Tennis Elbow: Tennis has a sexism problem

March 28, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses sexism in tennis.

Tennis has a sexism problem.

It’s not exactly news because we’ve all known about it, but it’s dominated headlines over the past week when four of the sport’s key figures—or rather, three of them, plus an ex-tournament CEO—ventured into some thoughts about women in tennis.

Raymond Moore, still then the CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden where the BNP Paribas Open was hosted, first went down that well with some remarks that ended up costing him his cushy seat at the big table. Here, we’ll remind you.

What do you think; pretty wild, right? We’ll underline the point where Mr. Moore says women players should get on their knees and thank God, and where he calls the next generation of WTA players “physically attractive and competitively attractive.”

We knew you were an old white man, Raymond, but you didn’t need to spell it out so clearly for us!

That was at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open, a tournament which Novak Djokovic won. After the final, reporters asked the Serb to comment on Mr. Moore’s remarks and, well, just see for yourself.

“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more. Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve.”

There’s an opinion there—that men and women maybe shouldn’t get equal prize and should fight for what they deserve separately; it’s not a particularly good one, but still a relatively coherent one from Djokovic. Then, the Serb veers into weird territory.

“I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving. Their bodies are much different to men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details.”

“I have great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level. Many of them have to sacrifice for certain periods of time, the family time or decisions that they make on their own bodies in order to play tennis and play professional sport.”

We’ll marvel at Djokovic’s brilliance and say that, yes by God men tennis players do incredible things on a tennis court. Just look at this brilliance.

That’s the good stuff and why you deserve the big bucks, Novak, right?

In all seriousness, Djokovic’s remarks weren’t especially surprising because the trope of men believing they are better, or deserve better, than their female counterparts isn’t new.

Here’s Janko Tipsarevic, Djokovic’s old buddy, saying that “99 per cent of male tennis players can’t stand women’s tennis”—which, okay whatevs bro. Here’s dumb-dumb Justin Gimelstob calling female players “sexpots.” Here’s Gilles Simon, maybe the world’s most boring man, saying men’s tennis “is more interesting than women’s tennis.”

Have you seen enough? No, no there are more; read on. Here’s Sergiy Stakhovsky saying that, “almost every other player is a lesbian” and showing his homophobic side all at once. Here’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saying women “are more unstable emotionally than us.” Here’s Marinko Matosevic saying he could never hire a woman for head coach.

Let’s stop there. Here are they are, all of them current or ex-pro and, as such, all of them relatively important figures in the sport—most importantly, all of them with relatively damaging and backwards opinions.

Also? Also, this: all of them basically dumber than a sack of potatoes. (For more from this author, read this.)

Here’s where we mention that at this same Indian Wells event, Serena Williams was asked about Mr. Moore’s remarks and that she basically ether’d him.

But that was to be expected, right? Since Moore essentially called her out, Williams responded in kind, not to mention that she’s worked so hard on this issue of equal rights throughout her career (random exhibit here).

Also expected, though maybe not at first glance, was Andy Murray’s foray into the limelight on this issue. “Men’s tennis has been lucky over the last nine or 10 years with the players they’ve had, the rivalries which have come out of that. That’s great but the whole of tennis should capitalize on that – not just the men’s game,” he said. “I think there should be equal pay, 100 per cent, at all combined events…I think it will happen one day.”

Essentially, that’s what we believe in, too: equality between men and women in every regard for equal accomplishments. By winning the 2015 Miami Open, both Djokovic and Serena Williams pocketed $900,400; that’s good. By winning the 2016 BNP Paribas Open, the Serb added a nice $1,028,300 and Victoria Azarenka, $1,028,300; that too is good.

Both of those are good, yes, but they hide deeper problems. They hide the fact that overall and outside of joint events like the BNP Paribas Open, the Miami Open and the four Grand Slams; outside of these, players “on the WTA Tour earn 76 cents on the ATP’s dollar.”

And there’s no real reason for that. Two men and women who win the same tournament deserve the same prize—because it’s the same tournament.

Here’s where you’ll counter that well, nope the ATP and WTA do not have joint events every single week. Of course not, it wouldn’t be feasible. But maybe that’s something that the International Tennis Federation should look into: tournaments are already categorized in both men’s and women’s tennis according to their prestige and their strength. The ATP has Masters 1000’s while the WTA Premier Mandatory events, and so on.

If you feel like they need to play the same number of sets, or whatever, then sure change that. But give both men and women the same prize money for accomplishing the same things.

Then let players distinguish themselves through spokesperson gigs, sponsors, and the likes.

Otherwise, yep: equality in every regard.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: 2016 Miami Open men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis

March 22, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon examines the latest with BNP Paribas Open CEO Raymond Moore and the Miami Open men’s and women’s draws.

Apparently, the tournaments follow one another in pretty similar fashion, right?

The last time we were set on writing an event preview, the news that Maria Sharapova had failed a drug test broke just at the Australian Open.

This, in fact, made for a richer and better preview—and I’m glad it’s happened again this week, just before the 2016 Miami Open, presented by Itau. In this case, it’s Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore who, maybe out of spite, jealousy, stupidity, or whatever else, decided to say something incredibly 1) sexist, 2) offensive and 3) idiotic.

But wait, there’s more.

See? Pretty moronic, right? Don’t give me that «everyone is entitled to their own opinion» stuff; the consequence of that is that I’m entitled to my opinion of thinking your opinion is fairly moronic. And if you don’t believe me, please understand that Moore has since resigned from his position.

In all likelihood, this will become a thing where any- and everyone will start debating the merits of gender equality in tennis, asking past, present and future champions what  they believe on the topic and taking mostly everyone unprepared as they stumble through a somewhat coherent opinion.

Come back next week to see us discuss this in earnest and more detail, as well as Novak Djokovic’s problematic thinking on the matter. For now, we’ll give you Serena Williams’s answer and move on to the draws of this 2016 Miami Open.

*******

Women’s draw

Pros

-Uncertainty at the top? Could it be that for the first time in a long while, Serena Williams isn’t quite as all-powerful as in years past? It would make sense given her age, sure, but we’re probably grabbing at straws here: while Williams has lost the two finals she reached in 2016, the fact of the matter is that she did reach the final of the two tournaments she competed in this year. Still, a two- or three-headed WTA Tour, rather than a Serena Williams monopoly, wouldn’t be bad.

-The return to form of Victoria Azarenka. Credibly, Victoria Azarenka could be one of the challengers to Williams’s dominance.

Cons

-The absence of Maria Sharapova. Face it, the Russian is perhaps the second biggest name in women’s tennis and her suspension and scandal hurt the sport. She wasn’t necessarily the best player, but she was a credible force at the top—at least until she faced Serena Williams, against whom Maria Sharapova is mostly hopeless.

-Upsets galore. Once again, we’ll mention that there is a fine line between an event where upsets create a good buzz and one where upsets reign supreme to the point where the average fan finds it overwhelming.

Quarterfinals: Serena Williams over Elina Svitolina; Simona Halep over Agonisezka Radwanska; Victoria Azarenka over Johanna Konta; Belinda Bencic over Angelique Kerber

Semifinals: Serena Williams over Simona Halep; Belinda Bencic over Victoria Azarenka

Final: Belinda Bencic over Serena Williams

*******


Men’s draw

Pros

-The dominance of Novak Djokovic. Well whaddayaknow, it turns out that the end of the streak that means something… really doesn’t mean much other than it took the perfect storm to create a streak that ultimately doesn’t matter. He still hasn’t lost in 2016 in matches he hasn’t had to walk off the court and he still profiles as the favourite just about everywhere. Just, you know, don’t listen to him on prize money and gender equality.

-The return of Roger Federer. King Roger has been missing in action for over a month after injuring his knee, missing the BNP Paribas Open where he’s typically played and excelled. But he lit up the Twittersphere when he announced he was coming back this week.

Cons

-Milos Raonic’s injury. Before the season, Milos Raonic made changes to his coaching staff, naming Carlos Moya as his head coach and parting ways with Ivan Ljubicic; this prompted us asking whether we’d see a different Raonic in 2016 and, so far, we can probably say that yes, we have. While he was mostly non-competitive against Djokovic in the Indian Wells final, that he made it this far after returning from an abductor injury is a net positive. As of this writing, the Canadian still hasn’t announced that he would miss this Miami Open; even if he does compete, he may be diminished, which is too bad because this draw is within his grasp.

-But will Federer’s return be one to form? Still, it remains to be seen just how good and ready Federer will be in his first matches back from injury. We’re on the record as saying that we don’t believe the Swiss will manage to snatch a singles gold medal this year in Rio; if that’s the case, will he keep playing beyond this season? In other words, is 2016 the final curtain call for Federer?

Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Benoit Paire; Roger Federer over David Ferrer; Stanislas Wawrinka over Jack Sock; Andy Murray over Alexandr Dolgopolov

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Roger Federer; Andy Murray over Stanislas Wawrinka

Final: Novak Djokovic over Andy Murray

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Djokovic and Azarenka win respective BNP Paribas Open titles

March 20, 2016

BNP Paribas Open—Indian Wells, California

Top seed Novak Djokovic and No. 13 ranked Vika Azarenka scored title victories at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday. For Djokovic, his fifth title at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden came in quick fashion as he dispatched Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 in one hour and 18 minutes. Allowing the Canadian to win only 10 percent of his second serve points, Djokovic broke serve on five occasions, while never providing his opponent with a break point opportunity. Winning his 27th career Masters 1000 title, Djokovic is now tied with Rafael Nadal at the top of that category.

On the women’s side, Azarenka was in peak form as she dismissed top seed and favourite Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4. Trailing in the pair’s head-to-head 17-3 prior to today’s encounter, Azarenka broke serve to begin each set and used that momentum to win in straight sets. Winning 86 percent of her first serve points, Azarenka used bold play from the baseline to upend the best player on the planet. Serena, who was looking to capture the 70th title of her career, fell to 0-2 in title matches in 2016 after losing in the Australian Open final earlier this year.

Tennis Elbow: Is chaos a good or bad thing on the WTA?

February 22, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the WTA’s 2016 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Sara Errani captured the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA title this past weekend, beating Barbora Strycova in the final by the score of 6-0 and 6-2 in 68 minutes.

Three years after being on the receiving of a beatdown in the Dubai final—she lost 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 against Petra Kvitova in 2013—Errani was the dominant player this time. Evidently, she was thrilled. “It’s an unexpected title for me. It has been a tough moment, tough year so far,” the Italian said after her win. “To win here is amazing, it’s such a good tournament.”

We’ll focus on the first part of that quote, if you don’t mind.

If you believe the Italian, she apparently very nearly passed on the chance to compete in Dubai and to collect the winner’s cheque for $465,480. “I was thinking maybe not to come here,” she explained after her win. “I was thinking of taking two or three weeks to relax, to recharge my energy.”

These Tennis Championships will live on as not only the time Errani made a great decision to delay a week of rest, but as the time ultimate chaos reigned. In this 28-player draw, none of the eight seeds made it past the second round—and that’s only because the top 4 had a first-round bye. In short, none of the tournament’s eight seeds won a match.

Is that a good or bad thing? Namely, is this extreme string of upsets a sign that the top players are especially vulnerable or one that those in the lower tiers are especially strong?

Can it be both, that an upset means lower-ranked player are stronger than we think and that the top ranked players are more vulnerable too? Steve Tignor of tennis.com has examined the question, and let’s highlight some of his most relevant points.

It starts, first, with the perfect storm that made this carnage possible in Dubai.

Despite quite a large purse (i.e. $2 million), Dubai remains a 500-level event. Perhaps for that reason, the two best players on the WTA Tour, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, had pulled out. Likewise for the relative heavyweights that are Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka.

Seeded No. 1 and No. 2, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza shouldn’t have had much problems with their first match but they have both had a terrible start to this 2016 season. They were vulnerable and, well, they lost. It happens.

Because the Dubai draw is so small but still a rather prestigious (read: lucrative) affair, scattered throughout were many dangerous players, like ex-No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, ex-No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Garcia and the two finalists. On paper, there were no real easy matches, and at least in this case this held up.

The Dubai draw had plenty of players who, at various times, have been ranked in or near the top; they made the most of their opportunities. This is proof that the pool of WTA players is very deep, which is ultimately a good thing.

But still, this doesn’t answer the real question: is too much chaos a bad thing for the sport? We may contrast it with the situation atop the ATP World Tour rankings, where the same three (or four, if you want to include Andy Murray) have reigned supreme for the past 11 or 12 years.

But we shouldn’t compare the two; lest we forget, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will likely go down as three of the five greatest players in history. There’s a reason why we call this the golden era of tennis: it’s because it will never be equalled.

Men’s tennis has thrived in the past decade, more so than women’s tennis, but it won’t last forever. During that time, the lone constant in women’s tennis has been Serena Williams, and perhaps that’s where the problem lies: women’s tennis needs an established group of rulers, not just one. If any given tournament turns into a random series of events, it’s tough for a casual fan to follow.

Upsets are a good thing, because they make the sport unpredictable—but that’s also why they’re sort of a bad thing.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Angelique Kerber stuns Serena Williams at the Australian Open

February 1, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2016 Australian Open women’s final.

What a time to be alive.

While we can’t pretend to know for sure whether Angelique Kerber listens to Drake and Future, we have a wild guess that #WATTBA is probably what’s going through her mind today.

Today, the German wakes up as a Grand Slam champion, having beaten the great Serena Williams by the final score of 6-4, 3-6 and 6-4 in two hours and eight minutes in the Australian Open final.

With the win, the 28-year-old becomes the second German in the Open era, after Steffi Graf, to win a Grand Slam tournament. «I got my second chance and this is my dream come true,» Kerber said after the win. «My whole life I am working really hard, and now I am here and call myself a Grand Slam champion.» That’s something most probably didn’t expect to see happen, not in 2016 after years of relatively pedestrian results at the majors. Indeed, Kerber hadn’t done better than a fourth round at a major since 2012—in fact, other than a four-Grand Slam stretch where she made two semifinals and one quarterfinal (and one third round) over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Kerber’s career had been relatively underwhelming at majors. That run very nearly continued in Australia. You may recall that in her first match against Misaki Doi, Kerber had «one leg in the plane for Germany,» as she called it after winning the tournament; that’s how she describes being down a set and to match point, before she finally righted the ship. Now after a few more matches and wins over Victoria Azarenka and Williams, Kerber is a Grand Slam champion. Meanwhile, the six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams will need to wait until at least Roland-Garros to match Graf’s career haul of 22 Grand Slams. She seemed fine with it afterward; just look at her.


It’s a rare reminder that the American is merely human and can’t, or won’t, win them all. “Every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life,” Williams said after her loss. “As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not. I try to. But, you know, I do the best that I can.»

All this means for the 2016 season is that we won’t get the same «will she or won’t she» narrative that pursued Serena Williams in 2015; no, Williams will not win all four Grand Slams this year. This loss against Kerber still may be her lone Grand Slam loss in 2016; it’ll have just happened (way) earlier than in 2015.

Why this loss is so surprising is that it’s so rare for Williams to 1) lose in the Grand Slams and 2) to lose in the Grand Slam finals. Because, yes, the latter is what’s quietly been underrated with her and what’s allowed her to be on Graf’s heels: sure, she has won 21 majors but she’s managed this in only 26 finals; of her 41 career losses at major events, only five have come in the finals.

Because when she reaches the ultimate game, she tends to win the ultimate prize. “I try to win every single time I step out there, every single point, but realistically I can’t do it,» she said after her loss. «Maybe someone else can, but I wasn’t able to do it.”

This about sums it up.


Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Australian Open 2016 Men’s Final Preview: Djokovic vs. Murray

January 30, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

Angelique Kerber is the 2016 Australian Open women’s champion, the German stunning world number one Serena Williams to claim her first Grand Slam title on Day 13 at Melbourne Park.

Today, Novak Djokovic shoots for his sixth Australian Open final, as Andy Murray looks to claim his first title in what will be his fifth final. Read on to get my predictions for the men’s final.

Day 13 Recap

Playing in her first ever major final, the seventh seeded Kerber showed no signs of nerves, registering an early break of serve. Whilst Williams broke back soon after, it was apparent that the American was somewhat tense as she looked to equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.

With Kerber showing exemplary court coverage and with unforced errors flying off the Williams racquet, the German edged ahead, taking the first set, 6-4. Kerber enjoyed plenty of crowd support, with spectators perhaps sensing they were witnessing an upset of epic proportions. But there was no doubting that Williams would fight her way back into the match, and the top seed tightened up her game in the second set, cutting down her unforced errors and connecting with more of her first serves. Williams took the second set, 6-3, to send the match, and the championship, to a deciding set.

Williams was having trouble reading the Kerber serve, and wasn’t her usual precise self at the net. The German took full advantage, winning 8 of the first 9 points of the final set. Williams broke back before Kerber went on another run, stringing 7 points together as she opened up a 5-3 lead.

The seventh seed, who had looked calm all match, finally tightened up as she served for the title, with Williams breaking back and having a chance to level the set at 5-all. But, as had been the case for much of the match, Williams couldn’t dominate on serve in the way that she so often does. Kerber claimed the break, and with it the biggest win of her life, the German collecting the title and rocketing up to number 2 in the world rankings.

For Williams, it was an unusually subdued performance and one which I’m sure she will rue, although the American was extremely gracious and sporting in defeat (which is not always the case when things don’t go the top seed’s way). For Kerber, it was a dream come true and, along with a career-high ranking, the win will give the German the confidence to push for further Grand Slam titles in the years to come.

*****

Match of the Day – Day 14

Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray

Kerber’s win has to give Andy Murray hope, as it shows that no one, not even Serena Williams, is invincible. The Scot has lost all 4 of his previous Australian Open finals, 3 of them to Djokovic, but there is no sentimentality when it comes to sports.

Murray has beaten Djokovic on the big stage before, most notably in the finals when he won his Wimbledon and US Open titles, but Djokovic has improved his tennis since then and is on a different level right now. To put it in focus, Murray has won just one of his last 11 matches against the world number one. That said, Murray did beat Djokovic on hard-courts in Montreal last year, and last year’s Australian Open final was very close for the first 3 sets before Murray lost concentration and Djokovic ran away with the match.

Djokovic has won 70 percent of his career matches against Murray, and owns 5 Australian Open crowns, so it is clear that Murray needs to play his very best tennis in order to prevail. Djokovic does everything so well that Murray needs to stay calm and seize his chances, and not castigate himself when things don’t go his way.

The biggest key to the match in my mind is Murray’s second serve, which can get very shaky at times. If Murray doesn’t execute well on serve, particularly on his second serve, then Djokovic will constantly attack the Murray service games and that will ultimately take its toll on the second seed.

A victory for Murray would represent an extremely well-earned Australian Open title, and break up the dominance of Djokovic but, as noted above, there is no sentimentality in sports, and so the head says to go with Djokovic, who is unquestionably the best player in the sport right now. Djokovic in 4.

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

Kerber stuns Serena to win Australian Open

January 30, 2016

Australian Open 2016—Melbourne, Australia

No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber pulled off a major upset on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, capturing her first-ever Grand Slam title after dismissing top seed Serena Willliams, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

In a match that took two hours and eight minutes to complete, Kerber used her attacking style of tennis to hit 25 winners to only 13 unforced errors. After winning the first set on the strength of two breaks of serve, the German found herself at one set all after the top ranked American fought back to force a deciding set. Needing all of her guile and court craft in the end, Kerber used extreme angles and few drop shots to increase her lead to 5-2 in the final set. Not to be outdone, Williams clawed back like only she knows how to 4-5, but the 10th game of the final set proved to be the last as the 21-time Grand Slam winner overhit a volley to end her tournament.

For Kerber, she becomes the first German woman to win a Major title since Steffi Graf in 1999. The 28-year-old from Bremen, Germany will also move up to No. 2 in the world after her performance Down Under.

Williams, who was attempting to win her 22nd career Major and tie Steffi Graf’s mark, will now have to wait until the French Open in May to equal the great German’s record.

Australian Open 2016 Day 13 Preview: Heartbreak for Milos and record-breaking for Serena

January 29, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

Andy Murray will play Novak Djokovic in the men’s final on Sunday night, after the Scot came back from 2 sets to one down to defeat Milos Raonic in a titanic 4 hour semi-final on Day 12.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Serena Williams on Day 13 as the American looks to equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 Grand Slams in the women’s singles final against Angelique Kerber. See below for my preview of the final.

Day 12 Recap

Raonic made his intentions known from the very first game of the semi-final, breaking Murray to love and then saving 3 break points in his initial service game. Owning one of the biggest serves in the sport, Raonic maintained his advantage and claimed the first set, 6-4.

The second set saw games go with serve until the twelfth game of the set, with Murray seizing on a a couple of errors by the Canadian to level the match at a set apiece. The third set saw Raonic once again take the lead, the thirteenth seed playing a superb tiebreaker to get within a set of the final.

A late break in the fourth set gave Murray the set, 6-4, as the players proceeded to a deciding fifth set. A medical timeout by Raonic before the start of the set indicated that the Canadian was flagging, and it was soon apparent that a leg injury was affecting his play. Murray took full advantage, moving his opponent around the court and going up a double break before sealing the match, 4-6 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2.

*****

Match of the Day – Day 13

Serena Williams vs. Angelique Kerber

Williams enters her twenty-sixth Grand Slam final chasing major number 22 and is up against a player making her first appearance in a major final. After getting through a testing first round encounter against Camila Giorgi, Williams has swept all before her since, dropping just 17 games in her last 5 matches.

After saving match point against Misaki Doi in the opening round, Kerber has been playing aggressive tennis without fear at Melbourne Park, with her quarter-final win over Azarenka underling her championship credentials. The leftie has beaten Williams just once in 6 career meetings and, whilst that win was back in 2012, the very fact that Kerber has beaten Williams will boost the German’s chances. Important, also, is the fact that the last match between this pair was a year and a half ago; Kerber has become a far more confident and consistent player in the last 12 months.

Kerber has the shotmaking ability to defeat Williams, if the German can handle the occasion, stay calm and is able to keep the points short and go for her shots. That said, Williams looks to be in imposing form and has to enter the match as the warm favourite. After her shock defeat to Roberta Vinci at Flushing Meadows last year, the American will be desperate to start 2016 by claiming the year’s first Grand Slam, and I will back Williams to pull away in the second set after a tight opening stanza. 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 all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Australian Open 2016 Day 12 Preview: Murray vs. Raonic

January 28, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

Novak Djokovic underlined his status as the world’s best player in the night session on Day 11, the world number one producing some sublime tennis to defeat Roger Federer and progress to yet another Australian Open final.

Day 11 Recap

Federer and Djokovic had split 44 previous matches, but in the first couple of sets of their semi-final the gulf between the players was significant. Djokovic played near-flawless tennis, producing just 6 unforced errors and dropping just 3 games as he claimed a 2 sets to love lead after just 54 minutes.

Federer’s pride was clearly wounded, and the Swiss star lifted his game in the third set, much to the delight of the capacity crowd on Rod Laver Arena. The third seed collected the third set, 6-3, and had the spectators on their feet after a brilliant running backhand in the eighth game of the fourth set. But Djokovic managed to earn the break in that eighth game and then held serve to love to wrap up the win in 2 hours and 19 minutes.

Earlier in the day, top seed Serena Williams moved through to her seventh Australian Open final with a dominant display against Agnieszka Radwanksa. The American blanketed her Polish opponent in the opening set, smacking 18 winners and not conceding a game.

Williams went up a break in the second set before Radwanska found her groove, finally earning a break to level the set at 3 games apiece. But the fourth seed’s charge was short-lived, Williams hitting winner number 42 for the match to record a 6-0 6-4 win in 64 minutes.

Williams will play Grand Slam final debutant Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s championship decider, after the German defeated Johanna Konta in straight sets in their semi-final. Konta, playing in her first major semi-final, was evidently nervous in the opening stages of the match, quickly falling behind 0-3 before rallying to level at 3-all.

Kerber managed to get herself out of trouble on serve a couple of times in the latter stages of the opening set before pouncing in the twelfth game, breaking Konta to take the set, 7-5. From there, the German’s charge gained momentum, as Konta’s unforced error count continued to mount. In the end, Kerber emerged victorious 7-5 6-2 after one hour and 22 minutes.

Match of the Day – Day 12

Andy Murray vs. Milos Raonic

It’s been a testing couple of weeks for Andy Murray. The Scot entered the tournament knowing that wife Kim Sears was heavily pregnant and could give birth at any time, and then Kim’s father Nigel Sears collapsed when watching his charge Ana Ivanovic compete against Madison Keys.

Despite all of the drama, Murray has managed to stay on track in the tournament and is now just one win away from his fifth final at Melbourne Park. The second seed loves the conditions in Australia and if it weren’t for the dominance of Djokovic at the Australian Open, it would probably go down as the Scot’s most successful major.

Murray faces a stern test today against a player who is almost certainly in the best form of his life. Raonic has swept all before him in 2016 to date, defeating Federer to win the title in Brisbane and now making his second Grand Slam semi-final. Raonic says he has learned from his 2014 Wimbledon semi-final appearance, where he lost to Roger Federer in straight sets, and seems determined to make more of this opportunity.

This pair has split the 6 matches they have played to date, although Murray has won the last couple of encounters. Much is made of Raonic’s big serve, but I think it has been the improvements in his backhand and return of serve, plus just getting back to full health, which have propelled the Canadian’s resurgence in the last few months. I’ll take Murray to get the win, based on his experience and the conditions at Melbourne Park, but I expect this one to be tight. Murray in 5.

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

Australian Open 2016 Day 11 Preview: Djokovic, Federer and Serena in action

January 27, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

It’s women’s semi-finals day at Melbourne Park on Day 11, with a mixture of familiar faces and surprise names making up the final four in the women’s tournament.  Then, in the night session, superstars Federer and Djokovic play off in the first of the men’s semi-finals.

Day 10 Recap

Former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka had been in red-hot form at Melbourne Park going into her quarter-final against Angelique Kerber, but that form counted for little when they pair played on Day 10. The German turned the tables on Azarenka with a 6-3 7-5 win, the seventh seed coming back from 2-5 down in the second set to collect the win and reach the third Grand Slam semi-final of her career.

Kerber will play unseeded Brit Johanna Konta for a place in Saturday night’s final, after the 24 year old put an end to the fairytale run of China’s Shuai Zhang. After winning three matches in qualifying and another four in the main draw, Zhang finally ran out of steam, claiming just five games for the match as Konta collected a 6-4 6-1 victory.

In the men’s tournament, Andy Murray reached the eighteenth Grand Slam semi-final of his career by defeating Spaniard David Ferrer in 4 sets. After splitting the first two sets, Murray was up a break in the third set when the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed due to a storm approaching. The move seemed to help Murray, who quickly extended his third set advantage before closing out the match in the fourth set in three hours and 20 minutes.

Murray will face Canada’s Milos Raonic for a place in the men’s final, after the thirteenth seed defeating Gael Monfils in 4 sets to advance to his first Australian Open semi-final. The flamboyant Frenchman had struck back after dropping the first set, Monfils claiming the second set to level the match at a set apiece. Raonic, however, claimed an early break in the third set to regain the advantage and rode his big serve all the way to victory in the fourth set, eventually wrapping up the win in two hours and 17 minutes.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Serena Williams vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

With major rival Azarenka having been knocked out of the tournament and Williams having worked her way into form, I think the American is now an overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy at Melbourne Park yet again.

Radwanska has done a tremendous turnaround job since midway through 2015, and if Williams is having an off day or is feeling sluggish, the Pole definitely has the ability to move the top seed around the court and get her off balance. That said, I think Williams will be all over the Radwanska second serve and will be simply too powerful for the Pole in this one. Williams in 2.

2. Angelique Kerber vs. Johanna Konta

A year ago Konta lost in the opening round of the qualifying tournament at Melbourne Park; 12 months later she is the first British female since 1977 to make the semi-finals. Konta doesn’t seem to be intimidated by anyone on the WTA Tour but equally was able to handle the pressure of being the favourite in her quarter-final against Zhang.

Kerber turned in a terrific performance against Azarenka, the German sticking to an aggressive game plan throughout the match and ultimately beating the Belarusian at her own game. I think Kerber deserves to make a major final and this looks to be her golden opportunity, although Konta will no doubt make the German earn it. Kerber in 3.

3. Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic

After a decade or so of competing against each other on the ATP Tour, these two legends of the sport enter career meeting number 45 each having collected 22 wins. If Djokovic is able to beat Federer, he will hold a winning record against each other member of the so-called “Big Four” – a most impressive achievement and a statistic which, if it holds for the remainder of his career, may support his claims to be the greatest of all time in due course.

After so many previous meetings, these players know each other’s game inside out and the outcome tonight will depend on who executes best on the day. Federer has been getting close to Djokovic in recent Grand Slams, but the Serb always seems to lift his game just enough to seal the win. A superb serving effort is critical for Federer, but unless he exhibits his very best form then I like the world number one in this clash. Whatever the result, it is sure to make for compelling viewing. Djokovic in 4.

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

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