Predicted Winners in BOLD

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) vs Simone Bolelli (ITA) – Baghdatis has shown a little life lately, but he has not been a good pick in almost a decade.

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) vs Vasek Pospisil (CAN) – Big time match if JMDP is healthy.  I think Vasek beats a Rusty, but hopefully healthy JMDP.

Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) – Rusty FTW?

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) vs Andrey Golubev (KAZ) – Youzhny has not been a good pick in a long time too.

Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT) vs Borna Coric (CRO)

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) vs Ricardas Berankis (LTU)

[WC] Ryan Harrison (USA)  vs Jurgen Melzer (AUT) – Ryan is maybe showing signs of life, but Melzer is a tough out.

Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) vs Steve Johnson (USA) – A 50-50 match

Jerzy Janowicz (POL) vs [Q] Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)

Jiri Vesely (CZE) vs Federico Delbonis (ARG)

[Q] Michael Berrer (GER) vs [Q] Alejandro Falla (COL)

Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) vs [WC] Andrey Rublev (RUS)

Malek Jaziri (TUN) vs [Q] Steve Darcis (BEL)

Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) vs Martin Klizan (SVK)

Pablo Andujar (ESP) vs Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS)

Sam Groth (AUS) vs [Q] Alexander Zverev (GER)

Predicted Winners in BOLD

A Lot of Chalk Advances Today

[7] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs Anna Schmiedlova (SVK)

[16] Venus Williams (USA) vs [Q] Urszula Radwanska (POL) – A Williams vs. a Radwanska – Venus’ 7 slams and 4 gold medals make her historically more significant.  However, an upset here would not shock me.

[2] Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs [WC] Daria Gavrilova (RUS)

[4] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs Madison Brengle (USA)

[9] Andrea Petkovic (GER) vs Christina Mchale (USA) – I like Mchale, but …

[28] Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs Kaia Kanepi (EST) – I need an upset in the draw.

[23] Samantha Stosur (AUS) vs [Q] Pauline Parmentier (FRA) – I need two upsets.

[18] Shuai Peng (CHN) vs [WC] Paula Badosa Gibert (ESP)

[12] Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs [Q] Stefanie Voegele (SUI)

[22] Alizé Cornet (FRA) vs Elena Vesnina (RUS)

[8] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs Karin Knapp (ITA) – I love Makarova, but Knapp could win.

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) vs [Q] Tereza Smitkova (CZE)

[19] Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) vs Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

[14] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs Annika Beck (GER)

[26] Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs Bojana Jovanovski (SRB)

[25] Caroline Garcia (FRA) vs Kurumi Nara (JPN)

Tennis Power Ranking 2015: #2

Given that I live so close to Cincinnati we can all hope these are used for seedings at Masters Cincinnati

  1. Novak Djokovic – Novak withstood some nerves in the second set to avenge his loss in Dubai and further strengthen his hold on the #1 ranking.  I think Djokovic is the man to beat if he is feeling at ease and playing on a medium paced surface or slower.
  2. Roger Federer – Roger’s title in Dubai and runner-up showing at Indian Wells have erased his poor Australian Open performance.  He is locked in at #2 until/unless Rafa can return to his desired form.  Roger would likely want a match with Nole in which the surface plays a bit faster.  Change since last ranking +4
  3. Andy Murray – Andy has been a bit hot and cold in 2015, but his recent Davis Cup results combined with his Indian Wells wins demonstrate he is on a hot streak.  Change since last ranking -1
  4. Milos Raonic - The powerful Canadian looks like he is willing to disturb the oligolpoly that has ruled men’s tennis since 2008.  Change since last ranking +4  
  5. Rafael Nadal – Rafa’s title in Buenos Aires and quarterfinal run at Indian Wells have him edging out countryman David Ferrer for the 5th spot.  Rafa has not seemed like himself in 2015, but until the clay court season is in the books, it is hard to know what if anything this means.  Change since last ranking – 1
  6. David Ferrer - David has been en fuego for much of 2015.  He did not post his best result at Indian Wells, but 3 titles are 3 titles.  I expect Ferrer to rebound in Miami.  Change since last ranking – not ranked
  7. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech has been quite consistent in 2015, but has yet to build upon his victory over Nadal in Melbourne with another signature win.
  8. Kei Nishikori – He hit the right notes in Memphis, but has yet to make a push against the Big 4.
  9. Stanislas Wawrinka - I think Stan benefits in 3 out of 5 set matches, but I also thought his title in Rotterdam would bode well for his weekly results.  Stan is still in my top 5 for slams on surfaces other than clay, but his results in Dubai and Indian Wells were not great.  Change since last ranking – 6
  10. Bernard Tomic - Tomic has put together his best stretch of tennis ever in 2015.  Withdrawing from Indian Wells and losses to Donald Young aside, he seems to be focused on success.  Change since last  ranking – not ranked

Biggest Movers – Roger Federer and Milos Raonic each jumped 4 spots while Stanislas Wawrinka fell 6 (!) spots

Entered the Poll – David Ferrer and Bernard Tomic

Dropped Out – Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov

Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic 

World #2 Roger Federer defeated World #1 Novak Djokovic in Dubai to edge ahead 20-17 in their head-to-head series.  Each man has only lost 1 match in 2015.  This is the match that the tournament organizers were hoping for as it has a bit of everything.  Novak, in my view, is poised to have his best year since 2011.  He has controlled Murray in recent meetings.  Nadal has struggled putting a full season together.  Roger Federer, while 33, seems to be his largest obstacle on tour.  A win by Federer today might be the start of a trend that could impede Nole’s 2015 campaign.  Conversely, a win by Nole would put their record at 1-1 for 2015 and set up future clashes.

To be clear, Novak is the clear world #1 whether he wins or loses today, but a win over Federer would help Novak to increase his domination of the tour.  Roger Federer seems to be enjoying his status as the leader of the 30+ brigade who are playing so well.  Roger’s style of play forces the issue against Djokovic in a manner most players on tour cannot muster.

In 2014, Federer beat Djokovic in the Dubai semifinal round only to have Nole defeat him in the Indian Wells championship.  I think 2015 may follow a similar script.  Roger will try to attack Novak judiciously, but Nole’s return game and elastic defensive skills will be enough to make this rivalry more interesting still.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer 6-4, 3-6, 6-4

Simona Halep vs. Jelena Jankovic

Jankovic is a tough player to beat who is very adept at making her opponent hit another ball in a rally.  Jankovic is crafty and has more variety than most players she faces.  I think Jankovic has more variety than Simona Halep.  Jankovic’s problem is that her habit of extending points with great defense is not likely to bother Halep.  Jankovic prefers to counterpunch and Halep will force Jankovic to generate her own pace in order to win this match.  In short, I think Halep’s speed, consistency, and mental fortitude make her a bad match-up for Jankovic.

My Prediction: Simona Halep d. Jelen Jankovic 6-3, 6-2

Milos Raonic vs. Roger Federer H2H

Milos Raonic defeated Rafael Nadal in a gutsy manner.  While that match may be a turning point for Milos as he relates to the top tier of tennis players, his quick turnaround is not ideal.  Milos played 35 games yesterday while Federer only played 16. Physically Federer’s match was less taxing, but mentally staring down Rafael Nadal and saving 3 match points and then winning a 7-5 3rd set has to take a toll.  Milos is likely sky high and has to face a man with one loss in 2015.  Milos did beat Roger last fall and the two played a tight match in Brisbane earlier this year.  Milos may have to ride his serve through the first portion of the match if any mental hangover from his big win is still in effect.

This match will come down to how well Federer serves and how well Milos returns.  I watched these two play up close last year in Cincinnati (see video above).  In the first set, Milos won zero points on Federer’s serve and looked like he was a puppet for Roger to move around the court.  In the second set, Milos earned a few break points that he failed to convert.  Still, he was in that set.  If Milos can’t make a dent with his return game, Roger will eventually manufacture a break or two due to the comfort level the Swiss will be enjoying.  If Milos is getting looks at breaks, his elephant gun of a serve puts pressure on an opponent.

My Prediction: Roger Federer d. Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4 w/ an assist from a mental hangover (I am also predicting big things for Milos in 2015 though)

Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic H2H

This is my favorite match-up to watch for various reasons.  I like that each player attempts to do similar things strategically, I love that no lead is safe given each man’s return game, and I enjoy seeing the speed each man exhibits.  Also, I like everyone else have rooting interests as a tennis fan.  I am not particularly pulled in either direction as a fan when these two play. Therefore, it is easier for me to just enjoy both men’s level of play and ability.  They put on some superb rallies that tax each man’s stamina, will power, and imagination.

This match could be a payback opportunity to Murray who lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open final earlier this year.  Novak has denied Andy a title in Melbourne on 3 occasions and also won a tense 5 set semifinal in Melbourne over Murray in 2012. Novak is the defending champion at Indian Wells and would love to defend all 1000 computer points.  A win today would ensure Nole of at least 600 points.  So Murray may have an edge in that he is not defending any points in this match.  Still, Novak dominated Murray in 2014 and turned a deadlocked match in Melbourne into a beating over the final 9 games of the Grand Slam final.  Novak seems a bit more mentally and physically dialed in than Murray in their recent encounters.  Until Murray reclaims his 2012 and 2013 mentality, it is a poor idea to pick against Nole in this match-up.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Andy Murray 7-5, 7-5

[1-WC] Serena Williams (USA) vs. [3] Simona Halep (ROU)

Serena’s return to Indian Wells has been marked with something Serena knows a lot about – wins.  Simona Halep is playing her best tennis of 2015 at Indian Wells.  She also posted an impressive 6-0, 6-2 win versus Serena in the round robin portion of the 2014 season finale.  Serena avenged this loss by humbling Halep 6-3, 6-0 in the championship match.  The lesson from Halep’s win was that her baseline hugging and tough competing allows her to beat Serena when errors are part of the equation.  The lesson of Serena’s win is that Serena has too many weapons for Halep when Serena plays clean tennis.  Serena would obviously love to make a triumphant return to Indian Wells.  I think this almost assures her of being dialed in to this match.  That is bad news for Halep who will have to find a way to manufacture offense and extend points with great defense.  I just can’t see Halep doing that enough to win this match.

My Prediction: Serena Williams d. Simona Halep 6-3, 6-2

[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [6] Milos Raonic (CAN)

This is Rafa’s biggest match of 2015 since he faced Berdych in Melbourne.  Nadal did win Buenos Aires, but he did not face a murderer’s row of opponents.  Rafa should win just about any 250 level event he enters on clay.  His game versus higher ranked players and on hard courts is still a bit of an unknown.  We’ll know more after this match tomorrow.  Nadal fans will not be happy with my thought that if Milos holds his nerve he will also hold his serve in Indian Wells.  I think Rafa is not quite back to his elite level from whatever ailed him in 2014.  Therefore, and maybe this is the upsets of March Madness getting to me, I am picking Milos.  Raonic has reached the quarters or better at so many Masters 1000 events and slams in the past 18 months that I think he is due for a big win.

My Prediction: Milos Raonic d. Rafal Nadal 7-6, 6-4 w/ one frustration break making the difference

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs. [9] Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Dating back to the 2004 Olympics, Berdych has posted some meaningful wins over Roger Federer.  Berdych stopped Fed at Wimbledon 2010 and US Open 2012.  Having said that, Federer has won 2/3 of their 18 career matches.  Federer has won 2 titles in 2015 while Berdych has been a model of consistency in this young tennis season.  I think this match is going 3 sets. Berdych is not afraid of Federer and has played quite well under his new coach.  Federer to my mind will eventually find a way to use his slice backhand and judicious approaches to the net to create separation from Berdych and win this match.

My Prediction: Roger Federer d. Tomas Berdych 6-4, 5-7, 7-5