The Australian Open Court Speed Debate

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If you’ve been watching the Australian Open for the past two days, then you have undoubtably heard commentators, analysts, and players discussing the speed of the court in Melbourne. Court speed is debated at just about every grand slam. Consensus opinion is that court speeds in this era are medium-slow to very slow at just about each major. For those of you who have watched enough tennis, you know the affect the speed of a surface can have on the game.

What I’ve noticed in watching the action is that yes, the courts look slightly faster. I mean slightly. This is not an event-altering adjustment. The outside courts look to be a bit quicker than the Stadium courts, as the players have reported. And as Brad Gilbert said, the new balls at this years Aussie Open aren’t fluffing up as much as years past, allowing them to get through the court a bit quicker. But even with these modifications, the tennis hasn’t been impacted too much. Part of the reason the courts are playing quick is because it’s so hot, over 100 degrees on Tuesday. When it’s hot outside(and especially dry heat like they have in Melbourne), the balls fly through the air much quicker. In contrast, if you’ve watched any of the night matches you’ll have noticed a significant drop in the court speed. Djokovic and Lacko, and even Nadal and Tomic’s matches looked to be playing much slower than the day.

So all that crap begs the question: Should the courts be faster?

As somebody who enjoys aggressive, attacking tennis, I always felt that quicker courts would lend themselves to more aggressive play, and they do. But you have to be careful, because at a point the tennis starts to get boring for the fans with razor quick courts. First serve unreturned. Second serve chipped back to the middle, forehand winner. First serve unreturned. The rallies are short, and therefore the matches are short. Tournament officials are stuck between giving fans a good show, and allowing players easier times on their bodies.

Everybody remembers the epic Djokovic vs Nadal Final in Melbourne ’12. All 6 hours of it. And because of how slow that court was playing, it seemed like every rally was going at least 20 strokes. This, obviously, made the players tired, and therefore they began to take very long time between points. With the new 25 second rule, those guys would have defaulted in the third set. So if we really want to enforce these new rules then the surface speed is kind of forced to be faster.

Is this good for fans? I don’t know yet. I always used to agree with the old-timers and say,”yeah, lets make these courts faster.” But I’m starting to rethink my position. The courts in Brisbane and Sydney were really fast, and there weren’t a lot of long rallies. I started to say to myself,”this is kinda boring…”

So I guess I’ve come up with a conclusion that is fair for everyone. How about we don’t go just one way or another, and instead make each Grand Slam have very different characteristics. Believe it or not, the French Open has been getting quicker over the years. Wimbledon has slowed down significantly and the US Open is…inconsistent. How about the Australian Open goes back to being really slow with a high bounce, Roland Garros goes back to its slower speed, while Wimbledon and the US Open get sped up?

What do you think? I might have just confused myself writing this article.

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The Wimbledon Final- What it Means For Both Players

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The Wimbledon Men’s Final is set, and the fans could not ask for much more. It was a crazy tournament, with numerous seeds going down in the early-going, but in the end, the top 2 players in the world stated the course and set a blockbuster final. Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray. These two have played 18 times before, and although Djokovic only leads 11-7, he is 3-1 in Grand Slams against Murray. This match is very significant  for each player, so let’s break down what this match means to each man.

Novak Djokovic- For Novak, this match means redemption. We all know the story; he was up a break in the fifth set of his epic semifinal clash with Rafa Nadal at the French Open when he made a huge mistake by touching the net on an easy put-away. He ended up losing that match, and it was one of the toughest losses in Novak’s career. He said at the beginning of the season that his goal was to win the French Open, and he failed, which makes this match all the more important. It would be huge for Nole to come back right and win Wimbledon, and get redemption for his defeat at the French Open.

Andy Murray- For Andy, this match means…everything. I know that seems like a bit much, but it’s the truth. He has the expectation of a nation on his shoulders, and nothing other than a win will be good enough. He reached the final last year, and if he loses in the final again this year it will be a huge disappointment for him and for the UK. It’s an unfair burden to put on one man, but that’s what happens when the last British man to win Wimbledon was Fred Perry in 1936. The pressure will be immense, but that’s nothing new for Murray. He’s matured over the years, and he plays for himself rather than for the UK. This match means everything to the man they call the Muzzard.

The Matchup- These guys play very similar game styles, and so matches tend to go very long. Both guys would be labeled counter-punchers, but they both have the ability to play agressive. The winner of this match will be the one who dictates play better with the serve and forehand, because both have unbelievable 2 handed backhands. Also, the player that attacks their opponents 2nd serve most effectively will most likely come out on top.

Who has the Edge? 

Forehand- Djokovic

Backhand- Murray

1st Serve- Murray

2nd Serve- Djokovic

Return- Even

Movement on Grass- Murray

Intangibles- Djokovic

The Winner Will Be… Andy Murray. This one is so hard for me to pick. If this was anywhere but Wimbledon I would have picked Novak, but this just seems like Murray’s year. I don’t particularly like either player, but both have unbelievable physical fitness and mental strength. For me, the difference is going to be the crowd. The Djoker look irritated in his semifinal match that the crowd was for Delpo, and it’s going to be so much worse tomorrow. Murray will ride the wave of emotion from himself and the crowd, to win this one in 4 tight sets.

Thoughts?

 

Day 5: Ordinary at Best

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It was one of the more anti-climactic days thus far at Wimbledon, with not too many exciting matches or upsets. But at The Tennis Nerds, we thrive on the so-called “boring” days of tennis!

Murray Strong to Quite Strong- In his first real test thus far, Andy Murray passed with flying colors. His opponent, Tommy Robredo, is playing some of the best tennis of his life at 31, and he was on top form coming into the match. He had no answer for Murray however, who dominated in a straight sets victory. The final scoreline was 6-2 6-4 7-5, but the match was never really in doubt. Murray returned exceptionally well, winning 64% of Robredo’s second serve points. The pressure seemed to have no effect on him, but we’ll see if that changes as the tournament goes on.

Jerzy Looking to Make a Deep Run- Jerzy Janowicz pulled off a minor upset over Nico Almagro Friday, but many people including myself thought that Jerzy would win this match. The most surprising thing was how easily he won it. Jerzy usually has some lapses in concentration, but today he was rock solid mentally. He won in straight sets 7-6(6) 6-3 6-4. Pretty impressive for him to break the spaniards serve that many times, as Almagro is currently the tour leader in aces. Janowicz huge serve serves him very on the grass, and his flat groundstrokes react well to the surface. He has a real shot to make the semi’s of a slam at only 22 years of age.

Haas Quietly Taking Care of Business- Tommy Haas is back inside the top 15 in the world, and he has quietly taken care of business thus far. He took out Jimmy Wang in his postponed second round match by a score of 6-3 6-2 7-5. He’s made the semi’s here before, and grass may be his favorite surface. His awesome one-handed backhand excels on the surface because of how early he takes the ball. His strong serve and nice slice fare well also. Look for him to set a blockbuster quarter with Novak Djokovic.

My Picks- This Wacky Wimbledon has not treated my picks well. I successfully picked Jerzy over Nice, but whiffed on Dustin Brown. Overall, I was 3 for 4, but 4 matches were postponed due to rain.

Day 5 Preview and Picks

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Some second round matches still need to be finished Friday, but the bottom half of the draw will start their third round, and the draw is WIDE OPEN. The opportunity to make a deep run may never be better for many of these players, so it will be interesting to see who steps up.

Dimitrov and Zemlja Resume- Down 8-9 in the 5th set, Grigor Dimitrov will look to come out strong and win a match he should win 9 times out of 10. You have to give credit to Zemlja though, as he has given everything he has in this match. He’s usually the one playing defense, but if Dimitrov can’t finish points like Thursday, he could pull off the upset. Already made my pick yesterday, but I’ll take a guess at the final score. Dimitrov 14-12 in the 5th.

Dustin Brown vs Adrian Mannarino- What an opportunity for these two. Dustin Brown has quickly become a fan favorite after beating Lleyton Hewitt, playing some unreal serve and volley tennis. I’ve followed him for a few years, and if you don’t yet know his story, it’s inspiring. He traveled with his family from future to future in camper van, using the little prize money he got to pay for gas. These two actually played earlier this year on the challenger tour, with Mannarino coming out on top. Brown’s forehand is crazy. It can leave you speechless, out of admiration, or shock. However, on this surface, with the crowd at his back, Brown will ride the wave of momentum to reach the round of 16 in 4 sets.

Ernests Gulbis vs Fernando Verdasco- Both of these players have outrageous amounts of talent, and are really great shotmakers. Gulbis was playing well and leading Jo Wilfried Tsonga before Jo Willy retired with a knee injury, and Gulbis is a great character. I love this guy, and this is a pretty good matchup for him. Verdasco has a huge forehand, but he usually hits it cross-court; which feeds right into Gulbis’ strength, his two-handed backhand. I’m taking Gulbis in 5.

Andy Murray vs Tommy Robredo- Great Britain’s hopes for a Grand Slam champion may never be better than this year. With the hope, comes extreme expectation for Andy Murray. As the saying goes, “when he wins he’s British, when he loses he’s Scottish.” Tommy Robredo is playing remarkable tennis at his ripe old age of 32. After becoming the first ever player to win 3 straight matches from 2 sets to love down, Robredo went down to Ferrer at the French Open. His game on grass isn’t great, so Murray should roll in straight sets.

Nicolas Almagro vs Jerzy Janowicz- This one could be match of the day. Janowicz has a shot to make the semi’s if he can take out the Nico. I’m thinking Jerzy boy in 5 sets.

Victor Troicki vs Mikhail Youzhny- Youzhny in 4.

Jurgen Melzer vs Sergiy Stakhovsky- Melzer in 4.

Juan Monaco vs Kenny De Schepper- Monaco in 3.

Benoit Paire vs Lucasz Kubot- Paire in 4.

Here we go!

Day 4: Restoring Order

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After one of the most surprising and dramatic day’s in grand slam history, Thursday at Wimbledon restored order. Novak Djokovic and company most took care of business, with only a couple of upsets on the grass. Let’s get into it!

Djokovic In Control- After seeing so many of the top seeds fall, Djokovic is sure to be focused during his matches, because he knows that the other players now have belief that they can beat the top players. Unfortunately for his opponent today, Bobby Reynolds, the outcome of the match was never really in doubt. Although the first set went to a tiebreak, Djokovic barely lost any points on his serve, and was generating numerous break points of his own. He won the match by a score of 7-6(2) 6-3 6-1. It must be noted that Djokovic was not playing his best on the big points, as he converted only 4 of 18 break point opportunities. He will need that stat to improve if he wants to win the title.

Rain Finally Back- The weather had beed uncharacteristically good for the first 3 and half days, but the rain was bound to come eventually. Tommy Haas and David Ferrer’s matches were both postponed to tomorrow, and many players still have to finish their matches. The most notable of these is Grigor Dimitrov vs Grega Zemlja. Zemlja leads 9-8 in the fifth set of that match, although it’s on serve. Dimitrov needs to come out sharp tomorrow to win that match.

7-8-9- We’ve kind of ignored the 7, 8, and 9 seeds thus far in our previews, but they are quietly going about their business. Tomas Berdych outclassed Daniel Brands in straight sets, and his game looks very good at the moment. After losing first round at the French, the Birdman looks determined. He is in Djokovic’s quarter, and that would be a very good match. Juan Martin Del Potro also won in straight sets today, beating Jesse Levine. He can be dangerous on grass (Bronze metal at Olympics ’12), but he has never reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon. He plays the winner of the Dimitrov match next. Richard Gasquet had a little more trouble than the other two, but he eventually won comfortably in 4 sets over Go Soeda. He could play Berdych in the round of 16.

My Picks- Not such a great day for me. Not all matches completed, but I whiffed pretty bad on Denis Kudla, Milos Raonic, and James Blake. I ended up 7 for 11.

Day 4 Preview

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After the major carnage on day 3, let’s hope day 4 at Wimbledon can restore some order. The seeds in the top half have fared much better than those of the bottom half. There are many good matches on the schedule for tomorrow, so lets take a look.

Tomas Berdych vs Daniel Brands- After taking out a tricky first round opponent in Martin Klizan, things don’t get any easier for Tomas Berdych. The Birdman takes on the big serving Daniel Brands, whose game fits the grass well. Berdych has never played Name Brands, but he’ll be aware of his opponents talent. Look for a few tiebreaks in this one. I’m taking Berdych in 4.

James Blake vs Bernard Tomic- Theses two players are at the opposite ends of their career. Blake has never played very well at Wimbledon, but he’s got an opportunity to make the third round for the first time in 5 years. Bernie Tomic apparently can’t play that well unless his dad is in the stands, and he won’t be their due to his ban from the ATP for headbutting Bernard’s hitting partner. Tomic has the talent, but doesn’t seem to have the passion to be a top player yet. I’m taking Blake in 5.

Denis Kudla vs Ivan Dodig- Most people aren’t talking about this match, but I love Kudla. He also has a great opportunity, after Dodig took out Phillip Kohlshreiber in the first round. Dodig is very up and down. He beat Nadal in 2011, but I’ve also seen him play some horrible matches. I’m thinking Kudla continues his run and wins in 5 grueling sets.

Novak Djokovic vs Bobby Reynolds- Djokovic’s mouth must have a smile on his face after all the top seeds going down early. However, he knows that he has to make sure he doesn’t catch the upset bug. He shouldn’t have a problem with Bobby Reynolds. The American is a journeyman with not too many weapons, so Novak should win 3 routine sets.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Jesse Levine- Delpo in 3.

David Ferrer vs Roberto Bautista Agut- Ferrer in 3.

Richard Gasquet vs Go Soeda- Gasquet in 3.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Grega Zemlja- Dimitrov in 3. (I’m pulling for Grigor bigtime now that Fed is out)

Tommy Haas vs Jimmy Wang- Haas in 3.

Kei Nishikori vs Leonardo Mayer- Nishikori in 3.

Santiago Giraldo vs Alexandr Dolgopolov- Dolgopolov in 4.

Milos Raonic Igor Sijsling- Raonic in 4.

Michael Llodra vs Andreas Seppi- Llodra in 4.

Jeremy Chardy vs Jan-Lennard Struff- Chardy in 4.

Feliciano Lopez vs Paul-Henri Mathieu- Lopez in 4.

Kevin Anderson vs Michal Przysiezny- Anderson in 3.

Who do you guys have on upset alert?