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?

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Australian Open Preview +Picks

aus

 

Make sure your alarm clocks are set. Be sure that your friends and family are aware that you may be unreachable for the next two weeks. If you’re like me, your sleep schedule will be wildly unordinary for the next 14 days. The Australian Open is upon us, the first slam of the year, the “happy slam.” With temperatures set to break 100 degrees on multiple days in Melbourne, the heat will certainly test players happiness.

The draw was released on Friday, and more than a few were in uproar at the imbalance it produced. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Roger Federer are all on the top half of the draw, leaving Novak Djokovic sitting pretty in his quest for his 4th Australian crown. But a draw is nothing more than a draw, and the matches still have to be played for potential matches to occur later in the tournament.

I think this year’s Aus Open will be the year of the upset. An upset winner is highly unlikely, but we could be in store for some deep runs by less than “elite” players. So let’s get into the picks!

Winner

Novak DjokovicI know, this is probably the 1000th time you’ve seen this pick. But to pick against Djoker would mean that I’m not a realistic tennis analyst. Look at his draw. Really the only danger he faces in route to the final is Stanislas Wawrinka, and that is real danger. If Stan the Man gets to the quarters, we could be in for another epic. But most likely Novak will cruise through his first 5-6 matches dropping maybe a set or two in the process. He is the best hard-court player in the world, as he proved during his 24 match winning streak to end 2013. Obviously he should face a great player in the final, whether that’s Nadal, Murray, or Del Potro. But none of those players have an easy road to get to their 7th match. The overall stress of playing 2-3 tough matches takes its toll and Novak will undoubtably have the clear edge in the final.

Dark Horse(‘s)

Ernests Gulbis–Although Ernie G is in Novak’s quarter of the draw, he has the firepower to take out anyone. He lost in straight sets to Rafa in Doha, but I think the court speed in Melbourne is just right for Gulbis’ style of play. He will have just a split second more time, and the ball will sit just a little higher; perfect for his elongated strokes and extreme grips. Of course Ernie could lose in the first round and make me look incredibly stupid, but you gotta show some faith right?

Gael Monfils–I’ve made a few comments on twitter in the last couple weeks talking about Monfils. From what I’ve seen, I think he’s ready for a breakout(or breakback?) 2014. The talent has always been there, but he looked as focused as I had even seen him in Doha. He lost a close 3-setter to Nadal in the final, but he was hitting the absolute **** out of the ball. If he is serving well, he is tough to beat, and Gael lives for the big moments in front of big crowds. The defining match for him will be the potential 3rd round rematch between Gael and Nadal, under the lights on Rod Laver Arena.

Grigor Dimitrov–I pick this guy….a lot. And usually he proves me wrong, by losing before the third round in Grand Slams. But my colleagues at Tennis View Magazine have had great reports for Dimitrov’s practice sessions. Apparently he is really hitting the cover off the ball, and with new coach Roger Rasheed, it’s time that Grigor made his move. 2014 will see Grigor inside the top 10. There. I  said it.

Americans(The less Popular One’s)

Tim Smyczek–Had to include Smee in this post. He adds to the stacked top half of the draw. He will play Roberto Bautista-Agut in the first round. RBA is in good form, reaching the SF in Auckland, where he blew a set and break lead to John Isner, eventual champion. Tim is using a new racket in 2014, and as long as he takes out RBA he will meet Delpo in the second round, which should be fun to watch.

Denis Kudla–I really like Kudla, I think he has one of the higher ceilings among young Americans. He is VERY fit, and solid as they come off the ground. He qualified into the tournament and will face Florian Mayer in the first round. Mayer is a really good player, but I think Kudla takes this one in 5. He will then could face Mikhail Youzhny. Again, it should be fun.

As Brad Gilbert says: Who ya got and scoreline?

 

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?!

 

 

Day 5 Preview and Picks

dreddytennis

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!

Wimbledon Day 3 Preview and Picks

Ernests Gulbis returns to Tomas Berdych during his first-round win against the Czech at Wimbledon

 

The All England Club has some great matches slated for day 2, and we’re here to preview them!

Jo Wilfried Tsonga vs Ernests Gulbis- I really hope this match is as good as it should be. If both players play well, we could have a classic on our hands. Gulbis is probably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw, and he can certainly play on grass. Jo Willy Tsonga has had loads of success at Wimbledon in years past, and his big serve and all court game suit him well for the surface. Gulbis has a great serve of his own, and his backhand is his biggest weapon off the ground. He will want to get in backhand to backhand rallies, while Tsonga will want to do the same with his forehand. If you recall, I picked Tsonga to have an early exit, and although I’m not fully confident, I’ve got to stick with my pick and go with Gulbis in 5 tough sets.

Roger Federer vs Sergiy Stakhovsky- Federer’s chances of defending his title improved greatly as Rafa Nadal, his potential quarterfinal opponent, was knocked out. Look for Federer to play very focused the rest of the way, knowing this may be his best shot at another major. Federer in straight sets.

Andy Murray vs Yen-Hsun Lu- You might not know the name, but Lu has had some pretty good scalps in his career. He beat Andy Roddick on center court in 2010, and he actually beat Murray at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Look for Murray to play better than he did in his opening round. I think there will be two tight sets, but Murray wins in straights.

Dustin Brown vs Lleyton Hewitt- This one should be fun. Dustin Brown is a great character on and off the court. The Jamaican born German will serve and volley a lot, and he has a huge forehand. You never really know what to expect from Brown, the qualifier. Completely the opposite, Lleyton Hewitt will grind to the end. You know exactly what you’ll get from the veteran, and so that’s why I’m picking Hewitt in straight sets.

Fernando Verdasco vs Julien Benneteau- Benneteau in 5.

Marin Cilic vs Kenny De Schepper- Cilic in 3.

John Isner vs Adrian Mannarino- Isner in 4.

Nicolas Almagro vs Guillaume Ruffin- Almagro in 4.

Radek Stepanek vs Jerzy Janowicz- Janowivz in 4.

Tommy Robredo vs Nicolas Mahut- Mahut in 4.

Vasek Pospisil vs Mikhail Youzhny- Youzhny in 3.

Juan Monaco vs Rajeev Ram- Monaco in 4.

Victor Troicki vs Andrey Kuznetsov- Troicki in 3.

Stephane Robert vs Benoit Paire- Paire in 3.

Jurgen Melzer vs Julian Reister- Melzer in 3.

Steve Darcis vs Lukasz Kubot- Darcis in 5.

Should be good!

Wimbledon Day 1 Preview and Picks

rogwimb

 

Day 1 of Wimbledon is finally here! Writer Chris Hayes will not be able to make picks with me for Wimbledon because he is currently working at the USA F17 Futures Tournament in Rochester, New York. He’ll be back next week, but until then I’ll be doing both the daily previews and recaps! I’ll preview a few of the feature matches and then make my picks for the rest of the days matches.

Roger Federer vs Victor Hanescu- Federer opens his campaign to defend his 2012 Wimbledon title against another 30+ veteran, Victor Hanescu. Hanescu is a tall player who you would expect to have a big serve, but it’s not actually very big. Federer should breeze through this one in 3 straight sets.

Rafael Nadal vs Steve Darcis- We all remember last year. Lukas Rosol pulled the upset of the century over Rafa by hitting every ball as hard as he could. It was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen from a non-top player. Nadal is back for revenge this year. He opens with Darcis, who is actually a really fun guy to watch. He has an awesome one-handed backhand, but we all know how Rafa deals with one-handers. Rafa should also roll in straights.

Stanislas Wawrinka vs Lleyton Hewitt- This should be the match of the day. Stan the man Wawrinka is having the greatest season of his career, and he’s playing well on grass too, reaching the final at the Topshelf Open. Hewitt, the 32 year old, is still alive and well. His game on grass is still better than most. He reached the quarters of queens, and the sole reason he still plays is for these grand slams. You know he will fight to the bitter end in this match. I think Stan’s serve will eventually make the difference, because he’ll get more free points than Hewitt. The backhand to backhand rallies should be great to watch. I’m taking Stan Wawrinka in 4 tight sets.

Andy Murray vs Benjamin Becker– Can the Brit finally breakthrough and win Wimbledon this year? He should have no troubles against Becker, who he beat just over a week ago. Murray in straights.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga vs David Goffin- Tsonga in 3.

Marin Cilic vs Marcos Baghdatis- Cilic in 4.

Janko Tipsarevic vs Viktor Troicki- Troicki in 5.

Jerzy Janowicz vs Kyle Edmund- Janowicz in 4

Fabio Fognini vs Jurgen Melzer- Melzer in 5.

James Ward vs Yen-Hsun Lu- Ward in 4.

Mikhail Youzhny vs Robin Hasse- Youzhny in 3.

Nicolas Almagro vs Jurgen Zopp- Almagro in 3.

Lukas Lacko vs Rajeev Ram- Ram in 4.

Pablo Andujar vs Adrian Mannarino- Mannarino in 4.

Nicolas Mahut vs Jan Hajek- Mahut in 3.

Stephane Robert vs Alejandro Falla- Falla in 4.

Lukasz Kubot vs Igor Andreev- Kubot in 4.

Ernests Gulbis vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin- Gublis in 4.

Marc Gicquel vs Vasek Pospisil- Pospisil in 4.

Dustin Brown vs Guillermo Garcia Lopez- Brown in 5.

Rogerio Dutra Silva vs Sergiy Stakhovsky- Stakhovsky in 3.

Andrey Kuznetsov vs Albert Montanes- Kuznetsov in 5.

Adrian Unger vs Benoit Paire- Paire in 3.

Juan Monaco vs Bastian Knittel- Monaco in 4.

John Isner vs Evgeny Donskoy- Isner in 5.

Tobias Kamke vs Julien Benneteau- Benneteau in 4.

Fernando Verdasco vs Xavier Malisse- Malisse in 5.

Tommy Robredo vs Alex Bogomolov Jr.- Robredo in 3.

Marinko Matosevic vs Guillaume Rufin- Matosevic in 4.

Radek Stepanek vs Matt Reid- Stepanek in 3.

Julian Reister vs Lukas Rosol- Rosol in 3.

Kenny De Schepper vs Paolo Lorenzi- De Schepper in 4.

That’s a lot of matches…who do you have on upset alert on day 1?