Master(s) Murray

October 19, 2008

Murray won his 2nd masters this fall and has definitely closed up on the BIG 3. Perhaps after Paris and TMC he will consistently be a part of the BIG 4. He has played a great tournament again, and this reminds me a lot of US Open. That was his first slam final and was playing less impressive than SF and earlier rounds. This time, he took his revenge in the semis and met Simon who probably is the next top 10 player. Well… it’s pretty official actually. Tomorrow he is #10.

Simon beat Nadal in what was probably one of the best matches of this season, entertainment-wise, and stood out in terms of him being able to outsmart Nadal with fairly simple play. Simon is what I like to call a “human” tennis player. Federer, Nadal and even Djokovic goes under, inhuman, ET, robot, crazytown categories. Murray, Simon, Blake, Roddick, Ferrer are all players with simple, but effective tennis.

I just wondered if his job would have been easier if he had a bigger serve. He seemed to be using his serve to his advantage surprinsgly often. Nadal has beaten Karlovic and Roddick enough to prove the point, that you have to outsmart him rather than try to ace. I guess Simon could be the dark horse to deny Del Potro or even Ferrer a spot in Shanghai. If he goes far in Paris, it’s a very likely outcome.

So could we get another Murray-Simon final in Paris? When you’re this good and in-form, sure why not?

Until then there’s Basel, Lyon and St Petersburg.

Close, Gublis – Really Close

October 15, 2008

I am now even more sure that Gulbis is heading for top 10. The question is just how fast. Yesterday he actually played BETTER than Nadal like 70% of the match. That’s my opinion. He was actually giving Nadal a hard time both on serve and return games. First set was OK from both. Second set, I think both players were more on top of their opponents’ game, but less on top of their own game. Gulbis was fabulous at the net, drop-shotting, firence groundstrokes and really well-balanced serving. I’ve seen Gulbis play good before, but you just see the potential. I would definitely classify Gulbis as an all-rounder. He has every shot in the book and uses them all efficiently.

What impressed me the most with second and third sets, were some of the rallies. He was playing with a lot of BRAIN. He was able to build up an attack, an approach shot, a volley, drop-shot… you name it. I was even surprised to see him dominating some rallies on Nadal’s serve where Nadal had control and Gulbis was able to turn defense into offense and outplay Nadal from the back. If Nadal struggles to run down drop shots and make something out of it, you bet they’re some decent shots.

I always compare him to Del Potro, Cilic, maybe Nishikori too because their all late 80 models and do not lack talent in terms of potentially going all the way to the top. What I prefer from Gublis over the other three is the ability to play smart. He had enough unforced errors to say that had I made that and that shot I would have won it. Still, unforced errors have to be approaching minimum. I wouldn’t change his style to become more topspinny, because that’s what his game is, but more aware of opportunities and not wasting them.

I guess this comes with experience and I see a lot of similarities to another player who became great after a few seasons of high potential but not perfect output. You know who. Roger Federer.

Enough Gulbis talk, Nadal won and his still the best.

Today, Federer will play Stepanek, Tsonga starts it off against Granollers, Nalbandian-Berdych is my biggest recommendation, Djokovic plays Hanescu, Lopez-Ferrer in a full Spanish affair, lastly Roddick faces Robredo with a perfect record.

Federer d. Stepanek, Tsonga d. Granollers, Berdych d. Nalbandian!!, Djokovic d. Hanescu, Lopez d. Ferrer, Roddick d. Robredo.

Madrid update

October 14, 2008

Yesterday was like an introduction day for the Madrid Masters. No top players, not very interesting matches. Gulbis outpowered Kiefer to secure his Nadal clash. That will probably be today’s highlight.
I think that Gulbis definitely should be remembered as being the only guy besides Federer to take a set of the Wimbledon champ.

Gulbis needs to start beating top 10-20 players if he wants to gain enough momentum similar to for example Del Potro. I thought these guys could be compared in terms of potential and talent, but one is close to a master cup appearance and one is still struggling to stay in top 50.

Murray will also start his campaign today against Boelli. I think he should be moving towards a QF with a good pace.

Remember the name. Berdych seems to be a lot like Nalbandian. When he hears “it’s indoor season”, he starts working on his tennis. Yesterday he destroyed Schuettler 1 and 2 and has none other than Nalbandian to worry about next. Can you imagine this. If Berdych was on the other side, would he be able to make the final against Nalbandian. Are the two potentially best players @ the moment meeting in 2nd round?! I don’t think so, but I definitely think he could beat Nalbandian.

Enjoy it this year, because we will probably never see indoor tennis from Madrid again.

3 Finals and Madrid Masters

October 12, 2008

This week, there was supposed to be a Federer-filled tournament in Stockholm. However, he probably feels that it would be a desperate move to play Stockholm for catching up to the no.1 spot. He has never played a more busy fall season that he had planned this fall, since he started dominating in 04. Madrid, Basel, Paris sounds like a good end to the season for him. Nadal will stay on top to Aussie Open, pretty sure about that.

Stockholm probably appreciates Soderling’s effort to get to the final. He has to overcome a very hot Nalbandian. He has eased past his opponents. It’s beggining to look a lot like Nalbandian season! If he dominates home favorite Soderling, I say watch out Nadal, Federer, Murray, WHOEVER!

In Moscow, I just cannot wait for Safin lifting the first trophy since winning AO in 05. Poor guy. He might be coming back to the top (20-30) with a good end to the season. Maybe he is motivated to hunt for more slams. If he can get to a SF in Wimby, he’s still got it. Got to beat Kunitsyn though. He seems to be on a roll as well, so who knows….

In Vienna, home “favorite” Petzschner will play Monfils. I don’t understand how he got this far, but I’m sure he’s gonna have to play his absolute best against the more “experienced” Monfils. I always love to see the underdog win, but if it’s a one-time thing…. what’s the point?

Madrid Masters is just around the corner and all the top guys are going. (as of mid-Sunday). Nadal is first seed (I like saying that), Federer second (no used to saying that yet)

Nadal will could get Gulbis in 2nd, Fish or Gasuqet in 3rd, Wawrinka, Ferrer or maybe Moya in QF?

Federer has Stepanek or Monaco in 2nd, probably Tsonga in 3rd (I’ll watch that!), Del Potro or Nalbandian in QF? Man, he got slammed with 3 players who all seem to be on a bit of a roll. If Tsonga isn’t injured, that is.

Mr. Djokovic has Karlovic or Soderling in 3rd, Blake or Simon or Safin or Davydenko in a QF. He should be good I think.

Murray, could probably do some damage too. He has Cilic, Verdasco as immediate threats, Gonzo or Roddick in a QF. Roddick could be the only threat as I see it.

My QF picks (a little early I know):
Nadal – Ferrer
Djokovic – Blake (least sure about this one)
Federer – Del Potro
Murray – Roddick

Berdych is back!

October 5, 2008

Where have you been, man? I haven’t seen you play since Miami Masters, which was the last time he got a decent result. I don’t know what he’s been struggling with, but beating Del Potro 6-1, 6-4 sounds very very good. Del Potro has been beating good players with same kind of numbers and went in with all sorts of confidence. I didn’t see the final, but I watched some of the SF action and both Del Potro and Berdych seemed to be on their way to a title. But having seen how Del Potro has won like 28 of the last 30 matches, this should have been a straight forward win. Berdych is the guy who got 6 games in the first round against Querrey in USO. Big serving Berdych took out Roddick in a match he was down 2-5 in the third.

I’ve always enjoyed the way Berdych hits flat shots almost every single time and pushes from baseline. Why he isn’t more consistent with the results, I don’t know. He might have the talent but not too much variation…. Really can’t tell. Good to see him up and running even though there will be no room for him in Shanghai.

The battle is in reality between Ferrer, Blake and Del Potro I think. These three will have to do some serious point hunting these last tournaments. Two Masters will be key. I think Ferrer has enough to defend and will struggle against Blake and Del Potro. Wawrinka, Gonzalez, Simon and Tsonga are kinda far away, but Masters can turn that around. A QF or SF will give enough points to turn it upside down.

Fed, Rafa, Djoko, and Murray are the ones with a ticket. Davydenko just needs to win some matches in Moscow, but he should be good right now. Roddick has a gap to the Russian, but he seems to be more consistent now and with a good performance in the two masters, he should qualify. Ferrer is not that far awau either, but has no results to show since clay and Blake and Del Potro are probably going to close the gap.  What about Berdych? He’s 19th and probably like 200 points away. That’s too much. If pulls a Nalby finish then maybe yes, but we might not see him again this year.

Tokyo & Metz

October 1, 2008

Tokyo should not be ignored. It’s a big tournament with big chunk of money and ranking points. First couple of rounds have been played and 3rd round will finally have some interesting matches.
Ferrer, the def champ, will have to pass the Japan test tomrrow by beating WC Suzuki. Suzuki took out Bolelli and will face a Ferrer who hasn’t been stable these past few months.

Del Potro will play Nieminen and show if he’s up for a clash with Ferrer (or Suzuki). Del Potro is hunting points for a Shanghai debut and is not very far from Ferrer in the race. A few more decent results and he can make it.

The biggest upset tomorrow will be Nishikori defeating Gasquet. I don’t know the odds here, but put some cash on Nishikori. He seems to be a hot home favorite. We know Gasquet can break down easy.

Schuettler-Youzhny has also the potential to be a good match. None of them hunt points for Shanghai, but not having results to show is reason enough to power through.

Robredo will play Berdych. Two very anonymous players this summer (even spring) and are also far from any Shanghai hope. However, Berdych is getting ready for indoor season, which I think he prefers over any other season.

Delic was able to beat Querrey in 2 sets, and will have to fight with Gonzo for a QF spot. Gonzo was 1-6 and 5-all down before he started to play tennis against LU? I say Delic has a chance.

Tsonga might be on his way back. I’ve seen “experts” hinting that maybe he can pull a “2007-Nalby fall.” He won last week, we know he has the talent to do it again, right? He has to pass Troicki, who I’ve seen play some great matches this year. Another Serbian on the rise.

On the very bottom lies Melzer vs Roddick. Roddick has beaten Melzer on clay, so I guess tomorrow shouldn’t be a problem. But even with the win in Beijing, Roddick needing 3 breakers and 37 freakin’ aces to beat Minar, is not a good sign! He should be able to limit the physical damage in the very first match.

Potential QFs are atually quite good-looking, here are my tips.
Ferrer – Del Potro
Nishikori – Youzhny
Berdych – Delic
Tsonga – Roddick

Who is most likely a future top player?

September 30, 2008

Djokovic was last year’s big rocket. People saw him play through 2005 and 2006 and saw his talent and concluded he would go up there some day. Djokovic went up really fast. Nadal and Federer were slower, but they’ve really written some decent tennis history with their achievements so far. The rise of Murray is probably not as impressive, but at least he seems to have gotten to the point where he will establish himself as a top 10 player. He’s a 87-model so he’s definetely got more time to hunt for GS titles. Roddick is also a fast climber who was supposed to take over after Sampras and Agassi. The little time he got on top was probably more than good enough seeing how dominant the two (three) top players are now. The other top 10 players have all risen slowly towards the top.

So who is the next rising star? Del Potro is an obvious pick for this season, but he must be prove that he can play good in bigger events. US Open was good, but can he do it in the other three as well? At his age (20) it’s not bad going towards a top 10 spot. Fed didn’t reach it that early either.

I’m gonna jump right over Gasquet and head to Tsonga. He has the potential, there’s no doubt there, but he seems to be too big for this sport. Injuries seem to haunt the big guys on the tour, and you’ll never be able to reach the very top if you can’t play tournaments. What could have been a great season for him, turned out as a miserable one with only a few good results after AO final. This week he beat Djokovic in 2 sets and once again showed that it wasn’t a 2 week wonder back in January.

Gilles Simon has had a sweet summer season, but he’s not exactly the youngest talent. He has beaten Federer, and played some great top 10-quality tennis the last few months. I don’t see him in a GS final, but with a little more consistency he can definitely head for a top 10 spot next season.

Marin Cilic is an obvious pick. Talented and tall. Tall = big serve = fast ranking climber. Many big servers have had less problems climbing up the rankings as they are able to challenge some higher ranked players with their big weapon. Always count on big servers and good movers like Cilic. He just turned 20 and reminds me a little bit of Ancic, Roddick, Safin and the way they climbed the rankings.

Does Querrey have what it takes? I don’t think he has enough, unfortunately. He’s a big guy, but not as big as Karlovic, although his strokes are similar. He took a set off Nadal on clay, in Madrid. Potential is there, but he needs to get a breaktrough match or tournament. Still young, but clock is ticking!

Gulbis is a question mark. He has done what many top players have done. Performing well in bigger tournaments, and less consistent in the smaller ones. Roddick was similar in 01-02 when he would beat Sampras in a masters, but lose to a 100+ ranked player next. Talentwise he’s up there with Djokovic, but he also needs a breakthrough.

Other guys worth mentioning (and watching):
Steve Darcis
Kei Nishikori (can he win in Tokyo?) Probably the biggest potential in top 100! age 18!
Belucci?
Young?

Champs of the week…

September 28, 2008

 

Tsonga defeated Djokovic in 2 sets while Roddick went through 3 against Sela. The victory probably felt best for Tsonga who won his first ATP title, playing Novak (who he lost to in Aussie Open), AND beat his friend 0 and 3!! Gotta love it! Roddick is probably satisfied with the end result, but he cannot blame hyper active chinese spectators for him losing 2nd set in both the final and SF (in a breaker!). Roddick has played decent this week, but played inconsistent in approx. 1 set per match.

Tomorrow, there’s Tokyo and Metz. Tokyo will be without Fed, Rafa or Novak… but Ferrer and Roddick will be the top seeds. Metz will be dominated by top 30 players. Ivo and Simon are top seeds.

My focus will be on Madrid and Paris Masters, which Nalbandian will HAVE to defend, or else he’s out of top 10 and with a very poor performance top 30 as well. Good luck, buddy!

Beijing & Bangkok Week

September 25, 2008

I guess the big story of the week is Novak Djokovic and his younger brother Marko teaming up for the doubles in Bangkok. Not only will they try that, but for some reason I just cannot get a hold of, Marko received a wildcard. That’s pretty insane! JUST because he’s Novak’s brother? Do you know how many players over his 1600 ranking or whatever deserve it more?! Wrong…

I even looked at his playing activity and wasn’t too impressed with 2nd rounds in futures.  But ok, he’s 17 years old and could still have enough time to beat his older brother some day.

 

In Beijing, David Ferrer leads the field (not anymore) in a small 28 draw followed by Roddick. I just found out that Ferrer is out after losing to Sela. What a waste of time that was! Travel from Madrid to Beijing and BAM… you just hit a wall my friend. Probably from jetlag. Other potentials in the draw are Ferrero? Verdasco, Gonzalez, Querrey, Schuettler, Gasquet, Robredo?

 

Bangkok is also enjoying some top players Djokovic, Tsonga, Berdych, Monfils, Nieminen, Soderling and Safin. I wouldn’t mind another Djokovic-Tsonga final!

2-0 & 2-0

September 20, 2008

Spain and Argentina (both home) have won their first singles matches and are one doubles match away from DC final. There’s no turning back for neither Russia nor USA. Russia was never very close I guess, while the USA team kind of surprised by taking a total of 3 sets in the first two ties. Querrey definitely showed that he’s capable of challenging anyone, once his serve and groundies hit the court and not the net. Taking first set against Nadal on clay, in Madrid, is pretty decent stuff. Roddick had his chances against Ferrer and it seemed like it would go his way after being up 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 and kind of dominating an error filled Ferrer. 8-6 in the fifth will probably be remembered, but a there was no GREAT tennis. Russia, and the US team, might have another chance on Sunday, as I think doubles is way too hard to predict. Russia might do a good doubles match and keep it alive until Sunday, but Fish/Bryan will have to really play some great tennis. I hope the US and Russia wins today so that we can get at least another good match tomorrow. Roddick-Nadal sounds good, even if Nadal is the likely winner.