The Tweener Podcast: Episode 3

It’s Episode 3 and we are wrapping it all up from the Australian Open. We give out our tweener of the week and talk about our lasting impressions from the year’s first grand slam. Featured this week is a discussion with Ben Rothenberg, a New York Times contributing writer who has been working hard in Melbourne. We talk about the culture that surrounds the tennis media. Finally we announce the first winner of our Stick It Wear?! Competition and give a sneak peak into next week. As always, all feedback is encouraged and appreciated!

Podcast Shortcuts

Intro–00:00
Tweener of the Week–01:19
Ben Rothenberg Opening–03:05
BR: Match Fixing–04:20
BR: Media Reaction–08:58
BR: Tennis Media Culture+Conflicts of Interest–12:20
BR: Big Brother Cams in Australia–21:49
Australian Open Look Back–23:55
Stick It Wear Shirt Winner Announced–31:30

Tweener Of The Week


(Tweener of the week honorable mention)
giphy (1)

Stick It Wear Shirt of The Week

90sHAIR
Australian Open Competition Winner: Kevin Craig
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The Tweener Podcast, Episode 2

In episode 2 of The Tweener Podcast, Joey and Zach are joined by Mike Cation. Cation is the play-by-play commentator on the USTA Pro Circuit. We discuss at length the issue that is rocking tennis; match fixing. We also talk to Mike about the upcoming year on the challenger tour, focusing on the young Americans. Finally, Zach and I give a little week 2 preview for the Australian Open. As always we would like to thank Stick It Wear?! for partnering with us. Make sure to check out their shirts!

Podcast Shortcuts 

01:35 — Tweener of the Week

05:10 — Mike Cation Interview Begins: Match Fixing

25:20 — Talking Maui and Young Americans

40:52 — Australian Open Second Week Preview

Tweener of the Week 

Stick It Wear?! Shirt of the Week

90sHAIR

Fratangelo Wins Launceston Challenger, Breaks Top 200

Fratangelo watching from the stands in Melbourne. Photo via; Ben Rothenberg

Fratangelo watching from the stands in Melbourne.  Photo via: Ben Rothenberg

Bjorn Fratangelo had a strong 2014 season. He won five futures titles and reached the quarterfinals of two challengers. The 21 year old finished the year with a career high ranking of 261. Fratangelo’s ranking was just on the border of making the Australian Open Qualifying cut, and when The Tennis Nerds spoke to Fratangelo back in November, the Pittsburgh native seemed pretty confident he would make that cut.

Fast forward to January. Fratangelo flew to Melbourne after a decent week at the challenger in New Caledonia. He practiced with many fellow Americans, including his friend Bradley Klahn. As the days wound down, some players began to withdrawal and Bjorn was getting closer. Finally, the qualifying draw had come out; Fratangelo missed the cut by a mere two spots.

“It was brutal to be two out. It hurt, but in a way it motivated me. I tried to take positives and make it a good training week. To just be around that atmosphere is unbelievable,” Fratangelo told The Tennis Nerds Monday.

Despite missing the cut, Fratangelo stayed in Australia for three more weeks and played two $50,000 Challengers; Burnie and Launceston. He won two matches in Burnie before falling to Alex Bolt in the quarterfinals.

However, Fratangelo’s trip down under was capped by the biggest accomplishment of his professional career, as he won his maiden challenger title in Launceston, defeating a promising 18 year old, Hyeon Chung, 4-6 6-2 7-5.

“This win makes it all worth it. I put in a lot of work in Melbourne and it paid off,” Fratangelo said. “I thought (the final) was a good match from both of us. The ball striking was great. I think the crowd enjoyed it as well.”

Chung is already nearing the top 10o, and had just won the title in Burnie the week prior. The level of play from both, especially in the third set, was incredibly solid. Fratangelo had many chances in the third set, and finally broke serve after a marathon game at 5-5. On one deuce point, the two engaged in a very long exchange that ended with the American receiving some good fortune.

“That crazy drop shot I hit at 5 all got under his skin a bit. That was the luckiest shot I’ve ever hit,” Fratangelo said.

The title earned Fratangelo 80 ranking points, and he soared up the ATP rankings to a career high of #172 Monday. By comparison, in June of 2014, the American was as low at #535. The new ranking gives the American more opportunities to play higher level events.

“The ranking is definitely higher than I thought it would be,” Fratangelo said. “I’m gonna try to ride the wave out where I basically have no points coming off. Im gonna play Indian wells qualifying and then Irving(challenger). Now that I’m up there a bit I wanna keep testing myself against guys close to the top 100.”

Fratangelo’s roommate in Florida is fellow young American Mitchell Krueger, who himself has had a nice start to 2015. You can read our Q&A with Krueger here. Krueger won the doubles title in Launceston with Radu Albot, taking out the team of Hubble/Statham 11-9 in the third set super-tiebreak.

Fratangelo and Krueger have spent a lot of time together through juniors and now professionally.

“We’re like brothers. We’re sarcastic towards each together, and we have fun together,” Fratangelo said. “He’s an easy guy to get along with and live with. He’s helped me a lot as far as traveling goes. He can go for months, where I start to lose it a bit after a few weeks, but traveling with him has made me calm down a lot.”

Full match replay of Launceston Final:

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/5057055/events/3782996/videos/77163414/player?autoPlay=false&height=360&mute=false&width=640

Australian Open Quarterfinal Picks–Dimitrov/Nadal and Federer/Murray

baby and fed

There are two blockbuster quarterfinals tonight, with both Baby and Uncle Fed participating. In all seriousness, these have the potential to be great matches, and my roommate Jorge Merlos has joined me to break down the match-ups and make our picks.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Rafael Nadal

Joey: This match has the uncertainty factor. Nadal definitely goes in as the favorite, but there are a few things that could have a massive impact on the outcome of the match. For one, Rafa has grabbed his knee a few times throughout the tournament, and it’s unclear whether he is 100% healthy. The massive blister on his palm could bother him, but he should be able to fight through that. Another unknown is how Dimitov will perform at this level in the most pressure packed match of his life. He had not been past the third round of a Grand Slam before this tournament, and although he has performed exceptionally well thus far, you never know what might happen given the uncharted territory.

The matchup is always tough for a one-hander like Dimitrov against Nadal, but Grigor has taken a set off of Rafa in each of their previous three meetings. Interestingly enough, it has always been the second set, and I believe if Grigor wants a shot at this one he will need to win the first. Unlike most players, Baby Fed hits a very sharp slice that actually can give Nadal trouble. In Cincinnati last year he used the shot very effectively, keeping Rafa on the back foot. It will be interesting to see how much he decides to come over the ball, because his one-hander at shoulder level almost always lands short. We pretty much know what we are going to get from Rafa, who never gives anything away, and always makes the opponent earn the match. Dimitrov has served exceptionally well and he will need that to continue to have any shot. My head tells me Rafa, as does every expert analyst out there, but sometimes you gotta go with your heart right?

Dimitrov 7-6(4) 6-4 2-6 1-6 7-5

Jorge: La Rodilla! The blister! Stop it. After beating Kei Nishikori on Monday, Rafael Nadal is poised to stop the Fed of the future, Grigor Dimitrov. If Dimitrov wants to win this match, his serves have to be on point. Last year in the round of 16 against Nadal at Cincinnati, Dimitrov won 38 of 54 point of his first serve. However winning points off his second serve was not as efficient as he won 12 out of 29 points.

Dimitrov has been able to win at least a set on Nadal in each of their matches but Nadal has been able to close out every match. Grigor takes a lot of positive momentum into this match after taking out Raonic and Bautista Agut, but Nadal looks unstoppable after beating his last 3 opponents in 3 sets. Look for Nadal to use his forehand to break down Grigor’s backhand, and attack Dimitrov’s unstable return game. I see this match ending with a very tough 4th set tiebreaker with Nadal eventually pulling it out.

Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7).

Roger Federer vs Andy Murray

Joey: A little after Baby takes the court, Uncle Fed will take center stage against Andy Murray. The two played a great, but not necessarily high quality match one year ago in Melbourne. Murray is coming off of back surgery and has played three players outside the top 100 in route to the quarters, so to say he’s had a weak draw would be an understatement. He has looked sharp though, only dropping one set to Stephane Robert in the round of 16. Through his first four matches it appeared that Murray had a few lapses in concentration, but that is understandable given the competition. He does look fully healthy, but playing his 5th match in 10 days will be a big test for back. After playing somewhat scratchy against James Duckworth in the first round, Federer has looked awesome in last three matches, culminating with a dominant performance over Jo Willy Tsonga that gave all Fed-fans some serious hope and belief.

Murray leads the head to head 11-9, while Federer leads the Grand Slam record 3-1. Hard courts are definitely the Muzza’s best surface, with his movement giving his opponents fits. The surface on Rod Laver Arena in a little quicker this year, but it’s a night match so condition will slow down. With the new racket, Federer has been serving very effeciently, even adding a few m.p.h.’s. His wide serve in the deuce court has been especially potent, and he uses that serve on almost every first point of his service games. Murray has played Federer with more aggressiveness in their past few meetings, and it will be important he does so against, because Federer has been bossing his opponents around the court. I think we know what to expect from Murray, a good solid performance. Federer is much more of a questions. However, there is a certain fire in Fed’s eyes and you know how badly he wants to prove the doubters wrong. Again, I’ll admit it, I’m picking with my heart.

Federer 6-3 7-5 6-7(5) 6-4

Jorge: I readily admit that I did not expect this match to happen. I did not see Federer beating Tsonga, and certainly not with that kind of  conviction, crushing Jo Willy in straight sets. It was the perfect way for Fed to come into this matchup against Murray. Murray has looked solid in his first few matches coming back from surgery but has not faced a big challenge from any opponent.

What I have seen from Federer in the past week has been amazing after a dismal 2013.  If Federer can move like he has been for the past couple matches, he can win this match. Look for more of the serve and volley from Roger to neutralize the Murray backhand return. The serve and volley tactic won’t seal the deal, but it will be a key part in winning the match.

Federer 5-7 6-4 7-6 (4) 3-6 6-4.

Go ahead, blast our picks. But I want to hear from you guys. As Brad Gilbert and Ricky Dimon  would say, who ya got and scoreline?