Tennis Elbow: North Americans at home in New York

August 31, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2015 US Open.

Can you hear the crescendo?

It’s here, and by here we mean in New York. The tennis world has descended upon the great metropolis (i.e. the US Open is in Flushing Meadows, but whatever) for what, this year again, profiles as the season’s biggest party.

In part because we live in North America, it feels like the final Grand Slam of the year annually serves as the end point of the current season—despite the fact that there is still much, much more tennis played after this turn in New York.

What is true, however, is that the final Grand Slam tends to be the biggest party and celebration of the sport. It’s the one where the fans are the loudest and the rowdiest and, well, let’s use this column to give these North Americans something to sink their teeth in. Let’s preview the North American players in the men’s and the women’s draw.

*****

Men’s draw

John Isner

Is this the year that the tall American finally does it? Throughout his career, John Isner has typically not done so well at his home Slam, only once going beyond the third round—this happened in 2011 and, since, all Isner has done is bow down in the third round.

At now 30 years old, Isner is who he is but he does arrive in New York in form, notwithstanding an ugly loss against Sam Querry in the first round at the Western & Southern Open. We’ll go out on a limb and give Isner an extra round this year: the draw put him in Roger Federer’s section and, well, tough luck.

Milos Raonic

What will Milos Raonic do? The Canadian followed a poor showing at Wimbledon with two losses at the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Open.

He’s now 24 years old and the great, great promise he’s showed when he first broke through has given way to a sort of acceptance that Raonic may just be destined for the Top 10 player that he currently is. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that, especially in this country whose tennis tradition has been rather poor.

If Raonic manages to overcome in the third round the same Feliciano Lopez who beat him in the first round in Cincinnati, he’ll likely have to then overcome Novak Djokovic. Hey, there’s always next year.

Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil

Switching to doubles for this last spot, we’ll be eager to see if Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock pull another rabbit out of their hats and avenge a difficult 2014 US Open showing, where they lost in the third round.

The thing is, it does a disservice to the pair to mention that they managed a magic trick  in winning Wimbledon last season—because, you see, Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil are a great doubles team. They should be doing well, so it’s no surprise that they are.

Finally, let’s all remember to wish our guy Mardy Fish a happy retirement!

*****

Women’s draw

Serena Williams

Yep. Because really, until she loses, no narrative on the women’s draw really matches the possibility of Serena Williams 1) completing the 2015 Grand Slam and 2) matching Steffi Graf’s 22 career Grand Slam titles.

Madison Keys

If Williams does lose before the quarterfinals, however? The smart money would be on the young Madison Keys upsetting the great champion. Keys has been one of the five best Grand Slam players on the WTA Tour this year after all, right?

The 20-year-old hasn’t played particularly well since making the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, but I’m confident that Keys can bounce back on the surface that best suits her style of play.

Not Eugenie Bouchard

At this point, I would really love to do nothing more than to avoid discussing the fall from grace of Eugenie Bouchard—because it really doesn’t seem about to change.

Bouchard seemed destined to take over the sport just a year ago, but is now ranked No. 25 after a high of No. 5. The good news is that she finally enters a Grand Slam tournament where she doesn’t have a kazillion points to defend from last season. The bad news is that she has won only four times in her previous 20 matches, only nine times in 2015 and only 18 times since losing in the 2014 Wimbledon final.

But who else? Even when Bouchard plays terrible tennis, she still dominates the chatter.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

US Open 2015: Men’s and women’s draw preview and anaylsis

August 30, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

It’s summer in New York, which means it’s time for the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open from Flushing Meadows. Welcome to a fortnight of daily coverage of all the action. Today sees me set out my respective predictions for the men’s and women’s tournaments, along with my previews of the best matches taking place on Monday.

Tournament Predictions

Men’s Singles

World number one Novak Djokovic enters the year’s final major as the firm favourite, having already claimed two of the year’s first three Grand Slams. However, in recent weeks the Serb has shown he is human, going down to Andy Murray in the Montreal final and to Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final. To my mind, the Serb is trying to avoid peaking too early, unlike last year when an exhausted Djokovic was outhustled by Kei Nishikori in a warm and windy semi-final at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic is scheduled to face great rival Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and Nishikori in the semi-finals. I think Nadal isn’t confident enough right now to challenge the top seed, and I expect Djokovic will relish turning the tables on Nishikori if they do end up squaring off in the semi-finals once again.

In the bottom half of the draw, I expect Roger Federer’s renaissance will continue. After Wimbledon, New York represents his best chance to win another major and, with all facets of his game working extremely well right now, I think he will be too good for likely opponent Berdych in the quarter-finals. Andy Murray should progress past Stan Wawrinka and into another US Open semi-final, but if the Swiss star serves as well as he did in Cincinnati, then I think Federer will be too strong for the Scot.

Champion: Novak Djokovic

Finalist: Roger Federer

Semi-finalists: Murray, Nishikori

*****

Women’s Singles

Serena Williams’ biggest opponents right now are the history books. The American superstar has won the last three US Opens and the last four Grand Slams, and is now just seven wins away from completing the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf achieved the feat in 1988.

There are some dangerous players lurking in Williams’ quarter of the draw, including Sloane Stephens, Williams’ sister Venus, rising star Madison Keys and young Swiss star Belinda Bencic. But I can’t see any of them beating Serena in New York unless the top seed totally loses her way or is troubled by the elbow ailment that has affected her at various points during the year. I expect former champion Maria Sharapova to make her way through to the semi-finals but, as so often is the case for the Russian, her quest for the championship will most likely be thwarted by Williams.

In the bottom half of the draw, former finalists Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka are among the biggest contenders, along with 2011 champion Sam Stosur and Germans Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber. Azarenka is still working her way back to top form, but she loves the fast-bouncing courts at Flushing Meadows and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the twentieth seed make a spirited run through to the women’s final.

Champion: Serena Williams

Finalist: Victoria Azarenka

Semi-finalists: Sharapova, Wozniacki

*****

Matches of the Day – Day 1

1. Dominika Cibulkova vs. Ana Ivanovic

This should be a particularly good contest, pitting the former French Open champion and world number one Ana Ivanovic against the plucky Slovak, Dominika Cibulkova. Ivanovic is the better-known and more high-profile of the players but, as far as opening round contests go, this is a tough test for the Serbian star, with Cibulkova being a former Australian Open finalist and top 10 player.

Cibulkova has had an injury-interrupted season and now languishes at number 58 in the world rankings, but if she can stay injury-free then I don’t think it will be long before she reclaims a spot in the world’s top 20. I’ll back the seventh seeded Ivanovic to ultimately prevail, but not without having to work extremely hard. Ivanovic in 3.

2. Borna Coric vs. Rafael Nadal

He might be just 18 years of age, but Borna Coric has already beaten the likes of Murray and Nadal and has rocketed up the rankings in the last twelve months. The US Open boys’ singles champion in 2013, Coric has a formidable backcourt game that has drawn comparisons with Novak Djokovic’s brand of baseline tennis.

Coric upset Nadal in Basel last year, triggering a premature conclusion to Nadal’s 2014 season. The Spaniard won’t be taking Coric lightly as a result and, whilst Nadal will be desperate to avenge the loss in Basel, he knows that Coric has the requisite self-belief to claim victory. Nadal is still a decent way from his best tennis, but I think he will rise to the occasion and overpower Coric in this one. Nadal in 4.

3. Kei Nishikori vs. Benoit Paire

Nishikori had a breakout Grand Slam performance last year, making last year’s US Open final after defeating world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. Having now seen Djokovic conquer almost all before him since that loss to Nishikori, it makes one realise just what a fine performance it was from the Japanese star.

Nishikori couldn’t finish it off in the final in New York last year, going down to a red-hot Marin Cilic, but I think Nishikori is again among the top few contenders at Flushing Meadows this year. He will need to be switched-on against the dangerous Paire, a volatile Frenchman who is usually too erratic and temperamental for his own good, but who possesses an abundance of talent and a natural flair for the game. Look for Paire to show flashes of brilliance but for Nishikori to ultimately be too solid. Nishikori in 4.

4. Maria Sharapova vs. Daria Gavrilova

Naturalised Aussie Daria Gavrilova is playing in her first US Open, but don’t expect the youngster to be overawed by the occasion. Gavrilova upset her idol Sharapova in Miami earlier this year and, whilst the five-time major winner subsequently turned the tables with a straight sets win on clay in Rome later in the year, Gavrilova’s hard-courts victory will give her confidence going into this clash.

The fact that Sharapova hasn’t played a competitive match since going down to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon semi-finals, in part due to a niggling leg complaint, also gives Gavrilova hope, as Sharapova will likely be rusty given her lack of match practice. That said, I think the Russian will be too composed on the big points for her younger opponent. Sharapova in 3.

5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Jarkko Nieminen

Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen is retiring at the end of the year, and I’m sure the former top 20 player will want to finish on a high note in his last Grand Slam. The Finn showed that the competitive fire still burns within by outlasting fellow veteran Lleyton Hewitt in a long 5-setter at Wimbledon earlier this year, and I think the leftie will make life difficult for French seed Tsonga in this match.

The flamboyant Frenchman is always unpredictable and so far this year has mixed in some decidedly poor performances with a breath-taking run to the semi-finals in Paris. I think he will have enough firepower to see off a gallant Nieminen, but as far as the rest of the tournament is concerned, Tsonga’s chances are anyone’s guess. Tsonga in 4.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. If the American superstar fails in her quest to complete the calendar Grand Slam, it won’t be at the opening hurdle and it won’t happen against little-known Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.

Upset alert: Eugenie Bouchard now has former superstar Jimmy Connors assisting her in an informal capacity, but I don’t think that guarantees any immediate improvement in her form. It’s been a disastrous year to date for the Canadian, so watch for American Alison Riske to push Bouchard all the way in this one.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in a long 3-setter in the all-American clash between twenty-ninth seed Sloane Stephens, who always seems to bring out her best tennis in the majors, and Coco Vandeweghe, who made it through to the quarter-finals at the All England Club earlier this year.

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

Tennis Elbow: 2015 Western & Southern Open men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis

August 17, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-previews the 2015 Western & Southern Open.

And so it is, only one day after Belinda Bencic’s and Andy Murray’s respective wins in the women’s and men’s Rogers Cup, that the world of tennis heads over to the next big tournament on the calendar—in this instance, the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Alright alright, this is basically what happens from the start of the clay court season and onward in tennis, but whatever. It’s the stretch run of the season. There. I can say that.

This week, let’s have another tournament preview and analysis. And by all means, if you missed what happened last week at the men’s Rogers Cup, then please do read my recaps in their entirety here.

Women’s draw

The Rogers Cup reminded everyone that Serena Williams is indeed human, as she suffered only her second non-walkover loss of the 2015 season when young Belinda Bencic beat her in the semifinals. This week, in her native USofA, she will be back to her former self: other than Ana Ivanovic, there is no one to bother her before the semifinals in this section.

Belinda Bencic is only 18 years old, but she could be the future of the sport; yet, that’s an entirely different discussion than a preview of the Cincinnati tournament, so let’s have that debate another day. What we can say, however, is that she might be the one playing the best tennis currently on the WTA Tour. She’ll prove it in the quarterfinals against Petra Kvitova.

Victoria Azarenka arrived in Toronto having played no matches since reaching the quarterfinals in Wimbledon and promptly reached the third round, which is good. With a relatively open draw, let’s say that she can do one better in Cincinnati We’ll also give the benefit of the doubt to Simona Halep and say that she’ll have recovered in time (i.e. she pulled out of the Rogers Cup final) for a good showing this week.

Maria Sharapova hasn’t played since losing in the semifinals of Wimbledon against Serena Williams earlier in July, but don’t expect this to stop her from making the Western & Southern Open final… where she will lose against Serena Williams. Yep.

Quarterfinals: Serena Williams over Ana Ivanovic; Belinda Bencic over Petra Kvitova; Victoria Azarenka over Simona Halep; Maria Sharapova over Madison Keys

Semifinals: Serena Williams over Belinda Bencic; Maria Sharapova over Victoria Azarenka

Final: Serena Williams over Maria Sharapova

*****

Men’s draw

As hard as it may be for some to consider, Novak Djokovic is enjoying an even better season this year than his famed 2011 season. He has won six of the nine finals he has made this year and, well, we’re not sure which nugget is the most impressive here: that he has won so many or that he has made so many. He won’t always be the absolute best player on any given day, but he is quite comfortably ahead of the pack overall. Put him through to the final.

The second section of this main draw is—what, interesting? Interesting might not be the word, but how about wide-open? Let’s see we have a bunch of guys who did nothing in Montreal in Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils and a bunch of Americans. Give me John Isner and Bernard Tomic, who both did relatively well at the Rogers Cup.

Ah yes, the third section is the reminder that Marin Cilic as a seeded player is a thing. Maybe we’re being too hard on the Croatian, since he did make the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year, and the Citi Open semifinals, but it does seem out-of-whack to the daily reality of the ATP World Tour to see Cilic as the seventh favourite of a Masters 1000 event. All of which is to say that we do not have him emerging from his section, choosing instead Andy Murray and the resident “bad boy” Nick Kyrgios.

We’ll just go ahead and pencil in Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Joining him will not be Rafael Nadal, because we would then be confronted with the possibility of a Federer win over Nadal, thereby signaling that the Spaniard has forever lost it, and we do not believe the universe is quite this cruel, not yet. Instead we’ll settle for Jeremy Chardy in Nadal’s place.

Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Borna Coric; John Isner over Bernard Tomic; Andy Murray over Nick Kyrgios; Roger Federer over Jeremy Chardy

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over John Isner; Andy Murray over Roger Federer

Final: Novak Djokovic over Andy Murray

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Roger Cup 2015: Men’s and Women’s seeds

August 3, 2015

World No. 1s Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will be top seeds; Canadian Milos Raonic at No. 9

Toronto, August 3, 2015 – Tennis Canada announced on Monday the seedings for the 2015 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Toronto and Montreal. World No. 1s Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, both three-time Rogers Cup champions, will sit at the top of their respective draws, with Djokovic in Montreal and Williams in Toronto. The seedings follow the official ATP World Tour and WTA rankings released on Monday, August 3, with the Top 16-ranked players at each tournament being seeded. All Top 8 seeds will receive a first-round bye.

Canadian Milos Raonic will also be seeded at Rogers Cup for the fourth straight year. He will be the No. 9 seed in his return to Montreal, the scene of his first Masters 1000 final two years ago.

“The city of Montreal is very happy to have the best men in the world back this year,” said Eugene Lapierre, Rogers Cup Montreal tournament director. “We are especially looking forward to seeing our Canadian stars Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil again after they took over the headlines here in 2013. Combined with players like Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal, we have an incredible line-up of players and it will be a fun week.”

“We are very excited to have the Top 16 seeds of our tournament be the Top 16-ranked players in the world,” said Karl Hale, Rogers Cup Toronto tournament director. “We have an absolutely amazing player field this year and that is going to make for some stiff competition. Our fans can look forward to some thrilling matches, and we can’t wait for the players to take the court next week.”

The No. 2 seeds will be two-time champion Andy Murray in Montreal and 2009 finalist Maria Sharapova in Toronto. Murray and Sharapova will be placed on opposite sides of the draw from Djokovic and Williams, with the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds also to be placed randomly on different halves of the draw. The official draw for Rogers Cup Montreal will take place at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth on Friday August 7 at 5:00 p.m. while Rogers Cup Toronto will conduct its draw shortly thereafter at 5:30 p.m. at Hilton Toronto.

Other top seeds to look for in Montreal include three-time winner Rafael Nadal at No. 8, defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at No. 11, recent French Open victor Stan Wawrinka at No. 3, and Japanese star Kei Nishikori at No. 4. In Toronto, defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska will be No. 7 and last year’s finalist Venus Williams is No. 15. Recent past winners will be seeded at No. 4 (Petra Kvitova), No. 5 (Caroline Wozniacki), and No. 6 (Ana Ivanovic).

Rogers Cup presented by National Bank will take place August 8-16 at Aviva Centre at York University in Toronto and from August 7-16 at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal. Tickets are available for as low as $15 and can be purchased at rogerscup.com or by calling 1-877-283-6647 ext. 4333 (Toronto) and 1-855-836-6470 (Montreal).

ROGERS CUP PRESENTED BY NATIONAL BANK TORONTO SEEDINGS

SEEDING PLAYER RANKING
1 Serena Williams (USA) 1
2 Maria Sharapova (RUS) 2
3 Simona Halep (ROU) 3
4 Petra Kvitova (CZE) 4
5 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 5
6 Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 6
7 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 7
8 Lucie Safarova (CZE) 8
9 Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) 9
10 Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 10
11 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 11
12 Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 12
13 Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 13
14 Angelique Kerber (GER) 14
15 Venus Williams (USA) 15
16 Sara Errani (ITA) 16

ROGERS CUP PRESENTED BY NATIONAL BANK MONTREAL SEEDINGS

SEEDING PLAYER RANKING
1 Novak Djokovic (SRB) 1
2 Andy Murray (GBR) 3
3 Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 4
4 Kei Nishikori (JPN) 5
5 Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6
6 David Ferrer (ESP) 7
7 Marin Cilic (CRO) 8
8 Rafael Nadal (ESP) 9
9 Milos Raonic (CAN) 10
10 Gilles Simon (FRA) 11
11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 12
12 Richard Gasquet (FRA) 13
13 Kevin Anderson (RSA) 14
14 David Goffin (BEL) 15
15 Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 16
16 Gael Monfils (FRA) 17

Tennis Elbow: The five best Grand Slam players in the WTA this year

July 27, 2015

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon reviews the 2015 season up to this point on the WTA Tour.

So tell me, are you still enjoying this down time in the tennis calendar?

Make sure you do make the most of it and see your family and loved ones, because before you know it tennis will be right back and you seemingly won’t have a minute to yourself.

This week, I complete what I started last week and look at the five players who have most dominated the three Grand Slams on the WTA Tour this season. Your first guess is to say that it’s been a wide-open season beyond the obvious one name but, as you’ll see, four other legitimate favourites have emerged.

1) Serena Williams

Welcome to yet another season in women’s tennis dominated by the very best player in the World. As odd as it may sound, Serena Williams is still getting better and is utterly alone at the top, with still only one non-walkover loss in 2015. She has just completed the second “Serena Slam” of her career at age 33 and will complete the calendar-year Slam next month if she can only win the US Open, in her native country for, oh I don’t know, the fourth year in a row.

You say that one day, her reign at the top will stop, but don’t act so sure: the tour is currently so devoid of talent that perhaps only retirement will stop her.

2) Maria Sharapova

Because wherever Serena goes, so must Maria Sharapova. At this point, it’s pretty apparent that the American exists mostly as the kryptonite of the Russian, or perhaps we should see things the opposite way: that by now, Sharapova exists as but the final stepping-stone in Serena Williams’s quest for excellence and greatness.

But continue to try is what Sharapova will keep doing, because she has no other choice. At this rate, she may never beat Williams again, but she is still a clear No. 2 on the WTA Tour. Things could be worse.

3) Garbine Muguruza

If the future of women’s tennis has a face, it very well could be Garbine Muguruza’s. The Spaniard followed up her claim to fame of having beaten Williams at Roland Garros in 2014 with an appearance in the Wimbledon final at the beginning of July.

Serena Williams praised her young opponent after beating her at Wimbledon, saying that she would win a few Grand Slams before long; most agree. The 21-year-old has all the tools and all the shots, and all signs point to her also having the mental fortitude and self-belief necessary to dominate for a long time.

4) Madison Keys

Or maybe it will be Madison Keys who dominates the sport once Serena Williams has retired? The 20-year-old has surprised at Grand Slams this year, with her three best results of her career at the first three majors of the season; she entered the Top 20 for the first time in February just after her semifinal in Melbourne.

Coached by Lindsey Davenport, Keys is tall and takes control of rallies behind her powerful serve and forehands: it’s not a coincidence that her third-round result on clay at the French Open this year is much worse than what she managed on the hard courts of Australia and the grass of Wimbledon (i.e. a quarterfinal loss). It bodes well for the US Open, played on hard courts, for the native of Illinois.

5) Timea Bacsinszky

Maybe we shouldn’t expect so much from Timea Bacsinszky, the Swiss who prefers the slower surface of Roland Garros to others; for that reason, it isn’t a surprise that she performed better in France, making the semifinal, than she did in Australia (i.e. she reached the third round) and at Wimbledon (i.e. she made the quarterfinals).

And yet, everything should be seen as a surprise. The veteran of 10 seasons, and once upon a time among the youngsters upon whom tennis invested so much, was this close of quitting tennis for good. That was in 2013: she was 23 years old and her home felt like a “prison”, she said.

In 2015, Bacsinszky is playing tennis because she wants to. And maybe that’s why she is winning her matches.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Tennis Elbow: Serena Williams wants the Grand Slam

July 13, 2015

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 2015 Wimbledon Grand Slam.

And then there was one.

Serena Williams started the 2015 season as the favourite at the Australian Open, much like she has at just about any point in her career. She won the year’s first Major, much like she had five prior times already. And much of the season has unfolded following this same script, with the best player in the world winning four tournaments.

Most importantly, among the four titles she has won this season are the three first Grand Slam tournaments of the season. After Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final, and Lucie Safarova at the French Open, it was Garbine Muguruza’s turn to fall against the younger of the Williams sisters in two sets of 6-4 at Wimbledon.

Williams was far from perfect in the final, starting slowly but finally emerging with the win. “It feels so good,” she said after winning. “It’s been a little while. I didn’t even know it was over, she was fighting so hard.”

Fighting so hard, Muguruza certainly did—odds are that she will win a Wimbledon title or two before long; Williams said as much in her comments after the match. Indeed, the future is bright for the young Spaniard but Williams’s present is right now. And it’s as bright as ever.

Only once has Serena stepped on a court and lost this season, for the Mutua Madrid Open semifinal against Petra Kvitova. She has two other losses in her track record in 2015, but they don’t show up on her results page on the WTA Tour website because they were walkovers.

She has lost once in 2015, but she hasn’t lost at a Grand Slam in over a year. Yes, Williams is currently riding a 28-match unbeaten streak at the four most prestigious tournaments in the world, but again she has been far from perfect during the streak. Nine times she has needed three sets to win, and perhaps this is where her incredible and unparalleled experience has helped her most: per Greg Garber of ESPN, Williams won the third set by an average score of 6-2 over these nine matches.

If you need seven wins to win a major title, then this means that this Wimbledon title gives Williams the second “Serena Slam” of her career, only this time she will look to win a fifth major tournament in a row. Unlike her first Serena Slam in 2002 and 2003, she has a chance to win the four Grand Slams of 2015, because it’s the first time she has ever won the first three majors in a season. Quite apropos, she said that, “I’m having so much fun. I never dreamed I’d still be out here.”

We’ve already praised her for so many things over the years, but let’s also praise her efficiency: a win at the US Open at the end of the summer would tie her with Steffi Graf for most Grand Slam titles in history with 22, and give her the first calendar-year Slam since Graf in 1988. And it would also be the 69th overall title of her career, still “just” good enough for fifth in history: Serena Williams wins and has won tournaments, yes, but she mostly and especially wins Grand Slams.

Look at all that she has already accomplished this season and in her career all around the world. Now, she just needs to bring it all home.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Wimbledon 2015: Tournament Wrap Up

July 13, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Novak Djokovic is the 2015 Wimbledon men’s singles champion, the Serb downing Roger Federer in 4 sets to claim the third Wimbledon crown of his career and his ninth Grand Slam title overall.

Day 13 Recap

After stunning Andy Murray with a sensational serving display on Friday, Roger Federer came roaring out of the blocks on Sunday, breaking top seed Djokovic to establish a 4-2 lead. But the Swiss star lost serve to hand the break straight back, and then squandered a couple of set points on the Djokovic serve. Those missed opportunities came back to haunt Federer when the first set progressed to a tiebreaker, with world number one Djokovic completely dominating. The Serb collected the breaker for the loss of just one point, taking the set on a Federer double fault.

The second set was a role reversal of the first, with Federer the one consistently under pressure. Again, a tiebreaker was called upon the separate the players. Djokovic managed to amass a total of 7 set points but Federer refused to surrender, the 17-time major winner eventually taking the breaker 12 points to 10 to level the match at a set apiece. That sent the capacity, pro-Federer crowd on Centre Court into hysterics, but Djokovic shrugged off the loss of the second set to immediately put Federer under pressure at the start of the pivotal third set. The second seed managed to fend off a couple of break points in the opening game of the third set, but a woeful forehand in the third game saw Djokovic grab the break. From there, the Serb kept focused during a short rain delay and maintained his advantage to close out the set, 6-4, and move within a set of successfully defending his title.

The fourth set saw Djokovic continually peppering Federer’s toes with pinpoint returns, as the Swiss star struggled to recreate his serving feats of Friday. A break in the fifth game of the set put Djokovic within sight of the finish line, and he finished it off with another break in the ninth game, eventually collecting a 7-6(1) 6-7(10) 6-4 6-3 victory in 2 hours and 56 minutes. Having made just 11 unforced errors in the match against Murray, Federer’s tally of 35 unforced errors against Djokovic told the story – the 33 year old being continually required to force the play against the world’s best defender. Djokovic, meanwhile, produced his best tennis of the fortnight, spanking 46 winners against just 16 unforced errors.

For Djokovic, it was the perfect response to his shock defeat to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final 5 weeks ago, the Serb proving once again that he is undoubtedly the best player on the planet at this point in time. For Federer, it was an ultimately unsuccessful end to a very positive tournament, but if the second seed continues to play like he has over the past couple of weeks then he will keep putting himself in contention at the business end of majors for several years to come.

That’s it for the coverage of this year’s Wimbledon championships. I trust you’ve enjoyed the coverage. I’ll be back later in the year to cover the US Open, but in the meantime you can follow all of the tennis news on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Wimbledon 2015 Day 13 Men’s Final: Previewing Djokovic vs. Federer

July 12, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Serena Williams is the 2015 ladies’ singles champion, the American winning her third major of the year, a sixth Wimbledon title and the twenty-first Grand Slam of her illustrious career with a hard-fought win over Garbine Muguruza.

Today sees Roger Federer try to avenge his 5 set loss to Novak Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final, the Swiss star looking to claim his eighth Wimbledon crown as top seeded Djokovic shoots for a third title at the All England Club. Read on for my predictions for today’s blockbuster final.

Day 12 Recap

Twenty-one year old Muguruza was playing in her maiden Grand Slam final, but the Spaniard seemed unfazed by the occasion, breaking the world number one in her opening service game as she opened up a 4-2 lead. On a sunny day in London, it took a while for Williams to warm up, as Muguruza showed that she is a star of the future with powerful hitting off both wings.

The famed Williams serve was particularly rusty as the outset, with a string of double faults indicating that even superstars feel the pressure. But the top seed avoided going down a double break and gradually lifted her first serve percentage, reeling off 4 games in a row from 4-2 down to claim the first set, 6-4.

Winning the first set seemed to settle the world number one as she stormed out to a 5-1 lead in the second set, at one stage stringing together 12 successive points. Muguruza appeared helpless to stop Williams’ quest for a sixth title in London, but the Spaniard refused to wilt, breaking to love and then breaking again as Williams tightened up in sight of the finish line and an historic victory. But, as she has done so many times in the past, Williams gathered herself and got the job done, breaking Muguruza in the tenth game to secure a 6-4 6-4 win in 83 minutes.

For Williams, the win keeps alive her hopes of a calendar Grand Slam and puts her within one title of Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 majors. Even Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams is approachable, given Williams’ dominance in recent times.

For Muguruza, it was a fantastic tournament and the Spaniard would have won a legion of new fans with her gritty performance yesterday. I’ve been saying all tournament that Muguruza is a star of the future but I think that comment needs to be clarified: Muguruza’s time is now and she will be a serious contender at all of the majors going forward.

Match of the Day – Day 13

Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

World number one Novak Djokovic is the defending champion and has swept virtually all before him in 2015 – his only loss in Grand Slam play coming at the hands of a red-hot Stan Wawrinka in Paris. Accordingly, the Serb deserves to start this final as the favourite, despite some lingering concerns over his left shoulder that required treatment during his semi-final win over Richard Gasquet.

But there are a number of reasons for Federer fans to have legitimate hope heading in to this final. The Swiss star was in scintillating form in the semi-finals, simply outclassing an in-form Murray with an exceptional serving display. If Federer plays (and, in particular, serves) as well as he did against Murray, then he has a very good chance to win an eighteenth major title today.

After a number of warm days in London, today’s weather is much cooler and there is a chance that rain will force the tournament organisers to close the roof on Centre Court. Either way, the cooler conditions will help Federer, as they allow the ball to travel quicker and so will help the second seed finish points quicker. Against a player with the best defensive and retrieval skills in the sport, that is a significant benefit. A bit of rain will also mean that the ball skids and slides through a lot more, something that will make Federer’s slice backhand more potent and assist his forays to the net.

Finally, the match-up against Djokovic is one that Federer actually likes. Unlike against Nadal, who bullies the Federer backhand relentlessly with his monster forehand, Federer is always in the match against Djokovic, even if the Serb ultimately finds a way to win. Federer upset Djokovic in the final in Dubai earlier this year, a strong serving performance getting him over the line in fast conditions.

Overall, I think Djokovic’s 2015 form makes him a slight favourite but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Federer pull off the upset. Either way, tennis fans should be in for a treat. Djokovic in 5.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the men’s final and I will be back to wrap up the final and the tournament tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Serena Williams wins 21st Major title at Wimbledon

July 11, 2015

Wimbledon 2015—London, England

Top seed Serena Williams captured her 21st career Grand Slam title at Wimbledon on Saturday, defeating Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4. Needed one hour and 23 minutes to complete her victory, Williams hit 12 aces, won 78 percent of her first serve points and broke her opponent on five occasions.

Currently holding all four Majors, Williams will enter the US Open with a chance to capture the calender year Grand Slam. The last player to achieve that feat was Steffi Graf in 1998.

Muguruza, who was contesting her first-ever Grand Slam final, captured the crowds support with her spirited level of play.

Wimbledon 2015 Day 12: Previewing Serena vs. Muguruza

July 10, 2015

by: Tom Cochrane

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will meet in Sunday’s men’s final, a rematch of last year’s final, after the top seed dismissed Richard Gasquet and Federer turned in a vintage performance to down Andy Murray in straight sets.

Today sees Serena Williams attempt to claim her sixth Wimbledon crown against first-time Grand Slam finalist Garbine Muguruza. My views on that match are set out below.

Day 11 Recap

World number one Djokovic was first on Centre Court, the Serb entering the match as a red-hot favourite against Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman came out firing, hitting a number of scintillating backhand winners, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. But Djokovic remained firm, and at 2-2 in the first tiebreaker pounced on a couple of loose shots from Gasquet to claim it 7 points to 2.

Winning the first set seemed to settle the Serb, Djokovic securing an early break in the second set and maintaining his advantage to take a commanding 2 sets to love lead, despite being bothered by a stiff left shoulder that required attention from the trainer on two occasions.

Gasquet battled valiantly in the third set but was unable to make any inroads on the Djokovic serve, the two-time champion eventually wrapping up a 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4 win in 142 minutes.

The second semi-final was eagerly anticipated, with Federer and Murray resuming a storied rivalry. But the match turned out to be largely one-way traffic, with Federer producing a sensational serving performance to win a tenth semi-final at Wimbledon. The Swiss star landed 76 percent of his first serves and won 84 percent of his first service points, drilling 56 winners to boot.

After a late break gave Federer the first set, 7-5, the real turning point in the match came in the tenth and twelfth games of the second set. Down 4-5, 0-40, Murray eventually held after a marathon game that spanned close to 15 minutes, only for Federer to hold to love and then break in the twelfth game to take a 2 sets to love lead.

Whilst the British fans tried to rouse Murray in the third set, Federer’s sublime serving meant Murray got very few chances to put the second seed under any real pressure. Eventually, Murray could give no more, succumbing in the tenth game of the third set as Federer recorded a 7-5 7-5 6-4 win to give himself a chance at a record eighth Wimbledon crown.

*****

Match of the Day – Day 12

Serena Williams vs. Garbine Muguruza

There is no doubt that Serena Williams enters this match as the overwhelming favourite. The world number one is unbeaten in Grand Slam play in 2015 and faces an opponent entering her maiden major final. But Garbine Muguruza has beaten Serena before, and importantly it was at a Grand Slam: last year’s French Open, where she defeated the American in convincing fashion.

Williams has won the pair’s other two meetings, but the win in Paris will give the Spaniard the belief that she can pull off the upset today. The pair played in Melbourne earlier this year and whilst Williams ultimately prevailed, it was not without a fight. Muguruza has the power to match Williams from the back of the court and playing at the end of the tournament, when the courts are harder and more dried out, is of benefit to the Spaniard.

Overall, I think Serena’s killer serve and superior grass-court and big match experience will get her across the line. If Muguruza is tight then the match could be over quickly. But if she can settle down quickly an upset is not outside the realms of possibility. I’m backing Serena to win in a tight two-setter (and keep alive hopes of a Serena Slam) but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her stretched to 3 sets. 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.

Next Page »