Tuesday, May 26, 2015

French Open Day 3

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Nothing much happened today on the third day, so a quick intro and then onto the main agenda. Do you miss the 70's? Tennis wise, Backspin does. Borg, Evert, Connors, Vilas, Navratilova, McEnroe and Evonne, too. Great players. Talented players. Forty years ago this is how it went for the seeds:

Now that is intriguing. You had early upsets but enough good players that the latter rounds always delivered. That theme has stayed with the French for a long time. But this tournament there are no early juicy upsets. Nothing much is happening yet. Bouchard has gone in the ladies draw, but the WTA has a different problem.

Dimitrov losing is a good start, but was he expected to make a deep run?

Still, it would be good if a couple of seeds could fall. At Wimbledon there will be upsets early, but for now we must wait. So let's get to it...

*Suicide Pick*
We all know how this works. Pick a player to win each round but you cannot pick them again.
Men's Singles 1r: Verdasco [32] d. Daniel [Q]
Men's Singles 2r: Cilic [9] d. Arnaboldi [Q]
Women's Singles: Barthel d. Kania (out)

...In days gone by, Halys would have pushed Nadal. When all around here was green fields Halys would not have got five games. But these days Nadal is now what he was. And Halys is young and sprightly. He has power and the arrogance of youth. He played the right tactic and went for his shots, but the 52 errors were too many. Nadal was conservative in the 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory. He hit 26 winners and just 13 errors. He is getting into the groove of things, but the next match will give him a sterner test. Rafa won 47 per cent of points when receiving and lost just 17 points on serve. Nadal will need to play the same way. He will need to work Almagro and not miss too much. If he can be consistent the match is in the bag. But if he misses and Almagro serves well then steals a set, Nadal could be in for a long one.
...Jarkko is a diminutive version of Jarmo, which is the Finnish for Jeremiah. Jeremiah, of course, means "the uplifted." And Jarkko was lifted right up and out of the tournament by the top seed. Djokovic looks ready to take the title he has been missing. Federer and Agassi both took the title on their eleventh attempt and got the grand slam with it. Can Djokovic do the same on his 11th attempt? Djokovic broke six times in a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 victory against the Finnish number one. Djokovic lost his serve just once and had a first serve percentage of 75. He was more aggressive, coming to the net almost 40 times. He showed how he is going to beat other lefties who he may face later. He will be aggressive and serve well. It looks to be a good tactic. Djokovic is easy to find in the draw, at least. He will play Muller or Lorenzi. They play their last set tomorrow with the match tied at 2 sets all. But after that Kokkinakis or Tomic will be waiting for the top seed.
...Last time they played at a slam was here. Ferru won in 2012 by a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 score. This time it was 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. I guess Ferrer must have something against Lucas. Ferrer was so dominant he won 58 per cent of receiving points. When Ferru hits that kind of form there isn't much one can do. Gimeno-Traver is up next and he certainly will put up more resistance. Ferrer is going to take some beating. Over five on this surface it may be beyond even Murray.
...Another match on a show court which was over all too quickly. This was a big non-event with Gasquet never being troubled by his Belgian opponent. Gasquet has a great record in third rounds but an abject one in fourth rounds. Gasquet cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 victory, winning 60 per cent of points on his second serve. The Frenchman may have been playing someone not quite at his level, but he dismissed him like a pro. He took seven break chances out of seven. That kind of accuracy is what the Frenchman needs to retain. Berlocq had to come back from two sets to none down against Marchenko and now he gets Gasquet. Expect more of a struggle for the Frenchy, but there's only one winner here.
...Nobody thought this was possible. Jack should take a set off Dimi. He should threaten the young Bulgarian, but to actually win? Jack Sock has come on leaps and bounds since partnering with Vasek. The doubles has given him the confidence to do more. He has been working on that back hand, too. Sock cruised through and it isn't often an upset is this heavy. Sock won 7-6[7], 6-2, 6-3 and stopped Dimitrov in his tracks. He was never broken as Dimtrov won just 28 per cent of receiving points. If Sock can get a run going here he should crack the top 30. It's nice to see him hit 30 winners, too. Being aggressive is the answer sometimes. Carreno Busta is next. But after that Coric or Robredo will play the part of spoiler. It is a great win for Sock, perhaps even a signature win.
...These two are the classic case of what could have been. Almagro nearly fulfilled his potential. He eked out a decent career. But Dolgopolov could have had so much more. He could have dominated the tour. He had every shot and he could deploy every shot. His serve was big enough to be a weapon and his forehand and slice backhand devastate opponents. And Almagro has the most variety of any player just about. He can do anything with a ball. So why hasn't he made slam semis and finals? The Spaniard won 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6[6]. Dolgopolov won two more points and hit 55 winners. He still fell short. He needs a therapist and a psychologist, not a coach. Nadal/Almgro is up next. And that is one to watch.

Any other notes?

* - Savor the image of Nadal on Parisian clay
* - Tomic and Kokkinakis play for the right to play Nadal in the third round. If Kyrgios wins we may have our first slam with two Aussies in the third round for a while
* - Casey Dellacqua does not play tomorrow.

Well, I'm out for now.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

French Open Day 2: Au revoir, Lopez

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

When a seed or big name falls early, chaos reigns in their bit. When it's a lower seed, suddenly anyone can make the third round and from there it's just two wins to the quarterfinals. When a middling seed goes down it means that the eighth of the draw they happen to be in becomes a little more unbalanced. If any seed higher than eight goes out then all hell can break loose. When Serena or Sharapova loses early the feel and the atmosphere of a slam or tournament changes. When Djokovic loses or Federer capitulates there's suddenly a feeling of hope. It's the same for Nadal and to a lesser extent Murray.

When Wawrinka and Cilic collapsed in Geneva last week, suddenly everybody else realized tht they might be the ones who would take advantage. And that is replicated here. Melzer beat Mannarino, but that was expected. Karlovic losing to Baghdatis was not too much of a surprise. But clay court veterans and aficionados Garcia-Lopez and Lopez were expected to string together a few wins. Both are dangerous and experienced. Wawrinka will now not face a seed until the fourth. With Gulbis against Mahut and Simon facing Klizan, Wawrinka may not have to face a seed until the quarters. Johnson's five set win over GGL gives him a great shot at taking on Wawrinka. He just has to beat Stakhovsky first.

Lopez lost to Gabashvili tamely and that means Bautista-Agut can now take full advantage. Monaco has a great chance to conquer the conqueror. But whichever one of them gets through to the fourth will have momentum against Nishikori if he gets there. That Lopez loss may well alter the way this tournament plays out.

You know you're in a slam when the first seed goes down.

*Suicide Pick*
We all know how this works. Pick a player to win each round but you cannot pick them again. I'm in a little late but the first round is still going. Well, I blew the Barthel pick which is frustrating but I survive in the men's singles.

Men's Singles: Verdasco [32] d. Daniel [Q].
Women's Singles: Barthel d. Kania

...Sometimes there are matches at slams you can just put a ring around and say that it is certain to be on a show court. It may be an unseeded but talented youngster against an aging middling seed with upset potential. It may be a big seed [Nishikori] or a name that will pull crowds [Nadal] and it may even be a match with a hometown favorite. And this match falls into the latter. Pouille and Simon are both French, so onto Chatrier they went. And that's totally understandable. Show off what you got while they're still around. It turned out to be an entertaining match, although for the French that is just a bonus. Pouille is the French future, especially now that Paire has proven to be a dud. He took the first set but the sheer consistency and metronomic quality of Simon's "style" wore him down. Gilles came through 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Simon managed to go 30-28 on the winners but his opponent could only manage 34-50. Simon rolls through to face Klizan. Klizan is more than capable of forcing four sets. He could also cause an upset.
...This match was never going to be as easy as it looked on paper. Arguello ran out of steam towards the end but the final score line -- a 3, 3 and 1 loss -- doesn't do him justice. He and Murray both played well, although Murray was again a little too passive at times. The 83% win percentage on first serves is where it needs to be, but the 56 percent on the second serve has to be improved when it comes to the later rounds. Murray was consistent and his defensive capabilities once more not only shone through but also saved him. He will never be number one. That chance, and it was always a slim one, is gone now. But perhaps he can add to his weeks at number two. Pospisil or Sousa is next and that will not be an easy match, either. Murray will be hoping for Sousa. Pospisil is very dangerous. The Canadian has shown flashes of his old form this year, though mainly in the doubles. I don't think Murray will lose to either of them, but this is Murray we're talking about.
...You thought Japan was just Nishikori and a rabble? No, think again. Nishioka is a tricky lefty who has already won a challenger and hasn't turned 20 years old, either. The 19-year old is the Japanese number four and is in the top 150. He is rising, too.

He struggled for the first little while but as soon as he found his feet he started to come into his own. He even began to compete. Berdych won the first set 6-0 but if you put that aside, losing 7-5, 6-3 to the world number four is respectable. Especially if you're 19. Berdych hit 32 winners but Nishioka hit just four. Yes, four. I personally think someone miscounted but if they didn't then that is the big area he has to work on. Up next is Stepanek for the Czech world number four [ten ranking points makes all the difference], and Stepanek has just found some form. He beat Dodig in four but has won three sets in a row and all of them fairly comfortably. Chance of upset? 12%.
...Monfils is one of these players who just generates bizarre score lines. He throws not just games but entire sets. He is excitingly erratic. Sometimes he does things that defy physics but he is just as likely to double fault twice in a row then give up for four games. He doesn't care about playing tennis. He only lives to entertain. He won 6-2, 6-7[5], 6-1, 7-5. He hit 18 aces and 68 winners overall. His opponent could only manage 35 winners. For the first time possibly ever Monfils was twice as aggressive as his opponent. And that in itself is strange. If he can maintain this form he will be dangerous in the latter stages. Of course, this is Monfils:

Diego Schwartzman is up next. He is pint sized at 5 foot 7, but on clay he is dangerous. Monfils has to take this match seriously. Normally that should be unsaid, but this is Monfils. He needs a therapist, not a coach.
...Do you ever find yourself in the storage part of your house, flat, caravan or other abode? Well, the last time you were in there perhaps you found an old jacket with theatre tickets in it. Perhaps a photo of a friend you promised to stay in touch with 20 years ago. A postcard from an ex from some exotic location. Even a picture of a house you once shared with seven other people or, at a stretch, a CD you and a certain someone listened to endlessly that one summer. Well, seeing Paire is like that feeling. You forgot he existed just like you forgot that evening at the theatre. Until you see the tickets or the name and nostalgia hits you like a brick. Well, Paire reminded us all he is still here with a 5-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision. It's a seed for Paire next. He and Fognini will play. May God have mercy on us all.
...I could talk about Thiem or Kokkinakis. Perhaps Fognini deserves a mention for a consistent performance? But since Lopez is a big seed and the first of the top 20 to depart, the focus shall be drawn to him. And besides, who doesn't enjoy looking at Deliciano?

He's close to Banderas looks wise and that's always a plus. Ah, if only he had that voice. The way he plays tennis is swashbuckling and attractive, too. Which brings us nicely back to where we started, before the obligatory comment on how pretty Lopez is. Lopez lost to Gabashvili 6-3, 7-6[9], 6-3. The world number 12 is gone. He served poorly and hit only ten aces. He struggles on this surface and the trend continued.
Backspin HQ has Lopez in the Attractive Hall of Fame next to Philippoussis and Sabatini. Not that we're shallow or anything. It's all for official purposes, of course.

Any other notes?

* - Stephens beat Williams but was defeated by a Pidgeon
* - Some of these outfits are just terrible. Also Murray's hair...is he trying to be John McEnroe? Because if he is he can just throw a temper tantrum and verbally abuse Jimmy Connors over Twitter. Much easier.
* - Casey Dellacqua lost 6-2, 6-2 to Tomljanovic. Let's move swiftly on.

Well, I'm out for now.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

French Open Day 1: Warm Up

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The Sunday addition has been a good idea. It sets up the tournament nicely. It eases us in and leaves us wanting more. So let's begin our warmup. But gently.

=Suicide Pick=
We all know how this works. Pick a player to win each round but you cannot pick them again. I'm in a little late but the first round is still going.
Men's Singles: Verdasco [32] d. Daniel [Q].
Women's Singles: Barthel d. Kania

...Federer has moved to 8-0 against Falla, though one of them was very close. Federer was always going to win but the ease had yet to be determined. The key for Federer is to not use up his energy too quickly here. He has to have something left for the bigger guys coming for him later. Federer blasted 43 winners, including eight aces, in the 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory. He was playing great tennis from start to finish. He had his opponent moving all around the place. Falla never found his rhythm or his game properly. It was a decent test to open with, but scarier prospects lurk. Granollers awaits in the next round. Federer needs to win that one quickly. Granollers will make him work for every point and he is tactically astute.
...Everyone puts their own on the big court. It’s a tradition that has been going on since time immemorial. But would you have paid top dollar to see Tsonga dismiss a journeyman 6-1, 6-2, 6-2? It just seems a bit silly, but I suppose somebody had to be on Chatrier. So why not the exciting and frustrating Frenchman? Tsonga hit big from the first moment. His opponent had no way to deal with the offensive firepower headed his way. Tsonga hit 35 winners but only 19 errors. His opponent was under constant pressure to hit big and defend well. Sela is up next. His tricky game style should be awkward for Jo, but the Frenchman will overpower the Israeli just as he overpowered Lindell. Still, if Tsonga is not entirely with it, it may last longer than we thought it would.
...Wawrinka moves through with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win. Wawrinka, when he is on, can be unstoppable. When his serve and forehand begin to find their range, you know you're in trouble. Wawrinka could make big run here, but it is unlikely. He hit 42 winners but also notched 32 unforced errors with ten aces thrown in, too. Ilhan can provide little serious opposition to Wawrinka. Stan found a level above Ilhan's and just stayed there.
Next up is Lajovic and that match is seriously dangerous. It is exactly the kind of match that can trip anyone up. If Lajovic snatches an early break or manages to just get into a rhythm then Wawrinka could have his hands full.
...These two meet every three years and the winner always wins in straight sets. They have played in 2009 and 2012. Mathieu has never quite managed to rescue his career as much as he wanted to. Nishikori is going to be 26 soon. When is one no longer a young gun? Nishikori edged Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 7-5, 6-1. After overcoming him in the first two sets, it was only a matter of time before he rolled to victory. The match was essentially decided by the consistency levels. PHM went 19-39 in the winners to errors department. Kei went 34-30. It is so hard to balance winners and aggressiveness with patience and consistency. Kei has no idea who his opponent is going to be. He should be over the moon with his performance, though. He really held it together against a tough guy with a lot of talent.
....Worth noting, Gulbis came through impressively 6-4, 6-4, 7-6[3]. Could he make another semi run here? He is one to watch as he always has been and always will be. He played well today and if he can just find some of the old magic the rest of the field could be in serious trouble. Igor is a tricky opponent with some big shots. It says something that Gulbis can suddenly find the magic. Could he find some magic through the rest of the tournament? If he does he may well win it. Of course, Gulbis is the eternal enigma.
...Reserved for Tomorrow. The French Sunday is weird.

Any other notes?

* - It's nice to hear Jim Courier again. Gotta love that guy.
* - First two seeds out: #25 Ivo Karlovic and #26 Garcia-Lopez have both now folded.
* - Casey Dellacqua and Shvedova are playing against Chan/Davis in the first round. Casey opens tomorrow against compatriot Tomljanovic. They are on court eight.

The post will get bigger tomorrow, of course. Today is just the warm up.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Wk.20- The Calm Before the Storm

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

This is a quick going over of the last week. A lengthy draw analysis is available here, and this is just an accompaniment. Todd has also written a lot of great stuff on the WTA side.

S: Dominic Thiem d. Leonardo Mayer 6-7(8)/7-5/7-6(2)
D: Pavic/Venus d. Rojer/Tecau

S: Thomaz Bellucci d. Joao Sousa 7-6(4)/6-4
D: Cabal/Farah d. Klaasen/Lu

...This day is like Christmas. We've been waiting so long. We knew it would happen but the waiting, the waiting was the hardest part. Thiem has won a title and he moves into the French on fire. He made the final as a junior in 2011. And he just won his first title without dropping a set.
Estrella Burgos seems to be yesterday's news. And Thiem dispatched yesterday's news 7-6[5], 6-2. Kyrgios retired in the second round and handed Thiem a quarterfinal berth. Nick was resting for the French Open. He should fulfill his seeding in Paris. Slumping third seed Gulbis beat slumping Dolgopolov [now at around 80 in the world] but was no match for Thiem. Thiem rolled through 6-2, 6-4. He beat second seed Isner 7-6[5], 6-3. But the final against Mayer could prove to be disastrous for both. It lasted two and a quarter hours. The fourth seeded Argentine won the first 7-6[8] but Thiem came back and took it out 6-7[8], 7-5, 7-6[2]. In Paris he opens with Bedene but Cuevas lurks in the second round. If Thiem can beat those players and he can go on a run. It will be interesting to see how the five set format effects him. A Thiem/Monfils third round clash looks a distinct possibility. Win two matches here and at Wimbledon, and a seed surely beckons for the Austrian in New York.
...Thomaz is 27 and that is a real surprise. He still feels like a young gun. Even more surprising is that the last time he was in a final was October 2012 in Moscow. The last time he won was in Gstaad in the same year. Three years without a title is long time. He was once ranked 21 and was about to become the next big thing. Now he's ranked around 50 and his career arc has changed. But, in Geneva, Bellucci found his mojo. He likes to play in Switzerland, too. He opened against seventh seed Baghdatis and won 6-7[5], 6-3, 6-3. He beat Istomin 6-4, 6-4 but Ramos would pose a sterner test in the quarters. He beat him 6-0, 1-6, 6-3. Giraldo went down quietly, too, losing 6-3, 6-4. Souza has won finals before but in this one he lost 7-6[4], 6-4. It's a big win for Bellucci, who can play on both grass and clay. Bellucci is a real landmine in the French Open, particularly with form and momentum going into the slam. With that serve and forehand working, anything could happen. Bellucci opens with Matosevic and then Nishikori. And he could upset Nishikori. If he can unnerve Kei then perhaps the upset is on.
...The Argentines can be so dangerous on clay. He and Monaco play one another in Paris in the opening round. The winner of that is a definite dark horse in their quarter. The winner of that lands Lopez and they could cause a real upset. Federico has been to three finals before and won one. All were on clay, of course. Exactly a year ago he was ranked 34 but now is at around 70. He beat Federer in Hamburg a couple of years ago, too. Now that he's defeated Wawrinka he has the Swiss set. He beat Gabashvili 6-3, 6-4 in the first and then Kuznetsov [Russian] by the same score. Next he ousted Wawrinka 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-4. That is one of the bigger upsets of the year but because it's right before a slam nobody really noticed. Despite a three set loss to Souza, the Argentine has had a fantastic tournament.
...Meet Halys. Quentin Halys has won a Futures tournament but apart from that he is not particularly accomplished. But then he is only 18. Halys withdrew against Groth but decided to take the Lucky Loser berth and replaced top seed Simon. James Duckworth made sure his stay wasn't a long one as he ousted the young Frenchman in two breakers, winning them 7-0 and 7-5. He opens against Rafael Nadal in the French Open. His stay won't last long there, either.
...Russian wild card Rublev should have beaten Cilic, but the Croat escaped 4-6, 7-6[7], 6-1. The 17-year old even had a match point. Then Giraldo beat him with ease 7-5, 6-3. So the question is why is Cilic ranked nine? What has he done since January? I hope he loses early in New York because he does not deserve to be in the top ten. It is harsh, but then he's just occupying a spot in the top ten that should go to someone else. He is 3-5 for the year so far. He needs to get his act together.
...Well this Backspin-lite update is coming to a close just as Halep serves for the match against Rodina. And I think it only apt to once again say have impressive Delbonis was in upsetting Wawrinka. Stan may not be on form but he is still a scalp. Delbonis and Wawrinka right now look to headed in different directions with regards to the French Open. The Argentine is going up and it feels like the Swiss is going down, but only time will tell. That's it. Halep is done and so am I for now...

Well, that's it from me for at least six hours. I shall be seeing you a lot. And now I am heading into Backspin HQ's Cineplex to watch Federer. I'm bringing the soda and Todd's bringing the popcorn. Over and out. For now.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

French Open Predictions: Eeny Meeny Miny Moe

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Grand Slam picks always create tension at HQ. Not between the people who work at HQ, but just in general. Todd takes 100 balls onto the clay court near the Clay Court wing and just serves till the frustration goes away. That's why he has such a good serve. The Clay wing of HQ is lovely, all red brick and sunshine. The French Open office is large and spacious. The statue of Chris and Rafa compliment each other nicely. The signed photo of Graf and the canvas of Borg hang side by side. But I digress.

This year I have no clue. I usually blow these and Todd does pretty well. But this year I am going to blow these big time. I mean really. Whoever said I had any clue? So be prepared for these to make no sense because the clay always throws up surprises. So to try and get it right it has to be a bit whacky.

Are you ready? If you are, that's more than I can say for myself. If not, well, then it's time to pull out the Stephen King quote. In one of the introductions to his book is the apt sentence, "Grab onto my arm now. Hold tight. We are going into a number of dark places, but I think I know the way. Just don't let go of my arm."

So, are you ready? Good. Just don't let go.

Here are some pairs who I think will do well at the French this year. Again these may not be necessarily to do with being highly seeded or even pairs who will win it. These are a selection of pairs who should all win three matches.

=Ladies Doubles=
* Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza
* Makarova/Vesnina
* Carolina Garcia/Katerina Srebotnik
* Yaroslava Shvedova/Casey Dellacqua
=Men’s Doubles=
* Vasek Pospisil/Jack Sock
* Marc Lopez/Marcel Granollers
* Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini
* Daniel Nestor/Leander Paes

1. RAFAEL NADAL, ESP...Well, well, well. Djokovic drew the short straw. Never before have we had a top seed not being here in his own quarter. Especially when it has been Djokovic. But my hands are tied. Figuratively. I think Djokovic had to meet Nadal as late as possible. But this is about the five time defending champion. Nadal, seeded sixth, has Halys before encountering Dolgopolov or Almagro. That will be a test, but it is five sets. The straw I am clutching at, eternally clutching at. It is five sets. Mannarino lurks as the first seed Rafa can meet. With the home crowd he should give Rafa a go but he won't beat the defending champ. Dimitrov or Robredo await in the fourth round. Rafa may lose a set but he dominates one handers on clay. And then he meets Djokovic in the quarters. Rafa will want that day to be really nice. I don't like having to pick it, but I'll go for Nadal.
2. NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB...Djokovic may now never win the Grand Slam. Physically will he be able to compete at 29 next year when he is already showing signs of wear and tear? Who knows. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Djokovic may yet win the Grand Slam. Djokovic has made 23 straight quarterfinals. Can he keep the streak up? Nieminen and then probably Muller await Djokovic. That's good -- that will get him used to the lefties, though nobody plays like Nadal. Kokkinakis and Tomic are both equally as likely to make the third round. Kokkinakis has won as much as anybody this year with all those wins in qualifying. But Tomic is the seed. Djokovic will beat either of them but will then likely run into Gasquet. He will play four different players, all with very different styles, and then Nadal. It shouldn't really effect him but it may well be a small factor. Djokovic will manhandle Gasquet, but he plays Nadal too early. Nadal won't be worn out.
3. RICHARD GASQUET, FRA... This position is as important as the Vice President in this quarter. Really, what does the Veep do? Dimitrov and Robredo have tougher draws than Gasquet. Gasquet has Anderson but it is on clay with the crowd behind him. I could've chosen any one of these one-handers. Gasquet should make the fourth round. And he should challenge Djokovic for a set. But really there is no third person here.
DARK HORSE: TOMMY ROBREDO, ESP...Yes, Dimitrov is here but this quarter is packed. Gasquet, Robredo and Dimitrov are interchangeable. Remember that Robredo has been to five quarterfinals here. How can you look past that? If we have a Dimitrov/Anderson quarterfinal I will look extremely foolish. But that's fine.
WILD HORSE: ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV, UKR... He has earned the right to always win this award. This is his award. If he finds form he could oust Nadal. But he has to find form over five sets. And he has to beat the consistent Almagro. Probably too big an ask.
DONKEY: GRIGOR DIMITROV, BUL...For no real reason other than he is the tenth seed and there's a chance he may lose in straight sets to Robredo. This whole section is just waiting for that quarterfinal. It's really the only relevant thing.
POOR GUY: QUENTIN HALYS, FRA...He drew Nadal. An 18-year old French wildcard. He is a sacrificial lamb.
=In the End...=
..Forget the experts saying Djokovic is the favorite. Yeah, they're right, he is. But I still back Nadal.


1T. ANDY MURRAY, GBR...See Murray and Ferrer are split here. Unlike above where Rafa just shades Novak, here both players are equal. Murray is on form and had one of the best swings on the tour. He has won his first two titles on the dirt. He has humbled Nadal. He looks good. But he has a horror draw. He is 0-4 against Ferrer on clay. Sadly, like last time, there are two big guys and it's going to be hard to stop them. Luckily these two are more beatable. But that's like saying Jeb Bush is slightly more competent than George Bush. Before he gets to clash with Ferru, Murray has to navigate a difficult draw. Arguello may only be 22. He may be around the 100 mark but he is dangerous. On clay he could be a nuisance. Murray will be given a small test to start with. Pospisil or Sousa await him after that. And then Kyrgios. Ryan Harrison took a set off Murray in Australia a few years back. On Murray's worst surface, an in-form Kyrgios will pose ore than a few problems. He could make it go five. He could win. If Murray wins that then Goffin or Isner await. That is not a fun draw.
1T. DAVID FERRER, ESP...Ferrer must be loving the fact Murray has such a bad draw. And Federer must love that all the big boys and Ferrer, too, are up here. It's like the Super Bowl. All the good teams are up here in the NFC. The AFC has Berdych [Denver -- talented but never seems to win in the big moments], Nishikori who represents the Colts and Federer who is like the Patriots. It's a good metaphor on ATP BACKSPIN at last. But I digress. Ferrer has Lacko and then Traver or Brazilian Souza [Muzza has Portuguese Sousa] but he shouldn't lose a set. Troicki is seeded around 30 and should be waiting in the third round. Mayer, Cilic, Vesely or possibly Janowicz could all be fourth round opponents. That is an acceptable draw. Ferrer and Murray looks close to inevitable here.
3. DAVID GOFFIN, BEL...Perhaps a run here is a possibility for the Belgian star. He nearly beat Federer here in 2012. He had a great run that year and his form is good. Krajinovic, Giraldo or Young and then Isner is a decent draw. Goffin could defeat Murray and then beat Ferrer to make a semi-final. He could do it. But it is sadly unlikely.
DARK HORSE: NICK KYRGIOS, AUS...Was anyone else going to get it? If he beats Murray another slam quarterfinal surely beckons. Kyrgios has the weapons and the belief to cause some serious trouble here. If he drags Murray into a five set, four hour plus war on a hot day, he may well physically scupper Murray. He could play a huge role in the tournament.
WILD HORSE: JERZY JANOWICZ, POL...He got given a kind draw. If he can take advantage and get to the third round he may be able to upset Cilic. Or he could lose to French qualifier Hamou.
DONKEY: MARIN CILIC, CRO...He looks ripe for the upset. Who really knows what will happen, but don't bet on Cilic doing anything much here.
POOR GUY: JOHN ISNER, USA...He drew Seppi. Now that is a nasty draw.
=In the End...=
I gamble because I just don't trust the consistency of Murray. Ferrer's consistency proves to be enough.


1. TOMAS BERDYCH, CZE...I don't think Berdych is out and out the favorite here. But let us give him the nod anyway. He bested Kei by ten ranking points to earn the fourth seed. Still, his quarter is a toss up. Kei himself lurks here. There are a few dangerous layers lurking here and there. Tread carefully, Tomas. Berdman would open with Japanese qualifier Nishioka but then he gets the winner of Dodig/Stepanek. Stepanek may push him to four. Fognini or Paire is a likely third round match. That is going to be a fiery second round clash and it'll likely be on a big court, too. Tsonga, Kohlschreiber or Andujar is next up. That is a tricky draw but not as bad as the draw some of his colleagues have. Nishikori and Berdych slugging it out on the clay is going to be brutal. Expect one of the most physical matches of the year.
2. KEI NISHIKORI, JPN...One of these days Nishikori has to win a slam. Most players of Kei's level have about 20 legitimate chances to win a slam. It's vital they aren't wasted. Had Nishikori just won a single match more he would be the fourth seed. Still, there is no use dwelling. He has to look forward. And forward he has a mixed bag of a draw. Mathieu with the crowd behind him is an awful first match, and you can bet it will be on Phillipe Chatrier. It just will be. Bellucci and Verdasco should be his next two opponents and he will lose a set to one of them. Bautista Agut or Lopez may well be the fourth round foe. That draw is not easy but it isn't too punishing. Kei and Berdych is almost certainly going to be what this comes down. Gosh this draw is boring.
3. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA...Lindell, Kukushkin and then Kohl. That draw combined with the French crowd give Tsonga a shot at getting some momentum. And if he can get some momentum then the fireworks will happen. Besides it's Jo. Isn't he magic?
DARK HORSE: BAUTISTA-AGUT, ESP...Lopez just wants to get on the grass. He will play well here but he is better built for the grassy havens of Wimbledon. Agut is great on clay and he can roll through to the fourth round. Ymer is also hanging around here. He is worth a mention.
WILD HORSE: FABIO FOGNINI, ITA...Some of these need no explanation.
DONKEY: n/a...nobody here really looks all that vulnerable.
POOR GUY: BAUTISTA-AGUT ESP...He lands German Mayer in the first round. Unlucky. But the German does best on the grass.
=In the End...=
...Nobody stops the Berdykori express. Entertainment and upsets abound here but it ends up being boringly straightforward. And Berdych chokes in the fifth set of an epic and bruising encounter. Nishikori has a habit of pulling out matches like that and he is 3-1 against the Czech.


1. ROGER FEDERER, SUI...I shall steal a tweet SI sent out. It was just a gif of this:

And how accurate it is. For old times sake Falla lurks in the first round. Federer has to make sure he puts Granollers [and his grunt] away quickly. He won't want the Spaniard hanging around dragging him into a long slugging match. Karlovic, Youzhny and Baghdatis await Federer in the third. Well, one of them does anyway. Then Monfils in the fourth will be a test, but Federer has to beat comfortably one of these days. And then Wawrinka. But Vavsy capitulates against Federer every single time they play. Federer should be fine until the semi-finals.
2.STAN WAWRINKA, SUI...Raonic withdrew and handed Wawrinka this spot. He also let in Verdasco. And boosted Isner up a seeding bracket. Stan should be so grateful. Due to a simple twist of fate he will now get a decent draw. Ilhan and Lajovic are his likely first two opponents. Nothing too threatening there. Garcia-Lopez, who upset Stan last year, lurks as a very dangerous opponent. Tiafoe, Gulbis or Simon all lurk, too. He will likely play Gulbis in the fourth, but who knows with that kid. Could Stan just go on a big run? Possible.
3. GAEL MONFILS, FRA...Draws don't matter. Seedings don't matter. Form doesn't matter. Monfils is in town. And he has sort of earned this spot. Here in Paris he could win. Doesn't matter who he's facing.
DARK HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS, LAT...He made the semi last time round. But, again, who really knows what will happen. If he crashed out in the first round to Sijsling he may drop out of the top 50. He will be dangerous at Wimbledon, too.
WILD HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS, LAT...He deserves two awards.
DONKEY: MARCOS BAGHDATIS, CYP...He plays Karlovic in the first match. We shall see what happens.
POOR GUY: IVO KARLOVIC, CRO...He probably gets Baghdatis and Youzhny back to back. That is not a kind draw.
=In the End...=
Federer reigns supreme and remains on cruise control throughout. Monfils makes a bit of noise and Wawrinka avoids upsets.



...Yep. I'm calling it. Federer sneaks into the final where Nadal is waiting. Federer somehow gets it to go four sets but Nadal will not be denied. Djokovic should win, but it's Nadal in Paris.

#1 Williams d. #15 Williams
#10 Petkovic d. #25 Jankovic
#4 Kvitova d. #23 Bacsinszky
#18 Kuznetsova d. #6 Bouchard
#5 Ivanovic d. #9 Makarova
#3 Halep d. #19 Svitolina
#8 Suarez Navarro d. #21 Muguruza
#2 Sharapova d. #13 Safarova
..Horrible draw for Williams. Azarenka lurks and so does Venus. But I say she edges them both in three. Venus makes Serena think twice. Stephens/Venus in the first round will be good to watch. Pironkova and Strycova also here. Petkovic can play her way into form. Errani is nowhere and Wozniacki on clay is an upset waiting to happen. Goerges and Sesil also here. Kvitova is the big name, but the Swiss ladies also lie in her bit: Bencic and Bacsinszky. Bencic plays Hantuchova. Mattek, Keys, Konjuh, Begu and Townsend all very dangerous. How can I resist picking Sveta? If she beats Bertens in the first round she could play Schiavone in the second round and then Pliskova in the third. Bouchard has 32 seed Diyas but Mladenovic in the first. She'll have home support. Still, I like Sveta here.

Never discount a former champ. Vekic plays Garcia in the first round and the winner likely plays Ivanovic. Shvedova may well upset Ana but let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Cetkovska and Jovanovski could win a couple matches. Peng opens against Hercog. Winner gets winner of Vesnina/Flipkens. Peng has never won a title. Makarova isn't built for the clay but she should still edge through to the fourth round. She has made back to back slam semi-finals, after all. Radwanska opens against Beck. Beck should beat her. Barthel and Krunic are also hanging around and can catch fire easily. Svitolina will beat Wickmayer then cruise to the fourth round. Halep gets past some combination of Cornet, Vinci and Davis to make it to the fourth. CSN has Razzano and Pennetta for company. Muguruza has Giorgi and Kerber. Australians are here, too. But really Muguruza should win all her matches easily. Navarro will be too good in the all-Spanish clash. Safarova has Pavylchenkova in the first but the winner of Puig and Lisicki should be her third round opponent. Pova opens against Kanepi. Stosur should beat Brengle, but not Maria.

#1 Serena d. #10 Petkovic
#4 Kvitova d. #18 Kuznetsova
#3 Halep d. #7 Ivanovic
#2 Sharapova d. #8 CSN

...Petkovic runs out of gas. Kvitova/Kuznetsova is a toss up, but the Madrid final indicates a Kvitova win. Halep frustrates Ivanovic. Halep will win a tight first set then run away with. Something like 7-5, 6-2. Sharapova just beat CSN. She should have too much firepower, but watch out for the Spaniard's variety.

#1 Serena d. #4 Kvitova
#2 Sharapova d. #3 Halep

...It's another toss up. I like Serena to win it, though. And Halep goes a set and a break up but Maria gives her that look and Halep only wins two more games as she fades in the Parisian dusk.

#1 Serena d. #2 Sharapova

...I think Sharapova can take this to three on clay. But it has to be Serena. Doesn't it?

Go to WTA BACKSPIN. They have Nachos.

I'll be seeing you all soon and far too frequently for your liking.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wk.19- When in Rome

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

You're thinking this will be all about Djokovic dominating in the Masters again. Well, it isn't. Nor is it about Nadal being poor. It isn't even about Ferrer or the world number two. No this is about Wawrinka.

Wawrinka made the quarterfinals of the French in 2013. He was ousted by Garcia-Lopez in 2014 in four in the first. It was a horror draw. But after an enormous slump the former top four player is back and he looks just as dangerous as he always does. And that is the confusing thing about Wawrinka. He can be good and bad in equal measure. He should be a dark horse for the French Open but he does tend to lose to players he should beat. And he has a serious match-up issue with the top four. He especially struggles with Federer. There is some kind of a mental block there.

With no points to defend coming into Paris, he has the chance to come back into the top five. Wawrinka should be given a favorable Wimbledon seeding if he can win just a few matches at the French. Vavsy needs a kind draw. Should he get it he would be the classic dark horse. If I were Wawrinka I would want Murray or Berdych as the big seed near me. Raonic or Nishikori is also a good draw for Vavsy. Even Djokovic he may be able to unseat. He should fear only Federer and Nadal, but for very different reasons.
As for the French Open, who knows what will happen? Neither Murray or Federer can win it right now, although a deep run for both of them is not out of the question. The problem for Murray is he is so susceptible to losing to a crafty clay courter in the first or being pushed to five. If he gets pushed to five in either of the first two rounds that is essentially game over.

Djokovic is the favorite and he should win it but he has a habit of choking. He just doesn't seem to be able to win it. No surprise player or dark horse is well placed to take it, either. And Rafa? Well, who knows? Rafa should win the French, but can he will hold it together and win 21 sets? Has he won 21 sets on clay all year?

See at the 29 minute mark and just before the 30 minute mark here:

Rafael Nadal Vs Novak Djokovic SF Roland-garros... by KingNadal

Djokovic lost his forehand in that match, too. The other thing to remember is that the traditional Big Four probably only have between two and four more shots to win this event.

But we are not in Paris yet...

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32: Troicki goes up two places to 32. Verdasco rises two and is at 33. He has just missed out on a seeding. He is exactly the kind of player you don't want in the first or second round. Sock and Klizan both fall. Mannarino is at 31, Kyrgios at 30 and Fognini at 29. All are dangerous.

Top 10:- Simon and Lopez swap. Lopez is 12th but is only 25 points ahead of Simon. Neither are defending many points. Dimitrov remains at 11 with the gap widening on both sides. He is isolated at 11. Ferrer, Wawrinka and Cilic all remain unchanged at 8, 9 and 10.

Top 8: Rafa and Ferrer still at 7 and 8. A Djokovic/Rafa quarterfinal would make the battle for number one interesting. Battle for number two is interesting if Rafa is in Roger's bit. Raonic down to six from four.

Top 4: Murray is well off the pace. By ten points Berdych sneaks into the fourth seeded spot ahead of Nishikori. Could go further if Murray bombs out.

S: Novak Djokovic def. Roger Federer 6-4/6-3
D: Cuevas/Marrero d. Granollers/M.Lopez 6-4/7-5

...Does anyone on the singles side really deserve this? No. They have no right to make it hard for people to pick the winner of the French. Usually the French is the only slam one feels confident in picking. And now that has gone up in smoke. On the men's doubles, chaos ensues on clay and so it is there where nothing has changed that Backspin will look. Being unseeded in a Masters is tough. But it's on clay and anything can happen in clay tournaments, especially in the doubles. Cuevas is 4-4 in clay doubles finals and has even won the French, though it was back in 2008. Marrero is 9-8 in doubles finals on the surface. They had the talent and the game to do it. They edged Klizan/Oswald 13-11 in their opening match before dismissing sixth seeds Nestor/Paes 6-2, 6-4. Third seeds Rojer/Tecau faded toward the end of their third round match as the Latin duo won 7-6[2], 4-6, 10-5. Anderson/Chardy had defeated the Bryans but in the semi-finals they succumbed 6-4, 6-4. Fifth seeded Granollers/Lopez are one of the top pairs on clay but they lost in straight sets 6-4, 7-5. The Latin duo will be seeded thirteenth at the French Open. Dlouhy/Vizner made the semi-finals in 2006 but since then the thirteenth seeds have never won more than two matches. That really is an unlucky number.

QUESTION: Who won the title in 2006? Answer is below!

...Djokovic is finally the French Open favorite. His performance in Rome has hardly been encouraging. In fact, it has been the opposite. He has played some poor tennis at times. He has been inconsistent and passive. He has also been tough and may have played his way into form. What if he gets Verdasco, Seppi, Garcia-Lopez, Wawrinka, Nadal, Berdych and Federer as his draw? Would he still be the favorite then? Djokovic has won a lot this year but he has not looked imperious while doing it. It's the mark of a good player that they can somehow dominate when not always at their best. But Djokovic won't win Wimbledon or the French this year. I'm almost definitely wrong but I have a feeling it just won't happen.
Djokovic edged Almagro 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-3. Almagro could have won that third set, too. Next he held off Bellucci 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. He got stronger as the tournament progressed. Nishikori pushed him but fell short 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. He beat Ferru 6-4, 6-4 before beating Federer 6-4, 6-3. He improves to 4-2 in Rome finals. Djokovic is once more the top seed in a slam. But really who knows what is going to happen at the French. Even Todd's crystal ball isn't sure. In fact, it is crisis in the Backspin office because the crystal ball and the magic eight ball are both being unclear.
...Yes a part of this is just so I can mention that name. And what a name it is. He beat Kukushkin in qualifying 2-6, 7-5, 6-2. The Kazakh was the second seed in the qualies. Stefano Napolitano was next and he was also duly dispatched. Andrea had made the main draw. And he celebrated that fact by taking the first set off Goffin 7-5. He got only three more games the entire match. The 27-year old made the main draw of the French last year but he lost to Bolelli inn three sets. He also has a passing resemblance to Lopez.

...Thanasi qualified for the Primrose Bordeaux event. His Georgian opponent retired in the first round and Thanasi faced Coppejeans. Coppejeans had upset second seeded Groth but he wouldn't beat two Australians in a row. Next Kokkinakis bested Baena 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Zopp challenged the Aussie but to no avail. Thanasi won 6-4, 7-5 to get to his maiden challenger final. He beat De Bakker 6-4, 1-6, 7-6[5] to win his first 'big' title.

He rises 15 spots to 83. He is one of the youngest guys in the 100 and has been given a deserved wild card into the French. If he wins one match he should crack the top 80. He wins two and he cracks the top 70. Win three, which is highly unlikely, and he will sit on the cusp of 60.
...Nadal has stayed in this spot for so long and it is simply unbelievable. But he has to stay here a little while longer. And, in fact, he could be in here indefinitely. Rafa looks tired. He looks like he has had enough. In some ways Backspin feels sorry for him but at the same time pity can be quite insulting. We'd like the old Rafa back please.
...This was a bizarre match. Wawrinka and Nadal traded breakers early in the first set before Nadal took a 6-2 lead in the breaker. Wawrinka won it 9-7 and then the match 7-6, 6-2. This shouldn’t be happening. Wawrinka shouldn't be beating Nadal. Nadal should not be doing so badly on clay. Nadal should be doing better than this. Wawrinka played out of his skin, but that was still a match Nadal should never have lost.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Kokkinakis wins his maiden title on the challenger tour
2 - South Korea has a player in the top 70 for the first time in a while in Chung. He could prove to be the real deal.
3 - Seeing Berdych hit a career best ranking is good. But will he really make the semi-finals of the French?
4 - How young the top 50 is continues to amaze me. So many young stars are proving they have it and not going down the Dolgopolov route.
5 - Suarez-Navarro is achieving her potential. It's good to see. She has a great game.

1. Rome Final – Djokovic d. Federer 6-4, 6-3
...Federer cannot wait to get onto grass. Djokovic proved his number one credentials again. Novak was fantastic at neutralizing Federer. But how is Novak going to defend all these titles next year? Every year it gets harder to do so.
2. Rome R2 – Djokovic d. Almagro 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-3
...Almagro played some fabulous shots but it was not enough to unseat Djokovic. Nicolas hit the ball brilliantly off both wings and threw everything at Djokovic. The Serb escaped relatively unscathed and moved through anyway. An entertaining match between two players with contrasting styles. On another day the Spaniard would have got it.
3. Rome QF - Ferrer d. Goffin 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
...Ferrer has been finding flashes of his old self here and there this year. A grinding three set win over a more talented opponent on the dirt looks like Ferrer. It feels like Ferrer. It must be Ferrer.
4. Rome R3 – Berdych d. Fognini 6-3, 3-6, 7-6[2]
...Consistency beats excitement once again and yet what is the one match I remember from last year? This one.

Simon [1] d. [8] Monaco
Isner [2] d. [6] Kyrgios
Simon [1] d. [2] Isner

...These pre slam tournaments are always whacky. Fireworks could happen....

Wawrinka [1] d. [3] Andujar
Cilic [2] d. Ramos
Wawrinka [1] d. [2] Cilic

...Home tournament for Vavsy.

Dellacqua is back in action for the French. She and Shvedova are seeded 13. She is not seeded in the French Open singles.

ANSWER: Bjorkman/Mirnyi defeated the Bryans in 2006. It was a long three set final.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wk.18- The Scottish Lion has Roared

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Thank you for the cover last week, Todd. Sadly the right wing triumphed but it would be a even worse if the right wing of America won next year. But I digress.

Our trivia question ties in with the intro, as usual. So here it is.

What Paul McCartney song was at number one when Hana Mandlikova made her slam debut?

Well, I was wrong. Murray has broken the clay hoodoo. I thought he never would. So congratulations to him. I am quite impressed. He just beat Kohl in his backyard before defeating Nadal in his in a Masters, too. And with Nadal's collapse, that is big news. I get posed the question "where does Andy Murray stand with regards to the all-time greats?" frequently. So in a Backspin semi-special dedicated to Murray [who I try and fail to be nicer to on here] let us take a look at that question. What if Murray were compared to a player with a similar career arc?

Two men in fashionable, if a little cheap, suits walk into a restaurant in the run down district of town. This restaurant serves excellent iced coffee and is a favorite of the staff at Backspin HQ. These men always meet to debate topics. They have debated the greatest San Francisco team -- 49ers or Giants? They debated Bush or Kerry. Every Thursday at 2pm they arrive and they debate. Since the shop opened they have debated. They don’t book a table. There is no need. They just come and sit. Oftentimes they are the only customers. Their suits and their look has changed over the years, but they have aged quite well. Remarkably well, in fact.

This week the gentleman with the hat who doesn't like bow ties announces that it's time to return to tennis. They've been here before but this is different. This time they're discussing two players who have never been number one. The gentleman with the bow tie who eschews hats says I will make the case for Murray. The other gentleman sips his iced coffee, always with a shot of hazelnut, and says I think I will go for Hana. And so it begins once again.

GENTLEMAN WITH HAT: Four slams and four Davis Cup wins. World number three consistently despite having to contend with Navratilova, Evert and, later, Graf. Beat Navratilova in the 1985 U.S. Open final 7-6, 1-6, 7-6. Not a lot of drama with her. Eight slam finals here.

GENTELMAN SPORTING BOW TIE: Only two slams here but has been number two despite arriving in the heyday of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. Beat Djokovic in five to win the U.S. Open. Ended the British Wimbledon drought. Eight finals for Murray, too. I admit you have the edge in the Fed/Davis cup. Murray will surpass her 12 years on the tour.

GWH: In those 12 years, Hana amassed 27 singles titles and 19 doubles crowns. She went 1-3 in doubles slam finals and was number six in doubles, too. She also made the final of every slam. Has beaten Evert and Navratilova in the same tournament. Mandlikova is 4-4 in slam finals. Murray is just 2-6. Murray has always struggled to do that. Has he ever beaten the top guys back to back in slam events?

GSBT: Mandlikova took the Australian twice when it was still grass. Murray has more titles than she does. He has 33 titles. And he may yet take number one. Murray is behind in finals by 51-49 but will overtake her. Let's not forget she has had some shaky losses. She lost in the second and fourth round of Wimbledon in 1982 and 1983. Both times Hana was a top eight seed and she lost badly in both. She lacked consistency.

GWH: Brave of you to bring up shaky losses. Murray has lost to Bogomolov Jr. He lost to Cilic at the U.S. Open in 2009. He was the second seed then. It was straight sets, too. A loss to Wawrinka as the fourth seed at the U.S. Open is also poor. Let's not forget his loss to Lee in 2007 or how poor he was in Paris against Berdych also in 2010. Mandlikova played better tennis.

GSBT: Murray has not missed a slam quarter for a long time. Mandlikova played more aggressive tennis, but Murray played more effective tennis. Murray won Wimbledon which Hana never did, and that is the most prestigious trophy.

GWH: But she did make the final. She could win on any surface. Murray never could win on clay.

And so it goes on. The problem, as we all know, with doing this is that most multiple slam winners have a case for being one of the 100 greatest. The problem isn't just whether they go in, but where they go in.

But enough of that. Those debates will be around for a long time yet. For now let us get on with this week..

=Rankings Watch=
Top 32 - Troicki drops a place. Still at 34. Verdasco rises three and is at 35. Anything around 35 and a seeding could be coming your way. Sock is up 4 to 33 with Kyrgios, Fognini and Klizan rounding out 30, 31 and 32.

Top 10 - Simon leapfrogs Lopez into 12th but is well adrift. Dimitrov remains at 11 with the gap widening. Ferrer, Wawrinka and Cilic all remain unchanged at 8, 9 and 10.

Top 8 - Rafa drops three to sit at 7th. It's the first time in ten years that the Spaniard is not in the top five. He could fall out of the top ten. Kei falls one place to six.

Top 4 - Murray is creeping up on Roger. Raonic is the first Canadian to make the top four. He is up two places. He could with luck snatch third.

S: Andy Murray def. Rafael Nadal 6-3/6-2
D: Bopanna/Mergea d. Matkowski/Zimonjic

...Well, this is a Backspin first. Like the time when it was revealed that Todd didn't mind Clijsters, I can reveal I don't hate Murray. In fact he is Player of the Week. It feels strange to have him here during Spring but he has earned it. He humiliated Nadal 6-3, 6-2. Nadal was very poor. His backhand was abysmal. Yeah Murray won it but Nadal was never in it. Not really. Murray was seeded second and he opened against Kohlschreiber. He beat him in Germany and he beat him in Spain, too. This time it was 6-0 in the third. He silenced Granollers 6-2, 6-0 to move through to the quarters. He even managed to break Raonic twice in a 6-4, 7-5 win. He wasn't troubled by a dangerous Nishikori in the semi-finals. In the final he dominated Nadal. Murray has designs on the top two but he won't get it for some time. Murray's next target is to get to number one. He won't do it, though. He has run out of time.
...Berdych once more showed how good he is at beating anybody not in the top ten. Berdman played some great tennis in the past week. He has risen to five. I didn't fully illustrate above how close it is right near that number four spot. Every top eight seed can make the quarters. The fourth seed has never been so crucial.

Anyway, Berdman beat Gasquet and Tsonga back to back although it was Gasquet who put up more resistance. Next he beat Isner in three very long sets to move through to the semi-final. Then the inevitable happened. One of those bigger, scarier guys turned up. And Berdman dutifully crumbled 7-6, 6-1. For all those players between #4-#7, the key is getting that fourth seed. It is the difference between a quarter and a semi-final.
...Americans on clay are like Spaniards on grass. Traditionally they just made up the numbers. All those years that Moya and Bruguera would be a big seed in London and one would just sit there waiting for the inevitable upset. The one or two times they actually did quite well was a pleasant surprise. it's the same for the Americans. Roddick and Sampras were seeded so highly at every French Open. It just never happened for either of them. Agassi was different. Nadal was different. And Isner can play on this stuff. He made a great quarterfinal run here. He lost to Berdych in a third set breaker in the quarterfinals after beating Kyrgios and Bellucci. That's impressive.
...The Canadiens just came back from 0-3 against the Lightning in the Stanley Cup conference semi-finals. They travel to Tampa down 2-3 in the series and I hope they lose. I like Raonic a lot more than I like the Canadiens. I like how simple his game plan is. It is the kind of game plan where nothing can go wrong. Big serve, big forehand and a fairly steady backhand. He will win a U.S. Open or two, of that you can be sure. But I digress. Backspin congratulates Raonic on being the first Canuck to break into the world's top four. And we all want to see Bouchard/Raonic in Rio next year.
...It feels as if Nadal is finished. I don't know if he can even win the French this year. He is looking very tired. When Graf and Henin retired they were at the top. They were number one and three respectively. Graf was the highest ranked player ever to retire at that time. Borg retired early. It's sad to see a great player retire five years after they're actually any good. Even Mauresmo, looking back on it, stayed a little too long. Retirement beckons for Nadal. He won't be playing the 2017 French Open.
...Kyrgios knows how to beat these guys. And he proved it again. He beat Federer 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[12] to earn his biggest ever victory. It is his most important win to date. If things stay like this going into the French Kyrgios will be the most dangerous 30th seed in recent memory. He can beat anyone on any surface right now. If he were to meet Djokovic on Wimbledon I would not know who to pick. Federer didn't play badly. He was just beaten by the better man. This has echoes of Djokovic losing to Dimitrov as the top seed back in 2013. But Kyrgios may well go on to have an even brighter future.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Two Aussies will be seeded at the French and at Wimbledon. When was the last time two Aussies were seeded at a slam?
2 - Kyrgios is finally all grown up
3 - Raonic deserves to be in the top four. When does he ever lose to anybody when he isn't supposed to? If the WTA has taught us anything it is that consistency brings reward. Wozniacki and Jankovic were good, but were they great? No. Just consistent.
4 - Seeing Tsonga play was good. He is starting to recover.
5 - Kokkinakis continues to plug away. So does Lucca. They rose 5 and 17 to 98 and 100, respectively.

1. MADRID R2– Kyrgios d. Federer 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[12]
...The baton has been passed. Kyrgios combined big serving with great movement to grab the upset and a seed at the French. If he makes the fourth round there, a very good Wimbledon seeding awaits him in England.
2. Madrid R3– Dimitrov d. Wawrinka 7-6[5], 3-6, 6-3
...The darkness in Wawrinka's world continues. Having split up with his wife again he now can't find anything on the court. Perhaps that isn't the reason, but it must be having an effect. He wins a match here and there, but Dimitrov was too good by far.
3. Madrid SF– Nadal d. Berdych 7-6[3], 6-1
...Let's celebrate vintage Nadal whilst we still have it. Nadal played like the Rafa of old. He played like a world number one for the second half of this. He was inspired. It's sad to think that it appears so infrequently.
4. Madrid R3– Ferrer D. Verdasco 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
...The latter round may have been dull but some of the earlier bits were good. Ferrer and Verdasco met on clay once again. Verdasco is playing well again but it wasn't enough. Ferrer edged it in three long sets.

Djokovic [1] d. [3] Murray
Nadal [4] d. [2] Federer
Djokovic [1] d. [4] Nadal

...The logic here should be clear.

Dellacqua and Shvedova had a good week. They opened up by beating sixth seeds Garcia/Srebotnik is straights before Marosi/Liang in two, as well. They beat Hsieh/Pennetta 6-4, 6-1. They were seeded fourth. They finally got pushed to three in the semi-finals by the seventh seeds. They came through 7-5, 3-6, 10-7. Third seeds Muguruza/Navarro were their final opponents and the Australian took it 6-3, 6-7[4], 10-5. Casey rises nine places to 22 in the world. She plays with Shvedova in Rome, as well.

Casey is at 42 in the singles. She appears to be letting that slide in favour of the doubles.

QUIZ ANSWER: Mandlikova had her slam debut at the 1978 French, where she made the second round. The answer was of course the cheesy...

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Monday, May 04, 2015

Wk.17- When Galileo Is Away, the Backspinner Will Play

Hello, all. Todd here.

Well, I'm coming to you to finally admit that this "Galileo West" character is actually a creation of my overactive imagination.


No, that's just a joke. Mister West IS real. But he's not here this week, as he's off helping the wheels of democracy turn as smoothly as possible across the big pond. At least that's what I've been told. But he'll be back next week.

In the mean time, I'm going to fill in for him with a quick Top 10 rundown of some of the notes of note from last week on the ATP tour.

S: Roger Federer def. Pablo Cuevas 6-3/7-6(11)
D: Albot/Lajovic d. Lindstedt/J.Melzer

S: Andy Murray def. Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(4)/5-7/7-6(4)
D: Peya/Soares d. Zverev/Zverev

S: Richard Gasquet def. Nick Kyrgios 6-3/6-2
D: Huey/Lipsky d. M.Lopez/Marrero

1. I'm sure Galileo would have been all over Roger Federer grabbing career title #85 in the inaugural edition of the ATP's event in Istanbul. His straight sets victory over Pablo Cuevas in the final adds Turkey to Fed's list of countries in which he's been crowned a champion, making him the first man to claim singles titles in NINETEEN different nations. This is Federer's third title of 2015 (one behind world #1 Novak Djokovic's tour-leading total), and he's now played in 128 ATP singles finals (third behind Jimmy Connors' 161 and Ivan Lendl's 146 in tour history).

2. Ah, I see. NOW I know why Galileo isn't here this week -- Andy Murray reached his first career clay court final AND WON IT on Monday after weather delays pushed the match back a day. The whole thing HAD to send G's world into a tailspin, right? He needs a week to recover from the shock!

The Scot defeated two-time champ Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 3:02 final, grabbing career title #32 and becoming the first man representing Great Britain to win a tour singles title on clay since Buster Mottram in Palma in 1976. So there's that. There's also the fact that Murray knocked off the German in a 12-10 5th set in the 3rd Round of Roland Garros last year. So there's that, too Oh, and this: Kohlschreiber has now lost thirteen consecutive matches vs. Top 5 players. So maybe Galileo shouldn't be TOO shocked.
3. Did you know that Jurgen Melzer has a tennis-playing brother? Well, he does. And world #155 Gerald, 24, just had a career week in Munich, qualifying and reaching the singles semifinals after notching a pair of Top 50 victories over Pablo Andujar and Dominic Thiem. Good for him.
4. Oh, something else that Galileo SURELY would have enjoyed talking about... Richard Gasquet returned to action for the first time since his Indian Wells back injury, winning his third career clay title in Estoril over Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who was attempting to win his first ATP singles title. The last time these two met was in last year's Wimbledon 2nd Round, where the big-hitting Kygrios saved nine match points and upset the Frenchman. The Estoril final only lasted 65 minutes, though, as Gasquet was never broken (he saved all three break points he faced in the match), and the win lifts him into a tie with Gilles Simon with twelve career titles, second most by a French player in the Open era behind only Yannick Noah (23).

5. In doubles, the Filipino-American pair of Treat Huey & Scott Lipsky combined to win their first title as a duo in Estoril...
6. ...while Alexander Peya & Bruno Soares scored their 11th ATP crown in Munich, defeating the Zverev brothers, Alexander and Mischa in the final. The siblings were trying to become the first all-German pair to win the title since 2008.
7. In Istanbul, the inaugural doubles champs were Radu Albot & Dusan Lajovic, who were teaming up in an event for the very first time.


8. In the USTA's three-event Wild Card Playoff to determine who'll receive a golden ticket into the Roland Garros main draw, 17-year old Frances Tiafoe's run to the final of the Tallahassee challenger proved to be the last piece to the puzzle of the what will be the former junior star's grand slam debut later this month. While he didn't win any of the three events, Tiafoe went a combined 12-3 and became the fourth-youngest American male to ever reach a final on the circuit, behind only Michael Chang, Andre Agassi and Tiafoe's friend, fellow 17-year old Stefan Kozlov (the current #5 Jr.). Tiafoe has climbed into the Top 300 for the first time in the new rankings.

9. There will be no Djokovic this week in Madrid, but there is the possibility of a Roger/Rafa semifinal. They've only played on clay once since the 2011 Roland Garros final, in the '13 Rome final won in straight sets by Nadal. Speaking of...
10. And, finally, I've heard that Federer and Nadal walk on water. But this is ridiculous...


5...Novak Djokovic, SRB (4-1)
4...Roger Federer, SUI (3-1)
3...David Ferrer, ESP (3-0)
3...Kei Nishikori, JPN (2-1)
3...Andy Murray, GBR (1-2)
3...Tomas Berdych, CZE (0-3)
2...Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, ESP (2-0)
2...Richard Gasquet, FRA (2-0)
2...Stan Wawrinka, SUI (2-0)
2...Pablo Cuevas, URU (1-1)
2...Jiri Vesely, CZE (1-1)

Casey Dellacqua wasn't in action last week, but she's already experienced highs and lows this week in Madrid. She opened with a weekend singles win over Francesca Schiavone, but lost on Monday to Aga Radwanska. In doubles, she's teamed with Yaroslava Shvedova. The pair has already put up a win over #6-seeded Garcia/Srebotnik, the Stuttgart runners-up from two weeks ago.

All for now, and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Wk.16- No Clean Socks in Sight

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

If you're unsure of the clean socks comment, then check out these two players.

They are of course Chris Evert and Guillermo Vilas. These two were the greatest clay court players of their generations. And look at their socks.

QUESTION: Evert famously won 125 matches in a row, but which grand slam champion snapped her streak? The answer is below.

Backspin is going to use so much ink, virtual ink, discussing the fall of the Rafa empire. But then so are many other people. It's the biggest thing to happen on the ATP tour since Sampras and Agassi handed over the reigns of power to Federer in 2005. Well, Federer took it out of their hands. Nadal withdrew in 2010 and the last two years he has lost to Almagro and Fognini. This isn't a hard court. This isn't Australia or even the U.S.. This is Barcelona. It's his surface in his back yard. Rafa is in a slump and is still the world number four.

He and Federer will surely retire at the Olympics next year. It makes sense not just because of the occasion but for health reasons, too. Physically these guys just can't keep doing it. Santoro and Haas are probably some of the last guys to be able to play into their thirties and forties. The way they play isn't as taxing as the way Djokovic or Rafa play, either.

This decade, Djokovic, Ferrer and Federer have taken seven 500 level tournaments. Nadal has taken six. In fifth is Nishikori with five, level with Del Potro. If he defends Tokyo and finds another one he will also have seven. By the end of the decade Nishikori should be ahead. And it's even more impressive that he has won his five at three different events. He is excelling everywhere these days.

Vesely has risen to his highest ranking ever despite having a singles record of 22-23. He has been junior number one and also made the third round of Wimbledon last year. He dispatched Mannarino 6-3, 6-2 in the final of Auckland this year to take his first title. Now he has his first clay title and that is one more than Murray.

The French Open is mere weeks away. If you're not excited then I have the cure for what ails you...

=Rankings Watch=
Top 32 - GGL rose 14 places to 31 and that will be a relief to many. Players like the Spaniard should be seeded at slams. Vesely rose 11 to 35 with Troicki, Monaco and Chardy hanging around, too.

Top 10 - Wawrinka and Cilic have swapped around in the rankings with the Swiss 90 points ahead. Cilic still leads number 11 Dimitrov by 420. Ferrer at 8 has a lead of a thousand.

Top 8 - No change here. Nishikori is challenging for the top four but if he usurps Rafa, then Roland Garros will be a mess.

Top 4 - This remains unchanged with Novak holding a big lead over Roger, who holds a lead over Murray. Far from tracking down Murray, Nadal now has to try and hold off Kei for a top four seed.

S: Kei Nishikori d. Pablo Andujar 6-4/6-4
D: Draganja/Kontinen d. J.Murray/Peers

S: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez d. Jiri Vesely 7-6(5)/7-6(11)
D: Copil/Ungur d. Monroe/Sitak

...Sometimes performances are so businesslike they have to be admired. Nishikori was the top seed and he took charge of this event like nothing else. The Japanese star fulfilled his seeding and took yet another 500 level title. And it was simple, in fact it was...

Nishikori beat a Mr. Bye in the opening round. Then he dispatched Gabashvili 6-3, 6-4 without too much difficulty. 15th seed Giraldo barely tested Kei as the Asian number one took out the match 6-2, 6-1. Bautista-Agut put up stern resistance at first but Nishikori got past him 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Klizan could only muster three games as he was defeated 6-1, 6-2 in the semi-finals. Then in the final Nishikori was the perfect professional. Andujar never got into the match and Nishikori took it 6-4, 6-4. Just like that. Nishikori takes a break now, but Rome and Madrid are coming up. He should have had Madrid last year but was defeated due to lack of match fitness. This year he is at least twice as fit. The result should be different. He has a lot of points to defend, though. Fail to defend those and he is in trouble.
...GGL had been in a slump, but no longer. Long ago the tennis gods decided that in certain events the top four seeds got a bye. In certain other events other seeds got a bye too. The gods decided that in smaller events the fifth seeds should be hung out to dry. And so it came to pass. GGL received no bye despite being so highly seeded. Giustino had beaten two seeds in qualifying just to make it to the big party. And he got the same amount of games against the Spaniard. He was simply overmatched. Baghdatis put up firmer resistance but GGL put him away in straight sets. Rosol was the higher seed but lost out 6-4, 7-6[7] to the Spaniard. Surely Monfils would prove too much? When La Monf took the first set in a breaker 7-2, he looked set for the win. Yet again the Spaniard had the answer and came through 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. He needed two epic breakers to beat Vesely in the final and the second one went all the way to 13-11 in what was an enthralling contest. Compatriot Carballes Baena is the 1st round opponent of the Spanish one-hander in Estoril. They play tomorrow. GGL will certainly be a dangerous player in that tournament. He can most definitely cause some trouble there. The race is now on to grab a seed, any seed in the French Open. Failure to do so will come with a heavy cost.
...He had no right to get to the final. That's quite a hackneyed phrase, but it is applicable here. Andujar had a hard draw though it was softened by the loss of Rafa, obviously. As anybody will tell you, you can only play whoever is in front of you at that time. If someone loses to someone they shouldn’t, it isn't your fault. Andujar beat fellow unseeded Spaniard Ramos 4 and 1. Either one of them could have made the run. Andujar followed it up with a topsy-turvy 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 decision over Mayer. He had his first scalp of the tournament and it was against the 11th seed. 5th Lopez barely troubled Andujar and the Spaniard triumphed 6-3, 6-4 to make the quarterfinals. He dismissed Rafa's conqueror to advance to the semi. He didn't show any signs of nerves and won 7-6[8], 6-3. Nishikori pulled out a superb performance to end Andujar's own superb performance but this was a confidence booster. Andujar opens against Souza tomorrow. If he continues to shine on the clay, he will soon return to the top 30. Pablo is one of the hottest Spaniards form-wise right now. Will it continue?
...Chung was a promising junior and he is climbing up the ATP ladder the sensible route. He is ascending towards relevancy by playing in the lower leagues. Hyeon has just won his third challenger and second of the year. He won the clay court Savannah challenger fairly comfortably in the end. After surviving Garanganga, a Zimbabwean tennis player, 6-7[8], 6-3, 6-1 the Korean came alive and blitzed through the rest of the field. He never lost more than six games in a match after the 1st round.
...Nadal was poor. He couldn’t even take a set. Fognini lost to Angujar 6-3, 6-1 the very next round. Nadal should have cruised to the title. If he doesn't improve soon I will really struggle when it comes to the French Open picks.
...First he did it to Rafa in South America and now in Spain. Fognini is dogging the footsteps of the Spaniards. Fognini has no fear of anyone. He can attack Rafa from the backhand and he has creativity. These days creativity is such a useful weapon. The Stuttgart final suffered because of it. Hitting drop shots is not creativity. It is part of that but creativity is angles and net play, for instance. Fognini plays like he isn't afraid. It's refreshing.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - The hug between Vesely and GGL.
2 - Kyrgios is back despite the loss to Ymer.
3 - Nishikori has finished developing. He has achieved great things and the way he dealt with Andujar was scarily professional.
4 - Wozniacki is finally getting it together on clay. She couldn’t do it when she was number one but now there's no pressure on her. Perhaps that helps.
5 - Nadal is gracious in defeat as always. He is a fantastic role model.

1. Bucharest SF– Garcia-Lopez d. Monfils 6-7[2], 6-4, 6-2
...Sometimes GGL just pulls out performances from nowhere. It is really astonishing. Monfils played well but GGL ground him down and then out. GGL is one of those Spaniards that never has clean socks. He upset Stan at the French last year and he will do well there again.
2. Barcelona Q– Nishikori d. Andujar 6-4, 6-4
...It was an impressive display, a professional display. Nishikori put Andujar away and it was watchable. The Kerber/Woz final on the other side was great quality but it wasn’t watchable in the same way that Nadal/Djokovic matches aren't watchable despite the quality.
3. Monte Carlo 3rd– Barcelona Fognini d. Nadal 6-4, 7-6[6]
...Backspin is still in shock. Nadal is in decline. The question now is will this French Open be the last he wins? He will definitely still win it. The question of whether he can best Federer's total of grand slams has been put to bed. Nobody will ever catch that record, not these days
4. Bucharest F– Garcia-Lopez d. Vesely 7-6[5], 7-6[11]
...This match will be one of the best straight setters on the ATP tour this year. Vesely saved so many match points, including one where it clipped the net. GGL had to actually win this match, there was no way Vesely was going to go away. Great match and a hug at the end. That really is the spirit of tennis.

Murray [1] d. [3] Agut
Kohlschreiber [5] d. [2] Monfils
Kohlschreiber[5] d. [1] Murray

...This is Murray's first clay event of the season. Not once has he even been to a clay final. He is not top 15 in the world on clay. He just isn't. He looks good in this field and he should do well but Kohl has been to three finals here and won two. And don't forget Philipp was born in Augsburg.

Federer [1] d. [4] Giraldo
Dimitrov [2] d. [7] Youzhny
Federer [1] d. [2] Dimitrov

...Well lookie here. Fed committed earlier in the year and he is here. This tournament is or should be a forgone conclusion. There are some surprisingly strong draws this week.

Robredo [3] d. [1] Lopez
Anderson [2] d. [5] Gasquet
Robredo [3] d. [5] Gasquet

...There's nobody here Gasquet need fear. If he can get hot he will be dangerous. But Anderson should be too strong for the Frenchman. It's really a toss up between those two Spaniards, but the winner will have Anderson on clay.

Dellacqua is not playing this week and time is running out to be seeded for the French. She lies at 44 and a decent performance in the swing is needed to push her into the seeding positions. Casey won the mixed at the French with Scott Lipsky way back in 2011. Can she repeat?

ANSWER: Tracy Austin beat Evert 6-4, 2-6, 7-6[4] in 1979 at the Italian Open. Tracy ended up winning the head to head 9-7.

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