Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wk.15- Long Live the King

Hey, all. Galileo here.

There are so many things you can compare the big three and Murray to. Like the Fantastic Four. Federer is Mr. Fantastic, the leader and the inventor. Nadal is the Human Torch with all that fire. With that massive strength and impregnable rock like defence Djokovic is The Thing. And Murray is the other one. We all admired Federer, we all respected Nadal and we are in awe of Djokovic. Each has their own story, each of their fates seemed intertwined with the other. Each have their own surface. And each has their own rabid fan base. They all have their annoying fans and they all have their annoying personality flaw. Nadal with his bottles, Federer with his seemingly accidental arrogance and Djokovic with his gamesmanship and arrogance.

But Nadal’s way of doing things has always looked the hardest. He works for every point. He runs and he sweats. He grunts, he works the ball and he never backs down. Intimidatingly physical, the Spaniard plays a game-style the likes of which was new, was exciting. It was revolutionary. The way he could sit on the right hand side and just smack that forehand all day long. And he has come back after another slump, and after all those injuries. He has once more shown he is never finished, only resting. So the bruised warrior must make a decision. Where does he make his last stand?

He can either go out on his terms or have his hand forced by an inevitable career ending injury. Roland Garros this year or next, the Olympics or even Wimbledon are all good stopping points for the Spanish great. He can’t play until he is 34 like Federer. He can barely play until he is 29. But until he is forced out, and that time is rapidly approaching, stop and watch. Enjoy. Savour the twilight of one of our greatest heroes, really focus on just how good he is. Look at the footwork, the forehand and the grit. We are in single digits of slams with Nadal in them now. If he is playing in 2018 BACKSPIN would be astounded. And yet, at the same time we wouldn’t be. We expect to be amazed, to be blown away.

But we are a world tour and we happened to be in Monte Carlo. So let’s take a peek.

Top 32 - No change. But Dimitrov drops two to 28. Imagine if he was unseeded at the French. He has showed flashes of a return to form this year, but not enough to convince many.
Top 10 – Raonic goes up one at the expense of Cilic. He sits at 11, just 100 points behind Gasquet. But Gasquet is within striking distance of number nine Berdych.
Top 8 – Ferrer stays at eight but Tsonga rises two to number seven.
Top 4 – Little change. Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Wawrinka. Federer drops a little back from Murray, but the Scot had to grind out wins in Monte Carlo. If he drops early in Madrid he could fall two places.

S: Rafael Nadal def. Gael Monfils 7-5/5-7/6-0
D: Herbert/Mahut d. J.Murray/Soares

...The winner of eight previous editions of the Monte Carlo event added a ninth to his collection. The second greatest clay-courter ever won through a tough field to reassert his dominance. He may just be a favourite for the French if he can prove it against the Djoker. Or if he can rig the draw at RG so Vesely lands in Djokovic’s path. Either way Nadal is going to win 20 matches on clay this spring. April is his best month traditionally and it will be again. He started off well in MC, dismissing Bedene 6-3, 6-3. Then he knocked out 12th seed Thiem 7-5, 6-3. Then he dismissed 4th seed Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4, before winning going away against Murray 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. It was vintage Rafa. He was laughing at those bozos who dared seed him 5th. Then in the final he was too consistent for Monfils, as he ran away with the match 7-5, 5-7, 6-0. That last set Monfils didn’t have it anymore but Rafa was way too good. So Rafa’s back and so is Roger. Bring on Rome and Madrid.

Oh and hot shots. Rafa collects those on clay. Against Wawrinka he did this:

Against Murray he did this:
...How does one look at Tsonga? Is he talented but inconsistent? Is he not that good unless he’s on? He really is an enigma. After edging Federer in three, he capitulated against Monfils. He always has trouble backing up the big win. He should have advanced to the finals of the French multiple times but he never has. He has failed to do so because he lacks the mental ability, the fortitude to get ready for that next match. He isn’t the only one. France has three players in the top 15. That is not because any of them are the next Iceman. No, it is because they all have raw talent. But they will never be anything more than a very good top fifteen player. Gasquet, surprisingly, is the most consistent though Tsonga’s results are better. Pouille in fact defeated Richard and then had a go at Tsonga, who was too good. Tsonga has been to just two finals since August 2014 so it is bizarre to see him ranked so high in one way. In another he has been impressive at Masters and slam level. The key for Tsonga is to defend all those points this year, particularly at the French. This week he was impressive and showed good signs. He won all the matches he was supposed to and even knocked off Federer.
...His first clay 1000 final and his third in a French speaking country. Let’s look past Monfils’ abysmal 5-18 record in finals and look instead at how he has freshened up the ATP this year. He has made runs in Australia, in Rotterdam, in Indian Wells and Miami and now in Monte Carlo. Only once has he made two slam quarters in a year and never back to back, but he could do it now. Monfils has simply been on fire this whole year. At first this BACKSPINNER thought the draws falling for him was the reason, but now it is clear that isn’t necessarily the case. No, Monfils has been putting together a crazily good year. Now he needs to win a title. BACKSPIN believes he can do it, but does Monfils?
...Loss of form, lack of titles and bad results at slams. He will be turning 32 this year and his window is closing. He needs to get back to winning ways. The way Wawrinka dismissed him 1 and 2 was a little embarrassing and he needs to focus on the French Open now. He can get a good result there; he has done it before. But it gets harder every year that goes on and his ranking is slowly falling. What can he produce with his back against the wall?
...What an up and down career the Spaniard has had. Now back up to 50 in singles, he was once ranked 19th. He was ranked 4th in doubles once upon a time, though he now sits just inside the top 30. 4-3 in singles finals, all on clay or in Valencia. He won one of those 500 level finals, too. Few players have won a 500 level tournament but never cracked the top ten at some point. He is 10-15 in doubles finals, again most of those come on clay. He lost to Gimeno-Traver in qualies 6-3, 6-0. With the withdrawal of Kei he was able to gain a spot. He beat Zverev in three and then Goffin in straight sets. Sure Monfils spanked him but he still had a fantastic run and it isn’t often you leap 17 places and crack the top 50.
...Going down a set to Dzumhur in your first clay match is fine. Even though you made a deep run in Monte Carlo last year an opening round tussle is to be expected. Then you do what Berdych did and win the second set. He even won the breaker 7-1. But he didn’t ride his momentum and lost 6-3 in the third. Now what is that all about? Being out-fought by an opponent way out of your weight class is embarrassing. Dropping to nine, Berdych is in danger of falling out of the top ten. Who can remember the last time he wasn’t in the top ten?
...A semi-final last weekend, and a winner over the world number one this week. When we look back we can look at this as the start. Of course, the more eagle-eyed of you will have seen him before this, but now he is in plain sight. But how long before the hunter becomes the hunted? He was pretty good last year, too, doing stuff like this:

Notes from the week...
1 - Herbert/Mahut became the first all-French team to win in Monte Carlo in thirty years. They have swept the first three masters events of the year. Mahut rises two places to 3rd in the world, a 100 points behind Melo. Herbert rises four places to fourth in the world. It is a career high for both. There’s no question they are the best team in the world right now. This BACKSPINNER said they were the ones to watch last year.
2 – Strange to think Nadal went two years with no Masters title.
3 – Fed Cup semis both went to the doubles rubber to decide it. Can’t remember the last time the semi-finals were so even. Could France sweep the Davis and Fed Cup?
4 – Bryans are ranked 9th and 10th. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
5 – In a weaker than usual Stuttgart field, who will come up trumps?
6 - Djokovic starting the clay court with a loss feels ominous.
7 - Pulling out with an ankle issue, Wozniacki won’t be at Madrid or Rome. She is unlikely to play at the French, either. So she’ll have the same impact on clay as she usually does.

1. Monte Carlo SF - Nadal d. Murray 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
...The Spanish bull roared and bucked here. Down against Murray, Nadal came back and sent the Scot packing. We saw why the Scot has spent his whole career in the shadow of greater players. We saw why he does not play his best on this surface. He never could put away these matches. It proved to be a fatal weakness this time.
2. Monte Carlo R2 - Vesely d. Djokovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
...Vesely gave us a signature win as he defeated the world’s most dominant player. Most players would have gone away after losing that second set 6-2, but not Vesely. He recovered and ground out a memorable win. The forehand was very impressive, though he definitely caught the Djoker on an off day.
3. Monte Carlo QF - Tsonga d. Federer 3-6, 6-2, 7-5
...A passable comeback tournament ended with defeat at the hands of Tsonga. The flair and forehand were too good for the Swiss star. Still, a quarter-final appearance is encouraging and Tsonga looked impressive. So everyone won in their own way, though Tsonga fell victim to the Federer curse.
4. Monte Carlo R3 - Murray d. Paire 2-6, 7-5, 7-5
...Paire was a set and two breaks up. He served for the match in the third. He was the better player but he still lost in to and a half hours. Once again, like so many time during his career, Murray escaped despite playing poorly. Of course, Paire needs to put the Scot away next time.

Nadal [1] d. [3] Ferrer
Nishikori [2] d. [4] Gasquet
Nadal [1] d. Nishikori [2]

...Fognini defeated Nadal here last year and he is the nearest seed. This time, however, I like Nadal to roll through to the semi-finals. Ferrer has few opponents who can trouble him in his quarter so we should get the umpteenth matchup between these two. Chung, Zverev, Paire and Almagro all ended up in the third quarter. Gasquet and Cuevas will meet in the quarters, their consistency proving too much. Agut and Dolgopolov in the third round is going to be good, but Nishikori has nothing to fear from this section.

Tomic [1] d. [6] Pella
Delbonis [3] d. [2] Karlovic
Tomic [1] d. Delbonis [53]

...These Argentinians are on a tear and this is a weaker field. But Tomic has a knack for winning tournaments like this, even on his worst surface. He is the best player in the draw and he can play on clay. He has had a solid year and is the only player in this tournament who is a consistent top twenty player.

Kiki Bertens won five sets in a row against France, but it was not enough. She dismissed the French youngsters in straight sets, though Kiki [Mladenovic] won more game than Garcia.

But Kiki and Garcia swept aside Hogenkamp and Rus respectively. And then in the doubles Mladenovic/Garcia came through against Bertens/Hogenkamp 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was an engaging, thrilling, semi. Down 2-1, they dug themselves out of a hole with some sparkling tennis and a lot of guts. Kiki fell to the ground when she finally hit that last winner.

Kiki now enters Stuttgart and can lock up a singles seeding at the French this week. She has Petkovic and then Radwanska coming up. In the doubles the second seeds open with Konta/Siegemund. The only other dangerous pair here are top seeded Mirza/Hingis. No change in her singles ranking of 27 or her doubles ranking of 9.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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