Zverev, Pouille win maiden ATP World Tour titles in St. Petersburg, Metz

September 25, 2016


German Alexander Zverev captured his maiden ATP World Tour title on Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia, defeating top seed and reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. In a match that lasted two hours and 32 minutes, Zverev overcame a 0-3 deficit in set three against his hard-hitting Swiss opponent. Breaking serve on four occasions, Zverev hit two aces and won 67 percent of his first serve points.

Wawrinka, who was aiming to win his fifth title of the year, lost his first final since s-Hertogenbosch in 2013.



Frenchman Lucas Pouille continued his great year on Tour by winning his first career title in Metz, France on Sunday. Defeating top seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(5), 6-2, Pouille improved to 30-18 on the season and 2-0 against Thiem in lifetime meetings. Needing only one hour and 18 minutes to seal his victory, Pouille struck 10 aces and broke the serve of his Austrian opponent on two occasions. Reaching both the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the US Open, Pouille will likely hit a career high of No. 16 in the world on Monday.

Thiem, who was in search of his fifth title of 2016, fell to 55-18 on the year.

Stan Wawrinka wins US Open title over Novak Djokovic in four sets

September 11, 2016

US Open—New York, New York

No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka won his third career Grand Slam title on Sunday in Flushing Meadows, New York, defeating top seed Novak Djokovic 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. In a match that lasted three hours and 54 minutes, Wawrinka struck 46 winners to 51 unforced errors and broke serve on six occasions. Winning his fifth career match against Djokovic in their last 25 meetings, Wawrinka is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals and has won his last 11 finals on Tour. The Swiss great, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, also defeated Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Verdasco earlier in the event. Wawrinka also saved a match point against Dan Evans in the third round.

Djokovic, who was aiming to win his 13th Major, walks away with two Slam victories in 2016. The Serb won in Australia and finished off his Grand Slam collection at the French Open in early June.

All sights will now turn to Melbourne, Australia and the first Major of 2017 in January.

US Open 2016: Men’s Final Preview: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka

September 10, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

The 2016 US Open men’s final will feature Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic has breezed into his seventh final in NYC, losing two sets along the way but only playing three complete matches. His semifinal against Gael Monfils did pose some relative struggles, but that was much more in the way of the heat and humidity than his opponent. In stark contrast, Wawrinka has clawed tooth and nail to reach his third Major final. Taking out former top tenner Fernando Verdasco in the opening round, Wawrinka also defeated the likes of former winner Juan Martin del Potro and former finalist Kei Nishikori, while saving a match point against Dan Evans in the third round. To say that Wawrinka is primed and ready for the finals would be accurate, while suggesting that Djokovic hasn’t been tested and could be under matched is also accurate.

With the table set for Sunday’s finale, let’s take a look at how it could play out.

Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka (Djokovic leads the pair’s head-to-head 20-4)

If their H2H is any indication, Djokovic should walk away with Sunday’s title in Queens in comfortable fashion. But when you dig deeper through the 24 lines of their previous matches, you’ll notice that all of their encounters that have meant the most, have been extremely tight. Let’s first begin with Wawrinka’s victory at Roland Garros last year over Djokovic in four sets, which followed his five set victory over Nole in the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinal, a tournament which Wawrinka also won. The two have played in New York before—another five setter in 2013, won by Djokovic).

Simply put, these two match up well and that’s why their biggest matches have been good ones. Now, as we head into Sunday’s contest, here’s how it could unfold: Djokovic will clearly be the fresher of the two, but may not have the same feel for his shots like Wawrinka will have. If Stan can get through the first 90 minutes of the match with a lead, then I believe that he is in good shape to take the title. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I took Wawrinka to win this title, and I’ll stick with that pick. I believe that Stan is one of the only players in the world that can truly hurt Djokovic off of every single shot. With the court in NYC playing slower this year (similar to Australia), Wawrinka will feel right at home against Djokovic’s baseline attack. That said, Djokovic is the best player in the world for a reason. He finds ways to win and has gained the experience to deal with almost every situation. The only way to really shut down the Serb is to take the racket out of his hand. Wawrinka can certainly do that.

Judging by Sunday’s forecast, it’s set to be another hot one. That should favor Wawrinka because of his overall strength and power. To conclude, Djokovic is the better mover of the two, while Wawrinka holds the power quotient. I’m a firm believer that power, when played the right way will defeat foot speed in the modern game. That’s exactly how Wawrinka defeated Djokovic along the way to his two Grand Slam titles, and that’s exactly how he’ll do it again on Sunday. Although five sets would be great to see, look for Wawrinka to capture his third career Major over Djokovic in four sets.

US Open 2016: Women’s Final Preview: Angie Kerber vs. Karolina Pliskova

September 9, 2016

Getty Images

by: Nima Naderi

After a comprehensive win against all-time great Serena Williams in the semifinals, Karolina Pliskova continues her sizzling summer after winning the title in Cincinnati. Reaching her first-career Major final, Pliskova will have to dig deep one more time to upset new world No. 1 Angie Kerber in the finals. To Kerber’s credit, the German has kept her head down and mowed through the tough NYC field. Reaching the finals of her third Grand Slam in 2016, Kerber has without question deserved the No. 1 ranking. Will the German claim her second Major on Saturday and begin her reign as the world’s top player in style, or will Pliskova have one final upset left in her memorable fortnight?

Let’s now have a look at the match up itself.

Angelique Kerber vs. Karolina Pliskova

Playing on seven previous occasions, Kerber currently owns a slight 4-3 head-to-head lead, but as we all remember their last match in Cincinnati was one-way traffic for Pliskova. There’s no doubt that Kerber was feeling the strain of playing the Rio final the week before and Pliskova was the fresher of the two on that day. But when you continue to look at their previous matches, it’s clear to see that Kerber has always had a lot of trouble with Karolina’s game, and Saturday should be no different. If we’re being perfectly honest, the chances of Pliskova reaching another Grand Slam final will be slim. Her game is not very high percentage and if she’s a little off, she’s nowhere near the level that she is now. That said, I think she will bring everything she has to this match and pose a real threat to the title. Karolina certainly has more power and her current belief is right up there with anyone after defeating both Serena and Venus en-route to the finals. However, Kerber is the craftier of the two players and does possess the angles to offset Pliskova’s power. As it stands right now, I’m leaning toward a Kerber three set victory, with the German dropping the second set. Simply put: Kerber has too much experience at this stage of a Major to let it slip away.

US Open 2016: Men’s Semifinal Preview

September 8, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

Andy Murray’s sensational summer has come to an end at the hands of Kei Nishikori. The Japanese star weathered a slow start to upset the No. 2 seed at the US Open on Tuesday. With Murray out of the way, Novak Djokoivc becomes the undisputed favorite for the title, but he will have to get past the likes of Gael Monfils and either Stan Wawrinka or Nishikori to win his 13th Major.

Will the Serb be the last man standing on Sunday after the final Grand Slam of the season? Let’s have a look at how it will all likely unfold.

Novak Djokovic vs. Gael Monfils

Never losing to Monfils in 12 previous meetings, Djokovic certainly does know a thing or two about how to defeat the Frenchman. Playing only two complete matches in his first five rounds, Djokovic will certainly be fresh when he takes on Gael, but one wonders what his match toughness will be like against a player that hasn’t lost a set in his first five (completed) matches? The bottom line here is that Djokovic should not lose this match. He knows how to play Monfils and outlast him from the baseline. Much like the rest of players on Tour, the only real way to defeat Novak is the overpower him. Monfils does have more power and more athleticism than Djokovic but he has historically lacked the consistency and discipline from the back of the court. That said, Monfils has been a new man in 2016 and this could be about as good a chance as ever to finally get a win over Djokovic and make his first Grand Slam final. I could see this contest going five sets but you have to think that when it really matters, Djokovic will figure out a way to get through this match and be one of the two players vying for the title on Sunday. Winner: Djokovic in five sets.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Kei Nishikori

If history is any indicator as to how this one will unfold, Wawrinka is due for a win after Nishikori won their previous encounter at the Rogers Cup this summer. As many of you know out there who follow us on Twitter and listen to our Podcast, I picked Wawrinka to win this event and will continue to stay with that pick. When looking at the pair’s last three meetings dating back to the 2014 US Open quarterfinal, there has been a trend of tight matches and sets throughout. It’s clear that if Wawrinka is in full tilt, then he should win this contest via his sheer power and shot placement. However, in the same mode as a Djokovic, Nishikori’s steady play and drop shots could very easily off set Wawrinka and send him packing.

Finally, an emotional victory over Andy Murray should have Nishikori slightly fatigued both mentally and physically. My overall thoughts toward this match are that Wawrinka is a big match player and won’t let a chance at reaching his first US Open final slip away. Nishikori will fight until the bitter end, but Wawrinka’s shot-making and the great coaching of Magnus Norman should take him over the finish line. Wawrinka in five sets.

US Open 2016: Women’s Semifinal Preview

September 7, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

The final four on the women’s side has been set at the US Open, and Serena Williams’ quest for her 23rd Major is still alive. Gutting out a three set victory over Simona Halep on Wednesday night, the American will next face Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the finals. Elsewhere, Kei Nishikori turned in the upset of the men’s draw by defeating No. 2 seed Andy Murray in five thrilling sets, while Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro finished off the day in Ashe Stadium.

With the women’s semifinals set for Thursday evening, let’s take a look at each match and who should prevail.

Serena Williams vs. Karolina Pliskova

Winning their lone previous encounter back in 2014 at the Stanford event, Serena will be full steam ahead in this one as she aims for her 23rd Slam. Even though no one is giving Pliskova a reasonable chance at victory, it should be mentioned that she is on a serious winning streak after taking the title in Cincinnati. Possessing a big serve and a powerful forehand, the stoic demeanor of Pliskova should put up some resistance in the early stages of this contest. However, one wonders if the Czech player will already be satisfied with her result and pay day? If so, then this could be a two and two scoreline for Williams. If not, then I still believe that Serena will win, but the scoreline would be much closer. Whatever the case, it’s impossible to go against Serena at her home Slam against pretty much anyone. Serena in two.

Angelique Kerber vs. Caroline Wozniacki

In a head-to-head that has seen Kerber win seven of twelve matches against Wozniacki, this match up is not as clear-cut to call. Even though Kerber has played lights out this year, Wozniacki has had a great renaissance this fortnight by putting together a deep run. Finding her form by hitting through the ball as opposed to guiding her shots like she’s done the past two years, Wozniacki could surprise many in this contest with her result. That said, I just don’t see Caroline being able to produce a level that will ultimately take her to victory.

Kerber’s strengths are pretty much been set in stone: She’a a lefty, who opens up the court better than anybody, and her improved fitness allows her to track down almost every ball from every opponent. I do think that Wozniacki will have a decent shot in this match, but will eventually end up falling in three sets.

US Open 2016: Three to see on Day 10: Serena, Murray and Wawrinka

September 7, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

After a disappointing Tuesday in Queens, the tennis world will be hopeful that the three featured matches on Wednesday will bring forward the excitement that was missing on Day 9. Novak Djokovic has received two retirements and a walkover as he’s into yet another semifinal, while Angie Kerber continues to roll toward yet another Grand Slam final.

Wednesday will bring forward three popcorn matches of the highest order, and here’s hoping that they will all go the distance.

Let’s take a look at where you want to be on Day 10 at Flushing Meadows.

Andy Murray vs. Kei Nishikori (Ashe Stadium, Day Session)

In a head-to-head dominated by Murray, it will be interesting to see how Nishikori responds to the challenge of facing the hottest player in men’s tennis these days. Murray has been on fire since winning Wimbledon and has two wins over Kei this year. When I look at this match up as an overall, I would give the slight edge to Nishikori on the forehand side but every other category goes to the Brit. Murray is also serving better than he ever has and barely missing from the back of the court. His returns have also been spot on and his defensive skills are top drawer at the moment. For Nishikori to win his match, he’ll have to serve at a very high first serve percentage and go for a little more from the back of the court than he’s accustomed to. Murray took away Grigor Dimitrov’s belief in the first three games of their fourth round match and he could do the same to Kei in this quarterfinal. All in all, Murray is a tough out these days and he will move on. Look for this one to go three, maybe four sets.

Serena Williams vs. Simon Halep (Ashe Stadium, Night Session)

This should without a doubt be Serena’s toughest test thus far in the event. Halep plays a mature brand of tennis that has been molded by Darren Cahill’s coaching philosophy. Serena is beatable, but when playing in New York, it takes a special sort of effort to oust the American. Is Halep up for the challenge? Taking only one of their previous eight encounters, Halep’s lone victory came against Williams two years ago at the WTA Finals. Halep is capable of great things on court and her movement and forehand have been impressive this fortnight. However, Serena’s overall conviction from the back of the court should move her into the semifinals in straight sets. I do have a feeling that this one could go three, and I say that because Halep has only lost one set en route to the quarterfinals and hasn’t even been pushed to a single tiebreaker. Serena in three.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Juan Martin del Potro (Ashe Stadium, Night Session)

This could very well be the best match of the day as well as the tournament. It does have that kind of potential. Wawrinka is a former two-time Grand Slam winner and has historically played his best in the latter stages of Majors. On the flip side, Delpo has been exceeding everyone’s expectations (including his own) throughout the event and you really do feel that he’s playing his game with no pressure. The Argentine did defeat Wawrinka at Wimbledon this year and you have to think that the hard-courts are a better surface for him overall. His serve has untouchable, as well as his lethal forehand. That said, Stan has proven more than once during his career that he can be the man. If Wawrinka starts off by playing aggressive, he can build the momentum needed to power through his early service games. If he fails to bring a high first serve percentage early doors, then del Potro will feel more and more comfortable and potentially run away with a set or two. Nevertheless, this match is set up to a be a classic. Here’s hoping that both players bring their best and stay healthy throughout. The NYC fans deserve it. We all deserve it. Wawrinka in four sets.

US Open 2016: Three to see on Day 9: Djokovic, Kerber and Monfils

September 6, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

With the business end of the 2016 US Open slowly approaching, the cream is really starting to raise to the top of both the women’s and men’s draws. Murray poured in an impressive performance under the lights against an out-of-sorts Grigor Dimitrov on Monday night, while Juan Martin del Potro returned to the final eight of the Major for the first time since 2013.

What will Day 9 bring to the table with many important semi-finals spots on the line? Let’s have a look.

Gael Monfils vs. Lucas Pouille (Ashe Stadium, Day Session)

The big question in this encounter will be what Lucas Pouille has left in the tank as he aims to reach his first career Grand Slam semifinal? The younger Frenchman has played three-straight five-set matches and could be on his last legs? Monfils by contrast is playing the best tennis of his life and hasn’t lost a set coming into this match. Monfils has won the pair’s only previous encounter in Australia last year in five sets, but I think it’s fair to say that both players are at a different level currently. That said, I believe that Monfils will have too much energy and urgency to let this opportunity slide through his fingers. Look for Monfils to advance in three, maybe four sets.

Angelique Kerber vs. Roberta Vinci (Ashe Stadium, Day Session)

Aiming to earn the No. 1 ranking, Kerber has been on a tear this season. Playing at her optimum capabilities, the German will certainly be the favourite in this one but Vinci will make her presence known. Last year’s finalist is all about bringing forth the slice and dice, while competing until the very last point. Vinci plays the game with ultimate passion and she will be hoping to spoil Kerber’s championship run. However, Kerber will likely have too much game and confidence over the course of this encounter and will prevail in three thrilling sets.

Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Ashe Stadium, Night Session)

The world No. 1 will have his first test of the fortnight in the form of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Beating the Frenchman on 15 occasions but losing six times, Djokovic will be well aware of the threat that Tsonga poses. Checking off the X’s and O’s of this contest, Djokvoic is the better mover and has the better backhand, but does sit second to Tsonga in the forehand and serve category.

It really is about time that Tsonga wins a big match like this considering his skill set and power. Even though I do believe that this will be a great match for the fans to watch, an upset will likely not be in the cards. Djokovic is just too tough mentally and will be up for the Tsonga challenge. Look for a few good sets with Nole advancing in four.

US Open 2016: Three to see on Day 8: Delpo, Murray and Nishikori

September 5, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

The crowd in Ashe Stadium tried their best, but it wasn’t enough to push Rafael Nadal past the finish line against super-fit Frenchmen Lucas Pouille.

In case you’ve lost count, there are three Frenchmen in the quarterfinals of the this year’s US Open—Tsonga and Monfils are also in the final eight. Elsewhere, Angie Kerber continues to prove that she’s in the best form of her life, as well as a serious contender for the title in Queens.

Moving on to Labor Day Monday, here’s our top three matches that you don’t want to miss.

Dominic Thiem vs. Juan Martin del Potro (Ashe Stadium, Day Session)

Can anyone stop Delpo this tournament? We’re going to find out real quit if Thiem has that answer. Del Potro has been red-hot since his stunning performance at the Rio Olympics, and his comfort level in New York has been well documented throughout the years. Leading the pair’s head-to-head 1-0, Delpo will undoubtedly hold the power quotient in this match, but one wonders how well he will hand Thiem’s kick serve to his backhand? With that obstacle aside, I see great upside for del Potro in this match. His forehand is tailor-made for hard-courts, and his serve will zip through the air and take time away from Thiem’s loopy strokes. I really like the aura around Delpo right now and that should take him to at least the quarterfinals in NYC.

Andy Murray vs. Grigor Dimitrov (Ashe Stadium, Night Session)

The good news for Dimitrov is that he beat Andy Murray earlier this year in Miami. The bad news for Dimitrov is that he’s lost the last three out of four to the Brit. For as well as Dimitrov has played this summer, it pales in comparison to Murray’s accomplishments. Andy won the Olympic Gold and Wimbledon, and let’s not forget that he made the finals of the French and Australian Open. This match will feature its share of jaw-dropping rallies and great athleticism, but I truly believe that Dimitrov’s best chance to prevail is if he takes it to Murray early and hopes that the second seed is a little tired from his outstanding year. Alas, even a tired Murray is a great Murray and the former NYC winner should move on in four entertaining sets.

Kei Nishikori vs. Ivo Karlovic (Armstrong Stadium)

If nothing else, this match will provide a great contrast of styles. Nishikori will be ready to bunt back the sonic serves of Karlovic, while Ivo will be eager to take his chances on Kei’s weak second serve. We all know that Karlovic will be looking to get deep into sets as that improves his chances of success, while Nishikori will be aiming to keep his returns low and short at the feet of his tall opponent. I really do believe that Karlovic has a good chance to move forward here but he’ll have to keep the rallies as short as possible and attack at every opportunity. That said, Kei is still a cut above even and inform Karlovic and should advance in four or five sets.

US Open 2016: Three to see on Day 7: Kerber, Sock and Monfils

September 4, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

Day 6 action at Flushing Meadows will be remembered for the entertaining match up between Stan Wawrinka and Dan Evans. The hard-hitting Swiss would eventually prevail in five sets and will next face surprise round of sixteener Illya Marchenko, who benefitted from a retirement from Aussie Nick Kyrgios. Venus and Serena Williams also saw their tournaments extend, while Juan Martin del Potro showed why he continues to become a favourite for the men’s title.

Here’s our picks for the best three matches to watch on Day 7.

Angelique Kerber vs. Petra Kvitova (Ashe Stadium)

This contest featuring two Grand Slam champions should provide great theatre. It’s true that Kerber is playing the better tennis of the two, but Kvitova knows how to play big matches and won’t feel the same discomfort of her opponent’s lefty shots as other players do. Kvitova does play her top tennis on the lawns of London and the bounce of the hard-courts does benefit Kerber’s game more. With 50 match victories this year already in the bank, winning has become a habit for the German. Playing eight previous times, the pair have split their head-to-heads right down the middle. How does Sunday turn out? Based on the court surface and current confidence levels, Kerber is the logical choice to prevail. We’ll take the second seed in straights.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Jack Sock (Armstrong Stadium)

Big serves and big forehands have become the norm on the men’s Tour these days and there will be no shortage of power when Tsonga and Sock take to Armstrong Stadium. While Tsonga leads the pair’s head-to-head 1-0, their lone match in Madrid last year went into a third set breaker and was on clay. Although clay does suit Sock’s game well, I believe that hard-courts are an even better surface for him. That said, Sock will have to believe that he deserves to be in the final eight of a Major and it could very well happen. Tsonga knows how to play these type of matches and even though the crowd will be for Sock, the Frenchman is charismatic enough to gain his own support. All in all, Sock is treading on unchartered territory, but I believe that he’s ready to make his move into a first Major quarterfinal. Look for Sock to move on in four sets.

Gael Monfils vs. Marcos Baghdatis (Grandstand)

Talk about two guys that like to play to the crowd. Both love the limelight and both will be primed to play their best tennis. This match for me is a pretty simple one actually. If Monfils competes with the maturity that he’s shown this year, then he should move forward in comfortable fashion. If he falls into the trap of hitting one too many trick shots, then he will likely flame out in three or four sets. Monfils does have more firepower than Baghdatis, but Marcos does possess enough guile and renewed determination to win this match. However, I just can’t see Monfils losing this encounter, especially considering his excellent commitment level to the game this season. Look for Gael to progress in four sets.

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