Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wk.11- Fed: Skull Island

Hey, all. Galileo here.

Welcome to another Indian Wells wrap-up. It’s a bit late as this BACKSPINNER had to give his broken heart time to heal. Sveta Kuznetsova has broken it again. Anyway, there’s a lot to get through here.

There you go. Stan Wawrinka calling Roger Federer an as*hole.

Now how do we talk about Federer? He is the world’s best player right now. Even better, he has a legitimate shot at the top ranking. Could you imagine that? Looking at the form of the players around him it is more than possible. If he makes a final in Miami, does all right on the clay swing and makes a decent fist of it at Roland Garros he could be top four by Wimbledon. Two Masters titles in the summer, Wimbledon and a U.S. Open final could push him into the second spot. Keep in mind just how many points Murray is defending.

Anyway, this past week he was at his free-flowing best. He brutalised Nadal 6-3, 6-2. He executed the SABR perfectly. This was a week to celebrate for the 35 year old.

Well, let’s get on with it. There is so much to talk about...

S: Roger Federer def. Stan Wawrinka 6-4/7-5
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Kubot/Melo

...Who is your favourite rock star? Is it Bon Jovi or perhaps Springsteen? Does Eric Clapton send you through the roof? I hear Todd’s favourite rock star is, if I had to guess, I’d say he had a soft spot for Bryan Adams [Ed: Well, no, not really. I'd probably say U2 and Bono, minus some of the more preachy moments. - tds]

Anyway, they invariably have a farewell tour, say goodbye for a few months and then come back. If this is Federer’s farewell tour it is a heck of one. With the win last week he has risen four places to 6th in the world. He is 400 points from the top four. How about that? Of the top ten, just four made their seedings in Indian Wells. Federer stood firm amid the chaos. In his first match he played the role of the young man. Predictably, he saw off Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1 with ease. Stevie Johnson, the forgotten American, pushed the Fed hard like at Wimbledon last year. Once again he fell short, but he did not let Roger break his serve. Not once. Still the Swiss got six mini-breaks in the 7-6[3], 7-6[4] victory. Next he sent Nadal to the woodshed with a 6-2, 6-3 demolition job of a victory. This was not close; this was a battering. Nadal used to make Federer look clueless, but these days Nadal looks it. He can’t figure out how to combat Federer’s aggressive backhand. Now Federer leads the off-the-clay head to head 11-10. After that Federer got a bye when Kyrgios withdrew with food sickness. It had been a great tournament for the well-behaved Aussie. Then, still having not dropped a set, he taught Sock a lesson. He won 6-1, 7-6[4]. Sock had beaten Nishikori and Dimitrov before that, and had quite a run, really. Then, as usual, he saw off Wawrinka in the final. Stan struggled to assert his greater power and fell 6-4, 7-5. Normally at this point this BACKSPINNER provides a video of some preposterous bit of skill only Federer could do. And today is no different

Oh, and if you want to read a quirky story of the week here it is.
...Wawrinka is like Cuba. Overshadowed and yet better in so many ways than the bigger entity that clouds it. Wawrinka’s backhand is better. So is his record in slam finals, and he can actually live with Djokovic in longer matches. You kind of forget he exists sometimes. He doesn’t always come up with the biggest results, either, he just sort of hangs around. Then out of nowhere he has won Monte Carlo, the French Open and Indian Wells. Except not quite. Because this time America asserted its dominance. For therein lies the enigma that is Wawrinka’s career. At every turn Federer is there to deny him. At the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2014, Wawrinka had him and should have won. The same here in Indian Wells and several times in Australia. On clay Stan has found a way to beat him, but elsewhere Fedex is the immovable object. Just look at this:

You look at the 3-20 record and wonder just how good he could have been if he had been able to find a way to get past Federer even occasionally. He breezed past Lorenzi 6-3, 6-4 and played a very enjoyable 7-5, 6-3 match against Kohlschreiber. He survived Nishioka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[4]. The lucky loser twice served for the match but could not find a way past. That is the calling card of a champion. Getting through those horrible trap matches. He edged Thiem in a very similar match 6-4, 4-6, 7-6[2]. On courts he does not like, against opponents playing with nothing to lose, he was having to work so hard. In the semis he dismissed Carreno Busta at the cost of just five games and headed into the finals with momentum. But despite looking great throughout the first set he found himself down 0-1 at the start of the second. So once again he responded. He lead 2-0 in that second set. Yet somehow once again he lost it. Federer just never loses to him. It’s like witchcraft.
...Until very recently, around Roddick’s retirement, America had always had a top ten American man. They are in need of a hero. On the other side, they have Madison Keys, Madison Brengle and a host of talent. On the men’s side, they have the talent but only recently has it started to produce. Fritz, playing in front of a home crowd, with his gelled hair and all American boy smile, fits the role. He is a Californian, which was the reason for the raucous cheers and loud home support, no doubt. Given a wild card he knew this is not the kind of horse you look in the mouth. He blew Paire away in the first round 6-3, 6-2 and then beat Cilic in an epic match 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. He ran out of steam against Jaziri in a three set loss, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The kid is 19. He was playing in front of family. It was emotional. It was tough. Yet he carved out two solid wins and it moves him up ten places to 126 in the world. Incredibly he was, at 18, ranked 53rd. It’s another run from the young American and you know he’ll have his first slam win any time now.

...Mainly here to point out the fact that, look, this guy can do it off of clay, too. He turned professional in 2007 and had an all right year. Now ten years on he is ensconced in the top ten. It is where he belongs, where he ought to be. His greatest triumph came aged 22 when he won the French Open doubles with Luis Horna. It is few players who have been top 20 in both disciplines. In a career full of them perhaps the best quirky fact is this: he has been to one Masters quarterfinal. Yes this last week he made his debut in the quarters of a 1000 level tournament. How good is that? This week the Uruguayan has shown us it is never too late. So take this as inspiration to go and talk to that girl you never did or buy that chair you know your friends will hate. It is never too late to achieve or do something you’ve always wanted to...

Oh, if you want a throwback, here it is:

[N.B- BACKSPINTOWN is not liable for any life decisions you may make on account of what they say no matter how advice-like it may sound.]
...It would be great to say Sock, the Southern surprise super, stuns Nishikori. But it’s not possible because he is from Nebraska. So let’s just celebrate his marvelous run ,which included wins over Nishikori and 2017’s darling Dimitrov. Isn’t it nice for a young American to live up to his potential? Let’s see him back it up now.
...Tsonga, having had a winning streak this year and won two titles, gets put in a workable draw. He looks good, is on form, but then he remembers he’s French. And after that it went downhill really very quickly. The loss to Fognini is not so bad - he is a very talented player. He has beaten some of the best in our sport. But, like an '80s one-hit wonder, Tsonga collapsed into ignominy rapidly here. Unable to back-up his quarterfinals appearance from last year, he falls right back to the cusp of the top ten. But, hey, you can still expect to see him at Wimbledon.
...Let’s touch on it again, shall we? Pospisil has had a career moment here. The former Wimbledon champion comes through qualifying fairly straightforwardly and then struggled through against Lu 6-7[8], 6-4, 6-3. He goes up against the top seed and world’s best player during a night session. And he wins. He beats him 6-4, 7-6[5]. Then, with just one set dropped in four matches, he loses to another qualifier. And he loses 6-7[4], 6-3, 7-5. That has to hurt.


1. IW QF – Wawrinka d. Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 7-6[2]
...Wawrinka triumphs as Thiem runs out of steam. This was the kind of match they should show off in the Louvre. Today's Wawrinka against tomorrow's. If you’re going to get win number 450 this is how you do it. Thiem could have served it out, but the Swiss was far too solid on the break points.
2. IW QF – Carreno Busta d. Cuevas 6-1, 3-6, 7-6[4]
...This was a crazy match. The Spaniard dominated the first set, winning it 6-1. He at one point hit a truly astonishing forehand dropper. He has the best one of those around right now.

Pablo Carreno Busta drop shot that even Nadal... by allsports0

But then it went awry. Cuevas came back. He leveled it and, on a seven match win streak, held two match points at the back end of the second set. Just look at it...

This was a brutal match between two highly under-rated players. Indeed, Carreno Busta may be the most underrated guy on tour. He won it, finally, 7-4 in the breaker after over two hours of hard back-breaking work in the desert. Some things have to be earned.

We have talked about Dasha in Indian Wells. Now we talk about her draw in Miami. For fun shall, we outline a path to the title? She defeats Safarova in round two, shocks Vesnina in the next round and lines up against Cibulkova. Domi isn’t a terrifying prospect, so through Dasha goes. In the quarters, she faces off against Wozniacki and it’s another upset. It’s Pliskova in the semi-finals but - oh no! - she gets taken by aliens and has to withdraw. In the final, against all odds, it’s Daria Kasatkina.

Luckily, her doubles partner for this tournament is Konta, so Dasha has no qualms in spanking Kasatkina. And that’s how it could happen. But then this happened.

Our girl opens with Kuznetsova/Mladenovic in the doubles. After that is Atawo/Chan or, possibly worse, Stosur/Zhang. So it’ll be a busy two weeks for our girl. Maybe.

Picks now. Shall we start on the ladies’ side? No defending champion here. 2016 champ Vika is coming back this year, but not quite yet.

Kerber [1] d. [16] Bertens
Kuznetsova [7] d. [11] V.Williams
Barty d. [3] Halep
Keys [8] d. [10] Konta

There aren’t many names here that can threaten Kerber or Bertens. The seeds should hold and the number one seems due a big result. The next section is a bloodbath. The winner of Mladenovic and Venus gets Kuznetsova probably. The Russian again has a winnable draw. Can she take advantage? Let’s have a gamble here. Stosur is struggling for form. Halep is no certain thing. If this comes off this BACKSPINNER will look very clever indeed. Keys will ride her home form against Konta.

Wozniacki [12] d. [6] Muguruza
Cibulkova [4] d. [23] Gavrilova
Svitolina [9] d. [5] Radwanska
Pliskova [2] d. [18] Vandeweghe

The Spaniard had a fine run in Indian Wells, but she will struggle against the consistency of the Woz. Puig and Sevastova could both play spoiler and make a semi-final, too. When players win their first big title it either kicks them on or they crash and burn. How will Vesnina react? Cibulkova is too good right now. Radwanska will give another solid performance, but the match of the quarter is A-Pavs versus Svitolina. Finally, Pliskova should survive Brengle, Putintseva and Vandeweghe to make the quarters. Coco will win because, honestly, I chose her because I like her better.

Kerber [1] d. [7] Kuznetsova
Keys [8] d. Barty
Wozniacki [12] d. [4] Cibulkova
Pliskova [2] d. [9] Svitolina

Yes, they should rename this section the ‘K’ section. Kuznetsova backs up her run, for once, but will not break through Kerber’s game. Keys finally sees off Barty, her forehand proving the difference. Wozniacki leads the head to head 9-4 and has the form, too. Enough for me. Svitolina will beat one of these big names in a match that really matters soon, but not quite yet. Pliskova is a lock to reach the semi-finals of any given event right now.

Keys [8] d. [1] Kerber
Pliskova [2] d. [12] Wozniacki

I have already gambled so much. What’s a little more? Keys is so capable of a run here. Pliskova just keeps rolling. In fact, this BACKSPINNER would not be surprised to see Pliskova blow out the Woz.

Pliskova [2] d. [8] Keys

Pliskova is like the Packers. Always making the latter stages, but never winning it somehow. When will she finally win three or four big titles in a row? She has to start winning soon.

Wawrinka [1] d. [16] Zverev
Kyrgios [12] d. [8] Goffin
Federer [4] d. [14] Bautista Agut
Thiem [6] d. [10] Berdych

In his first ever tournament at this level as a top seed, Wawrinka will do very well. There’s something motivating about being the out and out top seed. Ruud was also here and could have played Zverev in a fantastic match, but he lost today. Dolgopolov and Isner will play spoiler here. Kyrgios versus Karlovic could produce the biggest ace match of the year on the tour. Ferrer is here, too, but Goffin is too metronomic. Kyrgios has played the Belgian once. Do you remember that superb Tokyo final? That was it. Federer leads the series with Delpo 15-5. Delpo also has a poor record here. Querrey is here and so is Robredo, but Agut, despite injury troubles, has consistency. It is boring but effective. It must be respected. Let us not forget just how good Thiem’s last tournament was. Berdych is good enough to make the fourth round, but he is on the way down.

Dimitrov [9] d. [5] Nadal
Sock [13] d. [3] Raonic
Fognini d. [21] Cuevas
Nishikori [2] d. [15] Carreno Busta

He should have done it before, but he will do it now. Lots of young American talent here and Taylor Fritz could make a run, but the top-ten clash seems destined to happen. Vesely versus Haas looked like the best first round match-up in the whole draw, and it turned out to be for an unexpected reason.

No idea where Raonic is right now, but Sock is on form. Cilic is rubbish, so this BACKSPINNER has decided to make a pick he knows is utter madness. There is no reasoning with the insane. Upset alert down the bottom. Anderson lurks in this section. The 15th seed could make a run, but the Japanese will be too good.

Wawrinka [1] d. [12] Kyrgios
Federer [4] d. [6] Thiem
Dimitrov [9] d. [13] Sock
Nishikori [2] d. Fognini

This tournament being so injury plagued is good news for the Swiss boys. Federer will see off Thiem, while Wawrinka is too solid for Kyrgios. Dimitrov continues his run, too. This BACKSPINNER is mad, but not Joker mad. Nishikori ends the Italian’s run.

Federer [4] d. [1] Wawrinka
Nishikori [2] d. [9] Dimitrov

Federer never loses to Wawrinka, especially on hard-courts. Nishikori will deserve to lose this match and be outplayed, yet somehow win.

Federer [4] d. [2] Nishikori

The Swiss has funny results here sometimes, but the five days of rest combined with a manageable draw should mean fitness does not come into play. Kei will achieve his seeding but come unstuck at Federer’s hands. Yes, Todd, this time I did pick Roger. Sue me. [Ed: I did, too, so perhaps he'll see fit to sue us both? Karolina, too. - tds]

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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