We know Kei’s tale, too. Look at Ferrero. Never quite kicked on after 2003. Look at Kei. He has done little since 2014. Will Canada’s most successful ever singles player follow in their footsteps or Nadal’s? That first final tends to make or break players. He will certainly be back in a Wimbledon final. Impossible to guarantee, but this BACKSPINNER guarantees it anyway. He will also make a final run in Australia or New York, more likely Melbourne. He will be a top two player at some point. But it is here on the grass he will be most effective. We saw a grass court player lose to a baseliner. Milos played most of the grass-court tennis while Murray sat back and tried to be as dull as possible, throwing in the odd slice. Then Raonic comes forward and gets passed. Murray played boring, counter-punching tennis. That awful rubbish does not belong in a Wimbledon final. It belongs at Masters 1000 level on indoor hard courts. Raonic may have lost 6-4, 7-6[3], 7-6 [2] but it wasn’t close. Only one break in it and Murray was always going to win it. He essentially smothered Raonic. But the stat that really hurt the Canadian? 64 per cent of first serves in. Abysmal. It was not a totally awful first final but it was far from perfect. Now this BACKSPINNER believes in Raonic. He will go from strength to strength. With Nadal out and Nishikori nowhere and hurting, he is the fourth best player in the world right now, maybe higher. He will be in more slam finals, he will win more titles this year. He is already 1-3 but he has played Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Murray. Last year he lost in New York to Lopez in straights. This year he will, for the first time, get past the fourth round. But what other BACKSPINNERS think, I don’t know. Hang on- Todd, what do you think, which direction is he headed in. Will he be a top two player one day? [ Sounds about right. Just by process of eventual elimination or a further slip in the rankings, from Federer and Nadal, would get him very close. He 's not flighty like Dimitrov, nor injury prone like Nishikori, so you'd think he'd be able to keep his position and be able to continue to move up with big results. - tds ]

Well, folks, consider this BACKSPINNERS mic dropped. Thank you linesman, thank you ball boys. See you on Sunday for a hectic edition of ATP BACKSPIN.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN. Of course we are all absolutely exhausted here so the next week is designated nap week at headquarters.

Read more!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Wimbledon: The Calm Before the Storm (or "Williams Conquers All")

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Serena is the greatest singles player ever. Sure, Navratilova is the best player ever overall and Graf’s numbers are slightly more consistent and better in some areas. Sure, she lacks mixed doubles titles and she has courted controversy, but those are barely flaws. She has yet to win the Golden Slam and won’t now do it. But the Gold medals in singles and doubles is practically guaranteed. She will have an impressive haul and the doubles title she won alongside the singles just adds to her glory.

Graf congratulated her. Todd will write a long and interesting piece on her, too. But, and this is revisiting an old Volley post, the fact that a 35-year old woman who has had several long term injuries and general health issues previously, including being on death’s door can dominate the women’s tour is embarrassing. This is supposed to be the world’s best tour and Serena has still made nearly eight straight (7/8) finals. She is still world number one by a long way. It is a poor show from the rest of the professional tour. Kerber isn’t young. Kvitova is utterly unreliable. Azarenka is essentially finished if she cannot sort out the myriad of injuries. And Muguruza is still finding her feet. The WTA needs to look at itself.


Editor's note: [just to highlight comments made on the other side of the Backspin universe this past week] "...ignoring the fact that (such an) argument could be made far more easily about the continuing merit of the men's side of the game considering four now 30+ year old (or nearly so) men have decimated the field for the past thirteen years and won 41 of 45 slams dating back to 2005 (and two of those four "non-wins" were claimed by now 31-year old Stan Wawrinka, with the others having come seven years ago by Juan Martin del Potro and two years ago by Marin Cilic, who couldn't hold a 2-0 set lead or convert three MP vs. a 35-year old Roger Federer this past week) while the lack of additional contenders for slam titles from the following generation have been far, far more disappointing than in the women's game."

"The fact is that both tours are currently seeing the birth of what might be a new generation of stars just now coming into their own, or maybe it will take an additional 3-5 years for those players to truly hit their PEAK. But with careers lasting longer the need for players to win big as teens or from age 20-23 before they're 'past their prime' isn't as important as it used to be when careers fizzled out at age 27-28 two decades ago. There's a new paradigm in the game now, with longer careers producing players who can challenge for slams near or past age 30, often reaching their peak (see Djokovic) at an age when past generations saw players in the thick of their inevitable decline, if not already past it. The fields on both tours will be put to a test of their collective mettle as the likes of Serena, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray transition from dominant to lesser roles or leave the game entirely. It will be fascinating to watch..."

That said, just as Muguruza's win in Paris was a big step for the women's game, so could be Milos Raonic's appearance in the men's final at SW19. All right, I just wanted to add that. Sorry, G... but since I had the "last word" I couldn't resist. - tds


We had the first all-French Mens doubles final. Roger-Vasselin/Benneteau lost to the top seeded Herbert/Mahut in two hours 6-4, 7-6[1], 6-3. It was fun, flair-filled, flamboyant French fabulousness, fully. The unseeded pair had blown a two sets to love lead in the quarters but won 10-8 while in the semis our top seeds won from two sets to one down. But in the final the number one players in the world cemented their position. They were superb.

The top seeds broke three times and never lost their own serve. They also won an impressive 38 per cent of receiving points. We may finally have a successor to the Bryans here.

Now onto the singles...

...In three and a half hours the baton was passed, just as Sampras handed it to Federer 15 years ago. 12 years before that Sampras beat Wilander in five in New York. Raonic won this by being mentally stable. He won it by refusing to back down under immense pressure in the fourth set. But 23 aces helped him to a 6-3, 6-7[3], 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory. The key stat? Federer taking one break point from nine. That isn’t Federer, isn’t Federer at all. The Swiss was all over the place. He looked nervous, unsure and a little lost. The credit must go to Raonic for finally stepping up and taking control. 75 winners to 40 and winning a per cent more than Federer on receiving points. As usual he looked totally unflappable, totally focused and ready to go. He has one of the best poker faces on tour and he used it to great effect. Sometimes he can lose it...

But often he can mentally block out anything. The crowd combined with his opponent throwing the whole bathroom at him made it tricky. But before we shout and dance, let's see how he does against Murray.
...Berdych was poor and Murray too good as the Czech lost 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The scoreline may not say it explicitly but this was a rout. Sure, Berdych broke but Murray went a very boring, precise 20-9 on the winners. The Scot returned at 42 per cent and blunted out the Czech attack. Five breaks and 10 errors a set from Berdie were enough for Muzza. This was a match Berdman was never allowed to be in. And for a top ten player it is ridiculous that he should let that happen. He should have found a way to force a breaker, he should have found a new attack plan to worry Murray. But he did none of those things. The really annoying thing about this is that means there is no storyline. There is no more to be written about this match. Murray is going to win that final in four. It is going to be dull, too. One hopes Raonic can pull one out of nowhere but Murray will not have another chance like this.

Garcia is in Gstaad but Kiki has yet to take a wild card into the event. If not I’m sure we will see them before August. The Wimbledon defeat will have knocked their confidence a little.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Wimbledon Day 10/11: The Final Four are Set

Hey, all. Galileo here.

This BACKSPINNER saw Vesely/Siniakova lose 7-5, 7-6[5] to Safarova/Stepanek, but was still impressed and surprised by the talent on display. Vesely being brilliant and big-serving was more expected. He is still honing his doubles skills and is a little sloppy in certain areas like shot selection. But his partner was brilliant; a future top-ten player. Great movement, great shot-selection and very intelligent. The serve is good enough to be going on with and the groundstrokes were always perfect. The lob was always spot on, too. This girl is the future of Czech tennis.

Vesely, of course, lost to Berdych 6-3 in the 5th set. It took Berdych some four hours to get the win but both men played a great match. The mental resilience of his younger opponent was refreshing to see. He saved eight of thirteen break points and hit 53 winners to Berdman’s 52. He only hit 33 errors, two more than Berdych, and broke thrice. It was a brilliantly played match from the young star who will win this event one day.

Also seen yesterday by BACKSPIN’S man on the ground was the end of the Bryans' straight sets loss. The crowd seemed a bit shocked. The Bryans' had been on the comeback trail and were rising again in the rankings. But, honestly speaking, they seemed a tad off. They also had no idea how to deal with their opponents’ red-hot form. And they now have not triumphed since the 2014 U.S. Open. The last one before that was the 2013 edition of Wimbledon.

The top seeded men, Herbert and Mahut, were also witnessed and they played well. They played a tactically astute match and won in four. But the crowd in attendance was small. It should have been larger. Quite disrespectful to the world’s best pair.

So, lots happened. Let’s go straight in...

...The escape of the year? This match can be described in numbers. Three and a quarter hours. Federer won from two sets down, 6-7[4], 4-6, 6-3, 7-6[9], 6-4. Three match points saved. But it was more than that. I was sitting on Henman Hill watching with bated breath. I was sitting on an outside court looking at the score that is displayed on the side of Centre Court. Waiting for the raucous cheer or ominous silence. If there is a more beloved sports star anywhere, tell this BACKSPINNER. Because he cannot think of even one. Federer knew the match would come down to the fourth set but the telling moment came earlier. At 3-3, 0/40 in the third he edged through the game and then broke for 4-3. It was a different match after that. It was Federer’s match. Federer out-aced Cilic 27-23 and found a way to win despite breaking just twice. Federer won a solid 72 per cent of service points, better than Cilic. But this match was about heart and soul, about the refusal to give, the mettle. Federer was too tough and too mentally focused to fold. Against Raonic he is the favourite. He needs to try and find the Raonic backhand and make him move. He should hit droppers and take the net away. The inside out backhand could also work well as a surprise tactic.
...Murray let Tsonga back in. He faltered. He cannot afford to do that against either Berdych or, god forbid, Federer. He triumphed in some four hours [longer than Fed’s match] 7-6[10], 6-1, 3-5, 4-6, 6-1. He was lucky his opponent hit 47 errors along with the 59 winners. For a little while it looked like Tsonga would storm back and win it. Muzza still managed to win 41 per cent of return points. It was a nervy victory but the Scot did have the upper hand. He has a way of winning those five set matches. He also seems to always get the best of Tsonga. Next he faces a less flashy, more solid version of Tsonga. Berdych has none of the thrills but he has weapons and he has the physical ability to really challenge Murray. The Scot also has that magic home support. Henman Hill is never as crowded as when Murray steps onto Centre. To beat Berdych one must make him move and defend well. Murray will be just fine, though he cannot afford to be too passive.
...Querrey hit 15 aces to the Canadian’s thirteen in the match but still lost in two and a half hours. Raonic won 81 per cent of serve points on the way to a 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 decision. The Canuck also hit 58 winners to just 16 errors in a quite remarkable performance. He broke three times and made his second Wimbledon semi-final. He also tied Isner for most aces at Wimbledon with 114. The world number seven has justified his Dark Horse tag at Wimbledon this year. This was a classic server’s match and a serving masterclass from North America’s best player. This was Querrey’s career defining slam, at least. With Federer dominating ten Wimbledon semi-finals, barely dropping games let alone sets, Raonic will have to play out of his skin. He has to serve big and take any chances he can. Mix up the serve and come in on some of Fed’s floatier slices. He also has to return alright and put away anything midcourt. He is the underdog but he won’t mind that at all.
...This was easy, this was simple. The Czech had struggled through his last match but was inspired here. The opening set was tight but once Berdie won it the rest was easy. It didn’t even take the tenth seed two hours to win 7-6[4], 6-4, 6-2. Four breaks to one and 35 winners were enough for Tomas but he has to cut down on the 24 errors. He is looking in ominous form and has never played Murray on grass. He beat Novak here in his last semi-final and had a bad record against him, too. This also feels similar to that 2009 Wimbledon. To win he needs to just open fire with the cannons. He has to try to hit through Murray and be careful when taking the net. Murray’s the favourite but that will take pressure off the Czech. Can he spring one of the upsets of the year?

Kiki and Garcia played yesterday against Parra-Santonja/Medina-Garrigues and this BACKSPINNER was in attendance. The girls looked crisp and were playing at a decent level. But the match was over before photographic evidence could be compiled. Medina called the trainer before the warm-up and had her shoulder strapping reapplied constantly. She could only serve at 50 per cent of her usual power, flicking it in on each delivery.

But today they fell to the 8th seeds 7-6[9], 6-3. Luckily the top seeds fell so the French women will stay at number two, well three and four. But their opponents only won two more points and Goerges/Pliskova are an established and talented team. This is not a a bad loss. Besides, it’s common for players to implode after winning their first slam. This is a great follow-up to the French triumph.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Wimbledon Day 8: Happy Fourth of July, Serena and Sam

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Jiri Vesely saved five match points, the same amount of points won by Sveta in her second set, and won the fourth set breaker against Berdie 11-9. He and Berdman are two sets all with the winner playing Pouille. Vesely could make his maiden slam semi-final here.

And after this BACKSPINNER waxed lyrical about the Aussies, they both blew it. Impressively, Querrey backed it up and won a tricky match against Mahut. This day was exciting and memorable just as every manic Monday should be. Kerber can rise to number one if she wins. Radwanska crashed out again in three long sets. That match against Lisicki is beginning to look more and more like the turning point of her career. And Shvedova has made a highly improbable run here.

Stat of the day: on first serve points Querrey was 96 per cent won.

So, lots happened. Let’s go straight in...

...Sure, the outer matches were spectacular. But some of the ones more heavily billed were damp squibs. They used to say Steffi played like she was double parked. Today Roger played as if he had left the oven on. In just over an hour and a half he dismissed the American 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. He hit the ball fine and rallied with the top seed. He spanked that forehand and even went 23-21 on the winners. But Federer is in form that he hasn’t been since January. How do you beat somebody who goes 35-13 on the winners? How do you beat somebody who wins 46 per cent of return points and 71 per cent of second service points? Forget the numbers; Federer is flowing like water over worn down rock, like champagne in a flute. The Swiss is gliding, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a hornet. That forehand is back with a vengeance. Sure Cilic is dangerous, but he also relies on surprise and upsetting his opponent. Federer is ready and, as much as this BACKSPINNER has predicted abysmally, Cilic won’t win that. In ten semi-finals at Wimbledon Fed has dropped just one set. To Djokovic. Book the Swiss in for an 11th final.
...Kyrgios tanked today. He threw the match and has once again been roundly criticized by everyone. He is back in the dog house but at least he acknowledges that. Off the court he behaves but on it is a different matter. He capitulated and his press conference was shocking. This section of BACKSPIN land, as is all of it, is about tennis. It is not about the further embarrassing behaviours of one of our crazier residents. Murray won 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 and was on the court barely longer than Fed. The two appear to be on a collision course with one another at this point. Murray hit just six errors and played the perfect match. Kyrgios never even got a break point. This was a poor match and one that is hopefully soon forgotten. Murray has to deal with Tsonga next and then a surprise semi-finalist. Tsonga will play with nothing to lose and could be very tricky. At least Kyrgios is likely to finish in the top five on the aces count.
...Tsonga won when Gasquet retired down 2-4 in the first. In stark contrast to Kyrgios’ behaviour, Tsonga gets massive sportsmanship points for this:

Against Murray, Tsonga just has to go for it. Serve-volley, go big on any forehand he sees. He should be as unpredictable as possible. He does all these things, anyway. Murray is likely going to win in four but Tsonga will play all the nicest tennis. Look for him to also try to take the net from Murray. If Murray is somehow having a bad passing shot day his chances will dramatically improve.
...Nishikori needs to create a website or Twitter account dedicated solely to keeping us updated on his various injuries. Down 6-1, 5-1 he finally listened to his team who had been urging him to retire for at least a set. It was the ribs this time. Is there any part of him that isn’t injured? He should do what Clijsters did. He should retire, come back and somehow be more brilliant than before. Anyway, Cilic is through to his third consecutive quarter here. He lost to Nole in five in 2016 and in straights last year. He is a back half of the year guy and has been abysmal throughout the year. But now is when he starts to get cooking. He needs to take the racket out of Federer’s hand. But he will have to move around and on this surface once you start to get moved around you never stop. He also has to be perfect for over three hours. Can he do that?
...A contender here for match of the championship. Goffin crafted, sliced, diced and served his way to a 6-4, 6-3 lead. He had momentum, he had the upset. He also had the Canuck right where he wanted him. But alas, Raonic came back from 2 down for the first time and won 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Essentially a top-ten clash, this burgeoning rivalry is growing into one of the most exciting around. In Basel, Goffin triumphed in three. That was in 2014, but in 2016 Raonic won in Indian Wells in three. It was a semi-final, too. The game styles are a fantastic contrast with Raonic the muscle against the thinker, the brain. There were six breaks in the three hours clash. Raonic went 53-44 on the winners while his opponent hit 44-27. Honestly, everybody had thought this would be a straight sets, straightforward encounter. But the Belgian is the successor to Ferrer and he has an uncanny knack of making these matches close. He really had Raonic all over the place throughout, but on this surface Raonic always has a slight edge. On this occasion it was too much. Raonic plays Querrey and in that you can expect 50 combined aces and lots of breakers. Could Querrey possibly continue his run?
...before Wimbledon, Pouille had never won a grass court match but he beat Tomic in five heart-breaking sets. At least Bernie didn’t tank. No, the Frenchman won 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 10-8. Somehow it didn’t even take three hours. Up 4-2 in that last set those final eight points eluded Tomic, who graciously admitted his opponent had “played the match of his life.” Despite his despair he will rise to world number 17. That’s a career high. With a decent summer showing he could rise to the top 16, which would help him greatly in New York. But Pouille is the Cinderella of the tournament and is not done yet. He is set to rise to 21, up nine places. That semi-final in Rome gave him seeding in Paris and that in turn assured him seeding at Wimbledon. He is a journeyman who has finally made it big, made it big time. And you have to love that. France needs a new hero, needs a new cast and it may have found its leading man. Pouille could make it all the way to the semi-finalist, though he will be a massive underdog against whichever Czech he faces. Then again, he thrives as the underdog. Props to Pouille. He keeps rising and riding.

Kiki and Garcia should be playing tomorrow folks.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Wimbledon Day 7: History is Alive Today

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Only three or four times in history have we had to play on the middle Sunday. Today was one of those days. Let’s just have a look at the matches, shall we.

...Berdych survives the future by winning 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. The Czech himself declared his opponent would win slams in the future. And who are we not to believe the world number ten, anyway? It was a match where cannonballs and bombs were the currency. Physical and intriguing in the right measure, Zverev showed steel in his refusal to go away. But Berdman slowly broke the 19 year old’s spirit. It was an incredible effort to just take it to four sets. For nearly two and three quarter hours the pair entertained the sold-out stadium. The backhand rallies in particular were engaging. But while they both hit 34 errors, Berdych hit 44 winners to the German’s 24. It was factors like that, where Berdie had the edge. He managed to break six times, too. Of course, his young opponent did capitulate in the last set but even then Zverev hung around as long as possible. Now Berdych gets to play Vesely, most likely. No, scratch that...Vesely just won. Talk about another battle betwixt the past and future, but this time the winner can rightfully be declared the Czech number one. Vesely will be rising 15 spots to 49 so he really is starting to catch up the Berd.
...Kyrgios had a horror draw, but in the end he has come through with aplomb. He only dropped a set to Stepsy and edged Brown in five. Now he has beaten Lopez in four and looked fairly mature through all of it. When the umpire called him on match point for taking too long to serve he was very gracious. He didn’t rant. He didn’t rave. He was calm and accepted it though it was a horrible decision; Kyrgios is one of the most rapid servers out there. Kyrgios won 6-3, 6-7[2], 6-3, 6-4 in some three hours spread across two days. The crowd was under a spell throughout the whole thing. Nick won the aces battle 27-11. Isner has 114 aces and leads the aces count but Kyrgios is in joint second with 79. He is ahead of Querrey, but level with Raonic. The key number here is that Lopez only got 53 per cent of his first serves in. If that number is 15 per cent higher this match goes five. Kyrgios was 72 per cent in that area and he will neEd to stay at that level against Murray. He may even need to raise his level against the Scot. Considering this BACKSPINNER has butchered every other prediction, maybe the prediction that the Aussie will upset the Scot might come true. Wouldn’t it be good if I could prove I wasn’t totally useless?
...Now a top 50 player, Vesely he should be dismissing Sousa on this surface. The future top-tenner [hardly a bold prediction, for once] was calm and controlled as he rolled through 6-2, 6-2, 7-5. It took the lefty just 100 minutes to come through to the fourth round. If he beats Berdych he will crack the top forty. He even survived the third set fightback from his experienced opponent. Hitting 32 winners, including 12 aces, and breaking five times to none, he played the perfect match. And doing that against a seed at Wimbledon is very tricky indeed. He also won 82 per cent of his serving points. Sure, Berdych is 7 and a half steps up from Sousa but the Czech number one should still be a little nervous. He is about to be tested.
...6-7[3], 3-6, 7-6[5], 6-2, 19-17. That was the scoreline. Just four breaks. Isner hit 53 errors and 101 winners but somehow only 38 aces. Four hours and 24 minutes. Isner won 18 per cent of return points, his opponent just 27 per cent. Tsonga hit an incredible 88 winners to 20 errors. This was a match of incredible quality but also one where most rallies were really short. Honestly, it would be impossible to do this match justice unless you were there. So this BACKSPINNER suggests you go find someone who saw it and quiz them on this match. Because raw numbers do nothing to describe this bizarre and long battle. Tsonga’s victory prize will be a fourth round clash against Gasquet and that is most likely a bridge too far for the talented Frenchie.
...What a good day Gasquet has had. He gets past the Spaniard at a canter and his next opponent plays a marathon. Yes, the Frenchie won 2-6, 7-6[5], 6-2, 6-3. Seeded 7th, Gasquet has passed every test at this year’s Wimbledon. This match was only ever competitive as long as Gasquet couldn’t figure out the Spaniard’s game. Once he got to grips with it his opponent was in trouble. In the last set Gasquet started to really cook and even won the match on a massive forehand winner. Yes, correct, not a backhand, a forehand. Imagine that! He is starting to exude confidence, and with Tsonga likely to be 10 per cent less than usual he has a great shot to make a second semi-final in a row here. It would be his fourth slam semi but first he must deal with some tricky opponents. Even tired Tsonga will test him and so will Murray or Kyrgios. Berdych is likely to be waiting beyond that, too. He hit 47 winners against the Spaniard. He also showed more uncharacteristic mettle. Can he keep it up?
...Hard-working, unheralded Pouille has come through against the giant giant-killer. And it’s strange that Del Potro should so tamely fall to a Frenchman with seemingly little but a big serve. The Frenchie won 6-7[4], 7-6[6],7-5, 6-1. The match was effectively won in that second set. Once he leveled it at a set-all he had the momentum and he rode it all the way through. Also, his opponent somehow out hit him in the winners department by 73-36. That’s double and also not the Delpo that we know and love. The Argentine still rose 30 spots to 139. A few decent results over the summer and he will be able to enter events automatically. The Olympics may be beyond him, however. Pouille rises 4 places to 26 but he won’t beat Tomic. The Aussie has found momentum and form. He will see the fourth round clash as too good an opportunity to miss. There is a possibility of a Kyrgios versus Tomic semi-finals. Let us hope it happens.

Kiki and Garcia edged through a nervy encounter against Peng/Zhang 0-6, 6-3, 6-4. Their opponents broke more times [5-4] and won more points [84-82] but still lost out in the hour and forty-five minute contest. But they managed just one winner. So now our Frenchies go through. They may have to play seeds next, though their opponents have yet to be determined.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Friday, July 01, 2016

Wimbledon Day 5: Keep Calm and Ignore the Rain

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Well, let’s go on with it. The rain has wrecked everything. The storylines are few and best explored individually. So let’s ignore the rain and the fact that no seeds are safe and proceed.

Actually, hang on. Djokovic has imploded.

Querrey was up 4-2 in the breaker and squandered chances to win the breaker early before eventually taking it 8-6. After winning the opener he won the second set 6-1. So now Djokovic will have to play tomorrow and then four times in seven days. Federer is one of the few who gets two days off. Could it make the difference?

With the rain hitting Wimbledon so badly we have just five matches to focus on.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Mahut d. Klein {W}
MS 2nd Rd: 2nd Rd: Karlovic [21] d. Lacko [Q] {L}
WS 1st Rd: Makarova d. Larsson {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Vandeweghe [27] d. Babos {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Suarez Navarro [12] d. Erakovic [Q] {W}
WS 3rd/4th Rd: Lisicki d. Shvedova

...This is the big moment, the match we remember. It is the match that kick-started Delpo’s 78th career and also the match where Wawrinka may just have started to show his decline. The Argentinian’s ranking will improve and he can slowly find his way back. His serve and forehand fired while his slice backhand was surprisingly effective. With Djokovic in trouble, Wawrinka out and only Federer looking competent, could Murray finally win his long-awaited third slam? Delpo hit 70 per cent of his first serves in and of those he won 75 per cent. Those numbers are enough to see him through most matches, though his winner ratio of 23-25 is far too low. 32nd seed Pouille awaits and after that Tomic or Agut. One of those players is going to make a big run here, possibly to the final. Could it be Delpo?
...This Brit was actually less effective than the previous one, losing in just 80 minutes. Federer seemed to get bored during the 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 decision. Up 4-0 in the first he weathered the British storm and then slowly picked apart his opponent. The last set was Federer playing at a level rarely seen since the Australian Open. Federer does not even know his next opponent yet. On paper neither Dimitrov nor Johnson pose much of a threat to Federer, but this is not a slam played on paper. Still, would you want to play the GOAT after two days of rest? No, me either. What about if he has just hit 29 winners including 11 aces and won 76 per cent of his serve points? The Swiss is gearing up for what would be a tenth final here. How many different ways can you say dominant?
...This is like playing yourself. Kyrgios may be seeded and he also does have a slightly tighter grasp on reality, but both these players are equally mad and brilliant. Fiery, pleasant off-court and funky hair are also points in common. Kyrgios has the bigger serve, so far he has hit 52 aces, which is good enough for joint 5th with Raonic. He edged the German 6-7[3], 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. The last two sets he showed his mental strength and his solidness. He proved he has mettle. The Aussie went 55-16 on the winners count while his opponent went 78-30. This match was not just insane, it was something you couldn’t write into a movie. Neither player returned anywhere near decently. Brown won just 35 points on the Kyrgios serve. This had dropshots, serve-volleying and bad-temperedness from Nick. Pure excitement and fire from both men. And the Australian’s reward is a clash with somebody who really should have exited in this round.
...Sometimes a player or a sports team is simply outmatched. Raiders fans, Bills fans, Oilers fans and Utah Jazz fans all know what I’m talking about. So do fans of the Rockies. Getting roundly thrashed is part of sports. It’s almost always ugly and never leaves anyone feeling very good unless you’re with the winning team, of course. When Becker ran into Berdych in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon not even he expected the drubbing that was to come his way. It took Berdie just 80 minutes to come through 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. 43 winners and 5 breaks later the German had permission to leave. The Czech lost just 16 service points in some 12 games. This BACKSPINNER thinks it's time to move on, frankly. Berdych gets Zverev or Youzhny up next. And then Sousa or Vesely. So the quarterfinals beckon. But if there was ever a player capable of mucking it up it is Berdych.
...Let’s not think about the days and hours [only three actually] it took to complete this match between two of our most attractive players. Attractive as in, you know, tennis and stuff. But Pennetta is still a lucky woman, winning that U.S. Open title and all. Lopez came back from the dead and won 3-6, 6-7[5], 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Lopez hit 61 winners to Fognini’s 50 and only 43 errors, less than his opponent. In the end this was about the surface. Fognini has never quite understood the grass while Lopez thrives on the green stuff. He managed to break eight times, double the Italians. It was a very watchable five sets. The BBC kept flicking onto the match every now and then. It seemed to go on forever. And now Lopez gets Kyrgios. Kyrgios is the slight favourite, but the talent on show will dazzle all those in attendance. Look for them to combined crack 50 aces there.

Kiki will possibly play tomorrow. Honestly, who knows? The rain has been truly abysmal and it has been non-stop.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wimbledon Day 4: Seeds Crumble, Fall Out the Door

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Viktor Troicki has added another rant to his collection:

He is known for his hot head and even at Wimbledon he is liable to explode. In a five set loss to Ramos he blew up, yelling at the umpire. Apparently one of the line judges made a sound. And on the same day Simon threatened to sue for being forced to play in awful conditions. Yes, it was all in all an utter shambles. Like in Paris, nobody wants to play in the rain.

And 18 seeds fell, though only 7 in the men’s draw. Karlovic, my suicide pick, was very disappointing. Of course, the biggest seed to fall in the men’s was an Austrian who was everybody’s dark horse. Radwanska only survived [winning 9-7 in the third] Konjuh because her opponent wasted three match points before injuring herself. So it’s an extremely lucky escape for the third seed.

Ankle injuries are nasty. They can really effect a player’s career. Long term how has this impacted the Dane’s career? I suppose we’ll never know.

Before we get onto Murray and Nishikori, there is one more leg injury that must be referenced. Warning- not for the squeamish.

Well let’s go on with it...

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Mahut d. Klein {W}
MS 2nd Rd: 2nd Rd: Karlovic [21] d. Lacko [Q] {L}
WS 1st Rd: Makarova d. Larsson {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Vandeweghe [27] d. Babos {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Suarez Navarro [12] d. Erakovic [Q]

...It’s a massive banana peel sidestepped by Kei here. When Benny won the first set 6-4 the upset alarm in BACKSPIN HQ began to flash, though not red. It flashed a light pink. Kei turned it off with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 come-from-behind win. Few avoided the upset, with Venus being a notable escape artist. Radwanska doesn’t count; she got extremely lucky. Benny went just 29-22 in the winners while Nishikori exploded. He hit the same amount of errors but blasted 48 winners throughout the match. He also broke 5 times to 2 in the two and a half hour contest. Nishikori started slow but soon hit his usual rhythm. The Asian number one has an abysmal record here, making just one fourth round. Kuznetsov is up next and will be no pushover. After that Cilic likely lurks. So from here it gets tougher.
...Rendy Lu was up 2-0 in the first set but his resistance was soon snapped. The Scot cruised through after that, dropping just 4 more games in the 100 minute contest. He managed just 20-25 on the winners while the second seed went 31-12. Muzza broke 7 times and won 56 per cent of receiving points. Little else need be said except that John Millman is up next for the Scot. He shocked Paire in four. The problem with these early matches is that they are so rarely close and this one was sadly no exception.
...Dimi is back. He announced himself with a 6-3, 7-6[1], 3-6, 6-4 shock ‘upset’ over out of form 16th seeded Simon. It was a bad day for the 16th seeds. Konta drew Bouchard and lost in three. Dimitrov flashed 44 winners to 43 errors and was completely mad the whole match. Brilliantly, frustratingly mad. And you’re mad if you didn’t enjoy every stupid moment. Simon almost sued the umpire. Dimitrov’s defence and offense was mind-blowing. The confidence was back, the magic is flowing once more. Is he slowly moving out of his rut or will he be forever a grass-court specialist? Both men won well over 60 per cent of their serve points though there were still eight breaks. Simon seemed all out of ideas while Dimitrov flowed effortlessly around the greasy court and played some sparkling tennis. If he can beat Johnson he could be looking at rising into the top 32 again. Johnson will be somewhere around 25 in the world, a just reward for a very talented college player. Oh, the winner of that one gets Roger Federer. Yep.
...One could be forgiven for forgetting these two are the same age. 7-6[4], 7-6[5], 7-6[3] was the scoreline, completed in three hours. But this is no reason to sell Thiem stock. Berdych lost in an identical scoreline to Gulbis a few Wimbledons ago. Berdych is still in the top ten while Gulbis has imploded. Despite Thiem going 45-29 in the winners while his opponent could only manage 37-25, and the Austrian only losing serve once, he still finds himself going home. He only won 31 per cent of receiving points, a mirror of his opponents. Vesely won four of every five points on his first serve. In the matches coming up against Sousa and Berdych he will need to continue that stat. It was his first big signature win and he can follow it up with his first round appearance at a slam.
...The Aussie blew many a chance but scraped through to a 7-6[3], 6-3, 6-7[6], 6-3 victory in front of his fanatics this afternoon. He refused to come to the net, allowing his Macedonian opponent to scamper around the back of the court and defend. He was the same mercurial self he has always been. Albot resisted admirably but he could never hurt Tomic. Tomic hit 66 winners, exactly twice that of his opponent. Tomic always seems to find his best tennis at Wimbledon and in Australia. He is the slight favourite against Agut, who has recovered a little form lately. But after that lurks Wawrinka and then probably Berdych. So the road is tough.
...Sure it took the Aussie three days and four hours but a win is a win. He won through 6-7[7], 7-6[5], 6-3, 6-7[5], 14-12. That took an age to type - this BACKSPINNER cannot imagine playing that kind of a match at a slam level of intensity. The Frenchman only managed to find one break point the whole match. He didn’t even convert it, either. Barton was only 2 from 13. Both players won just a quarter of receiving points and the Frenchie played 107 net points. A combined 196 winners outweighs the 79 errors that were hit in this insane match. Isner now awaits the Aussie qualifier. In this battle of the qualifiers both had been forced to go over 6-6 at some point in qualifying. Tennis is a funny sport.

Kiki plays on court 7 tomorrow with Garcia. They play last and are up against Schuurs/Voracova. Kiki lost to Sasnovich 3 and 3 today. 27 errors and five breaks on the Pastry’s serve. She barely even won points on her opponent’s serve. Man, she needs to find some consistent slam singles form. She has too much talent for it be wasted. Roland Garros was a massive step in the right direction, though.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wimbledon Day 3: Another Slam, Another Tweener

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Sometimes there are no words for the Aussie. The rain has been and will continue to disrupt play. So the storylines are thin on the ground. Instead, let’s just dive right into the festivities.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Mahut d. Klein {W}
MS 2nd Rd: 2nd Rd: Karlovic [21] d. Lacko [Q]
WS 1st Rd: Makarova d. Larsson
WS 2nd Rd: Vandeweghe [27] d. Babos

...Since Stan defeated Novak in last year’s French Open final Novak has lost no slam matches. None. His streak today moved up to 31. He will lose a slam match again eventually, but the competition is just not there right now. Mannarino was the latest and he pushed Nole for two hours before folding 6-4, 6-3, 7-6[5]. Broken three times to one, the Frenchman put in a decent performance. He knew he had to go for his shots and he did so. He went 30-42 on the errors count and also won 75 per cent of his first serve points. It was not enough as Novak survived hitting eight doubles and hit just 21 errors. The Serb was too solid, too much of a wall for the Frenchy to break through. Sam Querrey is up 6-4, 5-2 against Bellucci. If indeed it is Querrey, Novak will have a real handful to deal with.
...Willis’ story is of a fairy tale like quality. He has come from nowhere to qualify and complete a dream. Imagine playing on Centre court with a home crowd against the greatest to ever play the game. Sure the dream lasted just 84 minutes, but he gave it everything. Willis shed a lot of weight and was convinced not to retire by his girlfriend. When he beat Berankis he earned 50,000 pounds in cash, giving his career a further boost. But Federer is still majestic on grass despite a dip in form. 34 winners from the Swiss, including 9 aces, and just 14 errors. The Swiss was never broken but he broke five times and won 45 per cent of receiving points. It was a procession. Now he must face either another Brit, Dan Evans, or Dolgopolov. They are locked at 6-6 in the first set.
...Seeded 19th, Tomic was unlucky enough to draw Verdasco as his opener. It was always going five. Tomic managed to win the see-sawing match without having to resort to breakers, winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. After a multitude of rain delays, the Aussie won the match that started on Tuesday. He later admitted, rather honestly, that he would have preferred to sleep on his 5-3 lead and finish on Thursday. Verdasco rained down 71 winners, including 28 aces, and broke four times. He played an exceptional match and even kept the errors down to 40. But Tomic broke once more and was a controlled 53-34 on the winners count. He played a very precise match and moves on. He plays Albot, though, who knows when that will be. Still, Albot will be far less of a test than the Spaniard.
...No problems here for the Austrian. This is one of those matches where the upset would not be so surprising; Mayer is a recent titlist. But Thiem has found top form and it is going to take something special to see him off. He won in 90 minutes 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 against the two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist. The Austrian has never been beyond the second round here. If he makes it that far his clashes against Berdych and then Wawrinka will be exceptional. But now he needs to focus on Vesely. The Czech is a fiery big-hitter who will give Thiem everything he can handle. The Austrian faced no break points and broke three times himself. If he can keep that up he will go far. 43 winners to 16 errors is also pretty impressive.
...Speaking of Berdych, he edged through against Dodig 6-7[5], 7-5, 6-1, 7-6[2]. He was not at his sparkling best but he squeaked through in four. Combined the pair hit just 32 aces and there were 12 breaks. It was a sloppy match and not of the calibre that was suggested by this match on paper. Berdych edged the winners 54-51 so there was some champagne tennis at least. Dodig was always going to be a banana peel for the 10th seed. Now he has avoided that one he can focus on the next. It is a clash with Benjamin (no-relation) Becker. But after that Zverev and Thiem lurks. If he can beat both of them it would be quite the achievement.
...It isn’t just the victory, it’s the score. The German dominated his opponent and won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in just 96 minutes. Despite the Frenchman’s talent the German blasted 20 aces and broke six times to see himself through to the second round. He is just so consistent and so on-form right now that he is almost the favourite against Berdych. He has to beat either Zeballos or Youzhny first but that seems a conclusion of the foregone variety. He’s returning at 48 per cent of points won and winning 70 per cent of his own service points. The German has hit a purple patch. How far can he ride it?

Kiki has played no singles matches yet, thanks to the rain. She and Sasnovich should be playing tomorrow. She has yet to start her doubles, either, where she is of course playing with Garcia. She has not even bothered to enter the mixed. That’s a strange decision.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Wimbledon Preview: Predicting the Unpredictable

Hey, all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, finally on to the singles...

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

#10 Kvitova d. #1 Williams
#2 Muguruza d. #9 Keys

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

#10 Kvitova d. #2 Muguruza

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

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

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


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

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

Read more!