Steve Johnson wins first career title in Nottingham

June 25, 2016

AEGON OPEN NOTTINGHAM—NOTTINGHAM, GREAT BRITAIN

No. 6 seed Steve Johnson captured his maiden ATP World Tour title in Nottingham, England on Saturday, defeating No. 2 seed Pablo Cuevas 7-6(5), 7-5. In a match that featured strong serving throughout, it was Johnson who took his chances early in the first set tiebreaker to gain the advantage. Looking to complete his victory in straight sets, Johnson broke the serve of his opponent twice in the second set before prevailing on his second match point. Needing one hour and 33 minutes to claim his victory, Johnson picked up 250 ATP World Tour points and will increase his ranking to No. 27 in the world when Monday’s computer is updated.

Both Johnson and Cuevas will next see action at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday.

Wimbledon 2016: Men’s and Women’s Tournament Preview and Analysis

June 25, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

The year’s third Grand Slam starts on Monday and, just like last year, top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams enter the tournament as the respective favourites for the men’s and women’s singles. But it’s a different set of circumstances to last year, when Williams was halfway to a potential calendar Grand Slam and Djokovic was coming off a devastating loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final. This year, Djokovic enters the tournament as the holder of all four Grand Slam titles, whilst Williams is looking to win her first major since Wimbledon last year after suffering surprise defeats in the last three Grand Slams.

Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles

Novak Djokovic is the red-hot favourite on the men’s side, and rightfully so. Having completed the career Grand Slam in Paris, where the burden of never having won the French Open was finally lifted off his shoulders, Djokovic will begin his campaign at the All England Club not only full of confidence but probably more relaxed than he was in Paris. If he is successful in London, however, there will no doubt be a flurry of media scrutiny in New York as he attempts to complete the calendar Grand Slam.

There’s plenty of tough matches to be won by Djokovic at the All England Club before he can lift the trophy once more and, if Djokovic is undoubtedly the best player on the planet right now, then Andy Murray is pretty clearly the second-best player. This year, the Scot recorded his best ever French Open result by reaching the final and, having reunited with former coach Ivan Lendl, Murray will be focused on reclaiming the title he so famously claimed in 2013.

Murray is on the easier side of the draw, with potential semi-final opponent Stan Wawrinka never having played his best tennis on grass (although it will be interesting to see how the Swiss star performs with former Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek recently added to his team as a grass-court consultant). Winning a record fifth title at Queen’s Club will provide Murray with additional confidence, as will the fact he has beaten Djokovic on the two occasions the pair has played on grass.

Djokovic is scheduled to face seven-time champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals and, whilst the Swiss legend has had an injury-interrupted season to date, Federer’s love of the tournament and grass-court nous means he will be very tough to defeat if he can negotiate his way through the early rounds. Before that, Djokovic faces a tough potential quarter-final with Milos Raonic, a former semi-finalist at Wimbledon who has added former champion John McEnroe to his coaching team, whilst Kevin Anderson, who so very nearly beat Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, also lurks in the Serb’s quarter.

Dominic Thiem has had a terrific season to date and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the young Austrian make a deep run at the tournament. Similarly, Bernard Tomic has a particular affinity with grass-courts and could well feature in the second week of the tournament.

I’ll back Murray and Djokovic to once again meet in a Grand Slam final, with the Scot using his grass-court nous and the home crowd support to finally get one back over the world number one.

Winner: Andy Murray

Finalist: Novak Djokovic

Semi-finalists: Federer, Thiem

Outside Chance: Wawrinka, Raonic

*****

Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles

Going into the semi-finals in New York last year, Serena Williams was just two wins away from completing a calendar Grand Slam. Since then, the world number one has lost Grand Slam matches to Roberta Vinci, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza’s terrific performance in Paris perhaps heralds the start of a new era in women’s tennis but I would be very reluctant to write off Williams just yet.

Williams may get a chance for revenge against Vinci if the pair meet in the quarter-finals as scheduled. Petra Kvitova has had a typically inconsistent year to date but the two-time winner is at her very best on grass and I’m backing her to put in an impressive performance during the next fortnight. In the top half of the draw, former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska is another player who is adept on grass-courts and could produce a deep run in the tournament. Similarly, Dominika Cibulkova has been in good form of late and the former Australian Open finalist could do some damage in the second week of the tournament.

In the bottom half of the draw, I think Muguruza may struggle to deal with the pressures and expectations associated with being a Grand Slam champion and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spaniard make a relatively early exit. Madison Keys, a recent addition to the world’s top 10, could take full advantage if the bottom half of the draw opens up, and I predict the rising star will scrape past five-time winner Venus Williams if the pair end up locking horns in the semi-finals.

With no Grand Slams to her name in 2016 to date, you can bank on Serena Williams being absolutely fixated on claiming this trophy and I think the American will shrug off some of rather sluggish recent Grand Slam performances to turn in a dynamic performance during the fortnight at the All England Club.

Winner: Serena Williams

Finalist: Madison Keys

Semi-finalists: Kvitova, Venus Williams

Outside Chance: Radwanska, Muguruza, Cibulkova

That’s it for now. Enjoy the tennis from the All England Club and follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

PODCAST: Wimbledon 2016 Preview

June 25, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

In this week’s show, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi return to preview the Wimbledon Championships. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic will continue his road to the Golden Slam when he returns to professional competition after his victory at Roland Garros? With Rafa Nadal out of the draw, the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka will step in with the hope of dismissing Djokovic. On the women’s side, Serena Williams will be looking for her 22nd Major, while Madison Keys will have all eyes on her with her recent entrance into the top 10. We discuss both draws and call our dark-horses for the third Major of the season.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

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Raonic to open against Carreno Busta at Wimbledon, in same quarter as Djokovic

June 24, 2016

Toronto, June 24, 2016 – Canadians Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard, and Vasek Pospisil learned their first-round opponents for Wimbledon on Friday, as the third Slam of the year conducted its official draw in London.

The highest-ranked Canadian, Raonic is seeded No. 6 and will take on Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta who is currently ranked world No. 45. It will be the first meeting between the two athletes. Raonic is in the same quarter as world No. 1 and current holder of all four major titles, Novak Djokovic. Prior to a meeting with Djokovic, he could face No. 27 seed Jack Sock in the third round and No. 11 David Goffin in the fourth round. A 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist, Raonic made the third round last year. He will commence his 2016 campaign on Monday.

Pospisil is the second Canadian in the men’s singles draw. The world No. 44, who just turned 26 years old on Thursday, will also face a Spanish player in No. 36 Albert Ramos-Vinolas. It will be their first encounter. Pospisil reached his first career Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon last season, and if he gets past Ramos-Vinolas, his next opponents could be No. 25 seed Viktor Troicki in the second round followed by No. 7 Richard Gasquet.

In the women’s draw, Canada will have a lone representative in Eugenie Bouchard. The former finalist at the All England Club will take on Magdalena Rybarikova. Currently world No. 48 to Rybarikova’s No. 92, Bouchard owns a 1-0 advantage over the Slovakian from the hard courts of Beijing back in 2013. The 22-year-old is in the same quarter as No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who she lost to earlier this week at the WTA event in Eastbourne. Before then, standing in her way could be No. 16 Johanna Konta and No. 19 Dominika Cibulkova.

Both Pospisil and Bouchard will play their opening matches on Tuesday.

In doubles, Daniel Nestor is seeded No. 9 with British partner Dominic Inglot. The two will be competing in the Nottingham final this weekend before heading to Wimbledon. Pospisil is also in the men’s doubles draw, seeded No. 8 with Jack Sock, while Adil Shamasdin has received a wild card alongside Brit Jonathan Marray, the 2012 Wimbledon doubles champion.

On the women’s side, Canadians Gabriela Dabrowski and Bouchard will actually face off against each other in the first round. Dabrowski is playing with Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, with whom she just won her third WTA doubles title at Mallorca, while Bouchard is teamed with another former Wimbledon singles finalist, German Sabine Lisicki.

The complete draws are accessible on the Wimbledon website:
Men’s Singles
Women’s Singles
Men’s Doubles
Women’s Doubles

Going Against The Grain: The Field Will Spoil Novak Djokovic’s Golden Slam at Wimbledon. Who Will It Be?

June 22, 2016

by: Phillip G. Pate

Novak Djokovic has looked unbeatable for the past 18 months. With the exception of one afternoon in Paris when Stan Wawrinka was shooting sweet backhand bullets on the red clay no one has come close to beating the Serbian in a Grand Slam tournament since 2014. So naturally, this article will be about picking against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. And truthfully, I would feel a lot better about it if every round Djokovic’s opponent wore Wawrinka’s color blinding red plaid shorts. Unfortunately Wimbledon’s dress code most likely rules out the fashion forward Yonex sportswear.

Picking Against the Favourite

Novak Djokovic is the obvious favorite to win Wimbledon. Vegas is daring visitors to pick the field. I’m here to tell you it isn’t crazy to pick against Djokovic. To begin, here are a few historical as well as contemporary reasons:

- Not since 1969 has any man won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in one calendar year.
- No player since Don Budge in the 1930’s has won 6 of 7 slams over 2 calendar years.
- Andy Murray is undefeated against Djokovic on grass (2012 Olympic semi-finals and 2013 Wimbledon finals).
- The draw will feature a maturing field (Raonic, Kyrgios, Thiem), no. 2 in the world on hometown turf, and a rested Federer. This is the tournament for too many of the top players to not consider the field.

Key Stats

The players mentioned above are in the conversation to win Wimbledon. Can any of them beat Novak Djokovic? The Serbian is the clear favorite however there is a stacked field of players that can definitely win and will be fun to support if you’re looking for an “underdog.” Let’s first take a look at some stats.

Note: Statistics include current top-50 players at grass and hard court events in past 52 weeks versus top 50 players. 20 match minimum. All cited statistics in article follow this criterion unless noted. Data as of June 15, 2016. Data provided by Tennisabstract.com.

The article’s statistical outlook will focus on the first two shots of every rally (serve and return) given the faster (yet slowing) court speeds and therefore critical nature of the grass court serve. If we take a look at the servers based on ace% and 1st Serve Win Efficiency (total first serve points won including faults) there are some interesting choices. The first set of data above outlines mostly players who will be very likely to advance late into the 1st week or early into the 2nd week almost solely off of a big serve. Karlovic, Isner and Anderson are great examples of players who live off winning service games (they hold 1st, 2nd and 5th most service games, respectively).

However the correlation between winning tournaments and the players who have the highest 2nd serve return win % illustrates how the game has evolved. An effective serve is necessary, particularly on grass, but the versatile athletes have been rewarded in this generation. Nimble defense, crisp passing shots, comfort at the net and a power baseline game in addition to a big serve are critical to win any Grand Slam today. Dissecting the players who are winning in all facets of the game gives a clearer story on how to pick the contenders.

Note: Statistics include current top-50 players at grass and hard court events in past 52 weeks versus top 50 players. 20 match minimum. All cited statistics in article follow this criterion unless noted. Data as of June 15, 2016. Data provided by Tennisabstract.com.

Above are the “advanced” statistics that tend to best predict outcomes. If match results weren’t enough these statistics make it clear the “Big Three” (Sorry Rafa) are very good at tennis. The dominance ratio, outlining % of return points won divided by % of service points lost, shows in addition to the “Big Three”, Dominic Thiem’s 2016 surge and Richard Gasquet’s strong 12-month run is driven by a well-rounded game that won large margin victories (a good indicator in basketball as well).

The capitalization score, the % above the average for first serve win efficiency plus the % above the average for 2nd serve return win %, illustrates that Kyrgios and the “Big Three” cash in on difficult service and return situations for their opponents. Capitalizing on these moments particularly in closer contests decide matches. We’ll take a look at these statistics as well as recent results and qualitative viewpoints to pick Wimbledon winners but beforehand let’s take a look at the odds.

Big Board


NB: I think this gives a good idea of how experts think about Wimbledon. Here are a few thoughts on the 2nd and 3rd column (17-48). I like Goffin (DR of 1.17 and most upset wins in the past 52 weeks by a top 20 player) of the 2nd and 3rd column players to potentially make a quarterfinals or better surprise run. It is also worth noting, rather frustratingly, Gael Monfils should be a top of the first column guy but is a mental midget outweighing his physical brilliance (DR of 1.19; CS of 8.7% but just missed the matches played cut off).

The Picks

Just missed: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Alexander Zverev

5. Richard Gasquet

DR: 5.7%; Wimbledon ‘15: SF vs Djokovic; Grass record since ‘14: 10-6; vs. T5 since ’15: 1-7

The gifted one. Back to 2016, Gasquet’s advanced numbers look fantastic and it shows in his game. His groundstrokes are the signature event. The Frenchman’s high looping, elegant one-handed backhand has become one of the most celebrated shots on tour. Last year’s signature win versus Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon showcased this memorable rally that made backhand connoisseurs drool.

If Gasquet plays well he should be able to reach the quarterfinals (must avoid Raonic and Thiem in Rd. 4). At that point, he’ll likely face a “Big Three” player. His wins versus Wawrinka and Kyrgios last year outline the game plan. Stepping up his service game will be the only way he wins in “Big Three” matches. His 14.2% ace% versus Kyrgios and his 66.0% 2nd serve W% (vs. his avg. 55%) playing Wawrinka put him over the top in those matches. His recent loss on grass to American Stevie Johnson can be attributed to a challenged service day (0% ace% and 37% 2nd serve win %). Gasquet is not a power server (6.9% ace% vs. 10.0% T50 average) so service location followed by well-constructed points will be pivotal. Gasquet is a beautiful player to watch rally but he will need to bring his full repertoire to Wimbledon.

4. Dominic Thiem

DR: 1.19; CS:-7.7%; Wimbledon ’15: 2nd round vs Verdasco; Grass record since ’14: 9-7; vs. T5 since ’15: 3-7

Right now, who doesn’t enjoy watching Dominic Thiem? He brings a fluid version of the modern hybrid baseline game that offers power and defense. The Austrian’s sophisticated point construction and agile defense is world class. There are certain points when he tracks down a ball deep on the other side of the baseline that remind you of a certain Quidditch Seeker (Can’t wait for the 1st round exit after a H. Potter comparison). Watch the points beginning at 1:11 and then at 2:42 (his only mistake being the bleached blond hair):

Thiem’s biggest short coming is that he doesn’t have the size to play as physically as the “Big Three” however he has overcome this to earn important wins in 2016. The 8th ranked player in the world beat Rafa on clay in Buenos Aires then made the semi-finals at Roland Garros. Now on grass, he has beaten Federer en route to winning Stuttgart. Not to mention he has gone 9-3 in his past 12 grass court matches. One consideration some analysts are mentioning is that Dominic Thiem will not take a break from this incredible 2016 run and may be running on fumes come Wimbledon. However you just don’t leave “a heater.” 22 year-olds should not leave tennis heaters. Dominic Thiem has momentum and is ready to compete.

3. Nick Kyrgios

DR: 1.13; CS: 10.5%; Wimbledon ’15: 4th Rd. vs. Richard Gasquet; Grass record since ‘14: 9-5; vs. T5 since ’15: 3-5

The Australian’s ability is evident within minutes of watching him. His herculean forehand isn’t beautiful but forceful like a bullwhip creating a sonic boom.

Nick Kyrgios currently has an Elo rating of 12 while his ATP ranking is 18 (the biggest spread among T25). It goes without saying that Kyrgios has championship upside but his weak mental game seriously compromises his generational ability (the tennis Boogie?). At 21 years-old Kyrgios has time to harness his potential and winning Marseille and getting to the SF of Miami has shown progress. In my view, he is the most talented grass court player not in the “Big Three” and if the Aussie is in the right headspace for two weeks he could win 7 matches. Perhaps the biggest driver will be Kygrios’ big serve (4th highest Ace% and 9th in 1st Serve Efficiency) which can lead him to victories over top 10 players when he’s at his best. He has also recently demonstrated the ability to leverage his powerful physical baseline game in key moments as reflected in his high Capitalization Score (10.7%).

The issue for the Aussie will be maintaining his focus. Despite great metrics related to service and key points, his Dominance Ratio is just average among the top 50 players. One other issue that some view as a concern is his ranking (18) may create a “Draw of Death.” However, this may be an anti-dote to his tennis ADD and benefit the young Aussie by keeping him focused on beating the top players. Just look at his Capitalization Score vs. Dominance Ratio and it is clear he gets up for the big moments. And that is the key. If the Australian can stay focused and confident by playing and beating top players early he can very well gain momentum and win Wimbledon.

2. Milos Raonic

DR: 1.17; CS: 2.94%; Wimbledon ’15:3rd Round vs. Nick Kyrgios; Grass Record Since ’14:13-5; vs. T5 Since ’15: 4-10

One could contend the Canadian’s methodical and heavy serve is the best in tennis and the facts back that up (Ivo and Raonic are the only players in the top 5 in 1st Serve Efficiency, Held Service Games, Service Points Won ex. Aces/DF and top 10 in ace%). The big man’s game is tailor made for Wimbledon. Except for one real issue that surprised me. Currently Raonic has the longest points played per service game of any player in the top 50. Needless to say I think it is time for the Canadian to become a more willing net player. That stat should be impossible. And this is where things get interesting given the recent addition to Raonic’s team of serve and volley all-time great John McEnroe. If McEnroe can add a more potent volley game to Raonic’s repertoire the Canadian will be very dangerous in July. Early results of Raonic’s relationship with McEnroe are promising as he beat Kyrgios and Cilic at Queen’s last week (losing to Murray after being up a set and a break).

The Canadian’s game was built for Wimbledon. Raonic’s SF appearance at the Australian Open (losing again to Murray in 5; Maybe he’s due?) shows that he can go deep in Grand Slams on fast surfaces. If he continues to serve well, mix in more serve and volley points and take advantage of 2nd serve returns (he is a 45% winner in Top 5 wins compared to a below average low 30’s in most losses vs. Top 5) he can win this tournament.

1. Andy Murray

DR: 1.24; CS: 15.0%; Wimbledon ’15: SF vs. Roger Federer; Grass Court Record Since ’14: 22-3; vs. T5 Since ’15: 8-14

Ivan is the best coach I’ve had. Because in a sport you base how good someone is on results, and the results I had with Ivan were the best.” Andy Murray needs the confidence that his Lendl record provides. Murray already has the physical tools. His grass record is impeccable, he’s a Wimbledon winner and, as previously mentioned, he is 2-0 against Djokovic on grass. However after losing to Djokovic in two straight Grand Slam finals this hire will generate the belief Murray needs.

Further, Lendl will let Murray know what he needs to before and during Wimbledon. As Lendl has explained, the best tennis coaches are those that don’t need the player more than the player needs them. Perhaps self-serving but it make sense. There is probably a reason why Murray is clearly less emotional in games with Lendl as his coach versus others. Also, given the tennis community’s surprise over Lendl’s choice to return, I believe Lendl came back to coach Murray because he sees something that can help Murray get over the top. The reunion worked at Queen’s Club with Murray winning convincingly including a come from behind victory vs. our #2 player, Milos Raonic. This was an important win to prove he can beat a player on a serving hot streak, something he struggled with last year versus Federer in the SF.

The real question is whether he can beat the world number 1. Looking at Murray’s win at Montreal vs. his loss in Australia, here goes my best Lendl attempt:

Use the backhand as a weapon. As the chart below reflects, the Scottish Wimbledon winner needs to mix up his backhand groundstrokes to keep Djokovic on his heels. Backhand cross court and down the line shots will be critical. In Murray’s Wimbledon win over Djokovic, the Scotsman hit 67% of his shots cross court or down the line compared to 20% down the middle.

Limit the long (10+ shots) rallies. At the Australian Open final, 20% of rallies were over 10 shots versus 10% of rallies being over 10 shots at the Rogers Cup final. Murray could kill two birds with one stone by mixing up his backhand and being more aggressive on this side.

Serve to the backhand. Very simply serve to Djokovic’s backhand more often. At Montreal almost 60% of his serves were to Djokovic’s backhand versus 50% of his serves in Australia. This creates a less potent return that oftentimes is shallower. Simplistic yet effective.

Andy Murray is a hall of fame tennis player while also a tennis everyman. When watching his points the effort and desire cannot be more transparent. This July, Murray will be rewarded for his efforts. The Scotsman is playing the best tennis of his career right now, fresh off of his most successful run on clay and another grass court championship last week. With a coach who knows how to maximize his talents and mental capacity there is no better time for Murray to seize the moment. If he continues to return well and mixes up his ground game he will win Wimbledon number two.

Tennis Elbow: Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl, back like the first time

June 21, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps yet another Queen’s Club title for Andy Murray.

Maybe it will all work out for Andy Murray?

At the Aegon Championships finals, in front of a boisterous and pro-Murray crowd, the Brit continued his excellent 2016 season and added a title to his name by beating Milos Raonic 6-7(5), 6-4 and 6-3.

“To do it means a lot… It’s a tournament that obviously means a lot to me. It’s been my most successful tournament. […] My best tennis is there. I’m happy with that,” Murray said. “I didn’t come in, like I said, with hardly any preparation so maybe consistency could be better. But when I needed to this week, I stepped up and played my best tennis.”

That, he certainly did—though for a time it looked like his best tennis might not be good enough. For a while, Raonic looked as good as he had all week at the Queen’s Club, going up a set and a break and seemingly on the verge of going away with the match.

“Normally I’m pretty confident in a situation up a set and a break. There were two very close challenges there, maybe could make a difference or not, but I thought he played well,” Raonic said after his loss. “He stepped it up after that and came up with an incredible return on the first break point chance he had.”

On his first chance, Murray managed to do what no one else had up to this point in London and broke Raonic’s, which hadn’t happened in 55 games.

This win is a memorable one for a few reasons for the 29-year-old Murray, who becomes the first man to win five titles at the Queen’s Club, where they’ve played a tournament since 1890. It’s also Murray’s seventh grass title of the Open era, which brings level with Ken Rosewall and Boris Becker. He’s only a few behind another few of history’s best in Lleyton Hewitt, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras. (He’s far, far from Roger Federer at the top, but that’s fine: we’ve never confused Murray for the Swiss.)

This win also validates him for making the decision to rehire Ivan Lendl as his coach.

If you recall, their first partnership had ended somewhat suddenly when the coach couldn’t fully commit to Murray’s schedule. “I would try to impress my girlfriend a lot more the first few months I was with her than I do now,” Murray said at the Australian Open two years ago, after the split. “It’s the same with Ivan.”

By then, the player and the coach had barely spent any time together in the previous six months and, despite what had been and still the best moments of Murray’s career, they parted ways.

Now Lendl is back in Murray’s corner. Who knows for how long, but their second stint is off to a good start.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Murray wins fifth Queen’s Club over Raonic; Mayer upsets Zverev to capture Halle title

June 19, 2016

AEGON CHAMPIONSHIPS—LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN

Andy Murray notched his fifth title at the Aegon Championships on Sunday in London, England, defeating Milos Raonic 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3. Trailing by a set and 3-0, Murray reeled off four straight games and never looked back. Improving to 6-3 against Raonic in lifetime meetings, Murray has won five matches in a row against his Canadian opponent. The Brit, who recently turned 29, has now made four straight finals on Tour, dating back to the Madrid Open.

Both Murray and Raonic will next see action at Wimbledon, which begins on June 27th.

*****

GERRY WEBER OPEN—HALLE, GERMANY

Unheralded German Florian Mayer captured the biggest title of his career on Sunday in Halle, Germany, upending countryman Alexander Zverev 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Needing five match points to seal his victory, Mayer used his unorthodox game-style to off-set his powerful opponent. Being injured for the better part of two years, Mayer won 386,925 euors for his efforts and 500 ATP World Tour points. Currently ranked No. 192 in the world, Mayer is set to re-enter the top 100 at approximately No. 78 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Zverev, who was looking for his maiden Tour level title, will hit No. 28 in the world on Monday, which is a career high for the 19-year-old.

Tennis Elbow: Is this the end for Maria Sharapova?

June 13, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses the verdict of the Maria Sharapova doping case.

The verdict arrived with little to no fanfare.

Alright, maybe it’s just that we’re all fairly busy but as far as we’re concerned, this past Wednesday was just about to be a typical Wednesday, when—boom!

That’s right, this past Wednesday turned out to be the day that the International Tennis Federation gave its verdict in the Maria Sharapova doping scandal, suspending the player for two years.

Oh, the Russian may not be away from the courts for that long, as she’s already said that she planned to appeal the decision (we’ll get to her note in a minute). But for now, one thing’s certain: she’s suspended for two years. What else is crystal clear from the ITF’s 33-page decision?

Well for one thing, this saga continues to fascinate us. We’ve said more than once that we just love mostly everything about it, and it continues to be the case. If you recall, Sharapova was facing a potential two-year if she was found to have taken meldonium unintentionally for performance-enhancing reasons.

Is the ITF’s decision to suspend her two years a sign that Sharapova’s un-intention was actually quite possibly intentional but they couldn’t prove it, or simply a sign that they fully expected her to appeal and that maybe the sanction will be diminished?

Here are quite a few more things that continue to have our attention as this saga inevitably carries on.

We’re eager to see whether the ITF continues calling Sharapova on her bullsh*t.

This excerpt from the 33-page decision, which you can read in full here, makes pretty clear that the ITF does not believe that Sharapova was taking meldonium for any other reason but to boost her performance. It’s all fine and dandy that the 29-year-old may have once upon a time been prescribed meldonium for legitimate reasons, but the organization believes the player had since gone out of her way to conceal her meldonium intake; where there’s smoke, there’s fire, if you will.

You can’t get something prescribed for a legitimate issue, but then only take the substance on match day. It doesn’t make sense, says the ITF.

The next step would be for the organization to respond to Sharapova after her apology turned out to be one of the best non apologies we’ve seen in recent times. There’s a lot of BS in that statement.

We’re also eager to see if WADA can get its sh*t together. Last we checked, WADA still didn’t know how long meldonium took to leave a person’s body; what does that mean for the Sharapova case? Will it change anything now that she’s been suspended?

Probably nothing, sure, but it’s mightily ballsy of the ITF to then react with such verve.

What, ITF? Have you never sinned, and thus you now feel compelled with proceeding to stone Sharapova incessantly?

We’re eager to see what comes next for Sharapova. Sure, she has appealed now and, considering that she has amassed quite a large deal of money in her career, will likely fight this thing until the end—but what if the decision is upheld? What then? Will the Russian just walk away?

We’re eager to see whether this decision, as well as the other athletes who have tested positive for meldonium since Jan. 1, may shine a light on the broader doping culture. Why was Sharapova, then just a teenager at 18 years old, prescribed meldonium in the first place? Why did this first doctor who gave her the substance also prescribe her 18 (!!!) medications and supplements at such a young (and critical) age?

We would like to have a discussion on doping and sports in general: why do we punish someone for taking meldonium but tolerate a basketball star that travels to Germany for a non-FDA surgery on his knee? Why do we punish someone for blood doping, but not for replacing a torn ligament in an elbow?

On that last part, here’s what we’ll say: sure, there are actual reasons, we know. But if you’re being honest, you know that the difference is not nearly as large as you would like it to be.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Thiem wins fourth title of the year in Stuttgart; Mahut defends Ricoh Open title

June 13, 2016

MERCEDES CUP—STUTTGART, GERMANY

Austrian sensation Dominic Thiem won his fourth title of the 2016 on Monday in Stuttgart, defeating hometown favourite Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4.

In a match that latest two days because of rain on Sunday, Thiem rebounded after losing the first set by using his forehand and backhand from the back of the court. Winning titles on grass, clay and hard-courts this year, Thiem is currently ranked No. 7 in the world and will next see action at the Halle event in Germany.

*****

RICOH OPEN—S-HERTOGENBOSCH, NETHERLANDS

Wild card Nicolas Mahut defended his title at the Ricoh Open on Monday, dismissing Gilles Muller 6-4, 6-4 in the Netherlands. Needing two days to complete the match because of rain on Sunday, Mahut used his potent serve and volley offence to win 72 percent of his first serve points, while winning all three of his break point chances. Improving to 2-0 against Muller in lifetime meetings, Mahut has now won four titles during his career, all of which have come on grass courts.

Tennis Elbow: Novak Djokovic makes tennis history

June 6, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first week of the 2016 French Open and looks ahead at the second.

At long last, Paris smiled back to Novak Djokovic.

After quite a number of failures at the French Open, the Serb is finally a career Grand Slam champion after beating Andy Murray in the Roland Garros final by the score of 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and 6-4. “It’s a thrilling moment,” Djokovic said after the win. “One of the most beautiful I have had in my career…”

The win makes him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once, as well as the eight man in history to win a title of each of the four majors and complete the career Grand Slam. This win feels like a big deal, because it is.

This wasn’t lost on the No. 1 player in the world. “It’s incredibly flattering to know that Rod Laver is the last one that managed to do that. There are not many words that can describe it. It’s one of the ultimate challenges that you have as a tennis player. I’m very proud and very thrilled,” he said. “It’s hard for me to reflect on what has happened before and what’s going to happen after. I’m just so overwhelmed with having this trophy next to me that I’m just trying to enjoy this moment.”

Murray, in defeat, also echoed many of the same sentiments. “This is Novak’s day,” he said. “Winning all four Grand Slams at once is a great achievement. This is something that is so rare in tennis. What he’s achieved the last 12 months is phenomenal. I’m proud to be part of it today.”

In our era of #hottakes and #instantanalysis, the reflex would be to look to understand this win in its broader context and to give to Djokovic the place in tennis lore that is rightfully his after such a win.

But that’s not what we’ll do; we’ll keep the broader context for another day because ours is also an era of social media, GIFs, videos, tweets and photos. So we’ll turn to Twitter to examine Djokovic’s first career French Open title under a few different lights—because there’s really a tweet for any- and everything.

See, here are tweets for the actual match itself, and Djokovic’s reactions to his win.

There are also good tweets that show us just how wonderful and dominant Djokovic was against Murray, and has been over the past year.

But of course, you’ve been following tennis for quite some time now and already knew this, so you think the above tweets are a little boring. In which case you are in luck, because Twitter is also great for illustrating with images or emoji what we used to have to write in words.

In 2016, social media are also excellent for putting things into their broader and historical context—and Twitter, after Djokovic’s win, was no exception.

Oh but right, we weren’t supposed to discuss the historical significance of this win; let’s keep that for another day.

See? There’s plenty to see and examine on Twitter and for the most part, we’ve stayed in the moment; we didn’t want to reflect on this landmark win for the Djoker, so we didn’t. We simply wanted to celebrate the win, and so we did.

Enjoy this French Open win, Novak. You’ve earned it.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

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