Friday, August 29, 2014

US Open: Whatever Happened to Baby Ryan?


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* = What’s she looking at?


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

US Open: Wherefore Art Thou, Rafa?


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

US Open 2014: The First Update


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

* - I actually like Djokovic’s outfit.

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

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

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

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

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




Thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.


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Sunday, August 24, 2014

U.S. Open Preview


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4th Rd.: DJOKOVIC D. ISNER, MURRAY D. TSONGA
QF: DJOKOVIC D. MURRAY

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

4th Rd.: WAWRINKA D. ROBREDO, RAONIC D. SOCK
QF: WAWRINKA D. RAONIC

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

4th Rd.: FERRER D. CILIC, BERDYCH D. LOPEZ
QF: FERRER D. BERDYCH

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



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



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

4th Rd.: DIMITROV D. GASQUET, FEDERER D. BAUTISTA-AGUT
QF: FEDERER D. DIMITROV [at night on Ashe]

=SEMIFINALS=
#1 DJOKOVIC D. WAWRINKA #3
#2 FEDERER D. FERER #4

=FINAL=
#2 FEDERER D. #1 DJOKOVIC

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

*WOMEN*
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Serena d. #24 Stosur
#11Ivanovic d. #11 Pennetta
#20 Kuznetsova d. #3 Kvitova
#17 Makarova d. #7 Bouchard
#9 Jankovic d. #6 Kerber
#4 Radwanska d. #14 Safarova
#5 Sharapova d. #10 Wozniacki
#2 Halep d. #19 Venus #19 Venus d. #2 Halep (I changed my mind. I’ve been deliberating. I think on balance I’ll take Venus Williams here. Halep has suffered from some injury problems and lack of form. Venus looks red hot.)

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

=SEMIFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#1 Serena d. #20 Kuznetsova
#5 Sharapova d. #4 Radwanska

=FINAL PREDICTION=
#1 Serena d. #5 Sharapova

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

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

Enjoy the slam everyone!

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

Anyway, thanx all and visit WTABACKSPIN please.




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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

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

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



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

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

The statistics speak for themselves.

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

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



*WEEK 33 CHAMPIONS*
CINCINNATI, OHIO USA
S: Roger Federer d. David Ferrer 6-3/1-6/6-2
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Pospisil/Sock



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


CIN QF - FEDERER d. MURRAY 6-3/7-5
CIN SF - FEDERER D. RAONIC 6-2/6-3

....Master classes have been given before by this man and, indeed, Nadal has given him a master class. But Federer showed Murray, and then Raonic, just how far out of their league he is. We’re talking Bruce Hornsby and the Range here. We’re talking AFC South here. We’re talking Tina Turner doing karaoke in my living room. We’re talking a serious lesson. Federer showed that while Murray may have occasional periods of brilliance, Federer has consistent longevity and is not one to go away. Federer used the forehand to blow Murray away, and the return of serve for Raonic. Nobody can defuse big servers like Federer.
=============================
2. CIN 3rd Rd. - MURRAY d. ISNER
...6-7/6-4/7-6.
Isner has a big serve. Isner also has, uhh, a forehand and sometimes he can put two hands on his backhand. Despite mainly just being a big serve, Isner wins a lot of matches. He also pushes most of the top guys. He did Murray. He even had match points. But Murray had consistency and came through. The former number two is starting to fade, but still has fight in him.
=============================
3. CIN 1st Rd. – YOUZHNY d. TSONGA
...6-1/6-4.
Absolutely baffling. Tsonga was on frightening form, literally making craters in Canada with that serve. He played Youzhny in the first round. Youzhny should have been a nice test that Tsonga would eventually pass. The scheduling caught up with the dynamic Frenchman, though, and he succumbed to the Russian in two easy sets.
=============================
4. CIN QF - FERRER d. ROBREDO
...6-4/3-6/6-3.
It would be an American setting for an all-Spanish clash. Ferrer needed a let-cord to strike the final hammer blow. Robredo plays a fantastic baseline game. He plays like a metronome. The ball always has similar, consistent pace but goes in a different place each time. Ferrer managed to combat it well in this break-fest.
=============================




*Winston-Salem, North Carolina USA*
=SF=
Isner [1] d. [3] Robredo
Anderson [2] d. [4] Mayer
=FINAL=
Isner [1] d. [2] Anderson

...it’s Isner in America.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wk.32- Galileo Is Back... and so is Jo


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Tsonga and boxing great Ali [or Cassius Clay, if you will] have had comparisons made between them many a time. Hey, both have big knock-out blows and they are both built like tanks. They have both got serious offensive capabilities and they have both contributed a lot to their sport. Tsonga, however, is always punching above his weight.

Tsonga had never won anything before 2008. He had never been to a final. He was unrecognized. Simon was not a force yet, though the name was known. Grosjean was long gone and Santoro was hardly a consistent presence. Chardy was young and not mature enough to hold the heavy French mantle all by his lonesome. Gasquet was the big star. Great things had been expected of him and he had long been the great French hope. Unfortunately, Gasquet has been cursed with being Gasquet. And so the French were looking for someone with passion and fire to represent them. And it happened just as they wanted it.

Tsonga shouted to the whole world HERE I AM. He shouted it like this:



Then, later that year, he won Bangkok, beating Djokovic in the final. He won his first Masters title in Paris, defeating Nalbandian. The French had their hero.



Successes have followed -- semifinals at Wimbledon, beating Federer in lots of key matches, though the one at Wimbledon will likely remain the most celebrated. He has also been to number five in the world and gave the French their last home grand slam semifinalist since Pierce. I think it may well be Leconte on the men’s side. Tsonga is a man of the people, of the French people. And Canada is a very French place…

But enough of my talking; Stuff happened this week...


*WEEK 32 CHAMPIONS*
TORONTO, ONTARIO CAN
S: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Roger Federer 7-5/7-6(3)
D: Peya/Soares d. Dodig/Melo



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: BAGHDATIS, CYP
...I am going to be mentioning Tsonga a lot, so instead I decided to talk about everyone’s favorite Cypriot. I have been a bit hard on him recently, but he just won a challenger in Aptos, USA. Kukushkin was the top seed and it was a talented field. Baghdatis tore the place apart. First, Bagman beat Dome 6-1, 6-3 and then turned on Collairini. Baghdatis dropped just two games. Baghdatis is great at this level, but no higher. He dismissed Bemelmans after that 6-3, 6-4. He had arrived safely at the business end of the tournament. He easily got through Soeda 6-4, 6-3 and then prepared to take on top seed Kukushkin. Kukushkin had only dropped on set and had beaten Rhyne Williams very comfortably in the semifinal. It was to be Baghdatis’ day, though, as he won through.
=============================
RISER: FEDERER, SUI
...If Federer wins the US Open, I think I may have to nominate him for Player of the Year. It is August, so it is time to start to think about that kind of thing. Federer has had a very good year. He has started to hit that backhand well. Make no mistake, however, he had a softish draw and he did struggle at times. I talk about Federer way too much on here. Federer dismissed Polansky [as he should] 6-2, 6-0. He struggled mightily against Marin before finally breaking down the young Croat's game. He then beat Ferrer in a tight three setter he was always really in control of. Federer and Lopez had a really good match in their semifinal but despite all of Lopez’ tricks, Federer came through. He looked older and tired in his final match but it would not have made much difference. Tsonga was on fire and blew him away.
=============================
SURPRISE: LOPEZ, ESP
...One never seems to be able to see Lopez coming. Lopez seems to be rather like the Spanish Inquisition. Lopez has had an excellent year thus far. He won a grass event, has been to the Madrid Masters quarterfinal and now this. Lopez has actually got a good chance of making a deep run at the Open. He will be seeded and he is red hot. If he gets a lucky seed draw [Nadal, Wawrinka] he could do very well. This tournament he opened against eleventh seed Agut. He should not have won that match but did so without losing a set. Next he ousted Smyczek in his home nation before facing Berdie in the third round. Lopez lost his first set against the Berd but came back to win it whilst playing some scintillating tennis. Next the tricky Spaniard outsmarted and out-thought Raonic. Raonic struggled with the aggression and lefty spin of Lopez. Lopez is best on grass but he can play on any surface. He served and volleyed a lot during his time in Canada. Lopez has won doubles titles before and he knows he has the net skills at his fingertips. In fact, Lopez may have one of the simplest games in the top 100, after Simon’s, of course.
=============================
FRESH FACE: DIMITROV, BUL
...I wanted to give congratulations to the young Bulgarian for making his first semifinal at this level on hard-courts. He endured three long difficult three setters against quality opponents before falling to Tsonga. He seemed to run out of steam but it was still an excellent week. The personal bests just keep falling for the youngster. Special mention: Kokkinakis qualifying for his first ever Masters and also into top 200. The young Aussie benefited from the retirement of Matosevic after losing the first set in the breaker 9-7.
=============================
VETERAN: MICHAEL RUSSELL, USA
...It’s not often I get to talk about Americans here. Todd’s luckier in that regard, as the WTA has a number of talented American ladies. The Williams sisters had a good week and Shelby Rogers bageled the world number seven in her backyard. Throw in the fact that they have serious up and coming talent like Keys, who seems to have a cannon instead of an arm and Taylor Townsend, who looks like Zina Garrison and plays like thunder. Russell blitzed Bester of Canada love and one, but was pushed to the brink by Martin of France in the qualifying. Once in the main draw, however, he made as much out of the opportunity as he could. He beat Mahut 6-3, 6-3 but lost o Ferrer in three sets. The 36-year old Michigan man has made the fourth round of a slam but it’s his best appearance. He qualified there and beat Malisse in four and then led Kuerten by two sets to love. He fell in five to the eventual champion. Russell may retire soon but he has been in the top 200 for a long time. He is a stalwart of American tennis and he would make a great coach. The USTA could do so much worse. Russell may not have big weapons or even a particularly strong defensive game, but he does have a lot of spirit and he is mentally tough. And that’s just fine. He has lived the life of a journeyman, and lived it well. He embodies the journeyman spirit.
=============================
DOWN: DJOKOVIC, SRB
...Not often Djokovic lands here. I guess we’re getting some unusual occurrences this week. Djokovic has had a very good year and is almost certain to finish as world number one. He is also going for the final piece of the Master’s puzzle this week. Of course, if he doesn’t win the French Open he can’t be considered among the "greatest ever" discussion, but if he were to win every Masters and the French he would need to be in the conversation. The signs were there. Often times Djokovic will struggle in the earlier rounds before going out. He barely got past Monfils 6-2, 6-7, 7-6. The athlete wielding a tennis racket is always dangerous and really tested Djokovic. Tsonga is a different challenge altogether. The Frenchman blew Djokovic away 6-2, 6-2. That’s not even close. Djokovic, the world’s best returner, could not handle the serve of Tsonga. Remarkable, really.
=============================
UPSET: TSONGA, FRA
....He deserves this award for all of it, but mainly for beating Murray, Djokovic and Federer in one tournament. I shall shamelessly use Wikipedia here: Only four players have previously managed to win a tournament where three of the Big Four have competed:

Marat Safin (2005 Australian Open)
Sam Querrey (2010 Queen's Club Championships)
Robin Soderling (2010 Paris Masters)
Stanislas Wawrinka (2014 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters)


I don’t think any of those players had to beat three of the big four. That is why Tsongas’s victory is particularly surprising and impressive.
=============================


1. CANADA - TSONGA d. EVERYONE
...
I could pick any of the Frenchman’s matches. He has been so impressive all week, losing just one set. He has come back from 3-0 down against Andy Murray and made the second best returner ever look completely average. He has dismissed two talented Frenchman and beaten the future without blinking. He has beaten the past, present, future and goat without so much as breaking a sweat. And he did it all from nowhere. So, pick a match, any match…
=============================
2. CANADA 3rd Rd. - ANDERSON d. WAWRINKA
...7-6/7-5.
.Wawrinka has had an alright season since ‘Straya. He has had some weeks where he has played like a world beater. Then for the rest of the season he has been consistent, but consistently average. Anderson is a deceptively tricky player with some big wins under his belt. Wawrinka has not yet mastered the art of winning whilst playing badly. Anderson was able to simply hold serve and wait for his chances. And they came, he took them and Wawrinka went.
=============================
3. CANADA 3rd Rd. - LOPEZ d. BERDYCH 3-6/6-3/6-4
CANADA 4th Rd. - LOPEZ d. RAONIC 6-4/6-7/6-3
...
Lopez is very pretty. Sorry, Lopez’ game is very pretty. He plays an attractive style of tennis and he is very easy on the eye. As in when watching him he is very fluid and graceful. His serve-volley is a thing of beauty and that backhand is also nice to watch. Swashbuckling Lopez came through against Berdych, helped by his tricky serve, big forehand and those silky, silky hands. Lopez’s different style threw off not just Berdych, but Raonic, too. When you play someone of a certain style you may have a mismatch against them or you may struggle. Perhaps Lopez’s creativity was hard to handle for the young Canadian. I remember Mauresmo [with her unique style] blowing away a young qualifier in Wimbledon close to ten years ago now, in 2006. 6-0, 6-0 she won and it was because the young European qualifier had no idea what to do. Mauresmo was the world number one then. Wow, has it really been more than eight years since she won it? Anyway Lopez’s style is unique and so that may be one of the reasons for his great run to a third Masters semifinal here, seeing off two top tenners along the way.
=============================
4. CANADA 3rd Rd. - FEDERER d. CILIC
...7-6/6-7/6-4.
Federer blew match points in the second set of this very tight encounter. Cilic will be dangerous at the US Open. He led Murray 6-2, 5-1 before choking dramatically. Had he simply held serve Murray would probably not have won the US Open. Federer showed his mental toughness in coming back from losing the momentum to take the match.
=============================




*CINCINNATI*
=SF=
Tsonga [12] d. [3] Wawrinka
Federer [2] d. [5] Raonic
=FINAL=
Federer [2] d. [12] Tsonga

...Djokovic does not do well here as compared to other Masters. He should, but he does not. It also favors big servers here -- Fish, Roddick, Isner and now Tsonga. On form we should have a rematch. At one of Federer’s best tournaments, he should claim the win.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wk.29- Mayer Sails Maiden Voyage into Top 30


Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

There is a phrase used in sporting circles. It is especially heard in British soccer where certain teams with a long period of dominance used it. It means right now we suck but we have not always stunk and there will again come a time when we will not stink. The Boston Celtics, Pittsburgh Steelers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Knicks, White Sox and Marlins are all good examples of this adage. This is that saying:



There have always been four nations at the heart of tennis. In a nice symmetry, they each got a slam. Yes, they are the four nations who have generated the most players, the nations who usually have multiple female and male players in the upper echelons.

From Pierce to Davenport to Court to Murray to Laver to Wade to Leconte to Henman to Mauresmo to Stosur to Tsonga to Sampras to Rosewall to Connors to Lloyd to Agassi to Goolagong [Cawley] to McEnroe to Emerson to Smith to Teacher to Noah to Gerulaitis to Newcombe to Courier to Tauziat to Seles to Reid to Barker to Navratilova to Ashe to Rusedski to Rafter to Roddick to Cash to Bartoli to the Williams sisters to Mandlikova to Capriati to Julie Halard-Decugis to the Bryans to Grosjean and to Hewitt.

Yes I have missed out some and, yes, I didn’t really even touch on doubles. But my point is obvious and it stands. These four nations have been there and they have dominated. Yes, of course there have been challengers and they have even stuck around for a while. But few have managed to stick around for a while in both the men’s and women’s games. Spain has managed it and so have Switzerland. The Czechs, too, and the Germans have managed sustained challenges. The Russians are worth a mention, spearheaded by a brother-sister team. Argentina has also challenged in both, as has Italy. These nations have come and gone, however. But the "big four" could not be dominant forever. Yes, their stranglehold looks as if it is slipping, but since the turn of this decade [2010] ten slams out of thirty-four have been won by players from those four countries. There is still a presence, albeit a faint one.

Talking specifically about men’s tennis, in the past fifteen years the hold has weakened. Australian and British tennis has declined whilst since the turn of the decade American tennis has declined, if possible, even more rapidly. French tennis has been in no-man’s land for the past thirty years. It has been neither here nor there; sometimes very good, but always very frustrating. Now, though, a promising crop of Australian and British young talent is coming through. The French as always, have a conveyer belt of mid-level players with a ridiculous, selfish amount of talent but with a baffling lack of success. The Americans are down but they, too, have talent coming through. Australia’s Tomic and the ‘Special K’s’ are here. For the first time in a long while the Australians have swept the men’s doubles and singles in tournaments in back to back weeks. Hewitt is literally passing the baton. He has stuck around long enough to outlive a whole generation of pretty much non-existent Aussie talent and then bought in a second generation. I think that Australian tennis is going to swiftly become a powerhouse carried by the likes of Saville, Kubler, Sanders, Kokkinakis, Tomic, and Barty to name but a few.

But enough of my talking. Stuff happened this week.




*WEEK 29 CHAMPIONS*
HAMBURG, GERMANY
S: Leonardo Mayer d. David Ferrer 6-7(3)/6-1/7-6(4)
D: Draganja/Mergea d. Peya/Soares

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
S: Bernard Tomic d. Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5)/3-6/7-6(4)
D: Groth/Guccione d. Barrientos/Cabal



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: BERNARD TOMIC, AUS
...The courts changing from clay to hard no doubt helped him. It helped him to win and it helped him to move 54 places in the rankings, back up to 70. It seems he is trying to outdo Kyrgios. They have two contrasting styles and two contrasting careers so far. Tomic is a press favorite, Kyrgios the anonymous one. You would’ve had to have been paying attention to see Kyrgios coming but with Tomic the sound of the hurricane alerted us. Here is one of my favorite Tomic related articles.

But that is enough of Tomic’s fabulous hat. I have a Boston Red Sox hat which I love and would happily talk about. I also have a Roger Federer hat which I would just love to talk on and on about. I am not here to talk about the exciting world of hats, sadly. I am here to talk about what goes on in the mysterious and intriguing ATP tour. And nobody is more mysterious than Tomic. Tomic is the one who talks the talk but cannot necessarily walk the walk. Tomic is the one who is a world-beater in January but as soon as we move away from his homeland [and mine] suddenly starts to struggle. He struggled, too, here in Colombia. Title-less since winning in Sydney [Sydney and Boston are probably my two favorite cities] Tomic came in unseeded and in bad form. If you aren’t seeded in a tournament where the fifth seed is ranked outside the top fifty either you’re injured, out of form or you’re playing at my kind of standard. Tomic opened up by easing past Dustov 6-3/6-3. The Uzbeki number two did not quite have enough game to prevail this time. Tomic landed the fifth seed himself, Colombian Falla, but was not troubled. He cruised through the first set 6-1 before Alejandro began to find some answers. The second set went to a breaker but Tomic won it handily 7-2. Next up for the young Aussie was Pospisil. Pospisil has just begun to find form and he would surely trouble Tomic. Apparently not. Tomic needed just two breaks to seal it 6-4/6-4. Next he faced Estrella Burgos and won after exchanging three breakers with the Dominican number one. Then he beat Karlovic in another third set breaker. In two finals he has beaten two big servers. Clearly he knows how to diffuse them. Tomic will start the US Open trail with a bit of form, which is always a positive.
=============================
RISER: DAVID FERRER, ESP
...I have resigned myself to the fact I will be talking about Spaniards a lot. Basically Ferrer has sort of righted the ship. He has improved from two disappointing slam campaigns and has also, you feel, gotten back a bit of form. One feels now that he can use this to gain confidence and move on from there. He should not play so many events, but that’s none of my business, as Kermit would say.
=============================
SURPRISE: LEONARDO MAYER, ARG
...Mayer is a journeyman and a good one at that, a solid one at that. He has been a Davis cup stalwart and has missed just two slams since the 2009 French Open. This year he has had a career best performance at all three of the slams we have had so far. If he achieves his seeding at the US Open he will make it four. He has more than 2 million dollars in prize money and also has a doubles title, back home in Argentina. He has showed the depth of men’s tennis in the past two slams. He has showed how somebody ranked as low as he is can do well in a slam. He made the third round of the French and then played the highest level he could against Rafa. He lost the second set 7-5 and that was a pretty strong showing but, really, he was dismissed. Then he goes to Wimbledon and he makes the fourth round before being dismissed again. It’s clear he is not at the level of the top players but he is at the level of the top thirty players. He is having a banner year and, after losing in Chile in the final in February, he has finally won his first title. Not seeded here, he defeated Gojowczyk with ease 6-3/6-2. Perhaps the firepower the German has was diluted by the clay. Next Mayer won two breakers to come through against Garcia-Lopez. Impressively he only dropped four points in those breakers. Next he beat Thiem [the talented future of Austrian tennis] 6-3/6-2. In dismantling Lajovic 6-1/7-5 he had reached the semifinals, having lost zero sets. He was too tough for Kohl, winning 7-5/6-4. And then he beat Ferru in an epic match, 6-7/6-1/7-6. I think he may be the only person to have figured out how to out-grind Ferrer on clay. Kudos needs to be given to Mayer, the Argentine number two. His first ever title was at 500 level. No wonder his fast rise up the rankings. He is up from 46 to 27, 19 places. If he wins a 250, he will be looking at the top twenty, though his view will be from just outside. Win another 500? The top fifteen awaits…
=============================
FRESH FACE: ALEXANDER ZVEREV, GER
...A top junior, Zverev appears to be making the transition smoothly. He won the junior Aussie Open this year as the top seed. He beat the second seed 6-3/6-0. He has looked very good for a while but sometimes junior success does not translate. Monfils is a good example. He won three junior slams. How many senior slams? Exactly. Edberg was a set away from winning the junior and senior grand slam. Zverev finally showed us how good he can be at this level with a sterling performance. His backhand proved to be a particularly strong shot, especially as a key part of his rather loopy game. He plays very loosely and he moves with so much grace. He also plays fearlessly it seems and the spin he manages to generate is incredible. He dismissed Haase [a good player in his own right] 6-0/6-2, which nobody seemed to pay much attention to. He made us all sit up and take notice, however, when he beat Youzhny 7-5/7-5 in round two. He beat Giraldo in straight sets to follow up with on his win over the fifth seed. He also beat Giraldo in two tight sets [7-6/7-5] but struggled against Kamke. He showed real grit, however, to win in three tight sets. He dropped a bagel in that match but recovered to win anyway. And, yes, he got blown away by Ferrer, but we can forgive him that.
=============================
VETERAN: VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS, DOM
...He has bloomed at age 33 into a top 60 player. The Dominican Republic is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The capital is called Santo Domingo and there are not quite ten million people who live there. Baseball is the chief sport and people do the meringue. They have probably never heard of Bryan Ferry, nor Earth, Wind and Fire. They have had to take independence from both Spain and Haiti [who live next door] but not America despite the fact the yanks are very close -- two hours away by plane. Most importantly, though, David Ortiz was born there. He has made the Red Sox stink just a little less. And believe me they have stunk this season. But, anyway, it is from this paradise that VEB hails. And he does bring a fresh approach to a tennis court. I watched him play at Queens. He is very physically striking and you notice him immediately. He beat Benneteau at Queens by being deceptively good. He honestly does not look like a lot until you see him play. He has a very solid and effective game style. It disrupts an opponent’s rhythm and it also doesn’t seem to go wrong. He is using it to climb slowly up the rankings.
=============================
DOWN: FABIO FOGNINI, ITA
...No, not Gasquet. Yes, the Frenchman is playing poorly but Fognini is playing, if possible, even worse. He lost, as defending champion, in his first match. He also lost to a player outside the top hundred who had to qualify to get into the tournament. An inexperienced opponent, moreover, with no top twenty wins and, probably, no top thirty wins. Fognini lost to this player 6-4/6-0. Yes you heard that right -- four and love. He also karate-kicked his racket and broke it during the match. This guy is now playing like Gonzalez except without the firepower [but nobody has his firepower anymore, so this is excusable] and with the passion. Fognini needs to see a sports shrink. Is that a real thing? If it is he needs to go to one. He knows how to hit all the shots, he just needs to know when to use them. I miss Gonzo. That forehand used to scare even me when I was only watching. Fognini scares me but not with his shot-making. His antics are childish and ridiculous but he has not gone too far. Well, not yet anyway.
=============================
UPSET: HAMBURG, GERMANY
...Seed death can be fun. Who remembers Wimbledon’s Whacky Wednesday last year? One expects the seeds to crumble at a WTA event but surely not at an ATP event. I love the WTA. I think both tours are great but some of the top players are susceptible to upsets -- Errani, Kerber, Li, Radwanska and Stosur are all great examples. Heck, why not throw in Serena and Sharapova, too? In the ATP the top seeds usually fare better. Not so in Hamburg. A great number lost one of their first two matches. Most lost in very tight three setters or straight sets. Both are hard to deal with, mentally speaking. Verdasco [9] lost to Brown in a third set breaker in the second round. He led by a set but lost 10-8 in that final set breaker. Fourth seeded Dolgopolov lost 7-5 in the third to Kamke in the third round. Kamke had beaten thirteenth seed Delbonis the round before. Youzhny [5] lost to a seventeen year old in the first round. A seventeen year old who had never won an ATP match before. Robredo [3] fell to Rosol in straight sets in round three. Granollers [8], Garcia-Lopez [10], Berlocq [15] and Fognini [2] all lost in the first round in that bottom quarter. Granollers at least pushed Thiem to three before falling. Hamburg’s top seed did do quite well, but the amount of seeds that lost in the first three days was rather alarming.
=============================


1. BOGOTA SF - TOMIC d. ESTRELLA BURGOS 7-6/6-7/7-6
BOGOTA FINAL -
TOMIC D. KARLOVIC 7-6/3-6/7-6

...Tomic has really started to work on his serve. The last two matches he played help to push him up to 167 aces for the year. He has played just 20 matches. He is hitting eight aces a match and that is pretty strong going. Karlovic averages easily 17 aces a match. Still Tomic found a way to get past the mean lean serving machine. The Aussie did struggle against Burgos but found a way. He overcame two tough matches to win his second title. Tomic is hitting form at just the right time. He has nothing to defend and a couple of deep runs at the right tournaments and he is back in the top fifty again. He becomes the first Australian man to win in South America since Rosewall in 1968.
=============================
2. HAMBURG FINAL - MAYER d. FERRER
...6-7/6-1/ 7-6.
This was another tight final and another match which asks the question, "Where is David Ferrer?" Mayer had two breaks in the first set but could not capitalize. His time would come. Despite being broken whilst serving for it in the third set he came back to win. He demoted Ferru to a finals record of 21-23. Mayer is consistently solid but also possesses weapons and he used these to shock Ferrer. Mayer reached the fourth round of Wimbledon and has now backed that up with a title. It now looks like Mayer is going to be a low seed at the US Open. This final is reflective of his strong form over the past couple of months.
=============================
3. BOGOTA QF - ESTRELLA BURGOS d. GASQUET
...6-3/6-4.
This is disappointing. Gasquet should not lose this match. He should not be losing any kind of match like this. It is very poor from the experienced Frenchman. He needs to work on his comeback from injury a bit more.
=============================
4. HAMBURG QF - ZVEREV d. KAMKE
...0-6/7-5/6-3.
Two German wildcards played each other for the right to face Ferrer in the semifinal. Neither had been in a quarterfinal on the ATP this year and the stakes were high. In the end, Zverev’s power was too much for the more experienced German. Both had knocked out two seeds but it would be the seventeen year old who would advance to the semifinal.
=============================


*GSTAAD, SWITZERLAND*
=SF=
Garcia-Lopez [3] d. [1] Youzhny
Thiem [8] d. [2] Granollers
=FINAL=
Garcia-Lopez [3] d. [8] Thiem

...Thiem has a serious opportunity here. A questionable Verdasco and an inconsistent Granollers are all that stand in his way. If he plays his best the final surely awaits. As for GGL, he is very good on clay with a great draw. So why not?

*ATLANTA, USA*
=SF=
Isner [1] d. [3] Monfils
Anderson [2] d. [9] Querrey
=FINAL=
Isner [1] d. [2] Anderson

...Out of the last ten years, we have had eight American winners. Combine that with Isner’s great US record and the fact the American has been on form and that is reason enough for me. Expect breakers in this rematch from last year.

*UMAG, CROATIA*
=SF=
Fognini [1] d. [6] Seppi
Cilic [3] d. [2] Robredo
=FINAL=
Fognini [1] d. [3] Cilic

...An Italian semifinal sounds good. Seppi has a do-able draw. Cilic will find hot form but eventually be outdone by someone who knows clay better than he does.

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