Archive for May, 2008

Last 16 and end of 1st week

May 31, 2008

Finally we have made it to the players who have deserved to be going into 2nd week. RG is IMO the hardest of the 4 slams to get past the first 3 rounds. There are so many clay lover below top 100 who could take the advantage and get instant fame. Who am I talking about…hmm
Well, there’s Chardy!! That’s the only one who’s left, but there are always a few players who come from nothing and get big wins against big guys.

Let’s go to today’s action and find the man of the day… IVAN LJUBICIC!!!

Why, you say? Firstly he was down 2-0 against the 4th best clay player, the robotic Davydenko. Second, he has fallen down from top 3-4 to #30 very fast and with no good results to show in recent time. Third, he is one of the BIG guys with the big serve as main weapon. History shows that these guys succeed more on hard courts and grass. Fact of the matter is Ljubi played great tennis, few errors and made Davydenko come up with the good stuff. He wasn’t able anymore after the first two sets, and Ivan took over. Great match, great setting and a great result for the big guy from Croatia. Kinda the only surprise left, apart from Chardy in the last 16.

Gonzalez did the same thing today, but you would excpect him to play a lot better than what he showed during the first two sets. Gonzo is a rollercoaster of another dimension and needs stability to get a big title. Wawrinka playing his best is perhaps not as good as Gonzo playing his best. That’s why Gonzo won, I think.

Ok, here’s a breakdown of the remaining candidates:
Federer-Benneteau (Federer just torn Ancic apart, will do it to Benne as well)
Gonzo-Ginepri (is this for real?! If Gonzo loses this, shame on him!)
Ljubicic-Monfils (this could go either way, depending on mental strength+best tennis possible)
Stepanek-Ferrer (probably to of the biggest dark horses to win the entire thing, super match!)
Gulbis-Llodra (big chance for both of them, is Gulbis mature enough to take it? 50-50 IMO)
Mathieu-Djokovic (either Mathieu plays his best and has a chance, or plays poorly and gets humiliated at home)
Chardy-Almagro (bye bye Chardy, Almagro losing this would be a big upset! who knows?)
Verdasco-Nadal (bye bye Verdasco. never beaten him, never even close, except for once on grass..Nadal in 3 I’m afraid)

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Is Rafa in trouble?

May 31, 2008

That foot was back in the media, after he needed some more protection for the blisters. Could this ruin Nadal’s perfect run in Paris? He just got himself another match against a lefty. This time I beilieve it’s just a little more challenging than what he’s had to deal with so far. Verdasco is a very competent clay player and would do anything to get past Nadal and keep playing for the title. Verdasco doesn’t lack the talent, he just lacks a breakthrough. Beating Nadal tomorrow might be the big one.

Cannot wait for Federer-Ancic. I know who’ll win but Ancic can play very smart tennis on any surface, and seems to be heading back to the top 10.

Surprise wins have started, finally!

May 30, 2008

When you see the match-up Andreev-Ginepri, you think this will be a quick and painless deal for the Russian. Ginepri started by losing the first 6-4, but went on and won it in 4 sets. Is Ginepri up for the next challenge? I think so. Winner of Serra-Hanescu doesn’t sound too bad.

The biggest surprise for me yesterday was Ferrer’s stunningly easy win over home favorite Santoro. I thought this would be a 4 or 5 set event. 0, 1, 0!!! 1 game in 3 sets for tiny Santoro! Too bad, becasue I don’t think he has too many shots left.

Gulbis-Blake could have gone either way, but Gulbis showed slightly more willingness to win it. Besides, Blake needs for his forehand to work perfectly for him to to anything on clay. It did, but not enough.

And for the biggy: Nalbandian is out! Lost in 5 sets against Chardy. Yes, I know…who?!?
Why so many experts are saying Nalbandian is one of the biggest underachievers is beyond me. One slam final but almost no consitency in a 52 week run. I believe #3 is his best ranking, but he has never held it for more than 5 months. 2006 was his best year, the only year he stayed inside the top 10. But his ranking is not very good measure. Like now, for instance, the only reason he is a happy camper INSIDE top 10 is because of a fantastick 2 months last fall. Without that he would be outside top 20. Nalbandian must find some consitency and purchase it.

Today, on the other hand, I wait even more upsets and ordering of one-way tickets to London. (or Halle) There are a few interesting matches which I don’t know what may happen.
Although Djokovic is a huge favorite and will most likely win easily, there is something about Wayne Odesnik. He has played great so far, beating Canas and then Lee. Good players. He might be the only American who seems to be slightly more comfortable on clay. His best result this year, by far, is SF on clay in Houston. Being #106 isn’t he best confidence boost when going in against the big Serb, but hey, not impossible as long as he has a racket and some shoes.

Youzhny-Verdasco is looking like a 5 set thriller, but I can see Youzhny winning this. He has gone through with ok speed so far.
Almagro-Murray: this will be the real test for both. Almagro is far better on clay than Murray, on record, but Murray has won his matches with ease. This could be close if both play at their highest level. That is not always the case for either of them.

BTW, for those who count sets; Federer lost first set against Montanes yesterday. Nadal hasn’t lost any yet. Not very interesting but worth mentioning.

Day 4 into 5

May 28, 2008

No big upsets today. Might come tomorrow… Oh well Ferrero is a big upset, but he retired so it doesn’t count…

I think all of them go tomorrow… and here are the one’s I’d like to watch:
Davydenko-Safin
Santoro-Ferrer
Blake-Gulbis

By the way, there are some players to look out for who I didn’t mention in my L16 predictions. Santoro is really getting old and needs some big achievement. Maybe he can do some damage this year. If we can even talk about winning RG, he needs to pass Federer has an absolute turning point in the SF. I don’t think that will happen, but I won’t rule out a 3rd round by passing Ferrer.
I also thought Monfils looked good today. Clement is not an easy nut and he sort of sailed through it in 3 sets.
I don’t know if Llodra did such a big thing of taking down Berdych in 5 sets on clay, but he’s there and he has that sort of Stepanek game who could do some damage… who knows?
AND… last but not least! I predicted headlines in the Almagro department this year. We will have to see whether he’s up for it against Murray. Murray has started with two very good results. The winner of this 3rd round might be the Nadal match-up.

Anywhoooo… rain is in store so have some patience!
 

Day 3 – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

May 27, 2008

Day 3 can be summed up like this:
– nothing happened!!

Nadal was supposed to have finished his match yesterday afternoon. He won’t until Wednesday afternoon. This is starting to look a lot like 2007 Wimbledon.
The only thing I can give you an update on is the freakin’ weather!!
Wednesday: AM!!! showers, PM maybe SUN maybe not.
Thursday: doesn’t look too good
Friday: even worse
Saturday: improving, but if the 10-day forecast is somewhat accurate, RG might be very similar to last year’s Wimbledon. This isn’t tennis!!!

Paris is soaking

May 26, 2008

…while some left the courts high and dry. Federer decided to go for a short day at the office. Qurrey wasn’t supposed to be a big threat, but made a name of himself with the QF in Monte-Carlo.  Not important… bottom line is he is through. Gonzo and Serra are also through in that same quarter, while Starace was stunned by a player form ESP who I’ve never heard of. Andujar?? Qualifier… we’ll see him against Gonzo.

The only guy through in the 2ns quarter was Robredo who played a good match against RG finalist Coria. Coria played great tennis for 1,5 sets and was a real threat throughout the entire thing, but Robredo seemed to know how to deal with Coria’s short moments of magic. Great clay court tennis!

Nadal was due to play, but the stupid weather had to start early this year. All of western Europe is under some clouds and I believe will be tomrrow as well.

Anyway… here are some notes on Day 2:
– Gasquet pulled out of RG because of a knee injury. Something smells bad here!
– Bolelli toppled Baghdatis in straight sets and with ease. What’s going on with Baggy?
– Wayne Odesnik (USA) def. Canas (red clay ARG) 7-6, 7-6, 7-6!!! USA has already passed last year’s brilliant 0-9 performance. or was it 0-11?
– Verdasco, who I predicted could go far, needed 5 tiring sets against Ventura. Who?
– Weather forecast for Tuesday: 21C (70F) and PM rain. A repeat of today?

 

Farewell Guga

May 26, 2008

Kuerten has said goodbye on a number of occasions this year, but French Open was somewhat more special. He definetely will be remembered as the star of of tennis during the turn of the century and millenium, where he won here in Paris three times. Yesterday he had to say goodbye to a crowd who probably came to see him play, and not Mathieu. Mathieu was able to look away from that and beat Kuerten i 3 and sent him to retirement.

In addition, Djokovic struggled against Gremelmayr for some time, but was able to end it in 4 sets. I don’t think there too much to it. Gremelmayr knew that his task was close to impossible and did what an underdog should do, just go for it! He tried to take the ball early and not allow Djokovic in the play, which for a set and a half worked ok. But number of unforced started to explode and Djokovic was able to take over completely.

Today, Nadal and Federer are in action. I didn’t know this was even possible, but Federer will play on Lenglen, which isn’t the center court! Has he been downgraded?! I thought he ALWAYS gets the center court. It will also be interesting to see if Gasquet is able to win A match. He will play his countryman Serra. I assume Serra is very ready for the task of beating a top 10 player with a 10-10 record this year. This match is wide open.

Roland Garros draw

May 25, 2008

Roland Garros is perhaps the hardest to predict, say the last 16 for example. There are a lot of qualifiers I’ve never heard of and some of them usually get surprise wins. But here are my picks for the 4th round matches, last 16 players.

Federer – Soderling
Wawrinka – Andreev
Davydenko – Ferrero
Robredo-Ferrer
Tipsarevic – Berdych
Moya – Djokovic
Nalbandian – Almagro
Verdasco – Nadal

I’m tired of trying to figure out who got the best and toughest draw. A TWO week slam is tough for ALL players! End of story!
Here are some interesting 1st rounders:
Federer-Querrey!
Ancic-Seppi
Wawrinka-Kohlschreiber
Cilic-Haase
Davydenko-Johansson
Robredo-Coria!!
Ferrer-Darcis
Kuerten-Mathieu

Contenders for Roland Garros

May 23, 2008

All right. The draw is out. What d’ y’all think?! Before I get to the draw, here’s a list of the top contenders. There’s no point in analyzing the draw without the missing qualifiers. They are, more often than not, good enough to beat some of the other jokers.

1. Rafael Nadal
King of clay. Rafa will get the #1 position to win this title for many years to come I think. I mean, are there really any indications that this is wrong? All things considered, his clay season has been better than people want to say. Every player must experience an injury or some sort of problem SOMETIME!
Blisters was Nadal’s stop. Could this be decisive? I thought that this might be a problem for Rafa, but Hamburg proved that predictions wrong. I don’t know how two weeks of best of 5 sets will be any different. He might get the same problems, but he might also be perfectly fit. Perhaps he has grown a new layer of skin, who the heck knows? Let’s just say that if he doesn’t reach a final, it will be more surprising than any year.

2. Roger Federer
Will he make the final? I cannot see why. Like with Rafa, for every year he plays excellent tennis on clay, the bigger the upset will be if he DOESN’T make the final. Yes, there is Djokovic, but that’s it.
His clay season has only had 1 downside. Losing to Stepanek was bad timing. That Rome title was a must-win, especially after Nadal was out. Instead he let Djokovic take it and get CLOSER and CLOSER!
He will make the final, don’t you worry.

3. Novak Djokovic
Okay. Now this is new material. This time last year, we wasn’t too far away from #3, but still wasn’t in the same position he is today. Djokovic has had a great clay season. In fact, SF, W and SF in the masters is better than the two kids further up. He played a good match against Nadal and might play another one in the SF in Paris. He is still behind Nadal on clay. Best of 5 sets, is not gonna help.

4. Davydenko
As we speak, Davydenko is playing for the title in Austria. Doesn’t he EVER get tired? He actually had to play two 3 set matches in like a half a day! Do they make robots in Russia?! So no surprise to see him in another SF against Federer. A year (or 2) ago it would not be a big upset if he lost early. These days he gets to SFs and still has points to hunt in Wimbledon. The more he plays, the better he gets it seems.

5. Ferrer & Robredo
From this point on, I don’t believe we are speaking about contenders for the title. Ferrer finished 2007 on a perfect note. 2008 has been more routine-Ferrer. He hasn’t really too many good results to show in Paris, and based on the draw he has a good chance of getting to the SF, if he wants to.
I need to place Robredo just as high. They have performed almost equally on clay, and they might meet before getting to a potential SF with Federer. A match between the two would favor Ferrer (3-1) but you never know with Ferrer.

7. Almagro
Has done a good job this season. Started things good on HC and has improved on clay. He hit a career-high rank of 17 (now 20) and this might be the year where he can break through top 10. However, HC and Grass isn’t something he loves so that would be weird. He has only 35!!! points to defend. I can see him in 4th round, this year. But playing his best clay tennis, who knows?

8. Andreev
Has not impressed anyone on clay this year. Still a clay lover and last year’s QF must be defended. He seems to perform a little better in bigger events. It all depends on that forehand.

9. Wawrinka
Will Federer be able to say that they have a strong DC team, finally?!?! Wawrinka made quite a name of himself by reaching the final in Rome. The SF that Nadal was supposed to play. So a little lucky? You frickin’ bet! HOWEVER!! he has played well this year and if he has enough points to be #10, then sure why NOT?! No realistic contender of course, but one of the few who could surprise.

10. David Nalbandian
Likes to play on clay from what I know. He just needs to grab his you-know-what and get more disciplined or something! He has bigger potential than most people believe but hasn’t done anything big since Wimbledon final almost a damn decade ago. Okay, and TMC final where he beat Federer. But why not on clay? He has two SF to show in Paris. If you can get there, you can make the final. only #10 on my list though.

Pre-RG report card

May 19, 2008

Okay. Before we go to Paris and find the winner for the second slam of the year let’s look at how the guys have done so far this year. The grades are given mostly based on their W-L ratio, but also on what they’ve achieved.

Federer’s start is not a catastrophy. If that was the case he would have lost the #1 spot. He has a low, but healthy 79% wins. Estoril is the only result this year, but SF in AO and going deeper into IW and Miami are results that have raised his performance. Nadal has won most matches. But has also played most. He has done a PB on hard court grand slam in AO, final of Miami and SF in IW. Best of the top 3. And he’s clearly best on clay. There are two dissapointing results, which is not enough for an A. Rotterdam 2nd round, Rome 2nd round.

Djokovic is the only name that stands out. He started the year with his first slam. Then had an awkward loss in Marseille and to Roddick in Dubai. But then he went to California for the IW title and the only big hole this year is losing to 122 ranked Kevin Anderson in Miami. 11-3 on clay is a very good start before RG, A- . Davydenko is better than ever. Winning Miami is BIG. Having a % over 70 is pretty big for him actually. Performed over expectation, but is still losing early in too many tournaments. Maybe because he is still playing too many!

Ferrer ended 2007 really great, but hasn’t done anything to try and consolidate his posisiton. 70% isn’t good enough for #5. Roddick is still under my list of underachievers. BAD start at the AO ruins his A. Had he gotten to a SF he would have had the best ratio. Won Dubai and has beaten all of the big 3. Very good start, but not perfect. Actually this isn’t relevant for him anymore because he will NOT play FO. First time he pulls out of a slam.

All right. The rest you can see and judge. But Gasquet!!! he is failing! 10-10 for a top 10 player?! That’s not gonna cut it. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, with his ex-coach, but somethig’s gotta change. BTW, watch out for Almagro…. might this be his year?!

  W L Ratio Titles Grade
Federer 26 7 0,79 1 B
Nadal 37 7 0,84 3 B+
Djokovic 28 6 0,82 3 A –
Davydenko 29 9 0,76 1 B
Ferrer 23 10 0,70 1 C
Roddick 24 5 0,83 2 B+
Nalbandian 20 7 0,74 1 C+
Blake 25 10 0,71 0 C
Gasquet 10 10 0,50 0 F
Wawrinka 23 11 0,68 0 C
Tsonga 14 8 0,64 0 C
Almagro 27 9 0,75 2 B
Murray 19 9 0,68 2 C
Stepanek 19 9 0,68 0 C
Fish 16 10 0,62 0 C –
Gonzalez 16 4 0,80 2 B