Archive for July, 2008

Is Federer’s racket his “problem”?

July 31, 2008

I found a very interesting point in this article from tennis.com.  Is Federer’s racket the weakness in his tennis bag? The point is that Federer’s old style mid-size or small size racket is very difficult to handle because of the small sweet spot. The surface area of this spot is significantly smaller than on the more regular 100 inch rackets. Those 10 inches could have been what ultimately decided the Wimbledon final. In darkness and wind, there’s no doubt that a larger racket would do any player good. The difference could be a slight miss or a complete shank into the crowd. For the best player in the world, you would think that he could perhaps hit the ball in his sleep. Well.. he cannot. There’s a reason Federer watches the ball longer and better than any other player. The 90 inch head is hard to handle and takes Federer’s talent magnitude.

Many will probably contradict this point saying that it’s just like anything else. If you have used ONE type of racket your whole career, it won’t do you any good to switch. Same might apply to Federer. Question being, will he still be able to hit his forehand as hard as he does now? Will he be able to create the same angles, spins, volleys…etc.? Probably not. He will have to work hard to be satisfied with the strokes.

On the other end, there’s some truth to the point in the article. Wouldn’t you think that Federer could beat you with a frying pan if he wanted? Roddick has done some trials in his charity events, hitting the ball like there was nothing to it. All I’m saying is that I think Federer’s talent is so big and his clean game is so good that any racket he picks up, he can play almost just as well with. It always takes some time to get used to, but I assume he would be one of the best to adjust as well. From the sound of Federer’s view on this issue, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll switch any time soon. But it would be interesting to see how a Fed-Rafa racket swap would turn out. My tip would be Federer winning 0 and 0, because of Nadal hitting every other ball on the frame. Federer, on the other hand doesn’t need to change anything to be able to hit his normal shots. U see?

And one big point, which isn’t disputed anymore, is the fact that YES, Federer would have beaten Nadal more on clay, if he’d had a few more square inches. The only shot that Federer hates (when playing only Nadal it seems) is the high hit backhand. The 4800 rpm spin into Federer’s backhand at nose height, is VERY hard to get back with some decent pace. Running around is Federer’s desperate answer, but clay monster Nadal will outrun him on them. Evindently, Federer would have appreciated a bigger sweet spot on those occasions. If Youzhny can hit such a good backhand with a 100 incher, so could Federer.

I don’t think Federer would get any help now on the hard stuff in N.America, but switching racket on clay, or making a custom CLAY racket for the guy sounds interesting. If I was him, after 3 consecutive RG final losses, I would certainly do anything to try and improve my chances against the RAFA. If we get a Fed-Rafa final in Cincy, and Federer misses many on his backhand side, I’m going to conclude that the theory is at least close to true.

Federer – do or almost die

July 30, 2008

2 points from defeat and more than likely losing #1 spot this week, Federer saved his sorry self from a major defeat #2 in 2 weeks. So what’s the problem? Confidence shaken? Has the king lost it?
What would be awesome is if we get a Fed-Rafa final who decides who will take on the #1 spot. Don’t know if that’s possible for Nadal with the points he needs, but I assume some of you know better. My question is if Federer has his focus on achieving something that a player only can do once in 4 years, which is gold medal. Maybe that’s where his head is at.

Either way, a tremendous test for both Federer (under pressure) and Nadal (under hard court pressure, but with phenomenal confidence boost last week)
Yummy!

Is it a question of IF or WHEN?

July 21, 2008

Federer vs. Nadal
When will Nadal pass Federer?
Can he do it, or will Djokovic rise fast?
Will it be Federer who fails to “return” to his old self, or will it be Nadal’s awesome rise as a superplayer on any surface?
Or a combo?
Can’t wait for this summer/fall season. Fun has started in Toronto….

What do you think?

Federer, you lucky bastard!

July 20, 2008

If tennis tournaments are races, Federer just got a mile head start. Of the top seeds who get byes, he’s got the easiest way to the final. First possible seed is Gonzo. Next in a QF is Roddick. Then a SF could go against Davydenko or Blake. I say he’s good to go. Roddick seems to be the only one who can scare him a little bit, but I think the Miami win was a factor of late mono effects. I would be surprised to see Federer NOT showing up on Sunday for another final. Blake is also in early trouble. He just lost to Tursunov and can get him early. Youzhny and Stepanek could also annoy him on the way. But if he’s a top 10 player, he should actually beat all (even Davydenko) on his favorite surface and run into Federer in a semi.

On the other side, it’s the draw from hell. Murray, Safin, Querrey, Wawrinka, Verdasco, Canas, Soderling, Dancevic (did good last year), Ancic, Djokovic, Ferrer, Gasquet, Berdych, Nadal + many more. Only name missing is Federer. I can see a Murray-Djokovic QF. I think that’s the only quarter that is easier to call. Although Safin, Ancic, Querrey, Canas are all capable of upsetting these bigger names. In the last quarter a Nadal-Ferrer QF is not far fetched. In fact, if Nadal has become such a good hard court player like he was during the spring, he should even beat Ferrer. We remember Ferrer easliy taking Nadal down in Shanghai, but I think Nadal feels more comfortable outside.

So with the seeds (or other favorites) the easies QF prediction is:

Federer-Roddick
Davydenko-Blake
Murray-Djokovic
Ferrer-Nadal

Then, it’s more likely that we get another Federer-Djokovic final. I doubt Federer would allow Djokovic to win it again. We’ll see.

Big 3 and the rest…

July 17, 2008

We are all impressed with Federer’s incredible 4 year on top run. We are also impressed with Nadal’s #2 since 2005 and the fact that he probably is the most improved player on the tour. Going from struggling on hard and grass, to become the #2 on both. This year we’ve had another addition to the “consistency club”. Djokovic started out with a slam, closely followed by a series of SF and F heading onto grass. Wimbledon is perhaps the most disapointing result for him, in the sense that every player seems to put Wimbledon very high on their list of prioritys.

Although Federer has lost to several players this year, as opposed to the previous 4 years, he still is the best in the world on the 52-week basis. If it wasn’t for Djokovic, he would probably have beaten Tsonga in the final and won Aussie Open, even with the mono. The Fish and Roddick losses are a little more awkward, but the man had almost NO points to defend that month. For Roddick, it was very important that Federer was not in his best place this spring. Then came clay, and the points started to accumulate. Won Estoril, Nadal prevented him from MC title once again. Stepanek prevented him from winning in Rome. (Which I think he would have). Then Nadal x 2 in Hamburg and RG. Only to be followed by a record LOW 11-1 on grass. Are we really worried that Federer has lost it?! No way! He is still the best player out there, until proven otherwise. If he starts a phenomenal fall and gets his gold medal, there’s no way he will end the year as anything else but numero uno.

Nadal must be frustrated, even after Wimbledon. Although he has less points (much less) to defend the next couple of months, he is probably very aware that Federer might reach the finals of many tournaments to come. Probability that Nadal will do the same on his poorest surface is not as probable. So wait a few moore weeks before we change the positions on the rankings. Another thing is that not only will Nadal want the gold medal, but he will want to try to win the Davis Cup title, I assume. Spain is in a good position to win it all and he could go and focus on DC this fall, rather than risking playing too many tournaments. He was close to giving up his 2nd spot to the Djoker.

Djokovic on the other hand has a LOT of points to defend. First he has the Canada title and the USO final. Add a Vienna 250 pointer and he knows he cannot mess it up. Will he give it 100% for the medals? I don’t know, I thought he would do like Roddick. Skip Beijing and try to focus on USO. I assume that it’s not a bad move if you wanna win it. I hope the Beijing air doesn’t mess the already asthmatic-like character of Djokovic. If I was him, I would have stuck around in North America.

So who are the other jokers who want in on the action? The reason Ferrer is 4th, is primarily due to his very good form this time last year. USO SF is not easy to defend, and Cicy QF is probably hard too. He also has Tokyo(250) to defend later on. I can only assume that he too, will want to have SOME focus on the home tie against the US in September. Later on he will have a final in MC as well. Pressure is on Ferrer. I predict he will fall some more under 3000 points and fight with Davydenko and Roddick for the 4th spot.

Dayvdenko is the next joker. He skipped two straight tournaments, which is unusual for him. His either sick or hurt. I don’t think rest is on his program. I don’t see him repeating Miami, but there’s no telling where he could go, after such a good start to the 08 season.  But like Ferrer, he will have SF at USO, SF in Cincy and QF in Canada to defend. Pressure on him too. He will also lose some of these I think.

Roddick is a question mark. He seems to continue his problems with the back, or shoulder or whatever. If he’s 100% fit for the Canada, he will always be ahead of Ferrer and Dayvdenko in terms of favorite for SF, but not further. Same goes in Cincy. Cincy might be his this year, as most player might opt to skip it for Olympics prep. Or maybe Blake will take it, after having been close last year.

Blake is another dude to look out for. One of the best hard court players, without a doubt, is probably drooling before heading to Toronto. This week he’s in action in Indy and is favorite for the title. I think that he will pass Roddick and take the 6th spot, and hence (I assume) 6th seed for the Cincy Masters? Might turn out important, who knows?

Other players to look out for is certainly Nalby. He has two masters to defend. If he doesn’t, he will be heading back to 20-25. Very likely I believe. Murray, Gasquet and Stepanek seem to be heading in a good form. Gasquet acted well on grass, and the other two have played OK all season. All are potential upsetters.

Wawrinka is a question mark. He seems very good on clay, but I’ve never seen him play phenomenal on hard. Gonzo, Youzhny, Karlovic, Ancic, Verdasco++++ many Americans like Isner and Querrey are all likely to make decent results.

Based on points and how players usually perform, I think the ranking will be almost unchanged in the top 10. Maybe Gasquet could do some damage. Roddick should also improve from a poor 2000 points.

What’s going on with the ATP?!

July 15, 2008

If I remember correctly the ATP calendar for the 2009 season will be ready when the Hamburg lawsuit is settled. I’m an amateur blogger, so don’t turn my info into official info, but I think that it will be settled this week. I would never have thought that the ATP would delay the calendar and the information about the upcoming season SO much. If the 2009 changes are as big as said to be, then it must be a problem for all the tournaments who have yet to receive a finalized schedule for next year. I assume most people involved know when they will host a tournament, but what if changes occur in the last minute?! Must be a freakin’ headache for all involved.

Why haven’t they at least gone into more detail what will happen with the ranking points, the race points, the layout in terms of rules and new regulations on play and particiaption. I know there’s a lot of new stuff for the 09 season, and the few things already mentioned have indicated that we haven’t gotten the spicy details for the coming season.

So we have the 9, not 8, masters series. Last time I checked Monte Carlo was also supposed to be eliminated from the 1000s series. That didn’t happen and is now part of the 9 masters tournaments, just like today. Hamburg’s execution will be determined shortly and Shanghai will switch places with London as host of the the ATP WTF. Don’t blame me for the WTF, it stands for World Tour Finals. Why they had to change it, I will never know. It says that Monte Carlo will NOT be mandatory for the top players. The other 8 are. What the hell is that supposed to mean?! Won’t most top players skip it then?!

Then there’s the 500s tournaments, which supposedly are for the top guys. If the draws will, on average, be 32… then the +- top 50 will always get to these one’s. Much like Dubai, Queen’s, Barcelona are today. My only problem is that now there will be even more reason for Federer, Nadal and other top 10 players to completely ignore 250 point tournaments. I mean… wouldn’t you?! Just look at the great Roger. He plays the 4 slammers, 9 (8) masters + WTF. That’s 16 already. Then maybe Basel and Halle. Already 18!! He hasn’t been playing more than 18 in years. Will the 2009 changes “force” players to play even more!? I don’t get it.

And there’s another problem for me. Green is the grass, but not fast. It seems to be slowing down every year, and maybe in a decade or two, Wimbledon will change to hard courts. Grass was very much used in the 70s, now we have three (4 with Newport) weeks of grass! Not one tournament as Masters Series (1000), not one planned as 500 series either. The prestigeous Queen’s Club will be receiving the same amount of ranking points as Umag and Warsaw (no offense). Unfair!

Who will come better out of this mess? Players who adore clay. With Monte Carlo, we now have 3 1000 series and 2 (I think) in the 500 class. I think Valencia will have hard courts, but I’m not sure.

I still don’t understand the details of the role of the 500 series, but I believe I read somewhere that they will count the 4 best 500 tournaments (sort of mandatory) and then Davis Cup points (if enough points achieved) will also go under this category. So if you play four 500s, and the 4th best of those is a QF, but your DC points is higher, the DC points will count. This is straight from what I think I read, so don’t read if you don’t want. It it mentioned on ATPtennis.com, but it’s very short and doesn’t give details.  I do like the DC points though. If a player goes undefeated throughout the year, he deserves some damn points. If you do that, like Roddick did last year, they’ll get 500 points.

And one more thing that I really don’t understand. I can see why ATP has shortened some tournaments for the top seeds by letting them skip the first round (with byes). In most Masters series, there are now R56, where top seeds only play 5 rounds. But what the hell is going on with the tournaments that are NOW? Is that an indication for the changes for 2009? Last week’s tournaments, AND this week’s, several tournaments have S28! players in the draw, meaning that the top guys get byes. What the hell?! Is 5 rounds too much for the poor guys?! So.. you win ONE match and you are in the QF! That’s not how it’s supposed to go! Please!

While we are waiting for the Canada Masters to start, Umag, Indy, Amersfoort and Kitzbuhel will make sure we have a week more of tennis action. I will write more about the silly 2009 season as soon as information becomes declassified for interested tennis fans. I really hope they don’t destroy the sport.

3 finals, 3 surprises

July 13, 2008

The tournaments that follow Wimbledon will never be the most popular for the top players. Even Davydenko stayed at home for these. This only means that lower ranked players have a unique chance to get a title (maybe their first)

In Stuttgart Del Potro and Gasquet have played consitently and good throughout the week and will battle it out for the title. Gasquet seems to have found his winning form after a good week in Wimbledon and now on clay in Stuttgart. Gasquet seems good enough to win it.

In Gstaad an upset of Wawrinka, made Hanescu reaching his 2nd ATP final in his career. Things are looking good before heading off for the court for him, because Garcia-Lopez and Andreev still have a set to play. Not optimal preperation for a final. Based on how well Hanescu played yesterday, Andreev and Garcia-Lopez could be in trouble today.

In Bastad, def champ Ferrer was upset by a rejuvenated Robredo. I never thought Robredo would be good enough to beat now #4 Ferrer. He probably knows that clay season is almost over, so get all the points you can get pal. Another surprise is Berdych. Not known for his fantastic clay results, he has beaten Johansson, Starace and Verdasco to reach the final. If his game is working at 100%, I don’t think Robredo has enough firepower to respond.

In Newport (grass), there were mostly clay haters. You would think that Fish, Mahut, Isner, Young and other Americans have a chance when the highest ranked player is Fish at #39. But no! Who will win?! Fabrice (closing on age 80) Santoro! He will have to defeat an unknown name from India.

Next week US Open series starts in Indianapolis. I don’t think this “series” means too much for most players, because Blake is the only player inside top 20 who plans to attend the party. I think most “important” players, even Davydenko (haha) are resting before an intense start to the fall season. Two masters back-to-back next weeks and then someone will head to the grey skies of Beijing, while others stick around to the much cleaner skies of Washington and well… not LA.

The Race

July 10, 2008

Once again the big three are secured a spot at the Masters Cup in Shanghai. Nadal seems to be unbeatable this year, but might have a reality check when moving on to the fast hard courts of North America. He will still be way over 1000 points this year and Federer will have to win the US Open to even think of catching up. Not that #1 or #2 in the race is important, but if Nadal stays number one the entire fall, it might be that he will end the year as world #1 on the ranking.

Djokovic is also safe with his third place. Here on out things get more interesting. If there are three more players who shoud, and probably are, going to Shanghai, it is Davydenko, Ferrer and Roddick. All three will probably collect enough points during the summer and fall.

After that we have Alamgro who performed extremely well on clay. He has also done some good matches on hard, but the big results are not there yet. I don’t think he would enjoy playing the indoor event in Shanghai against the best players in the world.

Murray sailed up to the 8th spot, due to his recent OK results in Wimbledon. I bet he gets inspired enough to do well in the rest of the tournaments. For him, it’s important to stay consistent. I would much rather see him in QF every time, rather than winning one of the tournaments and go out early in the rest. If he can do some damage in Toronto and Cincinnati, he should be good to go.

This is the top 8 as we see it today. However, I would think Almagro gives way to a hard court loving bastard. I suspect Blake has a chance. Tsonga must return, because he also should have a shot at #8 on hard and indoor.

Wawrinka? Gonzo? Nalbandian? (who needs to defend to masters titles!) Ancic? Verdasco? Soderling?

I don’t think we will see too many surprises this year either. This is how I think it will turn out towards the end of October:

1. Nadal
2. Federer
3. Djokovic
4. Ferrer
5. Roddick
6. Davydenko
7. Wawrinka
8. Blake

Did I forget someone?

Nadal wins after almost 5hrs!

July 6, 2008

One of the best tennis matches I have ever witnessed in my 23 years on the face of the planet. This is by far the most intense, well-played, dramatic, multiple variabled, entertaining, nerve wrecking, nail biting match people of the newer and younger generation has ever seen. I don’t really know how people in the 70s, 80s and 90s were while watching this type of match, but I can’t come up with a comparison. We are in 2008, and the tennis is being played at an incredible and fantastically high level. Yes there are still unforced errors, but not once have I been more impressed in a Grand Slam final.

I thought I was speechless (and I was), but it’s easier to write. Nadal won a match, where he was ahead pretty much all the way. Federer was dangerously close to loss after 3 and 4 sets, but managed to pull his game together and get us into one of the best Grand Slam finals of all time. Winners were outstanding, aces came at critical points, passing shots were illeagally beautiful and power shots were picture perfect. This match lacked nothing! Rain delays, comebacks, championships points that were saved, stunning winners, stunning errors, stunning serves, stunning returns, stunnings rallies, and I could go on like this for quite some time, but I cannot come up with ONE thing that was disapointing during this match.

Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.  (I almost wrote 10-8, you kinda lose track of the figures). Is it really possible to analyze the match?!

Well, it was probably impossible to predict that Nadal would go on and win the first two, only to lose the next two and go to 9-7 in the fifth as the sky turned dark. If, I said, IF, Federer was able to hold (or break) and make it 8-8, the match would be finished tomorrow. Not only can be say that the match was decided on an inch, or millimeter, but it was decided with the minutes and seconds of daylight still remaining to get a champion tonight. The initial rain delay didn’t have too much contribution, but it did make the match go into darkness. But as Nadal started to play, there was a clear sign that he was the one to beat on grass this year. Or on any surface for that matter. He was playing a controlled and solid game both on serve and on return. Broke Mr. Rogerer in the first set and held incredebly all the way through it. Rafa got broken quickly in the second set, and everything was indicating a 1-all score. Did anyone get flashbacks from Hamburg perhaps?! Fed(erer) had a friggin 4-1 lead and was able to piss it away! Or was it Nadal’s phenomenal play that decided it?! A solid and great combination IMO. Federer did his share of unforced, but the wind was NASTY before the rain came in.

Okay, Rafa broke back and took the set. At 6-4, 6-4 there was a clear sign that this would be Rafa’s year. He played better than Roger, played the important points better, which always is the deciding factor on these occasions, and would most likely take the 3rd set as well. Roger held serve, and once more and once more, although Nadal seemed very solid during the entire 3rd set. Probably the most exciting set of the tournament at that point. Tiebreaker! Who was favorite. According to statistics, Nadal. But who gives a rat’s behind!? Tiebreak statistics are stupid and Roger was solid and proved to the world that world #1 is not gonna lose to world #2 in straight sets TWO TIMES IN A ROW! 2-1!

That fourth set is probably an ABC in how to play the game of tennis for ALL tennis players out there. You find forehand winners, ditto on backhand, volleys, passing shots, serves, drop shots, killer slices, returns, every damn aspect of the game! Even friggin MENTAL strength is possible to watch! Who was strongest mentally during the 4th set?! Well as Federer won, I think Federer! Even if Nadal had a 5-2 lead in the breaker or whatever it was. 2-all. Not bad, not bad at all!

Final set, and Roger and Rafa need to prove what the heck they are worth, figuratively speaking. Call me crazy, but the rain delays seem to have worked in Fed’s favor. At 2-all when they were interrupred, Nadal seemed strong as heck. Right after the delay, Federer was serving huge, hitting huge winners and playing his best. Am I crazy?! Nadal had break points on two occasions before he broke him! Right, but Federer was holding serve more comfortably than he had during the entire match, without THESE two break points opportunities. Even on Nadal’s serves, he looked very dangerous and I thought throughout this entire set that Federer is looking better than Nadal. The fact that Federer was still making more errors than Nadal was a results of the diffferent playing styles, no suprise. And that’s why he lost. A couple (yeah… like 2!!) balls he hit wide or in the middle of the net, which he couldn’t afford to. That’s why he lost. I genuinely think he looked stronger during that 5th set! Nadal played better for much of the other 4 sets and probably got what he deserved in the end, which was a VITAL break of serve. Federer hit the biggest, and the most inhuman and sickest return on the first match point, but couldn’t hold his shaking body together for the second (which was like match point #4 or 5 in total).

Deserved win is my verdict, but when a Grand Slam final, and not any slam, Wimbledon finals goes to 7-all in the final set, both players deserve the win. This match deserves to be watched when teaching kids how to play tennis, to replace coffee, to give people heart attacks, but also as a defibrilator. I think I’m gonna purchase this final and watch it every time I even consider tennis as a boring sport (which it certainly isn’t) or just if I’m in a bad mood.

This final will definetely end up as the best final every played. I said best! Borg-McEnroe in 80 was exciting, but these guys hit errors and did all sorts of junk. It was a nail biter, but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a better final in the quality of tennis either! Nearly five hours and the best man of this spring wins and steals Federer’s 65 incredible winning streak on grass. 65 doesn’t sound too incredible, but that’s 6 (six) friggin years!!!!! Fantastic Nadal! And I want to congratulate him for his hard effort and his fantastic athletisism. His game has brought so much to tennis, especially this rivalry with Federer, which is far from over. I assume Federer will be more motivated to hunt down Nadal in Paris and give him the first loss there EVER, and maybe steal the golden trophy back. We all know Federer is capable, and that Nadal will be there to prevent it. I cannot wait!

Right now, Nadal deserves all the credit he can get from all fans, and go into this final part of the year with the hopes of breaking the #1 barrier. As he has achieved the unthinkable, this now looks like a very possible outcome in a few months’ time. He almost never has A LOT of poinst to defend in the fall, so here is his chance to get ahead of the great Roger. Fantastic performance from both and lets just hope that US Open will be a small fraction as entertaining. That will do!

Bravo Nadal!

Roger or Rafa?

July 5, 2008

Third time’s a charm?

Federer and Nadal have been, without any doubt, the two best players of the tournament so far. Not because they got to the much anticipated final, but because I’ve never seen any of the two play 6 really good matches in a row in Wimbledon. I remember Federer as a shaky “first weeker” and Nadal just not good enough on grass. Since that 2006 final, they’ve both grown and grown and Nadal is now better on grass, hard, carpet, water, snow… all surfaces. The question is now; is he good enough this year?

If the 2007 final was a 60-40 Fed advantage, this year it’s like 51-49. It might be a Fed straight set win, but this time I actually think Nadal can take it in 3. Probably the hardest slam final they’ve played to predict. In all RG finals, Nadal was favorite. In all Wimbledon finals, Federer was favorite. This time Nadal seems just too strong to go home withouth the golden trophy. But like I’ve said before… I cannot think Federer will lose on grass until I actually see it happening. When Nadal reaches match point tomorrow, I will reconsider my decision, but right now Federer hasn’t been stopped in 6 years.

Federer wins in 4 and finally!!! gets his first slam of the year.