Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Wk.18- Desperate is as Desperate Does?

Hey, all. Galileo here.

It feels like a last roll of the dice from Novak Djokovic.

Sometimes a coaching switch up brings results. Look at Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray. All of them found a new dimension to their games and their careers when they got in a new coach or coaching team. But they all had time left in their careers. This month Novak turns 30. He has been injured already this year and has a history of withdrawals and various 'symptoms.'

We are halfway through the year and Novak has three quarterfinals to his name and just one title. His 14-4 mark is very poor. This BACKSPINNER cannot remember the last time this deep into a year neither of the top two players were inside the top ten of the points race. 23rd and 11th – that's where the Serb and the Scot are ranked, respectively. They are having truly abysmal seasons. It feels like a slump. Not the kind that Andre Agassi had where you thought he might come back. No, this is worse. It is worse because it is so sudden. They were good, excellent in fact, last year and now they aren't. With Agassi, the signs were there.

Djokovic has won one title since July last year, in Doha. His problems are well documented. He has fired the following:

Marian Vajda, Coach
Gebhard Gritsch, Fitness Coach
Miljan Amanovic, Physiotherapist

Vajda had been with him since 2006. Djokovic knows he has roughly three more years left where he can compete. So he has fifteen slams. He has a maximum of about fifteen slams that he could win. He won't be playing when he is 36. Nor will Murray. Nor will Nadal. So, much like in New England and Green Bay, he is in a win-now situation. Like Djokovic, both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have about three more years left. Don't listen to Brady. He won't do a Harrison Ford and go on until 65.

For Djokovic to capitalise on the slams and the other big titles, he had to do something. We will now find out how deep rooted the slump is. The pundits who had thought Djokovic might overtake Nadal and Federer in the slam count were incorrect. Federer's eighteen slams followed by Sampras and Nadal on fourteen are ahead of him. He has twelve and would need to win six more slams just to equal Federer.

What Djokovic should aim for is to be the first player ever to win every slam at least twice. No man has ever done that. The slam that has consistently eluded people? The French, of course. It eluded Sampras, Federer, Edberg and now Djokovic. Nadal struggled in Melbourne and Lendl famously at SW19. It is an incredible feat and it is within Djokovic's grasp. Nadal was twelve points away from achieving it.

There is still the Olympics, and he has not yet won every Masters title, with Cincinnati his bugbear. Djokovic has more he can achieve. He has not yet won all there is to win. So in order to do so he has bet the house. This is a huge gamble. But for a man with so little time it is a necessary one. It will only get harder from here on out, too. Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov are only getting better. They are all a big threat. Players like Chung Hyeon are growing in stature, as well. By the time the next Olympics roll around the ATP landscape will have undergone the same changes Iraq's did after America decided to redecorate for free.

Right, on with the show...

* - Viktor Troicki rises 5 places to sit at 33. Ferrer, M.Zverev and Simon round out the top 32.
* - Thiem, Goffin and Tsonga are ranked 9-11. The Austrian is very close in points to both Nishikori and Cilic.
* - No change in the top five. Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic and Nadal. The number one ranking is safe, though Murray and Djokovic both have a lot of points to defend.

S: Pablo Carreno-Busta def. Gilles Muller 6-2/7-6(5)
D: Harrison/Venus d. Marrero/Robredo

S: Alexander Zverev def. Guido Pella 6-4/6-3
D: Cabal/Farah d. Chardy/Martin

S: Marin Cilic def. Milos Raonic 7-6(3)/6-3
D: Jebavy/Vesely d. Altuna/Motti

...Sometimes you just have to applaud ruthless competency. The top seed in Estoril, Carreno Busta did not drop a set on the way to the title. Every week it is a new career high. This week it is 18. He is the Spanish number three. The number two, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, is ranked 17 in the world. Those two have been having a banner 18 months. It isn't just that they're winning. It is the fact they are routing entire tournaments. Every week is a new fantastic result for them. You look at what happened and there they are again. Boom. It is nothing short of impressive, especially considering they don't have 'weapons.' You remember Andy Roddick's serve or Pat Cash's volley. But these guys are just solid. They wear you down like a nail file. In Estoril, he beat Tommy Robredo 7-6[5], 7-5. Then he beat Nicolas Almagro 6-2, 6-4. He spanked David Ferrer 6-3, 6-3. In the final he brushed off Gilles Muller 6-2, 7-6[5]. He plays some extraordinary shots, too. And we can play our favourite game. Which player is Carreno Busta?

This BACKSPINNER struggled mightily. If we're going to have a player of the week it simply has to be the top seed who romped to victory.
If you're a fan of irony and the commentator's curse, well, you'll like this; Carreno Busta just lost to Benoit Paire in the first round of Madrid. He didn't win a set. He and Garcia-Lopez play Marrero/Robredo later. No doubt they'll put that on a show court.
...Another stellar tournament from the German here. He is a player capable of playing on any surface, a rare trait indeed. His junior slam victory was at the Australian Open, but he did reach a final at the French. He beat Kyle Edmund in the semi-final but lost to Christian Garin. His game translates well onto all the surfaces, but he is able to use those wicked angles more effectively on clay. He also has a very underrated lob which he used a lot in this title run. He was seeded third in a talented field. His 6-4, 6-4 win over Jeremy Chardy was followed by a very tight three setter against Jan-Lennard Struff. He won that in a final set breaker despite blowing a 5-2 lead. Next he saw off Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 7-5. He won five games of the match from 4-5 down in the first. It is runs like that which make and break matches. In the final, the German made it three wins in a row in title matches. He has made five ATP tour finals in total, across three surfaces. He comfortably eased past Guido Pella 6-4, 6-3 to claim his first ever title in Germany.

...His first final is coming. The win over Gael Monfils is just the latest big win. He will have his first final before the year is out. Also, cool glasses!

...David Ferrer is like Rudy from the film. He just doesn't ever give up. No point is ever lost.

Yes, it has been said so many times before, but this man is the player I would make my kids, and Todd's, watch. Forget Federer. That's not attainable. But Ferrer? If they were like Ferru, this BACKSPINNER would be delighted. And now in the twilight of his career he is still going. He made another semi-final this week. He must be in the top 20 all time for ATP semi-finals. He just keeps on rolling. It is fitting that he lost to the next generation of Spanish players. This BACKSPINNER admits to not liking Caroline Wozniacki and the rest of the pushers. But Ferrer? He was different. He was better than Gilles Simon. He was a delightful underdog. And it will be a sad day when he gives up the sport.
...The ATP's most irritating player struck again. What Cilic does is he sucks. He is abysmal. He loses early tournament after tournament after tournament. Then suddenly he pulls out a great result. Next week he'll crash and burn in some embarrassing fashion. This BACKSPINNER wouldn't mind if he could just choose what he's going to be. And also why is he in the top ten? His current win/loss ratio is 11-8. How poor is that? If he is the seventh best player in the world then I'm born in the USA. It makes it hard for you to enjoy any of his victories. Because he never does it consistently enough. If he could actually produce solid tennis, the tennis he is capable of, he might win more than just the U.S. Open one day. This week he took a wildcard into Istanbul. He beat Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-2. He spanked Steve Darcis 6-1, 6-1. He played three seeds, including the top seed, and did not lose a set. Now doesn't that just make you so bitter.

...Just when Gael Monfils was starting to look good, just when he was beginning to look a part of a top ten player, he collapsed. His 6-2, 6-4 loss to Chung is a poor one. With all that experience, the top seed couldn't even take a set? Monfils is notoriously tricky to play against. Why couldn't he come up with a tactic to halt the Korean? It is the latest in a string of funny results for the Frenchman. He will be a dangerous floater in the French Open draw. Whichever top eight seed draws him will not be happy.
...It is another deep run for Guido. He got through qualifying without losing a set. Then he beat Cedrik Stebe. In the second round, he faced off against Fabio Fognini. Not only was the Italian the fourth seed, he was also having a banner year. But the Argentine dismissed him 6-3, 6-2. Then he scraped past Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-7[5], 7-6[3]. Things didn't look great for the Argentine - surely he would be running out of steam by now? But somehow he came back from the dead to beat Pella 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Then he ran out of puff - he didn't get a set against Zverev. Still, it was a week full of upsets for the qualifier.


1. Munich SF – Pella d. Chung 4-6, 7-5, 6-4
...Chung had to play two matches in a day. Well, he had to finish off his quarterfinal. He ran out of puff against the Argentinian. In a week where all the finals were straight sets this match was the pick of the bunch.
2. Istanbul R2 – Raonic d. Bedene 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-3)
...Raonic actually got his body healthy enough to play a match. And in his first one back for a month he eked out a tight two and a half hour victory over newly British Bedene. Raonic is going to have to carefully plan his schedule if he wants to play in the next two slams. If he could get healthy he could contend for the top ranking. His game style is so simple and mentally he's pretty good, too. He is a Canadian Andy Roddick.
3. Munich QF – A.Zverev d. Struff 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5)
...It took him two hours, but Zverev won a high quality match again compatriot Struff. Zverev's forehand was working beautifully throughout the match but Struff played one of the best matches this BACKSPINNER has seen him play. It is a career high of 44 in the world for the German. No, the other one...
4. Estoril QF – Anderson d. Gasquet 6-2, 3-6, 7-6[3]
...In his last four meetings with the Frenchman, Anderson has lost just once. Every single one of their eight previous meetings were in the round of 32. Anderson rises 74 spots to 121 in the world. With a solid clay swing he may not need to qualify for the French Open.

Thiem [8] d. [3] Wawrinka
Nadal [4] d. [6] Nishikori
Nadal [4] d. [8] Thiem

...Could not call who will spring the upsets over our top seeds, but they'll happen. Nadal is going to win in front of the home crowd. Thiem is going to have a very food tournament, too. He has to make his first Masters final soon. Why not now?

Gavrilova beat two Belgians -- Marina Zanevska 6-2, 6-2 and then Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-1 -- in Rabat. But she lost in straights to Sara Errani in the quarterfinals. It was a poor loss. She and Aleksandra Krunic made the semi-finals in the doubles. Top-seeded Babos/Hlavackova eventually saw them off in two sets and went on to win the title.

Gavrilova has just lost to CiCi Bellis in Madrid, as well. The score was 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. She and A-Pavs lost to Stosur/Zhang 7-6[5], 6-2. So 0-2 in Madrid for the Aussie.

ALSO THIS WEEK: The first-ever edition of the "Backspin Court of Appeals." The first issue up for discussion is "the best player never to be #1."

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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