Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Wk.8- Going Loco in Guadeloupe

Hey, all. Galileo here.

With the Davis Cup coming right before the rollercoaster that is March, BACKSPIN is going to be going through some turbulence. But right now, let’s go through that Davis Cup first round. We will do it tie by tie because that’s nice and neat.

Britain face Japan in Birmingham on hard courts. For Japan, this comes down to Nishikori versus Andy. Britain only has Andy Murray and one or two passable doubles players. But Japan has even less. It only has Kei and no other back-up. So, even if Nishikori wins both ties, he will need one of his youngsters to pull out a win over Edmund. I like Britain 3-1.

Kazakhstan are the upset kings of the Davis Cup. But how will they fare against Djokovic and Troicki? Well, it is on indoor hard courts, but the Kazakhs can play on anything. These are the guys who nearly beat Fedrinka. So I am going to go, especially with Djokovic’s eye issue, for a 3-2 win to the Kazakhs.

Indoor clay for the Italians, who face the weapon-less Swiss. Headed by Seppi, the Italians at home should have too much. The Olympics always throws the Davis Cup out of whack and this year is no different. Italy have the potential to do quite well, with their singles and doubles ability. They will win this tie 3-1.

Poland are indoor on clay, playing against Argentina. With Janowicz, they should get a win somewhere. Still, Mayer and Pella are enough to exploit the Pole’s lack of depth. The rumour is that this is Matkowski’s final Davis Cup. It has been a long and storied career for him. The Argies win this 3-2, with Jerzy winning both his rubbers.

It’s four singles players inside the top 20 for France. Canada rely on Raonic and Pospisil as usual. Nestor is here too. Here is Gasquet on Twitter:

and the Davis Cup:

Yes, Guadeloupe. On any surface France’s depth is astonishing, but this surface is weaker for the Canadians. France to win 3-1. Raonic has too much to do. Playing on that island will mean less of a trip for the American hard swing at least.

A bizarre choice from Germany - they chose indoor hard rather than clay. Berdych is going to win both of his matches, but I think Kohlschreiber and Zverev can win the other singles rubbers against Rosol. And in the doubles Petzschner will prove invaluable. Germany cause an upset at home and win 3-2.

Australia very rarely lose at home and they are playing on grass at Kooyong. It plays into the hands of Kyrgios and Tomic but the Americans will not have a fun time on it. Isner is good on grass, but Kyrgios will win the vital rubber against Isner. Australia win 3-2.

Finally, Belgium host Croatia on indoor clay. With the momentum of being the finalists behind them and home advantage, Goffin should lead Belgium to a nervy 3-2 victory. Cilic just hasn’t shown anything.

But what happened this past week? Well let’s find out...

Top 32 - Kyrgios rises six places to 27. Kohl, Fognini and Chardy all fall two places but sit 30-32 respectively. Up 3 and back into the top 30 is Dolgopolov.
Top 10 – No change. Tsonga is at 9, Gasquet is at 10, Isner sits at 11. Gaps are starting to widen. But everything will be all shaken up at the big tournaments we have coming up.
Top 8 – No change. Berdych is at 7, just a handful behind Nishikori at 6. Ferrer is back at 8.
Top 4 – No change. Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Wawrinka. Although Wawrinka is now 2000 clear of Nadal, he is 2000 back from Federer.

S: Stan Wawrinka def. Marcos Baghdatis 6-4/7-6(13)
D: Bolelli/Seppi d. F.Lopez/M.Lopez

S: Dominic Thiem def. Bernard Tomic 7-6(6)/4-6/6-3
D: Huey/Mirnyi d. Petzschner/Peya

S: Pablo Cuevas def. Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-6(4)/6-3
D: Peralta/Zeballos d. Carreno-Busta/Marrero

...The Uruguayan goes back to back and that is no easy feat, especially on the clay. He says his goal is to crack the top 20. Ranked 25, and having lost just once on clay all year, his chances are good. It is not easy to defend a title. There is so much pressure on one, but Cuevas shrugged off the pressure and did it in Sao Paulo. One always wondered why he never quite lived up to his potential, but he may finally be doing just that. He is now 5-1 in finals and that is nothing to be sniffed at. They may all be on clay, but one of those is a 500 level tournament and Almagro has been to more than 20 finals, but all on the same surface. He wins these tournaments without being flashy, without bageling anybody and without drawing attention to himself. He works hard for each point, for each inch. He opened with a 6-3, 7-5 win over qualifier Bagnis. Seeded 3rd, he still managed to fly under the radar. He was pushed in the next match but never looked likely to lose. He edged Monteiro 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to make the semi-finals. He was the consummate professional as he beat out Lajovic 6-3, 6-4. And then he put away Busta 7-6[4], 6-3 to seal a fantastic week. He rarely astonishes or draws big crowds, but he is to be admired. He digs deep and grinds. He finds a way no matter how hard he has to work to do so.
...How about 13-1 in February to go up to 14 in the world? At just 22, Thiem is more than the real deal. He is swiftly becoming a slam threat. Somewhere Muster is looking on with pride. The thing about Thiem is that he has so many upsides and his game has very few glaring weaknesses. Sure, his serve could be a tad bigger and sometimes he can be a little passive on the backhand. But he is how Dimitrov should have been, results wise. It feels like he has suddenly leapt into the top 15, but, in reality, it has been a slow grind. It has been a gradual rise to the upper echelon. He is a dark horse at each slam, though Wimbledon can be daunting. Players who should be fantastic on grass [Isner, Stosur] do surprisingly poorly while players who should struggle do well there [Nadal, Martinez], so SW19 is really a wild card. Thiem ran the gauntlet of previous rising stars and asserted himself as the king of them all in Acapulco. He beat Dzhumur 7-6[3], 6-3, before dispatching returning Tursunov 6-7[5], 6-3, 6-4. Dimitrov faded to a 7-5, 6-3 loss at the hands of the Austrian. Querrey was sent packing quickly 6-2, 6-2 and then Tomic was eventually edged in three close sets. Thiem is remarkably adept at avoiding the upset. I think a very good winning record in March is coming up. The draws at the tournaments in March have been known to dramatically collapse. Should that be the case, look for Thiem to make a run.
...Acapulco is the first 500 final for the Australian. He gets bonus points for not being or doing anything stupid. Of course, now that BACKSPIN has said that, it will emerge that he burned down the mayor’s beach house or something. Bernie is doing well and we know that because the media has stopped reporting on him. If he isn’t in our media focus, he must be knuckling down. He is deserved of his ranking of 20. Tony Roche does not coach just anybody and we are seeing the fruits of his labour. Bernie has been to the third round of the U.S. Open just once and he has also never won two matches in Paris. That is the next area of improvement - the other two slams. But results like this are encouraging. He beat recent finalist Ram and Mannarino in straight sets. He was solid in his match against banana peel Marchenko and gutsy in a three set comeback win against old nemesis Dolgopolov. He is now 3-2 in finals, but four of those have come at two tournaments and all are on hard. Roche won a slam and consistently made semi-finals. There is no reason, perhaps with a bit of luck that Tomic cannot follow in his mentor’s footsteps.
...Vavsy and Bagman are interchangeable. Two vets on a good run, playing exciting tennis. The breaker they played out in the Dubai final was memorable and electrifying. It had the momentum swinging back and forth, with both Wawrinka and Bagman having the advantage. With Federer and Djokovic out, there was a gap which Vavsy stepped into. Mere points from going out to Stakhovsky in the first round, he came back to win 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. After that he did not drop another set and swept to the title. He is now 13-9 in finals, though he's yet to win one on grass, losing to Mahut in his lone final on that surface. He has now won nine finals in a row going back to January 2014. Given the way he has been winning slams, could a Wimbledon win be on the way?
...It’s just nice to see the old Marcos back. In Dubai, he cruised past Troicki and Pospisil. He demolished Agut 7-5, 6-0 before out-doing Lopez in three. He even scared Wawrinka during their final. His magic was back, though the hair was definitely questionable. The crazy, beloved, Cypriot was back. The fans as usual lapped him up and it would be fantastic to see him back as a more permanent fixture. This BACKSPINNER remembers a Wimbledon match versus Djokovic where he greatly irritated the top seed for four fun sets before succumbing.
...Kei falls to earth with a sickening thud. A few great weeks, even defeating Querrey, but then suddenly he went out disappointingly in Acapulco. And this is Kei’s career writ small. He dismissed De Bakker 0 and 3 before losing meekly to Querrey in two sets. It is the same reason he has not had another slam final run. Or even another big run in general at that level. When on form there are few he cannot beat but he does struggle to find that form. He is also very susceptible to an early loss despite being infinitely more talented than a lot of the tour. The serve is becoming less of an issue, so now consistency becomes key. Especially rolling into a month where a huge amount of ranking points are available, finding form is crucial. A bad March could affect the rest of his year.
...In one of the more bizarre scorelines, Lajovic beat Paire 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in Sao Paulo. It was a typically inconsistent performance from the fiery Pastry. Paire may have been the top seed at the event, but he did not play like it. He at least recovered in the second set and saved some of his dignity. Still, credit goes to Lajovic, who rarely gets any kind of spotlight on this blog.

Notes from the week...
1 - It is the first time Djokovic has not made a final since January of last year. His dominance is a hark back to exactly ten years ago when Federer had five years of dominance. The big difference is that Nadal could at least beat Federer and did so. I see no actual challenge to Novak.
2 – Federer is slated to return in Miami, but not in Indian Wells. Can he conjure much or will the injury take its toll on his aging body?
3 – Can you remember the last time Australia consistently had multiple seeds in both events at slam level? Well, we are likely to have three consecutive slams where that is the case. Kyrgios, Tomic, Gavrilova and Stosur will all be seeded for the French, most likely. The average age is about 25, which is more good news for Australian tennis.
4 – What is Serena’s form like? How will Venus play in her return? There are lots of questions coming up at Indian Wells.
5 – Will Murray be affected by the birth of his first child? I think he will be back to his usual form. He still won’t beat Djokovic.

1. Acapulco Final - Thiem d. Tomic 7-6[6] 4-6, 6-3
...What an engaging first match of the rivalry it was. Thiem had too much form over the three sets, but both men played incredible stuff. Dropshots, volleys and outrageous winners were all par for the course. Thiem’s backhand really came through in the third set. They also both served well and Tomic once more showed he can be mentally tough, after all.
2. Dubai Final - Wawrinka d. Baghdatis 6-4, 7-6[13]
...It is rare for a straight sets match to be a classic, unless you are Henin. She played a lot [USO ’07 and AO ‘10] of those. But Baghdatis recaptured some of his old magic and really scared the Swiss star. The breaker, especially, was gripping and the best we’ve had in many a year. For nearly 30 points, we were enthralled. Some of their exchanges seemed to bend the rules of physics.
3. Sao Paulo Final - Cuevas d. Busta 7-6[4], 6-3
...In the Pablo Bowl it was Cuevas who triumphed. He improved to nine matches won in a row as he converted three break points to see off the Spaniard. The Uruguayan was too consistent for the Spaniard and his hot streak on clay means he is 11-1 on the year on the surface.
4. Acapulco SF - Tomic d. Dolgopolov 1-6, 6-4, 6-3
...These two have an eclectic rivalry. For once that isn’t a typo. The two slice-n-dicers once more played an intriguing match that saw the Australian triumph. Tomic again showed his mettle and is a consistent top 20 player now. At 23 that is quite the achievement.

Garcia is in Monterrey. She is seeded fifth and has an alright draw. But Kiki, on whom we focus, is not in action this week. A loss to Strycova in Qatar combined with losing her first doubles match to Savchuk/Bondarenko made it a bad week all round for the Pastry. She will be back for the big tournaments in March. She should be highly seeded in the doubles, as usual, but this time she will also have seeding protection in the singles, too. It’s rare for her to have that in a big tournament.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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