When will Rafa be fully back?  Points like this say his best form may be close

Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Monaco

I’d be a fool to say Nadal is not the favorite in this match.  I still don’t think it will be easy.  Monaco is a true pro in terms of his preparation, willingness to complete, and his conditioning.  Rafa does not yet look like he has hit his clay court stride.  Rafa dropped a set in the Rio quarters and then lost a lead in the semis.  Today versus Carlos Berlocq, Rafa saved 5 set points to win the first set and came from an early break down to win the second set.  Rafa’s comeback in the first set and winning the final 6 games of the second set might have him feeling like his old self.  Still, if Rafa plays at his current level, I think this match will at least be taxing for Rafa as Monaco is a stout competitor.  Monaco, an Argentine, is playing in front of a Buenos Aires crowd and is unhappy with Argentina’s Davis Cup situation.  Winning versus the King of Clay would send a strong message to his fans and to the Argentine Davis Cup leadership.

My Prediction: Rafal Nadal d. Juan Monaco 3-6, 6-2, 6-3

Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Berlocq

Maybe I was being a bit harsh in my pick after looking at these highlights

This is a mismatch.  I know saying that about Rafa on clay is trite, but Berlocq’s game (which I love) is predicated on running, scrambling, grinding out points etc.  He is not going to be able to do that often enough to really bother Rafa.  Nadal will be relaxed knowing this and will likely play quite commanding tennis.  Berlocq’s serve and shots are not big enough to really bother Rafa.  Unless Rafa has an error prone outing, expect this one to go quickly.

My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Carlos Berlocq 6-2, 6-2

Nicolas Almagro vs. Juan Monaco

This should be a nice match.  I think Almagro has enough firepower to be favored, but Monaco is playing on home soil and is upset with some Davis Cup selections.  I am therefore torn.  Almagro has superior weapons, but Monaco is a more reliable competitor with a lot of motivation.  In this case, I will give an edge to the Argentine.

My Prediction: Juan Monaco d. Nicolas Almagro 3-6, 7-5, 6-3

A worthy sequel in 2015?

The Dubai event always draws in a great field and when the draw holds up a tremendous final is in the offing.  This year is no exception.  Federer and Djokovic each won a title in Australia to start their seasons. Of course, Djokovic’s Australian Open is significantly more coveted than Federer’s Brisbane title. Federer’s straight set ride to the final round in Dubai is an important brushback to any notions that his early Aussie Open loss meant that his season and career were headed toward a poor finish.  Djokovic has yet to lose a match in 2015.  Therefore, the world #1 will be favored on paper against the defending champion and world #2 in Dubai.

The question is who wins?  Each man knows the other’s game quite well.  Federer’s serve, slice backhand, and ability to steal a few points at the net can throw Nole off of his game.  Federer’s forehand is still lethal. Novak is the top player in tennis and has created a lot of breathing room between himself and the field.  A Federer win might shrink Novak’s lead in terms of momentum even if Nole is going to add computer points regardless of the championship result.  If Novak is returning well and moving well, he can make the match difficult for Federer.  I think Novak’s serve will be strong enough to allow his return game to eventually take control of this match.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5

Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych

I doubt it will be this one-sided, but I expect a similar result.

Berdych has had a nice start to 2015.  I don’t think he has much of a chance in this match, but Berdych has been quite consistent.  Nole has won 2 of the past 3 slams after a tough stretch in which Novak won 2 of 10 slams, but had to feel like he had let a few trophies drift out of his cabinet.  Novak has been cruising in Dubai.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-3

Roger Federer vs. Borna Coric

This match is more likely to produce an upset than the first.  I think Coric could simply let it rip and dictate play. If that happens, he can win.  We saw his much older countryman Marin Cilic dictate play against Federer at the US Open last year.  Granted Federer beat Cilic during the summer leading up to that match.  Federer should be able to play his game, keep the ball low, and find a way to win even if things are not fully clicking for him.  However, a big server playing enthusiastic in a 2 of 3 set match can certainly spring an upset as well.

My Prediction: Roger Federer d. Borna Coric 7-5, 6-2

I have been sick with assorted ailments throughout February.  My kids and spouse have also had a mixture of maladies (I love alliteration).  I am back to writing more regularly now.

  1. Stan Wawrinka winning Rotterdam and skipping Davis Cup makes me think he is tired of being on the outside of the Big 4.  I suspect we may see a Big 5 by the end of 2015 or he will supplant either an injured, aging, or mentally fragile member of the Big 4 (Nole is safe in my view).
  2. Ivo Karlovic won Delray Beach and Donald Young enjoyed his best two tournament stretch ever.
  3. David Ferrer wandered around Rio with 9-time and 3-time French Open Champions, but he left Rio with the trophy.
  4. Rafael Nadal is nowhere near panic mode, but his ground strokes seemed to lack some depth and weight vs. Fognini.
  5. Tomas Berdych seems like the hard luck kid.  He has had some nice results in 2015, but then run into brick walls.  Can he make a serious charge at a slam title before the end of 2016?  Reaching a semifinal is almost a serious charge, but the semifinal loss cannot come in straight sets.  Wawrinka’s 2013 US Open semifinal loss was a serious charge.  Berdych’s 2010 semifinal loss at Roland Garros was a serious charge as was his 2010 Wimbledon runner-up finish.  I am rooting for the Big Czech to do something.
  6. Kei Nishikori is becoming as big of a fixture in Memphis as Jerry Lawler is.  What is the over/under on Kei smacking someone on the David Letterman Show?
  7. Dubai is to my mind the top 500 level event on the ATP Tour.
  8. Who knew Roger Federer’s cricket preferences could create a controversy.  I guarantee you that if Federer tells the fans at Cincinnati next year that he loves the Reds that no one in Cleveland will get very upset.
  9. Milos has 4 losses in 2015.  Three of them have come against Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Stanislas Wawrinka.  I guess if he keeps knocking at the door sooner or later it will open.  He will have a shot at Nishikori in Davis Cup.
  10. Brazil selecting a hard court surface for the 2016 Olympic games will likely prevent players avoiding the games due to not wanting to switch from clay to grass to clay to hard court a la the 1992 games in Barcelona.  A 2 of 3 set format on hard courts also means that the medals are not going to be easy to predict.  On clay, Rafa failing to medal would have been as unexpected as Edwin Moses losing at hurdles.  I still think Brazil is more of a clay court haven than anything else so putting the games on a hard court is a curious choice.

This is an awesome story.  I’d love to see a couple top 10 players pull a Johnny Cash and put on a tennis exhibition at San Quentin.

The Definitive Comparison: Federer vs. Dimitrov

Posted: February 5, 2015 by Dan Martin in Uncategorized

Dan Martin:

Really good analysis

Originally posted on The Tennis Island:

Ever since Grigor Dimitrov burst onto the scene seven years ago, he’s been ceaselessly compared to one Roger Federer.

Some have been highly critical of the parallels made between the two, but before anything is said, it’s essential to recognize that no two tennis players on the planet are exactly alike. While there are many players who have similarities in stroke production or style of play, everyone in the game is a unique entity.

With that in mind, let’s begin by talking about how Dimitrov and Federer are alike.

In terms of technique, the two do mirror one another from the back of the court. When it comes to hitting stances, racket head preparation, size/shape of the backswing, average contact point, and overall swing path, Federer and Dimitrov hit the ball in quite similar fashion off both sides. Both use a pretty conservative eastern backhand grip…

View original 965 more words

Andy Murray left Melbourne with a 2-6 record in Grand Slam championship matches.  Strangely, he’s played all 8 of these matches against 2 men: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.  Federer throttled Murray in 2008 when Federer looked vulnerable most of that summer after losing an epic 5 set clash with Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.  Murray’s court positioning was so passive in that match that Federer was allowed to dictate from start to finish.  Murray at that time had a very favorable head-to-head record versus Federer so the loss and nature of the loss surprised many people.  Federer more or less repeated this result at the 2010 Australian Open final.  Their 2012 Wimbledon final was a much more closely contested match.  Murray’s 2011 annihilation at the hands of Novak Djokovic in Melbourne cemented many people’s notion that Murray was not a big match player.  In the era of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic, I am not sure how fair this label is for Murray, but losing the final 9 games of the 2015 Australian Open after being dead even with the world #1 for 2 and 1/2 sets is not exactly shaking this reputation either.  I do think Murray has demonstrated the quality known as “clutch” in many instances though.

5.  Andy Murray d Rafael Nadal 2008 US Open Semifinal 6-2, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4

Nadal won the French Open and Wimbledon in 2008 to more or less break Federer’s monopoly on the #1 ranking.  He added a gold medal in Beijing for good measure.  Nadal was a bit road weary and unhappy to have his semifinal squeezed in to avoid a major rain pattern.  Still, Murray played inspired tennis to race to a two sets lead, but trailed by a break of serve when the rain hit.  Nadal had all night to get his mental game back.  The new world #1 served out the 3rd set.  The stage was set for Nadal to create another clash with Roger Federer as he could rally to victory.  Instead Murray calmly took the 4th set and the match to reach his first Grand Slam final.

4.  Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic 2012 Olympic Semifinal Round 7-5, 7-5

Andy Murray carried the UK’s hopes with him as he left Wimbledon a few weeks earlier with a championship loss.  Winning this match was huge because it assured Murray of a medal.  Had he lost, Murray would have played Del Potro for the bronze medal.  Murray could have lost either set as this was a close match, but he and a partisan crowd carried the day.

3.  Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic 2012 US Open 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2

This was a classic example of a come from ahead victory.  Murray and Djokovic battled for two incredible sets, and Murray managed to take both sets.  Djokovic dug in as Murray seemed a but winded to start the 3rd.  As they headed into the 4th, I figured Murray was still in command, but Djokovic once again battled through and forced a fifth set that I was sure would lead to Murray’s demise (as well as the hopes of all of his fans).  Instead, Murray regrouped and Djokovic ran out of gas.  Murray broke a 76 year Grand Slam drought by male players from the UK by fending off the defending champion after giving up a 2 set lead. Murray had to be clutch there.

2.  Andy Murray d. Roger Federer 2012 Olympic Gold Medal Match 6-2, 6-1, 6-4

The fans went wild

Federer had beaten Andy Murray on that exact court 2 weeks earlier.  I thought the 3 out of 5 set format for the championship match would give Federer enough time to solve Murray even if the fans and circumstances gave Murray early momentum.  The match went a different direction.  Federer had an early look at breaking Murray’s serve in the first game, and that was his last good news until the 3rd set.  Murray built a huge lead, the fans were nuts, and Murray aced his way to victory when serving at 5-4.

1.  Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic 2013 Wimbledon Final 6-4, 7-5, 6-4

Murray’s gold medal and US Open wins in 2012 exorcised many demons for tennis fans from the UK.  This match buried those demons.  Breaking a 77 year drought in straight sets against the 2011 Wimbledon champion was huge.  Murray was also clutch in this event by rallying from 2 sets down against Fernando Verdasco.  Murray also fell behind by a break in the 3rd set after splitting the first two sets against Jerzy Janowicz in the semifinal round.  Jerzy is a huge server and Murray may have been needing another 5th set to reach this final, but instead Murray rallied and took Jerzy’s fighting spirit away during the rally.

Andy Murray has Grand Slam or Olympic wins against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.  He also has wins over Berdych, Del Potro, Cilic, and other top flight players over the years.

Tennis Abides working with Fanthem

Posted: February 3, 2015 by Dan Martin in Fanthem, Tennis Abides
Tags: ,

Dear readers,

This site is going no where.  However, I will be posting a few things I write here at Fanthem.  They approached me during the Australian Open to add to their tennis content.  The goal is that some of their readers may check out Tennis Abides and some of my readers might check Fanthem.

Thanks,

Dan

Tennis Power Ranking 2015: #1

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

  1. Novak Djokovic – Nole ended 2014 well and started 2015 with his 5th Australian Open title.  He is set up nicely to finish his 4th year at #1 and is the apex predator on the ATP Tour.  He is also clearly elated to be a father and husband.  I think a relaxed Nole plays devastating tennis so the rest of the tour needs to watch out or else it might be swallowed in 2015.
  2. Andy Murray – The Australian Open represented a major turn around from his form at the World Tour Finals last November.  Murray looked strong in beating Dimitrov, Kyrgios, and Berdych in succession.  He’d like to have a few break points to play over again in the 1st and 3rd sets of the Australian Open.  If he can clear a mental hurdle or two, a rematch of the 2013 Wimbledon final may be in the offing.
  3. Stanislas Wawrinka – He is coming off of a Davis Cup win and a win in India.  He defended his title gamely and pushed Nole as hard as anyone in the draw.  I think Stan will threaten at Wimbledon and the US Open.  
  4. Rafael Nadal – A lot of questions hover over Rafa and his ability to play a full season on tour.  Even in 2013 when he finished #1, Rafa missed the Australian Open and lost in the 1st round at Wimbledon.  In 2012 and 2014, Rafa more or less shut things down after Wimbledon.  Still, the Latin American and European clay court circuits are in front of him on the schedule so his quarterfinal finish leads to … greener/red pastures.
  5. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech is recently married and has a new coach.  He is one of the guys carrying the mantle for Big Man Tennis at the moment.  With JMDP and Cilic hurt, Berdych currently fills that niche in the ecosystem of tennis by himself.  
  6. Roger Federer – His Davis Cup title and win in Brisbane both bode well for 2015.  His early loss in Melbourne does not.  With Federer, he has always been good when one takes a long view at his prospects.  I am sure Wimbledon is the goal for 2015, and I think he will be ready for that event.  Roger will likely outperform Berdych on a weekly basis.  Also, if Rafa’s health has a hiccup and Stan has inconsistencies, Roger will be right back in the top 2-3 of my power rankings (something I am sure he worries about).
  7. Kei Nishikori – Kei’s play in Miami, Madrid, the US Open, and Tokyo last year mark him out as a man on the move.  His play in Melbourne was good, but a cut below that of Stan’s.
  8. Milos Raonic – His serve can carry him far in tennis.  Milos was steady in Masters 1000 events last year.  He was runner-up at Brisbane.  In his past 4 slams, Milos has posted a 16-4 record with one semifinal finish and 2 quarterfinal finishes.  Milos will have to make his forehand more lethal and become a more efficient returner to get beyond just being a consistent performer at big events.
  9. Nick Kyrgios – The kid has a big game and a lot of charisma.  He reached the quarters in Melbourne and at Wimbledon last year.  He played well at the 2014 US Open too.  Maybe in 2015 we’ll see some better results at the 250, 500, and 1000 level events too.
  10. Grigor Dimitrov – His round of 16 loss to Murray was part of a competitive match.  He also reached the semifinals at Brisbane.  Grigor is capable of big things, but he like Milos has to add something more to what he is doing because at present it is not enough to dislodge the champions ahead of him.