Tennis Abides Power Ranking 2014

Ranking #10: Cincinnati

    1. Novak Djokovic – Nole stays at #1, but his play in Toronto and Cincinnati will not be good enough to win in New York.  I expect Novak to round into form, but this was not the most reassuring hard court swing for his supporters.
    2. Roger Federer - Rafa has had an overall better 2014, but in Roger’s past 4 tournaments he’s won Halle, been runner-up at Wimbledon and Masters Toronto and won Cincinnati.  Aside from pocketing a cool 3050 ranking points, Roger enters the US Open as the form horse without a possibility of facing his nemesis.  6 titles in Cincinnati is not bad either.  Change since last ranking +1
    3. Rafael Nadal – He is out of the US Open.  His 2014 Grand Slam season has the highlights of a 9th Roland Garros title and a 3rd Australian Open final appearance, but after opening the year 13-1 in Grand Slam play Rafa posts a 3-1 record at Wimbledon and a DNP doctor’s decision for the US Open.  Change since last ranking – 1
    4. Milos Raonic – The big Canadian has been a picture of consistency in Masters 1000 events this year, he posted his best two Grand Slam results at the two most recent slams and won Washington, DC.  His serve is also lethal as I can say from seeing it live.  Change since last ranking +1 
    5. David Ferrer - Two near misses versus Roger Federer and a lot of wins on hard courts have the Wolverine of the ATP Tour looking strong heading into the US Open.  Change since last ranking – Not ranked
    6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – His run in Toronto is not totally negated by a tough first round draw and loss to Mikhail Youzhny.  Change since last ranking – 2
    7. Grigor Dimitrov - Grigor lost a tough 3 set match to Jerzy.  While that is not a terrible loss, Ferrer’s dogged play pushes him down a slot.  Change since last ranking: – 1
    8. Andy Murray - The good news is that Andy won some nice matches and reached the quarters to set up a showdown with Roger Federer.  The bad news is that Federer blitzed Murray in the first set and then Murray surrendered a double break lead in the second set to lose in straight sets.  Change since last ranking +2
    9. Marin Cilic – Marin did not have a great event in Cincinnati, but he’s still playing well as of late.  Change since last ranking: -1
    10. Stanislas Wawrinka - Stan is 12-1 in his previous 2 hard court Grand Slams and knows he can cross the finish line in New York.  His form heading into the US Open is not great though. Change since last ranking – 1

Entered the Poll – David Ferrer

Dropped out of the Poll – Feliciano Lopez 

Biggest Mover – Andy Murray + 2

 

I was fortunate enough to be able to see the evening session semifinal matches of Ana Ivanovic vs. Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer vs. Milos Raonic.  Here were some impressions and things I noticed.

  1. If Ana Ivanovic is 6’1″, Maria Sharapova is far taller than her listed height of 6’2″.
  2. Sharapova’s grunting gets louder on big points.
  3. I saw writers for major media outlets taking photos with their phones from the photographer area when undoubtedly their publications had professional photographers taking pictures as well.
  4. Maria Sharapova played with little spark for the first half of the match, Ana Ivanovic lost focus after jumping out to a 6-2, 4-0 lead, and then Maria Sharapova’s serve abandoned her when trying to close out Ivanovic.
  5. Maria Sharapova catches her toss more often than any player I have ever seen.
  6. Maria Sharapova and Ivanovic shared what could be politely described as a brief handshake after the match ended.
  7. Roger Federer received rock star treatment from the Cincinnati crowd when he was introduced.
  8. I have seen Ivanisevic, Karlovic, Rusedski,Roddick and Isner serve live.  Milos Raonic serves consistently harder than all of them.  His first serve clocks in at 134 mph or higher unless he throws a change-up crazy kicker.  I’d still say Goran’s was the most effective serve I have ever seen.
  9. When Milos Raonic’s serve hits the net it sounds like he might snap the let cord.
  10. Roger Federer’s combination of balance and ball striking is something to see live as often as possible.  I’ve seen him practice and play on multiple occasions and was still struck by just how well he does everything on court.
  11. Federer’s sneak attacks at the net make him far more dangerous than his pre-Edberg 2013 form.
  12. Federer won all 16 points on his serve in the 1st set, but struggled more on his serve in the second than Milos did … until he broke Milos to take a 5-3 lead.
  13. Milos’ consistency in Masters 1000 events is to be commended and is a big reason he is on the cusp of being ranked in the top 5.
  14. Roger Federer reaching 4 Masters 1000 final rounds at 32/33 years of age is impressive.
  15. May we all age as well as Stefan Edberg and Mary Jo Fernandez have.

 

Serena Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic

I watched Ana Ivanovic master Maria Sharapova by leading 6-2, 4-0, only to let her off the hook and fall behind, only to save 2 match points and win 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.  Serena Williams had to dig out of trouble as well in her semifinal match.  Ivanovic knocked Serena out of the Australian Open earlier this year.  In Stanford and Montreal, they had 3 set battles.  Serena Williams has done enough over the past three weeks to put some distance between herself and her early exits from Roland Garros and Wimbledon as well as her odd moment in the Wimbledon doubles draw.  Still, Serena lost the Cincinnati final to Victoria Azarenka last year and I expect her to be wanting to take home the big trophy this year.  Ivanovic had a much later finish and will have gotten less rest heading into the championship match.  Normally, less rest is offset by the cooler conditions of a night match, but Cincinnati’s traditional humidity was nowhere to be seen/felt this week.  All of that leads me to picking Serena Williams to win this match and enter the US Open with decent amount of momentum.

Prediction: Serena Williams d. Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3

 

Roger Federer vs. David Ferrer

Roger Federer and David Ferrer are the last two players standing after an entertaining installment of the Cincinnati Masters 1000 event.  These two just faced off in Toronto and put on a close and intense match.  I think the championship match in Cincinnati will offer more of the same.  Roger Federer did not win his semifinal match until 11:40 PM (I know because I was there!).  That may be a factor, but Federer has never lost to David Ferrer so I think he enters the final as the clear favorite despite having a short turn around from his semifinal match.  I think Ferrer will give Roger’s backhand a work out, but in the end I expect Roger Federer to claim his first Masters 1000 shield of 2014.  Roger has been runner-up at 3 Masters 1000 events in 2014 and is quite frankly due to take home the big trophy this week.

Prediction: Roger Federer d. David Ferrer 6-3, 7-6

 

Semifinal #1:

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [12] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

These two put on one incredible match in Montreal last week.  Wozniacki just beat Radwanska who won Montreal.  Serena is playing her third consecutive week of tennis on the WTA Tour.  I am torn on this match. Wozniacki is playing her best tennis in 2 or 3 years at the moment and that has to have her feeling renewed and confident.  Serena may not want to bookend a Montreal semifinal finish with two full weeks of tennis.  I am leaning ever so slightly toward an upset.  I know Serena has mastered Sharapova since 2005, but I am not sure she wants to use her full reserves in a three-week period only to perhaps loose to Sharapova prior to the US Open.  Wozniacki is also on such a roll as of late that I think she squares her summer series with Serena 1-1.

Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki d. Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4

Semifinal #2:

[5] Maria Sharapova (RUS)  vs [9] Ana Ivanovic (SRB)

Ana Ivanovic has had a nice 2014 campaign.  She simply matches up quite poorly with Maria Sharapova.  I think Sharapova will be able to dictate play enough to not have to worry about her movement being exposed. For Ivanovic to win, she will need to extend points and hit behind Sharapova at opportune moments.  Also, Ivanovic will have to serve well enough to neutralize Sharapova’s big swinging return game.  I just can’t imagine that happening often enough for Ivanovic to win.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova d. Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-2

Semifinal #1:

[6] David Ferrer (ESP) vs Julien Benneteau (FRA)

Two veterans will square off for a spot in the Cincinnati championship round.  Ferrer won the Paris indoor and has reached a Grand Slam final and multiple Masters 1000 finals, but this would be a huge feather in his cap if he took the Cincinnati tile.  Benneteau’s smooth game could have a late career exclamation point if he takes the Cincinnati title.  So a shot at a memorable career moment is the only thing on the line for each man. Benneteau certainly can win especially if he attacks Ferrer at the right moments.  Still, Ferrer is the favorite based upon his career consistency and his warrior’s mentality.

Prediction: David Ferrer d. Julien Benneteau 3-6, 7-5, 6-2

Semifinal #2:

[2] Roger Federer vs. [5] Milos Raonic (CAN)

I have no doubt that Milos will play better than he did in his Grand Slam semifinal debut.  In that match, Federer grabbed an early lead and salted that away by taking the first set.  Then in the second and third sets Federer took care of his serve and applied pressure when Raonic was serving at 4-5 to take each set 6-4.  I think Federer is the favorite, but expect Milos to make this match pretty memorable.

Prediction: Roger Federer d. Milos Raonic 6-7, 6-3, 6-4

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [8] Jelena Jankovic (SRB) – This should be fun in part due to some semi-tense moments in the past between the two.  However, unless she is overly error prone, Serena should win the match.

[9] Ana Ivanovic (SRB) vs Elina Svitolina (UKR) – Ivanovic is having a nice rebound year in 2014.

[4] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs [12] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) – Radwanska is in the best form of any player on the WTA Tour at the moment.  Wozniacki won an event and then pushed Serena to the limit so she is also playing well.  I think this is the best WTA match of the day.  I will take Radwanska, but if Wozniacki can attack her serve early and often she can pull the upset.

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) vs [5] Maria Sharapova (RUS) – I think Halep is due to beat Sharapova and this surface is actually harder for Maria than clay these days.  Still, Halep has not yet beaten Sharapova so Maria is the slight favorite.  As a fan, I’d like to see Halep win.

Predicted Winners in BOLD

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs Julien Benneteau (FRA) H2H – The head-to-head favors Benneteau, but I think Wawrinka has a nice chance to really assert himself in this match and this tournament.  I think Wawrinka advances.

[6] David Ferrer (ESP) vs [16] Tommy Robredo (ESP) - Two gritty and fit Spaniards square off in what could be the match of the day in terms of overall quality.

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs [8] Andy Murray (GBR) – Murray could win this one, but I think until Murray wins an event after his surgery it is hard for me to pick him versus another elite player.  This could play out like their Australian Open quarterfinal clash.

[5] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) H2H Fognini fans should be happy to see me take Raonic as I keep getting Fognini’s matches wrong.

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[3] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs [14] Marin Cilic (CRO) H2H – This is close to a 50-50 match in my mind, but Wawrinka is a little more solid overall than Cilic in my view.  This could be the match of the day though so if you have a ticket be sure to watch.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [16] Tommy Robredo (ESP) H2H – I love Robredo’s professionalism, fitness and fight.  Still, he lacks the huge serve of massive ground game he would need to make Nole uncomfortable.

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs [13] Gael Monfils (FRA) – Do not be surprised to see this go three sets as Monfils took Murray to five sets at Roland Garros and pushed Nole to the limit in Toronto.  Still, I like Federer’s chances in two or three sets.

Julien Benneteau (FRA) vs Jerzy Janowicz (POL) H2H – Is the big man back after he gave a huge hug to Dimitrov?

[8] Andy Murray (GBR) vs [11] John Isner (USA) H2H – I think Andy’s excellent return game will allow him to break once per set.  That could be enough as Isner’s return game is not nearly as strong.

[15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) – I keep picking against both of these guys and both keep winning.  I’ll take Lu I guess.

[5] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) – Johnson should be thrilled with the ranking points and money he has accumulated this week (he’s drawing cash in the doubles draw too). The Raonic of 2013 would be a player I think Johnson would have a 35-40% chance at upsetting so long as he took care of his serve.  Milos 2014 is winning tiebreaks like no one’s business and is starring in a remake of unbreakable in most of his matches.  Milos should win in 2 semi-tight sets.

[6] David Ferrer (ESP) vs Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) - One more Youzhny salute (and even Ferrer might be tired after his match on August 13).

 

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [13] Flavia Pennetta (ITA) – Serena should win, but Flavia is not going to roll over for her.

[6] Angelique Kerber (GER) vs [12] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) – I think Kerber is in good form based on her tight loss to Serena two-weeks ago.  Still, Caroline Wozniacki is probably on a mission to return to the top 5 after Rory’s back-t0-back majors and 4 overall titles since they split.  With Kvitova and Bouchard seemingly in a post-Wimbledon haze, Woznicki and Kerber both have opportunities to climb the WTA rankings.  I love Kerber’s lefty game so I am saddened with my own pick.

[5] Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) – No one expected Anastasia to be here, but I don’t expect her to pull this upset.

[4] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs Sabine Lisicki (GER) Yesterday, I picked a less powerful player to beat Lisicki, and I was wrong.  I will once again pick the less powerful player to win vs. Lisicki as I think the conqueror of Montreal will advance.

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) vs [16] Lucie Safarova (CZE) – Halep would probably prefer the typically humid conditions of the Ohio River valley, but I think she has enough game to win even if the mild 2014 conditions continue.

[9] Ana Ivanovic (SRB) vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) – I’ll take Kuzy in a mild upset.

[15] Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs Elina Svitolina (UKR) – I am partial to one-handed backhands.

[8] Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs Sloane Stephens (USA) – SS should beat JJ, but JJ is consistent enough to win a match with fewer weapons.