The Tweener Podcast, Episode 6: Marc Stein, Maria Sharapova and Nick Kyrgios

After a two week layoff, Joey and Zach are BACK with a massive episode 6 of The Tweener Podcast. The show is headlined by a great interview with Marc Stein, an NBA Reporter and popular media personality for ESPN. Stein is a massive tennis fan who shares his perspective on the sport. We compare pro tennis and basketball players, talk Davis Cup and much much more. Later, Joey and Zach talk about Maria Sharapova testing positive for PEDs and what it means for doping in tennis as a whole. We also touch on the Nick Kyrgios drama before discussing our Indian Wells fan competition. As always we’d like to thank Stick It Wear?! for their sponsorship and hope everybody enters so they have a chance to win a free shirt!

Podcast Shortcuts

00:00 — Introduction (Solid music this week, no?)

01:30 — Tweener of the week

03:25 — Marc Stein, NBA Reporter for ESPN/Tennis Nerd

27:05 — Nick Kyrgios/Australian Davis Cup Team Drama

30:45 — Maria Sharapova PED Talk

43:53 — Indian Wells Stick It Wear?! Competition

Tweener of The Week 

Stick It Wear?! Competition Details

Indian Wells, men or women. Enter by commenting below or tweeting @TheTennisNerds. Must have picks in by Saturday(3/9) morning!

Pick 1 Winner(can be anybody)

Pick 1 Sleeper (anybody seeded below #10)

Pick 1 Dark Horse (anybody unseeded)

Joey’s picks: Wawrinka, Klizan, Del Potro

Zach’s picks: Djokovic, Monfils, Fritz

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The Final Stop

Djokovic Paris Champion

As the final round robin event approaches, there hasn’t been a field as wide open as this one for many years. Almost all players in the field you could make an argument for them taking home this prestigious crown in the Barclay’s ATP World Tour Finals. In this preview, I will go through player by player from each group and break down their chances. We will start with Group A.

Rafael Nadal: No one had expected Rafa to come back the way he did this year, winning the French and US Open titles. He has only lost 5 matches all year with a spectacular 68 – 5 record. Adding on to the 2 slams, Rafa has won 8 other titles, including 5 Masters 1000 titles. However, since the indoor hard court season has started, Nadal has struggled a bit on the fast hard courts. He has not won a title since the US Open. In the 3 tournaments he has played since then, he has lost to Djokovic, Del Potro, and Ferrer in these tournaments. Despite his struggles on the hard courts, I still see Nadal moving on through his portion of the round robin due to the lack of consistency from the others, besides Ferrer, to beat him.

David Ferrer: There might not be a hotter player on tour right now than David Ferrer. Going into Paris, I did not expect him to do well after a horrific indoor season with losses to some pretty low quality players. This does not include Dimitrov or Youzhny in the last 2 weeks. But the losses to Florian Mayer and Joao Sousa stuck out to me. But I think Ferrer shocked all of us when he knocked off Nadal in the semis and had many chances to stun Djokovic in the finals. I think Ferrer will surprise us again and go 3 – 0 in his section of the round robin and advance to the final rounds.

Tomas Berdych: It has been another solid year for the big hitting Czech. Berdych is certainly one of the most dangerous players out there on indoor courts like these. It’s the consistency that is a concern for me. He didn’t make it past the quarterfinals of any Slam this year and I think that has something to do with it. It’s more of the belief factor for Berdych. Does he really think he can hang with the top guys on a daily basis? He has been close on several occasions, but I have not seen enough consistency from him throughout the year to make me think that he could take out Nadal or Ferrer right now.

Stan Wawrinka: This has certainly been one of Wawrinka’s best years on tour. He is currently at an all time high in the rankings at #8 and is certainly deserving of that. His semi final run at the US Open this year was phenomenal and also played very well in Paris, where he had the battle with Gasquet, and Australia, where he played the possible match of the year against Djokovic. The only problem with Stan here is that the indoor hard courts are his least favorite surface, and I think we all witnessed that a bit when he got slammed by Novak last week in Paris. But that does not mean opponents should look him over. He is still very dangerous, and very powerful off the ground. If he beats Ferrer and Berdych, I like his chances to advance. But I still think Ferrer is too solid right now. Nevertheless, just someone to keep your eye on as the week progresses.

Here is the Group B preview now.

Novak Djokovic: Novak certainly looks like he playing the way he was back in 2011. He is full of confidence and has not lost a match since the US Open final. He beat Nadal in Beijing and also took both the Masters 1000 titles in Shanghai and Paris. There is no one playing better ball than Djokovic right now. That being said, he was not favored a kind round robin group. Delpo and Roger landed in his group and those are 2 guys that are playing some good ball as well. I still like Djokovic to advance and he is my pick to win the title for the second straight year.

Juan Martin Del Potro: Another fantastic year for the big Argentinian. He has returned to one of the game’s most elite players. He took the title in Basel for the second straight year. He crushed Nadal in Shanghai before losing a tight match to Djokovic in the final. Despite his loss to Roger in Paris, I think it will benefit his cause for London for a few days of extra rest. Delpo, Roger, and Novak will all battle for the 2 spots into the elimination rounds (sorry Gasquet). I do think Novak will prevail, but you can’t tell much apart from Delpo and Roger right now and I am looking forward to how this turns out.

Roger Federer: Glimpses of the old Roger were seen last week in Paris. He finally got some revenge against Del Potro in the quarterfinals before falling to Djokovic in 3 sets in the semis. Roger has a great chance to advance here because of the surface. There might not be a better surface suited for Federer’s game than in London right now. But like I said before, you can’t tell much apart from Roger and Delpo right now.

Richard Gasuqet: It has been a good year for Gasquet as he reached his first semi of a Slam since the Wimbledon semis all those years ago. He playing solid ball right now after reaching the quarters in Paris and winning in Moscow. Unfortunately for him, he is surrounded by 3 grand slam champions and power hitters. Gasquet could have made a run in the other group, but he does not have much of a shot here. He has a combined record of 4 – 24 against Djokovic, Federer, and Del Potro. Good luck Richard. He should put on some big shots though with that beautiful one hander.

Semi – final predictions:

Djokovic d. Nadal

Federer d. Ferrer

Final predicition:

Djokovic d. Federer

Enjoy the last full week of tennis everyone!

A Step In The Right Direction For Federer

fedinshanghai

 

As I watched Roger Federer match against the flying Frenchman Gael Monfils, I was thinking: “Wow, this is better.” Yes, I can already see the comments flowing in from my readers. “But he lost to another player outside the top 30”. “He lost before the quarterfinals”. But hold that thought for a second.

What you might not have noticed, is that Federer actually made a couple of adjustments in his game. The forehand, which used to be lethal, but this year has been a liability, was making a comeback. Sure, he missed some. But he was GOING FOR IT. He was hitting through the forehand, and not shanking very many. He ran around as many backhands as he could to get some forehands. I’ll put the highlights in here so you guys get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately the guy on the other side of the net might be the greatest athlete in tennis. Gael is special to watch, and his defense combined with some controlled aggression were reminiscent to his top 10 days. When he is serving that big and that clutch, its going to be tough for even the worlds best to beat him.

Now yes, I will say that Roger looked a little rusty, especially on the backhand. He also came in on some pretty poor approach shots, but that can be fixed with a little more match play. But his movement looked very crisp, and it was not Federer, but instead Monfils who was gassed towards the end of the match.

As he heads to Basel, where Rafael Nadal is also scheduled to play, I think Roger is going to start playing some good tennis. He’s back home, in Switzerland, and back on his favorite surface; indoor hard courts. He needs to win some matches to guarantee a spot in the World Tour Finals, and I think he should be okay because of Andy Murray’s Withdrawal.

Federer lost the battle today, but he may well be on his way to winning the war. That doesn’t mean getting back to #1 in the world, but I think he has some good results left in him. In 2011, he won Basel, Paris Indoors, and the WTF to end his season. He used that as a springboard into 2012, where he returned to top form. Let’s see if Roger can repeat that 2011 effort in 2013.

 

Cincinnati Weekend Recap

Nadal champion

 

For the first time, Rafael Nadal captured back to back hard court titles. First in Montreal, and yesterday in Cincinanti. The Spaniard showed no signs of injury in his knees and grinded his way to victory, taking out Tomas Berdych in the semis on Saturday and upset minded John Isner yesterday.

 

The matchup with Isner was most intriging because Nadal didn’t even have a break point but still ended up winning in straight sets. 2 typical tiebreakers when going up against the big serving American. Credit to Nadal though for coming through in the tiebreakers and holding serve time in and time out.

 

Big confidence booster for Isner though. He had been struggling for most of the year and picked up some great wins here against Mayer, Gasquet, Raonic, Djokovic, and Del Potro. I do question his choice to play Winston Salem though. He may be the 2 time defending champion, I am afraid he will run out of gas by the late stages of the Open.

 

Speaking of the Open, we have one week until day 1 of the open and one day till the start of qualifying! The US Open Playoff Singles final is today between former collegiate starts Jeff Dadamo and Matija Pekovic. The winner gets a wild card into the qualies. We will be back with Winston Salem coverage and US Open qualifying coverage, specifically focusing on the Americans in the group. Enjoy the tennis!

The Federer-Nadal Rivalry At Its Best

ATP Masters in Mason

Going into Friday’s quarterfinal at the Western and Southern Open, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal we’re heading in two completely different directions. Nadal, playing maybe the best hard court tennis of his career, had just won in Montreal, beating the world number 1 in route to his 25th Masters 1000 crown. Federer, on the other hand, was in the midst of his worst year as a pro in 10+ years, with his ranking falling to a distant number 5. Nadal was the 2/7 betting favorite, and most “experts” gave Federer little to no chance at winning the match. Even I, the biggest of Fed-fans, only hoped for Federer to stay competitive and not get embarrassed. What unfolded Friday night was unexpected, and awesome.

You all probably know by now, that Rafa won the match in three tight sets, 5-7 6-4 6-3. That in itself was a shock to most people including myself. Federer’s form coming in to the match was nothing to shout about, and for a set and half against Tommy Haas in the Round of 16, Roger looked to be on the road to retirement. He was down 1-6 2-4, before mounting an impressive comeback to win the third set 6-3. It must be said that Haas gave Federer much of that match, and so Federer must have felt pretty lucky to get through that one. Rafa’s Round of 16 was tough as well, as he wore down “Baby Fed”, Grigor Dimitrov, in three sets. Still, after seeing both of them play, Nadal was the absolute favorite.

As the first few games of the match went by, you knew it was so important for Roger to stay on serve to get some confidence. After fighting to hold in his first service game, Roger loosened up, and the level of tennis started to pick up. Federer’s trademark forehand has looked shaky at best the past few months, but on Friday it was clicking. When Fed’s timing is on, there is nobody better to watch in the sport. He was hitting both the inside-in and inside-out forehands with great aggressiveness and precision. He was also returning better than he usually does against Nadal. He was hitting over a lot of backhand returns and was able to get the first ball into Nadal’s backhand corner, something he often tries but rarely executes.

At 5-5 30-all with Nadal serving, Federer cooked a Forehand winner that landed flat on the baseline. After a long rally in which Roger kept the ball the Nadal’s backhand time after time, he had the break. He served out the set with an unreal backhand cross court winner, and everybody’s expectations changed.

The second set’s level of play was even better. Federer played just about as well, but Nadal started to return much better and was starting to direct nearly every ball at the Federer backhand. He manufactured a break at 5-4 to win the second set, and all of the momentum was on his side. He broke to open the third, and got to 5-3 40-love. Three match points. And one minute later, all three matchpoints were gone, two saved by great winners from Federer. He saved a fourth, but it was fifth time lucky for Nadal, who curled a forehand down the line that looked to just catch the line. Federer chose not to challenge, but the Hawkeye replay showed the ball to be 1 millimeter out(well within the margin of air). Was the ball out? Would that have changed the outcome of the match? Probably not, but you never know.

Moral of the story: This great rivalry was thought to be over, and last night proved it isn’t. Federer gave his fans a lot of hope for the future, and Nadal proved why he’s the best tennis player in the world right now. I’ve got a feeling Rog has something to say at this years US Open…which Chris and I are lucky enough to be attending!

Cincinnati Early Round Recap

Nadal Yellow   It’s good to be back! Before I start with the main draw of Cincy, I just want to say that I was very impressed by the play of American youngster Mackenzie McDonald in qualies. He defeated 2 tough opponents in Nicolas Mahut and Steve Johnson to advance to his first ATP main draw. He was beaten down by David Goffin in the first round, but it’s good to know that American tennis has some bright young players that we can look forward to, As for the main draw, most of the matches have been fairly straight forward with all the top seeds advancing to the round of 16. I am going to break down the action by each quarter.

Novak Djokovic’s quarter: Djokovic was given no trouble today as he improved to 8 – 0 against Argentinian Juan Monaco by a score of 7 – 5, 6 – 2. Djokovic has a fairly routine route to the semis as he will play Goffin in the next. Goffin has plenty of talent, but no one (except Nadal right now) can stay with Nole from the baseline. Goffin did pick up a great win against red hot Vasek Pospisil in an epic tiebreaker in the third. Goffin saved 3 match points. As for the other part of the quarter, Milos Raonic continues to make an impact on the ATP. He recently became the first Canadian to crack the top 10 and has now picked up 2 solid wins to begin his campaign in Cincy. He defeated American youngster Jack Sock in three sets in the first round and then fought off Serbian big shot Janko Tipsarevic today. Tipsy picked up a good win against Sam Querrey in the first round. As for American #1 John Isner, he pulled off what could have been the biggest win of his year by upseting #8 seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets. I really thought this would be a tough one for Isner, but he looked a lot more aggresive today with his forehand and I think it flustered the Frenchman a little. Should be quite the serving display tomorrow when Isner and Raonic face off tomorrow,

David Ferrer’s quarter: Even though Ferrer and Del Potro both advanced to the round of 16, the real story of this quarter has been Ryan Harrison. Ryan picked up a huge win against Dolgopolov in the first round before his match up with Ferrer. Now given both of their game styles, u would think Ferrer would easily out grind Harrison. But from what I saw, Ryan was extremely aggresive. A completely different player that looked way more confident that he usual did, Ferrer did end up wearing Harrison down to win 6 – 4 in the third, but there is no doubt that the help from Brad Gilbert has certainly helped Ryan progress in his career. The big upset in this section was my boy James Blake defeating the Polish cannon, Jerzy Janowicz. Jerzy boy was certainly not at his best and James took advantage of that. Surprisingly, it was Blake’s defense that won him a lot of points. Blake lost to Dimitry Tursunov today in straights. Tursunov will play Ferrer tomorrow, The other part of the section was straight forward with Del Potro and Lopez advancing to play in the round of 16 as well.

Rafael Nadal’s quarter:

This is easily the most difficult quarter of the whole draw starting tomorrow. The only “surprise” was when Grigor Dimitrov defeated Nicolas Almagro. But Dimitrov is so talented that I wasn’t really shocked by that. Nice win for Brian Baker over Denis Istomin to get his campaign back on track after his injurt in Melbourne all those months ago. The round of 16 matchups can’t get much better in this quarter with Federer playing Haas and Nadal playing Dimitrov. That should be quite tasty.

Andy Murray’s quarter:

Murray cruised by Youzhny today in straights and will take on Frenchman Julien Benneteau tomorrow. Radek Stepanek had a nice win over Fabio Fognini in the first round before falling to Benneteau. Tomas Berdych also advanced easily over Jarkko Nieminen. The most surprising win came to Tommy Robredo over Stan Wawrinka. Both have had exceptional years though but Stan cracked the top 10 this year so that is certainly a surprise. But all of his should know better than to count out the Spaniard after what he did at Roland Garros. Robredo will be up against a stern test against Berdych tomorrow.

Enjoy everybody!

We’re Back!

rajisback

 

After a brutal one month layoff, we at the Tennis Nerds are back! We hope that you haven’t forgot about us, because we certainly haven’t forgot about our readers. Both Chris and I have been busy working summer jobs and taking summer classes, so we weren’t able to keep up on the blog. Don’t think for a second that we missed any of the numerous tournaments, such as Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Toronto. We just weren’t able to write and contribute for the past few weeks.

But we’re ready to fire the engines back up! This week is the last major stop on the road to the US Open, where almost every player in the top 50 is competing in Mason, (Just outside of Cincinnati) Ohio. The Western and Southern Open is a Masters 1000 event, and our man Roger Federer returned to the tour with a win last night over Phillip Kohlshreiber. Roger is defending a win from 2012, so he needs to play well to maintain his place in the rankings. Novak Djokovic is looking to make history this week, because if he can win the title he will become the first player to ever win every Masters 1000 event. He is about to close out Juan Monaco as I write this post.

We have some big plans for the site as we approach the US Open, and we’re ready to engage with our readers once again. What are your guys’ thoughts on the tennis as we get closer to the final grand slam? Rafa’s successful return? Comment below and we’ll be sure to respond!