Wednesday, January 25, 2017

AO Day 10: Old World Insanity

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Well, the elimination challenge has come to its end. A pass for this BACKSPINNER - two quarterfinals. Trapped by earlier picks and forced to risk it, the end came quickly. Yes, the Raonic pick was really quite foolish. But the Pliskova pick was definitely playing the percentages. Her losing will have to be a candidate for upset of the year. The next question for Lucic-Baroni is how many games she can get against Williams.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Gasquet d. Mott {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Tomic d. Estrella Burgos {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Nishikori d. Lacko {W}
MS 4th Rd: Dimitrov d. Istomin {W}
MS QF: Raonic d. Nadal {L}
WS 1st Rd: Wozniacki d. Rodionova {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Konta d. Osaka {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Venus d. Duan {W}
WS 4th Rd: Lucic-Baroni d. Brady {W}
WS QF: Pliskova d. Lucic-Baroni {L}

The last time Mirjana Lucic-Baroni made a semi-final she lost to Graf. The Williams were still around then. The German retired weeks later. Stefanie Graf, as she prefers to be called, beat young Belgian Kim Clijsters in the fourth round. Is it the biggest gap between semi-finals in WTA history? Todd, could definitely tell you. Either way the run is impressive. This BACKSPINNER would also like to refer back to the era debate. My era is still kicking your eras behind, Todd!

No, really, how is it these talented youngsters are unable to match the old guard? Aga Radwanska, Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber all choked. Karolina Pliskova also blew it. Only the Australian women held their own. This next crop has been majorly disappointing, so far. The Williams sisters should have been relegated to history long ago. It is a credit to them they have not, but at the same time how have they outlasted three generations of WTA players?

The Williams final that seems to be beckoning would be the first since 2009. That rivalry should have been up there with Federer/Nadal. But it never quite got there. The two sisters have defined the last two decades of women’s tennis. Only Svetlana Kuznetsova has hung around with them. Not even Maria Sharapova. Both Russians have, but it feels like Masha has missed so much more. This whole tournament has been a hark back. Perhaps the last Kuznetsova versus Jankovic match, and now perhaps the final chapter in the book of the Williams sisters. And Lucic-Baroni, too.

It has felt very old-world, this particular slam. With Jankovic on the rink of retirement, no Ivanovic and no Belgians, those four are the very last of that first generation of this century. In two years’ time don’t bet on any of them still being here, particularly the Williams sisters. So enjoy the insanity. Enjoy the crazy resurgence of the vets.

And would you be surprised if Venus won? Would you be surprised if she won her third slam out of four? This BACKSPINNER would not. Yes, it’s a funny time on the WTA. And yes, the length of this diatribe about the WTA should give you a hint as to the level of quality on the ATP side.

It has been like the NFL playoffs recently. No compelling quarterfinals on the men’s side. No drama, no close matches and a lack of quality. Some players are playing exceptionally, but it seems like two players can’t put it together at the same time. It really is very frustrating.
Well, we are very nearly at the end now. Just hang in there and let’s get this over and done with.

...This was easy. Raonic was hurt and for the last set of his 6-4, 7-6[7], 6-4 defeat he was utterly disinterested. It still took Rafa two and three quarter hours to get through the Canadian. But Milos just isn’t quite there mentally. He had six set points in the second set. Rafa had one. Most of those were on the Spaniard’s serve, but one came on the Canuck's. And he double faulted. It wasn’t close. He only hit 14 aces. Going off court to see the trainer midway through the second really helped, but it was like putting a plaster on a pipe leak. Briefly effective, but not a long-term solution. And when Rafa is playing like he did there isn’t much you can do. Nadal soaked up all of Raonic’s power and counter-punched superbly. Raonic came to net 52 times, winning 50 per cent of those points. Nadal passed him all day long and choked the life out of the match. He moves on to face Dimitrov, a player who he has beaten seven times. He has lost only once, but it was the last time. To win he has to wreck Dimitrov’s backhand. He needs to be prepared to attack the second serve, too. He can’t afford to be too passive here.
...What is there to write about, to say in a match like this? The simple line of Dimitrov/Goffin does it no justice. The Bulgarian won in two hours 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. It wasn’t close, though there were a few good rallies. Dimitrov continued to show off, going 33-25 on the winners count. But Goffin slipped to 29-46. Against this version of Dimitrov you have to be perfect, have to be on the ball. And Goffin wasn’t. He won, on average, three points a game. He didn’t even win 40 per cent of return points. This was pretty embarrassing. Sooner or later he will have to step up and win a match like this. He is good enough, but there’s not enough proof yet to fully back that up. His performance in March last year definitely helped go some way to prove he can do it. Three years ago, Dimitrov should have knocked Rafa out of the Australian Open. He was inches away. He has barely dropped sets this year. He has not lost in 2017. He beat Rafa last time out. He should win. He is the favourite. He needs to match Rafa physically and take way the Spaniard's favourite serve - the one out wide. He has to take away Nadal’s rhythm. This BACKSPINNER thinks he will win in four, but then he got the Raonic match wrong. Now, let us try and forget all about this turd that Goffin laid.
...What a way to blow it. The slam is in their grasp, in their hands. Or it was. Seeded top, with the second seeds gone, they had a golden opportunity for another major. But in two hours and ten minutes they were outlasted by Australian youngsters 7-6[2], 2-6, 6-4. It’s just a mind-blowing result. Does being the top seed mean anything anymore? No top seed in any of the five main disciplines will make the final. The top seed in the boys and mixed are still alive. In fact, in all the junior events bar one the top seeds have held serve. So why can’t the seniors do it? Despite hitting 50 winners and breaking more times, the Frenchies still blew it. This is why the Bryans and Williamses have been able to hang around so long. There is a real problem with upsets in this day and age. The Woodies record is more impressive because in their era everyone played doubles. These guys are the best in the world, apparently. So how did they lose to two kids with very little slam experience? It’s just ridiculous. Those kids now get to play fourth seeded Kontinen/Peers. They beat another Australian pair - Groth/Guccione. The Aussies never even saw a break point as they were routinely dismissed 7-5, 6-3. For Peers this is a huge chance to win his home slam. He had two finals in 2015. Can he finally win his maiden major?

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please. Todd knows all about the Williams sisters. And he has very fond memories of the 1999 Wimbledon Championships. But not because of Lucic-Baroni.

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