Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Wk.13- It’s Baseball Season Not Rabbit Season

Hey, all. Galileo here.

The mystery as to whether or not it is duck or rabbit season was never solved. It is currently irrelevant, however, as it is baseball season.

The green monster, the Yankees disappointing, the Mariners never quite maximising their talent. The St. Louis Cardinals will compete once more, the Cubs will look great but crumble and the Giants will win it all because it is an even year. Baseball is tradition, is storied and it is history in the making. Before football there was baseball. Baseball is forever America’s sport, the sport of the working class, of the common man. Not for nothing is it beloved and celebrated. Not for nothing is the Yankees logo synonymous with New York.

This BACKSPINNER would love to see Big Papi in the postseason one last time. But for twenty teams there will be no September baseball. For two thirds of Americans there will be no joy. Getting into the MLB World series is such a difficult thing and it is the reason there are so few true dynasties. Winning a slam is harder in some ways but easier in others. In the MLB there is margin for error, but in slams there is not. If you double fault at the wrong time, or your opponent hits a dead let cord on break point, you could be done. In the MLB you can afford to lose up to 70 games. That’s a lot of losses.

If the ATP were a baseball team, you’d have Rafa as a tricky lefty pitcher and Djokovic your closer. Kyrgios would be the precocious Bryce Harper type. Federer would be the DH because he’s clutch just like Ortiz. Isner would be great in the outfield, and Monfils would be in early on the batting line-up, too. You’d need to ask somebody more versed in baseball than this BACKSPINNER for the whole team sheet, of course.

And now we go onto clay. And that is a whole other kettle of fish to the hard courts we’ve been hanging out on lately.

But what else happened this past week? Well, let’s find out...

Top 32 - Chardy drops 3, while Johnson rises 3. They are at 34 and 33. Fognini stays at 32. Karlovic and Dolgopolov stay just out of the top 30.
Top 10 – No change. Goffin up two places to 13. Gasquet at ten must be getting nervous - Raonic and Cilic are both close to catching him. He had a solid March but lost to Cilic and Berdych in the fourth round matches. But Tsonga and Ferrer aren’t far above the Frenchie, either. Gasquet only has points at Estoril and Wimbledon to defend.
Top 8 – Little change. Ferru and Berdych are far behind Nishikori. Kei is going to catch Rafa at some point. It’s when, not if.
Top 4 – No change. Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Wawrinka. But Federer is very close to taking the number two ranking from Murray. And that’s the seeding you want when it comes to the French. It is not unfeasible that both Swiss men pass Muzza.

S: Novak Djokovic def. Kei Nishikori 6-3/6-3
D: Herbert/Mahut d. Klaasen/Ram

...He may not play a brand of tennis as exciting as certain Russian tennis players, but he is certainly very efficient. But while he wins it feels like something is missing from the counter-puncher. There’s no pizzazz or flair. Even the drop shot seems too cold, too technical. Really, it’s very robotic, very dull. Kuznetsova can hit every shot is what the commentators say. But what they should add is that she will hit any shot. And as Nole continues to notch these victories with such ease, the rumours of doping will continue. Already there are whispers. Even Federer was not quite this smooth. He was tested, he had Rafa. When is Djokovic going to have his inevitable fall? Murray is going through a drop right now. But Djokovic, like some long, dull, Dylanesque ballad about nothing in particular keeps going. This week he dispatched Edmund 3 and 3, Sousa 4 and 1 and Thiem 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the quarters. He wasn’t troubled by Berdych, either, sweeping by him 6-3, 6-3. Goffin gave him everything but still lost 7-6[5], 6-4. He dismissed Nishikori 6-3, 6-3 in another forgettable final. That’s another thing - so few of Djokovic’s slam finals have been true classics. Federer and Nadal had so many. But most of Djokovic’s have been boring, baseline bashing affairs. And if they go five sets they’re usually unpleasantly brutal. But now we’re onto clay where he loses just a little bit of his aura.
...Are we finally seeing the best of Kei? He may not have won any slams, unlike certain Russian tennis players one could mention, but he did have a great week just as another ‘K’ tennis player did. And he has that slam run experience. He has played well at Madrid before and he is a player who tends to repeat at the same time. At Barcelona, too, he will be dangerous. And at the French he is a lock for the quarters. He needs to prove this year his U.S. Open run was no fluke. We know it wasn’t but we need proof. Just as we know humans caused global warming but can’t categorically prove it, we know Kei can do it. This week he showed us again, which just makes it more infuriating that he couldn’t even make the final close. He edged Herbert 6-2, 7-6[4] and then routed Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-2. Agut could do little better, falling 2 and to the Asian number one. Monfils had five match points but crumbled to a three set loss. Kei was like a rock on the baseline against Kyrgios. The Australian lived and died by the sword, losing 6-3, 7-5. And then another disappointing loss to a higher ranked player ensued. Some things never change.
...There are few who can match the flair and watchability of Kyrgios, though a certain WTA star does come to mind, and his talent was on full display. Just like that WTA star he can hit any shot and does. Both were promising youngsters and both work hard at it. They each can trouble any and every one. But she has a pleasant temperament, is well-liked and people want to cheer for her. She does not alienate, does not aggravate. He does. If he could simply sort out the off-court stuff we could all sit back and watch his victories guilt free.
...Quietly having a decent year, the Czech is going to keep achieving his seeding all year long. That’s pretty good, but soon he will need to step it up. Surely he can take inspiration from the fact Serena lost in Miami and use that to beat Djokovic. He’s no Sveta but then who is? He has settled himself, Dementieva like, into that top ten rut. Never has a bad result, just consistent quarterfinals and semi-finals, snapping up the odd title here and there. Always wins three matches at slams and every few months has a spectacularly bad loss. May take a set off a bigger name or threaten to make another final, but he has his niche and he’ll stay there. Yes, the parallels between him and Dementieva write themselves.
...Back to back semi-finals for Goffin. He had never been in a 1000 level semi before this and had only been to one quarter. To compare him to Ferrer, as some are doing, is accurate. He is squeezing every drop of talent he has into the game. He is maximising everything. He may not be the most talented guy, but look where talent got Monfils and Gasquet. Combined Ferrer has more slam finals and more slam semi-finals. Goffin this week has been so impressive from his 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Granollers in his first match to his brave defeat to Djokovic. His shining moment was the 6-1, 6-1 walloping of 19th seeded Troicki. Come the French he will be the dark horse of choice for pundits everywhere.
...Another disappointing loss for the Scot. Yes, Wawrinka was poor but he has never played well here. He is not a former champion. The Brit does sometimes struggle against Dimi but he should not be losing to the rising star in a three set war. He should be able to out-grit the Bulgarian. It follows a really poor loss in Indian Wells and it all but guarantees Federer the world number two position if he wants it. Is Murray just experiencing a little dip or is this the start of a slump? Jankovic and Ivanovic started off in a dip and, well, you saw what happened there.
...He didn’t take out the world number one, like a certain former world number two did, but he did have another good week results wise. Sure he called our sport ‘biased’, but he has a reputation to uphold. His straight sets defeat of Raonic in the quarters was impressive. He attacked the net, used slices and never gave Raonic any rhythm. His 6-4, 7-6[4] performance was perfect. Measured and calculated, his game plan was absolutely right.

Notes from the week...
1 Here is Nick talking about our sport:
2– Herbert/Mahut and Mattek-Sands swept the events. Massive kudos to them. Also a huge month for Azarenka who has been untouchable from the baseline. She could well finish as world number one this year.
3 – Big question marks over Roger and Rafa still. How will clay affect the Fedal dynamic?
4 – If only tennis could get out of its own way we’d have a great sport. Would it be possible to run it out ourselves without outside influence? We do not need that whole gender debate firing up again.
5 – Somebody is going to beat Djokovic on clay this swing but who? And will he return to Madrid?
6 - It was a great run from Kuznetsova to make the final. A strong season this year with a run at the French and that locks up her Hall of Fame ‘argument,’ although her Fed Cup and doubles prestige should already have done that.

1. Miami QF - Nishikori d. Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 7-6[3]
...Make no mistake, Kei did not deserve to win this. He escaped with the help of some audacious play and a lot of luck. Monfils was the better player but could not convert on any of the five match points he had. The Frenchman has been putting some seriously good results down this year, but he has also had luck in the draws, too. Can he keep it up going into his best slam?
2. Miami QF - Goffin d. Simon 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
...The Belgian was in a tight spot against Simon but rebounded brilliantly to sweep him aside in three. Down a set, the Belgian would lose just three more games as he bullied Simon into submission. It is a sign of the Belgian’s steady rise in the ATP landscape.
3. Miami 4th Rd. - Berdych d. Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 7-5
...It took Berdych two and half very sweaty hours, but he leveled the head-to-head with Gasquet at 7-7 with his three set victory. Like Cilic last week, Gasquet came up just short.
4. Miami Final - Djokovic d. Nishikori 6-3, 6-3
...When Nadal and Federer dominated they at least played interesting tennis with watchable points. Djokovic is boring and it’s sad that the ATP’s best player doesn’t excite. He’s very talented but he is just a wall. Nothing happened in this match.

Sock [4] d. [1] Isner
Paire [2] d. [3] Lopez
Sock [4] d. Paire [2]

...No reason why Sock can’t defend his title. Isner is unreliable on the dirt and there is no big name here. Well, except Estrella Burgos. That’s a big name. Paire is good enough to make a run here or anywhere. Remember things are always a little funky after the March double.

Coric [3] d. [1] Garcia-Lopez
Sousa [2] d. [4] Delbonis
Coric [3] d. [2] Sousa

...Just have a feeling Coric will have good results this clay swing. GGL is a former champion here and the top seed. Sousa and Delbonis round out our big seeds. All four have a shot at the crown. Watch out for Vesely, though. He is rapidly moving through the rankings and is even seeded here.

Garcia and Mladenovic are in Charleston. Seeded 11th Kiki is slated to run into 11th seed Keys in the third round. In the doubles the Frenchies are seeded third in what is a packed field. Hingis/Mirza are looking wobbly right now and that means these events are wide open. They open with the dangerous pairing of Dellacqua/Stosur. Can the French ladies take advantage? In total at the March events Mladenovic won a set. Sure, some of that bad form can be attributed to the back issue of Garcia, but we expect better. Kiki has a good chance now to improve and come back stronger. Whether or not that will happen is anybody’s guess.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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