Wimbledon 2015 Day 4 Preview: Federer and Nadal face heavy hitters

July 2, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Fifth seed Kei Nishikori is out of the tournament after the Japanese star was forced to withdraw from his second round match against Santiago Giraldo with a calf injury.

Day 3 Recap

Whilst the news was bad for Nishikori fans on Day 3, there was better news for Djokovic fans, with the top seed cruising past Jarkko Nieminen in straight sets. There were also straight sets wins for fellow seeds Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov, whilst Marin Cilic was forced to 5 sets by Ricardas Berankis before ultimately prevailing.

Milos Raonic scored a good 4 set win over veteran Tommy Haas, as Fernando Verdasco knocked out Austrian seed Dominic Thiem. And the Aussie fans had plenty to cheer about on Day 3, with Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios both progressing to the third round.

In the women’s tournament both Serena Williams and Venus Williams recorded straight sets wins, as did former champion Maria Sharapova. The biggest casualty of the day was Ana Ivanovic, who was upset by American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Sara Errani was another seed to drop out of the tournament on Day 3, but there were no such issues for Stosur, Petkovic or Bencic, all of whom advanced to the round of 32.

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 4

1. Sam Querrey vs. Roger Federer

Second seed Roger Federer will need to be on guard against Sam Querrey today. The American has a big serve and has the ability to steal a couple of tiebreakers if Federer is unable to make inroads on the Querrey serve.

Federer has had plenty of experience dealing with big servers throughout his career and will know he will need to take his chances on the Querrey service games today and also take care of his own service games. Look for a couple of close sets before Federer pulls away. Federer in 3.

2. Dustin Brown vs. Rafael Nadal

Dynamic German Dustin Brown has beaten Nadal on grass before, and has also scored some good wins at the All England Club in years gone by, including a win over former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Nadal looked good in his opening match against Bellucci and, whilst I’m sure Brown will make this match interesting for various parts, I think the tenth seed will be too strong in the best of 5 sets format. Nadal in 4.

3. Andy Murray vs. Robin Haase

Like Nadal, Murray looked pretty solid in round 1 and I think the Scot will go very close to winning the title this year. But first things first. Murray takes on a dangerous opponent in Robin Haase today, with the Dutchman having caused him trouble in the past, most notably extending Murray to 5 sets at the 2011 US Open.

Haase will give it his best today, and has nothing to lose, but Murray is far more accomplished on grass-courts than his opponent is. I can see Haase pinching a set before Murray gradually gets on top. Murray in 4.

4. Tomas Berdych vs. Nicolas Mahut

Frenchman Nicolas Mahut is best known for losing THAT match at SW19 against John Isner, but the veteran is a very good grass-courter, and won a second Topshelf Open on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon this year.

Berdych squeezed past Mahut’s compatriot Jeremy Chardy in the first round and I think this match will be another hard-fought affair. Berdych has more firepower but Mahut has plenty of touch on grass. Pencil this one in for a long 5-setter. Berdych in 5.

5. Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Ivo Karlovic

Wimbledon was where Ivo Karlovic first announced himself to the world in 2003, sensationally defeating defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the opening round. More than a decade later, Karlovic is now a veteran but is still producing some great tennis, as his win over Djokovic in Doha earlier this year shows.

Dolgopolov is an erratic player but he did beat Nadal at Queen’s Club this year and his varied game makes him a difficult opponent. That said, Karlovic has to be the firm favourite based on his huge serve. Karlovic in 4.

Put your house on: Petra Kvitova. The defending champion should be far too strong for Japan’s Kurumi Nara.

Upset alert: I think Frenchman Adrian Mannarino could surprise his seeded compatriot Gael Monfils today.

Likely to go the distance: As noted above, I think the Mahut-Berdych matter has the makings of a classic.

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


Wimbledon 2015 Day 3 Preview: Will Haas challenge Raonic on Canada Day?

June 30, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Two of last year’s ladies’ semi-finalists have fallen at the first hurdle this year, with Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep both crashing out of the tournament on Day 2.

Day 2 Recap

On a bright and sunny day in London, Eugenie Bouchard’s gloomy year turned from bad to worse, the Canadian going down to Ying-Ying Duan, ranked 117 in the world, in a loss which will see Bouchard drop outside the world’s top 20. Simona Halep fared little better, the third seed unable to match Jana Cepelova in the deciding set of their match. There was better news for defending champion Petra Kvitova, who dropped just one game en route to round 2, and fellow seeds Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova and Agnieszka Radwanska, all of whom progressed to the second round.

In the men’s tournament, the three big names in action on Day 2 all progressed in straight sets. Andy Murray saw off the Kazakh Kukushkin, Rafael Nadal cruised past Thomaz Bellucci from Brazil and second seed Roger Federer was too good for the young Bosnian Dumzhur. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to 5 sets by Gilles Muller before prevailing, whilst Gilles Simon scored a good win over Nicolas Almagro. Other seeds to win on Day 2 included Gael Monfils, Feliciano Lopez and the big-serving Ivo Karlovic.

Matches of the Day – Day 3

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Jarkko Nieminen

Novak Djokovic did everything that was asked of him in round 1, delivering a solid straight sets win over the dangerous Philipp Kohlschreiber. I think the Serb will get better as the tournament goes on and Nieminen, in his last Wimbedon ever, is unlikely to have the energy to match Djokovic after enduring a 4 hour victory in round 1 against fellow upcoming retiree Lleyton Hewitt.

If Nieminen serves particularly well, then he has an outside chance, but with Djokovic’s returning abilities among the very best, if not the best, in the game right now, I think the Finn will have his work cut out for him to make the scoreline respectable. Djokovic in 3.

2. Tommy Haas vs. Milos Raonic

Veteran Tommy Haas is once again on the comeback trail from injury, but one has to think that his days on a tennis court are numbered. The German is a former Wimbledon semi-finalist and has been ranked as high as number 2 in the world. He’s comfortable on grass-courts and will trouble Raonic if he can get enough balls back into play on the Raonic serve.

Having skipped Wimbledon to get his body in tip-top shape for Wimbledon, Raonic should be raring to go. His ballistic serve was the catalyst for his run to the semi-finals at SW19 last year, and I think it will make a key difference once again. Look for Haas to start strong before fading as Raonic proves relentless on serve. Raonic in 4.

3. Dominic Thiem vs. Fernando Verdasco

Rising star Thiem has his work cut out for him against the super powerful Verdasco, who is one of the hardest hitters on the ATP Tour and a former Australian Open semi-finalist. Verdasco’s mental strength has always been a little shaky, but when he is on song then he is one of the hardest players in the world to stop.

I think that Thiem has a very bright future ahead of him, and I will back the young Austrian to be more consistent than his Spanish adversary down the stretch. Look for Verdasco to wilter in the key moments and for Thiem to claim a valuable win. Thiem in 5.

4. Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Ana Ivanovic

There has been so much talk of Serena Williams’ quest for the calendar Grand Slam that few people have stopped to realise that Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova are halfway to a calendar Grand Slam as well. And whilst Mattek-Sands has been in great form on the doubles court, it is time she really delivered on her potential on the singles court.

Mattek-Sands has plenty of power, but this is likely to play into the hands of former world number one Ivanovic, who loves to receive a hard and fast ball. Ivanovic did well in Paris and I fancy her chances of another good showing here. Ivanovic in 3.

5. Kirsten Flipkens vs. Victoria Azarenka

Former world number one Azarenka raced through her opening match on Monday, but the Belarusian will likely find the going far tougher against Flipkens, who is a former semi-finalist at the All England Club. The Belgian has a compact and classical all-court game and won’t be intimidated by Azarenka today.

Azarenka, as a two-time major winner, deserves to go into this match as the clear favourite, but I don’t think Flipkens will make it easy for the twenty-third seed to progress to the third round. Look for this one to go the distance, with Azarenka’s big match experience ultimately proving the difference. Azarenka in 3.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. The top seeded American won’t trip up against Hungarian Timeas Babos.

Upset alert: Frenchman Kenny De Schepper could cause some major problems for his compatriot, former semi-finalist Richard Gasquet.

Likely to go the distance: As noted above, I think the Verdasco-Thiem clash has all the makings of a long and gruelling encounter.

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

Wimbledon 2015 Day 2 Preview: Federer, Nadal and Tsonga on deck

June 29, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Former champion Lleyton Hewitt has played his last competitive match at Wimbledon, the 2002 winner going down 11-9 in the deciding set to fellow veteran Jarkko Nieminen in a pulsating opening day contest.

Day 1 Recap

Having outlasted Hewitt, Nieminen will next face defending champion Novak Djokovic, who overcame German Philipp Kohlschreiber in a measured performance. Other big names to secure wins on Day 1 included French Open winner Stan Wawrinka, fifth seed Kei Nishikori, reigning US Open champion Marin Cilic and last year’s semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, all of whom progressed with straight sets victories.

Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic were standout performers at SW19 last year and they both started their 2015 campaigns with wins on the first day of play, as did Bernard Tomic, Tommy Haas and Richard Gasquet. The news was not so good for seeds Cuevas and Robredo however, as they departed the tournament at the first hurdle.

In the women’s tournament, there were emphatic wins for most of the leading players in action on Day 1. Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic refused to give up even one game against Madison Brengle and Shelby Rogers respectively whilst Sharapova, Serena Williams, Ivanovic and Azarenka lost only a handful of games each.

French Open finalist Lucie Safarova was forced to 3 sets but ultimately prevailed, whilst rising star Belinda Bencic continued her good form on grass with a fighting 3 set win over former semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova. The biggest upsets of the day saw Flavia Pennetta and Carla Suarez Navarro hit the exit turnstiles, although neither player is at their best on grass.

Matches of the Day – Day 2

1. Rafael Nadal vs. Thomaz Bellucci

Nadal might be seeded a lowly tenth for this year’s tournament but, armed with a friendly draw, I would not be surprised to see the two-time champion put in a good showing at the All England Club. His recent results at Wimbledon have been poor, but this year Nadal enters the tournament more rested than usual and the win in Stuttgart will have boosted his confidence.

Bellucci is a talented player and has already claimed a tournament win this year, but the Brazilian leftie is far more at home on the red dirt. I suspect Nadal will be a bit shaky early on but will grow in confidence as the match and the tournament go on. Nadal in 3.

2. Tomas Berdych vs. Jeremy Chardy

Berdych is a former finalist at Wimbledon and is having an extremely consistent year to date. If he can get through the first week of the tournament without any major hiccups, he will be a major danger in the second week, when the courts dry out and play more like low-bouncing hard-courts.

Chardy is a talented player who can cause problems for the very best players when his serve and forehand combination is on song. But Berdych is the better mover around the court and that’s important early on, when lots of balls slide and skid through. Berdych in 4.

3. Roger Federer vs. Damir Dzumhur

This pair met for the first time in Paris a few weeks ago, when former childhood actor Dzumhur turned in a creditable performance against the Swiss superstar. However, the Bosnian never really threatened Federer during that match and I can’t see him challenging the 17-time major winner today.

Wimbledon is the title Federer most wants to win again before he retires, and it is also the Grand Slam that he has the best chance at reclaiming. Look for the second seed to be focused and businesslike in claiming the win in this one. Federer in 3.

4. Jarmila Gajdosova vs. Sabine Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki has one of the very best serves on the WTA Tour and it has served her well in previous trips to the All England Club, taking her past top seed Serena Williams and all the way through to the final a couple of years ago. If the German can get her confidence up with some good early round wins, another trip to the final stages of the tournament is not out of the question.

This should be an entertaining contest, with Gajdosova also being a hard-hitter and explosive shotmaker. I think the Aussie can make this one interesting, but Lisicki’s serve gives her the edge. Lisicki in 2.

5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Gilles Muller

One never knows what to expect from flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Having played hardly any tennis entering this year’s French Open, Tsonga put together a breathtaking run to the semi-finals. On account of that performance, a strong showing at SW19 is definitely on the cards.

Muller is a steady player and the Luxembourg leftie will take advantage of any lapses in concentration from his opponent. But Tsonga has more flair and should prevail in relatively straightforward fashion. Tsonga in 4.

Put your house on: Andy Murray. The former champion will have too much grass-court prowess for Mikhail Kukushkin today.

Upset alert: Sam Groth could well surprise American seed Jack Sock in today’s battle of the big servers.

Likely to go the distance: I favor Gilles Simon to ultimately prevail but former top tenner Nicolas Almagro will make it mighty difficult for the Frenchman.

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


Wimbledon 2015: Men’s and Women’s Draw Preview and Day 1 Picks

June 28, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Greetings and welcome to the 2015 Wimbledon championships and the beginning of two weeks of coverage of the year’s most prestigious tennis tournament, courtesy of The Satellite Serve.

Coming to you daily during this year’s tournament, The Satellite Serve is back with predictions, opinions and analysis in relation to all of the action from the All England Club. As usual, the first issue showcases my overall tournament predictions as well as taking a look at the day’s feature matches.

Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles

With the break between the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon being extended to 3 weeks for the first time this year, it will be fascinating to see which players benefit from the longer transition period. Roger Federer, for one, claims he has never felt better prepared for the year’s third major. For players such as Wawrinka and Djokovic, who were involved in the last day of action in Paris, the extra week has to be an enormous help simply in terms of extra recovery time.

Having suffered heartache in Paris, I think Djokovic was wise to take time out and recuperate physically and mentally. Having not played any official grass-court matches this year, I think the top seed will take a while to produce his best tennis at SW19, but he’s too good a player to come unstuck in the first week of the tournament. That said, tricky contests against Kohlschreiber, Hewitt and Tomic are on the cards before a likely quarter-final contest against Nishikori or Cilic.

I can’t see Wawrinka doing particularly well in London. After playing the match of his life to beat Djokovic in Paris, I think the Swiss star will suffer some sort of letdown on the grass, which has always been his weakest surface. That provides an opportunity for the likes of Dimitrov, Gasquet and Raonic to make a deep run in Wawrinka’s quarter of the draw. With his ballistic serve, I favour Raonic to do well at Wimbledon once again this year.

In the bottom half of the draw, Federer and Murray are scheduled to square off in the semi-finals, and I can’t imagine either of them tripping up before that stage, notwithstanding the threats posed by the various talents lurking in the bottom half of the draw, including Tsonga, Nadal and Berdych. Federer is desperate to win one more title at the tournament he loves the most, whilst Murray’s tremendous form in 2015 and the support of the home crowd make him one of the title favourites.

I fancy Raonic’s chances of repeating last year’s run to the semi-finals, but I can’t see him getting the better of Djokovic. A Federer-Murray semi-final, if it happens, should be a close-run affair, but with Murray at the peak of his powers and Federer no longer at his very best, I’ll back the Scot to make it through to another final at the All England Club. But since his win over Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final, Murray has struggled to match Djokovic in the critical moments of their matches, and I can’t see that trend changing if the pair meet in another major final. Djokovic in 4.

Winner: Novak Djokovic

Finalist: Andy Murray

Semi-finalists: Federer, Raonic

*****

Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles

Whilst there are plenty of dark horses in the women’s draw, including the likes of 5-time winner Venus Williams, former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, French Open finalist Lucie Safarova, big serving German Sabine Lisicki and grass-court expert Tsvetana Pironkova, to my mind there is only a handful of players who are actually capable of winning the tournament.

Top seed Serena Williams is halfway to completing a calendar Grand Slam and accordingly enters the tournament as the red-hot favourite. However, as she showed last year, Williams is not invincible on any surface and this year the American will have the added pressure of keeping alive her bid for the calendar Grand Slam. Williams’ win in Paris was a testament to her fighting abilities, proving once again that whilst many players can challenge Williams, few can actually go all the way and beat her.

Defending champion Petra Kvitova has a game perfectly suited to grass-courts and I expect her to be there on the final Saturday of the tournament. Kvitova’s form this year has been typically erratic, but the Czech did score an important win over Williams in Madrid (her first ever win over the world number one) and always lifts a notch or two when she arrives in London.

Maria Sharapova is the other player who I think has a realistic chance of winning the championship. It seems crazy to think it was more than a decade since the Russian claimed her one and only Wimbledon championship, but in the intervening decade the fourth seed has acquired masses of experience whilst losing none of her trademark competitiveness and determination. But, just as Murray has struggled to figure out Djokovic’s game in recent times, so has Sharapova struggled (for even longer) to find ways to beat Williams. I’ll back Williams to take down Sharapova should the pair meet in the semi-finals, with Kvitova having too much firepower for Simona Halep in the other semi-final.

A Williams-Kvitova final has all the makings of a blockbuster, but I think the American will neutralise Kvitova’s biggest weapon, her serve, with some spirited returns and move one step closer to achieving what would be the crowning glory of her illustrious career, the career Grand Slam.

Winner: Serena Williams

Finalist: Petra Kvitova

Semi-finalists: Sharapova, Halep

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 1

1. Novak Djokovic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber

The top-seeded Serb kicks off his campaign against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, who was unlucky to miss out on a seeding when David Ferrer withdrew from the tournament after today’s order of play had already been released. Kohlschreiber is a former top 20 player who has plenty of experience and who has been as far as the Wimbledon quarter-finals before.

Djokovic will still be disappointed after losing the final in Paris to Wawrinka, but as a consummate professional the world number 1 should bounce back in style at the All England Club. I expect the German to go for his shots, and for Djokovic to take his time getting settled into the match, given that the Serb has not played any official matches since Roland Garros. Look for the pair to split a tight opening couple of sets before Djokovic lifts a gear and pulls away. Djokovic in 4.

2. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Joao Sousa

Sousa is an underrated player on the ATP Tour, with the Portuguese player recording some very solid results in the past couple of years, predominantly on clay. As noted above, I expect that Wawrinka will find it hard to back up his terrific performance in Paris, but I do think he will win a few rounds at least in London.

Wawrinka has a game that is well-suited for grass, with a powerful serve and an underrated volleying ability, but it’s never been a particularly happy hunting ground for the fourth seed. However, armed with the confidence that comes with being a winner of multiple Grand Slams, perhaps this will be the year that Wawrinka finally turns it on at SW19. Wawrinka in 4.

3. Jarkko Nieminen vs. Lleyton Hewitt

Former champion Lleyton Hewitt has announced that he will retire after next year’s Australian Open, meaning that this is the Aussie’s last trip as a player to the hallowed All England Club. The former world number one has always been a formidable grass-court player and, with Djokovic almost certain to be waiting in the second round, Hewitt will be desperate to win this match and have one final crack at the world’s best player on Hewitt’s best surface.

Nieminen is a veteran himself and the Finn will be no pushover for Hewitt. The Australian needs to pace himself through this match and not press too hard too early – Hewitt does have a tendency to get himself into trouble when he forces the play too much. That said, if he can remain composed then I think the Australian’s grass-court prowess will get him across the line in this one. Hewitt in 4.

4. Belinda Bencic vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

Young Swiss player Bencic is a star of the future and has a clever all-court game that should serve her well at the All England Club in the years to come. Pironkova is very much a hot and cold player, capable of getting on big winning streaks (such as the streak that took her from the qualifying rounds to the title in Sydney last year). The Bulgarian is something of a grass-court specialist, having made the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2010 and the quarter-finals the following year on the back of her hard, flat groundstrokes and exceptional agility.

This should be a very close contest, but on grass I think Pironkova will feel comfortable and confident, and I will back the Bulgarian to use her greater firepower to claim the win in 3 sets. Pironkova in 3.

5. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Federico Delbonis

Having defeated Andy Murray en route to the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year, the pressure is now on for Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov as he seeks to back up that superb run and defend his points from last year. The Bulgarian’s form has been up and down in 2015, but I do think his game is well-suited to grass, as last year’s efforts in London highlight. His Aussie coach Roger Rasheed is also a big fan of grass-courts and I have no doubt that Rasheed has been fine-tuning Dimitrov’s game for this tournament.

Argentine Delbonis, like so many of his compatriots, is far more assured on clay-courts and actually won a clay-court challenger event on the weekend just gone, which clearly shows his preference for the red dirt. I don’t think he will cause too many problems for Dimitrov today, but it remains to be seen how far Dimitrov can go in this year’s tournament. Dimitrov in 3.

Put your house on: Maria Sharapova. The former champion and fourth seed should be far too strong for local hope Johanna Konta.

Upset alert: Young Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis, like most of his countrymen, is very at home on grass, and I think he could upset twenty-fourth seeded Argentine Leonardo Mayer, who is much more comfortable on clay-courts.

Likely to go the distance: The all-Slovak clash between veteran Daniela Hantuchova and former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova has brutal slugfest written all over it. With Cibulkova still searching for her best form after undergoing heel surgery earlier in the year, I’ll back Hantuchova to come out on top.

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.

French Open 2015: Reviewing Stan Wawrinka’s French Open victory over Novak Djokovic

June 7, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Stan Wawrinka is the 2015 French Open men’s singles winner, the eighth seed stunning world number one Novak Djokovic with an awe-inspiring display of power tennis to capture the second Grand Slam of his career.

Day 15 Recap

Riding a 28 match winning streak that had seen him win his last 5 tournaments, top seeded Djokovic started the final on a bright note, taking the first set, 6-4. As was the case in the first 2 sets against Murray, all it took was one sloppy service game from his opponent for Djokovic to claim the set, the Serb taking advantage of a loose service game from Wawrinka in the seventh game of the match and maintaining his lead from there to claim the set in 43 minutes.

Wawrinka was immediately under pressure in the second set, forced to fend off a break point in his opening service game. But from there the tide began to turn, with the Swiss star repeatedly putting Djokovic under pressure in his service games. The second set saw Djokovic’s first serve percentage drop significantly, as Wawrinka opened up his shoulders and started going for his shots from the back of the court.

Djokovic managed to get out of jail in the fourth, sixth and eighth games of the second set, saving break points in each of them and causing Wawrinka to slam his racquet into the net in frustration at the end of the eighth game. But the dam wall finally collapsed in the tenth game of the set, an errant backhand from the world number one handing Wawrinka the set, 6-4, and forcing Djokovic to slam his racquet into the ground in anger.

Winning the third set seemed to inspire Wawrinka, as he pinned Djokovic well behind the baseline and didn’t allow the Serb to push him around the court. A pair of high-quality volley winners allowed Djokovic to save break points in the second game of the third set, but there was no stopping Stan in the set’s sixth game. Stunning winners down the line off both the forehand and backhand wings set up 3 break points, and a poor drop shot from Djokovic gave Wawrinka the simplest of forehands to claim the break.

Wawrinka was forced to survive a break point on his own serve in the seventh game of the set, but was flawless in serving out the set, a love hold in the ninth game giving him the set, 6-3, after 42 minutes and a 2 sets to 1 advantage.

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Djokovic came out firing in the fourth set, capitalising on a sloppy service game from Wawrinka to take a 3-0 lead. But the eighth seed remained calm, outlasting Djokovic in a monstrous 32 point rally to get the break back. The Parisian crowd, desperate for a fifth set, roared when Djokovic saved a pair of break points in the seventh game, a brilliant lunge volley on the second break point being one of the shots of the match.

Up 4-3 on serve, Djokovic was looking good to take the match to a deciding set, but the next 2 games were to prove pivotal. Down 0-40 in the eighth game, Wawrinka hung tough to hold serve, as Djokovic made some uncharacteristic mistakes. The next game it was Djokovic’s turn to face break point and, whilst he saved one with an audacious serve-and-volley, a backhand winner on the second break point gave Wawrinka a chance to serve for the championship.

With Djokovic so good in the big moments, the crowd remained on the edge of their seats as Wawrinka attempted to finish off the toughest task in tennis. Djokovic saved one match point before earning a break point, but he was unable to convert and, on his second match point, Wawrinka fittingly executed another brilliant backhand down the line winner to claim the championship.

For Wawrinka, it was a moment to cherish. The Swiss star simply blasted Djokovic off the court and proved that he is no “one-Slam wonder”, adding the French Open crown to last year’s Australian Open title. And, whilst last year’s finals win in Melbourne Park came against an ailing Rafael Nadal, the final in Paris was against a red-hot Djokovic and showed that Wawrinka is most definitely the real deal. With Nadal having his worst season in many years, Federer in the twilight of his career, and with Wawrinka now having as many majors to his name as Andy Murray, perhaps it is time to rethink the notion of the “Big Four” in men’s tennis.

For Djokovic, it’s a loss that is sure to rankle the world number one for many months and years to come. However, after such a stellar start to the year, it was always going to be hard for the Serb to maintain such a high level of tennis throughout the rest of the season. That said, having beaten his nemesis Nadal in the quarter-finals and then outlasted Andy Murray in the semi-finals, Djokovic will most definitely rue this loss. Whilst Wawrinka played exceptionally well, the Serb was definitely sub-par, not being at his most consistent from the baseline and lacking Wawrinka’s spark. To be fair though, Djokovic’s poor form was mainly to do with Wawrinka and his ballistic groundstrokes. In any event, one can be sure that Djokovic will be back at Roland Garros next year more hungry than ever to complete the career Grand Slam.

That’s it for this year’s French Open. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage. Enjoy the transition to the grass-courts and I’ll be back in a few weeks to cover Wimbledon. In the meantime, you can follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

French Open 2015 Day 15 Preview: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka

June 6, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Serena Williams is the 2015 French Open ladies’ singles champion, the American fighting off the flu and a stubborn Lucie Safarova to win the twentieth Grand Slam of her career.

Today, top seed Novak Djokovic takes on Stan Wawrinka in the men’s championship match, after Day 14 saw the Serb finish off Andy Murray in 5 sets in their rain-delayed semi-final.

Day 14 Recap

Resuming at 3-all in the fourth set, Djokovic and Murray both started with love holds before Djokovic threw in another love hold to force Murray to once again serve to stay in the match. The Scot duly did so and then broke the Serb en route to capturing the fourth set, 7-5, much to the delight of the Parisian crowd.

Murray was full of passion, pumping his fist repeatedly, whilst Djokovic seemed a bit sluggish. But the world number one gathered himself at the start of the deciding set, taking advantage of a loose service game from Murray to establish a 2-0 lead and adding a second break later in the set to put the result beyond doubt. Ultimately, it was a 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1 victory for Djokovic, who is now just a win away from completing the career Grand Slam.

With the men’s finalists finally decided, it was time for the women’s final. Top seeded Williams jumped out of the blocks against Grand Slam final debutant Safarova, taking a 4-1 lead in just 17 minutes. Williams went on to secure the first set, 6-3, and when the American established a 4-1 lead in the second set it looked as though it was lights out for Safarova. But the plucky Czech fought back bravely, notching 4 games in a row for a 5-4 lead, only to lose serve and allow Williams a chance to serve for the championship.

Williams, usually so assured on serve, threw in an unusually bad service game at 6-5 up in the second set, with a stinging backhand winner from Safarova sending the set to a tiebreak. Full of confidence, Safarova raced out to a 3-0 lead in the breaker and eventually claimed it 7 points to 2.

When Safarova broke at the start of the deciding set for a 2-0 lead, it seemed as if a major upset was on the cards. But just as men’s top seed Djokovic had done earlier on in the day, Williams collected herself and upped her game, reeling off 6 consecutive games to claim a third French Open crown, 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2.

For Williams, it was an incredible triumph after a string of tough 3-setters and a nasty flu. Halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, it would take a brave person to bet against Williams. For Safarova, it was a very admirable performance but no doubt the Czech will be ruing her inability to strengthen her lead early in the final set.

Match of the Day – Day 15

Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka

Whilst Novak Djokovic holds a commanding 17-3 career advantage over Stan Wawrinka, in Grand Slam play the pair has been difficult to separate in recent times, playing out a number of 5-setters in Melbourne and New York. Wawrinka’s raw power makes him a danger for any player, including Djokovic, notwithstanding the Serb’s incredible defensive abilities. The key to the match for the Swiss seed is execution. He’s not going to win this match by being passive – he needs to stay on the aggressive throughout the match and hope that he can maintain his best tennis for long enough to take down the world’s best player.

Riding a 28 match winning streak and now being within striking distance of the coveted career Grand Slam, Djokovic will be full of confidence going into this encounter. The Serb showed against Murray that, when the going gets tough, there is no one better at elevating his game. To my mind, it’s as if Djokovic has another gear to go to that no one else has. I think clay suits Djokovic better for this match-up as well. On hard-courts Wawrinka can hit winners from anywhere in the court; on clay the ball travels that little bit slower and hence Djokovic can get to more balls and make Wawrinka play more shots. I think that will translate into fewer winners and more errors for the eighth seed today.

After losing in the first round in Paris last year, when he struggled to cope with the expectations that came with being a newly crowned major winner, Wawrinka has done amazingly well to make it through to another Grand Slam final. Unfortunately for him, I think Djokovic is operating on another level to everyone else right now. Unless everything, and I mean everything, goes to plan for Stan today, I can’t see the Swiss star being able to stop the world number one. 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 all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

French Open 2015 Day 14 Preview: Serena vs. Safarova

June 6, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Stan Wawrinka is through to Sunday’s men’s singles final after the eighth seed overcame local hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4 sets on Friday. He will have to wait until later today to find out the identity of his opponent for the final, after rain halted Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic’s semi-final midway through the fourth set.

Murray and Djokovic will resume play today, following which Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova will slug it out for the women’s championship. See below for my thoughts on who will be lifting the women’s trophy later today.

Day 13 Recap

The first men’s semi-final saw 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka seeking to book his spot in another Grand Slam final, with the hopes of French fans resting on the shoulders of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. One break of serve to Wawrinka was enough to allow the Swiss seed to secure the first set, 6-3. Another break to Wawrinka early in the second set had the Parisian crowd worried, but Tsonga changed his outfit and worked his way back into the set, levelling the set at 4-all before later dominating the second set tiebreaker, dropping just one point as he evened up the match at a set apiece.

The third set saw Tsonga create plenty of chances to break serve, but the Frenchman will rue his inability to convert such chances. The third set again went to a tiebreaker, but this time it was Wawrinka who came up with the goods to take a decisive 2 sets to one lead. Tsonga, who ultimately converted just one of 17 break point opportunities for the match, dropped serve early in the fourth set and Wawrinka hung on to clinch the win in 3 hours and 46 minutes.

The second semi-final saw Murray and Djokovic get straight down to business, with the pair engrossed in several long rallies from the outset. The world number one got the first break of serve in the eighth game of the match and duly converted his advantage to claim the opening set, 6-3. A couple of sloppy service games from the Scot in the second set allowed Djokovic to establish a commanding 2 sets to love lead.

With the forecast being for showers, Djokovic was looking to finish off the match in straight sets, but Murray wasn’t ready to concede defeat, successfully serving to stay in the match in the tenth game of the third set and then earning his first break of the match as he claimed the third set, 7-5.

The fourth set featured plenty of early drama, with Murray saving 3 break points in his first service game of the set before the players traded service breaks. At 3-all in the fourth set, play was abandoned for the day, leaving Djokovic in the driver’s seat but Murray still in with a chance.

Match of the Day – Day 14

Serena Williams vs. Lucie Safarova

After more than 11 years on the WTA Tour and 39 previous Grand Slam main draw appearances, Czech Lucie Safarova is through to her first ever major final. A popular and well-respected player on tour, Safarova has steadily worked on her game in the past couple of years under the watchful eye of coach Rob Steckley and her appearance in the final is due reward for all of her hard work. Now she faces the biggest test in women’s tennis: taking down world number one Serena Williams, a 19-time major winner and the holder of a 8-0 win-loss record against Safarova.

To my mind, this match comes down to a couple of critical factors. First, how is Serena Williams feeling physically? The American has been battling a flu and looked very unwell during her semi-final against Bacsinszky. Williams skipped practice and media duties yesterday in a bid to rest up, but it remains to be seen whether the world number one will be back to full health in time for today’s final. Williams showed plenty of grit to fight back and beat Bacsinszky in 3 sets, but that win may have left her sapped of energy.

The second critical factor in this contest is how Safarova handles the occasion. The Czech seed is a tour veteran, but this is the first time she has played in a Grand Slam final and there is a chance that she will wilt in the spotlight. However, Safarova handled her nerves in her semi-final against Ivanovic better than her opponent did, and from another perspective one could argue that Safarova is the rank outsider and has no pressure on her, meaning she can swing freely and go for her shots.

Bacsinszky was unable to capitalise on her chances in the semi-finals against Williams, failing to finish off the American when she was on the ropes, but I think Safarova will do a better job in this regard if she gets the opportunity. Assuming she is relatively close to full health, Williams is still the firm favourite to my mind, but I suspect that this will be a tight contest. Williams 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 all of action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

French Open 2015 Day 13 Preview: Men’s Semifinal Preview

June 5, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova will contest Saturday’s French Open women’s singles final after winning their respective semi-finals on Day 12. Today is the men’s semi-finals day, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga up against Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray taking on Novak Djokovic. Read on for my tips on the matches.

Day 12 Recap

The first of the women’s semi-finals on a warm day in Paris saw former champion Ana Ivanovic take on Lucie Safarova. The Serb got off to a blistering start, breaking the Czech to take a 3-0 lead and having break point opportunities to establish a 5-1 lead. Safarova slowly found her range from the back of the court and, as she mounted a comeback, Ivanovic began to wilt in the heat.

With her serve starting to break down, a pair of double faults from Ivanovic in the eleventh game allowed Safarova a chance to serve for the set. The Czech promptly served it out, capping a run of 5 games for Safarova. The second set was a similarly tight affair and, whilst Safarova was unable to serve out the match at 5-4, she made no mistake the second time around, securing a 7-5 7-5 victory to reach her first ever Grand Slam final.

The second semi-final saw top seed Serena Williams take on Swiss twenty-third seed Timea Bacsinszky. Rumours had been circling that Williams was unwell, and it definitely appeared that way, as the American called for ice packs and slumped around the court. Bacsinszky took full advantage, claiming the first set and going up a break in the second set before Williams, as she has so often done in the past, managed to mount a miraculous comeback. The 19-time major winner reeled off the final 10 games of the match to complete a 4-6 6-3 6-0 and give herself a chance to capturing a twentieth Grand Slam title.

Matches of the Day – Day 13

1. Stan Wawrinka vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

This should be a very close encounter between Swiss star Wawrinka and local hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman made the semi-finals in Paris a couple of years ago, defeating Roger Federer in the quarter-finals before capitulating against the human equivalent of a brick wall, David Ferrer. This year Tsonga has put aside an inconsistent start to 2015 to record a breathtaking run to the final 4, outlasting fifth seed Kei Nishikori in 5 sets in the quarter-finals.

To my mind, the key factor in this match is how well Tsonga recovers from the draining clash against Nishikori. The contest would have taken a lot out of Tsonga, both physically and mentally, especially since he has not played a great deal of tennis this year. Tsonga’s undoubted talents and raw power mean that he can beat anyone on his day, but a lack of consistency has dogged him throughout his career.

Wawrinka played exceptionally well to defeat Federer in straight sets in the quarter-finals, outhitting his countryman from the back of the court and simply not giving Federer any real chances to break serve. If Wawrinka serves as well today as he did against Federer, and stays calm in the big moments, then I favour him to get the win today. But, as we saw against Nishikori, one never knows quite what to expect from Tsonga, and the crowd is guaranteed to be on his side today.

Both of the previous matches between this pair in Paris went to 5 sets, with each player claiming a win. I think today’s match will again go the distance, and I’ll take Wawrinka down the stretch. Wawrinka in 5.

2. Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray

Having overcome the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, in straight sets in the quarter-finals, top seed Novak Djokovic will be full of confidence entering into this semi-final against Murray. But Murray has plenty of confidence of his own, having won a pair of clay-court titles this season. The Scot is on a 15 match winning streak on clay, whilst Djokovic is on a 27 match winning streak spanning multiple hard-court and clay-court events.

For Djokovic, there is a risk of a comedown after the huge hype surrounding his clash with Nadal, but I feel that the Serb is firmly focused on completing the career Grand Slam and won’t be taking Murray lightly. After losing to Murray in the Wimbledon final in 2013, the Serb has had the edge over the Scot, winning all 7 of their subsequent encounters (including the Australian Open final at Melbourne Park earlier this year).

I think this will be another close clash between the pair, and I expect Murray to compete strongly, but Djokovic has shown, in recent clashes between the two players, a better ability to remain focused and to produce his best tennis at the crucial moments.

Murray needs to be aggressive if he is to win, but there’s a very fine line between considered aggression and outright carelessness. I simply don’t think Murray will be able to maintain the level of tennis required to beat the top seed for long enough today. 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 all of action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

French Open 2015 Day 12 Preview: Women’s semifinal preview

June 4, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Day 11 in Paris saw nine-time champion Rafael Nadal suffer defeat at Roland Garros for just the second time in 72 career matches, the Spaniard getting no presents from world number one Novak Djokovic on what was his twenty-ninth birthday. Djokovic, who is now just two wins away from achieving a career Grand Slam, will face Andy Murray on Friday for a place in Sunday’s final.

Day 11 Recap

In the most eagerly anticipated match of the tournament, top seed Djokovic exploded out of the blocks, breaking Nadal’s serve twice in succession to establish a commanding 4-0 lead. Unfazed, the Spaniard set about whittling away Djokovic’s lead, finding his rhythm from the baseline as he broke back twice and levelled the first set at 4-all. Down 5-6, and serving to take the first set into a tiebreaker, an errant smash by Nadal proved costly as Djokovic snatched the break and the first set, 7-5, after an absorbing 67 minutes of play.

The second set started off where the first set finished, with the players evenly matched through the first 6 games. But from midway through the second set, Djokovic began to dominate, dictating play from inside the baseline and exposing Nadal’s weaker backhand wing. The Spanish superstar could only garner one of the final 10 games for the match, as Djokovic eventually claimed a 7-5 6-3 6-1 victory, his first against Nadal at Roland Garros in 7 attempts.

Andy Murray will attempt to spoil’s Djokovic’s quest for the career Grand Slam on Friday after the Scot scored his first win over David Ferrer on clay. Murray’s unbeaten streak on the red dirt this year continued against the former French Open finalist, the third seed shrugging off the loss of a tight third set to close out the match in convincing style in the fourth set.

In the women’s tournament, top seed Serena Williams maintained her perfect record against Italian Sara Errani, the American conceding just 4 games for the match against the seventeenth seed and former French Open finalist. Unlike her previous 3 matches, Williams started strongly, collecting the first set 6-1, and whilst Errani battled gamely in the second set, the result was never really in doubt.

Williams will face twenty-third seed Timae Bacsinszky for a place in the final after the Swiss player defeated Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck in straight sets in what was a battle of the rank outsiders. See below for my thoughts on today’s Williams-Bacsinszky clash.

Matches of the Day – Day 12

1. Ana Ivanovic vs. Lucie Safarova

Today’s semi-finals appearance not only marks the first time since her victory at Roland Garros in 2008 that Ana Ivanovic has progressed to the final 4 in Paris, it also represents the first time since her French Open win that the Serb has made it through to the semi-finals of any Grand Slam. After claiming the title in Paris in 2008 and enjoying a brief stint as the world’s number one player, Ivanovic spent a considerable period in the wilderness, struggling to cope with the increased spotlight and added expectations that invariably come with being one of the sport’s superstars.

But the last couple of years have seen Ivanovic rebound strongly. The Serb has regained her fitness and her confidence, and has been slowly but surely improving her results on the sport’s biggest stages. This run in Paris, therefore, is a testament to her significant efforts to regenerate her career.

Safarova used to be known as a talented shot-maker who never quite had the consistency to be considered one of the sport’s leading players. But the Czech leftie has shown in the past year or two that she deserves to be ranked among the elite in the women’s game – a semi-finals appearance at Wimbledon last year and her run to the semi-finals here in Paris underscore that opinion.

To my mind, this match depends rather heavily on the conditions in Paris today.  In her past couple of matches, Safarova has handled the blustery conditions expertly and is a better wind player than her opponent. But in calm conditions I favour Ivanovic as the bigger and better ball-striker. Today’s forecast looks fine and hence I’m leaning towards the Serb. Ivanovic in 3.

2. Serena Williams vs. Timea Bacsinszky

After exhibiting some scratchy form early in the tournament, which saw her forced to come from a set down on 3 successive occasions, Serena Williams is now in the box seat to claim another Grand Slam singles title. Only 4 players remain in the tournament and, whilst Williams holds 19 majors to her name, the other 3 players collectively have won just one major (Ivanovic’s 2008 French Open triumph).

Quite often in major tournaments, Williams takes a while to produce her best tennis and this seems to be holding true in Paris this year. Hence the axiom heard in tennis circles: if there’s ever a time to beat Serena Williams, it is early on in a tournament. In other words, if Williams survives her early matches, she is usually unstoppable by the time she arrives at the pointy end of a tournament.

Bacsinszky’s tale is the feel-good story of the tournament, the Swiss player rebounding from a turbulent childhood featuring an oppressive father and coming back to the sport after an extended period out of the game to now reach the final 4 of a Grand Slam. Bacsinszky has beaten some high-quality opponents along the way, including two-time major winner Petra Kvitova, and didn’t wilt under the pressure of being heavily favoured going into her quarter-final. Williams will of course enter this match as the red-hot favourite but Bacsinszky has nothing to lose and has performed creditably in her two previous losses to Williams. I think the twenty-third seed will do well for one set, but look for the American to pull away in the second set. Williams 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.

French Open 2015 Day 11 Preview: Djokovic vs. Nadal

June 3, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will fight one another for a place in Sunday’s men’s final after scoring surprise wins over Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori respectively on Day 10. Meanwhile, today sees the tournament’s most anticipated showdown finally take place, with tennis titans Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal going head-to-head on Court Philippe Chatrier. Read on for my views on that match and today’s other quarter-finals.

Day 10 Recap

In windy conditions in Paris, eighth seed Wawrinka produced a sublime performance to upset his higher ranked countryman Federer in straight sets. Wawrinka simply bludgeoned his way to victory, cracking 43 winners against just 28 errors, with Federer unable to match Wawrinka in the power stakes and unable to make any inroads on the Wawrinka serve. Amazingly, it was Federer’s first Grand Slam match since 2002 in which he was unable to obtain at least one break of serve.

Tsonga raced out of the blocks against fifth seed Nishikori, dropping just one game in the first set as he dominated with his forehand. Tsonga moved ahead in the second set before a break in play late in the second set gave the Japanese star a chance to gather himself and, whilst he couldn’t close the gap in the second set, Nishikori went on to claim the third and fourth sets to send the match to a decider. With the Parisian crowd urging him on, Tsonga scored an early break in the fifth set and maintained his advantage to claim a famous victory.

In the women’s tournament, Ana Ivanovic is back in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time since winning the title in Paris in 2008, the Serb proving too strong for young Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. With football star boyfriend Bastian Schweinsteiger watching on, Ivanovic handled the windy conditions far better than her opponent to collect a 6-3 6-2 victory.

Ivanovic will face Lucie Safarova for a place in the final after the Czech thirteenth seed continued her good form in Paris, collecting a high-quality first set in a tiebreaker over Spanish seed Garbine Muguruza before going on to claim a 7-6(3) 6-3 win against the twenty-first seed and secure a place in her first French Open semi-final.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Serena Williams vs. Sara Errani

Sara Errani is a former finalist here in Paris and the Italian is at her best on clay, where she can use her elite court coverage and anticipation skills to maximum effect. Unfortunately for the seventeenth seed, she comes up against a player today whom she’s been unable to beat in 8 previous matches, top seed Serena Williams.

Williams has started slowly in her last few matches, so watch for the American to explode out of the blocks today. This pair played each other in the 2013 semi-finals in Paris, with Williams jumping all over Errani’s serve and losing just one game for the match. I think Errani will put up a better effort today (she pushed Williams all the way in a Federation Cup match on clay earlier this year) but I still think it will be a straight sets win for the world number one. Williams in 2.

2. Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal

It’s a match fitting for a final, but Nadal’s sub-standard season to date resulted in him being seeded sixth for this tournament, allowing for this match-up to take place in the quarter-finals. The Spaniard has a mind-blowing 70-1 win-loss record at Roland Garros and has defeated Djokovic no less than 6 times in Paris. Whilst Nadal is a menace on any clay-court, it’s important to note that the particular conditions at Roland Garros suit his game especially well.

Djokovic is currently riding a 26 match winning streak and goes into this match knowing that this represents his best chance to date to defeat Nadal at the French Open. The biggest challenge for Djokovic will be remaining in the moment and ensuring that he doesn’t get ahead of himself or get fixated on the enormity of the situation. In Monte Carlo earlier this year, Djokovic attacked the Nadal backhand and pounced on anything short from the Spaniard. The Serb needs to adopt a similar approach today and ensure he doesn’t get pushed back behind the baseline by Nadal.

I expect Nadal to play much better today than he did in Monte Carlo, and the best of 5 sets format gives him plenty of time to get into the match. Nadal has to be brave today and attack up the line with both his forehand and backhand. If Nadal is too timid with his shots, Djokovic will dictate the rallies and the match. I think Rafa will give it his all, but Djokovic is in better form at present and has the requisite confidence. Djokovic in 5.

3. Timea Bacsinszky vs. Alison Van Uytvanck

It’s fair to say that this is the quarter-final that nobody predicted in the lead-up to the tournament. Swiss twenty-third seed Bacsinszky has had a terrific tournament to date, having beaten a number of high-quality opponents to make it through to the quarter-finals, including American young gun Madison Keys and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Van Utyvanck, on the other hand, has benefitted from a number of upsets in her section of the draw, but of course the Belgian was only able to beat the players put in front of her, and has done very well in that regard. Ranked 88 coming into the tournament, Van Utyvanck’s ranking will rise considerably courtesy of her efforts in Paris, but I think Bacsinszky will be too good today. Bacsinszky in 2.

4. Andy Murray vs. David Ferrer

Andy Murray’s glorious clay-court season has continued in Paris, with the Scot’s winning streak on the red dirt now up to 14 matches. Murray leads Ferrer 9-6 in head-to-head meetings, but has never beaten the former French Open finalist on clay. That said, their last clash on the surface was back in 2012 and it is fair to say that Murray has developed significantly as a clay-courter since then.

Ferrer is a difficult opponent on any surface, but the Spaniard is especially tricky to play on clay, given his extreme fitness and willingness to chase down every ball. This match will be tight, but I think Murray’s form on clay this season will give him plenty of self-belief going into this match and I think he is the more creative player of the pair. Murray 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 all of action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Next Page »