Tennis champions have typically broken through in their late teens or early twenties.  A lot has been made of the lack of teenagers in the top 50 and the success of players over thirty in recent years.  The explanation, and it seems to be a sound one, is that tennis has become so physically demanding due to slower conditions and new string technologies that players need years to mature and train their way into elite level tennis.  Stanislas Wawrinka reaching the US Open semifinal in 2013 and then winning the 2014 Australian Open at 28 years of age and then winning his first Masters 1000 event at 29 may be a template for future breakthroughs on tour.

Has Anything Like this Happened Before?

Patrick Rafter reached the 1997 French Open semifinal and then won the 1997 US Open at the age of 25.  Rafter was a known commodity on tour prior to his 1997 leap forward.  Rafter beat Pete Sampras at the 1993 Indianapolis Hard Courts.  He was seeded at the 1995 Australian Open only to be blitzed by Andre Agassi in straight sets.  Rafter was considered to be a great athlete, but his game had not produced top 10 let alone top 5 level results.

Wawrinka’s rise is somewhat similar to Rafter’s even if he was 3 years older than Rafter when he broke through.  Wawrinka was considered to be a solid top 25 player for a number of years. Rafter’s leap forward was accompanied by an uptick in his service power.  His shoulder generated a lot of his power and likely shortened his career.  I am not sure what is behind Wawrinka’s rise. Stan does seem at home with hitting through the court and bullying his opponents.  His second serve might be a bit heavier than it once was.  He seems to be moving well.  I am not sure any of this signals a clear break with what he used to do though.  A lot of his rise seems to be related to his mindset and his willingness to fight.  Magnus Norman helped Robin Soderling reach 2 Grand Slam finals.  In this year of celebrity coaches, maybe Norman deserves a raise in pay and in profile.  I am not sure what Wawrinka’s rise means or if it is a template for the future, but if players are breaking through later and staying competitive later into their careers, one can hope other guys in the locker room take heart and push forward.

Maybe I am sick but I can watch tennis pros practice all day

Originally posted on Monaco Reporter:

“Stan is the man” defeating compatriot Federer to win his first Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Third seed and Swiss no. 1 Stanislas Wawrinka proved he was the best man on the court yesterday by winning his first Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo by overpowering countryman Roger Federer ranked World no. 4 and denying him a first win here. Federer prevailed in the first set 4-6 and had chances to close the second but Wawrinka recovered and took it from him at 7-6 (5) and proceeded to win the third set by a landslide at 6-2. The Australian Open champion is more than ready for Roland Garros scheduled for May 25-June 8 in Paris. “I can see that when mentally I’m there and I’m fighting, I can play tennis, I can beat all the players,” Wawrinka told reporters. Fourth seeded Federer who had dismissed a wounded defending champion Djokovic in the semis, put…

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Gallery  —  Posted: April 21, 2014 by Dan Martin in Uncategorized

2014 Power Ranking #5 – Monte Carlo Crowns a New Number One

  1. Stanislas Wawrinka - Good to Great … sounds about right.  The 2014 points totals are competitive, but Stan has wins over Rafa, Nole and Federer along with a Slam and Masters 1000 title.  As strange as it sounds to me, Stan is my #1 at the moment.   Change since last ranking +3
  2. Novak Djokovic - Nole was destroying the field in Monte Carlo until a bad wrist and an in-form Federer ended his hot streak.  For tennis’ sake, he needs to get his wrist healthy ASAP.  Change since last ranking -1
  3. Rafael Nadal – After 8 years of not losing in Monte Carlo, Rafa has been frustrated each of the past 2 years.  David Ferrer is a great clay court player, but Rafa has normally handled him.  Change since last ranking -1 
  4. Roger Federer - Federer has been one of the most consistent players in 2014.  He’s been to 4 tournament finals, but two 3 set runner-up finishes in Masters 1000 events mean Roger has left some big trophies on the table.  Roger’s wins over Tsonga and Djokovic have to have him feeling good, but his 1-3 record in 2014 tournament finals could be cause for concern.  Change since last ranking – 1
  5. David Ferrer - David returns to my Power Ranking in a big way.  His loss to Wawrinka aside, beating Rafael Nadal on clay in Monte Carlo is a BIG deal.  Change since last ranking – not ranked
  6. Tomas Berdych – Berdych is #6 based on his solid form in 2014.  I am not sure what the clay court season will bring even if he was a 2010 French Open semifinalist. Change since last ranking – 1
  7. Milos Raonic – Milos played well enough on a surface that highlights his weakness (foot speed) to impress me.  Still, Ferrer’s rise means some will fall.  Change since last ranking – 1   
  8. Andy Murray - He’s in a holding pattern for now.
  9. Kei Nishikori - Can he stay healthy?
  10. Fabio Fognini - Maybe I am over valuing his wins over Murray and Andujar, but Fognini is going to get a boost by playing on clay.  

 

Biggest Mover – Stanislas Warinka +3

Entered the Poll – David Ferrer and Fabio Fognini

Dropped Out of the Poll – Kevin Anderson - The change to slower surfaces makes his cooling down predictable.  Keep an eye on Anderson in the grass and hard court stretches though.  Alexandr Dolgopolov – He’s playing well and could make headway on clay.

Originally posted on Monaco Reporter:

Top seeded players on to the next round

It was another exciting day at the tennis masters where we witnessed the title defender Novak Djokovic defeat Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-1, 6-0 in just 45 minutes, a very easy task for the Serbian opener, with his trainer Boris Becker watching from the sidelines and tennis fans cheering for the champion in a sold out arena. The passionate David Ferrer did away with Jeremy Chardy in straight sets as expected. French No 1 Jo-Wilfred Tsonga had to labor hard and survived defeating Kohl Schreiber 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in less than two hours. Tsonga said: “I just had a bad period. I felt my legs were stiff. I did not feel so well.” While Tomas Berdych played until sundown, beating Russian Tursunov in two sets. Italian Seppi put a good show dispatching Russian Tursunov in two sets.

Wednesday program promises to be exhilarating as it will see…

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Gallery  —  Posted: April 16, 2014 by Dan Martin in Uncategorized

Originally posted on Rafael Nadal Fans:

Rafael Nadal made his clay season debut at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters with a victory over Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia, 6-4, 6-1. He made another record by surpassing Brian Gottfried’s 679 victories on the all-time wins list. Rafa’s next opponent will be Andreas Seppi.

Our champion looked every bit the King of Clay today, and we wish him increasing success throughout the week. Vamos!

Photos: Getty Images

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Gallery  —  Posted: April 16, 2014 by Dan Martin in Uncategorized

Monte Carlo Quick Hits April 16, 2014

Posted: April 16, 2014 by Dan Martin in Monte Carlo
Tags:
  • Rafael Nadal starts his quest for 9 (NINE!) Monte Carlo titles in 10 years.  Under a lot of grading scales 90% is a B+ or A-, but if ATP Tennis is graded on a curve, Rafa just gave a failing grade to everyone else on tour.
  • Fabio Fognini’s 7-6, 6-4 win over Bautista Agut delivered a great Rd of 32 match.
  • Roger Federer will now add at least round of 16 points to his ranking total because he skipped Monte Carlo last year.
  • Stanislas Wawrinka’s 6-0, 6-2 demolition of Marin Cilic may mean that a surface change has snapped Wawrinka after his post-Melbourne hangover.
  • Grigor Dimitrov may be a strong clay court opponent due to young legs and a crafty game.
  • Seppi knocked out my man Pablo Andujar in 3 sets while hitting this shot.  

Monte Carlo Quick Hits April 15, 2014

Posted: April 15, 2014 by Dan Martin in Monte Carlo
Tags:
  • Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Fabio Fognini is the best round of 32 match one could expect on clay.
  • Rafael Nadal and Pablo Andujar are one match away from a re-match of the best clay court match of 2014 to this point.  
  • I don’t want to read too much into David Ferrer’s 6-3, 6-0 demolition of Jeremy Chardy, but I don’t think Chardy is ever going to be a top flight player.  He might sneak into the top 10 at some point in his career, but when I first saw Chardy in 2009 I thought me might just become a top tier guy.
  • Roger Federer has either added points or equalled his 2013 totals at every event he’s played in 2014.  That continues in Monte Carlo as he did not play the event last year.
  • Djokovic is defending 1000 points here so he and Rafa could have an 800 point swing if a rematch goes the other way this year.
  • After Indian Wells and Miami, Grigor Dimitrov has a chance to regain his early 2014 momentum.