Federer fights past Pospisil to reach 10th Basel final; Ferrer makes fifth Valencia final

October 26, 2013

Swiss Indoors—Basel, Switzerland

Semi-results:

(1) Juan Martin del Potro defeats Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; (3) Roger Federer defeats Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5.

*****

Valencia Open—Spain

Semifinal-results:

Mikhail Youzhny defeats Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2; (1) David Ferrer defeats (3) Nicolas Almagro 6-2, 6-3.

US Open 2013: Women’s final preview; men’s semifinal recap

September 8, 2013

by: Tom Cochrane

Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka meet in today’s women’s singles final, with the American superstar going for her fifth US Open crown and the second-seeded Belarusian looking to capture her first ever title in New York.

Monday will see Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic square off for the men’s singles crown after Nadal eased past Richard Gasquet in straight sets and Djokovic scraped past a gallant Stanislas Wawrinka in a 5 set marathon.

Day 13 Recap

Djokovic looked out of sorts early on against Wawrinka, the top seed slow on his feet and uncharacteristically making a bundle of unforced errors. The ninth seeded Wawrinka showed no signs of nerves in his first major semi-final, breaking the Serb three times in the first set as he collected it, 6-2.

The world number one tightened up his game in the second set, cutting down on his unforced errors and serving better, but Wawrinka was still swinging freely and broke the 2011 US Open champion to open up a 4-2 lead. Djokovic forced the break back and pushed the set to a tiebreaker, where a couple of loose shots proved Wawrinka’s undoing, the Serb taking it 7 points to 4 and levelling the match at a set apiece.

Games went with serve in the third set until the eighth game, where Wawrinka capitalised on 3 unforced errors from the top seed and then managed to convert the break to claim the set 6-3 and regain the ascendency. Djokovic, however, was not done with yet, breaking at the start of the fourth set and maintaining his advantage to take it, 6-3, and send the match into a decider.

After 4 sets, the world’s best returner had finally got his eye in, and Wawrinka was under constant pressure to hold serve in the fifth set. After getting out of trouble in his first couple of service games, Wawrinka finally buckled in the fifth game of the fifth set, a backhand long given Djokovic the break. From there, the top seed stayed in front of his tiring opponent, keeping his advantage to claim the win, 2-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 6-4, in 4 hours and 9 minutes.

For Wawrinka, it was a gallant but ultimately disappointing performance, with the Swiss star unable to make the most of a golden opportunity to make his first Grand Slam final. Nonetheless, Wawrinka has to be considered a true contender for next year’s majors. For Djokovic, it will be a major relief to be through to the final after a decidedly patchy performance. The top seed will need to recover well and be significantly sharper on Monday if he is to match it with Rafael Nadal.

Whilst Nadal came through his semi-final against Frenchman Richard Gasquet in straight sets, it was a tougher match than the score-line indicated. A shaky Gasquet was broken at the start of the match, but otherwise stood toe-to-toe with Nadal, the Spaniard merely retaining his initial advantage to claim the first set, 6-4.

The second set saw Gasquet again get broken early, but the eighth seed broke back – the first break of the Nadal serve all tournament – and had opportunities in the ninth game to break Nadal once more. But Gasquet was unable to convert his chances and was forced to regret squandering his opportunities as Nadal dominated the second set tiebreaker for the loss of just one point.

The third set saw Gasquet again presented with chances to break the Nadal serve, but no one is better at holding firm on break points against his serve than the second seed, the man from Mallorca again denying Gasquet the break. That proved to be Gasquet’s last hurrah, as Nadal broke twice en route to victory in 2 hours and 21 minutes, 6-4 7-6(1) 6-2.

For Gasquet, it was a terrific tournament and he can walk away very proud of his performance. Ultimately, it was his poor conversion rate on break points (the Frenchman won just one of 6 break point opportunities) that proved the difference, as Nadal converted all 4 of his break point opportunities. For Nadal, it was another solid performance and the Spaniard must head into Monday’s final as a slight favourite.

Match of the Day – Day 14

Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka

Both Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka can look forward to today’s final with plenty of confidence. The American has been in scintillating form all tournament, with no opponent to date being able to match it with Williams for more than a set. Williams has been the best player in the world this season, although the top seed only has one Grand Slam to show for it. She’ll be desperate to double the year’s haul of Grand Slam trophies with a win in this clash, but she faces a very tough opponent in Azarenka.

Azarenka may have won just 3 of 15 career matches against Williams, but all 3 of those wins have come on hard-courts and 2 of those wins were recorded earlier this year, including a 3 set win in Cincinnati in the lead-up to the US Open. Azarenka is at her best on hard-courts and the Belarusian has the power to match Williams from the back of the court.

Azarenka’s biggest problem in this tournament to date has been her inability to consistently hold serve – a problem masked by her tremendous abilities on the return of serve. With Williams serving strongly all tournament, Azarenka will need to turn in a particularly good serving performance if she is to capture her third Grand Slam title.

Not much separates this pair, but Serena’s form in the tournament to date, combined with the support of the home crowd and Azarenka’s vulnerability on serve, make me think that Serena will be hoisting Grand Slam trophy number 17 this evening. 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 me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2013 Day 12: Women’s semifinal preview

September 6, 2013

by: Tom Cochrane

Defending champion Andy Murray was stunned by Stanislas Wawrinka on Day 11, the third seeded Murray going down in straight sets to the Swiss underdog. Wawrinka will face top seed Novak Djokovic for a place in the final after the Serb saw off Mikhail Youzhny in 4 sets.

Today is ladies’ semi-finals day at Flushing Meadows, with Victoria Azarenka taking on Flavia Pennetta and Serena Williams going head to head with China’s Li Na. Read on for my predictions as to who will make it through to the final.

Day 11 Recap

It was a decidedly lacklustre performance from Murray in his quarter-final against Wawrinka, the Scot struggling to move as well as he normally does around the court and producing an unusually high number of unforced errors.

Games went with serve in the opening set until the tenth game on Murray’s serve, where Wawrinka eventually broke on his sixth set point to claim the opening set. That seemed to give the ninth seed plenty of confidence, with Wawrinka frequently attacking the net and thumping winners off both wings.

After Wawrinka won the second set, a deflated Murray was unable to summon the strength to make a comeback, succumbing easily in the third set to hand the Swiss star a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

For Murray, who hit just 15 winners compared to 30 unforced errors and 45 winners for his opponent, it was a disappointing way for his title defence to end. The Scot was unable to create any break point opportunities, as Wawrinka served strongly and dictated the majority of the baseline rallies. For Wawrinka, it was a superbly controlled and focused performance and an historic win, with the ninth seed through to his first ever Grand Slam semi-final.

Wawrinka will face Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, in what will be a rematch of their 5 set epic at Melbourne Park earlier this year. Despite a third set slip-up, the world number one was generally in control against Youzhny, a two-time semi-finalist in New York, in Thursday’s night session.

Djokovic, who is seeking a second career title at Flushing Meadows, eventually progressed to his fourteenth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-0 win in 2 hours and 34 minutes.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Victoria Azarenka vs. Flavia Pennetta

The only semi-finalist under the age of 30, two-time Australian Open champion and second seed Victoria Azarenka is looking to go one step further than last year at Flushing Meadows, where she lost to Serena Williams in an extremely close final.

The Belarusian loves playing on hard-courts and is in good form, having beaten Williams in the final at Cincinnati in the lead-up to the US Open. Pennetta’s run to her first ever major semi-final has been one of the stories of the tournament to date, the veteran Italian upsetting a host of seeds en route to the final four, including compatriots Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.

These players have played each other twice before, with each player claiming one win. I don’t think those victories will count for too much, with the last of them coming 2 and a half years ago. Pennetta has nothing to lose in this encounter – ranked 83 in the world at the start of this tournament, the Italian has already exceeded all expectations and will simply be looking to continue her fairytale run.

Pennetta’s all-court game will test Azarenka, but the second seed has gained plenty of confidence and experience with her performances in the last couple of years and I think she will be too good in the decisive moments. Azarenka in 2.

2. Li Na vs. Serena Williams

I’m really looking forward to this clash between the two 31 years olds, which I think will be a lot closer than many people predict. After an intense mid-season training block with coach Carlos Rodriguez in Beijing, Li Na looks fitter and more focused than she did earlier in the season, and I think the Chinese star senses that she has just a couple more years to vie for Grand Slam trophies.

The former French Open champion has a poor record against Serena Williams, winning just one of their 9 career meetings, although most of those matches have been close affairs. Williams has swept all before her in the tournament to date, dropping just 13 games across 5 matches. The lack of competitive matches may count against the top seed, although Williams has plenty of experience to draw on in this regard.

I think Li Na will come out swinging in this match and put plenty of pressure on the defending champion. If Williams serves well, as she has done throughout the tournament, then it will be very hard for the Chinese star to stay with Williams. If Li Na can neutralise the Williams serve, then the fifth seed’s heavy groundstrokes should allow her to hold her own in baseline battles with the American. Expect Li Na to claim a set and compete hard as she pushes for the win, but I sense Williams will be too strong down the stretch. 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 me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

US Open 2013 Day 11 Preview: Will Stan be the man?

September 4, 2013

by: Tom Cochrane

Flamboyant Frenchman Richard Gasquet is through to his first ever US Open semi-final, the eighth seed upsetting fourth seed David Ferrer in a 5 set epic on Day 10.

Day 10 Recap

Gasquet came out swinging against Ferrer, using his majestic one-handed backhand to maximum effect as he took a commanding 2 sets to love lead. But the tenacious Ferrer fought back, taking the next 2 sets as Gasquet struggled to maintain his level.

There were concerns that the Frenchman would run out of steam in the deciding set after his 5 set win over Milos Raonic in the round of 16, but the eighth seed stayed aggressive in the fifth set, breaking Ferrer’s serve and maintaining the advantage to claim a 6-3 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-3 win in 3 hours and 23 minutes.

Gasquet will play world number 2 Rafael Nadal for a place in Sunday’s final after the Spaniard demolished his countryman Tommy Robredo in straight sets in the night session. Robredo, who had upset Roger Federer in the fourth round, was no match for the second seed, who struck 28 winners and won 15 of his 16 trips to the net. It was all over after 1 hour and 40 minutes, Nadal claiming an emphatic 6-0 6-2 6-2 victory.

In the women’s tournament, second seed Victoria Azarenka moved a step closer to returning to the women’s final after scoring a comfortable 6-2 6-3 victory over Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova. The world number 48 managed to break Azarenka’s serve early in each set, but Hantuchova immediately handed back the advantage on both occasions as Azarenka controlled the majority of the baseline rallies.

Azarenka faces Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals after the 31 year old Italian beat fellow Italian Roberta Vinci to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. Pennetta, who overcame another Italian, Sara Errani, in the second round, claimed a tense opening set, 6-4, before racing away with the second set, taking it for the loss of just one game.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Andy Murray vs. Stanislas Wawrinka

Having claimed a workmanlike victory over Denis Istomin in the round of 16, defending champion Andy Murray will need to lift his game in this quarter-final clash against the dangerous Stanislas Wawrinka. These players know each other’s game extremely well, having played against one another as juniors and being frequent practice partners. Murray leads 8-5 in their career meetings, although Wawrinka won their most recent match, on clay in Monte Carlo earlier this year.

As Murray acknowledged after his fourth round win, Wawrinka has always been an extremely good player technically, but his success this year has given the Swiss star renewed confidence. Wawrinka pushed Novak Djokovic to the absolute limit at the Australian Open earlier this year and I would not be surprised if he does the same to Murray in this clash.

With all of his big match experience, Murray has to enter this match as the favourite, but Wawrinka will come out swinging and knows that he is capable of winning the match, especially if he plays like he did against Berdych in the round of 16. Murray in 5.

2. Novak Djokovic vs. Mikhail Youzhny

Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny faces an almighty task to defeat world number one and top seed Novak Djokovic and reach his third career semi-final at Flushing Meadows. Youzhny had a gruelling 5-set match against Lleyton Hewitt in the round of 16, whereas Djokovic blitzed Marcel Granollers, losing just 3 games for the entire match.

Youzhny obviously enjoys playing in New York, as his strong record at the US Open suggests, but Djokovic looks to be in stellar form and has yet to be challenged at this year’s tournament. Youzhny has beaten Djokovic in 3 of their 8 career meetings, but the last of those wins came back in 2010, before Djokovic had established himself as the world’s best player.

I think Youzhny will compete strongly and should make at least one or two of the sets very close, but look for the top seeded Serb, who has made the US Open final in each of the last 3 years, to raise his game on the big points. Djokovic in 3.

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

US Open 2013 Day 9 Preview: Wawrinka and Berdych could go the distance

September 3, 2013

by: Tom Cochrane

For the first time since 2002, Roger Federer will not feature in any Grand Slam finals in a calendar year after the Swiss maestro was bundled out of the US Open by Spain’s Tommy Robredo.

Day 8 Recap

Robredo, who had never beaten Federer in 10 previous clashes, edged out the seventh seed in a first set tiebreaker, which seemed to boost the Spaniard’s confidence. A total of 43 unforced errors contributed to Federer’s downfall, as did his inability to convert break points opportunities (Federer converted only 2 of 16 chances). In the end, it was a 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 victory for the Spaniard, who next faces Rafael Nadal after the second seed saw off a stern challenge from Philipp Kohlschreiber to prevail in 4 sets.

Yet another Spaniard is through to the quarter-finals, with fourth seed David Ferrer blasting 46 winners to scrape past the dangerous Janko Tipsarevic in a tight 4-setter. Ferrer will play Richard Gasquet for a spot in the semi-finals after the Frenchman outlasted Canada’s Milos Raonic in a thrilling 5-setter under lights.

In women’s fourth round action on Day 8, Flavia Pennetta continued her tremendous run, knocking out the red-hot Simona Halep. After Pennetta claimed the first set and went up a break in the second set, Halep finally got going, breaking back and then earning a set point in the second set. A rain delay halted Halep’s momentum however, and Pennetta eventually claimed the second set in a tiebreaker to prevail.

Pennetta will play compatriot Roberta Vinci for a place in the semi-finals after Vinci outclassed yet another Italian, qualifier Camila Giorgi, in straight sets. Also moving through to the quarter-finals on Day 9 was Daniela Hantuchova, who returned to the final 8 in New York for the first time in 11 years courtesy of a 3 set win over American Alison Riske.

Matches of the Day – Day 9

1. Li Na vs. Ekaterina Makarova

Ekaterina Makarova has attained something of a giant-killer status at Grand Slam level, having knocked Serena Williams out of the 2012 Australian Open and having defeated Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in this year’s US Open. The Russian is very consistent from the back of the court and is a good mover as well.

Li Na is an outside chance for this year’s US Open title in my opinion and, although the Chinese star can sometimes lose matches off her own racquet by committing a rash of unforced errors, Li Na has looked focused and composed on court in this tournament to date. Look for the fifth seed to overwhelm the Russian with her powerful groundstrokes en route to victory. Li Na in 2.

2. Novak Djokovic vs. Marcel Granollers

Former top 20 player Marcel Granollers is, like so many of the Spanish players, a very solid baseline player who is most comfortable on clay (although Granollers is also a good doubles player, and so is more at ease at the net than some of his countrymen). Granollers has survived a trio of 5 set matches to reach the round of 16, so it remains to be seen how much energy the Spaniard has got left for this match.

The world number one has strolled through his opening 3 matches of the tournament with few problems, and I can’t see Granollers, with his steady but unspectactular game, causing too many issues for Djokovic in this encounter. Djokovic in 3.

3. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Tomas Berdych

To my mind, this is the match of the day, pitting two of the most in-form players on the ATP Tour against one another. Fifth seed Tomas Berdych is yet to drop a set in New York this year, and will be looking to go one round deeper than he did last year, when he lost to eventual champion Andy Murray in the semi-finals.

Wawrinka has enjoyed a terrific season, capturing multiple titles and moving back inside the world’s top 10. The Swiss star leads Berdych 6-5 in head-to-head meetings and also won their most recent match, on clay in Madrid earlier this year. This one is practically a toss of the coin, in my opinion, and really depends on who executes their game plan best on the day. I’ll back Berdych by a whisker. Berdych in 5.

4. Mikhail Youzhny vs. Lleyton Hewitt

This battle of the veterans should be an intriguing clash. Former US Open champion and world number one Lleyton Hewitt showed he still had plenty to offer the sport with a thrilling win over Juan Martin Del Potro in round 2, and the Aussie will now be looking to go as deep as possible in this tournament.

Hewitt has performed well against Youzhny in the past, having won 6 of their 7 career meetings. The Russian, who beat Tommy Haas in the previous round, likes playing at Flushing Meadows, where he has twice made the semi-finals, but I favour Hewitt to advance in this one. Hewitt in 4.

5. Serena Williams vs. Carla Suarez Navarro

Having got through her high-profile grudge match with Sloane Stephens without too much trouble, world number one Serena Williams will now be focusing on moving through to Saturday’s final. Her opponent in today’s quarter-final, Carla Suarez Navarro, is a talented Spaniard with a swashbuckling backhand who has beaten Serena’s sister Venus in the past.

Serena has a good record against Suarez Navarro, having won both of their previous meetings, including an easy win in Rome earlier this year. Suarez Navarro will come out swinging, as she has nothing to lose, but Williams should have too much power, especially on serve, for the plucky Spaniard. 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.

Draw Preview: US Open Men’s Singles – The Road to R4

August 23, 2013

Jack Han previews the men’s US Open draw for 2013 in his latest installment of his Hard Courts blog. You can follow Jack on Twitter @KSplayersclub.

Section 1/8

Seeds: Djokovic (1), Dimitrov (25), Paire (24), Fognini (16)

Last year’s finalist Djokovic gets the fleet-footed Ricardas Berankis, a former US Open junior champion, as his first-round opponent. Lukas Rosol looms in Round Two. After that, Novak might have to play Grigor Dimitrov.

Coming into the Open, Djokovic is perhaps playing the best tennis of his life, in terms of backing up his second serve (58.9% of second serve points won). He has only lost to two players ranked outside the Top 20 so far this season (Dimitrov in Madrid and Isner in Cincinnati), so look for him to stick around until the end of the second week in New York

FAVORED: DJOKOVIC

DARK HORSE: KUBOT

*****

Section 2/8

Seeds: Haas (12). Youzhny (21), Melzer (29), Del Potro (6)

One first-round encounter which promises to excite is the matchup of former champ Lleyton Hewitt and American wildcard Brian Baker. It will probably be played either on the Grandstand or on the new Court 17, so get there nice and early to grab a seat near the action. Lleyton is the sentimental favorite, but local support will be strong for Baker, who out for glory after skipping the last two Slams with a knee injury.

Assuming Tommy Haas and Juan Martin Del Potro end up playing each other in Round 4, you best put your money on the Argentinian. Delpo is 5-0 lifetime against Haas and has yet to drop a set against the German.

FAVORED: DEL POTRO

DARK HORSE: DOLGOPOLOV

*****

Section 3/8

Seeds: Murray (3), Monaco (28), Seppi (20), Almagro (15)

Watch out for Steve Johnson, currently ranked 121st in the world. He pushed Almagro to the limit during this year’s Australian Open (lost 7-5 6-7 6-2 6-7 6-2) and could play the Spaniard against in the second round if he can get past Denis Istomin first.

Andy Murray is the defending champ here and will be hard-pressed to live up to ever-increasing expectations associated with him now being a two-time Grand Slam champ. While he has not necessarily been playing better against his immediate competitors (he is only 5-4 against Top-10 players in 2013), he is an impressive 26-2 this season against players ranked outside the Top 20 (compared to 4 losses in 2012 and 6 in 2011).

FAVORED: MURRAY

DARK HORSE: JOHNSON

*****

Section 4/8

Seeds: Wawrinka (9), Anderson (17), Benneteau (31), Berdych (5)

There are a few older guys to watch out for in this section: Stepanek (who plays Wawrinka in Round 1), James Blake (who opens against a qualifier) and Marcos Baghdatis. Also, two recent Federer-slayers can be found in Stakhovsky and Daniel Brands. Brands can be especially dangerous in New York – he’s a 6’5” German who really hits the covers off the ball.

Berdych begins his US Open campaign ranked a career-high number 5 in the world. He has played reasonably well this season despite only making 2 Tour finals and losing both of them (to Djokovic in Dubai and to Tsonga in Marseille). Some good news for the Czech: he is drawn against Murray (against whom he is 6-4 lifetime) instead of Djokovic (2-14) in the quarters.

FAVORED: BERDYCH

DARK HORSE: BRANDS

*****

Section 5/8

Seeds: Gasquet (8), Tursunov (32), Lopez (23), Raonic (10)

It’s a bit hard to get a read on this section because 4 of the 16 slots are reserved for to-be-determined Qualifiers. As things stand, Raonic has a relatively neat draw until the quarters, as neither Gasquet nor Lopez has the firepower to compete against the Canadian if his game is firing on all cylinders.

It’s good to see Dimitry Tursunov snag the 32nd seed. The Russian started the year ranked 117th in the world and having to qualify for ATP 250s like Marseille.

FAVORED: RAONIC

DARK HORSE: KLAHN

*****

Section 6/8

Seeds: Janowicz (14), Tipsarevic (18), Gulbis (30), Ferrer (4)

Janko Tipsarevic’s record this season stands at 15-17. The last year in which he had a losing record was back in 2005 (17-24). He has not won back-to-back matches since making the 3rd round of Roland Garros this spring, and is 2-4 since Wimbledon.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, 30th seed Ernests Gulbis started 2013 ranked 138th in the world before seeing his ranking climb by over 100 spots courtesy of a 49-21 record so far this season. His likely third round opponent is David Ferrer – they have only played once against each other, and that was back in 2007. Gulbis is also a respectable 2-2 against potential 4R foe Jerzy Janowicz.

FAVORED: GULBIS

DARK HORSE: SOCK

*****

Section 7/8

Seeds: Federer (7), Querrey (26), Robredo (19), Nishikori (11)

It really is odd seeing Federer seeded so low after ten years at the top of the game. There is no question that the Swiss is not hitting the ball as crisply and moving as swiftly as in the past. He has not hit so few aces (8.2% of first serves) since 2000 and his 56.0% second serve conversion rate is the lowest since 2002.

26th seeded Sam Querrey is currently in the semis at Winston-Salem, and could ride into the Open on a wave of confidence. He is drawn to face Federer in the third round. The pair has not played since 2008. There is some upset potential there.

FAVORED: FEDERER

DARK HORSE: QUERREY

*****

Section 8/8

Seeds: Isner (13), Kohlschreiber (22), Verdasco (27), Nadal (2)

In Round 1, Kohlschreiber goes up against wildcard and California native Collin Altamirano, the first unseeded player to ever win the USTA National Championships at Kalamazoo. The 17 year-old is currently unranked and will be aiming for a first pro win on tennis’ biggest stage.

Nadal has a fairly reasonable draw, facing Ryan Harrison in the first round and perhaps old friend Verdasco in Round 3. Beyond that, he might come up against Kohlschreiber, Isner, or even a resurgent Gael Monfils.

FAVORED: NADAL

DARK HORSE: MONFILS

Rogers Cup Preview: Men’s Draw

August 3, 2013

by: Lyra Pappin

Since Wimbledon taught us nothing about predictions, let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the men in Montreal.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic won’t face a lot of heat before the semifinals, if all goes according to plan. He’ll likely play upstart Bernard Tomic in his first match. Tomic will probably say something along the lines of, “I’ll definitely beat him” or “I’m the greatest tennis player ever”, and then Djokovic will continue on, possibly against compatriot Janko Tipsarevic. Tips has been out with injuries and his results have been uneven this year, so whether he makes it to the third round is questionable, making it even likelier that Djokovic should cruise through before meeting either Kei Nishikori or Richard Gasquet in the fourth. Gasquet has performed particularly well at the Rogers Cup, but it’d be an epic upset if he could pull off a win against the world number one.

Djokovic’s trouble will begin “if” he meets Rafael Nadal in the semis. Nadal’s path to a potential semi-final has a mix of interesting characters including Jerzy Janowicz, the “Pole-veriser”, whose on-court antics are setting up a bit of a bad boy rep for the 6’8” Wimbledon semi-finalist. Nadal also has a possible meeting with Tommy Haas, whose ascension to the top 10 at age 35 continues to be a feel-good story on tour.

On the other side of the draw, Wimbledon champ Sir Andy Murray (knighting date TBD) likely opens his quest for a third Rogers Cup title by facing “BabyFed”, Grigor Dimitrov, who surely hates that nickname as much as the other one – Maria’s boyfriend. Despite drawing a lot of attention for those two factors, Dimitrov hasn’t really done much on tour this season and though it’d be a fun match to see, Murray will likely move on to face his mom’s favourite, Feliciano Lopez. Murray’s potential quarterfinal opponent, Juan Martin Del Potro, would be improving on his second round loss in last year’s post-Olympic bronze Rogers Cup, including taking out Canada’s big hype, er, hope, Milos Raonic. If Raonic does face DelPo, it’ll be a battle of giants, but the Argentine’s better movement and overall arsenal will make it very difficult on the Canadian.

Barring an upset (if we’re following rankings), Murray could face either Tomas Berdych or David Ferrer in the semis. Neither top five player will have an especially challenging route to their potential match up, and on hard courts, I would give Berdych the edge despite Ferrer flying up to the number three seed and rank with the struggles of the absent Roger Federer.

According to this unscientific analysis, I see Djokovic and Murray in a final, with the defending champ making it three straight on Canadian soil.

Prognosis Canada:

Junior Wimbledon 2012 champion Filip Peliwo faces Finland’s Jarko Nieminen in his first match. Peliwo has a bright future and with hometown support, could rise to the occasion.

Frank Dancevic, Davis Cup hero, will face a qualifier, getting a great chance to move into the second round. He’ll likely face Janowicz there, who is definitely a tough opponent, but always entertaining.

Vasek Pospisil, who gained some attention for upsetting Juan Ignacio Chela in the first round of the 2011 Rogers Cup, only to face childhood hero Federer in the second round, will take on tall tree John Isner. Rough draw for Pospisil but with Isner going deep at the Citi Open, maybe Pospisil can push through to advance.

Raonic will look to satisfy some expectations with a win over the unseeded Chardy, who can be a difficult opponent, but has a losing record on hard courts. The Canadian would face Jurgen Melzer or Mikhail Youzhny next, two more unseeded players. Losses in either round would put a major dent in the Raonic hype machine.

For more from Rogers Cup, follow @lyrapappin.

Wimbledon 2013: Day 1 Preview (Federer in his House)

June 23, 2013

by: Tom Cochrane

The 2013 Wimbledon championships get underway at the All England Club today, with 7-time Wimbledon champion and defending champion Roger Federer kicking off proceedings on Centre Court on the first day of play.

Matches of the Day – Day 1

1. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. David Goffin

For sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and his coach Roger Rasheed, this year’s French Open must seem, on reflection, like a missed opportunity and yet, at the same time, like a perfect example of Tsonga’s ability to beat the biggest players on the biggest stages. Tsonga’s demolition of Roger Federer in Paris proved the Frenchman can topple anyone at his best; Tsonga’s insipid loss to David Ferrer showed he is still prone to mental fragility at crucial moments.

Tsonga has played some of his best tennis in recent years at Wimbledon, where he is not afraid to serve and volley against all players. If Tsonga can view the French Open as a positive experience and use it as a stepping stone to greater heights, there’s no doubt that he has a chance to go very deep in this tournament. Young Belgian David Goffin has exquisite timing off both wings, but he is most likely to be overwhelmed by Tsonga’s big serve and raw power from the back of the court. Tsonga in 3.

2. Victor Hanescu vs. Roger Federer

Third seed Roger Federer begins his quest for an eighth Wimbledon crown against wily Romanian veteran Victor Hanescu, a former top 30 player who favours a traditional serve and volley style of play. Hanescu made the round of 32 in Paris a few weeks ago and will have nothing to lose against the Swiss superstar.

It’s hard to think of a tougher draw that Federer could have been given at this year’s tournament, with a potential quarter-final against his great rival Rafael Nadal, a potential semi-final showdown against Andy Murray and then, all going well, a final against the world number one, Novak Djokovic. Still, if anybody has the ability to rise up against the odds and claim another major, it’s Federer. Look for the third seed to make the early running against Hanescu and cruise to victory, wary of overexerting himself when so many big match-ups lurk in the second week of the tournament. Federer in 3.

3. Marcos Baghdatis vs. Marin Cilic

Lanky Croat Marin Cilic doesn’t immediately strike you as a strong grass-court player, but the tenth seed has quietly gone about building a solid grass-court record. Cilic won the title at Queen’s Club last year and almost repeated the win this year, losing to top seed Andy Murray in a hard-fought final.

Cilic faces a danger match against Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis today, with Baghdatis having previously made the semi-finals at the All England Club. Cilic will need to stay on the offensive against such a capable ball-striker, but his recent good form (both on the grass and more generally over the last 12 months) leads me to predict that the Croat will advance in this one. Cilic in 4.

4. Lleyton Hewitt vs. Stanislas Wawrinka

This has to be one of the best opening round match-ups, pitting former world number one and Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt against one of the form players on the ATP Tour this year, eleventh seed Stanislas Wawrinka. Hewitt has battled a raft of injuries in the last few years, but put in an inspired performance at Queen’s Club last week, upsetting Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the semi-finals. Wawrinka also warmed up for the year’s third major in style, making the final of the ATP event in Rosmalen, his first-ever grass-court final.

Even as he approaches the end of his mightily impressive career, Hewitt remains one of the best grass-court players going around, and the Aussie will be desperate to record a few more wins at the All England Club before he calls it quits. With a better draw, I’d back the veteran to notch up a couple of wins at Wimbledon this year, but Wawrinka is full of confidence at the moment and has the better fitness if the match goes the distance. Wawrinka in 5.

5. Maria Sharapova vs. Kristina Mladenovic

Maria Sharapova has claimed a career Grand Slam, but ask the Russian which of the majors she’d most like to win again and I’m almost certain she will say Wimbledon. Sharapova has been around the mark for the last couple of years at the All England Club, losing the 2011 final to Petra Kvitova and claiming the silver medal at the London Olympics last year.

With plenty of gossip flying around about Sharapova’s comments in response to a recent feature article on rival Serena Williams, the third seed will be eager to get on court and let her racquet do the talking. Frenchwoman Mladenovic, a former world junior champion, is still finding her feet on the WTA Tour, but is a fighter and should be competitive for the most part against the 2004 champion. Sharapova in 2.

Put your house on: Second seed Victoria Azarenka, in search of her maiden Wimbledon crown, should cruise past Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler in her first match of the tournament.

Upset alert: American Jamie Hampton, who made the final at Eastbourne last week as a qualifier, might surprise her higher-ranked compatriot, seventeenth seed Sloane Stephens, when the pair clash at the All England Club.

Likely to go the distance: Veterans Xavier Malisse and Fernando Verdasco lock horns today, whilst there is an all-Serbian encounter between fourteenth seed Janko Tipsarevic and his Davis Cup winning teammate, Viktor Troicki. I’m predicting that both matches will go to 5 sets.

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.

“In a Sentence” – Roland Garros Men’s Singles Draw Overview (Bottom Half)

May 25, 2013

SECTION 3

Tomas Berdych (5) vs. Gael Monfils

-          Berdych gets an absolutely brutal draw against former top-10er and 2008 semifinalist Monfils, who is coming off of a final round appearance in Nice this week.

Ernests Gulbis vs. Rogerio Dutra Silva

-          The traditionally inconsistent Gulbis has been sterling on clay this season, going 12-4 and not losing to anyone outside of the top-20.

Igor Sijsling vs. Jurgen Melzer

-          Sijsling is having the best 12 months of his pro career, while Melzer is absolutely struggling on clay this season (2-8).

Jurgen Zopp vs. Tommy Robredo

-          Zopp has only played one match in 2013 (first-round loss in Nice) and has not won a Tour match since last October; Robredo started the year outside the top 100 and is now at #34.

Andreas Seppi vs. Leonardo Mayer

-          Normally an adept clay-courter, Mayer skipped most of the clay season with injury and only has one match under his belt heading into Paris (first-round loss in Nice).

Blaz Kavcic vs. James Duckworth

-          105th-ranked Kavcic last won consecutive ATP matches back in February, while 185th-ranked Duckworth has only 1 tour win (first round Australian Open), period, in 2013.

Martin Alund vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin

-          Clay-court specialist Alund put together a nice run in Sao Paolo in February, taking a set off Nadal in the semis before falling in three.

Andreas Haider-Maurer vs. Nicolas Almagro (11)

-          Haider-Maurer, a big-serving Austrian, has not won a Tour-level match on clay since Gstaad 2011.

Milos Raonic (14) vs. Xavier Malisse

-          Since setting a career-best by making the round of 16s back in 2004, Malisse has only made it out of the first round on 3 subsequent occasions.

Steve Darcis vs. Michael Llodra

-          Both men have had success on clay at the Challenger level this year, with Llodra making the final in Bordeaux 3 weeks ago and Darcis reaching the quarters in the same tournament.

Jan-Lennard Struff vs. Evgeny Donskoy

-          Struff has only one win against players ranked higher than Donskoy since July 2012, but the latter is winless on clay (0-5) so far this year.

Illya Marchenko vs. Kevin Anderson (23)

-          Marchenko pushed Anderson to the limit in the pair’s last confrontation at Wimbledon back in 2011; Anderson won 6-1 in the fifth.

Marcel Granollers (31) vs. Feliciano Lopez

-          The favored Granollers has a bunch of ranking points to defend from his round-of-16s result last year, while Lopez is guaranteed to do at least as well as he did last year, since he retired from his first round match against Serra without having won a game.

Joao Sousa vs. Go Soeda

-          Sousa only has 1 Tour-level win on clay this season (vs. Melzer in Acapulco), which is 1 more win than Soeda has been able to achieve in the same time span.

Steve Johnson vs. Albert Montanes

-          The lack of clay court play in NCAA Division I tennis is reflected in Johnson’s 2013 record; he’s lost his last four clay-court matches, three of those losses coming against opponents ranked outside the top-200.

Marinko Matosevic vs. David Ferrer (4)

-          Since upsetting Verdasco in the first round of Monte Carlo, Matosevic has not beaten anyone in the top 150.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6) vs. Aliaz Bedene

-          Bedene comes into Roland Garros with a lot of clay court tennis under his belt, having won a Challenger in Rome earlier this month and upset Davydenko in Dusseldorf last week.

Jarkko Nieminen vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu

-          Overall, Nieminen is 4-1 against Mathieu, but the Frenchman won their only Grand Slam meeting in Australia back in 2009.

Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Gilles Muller

-          The two players should know each other’s games fairly well, having played in Dusseldorf just this past week (Bautista Agut won in 3 sets).

Benjamin Becker vs. Jeremy Chardy (25)

-          Becker is on an improbable 10-match losing streak since San Jose, and has seen his ranking tumble from 61st to 96th in the world.

Juan Monaco (17) vs. Daniel Gimeno-Traver

-          All 14 of Monaco’s 2013 wins have come on clay, but he’s also only 1-1 lifetime against Gimeno-Traver.

Viktor Troicki vs. James Blake

-          James Blake has not won a Tour-level clay court match since beating Carlos Berlocq in Houston two years ago.

Radek Stepanek vs. Nick Kyrgios

-          The wildcard Kyrgios from Australia will be making his Grand Slam debut; he is only 18 and currently ranked 264th in the world

Philipp Petzschner vs. Marin Cilic (10)

-          Other than two qualifying matches in Monte Carlo, Petzchner has been absent from the 2013 European clay court warmups; Cilic himself has a relatively modest 5-4 record in those same tournaments this year.

Gilles Simon (15) vs. Lleyton Hewitt

-          The hometown favorite Simon is a bad draw for Hewitt, who has not beaten the Frenchman in 3 tries.

Adrian Mannarino vs. Pablo Cuevas

-          Both players are winless in Paris, so one of them will be setting a career best result here; Cuevas is in on a protected ranking and is currently #761 in the world.

Jan Hajek vs. Denis Kudla

-          This will be Kudla’s first appearance at Roland Garros; he did it the hard way by winning three qualifying matches.

Lukas Lacko vs. Sam Querrey (18)

-          Querrey is the on-paper favorite, but Lacko is 1-0 versus the American on Tour and also beat him right here in the 2005 Roland Garros Junior tournament.

Julien Benneteau (30) vs. Ricardas Berankis

-          Berankis is playing the best tennis of his career, while Benneteau is only 1-4 on clay this year.

Tobias Kamke vs. Paolo Lorenzi

-          Lorenzi has never won a match in Paris; he is also 0-1 lifetime against the slightly lower-ranked Kamke (66th vs. 77th).

Somdev Devvarman vs. Daniel Munoz-De La Nava

-          Devvarman has struggled with injuries and confidence, but has managed to get his ranking back up to 188th after starting the year on the wrong side of the Top 500.

Pablo Carreno-Busta vs. Roger Federer (2)

-          Though he is a relatively unintimidating 166th in the world, Carreno-Busta is an accomplished clay court player who is 14-5 on the red stuff this year.

Jack is a Montreal-based marketing professional and business lecturer. In addition to writing for Tennis Connected and traveling the world to cover the pro game, he also write about business for IndecentXposure.com. Check out his work for IX here.

Twitter: @KSplayersClub

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French Open 2013: Men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis

May 25, 2013

by: Tom Cochrane

Greetings and welcome to the 2013 French Open Championships and the beginning of 2 weeks of coverage of the year’s second Grand Slam, courtesy of The Satellite Serve.

Coming to you daily during this year’s tournament, The Satellite Serve is back with predictions, opinions and analysis in relation to all the action from Roland Garros.

Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles

The happiest man after the men’s singles draw was announced in Paris yesterday was undoubtedly Roger Federer, and not simply because the Swiss legend has just joined Twitter and is accumulating followers at a furious pace.

The luck of the draw saw Federer’s biggest rivals for the French Open title, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, pitted in the same half of the draw. Whilst Federer will of course have to overcome some seriously talented opponents en route to the final (Federer’s half of the draw includes the clay-court warriors David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, along with the flamboyant Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the big-hitting Tomas Berdych), the second seed will see this tournament, for which both Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro are out injured, as a prime opportunity to capture his second French Open crown and turn around what has been something of a disappointing season to date by the Swiss maestro’s extremely high standards.

All of the talk in tennis circles of late is about Rafael Nadal’s incredible form since returning to the ATP Tour, and the Spaniard’s statistics most certainly make for impressive reading. In 8 tournaments since returning from a 7 month injury lay-off, Nadal has made 8 finals and collected 6 titles. Arguably the best of player of all-time on the red dirt, Nadal has lost just once in his career at Roland Garros, and will this year be looking to collect what would be an astonishing eighth French Open.

Nadal looks to have a relatively good draw prior to the semi-finals, with Italian clay-court specialist Fabio Fognini and Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a recent winner on clay over Roger Federer, the biggest threats lurking in the early rounds. A quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka or Richard Gasquet is on the cards, but neither should seriously trouble the Spaniard on his favoured surface.

Despite Nadal’s scintillating start to the season, I’m backing top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic to claim his maiden French Open and complete a career Grand Slam. The Serb has made Paris his priority for 2013 and, although he suffered surprising losses in Madrid and Rome, Djokovic snapped Nadal’s 46-match winning streak in Monte Carlo – a huge confidence booster ahead of Paris.

Although Nadal has been near-untouchable in recent weeks on the red dirt, I think Djokovic still troubles the Spaniard mentally. The world number one is one of the few players not to be intimidated by Nadal and who backs himself to beat the Spaniard, even on the red dirt. Djokovic will go toe-to-toe from the baseline with the Spaniard without giving an inch and has the stamina and the shot-making ability to hurt Nadal.

Last year’s final in Paris between the pair went the distance and, after a poor start, Djokovic was somewhat unlucky not to record a famous comeback victory. I also think that the Serb is fitter than Nadal at present, with the Spaniard not having played any best of 5 set matches since his return to competitive tennis earlier this year. If their scheduled semi-final eventuates and goes the distance, I think Djokovic will be the stronger player physically and mentally down the stretch.

To my mind, Federer should more or less cruise through to the final Sunday of the tournament, but whoever comes through the Nadal-Djokovic half of the draw should be too strong for the Swiss master in the decider. I’ll take Djokovic to dismantle Federer in 4 sets.

Winner: Novak Djokovic

Finalist: Roger Federer

Semi-finalists: Nadal, Ferrer

Outside Chance: Berdych, Almagro

*****

Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles

Last year I picked Serena Williams to win the ladies’ singles at Roland Garros and the American let me down big-time, collapsing in her opening round match against Virginie Razzano. But Williams has bounced back in the best possible way since that defeat, winning 67 of 70 matches since Paris last year and capturing the Wimbledon and US Open titles and the Olympic gold medal along the way.

Clay is most definitely not her strongest surface, but in my opinion Williams is clearly the best player on the WTA Tour when she is fully fit and playing at her best. That means that the American is the player to beat on any surface, including the red dirt, and I’m backing Williams to add to her lone French Open title, which she collected way back in 2002.

German left-hander Angelique Kerber is the player most likely to give Williams difficulty in her quarter of the draw, with the 15-time Grand Slam champion likely to square off in the semi-finals against either last year’s finalist in Paris, Sara Errani, or fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

In the bottom half of the draw, defending champion Maria Sharapova will be hoping to capitalise on her good form of late in order to make a spirited defence of her crown. The Russian has been placed in a difficult quarter, with former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, former French Open finalist Sam Stosur and former world number one Jelena Jankovic all posing major threats.

If Sharapova can negotiate her way past those big names to earn a semi-final berth, she will likely face Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka or 2011 French Open winner Li Na. With Azarenka battling some injury problems since winning in Melbourne earlier in the year and not at her best on clay-courts, I’ll back Sharapova to make it through to another final in Paris.

Unfortunately for the second seed, I think the result will be similar to the recent final in Rome played between Sharapova and Williams, where the American was victorious for the loss of just 4 games. Sharapova’s game is perfectly suited for Williams, who likes to receive a ball with pace and who can climb all over the Russian’s weak and unreliable serve. I’ll back Williams to record a straight sets win in the final.

Winner: Serena Williams

Finalist: Maria Sharapova

Semi-finalists: Errani, Azarenka

Outside Chance: Stosur, Radwanska, Li Na

That’s it for today. I’ll be back with another serve once the schedule of play for Day 1 is released.

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