Archive for August, 2008

Last 32 summary

August 30, 2008

And another 32 losers sent home, but unlike the WTA girls, no higher seeds are gone yet. Nadal is cruising, but I think a Troicki with confidence will be a harder test for Rafa. Then he is guaranteed a big server for R16 in Querrey or Karlovic. I’m giving Querrey the edge, due to good form and home soil.

Blake and Fish clash in R32, which guarantees an American in 4th round. Not a sure thing anymore… Winner of that match will play winner of Monfils-Nalbandian. This will be 5 sets. Both are good at spoiling opportunities, but equally agressive to stay in. Could be the match of the round. I think Monfils could go past Nalby.

Ferrer-Nishikori I would love to watch. This has the potential to be the upset of the tournament. Ferrer has played well so far, but far from the way he should in top 5. Nishikori has played a lot better than Ferrer’s opponents so far and could break him up early which could be enough. Winner here will meat Del Potro or Simon. This is Del Potro’s first REAL test. Canas was hard, but he hasn’t done anything lately so…. Still Del Potro has won the last 21 matches, I would put my cash on him again.

The next section is probably the most predicatable. Sorry for Cipolla and Melzer, but Wawrinka and Murray should cruise past if they want to be top 10 players. Wawrinka-Murray in R16 is a sure thing.

Roddick passed the Gulbis test, but was in deep s… at 1 set down + a break in the 2nd. Passing the two supposed difficult opponents in round 1 and 2, now Seppi seems just a little easier and looks like a straight sets win. Gonzalez has not impressed me. He isn’t playing like in Beijing, nor is he in the right mood. Nieminen is the first real test IMO and could go long if Gonzo isn’t on top of his game. A potential clash with Roddick means, IMPROVEMENT NEEDED!

Tsonga passed the Moya test, although not very convincing. Moya isn’t Moya anymore. He will meet Robredo who seems to be in a hard court love affair. He was able to take down Safin in 4 and could cause trouble for an agressive Tsonga. Close battle, me thinks. Winner here meets Cilic or Djoko. Cilic is Djoko’s first test and could give Djokovic some early sweats. He has climbed big time and is in the same form as Del Potro, only withouth the streak and titles. Seeded 30 and younger than Djoker. Maybe he will be underestimated…

All Russian 3rd round results in a spot for a Russian in a 4th round. Davydenko will beat Tursunov. Period. And Davydenko will meet either Almagro or Muller. Both sort of surprises at this stage, but no jokers. Both have a huge change to get a shot at a QF if they can take down Davy.

On the very bottom, Verdasco vs Andreev, and Stepanek vs Federer. Stepanek has beaten Federer this year and is the first test. He could take a set, but on hard things go too fast for Radek against the Swiss maestro. Verdasco seems to be on a roll and will down Andreev, no?

Disagree?

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Seeds go on

August 29, 2008

I just wanted to say how stupid I am that I stopped betting away money on tennis matches. Yesterday I got 15 out of 16 matches right! The only one, which I would never bet on, was Lu-Cipolla, probably the most unknown second round players ever. I would do it again today, but today’s matches seem just a little closer. Roddick-Gulbis, Robredo-Safin, Ginepri-Cilic, MOYA-TSONGA!, Hanescu-Tursunov….

But if there’s no big news from Queens, there is definitely some good news from the ATP. People have been complaining about the late arrival of the calendar. To make up, they’ve published the 2009, 2010, and 2011 calendars. It seems that everything is set for the next three seasons. I still doubt this, but as of today there’s no telling if any changes will come. 

The only greater change I see to it is the Shanghai Masters Cup being replaced by London. This means that the Asian season will be in the fall, and then players can return to Europe for Basel, Valencia, Vienna and STAY there, instead of going back to China. Apart from that, it looks very similar to 2008. The 250, 500, and 1000 points are probably a good addition, to make it easier for the public. I’m sure the players don’t care. Davis Cup points is also welcome, giving points to the better Davis Cup players. And I still want some confirmation that Grand Slams are awarded 2000 points. I read somewhere that it is confirmed, but the ATP hasn’t said anything. If some of you know, please SHOUT.

What I miss from this calendar, is an upgrade on the grass. Why should clay go for almost 6 months, while grass stays in inside a month? Clay gets three 1000 series events + two 500s. Grass gets Wimbledon and the regular warm-up tournaments. Is it supposed to be an “exclusive” surface? What the hell? At LEAST give Halle and London 500 status! It’s the only week during the season where pretty much all top players are in action below the regular masters (1000). Come on!! Even Nadal would agree!

64 “losers” sent home

August 28, 2008

And we can finally start round 2 of this grande slamme. Yesterday the headlines were in the women’s departement. I cannot agree more that the WTA tour is at a low point these days. No offense to Serbia who has the two frontrunners, but that seems to be their problem. They’re terrible frontrunners! Ivanovic is struggling, Jankovic is struggling. I had to watch Jankovic play for a set, waiting for somethin’ better, and it was the most boring match so far for me. It looked like an ordinary practise with a few trick shots here and there. It’s way too much baseline safe play. Learn to play the volleys girls! Approach shots! Do SOMETHING!

Which brings me to a guy who has it all. I was sure Clement would make Djokovic’s life a little miserable for a set, or half a set, but no. Djokovic played a solid match, but being very frustrated at times. It looked like he wanted to win all games at love. Angry when missing tough shots, angry when missing easy shots. Don’t get it, Novak!

Then there’s the night match Roddick-Santoro. What a match this was supposed to be… Unfortunately, for viewers, Santoro wasn’t allowed to bring out the magic tricks. He made like 3 or 4 great shots the entire match, which I don’t think laster more than 90 min. Roddick looked solid and has now confirmed that brother John is out and Pat Mac is in. At least for the Open. If there’s a player who doesn’t need more changes than that to get his game together, it’s Roddick. He said it himself at the question; what’s the biggest difference between 2003 and 2008 going into this tournament? “Confidence.” He just need’s to know that he can DO IT! Gulbis will be a lot harder, so don’t be overconfident!

Today Nadal will roll on the tracks against an unknown American (to me) and the rest of the upper half, if I’m not terribly wrong. I don’t see too many highlights for today, but Fish-Mathieu can turn interesting, Llodra-Murray, which I bet we don’t get to see due to WTA, and of course tracking Kei Nishikori. The way I see it he can have an awesome opportunity to take out a big question mark, which is Ferrer. If Kei can beat Blake on hard, then Ferrer shouldn’t be a lot harder. Especially as he had a terrible hard court season. Go KEI!

Here we can see 200 pounds of American beef floating through the Ashe vacuum. Nice Shot Cameraman!

Day 2 finito – Day 3 forecast

August 27, 2008

I thought that all first round matches would be played the first couple of days. We still have some goodies for tonight before the last 64 are ready. Yesterday Federer powered through against the wrong Gonzo. The real Gonzo was a real bitch on a side court. Haas took out a frustrated Gasquet in 5 realtively boring sets. Querrey defeated Berdych, which I didn’t find too surprising, but the commentators definitely did. Safin was able to pass Spadea, but 5 sets seems to be a lot in a first round if he wants to copy the Wimbledon run.

What can we see today? On Ashe, Clement-Djokovic can be a killer match, depending on Clement’s form and mood. Clement is a tricky little bastard and Djokovic can run into trouble if he’s not on top of his game from start. I think we will see Clement take one set, just to make Djokovic’s life more difficult. But don’t worry, Djokovic will win.

Last match tonight is Roddick-Santoro. It’s not the best match, seeing no.8 and 50? battling. But remember last year? I watches only half of Santoro-Blake and I regreted like never before. Santoro always brings the entertainment and brings out the best in his opponent as well. Usually not in form of tennis, but two charismatic players in front of 24,000 people won’t be bad entertainment I think. And because of this fact, being in the US, not in France, I think is key as to why Roddick will win it and not Santoro. Roddick will play more consistent than Blake and hit less errors. Santoro won their last meeting, IN LYON! I think Roddick’s record on US soil is too damn good to lose here. 3 sets to love? Maybe 1 set for Santoro….

Gulbis-Johansson will be another interesting match. Gulbis is the future, Johansson represents the past (sort of). Johansson has a GS in his pocket(s). Gulbis is 19 years old. Do the math. For me this match is very close, depending on Gulbis’ ability to stay focused and do few errors. Last year he made an incredible run, and now the pressure is on him. He actually goes in as favorite here, which I don’t know if he appreciates. I think 5 sets is very likely, and don’t be surprised to see the clever Swede (who just got silver in Beijing) victorious.

Possible upsets: Sela over Davydenko?

Day 1

August 26, 2008

First of all. What a weird match between Blake and Young. 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. It took Blake 5 sets to wear down the young Donald. Don’t let the score fool you though. 2h 48min isn’t too bad for a 5 set match. But this doesn’t look too promising for Blake if he wants to win 7 matches in a row. He needs to get over the jet lag and start playing his pre-Gonzalez Olympics game. He should do good if he get back to that winning-in-straight-sets-mood. I would say that it was a good experience for Young, but this was a first round so no history is written. Had it been a 4th R or QF then it would be a great performance. Young will have to wait til next year.

Then there’s Bjorn Phau (supposedly pronounced POW!) An interesting fact is that Phau held Nadal on court for 3 hours! That’s an hour a set! Not good for a blistered Nadal-foot and still demanding hard court game. Nadal had to to a lot of running and hard moving on the hard stuff as Phau enjoyed some decent rallying with one of the best baseliners in the world. I’m confident Nadal will get past the next Qualifier as well, but Blake in a QF (if they get there) will be a different story I think. The blisters will get bigger and badder, the knees will cripple and the already mentioned jet lag (he did mention it) won’t do any good if he doesn’t get some shorter matches.

To another happy camper; KEI! Nishikori. He’s baaack! Remember him making the headlines in Delray Beach when he beat Blake in the final taking his first ATP title? That’s the same kid who played around with 29th seed Monaco yesterday. Cramps took the best of him towards the end, but even then he was playing on a higher level than Monaco. I wouldn’t look too much into the scoreline or result quite yet, but I think he has a shot at getting far. Meeting with Ferrer could be interesting.

Today, Federer and others from the bottom half are up.

Cilic strengthens the generation shift

August 24, 2008

Cilic won in New Haven last night, beating (home)favorite Mardy Fish in 3 sets. The scoreline, or even the win itself, isn’t that important. Being the 8th player to win his first ATP title this year is a clear indication that new players emerge more than in quite a few years. Mix that with the Federer (not-so-dominant-anymore)fall and youngsters like Djokovic, Murray blending in, it’s beggining to look a lot like 2002-2003. That was the transistion season between Sampras, Agassi, Kafelnikov generation to Federer, Roddick, Safin, Hewitt. All world #1s and born in the early 80s. 2003 season was when we went from a RELATIVE weak no.1 in Hewitt to Ferrero and Roddick before Federer started his reign of a great no.1 player.

We have seen that Safin, Hewitt and now even Roddick maybe, are all struggling to keep up. Of course, they’ve been injured and motivation have rollercoastered, but Cilic, Nishikori, Del Potro, Gulbis, Djokovic, Murray, Young? are all still very young and seem to be some key players to look out for in the coming years, if not next year. Cilic and Del Potro have had some great wins and now both have won tournaments. Gulbis isn’t there yet, but his climb to no.40 is quite impressive for a young gun. No.419 in 2006, no.140 next year and 61 going into this year. Good and steady rise is a good sign for a talented kid like him.

Del Potro, even younger, popped up to the no158 in 2006, but has had a longer way to his top 50 spot. Regardless of time and place, they’ve all climbed fast and are in the same position Djokovic was when he was their age. The question remains; will they go all the way to the top or will they be like Gasquet and Murray who have struggled several years on the tour now to make the top 10.

Here are the hopefuls in the top 100:
Murray – still needs some work I think
Del Potro – seems like the biggest potential at the moment
Cilic – needs to gather the Del Potro consistency, but big potential
Gulbis – very clean and solid game, needs to win tournaments.
Querrey? – yet to turn 21 and without a doubt his best season, but little consistency.
Troicki? – you never know with the Serbians these days, breaking through as we speak
Fognini? – best season, age 21, slow riser, but still rising…
Bellucci – WHO? Yes has gone from 500s in the start of 07 and was 67th in the clay season.
Haase? – Same category as Cilic and the gang. Was 56th earlier this year. Probably will return.
Korolev – Has been around for some time. Still age 20 and needs a breakthrough match or tourney.
Young – Big potential and talent, but after a fast rise from 500 to 100 in one season is now stuck.

Let’s see who makes it!

Gettin’ ready!

August 23, 2008

Qualifiers are ready, we are ready, the players are ready, and finally the final slam of the year.
It doesn’t change my earlier prediction for the last 16, but the qualifiers always seem to be more on top of their game due to some Q matches. It sort of makes them better prepared. So look out!

R16?
Nadal – Karlovic
Blake – Monfils
Isner – Del Potro
Youzhny – Murray
Roddick – Gonzalez
Safin – Djokovic
Davydenko – Tipsarevic
Verdasco – Federer

1st rounds to watch: (h2h)
Berdych-Querrey (1-0)
Blake-Young (0-0)
Grosjean-Mathieu (2-1)
Del Potro-Canas (can a fellow Argentine break the LONG Del Potro streak?) (1-0)
Lopez-Melzer (0-1)
Roddick-Santoro (I bet my life savings this will be on Ashe) (2-1)
Gulbis-Johansson (1-0)
Clement-Djokovic (upset?) (1-1!!)
Davydenko-Sela (upset?) (0-0)
HAAS-GASQUET (top 10 quality all the way, watch out for some decent backhands!) (1-1)

US Open draw…

August 22, 2008

I thought that this would be the first slam in a trillion years where top seeds can go out early. Due to the tight North American-Olympics-jetlagging-tiring-season. It can still happen, but looking at the draw I see that most of our “favorites” are good to go.

Nadal has Troicki, Querrey, Karlovic and Kohlshreiber as immediate threats. He can run into Blake, Monfils, Ferrer or Nalby in a QF.

On the opposite side, Federer has Stepanek (l. in Rome) in 3rd round and Verdasco? in 4th. Federer’s road to a QF looks very, very good.

We have talked a lot about Murray, as he finally achieved to win a Masters series title. Just like Nalbandian or Ferrer or even Davydenko, you never know with Murray. He can go out early, but the road at the 2008 US Open, looks very OPEN. He has some difficult players like Llodra, Lopez, Youzhny or Wawrinka, but if he wants to win, or even make a PB with a SF appearance, then WIN!

Ferrer has only Isner as immediate threat, but IMO Ferrer can go out anytime. He just lacks the stability and hasn’t played good tennis since clay season. If he does, Del Potro could be waiting in a 4th round. Speaking of which, the 19 cons. winner Del Potro might also get by his 3 first matches to reach a 4th round. Even Isner or Ferrer might be beatable this time. He might get to a QF, but Murray might stop him there.

Davydenko cannot get to a SF and defend his points. I think he will lose early. Besides, he is in Federer quarter, so no chance.

Roddick is probably the least happy camper. Santoro for a 1st round is torture. Especially since he lost last meeting. I smell an upset of catastrophic dementions for Roddick. If Santoro can’t do it, can Gulbis do it in 2nd? Maybe. If no, then the road is much better. Gonzo seems like a possible 4th round opponent and Djokovic in QF. A Roddick Djokovic QF is possible, but the road for Djokovic is so much easier. Just frickin’ kidding. Poor bastard has the hardest draws ever! Last year I thought his gas tank would go empty before the 4th round. Once again, he has some fighters and MUCH stronger opponents than his two rivals. Clement in 1st, Mahut in 2nd, Cilic/Ginepri in 3rd, Safin/Tsonga in 4th. By the time he hits QF and perhaps Roddick, he might be seeing spots. And yeah, that’s right SAFIN! Maybe he has gained some respect for the older Russian after Wimbledon.

I think this will be the hardest slam to predict, but I will give it a go for the last 16 players:

Nadal-Karlovic – Karlovic finally makes a “break” in slams
Blake-Monfils – if Monfils isn’t hurt before Monday
Isner-Del Potro – in theory Isner and Karlovic should go far, in reality…..
Youzhny-Murray – this could be a nice one!
Roddick-Gonzalez – Not confident about these picks anymore.
Safin-Djokovic – Watch out Djoko!
Davydenko-Tipsarevic – Not too confident about these guys either
Verdasco-Federer – most confident about these actually! Easy road for both IMO

Comments…

Top US Open contenders

August 19, 2008

I’ve done this for every slam, and for the first time, I don’t think we know the winner before the final day. There aren’t too many contenders, but there are some that stand out and deserve some aknowledgement.

1. Rafael Nadal
Yes, you heard me. I even think you agree. Rafa has a stunning 38-1 on 3 surfaces this past spring/summer season. That is something even Federer has struggled doing in those fine 05 and 06 seasons. If you don’t think he’s hard court material, then a 14-1 since hitting the hard courts is probably one of his best runs ever. Going in with the Olympic Gold, #1 ranking, a whole lotta confidence and a Federer struggling to find winning tactics, the road is clear for a Rafa win in New York. Nadal has never passed the QF at the Open, but this year he seems to perform better and better. Some people think he’s tired, I think he’s inspired. However, there’s a good point made when he has played so many matches this year, and this Cincy-Beijing-New York trip in 3 weeks is no good for any human being. If he doesn’t run into trouble early, he should be good to go on cruise control, but getting passed those first few obstacles might be difficult. I still put him on top though!

2. Roger Federer
Federer is 2nd seed and therefore 2nd favorite. How can he be after winning this thing every year since 2004?! Because he has 4-3 record on his back this fall on hard courts. That doesn’t have to mean anything, because it’s Federer, but look out for other players like Blake who hasn’t beaten you yet. It seems to be the season to beat Federer for the first time. I’ve heard that the grass at Wimbledon quite possibly is slower than the hard courts at the Open. That could be significant for Roger if he runs into Nadal in a final. Rafa moved a lot better on grass and Federer will go in as a bigger favorite then. The only problem is that he has to beat 6 other players before we get there. Djokovic could take out either one of the two top guys, but Roger-Rafa final is more likely than ever in New York. Here’s why….

3. Novak Djokovic
If Djokovic would have beaten Nadal in Beijing, he would be either on 2. or 1. upstairs. I thought that Djokovic’s hard court game is way too stable and reliable for Nadal’s defense. I was wrong and Nadal proved he can beat this year’s first slam winner. He has a final to defend, a thing he has never had to do before. The math is still easy, and he needs to get passed one of the two big guys to achieve this. Depending on his form, he is just as vulnerable as Nadal and Federer in terms of losing earlier. For the first time in years, I actually think we could see some other guys in the title race. One name that pops out is the new Scottish star, winner of Cincy…

4. Andy Murray
The reason Andy has not only hit his best ranking, but finally won a Masters, is his run of consistency. He won Doha the first week of the year, then was very unfortunate to run into AO finalist Tsonga in the first round, only to win Marseille with ease. On clay it wasn’t all the good, because he hates it I guess. Reached his first QF in Wimbledon, SF and W back-to-back before Beijing. He has raised his game and lost fewer matches early in tournaments. This means that he can pull an upset to one of the big guns in the QFs and cruise into a US Open final. I know he’s never passed QF in a slam, but there’s always that first time, isn’t it?

5. Andy Roddick
Andy the 2nd now unfortunately, for him. Unless of course, he retires due to some injury, he should be good to go this year. His plan to skip Beijing and focus on US hard courts seemed like a good idea. Now that he performed under his ability in both LA and DC, things look less bright. The start of the season was very mixed, early loss in Aussie, beating Fed-Rafa-Djok in one month, reached a SF on clay!!, and injured which seems to have ruined his momentum into grass season and now the hard court season. But there’s no doubt Roddick is best in New York and now that Federer is mentally injured from losing to 3 Americans in 6 months, the belief system has gotten a revolution. Don’t be surprised to see him in a SF or better.

6. James Blake
I was so angry when Blake pissed the 3 match points away against Gonzo. He had deserved that win, but choked like a fly in vacuum. For a breif week he was US #1 player and seemed to finally crack the top 5 code. Problem is that he didn’t defend the Cincy final and lost a good chunk of points. Ranking doesn’t really matter when you beat Federer, I think. Federer has stopped Blake at the Open before, but this time Blake can say that he actually has a chance. He won’t step onto the court and think that this is the end. He knows he can beat Nadal and Djokovic could be the toughest at this point. Either way, the fact that he even got to a bronze medal final was a good sign going to New York. Maybe the Americans will rise to the home tuft occasion.

7. Ferrer & Davydenko
What the hell is wrong with these guys?! It’s like they hit a tree when they date the word success. Since hitting the hard courts Ferrer has a strong 1-3. Davydenko shows off with 2-3. I thought people were disapointed with the Americans! I don’t think they even should make this list, because inconsistency like this shows why they will never win 7 straight matches and win a slam.

9. Del Potro and Gonzalez
Del Potro and Gonzalez have to share the final spot. Del Potro has won 4 freakin’ straight tournaments! 19 consecutive wins! He has beaten some lower ranked players, but was able to destroy Roddick in LA with 6-1, 7-6! I can see him easily passing some obstacles like Ferrer or Davydenko early and maybe even giving the more challenging players a good fight. QF?
Gonzalez is a weird guy. No offense! He hadn’t won 2 straight matches since Queen’s, but reached the final in the Olympics. And the way he got to the SF against Blake was impressive. Straight set wins with plenty of breaks of serve. Maybe he didn’t have the nastiest draw, but it always looks good for a player to hold a silver medal before heading to New York. Is Chile only strong in Olympics? We will see.

Historic day

August 18, 2008

Good job Nadal!

A little fact for you, just to show how much Rafa has deserved to finally top the ranking. He tops it now with 6700 points, but he has struggled since 2005 to believe how far away from Federer he has been over the years. HOWEVER, he really deserves it if we measure his accomplishments compared to the #1 players before the Federer era started. Andy Roddick was the last man standing at #1 before this, with 4535 points. I think this was his peak in the amount of points. Nadal, on the other hand, has been sitting on 4535 points several times during these three years. September 19th 2005, only a couple of months after hitting the #2 spot, he was up at 4475 points, and miles away from #1. He has gone up and down, like any other player, but his rise is remarkably constant considering that his clay season has been almost perfect every year, while a natural drop would occur during hard. The point is that he played poorly on hard in 05, better in 06, even better in 07, and 08 he has already won two Masters on hard + Wimbledon. So from September 2005, he has pretty much deserved to at least be associated with the top spot. Almost three years later, he can finally look at it and say “I’m better than Federer.”