June 23, 2013
1) Will History Be Made?
With Nadal both seeded fifth and playing in the same quarter as Federer, we are set to (perhaps) witness an unheard-of occurrence: a member of the Big Four beating ALL THREE other members of that exclusive club en route to a Slam win. Rafa can do it en route to his third Wimbledon title, or Federer can pull off the improbable feat and assure himself of being the King of the Hill at SW19 for yet another year.
How likely is this to actually occur? As it turns out, not very. Due to the structure of the draw, none of the Big Four has ever had the possibility of vanquishing all three of his chief rivals in the same tournament until now. Winning against two of the three back-to-back has proven to be a colossal challenge as well:
Let’s take a quick look at what has transpired when each of the Big Four has faced two of the other three in back-to-back (semi and finals) matches since the 2010 Australian Open:
Novak Djokovic (1)
2012 RG (win RF, loss RN)
2012 AO (win AM, win RN)
2011 USO (win RF, win RN)
2011 AO (win RF, win AM)
2010 USO (win RF, loss RN)
Andy Murray (2)
2013 AO (win RF, loss ND)
Roger Federer (3)
2012 W (win AM, win ND)
2011 RG (win ND, loss RN)
Rafael Nadal (5)
2012 AO (win AM, loss ND)
2011 USO (win AM, loss ND)
2011 W (win AM, loss ND)
2011 RG (win AM, win RF)
A few takeaways:
- Federer is the only one to have made beaten two Big Four players back-to-back at Wimbledon, which he did last year.
- Djokovic has the best record (3-2) when confronted with the challenge, but this year he will only need to get through (maybe) Ferrer, and then one of the other three guys in the finals.
- Murray has never beaten two Big Fours back-to-back in a Slam.
- Nadal in 1-3 when put in similar circumstances, and failed to win at Wimbledon in 2011 against Djokovic after defeating Murray in the semis.
- While Djokovic will be unfairly criticized for having a soft draw, in the grand scheme of things he has definitely earned his seeding due to his performance against the very best players on the planet since 2010.
2) Notables and Floaters
Section 1 (Djokovic)
Florian Mayer (Djokovic’s first round opponent, ranked 33 in the world, QF appearance at Wimbledon in 2012)
Tommy Haas (Has a victory over Djokovic this year)
Richard Gasquet (Past semi-finalist)
Bernard Tomic (QF loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2011)
Tomas Berdych (2010 finalist)
Section 2 (Ferrer)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (2012 quarter-finalist)
Kei Nishikori (career-high 11th ranking)
Juan-Martin del Potro
Section 3 (Nadal/Federer)
John Isner (never been past round 2 at Wimbledon)
Lleyton Hewitt (former champ faces 11th-seeded Wawrinka in round 1)
Jerzy Janowicz (3rd round appearance in his only Wimbledon presence in 2012, now seeded 24th)
Lukas Rosol (will not play Nadal again unless he makes the quarter-finals)
Section 4 (Murray)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (semi-finalist in the last 2 years; has a fairly nice draw this time around to get that far again)
Ernests Gulbis (upset Berdych in the first round last year, could be a second-round matchup for Tsonga)
Julien Benneteau (came within a few points of taking out Federer here in 2012, is a low seed once again)
Kenny De Schepper (6’8’’ lefty could be this year’s Lukas Rosol)
Mikhail Youzhny (just made the finals at Halle and was a quarterfinalist here last year)
Benjamin Becker (big-serving German has had a nice run on grass courts this summer, plays Murray in the first round after losing to the Brit at Queen’s)
3) Milos Alert
Raonic has not won a Tour match in nearly 1 month and has been the victim of three straight upsets (R32 loss at the French Open vs. Kevin Anderson, then first round losses at Halle and Eastbourne to Gael Monfils and Ivan Dodig respectively). Some of it could be attributed to his recent change in coaching situation (he’s now working with former world number three Ivan Ljubicic), but for a player who’s historically done a great job of winning matches he was favored to win, the recent losing streak must be a tough pill to swallow.
With his massive serve (perhaps the hardest and most varied on Tour) and nose for the net, it’s just a matter of time until Raonic puts together a really terrific run on the lawns of Wimbledon. However, he is a fairly unspectacular 8-8 on grass at the ATP level. In fact, he has never beaten anyone higher than 45th-ranked Santiago Giraldo (a clay-court specialist) at Wimbledon or at any other grass-court event.
All that being said, since his four-set second round loss to Querrey last year, Raonic has carried Team Canada through a couple of epic Davis Cup ties and has climbed into the Top 15. His game is good enough, and he really can’t do any worse this year, so perhaps a run to the second week is in stores.
First Round: Carlos Berlocq
Second Round: Igor Sjisling
Third Round: Philipp Kohlschreiber
Fourth Round: David Ferrer
Quarterfinals: Juan Martin del Potro
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic
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.
May 1, 2011
The good people at 2K Sports have released the 4th iteration in their blockbuster tennis franchise Top Spin. The Top Spin series is best known for bringing ultra realistic game play to the console market since 2003 and ever since has gone through many variations by changing up the controls, player lineups and of course bumping up the graphics.
The first thing you notice when you pop in the TS4 disc is how much the game and the gameplay itself feels like a tennis match you would watch on TV. From the player entrances, to the between points cut scenes, there is no doubt that 2K really wanted to make the gamer feel like they are taking part in a real match.
One of the elements that makes this game what it is is the player lineup. There are a wide array of players, both past and present (25 players in total), including the most anticipated (according to me anyways), Andre Agassi. There is even a retro version of Andre that all pre-ordered gamers received and he looks pretty good but unfortunately due to his new sponsorship with Adidas, he isn’t wearing some of the old neon outfits that we grew up with and that still sit in my closet. There are a few exemptions that I would like to see including Johnny Mac, but I believe he has been signed exclusively to the EA Grand Slam Tennis franchise. The ATP side is definitely more covered than the WTA side, but I am not sure if this was due to dollars or due to the ATP’s greater popularity at the moment.
The venue list has also been beefed up and looks very realistic. One thing you notice right off the bat is that the crowd does not look cut and pasted and all over the place. The sound they produce during different times in the point really adds to the ambiance of the game.
Another amazing addition is that the players really move differently according to venue/surface. Obviously this is most evident on clay where the player’s not only slide like in real life, but also the recovery time and hitting behind the players have the same effect as on the dirt.
There are a lot of venues, some are real and unfortunately some are not. While they do have three out of four of the slams, everyone will notice that they have left out Wimbledon. This is of course due to money and the fact that once again it seems like EA has exclusivity on that venue. They do have the “Dublin” Open which does take place on grass, but it is a downer in a game that is so realistic in so many other ways.
Career mode is quite good and very similar to what you have seen in the past if you have played any of the previous Top Spin games. The game starts off with you as a newcomer trying to make it on the tour. You start playing low level events (1 star) trying to build wins to enter larger events. Each win gets you “XP” points which you can use to train your player. One thing that is different with TS4 is that you can hire different coaches which bump up your level according to their teaching ability. You unlock this potential by accomplishing four specific tasks for each coach (ie. Hit 50 winners, 25 volleys, etc.).
Although Top Spin 4 does a better job that the previous games in terms of challenges, the first couple of matches seem too easy and essentially pointless. I would love to see a bit more scaling in terms of challenge. Once you do start stringing some wins together and make it to the higher matches the competition does get better, especially when in a semi or final. Nadal is difficult to beat on any surface but at Roland Garros, good luck on your first try. Many gamers might hate this but I loved it. It really is a challenge and makes you have to pick and choose your shots wisely as opposed to just button mashing or coming to the net like every other tennis game ever.
By far my favorite part of the Career mode is the “Dream Matches.” This is where you challenge a legend to a match. This was so much fun and depending on the pro, also very challenging. Courier’s forehand was massive, Sampras’ serve I didn’t even see sometimes and of course Andre’s return put me on the defensive many times.
One thing that makes TS4 a lot better than the previous tennis games is that in order to progress the game keeps altering the challenges. For ex: You need become No. 1 to have so many fans; beat so and so at such a venue to unlock an outfit, etc. I have played for at least 48 hours (not straight but close) and I can honestly say I am maybe 50 percent through. This is a very welcome change since before I would usually just trade in my game the following week.
Online game play has been very good as well. The game matching has been pretty spot on and there are many different variations depending on your level or the amount of time you have. Another huge plus is that the rankings reset every week. That means every Monday you can start over and try to achieve the No. 1 ranking over the guy/girl that seems to play 25hrs in a 24hr day. The only negative I have had is trying to play a friend online but it didn’t seem to go through, but I am not sure if that was an Xbox problem or with Top Spin’s server.
By far the best element of Top Spin 4 is the controls. Throughout the history of the game, the developers have played with different button combos but I have to say that I think they have finally hit the nail right on the head with this one. The simple reason being is that the controls are more like real tennis. The success of the strokes depends on timing. You hold the button for your backswing, then release when your player is to start the follow through. As easy as this sounds, it does take some time to get used it. This allows balls to go short, wide, long, in, out, etc and really adds to the realism. When you do win a point, match, etc. you have a greater sense of accomplishment than in previous versions. Also, it prevents net rushers to always have the advantage because now their reflexes need to be super sharp instead of just button mashing.
Overall Top Spin 4 is definitely worth the price ($59.99CAD) and is taking the world of online tennis sim to the next level. Is it perfect, no, but then again you can’t expect Madden-like development for a game who’s niche market is a lot smaller. Overall Top Spin 4 gets 8.5/10.
- Controls are very good and very symbolic of tennis
- Wide variety of venues and challenges
- Array of both new and legend players
- Player movements and gameplay very realistic
- Graphics, especially player faces can look a lot better and really should look a lot better
- Omission of Wimbledon
- Lack of sleeveless Nike tennis shirts
- Lack of Kinect support
- No ability to have tantrums between points (this used to exist in previous versions)
*Special thanks to 2K Sports for providing us with a copy of the game.
March 14, 2011
R. FEDERER/I. Andreev
Q. That was the first time you beat him without losing a set. Did it seem like it went a bit smoother for you?
ROGER FEDERER: Oh, I don’t know about that, but I thought it was another tough match against him. Even though I felt always kind of in control in the first set, even though I was down 54, I felt I was in the match quickly against him, which maybe in the past wasn’t always the case because he’s got a lot of spin, and, you know, he’s got a lot of pace.
So I was able to handle that better today, I thought. Had a good ten minutes where I was able to get up 75, 20, I think. And after the match [sic] he found his way into the match, and it really became competitive. I really thought it was a good end to the match on both sides.
I played a really good tiebreak, which obviously makes things better towards the end.
Q. Annacone, is here and other tournaments Severin Luthi accompanies you. Sometimes Paul is referred to as your coach, but I have more of a sense you typically refer to him as joining your team rather than being “the coach.” Could you clarify that?
ROGER FEDERER: They’re both my coaches, so, yeah, that’s about it. Not much more to add, I think. The more I start saying, the more it gets confusing. They’re both my coaches, yes.
Q. In our research center, we find that you get 2.2 seconds between the hits, and a lot of players are getting leg injuries and ankles, knees, groin, and so on. Have you practiced changing directions softly, or what allows you to get away with not having some of the injuries some of the other players are having?
ROGER FEDERER: Um, well, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I got maybe luckier early on in my career without having any injuries where I couldn’t do anything about it, you know. Then once I was smart enough to understand what good schedules is and the right rehab and prevention work, I guess, all these little things start to fall into place.
And then obviously my game is smooth, which helps me maybe to avoid all those tough shocks you get on the body. And then I became a really good mover, and not even necessarily by trying. It just was quite natural. But it was important to stay explosive and be able to push side to side explosively, and then if it looks even the better, that’s great. But I honestly don’t care how it looks, as long as it’s effective, to be honest.
Q. Can you look ahead to the Chela match?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes, we haven’t played that much lately. I remember I think playing him last year in Toronto. Is that correct? I think the first round. Which was a straight setter, but I think one of the sets was tough.
Yeah, I think he’s really one of the good returning players we have in the game. He makes a lot of returns, he’s good off the second serve, he gives himself a lot of room. He’s a tall player, even though he doesn’t have the biggest serve. So it’s kind of misleading at times when you play him.
He makes you work hard out there, and he’s the kind of guy I need to come out in the next match and put him away, play aggressive myself, and not let him dictate too much, which he can do.
So it’s going to be a good match to play against. I think he also had to fight through a tough one today, so it will be interesting to see how he pulls up in the next match.
Q. No opponent is easy, but you have played so many tournaments, so many early rounds, do you ever have to play mind games with yourself, trying to get yourself motivated?
ROGER FEDERER: No, not really, because I guess, you know, you arrive early usually to a tournament, and then you wait and wait and wait. You go through a lot of practice sessions, a lot of pre tournament media, and, you know, sometimes sponsor appearances, as well.
At the end, you can’t stop waiting for the match to actually happen. So that alone is motivating to know that you have a match coming up, and this is where it really matters on breakpoints and playing aggressive, you know, pulling the trigger in front of a full crowd instead of doing that in practice.
It’s like, well, you don’t know if you’re going to do the same decision out in a pressure situation when the match is really happening, so that’s why I always enjoy the real deal more than, you know, practice, even though it’s important to practice and do the right things.
So motivation is always there if you like it or not. It’s just how I am.
Q. Just following on the mind aspect, when you go out for a match, what’s playing in your mind? What are you doing to yourself? Are you psyching yourself up? Is there an element of anger in there, or is it just focus? What is it?
ROGER FEDERER: I’m pretty much focused, but relaxed. You know, today I felt very confident going into the match for some reason. When I was on the golf cart driving to the tennis, to the center court, I was like, Yeah, I feel really good today. I hope it’s not misleading.
So I was really trying to be positive in the way I wanted to play, how I wanted to start the match, and I felt like I a good mindset. But then to me it doesn’t matter if I’m nervous, not nervous, confident, not confident. At the end of the day, for me really it shows how you start the match and how you finish the match, and all that before feelings I get don’t matter too much.
You know, I prefer to be relaxed and then play a good match than being all nervous. And, you know, then after you still played a good match, but then you had to go through all of that is sometimes just stressful and can also take its toll out of you.
At the moment I feel good. Look, I have had a good last six months, and I guess it’s given me a lot of confidence. I have always played a lot of matches. I’m not in a situation where I’m lacking matches like maybe last year at this time around, and I think that’s why I’m playing well, too.
Q. How long have you been friends with Gavin and Gwen?
ROGER FEDERER: Six years maybe now?
Q. Very quick turnaround between Miami and Monte Carlo, particularly if you go deep in Miami, so what was behind your quite late decision to enter Monte Carlo?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I guess Monaco is always for me now that it’s not a mandatory 1000 for us, it’s always going to be one of those things I wait and see how things go.
I guess the last two, three years I always had to make sure how was I pulling up physically with my back. Lately I have been feeling really well, so that’s why also I was able to commit to playing Davis Cup down the stretch and committed to playing Monaco.
And I guess at the end of the day you can always enter anywhere you want to with a wildcard, which I did in Monaco two years ago, I think it was. And I just felt it was the right thing to do and actually get some clay court, you know, matches early on hopefully matches, not just one, but we’ll see how it goes.
I’m excited playing that tournament. It’s really one of my favorites, but it’s just early in the season and it’s a tough turnaround from Indian Wells and Miami and having played on hard courts for six or seven months.
So that’s where Monaco is tough, but I think I have been really successful there. Been three or four times in the finals, and always enjoy my time over there.
Q. With the string and racquet technology advancing so much, do you think it’s getting harder and harder for guys to get to the very top with a onehanded backhand?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know. It seems like to have a double-handed backhand has maybe a slight advantage. But if you look at the onehanders out there, there are some really good ones out there.
It gives you opportunities on different surfaces maybe to mix it up better. And, you know, maybe the reach is not the best with the doublehanded, but then if you look at how Djokovic and Nadal and Murray stretch to their backhand, it’s quite incredible.
So I don’t know. I think slower conditions might favor a double-handed backhand, but then I’m not sure if that’s the right thing I’m saying.
Honestly, (Smiling) time will tell, I guess. We’ll see.
Q. If you could take anybody’s shots, whose shots would you take? You’re famous for your phenomenal forehand. What shot would you take from the other players?
ROGER FEDERER: Um, well, I guess always a good serve is a good start, you know. Then you pick the obvious suspect, you know. The ones who are hitting aces and unreturnable serves and can clutch serve all day.
One of those guys, you know, one of the big guys, like John or Karlovic or Roddick and so forth. You know, guys who have proved themselves over a long period of time, of course. And also have variety.
And then, you know, backhands and forehands all come from the top players, really. If you look at the top 10, you know, I guess there’s always someone who does a few things better than others.
Um, but then at the end of the day, you know, you’re happy with what you’ve got, and that’s what you’ve got to work with.
Then again, I don’t know how much, how effective it would be, I don’t know, Murray’s backhand with my game, you know. My game needs my onehanded backhand, I feel, and I don’t know how his game would work out with my forehand.
So we all get used to with what you have, and, you know, you know, your strengths and weaknesses. That’s how you go along.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
August 31, 2010
Nima and Dan sit down and discuss the final Grand Slam of the 2010 season. Who looks good, who’s already out, and what you can expect for the next two weeks.
As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.
August 8, 2010
The tennis world is back in Canada this week after the ATP’s short “break” following Wimbledon.
All the top players have arrived in Canada, with Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, and Federer leading the way.
Nima and Dan once again sit down to preview this week’s action packed draw.
As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.
July 5, 2010