Friday, May 27, 2016

Roland Garros Day 6: Nadal Suddenly at His Nadir


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Yes, I am a fool. A giant fool. But more on that later.

Here is a paragraph I have shamelessly taken from Sports Illustrated:

“In the third set, Cornet, visibly cramping, took treatment on five changeovers. She claims that she was treated for separate injuries and not for the cramps. While Cornet did not, technically, violate the rules, she sure bent them. That she is a player known for her theatrics only made the situation more fraught. Cornet won in three sets, but Maria, disgusted and dejected, refused to shake her opponent’s hand. I am also told that Maria’s husband and Cornet’s coach had to be physically restrained outside the locker room. “

And below is the video of that.



In other news Karlovic lost the most amount of games in two sets he has ever lost, losing five against Murray. Only two other times has he lost five. There was this insanity, too



And as for Nadal, well, he can tell you himself.



His left wrist has never been one of the issues. That’s usually more Del Potro’s area of weakness. Rafa’s legs for once are not the issues. And surely this must be it. If this isn’t what pushes Nadal into retirement, what is? If the wrist, which is his entire game, is starting to fade then surely his time is limited. He’s 30 next week. He has been playing at this level since 2002, when he was just 15. What are we going to do without him?

It really is strange at Roland Garros this year. What else happened today?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Sousa d. Dzumhur {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Chardy d. Pavlasek {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Isner d. Gabashvili {W}
MS 4th Rd: Raonic d. Ramos-Vinolas
==
WS 1st Rd: Ivanovic d. Dodin {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Stephens d. Cepede Royg {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova {W}
WS 4th Rd: TBA



CHATRIER: GASQUET D. KYRGIOS
...It is another fourth round for Gasquet and his sparkling backhand. He is having a consistent but ultimately frustrating career. He always seems to be just short. He put together a performance that may be the most complete you see all summer. He was too cool-headed and too consistent for the fiery Kyrgios. Stunning rallies were the currency in the Frenchman’s 6-2, 7-6[7], 6-2 victory. His backhand was supreme and he has to use it against Nishikori, his next opponent. Kyrgios complained of a shoulder issue and was booed off the court in another memorable performance. He has made back to back third round appearances here. And that is not unimpressive unless it is compared to his other slams. He should get a fourth round seeding at Wimbledon, but we will see. Kyrgios hit 44 errors, while Gasquet hit just 18. The Frenchie broke five times and won more second serve points. Ritchie will need to be more than just on form against Kei.
=============================
CHATRIER: WAWRINKA D. CAHARDY
...Somehow flying under the radar, Wawrinka didn’t even need two hours to see off Chardy 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. Usually people notice the defending champ, but Stanimal is hiding in the shadows waiting to strike. With Murray looking questionable Wawrinka could very easily make it to the final. There aren’t any players in this half of the draw he need fear. Well, not on clay anyway. Avoid the upset and see off Murray, he will be in the final. He is really playing big tennis now, clocking 36 winners and five breaks. He is also winning 75% of first and second serve points. And the other thing about Stan is the more this BACKSPINNER sees the luminous outfit the less he dislikes it.
=============================
LENGLEN: MURRAY D. KARLOVIC
...You know you’re going to have a bad day when you’re 7 foot tall but get lobbed on break point. After struggling past an old man and an unheralded French qualifier, Murray stormed past his first seed. He beat Karlovic 6-1, 6-4, 7-6[3] to book a place against another big server. Karlovic won less than 50 per cent of 2nd serves. Murray really took away his serve and once he did that it was all over. Incredibly Murray went 34-4 on winners to errors. He broke three times and was never troubled on his serve. It was a consummate performance and it came from nowhere. Now comes Isner in his first fourth round appearance here. He has more weapons than Karlovic, has pushed Nadal to five here previously and is going on with nothing to lose. This is going to go four at least.
=============================
LENGLEN: TROICKI D. SIMON
...This could be the end of Simon, though the decay started when he lost that match to Djokovic. Troicki won 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. It was comprehensive, easy. It was child’s play. It was six breaks to one, and a combined 70 unforced errors. Neither player played well but Simon was abysmal. Troicki was solid enough to see himself through. On any given day at a slam there’s always a dud match. This was it. Now Troicki is through to face third seed Wawrinka and that is a massive potential banana skin for the Swiss. Having beaten Dimitrov earlier, too, the Serb is set to rise 3 places to 21. His highest ranking is 12. Troicki has also equaled his best performance at five of the last six slams. Can he finally improve on one of them?
=============================
COURT ONE: NIISHIKORI D. VERDASCO
...It may have taken three and a half hours but Kei has made it through to the fourth round of a slam again. Verdasco threw the kitchen sink, bathroom sink and a toilet seat at the Japanese man but it was not enough. Ferver came back from the dead but even that proved fruitless. No, it was Nishikori who prevailed 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4. Ferver hit twice the winners and even managed to keep the errors down. In this match of eight breaks apiece, it was the Spaniard’s second serve that proved the difference. He won only 40 per cent of points on his second delivery. Ferver actually won more points and they both won 23 games but it was somehow the 5th seed who escaped again. Kei really is Houdini-like; he is impossible to put away. But if his next match against Gasquet goes four or five, how will his energy levels hold up?
=============================
OUTER COURT SELECTION: RAMOS-VINOLOS d. SOCK
...The Spaniard has had his best ever performance at this level. It was always going to come on clay, too. In some four hours he triumphed 6-7[2], 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. So grateful for the win was the Spaniard he kissed the clay. He is set to rise from outside the top fifty to inside the top forty with the win. Sock hit 65 winners but 76 errors while the Spaniard was a very good 50-39. It was small margins in this match, decided by 7 breaks to 5. Of course, the Spaniard has little chance against Raonic on paper, but this match will be played on clay and not on paper. Can he spring one of the upsets of the year and see himself into a maiden quarterfinal?
=============================

Mladenovic/Garcia won their opener today. They beat Beck/Wickmayer 6-4, 6-2. They won 80 per cent of first serve points, too. The 5th seeds play Johansson/Parmentier next, probably on Sunday. With the 2nd and 12th seeds going out, the French pairing will not play a seed until the semi-finals, but the Williams sisters do lurk. Kiki is up second on Chatrier tomorrow and will attempt to win a handful of games against Williams. She will do better than expected, but the result will not go her way. Sometime in the afternoon she goes to Court 3 and plays her mixed. She is with Herbert playing against Parra-Santonja/Pavic. They are seeded third. Don’t forget Kiki has won two mixed slams and reached the final here. She has also reached the semi-finals in New York. All of those were consecutive with Nestor from 2013-14.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Roland Garros Day 5: Nadal Nowhere Near Nadir


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

There are few things you can guarantee in this world. You can guarantee that Cher will outlive us all and that the Republicans will never again have credibility. The Cubs, even this year, will find a way to lose the World Series. And in a century New York will be still be overrated and still an incredible city at the same time. For a long time Rafa Nadal making opponents cry on red dust was another thing written in stone. But then he lost in three sets to Djokovic in 2015.

That match was one of the hardest to watch. This BACKSPINNER was quite depressed watching it, watching the fall of the king. Even as a Federer fan, who had been waiting for the inevitable collapse, it was a brutal match to watch. Rafa faded and faded until he was nothing. He still fought, but a bull with horns fighting isn’t going to get anywhere. And so it proved to be.

But now he has overcome his difficulties and is back in Paris. He is once more obliterating all and sundry. And in lots of ways it really is good to see. A healthy Rafa is what the ATP needs. If he can keep up this firepower, that semi-final will be one to remember.

But what other things happened on the first Thursday?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Sousa d. Dzumhur {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Chardy d. Pavlasek {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Isner d. Gabashvili
==
WS 1st Rd: Ivanovic d. Dodin {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Stephens d. Cepede Royg {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova


CHATRIER: NADAL D. BAGNIS
...The Spaniard has now dropped nine games. In four of his sets his opponent has failed to win two games. The score against the Argentine? 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. Facundo Bagnis had an early break in the first set. It was his first and penultimate hurrah. With 39 errors the Argentine was never quite there. Luckily it was quick and painless. The one and three quarter hour victory gives Nadal his 200th victory at slam level. Strangely Djokovic is already at 216. Federer has 302 wins and Connors 233. Neither Djokovic nor Nadal will catch the Fed but the Connors is certainly in reach. Up next is Granollers and then probably Thiem for Nadal. No bagels there though Granollers will certainly be pushed around.
=============================
CHATRIER: TSONGA D. BAGHDATIS
...This was a match worthy of Chatrier. Baghdatis and Tsonga did battle throughout the day and played a dramatic five setter. Tsonga escaped, scraping a 6-7[6], 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory. Once again the fitness of the Cypriot comes into question. It was a physical match with both players really going for it. At one point Baghdatis so intently chased down a drop-shot he failed to see the net. With only ten breaks and neither man yielding on their first serves, this was a server’s match. Of course, Bagman crumbled towards the end, but it was still a physical contest. Tsonga will be Tsonga and that means coming to the net. He won 32 of 59 net points and that is an area he needs to work on. This was a classic second round Roland Garros match that would’ve kept the crowd very happy.
=============================
LENGLEN: DJOKOVIC D. DARCIS
...Points like this one were practically the norm .



The Djoker joined Roger and Serena as the only players to win 50 matches at all four slams with a very hard fought win over Darcis. The Belgian had nothing to lose and pushed Djokovic, though the Serb eventually triumphed 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic only won the break battle by 5-2, and hit 42 unforced errors. It is not something you see ever, really. This was a sloppy win that the top seed had to really earn. It can be so hard to play a player with nothing to lose but is still equipped with weapons. Djokovic returned well but did not break down the Darcis serve. With Bedene and Agut coming up the tests start now.
=============================
LENGLEN: BERDYCH D. JAZIRI
...There are different ways of winning matches. Subtlety is one, as Santoro will attest to. A big serve is another one, and Isner is a fan of that method. Sticking around for an infuriatingly long period of time like Simon also works. But if you’re Berdych you like to bludgeon the ball. He battered Jaziri into submission with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 win. He threw down 11 aces and 32 winners overall. It sees him through to face Cuevas in the third round. That is a real test and one he needs to win to prove his title credentials. If he can serve like he has been doing he will be fine. This is Berdman we’re talking about, however, and that means anything could happen.
=============================
COURT ONE: FERRER D. MONACO
...With a combined age of nearly 70, it was a veteran’s match on Court 1. Ferrer triumphed in four and will face another old Spaniard in the form of Lopez. It also means Djokovic may have to play three Spaniards in a row. It’s funny how such a good modern clay rivalry like this may have just closed the curtains on its last match. Two old warriors battling it out on the red dust of Paris. There’s something medieval about such a contest. Of course, Ferrer moved through, but it isn’t about the result. It’s about the history and the connections. The head to head was tied at 3-3 on clay and 4-4 overall. This may well be the last time they play. And it’s another sign of the end of an era.
=============================
OUTER COURT SELECTION: CORIC d. TOMIC
...The Croat won 3-6, 6-2, 7-6[4], 7-6[6]. Battling dizziness and the usual overly high expectations, Tomic once again fell before the third round of Roland Garros. Tomic now has to prove it at Wimbledon. He has to show he still has the magic in London. Borna has matched his result from last year with another solid win here. Last year he lost badly to Sock. This year it is harder - he goes up against Agut. The boys combined for 32 aces and some 90 winners in total. There were only five breaks in this very high quality match. Tomic’s forehand again proved to be attackable. Coric has a great chance to make his maiden fourth round.
=============================

Mladenovic/Garcia open on Friday. They play on court six against Beck/Wickmayer. Not easy but not a massive banana peel, either. And Mladenovic is at least on form. After her semi-final result last week she has reached the third round here. She broke four times and hit almost twice the winners of her opponent, Timea Babos. She rolled through 6-4, 6-3 but now must face Serena Williams. Ouch.





Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Roland Garros Day 4: Rain Rain Go Away, Come Again Another Day


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The weather may be the greatest adversary this sport faces. Historically, nothing has altered it. Technologies, rules and equal rights have all had an impact, but nothing has ever challenged our sport. Not doping, not betting scandals and not even boycotts. Coming into the professional era has had no negative aspects, either. This has been a sport that has moved with the times and has never been called obsolete or dull. It has remained the same. Soccer has become more rule-affected. American football is not as physical and has changed massively. Ditto baseball, hockey and even basketball. Apart from sports like skiing, tennis has been one of the few unchanged sports. It’s always been about hitting a ball back and forth.

It’s only enemy has been the rain and other adverse conditions. Some of the most famous matches have been rain-affected. Check out this infamous flood:



And recently, well more recently, there was this:



Yes, it is the outdoor condition that is our greatest enemy. Our best tournaments are all outdoor and if it snows or there is a storm, then it is out of our hands. And tomorrow there will be thunder. So today we enjoyed a full day of play. Of course, the draw is still trying to sort itself out after a wet start, but we are getting there. Shall we see what happened?…

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Sousa d. Dzumhur {W}
MS 1st Rd: Chardy d. Pavlasek
==
WS 1st Rd: Ivanovic d. Dodin {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Stephens d. Cepede Royg {W}


CHATRIER: MURRAY D. BOURGUE
...The Scot beat the Frenchman 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. It took him some 3 and a half hours to win through and it gives him a total of seven hours on court in three days. So a ninth of his time has been spent playing tennis. Take out his sleep time and the percentage of waking hours spent playing tennis is significant. Luckily his next opponent Karlovic beat Aussie Thompson 12-10 in the fifth. But he still has to play the big Croat. Even on clay that could go four sets. Dr. Ivo is the oldest man to reach the French Open in 25 years. He still managed to hit 41 aces in his match. Murray is making a mountain out of his molehill of a draw and Karlovic is the last person he wants to see across the net. While Murray lost serve five times, he did hit 46 winners to 45 errors. Still, he has to win more than 50 per cent of second serves against Karlovic. He did not do so against the French qualifier Bourgue. Bourgue, of course, has had a magnificent tournament it should be said.
=============================
CHATRIER: RAONIC D. MANNARINO
...This is a great match on paper. In reality it lasted just an hour and forty minutes. Raonic used it as a statement. He blasted by the home favourite 6-1, 7-6[0], 6-1 to seal a third round meeting with Slovak Martin. He most likely meets Sock after that. His way through to the quarters is clear. He made it to that stage back in 2014, losing to Djokovic. He was seeded 8th then, too. This year he would meet Wawrinka in the quarters if seeds hold. He broke four times, hit 33 winners and just 17 errors. He also faced no break points. His game was tighter than his hair. He also won some 70 per cent of second serve points. This was a very impressive match but can he do it again?
=============================
LENGLEN: WAWRINKA D. DANIEL
...The Japanese and Swiss number two met on Lenglen with Wawrinka winning 7-6[7], 6-3, 6-4 in a tight affair. The Swiss has now won six matches in a row and all on red clay. It was closer than the scoreline indicates with Wawrinka needing to win the last four games to come through. But win them he did. He is starting to fire on all cylinders now. And it’s a good thing he is; he faces nought but seeds from here on out. Next is Chardy and possibly Simon. Afterwards comes Raonic and Murray. Win those and Djokovic is in the final. He did hit 62 winners today and broke four times. The break of his serve and 40 errors seem pretty excusable. 12 aces give Wawrinka 21 for the tournament, which is good enough for 5th overall. If his serve continues to fire then so does he. Stan should be able to make the semi-finals, at least.
=============================
CHATRIER: GASQUET D. FRATANGELO
...Gasquet is through to face Kyrgios with a 6-1, 7-6[3], 6-3 victory. He leads the head to head 4-2. Kyrgios said Gasquet has always been a guy who “has been nice to me” and also said, “I think me and Richard have had some really memorable matches.” Indeed, their Wimbledon matches have both made headlines, though for different reasons. Gasquet is also an impressive 20-7 in third round matches and has made the fourth round in Australia and France four times and six times each in the UK and US. He is very consistently in the fourth round and his biggest weapon against Kyrgios will be that mental ability. It will be that calmness that he possess which Kyrgios does not. Of course, if he makes a fifth French Open fourth round without advancing to the quarters, that is some cause for concern, but that’s a different bridge to cross. He must replicate that 41-23 winner’s mark. He should win, but what an unpleasant draw for both men.
=============================
COURT ONE: NISHIKORI D. KUZNETSOV
...Shall we have a quick check-in with Nishikori? He defeated in-form Russian 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with Verdasco. It was a tight match, but Kei’s 6 breaks were enough. He also went 31-18 on the winner’s front. Similarly his opponent managed a solid 29-16. It was tighter than it looked and the Japanese man had to sing for his supper here. He could serve a bit bigger, but then that’s always the case. He has two tricky matches next; after Verdasco comes Gasquet or Kyrgios.
=============================
OUTER COURT SELECTION: HERBERT/MAHUT d. GROTH/TOMIC
...On grass this may have been tricky. On the dirt, however, this was a simple task. Few seeds fell on the first day of play save the 13th. But the top seeds broke three times and never faced a break point on the way to a simple 6-3, 6-3 victory. The top seeds strangely played on court 17. Apparently having the top seeds in doubles does not guarantee a place on a show court. Well, never mind, their time will surely come. If not here then a grand slam will be coming to the Frenchies at some point this year.
=============================


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.


Read more!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Roland Garros Day 3 Update


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

It’s rare for the WTA and the ATP to not have parity in its seeds. But for a long time now the ATP’s top eight seeds are more of a lock for the quarters than their counterparts. And that does seem strange, but it’ll change. Azarenka and Kerber lost. With no Sharapova and Radwanska being pretty poor on clay, will Serena sweep to the title?

Let’s have a look at some matches that happened today. Most of the ATPs seeds are still going strong, even the smaller ones. Cilic lost but that wasn’t really surprising.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Sousa d. Dzumhur {W}
MS 1st Rd: Chardy d. Pavlasek
==
WS 1st Rd: Ivanovic d. Dodin {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Stephens d. Cepede Royg


CHATRIER: MURRAY D. STEPANEK
...Two of our top four seeds have had trouble with a tricky Czech. Murray needed two days and some three and a half hours to get through to the next round. Two points from defeat, at least his next match is easier. A rookie French qualifier will be waiting. Murray should win easily. Stepsy played some of his best tennis in the first two sets and won those 6-3, 6-3. But Murray cruised through the fourth in 18 minutes and won it at love. In the next set Stepanek delayed and played for time as much as possible. It was clear he was struggling in the fading light. He was even spotted fiddling with his contacts. Of course, it mattered little as the next day Murray held serve twice to take us to a fifth. Only Djokovic has beaten him in five this decade. He has also not lost in the first round of any slam since Tsonga did for him in 2008. In the last set they both played some stunning tennis with the veteran net-rushing and causing Murray all sorts of trouble. But when Murray held firm at 4-5, Stepanek melted away. The dramatic collapse sent the oldest player in the draw out and handed Murray victory.
=============================
CHATRIER: DJOKOVIC D. LU
...There was stern resistance from Lu in the first set of this opening round clash, but the Asian soon faded away. He did break Djokovic at least. That is something you and I are unlikely to ever achieve. Djokovic rolled through 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 in around an hour and a half. It was a composed performance from a man who lost his last match. 35 winners and 7 breaks were icing on the cake. Djokovic even won double his opponent's points. In a funny quirk the last time he had played Lu was that Wimbledon quarterfinal. Listening to the excellent Jim Courier did remind this BACKSPINNER that Djokovic has a lot of subtle attributes and his game is a tennis connoisseur's dream. To so lightly dismiss him is incorrect. Next up is an old foe in the form of Steve Darcis. It will be entertaining and it will be straight sets. Our top seed marches on.
=============================
LENGLEN: NADAL D. GROTH
...So badly was Groth battered he was smiling as he departed the court. Nadal needed 80 minutes to sweep past the Aussie 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. This was Rafa at his sparkling best. And from the guy who bought you this:



came this:



He never faced a break point but he broke eight times, lost five points on serve and hit three errors. His opponent won just 38 points. This was domination like you won’t see again. This would have been humiliating anywhere else, but Rafa on clay is excusable humiliation. Nadal even won some 60 per cent of return points. Who is next to the guillotine? Facundo Bagnis is an extremely competent player but he must next face the gauntlet, the buzz saw that is Rafa Nadal.
=============================
CHATRIER: TSONGA D. STRUFF
...Another Frenchie on a show court. Another straight sets win. Would you like to see something interesting? How about watching Azarenka try - and fail - to smash a racket? Yes I thought you might like to see that. [not viewable in all countries - tds]



It was Tsonga this time who rolled through. He followed Gasquet’s shining example. Less consistent than Gasquet at slams but with a better set of results at each slam than his compatriot, the firepower of last year’s semi-finalist proved too much. It was a messy match with both players hitting too many errors. Tsonga broke four times but he still lost his serve to the lefty German. Jo came through 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to move through to the second round. You can be certain he’ll make a deep run at here or at Wimbledon. Baghdatis and then Gulbis or Sousa are his next two opponents. We’re going to find out exactly how well he’s playing.
=============================
COURT ONE: BERDYCH D. POSPISIL
...When the last match you played you got no games, the next match comes with pressure. If that match is in a slam and against a tricky opponent then the response to that has to be fantastic. We saw Berdych’s top ten credentials as he blew away Pospisil on court one. The Canadian got to triple digits in minutes on court but was out of his depth in the 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 loss. Berdych broke eight times though he did lose serve twice. Berdman is back in business here. Should he make a run some positive increases in his ranking are more than possible. He faces Jaziri next. The Tunisian has won a small title this year and will be a tricky opponent for a little while. Expect Berdych to romp home, however.
=============================
OUTER COURT SELECTION: THIEM d. CERVANTES
...Yes, Ferrer did defeat Donskoy but he and Thiem are trending in opposite directions. Ferrer cruised through but the Austrian was made to work. He edged it 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-1. Thiem, decked out in a zebra print outfit, hit 42 winners across the four sets and never looked realistically like he could lose the match to the Spaniard. The Austrian is a decent shout to make the semi-finals. To do so he needs to work on not dropping sets to players like Cervantes. It comes back to bite you in the end. Up next is Garcia-Lopez in what will be a great match, but a horror draw.
=============================


Kiki beat Schiavone 6-2, 6-4. She had a solid win and was particularly good at winning points on serve. Next up is Babos with the winner getting Williams. The same Williams who won in 40 minutes today. In the doubles she is seeded 5th. Errani/Arruabarrena are the 12th seeds but the second seeds lurk in this quarter. Also here are the Williamses, though whether they will play is anyone’s guess. They will open with Beck/Wickmayer.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Roland Garros Day 2 Update


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Rain is set to plague the French Open all week. It has already delayed play significantly. With thunderstorms on the cards, too, how will any matches be completed? When will the first week be concluded? We still have three, all involving seeds, that are not yet complete.

In one match, home favourite Paire eventually won in five over Albot, 6-4 in the 5th. With 78 unforced errors, Paire is clearly living up to his reputation. He goes through to take on Gabashvili. Kyrgios beat Cecchinato in three sets to edge through to the second round. Hitting 16 aces and 50 winners, the Aussie is in fine fettle. Unfortunately for the Aussie, Gasquet looms. He also had another fiery exchange with an umpire. He rightfully pointed out how Djokovic shoved an umpire and got a little slap on the wrist and also apologized. Still, it’s another incident and the last thing he needs.

Other winners across the first two days were Gabashvili over Young, Kuznetsov over Becker and Sijsling over Ungur. In Mladenovic news, she lost in the semi-finals of Strasbourg and drew Schiavone in the first round here. That semi result was her best all year. She’s been pretty poor all year but can she and Garcia finally show what they have? Kiki also has Serena looming.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Sousa d. Dzumhur
==
WS 1st Rd: Ivanovic d. Dodin


CHATRIER: WAWRINKA D. ROSOL
...Shall we start with our defending champion? He has a manageable draw and he just won in Geneva. Surely a run is more than possible here. When Rosol won the first set 6-4, people suddenly remembered the Swiss losing to Garcia-Lopez in 2014 in the first round. Would he do a Red Sox and do the worst to first to worst pattern? His inner-Stanimal showed up at just the right time, as he came back to take it 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Both men hit nine aces, though Wawrinka hit 56 winners to 51. Rosol hit three less errors. It was a very even match played in three hours of drizzling rain. The man Murray claimed nobody liked broke just twice. And therein lay the rub. He converted a fifth of his break chances and Wawrinka a quarter. It’s the little things that can turn a match. With Japanese man Daniel coming up, Wawrinka will have a much nicer match next.
=============================
CHATRIER: NISHIKORI D. BOLELLI
...There are few storylines in the early stages of slams, drowned in a sea of blowouts. Nishikori could have been excused for letting Bolelli push him, but he had no need to be excused. He dominated the Italian in a 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 victory on Chatrier. Hitting just 17 errors, Kei was perfect. He broke six times but he only won 50 per cent of second serve points. His first serve was little better. It mattered little as he only lost serve once. He wasn’t overly troubled and looks good. He is a not so dark a horse to reach the final. His forehand is on song but he could do with coming to net a bit more. In other Kei news, his outfit is very dull. His next match is against Kuznetsov and should not be taken lightly. The Russian has found some serious form lately and could definitely nick a set.
=============================
LENGLEN: SIMON D. DUTRA SILVA
...One can forget how many Frenchies there are until you see them at their home slam taking up space on the show courts. It is the right of Roland Garros to do that because everyone else [except Wimbledon] does. Still the Raonic match should have taken precedence over this one. Simon won 7-6[5], 6-4, 6-2. There were thirteen breaks of service and the Brazilian hit over 50 errors. What can be said about this match, which called out to be placed in the back of beyond? Nothing. But the next three matches will all be huge challenges. Pella, Troicki and Wawrinka are all just around the corner.
=============================
LENGLEN: GASQUET D. BELLUCCI
...Yes, another Brazil versus France clash. This is justifiably show court worthy. Gasquet is an unknown quantity, though more than a third of his slam runs have ended in the fourth round. The crowd barely saw Ritchie as he whipped 24 winners and conjured seven breaks to see off Bellucci. He was in and out, a perfect tactic in the pouring rain. The Frenchman looks like he could make a go of it here, especially if the draw fell his way. Bellucci has once more disappointed, and his career has been undercooked. All the ingredients were right but the finished item is all wrong. Fratangelo, who took a set off the Djoker this year, is his next opponent. Expect the Frenchman to overwhelm the young American.
=============================
COURT TWO: TRUNGELLITI D. CILIC
...Chardy defeating Mayer in four is somewhat of an upset, but enough of the Frenchman. This is the match we should be focused on. It is the first big upset, the first slam winner to go down. He was typically abysmal in his loss to an unsung Argentinian qualifier. Unseeded in the qualies, Cilic should’ve taken this one in an hour. The world number 166 just got better and better, winning going away 7-6[4], 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. This means players in this quarter all now have a shot at a run. It gives Andre Ramos a magnificent chance to reach the fourth round of a slam for the first time. Cilic falling was not unexpected. The Croat did reach a final in Geneva last week, but he is not a good player right now. That U.S. Open is beginning to look more and more like a total fluke. What can he do at Wimbledon?
=============================
OUTER COURT SELECTION: TROICKI d. DIMITROV
...Welcome to rock bottom. Dimitrov cannot even play spoiler against the 22nd seed. Troicki was too good, winning in five. Title-less since 2014 and down 30 places from his career high of eight, the Bulgarian’s loss in four hours was the sour cherry atop a rotten cake. It’s the way he’s losing. He lost 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3. He blew it up two sets to one. He even admitted afterwards he feels insecure on court. These are not the words of a former top ten player who was a threat at every slam. Maybe Wimbledon, where he could be seeded, is the place he will regain his mojo. Troicki will face Lajovic next. How will Dimitrov find all that he has lost? Only time will tell, but surely grass court season is the best time to begin.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wk.19- Murray Finds Love in the Eternal City


Hey, all. Galileo here.

Veni vidi vici.



Folks you are looking at the best player in the world. Murray has proven it by dominating on clay the last two weeks. Inches from reaching the only grand slam final he has yet to reach last year, he comes into it on incredible form. He has made strides in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome. He is possibly the favourite in Paris, though of course he won’t win it. He benefited from a cakewalk in Rome while Djokovic had a murderers row to contend with.

The forehand and serve are firing right now, and Murray looks the real deal on the clay. Of course, the French Open throws up funny results and there are a lot of mines in the draw. But Murray is the slight favourite right now and the second seed. The big question is ‘can Murray beat Nadal in five?’ Murray may have to beat Nadal, Federer and Djokovic back to back to back. Djokovic last year couldn’t beat Nadal, Murray and Wawrinka under similar circumstances.

What if the Scot gets Dimitrov, Fognini, Kyrgios and Monfils as his first four opponents? This French Open feels like Murray’s chance. If the Scot doesn’t win this year then when will he? How will Wawrinka go defending his title? How injured is Federer? Speaking of big chances, Djokovic does not have time on side. He needs to win the French and quickly. The Serb turns 29 this month. He probably has two legitimate shots left at winning the French. Every Roland Garros following 2017 his chances grow ever slimmer.

And in the doubles, how serious is Herbert’s injury? Is it just precaution? Federer has already said his back may force him out. He has to juggle Wimbledon and the Olympics. If both Federer and the French pair withdrew Roland Garros would be losing two big draw-cards.

=RANKINGS WATCH=
Top 32 - Fognini falls three to 34. He could be a very dangerous floater. Chardy and Delbonis stay at 32 and 33, respectively. Pouille is up 21 places to 31 with the semi-final showing.
Top 10 – Ferrer falls three places to 12, which sees Gasquet rise two places to ten. Raonic is just sixty points up on number 9 Gasquet while the Frenchie leads Cilic by just ten. The Wimbledon seedings will be fascinating.
Top 8 – No change. Kei is out on his own and is trailed by Tsonga and Berdych.
Top 4 – Rafa is less than 500 points behind Wawrinka, but will be seeded 5th for Roland Garros. Murray was world number three last week but is now 1400 points above Federer and sits pretty at number two.

But what else happened in the Italian capital?


*WEEK 19 CHAMPIONS*
ROME, ITALY
S: Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic 6-3/6-3
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Pospisil/Sock



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ANDY MURRAY
...A special week for Murray in the eternal city. How he will defend all these points next year is anybody’s guess, but right now he is setting the tour on fire. The Scot has looked poised all week. He even beat Djokovic, though the 10-23 record is abysmal and familiar. Federer used to have that record against Nadal. The Scot will have to prove he can beat Djokovic consistently to show he can contend in these big matches. Do not be surprised if Djokovic uses this loss as fuel in their next match. Make no mistake - Murray had an absolute cakewalk of a draw as he so often does. He opened with qualifier Kukushkin and won in straight sets. Next he blew away Chardy 0 and 4. He faced his first seed in the quarter - number 12 Goffin. He won that 6-1, 7-5. Then he faced lucky loser Pouille in the semi and won easily, of course. He went into the final having faced just one seed and then defeated Djokovic, who had had an insane run to the final. So Murray got lucky here. If he does get a hard draw at the French will he be able to handle it?
=============================
RISER: KEI NISHIKORI
...No world number one who gets bageled deserves a positive review come the end of the week. Like Clinton, like Murray in Melbourne and like the Cavaliers, Nishikori will never quite make it. He gets so close against the big guys and yet he never quite gets over the hump. Against the Djoker he had him right where he wanted him. Djokovic had a cut on his ankle, though Novak has been known to play the hypochondriac before. Kei was hitting all the right shots and making him move. Heck, he was even defending solidly. But when Novak needed a point he got it. And so Kei’s wait goes on. But at least he has had a solid clay swing. He is fourth in the race and is a dark horse for the French. Solid wins over Troicki and Gasquet, only losing a set in those two combined, were followed by a straightforward quarterfinal victory over Thiem. The Austrian played him close but the Asian number one had too much. Kei is demonstrating an ability to put the smaller guys away. It’s a vital ability to have, especially when going deep in slams. Getting bogged down by lesser ranked players can cost the bigger seeds later on. You can’t win a slam in the first three rounds, but you can certainly lose it. Kei now goes on to prepare for the French.
=============================
FRESH FACE: LUCAS POUILLE
...It’s been coming. He may only have a single win at slam level, but he did make the fourth round in Miami. He also made a clay final last month. Rome was his last shot to get a seeding at his best, and home, slam. Seeded top in qualies, he must have thought it was all over when Kukushkin beat him 7-5, 6-2. But no. He replaced 7th seed Tsonga and beat Gulbis 7-5 in the third. This BACKSPINNER hates the term ‘lucky loser.’ But it is usually accurate. Those who lose in qualies often either crumble or improve dramatically. And it was the case here. Pouille followed up his first big victory with another; he demolished Ferru 6-4, 6-1. He has beaten Ferrer already this year though it was on a different surface. When Monaco withdrew he was given a place in the semi-final but he also achieved a career high ranking of 31. Let’s ignore the fact he lost to Murray in 59 minutes and focus instead on just how good a week he has had. With that new ranking, if he matches the seed and wins two slam matches in the next three slams, he will have personal bests at every slam. It also means the French now have seven seeds at Roland Garros. One in four seeded players hail from the home nation. Somehow I still don’t think the winner will be French.
=============================
VETERAN: JUAN MONACO
...At the age of 32 and with several surgeries under his belt, Pico comes back into the top hundred. He rose 27 places to land at 87 in the world. If he were to make three third round runs at the slams and win a 250, plus make a run or two at some of the bigger events, he could crack the top 50 easily. He is having a very steady rise. He came in with a protected ranking and saw off Johnson in straight sets. He also beat Anderson in three long sets, besting another traveler on the road to recovery. Then he had the win of his second career. He edged Wawrinka 6-7[5], 6-3, 6-4. The Argentine now has form with him going into his best major. How much of an impact can he have?
=============================
SURPRISE: VACEK POSPISIL/JACK SOCK
...After their darling run to the Wimbledon title a few years ago, we all thought they were the chosen ones. In reality they have chosen a darker route. A perennial top ten seed they are utterly inconsistent. But this clay season most teams have been completely unreliable. ATP doubles is a mess with no clear leader except the French pair. But Herbert was injured. The second seeds collapsed, too. The eighth seeds beat Huey/Mirnyi 7-6[6], 6-4. After that they bested tricky customers Cuevas/Granollers 6-4, 7-6[4]. More breakers were in their future as they edged 6th seeds Bopanna/Mergea 7-6[4], 7-6[2]. They dominated the Bryans early but eventually lost 2-6, 6-3, 10-7. Still it was a good week and they could make a decent fist of it at Roland Garros.
=============================
DOWN: BERNARD TOMIC
...Tomic said last week “would you care about match point if you were 23 and worth ten million?” when he lost the match against Fognini. This was after he played the last point holding his racket the wrong way. Now he has retired after just three games against Paire. Kyrgios has a very good off-court record. The same cannot be said about Tomic. He is petulant and childish and is surely headed for a disastrous French Open campaign. There are some serious mental issues in the young Aussies psyche. He needs to sort himself out and quickly.
=============================
UPSET: JEREMY CHARDY
...The Frenchy upset Agut in straight sets 7-6[6], 6-4. Agut has suddenly started to fall off a little and become a little more susceptible to the upset than he usually is. Normally his seeding is rock solid and he will not falter before the round he is slated to lose in. But recently, on clay of all surfaces, cracks have started to appear. Still, this was quite an upset from Chardy who has done little this year.
=============================


Notes from the week...
1 - Serena obliterated the field. Her demolition of Kuznetsova was astonishing. The Russian was alright but still only got two games. Look out for a rematch in Paris. If it happens the upset is still on.
2 – Will Federer play in Paris?
3 – What will happen to former semi-finalists Gulbis and Monfils? They are trending in different directions right now and this is the Frenchies' best slam.
4 – Can Kyrgios make a run in the French capital?
5 – The ladies world number one ranking is up for grabs. Serena won her 70th title in Rome but could still lose the ranking to Radwanska [Ha!] or Kerber.
6 – All of our top seeds are set. Hingis/Mirza could make it four in a row at the slams.



1. Rome SF - Djokovic d. Nishikori 2-6, 6-4, 7-6[1]
...We had Djokovic’s first deciding breaker in some two years. Nishikori, aided and abetted by a cut on Novak’s ankle, saved match points down 4-5 in the third and used his drop shot well to give the top seed some serious problems. Once more, sadly, we saw the reason Nishikori will never rise to world number one. He cannot close out when he needs to.
=============================
2. Madrid R3 - Goffin d. Berdych 6-0, 6-0
...Can we just sit and reflect on the giant anomaly that is that scoreline. Goffin had never beaten the Czech before, but he did so in some style in Rome. The Czech even received boos.

=============================
3. Madrid R3 - Nadal d. Kyrgios 6-7[3], 6-2, 6-4
...Very Nadal and Djokovic focused I’m afraid. Kyrgios played a controlled, tactical match but it was not enough against a bullish Rafa Nadal. Rafa had been playing points like this all tournament

"

And he was more aggressive against Nick, too. It was a high quality exchange that had the crowed oohing appreciatively. Kyrgios is destined for great things.
=============================
4. Rome Final - Murray d. Djokovic 6-3, 6-3
...Not the best match. Rather flat in fact. Djokovic hit over 15 aces, but Murray became the first British man since 1931 to win in Rome. He did so on his 29th birthday. He has now two of the last 14 contests between these two. Hmm.
=============================


*GENEVA*
=SF=
Wawrinka [1] d. [4] Isner
Delbonis [6] d. [2] Ferrer
=FINAL=
Wawrinka [1] d. Delbonis [6]

...We’ll go with the seeds and try not to think about the inevitable withdrawals. Lots of players here with a good chance to find some form but Wawrinka is at home. And he needs to get some wins the most of all. Cilic is here so expect him to do terribly yet still rise in the rankings….

*NICE*
=SF=
Thiem [1] d. Pella
Zverev [8] d. [3] Anderson
=FINAL=
Thiem [1] d. Zverev [8]

...Anything can and does happen at these events. Often a springboard for out of form players or younger rising stars, they don’t have so many sharks, which gives other fish a chance to feed. This is just a warm-up for the French Open where my picks really will go crazy.

Mladenovic fell to 29 in singles and 11 in doubles. She got blown out by Ostapenko in the singles and exited in the quarters partnering Garcia. Her compatriot rose in the doubles rankings. They struggled through two long three setters before losing in two to Hlavackova/Hradecka. The Frenchies will be seeded fifth in their home slam and a lot is rightfully expected of them.

Kiki is defending finalist points in Strasbourg but is seeded fourth. She has already won her first match. What with withdrawals and upsets her quarter has collapsed and she has a clear run. Can she take it? She and Garcia are not playing the doubles in Strasbourg, though they are both there.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wk.18- Djokovic Dominates, Nadal Nowhere


Hey, all. Galileo here.

Let’s talk about coverage today. It was disappointing to see no coverage of the ladies doubles final, though it was centre court and there was coverage of the men’s quarterfinal which was on a ‘B’ court. Sure it was the best pairing in the world versus the 5th seeded Bryans, but then why wasn’t the women’s final given billing? A dominant top seeding playing a pair that has proven to be their Achilles' heel is on centre court and it isn’t shown? Pretty shocking. This BACKSPINNER is a huge fan of doubles and makes sure to see some live every year. He also forces his friends to go with him because they need to share in the joy. It’s so tactics based and it is such a sport for the thinking man or woman. Unless your surname is Williams, of course. So at a Masters especially, but at any tournament really, they should show the ladies doubles final. It’s just good form.

As for the men’s singles, did you even bother? The top two players in the world play very dull matches. At least they don’t go five sets as much as they used to. If they're wearing similar clothing and you’re not paying attention particularly closely, you might think that it was someone playing themselves. Sure there are minor differences, but, really, it’s the same game. Djokovic has the better forehand by default and Murray’s second serve is woeful. The mini-highlights reel the ATP put out seemed to last half an hour. Never mind watching the full highlights or even the whole match. It’s just gotten so dull and it is a foregone conclusion now. Djokovic will win.

In other news, the French pairing of Mahut/Herbert had their streak snapped by Rojer/Tecau 6-2, 7-6[3]. They had won three successive Masters. Mahut still rose a place to world number two. It is his highest ever ranking. Herbert fell two places from his highest ranking of four to six. Herbert’s ranking points are 7,280. Want to know how the rest of the top six stacks up?

Melo is top with 7,770
Mahut is second with 7,670
Tecau is third with 7,630
J.Murray is fourth with 7,535
Rojer is fifth with 7,530

So I guess you could say it’s tight. In the doubles race, the Frenchies have taken first, while Rojer/Tecau have risen 13 places to take fifth. Surprisingly the Bryans are in fourth spot. Bopanna/Mergea made a run to the final, taking the pairing up ten places up into tenth. Murray lost to former partner Peers in his first match.

But what else happened in the Spanish capital?

=RANKINGS WATCH=
Top 32 - Dimitrov falls seven places to 35. Johnson falls two places to 34. Sousa takes a set off Nadal and rises five places to 30. Chardy is up a place to 32. Can he stay there?
Top 10 – No change. Gasquet stays at 12 with Cilic and Raonic ahead of him. Ferrer could drop several places in Rome.
Top 8 – No change. Ferrer at 9, below Tsonga and Berdych. Nishikori locked in at six.
Top 4 – Nadal is just 700 behind Wawrinka. Federer and Murray both have 7,525 points, but Federer takes the world number two position for now.

*WEEK 18 CHAMPIONS*
MADRID, SPAIN
S: Novak Djokovic def. Andy Murray 6-2/3-6/6-3
D: Rojer/Tecau d. Bopanna/Mergea



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: NOVAK DJOKOVIC
...Well, that’s Masters title number 29 and 16,000 ranking points amassed. Djokovic is having an incredibly impressive period of dominance, threatened only by two Swiss men. One of whom is very old and the other who is totally erratic. Djokovic currently holds three slams. He can make it four in a row at the French. This is 2004-2009 Federer all over again, except it has been split into two shorter periods of dominance. In 2011 and from 2014-16 he has run riot. Sure, he plays an ugly game style and, alright, he isn’t exciting to watch but he, and Serena, have ruled with an iron fist. This year one or two cracks have appeared. But overall, this is a mind-blowing run from the Djoker. This week he really put down a marker by beating Coric 6-2, 6-4 and then Agut 6-2, 6-1. Coric improved and really fought hard in that second set. Raonic with that big serve and forehand failed to put a dent in Djokovic’s defences, going down 6-3, 6-4. Nishikori predictably disappointed us, losing 6-3, 7-6[4]. And in the final he beat Murray in three boring sets. He is the out and out favourite for the French Open, but he won’t win it. It is his bogey tournament and this BACKSPINNER has a feeling he may never win it.
=============================
RISER: ANDY MURRAY
...Another impressive week from Murray. He is finally putting together some passable numbers on the clay. Madrid this week for the Scot yielded positive results. But then the Spanish capital is one of those places he always does well. Here is Murray earning the hot-shot for another boring rally. It’s all the same until someone decided to just come to net.



But compare that with Kyrgios. Look how in five strokes more action happened then in 15 in Murray’s rally.



This Murray/Djokovic rivalry is like oatmeal without extras. Federer/Nadal may have been lopsided, but it was a fruit salad, a bacon and egg bagel of deliciousness and variety. Having already talked about Djokovic, it is too hard to now talk about Murray, too. Neither of them is interesting at all, though Djokovic at least does interesting interviews.
=============================
FRESH FACE: NICK KYRGIOS
...His second ever Masters quarter-final comes on clay. He had won just two matches in total on clay at this level previously. Nick stays solidly in the top 20 and a decent result at the French could see him seeded to make the fourth round at Wimbledon. The Australian has made a quarterfinal at slam level two years in a row and he should be able to make it three. He still has two slams he performs well at coming up. Two tight straight set wins over Pella and Wawrinka in Madrid set the tone. His forehand was firing and the serve was proving to be quite effective. An epic encounter with Cuevas in the third round saw Kyrgios through 7-6[5], 4-6, 6-3. The match was in the balance throughout until Kyrgios again found a way. He broke in the eighth game of the third set and held on to get through to face Kei. Sure he lost in three sets, but it was still quite the week. And, best of all, there was no misbehaviour.
=============================
VETERAN: RAFAEL NADAL
...How many clay court semi-finals? Think on that. It must be about 70 by now. He has won over 90 per cent of clay matches he has played on the tour, too. He has won the sixth most matches on clay and is equal top with Vilas with regards to titles. He has 49 of those. Rafa has made this surface his own. He has worked at it for thirteen years now. Wins over Kuznetsov and Querrey were routine, just like the matches he used to win all the time. Rafa is turning 30 next month but he still has it on this surface. He still has that fuel, that desire. He bageled Sousa and weathered the fightback. Rafa is the bull-fighter, the matador. Even losing to Murray wasn’t totally embarrassing but it does make a change. Cracks are starting to appear. Can he reaffirm his brilliance in Paris?
=============================
SURPRISE: MILOS RAONIC
...Raonic turned up at a clay-court tournament. That by itself is pretty surprising. Straight sets wins over Bellucci and Dolgopolov and an upset win over Tsonga were all impressive. Even the loss to Djokovic wasn’t too bad. If he can maintain this run, he will be a dark horse for a run at Roland Garros. There’s nothing to say he couldn’t take ten wins from the next two slams.
=============================
DOWN: BERNARD TOMIC
...The young Aussie has got to find his game and soon. Forget the clay season; with his withdrawal in Rome that is gone now. He has to find some magic to take into the grass court season. If he can just find a few wins in Roland Garros and then Halle, or wherever he goes, he could make another run at Wimbledon.
=============================
UPSET: PABLO CARRENO BUSTA
...Busta defeated Dimitrov in two straight sets. The former top twenty player is now perilously close to falling out of the top 40. That is incredible. What has happened to Grigor Dimitrov? What has happened to Baby Fed? Where has the Bulgarian gone? He will be unseeded at the French and at Wimbledon, too, most likely. Like Janowicz, another Wimbledon semi-finalist, he is slowly dropping out of sight and out of mind.
=============================

Notes from the week...
1 - Serena returns in Rome. She’s been gone a long time. Was it that loss to Kuznetsova in Miami?
2 – Can Federer hold off Murray going into the French Open? The second slam is looming.
3 – Federer needs three wins in Rome to move onto second all-time on the wins list. Nadal can move into seventh with nine wins. That will come at the French.
4 – And the seeds crumble again in the WTA event. Will we have a favourite for the French by next week? Radwanska is nowhere, especially on clay. Kerber is unpredictable and Halep has only just caught fire. Kvitova is a mystery and past winners are even harder to make calls on.
5 – This is the 73rd edition of the Italian Open, first won by Bill Tilden in 1930. Lili de Alvarez won the ladies title that year. Nadal, Borg, Laver, Nastase, Lendl, Sampras, Agassi and Muster are some of the former champions along with Kuerten and Djokovic. The ladies winners have included Hart, Connolly, Evert, King, Goolagong, Graf, Hingis, Williams, Williams, Seles, Pierce and Sharapova. So enjoy one of our most prestigious tournaments.
6- - Nice and Geneva are the tournaments right before the French Open. Wawrinka is slated to, but will not appear, in Geneva. Don’t expect Thiem to show up in Nice, either.


1. Madrid SF - Nishikori d. Kyrgios 6-7[6], 7-6[1], 6-3
...It took the best part of three hours for Kei to improve to 3-0 in his head-to-head with the Australian. He is now 26-7 on the season. Kyrgios has his chances to win this in straight sets, but he couldn’t take them and Nishikori once more ground out the match. It would be interesting to see these two play on grass. This is his third straight final here in Madrid.
=============================
2. Madrid QF - Nadal d. Sousa 6-0, 4-6, 6-3
...Nadal didn’t lose any game for the first forty minutes, but when the rain came so did Sousa. Playing in front of compatriot Ronaldo, Sousa was able to fight back and push Nadal so much further than anyone thought possible. The Portuguese man did not go away and Rafa had to win the match to set up a clash with Andy.
=============================
3. Madrid Final - Djokovic d. Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
...It is 23-9 to Djokovic in the head-to-head. Forget the match; it’s boring. Since the beginning of 2012 they have met 20 times. Murray is 5-15. Djokovic has lost one of the last thirteen. This isn’t a rivalry, it’s a boring pile of crap. At least Serena is entertaining when she’s murdering Sharapova.
=============================
4. Madrid R1 - Del Potro d. Thiem 7-6[5], 6-3
...I think we’ve all lost track of which career this is now, but Delpo had his best victory yet in defeating Thiem in straight sets. He was composed and the forehand literally sung. Delpo is up 45 places to 229.
=============================


*ROME*
=SF=
Nadal [5] d. [3] Federer
Murray [2] d. [4] Wawrinka
=FINAL=
Nadal [5] d. Murray [2]

...Look for Nadal to defeat the new world number two after he defeats the world number one. Why not have faith in Rafa? Rome is one of his best tournaments and he has never done as well in Madrid as he should. Wawrinka’s love affair with the Italian capital continues, but Murray has a nice, easy draw and good form so he is the favourite. But Rome always throws up a banana peel or two.

The Frenchies are dominating on both sides of the doubles this year. It is most impressive. In Madrid, Mladenovic she lost in the first round to Lucic-Baroni but won the doubles tournament. She and Garcia swept to the final in straight sets, knocking out the third and eighth seeds on their way. They didn’t lose a set all tournament, beating the world number ones Hingis/Mirza 6-4, 6-4 to seal the deal.

In Rome, Mladenovic has Ostapenko first and then Puig the qualifier. So we can see how she matches up against other young guns. Third seed Muguruza is the big gun in her section. In the dubs she and Garcia open with Krajiicek/Strycova while the Czech fourth seeds are the biggest seeds near them. Kiki is the defending champion in doubles so expect her ranking of six to stay or fall. Mladenovic will also lose ground to Garcia here, as she is the defending champion. She won with Babos last year. She is up three from nine while Garcia rises four to world number nine. In the singles she is cling to her ranking of 28 and should be seeded at the next slam.


Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Wk.17- All About Almagro


Hey, all. Galileo here.

The name is Almagro. Nicolas Almagro.



The points don’t come so easy anymore. The matches aren’t so easily won. Everything is just that little bit harder, but the talent and the desire is still there. His most underrated asset is his variety. In his heyday it matched that of Federer. A perennial top ten player, he was renowned for getting all his points in February and in the European spring before disappearing, re-emerging here and there with a semi-final appearance.

His career moment came up two sets against Ferrer in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open. The former world number nine crumbled and after that so did his career. Thrice denied in the fourth round from ’10-’12, once by Berdych in a fiery encounter, it looked like his time had come. But he lost the last three sets and then his career collapsed. He has just won his first title since 2012, having lost five finals in a row. Owning a 13-10 record in finals, all on the same surface, the Spaniard has made the quarterfinals of the French three times. All three times he ran into Nadal. Like most Spaniards, Ferrer especially, he cannot beat Nadal unless Rafa is completely off his game.

There have been murmurs of a comeback from Almags as of late. He still has a good chunk of the clay season left and could prove to be a very dangerous mine in the draw. Like Dimitrov, he is ranked lower than his talent indicates he should be. There are others on the tour who will cause damage. Look out for Kyrgios and Tomic at Wimbledon.

And speaking of Kyrgios, we had some great young gun action this week. Coric, Kyrgios, Thiem and Zverev will all play a part in the fabric of the ATP in the future. But a generation ago, we marked out Federer, Nalbandian, Roddick and Malisse. Those four were the guys, the guys to make big moves. Federer aside, the other three combined won a single slam and had no finals at two of the slams. So be careful when tagging players for greatness. Nishikori has severely underperformed when compared to expectations.

But it would be accurate to imagine that one of those four will rise to greatness. Right now it looks like Thiem or Kyrgios could win multiple slams. Heck, Kyrgios could win a slam this year. Still, keep an eye on those four.

Well, let’s get on with it, shall we?....

=RANKINGS WATCH=
Top 32 - Johnson holds at 32, Fognini and Karlovic swap to sit at 31 and 30, respectively. Dimitrov has risen to 28, and is safe from falling out of the top 32 barring disastrous appearances in the Masters.
Top 10 – Gasquet falls to 12 and could fall further. Cilic rises without having done anything, so nothing new there. Raonic is back in the top ten after a lengthy-ish absence from it.
Top 8 – No change. Ferrer at 9, below Tsonga and Berdych. Nishikori locked in at six.
Top 4 – Little change. Nadal is advancing on Wawrinka. To have a shot at defending the French he will need that fourth seed. Murray has massive points to defend. Crash out early and Fed rises to number two. Djokovic typically unassailable.

*WEEK 17 CHAMPIONS*
ESTORIL, PORTUGAL
S: Nicolas Almagro def. Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(6)/7-6(5)/6-3
D: Butorac/Lipsky d. Kubot/Matkowski

ISTANBUL, TURKEY
S: Diego Schwartzman def. Grigor Dimitrov 6-7(5)/7-6(4)/6-0
D: Cipolla/Sela d. Molteni/Schwartzman

MUNICH, GERMANY
S: Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Dominic Thiem 7-6(7)/4-6/7-6(4)
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Cabal/Farah




PLAYER OF THE WEEK: PHILIPP KOHLSCHREIBER
...He is a Munich, well Augsburg, native and that makes this particular tournament special, a one-off. Kohl will always turn up here, always play his best. Your home tournament is like a week of Davis Cup. Some, like my Evonne or Tsonga, thrive off the atmosphere. They can always go one round further because of the crowd. Yet it is still understandable why the likes of Stosur and Mauresmo struggle. For Kohl, however, winning his third title here was special. He opened with notoriously tricky compatriot Mayer but swept him aside in straight sets. He then breezed past Delpo 4 and 1 to make the semis. Having lost just five games in his two matches thus far, he rolled past Fognini 6-4, 6-1 to make the final. And there he edged Thiem in three hours in a third set breaker. He suffered heartbreak in a third set breaker in last year’s final, but this year he was the one doing the inflicting. Aside from two finals in New Zealand, all his finals have come in Germany, Austria or France. He has made four finals in Munich since 2012, going 2-2 which gives him a mark of 3-2 in Munich finals. He makes it three years in a row winning a title and the talented German also happens to have won a title across the three major court surfaces. It is a rare thing to have titled on all three surfaces and yet only go to one slam quarterfinal. How will Kohl do at the upcoming slams with so few points to defend and nothing to lose?
=============================
RISER: NICOLAS ALMAGRO
...The Spaniard has a love affair, an affinity if you will, with this surface. In the natural world some animals can only live in a really specific place. Almagro really only lives on outdoor clay. Sometimes he can win on indoor clay, but it is outdoor where he thrives, where he makes his living. It is on those dusty, open to the seasons courts where he is most dangerous. Almags lives just 900 km away. He is on the opposite coast. It helps if you think of Gibraltar as the mid-point. So close to home, comparatively, it is no wonder he won. He eased past Silva and then beat Silva’s compatriot Sousa in three to make it to the quarters. There he dismissed Mayer 6-4, 7-6[5]. In one of his most impressive displays this year he knocked off last year’s finalist and second seed Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5. He came back from the dead in the final to win in three hours and seal a very impressive result. Now it’s onto Madrid and real home soil. Luckily that is only 400 km away from home. Perhaps a visit on the way?
=============================
FRESH FACE: DIEGO SCHWARTZMAN
...With a straight sets win over top seeded Tomic and three successive come from behind wins, Diego Schwartzman has proved he is the real deal. Ranked 62, he is a mere five spots behind his highest ever ranking. A solid performance in Madrid would do it. Diego has never even won a doubles title, though he has made two finals, but he still managed to come back and take out Dimitrov. Aged just 23, there is still a lot of time for the diminutive grinder to make some real noise on clay. He already has wins at grand slam level. It’s good to see him make noise at this level now, too.

=============================
VETERAN: GILLES SIMON
...Simon is old. It comes to us all eventually. Top seeded in Estoril, the warning signs were there in a three set win over Mathieu. But the tame 6-3, 6-4 loss to Busta was a little embarrassing. The Frenchman had such a workable draw and one more collapsed. Has that Australian Open defeat to Djokovic broken him?
=============================
SURPRISE: IVO KARLOVIC
...It was a pleasant kind of ‘oh yes’ kind of moment that greeted Karlovic’s little run. It is good he found some form - he will need to collect some points now as he made some big moves in the grass season. While it probably guarantees him Wimbledon seeding, Karlovic has a lot to defend. He also has points to defend in the summer and a fair few in the fall. Last year there was no pressure. Can he deal with plenty of it this year? In a straight sets win over Lajovic and a three set win over Granollers the forehand was working well. That is a good sign. In three matches he played six tiebreakers, going 3-3. Yep, he’s back.
.=============================
DOWN: BERNARD TOMIC
...OK, enough is enough. There are no excuses for losing to Schwartzman 2 and 2. Successive defeats on clay mean Tomic is now in a rut, a dip. Luckily the grass season is coming next month, but four weeks on the ATP tour is a long time. The Aussie needs to get his act together and soon. If he can just grind out a couple of wins in Paris and achieve his seeding, it would be quite the success. He is capable of doing it but whether or not he does remains to be seen…
=============================
UPSET: ALEXANDER "Sascha" ZVEREV
...Zverev has now lost to Kyrgios and Thiem, though both were in three sets. But the thing to focus on is the German’s reliability. He can now achieve his seeding and put runs together. The fluke is gone, and it’s happening more and more frequently. At one of the next three hard-court slams he will be seeded. Though he was born at the other end of the country, the home support spurred him on to one of the better results of his career. He opened with a gritty three set defeat of Jaziri which he followed up with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Rosol. Then he beat top seed Goffin 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. He finally succumbed in three sets to Thiem, but the just turned 19-year old had an impressive week nonetheless. Oh, also he wants to be called Sascha now apparently.
=============================

Notes from the week...
1 - Federer withdraws again. Is he alright? He could be world number two next week but he still has major injury concerns. Perhaps he is just being careful in an Olympic year.
2 – Djokovic has not won a match here in Madrid since 2012. Will that affect him?
3 – As usual, both the top seeds in the women’s event crumble. The finalist from last year has gone, too. The WTA always seems to descend into chaos. But then that’s what you get for seeding Aga first on clay.
4 – Where is Serena?
5 – Can Mahut/Herbert win their fourth Masters in a row? If they do they will surely lock up the top seed for the French. Can Mahut finally win his home slam?
6 - Wawrinka needs to find some form before the second major of the year. As defending champion it is important he finds some magic from somewhere.
7 - Zverev’s backhand is a weapon. He can slice, dropshot and hit angles. It is not unlike the vicious one Nalbandian had, though it is not fully developed. Yet...


1. Istanbul Final - Schwartzman d. Dimitrov 6-7[5], 7-6[4], 6-0
...Schwartzman won his third successive three-setter, all of which involved a tie-breaker, and in doing so rose 25 places to 62 in the world. He took out the contest in three hours, and became the second first-time winner on the tour after Kyrgios. Dimitrov was up a set and 5-2 yet could not put the diminutive Argentine away. The match, full of breaks, ended in bizarre and fiery circumstances, as you can see here:



I like the Roddick method myself...



=============================
2. Estoril Final - Almagro d. Busta 6-7[6], 7-6[5], 6-3
...Very similar to the other final. Almagro, down but not out, came back in three hours to convert on his third match point and take his 13th title. He is now 13-10 in finals. Can you guess what surface they all came on? Up 23 places to 48, could a French Open seed be in play for the vet?
=============================
3. Munich Final - Kohlschreiber d. Thiem 7-6[7],4-6,7-6[4]
...Three superb finals this week and all as good as each other. This one saw a third title in Munich for Kohl and a sweaty hug at the end of the three hour tussle. It took the German multiple match points to finally spring the upset. He rises to 25 in the world and locks up a seed in Paris.
=============================

4. Munich SF - Thiem d. Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Estoril QF - Kyrgios d. Coric 6-4, 6-4

...The ATP is calling these guys #nextgen and in the first clash between the pairs, it was the higher ranked who triumphed. The rivalries these four have with one another could well define the next decade on tour. Kyrgios was calm and composed while Thiem showed fortitude. These set the benchmarks for further clashes with both showing potential.

=============================


*MADRID*
=SF=
Wawrinka [4] d. [1] Djokovic
Nadal [5] d. [8] Berdych
=FINAL=
Nadal [5] d. Wawrinka [4]

...I don’t trust Murray or Djokovic here. Wawrinka has had some great results in Madrid and the Serb has not played here since 2013. Federer, as usual, gets Nadal while Murray is bound to choke despite his easy draw. Regardless of the top two seeds, Nadal is on fire right now.

Mladenovic has already gone. Lucic-Baroni comfortably defeated her 6-2, 6-3. Seeded 5th in the doubles, the Frenchies drew Gronefield/Vandeweghe in the first round. They won and now face Xu/Zheng.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!