Archive for September, 2008

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?

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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.

Davis Cup time!

September 18, 2008

Davis Cup semifinals will commence tomorrow and I don’t know how close the one tie is, but the other could be very close. You know which is which, right? US vs. Spain should be a clay domination from the powerful Spanish team, while Russia vs. Argentina could quite possibly be a close one to be decided on Sunday.

 

Argentina – Russia

Two big nations in Davis Cup will clash in Buenos Aires. My initial feeling is that the Russians will struggle to gain any respect from the stands. The Argentineans will probably give them the hardest time ever, to help their own guys. Maradona certainly will. It will be played on clay and it seems that their number 2 player might be a big contribution in securing the final. Del Potro has had a phenomenal summer and there’s no reason to see the momentum going away just yet. He hasn’t only won on hard, but on clay too. Davydenko and Tursunov might not cope with him I think, Andreev could. I was impressed to see him take Federer to 5 sets on hard. Andreev’s best surface is by far clay. I think they have to play Andreev for the important 2 all match. For some reason, I think we will see what we saw in Oregon last December. The Russians will not play their best and thereby lose 4-1 or 3-0. Del Potro and Nalbandian should be able to clinch it, if not maybe Canas.

 

Spain – USA

For USA, this is probably the worst possible scenario for a Davis Cup tie ever. Spain on red clay in Madrid in a bull fighting arena is like Usain Bolt on speed and with a jet engine on his back. Spain has every single advantage going in. Their two top guys are ahead of Roddick, and Querrey…. Well he had a couple of good clay tournaments, but has he ever beaten Nadal? Someone on the US team HAS to be beat Nadal to get a win. I cannot see that happening. It has to be said though, that Roddick is slowly turning in to one of the best DC players of all time and seems to be slightly more motivated in DC than the 4 Spaniards. They beat them last year in the states, without Nadal, but clay should and probably will make the biggest difference. I think Roddick-Nadal has the potential of being a highlight, but with Bob Bryan out even the doubles looks like a hopeless cause. For a US win, Nadal has to lose a singles, Qurrey has the beat either Ferrer or Nadal, and Fish/Bryan needs to win. Possible? Naaaaah….

Interesting facts

September 13, 2008

I’ve said before that I like looking at the W-L ratio, as it usually is a good indicator on how a player performs over the course of the season. Some get good points in the big events, while some gather more in the smaller tournaments. Either way, winning matches is key and should be rewarded. Here’s a list of the winning % so far this year:

1. Nadal – 89%
2. Federer – 82%
3. Djokovic – 81%
4. Del Potro – 78%
5. Roddick – 77%
6. Davydenko – 75%
7. Murray – 75%
8. Gonzalez – 74%
9. Almagro – 71%
10. Nalbandian – 70%
11. Ferrer – 69%
12. Wawrinka – 68%
13. Tsonga – 68%
14. Blake – 67%
15. Verdasco – 64%
16. Simon – 64%
17. Robredo – 63%
18. Andreev – 60%
19. Gasquet – 58%
20. Karlovic 55%

I only included the top 20 on the ranking, so players further down may have higher %. For example Cilic has 60%, Monfils 61% etc..

Road ahead for top 10

September 11, 2008

1. Rafael Nadal
Rafa has reached the very high 7000 point mark. We were pretty impressed when Federer reached that a few years back. Question is how long he can hold on that high. It’s like 99% probable that he will keep it through this year as he has few points to defend compared to Fed and others. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pass 7200 this season, mainly because he still can get to a masters final and add quite some points. First up is DC semis. This could go wrong for him personally. I don’t think returning to the demanding clay is the very best for a player who might pass 100 wins in one season. However, he does seem like he’s an iron man so why not?

2. Roger Federer
Unlike Nadal, Federer has a lot of points to defend. A big win in Basel and a final in Madrid and the masters cup. But with his recent success, he might just be crawling back towards Nadal and at least head over 6000 points and maybe close the gap before Aussie Open. I don’t think he will ever dominate like he used to, but a scenario where he could go undefeated for the rest of the season is not that crazy.

3. Novak Djokovic
You just never know with Novak. He should be tired. He might be, but ususally seems fine. The only major disapointment last year was the masters cup. If he has enough energy this year, he should be able to fight for that one. He has only 5 points to defend in Paris and a semi in Madrid. But he does have a good win in Vienna too. I think he will play the 3 big one’s remaining and that’s it. Who knows if the 16 injuries will come back…

4. Andy Murray
Who knew that Murray would be 4th at this point? He didn’t do too well last fall and has the chance to close the gap to the big 3 even further. He will also gain some more at the masters cup, which he has now qualified for. Don’t be surprised to see Murray closing up on Novak towards the end of the season, if he continues to play well.

5. David Ferrer
?????????? Who the hell knows if he can outplay the very best or if he belongs outside of top 20? He has so many points to defend this fall that I think he might drop out of top 10. He and Nalby were on fire last fall, but both are non-existent right now. First up is DC and then we’ll see if old Ferrer is back. He seems to enjoy indoor.

6. Nikolay Davydenko
Has also quite some points to defend. Even with a masters title, he seems to be far from any Masters Cup play if he doesn’t step it up. There are other players who seem a lot closer to that 8th place than him. I haven’t seen him in action since RG i guess so I really cannot tell on what level he can perform right now.

7. David Nalbandian
Bye bye Nalby! He will not defend 1000 points this fall! Worst case scenario is to drop out of top 30. He shouldn’t, but could. I don’t know how he can dominate Federer twice in 1 month (all of the big 3 actually) and then dissapear. Poor guy.

8. Andy Roddick
Roddick had an opportunity to improve his 6th position from end of last season with some decent tennis all season long. He played little last year and so could slowly fly up to 4th. One more season with injuries and you don’t know with him either. DC is first, which most likely will be loss. Then he has nothing to defend until masters cup (if he gets there). He should be able to overtake the two clowns ahead though.

9. Fernando Gonzalez
His best masters results is from Madrid. QF. So he has something to defend, but I don’t think he will make the cut for Shanghai. He doesn’t win enough matches in a row anymore and hasn’t got the stability.

10. Wawrinka
Is living on think ice. The final in Rome is what brought him up here, but apart from that he has performed like any other top 20 player. I don’t see him impressing anyone in the two remaining masters events. But I could be WRONG.

He’s baaaaaaack!

September 9, 2008

Federer is back to his good old self. Started the tournament with easy wins, not displaying the best play there is, but pulling through in straight sets. Andreev was a weird match for me, but the Russian did play very well for quite some time during that match. Against Djokovic Federer became more agressive and started to go for his shots at the big points. It gave him 3 very good sets. Against Murray, I think the level of agression was increased even further, and the result was a one-sided dominance where Fed pushed Murray on every single opportunity, on serve or return, and came out victorious more often than not. Scoreline was impressive, his forehand was genius and net play strikingly precise. He raised his game a lot from one match to the next and seems to have found the hard court form.

I liked the fact that he doesn’t rule out mono being one possible explanation for a slower Federer with less coordination and precision. He has said that it hasn’t been a factor since Dubai and that he was 100% for almost the entire spring season. Knowing that mono can mess you up badly, I like that he dares to throw that out in ways to explain his lower level during the hard court seasons in March and August. I know people who experienced mono and couldn’t exercise for months. I guess he had a milder case, but a top athlete needs to be 100% to work on that level. You can see how big the gap is from Rafa-Fed to Hewitt, Safin and the other guys with earlier success.

The question is now, will he start his fall by winning most of the events? He mentioned his tight schedule to the press and it seems that he’s more than willing to play almost every week now. I think the two indoor masters are definitely something he would want to grab, now that Nalby seems out of his place again. Djokovic and Nadal might just be too tired by that time.

For now, Bucharest and Davis Cup will dominate tennis fot the next couple of weeks and there are surprisingly many hitting the dirt again in Bucharest. I will be looking forward to the blockbuster SFs of DC.

Federer or Murray?

September 8, 2008

History will once again be written either way. Federer will with 5 straight titles go in as one of the all time winners here, Murray will bring Britain back on the tennis map.

I think I will be rooting for Federer, just because he doesn’t deserve to fall on his ass quite yet, but on the other hand, I love seeing underdogs winning more. If Murray can blend in with the Big 3, why not? From where I’m standing (sitting), Murray has a very good shot at this slam. 2-1 h2h and pretty loaded with confidence, he might just start off briliantly and give Federer a hard time. The way he played towards the end last night, was just too good for any opponent. A lot of people say that last set was probably the highlight of the Open tennis-wise so far and could very well be right. The only question is if Murray can handle the pressure for 3(5) more sets. That would be the only thing that could limit his chances. A good start from the FedXpress and he could go on and on. Murray’s game seems to be in order, now if he could just remain calm and do his work like yesterday, this could be a huge opportunity for him.

Federer on the other hand, has seemed to raise his game when needed and could be the best player out there as of today. There’s no sign of weekness going in. Even not that general talk that he looked only OK during the first few matches. That’s Federer! For 2005 and 2006 seasons, he won A LOT! But A LOT of those wins came with some mediocre or bad play. Playing the important points GREAT is usually key to these types of victories and Federer knows how to win. Do I have to say, AGAIN, that he has NOT lost a hard court slam final? I think he will take this one too, in 3, 4 or 5 sets. Doesn’t matter. Maybe a 60-40 edge to the RFed.

Good Job Murray!

September 7, 2008

Why play 5 sets when you can play 4? That’s pretty much what I got out of the tiny hour they were out there today. Reaching his first slam final is a good deal at age 21, but he has a long road ahead to this first win. I am sure he might be looking good on the hard stuff right now, but so does Federer. They met in Dubai, where Murray took him out in 3 set battle, not with the best tennis, but any win over Federer is a good win.

It must be a great feeling for Murray, who probably knew he had what it took, but was always that match or two away from anything big. Now he’s got the chance and it’s no safe bet to believe Roger will take this one easily. For some reason Murray has given Federer a hard time twice, while Fed beat Murray only once back in late 05. Murray was like 18. I assume he’s better now. Did you do the math? YES, Murray is up 2-1 h2h and could possibly go in as a little favorite (for UK and Scotland).

I don’t know…. a more fresh and sober analysis tomorrow. Initial gut feeling is that Murray needs this to be one of the big 4. Otherwise, he could go in as a one slam final wonder category.