US Open 2015 Recap: Djokovic defeats Federer and New York crowd for title

September 14, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Roger Federer was unable to replicate Flavia Pennetta’s fairytale finish to the US Open on Sunday night, the second seed going down to world number one Novak Djokovic in 4 sets. The Serb claimed his third Grand Slam of the year and the tenth major of his illustrious career with the win, which was earned in the face of a heavily pro-Federer New York crowd.

Day 14 Recap

A three hour rain delay frustrated the spectators at Flushing Meadows and tennis fans all over the world, but once the players eventually arrived on court all was forgiven, as Federer and Djokovic immediately showed why they are ranked one and two in the world at present.

Djokovic’s incredible abilities on the return of serve put pressure on the Federer serve from the outset, with the world number one claiming the opening break of the match in the fifth game of the first set. Federer responded immediately, breaking back, but despite a bad fall Djokovic was the better player in the opening stanza. The 2011 US Open champion secured another break in the seventh game and maintained his advantage to claim the first set, 6-4.

In the second set, it was Djokovic who was constantly forced to fend off Federer’s attacks, saving five break points in the second game of the set, and later being forced to save a pair of set points. Finally, in the twelfth game of the set, Federer capitalised on his third set point, taking it 7-5 to level the match at a set apiece.

The players traded service breaks early in the third set before the set’s final three games provided the match’s pivotal moment. After squandering a couple of break points in the seventh game of the set, Federer failed to hold serve after being up 40-15, handing Djokovic a chance to serve out the set. The Swiss star again earned multiple break points as Djokovic attempted to close out the set but, in what was the story of the night for Federer, he was unable to make the most of his abundant chances.

Multiple breaks to Djokovic in the fourth set made it appear as though Federer had run out of steam, with Djokovic zeroing in on the finish line. The 17-time major winner kept fighting until the end, claiming one of the breaks back in the eighth game and then having a trio of break point opportunities to level the set at 5-all. But Djokovic was not to be denied, staying rock solid on the break points and claiming the championship after a 200 minute duel when Federer over-hit a backhand return.

For Djokovic, it was a magnificent victory in the face of a hostile crowd and one that demonstrates his incredible mental strength. He refused to be intimidated by the crowd, or by Federer’s so-called “sneak attacks”, and simply willed himself to victory. If not for Wawrinka’s out of the box performance in the Roland Garros final, Djokovic could well have been celebrating the calendar Grand Slam in New York on Sunday night. The Serb now has 10 majors to his name and, given his current status as the world’s best player and his relatively young age (28), who’s to say that he won’t eventually surpass Federer’s current mark of 17 Grand Slams? That, however, is a discussion for another day.

For Federer, it will be a very difficult loss to accept, for a number of reasons. First of all, the 34 year old has been in terrific form in the last few weeks and was certainly playing well enough to win the title. Second, the Swiss star had so many opportunities in the final (converting just four of his 23 break opportunities) that he will long rue his missed chances in the match. Usually, Federer has a knack of producing his best tennis on the biggest points, but doing so is a lot more difficult against Djokovic than against other players. Third, time is not on the second seed’s side. Even though he is playing superbly, at 34 there is no guarantee as to how much longer his body will hold up. Notwithstanding all of these things, the overwhelming positive is the level of Federer’s play, which means that he will continue to be one of the title favourites at the Grand Slams next year and, if his body holds up, in the years to come thereafter.

That’s it for this year’s US Open. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage over the past fortnight. Enjoy the rest of the tennis season and I’ll be back later in the year with my regular monthly column, I-Formation. In the meantime, you can follow all of the tennis action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2015 Day 14: Previewing Djokovic vs. Federer

September 13, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Flavia Pennetta is the 2015 US Open women’s singles champion, the Italian capturing her first Grand Slam with a straight sets win over compatriot Roberta Vinci.

This afternoon, the tournament concludes with the men’s singles final, in which the world’s top two players, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, will square off for the title.

Day 13 Recap

Apparently, Flavia Pennetta told herself going into the tournament that this would be the last Grand Slam of her career. The 33 year old veteran had always enjoyed playing at Flushing Meadows, and her best Grand Slam singles results had always been obtained in New York. In nothing short of a miracle, the twenty-sixth seed played her final Grand Slam match against her good friend and Federation Cup team-mate Roberta Vinci, collecting the win to finish her major career on the best possible note.

Vinci and Pennetta have known each other since before they were teenagers, and even won the French Open junior doubles title together way back in 1999. Now, as thirty-plus veterans in the twilight of their respective careers, the pair faced off in an all-Italian final at the US Open. Vinci had done Pennetta the biggest of favours, taking out top seed Serena Williams in the semi-finals, providing Pennetta with a golden opportunity to capture a major.

The first set saw the players trade a service break before the set progressed to a tiebreaker. Pennetta showed greater consistency in the tiebreaker, taking it 7 points to 4 to give herself a major advantage. Gaining confidence from the first set, Pennetta broke twice in the second set to give herself a commanding lead and a chance to taste victory before the looming showers started to drizzle the crowd. In keeping with Pennetta’s perfect day, it was only after winning match point to secure a 7-6(4) 6-2 victory that the heavens opened.

For Pennetta, it was the perfect end to a near-perfect tournament. The Italian will continue playing until the end of the year and, as she is now inside the world’s top 10, Pennetta has a very good chance of making the WTA Tour Finals at the end of the season. For Vinci, it was a sad way to end the best tournament of her singles career, but it was always going to be hard to back up her incredible win over Williams on Friday. The 32 year old tried valiantly and competed hard and, whilst she will be disappointed that she couldn’t claim the title, her jubilation for Pennetta’s triumph seemed earnest and heartfelt.


Match of the Day – Day 14

Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic

To say that this match is a toss of the coin is to state the obvious. After 41 career meetings between the pair, Roger Federer holds the slightest of edges, leading 21-20 after his recent win in Cincinnati. Furthermore, only one spot separates the pair in the world rankings, with Djokovic a runway world number one and a rejuvenated Federer in second spot.

This is Federer’s first US Open final since 2009 and how things have changed in the interim. In 2009, Federer was going for an unprecedented sixth consecutive US Open title, only to squander a 2 sets to 1 lead against the up and coming Juan Martin Del Potro. Since then, Federer has won just one major whilst Del Potro has been besieged by wrist injuries and Djokovic has expanded his Grand Slam collection to include 9 major titles. Accordingly, it’s a massive understatement to say that Federer is desperate to win another Grand Slam.

Both players won their semi-finals in convincing fashion, which means that they should be fit and raring to go for this afternoon’s match. These players know each other’s games inside out, and each has so much experience that nerves will not be a factor. As Federer himself said, when he and Djokovic play it is usually a straight shootout – two talented players going head to head in a purely athletic contest.

What Federer means by this statement is that neither he nor Djokovic considers it necessary to substantially modify their game in response to the game of the other player. Instead, each player typically plays his standard game and the best player on the day comes out as the winner. Contrast this to Federer’s mind-set when playing Nadal, against whom he has always struggled. The Swiss star frequently finds it hard to balance risk and reward against Nadal and is usually forced out of his comfort zone in the baseline rallies.

So, for Federer, it’s a much better match-up against Djokovic than against Nadal, and I think the second seed will be quietly confident going into this match. Whilst he lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, Federer scored a good win over the Serb on hard-courts in the Cincinnati final. To my mind, the first set and a half is absolutely critical for Federer (and notably less so for Djokovic). If he gets off to a fast start, Federer is one of the greatest frontrunners in tennis (a fact Wawrinka was reminded of in their semi-final), building his confidence and becoming more and more aggressive on court. Djokovic is never out of a match until it’s over, but it’s a far bigger challenge for him to overcome Federer if the Swiss star claims the first set or two of the match.

This pair has had some terrific battles at Flushing Meadows over the years, including the infamous semi-final in 2011, when Djokovic swatted a return winner on Federer’s match point and ending up winning the match (and the tournament). I think this one will be incredibly close, but everything seems to point towards Federer’s renaissance being completed with a glorious win. I’ll take the second seed in a tight 5-setter. Federer in 5.

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

US Open 2015 Day 13: Previewing the women’s final between Vinci and Pennetta

September 12, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Roberta Vinci produced the biggest shock of the 2015 tennis season on Day 12, upsetting world number one Serena Williams in 3 sets to move into today’s final and thwarting the American’s bid to complete the calendar Grand Slam.

Day 12 Recap

Williams entered the semi-final against Vinci as an overwhelming favourite, with the top seed having claimed the last four majors and the last three US Open titles. The first set went according to script, with Williams breaking the Italian three times and collecting the set after just 31 minutes. But Vinci used her slice backhand to great effect, moving a visibly tight Williams around the court. A break in the fifth game of the second set enabled Vinci to move ahead, and she maintained her advantage to force a deciding set.

When Williams went up a break at the beginning of the third set, it appeared as though the American superstar would stroll to victory. But the world number 43 refused to wilt and continued to attack the net, producing some stunning half-volleys as Williams began to self-destruct. Williams had her chances to get back into the set after Vinci claimed the decisive break in the seventh game of the set, but the 32 year old held her nerve and fittingly produced an exquisite half-volley to claim the most unlikely of wins.

Vinci will play countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in today’s final, after the twenty-sixth seed produced an impressive upset of her own, ousting second seed Simona Halep in a one-sided semi-final. After registering her best win of the tournament over Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals, Halep delivered a flat performance, unable to match the power of the 33 year old Pennetta. The Italian was in fine form, capturing the win in 59 minutes, 6-1 6-3.

In the men’s tournament, the world’s top two players, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, will meet in a blockbuster men’s final on Sunday after each player registered an emphatic straight sets win in Friday’s men’s semi-finals. Defending champion Marin Cilic had been struggling with an ankle injury in his previous match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and it was evident that the Croat was still bothered by the problem in the match against Djokovic. The top seed exploited Cilic’s ailment, moving the Croat all over the court and eventually sealing a 6-0 6-1 6-2 – the most lopsided men’s semi-final in US Open history.

Federer wasn’t quite as fast as Djokovic, but the second seed certainly delivered a performance for the ages, completely outclassing French Open champion and compatriot Stan Wawrinka. Federer gained revenge for his defeat by Wawrinka in Paris, as the fifth seed struggled on serve from the outset. After a competitive first set, which Federer claimed 6-4, Wawrinka was broken twice in the second set, before the 17-time major winner got on a complete roll, capturing 15 out of 16 points at the start of the third set to put the result beyond doubt. After 92 minutes, Federer was back in the US Open final for the first time since 2009, courtesy of a 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory.


Match of the Day – Day 13

Flavia Pennetta vs. Roberta Vinci

Just like the Nishikori-Cilic final last year, this is the final that absolutely nobody (not even Italian tennis fans) expected. Either way, the Italian tennis fans will have plenty to celebrate. Pennetta has always performed well at Flushing Meadows and, after making the semi-finals in 2013, the 33 year old has advanced further this year and now has a golden opportunity to claim a major title.

Vinci is probably the bigger surprise, with 32 year old sitting at 43 in the world rankings and given virtually no chance of beating Williams in the semi-finals. But Vinci showed her competitiveness and experience in upsetting the American, and she is now just one win away from a miraculous Grand Slam title.

Pennetta has a slight edge in the head-to-head standings, having beaten Vinci in five of the pair’s nine career meetings, including a straight sets win at the US Open in 2013. But of course these players have played and practiced together hundreds of times over the past decade and a half, and so know each other’s games inside out. Usually when two players are competing in their first major final, it is a case of which player handles the occasion the best. Both of these players are hugely experienced and, as former world number one doubles players, have played plenty of times in big stadiums at the business end of tournaments.

I favour Pennetta in today’s final, giving her stellar form all tournament – she’s defeated Stosur, Kvitova and Halep in her past three matches, all of whom are either Grand Slam winners or finalists – and she has a long history of performing well in New York. That said, Vinci showed against Williams that anything is possible and, as the higher ranked player, more pressure will be on Pennetta. Vinci needs to replicate her form against Williams, using her slice to vary the speed of the rallies and not being afraid to approach the net to finish points off.

Ultimately, Pennetta’s greater firepower means that the match is on her racquet. If she plays her best tennis, then she will be too strong. If the pressure gets to her, however, then Vinci has the experience and self-belief to capitalise. I think Pennetta will get there, but not without one hell of a fight. Pennetta in 3.

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

US Open 2015 Day 12: Previewing Djokovic vs. Cilic and Federer vs. Wawrinka

September 11, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Forget Super Saturday, today at Flushing Meadows is Fantastic Friday. After rain prevented any play in the women’s semi-finals scheduled for Thursday, tournament organisers moved the matches onto today’s schedule, meaning that the day session will see Flavia Pennetta square off against Simona Halep, and Roberta Vinci test her luck against top seed Serena Williams – please see yesterday’s issue for my preview of each match.

The night session features both men’s semi-finals, with the first contest between top seed Novak Djokovic and defending champion Marin Cilic, followed by the all-Swiss showdown between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. See below for my thoughts on each match.

Matches of the Day – Day 12

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Marin Cilic

Croatia’s Marin Cilic produced the best tennis of his life at Flushing Meadows last year, defeating Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, respectively, to claim his maiden Grand Slam title. Even more impressively, he won those three matches without dropping a set. Cilic was serving tremendously well and, with former Wimbledon champion and compatriot Goran Ivanisevic giving him the requisite confidence and self-belief, the Croat secured an unlikely victory.

2015 has been an up and down year for Cilic, with injury problems delaying his start to the season. However, a quarter-finals showing at Wimbledon indicated that Cilic was back in form and he has done terrifically well to date in the defence of his US Open crown. The ninth seed has survived five-setters against Kukushkin and Tsonga to get within a couple of wins of a second successive title, but the man across the net from him today is the toughest opponent in men’s tennis.

If not for a red-hot Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final earlier this year, Djokovic would be on track for the calendar Grand Slam, just like Serena Williams is. The Serbian has been the dominant force on the ATP Tour this year, despite Roger Federer’s renaissance, and is out in front in the world rankings by a significant distance. The world number one has beaten Cilic in all 13 of their previous encounters, including straight sets wins at Monte Carlo and the All England Club earlier this year. That said, Cilic did push Djokovic to 5 sets at Wimbledon last year and, as he showed in his demolition of Roger Federer in the semi-finals in New York last year, anything is possible when Cilic is on song.

Cilic played close to the perfect match against Federer at Flushing Meadows last year and, if he is to beat Djokovic this year, I think the Croat will need to replicate the form he showed against the Swiss superstar in 2014. Djokovic looks fresher than last year, when he slumped to a semi-finals loss in New York to Nishikori and, with just one US Open title to his name to date, the top seed will be eager to double his tally this year.

The first set and a half of the match will be crucial – if Cilic can make the early running, his confidence will balloon and he will be hard to stop. But the greater probability is that Djokovic negates the Cilic serve and outplays the Croat from the baseline. I think Cilic will win a set and will fight hard in the others, but I’m backing the top seed to prevail. Djokovic in 4.

2. Stan Wawrinka vs. Roger Federer

Swiss tennis fans should be happy whoever wins this historic clash – either way, a Swiss player will be in the men’s singles final. Second seed Roger Federer is playing only his second tournament since losing to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, but the 17-time major winner won in Cincinnati with style and flair, and has now swept past his first five opponents en route to the semi-finals.

Wawrinka showed in Paris that he is far from a one-Slam wonder, producing magnificent tennis to stop Federer (in straight sets) in the quarter-finals, Tsonga in the semi-finals, and Djokovic in the final. The fifth seed has the confidence to beat anybody these days, and his coach Magnus Norman is an astute tennis observer who has helped his pupil both tactically and in terms of self-belief.

The win over Federer in Paris earlier this year will give Wawrinka plenty of hope going into this match, but the broader story is that Federer has won 16 of the 19 meetings between the pair. Wawrinka has never beaten his compatriot on hard-courts, although he did come extremely close in London at the ATP World Tour Finals last year, in what was a surprisingly fiery match between the Davis Cup teammates.

I think Wawrinka’s game is well-suited to the conditions in New York, with the bouncy courts giving him plenty of balls in his prime striking zone. Federer, as a 5-time US Open winner, obviously likes the courts as well, and in his case it’s predominantly the speed of the courts that gives him an advantage when he plays first strike tennis and approaches the net confidently.

To my mind, this match comes down to who can dictate play on the majority of points. If Federer serves well and uses his forehand and volleys to keep the points short, then the second seed should prevail. If Wawrinka is able to extend the points a bit longer, and give himself time to set up for a powerful winner from either wing, then he is very capable of winning this match (assuming that his execution is on point). I’ll go for Federer, based on the form he showed in Cincinnati and to date in New York, but this one will be close. Federer in 5.

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

US Open 2015 Day 12: Women’s Semifinal Preview

September 10, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Swiss seeds Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka will meet in a blockbuster men’s singles semi-final, after both players won their quarter-finals in convincing fashion on Day 10. Meanwhile, Day 11 is ladies’ semi-finals day at Flushing Meadows and, if the rain stays away, we are in for at least one match. Read on to receive my predictions for each semi-final.

Day 10 Recap

Italian Flavia Pennetta continued her love affair with New York on Day 10, the twenty-sixth seed upsetting fifth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to advance to the second US Open semi-final of her career. Pennetta joined compatriot Roberta Vinci in the final four with a fighting 3 set win over Kvitova, who appeared to struggle in conditions which were again hot and humid.

Pennetta will face Romanian Simona Halep for a place in Saturday’s final, after the second seed outlasted former world number one and dual Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in another 3-setter. Halep made the early running in the match and claimed the opening set, before Azarenka levelled the match at a set apiece and then went up a break in the deciding set. An 85 minute rain delay seemed to halt Azarenka’s momentum, with Halep capturing five of the final seven games to record a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory.

Much was expected of Richard Gasquet going into his quarter-final clash against Roger Federer, after the Frenchman’s run to the Wimbledon semi-finals and his defeat of sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the round of 16 in New York. But in just 87 minutes, second seed Federer crushed Gasquet’s hopes, handing the Frenchman a 6-3 6-3 6-1 in front of an adoring and appreciative crowd.

Wawrinka had lost his last four matches against Kevin Anderson and, after the lanky South African’s upset of former champion Andy Murray in the fourth round, many pundits were predicting that this match would go the distance. However, French Open champion Wawrinka produced a stunning performance, hammering a visibly fatigued Anderson (who was playing his tenth match in just over a fortnight) in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 6-0, to set up the showdown against his countryman Federer.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Serena Williams vs. Roberta Vinci

Can anybody stop Serena Williams from claiming the calendar Grand Slam? The list of potential candidates is getting shorter and shorter, and now the American is just a couple of wins away from achieving the feat. At the start of the tournament, I considered that there were only a handful of players capable of beating Williams in New York, including her sister Venus and Victoria Azarenka. Serena overcame Venus in the quarter-finals, and Azarenka’s loss to Halep on Day 10 is a big boost for Williams’ chances of winning the tournament.

Vinci has done remarkably well to progress through to her maiden US Open semi-final, but to be honest I don’t think the Italian stands a chance in this one. In four previous meetings with Williams, the 32 year old has been unable to win a set, and her classic all-court game involving spin, placement and touch is no match for the raw power and aggression of Williams. Furthermore, after some long tussles earlier in the tournament, Williams will be focused on getting through this match with a minimum of fuss and getting plenty of rest in preparation for Saturday’s final. Accordingly, despite Vinci’s best efforts, I think this will be a relatively quick and one-sided contest. Williams in 2.

2. Flavia Pennetta vs. Simona Halep

For the second time in three years, Flavia Pennetta is into the US Open semi-finals, and the 33 year old will probably never get a better opportunity to make it through to a Grand Slam final. A former world number one in doubles and previously ranked as high as 10 in singles, Pennetta mixes the all-court game of her compatriot Vinci with greater power and aggression. As a result, when she is playing with confidence and is at full health, the twenty-sixth seed is incredibly difficult to stop.

Halep, a finalist at Roland Garros last year, can make a strong claim to be the smartest player on the WTA Tour. The Romanian isn’t the biggest hitter on tour (far from it, in fact), but she combines brilliant anticipation and awareness skills with impressive speed and balance and an ultra-competitive attitude. This season hasn’t been quite as good as 2014, but the second seed now has a very good opportunity to make another major final.

Pennetta beat Halep at the 2013 US Open and has claimed three of the pair’s four previous meetings.  However, Halep did beat the Italian in their most recent encounter, on hard-courts in Miami earlier this year. To my mind, this match will come down to a question of which player can manage their emotions and the occasion the best, and which player is accordingly able to produce the better tennis. Pennetta has been around longer, but Halep’s run to the French Open final last year will hold for in good stead entering this match. Unlike the other semi-final, I think this match will be a tight and hard-fought affair. I’ll back the more consistent Halep to prevail, but only by a whisker. Halep 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.

US Open 2015 Day 10 Preview: It’s Federer’s turn to step into the semifinals

September 9, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

World number one Serena Williams is now just a pair of wins away from completing a remarkable calendar Grand Slam, after the top seed outlasted her sister Venus in 3 sets on Day 9 to make it through to the semi-finals.

Day 9 Recap

In front of a capacity crowd, Serena took the early lead, racing through the first set for the loss of just two games. Elder sister Venus came roaring back in the second set, completely dominating to set up a mouth-watering deciding set. An early break gave Serena some breathing space and she held on to prevail 6-2 1-6 6-3, winning a total of 76 points for the match compared to Venus’ 75.

Serena will need to beat Italy’s Roberta Vinci if she is to progress to Saturday’s final, after the veteran outlasted Kiki Mladenovic in another 3-setter to make it through to her first ever US Open semi-final. The former world number one doubles player showed her experience at the crucial stages to oust the gallant Mladenovic 6-3 5-7 6-4.

In the men’s tournament, defending champion Marin Cilic was given a scare by the flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. After collecting the first two sets in workmanlike fashion, Cilic struggled to match Tsonga’s level in sets 3 and 4, as the nineteenth seed pushed the match into a deciding fifth set. There, the big serve of Cilic proved decisive, as he eventually claimed a 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-7(3) 6-4 win.

The lengthy Tsonga-Cilic duel meant that top seed Novak Djokovic and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez didn’t get on court until late on Tuesday night. Just after 1am Wednesday morning, Djokovic finally booked his place in the semi-finals, recording a 6-1 3-6 6-3 7-6(2) win over the eighteenth seeded Lopez.

Matches of the Day – Day 10

1. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Kevin Anderson

This is a particularly interesting duel. Dual Grand Slam champion Wawrinka would have been expecting to face Murray, but instead he meets Anderson, who has been a bogeyman of sorts for the Swiss star in recent times. After defeating Anderson in their first three matches, Wawrinka has lost to the South African in their last four meetings (all of which took place last year and this year).

Anderson has been knocking on the door of the top 10 for a while now, and his breakthrough win over Murray, combined with his winning record against Wawrinka, will give him high hopes going into this clash. If Anderson serves well, another upset could be on the cards. But Wawrinka has more experience at this stage of Grand Slams and I sense he will squeeze through. Wawrinka in 5.

2. Roger Federer vs. Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet holds a fairly miserable record against second seed Roger Federer, with the Frenchman having beaten Federer in just a couple of their 16 career meetings. However, the Frenchman has been in inspired form lately, making it through to the semi-finals at Wimbledon and now beating Tomas Berdych en route to the US Open quarter-finals.

Unfortunately for Gasquet, he’s not the only one playing well, with Federer in terrific form in the last few months and showing no signs of slowing down. I think the Frenchman will claim a set but I don’t think he has the stamina to go the distance with the Swiss superstar. Federer in 4.

3. Petra Kvitova vs. Flavia Pennetta

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova struggled early on against Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta, dropping the first three matches that the pair played. But Kvitova has won the last three matches contested between these players and, whilst Pennetta performs well in New York, having made the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows in 2013, I think Kvitova’s superior serve and shotmaking ability will get her over the line today.

Whatever happens today, this year will represent Kvitova’s most successful in New York, but I think the Czech star has a good chance of making it through to Saturday’s final and no doubt Kvitova will be eager to make the most of her opportunity. Kvitova in 3.

4. Victoria Azarenka vs. Simona Halep

This match should be entertaining to watch, offering a contrast of styles. Azarenka is the classic baseline power player, always seeking to dictate play and get on the offensive. Halep is a crafty counterpuncher, who moves well and anticipates well, and who has a myriad of different shots up her sleeve.

Azarenka’s bad run in terms of injuries have kept her from getting back into the world’s top 10, but to my mind when she is healthy she is one of the top couple of hard-courts players on the WTA Tour. I’ll back the Belarusian to upset second seed Halep and move closer to capturing that elusive US Open title. Azarenka 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.

US Open 2015 Day 9 Preview: The Day belongs to Serena and Venus

September 8, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Andy Murray is out of the tournament, the former champion going down to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in 4 sets on Day 8 at Flushing Meadows.

Day 8 Recap

Anderson, who was incredibly close to taking out eventual champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon earlier this year, is through to his first major quarter-final courtesy of a terrific serving display. Murray, who has been battling a cold in New York, suffered his earliest Grand Slam exit in five years and wasn’t happy about it, smashing a racquet and yelling a number of obscenities as he departed the tournament.

In other men’s matches on Day 8, second seed Roger Federer was forced to a couple of tiebreakers but ultimately accounted for John Isner in straight sets, as his Swiss countryman Stan Wawrinka ended Donald Young’s dream run in 4 sets. And Richard Gasquet continued his good run of form in New York, upsetting sixth seed Tomas Berdych in 4 sets.

In the women’s tournament, two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka was too good for Varvara Lepchencko, handing the American a 6-3 6-4 defeat, as Flavia Pennetta maintained her perfect record against Sam Stosur and booked her place in the quarter-finals. The winning streak of Johanna Konta finally came to an end, with the Brit unable to match the power of Petra Kvitova. Simons Halep is also through to the quarter-finals, the second seed forced to come from a set down to beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.

Matches of the Day – Day 9

1. Kristina Mladenovic vs. Roberta Vinci

Frenchwoman Kiki Mladenovic is a former world junior champion who, whilst capable of matching the very best players on occasion, has struggled to produce the consistency required to become an elite player on the WTA Tour. Mladenovic has produced a fine run here to make her first major quarter-final, but Vinci is a tricky opponent.

The Italian is a veteran of the WTA Tour and, although she was fortunate to benefit from Eugenie Bouchard’s withdrawal from their fourth round clash, Vinci will be desperate to make the most of her luck. I expect the Italian to handle the occasion better than her opponent today and to claim a narrow win accordingly. Vinci in 3.

2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Marin Cilic

Defending champion Marin Cilic was forced to fight hard to beat Mikhail Kukushkin and Jeremy Chardy in rounds 3 and 4, but the Croat will be increasingly difficult to beat as he gets closer towards defending his crown.

Tsonga enjoyed a good win in round 4 against in-form countryman Benoit Paire and the Frenchman is capable of anything, as he showed in making a spirited run to the French Open semi-finals earlier this year. This should be a close contest but the conditions suit Cilic slightly more. Cilic in 4.

3. Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams

Together, these sisters have changed the face of women’s tennis and, whilst Serena is clearly the best player in women’s tennis right now, Venus is the player who has beaten Serena the most, and Serena is quick to list Venus as her toughest opponent.

Usually, matches between the sisters are fairly anticlimactic affairs, with neither player bringing their best form. Let’s hope that is not the case today. Venus has been playing well and should definitely claim a set, but ultimately I think Serena will be too strong. Serena in 3.

4. Novak Djokovic vs. Feliciano Lopez

Top seed Djokovic was forced to work hard against Roberto Bautista Agut in round 4, as the Spaniard got very hot for a period of the match. I think the Serb will be satisfied with his response and will have benefitted from the workout.

Lopez did well to see off the mercurial Fabio Fognini to advance to the quarter-finals, the Spaniard serving and volleying sharply. Unfortunately for Lopez, Djokovic loves a target and I think the Serb will relish any moves forward by Lopez today. I think one set will be close, with the world number one racing through the others. Djokovic in 3.

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

US Open 2015 Day 8 Preview: Federer and Wawrinka aim for quarterfinal positions

September 6, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

The Williams sisters will meet in a blockbuster quarter-final on Tuesday, after both sisters recorded straight sets wins on Day 7 of the tournament.

Day 7 Recap

Top seed Serena Williams produced her best performance of the tournament to date, striking 18 winners against just six unforced errors as she saw off rising star Madison Keys, 6-3 6-3. Elder sister Venus was similarly impressive in making her way through to the US Open quarter-finals for the first time in five years, losing just three games for the match against the Estonian Anett Kontaveit.

There was disappointing news for Eugenie Bouchard and her legion of fans on Day 7, with the Canadian forced to withdraw from the women’s singles after suffering a fall and concussion on Saturday. Roberta Vinci was the immediate beneficiary of Bouchard’s bad luck, the Italian claiming a walkover to advance to the quarter-finals. Vinci will play the winner of the fourth round clash between Kristina Mladenovic and Ekaterina Makarova.

In the men’s tournament, defending champion Marin Cilic moved through to the quarter-finals on Day 7, the Croat claiming a pivotal third set tiebreaker over Jeremy Chardy before easily claiming the fourth set to collect the win. Cilic will face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the semi-finals, after the nineteenth seed ended compatriot Benoit Paire’s giant-killing run at Flushing Meadows with a straight sets win.

Fabio Fognini, conqueror of Rafael Nadal on Friday night, was unable to replicate such form against Nadal’s countryman Feliciano Lopez, going down to the eighteenth seed in straight sets. Serving and volleying at every opportunity, Lopez refused to let Fognini dictate play from the baseline, the Spaniard wrapping up the match in one hour and 50 minutes. To earn a place in the semi-finals, Lopez will need to beat the winner of the Djokovic-Bautista Agut fourth round contest.

Matches of the Day – Day 8

1. Roger Federer vs. John Isner

Second seed Roger Federer has steamrolled everything in his path in his opening three matches, but John Isner’s incredible serve means that the American won’t be a pushover in this contest. The thirteenth seed was well on top of Vesely before the Czech retired in their third round contest, and with plenty of home crowd support on his side, I expect Isner to put up a good fight in this match.

Federer looks like he has never aged, the Swiss superstar serving flawlessly, volleying crisply and hitting his forehand with as much confidence as ever. The veteran will know that he needs to take his chances on Isner’s serve, so look for Federer to peak at the business end of each set as he squeezes out a tight straight sets win. Federer in 3.

2. Sabine Lisicki vs. Simona Halep

Former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki has struggled to replicate her impressive performances at the All England Club at the other majors, so it’s pleasing to see the injury prone German make it through to the round of 16 in New York this year. The twenty-fourth seed has a booming serve, which keeps her in plenty of matches, but she will need more than her serve if she is to beat second seed Simona Halep today.

Halep hasn’t had as good a year as last year, but the 2014 French Open finalist has started the tournament in New York in tremendous form and will fancy her chances of making the final in what is becoming a fairly weak bottom half of the draw. The Romanian is a terrific mover around the court and should be able to move Lisicki out of position time and time again. Look for Lisicki to fight hard but for Halep to have all the answers. Halep in 3.

3. Stan Wawrinka vs. Donald Young

Donald Young Jr. could be described as the comeback kid for multiple reasons. The former teen prodigy has spent many years in the wilderness struggling to live up to expectations, whilst his heroics in coming back from 2 sets to love down against both Gilles Simon and Viktor Troicki have made him a darling of the New York crowd.

Does Young have anything left in the tank to challenge fifth seed Stan Wawrinka today? It’s a good question, with the French Open champion being a very hard man to beat on the bouncy hard-courts of Flushing Meadows even when one is full of energy. I think Young will give it his all, but I expect Wawrinka to be too strong and too fit for the American in this clash. Wawrinka in 4.

4. Richard Gasquet vs. Tomas Berdych

Twelfth seed Richard Gasquet was in top form in defeating Bernard Tomic in round 3, but the Frenchman faces a stiff challenge in the form of Tomas Berdych today. Although the pair has split 12 career meetings, the Czech has claimed the last three matches between the pair, and I think Gasquet will find it hard to match Berdych’s power from the baseline.

Both of these players have made it to the US Open semi-finals before, so neither will be fazed by the occasion. For Gasquet to win, he needs to serve extremely well and go for broke off his backhand wing. If he is on song, he is well and truly capable of causing an upset. But if he isn’t firing on all cylinders, I think Berdych will be too strong for the Frenchman. Berdych in 4.

5. Sam Stosur vs. Flavia Pennetta

Having overcome the feisty former French Open finalist Sara Errani in the third round, former champion Sam Stosur must defeat another Italian in the form of twenty-sixth seed Flavia Pennetta if the Aussie is to return to the US Open quarter-finals. Stosur exorcised some demons in outlasting Errani in 3 sets, after the Italian upset Stosur in the French Open semi-finals in 2012, and now the 2011 US Open champion will be desperate to see how far she can progress in this year’s tournament.

Pennetta is a talented all-court player who has just as much experience as Stosur. I don’t think much separates the players, but Stosur is the heavier hitter and has the better serve. For these reasons, I’ll back the Aussie to make it through to the quarter-finals.

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

US Open 2015 Day 7 Preview: Time to get serious for the Djoker

September 6, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

It was smooth sailing for virtually all of the big names on Day 6 of the tournament, with Federer, Murray, Wawrinka, Kvitova and Halep all booking their places in the second week at Flushing Meadows.

Day 6 Recap

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was largely untroubled by Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Day 6, claiming a straight sets victory, whilst second seed Simona Halep breezed past American Shelby Rogers. Eighteenth seed Andrea Petkovic wasn’t so fortunate, going down to the streaking Johanna Konta.

Former champion Sam Stosur was forced to 3 sets to overcome Sara Errani, with the Aussie to next face another Italian in the form of Flavia Pennetta. Lepchenko and Lisicki were also forced to deciding sets to book their places in the fourth round, as was two-time Victoria Azarenka, who scored a fighting win over Germany’s Angelique Kerber.

In the men’s tournament, second seed Roger Federer recorded another straight sets win, this time over Philipp Kohlscreiber, with Richard Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka also notching 3 set wins. After surviving a scare against Mannarino, Andy Murray turned in a more polished performance to account for Thomaz Bellucci, whilst Tomas Berdych needed 4 sets to defeat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

John Isner and Donald Young gave the New York crowd plenty to cheer about on Day 6, with Isner winning the first couple of sets over Jiri Vesely before the Czech player retired due to a neck injury. Meanwhile, former prodigy Young launched his second heroic comeback of the tournament, overcoming a 2 sets to love deficit to oust the twenty-second seed, Viktor Troicki of Serbia. Young will now face Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals.

Matches of the Day – Day 7

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Roberto Bautista Agut

Novak Djokovic may have dismissed Andrea Seppi in straight sets in the third round, but it wasn’t as comfortable a match as the final score would indicate, with the top seed finding himself short of breath on multiple occasions and being forced to get out of jail on a few occasions.

Bautista Agut is into the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows for the second consecutive year, and the Spaniard’s heavy hitting baseline game makes him a threat on the courts in New York, where the ball bounces high enough to be consistently in his preferred hitting zone. Djokovic should have too much class and experience, having beaten Bautista Agut in both of their previous meetings, but I think the Spaniard will compete strongly in at least a couple of the sets today. Djokovic in 3.

2. Feliciano Lopez vs. Fabio Fognini

When he’s not arguing with chair umpires or infuriating spectators, Fabio Fognini is capable of some spectacular shot-making. In making an incredible comeback against 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal in the third round, Fognini not only showcased his abilities from the baseline, he also showed great heart and commitment to the cause – attributes not often associated with the feisty Italian.

Lopez defeated Milos Raonic in straight sets in round 3 and looks to be in good form. The big test for Fognini, therefore, is whether he can back up his terrific upset of Nadal with another quality performance, or whether he will turn in a poor performance to continue the inconsistency that has plagued his career to date. Fognini is capable of anything, but to my mind the smart money is on Lopez in this one. Lopez in 4.

3. Marin Cilic vs. Jeremy Chardy

2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic was given an almighty scare by the diminutive Kazakh Mikhail Kukushin in round 3, the Croat forced to go the distance to see off a gallant Kukushkin. Those sets were the first dropped by Cilic in New York since last year’s fourth round, so I don’t think too much should be made of it, especially given that Kukushkin is a tricky opponent at the best of times.

Cilic’s opponent today, Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, is another dangerous opponent. The twenty-seventh seeded Chardy took down seventh seed David Ferrer in the round of 32 and, if the Frenchman can get his serve and forehand combination working well, he’s capable of causing problems for Cilic. That said, I think Cilic has a slight edge over Chardy in most categories and so I expect him to squeeze through in a close 4-setter. Cilic in 4.

4. Benoit Paire vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

The eccentric Benoit Paire has always been capable of making a terrific run at a Grand Slam, with the Frenchman possessing great shot-making flair alongside a solid technique. Paire has ousted seeds Nishikori and Robredo so far in the tournament and, whilst Paire has lost both previous matches against Tsonga, the flamboyant nineteenth seed has found it difficult playing compatriots in the past.

These two know each other’s game very well and Paire won’t be intimidated by the fact that Tsonga is the higher-ranked and better-known player. Former Australian Open finalist Tsonga has to start the match as the favourite, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paire spring another upset. Paire in 5.

5. Madison Keys vs. Serena Williams

The master against the heir apparent? No doubt that’s the way that the USTA will be viewing this match. Serena Williams has swept all before her in the past 12 months and, despite not exhibiting her best form in New York so far this year, now stands just four wins away from completing the calendar Grand Slam.

Madison Keys has enormous potential and, importantly, has taken some important steps this year towards realising that potential, knocking out Venus Williams before falling to Serena in the semi-finals of the Australian Open this year. Keys competed strongly in the first set of that match before falling away in the second set, and I think it will be a similar result here, with the youngster pushing Serena in one set but being unable to maintain her intensity for the entire match. Williams in 2.

Put your house on: Venus Williams. She was in vintage form against Belinda Bencic and I think she will be far too good for Estonian Anett Kontaveit today.

Upset alert: As previewed above, I think the enigmatic Benoit Paire could continue his giant-killing run against countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga today.

Likely to go the distance: If she can overcome the locker room fall and subsequent head injury that forced her to retire from the doubles and mixed doubles on Saturday, I think Eugenie Bouchard will  be too good for Italian veteran Roberta Vinci today. That said, I think the Canadian will have to earn the win in a long one.

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 2015 Day 6 Preview: Will Federer avoid the same fate as Rafa?

September 5, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

For the first time since 2004 Rafael Nadal will end a calendar year without having claimed a Grand Slam, after the Spaniard was sensationally ousted from the tournament by Italy’s Fabio Fognini on Day 5.

Day 5 Recap

When the two-time champion collected the opening couple of sets against Fognini and went up a break in the third set, it appeared as though an early night was on the cards for the Spanish superstar. But Fognini refused to give in and, throwing caution to the wind from the baseline, smacked 70 winners as Nadal squandered a two sets to love lead in a major for the first time in 152 matches.

In other men’s matches on Day 5, top seed Novak Djokovic eased past Andreas Seppi in straight sets but defending champion Marin Cilic was forced to 5 sets to see off a gallant Mihkail Kukushkin. Feliciano Lopez scored a surprisingly straightforward win over Milos Raonic, as Jeremy Chardy ousted David Ferrer and Benoit Paire continued his dream run by upsetting Tommy Robredo. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was another to advance on Day 5, whilst Roberto Bautista Agut progressed when David Goffin was forced to retire.

In the women’s tournament, the Russian Makarova overcame a cramping episode to see off Svitolina, as Venus Williams wound back the clock, turning in a vintage display to defeat Belinda Bencic in straight sets. Sister Serena came back from a set down to beat compatriot Mattek-Sands, whilst Madison Keys beat Agnieszka Radwanska for the first time in five career meetings. Meanwhile, Eugenie Bouchard recaptured some of her 2014 form, delivering a stellar performance to see off Dominika Cibulkova in 3 sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 6

1. Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber

These two are both veterans of the ATP Tour and know each other well, often practising together. Kohlschreiber has a terrific one-handed backhand and a very compact, solid all-round game, but deep down I don’t think he really believes he is capable of beating Federer on the big stage.

Federer has waltzed past his first two opponents and, whilst Kohlschreiber will be a tougher challenge, I still think the Swiss star will come through without too many anxious moments. Federer in 3.

2. Victoria Azarenka vs. Angelique Kerber

As I noted earlier this week, Victoria Azarenka loves playing in New York and is a dangerous floater in the women’s draw. Angelique Kerber is another player who revels in the conditions at Flushing Meadows, with the German bursting into the limelight with a run to the semi-finals of the 2011 US Open.

The left-handed Kerber is a talented shotmaker, but Azarenka loves to play against heavy hitters and is the better mover of the pair. On this basis, I’ll back the Belarusian to move through to the round of 16, but not before getting a lengthy workout courtesy of Kerber. Azarenka in 3.

3. John Isner vs. Jiri Vesely

Rising star Jiri Vesely recorded a tremendous win in round 2, the Czech youngster ousting Croat veteran Ivo Karlovic in a hard-fought 5-setter. Can the 22 year back it up against another huge server in the form of John Isner?

Isner would have been expecting a serving shootout against Karlovic, but instead he finds himself pitted against a tricky leftie in the form of Vesely. I think the home crowd support for Isner, combined with some fatigue on Vesely’s part, gives the American the edge. Isner in 4.

4. Richard Gasquet vs. Bernard Tomic

Former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic was extremely impressive on Thursday night, putting aside the awkwardness of playing compatriot Lleyton Hewitt and fending off multiple match points to take down the former world number one in a gripping 5-setter. Tomic is now in the round of 32 in New York for the first time, but I think the second round victory will have taken a hell of a lot out of the Aussie.

Gasquet has lost to Tomic before, and so knows the danger that he poses. I expect the Frenchman, a former semi-finalist in New York, to start strongly in this clash and never relinquish his lead against a fatigued Tomic. Gasquet in 4.

5. Sam Stosur vs. Sara Errani

Former champion Sam Stosur has struggled in recent years to recapture her form of 2011, which saw her upset heavy favourite Serena Williams to win her one and only major title in New York. However, the Aussie’s heavy kicking serve and ballistic forehand make her a dark horse in the tournament if she boosts her confidence by stringing together a few wins.

Former French Open finalist Errani is a quintessential counterpuncher and, whilst she will capitalise on any mistakes from Stosur, the match will be dictated by the Aussie. Look for Stosur to go after Errani’s weak second serve en route to a businesslike victory. Stosur in 2.

Put your house on: Andy Murray. After scraping past Adrian Mannarino, I think Murray will be in better form against the Brazilian Bellucci today.

Upset alert: Petra Cetkovska knocked out Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday and she has to be a chance of taking down Flavia Pennetta today.

Likely to go the distance: Big-serving Kevin Anderson and young gun Dominic Thiem appear poised to slug it out to the wire today. I’ll back Thiem in 5.

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

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