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.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 11 Preview: Federer vs. Raonic & Djokovic vs. Dimitrov

July 3, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Petra Kvitova and Eugenie Bouchard will contest Saturday’s ladies’ final after overcoming Lucie Safarova and Simona Halep in their respective semi-finals on Day 10.

The men’s finalists will be decided on Day 11, with Novak Djokovic locking horns with Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer taking on Milos Raonic in what promises to be a bumper day of tennis.

Day 10 Recap

In the all-Czech first semi-final, Lucie Safarova exhibited some early nerves in what was her debut Grand Slam semi-final, dropping serve in the opening game of the match to former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. But Safarova soon gathered herself, breaking back 3 games later. The first set was a tight affair, Kvitova taking 51 minutes to finally edge her compatriot in a tiebreaker, 8 points to 6.

The loss of the first set seemed to deflate Safarova and inspire Kvitova, the 2011 champion breaking in the second and sixth games of the second set and sending down 8 aces en route to a 7-6(6) 6-1 victory in 80 minutes.

The trajectory of the second semi-final was eerily similar to that of the first semi-final, with Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard neck-and-neck throughout the first set, despite the Romanian badly turning her left ankle early in the set. The third seed soldiered on bravely and opened up a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker, only for Bouchard to come roaring back, taking 5 of the next 6 points to claim the set 7 points to 5.

As was the case with Safarova, losing a tight first set put Halep on the back foot in the second set, with the young Canadian racing out to a 4-1 lead. After losing semi-finals in the year’s first 2 Grand Slams, it was a case of third time lucky for Bouchard, who overcame some nerves in the latter stages of the match to seal a 7-6(5) 6-2 win on her sixth match point.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov comes into this match riding a 10-match winning streak on grass and must be full of confidence after making the defending champion, Scot Andy Murray, look positively second-rate in their quarter-final. With Roger Rasheed upping the Bulgarian’s work-rate and developing his confidence, self-belief and tactical awareness, the sky is the limit for the eleventh seed.

Djokovic wasn’t at his best against an on-song Marin Cilic in his quarter-final, but the Serb underlined just how hard it is to beat him in a Grand Slam contest, coming from 2 sets to 1 down to hammer Cilic 6-2 6-2 in the fourth and fifth sets. Dimitrov has beaten Djokovic before, on clay in Madrid last year, but each of their other 3 encounters has seen Djokovic walk away a straight sets victor.

If Dimitrov is to prevail, he will need to employ a similar game plan to the one he adopted against Murray – serving well, being aggressive and attacking the net to finish the point whenever possible. Djokovic is fitter and better defensively than the Bulgarian, so Dimitrov’s only option is to attack the Serb and seek to overpower him. I can see Dimitrov doing this for a set and a half, but I expect Djokovic to be a much tougher opponent for Dimitrov than Murray was in the quarter-finals. Djokovic in 4.

2. Roger Federer vs. Milos Raonic

Going into this tournament, it was a complete mystery to me that Milos Raonic had never ventured beyond the second round at the All England Club. The big Canadian with the ballistic serve should be one of the title favourites in any grass-court tournament that he enters, yet prior to this year he had woefully underperformed in the biggest grass-court tournament in the world.

But I have been mightily impressed with the eighth seed’s efforts in this tournament, especially in the quarter-finals against Kyrgios, when all the pressure was on Raonic and he had the first set practically stolen off him by the teenager. Coach Ivan Ljubicic has had a steadying influence on the Canadian, and I think his season in 2014 will set the foundation for a very strong next few years on the ATP Tour.

Federer has of course done it all before at Wimbledon, winning the tournament on 7 occasions. After last year’s back problems, the Swiss superstar is back fit and healthy and, with Murray and Nadal out of the tournament, must sense that this is a golden opportunity to add another title to his bulging trophy cabinet and further cement his legacy.

Federer has a commanding 4-0 career advantage over Raonic and, whilst I expect the Canadian to push the fourth seed all the way in this contest, I think Federer will be too sharp in the key moments. Just as Federer used to defuse Roddick’s giant serve at Wimbledon, so he will find a way to undermine Raonic’s huge serving advantage and notch up another semi-final win in SW19. Federer in 5.

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.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 10 Preview: Women’s Semifinals

July 2, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

It’s ladies’ semi-finals day on Day 10 at the All England Club, with former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova the only player out of the 4 semi-finalists to have previously tasted Grand Slam success.

Day 9 Recap

Third seed Simona Halep booked her place in the final 4 of the tournament with a fine win over last year’s finalist, German Sabine Lisicki, taking the match 6-4 6-0 in 57 minutes. The Romanian was in superb touch on serve, winning 80 percent of her first service points, and was efficient with her opportunities on Lisicki’s serve, converting 5 of 8 break points, whilst Lisicki couldn’t find her range, committing a total of 20 unforced errors. Halep will face Eugenie Bouchard for a place in Saturday’s final, after the Canadian overcame Maria Sharapova’s conqueror, Angelique Kerber, 6-3 6-4 in just over an hour.

In the men’s tournament, defending champion Andy Murray was sensationally dumped out of the tournament by rising star Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian taking advantage of a sub-par performance by Murray to notch a 6-1 7-6(4) 6-2 victory. While Murray was off his game, Dimitrov was in red-hot touch, hitting 32 winners against just 10 unforced errors, and winning 20 of 22 forays to the net.

Dimitrov will play top seed Novak Djokovic in Friday’s semi-finals after the Serb squeezed past Marin Cilic in 5 sets. Things looked precarious for Djokovic when Cilic took the third set in a tiebreaker to establish a 2 sets to 1 lead, but the world number 2 dug deep and swept past Cilic 6-2 in the deciding set, claiming the win in 3 hours and 19 minutes.

In the bottom half of the men’s draw, 7-time champion Roger Federer outclassed countryman Stan Wawrinka, coming from a set down to take the second set in a tiebreaker and then the match in 4 sets. Wawrinka seemed fatigued after a series of back-to-back matches and also appeared to be suffering from illness, but battled manfully against his close friend before succumbing in 2 hours and 33 minutes.

Federer will face Canadian Milos Raonic for a spot in the final, after the Canadian made it through to his first ever Grand Slam semi-final by ending the dream run of Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios. The wildcard stole the first set in a tiebreaker, but a dominant serving display by the eighth seeded Raonic, along with some inconsistent play from Kyrgios at critical moments, enabled the Canadian to secure a 4 set victory.

Matches of the Day – Day 10

1. Petra Kvitova vs. Lucie Safarova

The all-Czech semi-final pits former Wimbledon champion and sixth seed Petra Kvitova against the tenacious veteran Lucie Safarova. Whilst Kvitova has a game made for grass-court tennis, with a powerful swinging serve and lethal forehand, Safarova is more of a pugnacious counterpuncher who is willing to scrap for every point on any surface. The twenty-third seeded Safarova has done tremendously well to make it through to her first ever Grand Slam semi-final, but I think Kvitova’s superior class will shine through in this clash.

Kvitova has won all 5 of the pair’s previous meetings, although the most recent match in Eastbourne on grass went to a tiebreaker in the deciding set. Kvitova’s experience at this stage of the tournament will be of enormous assistance in the critical moments of this match, and I think she will record a relatively easy victory over Safarova. Kvitova in 2.

2. Eugenie Bouchard vs. Simona Halep

This should be an intriguing and very close contest between two of the rising stars on the WTA Tour. In fact, even calling them rising stars could be considered as underselling them, given that Halep is a French Open finalist and the third seed, and Bouchard is the only player on the WTA Tour to make the semi-finals of both the Australian and French Opens this year. In any event, there’s no doubt that these two will be vying for major titles for many years to come.

Halep is the higher-ranked player, and beat Bouchard in the pair’s only previous meeting, a tough 3-setter at Indian Wells earlier this year, but Bouchard was the 2012 junior champion at the All England Club and is an assured grass-court player. I think this will be a much tighter affair than the first semi-final, with little separating the pair. Halep is probably the more tactically astute, with Bouchard the bigger hitter. After losing out in the semi-finals in Melbourne and Paris, Bouchard will be desperate to advance one stage further, and I think sheer determination will propel her to a narrow victory. Bouchard 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.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 9 Preview: Dimitrov and Kyrgios are feeling more upsets

July 2, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Nick Kyrgios’ fairytale run at Wimbledon continued on Day 8, with the young Aussie producing one of the most sensational upsets in recent history with a stunning 4 set win over world number one Rafael Nadal.

Day 8 Recap

From the very first game of the match, in which he blasted aces off both first and second serves, Kyrgios showed that he would not be daunted by Nadal’s reputation and that he would be ultra-aggressive at every opportunity. With Nadal unable to get a good read on Kyrgios’ serve, the world number 144 racked up 37 aces and a total of 70 winners, overpowering the Spanish superstar to claim the biggest win of his career and move through to the quarter-finals of the tournament.

Kyrgios will face Milos Raonic for a spot in the semi-finals after the Canadian star overcame Japan’s Kei Nishikori in 4 sets. Day 9 will also pit Swiss stars Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka against one another after they recorded straight sets wins over Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez respectively on Day 8.

In the women’s tournament, French Open champion Maria Sharapova was a surprise loser on Day 8, the Russian going down to German ninth seed Angelique Kerber in a hard-fought 3-setter. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is guaranteed of a finalist in the women’s tournament after former champion Petra Kvitova moved through to the semi-finals by beating countrywoman Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in straight sets and another Czech, twenty-third seed Lucie Safarova, defeated Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-1 to set up a semi-final showdown with Kvitova.

Matches of the Day – Day 9

1. Andy Murray vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Defending champion Andy Murray has had a sluggish start to the season by his lofty standards, struggling to re-adapt to the pace of the ATP Tour after back surgery late last year, but the third seed seems to have hit his straps now, not dropping a set en route to the quarter-finals. The Scot is serving and returning particularly well, and is full of confidence at the All England Club, having won the Olympic gold medal here in 2012 as well as last year’s Wimbledon crown.

It’s just as well for Murray fans that their man is in top form, as he faces a stern test against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Day 9. Under the watchful eye of coach Roger Rasheed, Dimitrov has translated his undoubted potential into consistent match-winning performances, claiming tournament wins on a variety of surfaces. Dimitrov beat Murray earlier this year on clay in Mexico, but the Scot leads 3-1 in career meetings. On grass, I think Murray will be too strong, but this should be a superb contest. Murray in 4.

2. Angelique Kerber vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Kerber, a semi-finalist at the All-England Club in 2012, showed tremendous tenacity in overcoming Maria Sharapova in 3 sets on Day 8, but I fear that the German will have a hard time backing up from that match on Day 9. That contest against the ever-intense Sharapova would have taken a lot out of the ninth seed, both mentally and physically, and I sense Kerber will have something of a let-down in her encounter with Bouchard.

The young Canadian has showed incredible poise and maturity in the Grand Slams so far this year, making the semi-finals in Melbourne and Paris, and I think that Bouchard has the self-belief and the ability to reach the top tier of players in the women’s game and vie for Grand Slam titles and the world number one ranking. I’ll back Bouchard to earn a hard-fought 3 set win, with her extra day of rest becoming crucial in the deciding set. Bouchard in 3.

3. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Roger Federer

As compatriots, Davis Cup teammates, friends and Olympic doubles gold medalists, Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer are very close. However, their friendship will be put to one side on Day 9 as they vie for a spot in the semi-finals. With Nadal exiting the tournament on Day 8, both players will know that the winner of their match has a golden opportunity to progress to Sunday’s final, and that will give them added incentive going into this match.

Wawrinka has only beaten Federer twice in 9 years, but one of those wins came earlier this year in the final in Monte Carlo, when Wawrinka came from a set down to overpower his compatriot. That win will give the fifth seed some confidence going into this clash, but Federer is at his best on grass and treats the All England Club as a second home. The fourth seed was clinical against Robredo and I think the grass-court surface gives him the decisive edge in this one. Federer in 4.

4. Nick Kyrgios vs. Milos Raonic

It’s probably time to stop make any predictions about young Nick Kyrgios, who has swept all before him in his incredible run to the quarter-finals, including second seed Rafael Nadal, but where’s the fun in that? The 19 year old with the booming serve and big forehand has plenty of momentum but surely his physical and emotional exertions must take their toll eventually.

Raonic bounced back strongly after dropping the first set against Nishikori, and the Canadian has far more big match experience than his opponent. That said, Kyrgios hasn’t looked at all daunted in his matches to date, whilst Raonic does have a tendency to tighten up in big matches. I think Raonic should be too good in this one, but Kyrgios is riding a tidal wave at present and so another upset victory cannot be ruled out. Raonic in 5.

5. Novak Djokovic vs. Marin Cilic

With former Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic guiding him, Marin Cilic has moved through to the quarter-finals with a minimum of fuss, upsetting the likes of Tomas Berdych en route to the final 8. Djokovic holds a commanding 9-0 head-to-head advantage over the Croatian, but the pair has never played one another on grass, a surface on which Cilic has performed well in the past, winning the Queen’s Club event in 2012 and making the final there a year later.

Cilic moves very well for a big guy and, when he is serving well, can be very hard to stop. Djokovic is of course the best mover on the ATP Tour and he will make Cilic hit more balls and closer to the lines than the Croat is used to. Cilic has pinched a set from Djokovic in their last 2 meetings and I expect the Croat to do the same again, but ultimately Djokovic will prevail and move through to the semi-finals. Djokovic in 4.

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

Wimbledon 2014 Day 8 Preview: Federer & Nadal need easy fourth round wins

June 30, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Rain again wreaked havoc with the tournament organisers’ schedule, but that didn’t stop the run of the Czech women on Day 7, with Kvitova, Safarova and Zahlavova Strycova all recording victories.

Day 7 Recap

Lucie Safarova was ruthless against yet another Czech player, conceding just 2 games for the match against the qualifier Tereza Smitkova. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is guaranteed a semi-finalist after Petra Kvitova’s win over China’s Shuai Peng booked her a quarter-final match-up against compatriot Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who defeated former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets.

In other women’s matches on Day 8, Grand Slam golden girl Eugenie Bouchard edged past Alize Cornet in a tight 2-setter, whilst last year’s runner-up Sabine Lisicki upset Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets. The Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova advanced when Madison Keys was forced to retire with a leg injury before they resumed their match that was suspended on Saturday, and Russian Ekaterina Makarova caused the upset of the day, ousting former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets.

In the men’s tournament, home favourite Andy Murray continued his good run, brushing aside big Kevin Anderson in straight sets. Tenth seed Kei Nishikori finished off a 5 set win over Simone Bolelli, and Stan Wawrinka scored a comfortable 3 set win over Denis Istomin.

Croatian Marin Cilic, coached by former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, once again showed his fondness for grass-courts, beating Jeremy Chardy in straight sets, whilst John Isner sent down 52 aces but couldn’t get past Feliciano Lopez, the Spaniard prevailing in a very tight 4-setter.

Matches of the Day – Day 8

1. Rafael Nadal vs. Nick Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios’ win over Richard Gasquet, in which the young Aussie saved 9 match points, was truly extraordinary, but perhaps even more impressive was the way that the teenager was able to refocus and take down another rising star in Jiri Vesely in the following round.

Kyrgios has a huge serve and an abundance of self-belief, but Rafael Nadal has been around long enough to see plenty of talented youngsters come and go. A few weeks ago Nadal gave Dominic Thiem a lesson in clay-court tennis and I think he will score a relatively comfortable win over the Aussie in this one. If Kyrgios keeps his emotions in check and serves well, he might be able to steal a set, but that’s the best-case scenario for the 19 year old. Nadal in 3.

2. Milos Raonic vs. Kei Nishikori

It’s only right that, in the midst of his most consistent season on the ATP Tour to date, Milos Raonic breaks his run of outs at the All England Club with a solid run into the second week. The Canadian has already achieved a career-best result at Wimbledon by making the round of 16, but Raonic has a golden opportunity here to make the quarter-finals.

Nishikori is a surprisingly good grass-court player, helped by his shorter stature and superb ability to get down low to the balls that skid through. Just as Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt have excelled in London as baseliners in years gone past, so too can Nishikori with a bit more experience on the surface. I expect this one to be a close affair, with Raonic’s big serve ultimately proving the difference. Raonic in 5.

3. Tommy Robredo vs. Roger Federer

It’s true that Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo finally recorded his first ever win over Roger Federer at the US Open last year (and in straight sets, no less) but it should be noted that Federer’s back caused him a lot of issues in 2013, and the Swiss star is a much better player in 2014 now that those issues are seemingly under control.

Moreover, whilst Robredo is a fine clay-court player as well as being a very decent player on hard-courts, the Spaniard is at his weakest on grass-courts. Robredo did well to knock out last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz in the third round, but I suspect that Federer on grass will be a challenge that is beyond him. Federer in 3.

4. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Feliciano Lopez

He’s not as his most comfortable on grass, but Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka has bounced back well from his opening round loss to Guillermo Garcia Lopez in Paris by making it through to the second week of action at the All England Club.

This is an intriguing match-up, as it pits a player in Lopez who is in form on grass and at home on the surface against a more powerful opponent who is not so assured on the surface. Lopez was impressive in taking down Isner and I think he can upset Wawrinka in this one. Lopez in 4.

5. Simona Halep vs. Zarina Diyas

Third seed Simona Halep is enjoying a career-best run at Wimbledon, the Romanian clearly filled with confidence after making the final at Roland Garros a few weeks ago. Halep is a player who should be dangerous on grass, and I expect her to become more adept on the surface in the coming years.

Halep’s opponent today is young Kazakh Zarina Diyas. Diyas has had some tremendous results in the tournament to date, beating Spanish seed Carla Suarez Navarro and former finalist Vera Zvonareva en route to the round of 16. Halep will need to be on guard, but should be too solid for her opponent in this one. Halep in 2.

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

Wimbledon 2014 Day 8 Preview: The calm before Monday’s Storm

June 29, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Rain ruined a decent chunk of the day’s play on Day 6, but there was still time for some surprising results, none bigger than Serena Williams’ shock loss to Alize Cornet.

With Sunday being the traditional rest day at the All England Club, today’s issue previews the pick of Monday’s matches on what is sure to be an action-packed Day 7.

Day 6 Recap

When Serena Williams reeled off 5 consecutive games after a lengthy rain delay to take the first set 6-1 over Alize Cornet, all looked to be going swimmingly for the top seed. But the Frenchwoman, who upset Williams in Dubai earlier this year, fought back, taking advantage of 7 double faults and 12 unforced errors off the backhand wing alone from the American to record a stunning 1-6 6-3 6-4 triumph.

Cornet next faces Eugenie Bouchard, who saw off Andrea Petkovic in straight sets to maintain her impressive run in the 2014 Grand Slams. In other women’s action on Day 6, Simona Halep beat Belinda Bencic in straight sets and Maria Sharapova reeled off 11 consecutive games to defeat the American Riske. Sharapova next plays Angelique Kerber, a 3-set winner over Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

In the men’s tournament, Rafael Nadal bounced back strongly from losing the opening set against Mikhail Kukushkin, the Spaniard claiming 17 of the last 19 games of the match to register a 4 set win. Nadal will play Nick Kyrgios for a spot in the quarter-finals after the young Aussie overcame Czech Jiri Vesely in 4 sets to book a spot in the round of 16 and ensure that he will enter the world’s top 100, regardless of the outcome against Nadal.

7-time champion Roger Federer marched on with a straight sets win over Santiago Giraldo and will now face Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo, who outlasted Jerzy Janowicz in 5 sets. Meanwhile, big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic continued his good form of late, brushing aside Pole Lukas Kubot in straight sets.

Matches of the Day – Day 7

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

There was some concern in the Djokovic camp when the top seed appeared to hurt his shoulder in the win over Gilles Simon, but the medical advice seems to be that all is OK with the shoulder. That should come as very bad news to Tsonga, because anyone who witnessed Djokovic’s thrashing of the Frenchman at Roland Garros a few weeks ago would agree that Tsonga will need to play a hell of a lot better than he did on the red dirt if he wants to challenge the Serb in this match.

The good news for Tsonga is that he is a much tougher opponent for Djokovic on grass, a surface which encourages Tsonga’s attacking game and big serve, and one which rewards his willingness to come to the net. That said, I still think the Serb will be too consistent in the clutch moments. Djokovic in 4.

2. Andy Murray vs. Kevin Anderson

So far, Andy Murray’s title defence has gone very smoothly, with the Scot not really troubled in any of his matches to date. I was impressed with the way Murray dispatched a dangerous opponent in Bautista Agut, and I get the impression that Murray considers himself a real chance to win the title again this year.

Anderson is a lanky South African with a big serve, and he scored a good win over the pesky Italian Fabio Fognini in the third round. The twentieth seed could do some damage against Murray, perhaps stealing a tiebreaker, but Murray’s all-court game and assuredness at the All England Club should see him through. Murray in 4.

3. Eugenie Bouchard vs. Alize Cornet

Can Alize Cornet back up her tremendous victory over Serena Williams with another surprise win? That’s the question going into this match, and it won’t be easy for the twenty-fifth seeded Frenchwoman, who plays one of the form players of 2014, young Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

Both players are very competent off both wings from the back of the court, and there isn’t a lot between them on serve either. Bouchard has a better shot-making ability in my opinion and, having been to the final 4 in Melbourne and Paris earlier this year, is well equipped to handle the pressure. Bouchard in 3.

4. Angelique Kerber vs. Maria Sharapova

As was the case at Roland Garros earlier this year, an early exit by her nemesis Serena Williams has opened the door for Maria Sharapova at the All England Club. Sharapova has her problems playing against Williams, but the Russian probably starts as favourite against anyone else on the WTA Tour.

The leftie Kerber won’t be a pushover for Sharapova however, as the German is a former semi-finalist at Wimbledon and can hit punishing groundstrokes off both sides. I’ll back the Russian to come out on top in this encounter, but not without a fight. Sharapova in 3.

5. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Denis Istomin

This third round match which was held over from Saturday sees Stan Wawrinka attempting to match his best ever performance at the All England Club by making in through to the round of 16. The Swiss star is gradually becoming more comfortable on the grass, and I think he will be a threat as the courts dry out more in the second week of the tournament and start to resemble hard-courts a little more.

Istomin is a talented player, having made it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2012 and the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows last year. However, Wawrinka has far more firepower from the back of the court and I think that will propel him to success in this match. Wawrinka in 3.

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

Wimbledon 2014 Day 6 Preview: Serena and Kyrgios look for a place in week two

June 27, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Second seed Li Na crashed out of the tournament on Day 5, the Chinese superstar slumping to a straight sets defeat at the hands of Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Day 5 Recap

In a closely fought match, two-time major champion Li Na wasn’t able to capitalise on her chances, going down in a pair of tiebreakers to Zahlavova Strycova. There was better news for most of the other seeds, with Radwanska, Halep and Wozniacki all recording victories.

Petra Kvitova edged past Venus Williams in a battle of the former Wimbledon champions, whilst Lucie Safarova upset Dominika Cibulkova. Other notable winners on the women’s side on Day 5 included rising star Belinda Bencic and Russian seed Ekaterina Makarova.

In the men’s tournament, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray strolled to straight sets wins over Gilles Simon and Roberto Bautista Agut respectively, but it was a tough day at the office for most of their fellow seeds. Jerzy Janowicz survived a 5-setter against Lleyton Hewitt, Grigor Dimitrov was also forced to go the distance to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Kevin Anderson overcame Fabio Fognini in another 5-setter.

Colombian Santiago Giraldo upset the Spaniard Granollers in yet another 5 set encounter, but there were easier wins for Feliciano Lopez and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, each of whom recorded a straight sets win.

Matches of the Day – Day 6

1. Nick Kyrgios vs. Jiri Vesely

This will be a fascinating contest between the two youngest players in the draw and one with major ramifications. Both players are tipped as stars of the future, and the winner of this match will, in all likelihood, face Nadal in the round of 16 (assuming the Spaniard takes care of Kukushkin in their third round match).

Both players scored upset wins in round 2, with Vesely riding his big leftie serve to a 5 set win over Gael Monfils, and Kyrgios saving an amazing 9 match points to oust Richard Gasquet. Vesely has more experience at ATP Tour level, but Kyrgios has shown an impressive ability to absorb pressure in his short career to date. I think this one will be close, but I’ll back Kyrgios on the basis of his affinity with grass-courts. Kyrgios in 4.

2. Feliciano Lopez vs. John Isner

Feliciano Lopez is on something of a grass-court tear, the Spaniard having won 11 of his last 12 matches on the surface. Lopez is a 3-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist and his tricky left-handed serve can cause a lot of problems for his opponents at the All England Club.

For someone with such an enormous serve, John Isner’s record to date at Wimbledon is decidedly poor, with this year marking the first time the American has progressed beyond the second round. The ninth seed should be at his best on grass-courts, but it seems that he is yet to have worked out all of the subtleties of playing on the surface. I think this one will be close, but I’ll back Lopez on the back of his grass-court nous. Lopez in 5.

3. Serena Williams vs. Alize Cornet

The top-seeded Williams has been rather irritable in her press conferences at the All England Club to date, but the American’s form on court has been very encouraging.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion faces her first real test of the tournament in the shape of Alize Cornet, with the twenty-fifth seeded Frenchwoman enjoying a consistent year on the WTA Tour to date. Cornet has produced some impressive performances against some of the big names on the women’s circuit, but on grass Williams’ big serve and powerful groundstrokes are likely to prove too much for her opponent. Williams in 2.

4. Andrea Petkovic vs. Eugenie Bouchard

This should be an absorbing duel between the losing semi-finalists from this year’s French Open. Bouchard is the only player on the WTA Tour to have made the semi-finals at both Melbourne Park and Roland Garros, while Petkovic underlined her credentials as a top-flight player after various injury issues with her run to the final 4 in Paris.

On any other surface, I’d say this one was a line-ball contest, but Petkovic isn’t a huge fan of grass-courts, whilst Bouchard is a former junior champion at the All England Club. I think the Canadian is more comfortable than her opponent on the surface and that this will ultimately propel Bouchard to a narrow victory. Bouchard in 3.

5. Simona Halep vs. Belinda Bencic

French Open finalist Simona Halep looked decidedly shaky in closing out a 3 set win over the unheralded Lesia Tsurenko in round 2. However, the Romanian is through the round of 32 at Wimbledon for the first time in her career and will be eager to build on her solid start by progressing further in the tournament.

The third seed faces young Swiss up-and-comer Belinda Bencic for a place in the fourth round, with Bencic being heralded by many as one of the players of the future. Bencic has similar style of game to Halep, relying on placement and angles more than pace, and I think that will play into Halep’s hands, as the Romanian is more experienced and astute at this point in time. Halep in 2.

Put your house on: Maria Sharapova to defeat Alison Riske. The American is a handy player, but the Russian is in tremendous form at present and won’t be denied a spot in the round of 16.

Upset alert: Last year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki loves the grass-courts in London and I think she can upset her higher-ranked opponent Ana Ivanovic in their third round clash.

Likely to go the distance: Last year’s semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens and German ninth seed Angelique Kerber look set for a gripping 3-set battle in the third round. I’ll take the leftie Kerber to grind out a hard-fought victory.

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.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 5 Preview: It’s all about Dimitrov & Dolgopolov on Friday

June 26, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Aussie youngster Nick Kyrgios was the toast of London on Day 4 after saving an incredible 9 match points before ousting thirteenth seed Richard Gasquet in a pulsating 5-setter.

Day 4 Recap

After dropping the first 2 sets, Kyrgios relied on his booming serve to first level the match at 2 sets apiece and to then get out of jail on numerous occasions, eventually stealing the win over Gasquet 10-8 in the decider. Kyrgios next faces another rising star, Czech Jiri Vesely, who outlasted Gael Monfils in another 5-setter.

Rafael Nadal gained revenge over Lukas Rosol for his 2012 upset at the hands of the Czech, but not before surviving a few anxious moments. Nadal was down a set and a break before edging Rosol in a second set tiebreaker and going on to claim a satisfying 4 set win.

Among the other big names on the men’s side, there were wins for Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic and Isner, whilst German seed Philipp Kohlschreiber was upset by Italian veteran Simone Bollelli, a lucky loser from the qualifying event.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova breezed through to the third round, dropping just 5 games between them. German duo Petkovic and Kerber were each forced to 3 sets but ultimately prevailed, as Ana Ivanovic and Eugenie Bouchard also progressed to the round of 32.

Carla Suarez Navarro, more at home on clay, exited the tournament on Day 4, but there was no such trouble for former finalists Vera Zvonareva and Sabine Lisicki, both of whom recorded straight sets wins.

Matches of the Day – Day 5

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Gilles Simon

Djokovic got a little bit tight in the last couple of sets against Stepanek and I imagine the Serb will want to bounce back with an emphatic display against Gilles Simon on Day 5. The Frenchman has lost his past 6 matches against Djokovic, with Simon’s lone win over the top seed coming back in 2008.

Simon isn’t at his strongest on grass, with the slightly built Frenchman liable to get blown off the court by some of the more powerful players on the men’s circuit. Djokovic doesn’t fit that mould, but the top seed’s rock-solid all court game should prove too much for Simon to handle. Djokovic in 3.

2. Marin Cilic vs. Tomas Berdych

After overcoming one tricky opponent in the form of Bernard Tomic, sixth seed Tomas Berdych faces another danger match against twenty-sixth seed Marin Cilic. The Croatian has shown a fondness for the grass in the past few years, generating some very good results at the Queen’s Club event, and with former Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic in his camp, Cilic will fancy his chances of an upset in this match.

Cilic trails Berdych in head-to-head matches, having lost 5 of their 7 clashes to date, but the Croatian did upset the Czech on grass at the Queen’s Club event last year. I think this one will go the distance, with Berdych’s superior ball-striking ability giving him a slight edge down the stretch. Berdych in 5.

3. Andy Murray vs. Roberto Bautista Agut

After completely annihilating his last opponent, Blaz Rola, for the loss of just two games, there’s no doubt that Andy Murray will be in for a far tougher match against the twenty-seventh seeded Bautista Agut. The Spaniard is a rising star on the ATP Tour and, as Murray noted, his flat groundstrokes make his game much better suited to grass-court tennis that the heavy top-spin game employed by so many of his countrymen.

These two have never played one another, and so I expect it will take a set or two for each player to feel out the other. Look for a tight couple of sets initially before Murray pulls away and uses his greater grass-court experience to cement the victory. Murray in 4.

4. Petra Kvitova vs. Venus Williams

Venus Williams might be a 5-time Wimbledon champion, but the reality is that the American, now in her seventeenth Wimbledon campaign, is past her best. Williams is still capable of beating most players on the WTA Tour, as she showed by winning in Dubai earlier this year, but Kvitova is in the very top tier of performers on the women’s tour.

Like Williams, Kvitova is also a former Wimbledon champion and holds an imposing 3-1 career advantage over Williams, including a win in Doha earlier this year. I’ll back the Czech to come out on top in this encounter. Kvitova in 3.

5. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov

Grigor Dimitrov looks increasingly at ease on the grass-courts of the All England Club, and I think the young Bulgarian will have too much power, particularly on serve, for his opponent today. Dolgopolov is a tricky player to face, darting around the court and utilising his whippy groundstrokes and serve to maximum effect.

The Ukrainian is at his best on fast services, and so can be a tough opponent on grass, but Dimitrov has had plenty of match practice on the surface in the past few weeks in London and I expect him to prevail in a tight 4-setter. Dimitrov in 4.

Put your house on: Caroline Wozniacki, the former world number one, to blitz past her Croatian opponent Anna Konjuh.

Upset alert: Michelle Larcher de Brito beat Agnieszka Radwanska in Miami in 2008, and has previously taken down Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon. I think the Portuguese player might trouble the Pole in this one.

Likely to go the distance: Lucie Safarova and Dominika Cibulkova are both pocket-sized warriors and I expect neither to give an inch in this clash. I’ll back Cibulkova to eke out a hard-fought 3 set win.

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.

Wimbledon 2014 Day 4 Preview: Nadal looks for revenge against Rosol

June 25, 2014

by: Tom Cochrane

Victoria Azarenka was the highest profile casualty on Day 3, the Belarusian falling to Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski in a tight 3-setter.

Day 3 Recap

In her tournament return from an injury-induced lay-off, Azarenka exhibited a clear lack of match practice and her opponent took full advantage, with Jovanovski registering the biggest win of her career to date. There was better news for former champions Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova, both of whom recorded straight sets wins.

Li Na scored a comfortable win, as did Agnieszka Radwanksa, whilst there was joy for former finalist Vera Zvonareva, who managed to eke out a thrilling 3-set win over Tara Moore, taking the deciding set 9-7.

In the men’s tournament, Andy Murray was utterly ruthless, conceding just 2 games for the whole match against Blaz Rola. There were straight sets wins for Grigor Dimitrov and Gilles Simon, with Fognini, Anderson, Cilic and Berdych forced to 4 sets to earn victories.

David Ferrer is out of the tournament, going down to the Russian Kuznetsov in 5 sets, whilst French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis lost to Federer’s conqueror from last year, Sergiy Stakhovsky. There were no such problems for top seed Novak Djokovic, who squeezed past Radek Stepanek in a tight 4-setter.

Matches of the Day – Day 4

1. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Yen-Hsun Lu

Stan Wawrinka hasn’t had a lot of success at Wimbledon in the past, but as a Grand Slam champion, he must now consider himself capable of succeeding on any surface. The fifth seed wasn’t really challenged in his opening round match, but his Taiwanese opponent on Day 4, Yen-Hsun Lu, will offer more of a test.

Lu is a former quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, and his compact and efficient baseline game is well-suited to the grass-courts of the All England Club. Wawrinka needs to focus on staying aggressive and controlling the rallies, and not letting Lu draw him into long-winded baseline duels. If Wawrinka can dictate the play, he should prevail. Wawrinka in 4.

2. Jerzy Janowicz vs. Lleyton Hewitt

The lanky Pole Jerzy Janowicz came out of nowhere to make the semi-finals at the All England Club last year, but the fifteenth seed has since struggled somewhat to deal with the elevated expectations that come with success.

The Aussie veteran Hewitt, a winner at Wimbledon more than a decade ago, is still one of the best grass-court players on the ATP Tour and, whilst he is not as quick as he used to be, Hewitt is just as crafty and competitive as he ever was. Look for Hewitt to test Janowicz throughout, but for that huge serve to get the Pole over the line. Janowicz in 5.

3. Milos Raonic vs. Jack Sock

This North American pits Canada’s leading man, Milos Raonic, against one of America’s rising stars, Jack Sock. Raonic knows what it is like to bear the weight of expectation, but the Canadian has embraced the spotlight, being a flag-bearer for his sport in Canada and experiencing a very successful and consistent year to date in 2014.

Sock still has a long way to go if he is to recapture the golden days of American tennis, but the youngster definitely has plenty of talent and the type of game that could take him to the top tier of the ATP Tour. I think Raonic will be too strong in this one, but look for Sock to continue to improve in the next season or two. Raonic in 3.

4. Richard Gasquet vs. Nick Kyrgios

Thirteenth seed and former semi-finalist Richard Gasquet was forced to go to 5 sets to see off young Australian James Duckworth in the first round, and the Frenchman must now defeat another young Aussie, Nick Kyrgios, if he wishes to advance to the round of 32.

Kyrgios, a former world junior champion, has been in fine form this season, winning a trio of Challengers, and looked assured in seeing off French veteran Stephane Robert in the opening round. I think the win is probably beyond Kyrgios at this stage in his career, but I can see him stealing a set and challenging Gasquet for much of the match. Gasquet in 4.

5. Lukas Rosol vs. Rafael Nadal

Two years ago, big-serving Lukas Rosol caused a sensation by knocking Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon. Now, the Czech has the chance to do it once more when the pair meet again in the round of 64 on Day 4.

Having been burnt by Rosol once, Nadal will be very focused for this clash and will be eager to claim revenge for that shock loss in 2012. Nadal looked a bit shaky early on against Klizan in round 1, but gradually eased his way into the match. I think the top seed will handle the Rosol serve much better than he did in 2012, and I will back the Spaniard to come out on top in this one. Nadal in 4.

Put your house on: Serena Williams to steamroll past her second round opponent, South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers.

Upset alert: Chinese veteran Jie Zheng could cause some problems for eleventh seed Ana Ivanovic in their encounter on Day 4.

Likely to go the distance: Youngsters Victoria Duval and Belinda Bencic both have bright futures ahead of them, and I think they’ll battle each other to the bitter end in this 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.

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