Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wk.34- The Small Opening Before the Open

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Our little tradition of a shorter post before the big event is a nice one. And considering the work that BACKSPIN has put in the last few weeks and the upcoming weeks, this shorter post is a godsend for the BACKSPINNERS.

Somebody has to win these pre-slam events and it’s usually one of the top two or three seeds. And Winston-Salem would be no different. Won by a player with serious weapons who is a threat at the U.S. Open, the event was a nice warm-up for the big meal. It was the perfect starter. Kevin Anderson won another title, again on hard courts. The South African will rise in the rankings and top ten is a real possibility, especially if he makes the fourth round in New York. If Cilic falls early there will be a lot of moving and shaking.

QUESTION: Kevin Anderson has the most wins at which slam?

S: Kevin Anderson def. Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4/7-5
D: Inglot/Lindstedt d. Butorac/Lipsky

...With there being just the one event on this week, the winner was always going to take Player of the Week. And really, Anderson deserves having more written about him. Not flashy, not particularly exciting, but effective, solid and consistent. France could follow his example. He knows his style and he applies it. And because it is so simple it always works. It worked against Djokovic at Wimbledon. It works everywhere. And it’s more than just the big serve, big forehand combination. He has a well-rounded consistent game. He’s even a solid volleyer. Slated to reach the fourth round and play Murray, he needed a good warm-up tournament. And he had one. At what is possibly the biggest 250, Anderson was seeded second but once top seed Simon lost he became the favourite. He edged Kukushkin 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Then he beat 16th seeded Janowicz to make the quarter-finals. Eighth seeded Coric was waiting but Kevin had too much in a 6-2, 7-6[1] victory. He was solid in the semi-finals, beating Jaziri 6-4, 6-3. He then won the final against Herbert 6-4, 7-5. A good week from Anderson surely signals a good U.S. Open. Anderson improves to 1-2 in finals this year and 3-8 overall.
...America is showing signs on weakness in a lot of its sports. And it must be worrying. In the track events and the swimming their stranglehold is loosening. On the golf links they are no longer a power (Editor's note: well, there IS that Jordan Spieth fellow, soooo... - tds). And in tennis they are not as strong as they seem. Once the Williams sisters go are the women really that strong? Once Isner starts to go down that really will be it. And he isn’t even a slam threat. Steve Johnson is capable of making the third round. And that is exactly how one rebuilds. Seeded 12th, Johnson was not supposed to have a run here. He opened up by beating Groth 6-4, 6-7[4], 6-1. Then came the big win. He ousted third seed Tsonga 6-3, 4-6, 7-6[4] to go through to the quarters. And there he received a bye from Lu. Then when he was the favourite he blew it. He let Herbert come back at him and win it 3-6, 7-6[5] 6-2. Isn’t sport funny like that?
...In a tournament where the script was shredded then burned, it’s hard to recognise the great play of everyone. But Jaziri had a great tournament here and he really is a journeyman. He beat Souza 6-3, 6-4. That is expected and winning as the favourite when one is a journeyman is absolutely key. But then he beat 4th seed Troicki 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Worn out by his exertions in taking out Kokkinakis, 15th seed Gabashvili went down 7-5, 6-4. Jaziri then allowed 6th seed Bellucci just five games in a medieval style beat down. Anderson had way too much for the African player and Malek could only win seven games against the African number one.
...Already a solid doubles player, he has been trying to improve in singles. He even has a junior doubles slam. But this was his first ever final. He got through qualifying without dropping a set. He even beat sixth seed Coppejans there. Then in the first round he beat Stahovsky 6-3, 6-2. He showed it was no fluke when he took on 14th seeded Baghdatis. He beat him 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 before beating Bedene 3 and 0. Don’t forget the Brit had beaten the top seed the round before. Then he came back from the dead against Busta to win 4-6, 7-6[4, 6-2. He had made the semi-finals. And he recovered again to beat Johnson 3-6, 7-6[2], 6-2.
...There’s nothing worse than coming off a loss and going straight into a slam. Simon didn’t just lose he lost in three breakers. He is supposed to be able to out-grind the rest of the tour but he lost 6-7[5], 7-6[5], 7-6[76]. That is an insane score line. Simon had match points in the three minutes shy of three-hour contest. He served for it and still managed to blow it. Sometimes you can’t help but be impressed.
...See above.

Casey is seeded sixth at the Open along with Shvedova. They reached the quarters in the doubles in New Haven. Casey did not draw a seed in the singles. Qualifier Kontaveit is up first, then possibly 31st seed Pavlyuchenkova. 8th seed Pliskova is the big fish in her section.

Now for the answer: If you had said the French and Australian you would have been right. He has 11 wins at both. It was a trick question.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

U.S. Open Predictions: Bring Balance to the Force

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

It’s a shorter predictions post today as Todd and I just finished an exceptionally long feature.

It is nice to see a balanced draw on the men’s side. Rarely these days do we get a balanced draw, but here at the U.S. we do. Neither Federer nor Djokovic will be happy with their draws, respectively, though Federer may have the slightly wider smile. So by now how this works is obvious. Todd and I do some picks and I blow mine. He doesn’t. Mind you I did pick Kvitova at Wimbledon, which wasn’t totally illogical. So enough from me, as you’ll be seeing oh so much of me the next couple weeks, and onto the draw.

QUESTION: And now a question for you. How many seeded players hail from island nations?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Janowicz d. Carreno Busta
WS 1st Rd: I-C Begu [28] d. Govortosova

We have the luxuries of the doubles draws being released already. So, let's have a look.

*Ladies Doubles*
Hingis/Mirza [1] are the favourite and rightfully so. Mattek-Sands/Safarova [3] are twice slam finalists this year. They won both, too. I rate them as second favourites above the Russian second seeds. Also in with a good chance of a run here are Dellacqua/Shvedova [9] and Kops-Jones/Spears [7]. Dark horses are the Chinese Taipei sister team of Chan Hao-Ching & Yung-Jan [10]. Could Errani/Pennetta [12] make some noise here?

*Men’s Doubles*
Bryan/Bryan [1] are starting to look a little vulnerable in the rankings. Since losing that 2013 semi-final in New York in 2013 when they could have won the calendar slam, they have won just once at the slams. Defending champions here, if they lose early they could be in trouble in the rankings. Dodig/Melo [2] are dangerous and looking to take the title should the Bryans falter. Matkowski/Zimonjic [4] and Bolelli/Fognini [5] are also likely to meet their seedings. Will Granollers/Lopez [7] crash and burn? Sock/Pospisil [11] now have a ‘prove it’ slam.

Now, finally on to the singles...

1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB....Here we go again. Djokovic opens with Souza, Pospisil and Seppi. And that’s a good start for him. Some early tests there that should get him all limbered up for greater challenges to come. Djokovic made two Masters finals back to back and has reached four finals in a row. Actually, the last time he lost before the final was to Karlovic back in January at his first event. He is 56-5 this year. Two of those to Federer and three to Swiss men. He is not just on form, he is on some kind of super-form. So unless he gets injured he won’t really be troubled. Goffin is seeded fourteenth. He has sat at fourteen in the world for two months and been in the top fifteen longer than that. He has made two finals and the fourth round of Wimbledon. He knows how to beat Djokovic. And he is the archetypal banana skin. Should Djokovic be off his game, perhaps in the heat, Goffin could put in a big upset. But it is unlikely. After that Djokovic gets Nadal. Mentally, Nadal still has the ability to exhaust Djokovic. It was beating Nadal and Murray back to back that did for Djokovic in Paris. Still Novak is a lock to make the semi.
2. DAVID GOFFIN BEL... Nadal is winding down. He is on the way out. Especially off the clay he is barely a top ten player. We just associate the name Nadal with greatness automatically. So Goffin steps up to number two. It’s doubtful Rafa can even make the quarterfinals so it could well be Goffin versus Djokovic, then a lesser ranked player. Bolelli and Berankis are the first two most likely opponents of the Belgian. And those are tricky tests but he should be fine. Janowicz or Agut also lurk. But he should be able to come through to the fourth unscathed. He may even come through more unscathed than the top seed.
3. RAFAEL NADAL ESP... An embattled Nadal should be able to beat an injury plagued Raonic even here on hard courts. One feels as if it’s simply the percentage pick right now. Raonic is very dangerous seeded out there at 10 and Djokovic is going to have a very difficult quarter-final. Coric, Ymer and Fognini is the most likely route for Nadal. I think Raonic has an easier path, but it’s Nadal.
DARK HORSE: JERZY JANOWICZ POL...The perennial question mark in any and every draw. He can power his way to the fourth round. He opens with Busta then probably Agut. After that Goffin lurks, but he can win that. Ranked 47, he can make it back to the top forty with a solid performance here. He might well get it, too.
WILDCARD: FELICIANO LOPEZ ESP...He plays the same man who beat him at Wimbledon. Fish resides in this section and so does the winner of Verdasco versus Haas. Lopez will run into Raonic or Haas/Verdasco as well as Fish. But should he make it through he could beat Nadal. He can throw a huge spanner into the works here. We here at BACKSPIN expect nothing else.
EARLY EXIT: RAFAEL NADAL ESP...He’s either going to crash and burn or go on a run here. It’s one or the other. No middle ground. There’s really no way of knowing. But a Nadal/Djokovic clash would be fascinating.

POOR GUY: NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB...He drew Nadal and Goffin. That’s got to be tough on Djokovic. If there’s rain or bad organization and he has to play those matches back to back he could be in trouble.

=In the End...=

1. KEI NISHIKORI JPN... Nishiori heads the weakest quarter of the whole draw. This whole thing is a mess, but last year’s finalist and winner both reside here. And ooh look there’s Ferrer. But really Nishikori has this section in his pocket. He’s even more of a lock than Djokovic. But what the heck do I know? Paire and Stepanek are his first two matches but they aren’t capable of five set consistency. Kei will grind them down into dust. They play exciting dynamic tennis that just doesn’t work against this type of player. Robredo and either Monfls or Tsonga are the two seeds lurking. Kei will not be troubled by either of those if one looks at it from a logical point of view.That Tsonga/Monfils car-crash match will be one to watch. Nisikori got handed a tough road but not a road that’s too intimidating. And his quarter-final opponent could be anyone. This quarter is just a hot mess.
2. MARIN CILIC CRO... The defending champion gets extremely fortunate with his draw. But surely the defending champion has earned a little luck? In any case there really is no second player here. Ferrer looks very uncertain and he has been injured this past year. And Cilic is on a win streak here at this event. Pella the qualifier and then Pouille is the most likely route to the third round. But he drew 17th seeded Dimitrov there. And that match is going to be the real test. If he can best Dimitrov he could well defend his title. But if he can’t then he falls back down the rankings, possibly as low as 20 and his career will need resuscitation.
3. DAVID FERRER ESP... A former world number three and twice semi-finalist here is somebody who you can never discount. If he wasn’t injured he would be a serious threat here and particularly in this section. He has had a so-so year thus far and one can’t help but think his career feels like one that is winding down. But he is still dangerous and he can still grind his way into the quarterfinals. Albot, Krajinovic and Chardy [27] is his likely route through to the fourth round. There he meets Cilic which should be good.
DARK HORSE: GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL...Just barely missing out on a seed is the young Bulgarian star-to-be. He has slipped out of that nice cushy top 16 bracket which means he no longer has protection for three rounds. He runs into the defending champ but if he can beat him he will have a great shot against a fading Ferrer.
WILDCARD: GAEL MONFILS FRA...How does one predict La Monf! correctly? The story remains the same here with Gael just sneaking into that top 16. We could have a fourth round match between the 16th and 17th seeds which would be interesting on more than just paper.
EARLY EXIT: TOMMY ROBREDO ESP...Not this time Tommy. With Dolgopolov lurking and the Spaniard out of form the upset is coming.
POOR GUY: KEI NISHIKORI JPN...Simply for drawing Benoit Paire. Because nobody wants to draw this guy in the first round.

=In the End...=
It’s still likely a total surprise comes out of this group. It’s still likely that someone like Dolgopolov makes the semi-final. But I think a name I haven’t even mentioned yet becomes the Cinderella story.


1. ANDY MURRAY GBR... Federer and Djokovic are the out and out favourites. Nishikori is the fourth favourite. And sitting in a huge gap all on his own between them is Murray. He won’t win another slam. He’s done. But he does have an excellent chance of making the semi-final at least. He is on form and is a great player here. Picking Wawrinka here isn’t the percentage play but he is more likely to make the semi-final than the Brit is. Murray opens up with Kyrgios who will take at least one set. Murray is going to struggle against the fiery Aussie with nothing to lose. Mannarino will certainly meet him next and then Bellucci is the seed. Those two are both around 30 in the world and both have had a good year. If Murray comes through all those, like he should, he then gets Anderson and Wawrinka back to back. Both those players can trouble Murray but really it’s only Wawrinka who may actually beat him. His reward for all that? A semi-final with Federer.
2. STAN WAWRINKA SUI... This quarter is a two horse race. Murray leads their head to head 8-6. But this decade it is 3-3. Murray hasn’t beaten Wawrinka since 2012. Wawrinka won their last two meetings and is 2-1 against the Scot here in New York. But surely Murray is still the favourite given Wawrinka’s sketchy form of late. There were signs of a pulse in Wawrinka’s form, however. He opens with Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas which should be a very quick match indeed. Chung or Duckworth are next. Both are young but both have a bright futures. Sock or Muller are possible opponents for the third round. So he should have a test before the fourth round but he really is a lock to reach the fourth. Simone or Troicki are his two most likely opponents in that round. Over five sets especially he should be nigh on untouchable. But can he beat Murray?
3. GILLES SIMON FRA...Yes, it won’t happen, but if the upsets should occur Simon is ready to step in and make it two slam quarterfinals in a row. But it won’t happen.
DARK HORSE: DOMINIC THIEM AUT...Seeded 20 THE Austrian can improve his ranking by just meeting his seeding. Gimeno-Traver and Istomin are his first two opponents and he should be able to make the third round. That will be enough to get his ranking moving steadily towards the top ten. And should those stars align he may well find himself in the quarters.
WILDCARD: NICK KYRGIOS AUS...Do I really need to justify this? I thought not.
EARLY EXIT: ERNESTS GULBIS LAT...He always deserves a mention and he can have this one.
POOR GUY: ANDY MURRAY GBR...He drew Kyrgios. We knew someone would, we just didn’t know who. And now we do. And is there any chance that won’t be a night match?

=In the End...=
I think it is difficult to pick against Muzza. But if Wawrinka scrapes through the first few rounds then mysteriously picks up some form things could get interesting…


1. ROGER FEDERER SUI... Federer is surely destined to make another U.S. Open final. Well, with all the stars now aligned is this his last and best shot? He has timed his run into the Big Apple perfectly form-wise. He is on top form and he just isn’t losing his serve. He has a genuine sot to win this slam, but Djokovic will most likely be waiting. Mayer then the winner of Darcis/Baghdatis should be good. Federer hasn’t played the Cypriot in what feels like a decade. Maybe it is a decade. Rosol is here. Isner Just avoided his boobie trap Kohlschreiber but they could meet in the fourth round. Federer will have to go through Kohl then Isner back to back. It’s a tough workload for anyone. Then Federer plays Berdych if they both make it. It isn’t a hard section for Federer but it is a very tricky one. Still, the five time champion must be able to remember how to win here. He did it so often.
2. TOMAS BERDYCH CZE... I wonder which Berdych this is? It’s always the question to ask. Is this the Berdych who crumbles in the first round and dissolves into a mess or is it the Berdych with lasers for arms and a serve that can shatter brick walls? How is his second serve? Because that is the shot that makes all the difference for the Czech star. Fratangelo and then possibly Melzer are the most probable first two opponents. Garcia-Lopez or Tipsarevic are probably up next. Then Gasquet. But the Frenchman has his own problems.
3. RICHARD GASQUET FRA... Ah, Gasquet. Someone to be admired actually. He has come back from a suspension for being a naughty boy and he has tried. He has put in the effort and the hard-yards. He has gone for it. He has consistently tried his best and despite a few poor losses he has put together an enviable career. Whatever you may say about him his effort cannot be questioned. And he has been rewarded. Kokkinakis, Hewitt and Tomic [24] are all in his section. So is Brown. Gasquet will be pushed but he should be up to the task. This whole section is Gasquet v. Berdych in that fourth round.
DARK HORSE: JOHN ISNER USA...This is the time, the year, the edition and the slam it doesn’t go wrong for Isner. There is no reason for him to lose early. He is a deserved top fifteen player. Jaziri and Youzhny do lurk but that should be no problem. That Karlovic match in the third round will be worth seeing. I predict a breaker in every set. Then Isner can lose with dignity to Federer. But if Fed falters or Isner beats him he could find himself in a semi-final.
WILDCARD: JANKO TIPSAREVIC SRB...A former top eight player is back. This guy went to the world tour finals and he has a manageable early draw here. He could really shake things up here.
EARLY EXIT: GUILLERMO GARCIA-LOPEZ ESP...He is a good player on the clay. But drawing Janko here is perhaps too hard a match for him to handle.
POOR GUY: RICHARD GASQUET FRA...Poor guy drew Thanasi. It’s a pity because both men are on form and looking to make a run here. But it’s especially unfortunate for Kokkinakis.

=In the End...=
Federer cruises. Berdych threatens. And the Aussies have a good time here. Bernie should make the third round. Who’d have thought he'd be a model of consistency?




...I picked Djokovic to win Wimbledon, but this time Fed gets the nod. Djokovic just looks tired and worn out. He really isn’t on top form and something always happens to him in the U.S. Open finals. And Federer has beaten him here on a few occasions. Besides three slams in a year is greedy.

#1 Williams d. #19 Keys
#12 Bencic d. #8 Pliskova
#3 Sharapova d. #17 Svitolina
#7 Ivanovic d. #21 Jankovic
#5 Kvitova d. #9 Muguruza
#26 Pennetta d. #22 Stosur
#20 Azarenka d. #6 Safarova
#2 Halep d. #14 Bacsinszky

...Williams might lose to Sloane and I have a feeling it’ll be there she wins or loses this championship. But Stephens is not quite there yet. I suppose that’s down to Future Sloane. I like Keys over Radwanska right now. Honestly I think Radwanska might be in a permanent slump. There’s been no evidence to indicate that she’ll come out of it any time soon.

Why is Pliskova seeded higher than Muguruza? That seems foolish to me. I see Bencic beating Venus and then dispatching Pliskova. Pliskova is very good, clearly, but she has been past the second round just twice at slam level. This year she has won four matches at slam level. She’s only won one title. And she’s the eighth seed. Above a slam finalist. Well, great job there WTA on your ranking system. The Russian section is a mess. All the Russians are off form. But Sharapova can grind past Kuznetsova and Makarova. Kanepi lurks here, too. And Svitolina is one to watch.

Vinci and Bouchard are trying to recover some form here and there’s a question mark above Suarez-Navarro’s head. Ivanovic and Jankovic seem destined to meet. Diyas is also hanging around.

Schmiedlova is one to watch seeded 32, but Petra should have too much. Garcia and Petkovic here, too, but I like Muguruza. Wozniacki is the kind of fourth seed only this generation of players could produce. She will go nowhere. Errani is another seed here but Stosur and Pennetta will both go to the fourth. And Pennetta always beats Sam.

Pironkova and Begu won’t stop Safarova. But Azarenka will. Kerber and Schiavone are the has-beens in this section. Nobody here to challenge Timea. She will make the fourth round for sure. Giorgi is the only player who could beat her. But I just don’t think she will. Halep should get past Cornet and then Timea.

#1 Williams d. #12 Bencic
#7 Ivanovic d. #3 Sharapova
#5 Kvitova d. #Pennetta
#20 Azarenka d. #2 Halep

...Serena exacts revenge and rolls through to the semi-finals. I really hope the ladies event isn’t dull again. I’d love for Serena to lose just so we have something different to talk about. But nobody is capable of beating her right now. Or in the foreseeable future. Not when it matters. Sharapova runs out of steam. Kvitova continues her best performance here. And Azarenka beats down Halep.

#1 Williams d. #7 Ivanovic
#20 Azarenka d. #5 Kvitova

...Predictable again, I’m afraid. And Azarenka beats Kvitova in what is hopefully a classic.

#1 Williams d. #20 Azarenka

...If Azarenka takes this to three I’ll light some fireworks.

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


ANSWER: The third seed [Britain], the fourth seed [Japan] and the 24th seed [Australia] all come from island nations.

Go to WTA BACKSPIN. They’ve just got the BBQ going!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Wk.33- It's Better to Be Over the Hill than Under It

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Last week Seattle and this week Portland. But not that Portland. Unless you were thinking of the correct one. Were you?

This week is another shorter update, but regular service should be resumed soon enough. Possibly there may even be a draw review. But enough of me and my life.

Djokovic has five finals. Federer has seven titles. Will this be the Masters that eludes the Serb? It makes no sense for it to be this one, but in five finals he has won no sets. Sharapova is 0-5 in Miami finals. The tournaments are rich hunting grounds except for that final round. Federer has thrice defied Djokovic in finals there. He leads the head to head 21-20. Murray has benefited from a walkover against Djokovic, but did beat him in 2008 in a pair of breakers. It would be a great anomaly were the Djoker to never win this title.

Federer beat the top two in the world back to back, including holding his serve 49 times in a row. It's not often a guy beats the best returners back to back and doesn't drop serve. This Federer guy was supposed to be old and past it. Apparently he isn't and he made sure that Murray's third stint at number two was very brief. Federer seems to be rested and on form simultaneously. And that is a dangerous combination. If the U.S. Open draw puts Murray on Djokovic's side it may put Federer as the favorite. Djokovic should win but he could get a very nasty draw indeed.

Driving out of New York there are four posters advertising the U.S. Open. One had Serena. One had Sharapova. One had Federer. One had Nadal. The top two men's players were absent. Why are Federer and Nadal still the big draws? Why are Djokovic and Murray unmarketable? Or at the least not as marketable as the old[er] guard.

Well, the final slam rapidly approaches. Are you ready? Are you prepared? After the U.S. Open, football comes in. Following that is the World Series and then the hockey and baseball. Are you ready for the sporting season to begin?

QUESTION: Who was the last non-slam winner to beat Federer in Cincinnati?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini, Garcia-Lopez and Bellucci are the three lowest seeds at the U.S. at 32-30. Mannarino just misses out as does Mayer, though the Argentine did rise two places.

Top 10 - Little change. Raonic holds off the Frenchman in 11 and 12 as Gasquet rises a spot. Richard is still down 500 from Simon. In the race, Isner is at 9 and Gasquet at 10 just ahead of Simon.

Top 8 - No change here. Berdych at 6 is out of sight. But the Spaniards at 7 and 8 are ahead of Cilic by under 200 ranking points.

Top 4 - Federer takes third in the race and second back from Murray in the rankings. Kei is building a lead on Wawrinka in fourth position, but I'd back the Swiss to win the slam over Nishikori. Where do Nadal and Murray land? It's possible for Federer or Djokovic to get them both.

S: Roger Federer def. Novak Djokovic 7-6(1)/6-3
D: Nestor/Roger-Vasselin d. Matkowski/Zimonjic

...Deja vu has struck Backspin. Federer still wins a lot. And the thing about his season is there is still room to pick up points. If Djokovic falters Federer can make a run at the top ranking. And the fact he even has a chance is shocking. What he is doing is as impressive, if not more so, as what Serena is doing. In a game where he is no longer at his physical peak he is still making finals of slams and winning Masters events. He is fighting off old father time. It is improbable that Djokovic or Murray will still be around at the Swiss man's age. Federer was too good for Agut, winning 6-4, 6-4. Anderson and his big serve were useless against Federer and the South African lost 6-1, 6-1. Federer edged out Lopez 6-3, 6-4. Lopez had edged out Nadal only the day before. We will have to wait for the classic rivalry to renew. Federer was too good for Murray in a 6-4, 7-6[8] victory, and the next day a 7-6[1], 6-3 victory in the final was sealed with a big serve. Forget dropping sets, Federer barely dropped service games. Federer now has to hope for a decent draw. The draw is likely to stack heavily on one side. If he can get a kinder draw he could well win it. But there are so many land mines and so even an easier looking draw could have pitfalls. But this is the man who was around before and after Rafael Nadal. The comparisons between them and Evert and Navratilova practically write themselves.
...There were a few candidates for this, really. Making the quarters of a Masters just before a slam is a great way to find one's mojo. Gasquet and Berdych also found some magic. Gasquet was especially impressive in dismantling Kyrgios. But Stan [the man] is more than capable of winning this slam, of winning any slam. He could be the first player to win three slams and never ascend to world number two or above. It was all about the daily grind for Stan. A 3-6, 7-6[3], 6-3 victory against Coric was just the start of a grueling week. He edged Dr. Ivo 6-7[2], 7-6[5], 7-6[5] to make the quarterfinals. Djokovic sent him packing 6-4, 6-1, but that's irrelevant. The important thing is he has wins. He has found wins. And that is like nectar from the gods. Wawrinka has form and even though he lost to Djokovic the signs are good. He fooled us in Australia last year. He fooled us in Paris this year. Will he fool us in New York? We're expecting it this time, but he could still surprise us all. He was so close last year to making the semifinals again in his third quarterfinal appearance in New York. And, of course, who could forget his memorable five set loss to Djokovic at the semifinal stage just two years ago?
...Whenever Dolgopolov pops up on this blog in a positive aspect or in the slam pick [usually as a dark horse] he is accompanied by a video of him doing something ridiculously flashy and this week is no different.

Every stroke was perfect. And it was his week writ small. Djokovic is excellent at escaping out of holes and so the loss in the semifinal in three very tight sets is admirable. Both he and Goffin had their boot on the Serb's throat but neither pressed down hard enough and so he escaped. Dolgoplov qualified by beating Ward and the higher ranked Giraldo. He took the spot of Nishikori, who withdrew. So technically he was the fourth seed. And he made the semifinal. He dismissed Tomic in two easy sets. Then he edged Janowicz in three tight sets before ousting Berdych 6-4, 6-2. It should worry the rest of the field that he is finding form right now. He's up 27 to 39.
...Cilic is 18-13 on the year. He has no titles. No finals. He just lost to Gasquet with a whimper. He is looking in very poor form but for some reason is still ranked ninth. He is 21st in the race. And he is the defending champion which means his ranking is going to drop unless he can summon a miracle out of thin air. Marin Cilic, undeservedly at ninth, is going to crash and is going to burn.
...Nadal has an excellent record against lefties, Spaniards and one-handers. Lopez is all of those things. On no surface should he beat Nadal. On no surface should he even trouble Nadal. But he outlasted the Spaniard in a war of attrition. That shouldn't be possible. But he did so 5-7, 6-4, 7-6[3]. And to win in the third set breaker 7-3 is particularly impressive. Lopez really showed his abilities in the win. He deserves his top 20 seeding at the U.S. Open, though how much it will help him remains to be seen.

*New Haven*
Simon [1] d. [3] Tsonga
Anderson [2] d. [4] Troicki
Simon [1] d. [2] Anderson

...The seeds will play out here if there are no withdrawals. Sadly there are always withdrawals in pre-slam tournaments. It is a part of life. Simon should be just too consistent for the heavy hitters. Anderson should find some form. Losing badly to Federer on that surface is an acceptable loss.

Casey withdrew from the New Haven Open because she was still in the doubles in Cincinnati. She and Shvedova lost to the Chan Sisters after beating another Chinese-Taipei pair in the semifinals. Chan Hao-Ching is her partner in Connecticut this week and they are seeded third. Srebotnik/Vesnina are the top seeds and are their projected opponents in the semifinals. First up for them is King/Savchuk.

ANSWER: In 2011 Berdych beat Federer 6-2, 7-6. Murray won the title that year when Novak Djokovic retired in the final.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Learn to Serve the FUN Way!

It’s been great tennis weather here in California, so I shot a video that will turn your serve into a powerful, consistent weapon. I got a little more silly with this one with a few jokes, but hopefully you’ll find the instruction clear and easy to follow. Enjoy!


A little about me: I'm a tennis coach/lover. I put the fun in fundamentals! To get immediate free access to new videos, visit and enter your email address. You can also follow me @osatennis, go to my YouTube page or email me at

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wk.32- Murray's Momentum Mounts

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

I sit in a Seattle hotel room as I write this, so it will have to be a shorter update, a mini update if you will, this week. It always seems to coincide with a week when Murray wins a title. It's not intentional, I promise. It's just what seems to happen.

Something else that happened this week was that in the Pan American Games Para series of events that concluded their wheelchair tournament.

Goolagong-Cawley and Ashe. These two faced persecution, or at least their races did, back in their home countries. In Australia the government stole a whole generation of Aborigine children. In America, well just watch "Mississippi Burning." Heck, visit Texas today. When Jesse Owens won the race it was the President back home who snubbed him, not Hitler. He was made to walk through the kitchen.

In tennis if you're gay, lesbian or somewhere in between we have a home for you. If you're an ethnic or religious minority we have a home for you. If you have a disability we can work with that. I think our sport may be the most excepting and welcoming. The NFL seems to do a double take whenever women get involved in however small a capacity. In other sports racism is rife and homophobia is unofficially acceptable. But not in our sport. Not in the sport we hold dear. Of course, as we move through the years and decades acceptance is everywhere. But we were first. We were the first to give homes to those who had none. We have wheelchair tournaments. And they are a key part of the grand slam. The thing that could be great to see is more coverage and more events. At the Masters they should have mixed doubles and wheelchair tennis. It would draw crowds.

It's nice to be able to look at the sport you love and say to yourself actually we're an inclusive sport that only dislikes those that truly deserve it. Mostly.

On that note, BACKSPIN officially condemns the comments made by Kyrgios [you know the ones and they're not being repeated here] and we hope the situation can be resolved shortly. Kokkinakis gets a big gold sticker for how he handled the situation. He is well liked and respected within the locker-room. He has a flawless character and it is was bad that he was dragged into it. He and Kyrgios could meet in the second round.

QUESTION: When did Murray last beat Djokovic on a hard court?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Kyrgios up 4 to 37 with a seed at the U.S. Open a possibility. Australia will have three seeds at the 2016 Australian Open. Mannarino and Fognini fall two and four places respectively. They hold 32 and 31. Up five places to 30 is Sock. Up 22 places to 27 is Chardy.

Top 10 - Little change. Raonic holds off the Frenchman in 11 and 13. Isner is in at 12 but expect him to drop off after the U.S. Open when he leaves U.S. soil. Simon and Raonic have fourth round points to defend. Cilic at 9 has a lot, obviously. Gasquet and Isner will gain points in New York.

Top 8 - Nadal knocks Cilic into ninth and that will make it nigh on impossible to defend his title unless the draw falls for him. Nadal is 15 points behind Ferrer. He didn't do the U.S. Open last year, though. Ferrer has little to defend.

Top 4 - Murray overtakes Federer and holds second by a few hundred points, but he is not the second best player in the world. Federer is still miles ahead of fourth. Djokovic is clear by a little under 6000 points.

S: Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic 6-4/4-6/6-3
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Nestor/Roger-Vasselin

...After losing to Gabashvilli last week in Washington, Murray rises to world number two after winning the title in Montreal. Season long, Murray has earned it. He has done better than Federer, but then he has played about 15 more matches. He does play better at the U.S. Open, but would you back him against Federer anywhere right now? Murray moved past Robredo, Muller and Tsonga without losing a set. The defending champion Tsonga seemed powerless to stop him. Murray is really having a zenith right now. Considering slams are now beyond him he is still making a decent fist of it. Next he rolled over an apparently injured Nishikori. Kei is always injured, though. Djokovic stopped Murray from losing no sets. It would be the Scot who'd hold onto his third set break and win 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. It was a match filled with long rallies and a few drop shots. So what else is new? As he and Djokovic turn 29 within weeks of each other next year, just before the French, the question quickly becomes and is becoming "How much longer?" It looks as if Djokovic can just keep this up for longer. What will be very interesting will be the Olympics. For many of the players it will be their last chance for Gold.
...And he keeps on rising. He has gained about 1000 points in the last two weeks and a thousand of anything is a lot. Perhaps Djokovic should be in the risers slot, but how can one rise from winning Wimbledon? It's like inventing a rocket one week and then inventing a small model airplane th next. Both are impressive but it's hard to improve from the rocket. The fourth seed manhandled Andujar 6-3, 6-3 and then eased past dangerous Goffin 6-4, 6-4. Then he dismissed Nadal 6-2, 6-4. There was no mercy, only a kind of thrilling, beautiful brutality. Nadal is no longer able to live with power and accuracy like he had been able to previously. He ran out of energy against Murray and is now apparently injured. But whether it is a genuine injury or an Azarenka injury remains to be seen. I've said it before and no doubt this is not the last but the population of Asia exceeds 4.4 billion. And he is the best tennis player out there in that continent. But is that more impressive than being the Spanish number one? There's a real culture of rackety stuff in Spain and there isn't really in Japan, so which is more impressive?
...Last week Mathieu surprised us all and this week it would be his compatriot Chardy. Chardy knew a solid performance here would give him a seed in New York. He knew that if he could be given protection for a few rounds a run in a slam could be on. And he was proved correct. Chardy got past Mahut in straight sets. Then he escaped Mayer 4-6, 7-6[4], 6-2. Then he just barely got away from Karlovic but won 4-6, 7-6[1], 6-4. Then he beat Isner in the most incredible three set match for some time 6-7[9], 7-6[13], 7-6[4]. He even managed to make Djokovic work for it in a 6-4, 6-4 respectable loss. Chardy is one of a handful of French players with big weapons who are very dangerous and very seeded. Some are not seeded at all but still dangerous, like Paire. Gasquet and Simon are the highest ranked and most dangerous. Both have recent slam form and both will like their chances in New York. But why can't Jeremy win three or even maybe four matches?
...Young qualified, beating recent titlist Ram, then beat qualifier Kudla in two easy sets. Then he actually did something. For once in his career he did something. He beat fifth seeded Berdych 7-6[5], 6-3. He looked good and he looked ready for a run. Then he lost to qualifier Gulbis meekly in two straight sets. Easy come, easy go, little high, little low.

*Cincinnati Open*
Wawrinka [5] d. [6] Berdych
Federer [2] d. [3] Murray
Federer [2] d. [5] Wawrinka

...Welcome back, Mr. Federer. He could meet Rafa in the quarters, but Nadal has to get there first. Murray is in his bit, too. Murray is the second best player in the world in number only. Djokovic can't ever seem to win this event. He has made four finals but it is a bogey event. And so this year it will be Wawrinka who ends his run. Federer should win here.

After losing in the qualies in Canada, Casey lost in the first round of the doubles, too. She has a point to prove in Cincinnati. This time Casey did qualify. She was seeded 14th. After beating Glatch in straight sets she got past 6th seed Lucic-Baroni 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. In the main draw she gets qualifier Barthel. That match is winnable, but then she gets the winner of Sloane and Suarez-Navarro.

The Aussie is currently languishing around 60 in the world. In doubles, she is inside the top 15 at 14.

ANSWER: Murray beat Djokovic in the U.S. Open Final in 2012 and that was the last time. Strangely ,the first time he was world number two was August 17th, 2009.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Wk.31- Washington Today, New York Tomorrow

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The World Swimming Championships have concluded. They were held in Kazan, Russia and the host country came second behind the scarily dominant Chinese, but ahead of America and Australia. With over 2 billion people, the odds are good that someone is going to be very good at something. It is still somewhat of a mystery as to how China doesn't just dominate all of sports. If it really set its mind to it it could. The same goes for the USA, of course.

And watching the swimming in particular made this BACKSPINNER realize something. In very few individual sports does one compete into one's thirties. In tennis this is commonplace. In fact, there's more likely to be a surprised reaction if somebody retires before thirty. Look at Graf and Henin. Hingis and Soderling were shocks, as well. Although injury played a significant role in all those retirements the point still stands. Tennis is a unique sport with regards to how long you can go on playing it.

And it isn't because it's less physical. A five set clay court match in the heat actually carries health risks. There are players who become non-factors from September onwards because they simply do not have the fitness. If Nalbandian or Baghdatis had been as fit as say a Hewitt or a Ferrer how good would they have been? Nalbandian should have won a slam. It's a travesty he didn't. Date-Krumm this week beat a seed and a top twenty or thereabouts player. She beat a recent slam finalist in Lisicki. That should never have happened. It wouldn't happen in swimming or in any other individual sport. Golf doesn't count.

The other thing is, and this has been explored at length previously, every tennis player is an island. In swimming and in other individual sports you will usually be part of a team at an event. Even in badminton and other racket sports there's a feeling of team spirit. Or at least there is to an extent. But in tennis you are on your own. Even in Davis Cup and the Olympics there isn't a big bond. Yes, the players are usually friends with their compatriots, but not always.

And it was while watching these swimmers hug and congratulate each other that this BACKSPINNER realized, hey, our handshake is cold. Not unfriendly but not always warm. You get it on both sides. And, boy, our sport is a selfish sport. But it's also forgiving. If you lose a few tournaments you can always come back and win. You have time. Swimmers have usually about two Olympics where they're relevant. And that's if they're lucky. The very, very good ones may have three.

Next time you're watching a sport, look at it and wonder to yourself how is this different to tennis. Of course, you will be far more coherent than I am. But, to conclude, swimming has more of a sense of community but, in another way, just as much loneliness. You also have less time in a career but probably longer at the top of your game.

QUESTION: Who won the first Washington Open on the ATP tour?

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Kohl moves up 11 to 28. Cuevas goes up to 30. Bellucci up eight to 31. Querrey still holds 32 over Bellucci. The Brazilian fell two from 31. Sock and Mayer are knocking on the door.

Top 10 - Tsonga fell 12 because the Rogers Cup is a week later this year. So he lost 1000 points. Ouch. Isner is up six to 12. Simon and Gasquet sit at 11 and 13. Nadal is at nine and Raonic sits at 10.

Top 8 - Little change. Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but behind six. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 -No change in the top three but Murray could make a run at two. Wawrinka and Kei swap places. Could Kei be the fourth seed at the Open? It's crucial for him that he secures it. It could make all the difference as the defending finalist.

S: Kei Nishikori d. John Isner 4-6/6-4/6-4
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Dodig/Melo

S: Philipp Kohlschreiber d. Paul-Henri Mathieu 2-6/6-2/6-2
D: Almagro/Berlocq d. Haase/Kontinen

Korea def. Spain 2-1

...Perhaps, yes, I should have opted for the guy who won the 500. But that does not always denote the best player of the week. For example, if Berdych loses in the quarters and Kokkinakis loses in the fourth who would you say has had a better tournament? And it's the same here. Nishikori is expected to do well and win those tournaments. Kohl was expected to lose quietly to somebody he is far better than. He was supposed to disappoint. But he didn't. And that's commendable. Also tempting to put here was Lleyton Hewitt, who just never gives up. But Philipp Kohlschreiber doesn't have many days. And today is the day this Dachshund has his day. Seeded sixth, he ran into Struff in the first round. He won 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3. He could easily have fallen pray to the upset but did not. He beat Giraldo down 6-0, 6-2 next, which is an impressive result. That's the kind of scoreline only Nadal is really capable of. Next he bageled Fognini in the breaker to win 7-6[0], 6-4. And another bagel followed. He beat an in-form Thiem 6-0, 7-6[8] to make the final. In an entertaining three setter he outlasted qualifier Mathieu. It was an impressive week from the German and now he needs to back it up. Suddenly he looks dangerous coming into the U.S. Open. He should have taken a set off Djokovic at Wimbledon. It was a bit of a let down that he failed to do so. It wasn't totally unexpected, however. Still he has waves to make at the upcoming Masters and the slam. Is a deep run at all three of those out of the question? No. And it's not many players who have had made two finals this season.
...Do you collect anything? Stamps, sports memorabilia, states, cities and books are just some of the things one can collect, though the choice is vast. Kei collects 500 level finals. Eight of his 15 finals are at this level. He is 6-2. This is his third 500 final this year and he is 2-1. He's 3-1 in finals overall. But this was his maiden final in Washington and he excelled. Somehow for Kei it is never simple or straight-forward. Something complex always happens. Maybe he makes it complicated. Maybe he doesn't know how to make it easier on himself. Or perhaps he is just forever cursed with bad draws. He barely got past Duckworth but won 6-7[8], 6-1, 6-4. But then Mayer and Groth were both dispatched 6-4, 6-4. He then edged Cilic 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Marin had beaten Zverev in a tight three setter in the round before. The 18 year old German is now closing in on 80 In the world. In the final, Nishikori, who will shockingly turn 26 this year, had just too much for Isner despite the stature difference. Nishikori is now fourth in the world. He and Wawrinka keep swapping around. And really they’re both legitimate world number fours but surely the slam champion should be ranked higher. It's an interesting query. Does the defending finalist or a current defending slam champ have higher precedence? Cilic may not even be seeded eighth.
...The Frenchman is one of those delightful enigmas. He has an eternal question mark above his head. What if? What if he had been fully fit and had stayed on the tour? What if he had achieved his potential, his full potential? What if he had been destined to be France's best player, not one of the others. Sadly the answers to none of these questions will ever be answered now. Still, he had a good week. In qualifying, the Frenchman was the top seed. He beat Munar, the Spaniard mentioned here last week. He bounced fellow qualifier De Schepper in the first round 6-2, 6-2 before ousting fourth seed Klizan in just two sets. Next he beat Argentine Delbonis in a weird match 6-3, 0-6, 6-3. He was too good for Almagro in the end, ousting him 6-4, 6-3. When he gets on fire he can still pull off all the tricks and he showed that in Spades. P-H Mathieu rises 31 spots to 78. Just think about that. 31 spots. And if he can string together a few wins at the next three events, he will be cracking the top 50 in no time. Of course being French means that he was never taught consistency. Still, he has a good chance to roll into the top 50 now. As it stands he easily gets direct entry into the U.S. Open.
...Dennis is only 21, but he has his first win. He won through qualifying and then beat Bedene. Fognini finally dismissed him for the loss of only three games but he played some impressive tennis. He and Thiem could make some big waves for Austria on the circuit. Here he is beating Bedene and in three sets, too.

...He served for it and still blew it. He literally had this match won and blew it. Murray is here for not only being a bit rubbish but also for losing the match in the way he did. He cannot lose matches like this. This is exactly the reason he never felt a part of the big four. He never quite had their level of their numbers. No matter which way you slice it he was never at their level. They didn't lose matches like this. They never played badly and lost. They played badly and their opponents played the best tennis of their lives. Sometimes it still wasn't enough. The worst thing is that we're just used to Murray losing matches he shouldn't throughout the years.
...Beating a world number three is always a fantastic experience. Beating any top five or top ten player is great. Heck, beating a player better than you is a fantastic achievement and feeling. Gabashvili did it and he did it on one of Murray's best surfaces. He outlasted the ultimate grinder and that is a huge win.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Isner finding some consistency. At last.
2 - Congratulations, Sloane. Your first title and it's a big one. Not only that but to win it in front of home support is tremendous. She was born in Plantation [FLA], a mere 15 hours away from the Citi Open. Pretty special.
3 - Kohl won a title near where he lives. It's always nice to win a title in a tournament close to where you live, in a home tournament.
4 - The Spanish number one has a losing record against the Spanish number two. A really bad one. This isn't usually the case.
5 - Raonic is going for win #200. Good luck to him.

1. Washington Final – Nishikori d. Isner 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
...Little and large took to the final stage. Isner had Kei right where he wanted him but the Japanese man has learned how to grit it out. He kept plugging away and eventually did the American in in an exciting final out in Washington. Both have risen in the rankings and both are dark horses in New York.
2. Kitzbuhel 1st Rd. - Almagro d. Vesely 6-7[2], 7-5, 6-4
...Jiri was seeded seventh, but it was an inspired Almagro who was able to come through and deny the young star. The Spaniard had a fantastic tournament and made the semi-finals. He is steadily climbing back into the top 70. He also won the doubles with Berlocq.
3. Kitzbuhel Final – Kohlschreiber d. Methieu 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
...The surface gives a lot. It gives the ball a lot of kick and results in high bounces. It also means aggression is a viable tactic. You can really go after the ball. It meant that his final was not played as you may expect. It was played quickly and with no small amount of quality. From 2-2 in the third the German just ran away with it.
4. Washington SF – Gabashvili d. Murray 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4)
...Perhaps lacking a little in quality, there are no excuses. Despite serving for it, Murray fell at the first hurdle. No world number three should ever lose a match like this. To make it worse the Russian then went down to Berankis.

*Rogers Cup*
Djokovic [1] d. [3] Wawrinka
Nishikori [4] d. [2] Murray
Djokovic [1] d. [2] Nishikori

...Sure, Murray has played well here. So has Berdych. But neither of them will win this. Berdych is too close to Djokovic and Murray is playing badly right now. Wawrinka will bounce back a little and Nishikori will continue his run of form. He's a different animal on hard courts. Defending champion Tsonga is dangerous but could lose a lot of ranking points, too. Nadal is a non factor here.

Dellacqua lost to Doi in the final of the qualifying for the Rogers Cup singles. Doi prevailed 6-3, 6-4 but Casey did at least beat Paszek in straight sets the round before. In the doubles she and Shvedova are seeded fifth. And they open with Mladenovic/Pliskova. With a good performance here they can find form before the U.S. Open. The second seeds do lurk in their section, however.

ANSWER: Thomaz Koch won in 1969. He beat Arthur Ashe in five sets in the final.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, August 03, 2015

Wk.30- Half a Dozen a Year

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Is Nadal in the greatest of all time discussion is a question we here on Backspin try to answer and so does everybody else. There's no question Federer is the greatest. First you have to take every player who failed to win the Grand Slam out of the equation. Then you have four names. Then you can work from there. By looking at the numbers and by looking at careers, Laver probably places third. Federer is certainly first.

I think the rub is this. Nadal wins about a half-dozen titles a year on average. He has won 67 titles and that is impressive. Muster won 44 titles from 55 finals and a slam. He was world number one. He was a fantastic player. Of that there can be no doubt. 45 of those finals were on clay and we won 40. 40 of 44 titles on clay. Percentage-wise that is somewhere around 95 per cent. He never even reached one grass court final.

And Nadal is a little like that. That's the big 'asterisk' on the career of Nadal. Well, he was only a clay court specialist and a bit more. But that's not strictly true. 70 per cent of his titles have been won on clay. 47 out of the 67 and that is still second all time to Vilas. The Argentine had 49. The worry for Nadal on this front is that he seems to be getting less and less relevant off the clay. Furthermore, as impressive as his 739-150 is, and it really is, Nadal won 344 matches on the clay and that is about 40 per cent. I think the main problem for him is that he was so dominant on one surface and just very good on the rest. But as he has deteriorated he has just become an also-ran on all those surfaces off the clay.

But then Federer had periods of dominance everywhere but on clay. It evens out. But Federer has made at least five finals at every slam. Nadal is not even close to that. Federer has been relevant for far longer everywhere. He is still world number two and Nadal is not getting back in the top five possibly ever again. Nadal is certainly the second best player ever, but if a player comes along who wins every slam a few times and makes a lot of finals are they better than Nadal?

It's nice to have a solid answer the tennis world agrees on with regards to the GOAT discussion, but at the same time should Nadal add to his slam tally he may make the question a little less straight-forward. With Djokovic now likely permanently overtaking him in the weeks on the top and looking back in hindsight, was Nadal's career really the equal of Federer's? If Federer wins Gold at the Olympics next year then definitely not. But then Nadal has never won any Tour Finals, either. And so the argument goes round and round in endless circles.

Every few weeks we look at this and the same circles. But it's nice to revisit it every now and then. Maybe one day we can conclude. Maybe one day we can even conclude Nadal is the greatest. For now Nadal is probably second, but even then Nadal doesn't come close to some of the ridiculous number Laver made.

So we had a 500 tournament again this week. Isn't the ATP just so exciting?

QUESTION: Do you know where Nadal took his first title? He did it while never losing a set.

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini moves five to 27. Cuevas goes up to 30. Bellucci up eight to 31. Querrey holds 32 by 31 ranking points over Coric. Querrey will be a dangerous 32nd seed at the Open.

Top 10 - Raonic drops two but he, Cilic and Nadal are all between 3400-3500. They're 700 clear of 11 and nearly 1000 behind seventh.

Top 8 - Little change. Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but behind six. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 - Little change. Kei could challenge for top four. But Wawrinka has fewer points to defend. Djokovic is way ahead of Federer but Fed is easily holding off the Scot, in at three.

S: John Isner d. Marcos Baghdatis 6-3/6-3
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Fleming/Muller

S: Dominic Thiem d. David Goffin 7-5/6-2
D: Bury/Istomin d. Marach/Qureshi

S: Rafael Nadal d. Fabio Fognini
D: J.Murray/Peers d. Cabal/Farah

...I should have put Nadal, here you're saying to yourself. I personally like the guy on a double digit win streak on the ATP. I like the guy who is 54 ranking points from the top 20. I like the guy who could be a 16th seed in New York, having been a 32nd seed in Wimbledon only about six weeks previously. I like the guy who can hit shots off his backhand that make Wawrinka and Gasquet clap. I like the guy who can retrieve balls and play shots that make Monfils twist and shout. I like the guy who is Austria's second coming. I like the guy who is the future. We've done Nadal. And it would be good if we could get to a point where we can say Thiem's been done. We've talked about him. But today we're going to talk about this new guy. Isn't he great? Of course, by then I will have been with BACKSPIN so long I'll just be part of the furniture. Where do we start? Seeded fourth last week and third this. He is seeded first in an event in his home country that he made the final of last year. He is rising like a phoenix. Beating Delbonis in straight sets is a great win. Then beating seventh seed Busta on this surface 6-2 in the third shows a lot of gumption. But then to come out and beat Lopez 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3 on this surface is just fantastic. Lopez had found some form. And Thiem even recovered after knowing he should have won the second set. And beating Goffin 7-5, 6-2 is an absurd result. One keeps expecting Thiem to falter. One would understand if he did. But he doesn't. And kudos to him. This guy has everything you could want in a player. No, seriously. If you haven't checked this guy out already do it now. I like the confidence. He knows he's young but it doesn't matter. He knows that he can hit that inside out backhand into the far corner perfectly. That serve and volley he can hit, too. He backs himself. And I think he does it in a way Dimitrov doesn't but needs to.
...The second greatest clay-courter ever [Evert still has that title and she will always have it] won another dirty event this past week. No, it wasn't corrupt dirty. It wasn't run by America's police force, after all. And Nadal's not black. Ahem. No, this event was a dirty 500 event because it had clay. It had no white socks allowed. Nadal dropped a set to Verdasco. The first set of the tournament. Put that aside and then you see the dominance. Some nerves on his part were a certainty. But as soon as he found top form that was it. He beat Verdasco in the next two sets 1 and 1. Then he beat Vesely 6-4, 7-6[2] but that scoreline is more due to Vesely's brilliance and talent. A 6-3, 6-2 win over the fifth seeded Cuevas was up next. Fourth seeded Seppi fell next and he managed just three games. The final at least was closer. Eighth seed Fognini gave it everything but it didn't matter in the end. No, Robredo didn't get there. Perhaps that's for the best. Have you ever seen a one-handed backhand against this guy on this surface. It's like Jaws versus that hippy chick. I won't spoil the result for you but...

It has now gotten to the point where Nadal has had every kind of word written about him. So why not check him out here. His English has gotten better, no?

...Is Baghdatis making a run a big surprise? No, not really. He can do it. It is still almost more of a surprise when he crashes and burns. It is taking a bit of getting used to that he is on the comeback trail. Seeded top in the qualifying, Kudla beat 15 year old Trent Bryde 6-1, 6-1. He dismissed Matosevic 7-5, 6-2 next. He barely got by Harrison, who is probably a more talented player, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6[5]. Then he beat Sock in a mystifying match. Sock should have beaten him but Sock has been enigmatic lately. He played a very strong match in beating Sela 7-5, 6-0. That's the kind of scoreline one would expect. It took Isner three sets and everything he could handle to finally get Kudla. A great run from qualifying and the 22 year old born in Kiev rises to 79. It is a highest ever ranking for him.
...Jaume is 18. He has lost a French Open boys singles final and won it in the doubles. He won this year.

And he beat Garcia-Lopez after his compatriot retired just three games in. He is mainly a doubles player, though. Well, those are the signs in any case. He has won two ITF doubles titles and he has had a few good junior results, too. He lost to Bolelli 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-4. But then the Italian defaulted and handed Seppi a bye to the semi-finals. And that is a pity. The Spaniard must wait for his second ATP 500 win. He is the hero Spain needs right now.
...After the French I just thought he would kick on. Everybody did. Everybody said this is it. Here he goes. He is going to have the summer that Thiem has had. But he hasn't. Qualifier Kudla had just survived a titanic tussle with Harrison previously. And he lost 7-6[6], 6-3. There's no fight there. There's no tough attitude there. If Sock had fought back and taken the second it would have been fine. As it was, it was totally unacceptable. He should have gone to play on the clay and he knows it.
...Newly British, Bedene is now making inroads on the tour flying under a different, and worse, flag. I mean aesthetically worse, of course. It's rare for countries to choose flags based on looks, but the Argentine flag is nice. And the American one is iconic. Anyway, Bedene first dismissed Traver 6-4, 6-1 before ousting Agut in two breakers 7-2 and 9-7. It's a good win for the young British star.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Thiem has played and beaten Muster on the tour. I like the invisible baton.

2 - Serena withdrew from Stanford. I like that the rest of the WTA have a chance but I hope Serena is okay.
3 - The clay rivalry Fognini and Nadal have had this year has been pretty good. Nadal takes a match back here.
4 - Kyle Edmund has been putting on a run in the challengers fueled by a decent Wimbledon.
5 - Fed is skipping Montreal to go for the Open. It's a good decision but it could give Murray a chance at number two. The Scot does have a huge amount of points to defend after the US however.

1. Hamburg Final - Nadal d. Fognini 7-5, 7-5
...Rafa's back. Nadal showed us his best by dropping just one set in the whole tournament. Fognini didn’t play badly; Nadal was just too good this time.
2. Hamburg 2nd Rd – Paire d. Robredo 6-2, 3-6, 7-5
..Paire is just finding something here. It could be nothing, but it could be the start of something. Bennyman was a late bloomer. Could the same apply to Paire? He beat the evergreen Robredo on clay, no less.
3. Gstaad SF – Thiem d. Lopez 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3
...Lot's of good semi-finals and not so many good finals. In fact there were few good matches in the quarterfinal stage and beyond. Thiem blew a 6-3, 3-1 lead but won anyway. In other sadder news, Lopez is now married. That is the most beautiful couple I have ever seen!
4. Atlanta SF – Isner d. Kudla 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
...Isner nearly blew it and he has blown it so many times. He has messed it up before but that doesn't usually happen in the borders of the United States. And this time he recovered well from a setback. He has won three in a row here in Atlanta. [Isner was born in Greensboro, just a few states over and played for at the University of Georgia.]

*Washington Citi Open*
Murray [1] d. [4] Gasquet
Anderson [5] d. [2] Nishikori
Murray [1] d. [5] Anderson

...Murray and Gasquet return. I feel obligated to pick them to do well. There's no doubt this event is top heavy in terms of the draw. Isner, Tomic and Dimitrov all lie in the top half. All are seeded and all are dangerous. At some points of this year all of them have found form. Gasquet has made a slam semi-final and there's no saying he didn't deserve it. Same for Murray. The top is stronger than the 250 we have this week, but this is the reality of 250's. Anderson will beat the slightly injured Japanese man but the bottom half is a hot mess.

*Genrali Kitzbuhel Open*
Thiem [1] d. [3] Fognini
Seppi [2] d. [4] Klizan
Thiem [1] d. [2] Seppi

...Thiem is just too good right now. His first event as a top seed comes with him on top form. A three-peat is a rare feat on the Tour but this young star could and should do it.

Dellacqua has yet to commit anywhere. And so, in lieu of that particular Aussie, let's talk about Rottnest island. Formerly known as Rats Nest [but in Dutch] island, it is home to the Quokka. This creature is so friendly it walks up to predators like the Dingo. It smiles all the time and is endangered. People forget Australia has adorable animals, too. They don't really have much in the middle. It's either adorable or pretty or it's going to kill you. Probably painfully. The safe thing to do is just avoid on principle.

We miss you Casey!

ANSWER: Nadal won in Sopot in 2004. It was called the Orange Warsaw open back then. It is now defunct.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Wk.29- The Locker Room is a Lonely Place

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The average age of the winners this week was 23. None of these players have been on tour a long time. Paire, at 26, is the most experienced but even he is still young and could still fulfill his potential. Tomic and Thiem still have potential to fulfil and talent to burn. And that is today's introduction topic. Loneliness.

There are places renowned for loneliness. Being a main character in a Springsteen song or a Steinbeck novel[la] guarantee loneliness but loneliness does not have to be a negative thing. Sometimes loneliness and solitude can bring great rewards. Da Vinci created some of today's greatest works whilst all on his lonesome. And some of the greatest explorers we have did things all by myself. My name-sake had at times a very lonely existence. He at least knew he was right and perhaps he even knew that in the future he would be respected and admired.

The locker-room could be the most lonely place there is. Sharapova has said it. Rugby players have said it. Football players and soccer players have said it. And they are part of teams. And cricketers have said it, too. In cricket, and in baseball to a degree, it can be so lonely being the batsmen. The bowler [pitcher] and the fielders have each other but the two hitting the ball are on their own pretty much. There's a big crowd and you're just there. On your own.

And for tennis players, it has to be the same. Sure, you have a team but in the locker-room before a match you are on your own. And you may be on good terms with the other girls but you don't speak to the person you'll be playing. You don't interact. And then to go out to a crowd, that can be up to 22000 people which is about the size of your average small American town. Every decision you make out there is your own. The pressure can ruin some people and it can make others. The reason, in part, that there are so many first round drubbings on the big courts is not the gap in level. Because honestly is there a huge gap in level between the world number 2 and the world number 70. There isn't really, not when you think about it. It's the mental ability as much as anything else.

Mentally, can you handle the big occasion? And if you make a mistake or if you get booed [Hingis comes to mind, Azarenka, too] can you deal with the hate. And it is even worse if you're 17 or in that age bracket. 17 year olds should be in malt bars, perhaps solving a ridiculous mystery, at skate parks, watching tv, acting like their relationship is more than a summer romance. 18 year olds should be drinking too much at ridiculously noisy parties and pretending they enjoy dreadful music and pretending they can dance. Nobody could dance when they were 18. Well, except the Jacksons and aren't they the biggest exceptions there are? These young stars should not be on big courts, literally cracking under the pressure.

Our sport has ruined so many young stars. Barty recently, Oudin before her and, almost the archetype, Jennifer Capriati. But on the men's side too. Gasquet, Chang, and Tomic are all fairly recent examples of what can happen. There is still time for Tomic, and Gasquet has built a very good career, but it isn't hard to see why they were broken. The pressure and the isolation is suffocating, it chokes you. It's the same for politicians on the campaign trail. Do you think Hillary sees her grand-daughter? Do you think Rand Paul sees his mistress?

We put these tennis players on a pedestal. We idolize them, we make them out to be gods. But they aren't. This is their job and it's an awful one. Who says we have the right to judge Bouchard and yet we do. I have done on here myself. Who says we have the right to judge Bernie for circumstances which are mostly out of his hands. Who are we to make or break these players? It's not just the injuries, it's not just the pressure. It's how bleak it can be. And we should respect them immensely for entertaining this.

And should you ever see a tennis player, don't make the mistake I do, talk to them like they're you're friend from the pub or your next door neighbor who you don't really like but wave to anyway. And some of them may be paid a large sum but they earn that by traveling the world and playing in front of massive audiences. I couldn't play in front of 22000 people. Could you?

Well, let's get into this week. Stuff actually happened on the tour this week. No, really.

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini still holds it. Coric and Klizan up three places to sit just begin Fognini. 15 points between 32 and 34. Querrey rises four to hit the top 30 and Monaco falls 11 to 38.

Top 10 - Nadal holds it ahead of three Frenchmen. He has exactly 3000 points but is 500 behind Cilic. Tsonga has points to defend coming up.

Top 8 - Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but way behind six. But he feels like a world number seven. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 - Kei could challenge for top four. But Wawrinka has fewer points to defend. Djokovic is way ahead of Federer but Fed is easily holding off the Scot, in at three.

QUESTION: On which continents, excluding Antarctica, has Tomic failed to win a title?

Some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*WEEK 29*
S: Benoit Paire def. Tommy Robredo 7-6(7)/6-3
D: Chardy/Kubot d. Cabal/Farah
S: Bernard Tomic def. Adrian Mannarino 6-1/3-6/6-2
D: Roger-Vasselin/Stepanek d. Pavic/Venus
S: Dominic Thiem def. Joao Sousa 6-4/6-1
D: M.Gonzalez/Sa d. Fyrstenberg/S.Gonzalez

...So many good candidates to choose from, but 21 year old Thiem takes it. He is quickly rising to the top of the game. And by the time we say we realized how good he would be after he was already pretty good. He took us by surprise. The glitzy glamour of Dimitrov [now single] and his gang distracted us from Thiem. All that glitters is not gold and Thiem is not gold; he is a diamond. Of course he isn't perfect, but who is? Fine. Apart from Ripley in the "Alien" films, who is perfect? He lost in the doubles in the first round partnering Bedene. Seeded fourth, the Austrian won his first match via retirement. Lajovic down 6-1, 3-1 called it quits. Next he benefited again when Haider-Maurer retired after losing the second set 6-1 to Thiem. Then Monfils, the top seed, was all that stood in the way of the Austrian and a final in Croatia. And the youngster came back to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. In the final he swept Sousa aside 4 and 1. He just got better and better as the week progressed. These one handed stars tend to themselves be pretty. And Thiem is no exception. But, of course, Backspin only ever briefly mentions these matters before moving on to the things that matter. And, looking at the bigger picture, Thiem could be the second best player Austria has ever had. And you know who their best is: another guy with a great one handed backhand

...Bernie is secure in the number one Australian ranking position for now and for the foreseeable future. He does have competition from others with fewer points to defend, but he is some 15 rankings spots clear of Kyrgios now. He wasn't even mildly interested in the doubles. Tomic has yet to be the top seed anywhere in his career so far, but that time is coming soon. As the second seed he would have felt confident coming in. He won it last year without the benefit of a high seeding, or indeed any seeding. And he didn't look great in winning but he showed grit. He beat a Spaniard with a long name in the first round 6-7[5], 6-2, 6-4. Next he cruised past Ito 6-1, 6-4. He needed a third set breaker to finally see off Berrer and then he beat Mannarino in a decent match where he should never have lost the second set. Tomic could win a handful of titles this year if he can keep this form. He may even steal a 500. On court he is hitting form right now. The loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon is understandable. Sure he could have fought a little harder, but he is on form right now. He has never passed the second round of the U.S. Open. That will change this year.
...This is the young Zverev, not the old one. It's also not the one Graf beat in 32 minutes in a slam final. It's the young rising star who did so well again. He should have lost to a German qualifier. He didn't. He should have lost to Monaco but instead he beat him 4 and 2. Bellucci should have put him away but the German won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. And then finally he did meet his match. Robredo had no problems in beating him in the semi-finals. He is back in the top 100 at 98. But he has been as high as the top 80 before so he has room to improve.
...There are some facts that just surprise you. Some facts that knock you for six even though you realize you know that when you think about it. And here is one of those. Paire just won his first title. I know! I was shocked. He is 26 and he just won his first tournament. It was only his third final. And he lost just 36 games in five matches. He beat the top seed Goffin 6-2, 6-3. He dismissed 3rd seed Cuevas with no trouble. And this was on clay. He really is just extraordinary. He had reached finals in 2012 and 2013 but got five games both times. He just did a very French thing indeed.
...On the Italian's best surface he lost 6-2, 6-2. Sousa is 20 places below the Italian. Surely Seppi should do better against Sousa on this surface. The Italian is just too consistent, too much like a wall to be swept away so easily.
...I can't get over how Paire beat the top seeded Goffin 6-2, 6-3. It's just unbelievable. I mean Goffin is like Seppi in that he is consistent but he does have firepower and he does have weapons. Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office. I think the Belgium is still on form, though.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Nadal entered Hamburg. Right away that is a fantastic decision. No matter how he does he gets props for that.
2 - I have been working on a project with the boss. Not Bruce, the other boss. And it is going to be released soon. I have had a lot of fun and can't wait to see what y'all think of it.
3 - Kirilenko is going to have a baby. Gives me a chance to use this picture.

And we all know what two things these ladies had in common.

4 - How the media actually didn't go crazy over the Dimitrov split. They'll never give anyone space but it wasn't too intrusive.
5 - I thoroughly enjoyed this video of Paire doing his thing and strutting his stuff.

1. Umag Final – Thiem d. Sousa 6-4, 6-1
...Let this moment stand in BACKSPIN history. This is the moment Thiem showed us his true quality. Before was the awakening and now is the realization. This guy is here to stay.
2. Stuttgart 1st Rd – Almagro d. Verdasco 6-4, 1-6, 7-5
...Congratulations to the inaugural winner of the In Nadal's Shadow derby, sponsored by Mallorca Tourism board. And this time it would be Almagro's day. He outlasted Verdasco the 5th seed on the red stuff and moved through to the next round an another step on the way back to prominance.
3. Umag SF – Thiem d. Monfils 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
.. This was one of the biggest wins of Thiem's career. Beating Wawrinka in Madrid was big but Monfils can be impossible at the best of times and it was a semi-final. And at first he got blown away, but then he came back and dealt with the Frenchman nicely. It was an impressive win and he even backed it up.
4. Copa Claro SF – Tomic d. Berrer 6-4, 6-7[4], 7-6[3]
...Tomic didn't win this because he played well, he won this because he fought well. This was an intense match that was hard fought but not actually too scrappy. Tomic should have put the match away several times but he just couldn't and then he came back from a break down in the third to finally seal it.

*Hamburg German Open*
Nadal [1] d. [4] Seppi
Robredo [2] d. [8] Fognini
Nadal [1] d. [2] Robredo

...BACKSPIN has a rule. If ever Evert or Nadal step on a clay court thou shalt not pick against them. It hangs in our offices. There are other rules but this one, rule #122, is one of the ones we break the least. Oh yeah -- Robredo is here, too. And the Italians will provide the extra spice. This is definitely a tournament worth watching.

*Gstaad Swiss Open*
Goffin [1] d. [4] Andujar
Thiem [3] d. [2] Lopez
Goffin [1] d. [3] Thiem

...Thiem and Goffin are on form but Thiem will run out of steam. Lopez is the big wildcard here but I don't know where his form is.

Isner [1] d. [3] Sock
Pospisil [2] d. [4] Mannarino
Isner [1] d. [2] Mannarino

...the Braves are 46-52 and third in the NL. Nevermind actually, this is not a baseball blog. But this is Isner in America. And Isner has had success here in the past. He has been to four finals this decade and won this event the last two times. Anyway it will be Isner here again.

Dellacqua is not playing anywhere this week. All that's on are two weak WTA events. The tour usually rests for a spell after Wimbledon. Come August, everything will be back to normal.

ANSWER: Tomic has never won in Asia, Europe or North America. He has not won in Africa either.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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