French Open Day 5 picks, including Tomic vs. Kokkinakis and Robredo vs. Coric

Originally posted on The Grandstand:

Ricky Dimon of The Grandstand and Joey Hanf of The Tennis Nerds preview and pick the four best men’s singles matches on Thursday at the French Open. Bernard Tomic, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Tommy Robredo, and Borna Coric are among those in action.

Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. (27) Bernard Tomic

Ricky: It might as well be Australia Day at the French Open (at least on Court 7) because Kokkinakis is going up against Tomic whenever Nick Kyrgios gets done with Kyle Edmund. These two Aussies have already faced each other twice this season and Tomic is 2-0. But both of those came on a hard court and one went to 6-4 in the third. Tomic is at his well-documented worst on clay, whereas Kokkinakis is coming off a Challenger title on the red dirt of Bordeaux. Kokkinakis has established himself as a mental giant in long, competitive matches–which is what this one…

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Roger Federer unveils new two-handed backhand in the French Open point of the day

Originally posted on For The Win:

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 2.47.40 PM

Roger Federer is one of the last of the dying breed of players who use one-handed backhands. But, much like his oft-discussed change in racket size, Federer appears to be modernizing his game as he nears the positively ancient tennis age of 34: He’s testing a two-handed backhand. (Sort of.)

Though it worked this time, that one-handed winner probably is a better indication of Federer’s feelings on the subject, so don’t expect to see Federer slugging it out with Novak Djokovic, two-handed backhand to two-handed backhand.

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French Open 2015: May 28th Men’s Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[6] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Nicolas Almagro (ESP) – Based on Rafa’s lead up to Paris, Almagro has a slight chance at winning this match.  Based on Rafa’s 10+ years of dominating clay, Almagro is toast.  I think Almagro will not be able to dig deep enough to win this match.  Also, my guess is Rafa’s form is at least a little better than what we have seen recently.

[3] Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Joao Sousa (POR) – Both men played well on clay leading into this event.  I think Murray will win in a fairly straightforward manner, but Sousa is a good player.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Gilles Muller (LUX) – Nole rolls

[20] Richard Gasquet (FRA) vs. Carlos Berlocq (ARG) – I am breaking my own rule again and picking Gasuqet.  Berlocq used a lot of energy getting out of round one.

[16] John Isner (USA) vs Jeremy Chardy (FRA) – I like Isner to win, but if Chardy is ever to make a big push on tour he should be winning matches such as this one.  Chardy will need to take care of his own serve to push Isner, and this is a distinct possibility.  I simply think Isner is far less likely to play poorly.

[7] David Ferrer (ESP) vs Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP) – Ferrer wins one of the many possible battle for Spain.

[9] Marin Cilic (CRO) vs [Q] Andrea Arnaboldi (ITA) – I tentatively take Marin to win this match.

[18] Tommy Robredo (ESP) vs Borna Coric (CRO) – Robredo over a 3 out of 5 set match should win this generational battle.

[17] David Goffin (BEL) vs. Santiago Giraldo (COL) – A nail in the Goffin?

Jack Sock (USA) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) – Houston could start looking like a key tune-up for Paris if Sock keeps winning.

Jurgen Melzer (AUT) vs. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) – Jurgen finds a way.

[15] Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) – If Lu can break, serve he should win.

[29] Nick Kyrgios (AUS) vs Kyle Edmund (GBR) – Kyrgios has a knack for winning matches at slams.

[27] Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) – I hope I am right about this Aussie duel.

Jerzy Janowicz (POL) vs. [23] Leonardo Mayer (ARG) – I love Jerzy, but I think Mayer is likely to win this match.

[31] Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs. Simone Bolelli (ITA) – Prego

French Open 2015: May 28th Women’s Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[5] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs Julia Goerges (GER) – An upset would surprise but not shock me in this match.

Danka Kovinic (MNE) vs. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) – Home court edge

[4] Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs. Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) – If Petra can play close to her best level, she is a huge factor in deciding this tournament.

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) – Serena has to be more careful on clay with a match like this, but she should win.

[18] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) vs Francesca Schiavone (ITA) – Two former champions duel.

[27] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs Lucie Hradecka (CZE) – Vika’s athleticism should help her on clay, but to this point in her career clay has not been her friend.

[12] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs. Andreea Mitu (ROU)

[32] Zarina Diyas (KAZ) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL)

[17] Sara Errani (ITA) vs Carina Witthoeft (GER) – Errani has had a lot of good moments in Paris.

Sesil Karatantcheva (BUL) vs. Irina Falconi (USA) – This has not been a great event for US citizens.

[30] Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) vs Ana Konjuh (CRO) –

[10] Andrea Petkovic (GER) vs. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP)

[23] Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) vs. Tereza Smitkova (CZE) – Swiss power?

[16] Madison Keys (USA) vs Belinda Bencic (SUI) – See above

Heather Watson (GBR) vs. Sloane Stephens (USA) – This should be a lot of fun, but Stephens backhand down the line can be a great weapon especially on a surface that makes footing difficult.

Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) vs. Denisa Allertova (CZE)

Falling Stock: Bouchard, Dimitrov, and Halep

If we rewind over the past 52 weeks, things looked much brighter for Eugenie Bouchard, Grigor Dimitrov, and Simona Halep.  To be sure, I don’t think it is time to put eulogies on any of their young careers. However, their results in Paris raise many questions.

Bouchard did not laugh last or best here

Eugenie Bouchard is in the Most Dire Straits

Eugenie Bouchard started 2014 with a 16-3 Grand Slam record.  Her semifinal finishes in Melbourne and Paris were surpassed by a runner-up finish at Wimbledon.  Bouchard seemed to the next great champion in women’s tennis entering her championship match with Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon.  Kvitova dismissed Bouchard 6-3, 6-0.  Since that time Bouchard has not been the same player.

This is understandable, but what has followed has suggested deeper problems.  Losing a one-sided manner in the championship round of the biggest event in tennis would dent a player’s confidence. However, hand shake controversies and a slew of bad losses suggest to me that Bouchard may be cracking under the weight of over-exposure.

Bouchard is somehow deemed by some to be the most bankable athlete in the world (!?) in terms of endorsements at the moment.  She has money and fame, but the pain of losing, having to deal with practices, injuries, trainers, nutritionists, PR directors, sponsors, may be much less appealing than when one is climbing a mountain.  The problem Bouchard faces is she has the fruits of having climbed the mountain without having actually reached any notable summits.  That adds to a whisper that will follow her until she either fades completely or claims a big prize.

Suggested Remedy: Barring getting lost in a little place called Radiator Springs, I think she should reach out to Caroline Wozniacki who has rebounded from some poor patches and media scrutiny.

Dimitrov’s best 2015 moment came in an exhibition

Grigor Dimitrov – Baby Haas?

The Roger Federer comparisons need to stop for Dimitrov.  He may even win a Grand Slam, once he gets one people can talk about two, but Dimitrov is not Roger Federer.  His stroke production is similar. However, Fed’s footwork is better and Fed’s court positioning is much more aggressive.  This court positioning allows for the match to be on Federer’s racquet far more often than it is on Dimitrov’s. Tommy Haas reached a Grand Slam semifinal and may have won that match and the 2002 Australian Open had his match with Marat Safin not moved indoors via a closed roof.  The rain delay allowed Marat to regroup and rally.*  Dimitrov has a chance to win some big trophies in tennis, but right now his career is trending much more like Tommy Haas’ or Henri Leconte’s.

Suggested Remedy: Dimitrov needs to look at creating better go to patterns on big points.  If he generates a few more reliable approaches to big points, his results and ranking should rebound.

Was Lucic-Baroni sent from the 90s to make Halep’s life miserable?

Simona Halep – Not Partying like it is 1999 

Halep did not have the clay court season I was envisioning after her stout match versus Serena in Miami. Still, Halep is in the least trouble of the 3 players listed.  She has lost matches to Suarez Navarro and Wozniacki she should have won.  She also seems to be a terrible match-up against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni who has become one of the great stories in tennis over the past 52 weeks.  Mirjana Lucic was a rising star in 1999 when she reached the Wimbledon semifinal and played Steffi Graf tough.  Lucic became a member of the long list of burned out tennis players who had shown great promise (Eugenie avoid this if you can).  Now Lucic-Baroni has pulled two big upsets vs. Halep and shown that tennis players can rebound and return to the tour.  Lucic-Baroni’s power game, maturity, and the mental fortitude of coming back now make her a dangerous player to everyone on tour.

Suggested Remedy: Halep needs to hope the draw gods help her avoid Lucic-Baroni.  She also needs to work on mixing her serve placements so that it can’t be picked on as easily.  Finally, Halep should grind out a few wins by playing great defensive tennis in order to make sure he strokes are grooved in match situations.

Wrong year I know, but still great stuff

* – The razor’s edge of winning a Grand Slam title is sharper than we often like to remember.  Andy Roddick dominated the summer hard court circuit in 2003, but he had to save a match point in his US Open semifinal match.  Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest hard court players of all time, but his lone US Open title required saving two match points against Roger Federer’s serve.  Tommy Haas would have been favored if he had reached the Australian Open final in 2002, but a rain delay helped undermine his chances.  Haas also had Lleyton Hewitt in trouble at the 2001 US Open only to have a rain delay change the momentum in that match.

French Open R2 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Almagro, Sock vs. Carreno Busta

Originally posted on The Grandstand:

SockAn all-Spanish affair between Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Almagro is set for Thursday at the French Open. Another Spaniard, Pablo Carreno Busta, is in second-round action against Jack Sock.

Nicolas Almagro vs. (6) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Almagro will be squaring off for the 14th time in their careers and for the second time during this current clay-court swing when they collide in round two of the French Open on Thursday. The head-to-head series stands at a dominant 12-1 in favor of Nadal, who is 9-1 at the expense of his fellow Spaniard on red dirt. They most recently faced each other last month in Barcelona, where Nadal turned in one of his best performances of the season en route to a commanding 6-3, 6-1 victory. Almagro’s lone win came last fall at the same Barcelona event, where he prevailed 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.

Despite his recent lopsided loss and Nadal’s…

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French Open 2015: May 27th Men’s Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

Fed and Cuevas are in action in Paris

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Marcel Granollers (ESP) – I don’t think this is the easiest match for Federer. As enticing as Roger’s second week draw is, but matches through the round of 16 are not necessarily ideal.  Fed is still obviously favored in this match.

They have Fed on Lenglen – both have been praised for fluid play

[4] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Radek Stepanek (CZE) – The Big Czech vs. The Worm Czech?

[5] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) – These two have each won clay court titles in 2015. This is not ideal for Kei.  I think Kei should win due to his ability to take the ball early, but Bellucci has always been able to hit the ball a ton.  If he is starting to put points together more effectively, Bellucci may be a huge obstacle.

[8] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs. Dusan Lajovic (SRB) – Stan is returning to some form in my view.

[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs. Martin Klizan (SVK) – Gilles can be quite tricky for opponents.

[13] Gael Monfils (FRA) vs. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) – Monfils is always a risk, but he has to know he has won 5 consecutive sets off of Roger Federer whom he might face in the round of 16.

[14] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Dudi Sela (ISR) – Jo-Willy for the win

[19] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs. Lukas Rosol (CZE) – Does everyone hate Rosol?  I am not sure, but he can do some damage here.

[21] Pablo Cuevas (URU) vs. Dominic Thiem (AUT) – This is close to a 50-50 match.  Cuevas got to see Federer’s backhand a few times this spring.  Can Fed’s young sparring partner win?  I think so.

[22] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) vs. Pablo Andujar (ESP) – I would love to be watching this match up close.

[24] Ernests Gulbis (LAT) vs. Nicolas Mahut (FRA) – I’d love to see Mahut win, but on clay I am shocked Mahut won his 1st round match.

[28] Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs. Benoit Paire (FRA) – This should be a lot of fun too.

[32] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs. Benjamin Becker (GER) – Hot Sauce advances.

French Open 2015: May 27th Women’s Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[2] Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs Vitalia Diatchenko (RUS) – Maria Sharapova is a clay courter now.

[8] Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs [WC] Virginie Razzano (FRA) – CSN is a contender.  Maybe not a major contender, but she is a contender.

[26] Samantha Stosur vs [WC] Amandine Hesse (FRA) – Stosur is always a dangerous pick, but she has a bit of momentum and has always been capable on clay.

[3] Simona Halep (ROU) vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) – This could get interesting based on their 2014 US Open match.  I think Halep will be up to the challenge.  Lucic-Baroni is a great story.  I remember her Wimbledon semifinal appearance in 1999.

[29] Alizé Cornet (FRA) vs Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) – Cornet is always a tough out.

[7] Ana Ivanovic (SRB) vs Misaki Doi (JPN) – Ana will need to improve upon her 1st round form.

[21] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) vs Camila Giorgi (ITA) – Garbine has a bright future, but 2015 is likely not her year to break all the way through.

[9] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs [Q] Teliana Pereira (BRA)

[20] Sabine Lisicki (GER) vs Daria Gavrilova (AUS) – A mild upset

[11] Angelique Kerber (GER) vs Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS)

Annika Beck (GER) vs Paula Kania (POL)

Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) vs Donna Vekic (CRO)

Polona Hercog (SLO) vs Elena Vesnina (RUS)

[19] Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)

[28] Flavia Pennetta (ITA) vs Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) – Flavia has had great longevity for a reason.

[13] Lucie Safarova (CZE) vs Kurumi Nara (JPN)

Nadal cruises through first match at French Open

Originally posted on The Grandstand:

It will take more than a win over an 18-year-old Frenchman who has never won a match at the ATP level in order for Rafael Nadal to restore complete confidence in his game. Still, he could not have asked for a much better start to his 2015 French Open campaign.

Nadal rolled over wild card Quentin Halys 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 during first-round action on Tuesday afternoon. The nine-time champion committed a mere 13 unforced errors, doubled that count with 26 winners, and got the job done after one hour and 50 minutes.

The only time he dropped serve came when he was already enjoying a double-break advantage at 4-1 in the first set. Halys made a push to get within 3-4, but Nadal held for 5-3 then broke again in the ninth game to put away the opening frame.

Nadal-Halys highlights:

“After the first three games, when I started a…

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French Open R2 previews and picks: Federer vs. Granollers, Gulbis vs. Mahut

Originally posted on The Grandstand:

FedererRoger Federer will continue his French Open campaign on Wednesday against Marcel Granollers. Ernests Gulbis and Nicolas Mahut are also aiming for a place in the third round.

Marcel Granollers vs. (2) Roger Federer

Looking for his second French Open title, Federer began his fortnight in routine fashion on Sunday. The 33-year-old Swiss improved to 26-5 on the season by disposing of lucky loser Alejandro Falla 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Federer appears poised to capitalized on what is a borderline ideal draw at Roland Garros, as his current form is impressive. The world No. 2 captured a clay-court title earlier this month in Istanbul and he reached the Rome final before succumbing to Novak Djokovic.

Up next for Federer on Tuesday is another veteran in Granollers. The head-to-head series stands at 3-0 in favor of the favorite, who twice prevailed 6-3, 6-4 in Dubai (2011 and 2013) before scoring a 4-6…

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