June 18, 2013
Can Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams keep their momentum going on the lush grass in England? Click the following TennisCanada.com link to read my latest post on the year’s their major—Nima Naderi.
May 22, 2013
In my latest piece for Tennis Canada, I look at Novak Djokovic’s chances at the French Open, which begins next week. Will this finally be the year when Djokovic takes the title and completes his grand slam resume? The full article can be found below at my personal blog on Tennis Canada’s official site.
April 15, 2013
Looking forward to the clay-court season is always my favorite time of year. Checkout my latest article for Tennis Canada where I provide my picks for who will prosper on the dirt this season. Link: Clay-Court season preview.
April 1, 2013
My latest article featuring tennis’ version of March Madness can be found at my blog on TennisCanada.com. Enjoy.
March 1, 2013
by: Nima Naderi
Here’s an excerpt from my latest piece for TennisViewMagazine highlighting the rise of Canadian Milos Ranoic in their March/April edition. The latest TVM issue hits news-stands shortly.
January 11, 2013
Could 2013 be the second straight year of having four different grand slam winners on Tour? If you think about it, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are the two best hard-court players in the world right now, while Rafael Nadal has proven that his prowess on clay this decade has been second to none. Roger Federer owns seven Wimbledon titles, still plays great on the lush and then bruised lawns of Wimbledon and appears ready for another competitive season. What this all translates into is quite simple: The top four still remain the best in the business—minus Nadal at the moment—and must be considered the considerable favorites heading into the year’s first major.
Djokovic and Federer have been laying low to start the season; perhaps one too many exhibitions in December alongside some donkey cheese buying being the main culprits for their absence? Murray on the other hand took part in the Brisbane event heading into Melbourne, defending his title from a 2012.
While it’s easy to pick a top three seed to add another slam to their CV, we mustn’t forget the chances of some of the other formidable contenders.
David Ferrer continues to defeat the players that he should, but will he finally be able to upset the men ahead of him at the grandest stage? Tomas Berdych proved that his power was enough in New York by defeating Federer in quarters, but does the Czech ultimately have what it takes when the conditions and nerves kick in? I’d say that looking toward the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (a former finalist) and Juan Martin del Potro (a former slam winner) are much better options for Australian glory. Both Tsonga and del Potro have shown their merit against the game’s best when it really counts, while holding some of the sport’s greatest weapons in the process.
Milos Raonic continues to grow his bandwagon by the year, but at some stage the 22-year-old will have to make a slash in a major in order to keep the hype going. Only months removed from his poor effort in New York, Bernard Tomic has vowed that his days of reckless behavior are behind him and that he’s fully committed to improving.
There’s a lot to take in at the start of 2013 when it comes to how the season will pan out. Could we see another player enter the limelight with Nadal’s future up in the air, or will the current top three clean up where Nadal would’ve usually racked up titles?
Nevertheless, 128 men all have a fighting chance at capturing the trophy, while heading into Paris as the only player with a shot at a calender year slam.
Let’s now take a look at the four quarters of the 2013 Australian Open men’s draw.
Aiming for a three-peat in Oz should be easy pickings for Djokovic. He’ll have to contest with an aging and injured Paul-Henri Mathieu early, before the power of Sam Querrey, or the one-handed magic of Stanislas Wawrinka could come along in round four. Not donning the swoosh anymore on his clothing, Berdych is slated as Djokovic’s quarterfinal foe, but the barreling Czech’s nine straight losses against the top seed, would indicate that a semifinal showing will be hard to come by.
At this point, the heat could very well be Djokovic’s greatest competition heading into the semis. I believe the Serb will be looking to make a statement early and that could very well begin with title No. 4 Down Under.
With Rafa out, Ferrer walks in as the No. 4 seed, adamant on backing up his final four finish from a year ago. His first-round encounter with Oli Rochus could be four hours plus, while Karlovic’s serve won’t be easy to get past in round two. Ferrer’s draw does open up after some early tests with the likes of Nishikori (carrying a knee injury), Almagro (not his best on hard-courts), Janowicz (unproven at the majors), and finally Dimitrov (started the year well, but again, unproven at the majors).
The marque first-round match-up of this quarter belongs to Tipsarevic vs. Hewitt. Although Hewitt is far from what he used to be, he’s still more than good enough for an early upset. Does he get it done against Tipsy? I’d say so because of the crowd and his sense of urgency. Tipsarevic did start the year strong by winning Chennai, but Hewitt knows how to work his hometown support and will be ready to fight under the lights.
However, even with the upset of Tipsarevic, Hewitt will likely go down somewhere in round three or four, leaving Ferrer as the unanimous favorite to advance.
Not losing before the semifinals here since 2010, Murray’s in the unique position of potentially claiming two majors in a row. He will also be playing for his friend Ross Hutchins, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Starting off against the underrated Robin Haase, Murray could see some resistance against Dolgopolov or Monfils in round four, but I’d say his strongest competition in this section will come against either Cilic or del Potro in the quarterfinals. Cilic had Murray on the ropes at the US Open and del Potro showed that he’s almost back to his top form by winning two titles last fall.
At this point, I’d give the slight edge to del Potro in coming through this quarter, because he’s had a ton of rest and plays his best on the asphalt. Murray will still be favored to pull through, but I think it’s del Potro’s time to inch closer to major No. 2.
Pick: del Potro
Best first-round match: Dolgopolov vs. Monfils
While Federer ended last year relatively strong, one has to wonder about his form coming in? He won’t have to worry about Nadal this fortnight and the only other player to beat him here since 2005—Djokovic—won’t be in his way unless he makes the finals. But, with a reduced playing schedule this year, could Federer’s days of thinking like a full-time pro finally be behind him?
If Federer was looking to ease into 2013, he sure didn’t hit the jackpot with his draw. Starting off against the flashy Benoit Paire, Federer is slated to face Davydenko in round two, Tomic or Klizan in round three, Raonic in round four and either Tsonga, Haas or Gasquet in the quarters. It’s interesting to note that most of the players in this quarter are currently in or nearing the best form of their careers. With that being said, I believe that Federer will be up to this challenge and use his all court craft to cast away his inform adversaries.
Quarterfinal picks: Djokovic vs. Berdych; Ferrer vs. Dimitrov; del Potro vs. Murray; Federer vs. Tsonga.
Semifinal picks: Djokovic vs. Ferrer; del Potro vs. Federer.
Champion: Djokovic defeats del Potro.
December 4, 2012
Flip-flopping the top four spots on the ATP World Tour appeared to be the order of play throughout the 2012 season. Novak Djokovic never slipped past No. 2 in the rankings throughout the year, but he did have to step up his game post Olympics to get his top spot back from Roger Federer.
The Swiss great reached the pinnacle of the sport once again by casting aside the competition to capture his 17th major at Wimbledon. Federer wasn’t as strong throughout the tail-end of the season as he was last year, but with all things considered, his year was nothing short of fantastic.
Emerging as the final remember of the Big four to capture a grand slam, Andy Murray proved many pundits and naysayers wrong in taking home the US Open and winning the Olympic Gold. I’m not totally convinced that it was Ivan Lendl’s presence that finally took Murray over the hump, but it certainly didn’t hurt his progress. Murray, who has yet to ascend to the top spot, has made it a priority going forward.
Anxiously awaiting the return of their clay-court King, are the legion of Rafael Nadal fans. Sidelined since Wimbledon with knee trouble, Rafa has been hard at work on the Island of Mallorca in preparation for his return. The Spaniard currently sits at the No. 4 position, and there’s no question that he’ll advance higher if he stays healthy. But that’s a big “if”.
David Ferrer was as solid as ever in ‘12; winning seven titles and 76 matches. The bulldog 30-year-old remains in the same rat-race mold however; beating the players he should and losing to the ones he shouldn’t.
The rest of the top 10 finishers this year from the 6-10 spots were Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Janko Tipsarevic and Richard Gasquet. Of those five players, I’d say that Tipsarevic and Gasquet have the most to worry about heading into the new year. Tipsarevic was solid throughout the past 12 months, but his lack of a killer shot should seem him slide out of the top 10 shortly. On the contrary, Gasquet holds one of the best backhands ever, but his finals appearance in Canada (a tournament that was hit hard from Olympic withdrawal and where he gained 600 points) will be hard to repeat next summer.
So, that leaves us with some potentially new blood in the top 10 to end next season. Will Milos Raonic improve on his slam results? Will Marin Cilic make good on his even-temperament and vicious backhand? Could we see Grigor Dimitrov or Bernard Tomic make a move for the top 10, or will youth and heavy expectations weigh them down?
I wouldn’t be surprised if a few fresh faces entered the top 10 next year, while the top four spots remained unharmed.
Let’s now take a look at the potential year-end ATP rankings for 2013.
2013 Projected year-end top 10 rankings:
1. Novak Djokovic: Pound for pound, I can’t see anyone playing better on all four surfaces next year than Djokovic. He’s exceptional on hard-courts (the bulk of the season) and his clay and grass results are only second to Nadal and Federer. He’ll have his share of points to defend in ‘13, but nothing like what he faced in 2012. That being said, Djokovic should start strong and benefit from the 1500 points he gained at the WTF.
2. Andy Murray: It should be a good year for Murray, but not good enough for No. 1. The clay will again hurt his chances at the top spot, while the immense pressure at Wimbledon (even more pressure than before if you can believe it) should strike him there, and let’s not forget about his defense in New York later that summer. If there’s one solace for Murray over the upcoming season, it will be the Masters events. Not performing well in the elite tournaments in ‘12, Murray will have tons of room to improve.
3. Roger Federer: One year older but just as effective. I’m not sure if 2013 holds a major for Federer, but with his exemption from all the Masters events, the Swiss star will be at ease with his schedule and enjoy the game even more. I still believe that grass remains his best shot at another slam; whereas the clay will cost him valuable points in the No. 1 race. Bottom line: Federer will always be Federer and his skill-set is timeless.
4. Rafael Nadal: Nadal could make me eat my words if he begins his comeback in full force. With the extent of his injury really unknown until we see him play again, the Spaniard is a question mark. I fully expect him to shine on the clay, but the hard-courts may be a big ask at this point. Nevertheless, it will be good to get Rafa back, and regardless of how much he plays (or wins), he’s a great draw-card for the fans.
5. Juan Martin del Potro: Owning some heavy artillery on any surface, one can certainly say that Delpo hasn’t even reached the prime of his career. Loaded with talent and mental fortitude, the missile hitting Argentine should have another glorious year. It will be difficult for Delpo to capture his second major (considering the men ranked ahead of him), but if there’s one player who can do it, it’s certainly the Tandil native.
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: I’m really not sure what Roger Rasheed (Tsonga’s new coach) will be able to do about the Frenchman’s backhand or return of serve, but hey, it’s worth a shot, right? With or without Rasheed, Tsonga will remain a force on the circuit because of his explosive game and experience in the biggest matches.
7. Tomas Berdych: With only eight titles to his name, it’s no wonder why Berdych has never got past No. 6 in the world. He has that God given ball-striking that many of us dream of, but his wristy forehand and lack of confidence under pressure will likely prevent him from going any higher in future seasons. However, the good news for Berdych remains that if he plays a lot and continues to make the quarters and semis in most of his tournaments, he’s a shoe-in for another top 10 finish.
8. David Ferrer: Why the downgrade for good ol’ Daveed? It’s quite simple really: I just don’t think he can repeat a seven title, 76 match win season two years in a row. That’s not to take anything away from the respect I have for the Spaniard, but one has to think that he can’t use his legs forever to win.
9. Marin Cilic: From what I’ve seen from Cilic the past few seasons, I truly believe it’s only a matter of time before he starts challenging for majors. He’s got the height and court speed to give anyone fits, and his lack of fan fare will bode well for him in the coming years. Don’t look for Marin to be in a slam final in the next 12 months, but I think it’s reasonable to predict that he’ll be more of a factor on a regular basis.
10. Milos Raonic: Raonic let us down in 2012 by not reaching the top 10, but at No. 13 in the world he can’t be shunned, either. Owning a sonic serve and a mature frame of mind, Raonic will need to work on his return game and court positioning to reach the tenth spot.
Do you agree with my top 10? Provide your own top 10 for 2013 below.
November 3, 2012
by Nima Naderi
Completing the elite eight last week in Paris, the ATP World Tour will now set its sights on the culminating event of the season in London, England.
In a year that’s been jam-packed with travel because of the Olympics, the best players on Tour have been forced to choose their schedules wisely, in order to prevent injury and burn-out.
Knowing his tennis and body better than any other player in the field is Roger Federer. Winning this tournament a record six-times, the defending champion opted to miss Paris last week in order to conserve energy. Federer, who will lose his No. 1 ranking for the year to Novak Djokovic because he wasn’t able to defend his spotless finish to 2011, remains a favorite here nonetheless. The Swiss star loves these courts and as a result of that has qualified a mesmerizing 11-straight times.
Looking to knock Federer of his mantle in London and back up his newly acquired top ranking is Djokovic. The Serb has been struggling with his health and personal problems lately, and his stunning defeat to Sam Querrey last week in Paris (after leading 6-0, 2-0) remains a cause for concern during his run here.
There will undoubtedly be a great deal of focus on Andy Murray during his return to London. Claiming the Olympic Gold and a runner up finish at Wimbledon, Murray would become (at least in my eyes anyways) the best player this season if he were to take this title. Winning the US Open for his maiden slam, the Scot hasn’t won a title since New York, but then again there hasn’t really been a huge event since the Open.
That being said, the top three seeds on the circuit won’t have a cakewalk to claiming the crown. Even though Rafael Nadal will be sidelined here with continued knee trouble, Tour-match leader and former runner up David Ferrer is looking sharp; ditto for Juan Martin del Potro, who enters London with an 18-2 mark indoors in 2012. Tomas Berdych has been much more solid as of late, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic have backed up their 2011 seasons with strong campaigns this year.
I really like what I’ve seen from del Potro this fall and it appears that he’s inching closer to the form he had in 2009. Moving well and hitting his well-timed groundstrokes into whichever corner he pleases, del Potro could make his second final here if fatigue isn’t a factor.
After the slams and maybe an Olympic medal, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more desired title for any player on Tour than what the O2 Arena has to offer this year.
Taking all that into account, let’s now preview the two round robin groups and who will likely reach the weekend’s action.
Group A: Djokovic, Murray, Berdych, Tsonga
It will be interesting to witness from his first match where Djokovic is mentally? Remember, he’s played just as many matches as he did entering the event last year and he ended up losing two of his three round robin matches in 2011. The Serb will have to impose himself early with a convincing first win to gather some steam moving forward—but in this type of an event that isn’t an easy proposition—considering he was placed in the harder of the two groups.
Slated to face Tsonga on Monday, Djokovic will be playing an inspired player that just recently hired a new coach. Tsonga is dynamo on an indoor surface, and by reaching the finals here last year, this could be a tricky one for Novak.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Serb as Murray and Berdych have played him well in the past—most notably Murray, who defeated him at the Olympics and US Open. If there’s any solice for Djokovic here, it’s that he overcame five match points to oust Murray for the Shanghai title, and further proved how tough he is mentally.
Murray has a challenging opener himself against Berdych, and considering the Czech’s recent form and winning record over the Scot, I’d have to give the slight nod to Berdych here.
That being said, I think we’re going to find a tired Djokovic and an overwhelmed Murray in this group.
The time couldn’t be more right for Tsonga and Berdych to succeed.
Picks: Tsonga, Berdych
Group B: Federer, Ferrer, del Potro, Tipsarevic
Wearing an Agassi-inspired outfit this week to show off his retro side, Federer will lead a group of determined baseliners looking to end their years on a high. Dealt a relatively easy draw, Federer will begin with Tipsarevic on Tuesday, before a Basel rematch with del Potro, and a tussle with inform Ferrer would take place.
You have to like Federer’s chances against pretty much everybody around him, but if del Potro isn’t beat up from playing four straight weeks, he could make this an interesting group. I believe we are finally headed (it’s been a long time coming in many ways) to an era of men’s tennis that doesn’t include the top four players winning everything under the sun. Whether that happens in early 2013 or beyond, that trend could begin in London.
With Tipsarevic feeling ill last week, and Ferrer coming in off of two emotional weeks in Valencia and Paris, I’m going to have to stick with the two slam winners to pull through to the semis.
It’s been a great year of action and history in the sport, and I’m sure the final seven days on the circuit will bring us some great lasting memories.
Picks: Federer, del Potro
Champion: Federer defeats Berdych
October 26, 2012
(Editor’s note: The draw preview for the Paris Indoors was made on Friday prior to Roger Federer’s withdrawal)
Have we really reached the final two weeks of the season on the ATP World Tour? With the women wrapping up proceeding in Istanbul last week, it’s the men’s turn to take over and finish off the tennis calender.
With Rafael Nadal “officially” announcing that he’s done for the season, the race to the World Tour Finals in London will now feature two remaining spots.
While Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic currently hold the final two positions for the culminating event, the likes of Nicolas Almagro, Richard Gasquet, Juan Monaco and Milos Raonic all still hold a mathematical chance of qualifying.
Tsonga has pulled in quality results this fall before retiring in Valencia, and his recent acquisition of partnering up with Roger Rasheed as his new coach should only bring him further success going forward. I’d be shocked at this point if Tsonga didn’t enter the O2 Arena ready to battle, but that final spot—which Tipsarevic currently holds—is certainly up for grabs.
Defending champion Roger Federer is still signed up play; ditto goes for Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Of the three featured players in the draw, one would have to think that Djokovic is in the best position to prevail. He still has a chip on his shoulder from a relatively poor season, and that desire to gain the necessary momentum to start 2013 in style, is ever present. Murray to me might be saving his energy for his forthcoming return to London, while Federer’s 31-year-old body will find it hard to compete at a high level for three straight weeks.
With that being said, the court surface in Bercy is perhaps the fastest all year and that will without question favor an attacking player.
Let’s now checkout the top and bottom halves of the draw and see who will attack the best in Paris.
Just when we thought that Federer was done winning Masters titles, he proves us wrong by taking Indian Wells, Madrid and Cincinnati this year. The world’s best player (for the moment) has 1000 points to defend here and make no mistake about it that he’ll be feeling the pressure. I know Federer won Basel, Paris and London in 2011, but to repeat all three 12 months later would truly be something. (That’s saying a lot for someone who owns 17 majors).
Looking at Federer’s draw, he starts against Baghdatis or Simon, before crossing paths with either Nishikori in the third-round and Gasquet or Berdych in the quarters. I know I say this from draw preview to draw preview, but Berdych can’t be taken for granted in these tournaments. He’s won this event before and pretty much waxed Federer the last time they played in New York. With that being said, the lightning surface in Bercy could give Berdych’s wristy forehand some trouble, if in fact he faces the Swiss star.
US Open and Olympic Gold medal winner Murray is also in this half; he’ll have to encounter Cilic and Tipsarevic early if he’s to reach the semis. I’d say at this point that Murray has a distinct advantage over many players in the draw because he’s already qualified for the WTF and he’s coming in fresh. The same, as mentioned above, can’t be said for Federer.
My instincts tell me that Berdych isn’t finished with his spell of good form, and for that reason I’ll take him to play Murray in the semis.
Semifinal Picks: Murray, Berdych
One of four former winners in the draw, Djokovic was wise to skip Basel last week in order to conserve his energy for Paris and London. The best returner in the game will have his top asset tested when he begins against Querrey or Verdasco and then possibly Raonic, Isner, del Potro or former semifinalist Llodra just to make the final four.
If Djokovic does squeak out of this quarter, he could face Tsonga or Ferrer in the quarters. I’d say that Djokovic should be able to roll by Ferrer on this surface, but defending finalist Tsonga won’t be an easy out. Tsonga should be ready to keep his energy high throughout the week, and that should bode well for him in reaching another final here.
The calm before London’s storm is in Paris this week and should provide us with a few popcorn matches heading into the final official event of the 2012.
Picks: Djokovic, Tsonga
Champion: Murray defeats Tsonga
October 21, 2012
A scintillating season on the WTA will conclude this week at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. With five of the eight combatants having won a major at some point throughout their careers, this year’s culminating event should provide a great end to a physical 2012.
Entering the event with two straight titles in Beijing and Linz, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka continues to prove that her incredible start to the year was no fluke. Compiling a 67-8 record on the season, the Belarusian has bagged six titles and just short of seven million in prize money. Azarenka stands at 14-5 against the other participants in the event (this year), but with a less-than-impressive 31-26 career mark against her upcoming foes.
Azarenka isn’t a shoe-in for the year-end No. 1 just yet; she’ll have to win at least two round robin matches to claim that honor.
Elsewhere, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams—the two other draw-cards this week—will be out in full force to put an exclamation mark on their own memorable seasons. For Sharapova, 2012 will always center around Paris and the completion of a career slam. Fighting through her least favorite surface on the red clay, Sharapova accomplished her ultimate challenge before falling to her knees. In saying that, though, Sharapova has been a shell of herself since that victory in France, and a good showing here would give her confidence heading into 2013.
By absolutely dominating the summer circuit, Serena took home a Wimbledon title, the Olympic Gold and the US Open crown. Not bad for a 31-year-old, eh? When fit and willing to compete, Serena remains in the eyes of many the player to beat in any tournament. However, given the fact that she hasn’t played an event since winning in New York, one has to think that she won’t be at her dominating best? Or will she?
At any rate, Serena’s quest for the title in Turkey will also be challenged by Wimbledon finalist Agi Radwanska, Wimbledon semifinalist Angelique Kerber, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, French Open finalist Sara Errani and former French Open winner Li Na.
With a line-up like that, it’s easy to imagine that there will be some close matches and memorable moments in Istanbul to close out the WTA calender.
Let’s now take a look at the two groups for this year’s finale and who will walk away the winner by week’s end.
Featuring: Azarenka, Williams, Kerber and Li
Led by the Azarenka’s intensity, the top seed will have to fend off a tough group consisting of 15-time slam winner Serena and former Roland Garros champion Li Na.
On paper (or on the court) it would be silly to pick against Azarenka and Serena to plow through into the semifinals, but what about Kerber and Li? Kerber is a modest 4-2 this fall, while holding a poor record against Azarenka and Li. The feisty German does have a career win over Serena, but when push comes to shove I don’t expect her to come up with a second victory here.
Azarenka is a solid 13-0 post US Open and hasn’t lost a set since New York; Serena by contrast hasn’t played an event since winning in the Big Apple. So, what does this all mean? Does it matter if Serena hasn’t played a tournament since the beginning of September? I’d say no. She has proved time-and-time again that little play equals great results, and that shouldn’t be any different here.
The match of this group clearly remains Azarenka vs. Serena, and the outcome could very well set the tone for who walks away with the title.
At his point I’ll have to stick with the two favorites to advance, but watchout for Kerber to put up a good showing.
Picks: Azarenka, Serena
Featuring: Sharapova, Radwanska, Kvitova and Errani
Indoors have always been good to Sharapova throughout her career, but I still feel that she plays her best ball under the sun. Although Sharapova has had a great year-to-date, she has been blown out of her last two finals at the Olympics and Beijing. Sharapova will have to dig deep this week, but her group—which is much more manageable than Azarenka’s—should allow her to reach the weekend’s action.
Radwanska continues to delight any crowd she plays in front of with her court-craft and consistency, while Kvitova’s 1-2 record this fall could put an end to her title defense.
I think it’s safe to say that Errani is just happy to be here and make the top eight. Playing with passion and defense all year, the Italian’s serve is just too weak to do damage indoors.
All in all, I believe Radwanska turned a corner at Wimbledon and is ready for a strong end to 2012. That includes reaching the semis in Istanbul and joining the power-hitting Russian.
Picks: Sharapova, Radwanska