Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Wk.18- Germans, Germans Everywhere!

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The German tennis revolution started way back in the early 1980s. Sylvia Hanika and the less known Eva Pfaff made Slam quarters and -in the case of lefty Hanika- even slam finals. Hanika defeated Navratilova in two straight sets in the quarters of the 1981 French. That was in two easy sets. Seeded sixth, she went on to knock out third seeded Andrea Jaeger as well. A disappointing loss to Hana Mandlikova followed that, but the Germans had emerged. Pfaff made the quarters of the 1982 Aussie. Unseeded, she beat Jo Durie and Mandlikova in her quarterfinal run. She lost to Jaeger in the quarters. This would be the beginning of more than thirty years worth of a German presence in tennis.

In the doubles at the '82 Aussie, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and Pfaff made the finals, beating the second and third seeds. Seeded eighth, they lost to top seeded Navratilova/Shriver in the final. Kohde was just 19 when she reached that final. She would go on to win two slam doubles titles with her partner Helena Sukova -they played together a lot- and also the Olympic Bronze with Steffi Graf. She won a host of singles and doubles titles besides those and made plenty of semifinals, She was strongest between 1982 to 1988. The year after she made that breakthrough, Graf played her first match at a slam level though she retired in the first match. At her next slam tournament, Graf won through qualifying and made the second round. After that, Graf began to rise and rise. When she retired, Anke Huber was still going strong but by 2003, German tennis was in a bit of a recession.

Famously, Boris Becker won Wimby in '85. He was just seventeen. In 1991, he lost to Michael Stich in that final. Between the years of 1985 through 1989, Men's and Women's tennis in Germany was at its peak. Becker would go on to win three times at SW19, twice at Melbourne Park and once at Flushing Meadows, too. Add to that three semis at the French and Stich's successful career, German tennis was in the equivalent of a tennis boom.

Stich hit number two in the world, whilst Becker hit 12 weeks at number one. They even won three Davis Cup titles in six years (1988-1993), whilst Graf led German to victories in '87 and '92 with Kohde and Huber. Tennis was obviously very popular in Germany at that time with the Germans being so successful. There were others, of course, who were excellent players. They had strength in depth. All these great German players, and pretty much all of them with the one handed backhand. However, suddenly old age and loss of form struck- the usual, but Germany still had another batch of talented players.

But then, the next male generation failed to live up. Spearheaded by Rainer Schuettler, Nicolas Kiefer and Tommy Haas, this was still a talented generation, although not as gifted as the previous. Rainer was the first German since Becker to make the fourth round of all the slams in one year -- 2003. He made the final of the Aussie in that year. In 2008, he beat Arnaud Clement in an epic five set war to set up a semi with Rafa Nadal. It would be his last hurrah. He peaked at five in the world with four titles to his name and an appearance in the semis of the tour finals, too.

Kiefer did slightly better. He made the quarters of all the slams apart from the French. He won six titles and peaked at number four in 2000. A surprise semi at the AO in 2006 was the big highlight of his career. Seeded 21st, he shocked Juan Carlos Ferrero and Sebastien Grosjean to make the semifinals, where he lost respectably to Roger Federer in four.

But the new leader of German tennis was undoubtedly Haas. He won comeback player of the year twice. The only other player to do that was Sergi Brugera. Incidentally, Haas has a winning record against Brugera as he won the only match they ever played in two straight sets. Haas has 14 titles, which puts him eighth best among active players, and he is also eighth best among active players if you look at finals. He has reached 26 finals. His game is simple and so applicable to any surface. This accounts for his longevity. From 2004-2007, he reached the US quarters three times. He beat Marat Safin in five sets at the Open during that stretch, too. That was a truly memorable match. A surprise semi at the 2009 Wimby is also on his resume. He lost to Fed in a tight three setter there. Seeded 24th, Haas survived a five set duel with Marin Cilic, beat Igor Andreev and then upset Novak Djokovic in four tight sets. Three semis at the Aussie are big highlights, as well. He reached those in '99, '02 and '07. Like with the previous Germans, the French is not his strongest slam. Now up to thirteen in the world, it seems Haas has been a force since 1998. His journey should have a book written about it. He says he came back so his daughter could watch daddy play. It's just a feel-good story all round.

Haas has seen another two generations of German tennis players. Florian Mayer, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner, all of whom have funky backhands. Mayer is the only one with a double hander as Petzschner rarely comes over his.

So after all, it seems the past, present and future of German tennis revolves around the immortal Haas...

S: Tommy Haas def. Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3/7-6
D: Nieminen/Tursunov d. Baghdatis/Butorac

S: Stanislas Wawrinka def. David Ferrer 6-1/6-4
D: S.Gonzalez/Lipsky d. Qureshi/Rojer

...If I was going to motivate people I would show them "Shawshank Redemption" and then I would tell them about Haas's career. He never gives in, never seems to get down and always seems able to make a comeback. A comeback where he defeats the world number one, wins a title and makes the final of another. He is poised to finish the year in the top ten, as well, as he has few points to defend at the slams and the Masters. Not only that, but he is a really nice guy, too...you can't help but like him. He is the kinda guy who would have the patience and the determination to spend years crafting an elaborate escape involving a movie poster, a rock hammer and a pipe.
RISER: Stanislas Wawrinka, SUI
...Tis a good week for the one-hander. Wawrinka won his fourth 250 and his third clay title here. It's his first title since Chennai 2011. He seems to be in top form this year and another deep run at the French is in the cards.
SURPRISE: Daniel Brands, GER
...Three of the four semifinalists at the BMW Open were Germans with one handed backhands. Brands beat Melzer, Monfils, a slumping Tipsy and then nearly beat Kohl, too. He just fell short in the third set breaker.
VETERAN: Tommy Robredo, ESP
...I shall continue my one hander theme. Tommy just turned 31 this month. He has also made a huge comeback. I guess some never forget how to play. He is always dangerous on clay. It took a spirited Seppi to down him here. He will be a very dangerous floater over the course of the year.
COMEBACK: David Ferrer, ESP
...A strange loss to Vavsy aside, Ferrer appeared to rise out of his slump, albeit briefly. He had to grind out a win against Roger-Vasselin but then after that sent Hanescu and Seppi packing. He should just about keep onto his fourth ranking until the French, but it will be very close.
NEW FACE: Pablo CarreƱo Busta, ESP
...He made his first ATP semi. I don't know much about him, unfortunately, but he is definitely one to watch for the future.
DOWN: Marin Cilic, CRO
...He lost in the second round of both the BMW Open and now Madrid, too. He's supposed to be the 12th best player on the planet. I think this is quite disappointing. I really expect better from Cilic, although to be fair Dolgo was also not great but he did at least win a few matches here.

1. BMW Open Rd.2 - Haas d. Gulbis
A quality match which was a big morale booster for Haas. He lost to the Latvian earlier this year at Delray. He played well and managed to hold off Gulbis, who is very dangerous. I hope his ranking goes up soon. He needs to be in the latter rounds of tournaments.
2. BMW Open SF - Kohlschreiber d. Brands
A match full of high quality rallies and tension. Brands is really putting together some impressive results. He made a semi in Doha, too.
3. Portugal Open Rd.2 - Wawrinka d. Ramos
Vavsy came back from the dead here against a very talented clay courter. The Spanish love the dirt.

Berdych [6] d. Dimitrov
Nadal [5] d. [2] Federer
Nadal [5] d. [6] Berdych

Williams [1] d. [3] Azarenka
Sharapova [2] d. [16] Ivanovic
Williams [1] d. [2] Sharapova


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