Monday, August 10, 2015

Wk.31- Washington Today, New York Tomorrow

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The World Swimming Championships have concluded. They were held in Kazan, Russia and the host country came second behind the scarily dominant Chinese, but ahead of America and Australia. With over 2 billion people, the odds are good that someone is going to be very good at something. It is still somewhat of a mystery as to how China doesn't just dominate all of sports. If it really set its mind to it it could. The same goes for the USA, of course.

And watching the swimming in particular made this BACKSPINNER realize something. In very few individual sports does one compete into one's thirties. In tennis this is commonplace. In fact, there's more likely to be a surprised reaction if somebody retires before thirty. Look at Graf and Henin. Hingis and Soderling were shocks, as well. Although injury played a significant role in all those retirements the point still stands. Tennis is a unique sport with regards to how long you can go on playing it.

And it isn't because it's less physical. A five set clay court match in the heat actually carries health risks. There are players who become non-factors from September onwards because they simply do not have the fitness. If Nalbandian or Baghdatis had been as fit as say a Hewitt or a Ferrer how good would they have been? Nalbandian should have won a slam. It's a travesty he didn't. Date-Krumm this week beat a seed and a top twenty or thereabouts player. She beat a recent slam finalist in Lisicki. That should never have happened. It wouldn't happen in swimming or in any other individual sport. Golf doesn't count.

The other thing is, and this has been explored at length previously, every tennis player is an island. In swimming and in other individual sports you will usually be part of a team at an event. Even in badminton and other racket sports there's a feeling of team spirit. Or at least there is to an extent. But in tennis you are on your own. Even in Davis Cup and the Olympics there isn't a big bond. Yes, the players are usually friends with their compatriots, but not always.

And it was while watching these swimmers hug and congratulate each other that this BACKSPINNER realized, hey, our handshake is cold. Not unfriendly but not always warm. You get it on both sides. And, boy, our sport is a selfish sport. But it's also forgiving. If you lose a few tournaments you can always come back and win. You have time. Swimmers have usually about two Olympics where they're relevant. And that's if they're lucky. The very, very good ones may have three.

Next time you're watching a sport, look at it and wonder to yourself how is this different to tennis. Of course, you will be far more coherent than I am. But, to conclude, swimming has more of a sense of community but, in another way, just as much loneliness. You also have less time in a career but probably longer at the top of your game.

QUESTION: Who won the first Washington Open on the ATP tour?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Kohl moves up 11 to 28. Cuevas goes up to 30. Bellucci up eight to 31. Querrey still holds 32 over Bellucci. The Brazilian fell two from 31. Sock and Mayer are knocking on the door.

Top 10 - Tsonga fell 12 because the Rogers Cup is a week later this year. So he lost 1000 points. Ouch. Isner is up six to 12. Simon and Gasquet sit at 11 and 13. Nadal is at nine and Raonic sits at 10.

Top 8 - Little change. Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but behind six. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 -No change in the top three but Murray could make a run at two. Wawrinka and Kei swap places. Could Kei be the fourth seed at the Open? It's crucial for him that he secures it. It could make all the difference as the defending finalist.

S: Kei Nishikori d. John Isner 4-6/6-4/6-4
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Dodig/Melo

S: Philipp Kohlschreiber d. Paul-Henri Mathieu 2-6/6-2/6-2
D: Almagro/Berlocq d. Haase/Kontinen

Korea def. Spain 2-1

...Perhaps, yes, I should have opted for the guy who won the 500. But that does not always denote the best player of the week. For example, if Berdych loses in the quarters and Kokkinakis loses in the fourth who would you say has had a better tournament? And it's the same here. Nishikori is expected to do well and win those tournaments. Kohl was expected to lose quietly to somebody he is far better than. He was supposed to disappoint. But he didn't. And that's commendable. Also tempting to put here was Lleyton Hewitt, who just never gives up. But Philipp Kohlschreiber doesn't have many days. And today is the day this Dachshund has his day. Seeded sixth, he ran into Struff in the first round. He won 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3. He could easily have fallen pray to the upset but did not. He beat Giraldo down 6-0, 6-2 next, which is an impressive result. That's the kind of scoreline only Nadal is really capable of. Next he bageled Fognini in the breaker to win 7-6[0], 6-4. And another bagel followed. He beat an in-form Thiem 6-0, 7-6[8] to make the final. In an entertaining three setter he outlasted qualifier Mathieu. It was an impressive week from the German and now he needs to back it up. Suddenly he looks dangerous coming into the U.S. Open. He should have taken a set off Djokovic at Wimbledon. It was a bit of a let down that he failed to do so. It wasn't totally unexpected, however. Still he has waves to make at the upcoming Masters and the slam. Is a deep run at all three of those out of the question? No. And it's not many players who have had made two finals this season.
...Do you collect anything? Stamps, sports memorabilia, states, cities and books are just some of the things one can collect, though the choice is vast. Kei collects 500 level finals. Eight of his 15 finals are at this level. He is 6-2. This is his third 500 final this year and he is 2-1. He's 3-1 in finals overall. But this was his maiden final in Washington and he excelled. Somehow for Kei it is never simple or straight-forward. Something complex always happens. Maybe he makes it complicated. Maybe he doesn't know how to make it easier on himself. Or perhaps he is just forever cursed with bad draws. He barely got past Duckworth but won 6-7[8], 6-1, 6-4. But then Mayer and Groth were both dispatched 6-4, 6-4. He then edged Cilic 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Marin had beaten Zverev in a tight three setter in the round before. The 18 year old German is now closing in on 80 In the world. In the final, Nishikori, who will shockingly turn 26 this year, had just too much for Isner despite the stature difference. Nishikori is now fourth in the world. He and Wawrinka keep swapping around. And really they’re both legitimate world number fours but surely the slam champion should be ranked higher. It's an interesting query. Does the defending finalist or a current defending slam champ have higher precedence? Cilic may not even be seeded eighth.
...The Frenchman is one of those delightful enigmas. He has an eternal question mark above his head. What if? What if he had been fully fit and had stayed on the tour? What if he had achieved his potential, his full potential? What if he had been destined to be France's best player, not one of the others. Sadly the answers to none of these questions will ever be answered now. Still, he had a good week. In qualifying, the Frenchman was the top seed. He beat Munar, the Spaniard mentioned here last week. He bounced fellow qualifier De Schepper in the first round 6-2, 6-2 before ousting fourth seed Klizan in just two sets. Next he beat Argentine Delbonis in a weird match 6-3, 0-6, 6-3. He was too good for Almagro in the end, ousting him 6-4, 6-3. When he gets on fire he can still pull off all the tricks and he showed that in Spades. P-H Mathieu rises 31 spots to 78. Just think about that. 31 spots. And if he can string together a few wins at the next three events, he will be cracking the top 50 in no time. Of course being French means that he was never taught consistency. Still, he has a good chance to roll into the top 50 now. As it stands he easily gets direct entry into the U.S. Open.
...Dennis is only 21, but he has his first win. He won through qualifying and then beat Bedene. Fognini finally dismissed him for the loss of only three games but he played some impressive tennis. He and Thiem could make some big waves for Austria on the circuit. Here he is beating Bedene and in three sets, too.

...He served for it and still blew it. He literally had this match won and blew it. Murray is here for not only being a bit rubbish but also for losing the match in the way he did. He cannot lose matches like this. This is exactly the reason he never felt a part of the big four. He never quite had their level of their numbers. No matter which way you slice it he was never at their level. They didn't lose matches like this. They never played badly and lost. They played badly and their opponents played the best tennis of their lives. Sometimes it still wasn't enough. The worst thing is that we're just used to Murray losing matches he shouldn't throughout the years.
...Beating a world number three is always a fantastic experience. Beating any top five or top ten player is great. Heck, beating a player better than you is a fantastic achievement and feeling. Gabashvili did it and he did it on one of Murray's best surfaces. He outlasted the ultimate grinder and that is a huge win.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Isner finding some consistency. At last.
2 - Congratulations, Sloane. Your first title and it's a big one. Not only that but to win it in front of home support is tremendous. She was born in Plantation [FLA], a mere 15 hours away from the Citi Open. Pretty special.
3 - Kohl won a title near where he lives. It's always nice to win a title in a tournament close to where you live, in a home tournament.
4 - The Spanish number one has a losing record against the Spanish number two. A really bad one. This isn't usually the case.
5 - Raonic is going for win #200. Good luck to him.

1. Washington Final – Nishikori d. Isner 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
...Little and large took to the final stage. Isner had Kei right where he wanted him but the Japanese man has learned how to grit it out. He kept plugging away and eventually did the American in in an exciting final out in Washington. Both have risen in the rankings and both are dark horses in New York.
2. Kitzbuhel 1st Rd. - Almagro d. Vesely 6-7[2], 7-5, 6-4
...Jiri was seeded seventh, but it was an inspired Almagro who was able to come through and deny the young star. The Spaniard had a fantastic tournament and made the semi-finals. He is steadily climbing back into the top 70. He also won the doubles with Berlocq.
3. Kitzbuhel Final – Kohlschreiber d. Methieu 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
...The surface gives a lot. It gives the ball a lot of kick and results in high bounces. It also means aggression is a viable tactic. You can really go after the ball. It meant that his final was not played as you may expect. It was played quickly and with no small amount of quality. From 2-2 in the third the German just ran away with it.
4. Washington SF – Gabashvili d. Murray 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4)
...Perhaps lacking a little in quality, there are no excuses. Despite serving for it, Murray fell at the first hurdle. No world number three should ever lose a match like this. To make it worse the Russian then went down to Berankis.

*Rogers Cup*
Djokovic [1] d. [3] Wawrinka
Nishikori [4] d. [2] Murray
Djokovic [1] d. [2] Nishikori

...Sure, Murray has played well here. So has Berdych. But neither of them will win this. Berdych is too close to Djokovic and Murray is playing badly right now. Wawrinka will bounce back a little and Nishikori will continue his run of form. He's a different animal on hard courts. Defending champion Tsonga is dangerous but could lose a lot of ranking points, too. Nadal is a non factor here.

Dellacqua lost to Doi in the final of the qualifying for the Rogers Cup singles. Doi prevailed 6-3, 6-4 but Casey did at least beat Paszek in straight sets the round before. In the doubles she and Shvedova are seeded fifth. And they open with Mladenovic/Pliskova. With a good performance here they can find form before the U.S. Open. The second seeds do lurk in their section, however.

ANSWER: Thomaz Koch won in 1969. He beat Arthur Ashe in five sets in the final.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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