Predicted Winner in BOLD
Projected Winners in BOLD
Warning Signs for Wozniacki
The US Open was Even Worse for Caro than SW19
Caroline Wozniacki’s loss at the US Open may have had injury elements thrown into the recipe, but this is an ominous sign. Last year, many said Wozniacki is uber fit, works hard on her game, and she is the youngest player in the top 10. The Dane winning a Grand Slam did not seem inevitable, but it also did not seem far fetched. 2012 has been a disaster for Wozniacki. She could still turn the tide, but she also seems to be the latest victim of the WTA’s Byzantine ranking system frequently rewarding players with the #1 ranking minus a Grand Slam title. I thought it was bad enough when Lindsay Davenport was routinely claiming the #1 ranking when her most recent slam was years prior. Wozniacki has only reached one Slam final. Caroline is a great ambassador for the sport and is popular with existing fans. Tennis does not need for her to succeed, but success would be a jolt for the sport. Instead, I worry that she is going to make Dinara Safina look like a dominant #1. Safina reached 3 major finals and won a Silver medal in singles in 2008. Wozniacki has time on her side, but she needs to start winning while simultaneously adding a few wrinkles to her game (an improved serve, a few net approaches etc.). My advice to Wozniacki would be to pick the brain of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Kim Clijsters.
Kim Clijsters had one of the most odd winning streaks at the US Open snapped today. Clijsters won the 2005 US Open and retired shortly thereafter. She returned to win the 2009 and 2010 US Opens only to miss the 2011 event with an injured ankle. She won her first round match in 2012 to stretch her winning streak in New York to 22 matches contested over a period of 8 years. Clijsters’ career ends with 4 Grand Slam singles titles, 2 Grand Slam doubles titles, multiple stints as the #1 ranked player in the world, 3 season championships and a sparkling reputation. Clijsters close loss in the 2001 French Open final and a frustrating loss to Jutine Henin at the 2004 Australian Open seemed to doom her to a fate of never winning a slam. In 2005, she reversed that fortune. In 2010, Clijsters backed up her 2009 US Open win with another US Open crown. Clijsters won the season ending title to cap 2010 and won the 2011 Australian Open. A period of dominance from Clijsters seemed to have arrived. Injuries put an end to that. My best Clijsters memory was seeing her daughter on court after both the 2009 and 2010 US Open finals. She also deftly handled an awkward question from Dick Enberg* during the 2005 award ceremony.
John Isner & the McEnroe Brothers
He did Break Milos Raonic in Canada
I have been fortunate enough to interview John Isner on 2 occasions (after his 2009 Indianapolis loss to Robby Ginepri and after his 2009 Cincinnati win over Tommy Haas). John struck me as a nice guy with a good perspective on tennis and on his life. I say this to point out that I personally like and root for John Isner. The McEnroe Brothers have put some heavy expectations on Big John in 2009. I think their predictions are wrong-headed even if I hope that I am wrong myself.
Patrick McEnroe predicted that Isner would make the final weekend at the French Open this year. He had taken Nadal to 5 sets in Paris in 2011, he had beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon on clay in Davis Cup play, he had beaten Roger Federer on an apparently awful indoor clay court in Switzerland in Davis Cup play, and he had finished as the runner-up at the 2012 Houston event on clay. Patrick McEnroe had some justification for this prediction, but come on … it was not going to happen.
John McEnroe recently asserted that Isner landing in David Ferrer’s quarter at the US Open was an opportunity for Isner to make the final four in New York. Isner did reach the finals at Indian Wells in March and won Newport and Winston Salem this Summer. Still, Isner lost a set to Xavier Malisse and needed 2 tie-break sets, & 4th set tie-break heroics to beat a player in his 30′s who last made an impression at the US Open by pushing Andre Agassi to 5 sets in 2005.
Isner’s match vs. Malisse is the perfect example of why he is threat in Davis Cup, but not nearly as much of a threat in Grand Slam play. Isner’s serve gives him a chance to play a lot of close sets. In a one or two match situation like Davis Cup, fatigue from earlier matches does not impact Isner. Also, odd things can happen in one or two matches. If Isner gets stretched out to needing to win 5 three out of five set matches to reach a semifinal, the odds shift against him. Isner’s serve may allow him to put scoreboard pressure on elite players and take his chances in tie-breaks, but his lack of a return game makes journeyman players a risk to him. If Xavier Malisse wins a 4th set tie-break that went 11-9 in favor of Isner, the former Georgia Bulldog is headed to a 5th set.
Isner plays close sets against just about everyone. That means a lesser player can put scoreboard pressure on him by hanging around. Then, these lesser-ranked players can take their chances in tie-breaks against him. Even if Isner disposes of lower-ranked players, long sets and matches take a toll on his conditioning for the next round. I’d love to see Isner in the semi-final, but I think he will be fortunate to replicate last year’s final 8 appearance (the only Grand Slam quarterfinal finish of his career).
* Enberg asked Clijsters what she was doing 1 year ago when she missed the 2004 US Open. Kim was in New York in 2004 cheering on her then fiance Lleyton Hewitt in his 2004 US Open (Rusty was runner-up). Somewhere between September 2004 and early 2005, their relationship had ended in a less than ideal manner.
US Open Day 3 Men’s Picks
Predicted Winners in BOLD
Predicted Winners in BOLD
There are a lot of great matches today – I wish I was in Flushing Meadows
Predicted Winners in BOLD
Andy Murray (3) vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr. – Andy should advance
Fernando Verdasco (25) vs. Rui Machado Possible upset here
**** Given that Rafael Nadal is not playing the US Open he will not be ranked, but his 2012 position is either 3rd or 4th in my mind.
Dan Martin’s 2012 Power Ranking
US Open Edition
- Roger Federer – If anyone had told Roger Federer that 2012 would include a Wimbledon title, he likely would have taken that deal. Throw in 3 Masters 1000 titles, 2 other titles, a Silver Medal, a record-setting return to #1, and two Grand Slam semifinal finishes and 2012 has been a banner year for the 31 year old Swiss. Roger is likely feeling greedy though and sees a chance to add more history with a 6th US Open title as a real possibility.
- Novak Djokovic – Nole has won the previous 3 hard court Grand Slam titles and also won Miami and Montreal this year. Nole has defended all of his hard court points from the summer season of 2011 as well. His draw makes him the slight favorite to win the title as his path to the final is easier than Federer’s or Murray’s.
- Andy Murray – We have not seen a lot from him since winning Gold in London (not to mention a Silver in mixed doubles). Still, Murray has to have the best vibes he’s had heading into New York since 2008 or 2009.
- Juan Martin del Potro – Delpo knows what it takes to win in New York. As always his health is a concern, but the Argentine has some momentum from his Bronze Medal. I think Delpo will set up a massive quarterfinal with Nole.
- David Ferrer – Ferrer could carve out more for his legacy by making the final weekend at the US Open. He’s won 5 titles this year, and the one player he generally cannot grind down is not in the draw. On one hand, Ferrer is a great value pick as he is unlikely to beat himself; on the other hand, it is hard to envision him going beyond the quarters or semis.
- John Isner – He’s got a huge weapon in his serve. He has some momentum with 2 titles this summer. He has wins in 2012 over Nole and Federer. Still, I think his game has taken a step back from where it stood after Indian Wells and his Davis Cup heroics versus France. Isner needs to take advantage of this opportunity. Still, his positioning suggests just how shallow the field looks after Delpo.
- Tomas Berdych – Big Berd was having a nice season until his loss to JMDP in Paris. Since then it has been mostly downhill. If he gained some momentum from his showing in North Carolina, he could be a threat to go deep. I would not place too much faith in his chances.
- Richard Gasquet – His solid play in Montreal places him at #8 on my list. The last few months have helped to establish Gasquet as a credible player once again.
- Juan Monaco – He is a tough baseliner who won’t beat himself or get tired. That may be enough to reach the final 8.
- Nicolas Almagro – Nico has more firepower than Ferrer or Monaco. He has also tended to tighten up in big situations. Almagro may be the biggest beneficiary of Nadal being out as no matter how well he plays vs. Rafa he tends to tighten up at 4-4 or 5-5 in sets vs. Rafa.
*** Jo-Wilfried Tonga – If he is healthy, insert him ahead of Isner. I am just not sure how healthy he is.
I also think John Isner is the tennis equivalent of Marvel Comics’ Captain Britain who lost strength the further he got from British soil. Isner has done so well at places such as Newport, Atlanta, Houston, Winston-Salem, and Indian Wells that his lack of success in Melbourne and London has been strange. Throw in his solid play at the Olympic games and his stellar Davis Cup results this year and Isner seems to play like a top 10 player in the US or when playing for the US. When playing overseas outside of Davis Cup or Olympic competition, he looks more like a top 50 player.
By some luck for tennis junkies, Pete Sampras was born on August 12, 1971 and Roger Federer was born on August 8, 1981. The two men are almost exactly 10 years apart in age. Tennis fans waited from Borg’s retirement to Sampras’ ascendency to see a player win over 10 slams in his career. From 1990 to present, Sampras, Federer and Nadal have all broken the 10 major count. I’m just going to say that we are fortunate to be witnessing this level of excellence.
This site contains the best breakdown of data comparing the two players. I must emphasize again check out this site for the quantitative comparison of tennis’ two most decorated Grand Slam champions. Beyond Grand Slam excellence, each man has claims to fame in terms of the ranking system and World Tour Finals. Federer recently passed Sampras for the most total weeks ranked #1, but Sampras still holds the record for 6 calendar years finished at #1. Roger holds 6 World Tour Finals crowns, but Sampras never got to play two out of three set championship matches for the year end event so I’d say Federer’s 6 are roughly equal to Sampras and Ivan Lendl’s 5 year end titles.*
Consider the Following
1. Of the previous 20 Wimbledon Championships, only 5 did not include either Sampras or Federer as one of the finalists. Only 6 did not conclude with either Sampras or Federer as champion.
2. Pete Sampras finished #1 from 1993-1998 and Roger Federer finished #1 from 2004-2007 & 2009. 11 of the past 19 years have had one of the two finish the year ranked #1. Federer could make it a 60% mark for the tandem if he finishes 2012 at #1.
3. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are part of a three way tie for the most Wimbledon crowns ever (Open Era and pre-Open Era) and are part of a 3 way tie for the most US Open titles of the Open Era.
4. The two combined to contest 42 Grand Slam finals from the US Open 1990 – Present. They won 31 of these 42 Grand Slam finals.
5. They shared some common opponents (i.e. Lleyton Hewitt vs Sampras at the 2000 and 2001 US Opens and Lleyton Hewitt vs. Federer at the 2004 and 2005 US Opens), but they only played one time on tour. Roger Federer d. Pete Sampras at Wimbledon 2001 in the round of 16 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.
A funny LOTR spoof
Comparing Their Years
If Pete Sampras’ career in 1990 was at the same point as Roger Federer’s in 2000, then it is pretty easy to see who had the better year at the same point in his respective career.
- Sampras would have the early edge as his 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 were all better years than Federer 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.
- Federer’s 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 would all to my mind be better than Sampras’ 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 (in many cases by saying better I might as well be saying that winning $2 million is better than winning $1 million. Both are pretty outstanding).
- Sampras in 2000 won Wimbledon and was runner-up at the US Open. I would rank that slightly ahead of Roger’s 2010 wins in Australia and the World Tour Finals.
- Federer’s 2011 and 2012 are ahead of Pete’s 2001 and 2002. Since Pete did not play past 2002, anything Roger does beyond this point will also be ahead of what Pete did. That leaves Roger with 8 superior head-to-head years and Sampras with 5 superior head-to-head years (or you could just look at this graph to compare the quality of their years on tour).
* – In a 2 out of 3 set format Roger would have won the 2005 final he lost to Nalbandian. Roger only had to go 2 out of 3 sets to win the 2010 and 2011 World Tour Finals as well as a weather shortened final in 2004.