Last month, I dipped my toe into the world of podcasting.  Podbean has a great product, but it does not offer a lot of space in terms of its free services.  I liked the idea of a voice only podcast as I have a good speaking voice.  However, youtube allows me to upload to my own channel via my gmail account tennisabides@gmail.com.  Here goes

I think editing video will take longer than writing so I probably won’t do this more than twice per month, but it is a fun way to see Tennis Abides grow.

Stanislas and Roger’s Excellent Adventure

This match set a tone

Stanislas Wawrinka added Switzerland’s first Davis Cup title to a year that saw him win a first Grand Slam and a first Masters 1000 title. Roger Federer added an important missing piece to his unprecedented career.  Stan and Roger also won Gold for Switzerland in doubles in 2008.  They have done a lot for the Swiss in international competition.  Stan has also helped his chances at entering the International Tennis Hall of Fame one day.  He is probably not at the threshold yet, but this year ticked off 3 big boxes for admittance.  Roger Federer capped a season that shed a lot of the doubts that surrounded his 2013 campaign.  It is easy to see Roger playing through 2016 whereas one year ago I had my doubts. Roger enters 2015 one Australian Open title away from a return to the #1 ranking.  The courts in Melbourne don’t compliment his game as well as grass does, but if he avoids Nole and Rafa, he’s a good bet to do damage.  Stan made it to the second week of 3 majors this year and won one.  He also played well at the World Tour Finals and in Davis Cup.  In my mind he is more likely to win a major in 2015 than Andy Murray.

This match put them in position

One of the stories coming out of London was Stan and Roger having a confrontation after the match that involved Federer’s wife and Stan exchanging words during their semifinal match.  Their doubles play and each contributing to 2 points for Switzerland likely put that non-story to bed.  Still, they clashed on court at Wimbledon, at the 02, and at Monte Carlo.  I think Stan knows that while he may never win 17, 14,  or 7 majors that he can play with the big boys as a peer. That dust-up in London may be an outgrowth of Federer and Stan’s changing dynamic.  Stan is no longer a junior partner in their friendship.  Also, Roger and Stan contributed to a gold medal and Davis Cup sitting in the other’s trophy case.  The two will respect each other for that, and I would guess be friends as well even if it means more big clashes in the next few years.

This match did it

I did not post anything about the doubles today because the line-ups could be changed so close to match time and because doubles is a different animal.  The remaining singles matches set Switzerland as 1 win away from a first ever Davis Cup title, but France will likely have 27,000 fans and a winnable set of matches.  I think the 4th match will be all important for Switzerland because the crowd in a deciding fifth match could be too much to overcome.

4th Match: Roger Federer vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Federer will need to play better or hope Tsonga plays at a lower level than in July

Roger looked bad on Friday.  Jo beat Roger in their most recent match.  A lot could point toward Tsonga winning and getting the crowd support he wished he had on Friday.  Roger did play well in doubles and likely erased bad thoughts from Friday.  His back appears to be in decent shape as well.  Jo did not do a lot in the 2014 season after beating Federer in Toronto.  Tsonga did beat Federer in straight sets in 2013 at the French Open.  This match is hard to predict, but I think if Tsonga wins this match France has a 60%+ chance to win the cup.

My Prediction: Roger Federer d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2

5th Match: Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Gael Monfils

On a neutral court, I would take Stan all day over Gael, but this is not a normal match if it matters

If this match matters, I think Monfils will ride the wave of the crowd to an early 1 set lead.  From there Wawrinka would have a huge challenge to stem the tide and claw his way back into the match.  Stan’s street fighter attitude would likely be an asset in this situation.  However, I think an inspired Monfils feeding off of a crowd might be too much.

My Prediction: Gael Monfils d. Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4

Thoughts

  1. I did not write about the dust up between Federer and Wawrinka this past Saturday because it was so minor.  In a team sport, it would not even have registered.  I think the individual nature of tennis made this into a bit of fodder for many tennis sites, but if Boris Becker and Michael Stich could win the 1992 gold in doubles when they hated each other at the time, Stan and Roger should be able to function in France.
  2. France has a deep team.  I think France was and is capable of beating Switzerland before Federer had any concerns about his back and is in my mind at worst a mild underdog.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crushed Federer at Roland Garros in 2013.  He also beat him at Toronto on hard courts in July.
  3. Switzerland struggled and lost when it played on indoor clay in front of Swiss fans in 2012.
  4. Wawrinka snapped out of a patch of poor play in London.

Day 1 Predictions

Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

This match could set the tone.  If Stan wins, Monfils is the only thing standing between the Swiss and a 2-0 lead.  If Tsonga wins, the crowd may come crashing down on Federer as it did in the 2012 gold medal match.  Tsonga should be well rested. Wawrinka should feel good about his form.  I think Wawrinka’s return to form in London will be of great help to him in this match.  The two players are 2-2 on clay.  I think if this match is close and gets into an extended situation the home crowd will benefit Tsonga.  Still, Tsonga has not done much since Toronto.   I think if Stan grabs a lead and keeps the crowd on its hands, he wins.

My Prediction: Wawrinka d. Tsonga 7-5, 6-2, 6-4

Roger Federer vs. Gael Monfils

Monfils is capable of beating Federer.  They had two entertaining matches at Roland Garros in 2008 and 2009.  Gael managed to win one of seven sets in those two matches.  Gael had Federer in deep trouble at the US Open not too long ago.  That should give Gael some confidence.  The crowd may also help Monfils.  Still, if Federer is healthy (that may be a big if), Roger should win this match.

My Prediction: Federer d. Monfils 6-4, 6-3, 6-4

World #1 Novak Djokovic vs. World #2 Roger Federer

Stanislas Wawrinka would have been a worthy finalist, but this match features the top two players in the world and the the two men who are undefeated in London this week.  Federer and Djokovic have each won a lot of titles this year.  Djokovic won Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Wimbledon, Beijing and Paris in 2014.  Federer won Dubai, Halle, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Basel in 2014.  Federer won 3 of their 5 meetings this year, but Nole won the biggest match in the championship round at Wimbledon. Federer’s  increased willingness to move forward has been effective for him this year.  Novak Djokovic is back to his incredible counter-punching from 2011.  The crowd might be an x factor.  In the round robin matches, it seemed like both Djokovic and Federer were on a collision course.  Federer may have expended a lot of energy versus Wawrinka, but barring an injury the every other day nature of this event means both men should be fresh.  Each guy knows what to expect and each man has been in this spot before so I expect a high level of play from the start.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic has looked unstoppable all week.  Roger Federer showed some vulnerability on Saturday. Federer also had the later and harder semifinal match.  Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 is how I see this event finishing.

The Swiss Civil War: Roger Federer vs. Stanislas Wawrinka

Next week, these two competitors will be teammates as Switzerland tries to win the Davis Cup title for the first time.  Today, they will face-off for a spot in the championship round of the World Tour Finals.  I think Wawrinka has a better chance to spring an upset than Nishikori despite the fact that Roger has been playing at a high level throughout this event.  First, Stan has won several big matches this year and knows what it is like to successfully challenge the top tier of tennis.

Federer has more variety than Stan, but Stan can hit through anyone.  If Stan’s power paralyzes Roger as it did for 1 1/2 sets at Wimbledon, he’s got a shot.  Still, Roger’s round robin form was outstanding.

My Prediction: Roger Federer d. Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 7-6

Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori

 These two players had a recent duel in Paris.  Novak took that match and reversed the results of their US Open semifinal clash.  Nishikori has a lot of game and can hurt anyone when his game is clicking.  However, Djokovic’s form in Paris and through the round robin matches in London has been as high as I have seen from Nole since 2011.  That is not good news for Kei.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3

Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych

The 2014 World Tour Finals have produced a lot of one-sided matches.  Djokovic has been a big part of this trend as he handed two breadsticks to Marin Cilic and a bagel to Stanislas Wawrinka.  Berdych took a beating from Wawrinka, but the Big Czech also handed a beating to Marin Cilic.  Berdych has a chance to reach the semifinal round if he can topple Djokovic, but Djokovic demolished Berdych in Beijing.  Also, I think Djokovic knows one more win means he finishes 2014 as the #1 player in the world.  I think a motivated Djokovic is not going to lose this match.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-3

Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Marin Cilic

Marin played some great big man tennis to win the US Open.  Wawrinka commanded the court and hit through opponents to win the US Open.  Each man broke the Big 4’s monopoly on majors this year.  With Stan and Marin’s break throughs added to Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov and even Kyrgios making noise, it is possible to see a glimpse of an era without the Big 4 err maybe Big 3 at the top of tennis. The big question is who wins this match.  Stan was humbled by Nole in his previous match.  Cilic has looked out of sorts in his two lopsided losses.  I think Stan is mentally in a better headspace than Marin and obviously has an easier path to the semifinal round as well.

My Prediction: Stanislas Wawrinka d. Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-2

Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray

I am not sure what to think about this match.  Roger has looked razor sharp in his first two wins.  He also has beaten Murray both times they have played in 2014 (winning 5 of 6 sets).  Murray has won 3 titles since the US Open concluded and needs a win versus Federer to optimize his chances at reaching the semifinal round.  Roger may not qualify, but once the Nishikori-Raonic match is in the books, Roger’s path to the semifinal round will be clear if not nearly settled.  They have met 22 times, and each man holds 11 wins.  Roger has inflicted painful losses on Murray in US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon championship matches.  Murray throttled Roger in the gold medal round of the London Olympics and beat Roger in a 2013 Australian Open semifinal match.  Roger returned the favor in a 2014 Australian Open quarterfinal match.  While Murray has posted several one-sided wins versus Federer, I think Federer always believes if he plays his game (and takes care of his serve) that he has a great chance to defeat Murray.  Edberg instilling more forward movement tilts my prediction even if Murray is playing his best tennis since Wimbledon 2013.

My prediction: Roger Federer d. Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4