Tuesday, June 06, 2017

French Open Day 9: Form (mostly) Holds, For Now

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Daria Gavrilova is out. She and partner A-Pavs have fallen by the wayside in the women’s doubles. Bested by her compatriots, Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua, they lost 7-6[2], 6-4. So it is now onto the grass swing for Dasha.

Todd and I do a lot of work comparing eras for one project or another. It is easier to predict the future by looking back sometimes. Other times it is a fun thing to do. What is happening a lot these days that didn’t used to with such frequency is this.

Now these guys would play 100 matches a season. Air travel was not as good as it is today. They didn’t have physios or the attention to fitness that is around today. And injuries just weren’t an issue at all, really. Players didn’t get hurt. These days if you don’t have five retirements in any given event [women’s or men’s singles etc.] that’s a bit odd. This past tournament, David Goffin, Nico Almagro and now Kevin Anderson have all fallen a-foul of injuries. It is a sad sight to see a really good player limping around, looking like the walking wounded. And it is far too frequent. This BACKSPINNER cannot get the screams of Mary Pierce out of his head. Nor can he forget the look on Rafael Nadal’s face at the 2011 Australian Open.

More work needs to be done on safeguarding our players, more effort needs to be put in. It is not as bad as other professional sports, but that is no justification. One thing the ATP could do is to give a player a wildcard to a slam if they have been to the last eight there before. If Almagro wants to enter next year, he gets a wildcard. Just like that.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about tennis. In the men’s doubles, the only seeds left are the 7th and 16th.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lost 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4) to Santiago Gonzalez and Donald Young in the quarterfinals. It is in fact the first time the Scot has been this far at Roland Garros. Murray served for it at 6-3, 5-3. He couldn’t make it and so the highest seeds left, lost in agonizing circumstances. They won eight more points and another game but could not make their greater ranking and ability tell on the underdogs.

...What a journey for the kid. It took the world number one to finally see him off. After he beat 13th seed Tomas Berdych and 21st seed John Isner, dropping just one set, he looked set for a very deep run indeed. But Andy Murray has found himself some form. And on the day, he was too good for the youngster, dismissing him 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Murray broke five times in the two-hour contest, and was too robust in defence for his inexperienced opponent. He went 29-14 on the winners to errors ratio and managed to play a controlled match against a dangerous opponent. For Khachanov a seed at Wimbledon is in the cards. Slated to rise 14 places to 39 in the world, a final run next week on grass would probably see him in. Murray now gets Nishikori. He owns the head-to-head 8-2, but lost their last slam meeting, which was also at the quarterfinal stages. If Kei brings his "A"-game it could be close, but Murray currently looks inspired.
...Stan Wawrinka, Domi Thiem, Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic. None of them has dropped a set thus far. Not that either speaks a lot about them, or it reflects very poorly on the ATP tour. You would think, with the depth of quality around, the abundance of talent, and the physicality of the game today, one of these guys would have dropped a set so far. It is usual for one quarterfinalist to not have dropped a set. It is strange for four not to. And, speaking of anomalies, we have seven of the top eight seeds in the quarters. It happens more often than you might think. This nearly happened at the 2011 Australian Open. And, like back in 2011, the seed [or seeds, as it was six years ago] not to make it lost in the fourth round. Had Milos Raonic closed out his match we would have a perfect slate of quarterfinals. It was the same at the 2015 edition of Roland Garros. Had Tomas Berdych won his fourth round match...

Anyway, Gael Monfils was blunted out by a superb Wawrinka in a fantastic fourth round clash. The Swiss won 7-5, 7-6[7], 6-2. Six years after the last time, the third seeded Stan has played his friend again. And though it was not straightforward, he really broke the back of the match by winning that second set breaker. He broke five times to two and managed to win 62 per cent of his opponent's second serves, a huge amount. It has been controlled aggression throughout from Stan-the-Man and he could beat Rafa here. There is nobody else capable of it. This BACKSPINNER certainly believes that he is capable, and is probably the favourite, against Murray.

This one is for you Todd. We all know how much you like Gael.

[ED.NOTE: Ha! Although, I think that was more of an effort thing than a needless hot-dog sort of move. The clay, with the ability to slide, sort of levels out the needless riskiness of some of his moves on other surfaces. And, hey, I *did* speakingly admiringly of his hangtime on a smash on WTAB the other day. - tds]
...Nishikori lost the first 6-0 but won the last 6-0. How’s that for a turnaround? In two and a half hours he won 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0. It was a typical Verdasco performance - exciting and mystifying. This was not a good match, not a high-quality match. It was 62-89 on the winners to errors count. Kei was awful in the first and neither player was very impressive at all. The Japanese man got the win, yes, but it wasn’t very impressive. Had the Spaniard kept his head he would have won this quite easily. His forehand wing has found a new lease of life from somewhere. To win against Murray, Nishikori needs to improve his first serve percentage. He needs it to be above 53 per cent. The Scot will pick off his second serve in a way that Ferver just can’t. Ferver might be seeded at a slam again, and at Wimbledon. So watch out. But Kei has a daunting task now. He must go up against the world number one. This is his second quarter-final here at Roland Garros. Can he make the most of it this time? Last time Jo-W Tsonga bested him in five sets. This time it will be even harder.
...Cilic led 6-3, 3-0 when Kevin Anderson pulled the plug. No word yet on why, but it could be due to the ankle problem he has had. Marin Cilic must now face off against Stan Wawrinka. Good luck to him in that one. He will need it - Wawrinka leads the h-2-h 11-2 and has not lost to him since 2010. He has won their past seven matches. He has been to the semi-finals twice in a row and the Croat is making his first quarterfinal appearance. So the stage is set for a massive upset.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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