Originally posted on The Grandstand:

Rafa 3Rafael Nadal is back in Basel action on Wednesday as he faces Pierre-Hugues Herbert in round two. Meanwhile, Roger Federer will begin his quest to go one step further than he did last year when he kicks off his campaign against Gilles Muller.

(Q) Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

In the wake of a wrist injury and appendicitis, Nadal is unquestionably well shy of 100 percent. That being said, the world No. 3 finally has some semblance of momentum heading into the Swiss Indoors Basel second round on Wednesday. Nadal, who fell in the Beijing quarterfinals to Martin Klizan and in the Shanghai second round to Feliciano Lopez, kicked off his week on Monday with a 6-2, 6-2 rout of Simone Bolelli. It was the Spaniard’s first career match victory in his third appearance at this tournament.

Up next for Nadal is Herbert, whom he has never faced. The…

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I have never hidden the fact that I enjoy Roger Federer’s play and his winning as much as I’ve enjoyed watching or rooting for any player in tennis history.  I try to be fair, but I think objectivity is a fictional location that, like Utopia, does not exist for human beings.  Roger Federer trails Novak Djokovic by 990 points for 2014.  With Novak off this week, Roger could trim his lead by nearly 1/3 if he repeats his runner-up performances at Basel from 2012 and 2013.  If Roger, wins Basel, he’d cut more than 1/2 of Novak’s points lead. While Roger’s appearance at Paris-Bercy is not a sure thing, Roger could catch and surpass Novak’s ranking points total by the time the World Tour Finals concludes.  Rafa could make things interesting too if he wins Basel and Paris heading into the World Tour Finals, but at present that looks like trying to draw and inside straight flush. Of course, Nole might miss everything between now and the end of the year given the impending birth of his first child.  In that case, Roger and Rafa have a chance to pass Novak and claim the top spot for the year.

It Should Not Come Down to This

No male tennis player has finished a year ranked number one without claiming a Grand Slam title since John McEnroe did so in 1982.  Jimmy Connors won Wimbledon and the US Open in 1982, but did not claim the #1 ranking when the season ended.  Connors did finish 1975 and 1977 ranked #1 without owning a slam in those years so he experienced both sides of this rare phenomenon.  As odd as that was, at that time only three slams were viewed as being important and Roland Garros was considered a level below the US Open and Wimbledon. With 4 slams occupying importance today, it seems like a number one is almost certainly going to also be holding a Grand Slam crown at the end of the year.  The only similar situation in semi-recent memory was Andre Agassi pushing Lleyton Hewitt for the #1 ranking at the close of 2002 despite Agassi not winning a major in 2002.

Marin Cilic and Stanislas Wawrinka have each had breakout years that included a maiden Grand Slam title.  While they each claimed other titles as well, neither man has done enough to be considered number one for 2014. Rafael Nadal was the runner-up at the Australian Open, won Roland Garros, and won or made deep runs in other settings as well.  However, at Wimbledon he lost in the round of 16 and skipped the entire North American hard court season including the US Open.  He’s a contender, but he’s not the one.  While Rafa posted a 16-2 record across three Grand Slam events, Nole went 22-3 in Grand Slam play.  Rafa has won a Masters 1000 title and finished as a runner-up at two others.  Nole has won 3 Masters 1000 shields in 2014.  Novak has been better than the other 3 Grand Slam title winners from January 1 to present.  That makes him number one in my mind. However, Nole did not do much at Toronto or Cincinnati when Rafa was absent, and he lost in Melbourne where he had been the undisputed King of Plexicushion (that title sounds terrible).  This left the door open for someone to get hot and make this into a race.

How Roger Made a Race of This

Roger played quite well from Brisbane through Monte Carlo.  He won Dubai (a 500 level event) and was runner-up at 3 events including two Masters 1000 tournaments and played well in Melbourne reaching the semifinal round. Since Roland Garros, Roger has been playing tennis at something close to his 2004-2007 level.  He won Halle, was runner-up at Wimbledon, was runner-up at Toronto, won Cincinnati, was a semifinalist at the US Open and won Shanghai. He also threw in 2 Davis Cup singles victories for good measure.  Federer has earned 4770 ranking points since his Roland Garros loss to Gulbis.  I don’t begrudge Roger for playing great tennis and winning frequently.  In fact, I rather enjoy it.  Any athlete should try to win when competing, and Federer’s winning a lot. He will no doubt try to win Basel, try to win in Paris if he plays and try to win a record 7th World Tour Finals crown.  I wish him well in each event.  The computer might even recognize him as having had the best 2014 season.  In my mind, even if Roger wins Basel, London and a Davis Cup for Switzerland, Novak Djokovic had the best 2014.

With Roger Federer vying for his 5th title of 2014 in his hometown, I thought I would share this video from The Tennis Channel.  Tennis Now is quickly becoming becoming my favorite youtube feature.

Basel and Valencia previews and predictions

Posted: October 20, 2014 by Dan Martin in Uncategorized

Originally posted on The Grandstand:

This week could be better, such as if world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 2013 Basel champion Juan Martin Del Potro were in action. Still, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to a pair of 500-point tournaments. Rafael Nadal’s comeback from a wrist injury and perseverance through appendicitis will continue in Basel, which also has Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, and Grigor Dimitrov on board. In Valencia, meanwhile, World Tour Finals contenders David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, and Andy Murray lead the way.

Swiss Indoors Basel

Where: Basel, Switzerland
Surface: Indoor hard
Points: 500
Prize money: 1,458,610 Euros

Top seed: Roger Federer
2013 champion: Juan Martin Del Potro (not playing)

Draw analysis: The draw could not been set up better for Nadal. Perhaps likely to struggle in the early rounds since he has played only four matches since…

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Originally posted on The Grandstand:

Pospisil 2Familiar foes Milos Raonic and Steve Johnson will face each other again on Tuesday in Basel. Vasek Pospisil and Jarkko Nieminen are also in first-round action.

Steve Johnson vs. (4) Milos Raonic

Raonic and Johnson will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers and for the third time in less than three months when they collide in round one of the Swiss Indoors Basel on Tuesday. Both of their previous encounters have gone Raonic’s way; 7-6(2), 6-2 in Washington, D.C. and 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(4) in Cincinnati. The ninth-ranked Canadian, however, has been dealing with a virus and lost his opening matches in Shanghai (to Juan Monaco via retirement) and Moscow (to Ricardas Berankis).

While Raonic is looking to clinch a spot in the World Tour Finals, Johnson may be inspired to finish 2014 as the second-ranked American. He registers at No. 41 in the world, one place…

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Originally posted on The Grandstand:

Isner 1John Isner and Kevin Anderson will kick off their Valencia campaigns on Tuesday. The two big-hitting seeds are set for respective first-round meetings with Tommy Robredo and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

(5) John Isner vs. Tommy Robredo

Isner and Robredo will be facing each other for the fourth time in their careers and for the second time during this fall swing when they clash in the first round of the Valencia Open on Tuesday. All three previous meetings–including two in 2014–have gone Isner’s way.  The 6’10” American prevailed 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 four years ago in Auckland, 7-6(13), 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 7-5 at this spring’s French Open, and 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) three weeks ago in Beijing.

Robredo has endured a tough but not entirely unsuccessful post-U.S. Open stretch. The 21st-ranked Spaniard squandered five championship points in the Shenzhen final against Andy Murray, nearly beat Isner in Beijing, lost his Shanghai opener to Mikhail Kukushkin, and…

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Kremlin Cup Final – Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Marin Cilic 

Bautista Agut has played quite well in 2014 and is in 14th place in the year long points race.  Marin Cilic had been similarly solid in 2014 prior to his dominating US Open title run.  Cilic reaching the final in Moscow makes me think some of the post US Open haze is lifting, and he is getting back to business.  I think the indoor conditions favor Cilic.

My prediction: Marin Cilic d. Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 6-3

If Stockholm Open Final – Grigor Dimitrov vs. Tomas Berdych

Grigor Dimitrov won his first career title last year in Stockholm.  His defense has been admirable and a good sign given that his US Open and Shanghai performances were not jaw dropping.  Grigor is also the lowest ranked member of the Race to London, occupying the 11th slot, with a realistic chance of reaching London.  Tomas Berdych has been quite consistent in 2014.  A title here would draw Berdych closer to Kei Nishikori in the points standings.   On balance, I think Berdych has been more solid in recent weeks, but I think Grigor will clip him in a close match.

My prediction: Grigor Dimitrov d. Tomas Berdych 7-6, 3-6, 6-4

Erste Bank Open Final (Vienna) – David Ferrer vs. Andy Murray

While the Kremlin Cup has the coolest name of these three events, this championship match has the most heft. Andy Murray and David Ferrer have spent most of the past 4 years ranked in or near the top 5.  Both men are fighting to finish in the top 8 in 2014 and the winner of this match will hold the 8th spot on Monday.  Ferrer beat Murray in Shanghai.  I don’t think that result will repeat itself one week later.

My prediction: Andy Murray d. David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4

Dan Martin on the End of the 2014 Men’s Season Podcast 10-17-2014


Download this episode (right click and save)

Novak in Cincy circa 2009 Credit Caroline Martin

Novak in Cincy circa 2009 Credit Caroline Martin

This was pretty good

  1. Novak Djokovic – Nole won Beijing and reached the semifinal round in Shanghai.  He has played well enough to make it likely that he finishes 2014 ranked #1.  We’ve yet to see Nole hit a dominant streak since Wimbledon, but he’s playing well enough to stay #1.
  2. Roger Federer – Roger owns 4 titles in 2014.  He has meshed 5 runner-up finishes including 2nd place finishes at Wimbledon and 3 Masters 1000 events with his conquests.  Even his semifinal finishes in Melbourne and New York look impressive.  Roger may be 33, but he’s playing at a high level.  Change since last ranking +1

  3. Kei Nishikori - He won in Tokyo and where he faces a lot of pressure.  I placed a solid line between him and the top two as there is a major mess outside of Roger and Nole right now.  He did not play well in Shanghai, but his US Open runner-up finish and title in Tokyo have Kei tentatively at #3.  Change since last ranking +2
  4. Marin Cilic – Marin has not done much since the US Open ended.  He did go 1-0 in Davis Cup singles and played well enough in Beijing.  I don’t think too much should be made of his recent stumbles.  Change since last ranking -2 
  5. Rafael Nadal – What is going on with Rafa’s health?  This question has been asked many times since his stress fracture in 2004.  Still, his right wrist issues and appendix issues have raised the question anew.  Change since last ranking – 1
  6. Andy Murray – Andy claimed his first title of the year and then played well enough in Beijing and Shanghai.  His loss to Nole was not a bad omen, but his loss to Ferrer means that Murray has had few quality wins in 2014 (Marin Cilic in Beijing being one of them).  Change since last ranking + 2
  7. Gilles Simon - If he can maintain his level in Shanghai, he can beat a lot of people.  Change since last ranking – not ranked
  8. Stanislas Wawrinka – Stan’s 2014 has had some dizzying highs and unexplainable lows.  His US Open form and Wimbledon form were strong.  Since the US Open, his play has been spotty.  Change since last ranking -2
  9. Milos Raonic – He has played well, but injury concerns could dampen the end of a breakout season for the Big Canadian.  Change since last ranking -2
  10. Tomas Berdych – He got blitzed by Nole in the Beijing final and lost to Simon in the quarters in Shanghai.  Can and will Ivan Lendl help a player who seems to be close to big trophies?  Change since last ranking – not ranked

Biggest Movers – Nishikori and Murray both jumped two spots.  Raonic, Wawrinka and Cilic all dropped two spots.

Entered the PollGilles Simon and Tomas Berdych

Dropped Out of the Poll – Grigor Dimitrov and Gael Monfils