Sunday, January 14, 2018

Australian Open Preview

Hi All. Galileo here.

Let’s get into some predictions. As you know the WTA rankings are totally random right now. There could be a new number one every week. In the ATP things are hardly any better. There are a lot of big names missing in both games. No Andy Murray or Kei Nishikori. No Serena Williams or Vika Azarenka. It is shaping up to be a fascinating tournament.

=Doubles SF=
Herbert/Mahut [4] d. [9] Lopez/Lopez
Kontinen/Peers [2] d. [5] Murray/Soares
=Doubles Final=
Kontinen/Peers [2] d. [4] Lopez/Lopez

1. RAFA NADAL ESP...The opponents don’t matter. The tactics don’t matter. It’s all in how hurt Nadal is. We know he is on borrowed time with those knees. But we don’t know how much time he has. We have no idea if he has weeks or years left. And if he gets another bad knee injury does he pull the plug on his career? He is the best player in this quarter by far but the injury surrounds him with question marks. Victor Estrella Burgos is a horrible opening round match-up for the Spaniard. The Dominican is going to move him round the place. He is going to make Nadal work. Damir Dzumhur and John Isner shouldn’t trouble Nadal too much, but rising stars Casper Ruud and Nicolas Jarry are looking for a breakout performance. He also has to make the quarterfinals to stay as number one in the world.
2. MARIN CILIC CRO...The Croat seems to have recovered from the mental trauma of that Wimbledon final. If Nadal falters or withdraws he has a very easy path to the semi-finals. He has not performed here since he made the semi-finals in 2010. But he has a huge serve and forehand. He has won a slam before. You count him out at your peril.
3. PABLO CARRENO BUSTA ESP...It is going to be Cilic or Nadal who makes the semi-finals from this group but the Spaniard is well placed to make a deep run if the stars align.
DARK HORSE: JOHN ISNER USA...He has weapons. He has played well here before. He knows he can beat Nadal. He has a beautifully easy path to the fourth round. But he is not in America. And that will always impact upon his chances.
WILD HORSE: GILLES MULLER LUX...He has some seeding protection and a simple gamestyle. He is a savvy veteran with a knowledge of how to win. He has a workable draw and could knock off some pre-tournament favourites. And Nadal certainly does not want to see him.
DONKEY: PABLO CUEVAS URU...This BACKSPINNER had forgotten he was even a seed. Even making his seed would be a surprise. He is better on clay and that is also where he makes all his points and his living.
R1 MATCH TO WATCH: Quentin Halys [Q] vs. [Q] Casper Ruud
=In the End...=
Nadal’s injury woes come back to hurt him. He is clearly struggling and his lack of warm up tournaments should prove problematic. Look for Muller to go on a nice run and then for Cilic to capitalize on an opportunity.


1. GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL...He is the third best player in the world. You could argue it is because of injuries to other players if you like. But the truth is the form he has displayed and the shots he is hitting are world class. With Rafa Nadal’s injury he should go on a run here, but the quarter he is in is very difficult. He has J-W Tsonga, Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock around him. It makes for a very difficult path to the latter stages. The key match-up is Dimitrov versus Kyrgios in the fourth round. The winners going to the finals.
2. NICK KYRGIOS AUS...He plays his best tennis here and at SW19. He is healthy and coming off a title. He is playing the best tennis we have seen him play for some time. The forehand and serve are really clicking and we know how well he can ride the crowd. It all comes down to his matchup with Dimitrov who he has already beaten this year. I think he is going to attack the Bulgarian’s second serve and bully his forehand wing. It is going to be a night match classic that.
3. JACK SOCK USA...We need consistent slam results from the young American. And we aren’t getting them at the moment. But he has the eighth seed. So let’s see what he has. Kohl does lurk nearby and he knows how to beat favored Americans in Melbourne.
DARK HORSE: JO-WILFRIED TSONGA FRA...A former finalist with nothing to lose and limited time left in the game makes him very dangerous indeed. He has to beat Kyrgios and Dimitrov in back-to-back matches to go on a run here, but why isn’t that possible?
WILD HORSE: ANDREY RUBLEV RUS...The young Russian has an amazing game and immense promise. Is this when he makes his run? He has Ferrer and Baghdatis in his path before he has to face the third seeded Bulgarian. It won’t be easy.
DONKEY: DAVID FERRER ESP...No, I don’t have any faith in the Spaniard. He had a good result in Auckland but a long run here is out of the question.
=In the End...=
Dimitrov has a great shot at the title. There isn’t anybody too scary in his part of the draw and he can handle Rafa Nadal. But he will be undone by a crowd-backed Nick Kyrgios.


1. ALEX ZVEREV GER...He has earned the benefit of the doubt. And he should go all the way to the semi-finals but he could end up having to play former champions back-to-back-to-back. He has Nole in his section and Stan Wawrinka in his quarter. His brother and Hyeon Chung loom large in the third round but aside from that the opening three rounds shouldn’t worry him. The big questions lie with Djokovic and Wawrinka. Zverev is going to be solid, predictable and dependable. He will hit great backhands. And he will not knock himself out.
2. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB...He comes into this as the 14th seed and six time champion. But he hasn’t won a slam since the 2016 edition of Roland Garros. He has not looked himself in ages. And it remains to be seen if 14 actually is where his ranking should be. But this is his slam and he could win number seven. He has to deal with Donald Young right out of the gate. He has Albert Ramos Vinolas and Zverev near him. He is 30. How many shots left does he have at winning a slam?
3. STAN WAWRINKA SUI....There is no pressure on the ninth seed. He can win three rounds and look good. He could win the whole thing and we wouldn’t be surprised. He has a really nice path to the quarterfinals. If he can make it there who knows how far he can go?
DARK HORSE: HYEON CHUNG KOR...He is due a breakout run at some point. Taking out Zverev on the way to the quarters would do it.
WILD HORSE: DONALD YOUNG USA...He has a chance to upset Djokovic. He has the weapons and talent to do it. He has had the big wins before. He could take advantage of an aging Djoker.
DONKEY: DOMINIC THIEM AUT...I don’t see any red clay and that means in week two we won’t see any Domi Thiem.
=In the End...=
Novak Djokovic does well and sees off Zverev in round four but cannot do it twice. It seems we are destined for another Djokovic/Wawrinka classic. And it will live up to the billing.


1. ROGER FEDERER SUI...Is there any point writing anything here? The only seed near Federer is Ritchie Gasquet and we all know how that match will go. He has Milos Raonic in his section but the Canuck is hurt. His body cannot hold up over the course of a tournament. Federer should ease to the quarterfinals.
2. JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO ARG...David Goffin deserves to be a top eight player. And he is hard to beat but he lacks the weapons to spar with the giant Argentine. Delpo is going to bully him when and if they end up playing. But to get there he has to face Frances Tiafoe, Tomas Berdych or Alex De Minaur. Oh, and Benoit Paire is in there, too. So there are a lot of mines. But the serve and forehand are tremendous. Plus he is in seriously good form and was in slam winning form for some of last year.
3. DAVID GOFFIN BEL...He should play Fabio Fognini in the third round. And that will be entertaining. He could make a run to the quarters, but can he really handle Delpo? Goffin’s best chance of a big slam result will come France.
DARK HORSE: JORDAN THOMPSON AUS...Sam Querrey’s form is a mystery. Raonic’s health is a mystery. So why couldn’t "Thommo" make a go of it?
WILD HORSE: FABIO FOGNINI ITA...For as long as there is breath left in my body and his career...
DONKEY: SAM QUERREY USA...Every now and then the American just throws in a funny loss.
=In the End...=
We get another Federer and Del Potro quarterfinal classic.




...Why not? We’re due a big Kyrgios run somewhere, and Federer will want the top ranking.

=Doubles SF=
Safarova/Strycova [4] d. [5] Babos/Mladenovic
Barty/Dellacqua [3] d. [16] Krejcikova/Siniakova
=Doubles Final=
Barty/Dellacqua [3] d. [4] Safarova/Strycova

#18 Barty d. #1 Halep
#6 Ka. Pliskova d. #9 Konta
#3 Muguruza d. #21 Kerber
#8 Garcia d. #17 Keys
#5 V. Williams d. #23 Gavrilova
#13 Stephens d. #4 Svitolina
#7 Ostapenko d. #10 Vandeweghe
#2 Wozniacki d. #16 Pavlyuchenkova

...Simona Halep has made 7 singles appearances in Melbourne. Four of them ended in the first round, including the last two. At the three other slams her win percentage is 67-68 per cent. Here it is 58 per cent. She faces Destanee Aiava. It will be under the lights and her opponent will have nothing to lose. That is a trap game. That is the kind of game she could lose. Petra Kvitova is also here, but she hasn’t done anything here recently. No, the biggest threat here is Ash Barty. Ajla Tomljanovic is in the second quarter and she is a dark horse to do quite well. You can’t trust Lucie Safarova here. And this is Jo Konta’s best slam. But Ka.Pliskova has made the quarterfinals at the last four non-grass slams. And she is due a big result.

Garbine Muguruza is the best player on the planet and must be eyeing the Grand Slam. She made the quarters last time and is too good not to get there this time. As usual, she comes in with a couple of injury concerns, but that’s no reason to count her out. Her nearest seed is A-Rad, but she is a spent force. In the third round we get a clash between Ana Sevastova and Angie Kerber. That should be a great match. Kerber has looked better and a fourth round [or further] run is the next step. In the end, Mugu has a workable draw and she’ll take advantage.

In quarter four we have a great third round match on the horizon: Mladenovic versus Keys. And I’ll take Keys because she has a 3-1 h2h advantage, with all the matches played on hard courts, and she has been here before. In 2015 she made the semi-finals and I think the crowds will barrack for her. But I have a sneaky feeling this year is going to be the year of Caroline Garcia. And the last of Lucic-Baroni’s career.
Venus Williams has nothing to lose. She can just do whatever she wants. She is so dangerous at a slam she has never won. She won’t win the French but she has another shot or two to win the Aussie. She will use her final appearance from last year and go on another big run. She opens with Belinda Bencic but I think she coasts to the quarters. Dasha Gavrilova has to play a revitalized Julia Goerges in the third round, but she is a different player at home. She will make it three fourth round appearances in a row. Do watch out for Elise Mertens, though.

Belgian women have done well in Australia in the last 15 years. It is very hard to buy Elina Svitolina anywhere except on clay. On the dirt she is fantastic, there’s no questioning her. But off it at slam level she has to prove it. Sloane Stephens loves this slam. And she’s won one now so she will be extremely dangerous.

There’s nobody in Jelena Ostapenko’s way who could beat her. Anett Kontaveit is likely to giver her a stiff challenge in the third round and that will be quite the match between two rising stars. Sam Stosur, Carla Suarez-Navarro and Monica Puig are all here and unseeded. But we should give CoCo Vandeweghe the benefit of the doubt. I like Taylor Townsend’s draw here. But A-Pavs has good seeding and a nice path through to the round of 16. But she has a 1-7 record against the Dane.

#6 Ka. Pliskova d. #18 Barty
#3 Muguruza d. #8 Garcia
#5 V. Williams d. #13 Stephens
#7 Ostapenko d. #2 Wozniacki

...Pliskova’s experience and huge serve will prove too much for Barty. Muguruza has more consistency than Garcia and is a lot more mentally stable. Williams should get revenge here. Stephens should be hit by the maiden slam hangover. It is nigh on impossible to win two slams in a row if you have never won one in the past. And Ostapenko goes from 4-0 to 5-0 against Wozniacki in the h2h. We know Woz doesn’t win slams and she’ll lose in the quarters here.

#3 Muguruza d. #6 Ka. Pliskova
#5 Williams d. #7 Ostapenko

...Muguruza adds another chapter to a thrilling rivalry and takes charge of the battle for the top spot. Williams edges out Ostapenko in a gritty semi-final.

#3 Muguruza d. #5 Williams

...Muguruza again denies Williams in the final.

Go to WTA Backspin. They have tater tots.

I'll be seeing you all soon and far too frequently for your liking.


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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Awesome Tennis Facts You May Not Know About

1. The first tennis versions weren't as elegant as today because people hit the ball with their palms. Can you imagine the pain and the colors of the palm after one match? No wonder people decided to use racquets.

2. The moment the racquet became a mandatory part of tennis it was important to use the right string materials. One of the things used in the past was a net made from animal gut.

3. Tennis courts didn't always look like they do today. Today's rectangular court was introduced in 1875. Before that, the court was smaller and actually in the shape of the hourglass.

4. The grass was a part of a tennis court for hundreds of years, but it is not very popular today. New modern materials like carpet and specialized rubber have kicked the grass from most courts. Wimbledon is one of the last tournament played on the grass.

5. The first modern tennis ball was actually white, and that was good when TVs were black and white. With the first colorized TVs, people had trouble finding the ball on the screen so the white ball was changed to a brighter color. Three colors which were taken into consideration were yellow, orange and bright pink.

6. When you look at the Wimbledon trophy you will notice that it is made with care and so many details. But, did you notice the pineapple on the trophy?
Nobody actually knows why there is a pineapple on the trophy, but there are theories. One of them is that the fruit was so rare in the past (especially in England) that one who had pineapple was considered rich and powerful. Due to that, it symbolizes wealth.

7. The title of the fastest serve ever recorded goes to Aussie Sam Groth, who struck the ball with 163.4 mph speed. The serve record is "unofficial," though, having occurred in a challenger event. John Isner holds the official record at 157.2 mph. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, on another hand, hit the ball with an amazing 131 mph speed and holds the same record for women.

8. The oldest tennis players are still pretty impressive at tennis. In 2017, the oldest active players were Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui, who is 46 years old, and Japan’s Kimiko Date, who announced her retirement a few weeks before turning 47.

9. Tennis matches usually last for hours, but the longest match ever held was long even for the tennis criteria. The match lasted for three and a half days, to be exact; 3 days, 11 hours and 5 minutes. The rivals were John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, with the winner of the marathon being Isner by a 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 score.

10. What kind of list would it be if we didn't mention one of the shortest matches along with the longest? The shortest grand slam final in the modern era lasted for 34 minutes, with Steffi Graf defeating Natalia Zvereva 6-0/6-0 to win the 1988 French Open.

Author's bio:
Mark Cop is a soccer player and a fierce foosball player who loves to write about foosball on his blog. There he shares his knowledge by writing about foosball, foosball tables and maintenance. If you want to learn more about foosball make sure that you check out his blog the Foosball Zone.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Wk.43- Happy Fed-oween

Hi All. Galileo here.

Do you ever look at a player and wonder if they will make the Hall of Fame? It is something commentators love to say; great shot from the "future Hall of Famer." If Roger Federer is playing, then that’s fine. If it is Andy Murray, that would be fine, too. If it’s Stan Wawrinka you’d feel comfortable saying that he's in.

On the WTA, it gets murky. There are several players who have never been number one in singles who would get in for sure. I’d say Sam Stosur is more likely than Caro Wozniacki to get in, though they’ll both be fine, of course. But then she has all that doubles experience and is the only player outside a Williams to have won a slam in all three disciplines and be currently active (now that Martina Hingis is retired again). Both are likely to be inducted.

But what about Juan Martin Del Potro?

Andres Gomez is not in the Hall of Fame. There is no Michael Stich (though he is a nominee for the upcoming Class of 2018). But surely Del Potro would get in, right?

Well, he won the Davis Cup. He has had about four careers. He has that slam. When he beat Rafa Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to win that semi-final in 2009, well, he played the best match of anyone to beat a top three player that decade. His forehand is a legendary weapon and his mental strength is an underrated attribute.

His 20-9 record in finals isn’t good. He should be up around the 30 mark to have a shot. He is 0-3 in Masters finals. He has, however, got two Olympic medals, a good record at the Finals tournament. His career has been full of ups and down. He has played like a world number one before and he would have been a top ten mainstay if not for injuries. If he can stick around for another year, win a few more titles and take a second slam he should be good. But right now he won’t get in and that would be a real shame.

Wawrinka doesn’t have his flashes of brilliance, but he has three slams and the Davis Cup. He has been to four slam finals, and has been a solid player for five years. He should get in. If Delpo hadn’t been injured he would have been a lock by now, as well.

Oh, and during the offseason, Todd and I will talk about a little mini Martina Hingis featurette. Top five female player in the Open era? She is up there. We’d just like to wish her all the best in her new life.

S: Roger Federer def. Juan Martin del Potro 6-7(5)/6-4/6-3
D: Dodig/Granollers d. F.Martin/Roger-Vasselin

S: Lucas Pouille def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1/6-4
D: Bopanna/Cuevas d. Demoliner/Querrey

...Only one man has ever won one tournament eight times or more on different surfaces. Federer has won nine times in Halle and eight in Basel. He also has eight Wimbledon titles, but that’s an obvious one. This man has 1,378 matches under his belt. He has 1,129 wins. His 81.9% win rate is the second best of all time for those with at least 1000 matches. Nadal is 82.6. Jimmy Connors is 81.8. If you play Roger Federer on an even footing you have a one in five chance of winning. He has 144 finals, just two behind Ivan Lendl. He has 191 semi-finals, two more than Lendl. This guy’s longevity, ability to win and weaponry is, if anything, even better than it was before. He wins for the same reasons that Venus does. It is like clockwork. The shots have a rhythm. The forehand feels like an old friend and the serve is still the same basic motion. The opponents change, sure, and your movement isn’t what it once was, fine. But if it worked against Canas and Agassi, why wouldn’t it work against Goffin and Kyrgios? And if it worked against Mauresmo and Graf why not against Halep and Garcia? This week he beat Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3 in his first match. The youngster was born in 1998, the same year that Federer made his first tournament main draw. Next Federer beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3. In the quarterfinals he was pushed to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Adrian Mannarino. In the semi David Goffin made a brief cameo in his 6-1, 6-2 loss. In the final, Del Potro actually managed to challenge him. Federer recovered to win 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-3. Federer was awesome. He has never looked better.
...Out of nowhere we had a classic Tsonga run. He edged Karan Khachanov 6-7[2], 6-4, 6-3 to open up his campaign. The key for the Frenchman has always been finding consistency. The aggression he has, but he cannot always find the consistency to match. In the next match he should have lost. Instead he survived Damir Dzumhur 6-7[5], 7-6[7], 6-1. Dzumhur should have found a way in the second set but he couldn’t even get a match point. This happened at the tail end of the match and it really is a good call from the umpire.

Having escaped twice, Tsonga was looking for better form. And he found it as he upset top seed Alex Zverev 7-6[6], 6-2. He was starting down the barrel at 0-3, 30-30 but recovered, forced a breaker and then clung on to nick the first set. But Zverev responded with an immediate break. The German, very strangely, then fell apart. Tsonga kept himself in the hunt for London. His 7-6[5], 7-5 nervy win over Kohl put him in another Vienna final. It is his second in a row. He also won the event in 2011. In the final he was denied again. He was very limp in a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Lucas Pouille. Still it was a good run from the Frenchie.
...Have you heard of Stefanos Tsitsipas? Of course, you have. Well, what about the guy who beat him in the final of the Brest challenger? Have you heard of Corentin Moutet?

He looks 12 but is actually 18, and his lefty forehand is enormous. He also has a pretty nice backhand up the line. At a tournament where none of the seeds achieved their seeding, he started off with a solid 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Norbert Gombos. In the next round he saw off French qualifier Tristan Lamasine 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-3. He spanked Gleb Sakharov, also of France, 6-1, 6-3 in the quarters. He edged past Yannick Maden of Germany in the semi-finals, taking four of 11 break points and scraping a tight set second set to win 4-6, 7-6[2], 6-4. And in the final it was a massive upset, as he beat the Greek wunderkid 6-2, 7-6[8]. And if you want to check out that one you can.

Moutet rose 64 places to 160 in the world. It is a career high. One day these two might meet in the latter stages of a slam. You never know.
...The Frenchman is coming to the end of a charming, if underachieving, career and we should enjoy the shot-making and upsets while we can, because he is still effective and he can still produce extraordinary things on occasion. That backhand still sings and stings. He has a unique game-style which is starting to die out. This week he beat Feli Lopez 6-2, 6-3 in the first round. There are over 900 wins on that court and more than 1100 matches worth of experience, too. He outgunned Domi Thiem 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the second round. Down early in the first set he recovered and dominated the second set but couldn’t seem to take any of his myriad of opportunities to win it. Despite being in front of a home crowd Thiem crumbled to a 6-1 loss. He is assured of a spot at the WTF, but it is still a poor effort on home soil. In the quarters, Gasquet went down extremely quietly to compatriot Pouille 7-6[5], 6-1.

...We have another one of these mystifying, incomplete, overly talented, unpredictable, brilliant Frenchies. Who knows when they’ll turn up? Who knows if they can keep the form up from point to point, let alone set to set. Tournament to tournament? Forget about it. Unseeded in Vienna he opened with a win over hometown favourite Ofner 6-4, 6-3. Then he beat Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 7-6[8]. He spanked Ritchie Gasquet 7-6[5], 6-1. And in the semi-final he came back from a set down to beat Edmund. He saw six break points come and go in the first. He got a 4-0 love lead in the breaker only to see it disappear. He has multiple set points erased and then he lost the set. But he responded by taking the next two fairly routinely. He shrugged and went right back to it. And then in the final he, of course, routed Jo-W Tsonga 6-1, 6-4. It was such a French performance. With the French nothing seems to faze them or bring them down. This is a weakness, too, but sometimes it can be their biggest strength. The ability to just get on with it is so valuable.
...Diego Schwartzman, ranked outside the top 25, is in contention for the WTF. Isner, Sock and Ramos-Vinolas could also qualify by winning Paris. All Querrey and Anderson had to do was win a couple of matches in Austria. Do that and they had a great chance. But they couldn’t. It is disappointing to see two very good players not wanting it enough. Anderson lost 6-4, 6-4 to Garcia-Lopez while Sam Querrey choked. The American cracked 26 aces and a racket during the match. He held two match points during the second tiebreaker. And he got another one on his opponent’s serve in the third set but still couldn’t close out the match. It’s insane that he couldn’t find one of those match points when he was fighting for a spot at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.
...Ending the year both on a high and a disappointment, Edmund capped off a good season with one last run. He started off with a great win over Ferrer, taking out the Spaniard 6-2, 7-6[5]. He met Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak in the second round, and he edged him by the slightest of margins. He was up a break in the first but lost it when he served for the opener. He won the breaker but lost a break [again] and then the breaker in the next set. With no breaks in the third it went to ANOTHER breaker. The Brit clung on to move through. In the next round it was straightforward against J-L Struff, Edmund winning that 6-2, 7-5. But in the semi-final he choked. He went down to Pouille 7-6[7], 4-6, 3-6. He wasted a good comeback and the momentum. The difference between the top guys is the mental strength. Edmund didn’t have it when it counted. He should finish this year at about 50 in the world. He finished last year knocking on the top 40. So whilst he’s gone backwards a bit, at least he hasn’t totally lost ground.

1. VIENNA R1 – Ramos-Vinolas d. Querrey 3-6. 7-6[7], 7-6[3]
...Have you ever seen Sam Querrey smash a racket? Nope, neither have I. But he is frustrated because he knows you probably only get one or two shots at the WTF in your life if you are the American. And he just blew one. He didn’t just blow all those match points, he blew break points and had a mini-break in the third set breaker, up 2-1. But he lost four points in a row. The crowd enjoyed two hours and 52 minutes worth of drama.
2. Basel Final – Federer d. Del Potro 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-3
...Del Potro took a lot of momentum from his 6-4, 6-4 win over Cilic in the semi. And he dominated Federer throughout the first set. But Fedex slowly began to come back. And when he won the most epic of points at 4-5 30-40 in the second set the whole thing turned on its head. The Swiss began to roll and roll and soon had the title won.


Del Potro [13] d. [1] Nadal
Tsonga [11] d. [17] Pouille
Del Potro [13] d. [11] Tsonga

...Funny things always happen at the last tournament of the year, and Delpo and Tsonga both know they need a big result to get a big reward. They are both capable of it. Nadal doesn’t do well here, generally. And Zverev has already gone. I like Pouille to finish in the top 15 in the world again. He did it last year too, right?

Dasha is finished, but if you want Aussie action then you can watch Ash Barty. She is a set away from reaching the semi-finals at that funny WTA "Elite" thing. If she can take a set off Kerber she should win through to the final, though it all depends on games and stuff.

Thanks all.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wk.41- The Empire Strikes Back

Hi All. Galileo here.

Usually this BACKSPINNER will ramble, go on tangents, and then call it an intro. But today we will do something different, something unusual. To celebrate Rafa and Roger playing, with the top ranking on the line for the Spaniard, we will do a sort of live text stream thing. The next exciting BACKSPIN experiment we know you love. We wouldn’t do this with any old match. No Milos Raonic versus Gilles Simon affair would warrant this.

The tone was set in the first game. Federer took an early 15-40 lead on the Rafa serve. He took the game in deuce off back-to-back booming backhands. The first clipped the line and the second was an ambitious pass, which Federer would not have made two years ago. He guessed right - how many times have they played?

And suddenly it’s 0-2, 30-30. If you’re prepping for a big match and then you go down a break immediately it is such a whiplash effect. Nadal clung on to his serve the second time, but to be down so early on is never encouraging.

An epic, brutal, exchange christens the fourth game. A gem from the commentator: “You know, I’ve come to the conclusion that this guy’s pretty good.”

Federer hits a few errant ones but hangs on, thanks to a huge booming serve down the tee. In the next game, the Swiss forehand is still singing while Nadal begins to find his serve a bit more. Indeed, he finished the game with an ace.

In the 6th game it is one of those minute-long affairs that seem to be a Swiss specialty. Two aces. No rallies. 50 seconds. Is that even possible? Nadal, predictably, does not seem phased. Commentator in with the “he has to weather the storm and hope his level drops” comment.
That one is a classic. We’ve been hearing it for years. With Federer you know his level may not drop.

Key moment now. 30-15, second serve. Nadal is totally on top of Federer, dominating the rally but great defence from the Swiss and Rafa errs on the booming forehand winner down the line. Now 30-30 and second serve. Rafa finds a bit of magic, handling a huge crosscourt backhand from the Swiss with aplomb. An ace seals the deal, but a shaky hold from the Spaniard.

Federer holds easily again in the eighth game. Spaniard races out to a 30-0 lead in the 9th. Federer wins another Hawkeye challenge, but Nadal is up 40-0. He wraps up a routine hold to love with a beautiful angled ace.

Federer takes the first set on an ace, winning 31 points to Rafa’s 23. 7 aces to 4. Federer is winning 83 per cent of his second serve. That’s insane. The winner of the first set in this rivalry wins over 60 per cent of the time. That’s reflective of the tour, you would imagine.
Federer is a set away from five wins in a row. Nadal did that from 2005-06. He also did it from 2008-09.

We open with a lovely rally, Federer forced into going big. He misses. On the next big shot he hits a crisp winner down the line. Another rocket for Federer down 40-15 on Rafa’s first service game. But he runs around the backhand on the next point. Rafa reads it and strikes.
More crisp volleying from Federer sees us to 1-1. Rafa has to change tactics. But he holds to love with ease.

Roger knows he will get a chance at the break. All he has to do is wait patiently. In the 4th game, Federer goes right back to Nadal and gets away with it. The smarmy sun of a gun. But a few sloppy errors and it’s 30-30. Is the door open a crack? No. It is emphatically shut by a serve-volley and then a big serve.

A shaky start to the game. From 0-15 to 15-30. Only a huge forehand saves him from 15-40. Federer hits another beautiful stroke down the line, on the backhand this time, to bring up deuce. A Rafa error gives up the first break point of the set. But a humongous canon down the line saves it. Federer finds a beautiful drop volley from nowhere to bring up another break point. No 36-year old should be this good. Pressure now as Rafa misses his first delivery.

And Rafa misses a routine backhand. Federer twelve points away. Fed hits a beautiful angled backhand. And he pressures him at the net. Rafa’s started to swing. Commentator unfairly says the Spaniard is getting "spanked." But at a set and 4-2 down it is almost over.

Nadal goes up 30-0, but he looks beaten. Federer has won 85% of his first serve points. But he blows the simplest of backhand putaways. It was a nasty bomb of a serve, too. But he seals the game with an exciting rally. He puts the Fed away with a gorgeous drop volley.

And two games later it was over.

S: Roger Federer def. Rafael Nadal 6-4/6-3
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Kubot/Melo

...He didn’t drop a set. It’s a vintage week from Federer. He is 94-49 in finals and 64-24 in hard court finals. He is now equal with Lendl with 94 career titles, too. But by 190 to 189 he has more semi-finals. The Czech does have three more finals, though. Federer has only made three finals in Shanghai, but has won twice. We could talk about Fed all day, but in the end why bother? It’s all the same things. We have had 17 years of winning. We have had seventeen years of magic. What else is there to say?

...That Wimbledon final loss is enough to mentally debilitate a player for years, but the Croat has recovered so quickly. He strung together wins in New York and now wins on this streak. He achieved his seeding here and sometimes that is all you have to do. He didn’t lose a set until Rafa stopped him, and the serve has been working brilliantly. He has decent results in Paris but the big test is what he can do at the tour finals. He needs to win a small title somewhere to really boost his confidence again and to find form before he has to take on the world’s best, but this nice run will be encouraging. He could win the WTF. There are so many injuries and Thiem is bound to disappoint. Aside from Federer, he really could beat anyone.
...This is the kid who won singles and doubles at NCAA level in 2016. He has just won the Fairfield challenger, his maiden title. He beat Kozlov, King and Sandgren for the loss of just one set. He beat another riser, Chris O’Connell, in the semi-finals, 6-4, 7-5. In the final he beat Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-2. It’s so hard to keep track of all the up and coming players, but this American is one to watch out for. It is so hard to win the NCAA. And now to win a challenger in the year he turns pro, well, he just looks to be the real thing. So keep an eye out for the name McDonald. You’ll be seeing him on centre court soon, no doubt.

...Dimitrov is probably ten wins against the biggest players away from a potential Hall of Fame career. You have that Wimbledon semi-final against Djokovic and one this year against Nadal. If he had won just ten of those matches he might be a top three player with higher aspirations like enshrinement in Newport. If he had beaten Nadal every time they had played this year, well, can you imagine the results? But for Baby Gasquet it has always been a bit disappointing, just like the player he resembles. He might be the most underachieving player around. He needed over two and a half hours to win his first round match, against Ryan Harrison. He won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[6]. He had to save three match points.
...Before the summer swing in the U.S. this BACKSPINNER thought Rafa would choke and capitulate on the brutal hard courts. Instead he has been imperious. He has risen to the challenge and dominated the tour. Only Roger has been able to stop him all season long. His form and the way he has been hitting the ball have been reminiscent of 2008 Nadal. The final this run saw him escape Dimitrov [again!] and dismantle Fognini. He will be finishing as the number one and it is his best achievement to date. This is the comeback to top off all comebacks. After all the injuries, all the pain, all the tears, he is back. It is a pleasant surprise.
...The Austrian always fades down the stretch. How many times must we talk about his lack of scheduling nous? There are some sports stories that get boring - ask Todd about the inability of Washington’s teams to turn amazing regular season form into actual results. [Sad, but true. The Nationals losing Game 5 of a five-game 1st Round series at home in excruciatingly -- and, in this case, truly weird -- fashion is getting old... though the Capitals have a few decades on them on that front, so there's that. Go Skins and Wizards. Please. - tds]

Ask this BACKSPINNER and his fellow New England fans about Deflategate. And this Thiem nonsense is the latest in tradition. He is brilliant until July before he steadily gets worse and worse. But will he change his scheduling? Of course not. Every season the same. It gets irritating after a while. He could have made a run at the top ranking if he’d wanted to.
...Viktor Troicki (or tricky Troicki) rode his luck in a few breakers this week to record some big wins. He has been a part of Serbia’s impressive tennis empire. Djokovic needed a deputy and he got two. Alongside a strong women’s team, Serbia was one of the best countries in the world for a spell. Now, with no Ivanovic or Jankovic, and the other young talent not showing up as expected, with Nole injured and Tipsarevic on the cusp of retirement, it’s all gone. But three or four tournaments a year Troicki puts in a huge result. This tournament was one of them. He beat Denis Shapovalov in the first round 6-7[3], 6-3, 6-0. In the next round he sprung a surprise on Domi Thiem, taking out the 5th seed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6[5]. With his first top ten win of the season under his belt [0-4 previously] he grew in confidence. He beat Isner 6-4, 7-6[4] to make the quarters. He almost made the semi-final, winning the first set against Delpo 6-4. But the Argentine won the next two sets to escape 4-6, 1-6, 6-4. A good week for Troicki and one that will see him back into the top 50.

1. Shanghai R2 – Dimitrov d. Harrison 3-6, 6-3, 7-6[6]
...Down 4-2 in the final set he bounced back from 3-6 in the breaker to win. This was a high quality contest between two players we thought would be top 10 mainstays. The Harrison forehand going into the Dimi backhand combined with their awesome athleticism is always something good to see. But tell me this, if you lead a breaker 5-2 with two serves to come how do you lose? Harrison missed a volley and a forehand. And that was the match.
2. Shanghai R3 – Del Potro d. Zverev 3-6, 7-6[5], 6-4
...Zverev came out firing in this match. He made Delpo look a bit silly for the first 40 minutes. But the Argentine, like he did against Thiem in New York, slowly fought his way back. He took the second set and looked as if he would roll to a win. But instead Zverev found another gear and didn’t let himself lose any momentum. The forehand of Delpo found top gear and after that it was always going to be an uphill battle for the German. He still had a good match, hitting 22 aces and doing more off the forehand wing than expected.

3. Shanghai F – Federer d. Nadal 6-3, 6-4


Carreno Busta [1] d. [4] Kohlschreiber
Mannarino [3] d. [2] Ramos-Vinolas
Mannarino [3] d. [1] Carreno Busta

...The player that you can trust the most is the third seed. Busta will do fine, as will Ramos-Vinolas, but Mannarino has the form. Seppi is also here and has done well here previously. But he is way past it.

Goffin [1] d. [5] Ferrer
Kyrgios [3] d. [2] Tsonga
Goffin [1] d. [3] Kyrgios

...Yes, the European Open. What a name for the tournament. It is going to be in Antwerp. Surely it should be in Berlin or Paris. There is a lack of uninjured talent here. Goffin is in great form and at home. Ferrer should do well in this weak draw. And Kyrgios has weapons.

Dimitrov [1] d. [6] Fognini
Del Potro [4] d. [2] Anderson
Dimitrov [1] d. [4] Del Potro

...It’s more fun when Fognini does well. Dimi and Delpo are in fine form, of course. Anderson will have confidence from his run at the U.S. Open. This is the tournament with the most depth and best storylines.

Not playing the doubles in Hong Kong has paid dividends for Dasha. She beat Japanese qualifier Kato in her first match and then saw off Shelby Rogers in three. Lizette Cabrera was up next for the 7th seed and that was a tricky encounter, with Dasha edging through 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. Todd can tell you all about her. In the semi, she spanked Jenny Brady 6-0, 7-5.

But in the final she couldn’t get over the line. She took the first set but lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-7[5]. The match, played through a typhoon, saw 16 breaks of serve [taking away the breaker, that is roughly half the games] and A-Pavs served for it only to blow two match points and get broken. But in the breaker she managed to win one of the longest matches, including interruptions, that we’ve had this year.

Will skipping the doubles help out in Russia, too? At an event without a defending champion (Sveta withdrew) the defending finalist can step up. So far, she's defeated Kristyna Pliskova to reach the 2nd Round.

Currently on WTA Backspin...

As a follow-up to the original Court of Appeals, The Best Player Never to be Number One: The Men.... it's time for The Best Player Never to be Number One: The Women.

Thanks all.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wk.40- Kings and Queens, Those Kind of Things and Up-and-Coming Teens

Hi All. Galileo here.

A common theme on BACKSPIN is the defense of whoever happens to be the world number one. Rafael Nadal, with his title in China this week, has locked up the world number one ranking for the year. Not mathematically, no, but can you see Fedex tracking him down now? But the WTA has done it once again. The best female player in the world has won a title this year. Thats right - one. She got there by making a final. She is only number one because other players lost. It’s the most Simona Halep way to ascend to the top. Not by her own hand.

She lost to Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-0 in Cincy. She has just been dispatched by Caroline Garcia. And the title she won, in Madrid, she won because her opponent, Kiki Mladenovic, choked. She is not a top five player. There are five active players better than her. There are ten players I'd choose above her on grass and eight on hard-courts. She has collapsed in two grand slam finals and lost in the first round of two slams this year. Two!

Her slam record this year is a mediocre 10-4. Venus has won twice that. Pliskova, who has had a solid if under-achieving year is 14-4. Muguruza managed 17-3. Ostapenko is 15-3. Kuznetsova is 11-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova has had a better slam years by wins than the world number one.

So to recap - she is rubbish in finals [1-4], above average at getting to finals, and average in slams. And that makes her the world’s best player? It’s a meaningless title at this point. It’s utterly irrelevant. It has been drifting in and out of relevancy for years. You don’t deserve applause and admiration for it.

On the men’s side Rafa Nadal has won title after title. He has won two hard-court titles in one season for the first time in an age. He has taken two slams and made a final at a third. He has reached a level we haven’t even seen from Djokovic yet. This has been one of the all time great seasons. He has locked up the top ranking for the year and if we’re lucky he might play Federer again, too. The contrast between the number ones has never been greater. Todd will try and defend the WTA but even he must be getting tired of the top spot’s irrelevancy. Does it even matter as a prize anymore?

S: Rafael Nadal def. Nick Kyrgios 6-2/6-1
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Isner/Sock

S: David Goffin def. Adrian Mannarino 6-3/7-5
D: McLachlan/Uchiyama d. J.Murray/Soares

...After two wins in a row, Goffin must be feeling like his maiden Masters title is in the works. It is one of the hardest things to do in our sport, the threepeat, but he has a chance to achieve it. Winning back-to-back titles is not so hard. You usually play eight-ten matches in that period, but it's only in a three-set format. So it's actually less effort than you'd need to take out a slam. And if you've got the form there's really no limit to what you can achieve. Goffin really got going during the Davis Cup and that has given him a surprising boost. He opened with the veteran Deliciano Lopez but won easily 7-5, 6-1. His next opponent looked like a gimme. It was Aussie qualifier Matt Ebden. It turned out to be extremely difficult, what you might call a trap game. He ground out a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6[1]. Goffin opened up a 5-3 lead in the second but couldn't put it away. He opened up a 5-2 lead in the third set, but then lost four games in a row. He recovered and took 11 of the last 12 points to run out the winner. Ebden started the year at 699 in the world. He is now 103. In the semi-finals he ousted Diego Schwartzman 7-6[3], 7-6[6] to make it seven in a row. He is also 8-1 at the Japanese tournament. He was put under pressure in the 9th game but survived and endured a spirited fight at the tail end of the second set, winning in two hours despite failing to serve it out at 5-4. In the final he negated Adrian Mannarino’s tricky lefty serve with that big backhand. He beat the Frenchman 6-3, 7-5.

Goffin is now 49-18 on the year, which is an excellent mark. He's almost certainly made the finals, too.
...He has got nowhere to rise to. His level is the highest of any since Roger Federer in 2007 and ‘09. He was and is the best defender in the game. His movement and shots kept him in a rally four more shots than you'd ever expect. His rise from the ashes, Phoenix like, has been the second best storyline all year. It took Federer winning two slams to knock it into second. In the first round he recovered from a slip (literally) but edged out Lucas Pouille 4-6, 7-6[6] 7-5. He saved two match points against the Frenchman. It must be so hard to put away the Spaniard. You've seen him come back time and time again, against you, your compatriots, your friends and even your idols. And that's an added layer of pressure. The next match Nadal dismissed Khachanov 6-3, 6-3. Then he knocked out John Isner 6-4, 7-6[0]. To beat Isner to love in anything is almost impossible, but there are few better closers in the game than Rafa. In thw semi-final he ground poor Dimitrov into dust, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. In the final, Nick Kyrgios was never at the races and crumbled. He argued with the line judges all day and couldn't mentally recover. He lost 6-2, 6-1. It's another great title run from the Spaniard, and if he does finish number one he can look back at this.

...Australia should have kept Jo Konta. And New Zealand should have kept Cam Norrie. He is a very handy player. In the last week of September he won in Tiburon. He was seeded 8th and dropped just two sets. He was seeded 8th in Stockton and lost just one set. He also made a final last month. On the last Monday of August he was 200 in the world. He's now 111. Keep watching this guy. He could be another British success story.

...There won't be many more times we can talk about overly talented Frenchman after this year. His fitness has collapsed the last two years, but when he actually gets onto court he can be very effective. You saw it against Sam Querrey in his 6-4, 7-6[2] win. He has a deceptively good forehand return and the backhand is still an enormous weapon. He can hurt you. It'll be a sad day when he hangs up his rackets because he brought a unique style to the table.

...He played a match and a game. He beat Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4. But he called it quits after just one game against Sugita. Now he's not a bad player, but Raonic at his peak would have no trouble. What is the Canuck still playing for? He's injured and not recovering properly, so he should sack it off. He should call time on his season or play just the Masters. If he worked on recovery now he might have a shot at the Aussie Open title.
...As usual, Domi Thiem is playing too many events. There'll be a season where he has a sensible schedule eventually but it isn't this year. He was in control against Johnson, but the American found his return game just in time to win 4-6, 7-6[5], 6-4. The Austrian will need to go deep in Shanghai to recalibrate his Finals run. The American backed up his upset of the 2nd seed by taking down Alex Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4. The Ukrainian had good recent form, but the American had found his groove. Schwartzman ended his run in the next round but a quarterfinal run is good for ranking, confidence and the wallet.


Cilic [4] d. [6] Dimitrov
Federer [2] d. [3] Zverev
Federer [2] d. [4] Cilic

...Cilic always pulls out one great result towards the end of the year. Nadal won’t win two hard-court tournaments back to back. Kyrgios has health struggles. And Federer will know that if he doesn’t pull something out here it could mathematically be impossible to finish at number one.

Garcia is just the third person to do the Asian double and her incredible journey makes for a great week which Todd has you covered on. But our Dasha also did well. She beat Anett Kontaveit. In the next round, she benefited from the retirement of CoCo Vandeweghe. She lost to Strycova in the quarters 6-4, 6-0. That is a classic Gavrilovian scoreline.

Ever heard of Miyu Kato? She is the Japanese qualifier that Dasha Gavrilova defeated in the first round in Hong Kong. The 7th seed will next play Shelby Rogers. That has game of the week potential. She has not entered the doubles, which is surprising. She could have asked Sam Stosur.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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