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….

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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.

Rain stops Murray, but not Roger

September 7, 2008

The 4 time US champ Roger Federer advanced to his 5 straight US Open final after an unforgettable show on Ashe just before the angry Hanna started the downpours over the Big Apple. Federer was predicted the winner by most “experts”, including me, but hadn’t convinced anyone that he was the man to beat at the Open so far. Federer and Novak seemed slightly more tired than at the last year’s final, making some silly errors, but all things considered, Beijing, jet lag and so on, it seems like they really gave everything out there. Federer was just that second faster both in legs and in mind when it came to those few vital points. Djokovic was very close to taking the 3rd set, but didn’t really have a momentum build-up which could carry him towards a win. Federer was best throughout the match.

He should be given a  general advantage over whoever wins TODAY, Murray or Nadal. Murray has the match in his hand right about now, but there’s something telling me that Nadal won’t be stopped if he gets the first set. He’s known for being a slow starter sometimes, but this might just go to Murray’s advantage on that note. Even so, Nadal got plenty of rain delay practise last year, so he has the experience. Federer expressed, being modestly reserved about it, that he would like to meet Nadal in the final. No wonder there!

So as Hanna still leaves New Yorkers wet, the ladies final will be played tonight and the men’s final tomorrow afternoon local time. Are we in for another blockbuster final or is Federer still the best on hard? Remember this…. Federer has never, ever, lost a Grand Slam final on hard court. Period. If Nadal takes this one, or even Murray (who still is a lot closer), then this might go in as the biggest avhievemnt any player has done over a Spring-Summer-Fall season (not so bad in Winter either). But before that, Rafa has a major task ahead, take 3 sets against Murray in not too long a time. If it goes long, the sorry winner will most likely suffer tomorrow.

New York, New York, Good Old York?

September 5, 2008

There are three players who just don’t seem to fall off the road of consistency. Federer reached his 18 straight GS semis, Djokovic follows with a decent run filled with drama, Nadal hits the 2nd weekend of the open for the first time, and maybe we’ll see more of Murray? The awkward 1st round loss in the Olympics doesn’t prove that, but at least he should be the fittest of the three. Maybe, OH just maybe he has a good shot at not only giving Nadal a spanking but also, the winner of Djoker-Feddy.

I didn’t see much of Djokovic-Roddick, but I believe it was like Roddick’s “momentum” shifted entirely over to Djokovic, who seemed to have a solid control in Roddick’s serve. Roddick looked like the tired one, even with his inability to stay calm for a second. The whole drama at the end is nothing more than a culture clash. Djokovic made just a innocent comment to an innocent attack. Roddick was joking and THE djoker himself was probably trying to be funny while riding on the I-just-beat-your-guy-high.

Federer looks a lot worse than maybe a year ago, but you have to remember that even in his almost perfect years of 05 and 06, he won a lot of matches playing pretty badly. I used to beat the 100+ guys with many errors and no “Shh. Quiet. Genius at work.” signs. He’s still doing that now and might just tear Djokovic apart tomorrow.

Nadal-Murray
So it all comes down to staying cool, which both have been good at lately, staying in the match and not worrying about the 20000+ people around you, experience of Nadal vs the recent beating Murray gave Nadal. I’d give Nadal a slight advantage due to the event. Had it been another Cincy SF, Murray would cope. I think tomorrow it could go long and therefore Nadal would hold on better. Nadal in 4?

Federer-Djokovic
Now Federer turned out to have a fairly easy draw. I don’t know if he got enough tests before this one. Lord knows Djokovic got a handful. The way Djokovic eased past Roddick might have been a great boost. Federer will have to bring out the Genius to win this one, but even if they both play on a lower level than expected Federer should be the favorite. Get ready for yet another Fed-Rafa final, people! Federer in 3!

Who’s the strongest, fittest, most likely winner?

September 4, 2008

I was stunned to see Nadal completely distroying the Fish after 1st set. Now he looks stronger than ever on any surface and from the looks of it, actually the favorite to win it. I don’t think that Murray will stop him as the stage is a little different than Ciny and Toronto. Nadal has been most consistent of the two and now goes in as a final favorite. Today the other 4 guys are fighting for the two SF spots.

Roddick-Djokovic
What a match this has the potential to be. They have exchanged wins in straight sets and are now in for their most important encounter so far. Roddick looks more than fresh, Djokovic…. not so much. The guy is getting some unforeseen criticism from fellow players with his supposed 16 injuries or whatever. I think it will come down to how fresh Djokovic looks, because Roddick is not one to tolerate 10 injury time-outs. The speed and “new” agressive Roddick might be too much for the Serb this time. The interesting thing will be to see what mood they’re in, because if Djokovic is back on track then it could go short to his favor. Roddick in 3,4 or 5 or Djokovic in 5.

Federer-Muller
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Muller in action so…. Federer in 3.

Last 8 no big upsets

September 3, 2008

This US Open I was certain that one of the bigger names would go out early. Right now it seems like they all want a piece of the good cake. Nadal has tied his PB at the Open by reaching a QF and securing his #1 spot for a longer time. Murray didn’t choke like he has over the past few years. Del Potro has continued his incredible run and will have to face Murray next. That can be a BIG match. Fish is not a BIG surprise. It was just a matter of deciding if Blake could beat Fish, or if Fish could take down his higher ranked friend. Fish gets an A. Roddick has never been in serious trouble and has reached that crucial QF match against Djokovic, who also has overcome a few tough steps. That will also be a big match where the outcome may not be easy to predict. Roddick won last time in Dubai and might be a slight favorite against the young Serbian. Federer will certainly get a challenge, after having struggled for 5 sets against Andreev, he now faces the big surprise Muller. I dind’t know Luxenburg would be represented in a US Open QF. The road seems easy for Federer, but it might not be.

At this point there’s not telling who will get to the final, but I think another Fed-Rafa final is once again the most likely outcome. Fish could beat Nadal, but has to play like he did back in March. Muller won’ beat Federer, but Roddick or Djokovic might. That’s the only immediate threat I see. Of course, Murray might have a chance of a lifetime, not only to clinch his first Grand Slam SF, but also his first final. And he could go all the way, on a good day.

Enjoy!