May 3, 2013
First, the “1000s” are mandatory events for the game’s top players. There is a lot at stake, both in terms of money and ranking points, so most of the top players make sure that they arrive at the tournament mentally and physically ready to perform. Those who stay home are either injured, or experienced enough to merit a special exemption by virtue of their age and playing records (ex: Roger Federer skipping Monte Carlo earlier this spring). When you show up to the locker room at a Masters 1000, everyone around you can play serious ball, and has enough game to beat anybody in the world on a given day. The same cannot be said for any other types of tournaments on the calendar, not even Grand Slam events.
Second, even though the 1000s are played with a draw of 64 players, 8 of those spots are actually first-round byes reserved for the top 8 seeds. The free money and ranking points are surely welcomed, but at the same time, coming into the tournament cold and playing against potentially a top-20 player in the second round is a tough proposition for anyone – Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal included. Upsets will occur early and often, so be on the lookout for that.
Because of these two characteristics, getting a good draw at a Masters 1000 event could mean the difference between losing in the second round and getting to the semi-finals. Let’s see what the players are up against starting this Sunday in Madrid:
In Indian Wells less than two months ago, Grigor Dimitrov was serving for the first set at 5-4 against the world #1 when he hit no less than three double-faults in a row to give the momentum back to Novak Djokovic. Dimitrov then more or less fell apart, and lost the match 6-7 1-6. If all goes to plan, he’ll get a rematch against the Serb in round 2. Look for him to get a set this time, but no more.
Speaking of tricky second-round matches, Alexandr Dolgopolov will get a chance to square off against Tsonga. Anything can happen when Dolgo takes to the court, but Tsonga should be too solid for the mercurial Ukrainian.
Favored to move on: Djokovic
Floaters: David Goffin, Martin Klizan
Examples of top players getting brutal first-round draws at a Masters 1000: both Simon and Tipsarevic will be in tough despite being seeded, as they are playing Julien Benneteau and Juan Monaco respectively. Expect one or both of them to be sent packing by the underdogs.
Berdych has a first round bye and could be in danger as well. He will face either Jerzy Janowicz or Sam Querrey in the sound round. Janowicz especially has the type of game which can give a top player trouble. He will also have the benefit of coming into the match with some court time under his belt, were he to get past the American and book a showdown with the sixth-seeded Czech.
Favored to move on: Murray
Floaters: Jerzy Janowicz, Tomaz Bellucci
This section of the draw is absolutely stacked with Spanish clay-court talent. Nadal, Ferrer and Almagro are the usual suspects, but don’t forget about wildcard recipient Tommy Robredo, who is back at the top echelon of the pro game after a few years in no-man’s land. He could make it as far as the third round for a date with the ironman David Ferrer.
Nadal gets a really kind-looking draw here. His second round match, against either Benoit Paire or a qualifier, should be a cakewalk. Then he is slated to meet Almagro and Ferrer in succession. He has never lost against Ferrer on clay, and has never lost to Almagro, period.
Favored to move on: Nadal
Floaters: Tommy Robredo, Fabio Fognini
Federer is the defending champion, but the tournament is no longer played on the quicker blue clay, and the Swiss has not played a competitive match since losing heavily to Nadal in Indian Wells. He’ll have his work cut out for him, though the high altitude in Madrid should still give him game a bit more punch. He’ll play either Tomic or Stepanek in round two. Neither will be easy to deal with, but Tomic is definitely the more dangerous foe here.
The guy to watch out for is John Isner. As usual, everyone at a Masters 1000 CAN play great tennis, but mostly the one who’ll move on is whoever’s playing better tennis on a given day. Not so with Isner, because against him you’re never really playing tennis. As with Federer, the altitude will help the American get some more aces and unreturned serves. If he can string together some good returns, look for him to sneak into the semis.
Favored to move on: Isner
Floaters: Bernard Tomic, Feliciano Lopez
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.
April 13, 2013
by: Jack Han
Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
Prize Money: €2,646,495
The draw: Link
(1) Novak Djokovic
Miami 2013 Result: R16 (Loss to Haas, 2-6 4-6)
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: Final (Loss to Nadal, 3-6 1-6)
After losing to an on-fire Tommy Haas in Miami and tweaking his ankle in Davis Cup, Novak might be vulnerable coming to the tournament. As the 2012 finalist, he has a lot of points to defend but does benefit from a relatively kind draw. John Isner could give him trouble with his disruptive game in the third round. Del Potro could also be a quarterfinal opponent. I wouldn’t expect much out of Djokovic this week. A quarterfinal or semifinal appearance would be encouraging enough given his health and his limited preparation coming into the tournament.
(2) Andy Murray
Miami 2013 Result: Champion
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: QF (Loss to Berdych, 7-6 2-6 3-6)
The winner in the last Masters 1000 contested this season, Murray should feel good about his chances this week. While a few of key rivals were playing Davis Cup last week, Murray was slogging away on a clay practice court somewhere while his compatriots came back from a 0-2 deficit to beat the Russians. The additional few days of training gives him an edge in terms of transitioning to the clay courts of Europe. He has the always-dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Stan Wawrinka and Nicolas Almagro in his quarter before having to face Nadal in the semis.
(3) Rafael Nadal
Miami 2013 Result: Did not play
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: Champion
Nadal has a 44-1 record in Monte Carlo and has not lost here since his first ever trip to the Principality. If he can get through Verdasco in his first match and either Bellucci or Kohlschreiber in the next round, he’ll have a pretty good chance to repeat as champion. Once Nadal gets rolling on clay, it would take a peak-form Djokovic to stop him, which we probably won’t be seeing this week.
(4) Tomas Berdych
Miami 2013 Result: QF (Loss to Gasquet 3-6 3-6)
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: SF (Loss to Djokovic 6-4 2-6 3-6)
Like Murray, Berdych had a week off during the Davis Cup quarterfinals. It should have been time to cure whatever ailed him physically, and also get some practice in on the slow red stuff. He could face Davis Cup teammate Stepanek in his second match, in which case he’d be the heavy favorite. After that, it’s revenge time. In the quarters, Berdych could have a chance to avenge his Miami loss a couple of weeks ago to Richard Gasquet. If he makes the semis, he might expect to play Djokovic, the man who beat him here in 2012.
(5) Juan Martin Del Potro
Miami 2013 Result: 2R (Loss to Kamke 6-7 1-6)
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: Did not play
While Del Potro has not exactly set the world on fire since taking a set off Rafael Nadal in the Indian Wells final a month or so ago, he could make up a lot of ground this week by winning a few matches, as he has no 2012 ranking points to defend. Like Berdych and Murray, he did not participate in his country’s latest Davis Cup efforts, which will leave him fresh physically and mentally for the task ahead. His quarter of the draw has the likes of Dolgopolov, Tomic and Raonic, but these three are a lot more threatening on hard courts than on clay. Theoretically, Djokovic in the semis would be the first player able to go toe-to-toe with Del Potro from the baseline. Just to get to that match would be a good result for the Argentine, but given the Serb’s ankle problems, perhaps an upset is in the cards.
(6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Miami 2013 Result: R16 (Loss to Cilic 5-7 6-7)
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: QF (Loss to Simon 5-7 4-6)
Despite winning both of his matches in the Davis Cup tie against Argentina last week, Tsonga’s team came out on the losing side. Whether that will be an additional motivation for Tsonga to do well this week in Monte Carlo or an excuse for him to give less-than-ideal effort remains to be seen. At least Tsonga matches up well with player in his quarter. He is 2-0 against Melzer, 6-0 against Almagro and 2-2 against Davydenko (but has won the last two meetings). His record against Murray, his possible semifinal opponent, is not so good, however (1-7).
(7) Richard Gasquet
Miami 2013 Result: SF (Loss to Murray 7-6 1-6 2-6)
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: Did not play
The French’s favorite whipping boy took some heat in the press again this past week in the wake of the national team’s Davis Cup setback against Argentina. It all seems a bit unfair considering Gasquet didn’t even play in the tie, pulling out a few days before with an injury. As it stands, the number-two ranked Frenchman can gain some ranking points this week but will have a tough draw to compose with. Ivan Dogic, Marin Cilic and Jerzy Janowicz are all big hitters who can pressure Gasquet into going for too much and melting down. If Richard can get survive them, he’ll have a quarterfinal date with Tomas Berdych, most likely.
(8) Janko Tipsarevic
Miami 2013 Result: R16 (Loss to Simon 7-5 2-6 2-6)
Monte Carlo 2012 Result: R16 (Loss to Simon 0-6 6-4 1-6)
After the Australian Open, Tipsarevic went two months without winning a Tour match, only recovering from that tail slide by making the third round in Miami a few weeks ago. He could either get Malisse or Dimitrov in the second round. Both are dangerous players – Malisse will look to dictate with his forehand and let Janko do most of the running, while Dimitrov will want to play a run-and-gun type of game and try to outmaneuver the eighth seed. If Tipsarevic wins that match, he’ll have yet another Round of 16s encounter with Gilles Simon to look forward to. Third time’s a charm?
March 6, 2013
Arriving in Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open, the first Masters 1000 event of the New Year, marks a significant checkpoint for an ATP player. With the first Grand Slam and a few smaller tournaments already under the belt, it is a good time for reflection. There has already been enough tennis played to start forming conclusions on who made improvements to their games in the short off-season and whose standard of play is stagnating.
By The Numbers
(1) Novak Djokovic
2013 Record: 13-0
Significant Results: 2x W (Australian Open, Dubai)
After winning the Australian Open yet again, Djokovic has yet to lose in 2013 and is well on his way to duplicating his 2011 season, where he did not lose a match before Roland Garros (SF vs. Federer). Even more impressively, in 13 matches the Serb has only dropped a grand total of four sets (one apiece versus Berdych and Murray at the Australian Open, and two versus Wawrinka in their epic five-set fourth-round match).
(2) Roger Federer
2013 Record: 10-3
Significant Results: 2x SF (Australian Open, Dubai), 1x QF (Rotterdam)
While Federer’s five-set loss against Murray in Melbourne was largely expected due to the great form the Scot has displayed since last fall, the same could not be said for his other two setbacks this year. In Rotterdam he came out playing shoddy tennis, was generally out-rallied by Benneteau and did not convert on several break chances to push the match to the distance late in the second set. In Dubai, on the other hand, he seemed in control of the situation, two match points up on Berdych, and simply could not win that final point before seeing the Czech take command of the situation. Perhaps Roger’s 2013 results so far would be even worse were he not 6-1 in tiebreaks played. He is only winning 54% of his second serve points, his lowest conversion rate since 2002.
(3) Andy Murray
2013 Record: 10-1
Significant Results: 1x W (Brisbane) 1x F (Australian Open)
Murray’s 2013 record might be even more impressive had he not chosen to sit out Dubai. He breezed through the draw in Brisbane, losing only one set to the surprising John Millman and did the same in Melbourne before coming out on top in the semis against Federer and then putting up a reasonable fight against Djokovic in the final. One area in which he has shown much improvement is his first serve percentage. While the Scot has struggled with putting enough first serves in the box earlier in his career (career average: 56.7%), he is serving at 64.7% so far in 2013.
(4) David Ferrer
2013 Record: 21-3
Significant Results: 2x W (Auckland, Buenos Aires), 1x F (Acapulco), 2x SF (Doha, Australian Open)
While none of the Big Three above has contested more than three tournaments since the New Year, Ferrer has amazingly managed to fit a whopping six events in his schedule. More importantly, he has gone deep in every single tournament played so far, reach the semis or better in all of them. The Spaniard is as close to a “sure thing” as there is in tennis. He’s 21-1 against lower-ranked players (loss vs. Davydenko in the semis of Doha) and an emphatic 0-2 against higher-ranked players (he won no more than two games per set in his encounters against Djokovic and Nadal this year).
(5) Rafael Nadal
2013 Record: 12-1
Significant Results: 2x W (Acapulco, Sao Paolo), 1x F (Santiago)
Since his comeback in early February, Nadal has looked shaky at time, losing against #85 Horatio Zeballos in the Santiago final and being pushed to three sets by relative unknowns Martin Alund (#121) and Carlos Berlocq (#66). That being said, Rafa has been rock-solid against Top-50 opposition. Playing against familiar foes seems to energize the Spaniard and help him raise his level, as exemplified by his 6-0 6-2 demolition of David Ferrer in the final of Acapulco just last week. However, it has been almost 12 months since Nadal has played a hard court event (Miami 2012). This week, Nadal has a reasonably good draw until the quarters, where he is slated to meet Federer. On form, Rafa should be able to get to that stage, but we can only wait and see.
(6) Tomas Berdych
2013 Record: 13-3
Significant Results: 2x F (Marseille, Dubai), 1x QF (Australian Open)
As proof that everything evens out in life, Berdych lost a heartbreaker of a match in the Marseille final against Tsonga, where he held multiple match points in the second set tie break, before winning the same type of match against Federer in the Dubai semis. Still, Berdych could very well have won Dubai and at least made it one round further at the Aussie Open had he not run into Djokovic on both occasions. The Czech is serving well, posting significantly higher first serve in, first serve points won and second serves point won percentages. He has also won 40% of return points played, an unusually high amount for him. Berdych is slotted into Ferrer’s quarter this week, and will play the winner in Federer and Nadal’s quarter if he advances to the semis. Given his recent run, there are reasons to believe he can win the whole thing unless he runs into Novak Djokovic for the third time in less than three months.
(7) Juan Martin Del Potro
2013 Record: 11-3
Significant Results: 1x W (Rotterdam), 1x SF (Dubai), 1x QF (Marseille)
Even though Del Potro seems to be having a pretty good start to the season, he is actually 0-3 against players ranked in the Top 32 (losses against Djokovic, Simon and Chardy). After being upset by Chardy in Melbourne, Del Potro won Rotterdam beating no one ranked highest than #35 (Benneteau in the final). Then he travelled to Marseille, where he barely escaped 7-5 in the third against Llodra in the first round before losing meekly to Gilles Simon 4-6 3-6. This accounted for a quarterfinal showing which is, in reality, a lot less impressive than it sounds. That being said, he did do a good job of (mostly) winning matches in which he was the favorite. He is likely to run into Chardy again in his second match. Delpo also has Almagro and Haas to content with in his section, ahead of a possible QF matchup against Murray.
(8) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2013 Record: 9-3
Significant Results: 1x W (Marseille), 1x QF (Australian Open)
Tsonga showed good mental toughness en route to the Marseille title, gutting out two matches where he was a set and match points down (final vs. Berdych and QF vs. Tomic). However, he also showed himself vulnerable in the early going elsewhere, losing in the first rounds of Rotterdam and Dubai to Igor Sijsling (#68 ATP) and Michael Llodra (#53 ATP, whom Tsonga also beat in Melbourne). While Tsonga has generally been putting together solid service games, he is only 4-4 on the year in tiebreaks, which contributes to him having an unremarkable 9-3 record so far. He lost both tiebreaks played in his quarterfinal setback against Federer in Australia, and similarly dropped the first set tiebreak in his upset losses against Llodra and Sijsling. A tough challenge awaits the Frenchman this week; Tsonga could face Mardy Fish, an unknown quality due to his long health-related layoff, in his second match before playing a Milos Raonic or a Marin Cilic in the next round. If he gets through that, he may have a date with reigning World #1, Novak Djokovic.
October 6, 2012
Reunited after a month of rest and lower key tournaments, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are set to begin a serious sprint to the year-end No. 1 ranking in Shanghai.
Currently positioned in the top spot, Federer was pressured into playing this week because of his sponsor Rolex—while also receiving a death threat—but when looking at what the Swiss star has to defend in the coming weeks, a good (and hopefully safe) showing in Shanghai could be just what he needed. Going undefeated to end 2011, Federer has 3000 points coming off before the conclusion of 2012. The reigning Wimbledon winner will also be adamant on securing his 300th week as the world’s best player. Federer currently stands at 298 weeks as world No. 1.
Of the three top seeds in action this week, Djokovic, to me, has the most to prove.
He hasn’t had the rock star year that he enjoyed in 2011, and if he were to finish the year’s No. 1, then that would surely give him the confidence to start 2013 on a high note. Djokovic’s game is tailor-made for hard-courts and a first-time title is well within reach.
Two-time defending winner Murray must be feeling pretty good these days. He’s had the summer of his life in Europe and the States, and no-one will ever again question if he’s good enough to win a major. Holding a great career record at the Masters 1000 level, Murray’s quest for title No. 4 this year looks promising.
With Rafael Nadal pretty much out for the remainder of the season, the World Tour Finals door for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro just opened up even more. Not that the three aforementioned players didn’t have a great shot at qualifying already, but the pressure is certainly not a severe as in previous years.
Will we see some life from John Isner his week, or, will his relatively disappointing year continue in Asia? Not playing a Tour event since the US Open, Isner is currently ranked No. 11 on the computer and should be a factor during this time of year. The towering American appears to have felt some burn-out after beginning the season in fine form, but he can never be counted out with the serve he possesses.
Let’s now dive into the draw preview, which to me, should go true to form.
While the 17-time slam winner usually doesn’t get his Swiss motor running until the indoor event in Basel, Federer is here and should be poised to play well. He inexplicably lost in four sets to Berdych at the US Open, and even though he managed to grab two easy Davis Cup victories the week after, we all know that his quarterfinal defeat in New York is still on his mind. Federer will get a chance to amend the past quickly as he faces a qualifier or Ze Zhang in his first-round, before either Wawrinka or Istomin cross his path.
In a relatively weak quarter, Federer is slated to meet Juan Monaco in the quarters, with defending champ Murray pencilled in for a final four clash. Murray enters the tournament off of a semifinal defeat to Raonic in Japan, and if the reigning USO winner wants a shot at taking home the No. 1 ranking this year, then he has no choice but to three-peat this week. Murray could find himself in an entertaining second-round clash against Bernard Tomic, but a potential quarterfinal showdown against Isner would be his toughest out to the semis.
It’s difficult to determine how Federer will play here because in truth he wanted to skip the event, but he’s still the best player in the sport and should make it through the semis. Murray on the other hand loves to play in Asia, and there’s no reason why he won’t at least reach the semifinals.
Semifinal picks: Federer, Murray
I don’t think I’d be out of line by saying that Djokovic is still recovering from his historic run last year. He’s doing the right things in terms of training and saying the right things in his pressers, but that seventh gear that he was constantly hitting during the first eight months of 2011, seemed to fizzle away after his Aussie Open win over Nadal in January. Nevertheless, Djokovic will be a major force this week, and since he’s already been in Asia for over 10 days, he should be firing on all cylinders early.
Receiving a competitive draw, Djokovic will begin against either Dimitrov and Andujar, with either Kohlschreiber, Almagro, TIpsarevic his potential quarterfinal opponents. The top quarter in this half features Tsonga, Berdych, Raonic and Nishikori—all of which are in top form at the moment. Tsonga and Djokovic are set to face off for the Beijing title on Sunday, while Raonic and Nishikori will play for the Tokyo crown. Berdych, who reached the semifinals at the US Open, continues to be a hit-or-miss pick from week-to-week.
All in all, I like Djokovic and Berdych to come through here, but watchout for Tommy Haas and Tsonga to make themselves heard.
Semifinal picks: Djokovic, Berdych
Champion: Djokovic defeats Murray
September 15, 2012
Montreal, September 15, 2012 – The Miele Canadian Davis Cup team was unable to clinch victory in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against South Africa on Saturday when the South African doubles team of Raven Klaasen and Izak Van der Merwe upset the favoured Canadian pairing of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(5).
Klaasen and Van der Merwe came out strong and were extremely effective at the net, putting enough pressure on the Canadians to get a late break in the set and take the lead. Nestor and Pospisil were more composed in the second but were unable to capitalize on four set points allowing the South Africans to force a tiebreak which they proceeded to win. It was more of the same in the third set with the Canadians pushing hard for a comeback and saving five match points before Klassen and Van der Merwe were able to close it out on the sixth attempt and claim the straight sets victory.
“We didn’t do much well today,” said Nestor. “They (South Africa) were better than us in a lot of aspects. They returned well and played the big points better than us. We had chances to get back in the match and we didn’t take them.”
Canada still has two chances on Sunday to secure the final point needed to keep them in the World Group for 2013. As it stands now, Sunday’s lineup will see the No. 1 players from each team up first as Milos Raonic will play Van der Merwe. Then, if necessary, Pospisil will face-off against Nikala Scholtz in what could potentially be the deciding fifth rubber. The captains of both teams do have the ability to substitute their players up to an hour prior to the start of the match. Frank Dancevic (Niagara Falls, Ontario) is the fourth member of Canada’s Davis Cup squad.
“All of our guys are competitors; they want to win each and every time, so this defeat hurts,” said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. “But we need to quickly digest this loss. We are still in a better position than them going into tomorrow up 2-1. We need to stay calm, regroup and not lose sight of the fact that we are still one win away from staying in World Group with our best player playing first tomorrow.”
A win over South Africa will allow Canada to keep their place in the elite 16-team World Group for 2013 while a loss would relegate them back to the Americas Zone Group I.
Play will continue with the reverse singles matches at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday. Live coverage of the matches can be seen on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.
Live scoring and daily on-site blogs from respected tennis journalists Tom Tebbutt and Mario Brisebois can be found at www.tenniscanada.com.
Tickets are still available for Sunday’s matches. Please visit www.tenniscanada.com/daviscup or call 1-855-TENNIS-0, ext. 11 for more information or to purchase tickets.
August 31, 2012
US Open–New York
Defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round of the US Open with ease on Friday, crushing Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
Winning 90 percent of his first serve points, Djokovic outclassed his No. 112th ranked opponent by striking 29 winners to 14 unforced errors.
Attempting to win his 6th career grand slam title, Djokovic will next face either Julien Benneteau or Dennis Novikov.
Progressing under the radar as usual, No. 4 seed David Ferrer carved up another lower ranked foe to reach the third round of a major. Taking apart Igor Sijsling 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(12), Ferrer hit six aces and broke serve on four occasions, while losing his delivery once.
The Spaniard will take on Lleyton Hewitt or Gilles Muller for a place in round of 16.
Elsewhere, Richard Gasquet and NCCA winner Steve Johnson advanced in three and four sets, respectively.
Gasquet dusted Bradley Klahn, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 and Johnson eliminated Ernests Gulbis 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4.
Other winners on the day included, Juan Martin del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic, Leonardo Mayer, Lleyton Hewitt, Stanislas Wawrinka and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
American Andy Roddick staved off retirement during the night session, cruising past Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. Roddick will next face Fabio Fognini for a place in the fourth-round.
August 12, 2012
Depleted and still adjusting to the asphalt of North America, the top stars in tennis will shift their attentions Stateside this week to the Cincinnati Masters in Mason, Ohio.
Where the men in Toronto struggled to keep their eyes open after their Olympic journey, the ladies in Montreal were out in full force (minus Serena and Sharapova) to compete.
Marred by the extra time in London, this year’s US Open Series is almost done before it started. We’re already into week six and we still haven’t seen Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal in action.
It remains to be seen what kind of shape the great grand slam duo will be in for the year’s final major? While Federer opted to rest after London, Nadal hasn’t played a competitive match since Wimbledon and he won’t play another until further notice. The Spaniard recently revealed that he won’t be playing in Cincinnati either, and that clearly doesn’t bode well for chances at the Open.
While rumors of personal problems have hovered over his head this summer, Djokovic still managed to look sharp in Canada and reach the final.
While Serena will look to continue her dominance from Wimbledon and the Olympics, the tournament organizers are crossing their fingers that she doesn’t skip town for Kim Kardashian’s latest wedding?
It really does feel like this year’s Open is Serena’s to win or lose (when was the last time it didn’t feel that way?), but that doesn’t mean she’s a shoe-in for the title in Cincinnati.
Radwanska is great on hard-courts, and Stosur (let’s not forget) remains the reigning US Open winner. I still think Radwanska has the game to win a slam at some point, and her finals appearance at Wimbledon (a three set loss to Serena) hopefully gave her more confidence in the bigger stage.
In saying that, though, the favorites will remain the favorites until another dominant player rolls in and takes over their reign. Roger and Serena are those favorites at the moment, and until proven otherwise, they will continue to carry both tours as the highlighted players.
Let’s now take a glance and the men’s and women’s draws in Cincinnati.
With all the success that Federer’s shown this year, he did look his age (now 31) at both the French Open and Olympics. Defeating del Potro in a five-setter in France, Federer was easily dismissed by Djokovic in semis. Then, after dismissing del Potro once again at the Games, Federer had little to offer against Murray in the Gold Medal round.
Presumably fit and ready to go, Federer enters Cincy with the intention of getting “a few matches under his belt”. Starting off against either Neiminen or Bogomolov Jr., Federer could face Kohlschreiber in round three, with the likes of Fish or Monaco waiting in the quarterfinals. Fish had another good run in Canada last week, but I still don’t like the way he pushes his forehand during big points.
Other possible landmines for Federer to get through in this half include Ferrer, Berdcyh, Raonic, Gasquet, Simon and Nishikori. Of all the aforementioned players, you’d like to think that the sturdy game of Ferrer would make it through—only to lose to Federer once again?
If Toronto taught us anything, it was that this summer will be full of many surprises. Don’t be surprised if we see some more this week.
Best first-round matches in this section: Raonic vs. Gasquet; Harrison vs. Tomic.
Picks: Federer, Ferrer
It was inevitable that Djokovic would have a letdown after his worldly effort last year, but do we dare say that he’s kinda slumping at the moment? Yes, he won in Oz and in Miami, and yes he did pretty well in Toronto, too. But you have to think that after double-faulting to end his Novak-slam at the French, his aura and unbreakable focus have subsided to a certain degree.
At any rate, Djokovic is here and will be ready to charm the Mason crown once again. Beginning with either Haase or Seppi, Djokovic will have to get through Dolgopolov, Cilic or Tipsarevic to reach the semis.
Taking that all into account, Djokovic does have a pretty cushy quarter to work with after a rough week in Toronto.
The top quarter of this half, though, is a totally different matter. Featuring the likes of Murray, del Potro, Roddick, Isner, Haas and Nalbandian, the toughest quarter of the draw could feature the eventual winner.
Murray will have confidence coming in despite his injury scare in Toronto, and the defending champ will have plenty of mojo left from his victory at the Olympics.
I also like what I saw from del Potro in London, and believe it or not how he was striking the ball in Canada (before he went out in the second-round). The former Open champ has his confidence back, and that could spell trouble for the rest of the field here and in New York.
On a more desperate note, Donald Young is also in this half, and his mission is to try and avoid his 17th straight loss on Tour. The American faces a qualifier in his first-round, and at this stage you’d have to pick the unknown player as the favorite.
Best first-round in this half: Nalbandian vs. Haas (for the second week in a row).
Picks: Djokovic, Murray
Champion: Murray d. Federer
Carving her way through a banner season, Radwanska has solidified herself as a contender in any event she enters. Proving that power isn’t the only way to win a match, Radwanska’s defense and court-sense are second to none on Tour. With no Sharapova or Azarenka around, Radwanska will have to deal with either Arvidsson or Paszek in round-two, before Schiavone, an inform Li Na, Bartoli, Stosur, Petrova and Errani could become her main obstacles.
Stosur has proven her worth on asphalt throughout the last year, and Bartoli has been great at upsetting the big names in big tournaments.
One would like to think that Radwanska could ride her wave of momentum all the way through to the US Open, and there’s no better place for that to continue than in Cincy.
Picks: Radwanska, Stosur
Regardless of her ranking—whether it be No. 4, 14 or 114—Serena remains the best and most dominant player to grace the court within the last 10 years. Firing through Wimbledon and the Olympics in convincing fashion, Serena will now resume her hard-court prep in the humidity of Ohio.
If she continues to play with the same vigor that she displayed in London, Serena should have no trouble getting past Safarova, Cibulkova or Kerber. Of the three, I’d have to say that Kerber could put up the most resistance against Serena, and only because she doesn’t seem intimidated by any player.
Other names to look for here include a struggling Jankovic, an even more struggling Ivanovic (see double bagel loss in Montreal), and former No. 1 Wozniacki.
I continue to get the vibe that Wozniacki is going through the motions at this point in her career; she’s not getting better, and not really getting worse. She’s tried some new things with her serve, and that forehand seems to be unrepairable in many ways.
However, Wozniacki will seldom defeat herself, and that’s always a good sign in a field which includes many flaky opponents.
She certainly showed us that last week in Montreal.
Picks: Serena, Wozniacki
Champion: Serena d. Radwanska
August 6, 2012
The first major US Open Series event for the ladies of the WTA could provide us with a glimpse of how the mayhem in New York will unfold later this summer.
With no Serena Williams present at this year’s Rogers Cup, the rest of the WTA faithful can breathe a sigh of relief and hopefully build some much-needed momentum.
Last year’s finalist and US Open winner Sam Stosur will be keen on starting her hard-court campaign in style; the grass-season including the Olympics weren’t that kind to the competitive Aussie. For Stosur to hold onto her top five ranking, she’ll have to equal or come close to her result in Toronto last year. I’ve always enjoyed the professionalism that Stosur embodies on court, but to her backhand remains a noticeable liability against the world’s best.
Agi Radwanska has been able to make some headway this year, but her recent first-round loss at the Olympics proved that even though she’s No. 2 in the world, she’s still susceptible to early defeats. With that being said, Radwanska remains one of the most thoughtful players on Tour, and her uncanny ability to play her eclectic style in today’s power era is impressive.
Victoria Azarenka’s footwork friendly game will be happy to be back on the squeaky asphalt. The Belarusian won a stellar four tournaments to begin the year, and even though she’s cooled off since, her No. 1 ranking and proficiency on hard-courts will likely take her to more glory this summer.
The Montreal fans would love nothing more than to cheer on one of their own to the title. This year’s Canadian representation will include Eugenie Bouchard, Stéphanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak. Of the three, I’d watch out for Bouchard, who recently won the Wimbledon junior title.
A Tuesday start and the hangover of the Olympics Games will likely produce its share of upsets this week, but there’s simply too much on the line with the US Open less than three weeks away for any player to produce anything short of their best.
Let’s now quickly dive into the top and bottom halves of the draw.
Reaching the semis in 2011, Azarenka is the kind of player that’s never satisfied with previous results. Her draw does look challenging at first glance, but I’d like to think that she’s ready to regain her hard-court glory from earlier this year. Beginning against a very tough Julia Goerges, Vika could face another German in Sabine Lisicki in round three, before Kvitova or Bartoli could cross her path in the quarters.
Bartoli did snap Azarenka’s winning streak in Miami, but the mechanical baseliner has struggled as of late—apart from a finals showing in Carlsbad.
Coming in off of a beat-down to Serena in London, Sharapova will look to put her grass season behind her and focus on building steam for a second major in New York.
Sharapova has a relatively easy quarter featuring Jankovic, Cibulkova and Woznicaki, and if she’s playing anywhere near her best, she should pull through comfortably. Sharapova has always been great at refocusing on the task at hand, and I’d expect nothing less from the Russian in Montreal.
With that being said, I’ll have to stay with the top two seeds in this half to survive, simply because they’re great at rebounding from difficult situations.
Picks: Azarenka, Sharapova
Another final four member in the Toronto edition, Radwanska proved in Miami that the deco turf suits her game just fine. Looking to put the disappointment of the Games behind her, Radwanska will start off against Mona Barthel or a qualifier, before the likes of Pennetta, Errani or Li Na could become a factor.
With Errani and Pennetta favoring clay over anything else, Li Na becomes Radwanska’s true test in reaching the semis.
Moving onto the top part of this half, how can you bet against Angelique Kerber in doing some damage? The feisty German has compiled a 48-14 record this year, and her two titles alongside a semifinal showing at Wimbledon proved that her stock continues to rise.
Other players to look for in this quarter include Ivanovic, Safarova and Stosur, but I’ll stay with the left-hander from Berlin to reach the final four.
Picks: Radwanska, Kerber
Champion: Kerber d Azarenka
July 26, 2012
If we learned anything from the events that occurred in Beijing or Athens, it was that upsets can come at an abundance during the Olympics. The best three out of five set format (except for this year’s final) allows the 64 competitors an equal opportunity for medal glory. Although the last gold medal winner in singles went to a premier player in Rafael Nadal, the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have yet to taste any success in the singles format.
With defending Gold medal winner Nadal out of this year’s event with a knee injury, the spotlight will surely turn to the top three seeds. Entering Wimbledon with his seventh title earlier this month, Federer could fulfill a life-long dream in capping off his legendary career with the top prize. Federer has the luxury of competing at the Olympics this year on his favorite stomping ground and anything short of a victory would surely be viewed as a disappointment. Djokovic, who will enter SW19 as the second seed, has endured a significant dip in form compared to last year, but his focus and ability remain second to none. If we’re talking about a player with the ultimate motivation to succeed and win titles, I’d have to say that Djokovic remains tops in that category.
What can we expect from Murray after a crushing and heart-felt loss to Federer in early July? The Scot gave everything he had to claiming his first slam title, but once again was outplayed by a bigger hitting foe. For me, Murray has a real shot at taking home a medal this year, but only if he plays with the same urgency that the roof and rain presented to him over the recent fortnight. Murray would be able to remedy his latest defeat with some hardware around his neck, but there’s no doubt that he’ll have to smack his groundstrokes and play with intent to be successful.
How about the chances of Tsonga, David Ferrer and Milos Raonic? The trio includes some of the best serving and returning in the world, but also the ability to falter when the pressure increases. Tsonga reached another semifinal in London before his serve and intensity went south in a hurry; Ferrer has had a great year but still misses that killer win in a big event to make him a bona-fide contender; and finally, Raonic, who holds the biggest serve in the game, has taken a few steps back on the grass after recording a respectable clay-court season.
With a variety of different factors to consider this year like the roof, temperature and balls, the Gold medal winner could very well be a name that we’re not used to Tweeting about during the final Sunday. Nicolas Massu, anyone?
Let’s now take a look at the top and bottom halves of the men’s singles draw.
No Nadal means that Federer will be without with his arch rival in a big event for the first time since the 2009 Wimbledon Championships. Having the top ranking beside his name and representing Switzerland at his favorite event should provide Federer with every inch of motivation he needs to top off his career. Landing in a half which includes Ferrer, Isner, del Potro and Tipsarevic, Federer will begin his campaign against Alejandro Falla. The Colombian led Federer by two sets to love during the first-round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships before faltering.
To be quite honest here, this is Federer’s half to win or lose. We’ve seen him fall to Berdych, Blake and Arnaud Di Pasquale in previous Olympics, but if he were to go down early here—on his favorite surface, his favorite court—that would truly be something.
With that being said, watchout for Isner to potentially cause some chaos, but for the most part I’d be shocked if Federer isn’t present during the medal round come August 5th.
Semifinalists: Federer, Ferrer
Barely winning the Australian Open and having his Novak-Slam stopped by Nadal in Paris, one would think that a nice vacay after Wimbledon would’ve suited Djokovic just fine prior to the Games? Still just 25, it needs to be said that Djokovic won’t get another crack at a Gold medal until he’s 29 and in Brazil. That’s half of a career for a lot of players and considering the grind that Djokovic puts his body through (a la Nadal), this could very well be his last great shot at a place on the podium.
Starting things off against the always entertaining Fabio Fognini, Djokovic’s draw will become more challenging with a potential second-round clash with in-form Andy Roddick. The American has won two of his last three tournaments, and leads the Serbian 5-3 in their overall head-to-head. With no matches taking place on anything other than hard-courts, this encounter is really a toss up.
If Djokovic is to get through Roddick, his draw could include the likes of Cilic or Hewitt in the third-round, Tsonga, Raonic or Monaco in the quarters, and finally, Murray, Berdych, Almagro or Gasquet in the semis.
Loaded with an array of great grass-court players here, Murray’s first-round tussle against Switzerland’s flag bearer Stan Wawrinka could be interesting. Wawrinka knows how to play Murray on any surface, and pushed him to five sets during the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.
I wouldn’t be going out on a limb if I said Djokovic and Murray could lose early, so on that note I’ll pick Berdych and Tsonga to make the semis.
Stranger things have happened at the Olympics and I wouldn’t expect anything less in London.
Picks: Berdych, Tsonga
Gold Medal round: Federer d. Berdych
Bronze Medal round: Tsonga d. Ferrer
June 22, 2012
Locked in a race to finish No. 1 in the world by the end of the tournament, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all have a little extra incentive to play for during the upcoming fortnight at Wimbledon.
Defending champion and current No. 1 Djokovic will look to return to his winning ways after failing to capture his fourth major in a row at the French Open. The Serb hasn’t look as sharp in 2012 as he did in 2011 (it’s really tough to say that he’s having a bad year) but he’s still playing with the kind of aura that warrants a top seed anywhere. Djokovic’s serve hasn’t been as sharp as of late, though, and if he intends on taking home slam No. 6 in London, then the most important shot in any tennis players repertoire needs to improve.
A man attempting to reach his sixth Wimbledon final in the last seven years and who is coming in off of a high is Nadal. Cruising through the clay season with the exception of Madrid, Nadal will continue to keep his aggressive mindset intact when he begins his campaign at SW19. The Mallorcan’s body has recovered to full health with the softer courts under his feet and you have to like his chances here of gaining a third title. Bagging his 11th slam in Paris earlier this month, Nadal could make a serious charge towards Federer’s mark of 16 if he is victorious in London.
Speaking of the six-time former winner, Federer will enter his most successful major with a lot to prove. To me, Federer’s record since the US Open has been impressive, but without a slam title to show for his efforts since the 2010 Australian Open, his label as a “favorite” to win one of these is rapidly decreasing. It’s not that Federer’s shots have become worse, or that his fitness has depleted since his reign at the top; it’s more about the youth, strength and the extra desire that Djokovic and Nadal have shown against him at the slam level.
Turning to some local flavor and the ongoing quest to claim at home-country champion. We all know by now that no British man has won this title since Fred Perry in 1936, and we can’t kid ourselves either when saying that there’s no better hope for title winner than Andy Murray. Reaching the semifinals the last three years, Murray currently holds a 24-6 record at Wimbledon, but his play this season would suggest that a final four showing won’t be easy to repeat. Losing his first match at Queen’s Club as the two-time defending champ, Murray has been fighting a back injury since the middle of the clay season and isn’t very confident. The pressure that the Scotsman faces at home is truly astounding, and with the added pressure of the Olympics coming up at the very same venue, Murray’s mind may not be where it needs to be for this tournament.
Other viable contenders to push for the title will be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic. Tsonga, a semifinalist here last year, has always been a killer on grass due in large part to his lethal serve and bulldozer forehand. The Frenchman’s tactics can be a little sketchy from time-to-time because he doesn’t have a coach, but he’s still a tough out either way. Just ask Federer.
Berdcyh, a finalist in 2010, seems to have finally realized his true talents. Fighting for his wins more often these days, Berdych’s easy ball-striking and effortless power translate well on the lawns. You have to think that at some point (I’m not quite sure when) that Berdych will have another chance to claim his maiden major—could that be this year?
Finally, I’ve continued to be impressed with Raonic’s progress this season and there’s no telling where a good draw could take the young Canadian. He currently leads the ATP with the most aces in 2012 and although his return game is by no means a beast, he can produce a backhand down-the-line or inside-out forehand winner when he needs it. However, above all, Raonic’s poise in the crucial moments of a match or when he’s facing triple break point at 4-5 down in a set, remain his greatest strength and the key to a potential grass major.
With that being said, 128 players are ready to bid for the ultimate title at Wimbledon. A player can win any title in the world, but being called Wimbledon champ certainly has a different ring to it.
Let’s now take a look at the four quarters of the draw; the favorites, and finally some dark-horses.
Penciled in as the top dog here, Djokovic will be adamant on setting the tone early with some convincing play. Struggling with two complicated five setters along the road to the finals in Paris, Djokovic will now be on a surface that suits his flexible game. Beginning his journey against former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Djokovic would get either Harrison or Yen-Hsun Lu in the second-round, with Blake or Stepanek lurking in the third-round.
We also have competent grass-courter Philipp Petzschner here, but Djokovic’s main rival in this quarter should be none other than former finalist Berdych. On the cusp of turning 27, Berdych has put together a great season and should live up to his seeding in this section.
Dark-horse in this quarter: Oliver Rochus
For all that Federer has accomplished at Wimbledon, many forget that he hasn’t made it out of the quarterfinals in the past two years. Nearing his 31st birthday in early August, Federer would love nothing more than to win either Wimbledon or the Olympic gold during the summer. I’d be surprised frankly if he’s able to defeat both Djokovic and Nadal in a row, but looking at the draw ahead he may not have to.
Granted a workable draw that begins with Albert Ramos, Federer shouldn’t see much of a challenge until either Janko Tipsarevic, John Isner or David Nalbandian cross his path in the quarters. Isner has been a bit of disappointment as of late, while Tipsarevic is doing what he can on a surface that’s not really suited to his game. Nalbandian, who has always played Federer tough, will be looking for something to prove after his default loss in the Queen’s Club final. To me, irrespective of his childish behaviour, Nalbandian is still striking a world class ball and that should aid him well given the draw that he has.
Most surprising second-round match up?: Isner vs Mahut for the third straight year in the early rounds. Amazing.
Perhaps entering the event in relatively poor form will aid Murray this time around. He won’t have the usual array of questions pertaining to winning Queen’s or any Masters event in 2012 as he has in the past, and that could in a way allow him to swing more freely on Center Court. Drawn to face Davydenko in his opener, Murray could face Karlovic in his second-round, Baghdatis in the third-round and either Raonic or Cilic in the round of sixteen. Does it get any easier for the Scot as he goes forward? No. Juan Martin del Potro is also in this section, alongside Andy Roddick and David Ferrer.
Even though Murray doesn’t need to defeat all these players to advance, that’s sure a lot of A-listers for him to get through. With that being said, Murray will fight to the end like he always does, but something tells me that it’s Raonic’s time to shine at this tournament. The Canadian’s dreams were cut short last year because of a second-round slip against Gilles Muller, and if his health stands beside him this year, the semifinals are within reach.
Player to watch for here: Grigor Dimitrov.
Jubilant over his win in Paris, Nadal will now change his focus to the earthly surface in England. Suffering an R&R loss to Kohlschreiber in Halle, Nadal arrived early in London and appears ready for another memorable run. Like any other year, Nadal’s serve seems to improve when he hits the grass, while keeping his returns deeper than he does on any other surface. With the likes of Bellucci and Dodig to contend with early, Nadal should fly through the draw before a possible quarterfinal clash with Tsonga occurs.
I believe the Frenchman’s final eight finish at Roland Garros (where he held four match points over Djokovic) was really a wake up call toward his true potential, and with the slick grass under his feet, a semifinal or finals appearances does seem likely. Nadal of course has played brilliantly here over the past six years, but with the emotional release that his seventh French Open provided, look for a letdown by the Spaniard to occur.
Best first-round match up in this section? It’s a tie between Tsonga vs. Hewitt and Kohlschreiber vs. Haas.
Grigor Dimitrov: Poised for a break through on a surface that suits his game.
David Nalbandian: Former finalist plays well with the crowd against him. That won’t be hard here.
Jurgen Melzer: Once in the top 10, Melzer can still play with anybody.
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Berdcyh; Federer vs. Nalbandian; Ferrer vs. Raonic; Nadal vs. Tsonga.
Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Federer; Raonic vs. Tsonga.
Champion: Federer d Tsonga.