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!

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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!

Wimbledon Quarterfinal Recap

andyyy

It looks like we have witnessed the match of the tournament today. But before I get into the Murray/Verdasco battle, I will summarize the other quarterfinals first.

Novak Djokovic held an 13 – 2 record going into his quarterfinal match with Tomas Berdych, so you could say he was going in with some confidence. However, Berdych beat Djokovic the last time they played so he was ready for the big stage. The first set was very tight, with Djokovic having multiple opportunites to break, but Berdych hitting that massive serve and forehand to keep him in the set. As the first set went to a tiebreaker, each player went back and forth in the breaker. Berdych had a chance at 5 – 4 in the breaker but missed a pretty easy return. Djokovic quickly took advantage of that and won the breaker 7 – 5. Even then though, Berdych broke early in the second set, but that was all Berdych had going for him the rest of the match. Djokovic quickly broke back and took the second and third sets by the score of 4 and 3. Djokovic has still yet to drop a set in this tournament. But he will have a very stiff test in the semis.

Juan Martin Del Potro was an absolute stud today. This is the best I have seen of him since the US Open last year. Del Potro took on grinder David Ferrer and Ferrer has given Del Potro in the past. However, Del Potro looked a lot like the old Del Potro, like the one that won the US Open a couple years ago. His running forehand was absolutely enormous today. You wouldn’t think that he could create so much power on the run, but that forehand is like a hammer waiting to come down on its victims. Del Potro will take on Djokovic in what should be an epic semifinal on Friday.

The surprising all Polish quarterfinal was pretty straight forward for the most part with the talented Jerzy Janowicz advancing to his first grand slam semifinal. Janowicz looked pretty spectacular again against his countryman Lukasz Kubot as he hit another 30 aces. Kubot wasn’t in any control of this match. Although the first set was close, it was Janowicz dictating with his serve and variety. I have never seen a player so tall with so much variety in his game and am really looking forward to watching this kid progress throughout his career.

Now I knew that Fernando Verdasco was playing good ball, but not as well as I saw him yesterday. He pushed Andy Murray to the absolute limit yesterday in what may very well be the match of the tournament. Verdasco’s forehand was on in the first 2 sets as he took both of them rather easily by the scores of 4 and 3. However, as most expected, Verdasco’s quality went down just enough for Murray to claw his way back into the match. Murray won the third 6 – 1 and the fourth 6 – 3. The fifth set was an absolute grind with Verdasco crushing his groundstrokes and Murray just playing defense the whole set. What I wanted to see from Murray was to take it to Verdasco, but that did not happen. Nevertheless, Verdasco finally broke down at 5 all and Murray broke him and then held for the match. The home crowd was thrilled that their man escaped, but he will need to pick up his game big time as he takes on Jerzy “Jersey Boy” Janowicz.

Joey will preview these semifinal showdowns today.

The Final 8

cancankubot

My picks were pretty good for the Round of 16, as I only picked one match wrong. Lucasz Kubot beat Adrian Mannarino in a tough 5 setter, and his signature celebration is in the picture above. Yes, he is doing the Can-Can. As we look ahead to the quarterfinal, it’s time to realize that we only have a few more days of this great tournament left. Let’s preview the last 8.

Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych- It won’t be the first time these two have played. To say that these players know each others games is an understatement. Djokovic owns the head to head record 13 to 2. However, one of those two wins for Berdych came the last time these two played. After being up a set and 5-2 in Rome, Djokovic crumbled and eventually fell to the Birdman. The other match Berdych won was at Wimbledon in 2010, the year he made the final. Djokovic has looked unreal this fortnight, making little to no unforced errors. The first time he looked human was when Tommy Haas broke him as served for the match. Berdych has been no slouch this year either, taking out two talented players in Kevin Anderson and Bernard Tomic in 4 sets. The problem for Berdych is that Djokovic loves the pace Tomas gives him. Djokovic is a great counter-puncher, and Berdych’s big strokes don’t really bother the Djoker. Berdych can win the match, but a lot of things have to go right. Ultimately, it will come down to his forehand. Almost every match he plays is on his racket, and it will come down to whether he can hit enough winners off of the forehand side. I see Berdych playing sick for a set or 2 but not enough to win the match. Djoker in 4.

David Ferrer vs Juan Martin Del Potro- Delpo has surprised me throughout this tournament. The ball stays low, yet he has been willing to get down and still spank the ball. He hasn’t dropped a set, while Ferrer has dropped at least 1 set in each of his matches. Still, this is a bad matchup for Delpo. Ferrer owns the big hitters, with a record of 12-5 against Delpo and Berdych combined. Ferrer gives you nothing, absolutely nothing, and in the end Delpo’s knee might suffer because of that reason. He will be able to play 100% for 3, maybe 4 sets, but not 5. I’m taking Ferrer in 5 sets, but rooting for Delpo.

Jerzy Janowicz vs Lucasz Kubot- Most people are going to write Jerzy into the Semi’s, but don’t do it too fast. Although nearly everything points to Janowicz winning this match, Can-Can Kubot has a few things in his game that bother Jerzy boy. First, Kubot serves and volleys. This is a good play against Jerzy because his worst shot might be his passing shots. He hits just about the flattest ball in the top 100, and so that makes passing shots a little tougher. Kubot also goes for it on his return, which is pretty much the best strategy against the huge serve of Janowicz. With all that in mind, I’m still taking and rooting for Jerzy boy Janowicz in 4 tight sets.

Andy Murray vs Fernando Verdasco- Yes, Fernando has been playing great these past few weeks. Yes, he’s beaten Murray before. Yes, he has a big forehand. But, no, he’s not winning this match. Murray is way too good on grass, and he looks more focused than I’ve ever seen him. It was good run for Tabasco, but Murray is taking this one in straight sets.

Thoughts?

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 4: Restoring Order

restoringorder

 

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

James Blake

 

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?