Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Davis Cup Semifinals: One Man Band

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Britain and Belgium advanced to the Davis Cup final this weekend. But with it being held in Belgium in late November, the contiguous Europeans have a big edge. The problem for Britain is that it isn’t a team. It’s just Andy Murray.

Even in the five-set doubles win he was carrying Britain. And that is a problem. Belgium will just put the tie on extremely slow, thick clay. And they will wear Murray down. And after a long season and two matches on consecutive days will he really be able to out-grind Goffin?

The other problem is that if Murray even picks up the slightest of nagging injuries Britain is in trouble. If he isn’t fully fit Britain won’t win because he is the only guy, and the future is not bright for Britain because there is no depth. Australia will continue to be a force, whereas Britain will begin to fade as the years go by.

When was the last time the Davis Cup was won by one guy? The answer is it rarely happens. Switzerland, Spain and the Czech’s had at least two guys. And that’s why the Belgians should win. They will win because on slow clay they can handle Murray. Britain has some talent coming up but Murray is fading.

In Belgium, Argentina got 2-1 up but eventually succumbed to a 3-2 loss. Playing on indoor hard courts, Goffin was imperious. The Argentines were the last seed in the competition, but only at #5. Both Britain and Belgium have benefited from lack of attendance, choking and a bit of luck. And here we are set up for a forgettable final.

Belgium could really do with having Malisse back because Goffin badly needs a back-up. He really is the linch pin and the good news is that Murray is going to be going to the World Tour Finals. He has a jam packed schedule and that does play into the Belgian’s hands.

Another interesting story is that going into the Olympics there is no clear favourite to sweep the medals. Djokovic should win the Gold but Federer wants it more. Aside from those two, where the rest of the medals fall will be fascinating. Murray should take Bronze but Wawrinka and Nishikori threaten. And both are on the rise while he is on the wane. And can Brazil medal? The men’s doubles gives them their best chance where Melo/Soares will likely be a seed. And what about traditional powerhouse America?

All these questions will soon be answered.

QUESTION: With the NFL in full swing, do you know who was world number one on the ATP the last time we had a first-time Super Bowl winner? By that I mean a team that had not previously won the Super Bowl.

Well, let's look in more depth...

...Well, this is familiar. Murray wins again. Remember those 1990’s Chicago Bulls teams which Jordan essentially carried? This is the British Davis Cup ‘team,’ except the Bulls were more successful and weren’t utterly inept without Michael Jordan. Murray was always going to rebound from another disappointing slam campaign and he did so in style. Using the crowd from his native Scotland he gave Thanasi Kokkinakis a lesson. The scoreline was 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. All too easy for the Scottish star. The number two really doesn’t matter. It was James Ward last time and Daniel Evans this. Bernie Tomic really was out of Evans' league but failed to put him away several times until he finally got over the finish line 6-3, 7-6[2], 6-7[4], 6-4. Tomic had a lull but he did what he had to do. He actually played a pretty good match and it really wasn’t a close four-setter. Tomic seemed to pick up a small injury at the end of the match. And then the doubles, which was always going to be the deciding rubber considering the weakness overall of Britain. And Hewitt/Groth let the Murray brothers off the hook. They had a 4-1 lead in the third but lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-4 when a Groth volley sailed long. Hewitt in particular was fantastic and Groth served big and well. Australia will be consistent semi-finalists. This was merely a taster. Especially with Lleyton taking the captaincy, their future is bright. They even managed to break Murray when he was serving for the set at 6-5 in the fourth. But the Brits somehow found enough to close it out.
And Murray was good enough to put away an ailing Tomic 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. With the fifth rubber going to Australia via retirement, Britain go through to the final. And for them this is really the last chance. Murray is fading and there is nothing behind him good enough to make a team out of. And when can they be sure of twice being let off the hook again? Use it or lose it, Murray.

...Well, at least Argentina didn’t crumble on an unfriendly surface. Indoor hard was their worst nightmare aside from grass and they got it. And nobody really plays on grass anymore in this competition. Leonardo Mayer is turning into a solid prospect and his record this year and the titles he has won indicates that. But even more impressive is Davis Goffin, who has tested even Djokovic. And home advantage would eventually prove to be too much. Goffin started off with a fairly routine 7-5, 7-6[3], 6-3 victory over a tricky opponent. Federico Delbonis tested the top 15 player but could do no more. Goffin did his job. Belichick would have been proud. But back came Argentina as Mayer held firm in a 7-6[5], 7-6[1], 4-6, 6-3 victory. Mayer was severely tested by Steve Darcis, the veteran. But he has a mettle and a determination about him. He played sensible tennis on the big points and was too solid in the end. More breakers ensued in the doubles which Mayer/Berlocq took 6-2, 7-6[1], 5-7, 7-6[5], but it would prove to be the end for Mayer. However, surely the 2-1 lead for the South Americans would prove to be enough.
Well, they decided to gamble and focus on the final rubber. They sent in Diego Schwartzman to play Goffin. Diego isn’t bad and in all likelihood Mayer wouldn’t have won, either. Still the 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 scoreline is a big one especially for the semi-final of an event. Goffin had tied it up, but would the gamble pay off? No. Darcis was too good, too experienced in a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6[3] victory at home on the hard courts with the crowd behind him. Darcis may be a veteran but he still has some sparkling performances left in him. And so it proved to be as Belgium book a home date with the British in November.

After a break last year, the St. Petersburg is back with Gulbis technically the defending champion. I like Raonic [2] to defeat [6] Paire in one semi-final. Top seed Berdych should take care of business against [3] Thiem and then against the Canadian. And in Metz, Wawrinka [1] will account for Tsonga [3] then Simon [2]. The Frenchman will beat [6] Klizan.

Casey withdrew from the 2015 Korea Open. But it is likely she will appear at next week's Wuhan Open.

ANSWER: In 2003, the Buccaneers of Tampa Bay beat the Oakland Raiders and since then both teams have been consistently abysmal. And in January 2003 Lleyton Hewitt was still number one.

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