Sunday, September 09, 2018

US Open Day 12/13: Just a Whole Lot of Nothing (then a whole heap of something)

Hi All. Galileo here.

Some days nothing much happens at all, even in the later days of slams. Kei Nishikori had less fight in him than a dying fish in a boat. He gets an enormous F. The biggest F possible. Bernard Tomic was upset by his lack of effort.

In the men’s double final, Mike Bryan and Jack Sock won going away against Kubot/Melo 6-3, 6-1. They saved one break point and that was the entire drama of the match. Sock may have had an abysmal year in singles but he is the current world number two in dubs. The Americans won 51 per cent of their return points and blasted 36 winners. It was a really straightforward match despite the 7th seeds being a great pair. The rest of the men’s action didn’t get much better, so this BACKSPINNER decided to wait for the ladies final to come out so there was something to write about.

Turns out this BACKSPINNER'S guess was correct. There was something to write about.

In a mirror of the 2011 US Open final, Serena Williams has lost in a controversial match. That will be the headline. It is wrong. It is awful. It should Naomi Osaka, at the age of 20, makes Japanese history and wins Japan's first singles slam. She outplayed Williams from start to finish and the outburst should not change. Serena got screwed by the line calling in 2004. She referenced that in her interview afterwards. That was such a bad umpiring performance it is one of the reasons we have HawkEye today. In 2009 she also had a fracas, but that was of her own making, though the foot fault call remains dubious. In 2011 she did break the law. In 2011 the umpire made the correct decision. And Serena blew up. There is a history, but calls go against you and, if you notice, in all those matches she was playing a really tough match. I urge you to go and watch the post match interview. It is one of Serena’s best.


Patrick Mouratoglou has since admitted that he *did* coach.

Todd will go into the nuts, bolts, winners, errors and smashed rackets of the match. In fact, go and read it. Right now. Go! I just want to add, as a final note, that Osaka is an incredible champion and Serena stopping the crowd from booing is an awesome act of sportswomanship. Ash Barty has already won the US Open sportswomanship prize but the graciousness of Serena is awesome. She did the same for Stosur. Osaka has done it. Will she be 2005 Kuznetsova, 2018 Ostapenko or will she dominate the game like the woman she just beat?

Now for the boring part. The men’s results.

ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. NISHIKORI
...Novak Djokovic is always complaining that the crowd goes against him. Well, he just isn’t likeable. Ever since he ripped his shirt open after beating Nadal in Australia in that match, this BACKSPINNER has found him crass, rude and unsporting. After that epic match he and Nadal should have been consoling each other or being respectful. Federer was after the 2017 final, after the 2007 Wimbledon final. You can’t be unpleasant and irritating and then expect the crowd to like you. In this match he got an early break against Kei Nishikori and won easily 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The only thing the Japanese man did well was save break points. He saved 13 of 17. There was no fight. He tried nothing new. He sat back and let Djokovic bully him. He just let the 6th seed win. He didn't approach the net, try slices, try moonballs or try swinging from the hip. He did nothing. I had a choice between this and the Red Sox and I should have chosen baseball. This was an awful, half-baked match. Nishikori gets an enormous F. At least all those semi-finals where Nikolay Davydenko lost to Roger Federer were entertaining, if lopsided. This had about three good rallies in it.


Djokovic will need to extend the points against Delpo. He will have to make him move and try to take away his serving advantage. The tower from Tandil has been nigh on unbreakable the whole tournament. I want an Argentinian victory, but it will be Djokovic in five.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: DEL POTRO D. NADAL
...Towards the end of the second set, with Nadal already down a break, there was a little moment of controversy when there was a late call. Nadal said to the umpire it doesn’t matter because “I’m going to retire.” This will be the second slam Nadal has retired in this year. He has been to three semi-finals, and won only one, but it is still a great year for the Spaniard. His quarterfinal retirement against Cilic, down 2-0 in the 5th. The first set, which Delpo won 7-6[3] was good but whenever Nadal has a long five set match, particularly on hard-courts, it never looks like he is going to be able to win the next match. There isn’t much left to say about this except that Del Potro has made a second slam final. We all thought he would have won five or six by now, but nine years after the first he is back again. He is going to want shorter points. He needs to thump his forehand into Djokovic’s forehand wing and try to attack the Serb’s second serve. He can do it, though.




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Friday, September 07, 2018

US Open Day 10/11: Osaka's Sling-shot

Hi All. Galileo here.

Serena Williams is the overwhelming favourite to take the ladies title. Depressingly my prediction was correct. Or are we premature?

As a fun exercise I will build the case for a Naomi Osaka victory and Todd, if he is game, will blow holes in it or pronounce that it holds water.

Williams is 23-7 in slam finals. She and Steffi Graf have both been to 31 slam finals now. Graf could only manage a pitiful 22-9. What do Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Garbine Muguruza and Angie Kerber have in common? They all have weapons and they have all beaten Serena in a slam final. Her sister and Kerber have done it twice. Stosur is unique in that she literally took the racket out of Serena’s hands in a way I have not seen before. That can’t happen tomorrow. That Stosur performance was probably one of the three or four greatest final performances ever. Kerber’s wins were outliers, too. In Melbourne she unleashed the best passing and counter-punching performance on a big stage since the 1994 Wimbledon final. This year Serena has not been at her best. But when Muguruza, Sharapova and Venus [2001 US Open for Venus] won they were all young. They had all gathered a lot of momentum and they weren’t afraid of Serena. I think Osaka is the same. She has no fear. She is on a roll. In five matches she has dropped just 15 games. In the other, the Sabalenka Monster pushed her hard. Osaka has been the best player in the tournament in terms of performance. She also beat Serena in Miami 6-3, 6-2. Before Sharapova won her maiden slam she played, and lost to Williams, in Miami. She had experience. Osaka has that, but Serena will also want revenge.

So here are my key reasons why Osaka is going to do a Sam Stosur.

* - She is not mentally weak
* - She has a forehand crosscourt that can wreak havoc on anyone
* - She can move better than Serena
* - Her return game is Agass-like. If she can pick the serve she can win the point on the first ball.
* - She has the h2h advantage
* - She is in hot form
* - There is zero fear in this girl's eyes. This will not be Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 Wimbledon Final.
* - What are Serena’s fitness levels like? Surely she can’t last in a long three setter if it goes that way.
* - Most importantly though, Osaka:


So tell me Todd does Osaka have a shot? [You may be right. I have to PICK Serena, but I wouldn't be SHOCKED if Osaka won it. I surely think she has a far better shot than Keys would have had. If Keys had won, I'd save gone with Williams in something like a 3 & 1 straight sets win. If Naomi can keep her head, she can hit (and maybe even serve) with Serena. Williams has had some slow starts at this Open. If it happens again, Osaka has to jump on it and try to get the 1st set. If she can... - tds]

Just a little note about the women’s suicide. I could only have picked Williams, and then it would be over.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
MS QF: CILIC [7] D. [21] NISHIKORI {L}
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]
WS QF: OSAKA [20] D. TSURENKO [W]
WS SF: WILLIAMS [17] D. [19] SEVASTOVA [W]



ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. MILLMAN
...This match lasted almost three hours, which is impressive. In the third set, John Millman came back from 4-2 down but still lost the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Aside from Novak Djokovic’s typical post-match arrogance, nothing happened in this match. It didn’t even go four. It wasn’t even a total rout. It was a totally forgettable straight sets match. Four breaks to one from the Serb. Together the pair went 54-97 on the winners ratio. If you had paid to see this match you would probably be sorely disappointed. Djokovic actually had 20 break points but failed to convert on 16. That is significant. There were also some pretty good rallies, including on match point. The semi-final coming up will be much better. Don’t worry. To win Nole needs to do whatever he did to get a 14-2 advantage in the h2h. Last time they played a US Open semi, Kei Nishikori won. The Japanese man will have to break down Nole's forehand and really mix up the serve.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: NISHIKORI D. CILIC
...Revenge is a dish best served cold. Nishikori took out a tricky match 2-6, 6-4, 7-6[7-4], 4-6, 6-4. You should give Marin Cilic a lot of credit for hanging in there in the last set when things were looking bleak. He was down in that 5th set but ground back into it. This was a mirror image of Rafa Nadal’s quarterfinal. Cilic took the first set 6-2, blasting through his opponent and looking great before losing the next two sets 4-6, 6-7[5]. Then they swapped 6-4 sets. In the 5th Cilic was down 4-1 and struggled through his service game. He looked finished. But he came back to 4-4. He would win just two more points. It is another mystifying chapter in the book for the Croat. Cilic was a passable 57-70 on the winners count. Nishikori was an abysmal 29-45. There were 11 breaks, with neither man getting 60 per cent or more of their first serves in. It was another dramatic match but the quality was lacking in places. Kei has to find Nole’s forehand. He has to avoid serving predictably too. Can he do it? We will soon find out.




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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

US Open Day 9: The World's Sweatiest Hug

Hi All. Galileo here.

Five hours and it ended in a sweaty hug, and Rafa Nadal with his arms aloft at 2 in the morning.



The Spaniard and the Austrian, Dominic Thiem, had been trading blows all night long, exchanging epic rallies and aces, breaks and holds. In the heat of a pungent, humid, painfully warm New York coliseum the Spaniard outlasted the challenger, the champion coming to the fore.

In a way it was inevitable. It seemed like it was bound to happen. Nadal has always found a way to get out of matches like this. On his first match point, Thiem butchered a smash, and that was all she wrote. In the breaker Nadal got a mini-break lead immiately before losing it. Thiem won a couple of epic rallies, but made one error. At 5-5 he had a second serve and netted a routine forehand. Had he been able to take charge of a weak second serve he would be playing for a spot in a second final this year. Two points go his way and suddenly his year looks fantastic. This was a brutal, physical match with more drama than a series of Desperate Housewives.

Forget about Nadal. This BACKSPINNER believes in Thiem off clay. There were doubts before and the scheduling, and consistency, need to both improve, but the ability to win these big matches is there. One or two small mistakes at the end have cost the Austrian a match he totally deserved. Cruelty runs deep in sport and this result reminded us of that fact. This US Open has felt more electric than any other. Well it has on the men’s side. I am sure Todd will correct me here, but the ladies' side has felt, I don’t know, a little flat? [Ed.note: Hmm, well, I wouldn't say "flat," as the overall performances of the likes of Serena, Osaka, Keys, Sabalenka and others have been superb at times, but I will say there hasn't been an EPIC MATCH to hold up as THE signature moment to this point (maybe because Halep and Kerber lost early, as they've had a habit of taking part in those in '18?), while the men's side has had both Federer/Millman *and* now Nadal/Thiem. - tds]

There have been some classic matches and great upsets, but the actual drama and epic matches have been a tad lacking. [You read my mind, or I read yours.] I have been enjoying the run of Carla Suarez-Navarro, but Karolina Pliskova just lost rather tamely to Serena. I really thought that would be a three-set affair with at least one tiebreaker. [I had Serena 4 & 4 or 4 & 5, as I've sort of thought the title was hers to lose after the level of play she showed vs. Venus, and then with Kerber's defeat, as I thought she was the only one left who really knew how to defeat Williams in a big final. - tds]

In men’s doubles, the all American pair of Krajicek/Sandgren played on Grandstand while the other doubles match, with no natives, played on Armstrong. It may seem odd but perhaps it was for the best- 7th seeds Kubot/Melot won 6-4, 6-4. They broke 6 times to 3 and hit 32 winners to 13. They could have a matchup against Murray/Soares coming up for a place in the final. Cabal/Farah dismissed Bopanna/Roger-Vasselin in the the other quarterfinal 6-3, 6-4. The 5th seeded Columbians converted both their break points and survived the only break point they faced. They hit 25 winners to 6 in what was a consummate performance. They will probably end up playing third seeds Bryan/Sock. Men’s doubles is fairly consistent, in that half the big seeds crash and burn but there are always at least two seeds in the semi-finals.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
MS QF: CILIC [7] D. [21] NISHIKORI {L}
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]
WS QF: OSAKA [20] D. TSURENKO [W]





ARTHUR ASHE: NADAL D. THIEM
...It took Thiem just 24 minutes to win the opening set at love, but with Rafa it is never that easy. That is one set and this is the best of five. There are four more sets to go. The Spaniard battled through the next two sets and took them 6-4, 7-5. It was a remarkable comeback, especially after he got blitzed in the first set in a fury of fiery groundstrokes. Thiem would not be denied, however, and stole the third set 7-6[4] to take us into a 5th. He came within inches of winning a 5th set and a match he deserved. The Austrian won two more games, broke six times to five and also won five more points. He hit 74 winners to just 58 errors, while Nadal could only manage a 55-49 mark. He won 37 per cent of his receiving points, with Rafa winning 35 per cent. Thiem outplayed Nadal across the board except in grit, and except when it mattered. If Rafa had to have a point he got it. The Spaniard also got a little lucky. He was very fortunate to scrape through this one. To beat Del Potro he has to keep the points short and try to move the big man around. He can’t have another five hour match. He has to take control of the points early and make the Argentine hit a lot of uncomfortable shots.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: DEL POTRO D. ISNER
...In this titanic four set clash it took Delpo three and a half hours to finally subdue his giant opponent. John Isner deservedly took the first set 7-6[5], but Juan Martin Del Potro has experience and calmly set about restoring order. He took the second set 6-3, by using his backhand creatively. He counter-punched with it quite effectively. It was his first break of three. The American failed to break at all, blowing three opportunities throughout the match. Despite Isner hitting 26 aces the Argentinian won 35 per cent of receiving points, and his opponent just 20. Delpo himself managed to hit 14 aces. The third set was where the match swung decisively. There were two missed break points each, but Isner hit 14 errors, 10 more than his opponent. The other key factor? Isner won only 36 per cent of net points and he approached a lot. Delpo won the breaker 7-4 and took control in the final set. Down 2-5 Isner failed to hold. Del Potro has had far less time on court than Rafa. He should not be afraid to rally. He has bigger weapons, will be fresher and knows how to beat Rafa. He can go in confidently and know that he can beat the Spaniard. His forehand return off the serve and sneaky-good backhand will see him win in four.




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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

US Open Day 8: The End?

Hi All. Galileo here.

A post shared by US Open (@usopen) on



Well that’s it. Roger Federer is finished.

He served for a two sets to love lead at 6-3, 5-4, 40-15. At 5-6 he had 40-15. He had a break in the fourth set he threw away. He hit 49 per cent of his first serves in. Just 49. He won only 47 per cent of his second serves. He hit 22 errors in the second set and went down 6-4, 5-7, 6-7[7], 6-7[2]. It isn’t the stats. It is the fact that at last he looked old. He looked tired.

He has since admitted he couldn’t find air. Kudos must go to his opponent who stuck around and played a great match, and some great shots. John Millman had a career night but that just doesn’t seem important now. The camera panned to faces in the crowd, and all the Federer fans seemed despondent. It’s no wonder, really. Their hero was reduced to trying to win a match by hitting dropshots. In order to keep the points short Fed ended up hitting only droppers and volleys by the end. It was a sad end to a great career. The greatest career. It looks impossible we will ever see him genuinely compete for another major title. We have said this before about both Federer and Serena Williams, but it seems so final today.

Retirement is officially coming in the next six months. After a performance like that an announcement will be made soon. His serve was off, the forehand down the line missed at crucial moments and the backhand was off-key. This was one of the worst performances we have ever seen from Federer. He has fallen off a cliff. It has been at best a mixed year. Father Time gets you in the end and it has finally gotten a-hold of Federer. The question now is where does he want to end it? Does he end it in Basel? Or Wimbledon? Maybe he ends it at the WTF? My guess is that he goes into semi-retirement and tries to hang on long enough to go to the Olympics in 2020. He wants one more shot at the title. If he chooses not to then Wimbledon would be the next logical spot.

Todd. If you were Federer where would you pick to retire? [Ed.note: hmmm, if I had to choose, the Olympic notion seems good. Unless you'd want to go the Pete Sampras route, and after one final slam title. And, of course, it should be noted, that Djokovic looked down and out for good about this time last year, as well. I think the heat had a large assist last night, so unless a run of bad results comes next I wouldn't rule out another slam contending year or two, at least at SW19. - tds]




*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
MS QF: CILIC [7] D. [21] NISHIKORI
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]
WS QF: OSAKA [20] D. TSURENKO



ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. SOUSA
...The Serbian cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win. It took him exactly two hours and four breaks of service to get by. He looked listless and down six months ago. Now he is reborn and the massive favourite for the tournament. He has two straightforward matches before the final and then it will get tricky. Joao Sousa is not bad but he does not have the one big weapon that is usually needed to take down the best players. He managed a very poor 21-28 winners ratio and barely even threatened the former champion. The day was filled with forgettable matches and if not for Millman who knows how dull it could have been? The Naomi Osaka match was pretty good. Anyway Djokovic gets to play Millman next and he should ease by the Australian.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: NISHIKORI D. KOHLSCHREIBER ...The German hung on in the third set to push the match to two and a quarter hours but the result had an air of inevitability to it. The 21st seed loves the US Open. It is by far his best tournament and he has found a serious vein of form. He won the match 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. It was a typically controlled performance- he went 29-18 on the winners to errors mark and broke six times to two, while winning 44 per cent of receiving points. He soaked up the German’s offense and then responded. He outlasted him in the long rallies. Kohl only won 42 per cent of points on his second delivery. With his ground-game working beautifully the diminutive star now has a chance to exact revenge on Marin Cilic. I don’t know if Todd will agree. but personally I feel like Nishikori and Elena Dementieva have a lot in common. Average serves, immense ground games and bad luck at slams. Or am I crazy? [Ed.note: Although, Nishikori has the injury/retirement thing that was never really Dementieva's "issue," and she put herself in position to win (SF+) far more times. Their best slams results: (Dementieva) 2 F, 7 SF, 3 QF vs. (Nishikori) 1 F, 1 SF, 7 QF so far - tds]

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: CILIC D. DAVID GOFFIN
...If only David Goffin had been given a weapon. If only one of his wings had a fearsome shot. Jim Courier dominated the tour for two years off the back of one shot. The Belgian played a very long three set match but still lost 7-6[6], 6-2, 6-4 in almost two and a half hours. It may not sound close but the Croat had to grind and earn all of those points, games and sets. There were 195 points in the match, in fact. The Croat broke five times to two and had a great 43-48 winner ratio. Goffin was an abysmal 19-35. He could not consistently hit the offensive shots he needed to and you cannot win a match on defense alone on this surface. Cilic only got 46 per cent of his first serves in and that will have to be improved upon if he is going to go far. The Belgian will head into the Asian swing, where he does very well, with momentum and an uptick in form. Cilic is still in the hunt for that elusive second slam. He has to defeat Nishikori and then probably John Millman [just kidding] before the final. It is going to be tricky, but probably doable.



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Monday, September 03, 2018

US Open Day 7: Isner Stands Tall in the Face of Adversity

Hi All. Galileo here.

We haven’t even gotten to a full slate of quarterfinals in the men’s doubles and the top two seeds are already gone. They were followed by an additional four lower seeds. Even though the 9th seeded pair of Herbert/Mahut achieved their seeding they should have gone further.

In the ladies singles draw there is similar chaos. The three highest seeds left are [3] Sloane Stephens, [8] Karolina Pliskova and [14] Madison Keys. Serena is still there and so is the Supernova but once again the seeds have scattered to the four winds. In the men’s singles, the top three are all there. In fact five of the highest eight are still alive.

Well, let’s take a quick peek at the results.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]



ARTHUR ASHE: DEL POTRO D. CORIC
...The Argentinian has been one of the players of the tournament so far. He has not dropped a set. No other quarterfinalist has done that, though Fedex could if he can avoid the upset against John Millman. The sheer power of the Argentine, particularly off the forehand wing, has been awe-inspiring. It took him just over two hours to dismiss Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. He hit 33 winners to just 24 errors and broke five times. The only blot on his copybook was losing his serve once and winning just 50 per cent of his second serve points. Of course that doesn’t matter when 80 per cent of his first serves are going in. He won 44 per cent of return points on the match and he will have to keep up the strong returns in his next game- he faces 11th seed John Isner. That match is going to have some tiebreakers.

ARTHUR ASHE: NADAL D. BASILASHVILI
...Guys know how to beat Rafa Nadal now. If you have a strong enough backhand you can follow the Nole blueprint. The Spaniard always looked like he was winning this match, but it did get tricky towards the end. He saw off the Georgian number one 6-3, 6-3, 6-7[6], 6-4. Rafa served at 4-3 in the breaker but could not close it out. Basil found himself down a break in the third but broke back...before collapsing. He was really swinging throughout the match, going 56-59 on the winners ratio. Rafa had to really gut this one out, but broke six times and managed to ride out the storm. He will play Dominic Thiem knowing that a win will secure the top spot in the rankings, but a loss will give Federer a chance to steal it. He should beat Thiem and if he can win 61 per cent of his first serves again then he will.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: ISNER D. RAONIC
...After an extremely impressive win over Stan Wawrinka in the previous round, Milos Raonic was looking to continue his form. In the first set he did. He won it 6-3 and looked pretty good. His dropshot and backhand were working well. John Isner has had a revelation of late. He has transformed, overnight it seems, into a together player who knows how to maximise his weapons. He responded by taking the next two sets 6-3, 6-4. Raonic forced a 5th by taking the next set 6-3. But Isner played a perfect 5th set, winning it 6-2. He broke twice, lost just three points on his serve and won 73 percent of his opponent’s second serve points in that final set. Raonic, if not for injuries, would probably have a slam by now. He is one of the best players in the world, in terms of game and mentality. But this year the American has really stepped it up. He has hit the heights we always thought he could. He plays Delpo next and you should expect tiebreakers there. Will he be the first man to take a set off the Argentine at this year’s championship? John Isner won the aces battle in this match by 20-18 and also won 31 percent of receiving points. If he can keep it around or above that mark he has a shot at winning this year's tournament.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: THIEM D. ANDERSON
...It has finally arrived. The day has come at last. Dominic Thiem has had a big result off the dirt. He ousted last year's finalist Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6[2] in two and a half hours. Anderson played fine, his 44 per cent win rate on second serves aside, and even went 40-27 on the winners ratio. The Austrian was 42-13. He broke three times to none. The reason this match has such an unflattering scoreline is that Thiem was utterly dominant. The Austrian took his opponent to the wood chipper. After a year of mostly unsatisfying results, bad losses and lack of form Thiem has responded by having his best result at a slam not held in France. He plays Rafa next and he will have a great shot to beat the Spaniard. He is playing better than Nadal and has lost fewer sets and games over the last two rounds. He has a shot to take a huge scalp and cement his place at the WTF.




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Sunday, September 02, 2018

US Open Day 6: Rafa Avoids Russian Conspiracy Theory Scare

Hi All. Galileo here.

We had quite the day at the US Open on Saturday. Rafa Nadal almost went out, but survived a young Russian's execution attempt. He edged a thrilling third set breaker at 9-7 and advanced. Karen Khachanov served for the second set at 5-4 but lost three games in a row. He had a set point in the third set and could not convert that, either.

Nadal won 5-7, 7-5, 7-6[7], 7-6[3] but paid a heavy price.

The almost four and a half hour clash was a tense thriller that had the Arthur Ashe crowd on their feet. The Spaniard needs to keep his matches short, especially early on. But it was always going to be tough playing against an opponent looking for his third 4th round appearance at a slam this year. Rain fell at 5-3 and Nadal held at love then broke to level the second set. If not for the rain who knows what could have happened? Khachanov went 66-55 on the winners count and Rafa 49-38. Both men broke five times and the Spaniard won just six more total points. The difference? Nadal won 62 per cent of second serve points, while the youngster won 48 per cent. Rafa’s next match will not be easy, either - on paper Niko Basilashvili looks to be an easy matchup. But the Georgian is the world number 37 and he has the upset of Jack Sock to draw inspiration from. He was pushed to five in his first round match and went four sets against both Sock and Guido Pella. He will be tired but when you’re a top 40 player with nothing to lose you are dangerous.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI
==
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA



ARTHUR ASHE: FEDERER D. KYRGIOS
...It’s 3-3 in the first set. Roger Federer falters and is down 15-40 but gets it back to deuce. Nick Kyrgios forces two more break points but misses them both. There is a long and tense deuce. The Swiss takes it and drops just two more games on the way to a 6-4, 6-1 lead. The Aussie came back in the final set, losing 7-5, but it didn't matter. Fedex was too majestic, too strong, too dominant. On every stat but one, win percentage on second serves, Federer came out on top. He hit 16 aces to 13. He hit 51 winners and just 24 errors. Kyrgios wasn’t awful, he just got swept away by Federer’s sheer brilliance. John Millman, appearing in his first round of 16 match at slam level, will be next. If Fed can keep doing this...


He will be fine.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: KOHLSCHREIBER D. ZVEREV
...Alex Zverev is up on 34 year old Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6[1], 4-4. The veteran holds, and after that Zverev capitulates. He loses his serve at 4-5 to love and then blows up, losing the last three sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. 7 doubles and 8 breaks of his serve. Kohl won 45 percent of his receiving points. It is yet another choke on the big stage from the world number four. He played a good match for two sets but his ability to implode so suddenly is probably the reason he has not made a run at the top ranking yet. What more can we say? This is every Zverev slam loss we have seen. 21st seeded Kei Nishikori is next and the German will love being the underdog in that. Zverev must go and do some soul searching now.

ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. GASQUET
...Was there ever a more disappointing player than Richard Gasquet? He had the talent to win slams but never capitalised on it. He seemed content to eke out a solid top ten career instead of hitting the highs we know he could have achieved. One of the big reasons his trophy cabinet contains no slams is that he could never handle the big three. He could on occasion beat Andy Murray, but the Scot isn’t in the same league as the big three. Novak Djokovic handled him in the third round, winning 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Ritchie blasted 10 aces and won 86 percent of net points so at least his tactic was clear. But he couldn’t execute, as he hit 47 unforced errors. This match was a mirror image of every other match Gasquet has played against the big four. Joao Sousa is next for Djokovic.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: CILIC D. DE MINAUR
...Marin Cilic survives, winning 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Let’s start with this clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tEzwxIe8Us

Forget the match for a moment. This 19 year old has made two slam third rounds this year, both while unseeded, and has made two finals too. He started the year at 208. He entered the US Open ranked 43rd. He will be world number 37 in two Monday's time. This is an exceptional year, the kind of year teenagers don’t really have anymore. He is the story of the year on the ATP Tour, the ultimate fresh face. Cilic was up 5-2 in the 5th but the Aussie saved 6 match points to draw level at 5-5. He saved another one in the final game before the Croat finally triumphed in a minute short of four hours. It finished at 2:26 AM, four minutes short of equaling the record for the latest ever finish. De Minaur had 13 break chances and took seven. His opponent broke the same amount of times but had 27 breakpoints. 27!! The Aussie was a very tidy 37-36 on the winners ratio, while forcing Cilic into a 60-70 mark. On average he covered 10 feet more ground in a point and over the course of the match it was over 3000 total. This kid is one of the best retrievers around today. He is Lleyton Hewitt 2.0 and he should have a bright future ahead of him. Cilic must now face 10th seed David Goffin. If that goes five it is hard to see how he is going to win.

GRANDSTAND: NISHIKORI D. SCHWARTZMAN
...Diego Schwartzman will not have a significant drop in the rankings despite not defending last year’s QF points. In Kei Nishikori’s comeback slam he has been awesome. It feels like a renaissance from the Japanese star. It took him three hours to grind out the Argentine, but he did it 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Schwartzman gave everything he had just to sneak the third set and had nothing left to give in the fourth. Kei won despite going 49-63 on the winners ratio. With 12 breaks and 14 double faults this was not a match for the spectator. It was a messy, error strewn match with neither man able to assert dominance until the final set. Nishikori will play Kohl and then either Cilic or David Goffin. His path to the semi-final is doable.




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Thursday, August 30, 2018

US Open Day 3: Angry Murray Burns Out

Hi All. Galileo here.

All tennis players lose their tempers. It is impossible to play the sport and not get angry, even once. Usually it is justified to a certain extent, or at least understandable. Serena Williams got understandably angry when she blew a point against Sam Stosur in New York seven years ago. John McEnroe also got angry, again understandably. Jeff Tarango was not one you could relate to but his temper tantrum is still one of the best we have ever seen.

And then there is Andy Murray. He once told Lukas Rosol nobody on tour liked him. He also insulted del Potro, and possibly his mother, during a match on European clay courts in one of their first meetings.

Murray again got angry in his second round clash with Ferver. He was irritated that the Spaniard got coaching during the 10-minute Heat Rule break. It is a brand new rule, made up on the spot. Of course he should be angry - it is a violation. But once he got flustered, combined with his already being hot, he lost it and shortly afterwards the match. We are watching the end of Murray here. His time as a force is gone. He has a great record in New York and he looked like a ghost of his former self. The old Murray used rage positively, to fight back, but this injury-damaged version has none of that bite. Will he be able to overcome his difficulties? Will the ATP and WTA finally sort out this coaching during matches mess? Only time will tell. Now let’s move on.

*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC
==
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA


ARTHUR ASHE: NADAL D. POSPISIL
...No worries for Nadal as he blasted Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in exactly two hours. He blasted 26 winners and broke five times to one. If not for that break it would have been an immaculate performance from the Spaniard. His forehand has once again emerged as the kind of weapon that can wreck players singlehandedly. When he is serving at 73 per cent first serves in and winning 44 per cent of return points you know you’re in for a short match. Karen Khachenov, seeded 27th, has not dropped a set yet and will be Nadal’s next opponent. He has already experienced Nadal’s power and will know what to do. The good news for Rafa is that there wil be an unseeded player waiting for him in the fourth round.

ARTHUR ASHE: VERDASCO D. MURRAY
...Ferver overcame a 2-13 h2h deficit to defeat Murray in the second round. All their best matches have come at slams. Ferver’s two most recent wins have both come at hard-court slams now. It took the 31st seed three and a half hours to triumph 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. He overcame the heat, Murray’s swearing and his own mental demons. Muzza’s 35-46 winners ratio is indicative of his lack of form and match play whilst Ferver’s 52-48 was world class. That is perfect aggression. If he can reign in that forehand just a little, which he does struggle with, he can be unbeatable. It was a really tight match across the board. The Spaniard’s 43 per cent return win rate was only one higher. He won just five more points. This was a great match for the crowd, filled with long rallies and plenty of breaks. It was big on drama, despite compromising a tad on quality. Verdasco deserved the four set win. For Murray it will rankle.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: DEL POTRO D. KUDLA
...The Argentinian giant continues to roll. He smacked Denis Kudle 6-3, 6-1, 7-6[4]. He blasted 20 aces and 36 winners in the 116 minute contest. He never even faced a break point but he broke the American four times. The most astonishing stat though? He won 65 per cent of his second serve points. Kudla wasn’t terrible- a 31-32 winners ratio is perfectly acceptable. When it came to diffusing the bombs del Potro was throwing him he had no clue and no answers. That he forced a tiebreaker in the third set is a remarkable achievement. Delpo moves on to face Fernando Verdasco now. That is the kind of match where you would hate to be a ball.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: BASILASHVILI D. SOCK
...It did not take Niko Basilashvili long to get on top of Jack Sock. He won 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6[3]. The Georgian only got 41 per cent of his first serves in but won 71 per cent of his service points. That makes no sense. That shouldn’t happen. He did very well in the winners department - he hit 45 and only made 30 errors. But Sock’s 37-41 is a solid stat too. The American has been plumbing new depths of woeful this season. He has been poor all year. He might be seeded 18th here but he is playing like a world number 180 not 18. This BACKSPINNER has no idea how to fix Jack Sock but he does know the American needs to fiddle with his game or his attitude or something. Perhaps he is injured or perhaps he is suffering from pressure. Either way something is not right here. The Niko will play Guida Pella for a shot at Nadal, assuming he can get past the Russian. Sock didn’t play terribly today he just doesn’t look like winning.

COURT 5: SHAPOVALOV D. SEPPI
...The young Canadian has been playing a lot of emotional matches lately. Denis Shapovalov survived an upset bid by winning 6-4, 4-6, 5-7, 7-6[2],6-4 in just shy of three hours and 50 minutes. How they did on the stats side is up to you - do you prefer 55-76 o 31-52 as a winner to error ratio? This BACKSPINNER personally is more impressed by Shapovalov’s 55 winners. Similarly his 21 of 28 points won at the net is excellent, especially against a great passer like Seppi. But Seppi’s 9 of 10 is better in percentage terms. This was a classic clash of styles. The fiery youngster with huge weapons took on the steady baseline and knocked him out in five epic sets. He was mere points from defeat but pulled out an astonishing comeback. That's where you can best tell how a youngster will do - his performance under pressure. He will next play 5th seeded Kevin Anderson. The South African smacked Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.




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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

US Open Day 2: Goat Goals

Hi All. Galileo here.

Most titles, finals, semi-finals and quarterfinals at slam level belong to Roger Federer. He owns matches played and won. Rafa Nadal and Bjorn Borg have won a higher percentage but they have played a combined 435 matches. Federer has played 390. Federer has the most appearances, most consecutive finals, semi-finals and quarterfinals. In fact he has reached ten and eight finals consecutively. Those are number one and two on the list. He has won the most consecutive sets and is second in wins and appearances. He has the joint most Australian Open titles, most Wimbledon titles and joint most US Open titles. He has the most finals in Melbourne and London and the most wins overall. What he is missing, however, is most US Open finals, and most wins at the US Open. This is a bit like saying this man has everything except a holiday house in coastal Spain. But he will want to add his legacy. That he is the Goat in undisputed. He is chasing history now. He still wants to win the Olympic Gold.

Of course, when it comes to clay Rafa holds everything else. But Novak is high up on a lot of those lists. The debate will get interesting if Nadal can catch Federer or be caught by Nole.

*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: Wawrinka [WC] d. [q] Humbert
==
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo [W]
WS 2nd Rd; Sevastova [19] d. [WC] Lui



ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. FUCSOVICS
...Marton Fucsovics is no mug. He has some weapons and some positive results over the summer. He even pushed Djokovic before he crumbled in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 loss. It is a great result for the unseeded Hungarian and, considering just how hot it was, a poor result for the Serb. The end result is positive, but going four this early was not optimal. Djokovic went 30-32 on his winners ratio, which isn’t great, but it is a better mark than his opponent, who was 33-40. There were eight breaks in what was a very scratchy match. Tennys Sandgren is up next and that match should be easier. The Hungarian is the world number 40 and he will be one to watch in the coming years. He looks very capable. But on a steaming New York day the former world number one was simply too strong.

ARTHUR ASHE: FEDERER D. NISHIOKA
...In a match that didn’t even last two hours the Fedexpress rolled through Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. Fed his 56 winners to his opponent’s 18, and just 32 errors. He got 67 per cent of his first serves in and blasted 14 aces on his way to an immaculate performance. Well, nearly immaculate. He dropped serve once. So he needs to improve on that. Up next is Benoit Paire. The Frenchman edged out qualifier Dennis Novak 7-6[6], 6-3, 7-5, 7-6[5]. Novak served for the fourth set at 5-4 but could not convert and the Frenchman stormed back to win. Fedex is 6-0 lifetime against Paire and has only dropped a set once, but it was this year in Halle. The Frenchman pushed Fed all the way to a deciding tiebreak.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: KYRGIOS D. ALBOT
...If anything controversial is happening you can bet Nick Kyrgios will insert himself into the middle of it. He might have won his match 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, but he imploded in the second set. He was furious there was no heat rule in place for the men. There had been six mid-match retirements in the men's draw up to that point and so the referee, Brian Earley, offered ATP players a break after set three. He spent most of that lost second set talking to his box and generally sulking around like a rain cloud. But, in true mercurial Kyrgios fashion, he recovered to send Radu Albot packing. He hit 25 aces and 14 [!!] double faults, going 49-55 on the overall winner/error mark. He made Albot irrelevant. Albot was a very impressive 36-28 on the winners mark himself. The Moldavian should be pleased with how his tournament went. If he can beat P-H Herbert in the next round Kyrgios will face Federer in the third round. You can always rely on the Aussie to generate a story.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: ZVEREV D. POLANSKY
...Peter Polansky is the first man in the open era to get a lucky loser grand slam. Yes he has gotten into every slam via the lucky loser draw. The 30 year old Canadian has lost in every one of the slams in the first round, too. So at least he has gotten himself into the record books. Alex Zverev knocked him out 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in just 96 minutes. This is the kind of ruthless performance we have been waiting for from the German. He won 51 per cent of his receiving points, broke six times and utterly dominated his opponent from the first ball toss to the last. Polansky avoided a bagel and that is probably the highlight for him. The Canuck will continue to float around the 100 mark in the rankings while our 4th seed gets to face another lucky loser. This time it is Nicolas Mahut. That will be a much harder challenge. Can he avoid the upset?

COURT 17: FOGNINI D. MMOH
...The Italian survived a scare from a promising youngster, winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6[4]. The 14th seed has his own brand of tennis but so does Michael Mmoh. The 20 year old was actually born in Saudi Arabia. Fabulous Fognini was wearing a stars, stripes and skulls ensemble that embodied the word "striking." Indeed the match was a see-sawing romp that resembled a gladiatorial battle. Not all tennis stars have to be athletic. Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian can attest to this fact. But these two can dance, these two can jive. Unfortunately for Mmoh his abysmal 24-47 winners to errors ratio cost him the match. Fognini went 55-46 and that is as good as it gets for the Italian. He moves on to face John Millman next. Mmoh will be back, however. He has learned valuable lessons from the Italian.





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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

US Open Day 1: A Tale of Two Retirements

Hi All. Galileo here.

FAA was playing against his compatriot Denis Shapovalov on Grandstand when, trailing 4-1 in the third, when he began to have heart palpitations. Shappy encouraged him to keep going. The score was still close, it was 5-7, 7-5, 1-4. But the youngster could not continue and went down in tears.



On another court, later in the day, David Ferrer retired. In every sense of the word. He will probably play two more matches. He was limping at the end. It was fitting, seeing a great man, humbled, limping, at the end of a very long journey. It was extremely emotional. Nadal had only words of appreciation, as he should.

The contrast was extraordinary- two young compatriots at the beginning of their ATP journey and two compatriots at the end. Make no mistake- both Nadal and Ferrer are on the way out, world number one or not. Their rivalry spanned the clay courts of the world for five years. Ferrer dominated Nico Almagro and Nadal dominated Ferru. It is sad to see such a stalwart go. More and more we see the 2004 generation going. Only Federer is left. Nadal was not relevant until 2005 though he was around and building a magnificent career when Ferrer was climbing into the Top 15 for the first time. It feels like the end of something. And that sense of loss is nicely balanced out by the Canadians sharing their moment of brotherly love.

Even so, we will miss you David Ferrer.




*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
==
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo [W]


ARTHUR ASHE: MURRAY D. DUCKWORTH
...At the beginning of 2017 James Duckworth had surgery on his foot. He ended the year ranked 992. He is currently ranked 448th and got into the US Open on protected ranking. So did his more illustrious opponent, Andy Murray. It was the perfect match for Murray to get back into form. He edged out a tough match 6-7[5], 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. It took just over three and a quarter hours. Murray had a typically conservative W/UE mark of 31-29. Duckworth had the right tactics- his 50-64 mark was exactly what it should be. Muzza broke six times to two and took control of the match the further along it went. This was a classic match between two men coming back. It was a little sloppy, a little mistake-prone, but the quality was there still, you could tell. It gets more serious for the Brit now. He must take on 31st seeded Fernando Verdasco. Can his body hold up? Can his technique? We shall see. He has to beat Delpo in the third round and then possibly Stefanos Tsitsipas. It is a rocky road for the former number one. Tsitsipas just beat qualifier Tommy Robredo in his first match. Yes, that Robredo.

Also there might be a racket smash.


ARTHUR ASHE: WAWRINKA D. DIMITROV
...Occasionally you look at a match and you think if that is not an upset, then it is an upset. For example, in 2012 Tamira Paszek drew Caroline Wozniacki in the first round of Wimbledon. We all looked at it and said that’s it, that’s a sure-fire upset. We thought exactly the same thing when we saw this matchup. Sure enough Wawrinka won in just under two and a half hours 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. Dimitrov’s 29-42 W/UE mark is pretty poor, even worse than Wawrinka’s 30-37. The Bulgarian looks like he is finished. He just looks done career wise. All players hit this point sooner or later, the point where they just look finished. It happens to everyone. It happened to Andre Agassi and Boris Becker. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had to face it. The manner in which you deal with it shows the calibre of player you are. Wawrinka cruised here. He will face qualifier Ugo Humbert of France next. Dimitrov must go away and figure things out.

ARTHUR ASHE: NADAL D. FERRER
...Kyle Edmund crashed out in four to Paolo Lorenzi, so Nadal’s section is totally open. He has to play Vasek Pospisil next and he can beat anybody. He did beat Murray when he was world number one last year in Indian Wells. After that he will likely play Karen Khachanov. So it isn’t easy but he should still be too good. In 2003 Ferrer played the US Open for the first time. He lost to Robby Ginepri in 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. In that same section lucky loser Tomas Berdych made his slam debut. Todd Martin was also in his section, with JC Ferrero and Wayne Ferreira also seeded in that section. In 2004 he lost to Mardy Fish in straight sets. In 2005, seeded 17th, he got his first win in New York and made his seeding too.

So we say goodbye to Ferrer. Nobody ever did more with less but lots of bodies did less with more


LOUIS ARMSTRONG: DEL POTRO D. YOUNG
...Once upon a time, Donald Young was considered the answer to men’s tennis in America. He is now ranked 232nd. His high is 38th, which he achieved in February 2012. Young is now 29. Yes, he is 29. That might be the most astonishing thing about him. Let’s not forget how successful he was in the juniors- he won three slams, though he never took the French, and was very accomplished in doubles, too. In 2012, the year of his highest ranking, he went 17 straight matches without winning. He has been the biggest disappointment in men’s tennis, probably ever. Far from being the saviour of American tennis, he was its low point. Well he has just lost 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and three quarters. The scoreline is generous. Juan Martin Del Potro was so good even his backhand was unplayable. The forehand was of course excellent, but the rest of his game was going too! He gets Denis Kudla next and then either Fernando Verdasco or Andy Murray.

COURT 17: ANDERSON D. HARRISON
...It took Kevin Anderson well over four hours but he came back from two sets to one down to triumph 7-6[5], 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. He hit 28 aces and 76 winners to his opponents 66. He did hit 44 errors, however, which was 17 more than his opponent. He also won four less points. This was a server’s match- Harrison won 80 per cent of his first serve points and the South African 77 per cent. They were also both 2 of 11 on break points. This is why the five set match is so beautiful. Only in boxing and tennis do you get such gladiatorial sport. Harrison, who is still only 26, was another bright young star who never quite lived up to the hype. He has become a perennially dangerous, often impressive, journeyman, but it isn’t anywhere near where we all thought he would be. It does not get any easier for Anderson as Jeremy Chardy will be his next opponent. Anderson does lead the h2h 2-1, the latest win coming in Cincy this summer.




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Monday, August 27, 2018

Wk.34- Carolina in Their Minds

Hi All. Galileo here.

Welcome to another mini-Backspin. We’ll be talking about retirement, a challenger called the Rafa Nadal Open and doing the suicide picks before we have a very quick run through of Winston-Salem.

We will have four major retirements this year. They are Feli Lopez, David Ferrer, Gilles Muller and Mikhail Youzhny. They have some 2000 wins between them. Ferru will retire after one of the Spanish clay events next year. His final slam match, almost certainly, will be against Nadal on Ashe. It will be emotional. If he wins a set expect the crowd to go mad. Muller and Youzhny are going this year, the Russian in St. Petersburg. Lopez has not set a date yet but he will be the Madrid tournament organiser. We will talk more on these men and the highlights of their careers, but Ferrer is the only one you could describe as great.

There was no challenger action this past week, possibly due to the qualifiers taking place in New York. Next week, however, we have the Rafael Nadal Open. It is in Mallorca and the winner will get about 43,000 dollars. Thomas Fabbiano and Pablo Andujar are the top seeds. Sergiy Stakhovsky is the 4th seed and Bernard Tomic is the 6th seed. This is quite an important step in the Australian’s career. To have the guts to play Challengers is impressive. He has managed to overcome his ego. It is worth noting that this is the first time the event has been held.
The similarities between Tomic and Johnny Manziel continue to grow. Tomic has an excuse but the quarterback does not. Still, the Challenger circuit is similar to the CFL. So much wasted talent in both men, but they still have time. Tomic could do with spending time at Nadal’s academy.

*US Open Suicide Pick*
MS: Raonic [25] d. [Q] Berlocq
-
WS: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo



*WEEK 34 CHAMPIONS*
WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA USA (Hard)
S: Daniil Medvedev/RUS def. Stevie Johnson/USA 6-4/6-4
D: Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau def. James Cerretani/Leander Paes

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DANIIL MEDVEDEV, RUS
...He has just hit a career high of 36. He has moved on from the temper tantrum boy, although this BACKSPINNER thought the coins episode was hilarious. Todd and I should compile the silliest tantrums of all time. Richard Gasquet throwing his socks- oh who am I kidding? The top ten is all Jelena Jankovic. She could be up 6-0, 4-0 and still find something to moan about. Anyway the Russian did not drop a set on the way to his second title. He is now 1-2 but has won the two finals he has contested this year. His first tournament win came in Sydney. Unseeded, he beat Mirza Basic in the first round. Then he shocked 15th seed Alex De Minaur 6-3, 6-3. Lucky loser Guido Andreozzi was next. The Russian beat him 7-5, 6-1. In the quarterfinals, he beat Ryan Harrison 7-6[4], 6-4. In the semi he smacked Taro Daniel 6-1, 6-1. Eighth seed Steve Johnson was waiting in the final but Medvedev cruised to the title, winning 6-4, 6-4.


The tournament before a slam is always a little funny, but it doesn’t matter. The Russian was dominant. He eased to victory. Evgeny Donskoy is his first opponent in New York. He may have to play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round. But a fourth round run is not out of the question.
===============================================
RISER: PABLO CARRENO BUSTA, ESP
...We shouldn’t forget he was a semi-finalst at the US Open last year. He has not won a title this year, has only a 5-3 mark at slams and has been inconsistent at the Masters level. He reached the semis of Indian Wells and just made the quarters in Cincy. His form is on the up at the moment, but this result right before the slam is a good one. He can go in with confidence, knowing his game is getting there. He landed in Nole’s section and that means he will probably go out in the fourth round. If he does he will drop an awful lot of points. Busta was seeded second but struggled in his first match, edging Franko Skugor 6-3, 6-7[3], 6-3. In the next round he beat 16th seed Peter Gojo 6-2, 7-6[5]. In the quarters he beat 6th seed Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-4. Johnson was in control from the start in their semi-final and the American got the win 6-3, 6-4. The Spaniard should still be delighted with that finish.
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FRESH FACE: NICOLAS JARRY, CHI
...He is now the world number 42, a career high. His breakthrough has been a slow burn but he is finally coming of age. He currently has a date with John Isner in the second round of the US Open. He beat Peter Gojo in four sets in the first round. He made his first final this year, in Brazil. Seeded 14th in Winston-Salem he beat Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-3 in his first match. In the next round he eased past J-L Struff 6-2, 6-2. He took the first set against Taro Daniel but faded to a 6-4, 2-6, 1-6 loss. Nicolas Jarry might finally have arrived. He should finish the year inside the top 40 and that would be a tremendous result for him.
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VETERAN: HYEON CHUNG, KOR
...Hyeon Chung has re-emerged. He can no longer be considered anything but a veteran. Once you make your first slam semi you have been around long enough to be considered experienced. Seeded 6th he saw off Garcia-Lopez 7-6[4], 6-2. Then he knocked out Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. He couldn’t get any further, going down to Pablo Carreno Busta, and that has been the story all year. He builds a nice run but he can never extend it, never get it going. He needs to win a big title or two to show he can play and win in those big matches. It is the next step in his career.
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SURPRISE: MATTEO BERRETTINI, ITA
...One of two Italians who did well at the French Open, Berrettini won a couple of matches in North Carolina last week. He has already won his first title this year and he has been adding to that success all year. He beat Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-3 in the first round, then took out 10th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5, 6-3. He lost to Hyeon Chung in the third round but it is nice to see a pulse, even if just for a moment.
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DOWN: MARCO CECCHINATO, ITA
...The first Sicilian to win a title, he has disappeared since his slam semi-final. Seriously, where has he been? The Italian won hearts and minds with a darling run in Paris but it can be so hard to back up. If he can’t build on that he will find it hard to defend his clay points from last year. His sparkling game has been a breath of fresh air on tour and it would be good to keep him in the 30.
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UPSET: TARO DANIEL, JPN
...What a run. He opened with a 6-3, 7-6[4] win over John Millman. Then, in the second round, he ousted 9th seeded Querrey 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7-3), Because of the rain he had to come out and play again later that day, but seemed unaffected. He beat Dominik Kopfer in the next round 7-6[4], 7-6[3]. Then he upset 14th seed Jarry 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to make the semi-final. It was a glorious run for the Japanese man even if it did end in a 6-1, 6-1 loss. Daniel is currently world number 64, his highest ever ranking. He also won his first title this year, in Turkey. The journeyman is having quite the year.
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1. QF - JOHNSON D. EDMUND 6-1, 6-2
...The American blew by Edmund, blowing up the Brit’s serve and winning in a little over an hour. This was a consummate performance from Johnson, whose best we have not seen for a while.
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2. 2nd RD. - DANIEL d. QUERREY 3-6, 7-5, 7-6[3]
...In the middle of a rainstorm the Japanese man gutted out a fantastic comeback to beat a big seed. Querrey should have done better but it is still an impressive result from Daniel.


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