Archive for September, 2007

Tokyo with only two top 10 players

September 30, 2007

… and not even that is a safe fact. There’s still plenty of hours before they step on court, so who knows how many players are left for an early withdrawal. Just read that Federer has pulled out due to injury and fatigue prevention, which probably makes sense as we see him playing less tournaments a year to stay away from injuries. I understand it, but I don’t like it, and I am sure his fans don’t like it. The players say that the pro tour is brutal as they only have december and a good chunk of november off. But if we look at Federer’s calendar this year, I don’t see what so horrible:
0. Kooyong (not on ATP list) 2nd week January
1. Aussie Open, Jan 15
2. Dubai, Feb 26!
3. AMS Indian Wells, March 5th
4. AMS Miami, March 19th (played a total of 4 matches in March!)
5. AMS Monte-Carlo, April 15th
6. AMS Rome, May 7
7. AMS Hamburg, May 14
8. Roland Garros, May 28
9. Wimbledon, June 25
10. AMS Canada, August 5!!!
11. AMS Cincinnati, August 13
12. US Open, August 27
13. Davis Cup, September 22

Yes, it’s true that he plays all the way to the finals days of each tournament, but some of the breaks in between are longer than any vacation I’ve ever had. Just look at Davydenko who also goes far in each tournament and has already played 21 tournamnets since Jan 1!
If he was 30 and heading towards the end of his career, I would actually encourage him to play less, but he is 26 and seems to be just as fit as any other player. I mean, does he ever sweat?!?!
Anyway, I intended to inform that even though the ATP site could tell us that several top 10 players would attend Tokyo, the top seed is now David Ferrer. Berdych goes second. Both of these would get important points if they made the final, for the ATP race. Blake was on the list of players attending in Tokyo, is not anymore and now he has to work hard to keep these players behind him. Just don’t get it.


The best of the best…

September 28, 2007

I thought I’d start to write and comment on some of the players’ great groundstrokes, volleys, serves and other small techincal brilliances. First up, I wanted to say something about today’s only active legend. Roger Federer. Which stroke? ForeHAND! This is his best, his attacking shot, his comfort zone, his technical perfection.

Something that bothers me with this man is the fact that he looks like this is the easiest thing on earth. Swinging that racket, faster than almost anyone, and hit that ball anywhere he wants to hit it. Something which is common among today’s good forehands is supporting the racket with the left hand until the upper body as turned against the net.
This clip starts when Federer has taken back his rakcet with both hands, leaving his shoulder under his head. This enables him to use his upper body rotation and shoulder rotation to generate a good head speed. So far, it’s nothing special really. The only thing that a lot of players don’t do, is to hold their head locked in the same position. During the whole clip, Federer is extreme in his ways of not moving his head, almost at all really. You can see how his body rotates, while his head is focused on the ball.
He holds a semi-western grip on the racket which I think is optimal in terms of being able to variate the shots. It also anables him to get that extra racket head speed and brush up the ball at a perfect timing. One reason why he gets so much out of it is that he can use his wrist with a lot of flexibility and whip it more than other players would. This is something that can’t be taught and is an example of talent and practice. It’s not unique, but it is one of the best.

Contact point is well in front of him, with his left hand still out in front of him. This is a big difference. I’m no expert, but a whole lot of other player with big forehands have a different kind of rotations which brings their right part of their body in front of their left part. This means that their whole body rotates more than Federer. Their left arms are also locked in against their body during contact points to anable a faster rotation it seems. Gasquet is a player who seems to intentionally put his left arm up against his chest to anable that full rotation. In the clip Federer has a very calm rotation with, like we are used to see him, NO facial expression whatsoever. Also annoying! Looks like a robot!
And lastly, his eyes are on the damn ball at all time. Except for when he has hit it, his eyes stay in the contact point for more than seems reasonable. But it seems like maybe everybody should try and apply this technique. Wouldn’t you try to copy the some of the elements of the greatest forhand on the tour?!
Personally I cannot find a flaw with this forehand….. 10/10 for Federer

Mahut is back

September 28, 2007

Mahut, the guy who went all the way to the finals at London Queen’s club in June is starting to show himself in the top again. Last night, he defeated Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-4 which shows what potential is in him. I remember thinking while watching him play in London, that this guy should be good enought to be a permanent top 20 player. Somehow, he doesn’t seem to have the ability to play his absolute best tennis all the time. Now, Verdasco awaits in the QF and should watch out!
In my opinion the final is being played in the QF in Bangkok. Berdych is up against Karlovic. I think these two are the strongest in the field. But the withdrawals of Djokovic and Roddick messed up his seeding.

Withdraw here, withdraw there

September 26, 2007

Just to comment on my post from Monday. BOTH Djokovic AND Roddick has now pulled out of Bangkok. I found out about Djokovic as I was writing on Monday and now as Roddick was getting ready for his 1st round. So just to correct my predictions on a Djokovic-Roddick, or Berdych-Roddick final… I don’t really believe in my predictions anymore!

Bangkok and Mumbai

September 25, 2007

Top seeds in Bangkok:

Top seeds in Mumbai:

So here we go again with the last couple of months of the 2007 season. It’s the season to be tired and injured usually and this is the time for underdogs to challenge worn out top players. I don’t know if this is a myth or not, but it doesn’t seems to make sense as some of the top 10-20 players play for the last 5 spots on the ATP Race. Djokovic seems to be more motivated than ever going for his 7th career title. Roddick trying to pass Davydenko in both rankings and race to claim the 4th spot, and 24th title in order to pass Nadal’s 23. Hewitt is still up for a Cup spot. He is one of few who can get many points this fall, especially in Madrid and Paris. Gasquet also needs to work hard to get back in the top 10 and get enough points to head to Shanghai. I think these 4 players are a good example of players who really have a shot at Shanghai when they play their best. Djokovic is already qualified and Roddick is not far away, but they still work hard to improve and challenge Federer in November.

Let’s have a look at the draws:
Mumbai – I think that Hewitt and Gasquet will meet in the final. Don’t see major threats. Mathieu may take Hewitt when he decides to play his best, but…. no

Bangkok – And as I am writing this entry, DJOKOVIC HAS PULLED OUT OF BANGKOK. I assume his DC performance took a little too much. I think Roddick will take on either Berdych or Karlovic in the final.

Hot War!

September 24, 2007

Now that the cold war is a long lost history, we will be witnessing a new and hotter war in December when USA hosts Russia for the Davis Cup title.

The Swedes had no plan of attack against the much younger Americans, if that’s possible. I don’t know if T. Johansson’s fever would be the decisive factor of why they lost, because I was wondering before the tie started why Bjørkman wasn’t goning to play a singles match. I personally think he has more to give against players like Blake and Roddick. However, it showed that the fast court didn’t contribute too much as Roddick was able to fire off his serves, both 1st and 2nd to get free points. Even in Bjørkman’s serve Roddick was surprisingly good at returning on 2nd serve’s and I think that’s what ultimately decided all three sets.
Blake beat Aspelin 6-1, 6-3 after J. Johansson also did not show up for his match. Don’t know if it was the flu for him too, but it seemed like a we-give-up kind of gesture, when Aspelin who hasn’t played any singles matches on the ATP tour. Maybe 6-1, 6-3 is respectable, what do I know?
Anyway, can’t wait to see what the Russians can do in the US in a couple of months. I would give Americans a favorite tag as everybody knows that the tie will NEVER be played on clay. Any other surface favors the Americans due to the fact that they’re hosting it.

Davis Cup

September 21, 2007

I didn’t get to look at the other SF, but it seems like the two favorites will make it. Roddick has just won his match against J. Johansson. 7-6, 7-6, 6-3
Russia is also on its way leading 1 to nothing after an impressive 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win for Andreev over Haas. That was the one match I thought Germany should/might get to be competitive the rest of the SF. But Davis Cup is unpredictable so…..

Davis Cup SF: Sweden vs. USA

September 19, 2007

This is the match a lot of people didn’t see coming. Both teams are in a period where they don’t get too much support from their respective media. US tennis has suffered some downtime after Sampras retired. There hasn’t been a US slam champion since 2003. They haven’t won the Davis Cup since 1995, which happens to be a record. And they simply has not been able to give their country results that could turn the pessimism into optimism.

Sweden has sort of the same problem, only worse. The country has always been very present on the tennis maps, but in recent years they haven’t been able to produce one champion. Yes, Johansson won Aussie Open not so long ago, but that is basically it. Not only are they no winning titles, but there are fewer Swedish flags shown on the drawboards. Even worse, the future doesn’t look VERY promising, when their current strong team is dominated with their two profiles, Bjørkman and Johansson (the older one). The young Johansson used to be looked upon as a potential, but I don’t know what happened there. Here are the squads:

Andy Roddick
Roddick is a dedicated Davis Cup player. No doubt about that. I cannot remember when he turned down to play it (as my memory is short) but it seems as if he puts Davis Cup in front of almost anything else. In the start of the year he played the tie against Spain with a serious beating of Verdasco in straight sets with a so so hamstring injury. It could’ve worsened it, so he was in a do-or-die mode. I can’t really see him losing to any of the Swedes on this fast type of court. Had the Swedes chosen clay…. I don’t know. I think Bjørkman could have taken him. Bjørkman has a stamina of a 25 year old, and should have had a good chance.

James Blake
Doesn’t like the red stuff either, so fast carpet wasn’t something to cry about for him either. He wants this title too of course, almost as much as Andy. I think that if he gets that forehand fired up against the old guys, there shouln’t be any reason not to win in straight sets.

The Bryans:
Safe bet. Even Bjørkman/Aspelin coming in as a good Doubles team, the brothers are on fire in Davis Cup and are ready to do some damage in Sweden. 11-1 record in Davis Cup is simply stunning. The 1 loss was actually indoor against Ljubicic/Ancic. Don’t know what happened there, but they can have an off day without it beaing very important. They will win their match.

Jonas Bjørkman
Unpredictable written all over him. At 35 he has a long experince with 38-21. Indoor 26-12.
Bjørkman is the only one I would pick to annoy the Americans in singles. He has the potential to take Roddick and Blake if he plays like he has done in some recent slams. On his very best, he should actually stand a chance. With the fast court, he needs to keep the rallies short, with is exactly why they picked it in the first place. For Roddick he needs to come up with some shots in the 3 or 4 breakers. For Blake, he needs to break him early and play his normal serve-volley to keep them short and away from Blake’s comfort zone on the deuce side.

Thomas Johansson
3 years younger than Bjørkman, but doesn’t look it. Roddick should be able to play the same way he did at the USO and take him in 3. Blake too for that matter. Sorry, but I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel here.

Joachim Johansson
Don’t know exactly what role he’ll play, but 2-2 in DC doesn’t tell me that he is the first pick. No chance singles-wise anyway so… No, no, no…

Simon Aspelin
Doubles with Bjørkman. Not very good stats here. 2-4 and losing in their 1st round against Belarus. Don’t know if Wilander will pick him for the doubles. I would definetely go for the Johansson/Bjørkman couple who beat Canas/Nalbandian in the QF. Bench is the place to be.

Roddick wins both singles
Blake wins one, loses one
Bryans crush the Swedes on Saturday….
USA 4 Sweden 1

September 16th, 5 years ago…

September 17, 2007

It’s only 2002. When you think about it, it’s not that long ago. The question is who was the best then? Ranking updated on September 16th 2002:
1. Lleyton Hewitt
2. Tommy Haas
3. Andre Agassi
4. Marat Safin
5. Tim Henman
6. Juan Carlos Ferrero
7. Yevgeny Kafelnikov
8. Albert Costa
9. Sebastien Grosjean
10. Carlos Moya

Wow! Not one player in the top 10 today. A big exception is Moya who reached 10th after USO. Another one is Haas, who has made a better run this year than last year. No Federer, no Nadal, no Roddick, no Sampras… Where was Federer?
He was on the respectable 13th with 1925 points! Ahhh… those were the days!

The forgotten Bucharest and Beijing

September 16, 2007

These tournaments are never gonna stand out on the calendar as a result of the bad timing, getting the week after US Open when many players feel like resting. Excluding Davydenko that is. And certainly some 1st and 2nd round rejects from New York.
The Beijing list was still strong with 3 top 10 players and another 2 top 20. The final is played today and is a hispanic clash between Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Robredo. I think that Gonzalez always stands a better chance on hard court against any player he would meet, so this SHOULD be all Gonzalez. I think Gonzalez takes it in 3, as he has only played one match in two sets.

In Romania, we have the local favorite/hope of Victor Hanescu in his first ATP final. Needless to say, if he was looking for a shot at a title while he’s till on the tour, I don’t think he’ll get toom many chances after this. Yes he is still young (if 26 is young) so there is time, I just don’t know if he has what it takes to make it anywhere else. Opponent in final is Gilles Simon, who has had a good year, with a title and a fairly ok 28-23 record so far. Hanescu has a 5-7 to show so there’s no doubt who’s favorite. Potentially though, Hanescu has been as high as #35, while Simon hasn’t passed #38, which implies that Hanescu might have it in him. This fact together with this tournament so far… beating Mayer, Montanes, Starace, and MONFILS 6-2, 6-3 tells me he wants this title more than Simon. Hanescu in 2 or 3.