Friday, January 18, 2019

AO Day 5: Berdych is Back Again! Czech It Out!

Hi All. Galileo here.

Well, this BACKSPINNER is all done in the eliminator.

After Roberto Bautista Agut smacked Karen Khachanov 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, despite playing back-to-back five setters in the previous two round, there’s nothing left. In the ladies singles, 19th seeded Caroline Garcia went down 6-3, 6-2 to the unheralded Danielle Collins. A woman who never won a title, had just won her first couple of slam matches and wasn’t even a hot young gun just knocked out an elite talent. Is this why the Frenchie irritates you Todd?

[Ed.- well, I wouldn't list Garcia as the *most* irritating Pastry. And Collins, who spent her early years winning two NCAA college championships, *did* play well in '18, but mostly in the U.S. -- I.W. 4th Rd. w/ a win over Keys, Miami SF after defeating Vandeweghe, Vekic and Venus, as well as reaching the San Jose semis. - tds]

The ten year challenge is making the rounds on social media. Do you know who the top three seeds were at this event ten years ago? The same. THE SAME AS NOW. How is that possible? And that’s been the problem for Jo-W Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, David Ferrer and David Nalbandian. Roger, Rafa and Novak are an impenetrable wall, a three-headed dog guarding the immortality a slam win guarantees.

Berdman is an unusual case. He has serious weapons but also a lot of bad luck and a propensity towards choking. He, on balance, deserves a major. He probably deserves to win Wimbledon. In weaker eras, like 1996-2003, anybody could pick up a slam. If Fernando Gonzalez had been playing then he would have taken one. In this era you have to beat two of the big three. Only Andy Murray ever had that level of game. Even then he often picked up majors when only one of the big three was fully functioning, either due to injury or lack of form.

There’s a catch though. After the big three retire we will be back in a weaker era. Who’s going to pick up ten slams? Alex Zverev? The man who struggles to make it to the fourth round of slams? Dominic Thiem? He’s hurt right now and that’s not a surprise. Nick Kyrgios? Karen Khachanov? Kyle Edmund? No. There’s nobody. What’s more like to happen is that everyone picks up two or three if they can get it together mentally. Or that Djokovic plays till he is 38 and wins another five or ten.

[Ed.- Ding-ding-ding. The "Numbers Guy" said something about that a few years ago, I think. ;) - tds]

Anyway we have a day to recap. Let’s recap it.

MS 1st Rd: CORIC [11] d. [PR] DARCIS {W}
MS 3rd Rd: KHACHANOV [10] d. [22] BAUTISTA AGUT {L}
WS 1st Rd: MUGURUZA [18] d. ZHENG {W}
WS 2nd Rd: GIORGI [27] d. [Q] SWIATEK {W}
WS 3rd Rd: GARCIA [19] d. COLLINS {L}

Federer cruised to a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 win. He was in supreme form from the first ball. Taylor Harry Fritz was good and nearly nicked the second set, but the Swiss forehand controlled the match thoroughly. Federer broke five times in the hour and a half contest while never facing a break point himself. He moved smoothly, anticipated brilliantly and his dropshots were feather light. It was a gorgeous match to watch. The 34 winners to 14 errors is the perfect ratio and Roger is going to be really dangerous if he can maintain the form. He hasn’t lost a set yet. He beat Tsitsipas in their match in Perth, though it did take two breakers. Now he must face the great Greek hope in the next round. The young gun has been taken to four sets in each of his matches. Does he have enough left in the tank to take three sets off the Fedex?

In the battle of the long names it was the Greek youngster who won through. His one-hander was flying, and his long hair flowing as he edged through 6-3, 3-6, 7-6[7], 6-4. When he nicked the fourth set he took the match away with it. Seeded 15 here, there aren’t many who think he’ll finish outside the top ten comes year's end. His 36-24 winner ratio is a tad conservative. And he needs to increase his 54% win rate on the second serve, but these are minor details. He is playing well, even if he has been on court far longer than his opponent. To beat Fed he will need to extend the points, get his older opponent moving side-to-side and try to avoid letting that forehand dictate the match. He needs to stop the Swiss superstar from getting rhythm too. If he can get into the groove it'll be tricky to win.

Nadal was in sparkling form in front of a raucous RLA crowd. This wasn’t one of those Nadal matches where the plucky underdog hangs around and pushes the Spaniard. Demon did not nick a set. He didn’t even break. Yet he managed to make a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 spanking last well over two hours. How he did that is amazing. His 21-24 winner ratio was just a little too conservative; he needed to go for his shots. Nadal broke five times and cruised. Alex De Minaur will be back and he will be seeded higher when he returns next year. He should be well entrenched in the top 30 now and that is a major achievement. Nadal will go on to face Tomas Berdych. He has a great record against the Czech but he has lost to him here in Melbourne Park. Can Tomas spring an upset?

Another slam, another choke. Ferver went down to Marin Cilic despite taking a 6-4, 6-3 lead. The Croat rolled to a 6-1, 7-6[10], 6-3 victory in the last three sets. It lasted four hours and 18 minutes. And Cilic escapes again. In 2010 in Melbourne he survived Bernie Tomic in five, coming back from two sets to one down. He edged Delpo in five two rounds later, before going five again in the quarters against Andy Roddick. And he would have beaten Murray in the semi too except he choked and the Scot came back. At the 2014 US Open he edged Gilles Simon in five in the fourth round. At Wimbledon in 2015 he beat Ricardas Berankis and John Isner in five, in rounds two and three. The scoreline in the Isner match? 7-6[4], 6-7[8], 6-4, 6-7[4], 12-10. At the 2015 US he was pushed to five in R3 by Mikhail Kukushkin but won 6-1 in the 5th. That match had three breakers. Later on he knocked out the far more exciting and likeable Jo-W Tsonga in five before winning diddly squat against Nole in the semi. In 2017 in London he beat Gilles Muller in five in the quarterfinals, helped by the fact Muller had gone to 13-11 in the 5th to beat Nadal the round before. At last year’s French Open it was Fabio Fognini who went down in five to the Croat. In the third round of the 2018 US Open he beat De Minaur in five sets, coming back from two down. So Verdasco cannot let him in, even a little bit. Unless you’re Roger Federer or you are facing him in the quarterfinal of a slam he’ll probably have you. Up next is Agut. That looks like it’ll be a long one too. God help us all.

Grigor Dimitrov is still here. He beat Thomas Fabbiano 7-6[5], 6-4, 6-4 in a an enjoyable, if inevitable, match. He won through in a shade over two hours. He and Frances Tiafoe play in the fourth round. The winner gets probably get a crack at an allegedly hurt Nadal. As soon as one of them wins they’ll be billed as a dark horse for the title, so this is a dark horse Super Bowl. Grigor is playing very nice tennis. His 37-33 winner ratio needs a little work, but winning 61 percent of second serve points is a fantastic mark.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN.

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