2015 Power Ranking: Madrid – Murray’s Clay Feat

2015 Power Ranking #5 – Murray Does Damage on the Dirt

  1. Novak Djokovic – Novak has not played since winning Monte Carlo because frankly he didn’t have to.  Will he cross the Rubicon and take Rome?
  2. Andy Murray – I can’t move Andy to #1 because of Nole’s stellar 2015, but Murray won Munich and was the last man standing in Madrid after a difficult schedule marred by rain delays and late night matches.  Murray beat Raonic, Nishikori, and Rafael Nadal by winning 6 straight sets.  
  3. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech was soundly beaten by Nadal in the Madrid semis, but he is a model of consistency in 2015.  Change since last ranking +1
  4. Rafael Nadal – Rafa has two 2015 losses on clay to Fabio Fognini.  He just took a beating from Andy Murray in Madrid.  Still, Rafa beat Dimitrov and Berdych in straight sets.  He does not look like the Rafa we know, but a semi in Monte Carlo and runner-up in Madrid moves him to #4.  Change since last ranking +2
  5. Roger Federer – Roger won the first ever Istanbul event.  He promptly lost an extremely close match to Nick Kyrgios in Madrid.  I don’t think Roger has given up on clay, but his own words even suggest that he does not have the match on his racquet on dirt.  Change since last ranking – 2
  6. Kei Nishikori – He continued to do well in Spain.  Kei won Barcelona for the second consecutive year and destroyed Ferrer in Madrid.  He did not show much against a red hot Murray though.  Change since last ranking – Not ranked
  7. John Isner – Between Monte Carlo and Madrid, a case can be made that Isner is most effective on clay.  Who wants to play him in Paris?
  8. Milos Raonic – The big serving Canadian stays at #8, but he will miss big events to heal his nerve issue.  Team Raonic should not worry about short term ranking losses as his steady rise suggests he will get those points back sooner rather than later.
  9. Nick Kyrgios – Nick reached his first tournament final in Estoril and knocked off Roger Federer in Madrid.  That is enough for him to grab the #9 slot in this ranking.  Change since last ranking – Not ranked 
  10. Grigor Dimitrov – Grigor played well enough to keep his 10th slot, but he needs a big win against one of the top tier guys.

Biggest Mover –  Rafael Nadal +2 and Roger Federer – 2

Dropped Out of the Poll – Gael Monfils and David Ferrer

Entered the Poll – Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov

Madrid 2015: ATP Quarterfinal Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

I am still sick and missed predicting the WTA semis – good thing as I would have gotten both wrong

[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs [10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) H2H – If Grigor wins, panic might be warranted by the Rafa fans.  I don’t think that will happen though.

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs [16] John Isner (USA) H2H – Big John is playing well and perhaps making the case that clay is his best surface.  Still, Berdych’s 2015 form has been rock solid except versus Murray, Federer, and Djokovic.

[2] Andy Murray (GBR) vs [5] Milos Raonic (CAN) H2H –  Milos could bully Andy and win, but I think Murray’s foot speed and return will be the difference.

[4] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs [7] David Ferrer (ESP) H2H – This strikes me as a 50-50 match.  I like Kei due to his momentum from Barcelona.

Monte-Carlo 2015: April 17th Quarterfinal Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) v [4] Milos Raonic (CAN) H2H – Milos leads their head-to-head 3-1, but all of the matches have been fairly close and none of the 4 were on clay.  I think Milos is currently playing big matches better than Berdych has in recent months.  Therefore, I think Milos wins in 2 or 3 tight sets.

[9] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) v [WC/14] Gael Monfils (FRA) H2H – Well Monfils’ sparring session in the round of 16 should be good preparation for Dimitrov.  Monfils has won the only relevant match in their 3 head-to-head meetings.  On paper, Gael should win.  Grigor has reasserted himself thus far with solid victories helping his Q rating.  I think Gael can win this match, but throughout his career Monfils has seemingly been on the cusp of something better than being simply dangerous.  Monfils has never really moved beyond that category and until he does, I can’t pick him to play high-level tennis on a sustained basis.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) v [8] Marin Cilic (CRO) H2H – I picked against Cilic in the round of 32 and round of 16.  He should be happy I am doing so again.  What won’t make him happy is Nole’s level of play.
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) v [5] David Ferrer (ESP) H2H – This is much closer to a 50-50 match than I think most people realize.  Rafa historically has dominated both Ferrer and Monte-Carlo.  Recent form suggests a harder match than their head-to-head might indicate.  In Rio, Ferrer clearly was sharper than Nadal.  Ferrer was awesome in his 2015 Latin American swing winning Rio on clay and Acapulco on hard courts.  Ferrer also took the title in Doha to start the year.  Ferrer has had a better 2015 to this point than Rafa.  @Clutchon&win, a twitter friend, has been bold and picked Ferrer – see below.  I will not go quite that far, but in part because I want to see Nole and Rafa in the semis.  I am picking Rafa to advance in 3 long sets.

Monte Carlo 2015: April 15 Predictions or Special IRS Edition

Predicted Winners in BOLD

What a picturesque venue

[7] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs Juan Monaco (ARG) H2H – I am quite tempted to pick an upset here, but Stan has done well when defending titles.

[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs [WC] Lucas Pouille (FRA) H2H – Rafa will be tested in Monte Carlo but not in this match.

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs Jeremy Chardy (FRA) H2H – I don’t like Chardy’s chances in this match.

[11] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs David Goffin (BEL) H2H – I’ll pick a mild upset due to Tsonga’s potential rust.  This is a dangerous pick as Tsonga could overpower Goffin.

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) H2H – The Big Czech has generally won early round matches in recent events.

[9] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs Fabio Fognini (ITA) H2H – If Dimitrov is clicking, he should win.  If Fognini plays like he did in Rio, an upset is likely.  I think Dimitrov is less likely to implode so Grigor gets the slightest of edges in my mind.

[4] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs Joao Sousa (POR) H2H – Milos may have his hands full as Sousa is a talented player, but Milos is quite a steady performer in matches he is supposed to win.

[WC/14] Gael Monfils (FRA) vs Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) H2H – Try to predict this one ….

[16] Tommy Robredo (ESP) vs Marcel Granollers (ESP) H2H – Robredo wins a tight baseline duel.

[10] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs [Q] Benoit Paire (FRA) H2H – I love Gilles’ oddly apathetic way of fighting his brains out on court.

[15] John Isner (USA) vs Viktor Troicki (SRB) – The big man typically plays much better on US soil, but I think this is a match he can successfully navigate.

[12] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) H2H – I like Kohlschreiber’s variety to be the difference in this match.

Masters Miami 2015: March 31st ATP Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[8] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs [17] Gael Monfils (FRA) H2H – I think the Big Czech wins riding some momentum from his comeback versus Tomic.

[3] Andy Murray (GBR) vs [15] Kevin Anderson (RSA) – Murray’s return will likely neutralize Anderson’s best weapon.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) H2H – This should be an entertaining and short match.

[5] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [22] John Isner (USA) – Take cover

[28] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs Dominic Thiem (AUT) H2H – Thiem has so much variety that he probably figures out a path to victory.

[29] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs Juan Monaco (ARG) H2H – Verdasco needs to ride this momentum.  If Verdasco has a let down, Monaco will clip him though.

[6] David Ferrer (ESP) vs [12] Gilles Simon (FRA) – Ferrer’s momentum should carry him to victory in a tough match.

[4] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs [18] David Goffin (BEL) H2H – I could see Goffin win, but on paper Kei has to be the pick.

Rafa’s Early 2015 Results

I grabbed Rafael Nadal’s 2015 results from Yahoo Sports and pasted them below (for some reason Yahoo lists Rio twice). World #3 Nadal does have one title in 2015. Winning Buenos Aires after reaching the semifinal round at Rio gives Nadal a 7-1 record on clay.  Rafa certainly will welcome a return to his favored surface after some curious hard court results to start the year.  I think any deep analysis or Rafa’s form and mentality needs to wait until Roland Garros 2015 is in the books.  We all know clay can cure many ills for Nadal.  I want to look briefly at his hard court results.

The Relatively Good

Rafa’s loss to Milos Raonic at Indian Wells does not strike me as a bad loss because Milos is a young player who is pushing toward the top 5 of the ATP rankings.  Rafa also reached the quarterfinal round at the Australian Open despite coming into 2015 not having been truly tested since Wimbledon 2014.  Rafa posted straight set wins over Kevin Anderson in Melbourne and Gilles Simon at Indian Wells. The only odd things about these results are Rafa failing to convert match points versus Raonic and losing to Berdych after winning 17 consecutive matches vs. the Big Czech.  Rafa and every other established star on tour will likely eventually lose to up and coming players such as Raonic.  It was apparent for the first two sets versus Berdych that Rafa was woefully short on match play over the previous 6 months.  These two losses don’t amount to any eye brow raising on my part.

The Bad

Michael Berrer is a nice player, but Rafa has minimized upset losses on hard courts since at least 2008.

The Ugly

I say ugly because Rafa has generally dominated fellow Spaniards and players who have slighted him.  Fernando Verdasco beating Rafa in Miami is surprising.  I looked at Rafa beating Hot Sauce as being a given.  If I throw in Fabio Fognini coming from a set down to beat Rafa on clay, Rafa has recent losses to two guys I suspect are not well liked in the locker room.  I am not sure if Rafa is still ticked at Berdych for quieting the crowd in Madrid almost a decade ago, but this too could have been an annoying loss for the Mallorcan.

The Wait and See

As I said earlier, Rafa may find his form and confidence return once he gets another 10 clay court matches under his belt.  I don’t think this is an apocalyptic situation for Rafa, but these results have been curious.

 2015 Tournament Results – Singles
 Tournament (Seed) Surface Round Opponent W/L Score
 Qatar ExxonMobil Open (2)
Jan 5-Jan 11
Hard First Round Michael Berrer L 6-1, 3-6, 4-6
 Australian Open (3)
Jan 18-Feb 1
Hard First Round Mikhail Youzhny W 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Second Round Tim Smyczek W 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 7-5
Third Round Dudi Sela W 6-1, 6-0, 7-5
Fourth Round Kevin Anderson (14) W 7-5, 6-1, 6-4
Quarterfinals Tomas Berdych (7) L 2-6, 0-6, 6-7 (5-7)
 Rio Open presented by Claro HDTV (1)
Feb 16-Feb 22
Clay First Round Thomaz Bellucci W 6-4, 6-1
Second Round Pablo Carreno-Busta W 7-5, 6-3
Quarterfinals Pablo Cuevas (6) W 4-6, 7-5, 6-0
Semifinals Fabio Fognini (4) L 6-1, 2-6, 5-7
 Rio Open (1)
Feb 16-Feb 22
Clay First Round Thomaz Bellucci W 6-4, 6-1
Second Round Pablo Carreno-Busta W 7-5, 6-3
Quarterfinals Pablo Cuevas (6) W 4-6, 7-5, 6-0
Semifinals Fabio Fognini (4) L 6-1, 2-6, 5-7
 Argentina Open presented by Buenos Aires Ciudad (1)
Feb 23-Mar 1
Clay Second Round Facundo Arguello W 6-4, 6-0
Quarterfinals Federico Del Bonis W 6-1, 6-1
Semifinals Carlos Berlocq W 7-6 (9-7), 6-2
Final Juan Monaco W 6-4, 6-1
 BNP Paribas Open (3)
Mar 11-Mar 22
Hard Second Round Igor Sijsling W 6-4, 6-2
Third Round Donald Young W 6-4, 6-2
Fourth Round Gilles Simon (13) W 6-2, 6-4
Quarterfinals Milos Raonic (6) L 6-4, 6-7 (10-12), 5-7
 Miami Open presented by Itau (2)
Mar 24-Apr 5
Hard Second Round Nicolas Almagro W 6-4, 6-2
Third Round Fernando Verdasco(29) L 4-6, 6-2, 3-6

Masters Miami 2015: March 30th ATP Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

If only I had tickets to today’s matches, this looks like a day of tennis heaven for a fan

[5] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [31] Jérémy Chardy (FRA) H2H –  Chardy has had a few moments in his career, but I think Raonic’s resolve and serve push him through to a straight sets victory.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [Q] Steve Darcis (BEL) H2H – Darcis has done quite well to get this far as a qualifier, but if Darcis is wondering for whom the bell tolls, he needs to know the bell tolls for him.  Nole in 2

[9] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs [22] John Isner (USA) H2H – This is an interesting match-up.  Dimitrov is superior to Isner in every phase of the game except for first and second serve.  Isner has a punchers chance.  Also, Isner is roughly 3X as tough on US soil as he is playing anywhere else.  Still, I think Dimitrov’s variety eventually makes the difference.  I expect Isner to win one set in a tiebreak.

[4] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs [32] Viktor Troicki (SRB) H2H – I find myself  wondering how Troicki is ranked high enough to be seeded.

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) vs Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) H2H – Two enigmatic characters will produce a memorable match? Maybe.  A few years ago, I thought Bellucci was going to be a big factor on clay and slower hard courts.  Dolgopolov has had a few nice results in his career, but his style of play is as entertaining as it is vexing.  I have no idea who will win this match, but I think the fans will rally behind Bellucci so I will take him to win.

[6] David Ferrer (ESP) vs [26] Lukas Rosol (CZE) H2H – Ferrer has historically played well in Miami and has been quite tough in 2015.

[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs [Q] Alejandro Falla (COL) H2H – Facing Simon is a bit like a trip to the dentist.

[18] David Goffin (BEL) vs Jerzy Janowicz (POL) H2H – The physical contrast between these two is quite striking.  I can humorously recall one of the security guards at Cincinnati 2013 telling fans to step away from the fence of the court on which Jerzy was practicing.  Jerzy looked like he needed no security.  Goffin, on the other hand, could be a ringer for any 16-and-under tennis tournament he wanted to enter.  If Jerzy can impose his preferred patterns on this match, he wins.  If not, Goffin will counter-punch his way to victory.  I think the match is on Jerzy’s racquet so I give him the slightest of edges.

2015 Power Ranking: Indian Wells – Nole Reigns and Milos Rises

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

Indian Wells 2015: Raonic vs. Federer Semifinal Prediction

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)

Indian Wells 2015: Nadal vs. Raonic Quarterfinal Prediction

[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