Monday, September 29, 2014

Wk.39- Older Faces Make for Newer Looks

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Tina did it and so did Elvis. The mighty Red Sox did it in the most famous of AL Championship Series back in 2004. The Colts did from forty points down in last year's NFL, and Grover Cleveland did it, too. The Belgian women did it in tennis just five years ago. Goolagong-Cawley, possibly the most graceful tennis player ever, also did it. Oh Evonne, the Sunshine Supergirl. Yes, I am talking about the good old fashioned comeback. We are gong to encounter some older faces this week, faces we have not seen for a while.

What inspires a comeback? Love for the game, perhaps, or maybe lack of funds, or that one thing missing from your resume. Isn't that right Justine? Comebacks are not always successful, but when they are they make for a great storyline. Cilic came back successfully, following in the footsteps of Nalbandian and Agassi. There may be no big comeback this week on the ATP, but watch out for some names that have been big. It is hard to bounce back from that breakout performance in this sport. It is hard to maintain that level after one has "made it," so to speak. Nishikori has rebounded from the disappointment and has reacted well to the pressure, as well. He has proven just how ready he is to take on the big leagues.

We have arrived in Asia. Let's go.

S: Andy Murray d. Tommy Robredo 5-7/7-6(9)/6-1
D: Rojer/Tecau d. Groth/Guccione

S: Kei Nishikori d. Julien Benneteau
D: Matkowski/Paes d. J.Murray/Peers

...No, not Murray. Nishikori had a far better week and he showed he is made of the right material. He showed that he can just get up and move on from that huge disappointment. It is so difficult to respond in tennis. He managed to keep the form and remain mentally strong. It is a great performance from him. A remarkable one. Nishikori was top seed, something he does not experience often. One feels that he will experience this a lot more as the days and weeks go by. It is hard to know how far he will ascend but being top-seeded at tournaments, especially smaller ones, is going to start to become the norm for him. He opened by dismissing Ram 6-2, 6-3 before showing Matosevic very little mercy in a 6-3, 6-0 drubbing. When a player of that caliber catches fire every other player is in trouble. But sometimes there is a match-up or an aspect of a player's game which can throw off any player of any level. Nishikori needed to go three sets to finally get past the Finnish number one. He had to overcome the stiff challenge of Jarko. And he did so, getting through comfortably in the end despite losing that second set. He had defeated the sneaky lefty and he now had the title in his sights. And he was too tough for Benny in the final, winning 7-6, 6-4. Beating Benneteau in a final is not noteworthy, but making a slam final and then doing this in your next tournament is very impressive.
...Slumping is expected in tennis. My Sveta has been in a slump for five years. I'm used to it now. Nadal has had slumps before, though never for long as has Federer. Tennis players get ten years to make an impact, perhaps a little more. So slumping for anything longer than six months means losing a serious chunk out of one's playing career. All Murray ever wanted was to win Wimbledon. Never mind those three Australian Open finals he lost, or that U.S. Open. The one he wanted was Wimbledon. Well, that and the number one ranking. He won't reach number one now but he has won the one he wanted. He wanted to end that British weight so bad and the relief he felt must have been enormous. And then he won it. Much like Novotna, the relief must have been blissful. After so many years of heartbreak and pain the one they wanted so bad was finally, finally theirs. Novotna wanted it so badly she famously tried to steal the trophy off of Hingis.

But it seemed Murray lacked drive and focus after that big win. He had no direction. He had achieved what he wanted. That loss of direction, coupled with injury, effectively derailed him for fourteen months. No finals since that big win, though he has had a decent slam year this year. But he may just have found his path again. Is it too late to push for the WTF? He opened against Devvarman and wasn't troubled in the 6-3, 6-3 decision. Next he was too strong for Lacko, getting through 6-3, 7-5. He was looking good, but a test was waiting. Monaco had upset Gasquet to make the semi-finals and he had nothing to lose. Murray was outclassed in the first but proved his credentials with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory. And he took the tournament with another come from behind victory in a match he deserved to lose.
...Three straight finals Benny has lost here in Malaysia. The locals must be getting pretty sick of him by now. He is also now 0-10 in finals. It takes some serious effort to do that. I'm a little disappointed in you.
...The promising junior just won his first challenger and he has snuck up in the rankings to just outside the 150 mark. He has made the semi-finals of Wimbledon before. I watched him lose to Liam Broady, in fact, so I am certain he made the semi-final. He has just won his first challenger and he has won it in Sibiu. Coming in unseeded, he defeated second seeded Montanes in straight sets and then moved through effortlessly to the semi-finals. There he mounted a serious comeback to unseat seventh seed Starace. He won 2-6, 7-6, 6-0, though the dirtballer battled all the way. Romanian Albot was playing with a home crowd but he was no match for Kubler. The Aussie is starting to make a career. He should finish the year ranked within 130, a serious achievement.
...A former top ten player who is now down on his luck and looking to get back to the top is what we have here. Now that sounds like the premise for an excellent movie. Christian Bale is Juan Monaco and he rises back to the top, finally winning a 500 before retirement. Sadly, reality must interject here. Monaco suffered injuries and loss of form. He suffered it to an alarming extent, as well. Monaco is no longer the player he was but he is still a player who can wreak havoc, who can play the role of bracket breaker perfectly. This week he beat Pospisil and Gasquet, eliminating two big players before they could achieve their respective seedings. Does one more shining moment of glory -- a Goolagong 1980 Wimbledon title type victory perhaps -- lie in the future of Juan Monaco?
...Ferrer is on the downward slope of his career now; there were hints in that direction before but they are now big pointers. A loss to Troicki, only just back from suspension, too, is unacceptable. Ferrer no longer looks like a top five player and that is definitely a cause for concern for the Spaniard. Ferrer needs to get back to doing what he does well. He needs to find some form before it is too late. But can he?
...This was a week of returning faces. Troicki is back from his ban and he announced it in style. He smothered Ferrer and never let him get in the match. The Serbian cruised through 6-3, 6-4 and never let Ferrer get into the match. It was an impressive return to form from the Serbian, but can he keep it up?

Matches can turn on dimes, but this match turned on a dollar. Despite being outplayed for two sets, Murray nicked the second breaker 11-9 and was never troubled from there. Murray scraped through and took his first title since Wimbledon last year in his first final since Wimbledon. He proved to have too much grit for the plucky Spaniard.
A contrast in styles is usually interesting. Watching Lopez play Simon is a classic example of two polar opposites doing battle. Here the funky game of Nieminen came up against Nishikori's relentless offence. Despite taking the second set, Nieminen was never able to fully disrupt the Asian number one's game.
... 6-3/6-7/6-1.
Does that name appear familiar? It should. Hhe was up two sets to one on Nadal at Wimbledon in 2010 but he could not cling on. He has even made two grass court finals not to mention had a short-lived, but none the less excellent, doubles partnership with Melzer where he went 2-0 in slam finals and even a hard court title, as well. The former world number 35 temporarily had Gulbis on the ropes before the Latvian showed his class and took it in three.

Djokovic [1] d. [4] Cilic
Berdych [3] d. [2] Nadal
Djokovic[1] d. [3] Berdych

...Nadal opens with Gasquet and that is nasty. I have no idea of how well Rafa is playing.

Wawrinka [1] d. [4] Nishikori
Raonic [3] d. [6] Bautista-Agut
Wawrinka [1] d. [3] Raonic

...Nishikori finally runs out of steam but, hey, I did say he would do badly at the U.S. Open due to running out of steam.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wk.38- Downloading New Goffin Update, version 2.0

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

There are some famous terms in sports, recognizable by many, even those outside of that sport or those who do not follow sport at all. Touchdown, strike, goal, hole-in-one, ace, backstroke are all terms which can be made relevant to one particular sport or even sports. There are more obscure terms such as foot fault, eagle and the like which are less well known. Tennis can, I think, lay claim to one of the most insulting terms in sport. Not a one off, sometimes referred to insult such as "Fail Mary" but a commonly used standardized term. The term lucky loser. It says to people, "Yes, you suck, but hey some guy got injured so you're lucky enough to get another go. You're not good, you're lucky." It is insulting but it has been around for time immemorial, so we leave it. But the term Lucky Loser contains a standard insult in its name.

Todd sometimes does "What If" posts. They are excellent and worth checking out. And he has talked about in those the fact that some players never got their big break. And he talks about how some players had their big break here. And if they hadn't would it be different. Here is what he said:

"While the 'path to greatness' is made up of a series of connective actions and decisions, often there iS ONE moment that stands out from the rest. One career-defining instant when everything "clicked" and after which the player was never the same. One timeless victory that simultaneously allowed the benefits of all the hard work to come to fruition, and whetted the appetite for more of the same."

At the 2012 Frech Open, David Goffin did not deserve his moment, though he got it anyhow. Seeded ninth in qualifying, he choked in his final match and lost to Sousa [yes, the man he beat to win his Week 38 title] in two straights. Somehow he got moved to the main tournament through an injury or withdrawal from another player. He came back twice from two sets to one down to beat Stepanek and Clement back to back. After dismissing Kubot he had his shot at Federer. Watching that game was simply incredible, simply amazing. Federer was playing some lucky loser in the fourth round of a slam. And he was outclassed for two sets but, somehow, managed to sneak the second. Despite losing the first set in what was then a huge upset, Federer came back to take it in four tight sets 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4. That was Goffin's moment. Those first two sets.

Despite following it up with successes, he slowly slipped and was ranked below nowhere at the start of this year. He had no form, no ranking and nothing going for him. But he has turned it round and had a second career after the big breakthrough like Tomic has. He has done well on the challenger circuit and finally has come up to the big leagues. He has arrived. He has successfully downloaded.

Funnily enough, it's just one event this week. Shall we have a look at it?

Also, I want to extend my wishes for luck in the future to Li Na. I wish her all the best in the coming years. Her expected retirement is nevertheless a loss to the sport. She will be brilliant in whatever she chooses to do. Todd has written a perfect piece on her on WTA Backspin. And it is a great read. You shall be missed, Li Na.

S: David Goffin d. Joao Sousa 6-4/6-3
D: Fyrstenberg/Matkowski d. Draganja/Kontinen

...Sometimes players hit that purple patch and they just rip through all in their path. Players can simply catch fire and be too good. Tsonga has periods where everything clicks and so does Cilic. Hitting a patch like that is always a great feeling. It makes one feel like they can't miss, like the world belongs to them. Confidence is so important to players. From July to August, Goffin won four consecutive tournaments. The first three of which were challengers, but he did win the Austrian Open (def. Thiem) at the end, as well, to complement those first three. He took his form into the U.S. Open, bageling Dimitrov before losing out eventually. And here, apart from Tsonga, he was barely troubled by the field. He dropped just one set and was utterly impressive throughout. He dismissed Serra and Kamke for the loss of just eight games in his first two rounds. Despite Tsonga mashing him for two sets, he won that, as well, with a 1-6, 7-6, 7-5 decision going his way. He was simply too strong for surprise package Struff, too, and he made his second final of the year. Sunday was the last day of the summer, so he has made two finals this summer and won both if them. He sealed the second by cruising past Sousa. He was never troubled. Ranked at 32, his highest ever ranking, he needs to now retain this seeding until January. Not being seeded at slams has burned him in the past and if he can just cling onto a seed at the Australian Open he has a real chance of breaking the top twenty next year. He can pick up points at some of the Masters tournaments coming up. I think he will finish the year in the top thirty, but only time can tell.
...Sousa is 5-2 in challenger finals, but only 1-2 in ATP finals. It is not a Hall of fame career but it is definitely a solid one. It is definitely already one to look back on with some pride. He is till only 25, too. The first Portuguese man to enter the top fifty went into this tournament seeded sixth but looked unlikely to have much impact. He dismissed Dodig 6-2, 6-2 in his opener. This was impressive considering that was a test on paper. Sousa barely scraped past Sijsling next as he came through 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. In a similar scoreline, he edged Mathieu 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. Strangely he had a far easier time against second seed Monfils and won that fairly comfortably. Goffin was far too strong in the final but that semifinal run was a big one. Sousa moves on and there is a whole bunch, a slew if you will, of 250's and even some 500's with a weaker field. We have not heard the last of the Portuguese man just yet and I think he will finish around thirty in the world. It would be deserved too.
...Jay-Lennard has made eight challenger finals in his career. Eight times he has had a chance at a big win. How many has he won? Well, it rhymes with "won" but there isn't much else won about it. He lost his first final, in 2011, to Sousa, funnily enough. He lost a final last week, though it was to Dustin Brown. After that final in Poland he moved to France and made a semifinal. Struff was never going to win this event, but in a weaker event like this, anything could happen. Struff edged Lajovic 6-7, 6-3, 6-3. It was a tight match against a talented youngster and he had a tough test next. He lost another first set breaker to Chardy but still won, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. Kohl retired 5-0 down to Struff to leave the German in the semifinals and the German with an injury. He would lose the first set in a breaker to Goffin but this time there would be no three set win. It ended a great week for the German.
...The twenty year old [twenty from next month] was someone we saw at the French -- he went two sets to none up against Steve Johnson. It eventually proved to be futile as he'd go on to lose in five but it showed his immense talent. He looks a little like Tsonga but he did not win a match in this tournament, unlike Tsonga. Lokoli would go on to lose 6-2, 6-4 to Lorenzi but the encouraging signs are there. Barty, another youngster, has announced she is stepping away from tennis for awhile. I hope she will be back soon.
...In 2008 Muller announced his arrival properly by beating Haas, Almagro and fifth seeded Davydenko at the U.S. Open to reach the quarterfinals. He had made a couple of hard-court finals but nothing like that run. He was just 25 then and looked to have a bright future. Since then he has made a single final, on hard-court and two years ago. He blew a lead against Andy Roddick in the final of a tournament which would prove to be the last Andy Roddick won. Muller is now in his thirties and looks to be on the way out. He is now just a name, a name that makes one stoop and pause for a second before moving on. His clash against Tsonga looked interesting on paper but it did not prove to be so with Tsonga being barely troubled in the match.
...After being outclassed by the Swiss he had a chance to outclass a weak field. There were few players of any note in his small section of the draw, few players he couldn't outhit and yet he blew it. He had a big chance to win this tournament but could not take it. Rosol is such an inconsistent and mystifying player that he is hard to predict. Right now he is floundering a little and I don't think his form is that good.
...Sousa upsetting a top twenty player in straight sets is a big upset for me. He was simply too good for Monfils from start to finish. Sousa has already made a good career for himself out of upsets and being strong at this level. He has achieved something rare for this sport -- he is a consistent top forty player and he is still only twenty-five.

The French. When the tennis gods were giving out talent and mental fortitude to each country they must have used France as a test subject. What happens if I do this? What you get are fantastically talented players incapable of closing matches. Tsonga dominated for two sets but ultimately choked and lost a tournament he should have won.
Sousa has made a career out of the unexpected. He did it again here, surprising Monfils. The Portuguese number one was not able to take it all the way but he did have a great week here and is up to number thirty-six.
Could Janowicz be back? He had a solid QF result this week, though he failed to trouble Monfils once he reached that stage. Janowicz would probably be a top ten mainstay were it not for injuries and complications that have risen from those injuries. He scraped past Mannarino but that doesn't matter because on the ATP the ends justifies the means.

Ferrer [1] d. [4] Robredo
Murray [2] d. [3] Gasquet
Ferrer[1] d. [2] Murrray

...I have no idea of Murray's form.

*KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia*
Nishikori [1] d. [7] Andujar
Gulbis [2] d. [4] Benneteau
Nishikori [1] d. [2] Gulbis

...I can't go against a recent slam finalist in a weakened field.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Davis Cup Semifinals Recap

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

France and Switzerland are nations with a proud history. France especially have a proud sporting history, having hosted the Olympics, both summer and winter, won the soccer World Cup and also been finalists in the rugby World Cup. America’s sports are usually only played in America. It has always confused me why the MLB calls its finals the World Series. Anyway. France have also had relative success in the world of tennis with recent Davis and Fed Cup victories and finals. They have also had some of the greats of our sports from Lenglen to Mauresmo [world number one and two slams alone is enough to be a Hall of Fame career for me] to Noah to Pierce. Yes, they have all been so talented and so fickle but they have been entertaining. I cannot remember the last time I watched a Frenchie play a tennis match and gone away not entertained. Confused, yes. Mystified, yes. Disappointed, yes. But not entertained? Never.

Switzerland has distinguished itself in winter sports. It has held two Winter Olympics and has a proud history in football, too. It is eighth on the all-time list of Winter Olympic medals just behind Sweden. They both have fifty gold and forty silvers. The Swiss are nineteenth overall with ninety-seven medals across both. France are sixth with 233 but fourth in the summer games with 202. Switzerland also has a good tennis history with strong performances in the Fed and Davis Cup. Rosset signaled the beginning of a period of Swiss dominance.

Wawrinka and this French team have both come of age at last. Federer was always waiting on a second man to help him win the Davis Cup and it looks like he has have found it. Wawrinka needs to just win one of his rubbers and Switzerland will win. Federer is usually going to win two and if Wawrinka is on form there are few who can stop them. It has long been baffling how this French side hasn’t dominated this competition of late. I think it is clear now they are starting to live up their potential. It is good to see Gasquet and Tsonga leading the way and showing the nation how to do it. The Davis Cup is great for inspiring younger generations to join in the tennis movement.

Right. Let’s get on with the two ties.

S: France d. Czech Republic 4-1
D: Switzerland d. Italy 3-2

...Roland Garros is a fine venue. And it played host to a fine win. The French crowd are a factor like no other slam crowd is. You can win with the crowds against you in all the other slams, even in New York, but go against the French crowd at your peril. Hingis found out to her cost what happens if they don’t like you. Djokovic, too. They are fickle in their tastes. They respect Nadal but do not love the nine time champion. They prefer Federer and his class. They also cheer raucously for their own no matter what.

That crowd and the surface was the combination needed to see off the Czech challenge. Gasquet opened by dismissing Berdych in a display of brutal power and soft finesse we have not seen him play in many a month. The French now had the ‘break’ but they had to hold serve. Tsonga eased past Rosol in a similar scoreline to Gasquet’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 decision to leave the Czechs hanging on by a thread. Stepanek and Berdych have proved themselves to be a dangerous doubles duo in the past. Tsonga and Ritchie usually take a while to warm up before really clicking. They were slow starters in their win against Australia last time out before coming through fairly easily in the end. And this time would be no different. They lost the opening set in a breaker but took the second before coming to a second breaker in the third set. And from there they cruised, winning the breaker before dropping just one game in the fourth.

They face the Swiss next. Both teams are equally good on each surface, but I think the Swiss will choose either fast hard or fast hard indoors. I’m still surprised grass is so rarely chosen.
...Sounds close, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. Federer and Wawrinka looked world class against a determined Italian side. It happens, sometimes, in Davis Cup matches where there is such a gulf in ability, even on a basic level, that it only looks like one team is ever going to win. Italy had upset Great Britain in the previous round with great tactics and crafty play, but against two of the world’s best four players they never had a chance. Federer and Wawrinka won their three singles rubbers and that was enough to progress. Stan pushing the Italians to five in the doubles was a bonus. Federer was initially pushed in his match against Bolelli with the Italian using his forehand to push the Fed around, but the Swiss soon started to take control. After a close first set, Federer smoothly slipped into first gear and was never troubled after that. Wawrinka dropped less than ten games against Fognini and was never in any danger of losing. Despite the Italians eventually running away with the doubles, Federer was less dismissive but equally untroubled in dealing with Fognini. The Italian almost threatened to look like he might take the third set but Federer snuffed out whatever threat there was.

If I was the Swiss I would put this tie on very quick grass. Yes, the French are strong there but it would throw them off, and Federer and Wawrinka are so strong on that surface. Indoor clay with the home support would be too much for France to handle. Gasquet and Tsonga were both disappointing at Wimbledon this year.

1. Davis Cup Rubber 1 - GASQUET d. BERDYCH
That score line doesn’t happen in Davis Cup at this stage when the top player of one country plays the second ranked in another. Gasquet looked a complete player, he looked like the player he was for most of last year. Berdych was not able to match that level and Gasquet cruised through. The one handed backhand and volleying skill was all there in a vintage Gasquet display.
The Italians pulled out a win from their hat to keep the tie alive. The problem the Italians had was that they did not have enough quality to upset the Swiss. They won the doubles tie and pushed it to one more but had to come back from two sets to one down to do so.
3. Davis Cup Rubber 3 - FEDERER d. FOGNINI
The surface proved to be the right call. It was unlikely that the Swiss would lose on any surface except, perhaps, extremely slow clay or ice. But the quick surface complemented the power of the Swiss stars and it helped them to get through to the next round.

Tsonga [1] d. [3] Kohlschreiber
Monfils [2] d. Seppi
Monfils [2] d. [1] Tsonga
Going on form I can only pick one winner here

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Big Four No More: What Caused Andy Murray’s Disastrous 2014 Season?

[ ATP Backspin guest blogger ]

In maritime law it is a criminal offense for a captain to abandon his ship no matter how dire the circumstances. His job is to stay with his vessel, even if it is sure to go down, and ensure that all passengers and crew members safely, and quite literally, jump ship. It goes without saying, it doesn't usually end well for the captain. This dichotomy exists in many facets of life where responsibility falls squarely on someone’s shoulders while the others “jump ship” in hopes of saving face. Whether one can do it in time is another matter. In the case of Ivan Lendl, he seems to have perfected the art of knowing exactly when to abandon a sinking ship.

Andy Murray, Lendl’s former employer, was last seen dumping a tired cross court backhand into the net gifting Novak Djokovic a quarterfinal victory at the US Open. It was the final act of, to put it lightly, yet another disappointing showing at a Grand Slam for Murray. As he walked off the court and the unapologetic camera panned to his new coach Amelie Mauresmo in the stands, it was impossible not wonder if and when Lendl knew it was going to be a rough 2014 for Murray.

Slightly over a year ago Murray was on top of the tennis world having just won Wimbledon on home soil, his 2nd Grand Slam title in four tries, and was pushing for the world #1 ranking. Today Murray sits outside the top 10 at #11 and could only muster a single semi final appearance in all Grand Slams this season. Is it possible to pinpoint a turning point or has it been a succession of setbacks that have held back Murray this year?

It must be said that dating back to the 2013 French Open Murray has been dealing with lower back problem. Many forget that his status for Wimbledon that year was very much in the air after having to withdraw from the French Open. Later that year, shortly after he had been named 2013 BBC Sport Personality of the Year, he opted to have surgery on his nagging lower back problem. Murray was seemingly ready to go for the start of the 2014 season but his form on the court suggested otherwise. He lost to two players outside the top 40 to kick off his first two tournaments and failed to make the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time since 2009. From there he never really recovered.

There’s no reason to beat a dead horse and recount each tournament setback. His struggles through the remainder of the season (he failed to even make it to a single final let alone win a tournament) are well documented and are reflected in his #11 world ranking. In between disappointing results at Indian Wells and the Miami Masters, he parted ways with his coach Ivan Lendl, who was instrumental in getting Murray over that Grand Slam hump. Considering all of Murray’s success over the year and a half prior it was a surprising announcement to say the least.

Lendl finally spoke up concerning their parting of ways after Murray announced he would be working with Amelie Mauresmo until after at least the conclusion of the US Open. Lendl cited family time, passion projects and excessive travel as reasons for his departure, but his answer to a particular question was quite telling. When asked if part of the reason he decided to step down as coach was because of the difficulty that came with of matching the high and intensity of a Grand Slam victory he responded, “Yeah, and that too. Everyone is different, and when you win a big tournament like Wimbledon, it’s not easy sometimes. Some people find it more difficult than others, and I’m glad Andy found Amélie [Mauresmo] who can give him the time he needs.” Did Lendl believe that Murray was no longer committed to becoming the best after tasting the victory he’d been working towards all those years?

I might be unfair to make such a sweeping generalization, but I wrote about the possibility of complacency in Murray’s corner leading up to Wimbledon. It seems as though the claim was not unfounded considering Lendl publicly voiced similar worries. I think a combination of that 2013 season high and his inability to practice a 100% for the majority of the year held him back but it still doesn’t hide the fact that Murray’s struggles have coincided with Lendl’s leaving. Even with a full month of training leading up to US Open Murray looked visibly fatigued at times during the tournament. In his first round match with Robin Haase it looked as though he would have to withdraw after he hobbled through a cramp-filled third set yet he managed to pull through. He looked sharp at times during his aforementioned quarterfinal match-up with Djokovic but it became clear in the fourth set that Murray did not have enough in the tank to take down Djokovic. Once the most fit player on tour, he seemed to labor through the latter end of the match. It wasn’t easy to watch.

With the surge from the rest of the field, in the form of Slam wins from both Wawrinka and Cilic, Murray could not have picked a worse time to tank a season. Whether complacency really is the reason for his decline he’ll have to find a way to pump himself up to get back into the top five, let alone the top 10. The tennis landscape has changed with the blink of the eye and the “Big Four” is firmly a thing of the past. Lendl may have been aware of a leak in the ship long before the rest of us noticed it sinking, but don’t expect Murray to go under without a fight.

John Hayes is a blogger and entrepreneur who helped launched in Austin TX. His mission is to help people stay active by making tennis a more accessible and affordable option for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

US Open: Look Behind You

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The U.S. Open quarterfinals are special. There have been so many classics on both sides, but since men’s tennis is the focus here, it is time to look behind you. Yes, there and there and also over there.

The year is 1974 and the month is September. The number one is "(You're) Having My Baby" by Paul Anka. And Arthur Ashe was due to play John Newcombe, the Australian great. In those days talent was rife, in a way it simply isn’t these days. After a four set classic in 1970 they played each other once more. Newcombe would triumph in the most dramatic of styles in a classic match full of great tennis. Ashe took the first set before exchanging a pair of 6-3 sets with the Aussie. Up two sets to one, Ashe played a great fourth set but lost it in the tiebreaker. And that would prove to be the hammer blow as Newcombe took the momentum with him and closed it out 6-4 in the fifth.

The year is 1992. Disappointingly Boyz II Men were atop the charts with their song "End of the Road," but there was a big match on between two great players. Ninth seeded Ivan Lendl had struggled throughout but had beaten seventh seeded Boris Becker in five epic sets in the fourth round. His reward was that he got to face off with second seeded Stefaf Edberg. Edberg has been on shaky form all year, losing his number one ranking in April. He re-found form on the American hard courts and he took it with him into the U.S. Open. He dismissed an exhausted Lendl 6-3, 6-3 in the first two sets. Lendl managed to win the third 6-3 and ignite some hope. But Edberg, one of the greatest closers, served for it at 5-4 in the third. Lendl survived four match points and won the set 7-5. The next day, after the rain interruption, Lendl lost the shootout in a breaker with all of New York seemingly on his side.

Andre Agassi was a quarterfinalist back in 1992 with long hair and a great amount of ‘tude, too. In 2005, he was again a quarterfinalist. This time he faced James Blake, but back then he had lost to top seed Jim Courier in four tight sets. In a month where "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey was at number one he was seeded second. Blake was a wild card who had beaten Greg Rusedski [28], Rafael Nadal [2] and Tommy Robredo [19] to make the quarters. Blake then rolled through Agassi 6-3, 6-3 to go up two sets to none. I remember watching a replay of this a few years later during a rain delay. The standard and quality was incredible. Agassi looked out of his depth. But then Agassi used his champion qualities to fight back, and fight back he did. He took the next two sets by the exact same score. In the fifth set James had his chance and took it. He served for it at 5-4 but could not hold on. Agassi came back and into the final set breaker they went. He reached match point but, no, Blake saved that. On his second, however, there would only be one outcome.
I just picked three matches from different eras. I can always talk about more if you want. Right, let’s get on with it then...

...This might well go down as the best half a match in the tournament. In fact, it probably was the best two sets of the entire tournament. Murray and Djokovic both knew the importance and they both showed it. There was intent from both men from the first ball struck. Djokovic came out on top in four long sets, 7-6 [1], 6-7 [1], 6-2, 6-4. You can see there the difference between the two. Djokovic is the perennial contender, Murray the perennial pretender. Murray could not find a consistent level as high as the Djoker’s. It would prove costly. The first two sets took two hours and thirteen minutes and the match lasting three hours and thirty-two minutes. Djokovic went 46-48 with the winners whilst Murray went 47-65. Those errors would prove too costly to undo for the Scot. Djokovic broke seven times but did lose serve four times. As we thought, Murray served bigger [nine aces to eight and a higher top speed on serve] but struggled to consistently serve bigger. Murray played well and hit the right shots but was, eventually, outclassed by Djokovic. Djokovic has Nishikori is the next semifinal. Nishikori wasn’t even born before two of those classic matches. Djokovic has to be more physically in shape than Kei. Djokovic has to extend the rallies and force Kei to go for more. Djokovic will need to make Kei play out of his comfort zone. Djokovic can also punish the weaker serve of the Japanese. What is also important is that Djokovic raises the second serve point win percentage.
...Well I was wrong. I thought there was absolutely no way Wawrinka could lose. He was in better shape physically and he had a lot to play for. It almost looked like a foregone conclusion. Nishikori has far exceeded what I expected of him. He has already had an excellent U.S. Open by anyone’s standards and that makes him dangerous. This match would turn into a modern classic. In four and a quarter hours, Nishikori overcame the Swiss star 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 [7], 6-7 [5], 6-4. He was done 3-0 in that third set. Wawrinka broke just twice but Nishikori broke thrice. Wawrinka also threw down eighteen aces and 68 winners overall. The 78 errors were forgivable. Nishikori went just 41-51 with the errors to winner ratio. Kei must hit more winners against Djokovic. Nishikori had an average first serve speed of just 109. That is not going to cut it in his next match either. Wawrinka had opportunities to wrap this up in three sets but could not seem to shake the Japanese man despite having an advantage in both the power and variety department. Nishikori comes through despite winning fewer points than his opponent. Nishikori has to win points quickly, although going for it will play into Djokovic’s hands. Kei cannot outlast Djokovic in those long rallies, so he must try to play one-strike tennis. He has got to out-return Djokovic, as well. Also, try to avoid letting Djokovic get an opportunity on that backhand wing.
...This was the least exciting of the quarterfinals. Cilic is having a banner year and Berdych is always there. Berdych has mastered the art of staying in the top ten -- achieve positive results but nothing too stellar which will cost points if he fails to defend those points. So he is always around in the quarterfinals or semifinals. Cilic simply overpowered Berdych. Cilic hit 19 aces and 46 winners overall. He won 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 in two and a bit hours. It was a routine match for Cilic. Berdych provided little resistance for two and a half sets. Cilic broke five times but did somehow lose service twice. Berdych it 29 errors but, more worryingly, he hit just 21 winners. For a powerhouse like Berdych 21 winners is unacceptable. There were only 24 combined net approaches with 15 of those being converted. Apart from the occasional drop-shot there was no variety here. It was two ball strikers sitting behind the baseline serving big and exchanging very similar shots. Cilic has Federer next. For Cilic it is simple. He must serve huge and hit bigger than Federer. That is Cilic’s entire game plan. And if I were the Croat I would cut out that drop-shot. It is a smart tactic against Berdych but Federer will snap that up.
...Where do I even begin? I don’t quite know. Monfils has yet again shown his brilliance, talent and his flakiness. He has advertised the very best and very worst he has to offer. I think there is a chance this match may break or make his career. He lost, but either it will give him new confidence or it will break his spirit utterly. Some players never quite recover from heartache -- Coria can attest to this. Federer came through in an absolute epic 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 but it did take him exactly 200 minutes. Federer was down two sets to love and playing very badly. He clawed his way back into it by taking the third set. In the fourth he was in trouble again. He was barely clinging on but Monfils could not quite finish him. Federer’s race looked to be run when he was down 4-5, 15-40 but he played two brilliant, all or nothing points to get to five all. From there it was all Federer to the end. Monfils hit 43 winners and 49 errors. Federer had similar stats of 48 winners and 44 errors. Monfils hit ten double faults and they were a thorn in his side. Federer also broke six times but was broken six times .That is not sustainable against either Djokovic or Cilic. Federer did win 40 per cent of receiving points, which he needs to keep doing. Federer needs to return well against Cilic but he has been the master of defusing bombs over his career. He has a great return especially because most servers are not varied but readable. It doesn’t help when they are 145 out wide but by getting a read on them one does get an advantage. Federer will have few troubles on his own serve but he needs to cut out his errors. Another useful thing for Fed to do would be to use lots of different shots. He needs variety like slices, chip and charges and different spins and paces. Luckily nobody in history has mastered this art with as much competency as the Fed.

Any other notes?

* = The U.S. Open scheduling always confuses me. I wanted to write before the semifinals. I think I have succeeded.

* = The WTA, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, it is always like this.

* = Is this as good as Japanese tennis has ever been? I think it might well be. A seed in men’s and women’s events is pretty impressive.

* = Nadal will be twenty-nine at next year’s Wimbledon. I believe his birthday is during the clay swing if not the French Open. Tied with Sampras at fourteen majors but riddled with injuries, can he catch Federer’s slam total? Not if Federer wins one more.

* = The best Spaniard at this year’s U.S. Open? Bautista-Agut, of course. Silly question.

* = Can we have Jim Courier commenting more please? I miss that guy.

* = Did you know Sveta and a certain Miss Backspin [an ex-Miss Backspin] used to dine together?"

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

US Open: Knocking at the Door of Djokovic/Murray

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Murray and Djokovic have a rivalry -- a good one -- though they are very good friends and occasional doubles partners. Born just a week apart, the two have similar games. Djokovic leads the head-to-head by about two matches but it really doesn’t matter in a match like the one on Wednesday night. It is not important in a rivalry like this what has happened before. In the big matches it has gone either way. Murray has not had the stellar career his opponent has. Murray does not quite have the champion’s factor that Djokovic has. He is also more susceptible to upsets and can struggle when not on his best. Djokovic is better at winning ugly but, really, both have had great careers though I cannot see Murray getting into the Hall of Fame as things stand.

Mentally Djokovic has a big advantage. He is so so tough mentally. He just never goes away. I think this is the area where there is a huge gulf between Djokovic and Murray. Djokovic can come back from two sets down. No problems. Djokovic is never out till you win on match point. You can bet he won’t miss match point down. The area Murray has the big advantage is in the serve. He just has a much beefier serve, though his second is a weaker delivery. He never had a problem with his serve like Djokovic did. Murray is harder to break.

The forehand and backhand are very similar, though I think Murray’s forehand on top form just shades it. He has worked so hard on that wing. Neither of them is particularly distinguished at the net, but I like the way Murray volleys more. Djokovic has struggled in that department previously. They both have good areas and not so good areas, but the basic model of their games is the same. They have built them on great defense and great movement. This is always the problem when two great counter-punchers play. They have nothing to counter-punch. Murray has the tendency to be both more aggressive and more passive. He seems to slip in and out of passages playing both ways. Going in, I thought there would be long rallies in this match, and plenty of them. First strike tennis will have no place here. This is purely about physicality. This is all about endurance and physicality.

I can’t pick this, but the winner is going to the final.

I am going to be focusing on the two main courts from here on in. I will be looking at the four big matches on yesterday. There were several good matches and one exhibition. I have attempted an analysis so now I will get on with the rest of my report.

...Monfils won in straights back in 2011 here in New York. It was a very entertaining match. Dimitrov has never beaten the Frenchman before and it is interesting that Monfils seems to do well against those with a one-handed backhand. Monfils, I guess, just has that kind of style that can make one-handers think twice. Dimitrov was unable to find a way through or past him. Monfils won 7-5, 7-6 [6], 7-5 in 145 minutes. It was a tight match from start to finish with some breathtaking rallies. Like this one. Dimitrov hit 31 winners and 38 errors but Monfils managed to be more solid. He went 29-30 with fourteen aces thrown in. Dimitrov broke just once, but his opponent broke three times. Neither of them won more than 35 per cent of receiving points. Incredibly Monfils approached the net just ten times. For Dimitrov and Monfils the second serve win percentage is too low. Both were just under 60 per cent. You want to be winning 65-70 per cent of second serves, ideally. Neither of them was performing on first serves either. Monfils is going to have to step his returning game. His next opponent will exploit any weakness, especially one that glaring. Monfils has Federer. That is going to be entertaining, but how close depends on how consistent Monfils can be.
...Agut has never been more out of his depth. He has had a career year this year. He has been one of the breakout players. He showed why for some of this match but he was completely out-matched. He longer the match went on, the more apparent that was. Federer played so well. He played like he was teaching somehow how to play tennis. He used his forehand to rip the Spaniard apart. Roger Federer makes his 43rd quarterfinal. He has also been to 35 semifinals. I do not see anybody breaking either of those records. If Federer retired now, Djokovic could only overtake him on both counts in three years. Nadal is further behind because of injury. Really, Federer has achieved some crazy things. Federer won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in less than two hours. He blasted 36 winners with eight aces thrown in, too. He was broken just once and broke his opponent six times. Federer was majestic throughout. The Spaniard was never given a look in. Federer moved onto a higher plane. Federer headed into the stratosphere those last two sets. Agut kept trying new things because he had to but each time Federer would just trump him. It was as dominant a display as you are likely to see all year on hard courts. That Nadal/Murray semifinal made for painful viewing. Fedex gets Monfils next and if he can cut down those errors by five or ten but keep those other stats then I can only see one winner. I can forgive the five double faults, but Federer does need to not give Monfy any free points.
...Ouch. This was also pretty devastating, with Thiem managing to win just seven games. Even Agut managed to get nine. Berdych literally ripped right through Thiem as if he was nothing more than smoke and air. Ten aces and 24 winners were somewhat blighted by the 23 errors Berdych hit. He needed just an hour and a half to progress, breaking five times and holding in every single one of his service games. Berdych also won 44 percent of receiving points and made Thiem go for everything. Thiem could not make everything and ended up with 35 errors. He got put through a trial of fire and next time he will be prepared. Next time he will be wary of what lies in wait. Berdych needs to get rid of the errors, but otherwise it was a clean match. Berdych gets Cilic next. Expect a similar match to the one they had at Wimbledon: big serving and big shots in abundance. Berdych and Cilic are going to knock seven bells out of one another. They are both looking for a chance at Federer, one they will both feel they can take.
...Simon is steady. He is steady to a point of being boring. I am sure he cannot be French as he plays in such an un-French manner. Simon has somehow developed a big serve somewhere down the line. It seems to not fit with his steady game. Gilles is the ultimate pusher and remains as one of the few players who can really find Federer’s backhand. He is one of those players who just grinds you down with sheer consistency. Robredo does it with style and class. Robredo does it with pizzazz. Simon does it with solidness. Simon does it by being consistent. And that is the most frustrating thing of all. Simon and Cilic played a long, and nigh on unwatchable, match on Armstrong Stadium. In a little under four and a half hours Cilic prevailed 5-7, 7-6 [3], 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 Cilic hit 23 aces to the Frenchman’s 16. Incredibly they each had just three breaks and neither of them returned particularly well. Cilic has to win a few more second serve points if he wants to go further in the tournament. Cilic hit 70 winners but did make 76 errors. Simon opted for the steady approach and hit 45 winners to just 31 errors. In the end, firepower proved to be too much for steadiness. Cilic gets to play Berdman next and I think he has a chance there. Berdych has not yet been properly tested and I don’t know if he is ready to go five long sets. Cilic has got a good chance but he needs o be mentally tough too.

Any other notes?

* = We’re starting to get to that point in a slam where my sleeping pattern looks like it was knitted by Ray Charles.

* = Federer volleys like a god. McEnroe may say that Nadal has the best volley, but if he had watched the match last night he would agree with me. When Federer volleys he makes angels smile.

* = Djokovic is going to choke. I’m not saying this as a Federer fan. I frankly don’t think Fed will get past Berdych. I just have a feeling Djokovic will choke. He won’t be beaten, but he will lose.

* = The Bryans are back. They surely have the slam now. They are on great form with crowd support.

* = German tennis is finally at ebb. After consistent success it finally looks to be having a recess, though it is likely a temporary one.
I think it would be a full turning of the circle if Britain and Australia both returned to prominence, though Britain has been waiting so much longer.

* = Sveta's first title, in Helsinki, Finland in 2002.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

US Open: Thiem, a New Antique?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

As you know, I love the one-handed backhand. I love the one-handed backhand because it is fluid, it is beautiful. And it looks so much better when hit properly. I’ll let Robbie K guide you through this.

And then you have power, as well as finesse.

And if that wasn’t enough, check out this defense with the use of the one-hander:

And yet it is falling out of use. It is a beautiful thing but, much like the running back and the book, it is starting to be used less. It is starting to be usurped by different technologies and tactics. The two-hander is less ‘flimsy’ and is more defensive, which is an important quality to have on one's backhand these days. Slice, too, is starting to fall out of use, well, at least a little bit. I think a Henin or a Graf would be less effective these days.

It is being taught less and less to hit with only one hand on the backhand. It is going the way of the serve-volleyer. I have written about this a lot because it is an issue close to my heart. I hit with two hands but I love the one-hander so much. It is a beautiful shot and so it is nice to see such an ‘antiquey’ shot being used by the young stars. It is essentially dead on the WTA, but on the ATP Thiem and Dimitrov still use it. They are the last bastion, it seems, of the one-handers. So, as the title says, Thiem is a new antique. He is a European one-hander, with a big serve. He goes for broke. He plays an old fashioned style, but far more physical. As far as backhands are concerned, Rod Laver has the last word.

Well, I shall now get back to what happened in New York. As we are now at the stage where the outer courts are being used less and less, so I will be bringing you matches from the top three courts only.

...Tsonga against Murray might be a slam-defining match. When we look back in five years will we think ‘had Tsonga played his best and beaten Murray would he have upset Djokovic?’ or perhaps ‘if Tsonga had won Murray would never have had the chance to upset Djokovic.’ This is a match which goes beyond just a win or loss. If Tsonga had won he would have cracked the top eight again. He might have made the final. It might have been the end of the Scot's career. It was a match which had the potential to change a slam and several careers. This was no ordinary quarterfinal match. Tsonga was flat. He was not on fire here. The flame was extinguished. He lost 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 in two and half hours. He hit 43 errors. That is not an acceptable stat; especially given the only hit 32 winners. Murray hit an incredible 48 winners with just 18 winners and if he can keep that up Djokovic will have a serious handful. Murray won 71 percent of his serve points and broke five times. He lost his serve just twice. He keeps this up he could have Djokovic. He is serving at the right level. He played at a level that was too high for a flat Tsonga. Will it be good enough to do Djokovic? Murray is running out of time at the majors. He has maybe six more majors at which he has a legitimate shot to win. He will want to take this chance. He is going to give everything he has in that match. Will it be enough?
...Well, Kei has blown up my picks. He now has a 23-10 record in the hard court slams. It is a very impressive win from him. He has a chance to go one better and make his maiden slam semifinal. Raonic did what I thought he should do: make it physical, make it a long battle. It went four hours. It was four hours of physical exertion and Kei’s body held up. How much it is recovered we shall soon know. Nishikori did have to overcome a foot injury. How well he overcame it we shall soon find out.Kei won 4-6, 7-6 [4], 6-7 [8], 7-5, 6-4 but he needed four hours to do so. Raonic hit ten doubles but 3 aces whilst Nishikori went eight and seven. 86 winners for the Canadian but 72 errors do make that winner’s stat look less impressive. Nishikori could only managed 53-41 on the winners to errors count. Raonic served huge with an average first serve speed of 127 miles an hour. Incredibly Kei broke five times making up for his own serve being snapped four times. It was a highlight competitive match, too, with Raonic winning just six points less [181-175] than his opponent. Raonic returned well better than he usually does but it was not enough and he loses in the fourth round in a heartbreaker for the second year in a row. It just gets easier for Kei. He gets the world number three who is starting to hit dizzying heights. Nishikori cannot match him for variety or power and so it is going to be interesting to see the tactics the Japanese man employs. If I were him I would try to really attack the return and put pressure on Stan’s serve.
...Djokovic has a better gear box than Kohl does. Djokovic wasn’t in the mood for any funny business here. He was looking for a comfortable match and that is what he got. Djokovic did not allow Kohl to get even a foothold in the match. Djokovic is looking for slam number eight here. He will equal Agassi but, of course, Agassi won the grand slam. Two hours. 34 winners, with six aces, to just 29 errors plus winning 74 per cent of serve points were all positives for Djokovic. No breaks conceded and four breaks gained further illustrate the dominance. Kohl served big but he did not much else big. He hit 27 winners and 36 errors in all. It was not a great performance from the German who went down 6-1, 7-5, 6-4. The scoreline accurately reflects the match in this case. We have a candidate for match of the tournament here. We know what happened last time these two met here. Murray may not be in form but he will be fired up. This is a chance to salvage his year. There is a chance for redemption here. If the Brit wins he will most likely be headed to the WTF. If Djokovic loses, Federer has the chance to go for year-end number one.
...Robredo has the kind of style designed to disrupt, to frustrate and to annoy. He does not have the power to simply out-hit the great majority of the ATP. He relies on guerrilla warfare for success. He relies on making his opponents miss, on frustrating his opponents till they submit to his will and to his game. He has a good head to head against Wawrinka and has beaten a number of very good players. He also has a certain tactic which always works brilliantly -- he will hit seven balls in the same place and then vary it only slightly on the eighth ball. And it works so well, especially on slower clay. The third set proved to be decisive as the Swiss took it 7-5, 4-5, 7-6 [7], 6-2. In the three hour one minute match, Wawrinka hit 75 winners [18 aces] but did hit 58 errors, too. Robredo was disappointing. He only hit 19 winners and hit 31 unforced errors. Robredo did not fully turn up but he still managed to push Wawrinka all the way. Wawrinka broke four times whilst holding every game but two. Wawrinka also won 79 per cent of second serves. That is a big number. I interrupt to point out Fed has just gone up to two sets to none.
Up next for Wawrinka is the man who has ruined my picks. Nishikori is surely going to struggle to go the distance there. Wawrinka should have too much game for the Japanese man, but Kei will be coming out all guns blazing.
...There is a certain pressure that comes with being defending champs, but pressure is privilege. It is something you have to earn. The pressure can sometimes be too much. And sometimes this combined with other factors can spell doom for the defending champions. The Baltimore Ravens dropped back a notch and the Red Sox stunk the year after their famous wins in their respective sports. Incredibly the two combined for 65 winners in just two hours. For doubles that is a big number. And only 27 unforced errors in total. This match, won by the eleventh seeds 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, was a high quality affair. There were seven breaks [the sixth seeds broke twice] because the level of serving was not particularly high, but despite this both teams played out a very entertaining match. Up next for the eleventh seeds are the on-form second seeds. Peya and Soares have had a strong year and are looking to cap it off in the best possible way. They are not as vulnerable as the sixth seeds were, so it will be a much harder match for the eleventh seeds.

Any other notes?

* = The French in Tsonga was too much to overcome. I think he has been poor this whole tournament.

* = Djokovic has not yet dropped a set on the way to the quarterfinals. Andy Murray has found his range but been inconsistent throughout. And yet, Murray still has a chance in that match.

* = There was no way I was going to be able to call those ladies quarterfinals, but I did call Makarova right.

* = I have a tennis related note. I was looking at Sanchez-Vicario’s career today. She was always in the shadow of Graf, waiting. Then Graf started to weaken but Seles came along. Then both Graf and Seles had bad periods, but Hingis came along. She was ranked number two for a long while and behind some very good players. And yet she managed to win four slams. Why do we not admire her more?

* = Wozniacki played in her first quarterfinal since 2012? And is in her first semifinal since 2011?

* = Why can’t Gasquet be more like Robredo?

* = Umm you can caption this. I sure can’t.

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US Open: Kei and Milos Take on Europe

Hey Y'all. Galileo here .

“You know, the problem with being the last of anything by and by, there be none left at all.”
- Captain Barbosa

Europe has dominated this sport. No finalist this year at any slam has been from out of Europe. In fact, I struggle to remember the last slam finalist not from Europe. Del Potro, Gaudio and Roddick are the last non-European winners of slams. There will be seven European quarterfinalists. There are eight Europeans in the top ten. The two that are not face each other for a quarterfinal place. The dominance of Europe is an incredible feat. Nothing like it has been seen in tennis for some times -- it has always been a global game.

Raonic and Nishikori have a god rivalry going. Nishikori leads it and that includes a final in Japan a few years back. They are the future hope of the world against Europe along with Kyrgios. If they cannot win a slam, I cannot see an end to the dominance of Europe. Home advantage does not mean as much as it once did. It has been a long time since we had even three players win their home slam in a year on either side. In the ladies game the European dominance is not so pronounced, although once Williams retires [which, let’s face it, is sooner rather than later] it will be.

Those two have a blockbuster clash in the fourth round with the winner not only going through to a maiden US Open quarterfinal but also becoming the last player not from Europe left standing. Kevin Anderson bowed out and so is also not in contention, with the same going for Kyrgios. Kyrgios is the future, however, and not the present so there is still room for improvement there. I think Australia is on the comeback trail. After a miserable Olympics and a miserable few years in sport, they are starting to comeback. But for now, Europe is dominant.

Well I shall now get back to what happened in New York...

...Rain interrupted the great one. Luckily it also gave the great one a respite. The rain assisted him, though he would likely have come back and won anyway. Federer has been in many holes in many different events. He knows the standard procedure used to get out of holes. He has been down so many times and has managed to stay not out. Federer showed his class against Granollers by simply rising to a level the Spaniard does not have. Granollers did challenge Federer as I predicted [ I GOT SOMETHING RIGHT!] but he went down fairly easily as the match progressed. Federer could win a record sixth US Open title here. Yes, Bill Tilden won six titles in the twenties. But that was close to a hundred years ago now and as impressive as that is the sport was a different game back then. Change makes me sad. Federer hit thirteen aces and no doubles on his way to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory. Down 5-2 in that first set, Federer would only go on to lose four more games. Fed hit a total of 57 winners and just 27 errors. It was a pretty much perfect match, though that error count should be lower. Federer won 52 per cent of points he was receiving and 66 per cent of his service points. He also managed to break 9 times although he shouldn’t be getting broken twice. Federer and Granollers served at similar speeds pretty consistently throughout. Next up is another solid Spaniard who likes clay the best. Agut has won a grass court title, though, unlike Granollers. Federer is unlikely to drop ten games against Bautista-Agut or a set like he did against Granollers. Federer has a very open path to the finals now.
...And with that stunning upset Federer has an open section. In matching his best result here, Simon has ensured Federer will be in the final; for surely none now remain who can challenge Federer in this half. Of course, Ferrer was never really a threat. Could this be Simon’s last big win? He snapped Ferrer’s sixteen match win streak in this slam round. Simon could be having his last hurrah. He missed a slam this year for the birth of his second child but he is back. It took Simon two hours and fifty minutes to come through 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Ferrer hit 62 errors. That is inexcusable. Simon hit 9 aces and 30 winners in total, but the 30 errors could do with being cut. Simon has returned and suddenly has a big serve. Simon broke the Spaniard's serve seven times. That is almost unheard of. Ferrer never loses his serve that much. Ferrer was a mess and he is going to drop down the rankings for this, In fact, this loss may move Raonic into the top five. Simon played well and struck the ball brilliantly, but Ferru was all over the place. Simon plays Cilic and he is aiming for his second hard court slam quarterfinal. In 2009 he lost to Rafa in Australia at that stage. Cilic is looking for his third quarterfinal here. It is a big opportunity for both men. Simon will try to be too solid for the fiery Cilic. Whether that will work remains to be seen. The winner is likely to get to Berdych.
...Berdych had too much power and too much game for his Russian opponent. Berdych was always going to cruise through this match. Gabashvili has now made the third round at a slam for the third time, with a fourth round appearance at the French [2010] being his best effort. Berdych beat him 2 and 2 in Bastad in 2011. Thirteen aces and thirty-one winners overall in the near two hour match were enough to see Berdych through. He never looked troubled in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory. Worryingly, the Russian hit ten doubles faults and lost his serve four times. Berdych also managed to win 57 per cent of his opponent's second serves. Tougher tests await but Berdych was suitably dismissive toward the Russian. Berdych gets to play Thiem now. And the winner is most likely to face Simon. Thiem has looked very good so far and he has a shot at the upset. He is a different proposition to anything that Berdych will have faced so far. He has more variety and a lot more weapons.
...The number one spot in the disappointment rankings belongs to one man and one man alone. Richard Gasquet disappoints me. It feels like he has tailored his career to disappoint me. He disappointed me when he threw away all that talent. He disappointed me when that cocaine scandal occurred. He disappointed me every time he blew two sets to none leads. He disappointed me when he didn’t even take a set in either of his semifinal appearances. He disappointed me yesterday when he put no effort in at all. He just didn’t care. He just let Monfils win. It was pathetic. His entire tactic was to come to net. He approached forty times and won the point just 24 times. He hit no aces, no faults. He went 18-20 on the winners front. It was Monfils hitting 50 winners in the one hour fifty-six minute match that really did it for Gasquet. Gasquet did not even try to do anything to stop Monfils in the 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 decision. Monfils won 51 per cent of receiving points and 74 per cent of serving points. He was utterly dominant against an uninspired Gasquet. Gasquet is going home to think about what he’s done and rightfully so. In fact, he should just quit the year right now and come back next year. Monfils gets to face Dimitrov in the battle of the talent. Dimitrov lost to Monfils in a classic back in 2010 or so. This time Dimitrov will win in four sets. Well, so long as he doesn’t go away as easily as Gasquet did.
Grandstand Selection: THIEM D. LOPEZ
...Sometimes one will watch a match and it is so one sided it sticks out. Thiem blasted the Spanish veteran clean off the court. Thiem was hitting shots so big Lopez could not even predict where they were going, let alone do anything with them. Lopez was comprehensively outplayed from the start to the finish. Thiem hit that level. It is the level Nadal can hit and Federer can hit. It is the level that Laver decided to build his career upon. I think he would have taken out a lot of guys on that day, Thiem. Usually the difficulty of staying at that level undoes players but Thiem managed to keep it up. The Austrian won 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and fifty minutes. Lopez made 43 ‘errors’ and Thiem hit just 13 winners. That sounds misleading to me. The stats do not back up the match I watched. It was not the cleanest match from either, but Thiem was imperious for the last two sets. Thiem needs to recapture the magic he had then but also make it consistent. If he does then he should have a real shot against Berdman. Thiem gets Berdych next. The question is how hot is Thiem’s fire? Is it still burning? Is it hot enough to burn Berdych? I think he will surprise Berdych for two sets before going down in four.
...Continuing with our doubles theme, I bring you the first real upset in the doubles tournament. The American pair are already proven as a strong pair in both men’s doubles and the mixed event. They have won several titles together and have been playing together for a while. They know how the other operates and they know how to coordinate their games. That makes them dangerous and so it proved to be. They hit 27 winners, with six aces thrown in, too, on their way to a 6-3, 6-4 win. They made just ten unforced errors in the 75 minute contest. They got broken just once but managed to break three times themselves. They also won 40 per cent of points on their opponents' serve. It was a well played, efficient display from the unseeded surprise pair. The surprise package gets to play another surprise package. They have Butorac/Klaasen up next. They surprised everyone and made the finals of the Australian Open. Surely they couldn’t do it again? Lipsky/ Ram are looking for their first slam semifinal. Neither has ever progressed beyond the quarters, but they have made it to the quarterfinals at all four majors.

Any other notes?

* = Granollers is starting to make this look like his best slam.

* = We have had our first weather interruption. It sure is starting to feel like the US Open now.

* = Serena makes sure the Americans have their singles slam quarterfinalist.

* = I have another unrelated tennis note. We are half way to the next Olympics. That feels strange. That also means we are halfway to the next US Election. The real world tennis gods decided to put the two together for some reason.

* = The Bryans may finally win a slam this year but they left it a bit late. Are they just number ones permanently now? You know, to save time and all.

* = Be wary of Sveta. She has the Radwanska on her side.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

US Open: None Is the Number

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

None sure is the number. No American’s have reached the quarterfinals of a slam in singles this year. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a one. Only one chance still remains for the Americans. If Williams loses to Kanepi they will have reached a new low. Serena should win. Never before has there been a year where no men or women have reached the quarterfinal of a slam. The American men are already in a serious drought. The situation is pretty serious. It is now abundantly clear the American system is broken. They had so many riches and now have but a few battered semi-precious stones and some fossils. They are in dire straits. A hard rain has fallen.

In the 1970’s the American men won twelve slams. It was ten in the 1980’s. It was 21 in the 1990s. That is over half. In the first decade of this century it was eight. That is respectable. So far it is zero in this decade. It looks as if the Americans are going to win less than five slams this decade. There is still time, of course, but who is there to win the slams? They would have to be coming through at the moment. And nobody is coming through. We can assume the current top ten will dominate for the next five years. Maybe the Americans will never win a slam this decade. Maybe the Americans are permanently finished as a major force in this sport.

The future of American tennis on the WTA looks far better. It looks more solid, more reliable. That is probably because it is. There’s a plethora of young talent coming through now. They look to be doing fine, but that does not make up for what has happened to the men.

Well I shall now get back to what happened in New York...

...Querrey has been a solid player throughout his career. Despite some dips in form, and some occasional injury issues, he has been able to make a great career. He has seven titles. He has been up as high as 17 in the world. He has won titles on three different surfaces, including more clay titles than Murray. He has been to the fourth round here four times. The surgery on his elbow may have done lasting damage. Perhaps not physically, but mentally. He has made semifinals this year and he has started to look back to his old self. He beat Djokovic in Paris last year despite losing to love in the first set. Querrey was stifled 6-3, 6-2, and 6-2. In the 85-minute contest Querrey won only 44 per cent of points on his own serve. He hit just seven aces. He went 18-33 in winners, but Djokovic went 25-19. Djokovic broke seven times and looked imperious. He never let the American into the match. He returned too well. And for all his dominance he only won 66 per cent of serves. And he got broken twice. In his armor I see some chinks. I see that there are gaps that can be taken advantage of. Djokovic gets a test next up. He gets very tricky German Kohlschreiber. He was the last man to beat the Djoker in a slam before the quarterfinals. That was at the French Open way back in 2009. He has made the fourth round of every slam at least twice except Wimbledon, where was a quarterfinalist. He is in his third consecutive fourth round appearance here. Is this the year he finally steps up?
....Kyrgios is here to stay. He made it to the third round here, backing up his supreme Wimbledon debut. If I made the quarterfinals on my Wimbledon debut [HA!] then I would be pleased. Robredo had too much experience for the youngster. He knew how to handle the power and the rocket shots. He knew how to defeat wild reckless abandon with nothing to lose. He is a veteran. It’s what he does. Kyrgios tried to hit through him and that would have worked on grass. This is a different surface to my beloved grass. Robredo had to be solid. And he was. Kyrgios went 20-3 in the aces count but went 55-47 overall. Big numbers. Robredo managed 33-15. In the two hour, twenty minute contest the turning point would be the fourth set breaker. Robredo took it and Kyrgios had not the energy to come back. Robredo would end up taking it 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. He won that breaker 7-4 because he knows how to handle those big moments. He knows how to win those big points. Somehow Robredo won 37% of receiving points. Kyrgios had an average first serve speed of 120 MPH. This Robredo win is mighty impressive. Robredo gets Wawrinka next. Last year he beat a highly seeded Swiss one hander to reach the quarterfinals. Wawrinka has not played for several days and match practice may be an issue. Wawrinka beat Robredo in this round at the last hard court major. Robredo couldn’t do again what he did last year. Could he?
...I don’t know what has happened to Murray. Is it age? Is it fitness? Is it, most likely of all, just a complete lack of form? Murray is a very good player and at his zenith he did belong in the three-four ranking area. Now he belongs in the 6-10 area depending on the time of year. During the clay court season, for example, he should be ranked around ten but closer to six when we move to grass. I find it surprising that Murray would lose a set to Kuznetsov. I was not even aware Kuznetsov had anything he could hurt Murray with. Apparently Murray’s lack of form was enough. In the two hours, thirty-five minute match Murray came through eventually, and inconsistently, 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. I just don’t understand. Murray played a horrible match and would have been made to pay against a better opponent. He won the break duel, breaking eight times to his opponent's four and went 47-37 in the error count. Muzza won just 63 per cent of his service points though he did win 49 per cent of receiving points. He did not play a very good match but he should still have run way with it. It is a baffling scoreline. Murray currently looks shakier than the Republicans' grasp on reality. Tsonga has been on fire. He has come through against tricky, inspired opponents. Murray has dropped sets here and there. Murray has looked vulnerable. Tsonga is going to have him. I call Tsonga in four.
...There is a horrible feeling when lightning strikes twice. It hurts me when...

* = I watched the Patriots lose in the AFC Championship in back to back years
* = I watched George Bush get elected TWICE
* = I lost in chess to my friend 9 times in a row [none were close and I’m not a bad player]
* = I had to fly back to London from Sydney all those times

For Isner it must hurt him to face the same man in the same round with the exact same seeds. I know I’d be annoyed. Really, though, Isner should be winning these matches and especially with the form that he has. In the three hour long four set epic , Kohl failed to break but won anyway 7-6 [4],4-6, 7-6 [2], 7-6 [4]. What stands out immediately? Three breakers and Isner winning just ten points is ridiculous. That is a horrible statistic. Isner hit 42 aces and won 76 per cent of his service points. Isner even won 151 points to Kohlschreiber’s 147. Isner also went 77-38 on the winner, much better than his opponent's 55-28. Isner played a good match but fell apart when it mattered. Ah, it seems I have summed up his career pretty much in just one sentence. Isner now leads in the aces department but as he is out that is now rather pointless. Kohlschreiber and his whippy backhand now have a path through to the final. If Kohlschreiber can upset Djokovic, he gets to face Tsonga for a place in the semifinals. If he beats Tsonga, he might get Wawrinka or Raonic. He can handle them. So, if he beats Djokovic, he has it. Sadly, he will do not much more than perhaps nick a set off the top seed.
Grandstand Selection: RAONIC D. ESTRELLA BURGOS
...I mentioned earlier how good the debut of Kyrgios was. It was very impressive, but so is this US Open debut from Estrella. He has bloomed onto the ATP tour in his thirties which makes him a late bloomer. At the age of 34 he has debuted at the US Open. Not only that, but he has made the third round. That is an impressive accomplishment. It is so difficult to do that, especially at the age of 34. Burgos played Raonic tough in a match where there were three breaks apiece. Raonic won 7-6 [5], 7-6 [5], 7-6[3] in a match where he served 22 aces. The sets lasted 52 minutes, 55 minutes and 56 minutes, respectively. Estrella his 32 winners and 33 errors in what was an even performance. Raonic decided on aggression as usual and hit 51 winners. In his next match he has to cut down on his 46 errors, however. I was wrong. Nishikori has had the physical fitness to last this far. Now we have one of the best fourth round matches, though they are all pretty good. Raonic needs to test the physicality of the Japanese man. Raonic needs to be physical and drag this match into lengthy tiebreaker sets. Raonic is going to have a horrible match but he should be able to win it anyway.
....And now for something different. I am going to start focusing on the doubles a little now. Guccione and Groth, an experienced doubles pairing though they usually play with different partners. The second seeds needed 82 minutes [three minutes less than Djokovic needed] to finally come through 7-6 [5], 6-4. With just one break in the match, it was a serving exhibition though that was expected. The Australians won 67 points, just eight less than their more illustrious opponents. Next up is Kukushkin and Michael Venus, the less known Venus in tennis. The second seeds are unlikely to be tested. They will have a test in the quarterfinals with either the eleventh or sixth seeds waiting for them. The sixth seeds are defending champions.

Any other notes?

* = Djokovic loves to prove people wrong. Perhaps he decided to look shaky on purpose so as to throw everyone off.

* = I don’t understand how Venus got bageled by Errani. The US Open should have given her a friendlier schedule. I think that once a player gets to a certain set age the schedulers should make it easier for her.

* = I liked Nadal’s and Federer’s ice bucket challenges.

* = On a completely tennis unrelated note: the Eagles are a great band. Definitely worth a listen. Hang on. Eagles are a band but share a name with a football team. That team plays in a division with the New York Giants. New York is where the US Open is. There’s the connection.

* = Why do they bother with seedings in the mixed doubles?

* = Pain doesn't kill me, I kill the pain.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

US Open: The NFL Really is Coming

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

There are certain signs the NFL is coming. American TV starts to go mad. Everyone talks about Brady or Manning. Cowboys and Steelers fans once again get confident and those Dolphins fans pray those Dolphins of '72 remain unbeaten. Browns fans pray for it to be over and the Bengals fans pray desperately for a playoff win. The Ravens and the Giants plot [I am sure they plot] to finish 9-7, sneak into the playoffs, sneak into the Super Bowl and then win. They usually win against a far superior team with a far superior quarterback, too.

And nobody will shut up about the Redskins. Frankly I don’t see what the deal is with the name. But those ‘political correctness for all even if they don’t want it’ people insist it is wrong and it must be changed. Meanwhile, they ignore the prejudices going on across America and they refuse to try and educate cops whilst more and more innocent teenagers are getting shot. No, the more important thing for them to do is to try to get a franchise to change its name.

Baseball is forgotten and left to gather dust. Ice hockey may be starting in a month or so but nobody cares about that right now. And basketball is still a long way away. But, really, who cares about those sports because it is football season. I personally enjoy November-February greatly as I get to follow three American sports simultaneously.

And, of course, injuries are talked about. Injuries are always a big concern for the NFL. Super Bowls will come and go. I mean who really remembers who won the Super Bowl in 1987 for example apart from fanatics and fans of that franchise. No, the thing the NFL must deal with year-in, year-out is injuries. Concussions, ACL ligaments, backs, feet, wrists, arms, pectorals, shoulders and necks are just examples. The list goes on and on. One expects injuries in football and rugby. One expects injuries, too, in ice hockey, but surely golf and the racket sports are safe from this? No. Tennis has had some of the most horrific injuries you can imagine. Seles, Nadal, Pierce, Baker, Fish and Del Petro are all good examples of this. But injuries in tennis are rising in number. When there were bigger injuries but fewer of them that felt more acceptable. That felt like, “OK, it’s terrible when it happens, but it rarely does so it’s fine”

Well, I had better start talking about what happened in New York. And so I shall...

...This match promised a fair amount. The old Mathieu would have been able to challenge Djokovic. He would’ve pushed the Serb. But this Mathieu is a shadow of what he once was. He has lost form like nothing else. He has suffered through injury and the former number 12 has fallen on seriously hard times. He once pushed Nadal to four long sets on the dusty French clay. He very nearly had him, too. No longer does he have that ability to challenge the upper echelons. I don’t know how his game could have become weaker after that break but it has and it is quite alarming.
It’s difficult to analyze a match that lasted 88 minutes. Djokovic romped home 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. 13 aces and 33 winners overall and just 16 errors came from the Serb's racket. 55 per cent of receiving points won and 81 per cent of serving points are other impressive stats. Djokovic broke seven times but he did give his opponent one break chance so it isn’t a perfect match. It was a merciless match, however. It was a brutal match. The only good thing for Mathieu is that at least it was quick. Querrey is up next. Picture this for me: Querrey serving lights out under lights on. Picture Querrey dragging Djokovic into tiebreakers, maybe sneaking a break by hitting like he has nothing to lose [he hasn’t] and then can you maybe, possibly picture Querrey winning? I can but it probably won’t happen. Still, Djokovic should watch out.
...Murray was not really tested here against an opponent who did well just to reach this round. He will be happy with the way he dismissed Stepanek for the loss of just 7 games. That for him was a career win. He had not a chance against Murray, a former champ here. It is not as if the German played a bad match. The German played a solid match but you cannot just be solid against the world's finest. The German out-aced Murray 7-6 but could only manage 24 winners and errors. Murray went 36-17 in that department. Bachinger also failed to convert thrice on break point chances. Murray broke four times against his opponent. This is where I understand the agreement for having just sixteen seeds. The opening two rounds can be just too one sided. Mind you I would not want to draw a Lopez or a Robredo in the first round for example. It is a third easy match for Murray in a row, though Kuznetsov has nothing to lose. He should beat Kuznetsov in three straight sets. Tsonga will be waiting in the next round most likely.
...Struff is one of many Germans. He is ranked 77 but is the German number six. The Germans have seven players in the top hundred. That is not a particularly large amount, but it is a solid amount nonetheless. Struff has been hanging around the 60-70 mark this season. He has been having a banner year, but in that journeyman range the rankings are continually fluctuating. He has turned up here at the US Open without needing a wildcard. His ranking of 77 guarantees him entry. Struff is six foot five and is about 200 pounds. Tennis players are getting more and more physical these days but that does also lead to more injuries. Two hours. 30 aces, 54 winners and 81 per cent of service points won were complimented by three breaks of Struff’s serve service by the American. Isner goes through 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. And that is the tale of the match. Struff did hit 26 winners: Four less than Isner’s aces alone. Isner’s serving skills scare me. Speaking of aces, check this out. The data did only start in 1991 when umpires began to record it but it is still interesting. Isner gets the man he lost to last year -- Kohlschreiber. You won’t believe me but last year they were playing to play a recent slam winner [Nadal last year, Djokovic this] and Isner was seeded 13 with Kohl seeded 22. This year they are playing to play a recent slam winner and Isner is seeded thirteen, too. It is the same round -- 3. Kohlschreiber is seeded 22. Freaky.
...Gojowczyk does not know the meaning of fear. He has conquered fear, but not by becoming it, though I have heard that works as well. Gojowczyk will hit and hit. He nearly hit through Nadal earlier this year, though that was on indoor hard courts. Raonic knew it would be a test. It was going to be interesting to see whose firepower would come out on top. Raonic only managed 26 aces. Rubbish. Poor effort. Isner hit 30 and he only played three sets. Raonic had to go four [over three hours] sets in his 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 victory. Surprisingly there were three breaks apiece. Raonic only won 9 more points than his opponent. In fact this wasn’t a big server’s match. Raonic went 64-41 with his winners but his opponent could only manage 46-47. The Canuck did manage a 143 MPH serve. That is very impressive. Average serve speed of the Canadian? 100 MPH. Forget poor effort, that is bravery. After a test, Raonic gets another. Estrella Burgos. He made his debut at 34 and has nothing to lose. Raonic has far too many weapons for him to handle but playing someone with nothing to lose is still difficult.
Grandstand Selection: TSONGA D. NEDOVYESOV
...Some matches just look like they are only going one way. Take an experienced veteran with experienced firepower who is on form and pit him against a journeyman who has never been ranked higher than 71 and is ranked third in his country. What do you get? You get a very one sided affair. I know paper doesn’t mean anything in this sport but here it proved to be too much. The Kazakh did well, though, certainly better than expected. Tsonga is explosive. He may not be hitting as many winners as he was before, but he makes opponents think and forces opponents to go big. It’s about first strike tennis with him. If he gets the first strike in, it is over. Tsonga hit thirteen aces over the course of an hour and forty-five minutes yesterday. He was never troubled but the scoreline still looked respectable in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 decision. Tsonga managed to hold his serve in every game but one and broke four times. He also knocked 38 winners down. He only erred 27 times. It was an aggressive, well-rounded performance from the Frenchman. He is hitting his stride at the right moment. Murray does look there for the taking. It’s another good match up for Tsonga next. Carreño Busta, the youngster, has made a good run that should move him into the top sixty. He is best on clay and Tsonga should be too good for him here.
...It is always interesting to see two players who are specialists on the same surface play each other on a different surface. It is hard sometimes to know who the advantage goes to. Here, logically speaking, Robredo should have the advantage because of his three hard-court slam quarterfinals. But Robredo likes to play five sets. On clay Robredo would also have the advantage, especially as Bolelli has not had the best year. Roby needed three hours and thirty-seven minutes of exertion in the midday sun to finally come through 5-7, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. I think he does it for fun. He only hit ten aces but then again his opponent hit just ten. He went 29-36 with the winners but his opponent went 64-67. Incredibly Bolelli broke just once, three times less than the Spaniard. It was a funny match. Robredo managed to win 72 per cent of his service points. He played well but he needs to stop getting into holes and there need to be a lot more winners. It was still a strong performance. There is a serious test in the third round for Robredo. Kyrgios has proved his Wimbledon run is not a fluke. With the third round run he is going to hit the cusp of the top fifty or fall into it. With a forth round run he will hit the top forty. If Robredo loses this then he falls back to around 25. There is a lot at stake for these two men.

Any other notes?

* = I can’t believe Robredo’s longevity. He has been around for so long and he hasn’t had to adapt his game style. Even Fed has had to adapt.

* = Djokovic is on cruise control. It really illustrated the difference between the slams and the regular tour events.

* = We were all distracted by Tomic but it turns out Kyrgios is the real deal. But my question is what of Kokkinakis?

* = Where does Switzerland go after Fedrinka retire? Bencic is going to have very weighed-down shoulders.

* = It is the first time I can remember the top eight seeds all look good so far. It does look like we’re going to have the quarterfinals but, really, anything can happen.

* = Dellacqua and Kyrgios have confirmed for the Hopman Cup. Excellent. They should do well.

* = Yes even Sveta throws rackets.

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