Tuesday, January 31, 2017

All Good Australian Opens...

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

This BACKSPINNER has been remiss at the end of recent slams. But no more, no way, no how. In the future, as well as adding to Todd’s WTA wrap up with some thoughts on the final, this BACKSPINNER shall provide some sense of closure. So, today you shall have it.

But before that, it's Davis Cup time. Now, it is tricky to gauge who is in and who is not. But this BACKSPINNER will try his best.

- Italy and Argentina go to war on outdoor clay in Buenos Aires. Not the strongest team for the Argies, but can Fognini and Seppi pull another magic trick out of their hat? No logic to this decision, but Argentina take it 3-2.

- Germany host Belgium on indoor hard in Frankfurt. Zverev, Kohlschreiber and Zverev will ease the home side past a Belgium with no Goffin. 4-1 to the Zverev brothers and company.

- Kooyong hosts another Davis Cup weekend. Kyrgios and Thompson go against Vesely and Stepanek. Australia, on grass, should cruise through 4-1. They also have Peers in the doubles. Could this be the year, with Groth and Peers, that they win it all? Berdman being out is a big minus for the Czechs.

- America host Switzerland in Birmingham. No Wawrinka. No Federer. No contest. 5-0 to the home team. Give Harrison a shot here, why not? Since when did America have four guys in the top 32? What a pleasant surprise. Just a pity none of them did anything in Melbourne.

- It might be in Tokyo, but for Japan, without Nishikori, it really won’t matter. Gasquet, Simon and the world’s best doubles team will sweep through here 5-0. If they can just keep it together and not choke, France would have won this competition so many times. Perhaps they can win it this year?

- No Murray or Raonic in Ottawa. Evans, Edmund and the other Murray will guide Britain to a 4-1 win away from home. Look out for Edmund. He is a rising star. And Evans is in the form of his career.

- In Nis, Serbia the Russians are coming to town. At first this BACKSPINNER thought they didn’t have their full strength squad. Turns out they do. And it isn’t enough to deal with Djokovic. Serbia win 4-1. Since Davydenko left, and Youzhny’s collapse, Russia has had nobody on the ATP. Could Karen Khachanov be the one to save them?

- No Cilic. And that means Spain, with Carreno Busta and the Lopez’s, will go into Croatia and win comfortably. They also have Bautista Agut. Look for Spain to win 5-0. This won’t be pretty.

- Finally, it is with sad news that the Bryans have announced their retirement from the Davis Cup. They finished with a 22-5 and, ironically, a loss.

...What more is there to say? Aged 35, Roger won two tight five setters, one of them against Nadal, and blew Berdych up. Who says he cannot win another slam this year? At Wimbledon, on a quick surface, another semi-final seems more than probable.

...He survived two heavy five set matches and almost won a third. He made Raonic’s serve look utterly ordinary and, hey, has that forehand ever looked as vicious? Rafa is back and if Federer seems set to do well at Wimbledon, couldn’t Rafa win another French Open?
...What’s in this season? Dimitrov combining an even better serve with a delicious new forehand. This look is all the rage this year. Until Nadal saw him off, he had dropped just four sets. Four sets all year. Who is this guy and where has he been?
...Going 0-2 in slam finals is tough. Horia Tecau made the Wimbledon final from 2010-2012. He blew a two sets to love lead and went out in the third round in 2013. Finally, he won it in 2015. Peers has had nowhere near that long a wait, but it must still have been a relief for him to get the monkey off his back. Kontinen has also broken Finnish records. So, a historic tournament for both men.
...Sasha had Nadal, he had a winning tactic. He just ran out of gas at the end. If he’d had anything left in the tank he would’ve had the upset. People expected that to happen but not for him to be outshone by his elder brother. Mischa had one of the biggest upsets on the tour in years when he edged Murray in four in the 4th round. Plus, he beat Isner 9-7 in the 5th set two rounds earlier.
...We expect players like Busta/Garcia-Lopez to have the occasional deep doubles run. We do not expect players with barely any singles experience to put together a run that saw them beat the top seeds, eighth seeds and recent Wimbledon champions, too. It’s an A* from the BACKSPIN exam markers.
...Bundled out in the fourth round, he had the tournament of his life. He blasted Djokovic off the court in five lengthy sets, survived a fiery encounter with Carreno Busta and gave Dimitrov all he could handle for two sets. Now we see if he can put it together on a permanent basis.
...Belichick would be proud - Stan did his job. He even came back, albeit in vain, from two sets down against the greatest player ever. But for one loose service game this BACKSPINNER does truly believe Stan would be our champion.
...The Belgian survived Opelka in five sets in the opening round before upsetting Thiem three rounds later. He has now been to a quarterfinal at half the slams. A good tournament for him but he needs to be more competitive at that stage. Dimitrov never broke sweat in beating him.
...One of those players that ran into Roger too early. He had a fine tournament and he was rounding into form before the Swiss star edged him. He would have had a chance at the final, too. He didn’t lose, he was beaten.

1. The semi-finals of the men’s singles
2. The organization level of this slam
3. No rain delays. Well, not on the same level as other slams.
4.The old guys. Average age of the semi-finalists? 30. Without Dimitrov it was 32.
5. The Bryans. 14 years of consistency - a slam final every year since 2003. They have not, however, won one since 2014.
6. Australia’s next generation. On both sides and in doubles, too. Their 2020 mixed doubles Olympics team has great potential. This BACKSPINNER wants to see Stosur play with Kyrgios. You know it’d be hilarious. Demon [De Minaur] belongs here, too.
7. Former stars of the game. Mary Pierce, Rod Laver and Jim Courier. They all added something.
8. The coverage of the event
9. The topspin lob is not dead. Not yet. Ditto the one-handed backhand.
10. The city of Melbourne.

1. The big seeds, Serena aside. They all collapsed. In the mixed, both singles events and, to a lesser extent, in the women’s doubles.
2. France. What has happened to France?
3. Hingis. Is it finally the end? Ditto Paes.
4. That weird black and white pattern that seemed to be on everyone. It really did not work. Still better than when Nike tried to do the blazer look.
5. The ATP top ten. Two made their seeding. If you’re feeling generous you could include Raonic.

*and THE UGLY*
Bernard Tomic and his attitude.

**Other Notes & By-the-Numbers**
1. I think this year is make or break for Kyrgios. He never practises. He doesn’t seem to care. How will his career end up?
2. Forty years it has been since the Australian Open held the event twice in one year. It is 30 years since it moved to January. Prize money in that year, 1987? A$103,875. How about in 2007? A$1,281,000. Now? 3.7 million in Australian dollars. The total prize money of 50m AUD is a record high.
3. Attendance figures anyone?

2017: 728,763
2016: 720,363
2015: 703,899
2014: 643,280
2013: 684,457
4. The Bryans have five straight losses in slam finals. One of them came at Roland Garros in 2012. The rest came here. Every single final they’ve lost here has been in straight sets. Don’t feel too sorry for them, however. They are 6-4 in finals.
5. Federer has been to more Wimbledon finals [10] than Nadal has at the French Open [9]. Doesn’t feel like it, does it? Probably because 9-0 is better than 7-3.

The final chapter, it feels like, in an extraordinary book. Stat of the year, of the decade, of the gosh darn century. Federer ten, Nadal ten. Matches off clay. The quality, the rallies and the camaraderie between the two was beautiful. No bitterness, no animosity. This had none of the crassness of Murray’s matches against Djokovic. But Federer/Nadal is a lightsabre matchup, rather than a matchup of blaster calibre.

Demon came of age in this classic match. It really set the tone for the rest of the slam, too. He’ll be back next year and he may win more than just the one match.
This BACKSPINNER has talked about this match endlessly, but it had to be included. Zverev gets to his career high of 35. What is the betting, says our inner cynic, he never makes it this far again?
How ridiculous is it that the defending champion gets his behind handed to him and he doesn’t even drop in the rankings. He is still 4000 clear of Stan. Of course, there is a bit more pressure now. He has not been under 10,000 points in the rankings for some time.
...22-20 in the fifth.
Who’s honestly got time to write out such a long scoreline? This BACKSPINNER acknowledges this match, yet another one that added fuel to the ‘should we shorten matches?’ debate. None the less, a quirky scoreline is always a fun one.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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