Wimbledon 2015: 5 Men that Leave with Momentum and 5 Men that Leave with Questions

5 Men that Leave with Momentum

  1. Novak Djokovic – The world #1 leaves London with his 9th major title and 3rd Wimbledon title.  Novak played airtight tennis for nearly the entirety of the men’s final.  He has now won 3 of his previous 4 Grand Slam finals and is in a class of his own on tour.
  2. Roger Federer – Roger won his 8th Halle title and reached his 10th Wimbledon final.  Roger did not win his 8th Wimbledon title, but his work in reaching the final shows that Roger is still near the top of the game despite being close to his 34th birthday.
  3. Richard Gasquet – Gasquet will probably never be a fixture in the top 10 at this stage of his career, but his play in London reminded many of why they liked his game.
  4. Kevin Anderson – The big man had a couple of break points in the 5th set versus Novak Djokovic that could have swung the entire tournament.  He leaves knowning he was the only player to push Nole to the limit right as he enters the fast hardcourt swing of the tour.  I am not predicting a top 10 ranking, but he should be able to build on his time at Wimbledon in the coming weeks.
  5. Dustin Brown – Dreddy enters play in Newport, RI this week as a mini-celebrity.  His Q rating is up, and he has a memory for life.

5 Men that Leave with Questions

  1. Rafael Nadal – It is true Rafa let Wimbledon before the quarterfinal round from 2011-2014, but he also entered Wimbledon with a Roland Garros title in hand.  His 6 clay court losses this year were compounded by a loss to Dustin Brown in the round of 16.  I think anyone counting Rafa out is at best jumping the gun, but questions abound that may not be answered until the clay court season of 2016.
  2. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech was anhilated by Gilles Simon.  His early 2015 form lacked losses to players he was expected to beat.  At Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Berdych lost before his seeding.
  3. Nick Kyrgios – Not that he played poorly at Wimbledon, but Tennis Australia/Patrick Rafter and Nick Kyrgios have some things to discuss.
  4. Grigor Dimitrov – He left Wimbledon 2014 looking as though he could make a big push toward the top of the game.  He leaves Wimbledon 2015 looking a bit like Jerzy Janowicz looked leaving Wimbledon 2014.
  5. Jack Sock – After Roland Garros, many were ready to give him the keys to US tennis.  Wimbledon did not exactly signal a smooth transition of power.  Still, Sock should have plenty of opportunities for points in the North American summer.

Wimbledon 2015: July 2nd Gentlemen’s Singles Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) v Sam Querrey (USA) – Querrey has had a number of nice results on grass in his career and has a big serve/forehand combination.  I don’t think he will handle the low ball as well as he will need to to challenge Roger though.  The Fed will need to play pretty clean tennis and take care of his serve, but he should advance.

We’d love to see something this entertaining

[10] Rafael Nadal (ESP) v [Q] Dustin Brown (GER) – Halle 2014 was entertaining between these two.  I think it will be played more on Rafa’s terms this time around, but Dreddy has a puncher’s chance at an upset as he will try to give Rafa no rhythm.

[3] Andy Murray (GBR) v Robin Haase (NED) – Murray is not on Centre Court to the surprise of some, but his match is easier on paper than Fed or Rafa’s.

[13] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) – Is Jo healthy?  Has he recovered his stamina from a long first round match?  If those answers are yes, expect Tsonga into the 3rd round.

[WC] James Ward (GBR) v Jiri Vesely (CZE) – No joy for the home fans

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) v [WC] Nicolas Mahut (FRA) – This could be a gem of a match.  Mahut’s results at Roland Garros were eye-catching.  He is a cagey grass court player, but the Big Czech has to be the favorite.

[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) v Blaz Kavcic (SLO) – Gilles’ footspeed and indifferent determination will be the difference.

[18] Gael Monfils (FRA) v Adrian Mannarino (FRA)

[30] Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Vasek Pospisil (CAN) – If Vasek can hold serve enough to unnerve Fognini, Popspisil will win.  I think that is what happens.

[23] Viktor Troicki (SRB) v Aljaz Bedene (GBR) – Troicki is loving grass and this draw.

[23] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) – I know the head-to-head may point the other direction, but I like the big man to win.

[25] Andreas Seppi (ITA) v Borna Coric (CRO) – Seppi showed me something at Halle, but this is no easy match.

[20] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) v Benoit Paire (FRA) – I like Paire to keep some lunacy alive at SW19.

Lukas Rosol (CZE) v Pablo Andujar (ESP) – On clay, I’d reverse this pick.

[15] Feliciano Lopez (ESP) v [Q] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) – FLo needs this and should be able to get it.

Sam Groth (AUS) v James Duckworth (AUS) – The battle for Oz?  This is a match for a fan with a grounds pass to absorb as Aussie fans could make this a gem.

Breakdowns of the Federer and Nadal Forehands

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s forehands are two of the best shots in tennis. Here is an inside look at how each man hits his unique signature shot.  The two men have combined to reach 14 Wimbledon final rounds and to win 9 Wimbledon titles.

Federer’s grip is a sign he built his game prior to most of his opponents these days


I think my shoulder would fall off if I hit a buggy whip forehand with any frequency

Wimbledon 2015: June 30th Gentlemen’s Singles Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) v Damir Dzumhur (BIH) – The Fed should advance.

[3] Andy Murray (GBR) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) – This is not an ideal first round opponent for Murray, but the 2013 champion should also advance.

[10] Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) – I think a lefty will win.  That lefty is from Mallorca.

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) v Jeremy Chardy (FRA) – Berdych should win, but Chardy has enough weapons to make this interesting so long as his backhand holds up.

[13] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Gilles Muller (LUX) – Tsonga had some injury concerns coming in and faces a tough opponent.

[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) v Nicolas Almagro (ESP) – Almagro can serve big and we know about the quality of his ground strikes.  Simon has a better mental game though.

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) v [WC] Kyle Edmund (GBR) – Not what the fans want

[18] Gael Monfils (FRA) v Pablo Carreño Busta (ESP)

[23] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) v [Q] Elias Ymer (SWE) – Ivo should serve well enough to win this match.

[LL] Luca Vanni (ITA) v [WC] James Ward (GBR) – A very lucky loser

[25] Andreas Seppi (ITA) v [WC] Brydan Klein (GBR)

[15] Feliciano Lopez (ESP) v Steve Darcis (BEL) – FLo has yet to find his 2014 grass court form.

Sam Querrey (USA) v Igor Sijsling (NED) – Sam played well last week, and I think that will carry over in this match.

[29] Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) v Pablo Andujar (ESP) – Una guerra civil?

Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) [20]

[22] Viktor Troicki (SRB) v Aleksandr Nedovyesov (KAZ)

Denis Istomin (UZB) v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) – Istomin should be feeling good coming off of a big week

Robin Haase (NED) v Alejandro Falla (COL)

Yuichi Sugita (JPN) v Blaz Kavcic (SLO)

Radek Stepanek (CZE) v [WC] Aljaz Bedene (GBR) – The worm will live to reach the second round.

[Q] Dustin Brown (GER) v Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) – Can Dredddy do it?

Adrian Mannarino (FRA) v [Q] Michael Berrer (GER) – I am putting faith in qualifying making Berrer match tough.

Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) v Borna Coric (CRO)

Jiri Vesely (CZE) v Paolo Lorenzi (ITA)

Benoit Paire (FRA) v Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) – This could be a little crazy.

Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v [Q] Vincent Millot (FRA)

[Q] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) v Facundo Bagnis (ARG) – Qually power

[31] Jack Sock (USA) v Sam Groth (AUS) – Sock is making big strides as of late.

Malek Jaziri (TUN) v James Duckworth (AUS)

Filip Krajinovic (SRB) v [WC] Nicolas Mahut (FRA) – Mahut played great at Roland Garros and then won a 250 level title on grass.  I am not counting him out in this match.

[30] Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Tim Smyczek (USA) – If Tim plays near his best tennis he can win, but he is the underdog.

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) v Lukas Rosol (CZE) – Who came up with this match?  I know the draw is random, but these two guys are characters on tour.  I think Rosol has more mometnum and more grass court mojo at the moment, but this could go either way (and get crazy in the process).

Quick Hits for 22 June 2015

Quick Hits

  • Roger Federer claiming his 15th career grass court title and 86th career title place him in a good spot heading into Wimbleon.  Also, Ivan Lendl’s 94 career titles do not look to be out of reach even if Jimmy Connors’ 109 titles seem to be a stretch for The Mighty Fed.
  • Andy Murray won his 6th career title on grass in claiming his 4th Queen’s Club title.  The Scot enters Wimbledon as one of the two major favorites along with Novak Djokovic.
  • Angelique Kerber keeps piling up trophies in 2015.  Perhaps, Kerber will play deep into the second week in London.
  • Rafael Nadal seemed to have momentum after his 2nd title of the year, but his loss in London leaves Rafa with a mixed forecast moving forward.
  • Boris Becker wants more arguments and acrimony on tour.  Tennis players were generally viewed as self-absorbed and quite negatively by the sports media in the 1980s and 1990s.  I am not sure going backward on this front is wise for any individual player or for the sport.  Of course, one can read Andre Agassi calling Becker “B.B. Socrates” in Open if one needs a fix of players sniping at one another.

Quick Hits: June 15, 2015

My Quick Hits

  • The extra week in the grass season has made the transition to Queen’s Club and Halle not seem nearly as rushed.  I was unsure if this extra week would mean much, but seeing it unfold for the first time as a fan and follower of the sport, I love it.
  • Rafael Nadal picked up his second title of 2015 and seems to be in great spirits.  The next question is whether Rafa is approaching his normal level or if he is playing well in the sense of a mid Top 10 player who will struggle with the top 3 or 4 guys.  Playing Djokovic, Murray, and Wawrinka again is the only way to determine this who won a combined 9 consecutive sets against him on clay this year.  I will guess that Fabio Fognini does not make it 3 in a row against Rafa.
  • Nicolas Mahut claimed his 3rd career grass court title after playing better than he ever has on clay at Roland Garros.  I remember picking my media credentials up for the 2013 Cincinnati Masters 1000 event on the Friday before the main draw started.  The practice courts were jam packed with men’s and women’s players who had lost in Montreal and Toronto.  Mahut had no practice court to use for awhile so he simply found a wall on a hospitality trailer in the parking lot to hit against.
  • Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber in round 1 is a good hint that Halle did not rig their draw. Kohlschreiber is an excellent player who is quite dangerous on grass.  He is also a German native. Facing Federer who has made Halle his own since 2003 meant one of the two would be eliminated in round 1.  Federer survived, but Halle lost one of its ticket draws although Fed is obviously their biggest draw.
  • Grigor Dimitrov is defending 970 points from his 2014 grass court season, but on the bright side Queen’s Club is now worth 500 points so he could increase upon his 250 points from winning the 2014 event.

Tennis Power Ranking 2015: Stan Surges after Roland Garros Title

2015 Power Ranking #7: Stan Powers His Way to a Second Grand Slam Title

 

  1. Novak Djokovic – Novak is firmly the number 1 player in the world.  That may be small consolation after another close call in Paris.  The extra week to prepare for Wimbledon should help in his title defense.
  2. Stan Wawrinka – Stan followed his solid showing in Rome up with a masterful display of power tennis.  Stan battered his way past a tricky Gilles Simon, clobbered his Davis Cup comrade Roger Federer, and turned back the last French hope in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Against Djokoivc, he pushed the baeline hugging Serb further and further back into the court.  By making him play outside of his favored court positioning, Wawrinka set up the potential for an upset.  Wawrinka’s shotmaking in big points made that potential a reality.  Change since last ranking +6
  3. Andy Murray – Andy didn’t do anything wrong to drop a spot in my power ranking.  He reached the semifinal round and pushed Novak to 5 sets after falling behind after two one-sided sets.  Change since last ranking – 1
  4. Roger Federer – Roger played well enough in Paris to reach the quarterfinal round.  He did not have much to say about the result of his match with Wawrinka.  At 33, it is hard to know what Roger can still do.  We will know more after the grass court season.  Roger defends 1450 points between his Halle and Wimbledon results from 2014.
  5. Rafael Nadal – Rafa looked quite solid in his first 4 matches at Roland Garros.  Minus a 4 game run versus Djokovic, Rafa looked outgunned versus the World #1.  Rafa’s mental attitude is in a good place heading into the grass court season.
  6. Kei Nishikori – Kei reached the quarters in Paris and lost in 5 sets to Tsonga.  Kei seems on the cusp of bigger wins, but does he have the little extra needed to do what Wawrinka did in Paris?
  7. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech has played well in most of his 2015 events.  He did not look great vs Tsonga.  Change since last ranking – 3
  8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Tsonga reached his second Roland Garros semifinal by playing powerful tennis.  His return to form should be a fun variable for the grass season.  Change since last ranking – not ranked
  9. Nick Kyrgios – Nick played well enough in Paris prior to losing to Andy Murray.
  10. Milos Raonic – Milos is back from foot surgery.  His return to the power ranking is based on some of the players we see in the dropped out list failing to do much in Paris.  Change since last ranking – not ranked

Biggest Mover –  Stan Wawrinka +6 

Dropped Out of the Poll – Grigor Dimitrov and John Isner – Dimitrov’s stock is falling, and he has the same 1450 points to defend on grass that Federer does.  

Entered the Poll – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic

Roland Garros 2015: Reflections on Djokovic Dethroning Nadal

A Match of Runs

In basketball, sometimes a team gets on a run.  Today’s collision was characterized by several runs.  Run #1 saw Novak dominate the first four games.  In Run #2, Rafa rallied to take the next 4 games and make his opponent feel the moment.  Run #3 saw, Novak win 3 of the final 4 games of the first set and failed to convert a break point/set point in the game he lost.  Things settled into a series of 6 fairly routine holds, but at 7-5, 3-3 Novak unleashed a massive run to decide the match.  Run #4 saw Novak win 9 of the final 10 games of the match.

Nole in Charge of the ATP

If Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open title and 4 Masters 1000 shields of 2015 hadn’t made it clear that Nole has grabbed the tour by the throat, today’s 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Rafael Nadal makes it clear. Djokovic overcame a 4 game wobble and a few missed break point and set point opportunities to post a fairly routine victory over a man who had a 70-1 record at Roland Garros prior to today.  Going back to last fall, Novak has won 5 consecutive Masters 1000 events, the World Tour Finals, and the Australian Open prior to his 3 set victory over El Rey de Clay.

“Fast” Eddie Felson first lost to “Minnesota Fats” in “The Hustler” prior to Reversing the Rivalry, but I am not sure how well “Fast Nole Djokovic & El Gordo de Mallorca” Would Sell

Rafa?

Novak also overcame an 0-6 record at Roland Garros versus Nadal.  This win likely gives Novak the mental edge for the rest of their careers.  Novak is slightly younger than Nadal and much healthier.  Ivan Lendl eventually took over his rivalry with the slightly older John McEnroe.  I think the same dynamic is at work here.  It is hard to see where Rafa goes from here.  He can get more healthy and that will undoubtedly help both his confidence and play, but how long can he stay healthy.  Rafa missed the 2012 & 2014 US Open events, was dismissed at the 2012 & 2013 Wimbledon Championships, and missed the 2013 Australian Open.  I can envision Nadal contending for big prizes if his preparation and health are there, but he is unlikely to return to #1 due to periodic absences from the tour.  Rafa will play better than he has in 2015 before he retires, but I think he may need to model some of his demeanor on post 2009 Roger Federer.  Not every champion is able to accept and navigate decline.

Novak’s Unfinished Business

Novak is a champion in full at the moment and is a first ballot hall of fame entrant when he retires, but he has 6 more sets to win to place his name in the very top tier of the Open Era.  Novak claiming a career Grand Slam and 9th major would place him among the top 5 players of the Open Era with several more promising years in front of him.  This match had a lot of implications for the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry, but the final two rounds in Paris may have implications for how the tour today and history books deal with Novak Djokovic.

Roland Garros 2015: June 3rd Tweets

There were other matches today?

One more historical mega encounter?

French Open 2015: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal Quarterfinal Prediction

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [6] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

This match has been talked about since Rafa’s ranking dropped to the point that it might be possible. Once the Roland Garros draw was announced, this seeming inevitability of this match has loomed over the rest of the tournament.  It is now here.  Rafa reached this point by looking quite a bit more effective than he looked throughout the European clay court circuit.  Minus losing the 3rd set to Jack Sock, Rafa has been in control of his matches.  Nole reached this point without dropping a set.  Richard Gasquet went as far as to say that Novak was playing something close to perfect tennis.  Neither man has faced a top tier player en route to the final 8.  So this match is the first major test for their title chances.

What Novak Needs to Do

Novak has to match Rafa’s willpower as he did in Melbourne 2012

Some of this depends on how much of his old self Rafa is right now.  If Rafa plays like he did in Monte Carlo, Novak simply needs to impose his will and his game on an opponent he should beat.  I think Rafa’s form and fight will both be greater than what they were in Monte Carlo, but this is a possibility.  If Rafa is at his normal level, Novak will need to use his return game to make Rafa’s serve vulnerable.  From there, Novak obviously has to serve well so as to consolidate breaks.  (Serve well and return well – Genius Analysis!)  In rallies, Novak has an ability to pin Rafa in uncomfortable spots on the court and then to either swing the ball to the other side and send Rafa scrambling or wrong-foot Rafa by hitting behind the Spaniard when Rafa anticipates needing to scramble.  Rafa has developed methods to blunt some of this tactic since their 2011 clashes, but Nole more than anyone on tour has an ability to frustrate Rafa during long and medium length rallies.  Nole will need to steal a few points when he is scrambling.  Finally, Nole will need to knock off a few volleys and not struggle with overheads.

What Rafa Needs to Do

Rafa broke Nole’s will in the 3rd set of this match. Will he do it again?

Last year, I felt after Rafa beat Nole that someone from a younger generation would have to dethrone Rafa in Paris because too much psychological damage had been inflicted on Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Ferrer, and everyone else in Rafa’s age range (or older in the case of Federer) for any of these players to believe they could beat Rafa in Paris over 5 sets.  I think Rafa needs to let Nole feel their previous encounters in Paris that date back to 2006.  Rafa leads their head-to-head 23-20, and his lead is built upon a 6-0 record vs. Nole at Roland Garros.  I order to make Nole feel the weight of some of these losses, Rafa needs to absorb a lot of what Nole throws at him and win a few points from a seemingly losing position.  This type of point theft is aided by the dimensions of Court Phillippe Chatrier.  Rafa has to send the message to Novak that the effort needed to beat Rafa is beyond what he can realistically produce over several hours.  At the 2013 US Open final, Rafa broke Nole down mentally after climbing out of a 0-40 hole to hold serve in the pivotal third set.  Similarly, Rafa grabbed a mental edge at the 2014 Roland Garros final that lasted until Rafa’s health faltered a bit late in the 4th set.  Therefore, Rafa has to find a way to bring his most healthy form to this match.

What Will Happen?

Nole has to play mentally tight tennis to do this, but I think he has the goods to do so

My hunch is that Nole is currently a champion in full.  He is playing extraordinary tennis.  I think his level of play has inspired a confidence in his abilities that will allow for him to overcome his 0-6 mark vs. Nadal on the red clay of Roland Garros.  I think Novak’s return of serve and groundstroke production will put Rafael Nadal more and more into defensive positions as the match progresses.  If rallies begin to more and more favor Djokovic, Nole will likely win the match.  I think Nole will have to be mentally airtight and not let Rafa get too much traction in terms of dictating play during the match.  Even if Nole is dictating, he will also have to deal with Rafa’s preternatural retrieving skills.  Still, I think Novak has played so well as of late that he will dictate play and not allow Rafa’s retrieving skills to break his self-belief.  If Nole believes in his game plan, he should have the advantage in this match.

My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3