Monday, July 27, 2015

Wk.29- The Locker Room is a Lonely Place


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The average age of the winners this week was 23. None of these players have been on tour a long time. Paire, at 26, is the most experienced but even he is still young and could still fulfill his potential. Tomic and Thiem still have potential to fulfil and talent to burn. And that is today's introduction topic. Loneliness.

There are places renowned for loneliness. Being a main character in a Springsteen song or a Steinbeck novel[la] guarantee loneliness but loneliness does not have to be a negative thing. Sometimes loneliness and solitude can bring great rewards. Da Vinci created some of today's greatest works whilst all on his lonesome. And some of the greatest explorers we have did things all by myself. My name-sake had at times a very lonely existence. He at least knew he was right and perhaps he even knew that in the future he would be respected and admired.

The locker-room could be the most lonely place there is. Sharapova has said it. Rugby players have said it. Football players and soccer players have said it. And they are part of teams. And cricketers have said it, too. In cricket, and in baseball to a degree, it can be so lonely being the batsmen. The bowler [pitcher] and the fielders have each other but the two hitting the ball are on their own pretty much. There's a big crowd and you're just there. On your own.



And for tennis players, it has to be the same. Sure, you have a team but in the locker-room before a match you are on your own. And you may be on good terms with the other girls but you don't speak to the person you'll be playing. You don't interact. And then to go out to a crowd, that can be up to 22000 people which is about the size of your average small American town. Every decision you make out there is your own. The pressure can ruin some people and it can make others. The reason, in part, that there are so many first round drubbings on the big courts is not the gap in level. Because honestly is there a huge gap in level between the world number 2 and the world number 70. There isn't really, not when you think about it. It's the mental ability as much as anything else.

Mentally, can you handle the big occasion? And if you make a mistake or if you get booed [Hingis comes to mind, Azarenka, too] can you deal with the hate. And it is even worse if you're 17 or in that age bracket. 17 year olds should be in malt bars, perhaps solving a ridiculous mystery, at skate parks, watching tv, acting like their relationship is more than a summer romance. 18 year olds should be drinking too much at ridiculously noisy parties and pretending they enjoy dreadful music and pretending they can dance. Nobody could dance when they were 18. Well, except the Jacksons and aren't they the biggest exceptions there are? These young stars should not be on big courts, literally cracking under the pressure.

Our sport has ruined so many young stars. Barty recently, Oudin before her and, almost the archetype, Jennifer Capriati. But on the men's side too. Gasquet, Chang, and Tomic are all fairly recent examples of what can happen. There is still time for Tomic, and Gasquet has built a very good career, but it isn't hard to see why they were broken. The pressure and the isolation is suffocating, it chokes you. It's the same for politicians on the campaign trail. Do you think Hillary sees her grand-daughter? Do you think Rand Paul sees his mistress?

We put these tennis players on a pedestal. We idolize them, we make them out to be gods. But they aren't. This is their job and it's an awful one. Who says we have the right to judge Bouchard and yet we do. I have done on here myself. Who says we have the right to judge Bernie for circumstances which are mostly out of his hands. Who are we to make or break these players? It's not just the injuries, it's not just the pressure. It's how bleak it can be. And we should respect them immensely for entertaining this.

And should you ever see a tennis player, don't make the mistake I do, talk to them like they're you're friend from the pub or your next door neighbor who you don't really like but wave to anyway. And some of them may be paid a large sum but they earn that by traveling the world and playing in front of massive audiences. I couldn't play in front of 22000 people. Could you?

Well, let's get into this week. Stuff actually happened on the tour this week. No, really.

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini still holds it. Coric and Klizan up three places to sit just begin Fognini. 15 points between 32 and 34. Querrey rises four to hit the top 30 and Monaco falls 11 to 38.

Top 10 - Nadal holds it ahead of three Frenchmen. He has exactly 3000 points but is 500 behind Cilic. Tsonga has points to defend coming up.

Top 8 - Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but way behind six. But he feels like a world number seven. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 - Kei could challenge for top four. But Wawrinka has fewer points to defend. Djokovic is way ahead of Federer but Fed is easily holding off the Scot, in at three.

QUESTION: On which continents, excluding Antarctica, has Tomic failed to win a title?

Some other things happened. Shall we have a look?



*WEEK 29*
BASTAD, SWEDEN
S: Benoit Paire def. Tommy Robredo 7-6(7)/6-3
D: Chardy/Kubot d. Cabal/Farah
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
S: Bernard Tomic def. Adrian Mannarino 6-1/3-6/6-2
D: Roger-Vasselin/Stepanek d. Pavic/Venus
UMAG, CROATIA
S: Dominic Thiem def. Joao Sousa 6-4/6-1
D: M.Gonzalez/Sa d. Fyrstenberg/S.Gonzalez



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: THIEM
...So many good candidates to choose from, but 21 year old Thiem takes it. He is quickly rising to the top of the game. And by the time we say we realized how good he would be after he was already pretty good. He took us by surprise. The glitzy glamour of Dimitrov [now single] and his gang distracted us from Thiem. All that glitters is not gold and Thiem is not gold; he is a diamond. Of course he isn't perfect, but who is? Fine. Apart from Ripley in the "Alien" films, who is perfect? He lost in the doubles in the first round partnering Bedene. Seeded fourth, the Austrian won his first match via retirement. Lajovic down 6-1, 3-1 called it quits. Next he benefited again when Haider-Maurer retired after losing the second set 6-1 to Thiem. Then Monfils, the top seed, was all that stood in the way of the Austrian and a final in Croatia. And the youngster came back to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. In the final he swept Sousa aside 4 and 1. He just got better and better as the week progressed. These one handed stars tend to themselves be pretty. And Thiem is no exception. But, of course, Backspin only ever briefly mentions these matters before moving on to the things that matter. And, looking at the bigger picture, Thiem could be the second best player Austria has ever had. And you know who their best is: another guy with a great one handed backhand



=============================
RISER: TOMIC
...Bernie is secure in the number one Australian ranking position for now and for the foreseeable future. He does have competition from others with fewer points to defend, but he is some 15 rankings spots clear of Kyrgios now. He wasn't even mildly interested in the doubles. Tomic has yet to be the top seed anywhere in his career so far, but that time is coming soon. As the second seed he would have felt confident coming in. He won it last year without the benefit of a high seeding, or indeed any seeding. And he didn't look great in winning but he showed grit. He beat a Spaniard with a long name in the first round 6-7[5], 6-2, 6-4. Next he cruised past Ito 6-1, 6-4. He needed a third set breaker to finally see off Berrer and then he beat Mannarino in a decent match where he should never have lost the second set. Tomic could win a handful of titles this year if he can keep this form. He may even steal a 500. On court he is hitting form right now. The loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon is understandable. Sure he could have fought a little harder, but he is on form right now. He has never passed the second round of the U.S. Open. That will change this year.
=============================
SURPRISE: ZVERERV
...This is the young Zverev, not the old one. It's also not the one Graf beat in 32 minutes in a slam final. It's the young rising star who did so well again. He should have lost to a German qualifier. He didn't. He should have lost to Monaco but instead he beat him 4 and 2. Bellucci should have put him away but the German won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. And then finally he did meet his match. Robredo had no problems in beating him in the semi-finals. He is back in the top 100 at 98. But he has been as high as the top 80 before so he has room to improve.
=============================
FRESH FACE: PAIRE
...There are some facts that just surprise you. Some facts that knock you for six even though you realize you know that when you think about it. And here is one of those. Paire just won his first title. I know! I was shocked. He is 26 and he just won his first tournament. It was only his third final. And he lost just 36 games in five matches. He beat the top seed Goffin 6-2, 6-3. He dismissed 3rd seed Cuevas with no trouble. And this was on clay. He really is just extraordinary. He had reached finals in 2012 and 2013 but got five games both times. He just did a very French thing indeed.
=============================
DOWN: SEPPI
...On the Italian's best surface he lost 6-2, 6-2. Sousa is 20 places below the Italian. Surely Seppi should do better against Sousa on this surface. The Italian is just too consistent, too much like a wall to be swept away so easily.
=============================
UPSET: GROTH
...I can't get over how Paire beat the top seeded Goffin 6-2, 6-3. It's just unbelievable. I mean Goffin is like Seppi in that he is consistent but he does have firepower and he does have weapons. Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office. I think the Belgium is still on form, though.
=============================

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Nadal entered Hamburg. Right away that is a fantastic decision. No matter how he does he gets props for that.
2 - I have been working on a project with the boss. Not Bruce, the other boss. And it is going to be released soon. I have had a lot of fun and can't wait to see what y'all think of it.
3 - Kirilenko is going to have a baby. Gives me a chance to use this picture.



And we all know what two things these ladies had in common.

4 - How the media actually didn't go crazy over the Dimitrov split. They'll never give anyone space but it wasn't too intrusive.
5 - I thoroughly enjoyed this video of Paire doing his thing and strutting his stuff.




1. Umag Final – Thiem d. Sousa 6-4, 6-1
...Let this moment stand in BACKSPIN history. This is the moment Thiem showed us his true quality. Before was the awakening and now is the realization. This guy is here to stay.
=============================
2. Stuttgart 1st Rd – Almagro d. Verdasco 6-4, 1-6, 7-5
...Congratulations to the inaugural winner of the In Nadal's Shadow derby, sponsored by Mallorca Tourism board. And this time it would be Almagro's day. He outlasted Verdasco the 5th seed on the red stuff and moved through to the next round an another step on the way back to prominance.
=============================
3. Umag SF – Thiem d. Monfils 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
.. This was one of the biggest wins of Thiem's career. Beating Wawrinka in Madrid was big but Monfils can be impossible at the best of times and it was a semi-final. And at first he got blown away, but then he came back and dealt with the Frenchman nicely. It was an impressive win and he even backed it up.
=============================
4. Copa Claro SF – Tomic d. Berrer 6-4, 6-7[4], 7-6[3]
...Tomic didn't win this because he played well, he won this because he fought well. This was an intense match that was hard fought but not actually too scrappy. Tomic should have put the match away several times but he just couldn't and then he came back from a break down in the third to finally seal it.
=============================


*Hamburg German Open*
=SF=
Nadal [1] d. [4] Seppi
Robredo [2] d. [8] Fognini
=FINAL=
Nadal [1] d. [2] Robredo

...BACKSPIN has a rule. If ever Evert or Nadal step on a clay court thou shalt not pick against them. It hangs in our offices. There are other rules but this one, rule #122, is one of the ones we break the least. Oh yeah -- Robredo is here, too. And the Italians will provide the extra spice. This is definitely a tournament worth watching.

*Gstaad Swiss Open*
=SF=
Goffin [1] d. [4] Andujar
Thiem [3] d. [2] Lopez
=FINAL=
Goffin [1] d. [3] Thiem

...Thiem and Goffin are on form but Thiem will run out of steam. Lopez is the big wildcard here but I don't know where his form is.

*Atlanta*
=SF=
Isner [1] d. [3] Sock
Pospisil [2] d. [4] Mannarino
=FINAL=
Isner [1] d. [2] Mannarino

...the Braves are 46-52 and third in the NL. Nevermind actually, this is not a baseball blog. But this is Isner in America. And Isner has had success here in the past. He has been to four finals this decade and won this event the last two times. Anyway it will be Isner here again.


Dellacqua is not playing anywhere this week. All that's on are two weak WTA events. The tour usually rests for a spell after Wimbledon. Come August, everything will be back to normal.

ANSWER: Tomic has never won in Asia, Europe or North America. He has not won in Africa either.


Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Wk.28- Davis Cup: Age Before...


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Australia were nearly undone by the Kazakhs. And despite the great sense of team unity, the young stars, the ones touted to be great, were not the ones who stood tall. No, Lleyton Hewitt once more showed us why he is the Australian number one. Who will Australia turn to when he retires?

Greeted by hugs and jubilation by the team as he sealed the improbable come back from 0-2 down in the tie, Hewitt showed everyone how it's done. He fist-pumped and shouted "come on!" as loud as he could on every important point and some of the less important ones, too. He led from the front and, along with Sam Groth, inspired Australia to a fantastic victory.

It was the first time Hewitt had ever played in a deciding rubber and also the first time in 76 years Australia had come back from 0-2.

Meanwhile, France were choking. They should have won that tie. Hands down, they should have won it. But the Davis Cup remains a bogey event for the French. Simon had Murray down and out. Murray was exhausted. He is this team. He is literally on his own. Yes, the doubles is solid but it isn't spectacular. Simon was up a set and had a lot of opportunities in that second set. He had a series of mini-breaks in the breaker. He was two points from two sets to love. He was two points from winning the tie for the French because there was no way Murray would have come back from two sets down. And now we have three unseeded nations in the semi-finals.

Had GB had to fly to Australia after the U.S. Open I think Murray would have opted out. But it is in Britain and that could make all the difference. Still, I think Australia are the favorites there.

Argentina actually have a good team. If they can continue to play on clay, they will be considered quite the force. Mayer, Delbonis and Berlocq are enough, especially on clay, to give Argentina a shot at beating anybody. Speaking of Berlocq, here is one his finest hours.



But his finest hour came as the world number 61. He won literally using dropshots. I mean it's playing dirty but that's the whole point of clay -- to play dirty.



Ah, the forgotten tie. Much like "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," the tie between Belgium and Canada will go mostly ignored. Still, the "Temple of Doom" is one of my favorite films in its own right. But I do not think it's the best film of the three. Similarly, "Batman Returns" is my favourite Batman film but it is sadly no longer the best. Surely that honour goes to "The Dark Knight." But once again I digress. Canada struggled to get sets. How about you watch this educational Canada video instead?



Well, that's the four ties but let's look in more depth.



*WEEK 28*
DAVIS CUP QF
GBR def. FRA 3-1
AUS def. KAZ 3-2
ARG def. SRB 4-1
BEL def. CAN 5-0

NEWPORT, USA
S: Rajeev Ram def. Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5)/5-7/7-6(2)
D: Marray/Qureshi d. Monroe/Pavic


GREAT BRITAIN d. FRANCE
...This was a big upset. And they should have played Gasquet/Mahut in the doubles. Even if Gasquet was tired, so was Murray. Gasquet could, and perhaps should, have played the doubles. Still, this was an inspired performance from Great Britain. Simon started off and did what he had to. He dismissed Ward 6-4, 6-4, 6-1. And again there was not a lot of grass court tennis to be had, though the rallies were quicker. Tsonga had chances against Murray but the Scot won 7-5, 7-6[10], 6-2. Murray seems to have the Frenchman's number on the grass. He has beaten him at Wimbledon twice and here at Queens at least once. In 2010 Murray showed us his more unpleasant side.



At the eight-minute mark a rally ensues with Tsonga serving for the set. Murray hits a very flukey return and immediately does a fist pump. Disgusting. See this is why you'll never be as popular as Federer and Nadal. They have class. The Murrays then teamed up to beat Tsonga/Mahut in the doubles and won 4-6, 6-3, 7-6[5], 6-1. Again France had chances but could not convert. That theme was one that ran throughout the tie.
Murray then edged past Gilles Simon in four nervy sets. Of course, the 6-3, 6-0 finals set scores don't look close but it really hung in the balance for a while. The last rubber was left unplayed. Australia now go to Britain after the U.S. Open. So the question is what surface do they choose? Clay is out. Honestly, they might be tempted to go grass again. If I was them I might even go for a court like the one in Tokyo where Murray does so well.
=============================
AUSTRALIA d. KAZAKHSTAN
...Last time out Hewitt lost but was saved, and this time the opposite occurred. Australia, after years in the wilderness, look to be back. And they look like they are going to be here to stay. The way to win the Davis Cup is to have two big singles players [Sampras and Agassi, Federer and Wawrinka] or to have a good singles player and a good doubles pairing. The Americans had this with Roddick and the Bryans recently, but for some reason it just didn't click for them. But the Aussies have taken the third route -- to have a handful of good players who mesh well. It's the rarest and the hardest to pull off. Kokkinakis was routinely dismissed by Kukushkin. Yep. He lost 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to the underrated Kazakh. The Kazakhs are known for their upsets in this competition. And it looked another was on as they took a 1-0 lead into the second rubber. But surely Kyrgios on grass would have too much for Nedovyesev. No. Aleksandr outlasted the future star 7-6[5], 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 6-4. This is a huge upset; Kyrgios is on form on grass. Kyrgios is learning lessons every day on the tour and this was another one. Everybody gets upset -- err, sorry.



Oh, of course I didn't mean you, Serena. Not you, Serena. Didn't see you there. Yeah uhh I'll move on swiftly. Sorry. So sorry. But Groth and Hewitt won the doubles rubber convincingly 6-4, 7-6[4], 6-2. And that seemed to right the ship. Groth won in four and Hewitt came through in straight sets. Hewitt gave the young stars a sermon from the mount. Hewitt is brash and bold. He makes everything a fight. And he always digs in. Kyrgios would have beaten Gasquet with a bit of Hewitt in him. Hewitt has been in the Davis for 17 years and he is still their main man. Years from now Todd and I will speak of the legend of Lleyton. And people will not believe us. Like him or not, enjoy his dying twilight -- for all too soon the night shall come. And then you'll miss him. We all will.
=============================
ARGENTINA d. SERBIA
...Two duds in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup. This used to attract the best from each country and now it is seen as skippable. And that's sad. It should be treasured, it should be beloved. America has not changed its school buses. Wimbledon still insists on white attire. Are they mocked and made to feel redundant? No. For gosh sake the New York parade on Thanksgiving is seen as silly by some. I defend it but then tradition appeals to me. The Davis Cup should instead have all the ties held within a week, twice a year. Or some such measure. Then we get to test how strong the countries really are. In the Argentinian capital on indoor clay Mayer gave his team a positive side. He dismissed Krajinovic 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. And that just set the tone it seemed. It's hard to get up after that. But Troicki nearly did it. He won the first two sets of the second rubber 6-2, 6-2 but then fell in five long sets. And once you're 0-2 it's pretty much game over. Berlocq/Mayer dominated Troicki/Zimonjic from the first set of the third rubber and won 6-2, 6-4, 6-1. Zimonjic should do better. The two teams split the dead rubbers and Argentina moved on. Argentina now go to Belgium. If I were them I'd choose grass. But they will probably opt for a quick indoor hard court. Anything clay is foolish. Anything outdoors is risky. But in Europe playing outdoors in September is a gamble.
=============================
BELGIUM D. CANADA
...Canada without Raonic and Pospisil is like Gotham without the Cat and the Joker. Not as dangerous and certainly not as interesting. The fact that Nestor played with Adil Shamasdin says it all, really. Filip Peliwo simply is not ready yet. Like cake he will be fantastic once he has done cooking. You took him out of the oven and checked him but he still needs another year and a half. At least. Canada took the first set on the clay but Darcis overcame Dancevic in four sets. Goffin was next and he dismissed Peliwo for the loss of just ten games. Bemelmans and Coppejeans needed four to get past Nestor and the unknown quantity but, really, there seemed to be little resistance from Canada.
Belgium even took the dead rubbers. This was never a contest. We have our four semi-finalists and had anyone predicted this then BACKSPIN would have laughed. It really shows what happens when the best don't commit. They need to commit.
=============================

*HALL OF FAME TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS*
...You thought that BACKSPIN had forgotten? Well, it was watching both the Davis Cup and the Newport Hall of Fame Championships. Ryan Harrison and Mark P won a doubles match. Rajeev Ram and young star Krajicek made the semi-finals of the doubles. But Ram did better in the singles. He won. He won his second ever singles title and his second at this event. He took it in 2009 and, at 86 in the world, edges ever closer to his highest ever singles ranking. If he can get past 78 he will crack it.

Check out the finals highlights here. Ram beat top seed Isner in a third set breaker, blew away Sugita, edged Mannarino 2-6, 7-6[8], 7-6[2] and then beat Smith of Australia in straight sets to make the final. He beat Karlovic 7-6[5], 5-7, 7-6[2]. It's impressive he beat Karlovic 7-2 in the last breaker. Ivo lost only one set on his way to the final. Tomic seeded third was awful. And then there was this and this and this. But this is a kind of nicer[r] note to end on.

To be honest BACKSPIN feels it has spent enough words on the behavior of Tomic off the courts. So the focus will be on the on-court stuff. And that Wimbledon was good for Tomic. He won two matches. But the last tournament was not. And that's just how it goes.


Casey has yet to commit to a tournament in the near foreseeable future, but once she does I shall let you know.



In Bastad, Goffin will beat Cuevas and Robredo will beat Bellucci. Goffin will win the title.

In Umag, Croatia Monfils will beat Thiem and then defeat Seppi. Seppi will beat Bautista-Agut in the semi-finals.

Defending champion Tomic will defeat Ward in Bogota, Colombia. Karlovic will beat Mannarino and then lose to Tomic in a repeat of last year's final.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wimbledon Day 13: Djokovic is the Champion, but not of the people

[Editor's note: I don't agree with much about Galileo's wrap-up of the final Sunday of Wimbledon. Well, I'm on board with the Hingis stuff, so there's that. But this is his turn on the proverbial soapbox, so I'll let him have his say without volleying back any discent beyond this point, other than to say (since I have the power of the final edit here) that I've stated my opinion on this issue multiple times, and that I'm also happy to direct anyone who agrees with me to Sally Jenkins' great piece in the Washington Post today, as well. Anyway, all for now. - Todd S. ]


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

I'm afraid this post is going to be unpleasant reading for Djokovic fans. Yes he won. He won 7-6[1], 6-7[10], 6-4, 6-3 in three hours. Federer hit 58 winners, but more errors. And he did admirably to recover from 3-6 in the second set breaker. He played better in the third but still lost it. And Djokovic played a clever match. He came out and was too good. The worry for him next year will be how he is going to defend all these points. But he is the champion. And now, ATP BACKSPIN, is going to have it's first official rant.

Usually ATPB tried to stay neutral, to remain impartial. Though, of course, its favorites and not so favorites are clear. But this time there is to be no understanding of the world number one's actions. With Kyrgios, ATPB could write that off as a 20-year old showboating. That’s what 20 year olds are supposed to do.

Back in 2009 Roger did this.



And that image has stuck in the minds of many. Federer is beloved for being human and for being able to emphasize. He cares. In that way that Bruce Springsteen sang for the people, Federer seems to play for the people. And he cares too about his colleagues.



He and Nadal get on. Federer knows Nadal's girlfriend and even stops and asks her how she is doing when he passes her in the corridors. And that's why he and Rafa are beloved.



But here comes brash Novak with his ridiculous diets and ridiculous compression chambers. I don't hate Serena intentionally. I get no pleasure from wanting her to lose. But I and many others get pleasure in wanting Djokovic to lose. When Wawrinka beat him in that final I had a ridiculous grin on my face for about four days. He inspires such hatred and dislike in some. My attempts at impartiality at least force me to merely dislike him. Perhaps it’s the way he celebrates. Here is Roger celebrating when he wins Wimbledon in 2012.



And here is Novak.



And the question from ATPB is simply this; why? You aren’t playing Nadal in a five setter. You’re playing a dignified classy champion. And how is this ever acceptable?



But Sunday he did this.



And that's just insulting. He stinks of arrogance, it's part of him. It’s physically ingrained. During the match he flouted the timing rule, shouted at the crowd and yelled at his box. He celebrated like some untamed wild beast fresh from the kill. He showed why the crowd, the Wimbledon crowd, of all crowds, was not on his side. It isn't just Federer. It’s the fact Novak cheated in Australia to win. He even to a lesser extent cheated in Paris to win. He acts like he is the greatest tennis player ever and he thinks he is god's gift to humor. Well, unless his name is Bill Maher, I don't think so.

His parents are obnoxious and rude to the other players and yet he does nothing. He and Murray aren't even friendly anymore. He plays negative tennis and lives off mistakes. His opponent played all the tennis today just like in the semi-final. He counterpunched his way to a third Wimbledon title and that feels wrong. He was barely even at net.

He doesn't even seem to respect the crowd. He cares only about winning and then celebrating that win. And that mentality is understandable. But it was never Federer's. After Roger lost to Rafa in that 2008 French Open final, the one where he got four games, he still had a party. Because, hey, a final is a great results.

History will remember the classiness of Federer. Let us hope that it remember the assiness of Novak Djokovic. And ATPB unofficially hopes he never wins the French Open so that he may not be put in the discussion of the all time great. Federer, Nadal, Laver, Sampras and Agassi all had a crucial thing in common. They had class and dignity, especially as they matured. And, really, Djokovic could do with some more Rafter in him.
Djokovic wins the title but he has lost the Wimbledon crowd and he has lost the respect of ATPB. Because in the end you have a twelve year career and then the rest of your life. And it's more important to be a dignified person who can lose gracefully than a brash arrogant winner.
Congratulations Novak. You've won Wimbledon. The trophy is hollow. And it's not the only thing. Flashy on the outside, empty on the inside. Doesn't that just sum up Novak's performance from today.

Question: How many matches did Boris Becker play against Stefan Edberg?

Right let us get started...

CENTRE COURT: PAES/HINGIS D. PEYA/BABOS

...Hingis and Paes won 6-1, 6-1 in 40 minutes. They never hit an error. Their opponents won just 20 points in total. This was a thrashing. This was Graf/Zvereva. This was McEnroe beating Connors for the loss of only four games in 1984. This was like the Serena/Sharapova rivalry. Hingis was imperious in picking up another title. She and Paes had a fantastic partnership from the start. The pair lost just 22 games in five matches. It was a nice cool down for the crowd, as well. Really, there isn't much more to add unfortunately. Except to say that's pretty much it till next year.
=============================

Any other notes?
* - Isner will beat Tomic in one semi-final in Newport. In the other Karlovic will beat a total surprise. I pick Falla. Then Karlovic loses out to Isner because it is America. Mark P lost in qualifying in two tiebreakers. So he still kind of has it.
* - In the Davis Cup, GB were foolish to pick grass but the reasoning is clear. We aren't better than them on any surface so let's go with our best. France win 3-2. Kazakhstan go to Darwin. They play just behind the airport and 30 minutes from the hospital I was born in. Australia 4-1 despite the fact the Kazakhs always shine at Davis Cup. The grass outdoor courts will help the Aussies. Without Djokovic the Argentines triumph over Serbia on indoor clay 3-2. And Belgium beat Canada on outdoor clay 4-1. If Raonic is there then 3-2.
* - Consider Stakhovsky's comments officially condemned by ATP BACKSPIN. ATP BACKSPIN also reserves the right to bring them up in conjunction with the Ukrainian whenever it so feels. ATP BACKSPIN also reserves the right to refuse to post good things about the aforementioned player even if he should win a title.
* - In Bastad, I like Stosur to do well. Serena committed last time. If she does so again, I think she has a Wimbledon hangover and Stosur wins the tournament. Strycova and Barthel could also make runs but look for the top seeds to excel there. I like Niculescu to get to the final in Romania, but Vinci to win. That would be a very watchable final.
* - There may be some interesting things in the works for BACKSPIN. Watch Todd's space. (Hint: Volley)
* - Casey Dellacqua has decided to take a break. But we will continue to update. And next year we'll follow a man because this is the ATP, after all. But halfway through, well, more than halfway through, this experiment has gone well. And next year we'll have a righty not from Australia around the 30 mark.

ANSWER: Becker led the head to head 25-10. So many great players in history never got the French Open. And you can add Djokovic to that list.

Well I'm out for now. But I will see you next week. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wimbledon Final: The Djoker Has Another Last Laugh


He's the Djoker. He's the Wimbledon title smoker. He's a Big 4 debate stoker. But he sure don't want to hurt no one.



There are so many things about Novak Djokovic that he simply can't help, or change.

He's not Roger Federer, and he's not Rafa Nadal. He's not even Andy Murray. He'll never be the graceful king of the court who appeared to be incapable of doing wrong and made everything seem ridiculously easy no matter how difficult it might have been, nor his stylistic antithesis, the grinder who seemed to play harder than anyone ever had before on every single point and as if each one very well could be his last. He's not even the player who put an end to a sport-loving nation's nearly 80-year stretch of embarrassment, even if he IS the player who has played a huge role in laying down the foundation of his OWN nation's still-young tennis legacy. Hey, it's hard to beat the act of becoming a hero by waking sixty-four million people from a nightmare that had become an international punchline.

Djokovic can do nothing about any of that. But he can't be denied, either.



Some people call him the Serbian space cowboy. Some call him the gangster of 40/love. Some people call him Nole. Cause he speaks of the pompitous of love. People talk about him, baby. Say he's doing' 'em wrong. Well, don't you worry, baby. Cause he's right here, right here, right here at home.

And that might just be the case for a while, too. It certainly was in today's Wimbledon men's singles final.

In a rematch of the 2014 five-set final in which Djokovic denied a 32-year old Federer a chance to win career slam title #18, a record eighth title at SW19 and the distinction of being the oldest men's champ at the All-England Club in the Open era (surpassing '75 champ Arthur Ashe, who won the title at age 31), the Serb once again proved to be up to the challenge. Federer, now 33, was playing in a record tenth Wimbledon final, and was still trying to knock down each of those same marks he was eying twelve months ago. With an eleven-slam title drought, his longest since before he won his first slam crown at Wimbledon in 2003, Federer came into the Sunday match looking to be in classic form. Just like in the prime of his career, he'd been fairly well impervious on serve this grass season, being broken just once in ninety service games and coming off a near perfect serving performance in the semifinals against Murray. Having won twenty of his last twenty-one matches on grass, and with an eleven-match winning streak on the surface, it once again appeared that the death of the Swiss tennis god's slam championship-winning years had been greatly exaggerated.

But with Djokovic being his opponent, nothing was a certainty. And maybe the past few weeks would eventually be seen as not meaning as much as had been previously believed, either.

On a thirteen-match grass court winning streak of his own, and with a 19-1 surface record dating back to his run to the '13 Wimbledon final (he lost to Murray), so Djokovic by no means should have been looked upon as an anything remotely resembling an "underdog" in the match. The Serb arrived in London without having played a grass tune-up event (Federer won in Halle), but the break seemed to clear the world #1's mind of his potentially crushing loss to Stan Wawrinka in last month's Roland Garros final. With the greatest season of his career firmly on his racket that day in Paris, Djokovic had seen his hopes for the completion of his Career Slam go up in smoke on the terre battue even without Nadal on the other side of the net (he'd defeated him earlier in the tournament, in what turned out to be a truly anticlimactic long-sought obstacle finally cleared), as well as his chances for a 2015 Grand Slam that might have been effectively used as ammunition in his favor in any sort of "best of the era" discussions of the Big 4, none of which has ever been able to sweep all four majors in a single season. But, from the 1st Round forward at the AELTC, Djokovic seemed to have put his disappointment behind him until next spring. Faced with a tough draw, he moved through mostly with ease, only truly being challenged in the Round of 16 by Kevin Anderson. The South African had won two tight tie-break sets to take a 2-0 lead over Djokovic, only to see the Serb -- like he so often has in the past, as he and Serena Williams have the trait in common -- right a potentially flagging ship, get "that look" in his eye and charge back as if possessed by another more lethal version of himself. After knotting the match at two sets each, darkness pushed the 5th set to the next day, and after falling down a break Djokovic pulled through in five. After that, he had no trouble with U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet en route to reaching his third straight Wimbledon final.

Still, as the unquestioned #1, the best hard court player in the world, the best clay courter not named Rafa (and, even then, mostly only at RG) over the last few seasons and the reigning Wimbledon champ, Djokovic wasn't favored by all against Federer, and surely wasn't the player everyone was rooting for in the final. No, that honor, as it always has been and always will be, went to the "sentimental" favorite Federer, already the all-time ATP leader with seventeen slam titles and acknowledged by many as the greatest player of all time. Such is the well-earned power of the Swiss great.

But Djokovic's longtime "third wheel," "uninvited guest" "Serbian Prince but not the Tennis King" standing wasn't going to play into what actually happened on the court. As previously noted, nothing was going to be denied him there unless it was literally snatched from his grasp. And, no matter how often people tend to forget it, that is not nearly as easy a task as one might be led to believe.

In the 1st set, Federer seemed well on his way to grabbing the early lead in the match. And when Djokovic played a positively awful sixth game, a sloppy mess that left him shaking his head at his sudden and shocking inadequacy, the Swiss vet appeared to have a clear path to taking the set with a 4-2 advantage. After all, with his serve in tip-top form, he surely wouldn't squander the lead, right? Ah, but remember, Djokovic is the best returner in the game, and with an urgency brought on by his brief lapse the Serb immediately turned up the level of his own game and got the break back one game later. He then opened game #8 with an ace and held to get things back even at 4-4. Serving down 5-6, Djokovic double-faulted and missed on a forehand to hand Federer the first of two set points. He saved the first with a big wide serve to Federer's backhand that forced a wide return, then saved second with another hard wide serve to the other corner. The Serb, in full scrapper mode, held with an ace to force a tie-break.

On the first point of the TB, Djokovic pulled off a magnificent outside-the-post backhand flick into the backcourt for a winner to go up a mini-break at 1-0, and the tone of the breaker was set. It never changed. The Serb held both his serve points to go up 3-0, and eventually won 7-1 on a Federer double-fault. While Federer had seemingly outplayed Djokovic for most of the set, the Serb has "stolen" it by upping his game at precisely the right time, committing just three unforced errors in all and using his own return game to hold back Federer's previously untouchable serve. Numbers-wise, Djokovic actually performed the best of the two on serve in the set, and that proved to be the difference.



In game #5 of the 2nd set, Djokovic saved a break point with a forehand off the line, the another with a forehand winner. Federer flubbed a forehand of his own to give the Serb a game point, which he put away with a forehand to the corner to hold for 3-2. Five games later, Djokovic went up 30/15 on Federer's serve. A double-fault gave the #1 seed his first set point of the 2nd for a 2-0 set lead, but he didn't take advantage of a forehand opportunity presented him during the point and Federer went on to hold. Djokovic would regret the missed chance later, as it very well could have cost him the title. Both won tight service games at the end of the 2nd, with Djokovic saving a BP in game #11 and Federer pulling ahead from 30/30 on his own serve a game later to hold and force another tie-break.

In the 2nd set TB, Djokovic saved a set point at 8-7, but only in the midst of holding and failing to convert six more set points (seven in all in the 2nd) of his own, failing on his final chance when a forehand sailed long on point #19 of the breaker. A netted forehand handed Federer his second SP, which he won with a serve-and-volley play off his second serve, putting away his second volley of the point to take the TB 12-10 and knot the match.

An angry Djokovic ripped off his shirt in the changeover area (though he never could quite rip it in half), then berated himself for most the period of time between sets.



Both failed to convert chances early in the 3rd set. Djokovic went up 40/15 on Federer's serve, but failed to get the break; while Federer couldn't convert a BP of his own and grab the advantage in game #2. After going up 40/15 in game #3, Federer was then broken when he missed on a long forehand shot from his position at the net to give Djokovic a break lead at 2-1. He consolidated the break with a 3-1 hold, then both men left the court while the covers were dragged out for a brief rain delay at 3-2.

Such instances might have helped Federer regroup in the past in a big match, but the same has regularly been said of Djokovic, who can regroup or charge himself up during such a stoppage. That's what happened here, as well. Djokovic later said that coach Boris Becker (no shock here) had reminded him to be more aggressive when he returned to the court (ah, memories). As play resumed, the Serb was just that, and it proved to be the death knell to Federer's championship hopes. As Federer lost a bit of the edge off his game, Djokovic became even sharper. Serving three more times in the set, the Serb held at love in back-to-back games in the final two to take the set 6-4.

In the 4th set, Djokovic took a 30/15 lead in game #5. He immediately seized control of the next point with a return to the corner, and when Federer's error eventually ended a short rally the Serb was at BP. Another deep Djokovic return to Federer's backhand was barely pushed back to the net as the #1 seed went up a break at 3-2.

From there, Federer seemed incapable of turning the tide back in his favor, while Djokovic's serve and overall play continued to rise until the end of the match. As he has worked to become one of the fittest players in the sport over the last half-decade, Djokovic has turned into a glorious closer, able to take the momentum he's created and improve upon it until an opponent often no longer has an answer and eventually goes out with little fight-back. It's hard to say that the same happened to Federer here, but it was close.

Djokovic took a 40/love lead on serve in game #6, holding with an ace for a 4-2 lead. A Federer DF gave Djokovic the shot to run away with the set, but the world #2 managed to save the BP (as well as another) and held. He got as close as 30/30 on the Serb's serve a game later, but a long forehand return gave Djokovic a game point and essentially calmed any final Fed threat as the score moved to 5-3 with another hold.

In game #9, Djokovic's crosscourt forehand winner put him up 30/love on Federer's serve, then a backhand return off the baseline put him at double match point at 40/15. On the final point, a backhand to the corner and crosscourt forehand winner aimed behind the Swiss at the baseline closed things out at 7-6(1)/6-7(10)/6-4/6-3 with the fourth break of Federer's serve on the day.



While it didn't start out that way, Djokovic's third Wimbledon win (passing Nadal, and tying coach Becker and John McEnroe on the Open era SW19 list) ultimately evolved into what was a dominant final act. He more than earned yet another serving of his now-traditional grassy snack on the Centre Court lawn, even noting that, "The grass tastes very good this year. I'm not sure what the groundsmen have done, but it tastes very good."



But did he earn a little more of the overall career respect that he's entitled to? Well, we'll have to see.

And now here I go with another version of this same argument yet again...

This Wimbledon title is surely another hit on the target toward that end. His missed chance in Paris to keep alive the hopes of a Grand Slam this season (which now looks like it may have been possible, in spite of the Serb's 1-4 record in U.S. Open finals, since last year's aberrational Cilic/Nishikori championship match isn't likely to repeat again so soon) may have forever lost the opportunity to devise a TRUE argument for there being a "near equal" standing with Federer and Nadal in this era. The Career Slam will eventually come, but it'll just a simple checking-of-a-box moment. He'll have to pull off something extraordinary to warrant such consideration by many.

But he battles on, knocking down more records and making it more and more difficult to avoid elevating him up the "all-time" list with every accomplishment. Slam title #9 moves him past the likes of Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl, and within two of Bjorn Borg. With Nadal slowing considerably and no longer a lock to win even one more major title, suddenly his (and Pete Sampras') fourteen titles is within reach. This match win was the 200th of Djokovic's slam career, and at a very fit 28 he's hardly considered "old," especially in an era where players are winning into their early to mid-thirties.




Ultimately, it may help Djokovic's overall slam-winning case that the crop of "NextGen" slam contenders has so far mostly failed to materialize on anything resembling a consistent basis. Cilic seemed like a flash, while Tomas Berdych has never quite lived up to billing. Gael Monfils never will. Meanwhile, the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic still have much to prove and don't look to be slam-worthy for at least a few more seasons. Kei Nishikori is intriguing, but not without questions. Murray will continue to be a threat, but the Serb "owns" him in slam match-ups (though the Scot HAS defeated Djokovic in the final while winning BOTH of his major titles). In the end, the late-blooming Wawrinka could end up being Djokovic's main challenger for slam wins over the next 2-3 years, save for a Federer run or two at Wimbledon, and maybe another surge by a comeback-minded Nadal in Paris. Well, unless the "NEXT NextGen" sees someone emerge big time from the group that includes the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric, etc.

There's no reason to think that Djokovic can't average 1.5-2 slam wins a year over the next three years, which would put him right in the 13-15 slam range. Maybe more, depending on how the young players improve (or don't improve). Federer's 17 is likely out of range, but it'd hardly be disappointing to finish second in all-time slam titles while playing in an era in which such a small group of players have won so many -- and nearly all -- of the major crowns. If Djokovic could put together the Grand Slam season in '16 (not likely, but not TOTALLY impossible) that eluded him this season, though, maybe Federer's number isn't outside of shouting distance. Even if one might go hoarse trying to speak loud enough to reach it.

But, still, again, this is a simple numbers argument. Federer and Nadal have already won the hearts and minds of history. Being viewed as masterful and romantically-above-it-all and awesome-and-to-be-feared will always win out over the scrappy-and-sometimes-crazed competitor who does everything well, but whose top skill (his return game) is more difficult to romanticize than those of his direct rival's best attributes. In some ways, Djokovic is to the men's game what Azarenka it to the women's -- likely forever to be undervalued for reasons that were never within their grasp to overturn, and whose sometimes-brash personalities many were slow to warm to in the "formative years" of their careers when "brand loyalties" were being firmly established. It doesn't matter that the Serb has been amazingly competitive against the very players he's stacked up against in this era's arguments -- 20-20 vs. Federer, 21-23 vs. Nadal, 19-8 vs. Murray (and, to look ahead, 18-4 vs. Wawrinka) -- and shown an ability to be able to win major titles even when not at his best. Nadal can't say the same on that front, and neither can Murray. Federer, either, for that matter... though, in truth, he was rarely ever NOT at his best when winning his slams titles. But when he hasn't been, including on the grass vs. Nadal, he didn't eventually lift another trophy anyway. Djokovic, much like current fellow #1 Serena, has most often managed to still find a way.

It's one of the ages-old questions in sport. What's more valuable and admirable? Being nearly impervious to defeat, or showing the oh-so-human qualities of being capable of being beaten but still finding a way to avoid it? I suppose that's why such arguments last for generations. Serena, of course, can play on both sides of that equation... it's why she's the most intriguing champion in decades, if not ever.

But Djokovic has time on his side. In a few years, if he's still picking up slam titles into his thirties, something which Federer has not been able to do and Nadal likely won't, longevity could be his overwhelming ally. Remember, Djokovic has constructed the framework of his career right alongside what could be considered the primes of both his main rivals. When he reached his first slam final at the U.S. Open in 2007, he lost to a TWENTY-SIX year old Federer (two years younger than the Serb is now) in the final. At the time, a 21-year old Nadal had won just three of his fourteen major titles (all at RG, too). Murray wouldn't win his first for another five years. Djokmovic won his first in his very next slam appearance. Meanwhile, eight years later, Djokovic is heading to New York looking to win three majors in a single season for the second time (2011). Nadal only did that once (2010), while Federer did it three times (but not since '07).

Still, Djokovic has never really been a rooting "underdog" in his career. When he might have been, while winning his first slam in Melbourne in '08 at just 20 years old, he did so right smack in the middle of the period when the Roger-vs.-Rafa rivalry was the dominant story in the sport, making him appear to be an "interloper" screwing with everyone's preferred viewing choices. But Djokovic IS the underdog. He always had been, and he will continue to be. Until all the titles are won, all the records are totaled and all the arguments are set down in writing for the final time. Then that "Numbers Guy" will have his say, whether anyone listens or not.

The Djoker's place in history is secure... it's just a matter of where he's standing in the queue.



"Don't you worry, baby. Cause he's right here, right here, right here..."



=DAY 13 NOTES=
...in the juniors, unseeded six-foot-teen American Ryan Opelka took the boys singles crown, giving the U.S. back-to-back Wimbledon junior champs. Firing fifteen aces, Opelka defeated #12-seeded Mikael Ymer 7-6(5)/6-4.




Anyone else think he slightly resembles Michael Phelps?

Opelka didn't pull off the sweep, though, as he and Japan's Akira Santillan lost to the Vietnamese/Indian pair of Ham Hoang Ly & Sumit Nagal 7-6(4)/6-4.





LIKE FOR DAY 13: Grace in defeat





NO END IN SIGHT ON DAY 13: And why should there be?



After all, if Kevin Anderson takes out Djokovic earlier in the tournament like he probably should have after claiming the first two sets (and being up a break in the 5th) against the Serb in the Round of 16, Federer would likely have been lifting his eighth Wimbledon trophy today. A final against Marin Cilic (Djokovic's QF opponent) would have been intriguing with the Croat's serve (and that nation's history at this tournament on the men's side pulling him along), but does anyone believe Federer wouldn't have beaten Richard Gasquet (lost to Djokovic in the SF) if the Frenchman had made his way to the final? Exactly.


LIKE FOR DAY 13: An Engraver's Work is Never Done




LIKE FOR DAY 13: And Boris got another Wimbledon win over old SW19 rival Stefan Edberg (Federer's coach), too.




THE REALITY OF A FINAL ON DAY 13:




BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER ON DAY 13:







*GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES FINAL*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB def. #2 Roger Federer/SUI 7-6(1)/6-7(10)/6-4/6-3

*GENTLEMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
#4 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU) def. #13 J.Murray/Peers (GBR/AUS) 7-6(5)/6-4/6-4

*MIXED DOUBLES FINAL*
#7 Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) def. #5 Babos/Peya (HUN/AUT) 6-1/6-1

*BOYS SINGLES FINAL*
Reilly Opelka/USA def. #12/WC Mikael Ymer/SWE 7-6(5)/6-4

*BOYS DOUBLES FINAL*
#8 Ly/Nagal (VIE/IND) def. #4 Opelka/Santillan (USA/JPN) 7-6(4)/6-4

*MEN'S WC DOUBLES FINAL*
Fernandez/Peifer (ARG/FRA) def. #2 Jeremiasz/Reid (FRA/GBR) 7-5/5-7/6-2



*WIMBLEDON MEN'S TITLES*
[all-time]
7...Pete Sampras
7...William Renshaw
7...Roger Federer
5...Bjorn Borg
5...Laurence Doherty
[Open era]
7...Pete Sampras
7...Roger Federer
5...Bjorn Borg
3...NOVAK DJOKOVIC
3...Boris Becker
3...John McEnroe

*RECENT WIMBLEDON MEN'S CHAMPIONS*
2003 Roger Federer, SUI
2004 Roger Federer, SUI
2005 Roger Federer, SUI
2006 Roger Federer, SUI
2007 Roger Federer, SUI
2008 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2009 Roger Federer, SUI
2010 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2011 Novak Djokovic, SRB
2012 Roger Federer, SUI
2013 Andy Murray, GBR
2014 Novak Djokovic, SRB
2015 Novak Djokovic, SRB

*MEN'S SLAM TITLES*
[all-time]
17 - Roger Federer
14 - Rafael Nadal
14 - Pete Sampras
12 - Roy Emerson
11 - Bjorn Borg
11 - Rod Laver
10 - Bill Tilden
9 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC
[Open era]
17 - Roger Federer
14 - Rafael Nadal
14 - Pete Sampras
11 - Bjorn Borg
9 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC
8 - Andre Agassi
8 - Jimmy Connors
8 - Ivan Lendl
7 - John McEnroe
7 - Mats Wilander

**SLAM FINALS - ACTIVE MEN**
26...ROGER FEDERER, SUI (17-9)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
17...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB (9-8)
8...Andy Murray, GBR (2-6)
4...Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (2-2)
2...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (2-0)
2...Robin Soderling, SWE (0-2)
[all-time]
26...ROGER FEDERER, SUI (17-9)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
19...Ivan Lendl (8-11)
18...Pete Sampras (11-6)
17...Rod Laver (11-6)
17...NOVAK DJOKOVIC (9-8)
16...Bjorn Borg (11-5)
16...Ken Rosewall (8-8)

*WIMBLEDON BOYS CHAMPIONS - since 1998*
1998 Roger Federer, SUI
1999 Jurgen Melzer, AUT
2000 Nicolas Mahut, FRA
2001 Roman Valent, SUI
2002 Todd Reid, AUS
2003 Florin Mergea, ROU
2004 Gael Monfils, FRA
2005 Jeremy Chardy, FRA
2006 Thiemo de Bakker, NED
2007 Donald Young, USA
2008 Grigor Dimitrov, BUL
2009 Andrey Kuznetsov, RUS
2010 Marton Fucsovics, HUN
2011 Luke Saville, AUS
2012 Filip Peliwo, CAN
2013 Gianluigi Quinzi, ITA
2014 Noah Rubin, USA
2015 Reilly Opelka, USA

*U.S. OPEN SERIES WINNERS*
2004 Lleyton Hewitt, AUS
2005 Andy Roddick, USA
2006 Andy Roddick, USA
2007 Roger Federer, SUI *
2008 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2009 Sam Querrey, USA
2010 Andy Murray, GBR
2011 Mardy Fish, USA
2012 Novak Djokovic, SRB
2013 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2014 Milos Raonic, CAN
--
* - also won U.S. Open title




All for now.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wimbledon Day 12: Different Andy, Same Result


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Apologies for being absent a lot during Wimbledon. A virus struck down my computer, but I have fought it off. And before we get to the men's final, let's look back at the semi-finals to see if there is an indicator as to who the winner may be.

But first let's reflect on another boring, forgettable slam final. Right now, as I remarked to a friend recently, the WTA is like the Presidential race. Serena is Hillary and the rest of the candidates are, well, the rest of the WTA. They aren't bad, they just look very average next to Serena. Though, of course, Sanders is gathering momentum. Can he stop Hillary? If he could he would almost certainly win the presidency. But once again I digress. Unfortunately, discussing politics is far more interesting than discussing yet another unremarkable final.

It's now two Serena slams. But Graf won the Golden slam in 1988 and that is something Serena will never achieve most likely. Still, Serena looks set to overtake Graf, though her era has been noticeably weaker than Steffi's. Unfortunately for Serena, success is not always the best thing.



And it’s true. There's something about the way that Federer dominated where he wasn't disliked the way Serena and Novak are. Because the fact of the matter is they are disliked. I had no horse in the final but even I found myself, almost without thinking, cheering for Garbine. I was cheering against Serena. I think I've just had enough. And it isn't just me. A lot of tennis fans are getting to the stage where they've just had enough. And that's a pity. The depth of quality and the intrigue of the ATP is just better than the WTA at the moment. And time and again, at each and every slam it seems, the ATP runs the more interesting event. And that isn't right. But it is understandable, sadly.

The scoreline was 6-4, 6-4. There's a proper recap over on WTA BACKSPIN. Kudos to you, Serena.

Question: In which year during the Open Era did a Swiss man win the Gentleman's Doubles?
Bonus point if you can get his name.

Right let us get started.


CENTRE COURT: DJOKOVIC D. GASQUET
...These two made a foregone conclusion entertaining. And, honestly, Gasquet played the better grass court game. He serve and volleyed, he half-volleyed and did drop shots. He sliced and diced. He even fought really hard. He gave Djokovic everything he had but Djokovic is just a cut above the Frenchman. Gasquet had to win the first set but could not. Djokovic broke three times to one in a 7-6[2], 6-4, 6-4 victory. Djokovic needed two hours and 20 minutes to get past Gasquet. Federer was quicker against the world number three. But, then again, is Murray really the third best player in the world? Number four, I suppose, but is he better outright than Wawrinka or Nishikori? But I digress. Djokovic blasted 46 winners on his way to the win and also won 40% of returning points. Gasquet had no chance but he did play the best match I have ever seen him play. It just wasn't enough. But he is having a great third, or is it fourth, career now. Djokovic was not imperious and the Frenchman even hit 36 winners. But the Serb was always going to win. Djokovic has to return well. Federer has lost his serve once since Halle. And, yes, Djokovic is one of the best returners there is. But isn't Murray as good as, or even on this surface maybe better, than Djokovic at returning? Muzza had one break chance. Djokovic will struggle to get many. He also has to drag out the points. But it's harder to drag out the points when your opponent refuses to. And he has to be aggressive, but not too much. And if he doesn't take his chances he will lose. He should attack the backhand, but it's looking nigh on impregnable right now. And he has to serve at 65 per cent first serves in at least. So, serve well and take his chances. Don't drop shot unless there's no way Federer can get it. Because Federer at the net will not end well for Djokovic.
=============================
CENTRE COURT: FEDERER D. MURRAY
...This was a lesson. Federer was on court a shade over two hours and showed Murray a different level. Murray looked outclassed, out-thought, out-gunned and out of ideas. This is why he has only two slams and has never been a world number one. He isn't really at the level of Federer or Novak. He hasn't beaten either of them in a long time. He didn't play badly, but he can't match Federer or Novak's highest level. And he knows it. 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 Federer won, losing just 21 points on serve. He served 16 games. Who the hell is this guy? Federer hit 56 winners and 11 errors. 20 aces. 76% first serves in. And 35% of receiving points won, too. It's beyond ridiculous. There will not be another grass court performance like that one... possibly ever. And we should cherish it. Federer is number ten on the aces list at Wimbledon with Djokovic just three behind him. He hit 20 against Murray. 22 against Djokovic sees him crack the top five. Federer must serve big and keep the points short. He is the favorite coming in here. He will be aggressive by serve and volleying and by using that forehand. That is right. On this surface offense should beat defense. Federer will win in four sets. And one of them will not be close.
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Any other notes?
* - Djokovic is now in a strange position. His legacy is secured. But he can never be a part of the greatest of all time conversation. Not until he actually wins the French Open or matches Pete Sampras' amount of slams. And both are unlikely. He may not even be the world number one next year. Anything could happen. Djokovic needs that French Open. If he loses the final tomorrow against some old guy questions will be asked. He has a chance to respond to the worst loss of his career. Can he take it?
* - Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals have both won the mixed and doubles at one Wimbledon. The last person to do it was Cara Black. She did it with Wayne Black and Rennae Stubbs. Hingis and Mirza edged the second seeded Russians in a three set epic. Hingis now has the chance to repeat that.
* - Same final as last year, but different set of semi-finalists. And actually all four have got a decent chance of returning barring injury. And will Stan finally be able to solve the mystery of Wimbledon? I know who could help him solve that but, hang on, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?



* - Who can stop Serena at slam level? I'm actually asking. I have no clue, let alone an answer. It used to be she would sometimes beat herself. It's not happening anymore.
* - Casey Dellacqua and her partner Shvedova are out. She is gone in everything now. But in singles she will rise around ten places to be on the cusp of 50 again. She went 1-1 in the mixed, 3-1 in the doubles and 2-1 in the singles. An overall 6-3 record is solid but can be improved upon in New York. She should break the top fifteen in doubles, up from 19 in the world now. Hopefully Indian Wells, and maybe Miami, introduce mixed doubles.

ANSWER: Heinz Gunthardt won in 1985. He and Balazs Taroczy of Hungary beat Australia's Cash and Fitzgerald.



Well, I'm out for now.

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