Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wk.42- Are We There Yet?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Like the end of September hanging onto summer, so our season comes to a close.

Next week will be more of this, but as the season comes to close so do most of the storylines. Our questions have been answered, our wishes have been fulfilled. Welcome to the fourth quarter or third quarter for you hockey fans. Welcome to the bottom of the ninth. Welcome to October on the ATP. The WTA has finished. And our turn is coming soon.

It’s funny how despite being exhausted and a little sick of tennis now, we will miss it after just two weeks in the off-season. It is always the way. We still have about four weeks left, all told, but the schedule has become longer and longer as the years have gone by. The Australian Open moved. It is time the ATP looked at perhaps reducing the schedule. Do we really need such a long fall swing?

Regardless of the schedule we had our final week of three events and we are now down to a 250, a 500, a 1000 and a partridge in a pear tree. It’s nice symmetry to have one of each left. And the partridge can come later.

This week Vienna was upgraded to a 500 at the expense of Valencia. It made its debut. So I guess it qualifies as a Fresh Face, too. But this BACKSPINNER will miss that lovely Valencia stadium. Unusually, the 500 event was accompanied by a pair of 250 events. And it was Ferrer who prevailed in Vienna. It had just two top ten players and the field was overall a weaker one. It’s not often a 500 is such a ‘gimme,’ but this time it was.

And the 250’s gave some players a chance to move up the pecking order for the WTF. On that note it’s probably time to get stuck in.

Enough of my mostly mindless rambling. Let’s get stuck into some tennis...

QUESTION: Who had won more 500 titles, Federer or Nadal? If you can give the numbers then you can have extra credit.

Top 32 - Johnson rises a massive 14 places to 33, but Kohlschreiber rises two and holds him out of the top 32. Chardy falls a little but still sits pretty at 31. Kyrgios stays still in at 30.
Top 10 – Cilic and Isner swap at 13 and 14. Cilic leads by 70 points. Gasquet usurps Anderson in at 11 to leave the South African number one at 12. Gasquet is 60 behind Tsonga and just 15 ahead of Kevin. Number nine Raonic isn’t out of sight and is less than 200 ahead. It’s tight there on the brink of the top ten.
Top 8 – Ferrer is leaving Raonic for dust and is slowly reeling Nadal back in. He could also overtake Kei. But how much is left in his tank?
Top 4 – Little change. Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Wawrinka remain the top four but Murray is extending his lead at number two, though only by a little bit.

S: David Ferrer def. Steve Johnson 4-6/6-4/7-5
D: Kubot/Melo def. J.Murray/Peers

S: Marin Cilic def. Roberta Bautista Agut 6-4/6-4
D: Rublev/Tursunov def. Albot/Cermak

S: Tomas Berdych def. Jack Sock 7-6(1)/6-2
D: Monroe/Sock def. Pavic/Venus

...Ferrer goes to 26-25 in career finals. It’s incredible that he has reached 51 finals. For the record, that’s the same as Murray. He doesn’t have as good a record in those finals but he truly feels like a Hall of Fame player. He is also 10-9 in 500 finals. Ferrer just keeps going -- he is the little Spaniard that could. He has stayed in the top ten and consistently won titles for such a long time. The comparisons between him and Dementieva are numerous. Ah, Dementieva. Now there was a player who was great to watch. Possibly the best player off the baseline the WTA has seen in many a year. Both she and Ferrer would have achieved so much more if their respective serves had been just 5 per cent better. This week Ferrer pulled a Serena. The conventional wisdom is that you have to get Williams early. Ferrer ousted Ramos, the Federer conqueror, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and once he got past that match he just went on a roll. Garcia-Lopez was put to the sword and lost 6-1, 6-1. Fognini went down 6-4, 6-2 in the quarters and Ferrer was looking increasingly ominous. Monfils was consistent but didn’t have enough as he was out-ground by Ferrer 7-6[5], 7-5. Somehow the final wasn’t a thrash. Johnson competed well but ultimately lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. Even when Ferrer is playing badly he can still win. Ferrer could still finish in the top five, though it is unlikely. On the strength of this comeback he would deserve it, too.
...Berdych should be renamed the yo-yo. So his rising isn’t necessarily worthy of reward, though it does necessitate a mention. Cilic has been, as he usually is, awful outside of the slams. Well, he’s not even that great in them, Wimbledon and the US Open aside. But Cilic picked up not just a 250 but some confidence. And perhaps the thinnest of lifelines in his battle to qualify for the WTF again. Though perhaps the only race still alive is the one for the alternates. Like Ferrer, his hardest match was the first. And he beat Istomin 7-6[3], 3-6, 6-3 to edge him into the second round. There he unleashed his full wrath and dismantled Kuznetsov 6-2, 6-1. Then he routed Donskoy 3 and 1. In the final, Agut couldn’t handle Cilic though he fought hard. Cilic ran out the winner 6-4, 6-4. Marin is now 14-9 in finals and is 8-2 in his last ten finals. He has won four finals in a row including that U.S. Open. His last final before this was in Moscow at the same event. He beat Agut in the final 6-4, 6-4. Spooky.
...Every player Johnson played had at some point been a top 15 player. He was the favourite in none of his matches but he impressed and he has shown his ability. He has come from nowhere and is ranked above Young and Harrison. Johnson edged Dolgopolov in three 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 to set up a match with unseeded and out of form Janowicz. It was even tighter, but Johnson prevailed once again 6-4, 6-7[7], 6-4. The American is a good clutch player. The evidence suggests that is the case at least. Next he escaped Anderson’s clutches 5-7, 7-6[5], 6-4. Anderson should have won that in two comfortable sets. But he could not find his top ten form when he needed it and Johnson was again clutch. Then he faced Gulbis and he should never have won that. It was a golden chance for Gulbis to make a final and regain his confidence. Perhaps most impressive of all is his three set loss to Ferrer. He should have been exhausted but he found a fresh vein of energy from somewhere and almost beat the Spaniard.
...Maximilian Marterer has a fantastic name. He also has a lot of talent in his tricky lefty game. He made a Wimbledon junior slam semi-final and reached a junior doubles final, too. The 20-year old German had a great week in Stockholm. He beat Guccione 7-6[0], 6-4. Then he beat compatriot Torebko 6-3, 6-4. But most impressive is how he defeated Almagro 6-3, 6-4 to qualify. And a 6-7[4], 6-2, 6-2 loss to Mayer is perfectly responsible. So, do we think is this the start of a wonderful career?
…I suppose Gasquet and Simon disappointed, but nobody was really awful this week. It’s a pity -- BACKSPIN does love to celebrate the good and the bad. Not to mention the ugly.

...Oh, how we miss the Bagman. And he returned this week. We thought he was close to retirement but he seems to be hanging on. He ousted Tomic in straight sets. Then he beat Muller, the eighth seed, in three long sets. After winning three matches and knocking out two seeds, he lost to Berdych 6-1, retired. It doesn’t get much more Baghdatis than that.

Five notes from the week...
1 – It’s time to start thinking about next year. We’re just 65 days from Brisbane. It sounds a lot but it will be here before you know it. Savor the dying weeks of this year, but have an eye on next year, too.
2 – We have just the three regular events left. The field for the WTF [that name has to go] is all but set. All that’s left is to decide who will be the main alternate. Is it going to be Gasquet or Tsonga?
3 – Eugenie Bouchard is fining the USTA and, from what I can glean from the reports, she has a strong case.
4 – With Johnson winning and Sock impressing, are America’s men finally beginning to improve?
5 – WTA Finals have begun and, honestly, it just isn’t that interesting. There’s no hype and the field isn’t all that great. If I’m not a fan of tennis I’m probably not tuning in. A lack of star power can be blamed.

1. Vienna Final - Ferrer d. Johnson 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
...Ferrer edged the talented American in three long sets. And Ferrer has come back and started winning again. It’s like he never left and that is the sign of a truly remarkable player. He has been on fire the last few weeks and I think he should at the least be nominated for the Hall of Fame. But here he won another 500 and he won it by being Ferrer. Nobody does it better.
2. Moscow 2nd Rd. - Gabashvili d. Troicki 6-2, 6-3
...This week’s big win came in the second round of the Kremlin Cup. Third seeded Troicki was blown away in no time by the inspired Gabashvili, who then got just five games in the next round. Every week there seems to be an unanticipated blow-out. This was it.
3. Stockholm QF - Berdych d. Dimitrov 7-5, 6-4
...Admittedly he is off form but Dimitrov is still talented, still dangerous and still a great player. He can still play world class tennis. And he pulled out some good stuff against Berdych, but the Czech was completely professional and never panicked. Beating Dimi in straight sets is a good result any day of the week.
4. Vienna 1st Rd. - Tsonga d. Haas 6-3, 6-7[3], 6-3
...Well it was good to see that Tommy still has the stamina to go at it for three sets with the likes of Tsonga bearing down on him. Haas played a strong match against the French number one, but ultimately did not prevail. Haas has shown he is back and he can play spoiler again.

Federer [1] d. [6] Isner
Nadal [3] d. [5] Gasquet
Ferrer [1] d. [5] Thiem

...Federer doesn’t lose a set on his way to another title. Anderson is running out of steam. Gasquet is under pressure to make the WTF and that shows as he makes it to the semi-finals. But Nadal is too good and he plays Federer for what could be the last time.

Ferrer [1] d. [3] Tomic
Lopez [2] d. [7] Agut
Ferrer [1] d. [2] Lopez

...Valencia finds itself demoted to a 250 event. The Spaniards always impress here and only an on-fire Tomic will disrupt. But Ferrer should be too good. And Agut in Spain at 250 level is guaranteed to turn up.

This week on Casey Corner I enclose simply a link.

And it’s time to say goodbye to Casey. Next season I will be focusing on another WTA player. She’s the French number one in two disciplines, ranked 9tth and 27th. She’s a fiery up and comer with a long blonde mane. Having focused on a vet, it’s time to focus on a young star. It’s time to focus on Kristina Mladenovic. I figure the two sides of this blog should stay connected and it is interesting to follow one player throughout the season. So, unless Todd overrules me, you’ll be seeing a lot of Kristina. [Ed.Note: sounds good to me... I think Kiki might just have a true breakout year in '16. - tds]

ANSWER: This was a trick question. The answer is neither. Federer is 16-4 in 500 finals and Nadal 16-6. Both Federer and Nadal play in Basel. Will one of them win number 17?

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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