Sunday, May 27, 2018

Roland Garros Predictions: Rafa’s Procession

Hi All. Galileo here.

Welcome to the men’s preview of Roland Garros. We already have some news. Marin Cilic had nobody, that’s right-zero, people turn up to his press conference. The other piece of news is the forecast. You can expect some warm rain throughout the first week of competition. Plus, we have the scariest quarter of women’s tennis ever to stumble through.

In other recent news, Petra Kvitova’s attacker has been caught.

=LADIES DOUBLES=
As of this writing, the draw hasn't been released yet but you should watch out for the following four pairs in particular:

Babos/Mladenovic [1]- They’re top seeds and they will also have the home crowd behind them. Mladenovic has won this title before don’t forget.
Safarova/Kuznetsova – The defending champion (Lucie) comes in unseeded. Her Russian partner has been to a final here before and made the semi-finals in 2016. They could land anywhere and that will mean fun and possibly an upset or two along the way.
Klepac/Martinez-Sanchez [3]- The Spanish lady is a fantastic doubles player and her best surface is on clay. Klepac isn’t quite as good but they could definitely make a run.
Chan/Mattek-Sands [4]- BMS is the defending champion and she could complete her comeback here with the defense of her title. Chan is something of a rising star in the doubles world. Under the guidance of BMS she should keep improving.

=MEN'S DOUBLES=
Marach/Pavic [1] – They just won in Geneva. Mate Pavis is, at 24, the best player in the world in doubles. Oliver Marach is a late bloomer. They have made two finals in the last three slams. Plus they’re 4-2 in finals this year.
Herbert/Mahut [6] – Recent results don’t matter to French players. Flair, home-court advantage and an incredible amount of talent will mean either a deep run or crashing out in embarrassing fashion in the first round
Lopez/Lopez [12] – Their last two titles were at Roland Garros in 2016 and in Barcelona this year. Feli has a 4-11 record in finals, dating back to the 2001 Majorca Open, but he’ll be fun to watch and this doubles team is so dangerous.
Mike Bryan/Sam Querrey [16]- Yes, you read that right. The partnership, which has been going strong since the 1999 Australian Open, has been disrupted due to injury.

=NADAL QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. RAFA NADAL ESP...In this draw he fears Novak Djokovic, Fabio Fognini and Alex Zverev, That’s it. And none of them are near him. He is going to whip Simon Bolelli and Richard Gasquet on his way to the fourth round. On paper Jack Sock could possibly force a breaker or maybe take a set, but the American has been M.I.A. Frankly it’s pretty difficult to see him losing any more than about five games in any of his matches, let alone a set.
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2. RICHARD GASQUET FRA...The Frenchman has the clay court nous and can ride the home crowd to a semi-final. He has the slam experience and the soft draw to do it. If Nadal knees go or he has some other injury then Gasquet is in place. Otherwise his slam is going to end in round three.
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3. KEVIN ANDERSON RSA...The South African is also here and he isn’t totally useless on clay. And with such a weak draw a quarterfinal probably beckons.
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DARK HORSE: DIEGO SCHWARTZMAN ARG...Another pocket sized South American dirtballer who just gets how to play on clay, the diminutive Argentine has a great seed and a manageable draw. He won a 500 level clay tournament in Rio this February. He didn’t even drop a set either. He is very dangerous. He is also, if you wanted to know, the best Jewish player in the world right now.
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WILD HORSE: PHILIPP KOHLSCHREIBER GER...Who knows with the German? He is so talented and he upset Novak Djokovic in Paris back in 2009. He could be the most underrated player of the last twenty years and he has a workable draw here.
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DONKEY: JACK SOCK USA...The American is big on talent and small on delivery of said talent. He fares better on US hardcourts and certain select clay courts.
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R1 MATCH TO WATCH: Richard Gasquet [27] vs. Andreas Seppi

=In the End...=
...Nadal is here. If he gets injured chaos will ensue. If he stays fit he won’t face a challenge until the end of the tournament.

4th: NADAL D. SHAPOVALOV
4th: SCHWARTZMAN D. ANDERSON
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QF: NADAL D. SCHWARTZMAN

=CILIC QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO ARG...Juan Martin, if fit, is the only player in the draw who could beat Rafa. It won’t be easy. He opens with Nicolas Mahut and will probably have to play Albert Ramos Vinolas. But after that his route to the semi-finals is probably clear. He has a serious injury to contend with. If he can get clear of that he should be in with a chance. He is one of many players who should have won this title but have not been able to because of the Spaniard.
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2. TOMAS BERDYCH CZE...He was once a handful of points away from the final. He has made three quarterfinals here and is very hard to beat on the dirt. He has huge weapons, veteran savvy, and a quarter that doesn’t look too intimidating. He has not won a title in two years but his last final [’17 Lyon] was on clay. John Isner and a hurt Delpo are all that stands between him and the quarterfinals. and possibly more.
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3. FABIO FOGNINI ITA...He might not have consistency but he does have a lot of talent, history at this event and the ability to beat anybody. Opening against Pablo Andujar is hard but Kyle Edmund is his nearest seed and he should win that comfortably. He only needs to find his game for two or three hours and he can just keep getting through his matches.
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DARK HORSE: MARIN CILIC CRO...He is the third seed and made the final last year. He can do damage if he can find his rhythm but this BACKSPINNER has never had great faith in the Croat.
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WILD HORSE: CASPER RUUD NOR...This kid probably won’t make the quarterfinals but he has already had a great result in just qualifying. He wasn’t seeded in the qualies but didn’t drop a set in three best of three set matches. He only lost 14 games. This 19 year old is 170 lbs. of pure potential. He has a versatile forehand, which can produce everything from a forehand dropshot to a big swinging inside out strike.
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DONKEY: KYLE EDMUND GBR...At Wimbledon he might do a bit better but the draw isn’t kind and is he ready to backup that Australian Open performance?
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R1 MATCH TO WATCH FABIO FOGNINI ITA VS. PABLO ANDUJAR ESP

=In the End...=
...Berdych and Fognini surprise, taking advantage of Del Potro’s groin injury. The following prediction is based on the Argentine being hurt.

4th: BERDYCH D. DEL POTRO
4th: FOGNINI D. CILIC
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QF: BERDYCH D. FOGNINI

=DIMITROV QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL...He starts on Sunday and that should give him extra rest later on. He has had some good results but not this year and not on this surface. He is 1-1 in clay finals. And he has yet to go beyond the third round here. But it has to happen eventually. He has too much finesse, too much big-time experience and too much talent to just fold early again. He will face a tough second round match if Nicolas Jarry gets through. A match against Roberto Bautista Agut or Novak Djokovic beckons in the fourth round and Fernando Verdasco in the third. But this BACKSPINNER trusts in the purity of the one-hander.
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2. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB...He comes in seeded 20th and there is no reason to believe in him. Except this- there are three former winners of this tournament in the draw. There is one person in the draw who has beaten Rafa here. Djokovic has been to three finals. He may be waning but look beyond him at your peril.
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3. DAVID GOFFIN BEL...How will he be mentally affected by his injury from last year? Even if the slam results are not there, everything else is. He has great game and a lot of ability, especially on this surface. He is like David Ferrer but with less consistency and more firepower. He opens with Robin Haase, Ivo Karlovic and then Gael Monfils. On clay that’s probably not much to worry about. Playing Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round is probably a lot more of a worry. That will probably be a five set epic.
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DARK HORSE: PABLO CARRENO BUSTA ESP...Nick Kyrgios has just pulled out of the French Open. If he is prepping for Wimbledon, which he will do much better in than here, he has made a wise decision. It means Federico Delbonis is probably who PCB will end up playing in the third round. It means you can lock up the Spaniard in the fourth round.
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WILD HORSE: GAEL MONFILS FRA...As If this needs any explanation.
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DONKEY: NICK KYRGIOS AUS...He has gone early. And part of you wonders if that’s tactical or legitimate. He has done this before and will probably do so again. What is amazing is that Bernard Tomic has actually put in the effort and qualified.
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R1 MATCH TO WATCH: MARCOS BAGHDATIS CYP VS. SANTIAGO GIRALDO [Q]

=In the End...=
...We see a revival from Djokovic, though not a long-lived one. Nole edges out Roberto Bautista Agut in five epic sets but has nothing left for his match with Dimitrov. Goffin takes care of business but does get pushed by Busta. In the quarterfinals it is Dimitrov who triumphs, turning his 7-1 h2h advantage into an 8-1 lead.

4th: GOFFIN D. BUSTA
4th: DIMITROV D. DJOKOVIC
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QF: DIMITROV D. GOFFIN

=ZVEREV QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
1. ALEX ZVEREV GER...He has three Masters titles and is the world number three. He also has a 14-11 mark in slams. It is woeful. It is embarrassing. It needs to be amended. And he is going to do it here. He has a tricky fourth round with either Stan Wawrinka or Lucas Pouille. Before that he has three matches to fine tune the backhand and get it fully operational. In this draw his backhand is the biggest weapon. He can do anything with it. It is a lot more fluid than Djokovic’s and more versatile too. He wrecks people with it. He just stands at the baseline and dictates play. He will be the next new world number one. If he can win here that day may come sooner than we think.
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2. DOMINIC THIEM AUT...Imagine how good he could be if he actually scheduled his season properly. Instead of playing the week before a slam he could actually, I don’t know, chill out and prepare properly. It is mind-boggling how he schedules. It screams early retirement. It stinks of burnout. Fortunately he has a weak draw. But to make it three semi-finals in a row he will need to most likely get past Zverev. That could be the match of the tournament.
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3. STAN WAWRINKA SUI...This entire quarter is destined to come down to Thiem vs Zverev. It may as well have been written in the stars. But if anyone can break up that duopoly it is this Man. The most dangerous Man in any draw, he opens with Guillermo Garcia Lopez. The Spaniard has beaten him before in the first round of the French. It was the year he won in Australia. He has a tricky run ahead of him- Pouille is not going to be an easy matchup, especially in Paris. But the Swiss man should still make the fourth round.
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DARK HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS LAT...Does this need any explanation?
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WILD HORSE: BENOIT PAIRE FRA...See above. This is as self-explanatory as it gets.
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DONKEY: SAM QUERREY USA...An American on clay. We’ve seen how this one goes.
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R1 MATCH TO WATCH: DANIIL MEDVEDEV RUS VS. LUCAS POUILLE FRA

=In the End...=
...Alex Zverev breaks Thiem’s streak and his duck.

4th: THIEM D. NISHIKORI
4th: ZVEREV D. WAWRINKA
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QF: ZVEREV D. THIEM

=SEMIFINAL=
#1 NADAL D. #17 BERDYCH
#2 ZVEREV D. #4 DIMITROV

=FINAL=
#1 NADAL D. #2 ZVEREV

...Nadal owns Berdman. And Dimitrov isn’t going to beat Zverev over five. That is the same reason the German wont beat Rafa.


** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **


*WOMEN*
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Halep d. #16 Mertens
#7 Garcia d. #12 Kerber
Stosur d. Bencic
S. Williams d. #28 Sharapova
#5 Ostapenko d. #9 V. Williams
#4 Svitolina d. #21 Osaka
#10 Stephens d. #8 Kvitova
#23 Saurez-Navarro d. #32 Cornet

...Expect to read the sentence ‘Elise Mertens is the first Belgian since Clijsters/Henin to do XYZ’ a lot in the coming years. She made the semi-finals of the year’s first grand slam and did it without dropping a set. She even spanked Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 in the quarters. She came within a whisker of forcing Caro Wozniacki into a third set. In fact, if she had managed to nick the second set she may have gone onto the final. Regardless, apart from Gavrilova there isn’t much here. Halep choking in the French Open final is an annual occurrence; why pick against it? There is no slam Angie Kerber can’t play at but if there is one she doesn’t do as well at, it is here. It seems to be nothing to do with the surface, either, which is strange. All the dangerous floaters ended up in one quarter of the draw so again it’ll be the big seeds duking it out. Shuai Peng is also here.

Garbine Muguruza is the best player here. But she’s been off lately. And she feels ripe for the upset. She has only ever lost once to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Against Sam Stosur she’s 2-1 and 1-1 on clay. This BACKSPINNER gets the feeling that one of them will take her out. Muguruza playing Kuznetsova is the opening match of the tournament on either side. There is a lot of young talent on the other half of this section but Belinda Bencic has to go on a run soon. Laura Siegemund is a handy player but can you trust her? This BACKSPINNER refuses to pick a woman about to turn 37 who has just given birth to win a slam. That would be insane. But to make it to a quarterfinal? Sure. Ordinarily Ash Barty would be the pick here but is she ready to take on Serena? Julia Goerges is another who drew the short straw. This feels like Maria Sharapova’s last shot to make a deep run. Let’s see if it happens.

Kateryna Kozlova is not a bad player but she won’t beat the defending champion and 5th seed. Barbora Stryocoa and Vika Azarenka lurk here but you would think Azarenka is building up to the US Open and summer hard-court swing. Jo Konta taking on the insane Yulia Putintseva will be interesting. The Kazakh could lose the crowd and that always makes it more interesting. The fact Venus is even here is fantastic. Seeded 9th she should make the fourth round. Naomi Osaka is going to back up her Indian Wells performance here. There isn’t anybody in her section she can’t handle and she has been to the third round here before. The really fascinating match here is going to be in the second round when Fran Schiavone takes on the Ukrainian. Elina Svitolina will probably win a slam before Halep at this rate but she doesn’t look close at the moment. Still this is by far her best slam.

This BACKSPINNER buys Petra Kvitova on clay. She has had some great results and she is probably going to win Wimbledon. But Sloane Stephens best slam was Roland Garros traditionally. And that will continue this year. Anett Kontaveit and Ana Sevastova are both here, as is Camila Giorgi. Also here is the most boring tennis player on the planet, Madison Brengle. If you see her match on the TV go and watch paint dry instead. There’s a great first round match to watch here- Kaia Kanepi against Daria Kasatkina. But forget them and forget Maria Sakkari. Why? Because this BACKSPINNER loves Carla Suarez Navarro here. Wozniacki is a sitting duck and will have zero impact. If she even gets out of the first round she’ll struggle to get past Miss Ooh La La. [Alize Cornet]

=QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#1 Halep d. #7 Garcia
Stosur d. S. Williams
#5 Ostapenko d. #4 Svitolina
#23 Suarez-Navarro d. #10 Stephens

...Garcia will one day make a final at her home tournament. This BACKSPINNER really believes that. But she needs a kinder draw. Halep is desperate for her first slam. Stosur knows how to beat Williams and especially how to do it here. Serena has to run out of puff eventually. Ostapenko is 2-0 against Svitolina and has not dropped a set yet. Expect CSN to drag out her match and grind her opponent into the red dust with her metronomic style of play. And, yes, it is insane to predict her to get that far.

=SEMIFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#1 Halep d. Stosur
#5 Ostapenko d. #23 Suarez-Navarro

...This BACKSPINNER cannot think of how Stosur would beat Halep. She has a real hoodoo with the semi-final stage does the Australian. Meanwhile the Spaniard will implode.

=FINAL PREDICTION=
#5 Ostapenko d. #1 Halep

...Until Halep actually wins a slam final it is impossible to pick her to do so. She hasn’t shown she can do that yet. Ostapenko has…..

Go to WTABACKSPIN, they have rice-a-roni.

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

Galileo.

Read more!

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.


*MEN*
=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


=NADAL QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
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.

NADAL D. ISNER
CILIC D. MULLER
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CILIC D. NADAL

=DIMITROV QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
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.
R1 MATCH TO WATCH: KEVIN ANDERSON RSA VS. KYLE EDMUND GBR
=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.

KYRGIOS D. DIMITROV
SOCK D. ANDERSON
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KYRGIOS D. SOCK

=ZVEREV QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
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.
R1 MATCH TO WATCH: NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB VS. DONALD YOUNG USA
=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.

WAWRINKA D. VESELY
DJOKOVIC D. ZVEREV
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WAWRINKA D. DJOKOVIC

=FEDERER QUARTER=
*POWER RANKINGS*
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.
R1 MATCH TO WATCH: JM DEL POTRO ARG VS. FRANCES TIAFOE USA
=In the End...=
We get another Federer and Del Potro quarterfinal classic.

DEL POTRO D. GOFFIN
FEDERER D. THOMPSON
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FEDERER D. DEL POTRO

=SEMIFINAL=
#17 KYRGIOS D. #6 CILIC
#1 FEDERER D. #9 WAWRINKA

=FINAL=
#1 FEDERER D. #17 KYRGIOS

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




*WOMEN*
=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

=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#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.

=QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#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.

=SEMIFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#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.

=FINAL PREDICTION=
#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.

Galileo.

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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.





*WEEK 43 CHAMPIONS*
BASEL, SWITZERLAND (Hard Indoor)
S: Roger Federer def. Juan Martin del Potro 6-7(5)/6-4/6-3
D: Dodig/Granollers d. F.Martin/Roger-Vasselin

VIENNA, AUSTRIA (Hard Indoor)
S: Lucas Pouille def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1/6-4
D: Bopanna/Cuevas d. Demoliner/Querrey



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ROGER FEDERER, SUI
...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.
===============================================
RISER: JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA
...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.
===============================================
FRESH FACE: CORENTIN MOUTET, FRA
...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.
===============================================
VETERAN: RICHARD GASQUET, FRA
...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.
===============================================


SURPRISE: LUCAS POUILLE, FRA
...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.
.===============================================
DOWN: KEVIN ANDERSON (RSA) AND SAM QUERREY (USA)
...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.
===============================================
UPSET: KYLE EDMUND, GBR
...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.


===============================================


*PARIS*
=SF=
Del Potro [13] d. [1] Nadal
Tsonga [11] d. [17] Pouille
=FINAL=
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.






*WEEK 41 CHAMPIONS*
SHANGHAI, CHINA (Hard)
S: Roger Federer def. Rafael Nadal 6-4/6-3
D: Kontinen/Peers d. Kubot/Melo



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ROGER FEDERER, SUI
...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?

===============================================
RISER: MARIN CILIC, CRO
...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.
===============================================
FRESH FACE: MACKENZIE MCDONALD, USA
...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.


===============================================
VETERAN: GRIGOR DIMITROV, BUL
...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.
===============================================
SURPRISE: RAFAEL NADAL, ESP
...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.
===============================================
DOWN: DOMINIC THIEM, AUT
...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.
===============================================
UPSET: VIKTOR TROICKI, SRB
...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.
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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.
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3. Shanghai F – Federer d. Nadal 6-3, 6-4


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*MOSCOW*
=SF=
Carreno Busta [1] d. [4] Kohlschreiber
Mannarino [3] d. [2] Ramos-Vinolas
=FINAL=
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.

*EUROPEAN OPEN*
=SF=
Goffin [1] d. [5] Ferrer
Kyrgios [3] d. [2] Tsonga
=FINAL=
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.

*STOCKHOLM*
=SF=
Dimitrov [1] d. [6] Fognini
Del Potro [4] d. [2] Anderson
=FINAL=
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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