Tennis Elbow: Where will Serena Williams stop?

September 9, 2014

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 Serena Williams’s win at the 2014 US Open.

There’s nothing routine about winning a Grand Slam title, but Serena Williams sure made it seem that way on Sunday.

In the final against Caroline Wozniacki, she won in convincing fashion in two sets of 6-3—and it probably wasn’t that close. The match lasted all of 75 minutes, with the World No. 1 dominating on aces (i.e. 7 against 3), breaks (i.e. 5 against 2), winners (i.e. 29 against 4) and total points won (i.e. 65 against 49). About the only place where Wozniacki had an advantage was in unforced errors (i.e. 23 against 29), but that statistic also tells the entire tale. She could only react and most of the time could only put the ball back in play to live to see another day.

This win salvages Williams’s difficult 2014 season and gives her a three-peat at Flushing Meadows, a sixth US Open title and an 18th Grand Slam title, tying her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for second most in history. She’s almost 33 years old now and in her 19th season on the WTA Tour and, because we’ve already asked everything else, there’s really just one thing left to settle.

Is she the greatest of all time?

It’s not exactly fair, but that’s the heights she’s reached. In part, it’s due to the fact that she is so clearly the very best player of her era, having won those 18 titles against just four other defeats in the finals. (And two of those defeats came against her sister Venus.)

It’s not entirely fair, and neither is it new of course. This is a question we’ve even asked here in this column, not once but at least twice. And it’s one for which the answer might depend on how long Williams plans to keep playing.

If this latest US Open title is any indication, she probably has a few more years—Williams never lost more than three games in the 14 sets that she played in New York. And if she does plan on playing a few more seasons, the odds are high that she breaks the tie for second place. And right now, she needs four more major titles to get to Steffi Graf’s tally of 22.

Is that possible? Likely? She’s enjoyed a fine trio of seasons since 2012 with five Grand Slam titles, but these have come at age 31, 32 and 33. At some point, Williams will stop. And yet, it’s set up perfectly for her. The other top players on the WTA Tour are either young (e.g. Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard), what we think they are (e.g. Caroline Wozniacki), clay-court specialists (e.g. Maria Sharapova) or injured (e.g. Victoria Azarenka, Li Na). Williams is old, but she’s still the best of the group.

Of course, a Wozniacki win at Flushing Meadows would have made for a great story as well. This is the same woman who was chastised as an unworthy No. 1-ranked player in 2010 and 2011 because, of all things, she hadn’t won major tournaments. This despite the fact that she was quite clearly a worthy No. 1 since she lorded over the WTA rankings for a full 67 weeks.

If it takes so long to mention Williams’s opponent in this final, it’s because it seemed like this match was far beyond Wozniacki’s reach. It wasn’t, of course. She should have played better. And if she had, then the match might have been closer. It might have even reached a third set, as it did in their previous two meetings over the summer—but it didn’t because she didn’t.

It’s telling that Wozniacki’s best shot is her backhand. Traditionally, this is the weaker shot, the one that’s used on the defensive, the one which players run around of in order to attack from their stronger, forehand side. There are iconic backhand shots, Novak Djokovic’s shot down the line being the shot that propelled him to the top in 2011.

There are also notable exceptions, Wozniacki’s the prime example. We’ve seen the 24-year-old run around her forehand in order to attack with the backhand. Hers is a shot that’s reliable, strong and, at least if you listen to my tweets, it “belongs in a museum… because it’s everything that is right in this world.” (I tend to exaggerate, but ever so slightly.)

Of course, the symbolism isn’t lost on most readers. Against Williams in the US Open final, she was on the defensive and never dictated play. Wozniacki lost, but she’s fine—just look at her Instagram feed. “Out and about NYC with @serenawilliams !! #selfie

That’s the lesson here. If you lose a tennis match, take a selfie. And if you win too, do it. In fact, just take a selfie. It’s just tennis.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Podcast: Cilic and Serena rule NYC in 2014; Federer fails

September 9, 2014

Welcome back to another season of the TennisConnected Podcast.

On this week’s show, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back review the 2014 US Open.

With a surprising win by Marin Cilic, we discuss the remainder of the year for the Croat and how the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray will finish of 2014. We also discuss Serena Williams’ much-needed win in the Big Apple over good friend Caro Wozniacki. Finally, we look forward to a potentially interesting fall 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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US Open 2014: Men’s Final Review

September 8, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Marin Cilic is the 2014 US Open men’s singles champion, the Croatian defeating a visibly fatigued Kei Nishikori in straight sets on Day 15 to claim his first Grand Slam title.

Day 15 Recap

Both players were competing in their first Grand Slam final in what is the biggest tennis stadium in the world and, not surprisingly, there were signs of nerves on both sides of the net in the first set. Cilic struck first blood however, breaking for a 4-2 lead in the opening set when Nishikori, down 0-40, saved 2 break points but was unable to save the third. Continuing his excellent serving form, which saw him drop just one point on his first serve in the opening set, Cilic maintained the advantage to take the set, 6-3.

Putting constant pressure on the Nishikori serve, Cilic again lined up a trio of break points in the second set. This time, the tenth seed was able to get back to deuce, only to then throw away the game when he netted a backhand. After his epic duels against Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic, Nishikori was finally showing signs of lethargy, and a second break to Cilic in the seventh game of the set put the Croatian in the driver’s seat to secure the set. The Japanese star managed to claim back one of the breaks, only for Cilic to claim the set on Nishikori’s serve in the very next game.

With his pupil up 2 sets to love and within sight of the finishing line, coach Goran Ivanisevic was looking decidedly twitchy, but Cilic remained composed. The Croatian broke the Nishikori serve in the fourth game of the set and kept his nose in front from there, eventually claiming the championship with a 6-3 6-3 6-3 win in 114 minutes.

For Cilic, it was a fairytale finish after he was forced to miss last year’s tournament due to his suspension for taking a banned substance. The Croat used his time away from the ATP Tour wisely, vastly improving his serve and returning to tournament play with a reinvigorated attitude to boot. Judging by his last 3 matches at Flushing Meadows, which saw him beat each of Berdych, Federer and Nishikori in straight sets, Cilic will be a prime contender in the majors in 2015 and is clearly an emerging force in the men’s game.

For Nishikori, it was a disappointing end to his collection of heroic performances during the tournament. The Japanese star wasn’t at his best on Monday, and he was simply unable to match Cilic in raw firepower, serving just 2 aces to Cilic’s 17 and hitting only 19 winners to 38 from Cilic. Still, the past fortnight has shown Nishikori that he belongs in the upper echelon of the men’s game and, at age 24, I have no doubt that his best tennis is still yet to come.

That’s it for this year’s US Open. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage. Enjoy the tennis as the tours move towards the indoor season, and I’ll be back with another serve soon. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Cilic wins first US Open title in easy fashion over Nishikori

September 8, 2014

US Open 2014—Flushing Meadows, New York

Croatian Marin Cilic won his first-ever Grand Slam title at the US Open on Monday, defeating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Hitting 17 aces and breaking serve on five occasions, Cilic hit 38 winners to only 27 unforced errors. Taking home three million dollars for his victory, Cilic won his third meeting against Nishikori in eight meetings. Nishikori, who was looking for the first major title of his career, defeated Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic on the way to the finals. Both Cilic and Nishikori will now be ranked in the top 10.

US Open 2014 Day 15 Preview: Marin’s momentum vs. Kei’s courage

September 8, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

For the third year in a row, and for the sixth time in her career, Serena Williams in the US Open women’s singles champion, the American capturing her first Grand Slam of 2014 and the eighteenth major of her illustrious career with a straight sets win over Caroline Wozniacki.

Tonight, the tournament concludes with the men’s singles final, in which Croatia’s Marin Cilic will take on Japan’s Kei Nishikori, with each man looking to collect his first Grand Slam title.

Day 14 Recap

Coming into the tournament in strong form, which saw her collect tournament victories in Stanford and Cincinnati, Williams had breezed her way into the final without the loss of a set, and the American veteran started the final in ominous form, racing out to a 2-0 lead. From there, Wozniacki managed to settle herself but was unable to regularly hold her serve, trading breaks with Williams as both players struggled with their first serves in the windy conditions inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. At one stage, there were 5 successive breaks of serve, but Williams was able to hold her serve when she needed to, producing 15 winners for the opening set to take it, 6-3.

Going into the second set, Wozniacki had produced just one winner and was finding it difficult to push Williams around the court. The American underlined her brilliant front-running abilities, which have seen her only lose once at Flushing Meadows after winning the first set, improving her first serve percentage and establishing a 5-3 lead in the second set. Serving to stay in the championship, Wozniacki was powerless to stop the Williams juggernaut, and an errant backhand handed the top seed the championship after 75 minutes, 6-3 6-3. Fifteen years after claiming her first major in New York as a teenager, Williams was again reunited with the championship trophy.

Fittingly, legendary rivals Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, each of whom won 18 singles majors during her career, were on hand to congratulate Williams on joining the 18 majors club. One wonders, however, just how long Williams will remain in that club. Judging by her performance over the past fortnight, which saw her annihilate the field, it won’t be long before she is knocking on the door of Grand Slam number 19.

Match of the Day – Day 14

Marin Cilic vs. Kei Nishikori

For the first time since the 2005 Australian Open final, men’s tennis will see a Grand Slam singles final that is not contested by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. There have been various players during the past decade who have been able to put together a hot streak and make it to a Grand Slam final (including David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) but, apart from Andy Murray, no player has been able to regularly compete with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Wawrinka and Del Potro are the only players outside of the Big Four who have claimed majors during the past decade, but each of them has made just the one Grand Slam final.

All of which brings me to today’s intriguing showdown. So often a player surges from the pack to make a Grand Slam final, only to find a member of the Big Four waiting for him there. This time, however, it is different – both Federer and Djokovic suffered shock losses in the semi-finals and so we have Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic both into a Grand Slam final for the first time. So much of this match will depend on how the players handle their emotions throughout the course of the match. On one hand, it is completely new territory for each player; on the other hand, each player knows that he will most likely never get a better opportunity to be crowned US Open champion.

Cilic has been a revelation since returning from his 2013 suspension for taking a banned substance, the lanky Croat improving his serve enormously under the guidance of compatriot Goran Ivanisevic and drawing confidence and inspiration from the former Wimbledon champion. Cilic was ruthlessly efficient against Tomas Berdych and then played the match of his life to whip Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-finals. Cilic’s serve will be crucial in this match, for Nishikori is a fabulous returner and will be favoured from the baseline in the longer points. My biggest concern for Cilic is his ability to back up mentally and emotionally from his win against Federer. It was a near-perfect match, but the reality is that he will find it hard to replicate such quality of execution in the final. Often athletes will suffer a let-down after such a sublime performance, and I suspect that this will be the case for Cilic.

Nishikori, on the other hand, has been performing at an extremely high level for multiple matches without ever playing the perfect match. The Japanese star was forced to endure gruelling 5-setters against Raonic and Wawrinka, but didn’t seem fatigued against Djokovic in the semi-finals, where he collected a 4 set win. Perhaps the inclusion of the freakishly fit former French Open champion Michael Chang in Nishikori’s coaching team has helped the tenth seed with his stamina and his belief in long matches.

The Japanese star holds a 5-2 advantage over Cilic in head-to-head meetings, although both of Cilic’s wins have come on hard-courts, including at the 2012 US Open. Both meetings this year have been won by Nishikori, and I think that the tenth seed has a very good chance of winning the championship if he can simply get a decent number of Cilic’s first serves back into play. Cilic has been virtually unplayable on his first service points in his last couple of matches, but Nishikori’s lightning quick reflexes and compact swings should give him a chance of getting more returns into play than Federer and Berdych did in their contests with Cilic.

It’s not the final that anyone expected, but I think that this will be a fascinating and close match all the same. I suspect Cilic will tighten up a little and not serve as well as he did in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. If so, I expect Nishikori to take full advantage and be too solid from the back of the court for the Croatian. Nishikori in 4.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow to recap the men’s final. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 14 Preview: Serena vs. Caro (Bring it)

September 7, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Monday will see Flushing Meadows play host to a men’s final that nobody expected, a match-up whose odds of eventuating were 5000-1 at the beginning of the tournament. Day 13 saw Kei Nishikori shock top seed Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic outclass second seed Roger Federer to set up a surprising and historic men’s singles final. Meanwhile, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki go head to head today in a battle for the ladies’ singles championship.

Day 13 Recap

After back-to-back 5-setters against Raonic and Wawrinka, Nishikori was given little chance of upsetting the world number one Djokovic in the opening men’s semi-final. The Japanese star had spent 3 and a half hours more on court than Djokovic in the lead-up to the semi-final, but Nishikori showed no signs of wilting in the hot and humid conditions, the weather clearly suiting the 24 year old, who has been based in muggy Florida for the majority of the past decade.

After the tenth seed edged Djokovic in the opening set, 6-4, the Serb immediately fired back, racing through the second set for the loss of just one game. The third set proved decisive, with Nishikori forced to save multiple break points before squandering a chance to serve out the set at 5-3. The set went to a tiebreaker and for once it was Djokovic who was unable to deliver under pressure, dropping the opening 4 points of the tiebreaker and eventually losing it 7 points to 4. An immediate break in the opening game of the fourth set by Nishikori, and a crucial hold in the next game, which saw him save 3 break points, put the Japanese star in sight of the finishing line and 7 games later he became the first Asian male to make a Grand Slam singles final, claiming a famous 6-4 1-6 7-6(4) 6-3 win.

Having seen Djokovic’s surprise exit, Roger Federer must have been pumped up for his semi-final against Marin Cilic, with the Swiss great no doubt sensing that the title was his for the taking. Cilic, however, had other ideas, delivering another sublime serving performance to completely outplay the 17-time major winner. The first set saw Cilic drop just 5 points on serve, with a solitary break enough to give him the lead after 28 minutes. A similar scenario unfolded in the second set, with  a sloppy service game from Federer handing Cilic the requisite break as the fourteenth seed claimed the set, 6-4, to the delight of coach Goran Ivanisevic. After a little more than an hour, Cilic was just one set away from competing in his first ever Grand Slam final.

At 2 sets to love down, the crowd willed Federer on, perhaps sensing that they were in for another fabulous fight-back along the lines of the recovery the second seed made against Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals. An early break to the 5-time US Open winner had the crowd roaring, as Federer went up 2-0. But this time the Federer recovery was short-lived, with Cilic claiming an immediate break back and then blasting another winner, one of 43 for the match, to claim the critical break in the seventh game of the set. Any threat of Cilic seizing up when serving for the match quickly evaporated, as the Croat sent down a trio of aces before securing the win with a sublime backhand winner.

Match of the Day – Day 14

Serena Williams vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Close friends Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will contest the women’s singles final today, and you can be sure that both players will be putting their friendship to one side in this encounter. Both players have held the world number one ranking, with Williams currently at the top of the summit, but that’s about where the similarities between the players end. Williams is a 17-time major champion who is looking to capture her third consecutive US Open crown and sixth overall, whilst Wozniacki is into just her second major final and is still looking for a maiden Grand Slam title after being denied the title in New York in 2009 by Kim Clijsters.

The players are also very different in terms of their approach on court, with Williams a master of first strike tennis and Wozniacki far more of a retriever and counterpuncher. The American will seek to dominate on her service games, hoping to score plenty of cheap points on her first serve. Look for Williams to step inside the baseline on the Wozniacki second serve and attack up the line on the return of serve, hoping to get a short ball and to finish the points quickly thereafter. By contrast, Wozniacki will be looking to implement plenty of variety from the baseline, mixing up the pace and spin of her shots as she seeks to keep Williams off-balance and out of position. The Dane’s chances of winning a point increase significantly the longer it goes, so withstanding the initial onslaught from Williams at the beginning of each point is critical to Wozniacki’s chances.

Williams holds a commanding  8-1 advantage in career meetings with Wozniacki, although the tenth seed pushed the American to 3 sets in both of their recent meetings on hard-courts. I think Wozniacki will give a good account of herself and is in the sort of form to take advantage of any weakness from Williams. However, I can’t see Wozniacki having the ability to dictate much of this match. Win or lose, I think this match will be played on Williams’ terms, with the American going for her shots and her success being dependent on her ability to execute. Given her recent success during the North American hard-court swing, it’s hard to imagine Williams not being able to execute successfully. Williams in 3.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow to recap the women’s final and preview the men’s decider. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 13 Preview: Federer vs. Cilic; Djokovic vs. Nishikori

September 6, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Top seed Serena Williams will look to claim a third consecutive US Open crown on Sunday after advancing to the final courtesy of a straight sets win over Ekaterina Makarova on Day 12. Williams will face Caroline Wozniacki in the final after the Dane progressed when Shuai Peng was forced to retire from their semi-final due to cramping.

Day 13 sees Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic looking to create a rematch of their Wimbledon final, the top two seeds taking on Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori, respectively, in the men’s semi-finals.

Day 12 Recap

Top seeded Williams delighted the crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Day 12 by steamrolling past the Russian Makarova, racing out to an early lead and not letting her opponent into the match thereafter. Makarova, who shocked Williams at Melbourne Park in 2012, was unable to match Williams in the power stakes in the first set and, despite a tougher contest in the second set, couldn’t push the match to a deciding set, Williams prevailing with a 6-1 6-3 win in 60 minutes. The 17-time major winner has now lost of a total of just 26 games across 6 matches.

Caroline Wozniacki is into her second career Grand Slam final 5 years after making her first US Open final, the tenth seed advancing courtesy of Shuai Peng’s retirement. Peng came into the match in top form, having taken down a host of seeds en route to the semi-finals. For the first 2 hours of the match, Peng matched the former world number one shot for shot, pushing the first set to a tiebreaker, only to see Wozniacki race through it for the loss of just one point.

The second set saw Peng again take an early lead, before Wozniacki clawed her way back into the set. At 4-3 to Wozniacki in the second set however, Peng began to suffer the effects of severe cramp in the warm and sunny conditions, requesting a medical timeout and then being forced to retire once it became clear that her movement would be significantly impaired.

Matches of the Day – Day 13

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori has developed a reputation as being injury-prone, but in his last couple of matches the Japanese star has shown incredible stamina and resilience. Back-to-back 5 set matches against Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka, both of which extended beyond 4 hours, tested Nishikori’s resolve and desire, but the tenth seed passed both tests with flying colours.

Former French Open winner Michael Chang has, as a member of Nishikori’s coaching team, added grit and determination to Nishikori’s existing skills, which include sublime court coverage and impressive shotmaking abilities off both wings. At 24, Nishikori is approaching his prime, and making his first semi-final of a Grand Slam should provide a strong foundation for the Japanese star to make a run towards the world’s top 15 next year.

Djokovic has been very solid to date at Flushing Meadows, not dropping a set in his opening 4 matches and then weathering the early storm against Andy Murray to prevail in 4 sets in their quarter-final. The top seed will be looking to peak in the final and, having lost one of his previous 2 matches to Nishikori, will not be taking the tenth seed lightly. I think Nishikori, in the semi-finals of a major for the first time, might take some time to find his feet against Djokovic, who is a formidable frontrunner. I predict Nishikori will rally late in the match but I can’t see Djokovic losing this one. Djokovic in 4.

2. Roger Federer vs. Marin Cilic

I’m sensing it will be a switched on Roger Federer who enters Centre Court today in New York. The Swiss superstar was on the brink of defeat against Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals, the Frenchman squandering a 2 sets to love lead and 2 match points against Federer. Utilising his vast experience, Federer worked his way back into the match against Monfils and ultimately sailed through the final set, but the second seed will be anxious to avoid such dramas against Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.

Federer holds a 5-0 record against the Croat, but it must be noted that Cilic lost a very close 3-setter in Toronto last month which featured a pair of tiebreakers. Cilic has made one Grand Slam semi-final previously, at the Australian Open in 2010, where he lost to Andy Murray, and he will be far more experienced and composed this time around.

Cilic has bounced back tremendously well from his drugs ban last year, which saw his ranking fall outside the world’s top 40. Under the watchful eye of former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic has upped the speed and consistency of his first serve and is looking more confident on court in all departments.

I think Cilic will push Federer for the first couple of sets, which are likely to be hotly contested. From there, I think the Swiss star will be too strong, and will pull away for the win. Federer in 4.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 12 Preview: Serena & Caro inch closer to the finals

September 5, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Roger Federer is back in the US Open semi-finals for the first time since 2011, the 5-time champion saving 2 match points to defeat Gael Monfils in an electrifying night session on Day 11. Meanwhile, Day 12 is ladies’ semi-finals day at Flushing Meadows, with Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki looking to book their spots in Sunday’s final.

Day 11 Recap

The day session saw Croat Marin Cilic hoping to advance to his second career Grand Slam semi-final. Standing in his way was sixth seed and former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. Cilic raced out to an early lead against the Czech Davis Cup star, breaking Berdych in the opening game of the match and never surrendering his advantage.

Berdych, who had held 60 of his 64 service games heading in to the quarter-final, was all at sea on serve in the blustery conditions, dropping serve 4 times in the first set and a half alone. In contrast, Cilic was ruthlessly efficient on serve, dropping just one point on his first service points in the second set. A brief fightback by Berdych at the beginning of the third set, which saw the sixth seed go up a break, was halted when a double-bounce ruling by the umpire shattered the Czech’s focus. The set went to a tiebreaker, with Cilic proving too solid and claiming a straight sets win in a touch over 2 hours.

In order to advance to his first ever Grand Slam final, Cilic will need to overcome 17-time major winner Roger Federer, who was forced to pull out all the stops to halt the charge of Gael Monfils. The Frenchman dominated the early stages of the encounter, claiming the opening 2 sets of the match to put Federer on the verge of a surprise exit.

Monfils then had a pair of match points on Federer’s deep in the third set but the Swiss star showed his experience, saving both and going on to claim the set. From there, the match had a sense of inevitability about it, with Federer growing in confidence and Monfils starting to falter. By the time the match entered a deciding set, the 33 year old Federer was in full flight, racing to a 5-1 lead before closing out a memorable win in 200 minutes.

Matches of the Day – Day 12

1. Shuai Peng vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Shuai Peng has looked switched on from the very start of the tournament, which saw her upset fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round. Peng has added other seeds to her list of scalps, including Roberta Vinci and Lucie Safarova, and the Chinese player will not hold back against Wozniacki today. Double-handed off both sides, Peng is a very effective returner and is more powerful than Wozniacki from the baseline.

Wozniacki has enjoyed a resurgence in the last few months, winning the title in Istanbul and performing very solidly in the North American swing coming into New York. Training for the New York marathon seems to have improved Wozniacki’s stamina, as evidenced against Sharapova, and her confidence, which must have taken a beating after her drop down in the rankings and her split from Rory McIlroy. Wozniacki is in fine form and has more experience at this stage of big tournaments, and I sense she will be more composed on the big points. Wozniacki in 3.

2. Serena Williams vs. Ekaterina Makarova

Ekaterina Makarova has been very consistent in the majors in the last few years and has had a superb tournament to date, highlighted by a win over former world number one Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals. Makarova is into her first Grand Slam semi-final, but as a former French Open doubles winner the Russian should not be overawed by the big stage. Makarova has also beaten Serena Williams in a Grand Slam before, upsetting the American at Melbourne Park in 2012.

Williams has beaten Makarova in their other 3 clashes, and the top seed has been simply unstoppable at Flushing Meadows so far this year, dropping just 22 games across 5 matches. The two-time defending champion will look to obtain plenty of cheap points on serve and to keep the points short against Makarova. Look for Williams to step inside the baseline on the Makarova serve and to employ her preferred brand of first strike tennis. I think the Russian will battle valiantly, but I can’t see Williams losing this one. Williams in 2.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2014 Day 11 Preview: Monfils looks to derail Federer

September 4, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese male since 1918 to make the US Open semi-finals, the tenth seed outlasting third seed Stan Wawrinka in 5 sets in a thriller on Day 10 of the tournament.

Day 10 Recap

Having not finished his fourth round match against Milos Raonic until 2:26am on Tuesday morning, there were plenty of doubters when it came to injury-prone Nishikori’s chances against Australian Open champion Wawrinka. The Swiss star, who went into the match with a perfect record against Nishikori, took an early lead before the Japanese player gained the ascendency by claiming the second and third sets. Wawrinka refused to give up, taking the fourth set in a tiebreaker to force the match into a deciding fifth set, but the third seed was unable to stay with Nishikori in the latter stages, the tenth seed eventually claiming victory after 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Nishikori will battle top seed Novak Djokovic for a place in Monday’s final after the Serb took down former champion Andy Murray in a pulsating 4-setter. Murray adopted a far more aggressive approach than is usual for the Scot, going all out on his forehand wing as he endeavoured to dictate play against the world number one. The first two sets were split via tiebreakers before Djokovic cruised through the third set and took advantage of some back troubles encountered by Murray in the fourth set to book his spot in the semi-finals.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova advanced to her first ever Grand Slam semi-final, defeating two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka in straight sets, 6-4 6-2. The Russian recovered from an early deficit against the Belarusian, who looked flat and was apparently affected by food poisoning in the lead-up to the match. Azarenka smashed her racquet in frustration when she went down a break in the second set, but it was to little avail, with Makarova proving far too steady and consistent on the day.

Makarova faces an almighty challenge if she is to advance to the tournament final, with two-time defending champion Serena Williams standing in her way. The 17-time major champion proved too good for fellow veteran Flavia Pennetta on Day 10, registering a 6-3 6-2 victory and remaining on course for her first Grand Slam of the year.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Tomas Berdych vs. Marin Cilic

Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic are very similar players and embody the modern tennis professional. Both players are lean, lanky, powerful and pretty good movers, given their height. Former Wimbledon finalist Berdych has had the more decorated career to date, although Cilic has made the Australian Open semi-finals previously.

Cilic beat Berdych in a tight match at Wimbledon in July, although Berdych owns a 5-3 career advantage over the Croat, and has won 3 of their 4 meetings on hard-courts. The players are fairly evenly matched from the back of the court, with Cilic probably having the better backhand and Berdych owning a more effective forehand. I think this match will be decided by the serve and return of serve.

Cilic has improved his serve significantly under the tutelage of Goran Ivanisevic, but Berdych has been in tremendous serving form to date in this tournament. Berdych plays his best tennis on fast hard-courts, where he can get on top early in points and dictate play from thereon. I predict this to be a close encounter, but I’ll back the Czech to gain revenge for his defeat by Cilic at the All England Club earlier this year. Berdych in 5.

2. Gael Monfils vs. Roger Federer

Roger Federer has been predictably consistent at Flushing Meadows this year, easing through to the quarter-finals with a minimum of fuss. Gael Monfils has been unpredictably consistent in New York to date, shunning his usual lapses of concentration and mood swings to progress to the final 8 without dropping a set.

It’s not as though Monfils has benefitted from an easy draw – the Frenchman whipped compatriot Richard Gasquet in the third round and then edged past Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, coached by Monfils’ ex-coach Roger Rasheed, in a fiery round of 16 clash.

Monfils is without a coach at present, and it seems to be suiting him just fine, with the flamboyant Frenchman producing some of the most consistent tennis of his career in this tournament. Federer leads Monfils 7-2 in head-to-head meetings, although both of Monfils’ wins have come on hard-courts, including in Shanghai last year. I think Monfils will push Federer in this one, but in his current rich vein of form, I can’t go past the Swiss superstar. Federer in 4.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Podcast: Will this USO belong to Federer and Caro?

September 3, 2014

Welcome back to another season of the TennisConnected Podcast.

On this week’s show, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back preview what lies ahead during the final weekend of the 2014 US Open.

Will Roger Federer take home his 18th career major? Does Caro Wozniacki have the goods to capture her first career slam? Will Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams live up to their seeding and walk away glorious in NYC? How about the chances of Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori? We discuss these topics and many more on this week’s show.

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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