Reflections from Roland Garros: Day 1

The French Open is back, and so are we! It’s been a long layoff for The Tennis Nerds. I had a lot on  my plate over the last few months, including school, college tennis, and figuring out plans for the future. But I have some exciting news that I’ll be sharing very soon, but first, let’s begin our daily series from the French Open, where I reflect on anything and everything that I found interesting from the action of that day.

Roger’s Racquet is STILL Blacked Out– Okay, this isn’t exactly breaking news, but it still baffles me that Roger Federer, the most recognizable and marketable tennis player on earth, has a tennis racquet with no design on it. Wilson has had something like 6 months to design and name the new weapon that has treated the Swiss star so well this season, but they are still painting the frame all black, and simply stenciling the Wilson “W”. Think about how much money they could make if they offered Federer’s frame to the public? People would go crazy over that thing. Even Federer’s old racquet, the Pro Staff 90, which should not be used by anybody other than a professional, sells off the charts. Go to your local tennis club, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The 5 Set Warrior: Mikhail Youzhny– It seems like every time I look at the live scores of one of Youzhny’s matches, it goes the distance. Seriously, the guy plays 5 set matches ALL THE TIME. Check out his ITF Tennis page, and see for yourself how often he plays these types of drama filled matches. Today, he went down two sets to none on the youngster Pablo Carreno Busta. He only won 4 games through the first two sets. And that’s when the comeback began. As he was clawing his way back, the crowd started to really embrace the unpredictable Russian. He won 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-4 6-0, and finished with his classic Soldier Salute. I still believe it’s the best celebration in tennis. Also a word for Radek Stepanek, who himself came back from 2 sets down to defeat Facundo Arguello on Sunday.

It’s Not The French Open Without Scheduling Controversy– When it was announced that 8-time and defending champion Rafael Nadal was to begin his 2014 campaign on Suzanne Lenglen, there was a lot of questioning of the decision from fellow players such as John Isner, to the outrage of media members and fans on social media. It’s very interesting to me, because the French Open is different than any other major when it comes to scheduling. Because they don’t play under the lights, only 4 matches(2 men’s, 2 women’s) are scheduled  per day on the big show courts. Tournament organizers decided that Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka would serve as better options than the 14 time grand slam champ. At any other slam, Nadal would have been an automatic for Center Court.

But when I thought about their reasoning, it sort of makes sense to me. Roland Garros, more than any other slam, aims please their fans. The Paris crowd has never really loved Rafa. Sure, they have a ton of respect for him, but his style of play is not the type that the French really love. They appreciate a little flair, and almost anybody who speaks their language. Roger Federer is treated as one of their own during his fortnight in Paris. Even Novak Djokovic, who over the years has become pretty fluent in the French language, is now getting serious support from the Parisians. So think about it. Do you think the French Crowd would rather watch Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic? The last two times the two met at Roland Garros, it was Djokovic who had the crowd slightly behind him, especially last year. Now, Nadal or Wawrinka? The French love Stan. He has the one handed backhand, throws in the dropshot, and is fluent in French. While it’s probably not right that an 8 time champion isn’t put on Center court, it does make sense if you think about from the tournament organizers eyes.

Speaking of the French Crowd– They show their players more support than probably any other country, except for maybe the Fanatics of Australia. Alize Lim held in first service game, and the Paris faithful was already rocking. They were incredible for Tsonga, and I can only imagine how loud they’ll be for their favorite player; Gael Monfils.

Sidenote– How awesome would it be if Monfils made a deep run into the tournament this year? I, for one, am completely behind that notion.

The Clay is Playing Slow, like Really Slow– It’s wet, it’s cloudy, and it’s slow. The red clay is already the slowest of the four surfaces, but when it’s cold and rainy, it is nearly impossible to hit through the court. I really noticed this in Federer and Lacko’s match on Chatrier. The show courts are tended the best, and for that reason they are also usually the slowest. Combine that with the moist conditions, and you get the idea. They say the weather is supposed to be just as bad if not worse for at least the next 5 days, and it will be interesting to see how it affects the tournament. Nadal actually likes the hot, fast, high bouncing conditions much more than the slow clumpy stuff that will be out there this week. However he should roll through his first few matches.

That’s it for day 1, but I’ll be back tomorrow! Also, if you missed it, here are my analysis and picks for some of Monday’s best matches: http://wp.me/p2TliK-2tL

Advertisements

Wimbledon – Manic Monday Recap

Fernando

 

It’s good to  be back! Chris Hayes has returned from his job with the USTA to please all our viewers again. I have been working a futures event here in Rochester and will get to that later in the week, probably after Wimbledon. I will share my experiences as press aide and player liasion and watching some of the future stars of men’s tennis. But let’s get back to Wimbledon!

If you told me that the Polish duo of Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot would be the quarterfinal matchup instead of Nadal and Federer, I might have punched you in the face. Alas, here we are and that is exactly what we have. Lukasz Kubot, Wimbledon quarterfinalist. Just doesn’t sound right coming out of my mouth. Joey and I have seen the talent in Janowicz and this is a real opportunity for him. Jerzy has actually had some solid wins over Almagro and Melzer while Kubot had to through Adrian Mannarino to get through the quarter. ADRIAN MANNARINO. Roger and Rafa really left a gapping hole in this draw. Jerzy defeated Melzer in an epic 5 set marathon, and Kubot also defeated Mannarino in 5 sets.

The top half of the draw is much more straight forward. Novak Djokovic looked very strong again against Tommy Haas, defeating him in straight sets. Nole will play Berdych in the quarters. Berdych had to work hard to get by Australian youngster Bernie Tomic. That was a very entertaining match with 2 big servers and could not have been much closer. Berdych got by in 4 sets. David Ferrer looked like he was in trouble again against Ivan Dodig after dropping the first set again, but it turned out the second set tiebreaker was all he needed as he cruised in the third and fourth sets. I am still most impressed with Del Potro. He defeated a crafty Italian in Seppi in straight sets and has yet to drop a set in this Wimbledon. Ferrer should be very wary of the big Argentinian in the quarters.

As for the British man Andy Murray, he did not look spectacular against Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny yesterday. Murray was lucky to get through that in straight sets. Youzhny served for the second set up 5 – 3 and was up 4 – 2 in the second set tiebreaker. After he came back from that, Youzhny went into his usual disposable self and got crushed in the third. Murray’s quarterfinal encounter is an intriging match with Fernando Verdasco who defeated Kenny De Schepper in the fourth round.

Joey will preview all of these quarterfinal matches later today!

Manic Monday at Wimbledon

Wimbledon Championships

 

Considered by many to be the greatest day in all of tennis, the second monday at Wimbledon is packed full of great matches. All round of 16 matches in both the men’s and women’s are on the slate, so there will be no shortage of quality tennis. Once we get to this point of the tournament, qualifiers and unseeded players are usually pretty rare, but after one of the craziest weeks in Grand Slam history, there are still 6 unseeded players remaining. Let’s preview all 8 matches! (In order of most interesting to least interesting)

Novak Djokovic vs Tommy Haas- This one should be good. Of the remaining players in the draw, Tommy Haas might be the toughest player for Djokovic on his half of the draw. Haas beat the Djoker here in 2009 in a memorable match, and he owns a 2-0 record against him on grass. Haas made the semi’s that year, where he lost to the eventual champion Federer. Djokovic has played extremely well thus far, and has yet to lose serve, but expect that to change Monday. Haas’ variety and court knowledge have given Djokovic trouble in the past, and Tommy has the belief that he can win this match, unlike many others. For me it’s all about the serve in this match. Whichever player can get a higher percentage of first serves in, and defend their second serves more effectively. I will be rooting for Haas, but I think Novak is too determined after not winning the French, so I’m taking Novak in 4 very close sets.

Tomas Berdych vs Bernard Tomic- Bernie has had quite a run this fortnight, after looking a little sluggish in his first match against Sam Querrey. His best win was definitely in the last round against Richard Gasquet, a polished grass court player. Berdych has looked very sharp thus far, only dropping 1 set en route to the 4th round. The only thing that worries me about the Birdman is that he has a little bit of a shoulder problem, and nobody knows how serious it is. Even with that, I still think Berdych should win this match in 3 sets.

David Ferrer vs Ivan Dodig- Ferrer has looked anything but perfect to this point, dropping at least 1 set in each match he’s played. However, he started to look like the little beast he is when he came from 2 sets to 1 down against a good player in Dolgopolov. Dodig will likely get written off by most in this match, but I advise you all to not ignore him. I’ve been critical of him in the past, but he’s looked excellent this year. He took out Phillip Kohlshreiber in the first round, and then cruised by Denis Kudla and Igor Sijsling in straight sets. I watched 2 of those matches, and his serve was dominant. If he serves well, look out for this one to be close. Dodig’s backhand is solid, but his forehand can break down under pressure. In the end, that will probably be the difference. Ferrer in 4.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Andreas Seppi- Andreas Seppi never really gets much attention, but over the last 2-3 years, he has been remarkably consistent. Grass isn’t his best surface, but he adapts well to pretty much any situation. Del Potro has yet to drop a set, but there are major concerns over his knee. He took a rough fall, and it looked like he might have hyper-extended it. If he did not have the injury, this pick would be a no-brainer, but it’s not that way. I’m going out on a limb and taking Seppi in 5.

Lukas Kubot vs Adrian Mannarino- Yeah, those names are not misprints. Both guys are ranked outside the top 100, and have the opportunity of a lifetime to reach the quarterfinal of a grand slam. Kubot benefitted from the pullout of Steve Darcis, and then surprisingly took Benoit Pair to the woodshed. Mannarino only had to play 2 games before John Isner was forced to retire with injury, and then took advantage of a favorable draw to defeat the high flying Dustin Brown. Both guys must be very nervous heading into this one. Kubot has a good serve and volley game, but from the backcourt he suffers. Mannarino has a good serve of his own, and experienced a lot of serve and volley against Brown. He’s better off the ground, so that’s why I’m taking Mannarino in 5 sets.

Jerzy Janowicz vs Jurgen Melzer- Although these guys aren’t the highest of seeds, they are both very good players. Melzer has reached the quarters in slams before, and Janowicz game can be dominant on this surface. It’s a very interesting matchup, because while Jerzy has the huge serve, Melzer has had a lot of success against big servers in the past. I remember him beating Raonic in Memphis(fast indoor court) back in 2012, where he read the Canadian’s serve remarkably well. I’m a big fan of Janowicz, but I think he is in major danger in this match. It’s going to come down to how well Melzer serves, because if he serves well, things will tip in his favor. Still I’m taking Jerzy in 4 sets.

Fernando Verdasco vs Kenny De Schepper- Another surprising matchup that is due to the destruction of the the bottom half of the draw. Verdasco is was having a very poor year until he beat Raonic in Madrid. That match seemed to kickstart a resurgance for the former top 10 player, who is now playing some really good ball. De Schepper is a tricky customer, as he stands at 6’8 in stature. His big serve could prove troublesome for the Spaniard, but I think Verdasco’s huge advantage in experience will propel him to win this one in 4.

Andy Murray vs Mikhail Youzhny- The British crowd will be rocking for this one. Murray even tweeted that he wanted the fans to show up in flocks for this match. He knows Youzhny is the real deal on grass, and you can bet he’s ready for a battle. In one of my only correct picks of the tournament, Youzhny has made to the round of 16 in impressive fashion. He can hang with Murray off the ground, and he’ll come into this match with plenty of confidence. However, his serve has been very inconsistent in his matches, and that will prove costly in this match against one of the top returners in the world. I’ll be rooting for the Russian to make this one interesting, but Murray is playing way too well right now. Murray in 3.

Should be an epic day of tennis, what do you guys think is going to happen?!

 

 

Wimbledon Predictions and Picks

djokerwimby

 

With the draw coming out Friday, I will make my picks for this years Wimbledon. First, I will pick the Winner. Then I will pick 2 sleepers, who must be outside the top 10. Two dark-horses, who must be unseeded. And I will pick two Early Exits from players who must be inside the top 16.

Winner-Novak Djokovic. The draw is so much in Djokovic’s favor that it’s so hard to pick against him. Although I think Federer, Nadal, and Murray all have better grass court games than Djokovic, he will only have to defeat one of the three to win the title. His first round match might be the toughest he has until the Round of 16, but he should get through it. The draw is so huge in these grand slams, and after having one of the tougher draws at the French Open, Djokovic has the easiest draw at Wimbledon. He could face Tomas Berdych in the Quarter’s, but Novak owns that head to head match up.

Sleepers- 1)Grigor Dimitrov. His first two matches should be fairly routine, and then he will likely face Juan  Martin Del Potro in the third round. Showtime Dimitrov has the perfect style of play for grass. His slice will stay extra slow, and his big serve and forehand will do more damage on the fast surface. If he can get past Del Potro, who tends to struggle at Wimbledon, I think Grigor could get to the Quarterfinals.

2)Mikhail Youzhny. He has made the Round of 16 six times, and he is very in form right now. He just lost a tough 3 set match to Federer in the Final of Halle, and was the agressor for much of that match. His draw is okay. He could play Janko Tipsarevic in the third round, who is having a terrible year. The big match for him would be in the round of 16 against Andy Murray. Look for Youzhny to do damage again this year.

Dark Horses- 1)Ernests Gulbis. Yes, I picked him in Paris as well. He doesn’t have a great draw, but I still think his game can give everybody trouble. He could play Jo Willy Tsonga in the second round, and that would be a great match to watch. He pulled the monster upset last year at Wimbledon, defeating Tomas Berdych in the first round. Can he do it again?

2)Lleyton Hewitt. The veteran Australian can never be forgotten, especially on grass. He plays Stan Wawrinka first round. That may be the best first round match of the tournament, and if he can get by Stan, who could be tired coming off of playing 5 matches just last week, he could make a run to the round of 16.

Early Exits- 1)Janko Tipsarevic. It’s the second Grand Slam in a row that I’m picking the serb to have an early exit. He has never played well on grass, and he plays a tough first round match against his compatriot Viktor Troicki.

2)Jo Wilfried Tsonga. I know, this is a bold pick.I love Jo’s game on grass, but he has a bad draw. Goffin and Gulbis in the first two rounds is tough.

Feel free to let me know your picks for Wimbledon in the comments!

Federer Returns To Winners Circle

hallerog

 

After nearly 10 months of going title-less, Roger Federer returned to the winners circle by winning his sixth career title at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. He defeated Mikhail Youzhny in three tough sets to earn his 77th career title, which ties him with John McEnroe for third all time in career titles.

It was a great match, with most points being ended by a winner or forced error. Youzhny, the former top 10 player, is a great player on grass. He can hit the ball very flat, and likes to mix in the backhand slice to give opponents trouble. He took out 3 top 20 opponents en route to the final. After defeating Kei Nishikori in three sets, he took out Phillip Kohlschreiber and Richard Gasquet in straight sets.  (both good grass court players)

Federer had a much easier path to the final. His first two rounds were against German wildcards . After defeating Stebe in straight sets, Federer completed his second career “double bagel”, by beating Mischa Zverev 6-0 6-0. His semifinal was much tougher however. It was a rematch of the 2012 final, which was won by Tommy Haas. After dropping the first set, Federer looked locked in and focused and pulled out the three set victory.

In the final, Youzhny was just too good in the first set. He was the aggressor in most of the points, and he didn’t look like he was out of control. He took the first set tiebreak 7-4. However, once Federer secured the beak in the second set, all the momentum went his way. He played some great tennis to defeat the Russian in three sets. He was notably excited afterwards, saying that the win meant a lot him prior to Wimbledon.

Youzhny is definitely a player to watch out for at SW19. Highlights below: