US Open 2014 Day 7 Preview: Sharapova by day, Dimitrov by night

August 31, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was a shock casualty on Day 6, the third seed going down to unheralded Serbian Aleksandra Krunic in straight sets.

Day 6 Recap

Flushing Meadows has never been a happy hunting ground for Kvitova, with the two-time major winner having never been past the round of 16 at the tournament. That streak has now continued, with the qualifier Krunic recording her first ever win over a top 30 player with the 6-4 6-4 victory. Krunic will now face two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka, after the former world number one showed glimpses of her best tennis in a 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Elena Vesnina.

Carla Suarez Navarro was another seed to fall on Day 6, the Spanish clay-court specialist ousted by Estonian Kaia Kanepi. Kanepi next faces Serena Williams, who eased past Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets. Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta booked a round of 16 showdown with Aussie Casey Dellacqua, after Pennetta saw off American Nicole Gibbs and Dellacqua overcame Ivanovic’s conqueror, Karolina Pliskova, in 3 sets.

Eugenie Bouchard survived another testing match, this time overcoming Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in 3 sets. The Canadian’s reward is a fourth round encounter with Ekaterina Makarova, a straight sets winner over the Kazakh Diyas.

In the men’s tournament, Novak Djokovic sizzled on Centre Court, the top seed thrashing American Sam Querrey in straight sets in less than an hour and a half. The world number one will now play Philipp Kohlschreiber, who won 3 tiebreakers across 4 sets to defeat John Isner in New York for the third straight year. Meanwhile, Andy Murray set up a blockbuster clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Scot displaying an impressive net game as he saw off the Russian Kuznetsov in 4 sets and the Frenchman proving too strong for Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.

Stan Wawrinka waltzed into the fourth round when his opponent Blaz Kavcic was forced to pull out of their round 3 match due to a right foot injury. The Swiss star will next face Tommy Robredo, who overcame whiz kid Nick Kyrgios in a tight 4-setter. Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic set up a mouthwatering round 4 match-up by defeating Leonardo Mayer and Victor Estrella Burgos respectively.

Matches of the Day – Day 7

1. Maria Sharapova vs. Caroline Wozniacki

After being the top-ranked player in the world for the best part of 2 years, but having to endure the scrutiny associated with having never won a major, it was almost a relief for Caroline Wozniacki to tumble down the rankings and avoid the media spotlight for a little while. Wozniacki seems back to her best tennis following a few inconsistent seasons and I think she will push Sharapova all the way in this one.

Sharapova will be the aggressor in this contest, but as we saw in the Venus Williams – Sara Errani clash, if the aggressor makes too many unforced errors then she will ultimately go down. Like Errani, Wozniacki will use her excellent court coverage skills and adept retrieval abilities to draw the Russian into error. I think Sharapova will be too good ultimately, but if she is wasteful with her chances then Wozniacki will make her pay. Sharapova in 3.

2. Belinda Bencic vs. Jelena Jankovic

Young Swiss star Belinda Bencic was a two-time junior Grand Slam champion and the 17 year old has made a successful transition to the WTA Tour in 2014, breaking into the top 100 on the back of a run to the semi-finals in Charleston and now upsetting German seed Angelique Kerber in New York.

Bencic is mainly coached by her father, but also gets input from Martina Hingis’ mother, Melanie Molitor, and the similarities with the game of Hingis are striking. Like Hingis, Bencic is a master of out-positioning her opponent and using their power against them. Jankovic is a gritty competitor and a consistent counterpuncher, but I think the teenager can record another upset in this one. Bencic in 3.

3. Grigor Dimitrov vs. David Goffin

It’s hard to believe, but until this year seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov had never won a main draw match at Flushing Meadows. The Bulgarian has quickly corrected that anomaly this tournament, but he faces a stern test in round 3 against Belgian David Goffin, who has lost just once in his last 28 matches.

After a miserable 18 months which saw him plagued by poor form and injuries, Goffin has gone on a spectacular run in the last couple of months, winning a trio of Challenger events and then claiming his first ATP Tour title in Kitzbuhel. Goffin is full of confidence, as he demonstrated in dumping Joao Sousa out of the tournament in straight sets in round 2, but Dimitrov’s power game and overall class should prove the difference. Dimitrov in 4.

4. Gilles Simon vs. David Ferrer

Fourth seed David Ferrer should be fresh for this contest after receiving a walkover in his previous match against Bernard Tomic. Ferrer and Simon are fairly similar players, both essentially being counterpunchers who rely on consistency and court coverage to overcome their opponents.

Ferrer is a little bit stronger than Simon in all departments, having a greater weapon in the form of his forehand, and hitting with more power from the back of the court. Simon is capable of challenging Ferrer, but I’ll back the plucky Spaniard to come through this one. Ferrer in 4.

5. Marin Cilic vs. Kevin Anderson

South African seed Kevin Anderson did well to overcome former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz in the previous round, but the big server faces another big test in the form of Marin Cilic.

Goran Ivanisevic has done a great job so far with Cilic, adding power to his serve and instilling in his charge the belief that he can truly compete with (and beat) the world’s top players. Anderson might steal a set or two, but Cilic should be in control from the baseline and will ultimately prevail. Cilic in 5.

Put your house on: Tomas Berdych. The sixth seed should be in cruise control against Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili today.

Upset alert: Fresh from upsetting good friend and training partner Ernests Gulbis in round 2, I think young Austrian Dominic Thiem could spring a surprise against Spanish seed Feliciano Lopez.

Likely to go the distance: Countrymen Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils square off today, and I think the Frenchmen will be at it for some time. I’ll back Monfils to come out on top in a deciding fifth set.

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 6 Preview: Kygrios looks to light up the night; Djokovic, Murray in action

August 30, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

It was a day of upsets in both the men’s and women’s singles events on Day 5, with the big names to depart the tournament including second seed Simona Halep, former semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, Italian seed Fabio Fognini and French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis.

Day 5 Recap

Former teen prodigy and Wimbledon semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, now 32, turned back the clock on Friday, claiming a terrific 7-6(6) 6-2 win over French open finalist Simona Halep. Sixth seed Angelique Kerber fell at the hands of the precocious Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, as two-time winner Venus Williams succumbed to Italian Sara Errani in a topsy-turvy 3-setter.

Shuai Peng backed up her upset of Agnieszka Radwanska with a win over Italian seed Roberta Vinci, but there were no problems for seeds Sharapova, Jankovic and Wozniacki, each of whom booked a spot in the round of 16 with a straight sets win. Wimbledon semi-finalist Lucie Safarova also progressed to the fourth round, overcoming Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in a tight 3-set duel.

On the men’s side, second seed Roger Federer dismantled the big serve of Sam Groth, overcoming a 142 mph serve and 4-2 deficit in the third set to notch a straight sets win. Federer next faces Marcel Granollers, who ousted giant Croat Ivo Karlovic in 5 sets. Meanwhile, Grigor Dimitrov crushed Dudi Sela to set up a clash with David Goffin, who continued his recent hot streak with a win over Portguese seed Joao Sousa.

Tomas Berdych was forced to 5 sets to survive the challenge presented by Martin Klizan, with fellow seeds Monfils, Gasquet, Bautista Agut, Simon and Cilic all progressing in more routine fashion. David Ferrer had the easiest day of them all, progressing courtesy of a walkover when Bernard Tomic opted not to risk doing any further damage to his troublesome hip.

Good friends and frequent training partners Ernests Gulbis and Dominic Thiem, both coached by Günter Bresnik, squared off in the second round, with Gulbis shooting out to a 2 sets to love lead before the 20 year Thiem reeled in the Latvian, eventually prevailing in what was Thiem’s first ever 5 set match. Joining Gulbis on the sidelines on Friday was fifteenth seed Fabio Fognini, who went down meekly to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 6

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Sam Querrey

Big-serving Sam Querrey is a former top 20 player and the American will derive plenty of support from the parochial New York crowd in this match today. Querrey has been in good form of late, making the semi-finals in Winston-Salem coming into New York, and toppling Spanish seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

Unlike most players outside the top 10, Querrey has notched a previous win over Djokovic, upsetting the Serb in 2012. Djokovic, however, has claimed their other 7 meetings and over a best of 5 set match I can’t see the American maintaining the extremely high level of tennis that would be required in order to beat Djokovic. Djokovic in 4.

2. Nick Kyrgios vs. Tommy Robredo

When it comes to Grand Slams, is there anything that Aussie teenage Nick Kyrgios can’t do? First, it was a shock win in Paris last year over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek. Then it was the upset of the year at Wimbledon this year, when Kyrgios beat Nadal en route to the quarter-finals. Now Kyrgios has triumphed over Mikhail Youzhny and Andreas Seppi to make it through to the round of 32.

Robredo has enjoyed plenty of success in New York in the past, with last year proving his best effort to date as the Spaniard toppled Roger Federer on his way to the quarter-finals. The key to this match will be Robredo’s ability to handle the Kyrgios serve. From the baseline, Robredo should be able to dictate play and retrieve plenty of balls, but Kyrgios will be relying on his huge serve to ensure the Spaniard’s break point chances are limited. I think the Aussie will put in another gutsy performance, but I suspect that Robredo will hang tough and grind out the win. Robredo in 5.

3. Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. John Isner

It must feel like Groundhog Day in New York for John Isner.  For the third consecutive year, the thirteenth seed will face Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round of the US Open. In both previous matches in New York the German has prevailed, although Isner holds a 4-2 record overall against Kohlschreiber.

Last year in New York Isner became frustrated at the crowd for cheering on his second round opponent (who, admittedly, was the electrifying Gael Monfils) but, against Kohlschreiber, Isner should get plenty of support as he seeks to overcome his Flushing Meadows bogey-man. Kohlschreiber is a complete and very compact player, who will obviously come into this match confident after his wins in 2012 and 2013 at this stage of the tournament, but if Isner gets his serve going I think he can overcome his hoodoo. Isner in 5.

4. Andy Murray vs. Andrey Kuznetsov

Murray looked much more assured in round 2 than he did in the opening round, and just as well, as he faces somewhat of a test against up-and-coming Russian Andrey Kuznetsov. He may only be ranked just inside the world’s top 100, but the Russian has claimed some impressive wins on tour this year, dismissing David Ferrer at Wimbledon and overcoming Fernando Verdasco to set up the clash with Murray.

Kuznetsov is a former junior Wimbledon champion and has an attacking baseline game, but I think that the Scot should be a little bit too sharp in all departments for the Russian. No doubt Murray already has one eye on a potential fourth round clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but the former champion needs to stay focused and get through this match with Kuznetsov before the Tsonga clash can eventuate. Murray in 4.

5. Eugenie Bouchard vs. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

Bouchard was tested all the way in the second round against Sorana Cirstea, eventually emerging victorious in a lengthy 3-setter. That workout was probably exactly what Bouchard needed after some patchy form post-Wimbledon. The All England Club finalist will probably like the match-up against Zahlavova Strycova better than the one against Cirstea, as the Czech player is more of a retriever and less of an explosive hitter than Cirstea.

Bouchard has won both previous encounters with Zahlavova Strycova, claiming straight sets wins on both occasions. I’ll back the Canadian to come through this one with another relatively straightforward win and book her spot in the second week of the tournament.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. Once again, the top seed faces another American (this time, Varvara Lepchenko) and once again, the 17-time major winner will be too good for her compatriot.

Upset alert: Fresh from ousting former champion Sam Stosur, Estonian Kaia Kanepi will look to claim the scalp of another seed in her third round meeting with Carla Suarez Navarro.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in 5 sets for the clash between Argentine Leonardo Mayer and tenth seed Kei Nishikori. Mayer, who is much improved this season, is likely to push the Japanese star all the way in this encounter.

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 5 Preview: Does Groth have any game for Federer?

August 29, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka showed on Day 4 that she is still a force to be reckoned with, rallying from an early deficit to defeat American Christina McHale on another warm day in New York.

Day 4 Recap

Down 0-3, 0-40, Azarenka orchestrated a dramatic turnaround against crowd favourite McHale, the Belarusian winning 12 of the last 14 games to seal a 6-3 6-2 victory. Meanwhile, Serena Williams was at her ruthless best against Vania King, allowing her compatriot just one game for the match. Among the other seeds winning on Day 4 were Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta and Aussie Casey Dellacqua.

Eighth seed Ana Ivanovic was knocked out of the tournament by the Czech Karolina Pliskova, whilst local hero Madison Keys and former champion Sam Stosur were other seeds to exit the tournament on Day 4, with Stosur losing a gripping third set tiebreaker against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.

In the men’s tournament, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray cruised to straight sets victories in their second round matches, with American John Isner also progressing courtesy of a 3 set win. Isner was joined in round 3 by countryman Sam Querrey, who upset Spanish seed Guillermo Garcia Lopez.

Toronto champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Canadian star Milos Raonic were others to record victories on Day 4, as the Grand Slam success of teenager Nick Kyrgios continued, the Wimbledon quarter-finalist claiming the scalp of former top 20 player Andreas Seppi in the second round to set up a round of 32 clash with Spanish seed Tommy Robredo.

Matches of the Day – Day 5

1. Sara Errani vs. Venus Williams

It was in New York 3 years ago that Venus Williams first realised the extent of her health problems, forced to pull out of her match against Andrea Petkovic due to Sjögren’s Syndrome, an automimmune condition that forced the 7-time major winner to radically alter her diet, training schedule and entire lifestyle.

It took Williams a couple of years to get back on track, but the veteran appears to be healthy at present and is certainly back in form, winning in Dubai earlier this year and recently beating sister Serena en route to the Montreal final. Errani is a crafty player and former Roland Garros finalist, but if the Williams power game is clicking then I favour the American to come away the victor. Williams in 3.

2. Bernard Tomic vs. David Ferrer

These 2 players could not be more different. Ferrer is the consummate professional, maintaining exceptional fitness levels and giving his all in every match. Tomic, on the other hand, often adopts a laid-back approach to training and is prone to wild form swings.

It’s been another unusual year for the Aussie, with injuries and a form slump bookended by a finals appearance in Sydney and a tournament victory in Bogota. A slide in the rankings meant Tomic needed to rely on a wildcard just to get into this tournament, but he duly delivered in the opening round, recording a good win over Dustin Brown. Against Ferrer however, I think Tomic simply won’t have the mental strength or the discipline to fight for 5 sets. Ferrer in 4.

3. Sam Groth vs. Roger Federer

Fresh from dumping Marinko Matosevic out of the tournament, second seed Roger Federer now faces another Aussie in the second round in the form of Sam Groth. The unheralded Groth holds the world record for the fastest first serve ever recorded (at a whopping 263km/hr) but until this year the Australian had spent most of his career toiling in second-tier events. Groth has had a string of good results in 2014, highlighted by a semi-final showing in Newport last month, and if he is not overawed by the occasion then he can swing freely against Federer, knowing that he has nothing at all to lose.

Federer, of course, has shown throughout his career that he is particularly effective at breaking down the main weapon of big servers, and I think the Swiss star will underline his abilities in this regard again today. This should be a great experience for Groth, but a relatively straightforward match for Federer. Federer in 3.

4. Maria Sharapova vs. Sabine Lisicki

I’m intrigued by this match-up between fifth seed Maria Sharapova and former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki. The German has a far better record at the All England Club than she does at any of other Grand Slam venues, and if this match were being played in London then I would give her a big chance.

But on hard-courts, Lisicki’s serve is not quite as effective as it is on grass, and Sharapova has shown superb consistency this season and plenty of endurance in deciding sets of matches. After a shaky match against Dulgheru in the previous round, Sharapova will want to get through this one as quickly as possible. Look for Lisicki to cause some nervous moments, but for the Russian to pull through in 2 tight sets. Sharapova in 2.

5. Andrea Petkovic vs. Caroline Wozniacki

This match-up pits French Open semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic, a powerful shotmaker, against former world number one Wozniacki, who is a classic counterpuncher in the mould of Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario or Lleyton Hewitt. Wozniacki is a former US Open finalist, whilst Petkovic has enjoyed a fine season after a raft of injury problems leading into 2014.

Petkovic should dictate play in most of the rallies, but Wozniacki has been in terrific form over the last few weeks and will make the German play plenty of extra balls. I’ll back the Dane to squeeze through in the decider. Wozniacki in 3.

Put your house on: French seed Richard Gasquet to overcome Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi with a minimum of fuss.

Upset alert: Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz has a very similar game to that of South African seed Kevin Anderson, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pole score an upset in this one.

Likely to go the distance: I think that rising star Belinda Bencic might cause some anxious moments for German seed Angelique Kerber on court today, and I can see the young Swiss player stealing a set at least.

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 4 Preview: Djokovic & Murray should breeze into Rd 3

August 28, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Maria Sharapova was forced to 3 sets by Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru on Day 3, but the fifth seed and reigning French Open eventually prevailed, collecting a 4-6 6-3 6-2 win to move into the third round of the tournament.

Day 3 Recap

The news was not so good for fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who extended her mediocre record at Flushing Meadows courtesy of a straight sets defeat at the hands of China’s Shuai Peng. Sloane Stephens was another seed who exited the tournament on Day 3, the American falling to Sweden’s Johanna Larsson in a lengthy 3-setter.

Among the other winners on Day 3 was veteran Venus  Williams, second seed Simona Halep and former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic, whilst fellow seeds Andrea Petkovic, Alize Cornet and Angelique Kerber also recorded wins.

On the men’s side, Tomas Berdych bested Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets, with the veteran Aussie left to rue several missed opportunities to extend the match. Stan Wawrinka overcame the Brazilian Bellucci in 4 sets under lights, as Marin Cilic and Feliciano Lopez benefited from their opponents’ retirements in advancing. French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis was a straight sets winner on Day 3, as was Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, whilst South African seed Kevin Anderson needed 5 sets to get past Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

Matches of the Day – Day 4

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Paul-Henri Matthieu

Much has been made of Djokovic’s patchy form since Wimbledon, but I think the Serb will go deep in this tournament despite not exhibiting his best form during the North American hard-court swing to date. Winning Wimbledon in a gripping final against Roger Federer triggered a huge outpouring of emotion for the top seed and, having since been married and with a child on the way, there is plenty that has been happening for Djokovic off-court. To my mind, the early exits in Toronto and Cincinnati may prove to be blessings in disguise.

Matthieu is a talented player who has been ranked as high as 12 in the world, but that was more than 6 years ago and the Frenchman is now officially a veteran of the tour. Look for Matthieu to compete strongly but for Djokovic to be slightly stronger in all departments. Djokovic in 3.

2. Matthias Bachinger vs. Andy Murray

World number 235 Matthias Bachinger was lucky to get into the qualifying tournament at Flushing Meadows but the German has made the most of his opportunity, earning a spot in the main draw and then upsetting Czech Davis Cup star Radek Stepanek in round 1. Bachinger now faces two-time major winner Andy Murray, a former childhood adversary of the German’s.

Murray looked shaky at times against Robin Haase in the opening round, battling cramps and a tricky opponent, but I think the Scot will be far more assured today. Bachinger is exactly the sort of player whom Murray can out-think and out-position on the court, and I think the former US Open champion will breeze through this match in straight sets. Murray in 3.

3. Sorana Cirstea vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Romania’s Sorana Cirstea is a renowned giant-killer, who always seems to produce her best tennis on the sport’s biggest stages. However, Cirstea is not enjoying a good year to date, entering the tournament having won just one-third of her matches in 2014. Cirstea did enjoy a fine win in round 1, hammering Heather Watson 6-1 6-1, but I don’t think she will be able to match Bouchard’s consistency.

As with Djokovic, I think Bouchard needed to have some time out of the sport after her run to the Wimbledon final, which left her emotionally drained and with a nagging knee complaint. I think the Canadian seems refreshed and raring to go deep into the tournament, and I think she will overcome the big-hitting of Cirstea today. Bouchard in 2.

4. Christina McHale vs. Victoria Azarenka

American Christina McHale has a glorious opportunity to capture a huge scalp on Centre Court today when she takes on former world number one and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian has had a frustrating year to date, being bothered by a lingering ankle problem that has caused her to miss a myriad of tournaments and suffer a slide in the rankings as a result.

Azarenka enjoyed a hard-fought win in the opening round and will eager to salvage something from the 2014 season with a deep run into the second week in New York. McHale has had a solid year to date, despite a poor record in the Grand Slams, but I can’t see her outhitting her higher-ranked opponent today. Azarenka in 3.

5. Sam Stosur vs. Kaia Kanepi

The last few years have seen former US Open champion Sam Stosur unable to return to the heights of 2011, when she famously upset Serena Williams in New York to claim her one and only Grand Slam title to date. However, Stosur is always a threat at Grand Slams, courtesy of her atomic forehand and her heavy kicking serve. If she can survive the first week of the tournament, Stosur is a chance to do some damage in the second week.

Kanepi is a tenacious opponent for Stosur today, with the Estonian a former top 20 player who has made the quarter-finals of multiple Grand Slams. Kanepi, however, is more of a counter-puncher than an attacker, and I would expect Stosur to dictate the majority of the rallies in this one. If the Aussie has her eye in, she should come out victorious. Stosur in 2.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. The top seed will be far too good for compatriot Vania King.

Upset alert: Big-serving Sam Querrey has a big chance against the seeded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who is more at home on clay-courts.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in 5 sets for the clash between German seed Philipp Kohlschreiber and French veteran Michael Llodra. I’ll back the German to edge past his opponent in the decider.

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 3 Preview: Grigor looks for NYC glory

August 27, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

With basketball legend Michael Jordan watching in the stands, Roger Federer eased past Marinko Matosevic in straight sets in the night session on Day 2 to book his place in round 2. Federer will face another Aussie and the world’s faster server in the second round, Sam Groth.

Day 2 Recap

Joining Federer in the winners’ circle on Day 2 was fourth seed David Ferrer, local hope John Isner, Frenchmen Richard Gaquet, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori. There were also wins for veteran Ivo Karlovic and Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who needed 5 sets to overcome Andreas Haider-Maurer. Meanwhile, 17 year old Borna Coric won his first ever Grand Slam match, with the 2013 US Open junior champion dumping Czech seed Lukas Rosol in straight sets.

In the women’s tournament, the big names put in blockbuster displays, with Ivanovic, Kvitova, Serena Williams and Bouchard dropping just 11 games between them. Last year’s runner-up Victoria Azarenka was forced to 3 sets by Japan’s Misaki Doi but eventually prevailed, whilst Flavia Pennetta scored a 3 set win over Julia Goerges.  And if you thought Coric’s win was impressive, it was outshone by the amazing victory of 15 year old American Cici Bellis, who surprised twelfth seed and Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in 3 sets in front of an adoring crowd.

Matches of the Day – Day 3

1. Lleyton Hewitt vs. Tomas Berdych

After a fine start to the year, which saw him make the Australian Open semi-finals, win the title in Rotterdam and make the final in Dubai, sixth seed Tomas Berdych was endured something of a slump, falling in the third round of Wimbledon and achieving just a 5-5 win-loss record in his last 10 matches.

Berdych’s game is made for the bouncy hard-courts of Flushing Meadows, but he will need to boost his confidence if he is going to be a contender at this year’s tournament. Hewitt showed by winning the title in Newport last month that he is far from a spent force on the ATP Tour, and last year the former world number one ousted Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the round of 16 in New York.

Berdych has won both of his previous clashes with Hewitt but, with the last of those wins coming in 2009, it would be foolish to read too much into that record. That said, if he can serve well and be aggressive from the baseline, I think Berdych will prevail courtesy of his superior power. Berdych in 4.

2. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Thomas Bellucci

I was impressed by Stan Wawrinka’s opening round win over Jiri Vesely, with the third seed successfully negotiating the Czech leftie’s big serve and playing the big points well. That marks a big change from Roland Garros, where Wawrinka seemed overawed by the pressure associated with being a recent Grand Slam champion and crumbled in his opening round match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Wawrinka faces another leftie today, in the form of Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci. The Brazilian has been ranked as high as 21 in the world, but that was back in 2010, and Bellucci has struggled for form since then, winning just a handful of matches at Grand Slam level since 2011. Look for Wawrinka to get out to an early lead and to never relinquish his advantage. Wawrinka in 3.

3. Shuai Peng vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska proved by winning the recent Masters event in Montreal that she remains a leading Grand Slam contender on the women’s side. The 2012 Wimbledon runner-up was in ruthless form in the opening round, dropping just one game, and she will be keen to notch a similarly comprehensive win today.

Peng is a tough competitor, who has been inside the world’s top 20 and who reached the round of 16 at the All England Club last month. I think this match might prove difficult for Radwanska, as Peng is almost as good a mover around the court as Radwanska and has more power to boot. However, in the clutches I think Radwanska will be too consistent. Radwanska in 3.

4. Marin Cilic vs. Marcos Baghdatis

After returning to the ATP Tour following his suspension last year for failing a drugs test, Marin Cilic has certainly made up for lost time, with the Croat reclaiming his spot in the world’s top 20 and ousting Tomas Berdych en route to the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.

The partnership with Goran Ivanisevic appears to be paying dividends for Cilic, with the Croat gaining confidence and additional pace on his first serve. Baghdatis remains a wonderful shot-maker, but the Cypriot doesn’t have the runs on the board this season to truly contend in this one. I can see him competing strongly for a couple of sets, but I suspect Cilic will run away with the match down the stretch. Cilic in 4.

5. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Ryan Harrison

One has got to feel sorry for young American Ryan Harrison, who seems to have perpetually bad luck when it comes to Grand Slam draws. For the eighth consecutive time, Harrison has drawn a seed in the first round of a major and, as was the case at Wimbledon, the American must play Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

Such wretched luck explains, in part, Harrison’s slide down the rankings in the last couple of years, but if Harrison is to live up to his potential then he needs to start winning these matches sooner or later. Dimitrov took a while to adjust to the burdens placed on his shoulders, but the Bulgarian seventh seed showed in his run to the Wimbledon semi-finals that he is the real deal. Dimitrov took care of Harrison in straight sets in London, and I think it will be a similar result in New York today. Dimitrov in 3.

Put your house on: Maria Sharapova. The former US Open champion should make short work of Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru.

Upset alert: Former top 30 player Ivan Dodig has beaten Rafael Nadal in the past, and Nadal’s countryman Feliciano Lopez will need to be on guard against the competitive Croat in their opening round clash today.

Likely to go the distance: Slovakian veteran Daniela Hantuchova is still capable of high quality tennis, and I suspect that she will push French seed Alize Cornet all the way in their match today.

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 2 Preview: 26 The return of Darth Federer

August 26, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Men’s stars Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka all progressed to the second round on a warm and sunny opening day of play in New York, with women’s seeds Sharapova, Radwanska and Kerber also making it through to round 2.

Day 1 Recap

Whilst Djokovic was clinical in recording a straight sets win over Diego Schwartzman, and Wawrinka impressed in a 3 set victory over Jiri Vesely, Murray was made to fight all the way in his win over Robin Haase. The Scot battled cramps, and was lucky to see Haase squander a chance to take the match to a deciding set, with Murray eventually scoring a scrappy 4 set win.

Among the other men’s seeds in action on Day 1, there were wins for Raonic, Robredo and Tsonga, whilst Julien Benneteau was upset by his countryman Benoit Paire. Meanwhile, Wimbledon star Nick Kyrgios claimed another scalp, beating two-time US Open semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny in a tight and heated 4-setter which saw the young Aussie on the brink of being disqualified.

In the women’s tournament, Simona Halep and Venus Williams each battled back from a set down to book a place in the second round, as Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and Caroline Wozniacki were also stretched to 3 sets before progressing. Agnieszka Radwanksa underlined her title credentials, losing just one game in her opening round match, whilst Maria Sharapova was impressive in defeating Maria Kirilenko in straight sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 2

1. Serena Williams vs. Taylor Townsend

Young American Taylor Townsend, along with other rising stars Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, is being groomed as one of the successors to Serena Williams in terms of the next generation of American women’s tennis, but Townsend’s game is very different to the one employed by the current world number one.

Whereas Williams’ game is all about power, with very little subtlety about it, Townsend is a crafty player who has enjoyed plenty of success at junior level by employing a diverse game incorporating deft touch and sublime angles. Townsend made it through to the third round of this year’s French Open, but it’s fair to say that she still has plenty of work to do before she establishes herself on the WTA Tour. This should be a great learning experience for Townsend, but I fear that Williams will show little mercy on her younger opponent. Williams in 2.

2. Petra Kvitova vs. Kristina Mladenovic

New York has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Petra Kvitova. Whilst the two-time Wimbledon champion has reached the semi-finals or better of each other major, at the US Open the Czech star has never made it past the round of 16. However, Kvitova showed by dominating the field in New Haven last week that her Wimbledon hangover has well and truly evaporated.

Former world junior champion Mladenovic is a talented player, who knocked Li Na out of this year’s French Open en route to the round of 32. That said, I don’t think the Frenchwoman has the stroke-making artistry or the raw power of her opponent today, and if Kvitova is on song then the third seed should run out a comfortable winner. Kvitova in 2.

3. Roger Federer vs. Marinko Matosevic

Marinko Matosevic is becoming better known for his unusual antics (check out his victory roll after winning his first ever Grand Slam main draw match in Paris earlier this year, or his tirade of abuse at an umpire in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago), rather than for his tennis, but the Aussie is a former top 40 player and a natural born competitor.

But whilst Matosevic will literally throw everything at Federer, the unflappable Swiss star should have few worries in overcoming his opponent today. The 17-time major winner is in a rich vein of form, and Matosevic doesn’t have the kind of raw power that can hurt Federer. Matosevic is usually very solid on serve and from the back of the court, but that’s not enough against a player of Federer’s calibre. Federer in 3.

4. Madison Keys vs. Jarmila Gajdosova

To my mind, this is one of the most intriguing matches of the day, pitting up-and-coming American Madison Keys against the erratic but talented Jarmila Gajdosova. Keys has forced her way into the world’s top 30 as a result of a string of strong performances, including a third round appearance at the All England Club last month. In front of her home crowd, Keys will be desperate to do well at a venue where she has collected only one main draw win previously.

Gajdosova has had some injury troubles and various other off-court issues over the past couple of years, but the Aussie is a former top 30 player and has made the round of 16 at both the French Open and Wimbledon in the past. A brilliant ball-striker, Gajdosova has nothing to lose in this encounter and will go out all guns blazing. This should be a close one, but Keys’ recent good form should propel her to victory. Keys in 3.

5. Flavia Pennetta vs. Julia Goerges

The past 12 months or so have seen veteran Pennetta make a stunning return to tennis following a lengthy injury-induced lay-off. A semi-final appearance at New York last year, along with a trip to the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open, has Pennetta on the cusp of the world’s top 10 again, and the Italian will be eager to replicate her 2013 efforts at Flushing Meadows this year.

Goerges is a talented and hard-hitting player who has been ranked as high as 15 in the world. However, the past couple of years have not been kind to the German, who has won just a pair of Grand Slam matches since her run to the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open and seen her ranking slide outside the world’s top 50 as a result. With Goerges down on form and confidence, I’ll back Pennetta to come through this one without too much trouble. Pennetta in 2.

Put your house on: David Ferrer. The fourth seed should be too steady for Damir Dzumhur. The Bosnian made history by reaching the round of 32 at Melbourne Park earlier this year, but I can’t see him getting past the tenacious Spaniard.

Upset alert: Denis Istomin could cause twelfth seed Richard Gasquet some anxious moments in their opening round match, whilst young Aussie Ashleigh Barty could surprise Czech seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Likely to go the distance: The clash between Germany’s Dustin Brown and Aussie Bernard Tomic should not only be highly entertaining to watch, but should also be mightily close. I’ll back the Aussie to prevail in the decider.

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 1 Preview: Will Stan & Tsonga survive?

August 24, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Monday morning sees play get underway at the final major of the year, and there are some blockbuster opening round matches on Day 1 at Flushing Meadows. Here are my thoughts on the day’s best matches.

Matches of the Day – Day 1

1. Maria Sharapova vs. Maria Kirilenko

Maria Sharapova is almost always intensely focused on her matches,but there’s absolutely no chance that the French Open champion is letting any complacency set in before her first round match against Maria Kirilenko. Kirilenko upset Sharapova in the opening round of the 2010 Australian Open and, despite enduring an injury-riddled past 12 months, the former world number 10 is a superb ball-striker and capable of upsetting her compatriot.

In Melbourne in 2010, Kirilenko outlasted Sharapova in a titanic 3 set struggle that last more than 200 minutes, but Sharapova’s record in 3-set matches in more recent times is superb, as her fighting run to the title in Paris underlined. I expect Kirilenko to compete strongly initially, but to gradually fade as the lack of match practice starts to take its toll. Sharapova in 2.

2. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Jiri Vesely

This should be an intriguing match to watch. Wawrinka achieved a lifelong dream in January by winning the Australian Open, but has since found it hard to replicate such form on a week-in, week-out basis. Still, the Swiss star is back on his favourite surface in New York, and has been a strong contender in the last couple of US Opens.

Vesely is a rising star, who put in a very good performance at Wimbledon before going down to another young star, Nick Kyrgios. The lanky Czech leftie has a terrific serve and Wawrinka will need to be sharp with his return of serve if he is to neutralise Vesely’s biggest asset. Wawrinka should have too much big match experience in this clash, but I expect Vesely to give the spectators more than a glimpse of his potential. Wawrinka in 4.

3. Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Venus Williams

Everyone considers Venus Williams to be a veteran of the WTA Tour these days, but the American’s longevity pales in comparison with that of her first round opponent, Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm, who was born in 1970 and turned pro in 1989. Date-Krumm enjoyed a prolonged absence after her first stint on tour, but has worked hard to forge a decent career upon her return to professional tennis, and her tremendous fitness and will to compete make her an inspiration for women across the world.

Williams enjoyed a fine run in Montreal, defeating her sister Serena on the way to the final, only to run out of gas in the final against Agnieszka Radwanska. After Wimbledon, the US Open represents Williams’ best chance of further Grand Slam success, and if she stays healthy and serves well I think she can do some damage in this tournament. Williams in 2.

4. Andy Murray vs. Robin Haase

Three years ago in New York, Andy Murray was staring down the barrel of a surprise defeat at the hands of Robin Haase, who held a 2 sets to love lead over the Scot. The former US Open champion gathered himself and eked out a narrow 5 set victory, but Murray won’t be forgetting the threat Haase poses when the pair step on court for their first round encounter.

Murray exhibited better form in beating Haase in straight sets at Melbourne Park last year, and the Scot will want the match to unfold along those lines as he attempts to gain some momentum after a trying year on tour. Murray is sticking with Amelie Mauresmo as coach for now, and I think it might actually work out well in the long run, but the Frenchwoman needs to get some clear runs on the board with Murray if she is to silence the critics. I think Murray will be too good in this one, but I’m less convinced of his overall prospects in the tournament. Murray in 4.

5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Juan Monaco

After a thoroughly mediocre first half of the 2014 season, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga burst to life in Toronto, beating 4 seeded players en route to the title. And it wasn’t just winning the tournament that impressed onlookers, it was the way in which Tsonga did it, blowing Murray, Djokovic, Dimitrov and Federer off the court. Unsurprisingly, Tsonga suffered a let-down in Cincinnati, but I’m sure the Toronto success has the flamboyant Frenchman full of confidence heading into Flushing Meadows.

Former top 10 player Juan Monaco has struggled for form over the past couple of years, drifting to the outer reaches of the world’s top 100, but the Argentine has twice reached the round of 16 in New York and is not a player to be dismissed lightly. Nothing is ever guaranteed with the enigmatic Tsonga, but I think he will be too powerful for Monaco on Monday. Tsonga in 4.

Put your house on: Novak Djokovic. The top seed has been anything but consistent post-Wimbledon, but look for the Serb to refocus his energies on the court at the last Grand Slam of the year. Argentine Diego Schwartzman will no doubt battle valiantly, but he’s no match for the world number one.

Upset alert: Wimbledon surprise packet Nick Kyrgios faces a tough ask against the Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny, twice a semi-finalist in New York, but after his stunning run at the All England Club it would be foolish to write off the young Aussie’s chances. That said, I think Youzhny will sneak through.

Likely to go the distance: Playing a countryman is always hard, especially when he happens to be as unpredictable and emotional as Benoit Paire. I think Julien Benneteau will need all 5 sets to see off fellow Frenchman Paire in their opening round clash.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis from New York and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.



US Open 2014: Men’s and Women’s Draw Preview and Analysis

August 23, 2014

Greetings and welcome to the 2014 US Open Championships and the beginning of 2 weeks of coverage of the year’s final Grand Slam, courtesy of The Satellite Serve.

Coming to you daily during this year’s tournament, The Satellite Serve is back with predictions, opinions and analysis in relation to all of the action from Flushing Meadows. In anticipation of the start of the tournament on Monday, today’s serve sets out my tournament predictions for the men’s and women’s singles.

Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles

A niggling back problem proved disastrous for Roger Federer’s 2013 season, causing the Swiss star to miss tournaments and reduce his training schedule, which resulted in a drop in confidence and, by his own lofty standards, very mediocre results. But it has been a stunning resurgence in 2014 for the 17-time major champion, who leads the ATP Tour in wins this season and who came within a whisker of what would have been an eighth Wimbledon crown last month.

A finalist in Toronto and the champion in Cincinnati, Federer’s confidence is sky-high at present and I think he will bolster his existing collection of 5 US Open crowns in a fortnight’s time. With his great rival Rafael Nadal out of the tournament due to injury, and with top seed Novak Djokovic exhibiting patchy form following his Wimbledon win and high-profile wedding, Federer must sense that this year’s US Open is there for his taking.

There are some tricky players lurking in the bottom half of draw alongside Federer, including the much-improved Grigor Dimitrov and the always dangerous Gael Monfils, but I expect Federer to navigate his quarter with relative ease and progress to the semi-finals with a minimum of fuss. David Ferrer is scheduled to face Federer in the semi-finals, but I have a feeling the diminutive Spaniard might be overpowered by Tomas Berdych or Ernests Gulbis if either of those players really gets going in New York.

In the top half of the draw, Djokovic has a brutal quarter, with the big-serving Isner a potential round of 16 opponent and Toronto champion Tsonga or former US Open winner Murray likely to be waiting in the quarter-finals. I think Djokovic has been careful not to expend too much energy through the North American hard-court season to date, and I expect him to lift a gear in New York and see off the challengers in his quarter. To make the final, I think Djokovic will most probably have to defeat Milos Raonic, who has been hugely impressive this year, or Australian Open Stan Wawrinka, who is back at home on his preferred hard-courts.

Djokovic got the better of Federer at the All England Club last month, but the pair almost always seem to have close matches, and I expect that Federer’s superb form on hard-courts on the last few weeks will give him the confidence to be aggressive and to prevail by a narrow margin should the pair meet on the final day of the tournament. Federer in 4.

Winner: Roger Federer

Finalist: Novak Djokovic

Semi-finalists: Raonic, Berdych

Outside Chance: Wawrinka, Dimitrov, Murray

*****

Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles

It’s been a baffling year for Serena Williams to date. The world number one and 17-time major champion has failed to make the quarter-finals of any of the year’s first 3 Grand Slams, yet remains the dominant player on the WTA Tour, having collected 5 titles to date in 2014.

Hyper-competitive by nature, Williams will be fixated on getting something out of the Grand Slams this year, and nothing other than the championship will satisfy the American. Former US Open champion Sam Stosur and eighth seed Ana Ivanovic, who knocked Williams out of the Australian Open this year, are both dangers in Williams’ quarter, whilst potential semi-final candidates include Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, rising star Eugenie Bouchard and last year’s finalist Victoria Azarenka, who is looking to get back on track after an injury-riddled year.

In the bottom half of the draw, it’s a tale of two quarters. Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams are all packed into one star-studded quarter, whilst the other quarter represents a prime opportunity for the likes of Kerber, Jankovic and Radwanska to make a run to the semi-finals.

I think that French Open champion Maria Sharapova is the most likely candidate to progress from the bottom half of the draw, although Radwanska showed in Montreal that she shouldn’t be written off as a spent force. If the predicted Sharapova-Williams final does eventuate, it’s likely that the Russian will feel the weight of the American’s dominate 16-2 head-to-head advantage. Sharapova’s heavy-hitting is a weapon against most players, but it plays straight into the hands of Williams, who loves to receive balls with plenty of pace on them and return them to her opponent with even more pace. Williams in 2.

Winner: Serena Williams

Finalist: Maria Sharapova

Semi-finalists: Kvitova, Kerber

Outside Chance: Radwanska, Bouchard

That’s it for today. I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow to preview the first day of play on Monday.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 13 Preview: Djokovic vs. Federer

July 5, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Petra Kvitova is the Wimbledon women’s singles champion once more, the Czech star adding to her 2011 win with a barnstorming triumph over Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard on Day 12 at the All England Club.

Day 12 Recap

Bouchard, playing in her first ever Grand Slam final, did not look fazed initially, holding her opening service game and striking the ball with precision. But it soon became apparent that Kvitova was in the zone on Day 12 in London, the Czech breaking serve in the third game and holding serve in the next game courtesy of a brilliant one-handed backhand winner after an entertaining all-court rally.

Enjoying an 82 percent success rate on her first serve points, and smacking winners at will (she would eventually tally 28 winners for the match), Kvitova forged ahead, claiming another break as the young Canadian was rendered helpless on Centre Court. Bouchard had one chance to get back in the match, when a couple of loose shots from the sixth seed at 5-2 handed Bouchard one of the breaks back. But Kvitova immediately refocused, breaking in the very next game to claim the opening set, 6-3.

The second set was one-way traffic, with Kvitova not dropping a game en route to a 6-3 6-0 win in 55 minutes – the fastest women’s final at Wimbledon for 31 years. Amazingly, Bouchard only committed 4 unforced errors for the match. Unfortunately for the Canadian, she was simply unable to match Kvitova in terms of power or pure shot-making ability, the Czech champion playing one of the matches of her life as she claimed her second Wimbledon title in 4 years.

For Bouchard, it was a tremendous run to the final, and further cemented her spot as one of the new stars of the WTA Tour. No doubt the Canadian will learn from this experience and be back in a major final before long. For Kvitova, the win underlined her enormous talent, especially on grass, and if she can stay healthy and motivated then I think she has the ability to win several more titles at the All England Club.

Match of the Day – Day 13

Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

This will be showdown number 35 for Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, but amazingly the pair has only played each other once in a Grand Slam final – the US Open way back in 2007, when Federer swept a youthful Djokovic in straight sets. Plenty has changed since that time, with Federer’s reign at the top of the rankings ending and Djokovic narrowing the gap in their head-to-head matches in the last few years (Federer now leads the Serb 18-16 in career meetings).

After various back-related issues in 2013, Federer has looked revitalized so far in 2014, a larger racquet also helping as he made the semi-finals in Melbourne, beat Djokovic en route to the Dubai title, and defended his title in Halle. The Swiss star has dropped only one set on his way to the final of this tournament, and has lost his serve just once as well. Federer is full of confidence at present, is comfortable on his favorite surface at his favourite tournament, and deep down must know that this match represents perhaps one of his last chances to add to his tally of major titles.

After winning almost everything there was to win in 2011 (except for the French Open, where he lost to Federer), Djokovic has found it hard to maintain such lofty standards, and hasn’t claimed a major since last year’s Australian Open. That said, the Serb has consistently been in and around the major finals over the last couple of seasons, and with a bit of luck Djokovic’s Grand Slam tally could be in the double figures by now. As it stands, the top seed has 6 majors to his name, including the 2011 Wimbledon championship, and he will be desperate to add to that collection in front of coach Boris Becker, a 3-time Wimbledon champion.

I think this contest is almost a flip of the coin. Djokovic has been more consistent over the past few years, but Federer has looked better and spent less time on court this fortnight and is on his preferred surface. If the roof is closed, that will help Federer, although both players are incredibly adaptable performers.

To my mind, the return of serve battle will be crucial. Djokovic hasn’t been at his best at SW19 so far this year, but is the world’s best returner in my opinion. If he can get some traction on Federer’s second serve, and force the Swiss star to be more reluctant to attack the net, then the Serb will be in the driver’s seat. However, if Federer can maintain his impressive serving form from the last few matches, and Djokovic exhibits the patchy form he showcased against Cilic and Dimitrov, then major number 18 could be headed Federer’s way.

I’m predicting this to be a cracking contest, with Federer’s current form and greater assuredness on grass being the decisive factors in a close match. Unlike against Nadal, Federer matches up well against Djokovic and I sense he will find just enough in his bag of tricks to edge past the top seeded Djokovic.

Federer in 5.

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

Wimbledon 2014 Day 12 Preview: Bouchard vs. Kvitova

July 4, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will battle it out in Sunday’s men’s final after keeping 2 of the leaders of the new generation at bay on Day 11, defeating Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov respectively.

Meanwhile, Day 12 sees Eugenie Bouchard take on Petra Kvitova in the ladies’ singles final. Read on to find out my prediction as to who will capture the crown.

Day 11 Recap

The first men’s semi-final saw top seed Novak Djokovic come roaring out of the starting blocks, hitting 19 consecutive first serves as he took the first set over Grigor Dimitrov and obtained a break of serve early in the second set. The Serb had a chance to go up a double break, but Dimitrov quashed that opportunity and got his act together, breaking back and proceeding to level the match at a set apiece.

The third set was a tight affair, with just one break point opportunity being obtained – a chance for Dimitrov that Djokovic was lucky to save courtesy of a mishit backhand. The former Wimbledon champion was too steady for the Bulgarian in the third set tiebreaker, taking it 7 points to 2, but Dimitrov had a much better chance in the fourth set, which also went to a tiebreaker, holding 3 set points at 6-3 in the tiebreaker. But Djokovic hung tough, winning 6 of the last 7 points to claim a hard-fought 4 set victory in just over 3 hours.

The statistics reflect a high-quality match, with both players hitting substantially more winners than unforced errors, but Dimitrov will be lamenting his poor break point conversion rate, winning just 3 of the 11 break point opportunities that he was able to create. Djokovic, meanwhile, will be frustrated with the lack of focus and the passivity that he showed in the middle part of the match.

Djokovic will need to concentrate harder if he is to topple Roger Federer in Sunday’s final, after the Swiss star put in a very focused performance to defeat big-serving Milos Raonic in straight sets in the second semi-final. A break to Federer in the opening game of the match was the perfect start for the fourth seed, who quickly consolidated his advantage and maintained his lead to take the first set, 6-4.

With Federer winning 81 percent of his first serve points, and Raonic consequently unable to cause the 7-time champion too many problems in handling his serve – the Canadian was able to create just one break point chance in the match, which Federer duly saved – it was always a case of Federer being in control. In the ninth game of both the second and third sets the 17-time major champion was able to break the serve of the big Canadian, and eventually Federer claimed an impressive 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win in 102 minutes to move through to a ninth career final at the All England Club.

Match of the Day – Day 12

Eugenie Bouchard vs. Petra Kvitova

It’s hard to believe, after her stunning run to the final at the All England Club and her semi-final appearances at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros earlier this year, but this year’s Wimbledon marks just the sixth Grand Slam tournament of 20 year old Eugenie Bouchard’s career. The Canadian was a junior champion at Wimbledon in 2012, and has adapted magnificently to the WTA Tour – a transition that many talented juniors struggle with.

Bouchard is clearly not intimidated by any of the big names on the women’s circuit – one could tell that simply by seeing how disappointed the Canadian was to lose to Maria Sharapova in 3 sets in Paris – but appearing in one’s debut Grand Slam final is a different matter and I expect that Bouchard will have some nerves at certain stages during the match.

Kvitova, of course, has done it all before at the All England Club, winning the title in 2011, although the Czech’s run to the final this year marks her first appearance in a Grand Slam final since that famous win over Sharapova in 2011. Kvitova beat Bouchard in their only previous match, the 24 year old notching a straight sets win over the Canadian at the Rogers Cup in August last year, but that match will count for little in this final.

On hard-courts or clay-courts, I would put this one down as an even-money bet, with Bouchard probably the steadier of the pair from the back of the court. However, Kvitova gets so many free points on grass from her fabulous leftie serve that I can’t go against her in this final. With Kvitova having the experience of both playing and winning a major final before, and Bouchard showing signs of tightness towards the end of her semi-final win over Halep, I think the Czech will also have a bit more composure than her younger opponent in the key moments of this match.

Bouchard by all means has the talent to win major titles and to even perhaps stake a claim for the world number one ranking, but I don’t think that this will be the year that she captures her first Grand Slam. I think this will be a close and hard-fought final, with the Czech claiming a narrow victory. Kvitova in 3.

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.

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