Monday, October 03, 2016

Wk.39- October, a Time for Rising from the Dead

Hey, all. Galileo here.

October is a funny month in the tennis calendar; the women go home and the men have to go big. There is a race to get to the finals. The WTA is going to conclude soon and have a nice long holiday. The ATP, meanwhile, will slog on. Honestly, the season is too long. By the time it’s all concluded it’s six weeks until January. There really is no break, not like there used to be.

And in the month of ghosts and ghouls we have some old faces we thought were long gone. Richard Gasquet, a BACKSPIN favourite, has looked alright given his struggles with injury. He even pushed Tomas Berdych hard. It’s ironic, in fact, that his mind, which let him down before, is now the part of him that works really well. It’s like if the Red Sox suddenly started to be awful on offense but excellent on pitching.

And another face we’d forgotten, Janko Tipsarevic. A former top ten player made a run before retiring, as well. He has been derailed by his broken body, too. The Serb was once seeded eighth at the U.S. Open in 2012, and he played David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. It seemed impossible that could be the seedings, but they were and in a delicious twist of fate it turned out to be one of the matches of the tournament.

And that was just one of the points. That match should be far more celebrated. More happened in that match than in some of our recent grand slam finals.

Three years ago Tipsarevic was relevant. In three years’ time, who amongst the current crop will be? In five years none of the current top ten will be around, bar Thiem. It’s funny to think of tennis as being a quick changing sport, but it does change really quickly and at the same time imperceptibly. Ana Ivanovic has taken four years to fall apart again. There are cases of the decline happening quickly -- Amelie Mauresmo and Pete Sampras went downhill pretty quickly. Bbut this is a sport that changes it’s best quickly.

Thomaz Bellucci and Viktor Troicki also made decent runs this week. Viktor is one of those tennis players, like Jeff Tarango, who is more famous for being angry than being a good tennis player.

But, on with the show. The race is on to make the finals...

Top 32 - Ramos-Vinolas rose four places from 31 to 27. He sent Lopez, Querrey, Simon and Kohl down a spot. If he wins a 250 or does very well at the 500 level tournaments coming up he could crack the top twenty.
Top 10 – Little change. Tsonga goes up from 13 to 12 at the expense of Ferrer.
Top 8 – Little change. Raonic still comfortably leads Federer and Monfils.
Top 4 – The gap between Murray and Djokovic has settled into a consistent and steady 5000 point gap. Wawrinka sits by himself, a little Swiss island. 3000 behind Murray, but he is increasing his lead over Nadal with every week that passes. Nadal will soon fall out of the top four. He will be replaced by Nishikori.

S: Karen Khachanov def. Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7(4)/7-6(3)/6-3
D: Klaasen/Ram d. Carreno Busta/Fyrstenberg

S: Tomas Berdych def. Richard Gasquet 7-6(5)/6-7(2)/6-3
D: Fognini/Lindstedt d. Marach/F.Martin

...He fired fourteen aces to take the title. The 20-year old has arrived. He has been a long time coming. In the ITF tournament finals he has gone 7-1, so the precedent has been there. The Russian is just what his home nation needs after losing Davydenko and Youzhny. Rublev and Saffiullin have both won junior slams recently, as well. They have fantastic potential, as well, though junior success means little.

Daniel Elsner won three slams in a row. Who? Exactly.

FUN FACT: in Wimbledon 1998, Federer and Rochus defeated Llodra/Ram in the boys doubles. Andy Ram of Israel, not the American Ram.

But Khachanov has looked good this year. A quarterfinal in Kitzbuhel hinted at what was to come. The Russian may not have Davydenko’s speed or Safin's sheer physicality and talent. He does not even have the evil that Kafelnikov seemed to have. But he does have a steadiness and an ability to rally and trade. He can sit on the baseline, particularly on the backhand, and force you to miss. Plus, he has a sense of humour.

This week he had a tricky path but answered every question put to him. He beat 7th seed Sousa 7-6[3], 6-3. He put Mannarino away in a comeback win 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Lopez, seeded fourth, went down 6-3, 6-4. Sixth seeded Troicki lost 6-3, 7-5. And in the final he beat another seed - he escaped 5th seeded Ramos-Vinolas in three tight sets to become champion. He became the first Russian titlist on the tour since October 2013.

...Lying in a hospital bed recovering from appendicitis, Berdych must’ve been thinking about the tour like school children do in detention. Everyone else is out there having a ball while I’m in here writing out, ‘I must not question the powers that be’ 500 times. Berdman had time to get back and find his footing. But he decided to push for the WTF, where he is just behind Nadal. And for somebody coming back from the hospital the Czech looked pretty good. He made the semi-finals last week and has won a tournament this week. It’s been a good month from him. He may only have a few slams left in his window, but if he could make just one more final that would be awesome. He never really had a shot with such a difficult era but the career he has eked out has been pretty good. Not many players make six slam semi-finals. He had some impressive wins this week, taking out Kukushkin in two breakers and seeing off the future of Czech tennis, Vesely. He sent Bellucci home with a 6-3, 7-5 victory and then toughed out a tight match against Gasquet to prevail. And with that win he goes 13-17 in finals. It also means he has won his last three finals, all in October. In fact he has won seven titles in October and made eight finals. He is the two-time defending champion in Stockholm, where he has won the title three times, so expect him to add to his October total.
...Just 21, the Italian is already 5-3 in ITF finals. It can be so hard to make an accurate guess, but this guy could be turning into quite a decent player. He made the Wimbledon boys final in the doubles but lost to Kyrgios/Harris. This week he was dismissed by Kudla 6-1, 6-3 but before that he routed Suhao of China 6-0, 6-1. Not much to report yet but keep your eyes on this young man. He will keep popping up over the next few years.
...Sometimes it’s just nice to see an old face again. If Jankovic made the quarterfinals, heck, won a match, at a slam we could look back and remember. Tipsarevic was around during the last year Federer won a slam, the year Nole really took control. Even though he has fought hard against injuries he still looks like the player he was. He helped Serbia to the Davis Cup, too. Will he hang around? Is 2017 going to be his swan song?
...Perhaps he could be described as a poor man’s Verdasco, but he is more than that to him. He has a different make-up to that, a slightly less fiery one, if you will. He is capable of doing this:

and this:

But he lacks the dizzying heights that the Spaniard could climb to. The Brazilian has just hung around as a kind of perennial banana skin. He occasionally puts it together at the 250 events like now. Three wins for the loss of no sets, including a 6-2, 6-2 beat down of Tomic, saw him through to the semi-finals. He should have done better against Berdych, but the run is good enough.
...He needs to take a break. Losing to Ramos-Vinolas in the second match is not a horrible result even if mustering just five games is poor. What’s horrible is his schedule. He designed it all wrong. He didn’t know he would be this successful, but now he is winning so much he has to cut down on the commitments. He must cancel and withdraw from some. He could play one more 250, 500 and the Masters tournaments. He could then be fresh for the WTF. The gap between that and the regular season is a week, but being really fresh would be a massive bonus. Can Thiem find his groove again? We shall soon find out.
...defeating Goffin was a bit of a shock. The Belgian has been on a tear this year. The Davis Cup last year has proved to be a springboard for his success. Kyrgios losing in three tight sets to Anderson is one thing, Goffin losing to Jaziri 7-6[2], 3-6, 6-2 is another altogether. The Tunisian was able to find the momentum again after losing that second set. Goffin has had an up and down year. Career best in three slams and two semi-finals in March, a feat few on the tour replicated. A bunch of quarterfinals, too, but no title. So a good stepping stone, but more is needed now. Losses like this need to be cut out.

Notes from the Week...
1 – No meltdown yet for Angie Kerber. She did alright in her first tournament as number one, a three set loss to Kvitova being totally acceptable, of course.
2 – Wawrinka apparently had a massive panic attack five minutes before he went out. Didn’t seem to stop him, though.
3 - Ten years ago today our slam winners were Federer and Nadal. This year they are Wawrinka, Djokovic and Murray.
4 – Agassi had positive advice for Kyrgios this past week. Perhaps McEnroe could try that? The Aussie could technically get into the top ten this year, but most likely that’ll come during the first few months of next year.
5 – Kohl has the most 500 level wins at 12-4, but he has no titles.

1. Shenzhen Final - Berdych d. Gasquet 7-6[5], 6-7[2], 6-3
...Down a set and 3-5, Gasquet came up with aces on both of the Czech’s match points and took him to a breaker. He won it but could not keep hold of the momentum as Tomas broke his serve and then clung on for the win. Berdman moves closer to the ATP Finals. He also looks really good for a guy who was in the hospital mere weeks ago.
2. Chengdu Final - Khachanov d. Ramos-Vinolas 6-7[4], 7-6[3], 6-3
...A comeback from a rising star. He will rise 50 spots to world number 55 with this comeback win. Really this is how the other final should have gone. But the talented Russian junior has risen through the ranks. And bating a vet like the Spaniard is a big tick.
3. Chengdu SF - Ramos-Vinolas d. Dimitrov 7-6[6], 1-6, 7-6[3]
...What a set of matches on display this week. The quality and parity of the contests was refreshing, but Dimitrov should have done better. The Bulgarian should be winning these matches.
4. Shenzhen R1 - Tipsarevic d. Paire 6-0, 6-7[5], 7-5
...What is going on? It’s this kind of scoreline only Paire could produce. The Frenchman had an improbable comeback and then a very probable choke.

Murray [1] d. [4] Thiem
Pouille [6] d. [3] Raonic
Murray [1] d. [6] Pouille

...Nadal, Murray and Raonic all usually play in Tokyo. With Djokovic out, this is a great chance to pick up points and close the gap for the Scot. Thiem must be exhausted by now. Does he have enough left in the rank for a run here? Nadal is going to be useless on this surface, which means a surprise finalist. Pouille, anyone? Can we really trust Raonic?

Nishikori [1] d. [4] Cilic
Monfils [2] d. [3] Berdych
Nishikori [1] d. [2[ Monfils

...This is Kei Nishikori in Japan. Are you willing to bet against him? This BACKSPINNER is not. Kyrgios should pick up a few wins here but Berdych is on a roll. And Monfils should continue his excellent year. Cilic is in a weak section.

Mladenovic was seeded first in the Wuhan doubles. But she and partner Garcia lost to Peng/McHale 3-6, 6-2, 10-2 in the 2nd Round. How the world’s best players lost a deciding breaker 10-2 is anybody’s guess. She beat Vandeweghe 7-6[5], 6-3 in singles, and against Kerber she took the first set 7-6[4] but lost the last two 6-1, 6-4. It was a spirited performance from our favourite Frenchie. But when is she going to start winning those matches?

She defeated Jankovic in the first round of the China Open 6-3, 5-7, 7-6[4] this weekend. What’s more shocking? The fact Jankovic is stuck around forty in the world or that she was ever the world’s best player? It is eighth seed Keys up next for Kiki. Krunic/Siniakova are up first in the doubles.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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