Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wk.8- Casper the Friendly Norwegian

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Who is Casper Ruud? Even this BACKSPINNER would have struggled to tell you last week. He sounds like a footballer or a ghost. A friendly one. His father Christian Ruud was a top 50 guy who did well on the challenger circuit. Not to be sniffed at. But he may be already outdone by his offspring.

The Nordic countries, Sweden in the 1980's aside, are not really known for producing incredible tennis players. They produce ice and great skiers.

Denmark has recently started to emerge. Caroline Wozniacki was number one and the least effective top ranked player in slams we’d ever seen. She excelled at being mediocre in majors, especially considering how long she was number one. Fredrik Nielson is a men’s doubles slam champion. Even Finland is coming on nicely with Jarko Nieminen and Henri Kontinen.

Poor Norway is left behind. It needs someone. Perhaps this new kid on the block is it. Norway is a country in need of a big international sports star anyway. Could this Ruud be it?

We also discuss Kei Nishikori’s baffling clay decision and look forward to next week. Do you know what happens this week? All our top four are playing, and so are Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are looking for momentum. Federer is looking for title number eight in Dubai, while Rafa is looking to trip Nole up.

Let’s get sucked in...

* – Delpo goes up ten places to 32, knocking Cuevas down to 33. It’s a career high for M. Zverev, who is at 30, while Feli and Kohl sit at 31 and 29.
* – Goffin falls out of the top ten, while Federer clings on. Cilic and Thiem both drop a place and sit at 9 and 10.
* – Tsonga rises four to 7th in the world. Cilic leads Thiem by less than 50.
* – No change in the top five. Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic and Nishikori. The number one ranking is safe.

RIO, BRAZIL (Red Clay)
S: Dominic Thiem def. Pablo Carreno Busta 7-5/6-4
D: Carreno Busta/Cuevas d. Cabal/Farah

S: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Lucas Pouille 6-4/6-4
D: Benneteau/Mahut d. Haase/Inglot

DELRAY BEACH, USA (Hard Outdoor)
S: Jack Sock walkover Milos Raonic
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Huey/Mirnyi

...Five years ago to the day, Tsonga hit his highest ever ranking of five. He has always played like a top five player though his results do not reflect it. He lacks the career consistency of Gasquet, the on-court consistency of Simon and the maddening consistency in defence that Monfls possesses. But his ceiling has always been the highest of those three. He has no weakness, not really, except for that inconsistency. Aside from turning off during a match every now and then and his injuries he doesn’t have an exploitable part of his game. You can hit Gasquet off the court, you can overpower Simon and you can play off Monfils' refusal to go on the offensive. But Tsonga, if he is playing well, can beat anyone. A very good returner can throw off his serve, which is why he struggles against Murray and Djokovic. But the Olympic Silver medalist is not done yet despite appearing to be in the twilight of his career. He is 14-11 In finals, but ten of those have come in France. He is 7-3 in home finals. Just last week, as you know, he reached final number four in Marseille. He made it 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Pouille. This BACKSPINNER wonders if home advantage in tennis is as big an advantage as in the NFL. Stosur and Mauresmo prove otherwise, but for some players, like Isner, Tsonga and Kyrgios, it works for them. Tsonga edging Kyrgios 7-6[5], 2-6, 6-4 in the semi-final is one of those matches where you feel it could have maybe gone the other way on another court. But Tsonga is champion and that’s good because nobody could possibly dislike Tsonga.

...Delpo could also win this award. A semi-final in your first event of the year? That is impressive. He will be seeded for the French Open, one of his best events. He continues to impress throughout his storied career. He broke out in 2007 and a decade on he is still ripping people up with that forehand. But Thiem has finally found a title this year. Heck, he finally found his first final. The Austrian is still young. His first year on the tour he made six finals and a slam semi-final. He was a top ten mainstay. He had the world at his feet. Like artists struggling on that second album, he didn’t know what to do next. Yes, this BACKSPINNER is critical of his scheduling but, really, that’s a little unfair. He has had his best result in Australia in making the fourth round. He didn’t, like certain world number ones, lose to a German outside the top 50. He lost to Goffin in a very close match. He’s having a fine year. He has won another 500 tournament to add to the one he won in Acapulco last year. Now he gets to go defend that title. Straight sets wins over Tipsarevic and Lajovic to open up in Rio were perfect. He followed that up with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Schwartzman. Once he gets rolling it’s hard to slow him down. He spanked 5th seed Ramos Vinolas 6-1, 6-4 in the semi-final. He finished it up by grinding out a tough 7-5, 6-4 win over Carreno Busta in the final. He won a 500 level tournament and did not drop a set. Oh, boy.

...Ruud, lanky and baby-faced, got into Rio on a wildcard. His forehand is an exquisite shot and he just floats on the clay. He looked good in his opener, as he saw off Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-3, 6-4. He looked good but he had a real challenge on his hands next. He has risen 75 places to 133. If he wins two matches in March in the main draw he could crack the top 110. Roberto Carballes Baena is one of those Spaniards who is always horrible to play on clay. Rudd showed us he grinds like a barista, winning 6-7[4], 6-4, 7-6[4]. He easily beat Monteiro 6-2, 7-6[2]. But heartbreak was next for the youngster. Up 6-2, 4-2 in the semi-final, he could not quite hold on. Pablo Carreno Busta saved a match point at 4-5, broke for love in the next game and won 2-6, 7-5, 6-0. But what a tournament for the young Scandinavian. This is the moment we heard about Casper Ruud.
...He has a career high of 23 right now. He made a doubles slam final last year, in New York. He is 2-3 in finals, this being his first 500 final. He made the semi-final of the Australian Open men’s doubles this year and is ranked 17 in that discipline. Suddenly, aged 25, he is having a quite spectacular career. And he feels like a vet. Keep it up Busta. You’re doing marvelously.

...We have waited for this for some time. And, in the end, it took an injury to one of the ATP’s most brittle players to give him that anticipated moment. It’s a win for Jack Sock on American hard-courts. We have been wondering where this has been all this time. Seeded third, he opened with a 6-4, 7-6[2] win over Albot before seeing off Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-1. He knocked out 5th seed Johnson 6-4, 7-6[4] and found himself in another 2017 semi-final. For the third time in the tournament he won 6-4, 7-6[2]. It was absolutely identical to the Albot match, but this time it was over Donald Young. Then he got lucky in the final - Raonic withdrew with a leg injury. It is a career high of 18 for the Nebraska native. And don’t forget that he is Thiem’s age. The next step is a big result in March at either tournament. He needs to ride those fans and that beautiful set of hard-courts.
...In trying to prepare for the French and taking on the clay swing, Nishikori has fallen back. It was a risk worth taking but it has not paid off. He needs to work on winning at the one slam venue he knows he can. If he can crack Flushing Meadows then he should try the others. Don’t bother trying to win on clay this early. You have time for that later. Make an assault on the top four. That top four seeding is the key to winning a slam. Derrick Rose is an NBA player for the New York Knicks (formerly of the Chicago Bulls). If you haven’t heard of him, well, maybe go outside or get out from under that rock. He is immensely talented but always injured, always broken. Both Nishikori and Raonic suffer from that curse. And it is really holding them back. When you see a loss like Kei’s 6-4, 6-3 defeat to Bellucci you think was it because of fitness?
...It is another semi-final run for Young. Last week it was Harrison who knocked him out and this week it was Sock. But back-to-back semi-finals for the young American is an unheard of thing. It really just doesn’t happen, well, ever. Could this really be a turning point? If so, then watch out at the two big Masters tournaments we have coming up. His win in two breakers over second seed Karlovic in round one is the kind you can build momentum off of. Plus, he held off the next generation - he beat Taylor Harry Fritz 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The Road to Success Is Always Under Construction. #yimlife @tecnifibre @delraybeachopen

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Notes from the Week...
1 – Raonic has hurt his hamstring. It’s a slight tear, but even that is horrible news for the world number four.
2 – Federer is five titles away from replacing Lendl as the guy in history with the second most titles ever. Connors on 109 is surely uncatchable.
3 – Serena randomly turned up to a match in San Franciso

1. Rio Final – Thiem d. Carreno Busta 7-5, 6-4
...The Austrian recovered from an early break to win the first set. Once he had that it was smooth sailing. He raced out to a 7-5, 4-2 lead and eventually won in 94 minutes.

2. Marseille SF – Tsonga d. Kyrgios 7-6[4], 2-6, 6-4
...Tsonga made it eight matches in a row with this one. Unbroken in two years at this event, the Aussie saw his serve snapped twice. He served 12 aces, but it was not enough. Tsonga used his wily veteran powers to win a match he should have lost.
3. Marseille Final – Tsonga d. Pouille 6-4, 6-4
...He had not won a title since 2015 before this month. It took him 69 minutes to win number fourteen. Pouille never found his form and was outclassed by his more illustrious compatriot in the finals.
4. Delray Beach SF – Sock d. Young 6-4 7-6[2]
...America has undergone a renaissance. The only question now is how long it will be before they can field a legitimate slam contender. Sock reminded Young just who’s boss with a straight sets win.

Djokovic [1] d. [4] Thiem
Nadal [2] d. Coric
Djokovic [1] d. [2] Nadal

...The quarterfinals are almost better than the semi-finals. Kyrgios versus Djokovic, Thiem versus Goffin, and Nadal versus Sock. Expect Cilic to be rubbish. Nadal and Djokovic will both turn up, but how can you look past the Serb?

Federer [3] d. [1] Murray
Wawrinka [2] d. [4] Monfils
Federer [3] d. [2] Wawrinka

...Wawrinka is the defending champion. Remember that excellent final where he edged Baghdatis? Murray is the world number one and Monfils is a tight Nadal loss away from having a superb start to the year. But how do you argue with nine-time finalist and seven time winner Roger Federer? The guy's already won a slam this year, too.

Cuevas [3] d. [5] Fognini
Ramos Vinolas [2] d. [4] Sousa
Cuevas [3] d [2] Ramos-Vinolas

...Cuevas on clay in the Americas is a different player to Cuevas anywhere else, and he is the two time defending champion. So there’s that. Fognini should spring a surprise here, while Vinolas is a good player in a weak field.

Dasha should be back for March, but who knows. This BACKSPINNER bets Kasatkina is missing her awfully.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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