Friday, January 18, 2019

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

Hi All. Galileo here.

Well, this BACKSPINNER is all done in the eliminator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: CORIC [11] d. [PR] DARCIS {W}
MS 2nd Rd: CARRENO BUSTA [23] d. IVASHKA {W}
MS 3rd Rd: KHACHANOV [10] d. [22] BAUTISTA AGUT {L}
==
WS 1st Rd: MUGURUZA [18] d. ZHENG {W}
WS 2nd Rd: GIORGI [27] d. [Q] SWIATEK {W}
WS 3rd Rd: GARCIA [19] d. COLLINS {L}


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

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

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

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

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

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AO Day 4: Ghosts of Tsonga’s Past

Hi All. Galileo here.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the player who most deserves a slam but will not get one. If not for Nole and Roger Federer he would probably have one. His rivalry with Nole has gone from the hot shot kid against the dude who bounces the ball too much to upset bids in Paris and London that fell short to now, the final curtain.

The first man to come back to beat Federer from two sets down and a winner against Djokovic in Melbourne Park in 2010, he is a special player. We had the final chapter in a storied rivalry yesterday and it really is sad.

It is hard to see JO-Willy returning his beautiful, booming best. His quarterfinal with Fernando Verdasco at the 2009 Australian Open is one of the great underrated four-setters of all time. Certainly of this generation. Now let’s have a quick whizz around the matches and see what happened.

*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: CORIC [11] d. [PR] DARCIS {W}
MS 2nd Rd: CARRENO BUSTA [23] D. IVASHKA {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Khachanov [10] d. [22] BAUTISTA AGUT
==
WS 1st Rd: MUGURUZA [18[ D. ZHENG {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Giorgi [27] d. [Q] SWIATEK {W}
WS 3rd Rd: GARCIA [19] D. COLLINS



RLA: RAONIC D. WAWRINKA
Milos Raonic outlasted Stan Wawrinka 6-7[4], 7-6[6], 7-6[11], 7-6[5]. It was razor tight, with two breaks apiece and just two points in it [163 for the Canadian, 161 for his opponent] that delivered on what it promised. Raonic has been red hot lately and it showed. Wawrinka is still coming back, still an unknown quantity. It was a cracking match, with Raonic’s big flat strokes contrasting nicely with the Swiss player's guile and spin. With 84 winners to 44 errors, it is clear Raonic is now right where he needs to be. Wawrinka’s 66-29 isn’t too shabby either, though. Now he must play Pierre-Hugues Herbert for a place in the fourth round.

RLA: DJOKOVIC D. TSONGA
So this is how the story ends. Nole cruised to a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win over Tsonga. You know the Frenchman’s career is done when he’s hitting less aces than Djokovic. He hit less winners and lost the break war 5-2. The Serbian knew it would be tricky and swiftly, brutally, put him to the sword. The Tsonga forehand wasn’t as effective as we remember it. 54 percent of first serves in from Tsonga gave Djokovic an opening and he took it. The Frenchy will be 34 in April. It is now a question of which French tournament the world number 177 will retire at. This BACKSPINNER’S money is on Bercy. Denis Shapovalov awaits in the next round. The 25th seed has not dropped a set yet. He has nothing to lose and a huge game.

MCA: NISHIKORI D. KARLOVIC
Ivo Karlovic holds the aces record in a match at the Aussie Open: 75. At the end of the fourth set against Nishikori he hit six in a row. He hit 59 in total in this match. It was in vain, however, as he fell to the Japanese star 6-3, 7-6[6], 5-7, 5-7, 7-6[10-7]. At the age of almost 40 [next month] Dr. Ivo still has it. Kei Nishikori needs a big result at a slam soon. They have been few and far between. His ground game appears to be working but is his fragile conditioning improved? Fun stats- Karlovic’s fastest serve was 27 KM’s faster, his average first serve was 33 KM’S quicker and his average 2nd serve speed? Try 43. That’s why Dr. Ivo is a bad matchup for Nishikori. Next for the 8th seed is Joao Sousa. He should have an easier time there.

MCA: ZVEREV D. CHARDY
Jeremy Chardy is a good player. But Alex Zverev is elite. And yet he always struggles at slams. He cannot put together a good run full of straightforward matches. He won the first two sets 7-6[5], 6-4. Then he crumbled like French cheese. Chardy took the next two 7-5, 7-6[6]. Fortunately the 4th seed was able to rebound and take the final set 6-1. He won the breaks battle by a score of 5-3. But this isn’t about stats. This is about how inept the German is in slams. He cannot put together a good run. It needs to improve, to get better. He needs to find coping methods. Alex Bolt is next and he’s a WC who has just played a five setter against Gilles Simon. He has to show it and smash the young Aussie.

MELBOURNE ARENA: POPYRIN D. THIEM
Thiem’s injury woes continued, as he retired down two sets and a break. Alexei Popyrin and Alex Bolt combined for two dramatic upsets of favoured opponents. Popyrin will go on to play Lucas Pouille in the next round. Borna Coric, seeded 11, is lurking but the path to the quarterfinals is open to the youngster. Bolt defeated Gilles Simon in five and saved four match points on his way, too. Bolt will have a shot against a wobbly Zverev, especially during a night match with a home crowd. The Thiem injury has not yet been disclosed but it could be the old ankle injury playing up.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

AO Day 3: Our First Big Upset

Hi All. Galileo here.

Alex De Minaur has learned a valuable lesson. Winning in five sets against a tricky opponent in front of a baying crowd is never easy. Especially when you’re inexperienced. Henri Laaksonen is an experienced player who plays above his ranking. There’s even more pressure on the youngster because a meeting with Rafa Nadal is on the line. There is something very special about Ash Barty and Demon. They’re different. They have the mentality to do well even if their talent level is a little below that of some of their compatriots.

On that subject, Barty will be taking on Maria Sakkari with the winner going on to face Maria Sharapova or Caro Wozniacki. Isn’t that fantastic? It’s like generations past, present and future all converging. And you know one day Sakkari and Barty will probably meet in a grand slam final. It might even be here.

*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: CORIC [11] d. [PR] DARCIS {W}
MS 2nd Rd: CARRENO BUSTA [23] D. IVASHKA
==
WS 1st Rd: MUGURUZA [18[ D. ZHENG {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Giorgi [27] d. [Q] SWIATEK


RLA: FEDERER D. EVANS
In the fiery cauldron of RLA, Federer proved to be too hot to handle. He outlasted Dan Evans 7-6[5], 7-6[3], 6-3 in two and a half hours. Losing serve just once he blasted 56 winners [twice that of his opponent] and won 37 per cent of his return points. His British foe pushed him a little in the first two sets but he was never a threat. The key for the Swiss in this tournament is to not get dragged into long matches. Having been on court a shade over four hours, he will now be feeling pretty good. If he can continue to win 53 per cent of points on the second serve return he will be in for a very good tournament. Next he plays dangerous youngster Taylor Fritz. He upset 30th seed Gael Monfils in four sets, taking two out of the three breakers they played.

RLA: NADAL D. EBDEN
No man has ever won each slam at least twice. Nadal is the closest. With Federer opting to skip the French Open and Djokovic not a threat in Paris at the moment, Nadal stands the best chance. He dismissed Matty Ebden 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in typical brutal fashion late last night. The Aussie lacked the firepower he needed to live with the Spaniard and it showed. Nadal was hitting his forehand well and it’s clear he is in it to win it. The key is the 57 percent of 2nd serves points won. If he can maintain that he will do very well. He can struggle there sometimes but it’s clear he hasn’t been this tournament. If this is Nadal injured, imagine how bad it would have been if he’d been fully fit. He will face his third Aussie in a row in the next round. Alex De Minaur will be a much trickier opponent, however, and he can expose Rafa’s health woes and backhand. If he can play to his full level.

MCA: TIAFOE D. ANDERSON
The first big upset has come. Kevin Anderson has fallen to American young gun Frances Tiafoe. He went down 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. Could it spell the end of the South African’s run at the top of the world? It was a very even match decided by one or two little points here and there. Anderson had only six break chances whilst his opponent had 14. The American found to way to neutralise the big man’s serve. Not all the time, but enough to take the edge off it. Anderson will need to think about how he will play himself back into form. He has a lot of time until the next big event, but this is a worrying loss. As for Tiafoe, well, could this be the tournament he officially lands? With Andreas Seppi next and only an out of form Dimitrov lurking, the draw has opened up a bit. Can he take advantage and go on a big run here? If he can keep returning well, stay confident and keep his forehand steady then there’s nothing stopping him.

MCA: DE MINAUR D. LAAKSONEN
Demon took the first two sets 6-4, 6-2. It was all going beautifully. Then the Swiss qualifier began to fight back. He took the next two sets 7-6[7], 6-4. The 27th seed managed to come back and finished the near four-hour contest with a 6-3 decision in the final set. The rallies were long, the evening hot and the crowd loud. Fire and brimstone, forehand and backhand. De Minaur could only manage a 26-56 mark on the winners ratio. That’s really poor but breaking seven times is really impressive. He will need to return brilliantly against Rafa and not give too many free points away. He has to try and drag Nadal into long rallies. His opponent is hurt. If he can drag it out it could get really tough for the Spaniard. Most importantly he needs to have fun. He needs to enjoy it. He is the underdog. He has nothing to lose. If he can volley that would help too. Rafa doesn’t always do well against aggressive players who take the net.

MELBOURNE ARENA: CILIC D. McDONALD
We can look forward to a juicy third round matchup between Ferver and Marin Cilic. The Croat was pushed but edged to a 7-5, 6-7[9], 6-4, 6-4 win. Cilic lost serve three times and a winner/error ratio of 67-56 needs improvement. His opponent, another American young gun, brought their "A"-game but it wasn’t enough in this scrappy affair. So far Marin Cilic has looked beatable. Could he be there for the taking? Verdasco has had a string of remarkable results in Melbourne throughout his career. The h2h was 5-5 but then Cilic won the last four in a row, so he knows how to beat the Spaniard. Can he make it five in a row?


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Monday, January 14, 2019

AO Day 1: Rafa, Roger Resplescendent

Hi All. Galileo here.

The Aussie Open has started again. The happy slam features Lleyton Hewitt and Ash Barty. She was born in April 1996, less than two years before Hewitt played his first match. That was in Adelaide.

Rafa Nadal, with the usual lingering injury concerns, survived another first round. The big news, however, comes from Scotland.

Andy Murray, long-term BACKSPIN, foil appeared in five finals here. He lost to Roger Federer in 2010, in straight sets. He lost to Nole in 2011 in straight sets. He also lost to the Serbian in 2013 and 2015-16. None of those were classics but Murray has been a constant at this slam, a mainstay. He is the only man to make five finals at a slam and never win it.

Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut won through in their 1st Rounder match 6-4, 6-4, 6-7[5], 6-7[4], 6-2. It is already a candidate for match of the year. The commentators should have done better. They were blaming Murray’s hip for every miss, every mistake. That included a routine drive volley. It was typical Muzza. Grit and toil and awful drop shots. It is incredible that he is finished, with only a handful of matches left in him while Federer still has a chance to win slams.

We also had the first men’s Greek match-winner ever. Stefanos Tsitsipas rolled past Matteo Berretini in four 6-7[4], 6-4, 6-3, 7-6[4]. He will play Victor Troicki next. The woman who won matches here, in mixed, singles and doubles, was Eleni Danilidou. Todd can tell you all about her. [Hint: she once had a big win over Justine Henin]


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: CORIC [11] d. [PR] DARCIS
==
WS 1st Rd: MUGURUZA [18[ D. ZHENG



RLA: NADAL D. DUCKWORTH
If Nadal had wanted a 2 and a quarter hour test to really get him warmed up he will be delighted. If, however, he wanted to cruise through the first few rounds and try to get healthy he will be disappointed. He was pushed but eventually came through against his homegrown opponent 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. Aided by Duckworth’s 11 doubles and 40-40 winner/error mark the Spaniard managed to edge through. Nadal’s 38-11 mark is really good and winning 59% of his second serve is a solid start, as well. It’s clear that magic forehand is still working just as it always has. Matty Ebden is next. That should pose no problem but 27th seed Alex De Minaur lurks. The youngster has a lot of grind, will get the crowd behind him and has nothing to lose. It’s a really big banana skin for the 2nd seed.

RLA: FEDERER D. ISTOMIN
If you are a tennis nut you will have experienced watching the sport with the casual viewer. This BACKSPINNER had to remind his room-mate to never ever try to play like Roger. You just end up looking foolish. He wrapped up the opening set 6-3 pretty quickly and rolled through the last sets with a break a-piece. If you’re blasting 52 winners, winning 67% of your second serve and brushing off your opponent with barely a batted eyelid you’re doing it right. He never faced a break point. It is another graceful, effortless performance from the Goat. He plays British qualifier Dan Evans next. If that lasts longer than the hour and 57 minutes Roger was on court today then it will be a big surprise.

MCA: DE MINAUR D. SOUSA
It isn’t the fault of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic that they are who they are. If we can cut Jelena Dokic some slack then we can cut them some slack. That being said, perhaps the best thing about Demon is that he’s just a really normal, nice guy. He still has a lot of competitive fire but it isn’t obnoxious. He knocked out Pedro Sousa with a no fuss 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 result in the first round. Lasting just a shade under two hours the youngster needs to improve on the 17-23 winner/unforced error mark. He broke four times, losing serve just once, and won more than a third of return points. His groundstrokes are getting smooth, his movement remains excellent and he has figured out how to ride the crowd. Henri Laaksonen, a qualifier, is up next. Then he must play Nadal. But he has a real shot against the Spaniard. Can he capitalize?

MELBOURNE ARENA: ANDERSON D. MANNARINO
Adrian Mannarino is a horrible first round draw for any seed. He has a lot of game. He also has experience on the biggest stage. Kevin Anderson was able to get through, however, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. That second set took everything out of the Frenchman. The South African’s heavy shots, big serve and superior ground game slowly took over. The Frenchman’s backhand started to wobble. When Kevin Anderson is winning 45% of return points and breaking you seven times you know you’re in trouble. Going 47-38 is all Anderson needs to do from now on when it comes to the winner/error ratio. Frances Tiafoe is next and that will be very entertaining. It’s a horror matchup for the South African.

COURT 8: OPELKA D. ISNER
The first big upset is here. We have been waiting ages for Reilly Opelka to arrive. Now he has. He edged John Isner 7-6[4], 7-6[6], 6-7[4], 7-6[5]. There were only five break points in the match, with both men taking one of their chances. Isner hit 47 aces to his compatriot’s 40. There isn’t much to say about this match. It was a serving duel. Rallies were not the order of the day. There were 289 points in the match. Just 53 were won against the serve. It took a lot of guts for the kid to come out on top, but he has plenty. Thomas Fabbiano is up next against the seven foot American. Just 21, he is the *new* Isner. And he has just been handed the baton.


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Sunday, September 09, 2018

US Open Day 12/13: Just a Whole Lot of Nothing (then a whole heap of something)

Hi All. Galileo here.

Some days nothing much happens at all, even in the later days of slams. Kei Nishikori had less fight in him than a dying fish in a boat. He gets an enormous F. The biggest F possible. Bernard Tomic was upset by his lack of effort.

In the men’s double final, Mike Bryan and Jack Sock won going away against Kubot/Melo 6-3, 6-1. They saved one break point and that was the entire drama of the match. Sock may have had an abysmal year in singles but he is the current world number two in dubs. The Americans won 51 per cent of their return points and blasted 36 winners. It was a really straightforward match despite the 7th seeds being a great pair. The rest of the men’s action didn’t get much better, so this BACKSPINNER decided to wait for the ladies final to come out so there was something to write about.

Turns out this BACKSPINNER'S guess was correct. There was something to write about.

In a mirror of the 2011 US Open final, Serena Williams has lost in a controversial match. That will be the headline. It is wrong. It is awful. It should Naomi Osaka, at the age of 20, makes Japanese history and wins Japan's first singles slam. She outplayed Williams from start to finish and the outburst should not change. Serena got screwed by the line calling in 2004. She referenced that in her interview afterwards. That was such a bad umpiring performance it is one of the reasons we have HawkEye today. In 2009 she also had a fracas, but that was of her own making, though the foot fault call remains dubious. In 2011 she did break the law. In 2011 the umpire made the correct decision. And Serena blew up. There is a history, but calls go against you and, if you notice, in all those matches she was playing a really tough match. I urge you to go and watch the post match interview. It is one of Serena’s best.


Patrick Mouratoglou has since admitted that he *did* coach.

Todd will go into the nuts, bolts, winners, errors and smashed rackets of the match. In fact, go and read it. Right now. Go! I just want to add, as a final note, that Osaka is an incredible champion and Serena stopping the crowd from booing is an awesome act of sportswomanship. Ash Barty has already won the US Open sportswomanship prize but the graciousness of Serena is awesome. She did the same for Stosur. Osaka has done it. Will she be 2005 Kuznetsova, 2018 Ostapenko or will she dominate the game like the woman she just beat?

Now for the boring part. The men’s results.

ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. NISHIKORI
...Novak Djokovic is always complaining that the crowd goes against him. Well, he just isn’t likeable. Ever since he ripped his shirt open after beating Nadal in Australia in that match, this BACKSPINNER has found him crass, rude and unsporting. After that epic match he and Nadal should have been consoling each other or being respectful. Federer was after the 2017 final, after the 2007 Wimbledon final. You can’t be unpleasant and irritating and then expect the crowd to like you. In this match he got an early break against Kei Nishikori and won easily 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The only thing the Japanese man did well was save break points. He saved 13 of 17. There was no fight. He tried nothing new. He sat back and let Djokovic bully him. He just let the 6th seed win. He didn't approach the net, try slices, try moonballs or try swinging from the hip. He did nothing. I had a choice between this and the Red Sox and I should have chosen baseball. This was an awful, half-baked match. Nishikori gets an enormous F. At least all those semi-finals where Nikolay Davydenko lost to Roger Federer were entertaining, if lopsided. This had about three good rallies in it.


Djokovic will need to extend the points against Delpo. He will have to make him move and try to take away his serving advantage. The tower from Tandil has been nigh on unbreakable the whole tournament. I want an Argentinian victory, but it will be Djokovic in five.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: DEL POTRO D. NADAL
...Towards the end of the second set, with Nadal already down a break, there was a little moment of controversy when there was a late call. Nadal said to the umpire it doesn’t matter because “I’m going to retire.” This will be the second slam Nadal has retired in this year. He has been to three semi-finals, and won only one, but it is still a great year for the Spaniard. His quarterfinal retirement against Cilic, down 2-0 in the 5th. The first set, which Delpo won 7-6[3] was good but whenever Nadal has a long five set match, particularly on hard-courts, it never looks like he is going to be able to win the next match. There isn’t much left to say about this except that Del Potro has made a second slam final. We all thought he would have won five or six by now, but nine years after the first he is back again. He is going to want shorter points. He needs to thump his forehand into Djokovic’s forehand wing and try to attack the Serb’s second serve. He can do it, though.




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Friday, September 07, 2018

US Open Day 10/11: Osaka's Sling-shot

Hi All. Galileo here.

Serena Williams is the overwhelming favourite to take the ladies title. Depressingly my prediction was correct. Or are we premature?

As a fun exercise I will build the case for a Naomi Osaka victory and Todd, if he is game, will blow holes in it or pronounce that it holds water.

Williams is 23-7 in slam finals. She and Steffi Graf have both been to 31 slam finals now. Graf could only manage a pitiful 22-9. What do Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Garbine Muguruza and Angie Kerber have in common? They all have weapons and they have all beaten Serena in a slam final. Her sister and Kerber have done it twice. Stosur is unique in that she literally took the racket out of Serena’s hands in a way I have not seen before. That can’t happen tomorrow. That Stosur performance was probably one of the three or four greatest final performances ever. Kerber’s wins were outliers, too. In Melbourne she unleashed the best passing and counter-punching performance on a big stage since the 1994 Wimbledon final. This year Serena has not been at her best. But when Muguruza, Sharapova and Venus [2001 US Open for Venus] won they were all young. They had all gathered a lot of momentum and they weren’t afraid of Serena. I think Osaka is the same. She has no fear. She is on a roll. In five matches she has dropped just 15 games. In the other, the Sabalenka Monster pushed her hard. Osaka has been the best player in the tournament in terms of performance. She also beat Serena in Miami 6-3, 6-2. Before Sharapova won her maiden slam she played, and lost to Williams, in Miami. She had experience. Osaka has that, but Serena will also want revenge.

So here are my key reasons why Osaka is going to do a Sam Stosur.

* - She is not mentally weak
* - She has a forehand crosscourt that can wreak havoc on anyone
* - She can move better than Serena
* - Her return game is Agass-like. If she can pick the serve she can win the point on the first ball.
* - She has the h2h advantage
* - She is in hot form
* - There is zero fear in this girl's eyes. This will not be Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 Wimbledon Final.
* - What are Serena’s fitness levels like? Surely she can’t last in a long three setter if it goes that way.
* - Most importantly though, Osaka:


So tell me Todd does Osaka have a shot? [You may be right. I have to PICK Serena, but I wouldn't be SHOCKED if Osaka won it. I surely think she has a far better shot than Keys would have had. If Keys had won, I'd save gone with Williams in something like a 3 & 1 straight sets win. If Naomi can keep her head, she can hit (and maybe even serve) with Serena. Williams has had some slow starts at this Open. If it happens again, Osaka has to jump on it and try to get the 1st set. If she can... - tds]

Just a little note about the women’s suicide. I could only have picked Williams, and then it would be over.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
MS QF: CILIC [7] D. [21] NISHIKORI {L}
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]
WS QF: OSAKA [20] D. TSURENKO [W]
WS SF: WILLIAMS [17] D. [19] SEVASTOVA [W]



ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. MILLMAN
...This match lasted almost three hours, which is impressive. In the third set, John Millman came back from 4-2 down but still lost the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Aside from Novak Djokovic’s typical post-match arrogance, nothing happened in this match. It didn’t even go four. It wasn’t even a total rout. It was a totally forgettable straight sets match. Four breaks to one from the Serb. Together the pair went 54-97 on the winners ratio. If you had paid to see this match you would probably be sorely disappointed. Djokovic actually had 20 break points but failed to convert on 16. That is significant. There were also some pretty good rallies, including on match point. The semi-final coming up will be much better. Don’t worry. To win Nole needs to do whatever he did to get a 14-2 advantage in the h2h. Last time they played a US Open semi, Kei Nishikori won. The Japanese man will have to break down Nole's forehand and really mix up the serve.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: NISHIKORI D. CILIC
...Revenge is a dish best served cold. Nishikori took out a tricky match 2-6, 6-4, 7-6[7-4], 4-6, 6-4. You should give Marin Cilic a lot of credit for hanging in there in the last set when things were looking bleak. He was down in that 5th set but ground back into it. This was a mirror image of Rafa Nadal’s quarterfinal. Cilic took the first set 6-2, blasting through his opponent and looking great before losing the next two sets 4-6, 6-7[5]. Then they swapped 6-4 sets. In the 5th Cilic was down 4-1 and struggled through his service game. He looked finished. But he came back to 4-4. He would win just two more points. It is another mystifying chapter in the book for the Croat. Cilic was a passable 57-70 on the winners count. Nishikori was an abysmal 29-45. There were 11 breaks, with neither man getting 60 per cent or more of their first serves in. It was another dramatic match but the quality was lacking in places. Kei has to find Nole’s forehand. He has to avoid serving predictably too. Can he do it? We will soon find out.




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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

US Open Day 9: The World's Sweatiest Hug

Hi All. Galileo here.

Five hours and it ended in a sweaty hug, and Rafa Nadal with his arms aloft at 2 in the morning.



The Spaniard and the Austrian, Dominic Thiem, had been trading blows all night long, exchanging epic rallies and aces, breaks and holds. In the heat of a pungent, humid, painfully warm New York coliseum the Spaniard outlasted the challenger, the champion coming to the fore.

In a way it was inevitable. It seemed like it was bound to happen. Nadal has always found a way to get out of matches like this. On his first match point, Thiem butchered a smash, and that was all she wrote. In the breaker Nadal got a mini-break lead immiately before losing it. Thiem won a couple of epic rallies, but made one error. At 5-5 he had a second serve and netted a routine forehand. Had he been able to take charge of a weak second serve he would be playing for a spot in a second final this year. Two points go his way and suddenly his year looks fantastic. This was a brutal, physical match with more drama than a series of Desperate Housewives.

Forget about Nadal. This BACKSPINNER believes in Thiem off clay. There were doubts before and the scheduling, and consistency, need to both improve, but the ability to win these big matches is there. One or two small mistakes at the end have cost the Austrian a match he totally deserved. Cruelty runs deep in sport and this result reminded us of that fact. This US Open has felt more electric than any other. Well it has on the men’s side. I am sure Todd will correct me here, but the ladies' side has felt, I don’t know, a little flat? [Ed.note: Hmm, well, I wouldn't say "flat," as the overall performances of the likes of Serena, Osaka, Keys, Sabalenka and others have been superb at times, but I will say there hasn't been an EPIC MATCH to hold up as THE signature moment to this point (maybe because Halep and Kerber lost early, as they've had a habit of taking part in those in '18?), while the men's side has had both Federer/Millman *and* now Nadal/Thiem. - tds]

There have been some classic matches and great upsets, but the actual drama and epic matches have been a tad lacking. [You read my mind, or I read yours.] I have been enjoying the run of Carla Suarez-Navarro, but Karolina Pliskova just lost rather tamely to Serena. I really thought that would be a three-set affair with at least one tiebreaker. [I had Serena 4 & 4 or 4 & 5, as I've sort of thought the title was hers to lose after the level of play she showed vs. Venus, and then with Kerber's defeat, as I thought she was the only one left who really knew how to defeat Williams in a big final. - tds]

In men’s doubles, the all American pair of Krajicek/Sandgren played on Grandstand while the other doubles match, with no natives, played on Armstrong. It may seem odd but perhaps it was for the best- 7th seeds Kubot/Melot won 6-4, 6-4. They broke 6 times to 3 and hit 32 winners to 13. They could have a matchup against Murray/Soares coming up for a place in the final. Cabal/Farah dismissed Bopanna/Roger-Vasselin in the the other quarterfinal 6-3, 6-4. The 5th seeded Columbians converted both their break points and survived the only break point they faced. They hit 25 winners to 6 in what was a consummate performance. They will probably end up playing third seeds Bryan/Sock. Men’s doubles is fairly consistent, in that half the big seeds crash and burn but there are always at least two seeds in the semi-finals.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
MS QF: CILIC [7] D. [21] NISHIKORI {L}
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]
WS QF: OSAKA [20] D. TSURENKO [W]





ARTHUR ASHE: NADAL D. THIEM
...It took Thiem just 24 minutes to win the opening set at love, but with Rafa it is never that easy. That is one set and this is the best of five. There are four more sets to go. The Spaniard battled through the next two sets and took them 6-4, 7-5. It was a remarkable comeback, especially after he got blitzed in the first set in a fury of fiery groundstrokes. Thiem would not be denied, however, and stole the third set 7-6[4] to take us into a 5th. He came within inches of winning a 5th set and a match he deserved. The Austrian won two more games, broke six times to five and also won five more points. He hit 74 winners to just 58 errors, while Nadal could only manage a 55-49 mark. He won 37 per cent of his receiving points, with Rafa winning 35 per cent. Thiem outplayed Nadal across the board except in grit, and except when it mattered. If Rafa had to have a point he got it. The Spaniard also got a little lucky. He was very fortunate to scrape through this one. To beat Del Potro he has to keep the points short and try to move the big man around. He can’t have another five hour match. He has to take control of the points early and make the Argentine hit a lot of uncomfortable shots.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: DEL POTRO D. ISNER
...In this titanic four set clash it took Delpo three and a half hours to finally subdue his giant opponent. John Isner deservedly took the first set 7-6[5], but Juan Martin Del Potro has experience and calmly set about restoring order. He took the second set 6-3, by using his backhand creatively. He counter-punched with it quite effectively. It was his first break of three. The American failed to break at all, blowing three opportunities throughout the match. Despite Isner hitting 26 aces the Argentinian won 35 per cent of receiving points, and his opponent just 20. Delpo himself managed to hit 14 aces. The third set was where the match swung decisively. There were two missed break points each, but Isner hit 14 errors, 10 more than his opponent. The other key factor? Isner won only 36 per cent of net points and he approached a lot. Delpo won the breaker 7-4 and took control in the final set. Down 2-5 Isner failed to hold. Del Potro has had far less time on court than Rafa. He should not be afraid to rally. He has bigger weapons, will be fresher and knows how to beat Rafa. He can go in confidently and know that he can beat the Spaniard. His forehand return off the serve and sneaky-good backhand will see him win in four.




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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

US Open Day 8: The End?

Hi All. Galileo here.

A post shared by US Open (@usopen) on



Well that’s it. Roger Federer is finished.

He served for a two sets to love lead at 6-3, 5-4, 40-15. At 5-6 he had 40-15. He had a break in the fourth set he threw away. He hit 49 per cent of his first serves in. Just 49. He won only 47 per cent of his second serves. He hit 22 errors in the second set and went down 6-4, 5-7, 6-7[7], 6-7[2]. It isn’t the stats. It is the fact that at last he looked old. He looked tired.

He has since admitted he couldn’t find air. Kudos must go to his opponent who stuck around and played a great match, and some great shots. John Millman had a career night but that just doesn’t seem important now. The camera panned to faces in the crowd, and all the Federer fans seemed despondent. It’s no wonder, really. Their hero was reduced to trying to win a match by hitting dropshots. In order to keep the points short Fed ended up hitting only droppers and volleys by the end. It was a sad end to a great career. The greatest career. It looks impossible we will ever see him genuinely compete for another major title. We have said this before about both Federer and Serena Williams, but it seems so final today.

Retirement is officially coming in the next six months. After a performance like that an announcement will be made soon. His serve was off, the forehand down the line missed at crucial moments and the backhand was off-key. This was one of the worst performances we have ever seen from Federer. He has fallen off a cliff. It has been at best a mixed year. Father Time gets you in the end and it has finally gotten a-hold of Federer. The question now is where does he want to end it? Does he end it in Basel? Or Wimbledon? Maybe he ends it at the WTF? My guess is that he goes into semi-retirement and tries to hang on long enough to go to the Olympics in 2020. He wants one more shot at the title. If he chooses not to then Wimbledon would be the next logical spot.

Todd. If you were Federer where would you pick to retire? [Ed.note: hmmm, if I had to choose, the Olympic notion seems good. Unless you'd want to go the Pete Sampras route, and after one final slam title. And, of course, it should be noted, that Djokovic looked down and out for good about this time last year, as well. I think the heat had a large assist last night, so unless a run of bad results comes next I wouldn't rule out another slam contending year or two, at least at SW19. - tds]




*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
MS QF: CILIC [7] D. [21] NISHIKORI
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]
WS QF: OSAKA [20] D. TSURENKO



ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. SOUSA
...The Serbian cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win. It took him exactly two hours and four breaks of service to get by. He looked listless and down six months ago. Now he is reborn and the massive favourite for the tournament. He has two straightforward matches before the final and then it will get tricky. Joao Sousa is not bad but he does not have the one big weapon that is usually needed to take down the best players. He managed a very poor 21-28 winners ratio and barely even threatened the former champion. The day was filled with forgettable matches and if not for Millman who knows how dull it could have been? The Naomi Osaka match was pretty good. Anyway Djokovic gets to play Millman next and he should ease by the Australian.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: NISHIKORI D. KOHLSCHREIBER ...The German hung on in the third set to push the match to two and a quarter hours but the result had an air of inevitability to it. The 21st seed loves the US Open. It is by far his best tournament and he has found a serious vein of form. He won the match 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. It was a typically controlled performance- he went 29-18 on the winners to errors mark and broke six times to two, while winning 44 per cent of receiving points. He soaked up the German’s offense and then responded. He outlasted him in the long rallies. Kohl only won 42 per cent of points on his second delivery. With his ground-game working beautifully the diminutive star now has a chance to exact revenge on Marin Cilic. I don’t know if Todd will agree. but personally I feel like Nishikori and Elena Dementieva have a lot in common. Average serves, immense ground games and bad luck at slams. Or am I crazy? [Ed.note: Although, Nishikori has the injury/retirement thing that was never really Dementieva's "issue," and she put herself in position to win (SF+) far more times. Their best slams results: (Dementieva) 2 F, 7 SF, 3 QF vs. (Nishikori) 1 F, 1 SF, 7 QF so far - tds]

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: CILIC D. DAVID GOFFIN
...If only David Goffin had been given a weapon. If only one of his wings had a fearsome shot. Jim Courier dominated the tour for two years off the back of one shot. The Belgian played a very long three set match but still lost 7-6[6], 6-2, 6-4 in almost two and a half hours. It may not sound close but the Croat had to grind and earn all of those points, games and sets. There were 195 points in the match, in fact. The Croat broke five times to two and had a great 43-48 winner ratio. Goffin was an abysmal 19-35. He could not consistently hit the offensive shots he needed to and you cannot win a match on defense alone on this surface. Cilic only got 46 per cent of his first serves in and that will have to be improved upon if he is going to go far. The Belgian will head into the Asian swing, where he does very well, with momentum and an uptick in form. Cilic is still in the hunt for that elusive second slam. He has to defeat Nishikori and then probably John Millman [just kidding] before the final. It is going to be tricky, but probably doable.



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Monday, September 03, 2018

US Open Day 7: Isner Stands Tall in the Face of Adversity

Hi All. Galileo here.

We haven’t even gotten to a full slate of quarterfinals in the men’s doubles and the top two seeds are already gone. They were followed by an additional four lower seeds. Even though the 9th seeded pair of Herbert/Mahut achieved their seeding they should have gone further.

In the ladies singles draw there is similar chaos. The three highest seeds left are [3] Sloane Stephens, [8] Karolina Pliskova and [14] Madison Keys. Serena is still there and so is the Supernova but once again the seeds have scattered to the four winds. In the men’s singles, the top three are all there. In fact five of the highest eight are still alive.

Well, let’s take a quick peek at the results.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI [W]
==
WS 1st Rd: GAVRILOVA [25] d. SORRIBES TORMO [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]



ARTHUR ASHE: DEL POTRO D. CORIC
...The Argentinian has been one of the players of the tournament so far. He has not dropped a set. No other quarterfinalist has done that, though Fedex could if he can avoid the upset against John Millman. The sheer power of the Argentine, particularly off the forehand wing, has been awe-inspiring. It took him just over two hours to dismiss Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. He hit 33 winners to just 24 errors and broke five times. The only blot on his copybook was losing his serve once and winning just 50 per cent of his second serve points. Of course that doesn’t matter when 80 per cent of his first serves are going in. He won 44 per cent of return points on the match and he will have to keep up the strong returns in his next game- he faces 11th seed John Isner. That match is going to have some tiebreakers.

ARTHUR ASHE: NADAL D. BASILASHVILI
...Guys know how to beat Rafa Nadal now. If you have a strong enough backhand you can follow the Nole blueprint. The Spaniard always looked like he was winning this match, but it did get tricky towards the end. He saw off the Georgian number one 6-3, 6-3, 6-7[6], 6-4. Rafa served at 4-3 in the breaker but could not close it out. Basil found himself down a break in the third but broke back...before collapsing. He was really swinging throughout the match, going 56-59 on the winners ratio. Rafa had to really gut this one out, but broke six times and managed to ride out the storm. He will play Dominic Thiem knowing that a win will secure the top spot in the rankings, but a loss will give Federer a chance to steal it. He should beat Thiem and if he can win 61 per cent of his first serves again then he will.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: ISNER D. RAONIC
...After an extremely impressive win over Stan Wawrinka in the previous round, Milos Raonic was looking to continue his form. In the first set he did. He won it 6-3 and looked pretty good. His dropshot and backhand were working well. John Isner has had a revelation of late. He has transformed, overnight it seems, into a together player who knows how to maximise his weapons. He responded by taking the next two sets 6-3, 6-4. Raonic forced a 5th by taking the next set 6-3. But Isner played a perfect 5th set, winning it 6-2. He broke twice, lost just three points on his serve and won 73 percent of his opponent’s second serve points in that final set. Raonic, if not for injuries, would probably have a slam by now. He is one of the best players in the world, in terms of game and mentality. But this year the American has really stepped it up. He has hit the heights we always thought he could. He plays Delpo next and you should expect tiebreakers there. Will he be the first man to take a set off the Argentine at this year’s championship? John Isner won the aces battle in this match by 20-18 and also won 31 percent of receiving points. If he can keep it around or above that mark he has a shot at winning this year's tournament.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: THIEM D. ANDERSON
...It has finally arrived. The day has come at last. Dominic Thiem has had a big result off the dirt. He ousted last year's finalist Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6[2] in two and a half hours. Anderson played fine, his 44 per cent win rate on second serves aside, and even went 40-27 on the winners ratio. The Austrian was 42-13. He broke three times to none. The reason this match has such an unflattering scoreline is that Thiem was utterly dominant. The Austrian took his opponent to the wood chipper. After a year of mostly unsatisfying results, bad losses and lack of form Thiem has responded by having his best result at a slam not held in France. He plays Rafa next and he will have a great shot to beat the Spaniard. He is playing better than Nadal and has lost fewer sets and games over the last two rounds. He has a shot to take a huge scalp and cement his place at the WTF.




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Sunday, September 02, 2018

US Open Day 6: Rafa Avoids Russian Conspiracy Theory Scare

Hi All. Galileo here.

We had quite the day at the US Open on Saturday. Rafa Nadal almost went out, but survived a young Russian's execution attempt. He edged a thrilling third set breaker at 9-7 and advanced. Karen Khachanov served for the second set at 5-4 but lost three games in a row. He had a set point in the third set and could not convert that, either.

Nadal won 5-7, 7-5, 7-6[7], 7-6[3] but paid a heavy price.

The almost four and a half hour clash was a tense thriller that had the Arthur Ashe crowd on their feet. The Spaniard needs to keep his matches short, especially early on. But it was always going to be tough playing against an opponent looking for his third 4th round appearance at a slam this year. Rain fell at 5-3 and Nadal held at love then broke to level the second set. If not for the rain who knows what could have happened? Khachanov went 66-55 on the winners count and Rafa 49-38. Both men broke five times and the Spaniard won just six more total points. The difference? Nadal won 62 per cent of second serve points, while the youngster won 48 per cent. Rafa’s next match will not be easy, either - on paper Niko Basilashvili looks to be an easy matchup. But the Georgian is the world number 37 and he has the upset of Jack Sock to draw inspiration from. He was pushed to five in his first round match and went four sets against both Sock and Guido Pella. He will be tired but when you’re a top 40 player with nothing to lose you are dangerous.


*SUICIDE POOL PICKS*
MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 2nd Rd: WAWRINKA [WC] D. [Q] HUMBERT [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
MS 4th Rd: NADAL [1] d. BASILASHVILI
==
WS 1st Rd: Gavrilova [25] d. Sorribes Tormo [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA



ARTHUR ASHE: FEDERER D. KYRGIOS
...It’s 3-3 in the first set. Roger Federer falters and is down 15-40 but gets it back to deuce. Nick Kyrgios forces two more break points but misses them both. There is a long and tense deuce. The Swiss takes it and drops just two more games on the way to a 6-4, 6-1 lead. The Aussie came back in the final set, losing 7-5, but it didn't matter. Fedex was too majestic, too strong, too dominant. On every stat but one, win percentage on second serves, Federer came out on top. He hit 16 aces to 13. He hit 51 winners and just 24 errors. Kyrgios wasn’t awful, he just got swept away by Federer’s sheer brilliance. John Millman, appearing in his first round of 16 match at slam level, will be next. If Fed can keep doing this...


He will be fine.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: KOHLSCHREIBER D. ZVEREV
...Alex Zverev is up on 34 year old Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6[1], 4-4. The veteran holds, and after that Zverev capitulates. He loses his serve at 4-5 to love and then blows up, losing the last three sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. 7 doubles and 8 breaks of his serve. Kohl won 45 percent of his receiving points. It is yet another choke on the big stage from the world number four. He played a good match for two sets but his ability to implode so suddenly is probably the reason he has not made a run at the top ranking yet. What more can we say? This is every Zverev slam loss we have seen. 21st seeded Kei Nishikori is next and the German will love being the underdog in that. Zverev must go and do some soul searching now.

ARTHUR ASHE: DJOKOVIC D. GASQUET
...Was there ever a more disappointing player than Richard Gasquet? He had the talent to win slams but never capitalised on it. He seemed content to eke out a solid top ten career instead of hitting the highs we know he could have achieved. One of the big reasons his trophy cabinet contains no slams is that he could never handle the big three. He could on occasion beat Andy Murray, but the Scot isn’t in the same league as the big three. Novak Djokovic handled him in the third round, winning 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Ritchie blasted 10 aces and won 86 percent of net points so at least his tactic was clear. But he couldn’t execute, as he hit 47 unforced errors. This match was a mirror image of every other match Gasquet has played against the big four. Joao Sousa is next for Djokovic.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: CILIC D. DE MINAUR
...Marin Cilic survives, winning 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Let’s start with this clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tEzwxIe8Us

Forget the match for a moment. This 19 year old has made two slam third rounds this year, both while unseeded, and has made two finals too. He started the year at 208. He entered the US Open ranked 43rd. He will be world number 37 in two Monday's time. This is an exceptional year, the kind of year teenagers don’t really have anymore. He is the story of the year on the ATP Tour, the ultimate fresh face. Cilic was up 5-2 in the 5th but the Aussie saved 6 match points to draw level at 5-5. He saved another one in the final game before the Croat finally triumphed in a minute short of four hours. It finished at 2:26 AM, four minutes short of equaling the record for the latest ever finish. De Minaur had 13 break chances and took seven. His opponent broke the same amount of times but had 27 breakpoints. 27!! The Aussie was a very tidy 37-36 on the winners ratio, while forcing Cilic into a 60-70 mark. On average he covered 10 feet more ground in a point and over the course of the match it was over 3000 total. This kid is one of the best retrievers around today. He is Lleyton Hewitt 2.0 and he should have a bright future ahead of him. Cilic must now face 10th seed David Goffin. If that goes five it is hard to see how he is going to win.

GRANDSTAND: NISHIKORI D. SCHWARTZMAN
...Diego Schwartzman will not have a significant drop in the rankings despite not defending last year’s QF points. In Kei Nishikori’s comeback slam he has been awesome. It feels like a renaissance from the Japanese star. It took him three hours to grind out the Argentine, but he did it 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Schwartzman gave everything he had just to sneak the third set and had nothing left to give in the fourth. Kei won despite going 49-63 on the winners ratio. With 12 breaks and 14 double faults this was not a match for the spectator. It was a messy, error strewn match with neither man able to assert dominance until the final set. Nishikori will play Kohl and then either Cilic or David Goffin. His path to the semi-final is doable.




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