Saturday, May 23, 2015

Roland Garros: Can Novak Djokovic Find The Solution

Yes, it’s that time of the year where what used to be my favourite Slam comes around. Thankfully there are a few different questions this time instead of how many sets will Rafael Nadal lose on the way to collecting another Roland Garros title. Is it time for Djokovic to shine. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when Roland Garros was the most open of the Slams due to the specificity of the surface and before the surfaces were homogenised to the point where the only difference now is how the players adjust their movement.

Before 2005
We had the Björn Borg era where he only lost once in Paris to Adriano Pannatta, but like another current player more of him later. Once Borg retired, then there was some young guy from Växjö who achieved the rare feat of winning the junior title and then the senior title next year. Yes, this cat is the one who helped solidify my love of tennis and he shared titles with a guy called Lendl between 1982 and 1988. Lendl has another parallel with a modern player just the venues are different.


Wilander vs. Vilas


Chang underarm serve

Once Wilander lost the love of the game and Lendl was getting undone by a devoutly religious young American Michael Chang cramping up, using underarm serves and running around the clay with his huge calves. Chang managed to win his only Slam in 89 and remains the youngest winner of a Slam, he is currently doing excellent work with Kei Nishikori.

After Chang’s win this was when Roland Garros was capable of producing a multitude of winners and not necessarily the player who was the form horse coming into the event would leave as the champion. Andres Gomez in 90 was a clear example of that, the genial Ecuadorian outsmarted Thomas Muster in the semis and the raging favourite Andre Agassi in the final.

Through Courier and Bruguera winning back to back titles. Muster getting the title he truly deserved after dominating 1995 on the clay. Kafelnikov taking advantage of a strange 1996 event where the weather was so warm that the balls were flying leaving 3 competent players on clay Kafelnikov, Stich, Rosset and Sampras in the last 4. The memorable Guga Kuerten run in 97 taking out 3 former RG champs. Albert Costa whose chance he thought his chance had passed in 2002 and then Gaston Gaudio in 2004 who won of the most bizarre Grand Slam final over the raging favourite Guillermo Coria.


Nadal Era


Nadal with one of his many trophies

There are some people out there who don’t realise that tennis on clay existed before Rafael Nadal and will continue to when he retires from the sport. 2005 was where it all began he had the Thomas Muster 1995 like year on clay defeating Mariano Puerta in the final. Yes, anyone can have one great year like that, but unlike so many others Nadal managed to continually do this on the clay always peaking at the right time for Roland Garros.

Yes, there are certain advantages he had the types of players that could expose his very few weaknesses on clay weren’t numerous and even then they had to play above themselves over an extended period of time. Just like Borg before him he has lost to only one player in Paris Robin Söderling who said this week “"So maybe it's better if Rafa loses again, then everybody will stop asking me about it."

He hasn’t won any of the big clay titles this year and every player declines even the great ones. When there is a crisis of confidence it’s natural for players to retreat back to familiar and safe routines. Nadal can run, defend or moonball depending on your viewpoint all day on clay but at his best his ripping the forehand playing close to the baseline. The year so far he has been too passive waiting for the other player to make a mistake. This plus as tough as he is on the clay, the aura isn’t as big as it was. Even then it still has to be done over best of 5 sets which only one player has managed to achieve.



Interesting timing about the news Brazilian umpire Carlos Bernandes has been banned from officiating Nadal’s matches for having the temerity of applying the time in between points rules to him ,Bernandes banned from umpiring Nadal no surprise he lost this match. It’s no secret the biggest gripe with Nadal apart from a huge majority of his fanbase is the time wasting and gamesmanship antics that he has pulled way too often. It’s more the whole humble nonsense that goes with it. He does what it takes to win, which is what a professional athlete is supposed to and believes the rules don’t apply to him. That’s not the mark of a humble athlete even then there has to be a certain amount of self belief needed to make it in any industry.

Draw

It’s a bit strange at how excited some fans get about a main draw. Not sure what has changed we have 128 players, 104 direct, 8 wildcards, 16 qualifiers who are drawn into section. The champion still has to win 7 matches to take the title, this hasn’t changed since they went to 128 player draws. I do wish they had 16 seeds again but that has as much chance as Soeda Go winning Roland Garros.

Djokovic and Nadal in the same section of the draw well that’s interesting in its own way especially Nadal doesn’t have anyone in that section who could majorly threaten him. I’d love El Cabezon Nico Almagro to be that guy, but he isn’t at his peak and yes I missed the big strut with the chest out and the backhand.

Andy Mooray yes I much prefer the Spanish pronunciation has had his best ever clay season. Still don’t think he will win Roland Garros in spite of his excellent form. Paris normally gets a mixture of conditions and he will be vulnerable on a cool and cloudy day with heavy conditions the forehand on clay is still the shot that will break down or penetrate enough.

The bottom half of the draw I’d love a surprise finalist though Berdych, Wawrinka and Nishikori have achieved a Slam final already. The old man Federer as well as he’s playing he is more vulnerable these days in the Slams and wouldn’t surprise if he lost before the quarters but can never write him or Nadal off.

Opportunities

That’s the great thing about Grand Slams there are opportunities abound, the ranking points especially for qualifiers if they can win a match, the financial side, the opportunity for their best result which can kickstart their season. Not everyone has a chance to win the event so have to maximise the chances on offer.


Kavčič

Kavčič drew the clay clown Lu but Kavčič has had a strange season so far. Normally solid on the clay, though he is in the situation where the ranking is ok but his game isn’t improving and had injury issues which doesn’t help. If gets through that either Smyczek or Anderson next and will never forget the Aus Open match with Anderson where he was down 1-5 in the 3rd and won the set taking the match in 4 while wearing his coaches tennis shoes.


Seppi

South Tyrol’s finest Seppi has a tough but winnable match against John Isner an American that isn’t a clayphobe. Clay helps Isner’s serve and his second serve is even more dangerous than his first with the bounce he gets on it. Isner can break easier on clay as he has more time on the returns. For Seppi it’s one of those matches where he really has to take care of his own serve, not get frustrated when Big John drops the bomb and take the few chances he’ll get.

Stephane Robert the likable French qualifier plays another qualifier for a shot at Nick Kyrgios more than likely. Will be interesting to see how the French crowd will react to Kyrgios on the main show courts. I have the feeling that Kyrgios will love the theatre, the jeers when he throws a racquet which are common then again he can win them over with his play.



Gimeno Traver who has been in excellent form should be all refreshed and ready to go and if he gets past Brazilian Souza a possible meeting with fellow Spaniard Ferrer would love the upset but don’t see it happening. Sweden which had at least one finalist from 1974 to 1989 has 2 qualifers in the main draw. Elias Ymer who was the first graduate of the Magnus Norman academy and now working with Galo Blanco who has an excellent record of developing players he plays Rosol which will be a good test for him. Christian Lindell not so lucky he got Tsonga.

Pablo Cuevas is seeded for his favourite Slam but that’s the next step for him to improve his Grand Slam record. Yes, of course he was part of the greatest ever doubles triumph with Luis Horna so he has tasted success before needs to build on it. He is playing big Sam Groth who has very little clue on clay but a huge serve works well on any surface and Cuevas has to be conscious of that.

Domi Thiem who is playing in the Nice final plays the player formerly known as Slovenian but is British Aljaz Bedene. Thiem has had a slow start to the year but doing well the week before a Slam can help or hinder Thiem. Bedene has not won a match at a Slam yet and that plays on a players’ mind just look at Marinko Matosevic when he finally achieved that win. A Thiem and Cuevas match would be worth it for the backhand battle alone

Clay court clowns

Yes, these are among my favourite species on the tour along with the grasscourt gimps which will be profiled during Wimbledon. With homogenisation of the surfaces this species are a lot harder to find but thankfully they’re still around. The clay court clown is the guy who can’t move at all on the surface e.g when they try and slide into the ball they can’t stop and slide for metres afterwards. Generally they lack a clue in knowing when to defend and when to be aggressive, lack the subtlety even the most grinding clay lover can hit a dropshot now and then.

Examples in the draw are Ito, Lu, Soeda, Lacko, Muller, Smyczek, Sela, Groth they fit the above description. Kenneth Carlsen in the past was one of the greatest ever clay clowns losing to Srichaphan 6-2 6-1 who himself was elite in this category. It’s interesting to see people who are outstanding in other areas look like dancing rhinos on clay.

The Mental

Djokovic has a few parallels with Lendl as outstanding players they aren’t as beloved as say Federer and Nadal in this generation or Borg and McEnroe in Lendl’s time. Both are multilingual, critics would say they’re mechanical as players but you don’t get extra points for winning matches in style.

The area in which they are most similar is the burning desire to win the one elusive Slam that will define their careers. For years Lendl tried to Wimbledon he was so meticulous in his planning, diet, fitness, attempted to create the same conditions for him to train at home but was unsuccessful. He didn’t have the extra grear, nor the natural grasscourt noius he had the huge chance in 87 to win it but failed to do and the harder he tried the worse it got.


Djokovic in the face of pressure

Winning Roland Garros is the one goal Djokovic has and he needs to find the right mental balance for him to achieve it. This will not be easy considering how much he wants it. The final which should never have suspended when he had the momentum must be still in the back of the mind.

In my view it’s good for him to have the possibility of meeting Nadal before the final. The player who has stopped his dreams and on the wane this is the best chance to slay that beast but as we know in tennis have to play the round yellow thing, not the man.

Djokovic has been the best player this season and clearly so but that counts for nowt if he can’t produce it within these 2 weeks. If he finds the right mental state during the tournament then he will win the title, career Slam and Boris Becker will be associated with a clay title.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kyrgios burning down the house and Berdych finally defeats Nadal

This will be my last report from the Australian Open for the year. Yes, it could have been written last night but had other distractions.

Kyrgios vs. Seppi

First of all I have to say that watching matches at Hisense isn't a great experience. Yes, I managed to get a good seat through a bit of cunning, timing and also a lovely usher. The fact that it'a a velodrome doesn't help at all, they really should just close off those sections for seats it's a waste.

Needless to say the court is pretty full and being general admission creates an interesting atmosphere. There was this one guy sitting behind the Seppi camp really cheering Kyrgios very hard. I wonder how many insults were coming from that camp. I ended up watching the match with a friend of Seppis. I figured having 12 fans instead of 10 would help and the seats were in a better spot than where we originally planned to seat.

As the match starts Seppi starts fairly well which is helped by his excellent serving. Kyrgios was up and down unlike their US Open match where he played brilliant tennis all round. Both are holding serve until Seppi manages a break and then served out the first set with a bit of difficulty. The second set continues on the same way with Seppi hitting well from the baseline and Kyrgios with his huge cannon serve getting him out of trouble, some big shots and dumb errors but that's just the way he is. Seppi still remaining calm manages to break, then takes the 2nd set.


Seppi


Kyrgios takes an early break in the 3rd and gets the crowd into the match. He is very much a confidence player and was a bit uptight in the first 2 sets, this helped free him up a bit. The crowd are starting to fire up, for the most part they are fine but there are definitely a few who fit the description of an arse clown to tee but more on them later. Kyrgios runs out the 3rd set and continues riding the momentum into the 4th set.

Seppi is an excellent competitor while not playing to the level of earlier is hanging around hoping for an opportunity, which is a match point on Kyrgios's serve. The young Aussie just served huge and saved it an instant then followed up some more big deliveries. I was hoping that Seppi would pull off the form in the 4th set tiebreaker from the Fed match this wasn't the case. Apart from Kyrgios's improved play the fact Seppi went a bit conservative in the 3rd and 4th didn't help him. Most of the Seppi errors were made into the net, he was steering the ball and not staying down with the shots.

Kyrgios gets the early break in the 5th set the crowd is going crazy. He is loving it and Seppi isn't serving well at this moment but is hanging around. The King of Kaltern gets a break back and this was from playing more aggressively from the back it was a slight momentum shift. There were a few half chances which one has to take against a massive server which unfortunately Seppi didn't take and Kyrgios breaks to win in an entertaining match.

Fergus Murphy the umpire did an absolute awful job in controlling the crowd and security should have thrown out the gronks that were calling out in between serves. It got so bad that Kyrgios was telling the crowd to shut up and they were cheering for him. Yes, identify the arseclowns and turf them out of the court. Heck in the earlier rounds they turfed out one of the Fanatics, so not like it can't be done. Yes, it was a Davis Cup atmosphere and some were on the sauce thankfully it wasn't Australia Day then it would have been worse.


He is in the quarter finals


It's interesting my non tennis friends have been reacting to Kyrgios in very different ways. It shows that he is able to draw non tennis people in whether it's to cheer or criticise his antics. Naturally people can boo or cheer how they want but if Kyrgios is getting people into the sport then that's good.

Now he plays Andy Murray who should have too much guile and neutralise his serve mixed in with some junk to get Kyrgios out of rhythm.

Berdych vs. Nadal

Well this was a perfect way to end my time at the Aus Open. We all know that Berdych forgot to to bring his balls when he played Nadal after the Madrid 2006 quarter final. Where the crowd weren't exactly sporting to Berdych, the big Czech who isn't known for his subtlety so he gave the "shhh" gesture at the end of the natch. After that he has hardly won a set against Nadal.



As we know the usual excuse from most Rafa fans when he loses a match is that he is injured. It's never a case of any other player was better than him on the day. So he has been ill yes the plague and SARS are hard diseases to recover from. He has been injured, had no preparation. This is lost on some people you take the court then you're fit to play.

Fantastic start from Berdych hitting the ball well from both sides. Daniel Vallverdu who is known for his ability to break down to matches in fine details along with Berdman proposing to Ester there are some changes that might be the thing he needs if he is going to win a Slam before his career is finished. The fact Wawrinka and Cilic did it last year has to give Berdych some inspiration or lit the fuse to get a GS.

It's always been mental for Berdych when he plays Nadal because his game matches up well with the Spaniard. The Nadal forehand comes into his strike zone. Theory is a wonderful thing but it's difficult to put into practice and once Nadal started beating Berdych a few times it had got to the stage where Berdych was rolling over like a puppy just waiting for Nadal to tickle him whenever he wanted.


Berdych

After the first two sets it was no surprise Nadal was there hanging in and forcing it to tiebreaker. Yes, the feeling was there that if Nadal won the buster then Berdych might have folded like he did against Federer in Melbourne. Berdych hasn't been really tested at this event and the tiebreaker was a good thing for him. The crowd were very pro Nadal but a few of us were happy with the result.

Kudos to Robbie Koenig saying Berdych was going to win today. The main thing now is whether he believes he can win a Slam and if so take the opportunity when it arises.


Random stuff

It was a definitely enjoyable two weeks I had in Melbourne. It's always good to catch up with some old friends and meet some new cool people. Yes, there were gronks but thankfully I avoided most of them. Unlike last year the weather wasn't so brutal which helped in some ways but it meant more people turned up than last year.

Took one of my best friends to the tennis he had never been there before he had noticed that many people who went were only there just to say they've been to the Australian Open. He kept getting asked who was playing on this court, in fact that only happened to me twice but they were nice about it so I didn't troll them with my answers.

On the court after they won a doubles match the on court interviewer tried to interview David Marrero and Pablo Cuevas after their win. It was funny as both didn't want to do it, then Marrero whose English is worse than Cuevas was the one who spoke. Cuevas is just shy when it comes to it. I saw at a training session and asked about that interview, then told them no need to worry you speak better English than Carlos Tevez. They laughed and then proceeded to take the piss out

Fuscovics during qualies had match point against Marchenko and it was an overrule from the chair. Fuscovics not impressed at all then loses the match and Marchenko qualifies. The money and ranking points are huge for those who make the main draw it's something that needs to be emphasised.

As for John Millman with the back, he has a condition where the vertebrae don't always do what they're supposed to. It's something he has to manage and that's what happened in the Mayer match once he got a bit tight then it started restricting. Seems like Blaz Kavcic is going to have the same issues with his foot. It's the one that was operated on last year but it hasn't cured the problem, so it looks like going to be a management issues.

Got to meet Rob Koenig one half of the Dynamic Duo of the Masters Series commentary team. Mr Jason Goodall is here in Australia as well but couldn't get to meet him. He is working with Hawkeye mostly at the tournament trying to arrange packages for ESPN. I'd like to listen to these two commentate on Slams. Mr K put over Seppi big time, good to see someone gets it.

Good to see the Ymer brothers these are young kids from Sweden of Ethiopian background. Elias made the main draw before losing to Go Soeda, this was due to a lack of experience but he has a good work ethic. Hopefully he will get fitter, stronger and improve his defensive skills which help a lot on the main tour. His younger brother Mikael seems to be the more outgoing and best of all they're building his game to do well on the pros seen many players be big time juniors but not able to step up, since what they're doing works in juniors but the next level.

On the final note would like to thank some people Sammy who is a technological Luddite but love his work. Andy you is now a journalist but at least don't go all Ben Rothenburg on me. Phil the Swede who really is a tennis guru any mention of Lars Jonsson or Ulf Stenlund is a winner in my book. The young Ethiopian lad who was always helpful when I needed certain information plus he was delighted when I told him the Ymer brothers were Ethiopian descent, so he got a chance to speak Amharic with them.

Great seeing Lance after his battle with cancer, the Brauman, Arthur and other assorted characters that make the trip worthwhile. Also Petea as she was named by the great man Andrei Pavel. She has questionable tastes in food and finds Ivan Ljubicic hot but she'll always be my sister from another parent. Then there are Murray crew who are always a good laugh.

Kudos to the DJ at Hisense for playing this tune at the change of ends. Yes, it's about Prince aka the Song Formerly Known As

I enjoy coming to this event a lot though it's pretty funny when someone remembers you when they were ballboy and then they're out in the same drinking establishments as yourself. Yes, as long as I am alive that will continue.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The King of Kaltern Andreas Seppi strikes down a legend

Apologies for not writing reports about yesterday it was due to mostly tiredness but today is a special day so motivation won't be lacking here.

Giraldo vs. Johnson

This match showed the weaknesses of Giraldo which are his movement. It's not that he is slow around the court just doesn't read the ball as well as some and defensively he doesn't hit very well. He was on edge and these idiot fans who have no clue about tennis etiquette are just walking in as he is about to serve which is right in his eye line. Giraldo took matters in his own hands and let these gronks know what they shouldn't be doing.

Johnson had this very bright orange shirt and was serving well which pissed off Giraldo and the words like puta, mierda were coming out of his mouth. Giraldo had a lot of break points but Johnson kept serving huge on these leading to more frustration.

My friend thinks Johnson is a Poor Mans Todd Martin but I am not sure about that. Though one can tell he plays the typical American hardcourt game which worked for him in this match. With the quicker courts rushing Giraldo into errors it was just the match up in this case that worked for him. Giraldo tried but was just too pissed off.

Berdych vs. Troicki

Tomas Berdych he really needs to get some bigger legs the ones he has at the moment aren't big enough. Troicki was just outclassed in this match it was one Berdych was never going to lose unless he was in Berdbrain mode. It's something that isn't as common as in the younger days but he has that moments.

It's interesting to see what Jack Reader is doing with Troicki, they are quite different as characters but good for each other. Troicki is quite intense on court but very dogged whereas Reader is more relaxed but he can add some things to bring the best out of Troicki though it could be argued he reached #12 that is an excellent peak. The fact he played 8 matches last week and 3 here at the end the Serb was fatiguing but Berdych was in a groove and hitting huge from the baseline.


Berdych

This is what we call never in doubt. Berdman plays Tomic the next, the question is how will Berdych handle the junk that will be served from the Nard Dogg.

Seppi vs. Federer

As for never in doubt this is a phrase which normally comes up for the Federer-Seppi matches. It's usually a very comfortable match up for Federer but as good as he still is these days. There are moments where he is vulnerable but still have to be able to take advantage, it's just these moments come around so rarely these days.

Having watched quite a lot of Seppi over the years plus his matches against Istomin and Chardy. He has been hitting the ball well, though not quite at the level where he won 3 ATP titles in the one year but not far off it. Federer was a little bit off his game but Seppi wasn't allowing him to play his game through solid hitting from the back. When Federer has faced this before, he has had the tools to find the solution to these problems within his varied game.

Seppi took the 1st set and this was momentous in its own way in the 10 previous matches he played he has only won one set. Seppi continues on his hitting his forehand well and the backhand while not technically the best looking is very solid. Federer gets a break of service off a "Boris" aka a dead letcord because Boris Becker got so many in vital moments. The second set is always huge in a contest when there is a potential upset when the favourite wins that, they normally win in 4. Seppi played a solid tiebreak and was able to get the job done taking the 2nd. Still even then I was unsure of whether he would be able to take the match or Federer would equal Aaron Krickstein and Boris Becker in coming back from 2 sets to 0 down and winning. That record is 10 times for those who like that sort of info.


Seppi

Federer takes the 3rd and here we go speeding along the Highway of Inevitability. Seppi while not the most flash player has always been an excellent competitor and hard worker. He never lost belief in what he was doing out there which counts more than what anyone else things. Seppi served quite well which was important as the second serve is very attackable. For a tall guy he doesn't get much topspin on it, as it's more of a flick.

They manage to get to the tiebreaker which pretty much came down to Seppi winning in 4 or Federer taking the buster and winning in 5. The South Tyrolean Sex Machine was as calm and studly as ever in the tiebreaker playing the match point brilliantly with that forehand. The reaction was very measured but that's not surprising from the King of Kaltern.

As Stakhovsky said when playing Federer "You're the playing two people the man himself and the legend of Federer". This time Seppi was able to stay the course and get a win over a top 10 player which has been a long time coming. The poor guy had to do a lot of interviews afterwards though the joys of speaking German, Italian and English well will do that do you.

Personally I'm happy for his coach Max Sartori who has been with him since the age of 10. Then there is his daughter who has travelled with them all the time I remember her when she was 6 now she's 17. That was the young girl who celebrated with great joy when Seppi won. I threatened to put the clip on youtube but I am not that cruel. To those who know and read this rather strange blog know that there has been the odd promotion of Seppi. He deserves this moment, now time to slay the giant Nick Kyrgios.


Suave Seppi

Many of the players were delighted for Seppi as he is very well respected among his peers for his character and work ethic.

Random stuff

- Malek Jaziri is a top guy who didn't hit a gym until 2 months ago so yes he has made it on talent and playing a lot of tournaments.
- Pablo Cuevas is doing well in doubles and can tell he watched Gaudio hitting backhands. The preparation is pretty sexy.
- Donny Young doesn't have the pimp headphones anymore.
- Bernie Tomic peaking for 1 month of the year is never in doubt.

Tomorrow is Heineken Day which mean the amount of drunk gronks around are going to be nauseating though there might be some eye candy. At the same time there is some still tennis to be watched.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dudi Sela wins the battle of the fathers and Jaziri sneaks into the 3rd round

Luckily was able to have a sleep in and it was much needed since the next few nights could get hairy.

Troicki vs. Mayer

Good old Viktor Troicki this an epitomes the ugly but very effective when it comes to getting things done on the tennis court. It's a very good thing that he has Jack Reader as his coach who is a calming influence on a volatile on court temperament.

Big Leo starts off with an early break, but Troicki gets its back quickly and settles into the pattern of big serving but grinding from the baseline. Troicki was getting all excited at the prospect of being seeded for Roland Garros then Reader told him "pull your head in, work on your game, add some things and the ranking will look after itself". This match had some good hitting from both guys with Mayer trying to spread the court with the forehand and Troicki defending very well, they split the first two sets which was a fair indication of the match.


Troicki

Bean counters in sport don't get that not everything is measured by stats. The only stat that really counts in tennis is the one who wins the last point. Even then it normally it's just a few moments that sort out matches and this one was no different. The shotmakers tend to have what I call "the one dumb service game syndrome" in them while they're great to watch on their day, they are capable of playing dumb service game with needless errors that opponents can take advantage of. In this case Mayer got broken and had 0-30 on Troicki's serve then after Vik hits a good second serve into the body instead of taking it on the backhand side which he had been doing he tries to run around and a hit forehand down the line, once he failed there and Troicki held that was the match.

Troicki while wearing the Arnie Clement sunglasses and not quite as annoying had won the mental battle as Mayer in the last set just made too many errors only in the last 2 games of the set did he check out mentally. Berdych should stop Troicki comfortably.

Rosol vs. Sela

The battle between the new fathers. Sela has a 10 month old son and Rosol just became a father as well. They played once before and Sela was the victor indoors, in this match up it's about whether Rosol can execute his power game effectively enough to hit through Sela.

Rosol got the early break and was handling business comfortably on serve, then threw in the dumb service game which Sela took advantage of and levelled. Sela played an excellent tie break but as good as it was there was some poor shot selection from Rosol. The second set started on the same path both were timing the ball quite well, especially the "Hebrew Hammer" on the backhand side and was defending well. This time Rosol was able to break for the set and level it up.

In a way the 3rd set of this match was similar to the Mayer-Troicki one, except these guys were underdone unlike the others. Rosol had a lot of chances but on the forehand side was netting a lot of them it was like he wasn't committing to the shot properly. Sela urged on by the vocal Israeli fans was playing as well at Slam level as he had in the last 5 years. Getting enough balls to frustrate Rosol who had numerous opportunities but Sela was able to take them.


Sela

Rosol getting more pissed off with how he was playing. The thing that was disappointing that he didn't do enough of was changing the pace and height. The few times he did that he was able to win the points and break the rhythm of the Hebrew Hammer. Most of the time Rosol was giving the pace and Sela was counterpunching effectively and hitting some quality backhands even the forehand was working well. Once he got the double break up the match was his, yes he choked serving for the match the first time but no mistake at the second time of offering.

As per usual after the match Sela went over to the Israeli fans, embraced them took a flag on the court and celebrated. The Hebrew Hammer is one of the most well liked guys on the ATP.

Seppi vs. Chardy

This was just too sexy from the South Tyrolean Sex Machine. Not many opportunities in the first set but Kaltern's finest (sorry Karin Knapp) took a tight first set. Seppi kept up a solid level throughout the match whereas Chardy was up and down. Once Seppi got an early break in the 3rd it was back to the old Chardy where he was playing baseball hitting and hoping but definitely not scoring any home runs. Too bad it will end with Federer but Seppi has started the season well and almost back to the top 30 level of tennis he was playing.

Random stuff

Tunisian youngster Malek Jaziri made his way into the 3rd round of the Aus Open for the first time. Good old Roger-Vasselin he is a likable guy but so French in mentality when it comes to closing and taking opportunities. It was an entertaining match but Jaziri serving for it in the 5th set hardly makes a first serve and the second serve is 120km/h at best. On break point Roger-Vasselin has Jaziri pinned back, tries a dropshot that he hasn't made in 10 years. It sort of sums him up when it comes to singles, the guy can play very well but is fragile mentally lost many matches he shouldn't have. Today was Jaziri's day well it was his birthday yesterday.


Jaziri

Tomorrow the schedulers don't like Colombians putting them on all at the same time aka first match on court and Nieminen is on as well. Steve Buscemi plays Pospisil, though Dreddy Brown and Andujar playing doubles might be fun in its own way. The Jamaican German and the handsome Spanish well that should cover a few markets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Paolo Lorenzi wins a Grand Slam match and that is all

Another day down at the Aus Open and well tomorrow the doubles starts, so I will watch some funny combos who are there for the pay cheque while waiting for some singles matches to start.

Giraldo vs. Hernych

Big Santi played a solid match wasn't making too many errors but Hernych with his 1mmm net clearance was definitely helping with his timing off. To expose Giraldo's defensive weaknesses can't be making cheap errors. There was a very good Colombian contingent out in the car park to cheer him on.


Giraldo

Giraldo served well and with Hernych continuing to miss, it was a very comfortable win for Giraldo in what could have been a danger match. He has never done that well in Australia or Grand Slams general. I do hope the likable Colombian wins a title this season though it won't be here at Melbourne Park.

Granollers vs. Robert

Robert had a few break points in the opening service game but was unable to convert them. In the next game Granollers was able to convert his chance and this set the tone of the match. This was always going to be testing for Robert and he'll know have an excellent indication of where he is at physically and at a tennis level.

It was quite a good match overall with Robert trying to change direction regularly mixed in with some junk. Granollers doing his best wall impression and the exquisite grunting on that sexy slice backhand was a sight to behold. He's an unorthodox player but a tough one to play against. They had extended rallies though both were willing to come to the net.

The main difference in this match was that Robert wasn't able to serve well enough to start from a dominant position in the rally and Gruntollers had too many looks on second serve. Overall apart from the serving Robert should be happy with that performance.

On a side note Fernando Vicente still looks like Maxi Lopez.

Cuevas vs. Bachinger

Cuevas has not done well in Australia and this was a dangerous qualifier. Bachinger was serving huge and as the courts are quicker than previous years he was able to rush Cuevas who wasn't able to get into a rhythm.

Playing the big servers one can't get too pissed off there are usually small windows of opportunities to break but these have to be taken. The major turning point in this match was the first set tiebreaker at 2-0 on Cuevas's serve. He hit a good kick serve was able to get Bachinger on the run, hits a forehand winner and umpire calls a let as a ball fell out of the ballboys pocket. Cuevas isn't thrilled and from my position it didn't look like anything distracting but Bachinger later said that it put him off. Cuevas then tanked the tiebreaker and was grumpy for the rest of the match.


Bachinger

Bachinger played an excellent match rushing Cuevas into error feeding on his frustration. At one point Cuevas smacked a ball out of the court into one two courts away in the third set to release some frustration. Too bad Cuevas couldn't draw Estrella Burgos or Saville but the big Bavarian was just too good though Cuevas's backhand is still a sexy shot.

Bautista-Agut vs. Thiem

Best match of the day considering Thiem was a bit underdone. The young Austrian started with an early break and was able to run through the first set. Thiem definitely loves the Fernando Gonzalez forehand takeback, though he'd love the power of that forehand. Bautigol hung in there and was able to win the extended rallies and the fact he had a good week in Chennai plus his extra experience got him over the line.

Javi Piles the ex coach of Ferrer had his first off season with Bautista-Agut will be interesting to see if he can take him further. If Bautista-Agut makes the top 10 then he has definitely overachieved in relation to his ability though we know Piles was able to get Ferrer to number 3.

It's a big season for Thiem but he has a good team around him and should be able to consolidate and Bautista-Agut should be fine as well.

Random bits

- Nieminen was quite solid but Golubev was playing at the level of someone who bought their wildcard into the levels of Futures qualifying.
- The Fog seems like he was out here for tourism purposes.
- Kavcic is having issues with the foot he had operated on before. They still can't find out what the issue is.
- Rola has had an ordinary start to the season. All Mannarino needed to do was get the ball back and he'd win the points.

On that note the man, the Steve Buscemi lookalike, the Fiorentina man aka Paolo Lorenzi finally won a Grand Slam match. Lorenzi besides the Steve Buscemi looks and great flair for fashion has a limited game but has made the most of his ability unlike say The Fog.


Lorenzi

There were rumours about Dogs balls Dolgopolov withdrawing from the event but they were just that. He hadn't practiced for 3 days there were conflicting accounts of the seriousness of the issue but Lorenzi winning a Grand Slam match is great for the sport.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The good, the bad, the fun of Day 1 at the Aus Open

Managed to make it through the first day as for how to describe it. The best way would be a mixture of a few things some fun moments, some good play, some turgid stuff and the surprising. As per usual this report has been contributed by a few people as I don't have eyes everywhere.

Seppi vs. Istomin

In a surprise to whole lot of no one this match went the distance as their previous 4 Slam meetings did. Surprisingly Istomin and Seppi are evenly matched just a question of who executes better on the day. At the start there wasn't much in between them just a dumb service game from Seppi cost him the first set.

The main differences between the two are that Seppi moves better and is better on the forehand side whereas Istomin has a better serve. This time Seppi came in with some better form and after the first set always felt he was in the match. Seppi started to make more inroads into Istomin's service games then the momentum was able to shift. Apart from the first and final set, both guys weren't able to play well at the same time. Seppi was more solid and was able to take his chances when on offer.

You know the grounds are packed when it was almost impossible to seat on court 22 to watch this match, though this maybe because of the sexiness that radiates from "The South Tyrolean Sex Machine" that is Andreas Seppi.


Seppi winning

Anderson vs. Schwartzmann

Yes, Diego Schwartzmann aka Blackman is smaller than many of the ballkids but his ball striking was excellent. It was just that Big Kevin Anderson was able to serve his way out of trouble on most occasions, like anything have to make the most with what you have and Schwartzmann does that.

He had a chance to go set point up on his serve as Anderson miss timed a high volley and Schwartzmann missed with the passing shot once he did that his chance was lost at winning this match. He needed to win the first set to have a realistic chance of doing so but he gave big Anderson enough of a challenge to keep him interested.

Kavčič vs. Duckworth

It's quite difficult to say too much positive overall about this match. Duckworth played well for the first set and a half, Kavčič didn't play well at all and the overall standard wasn't very high. Their 2013 match in the blistering heat was of higher quality than this.

Duckworth, think he needs to do more bench press but seriously he served very well in the first set and a bit, but from the ground he has played much better though his backhand was solid and stepped into the court. Nicest thing I can say about Kavčič's performance was that he was able to make the match last 5 sets. Definitely wasn't on his game seemed bothered the whole time wasn't hitting the ball, he was muscling it for most of the match.

Kavčič took the 2nd set slightly against the run of the play, then he started cramping in the 3rd set. The tiebreaker was hilarious as Duckworth raced off to a 5-0 lead then Kavčič actually for the only time in the match is aggressive and through this aggression gets a set point. However after a strong serve he gets a weak mid court ball which has bury me into the open court written all over it. Needless to say Kavčič was way too tight and dumps the ball in the bottom of the net and Ducky takes the set.

Fourth set Duckworth was cramping not running down balls and Kavčič takes it easily. At the change of ends the trainer attends to Ducky twice for a massage to relieve cramps, either Kavčič didn't know the rule that it's allowed twice or chose not to take it. Once Ducky got the early break in the 5th, the fork was stuck into Kavčič.


Duckworth

Duckworth deserved to win the match as he stepped up when needed and was the aggressor on most occasions. As for Kavčič it wasn't a good performance too passive out there. It's not an issue losing because you're outplayed but dumping easy mid court balls into the net on set point when struggling doesn't help your case. It was an occasion where he had to grind out a win not playing well, but he wasn't up to it.

Leo Mayer vs. Millman

Credit to Millman for sticking it out after being hampered, but at the same time he was being outplayed The Aligator Mayer who has a big but effective game. In the first set everything was going in but Millman not wanting to retire in his home Slam after what he has been through injury wise was not troubling Mayer beforehand let alone afterwards. Thankfully in the last set he was not bagelled and stuck it out.

This is how it works, if a player stays on the court to the end and doesn't retire then the injury excuse is null and void. If it's that bad, then you don't play on. Hope it's nothing serious for Millman but as long as he gets a whole season without any long term injuries he should be top 100 comfortably.


Rosol vs. De Schepper

Daddy Rosol is clearly undone and struggled hard to defeat the French Karlovic. Though to be fair De Schepper has got leaner, meaner and is able to keep the ball in play longer than when he first came on tour where he was quite awful from the baseline.


Rosol

Rosol managed to serve fairly well under pressure in the last 2 sets and keep de Schepper off balance. There was a pretty good crowd for this match and the match point was funny. Last year Rosol was ripped off on a call on his match point against Robredo which he then went on to lose. This time Rosol hit a ball long and it was not called by linesperson or overruled from the chair. King Kenny just sat down in the court refusing to believe what happened and sat on the court pleading for a minute in a case that he would never win.

Next round match with the "Hebrew Hammer" Dudi Sela should be interesting.

Jaziri vs. Kukushkin

Goran Ivanisevic is helping Jaziri at this event and for all of the volatility of Ivanisevic as a player he is very calm as a coach. He was very encouraging to Jaziri and not getting animated at all.

Kuku was a little tired from Sydney but Jaziri did what any good player should do that's step it up and take advantage of the heavy legs of Kuku with a good mix of big forehands, some slice backhands which he managed to hit with good depth and volleying at the right time.

Jaziri stormed the first two sets, then Kuku starts to play better in he 3rd moving Jaziri around with precise strokes and forcing the Tunisian to defend which he wasn't doing so well.

The 4th set was the key as if Kuku took the 4th it was pretty clear that he'd run away with the 5th set. The fact that Jaziri saved 6 set points and was able to hold serve gave him the mental boost he needed. Once they got to the tiebreak Jaziri was creating and taking his chances and won an excellent match with some clean hitting.


Jaziri

Jaziri went to hug Goran after the match and the crowd that were left were singing "Happy Birthday Malek" after he won the match and that's a good point to finish this daily report.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Australian Open Bring it On

Yes, it’s that time of the year when this rather strange blog decides to get more active. Sure, there should have been some stuff written about the qualies but due to a lack of technology and some laziness it will be a review leading into the main draw.


Bitching about draws is as useful as trying to milk a bull. Though in the case of the players I like if they make it to the 3rd round then that’s like winning the event. There are a few long movies that we’ve seen again that are getting a sequel. Two examples of this are South Tyrol’s finest Andreas Seppi playing Denis Istomin. They’ve met four times in Slams and they have split the victories with every match going 5 sets. It’s natural that this match is out in the car park, more than likely go 5 sets and the one that I’ll be starting my main draw watching.


Kavčič vs. Duckworth

Another example of a match between lower ranked players that continues to come up at the Slams is the one between Blaž "Dexter" Kavčič and James "Ducky" Duckworth. They've played twice at Roland Garros where Kavčič won easily the first time before losing in the qualifiers in 3 sets last year where he was underdone because of a recurring issue with his foot that prevented him from building any momentum. Ducky has improved all round since then while his game might not be on easy on the eye at times. He has an excellent work ethic and decided to play on clay instead chasing the much easier points on the Asian Challenger circuit.


Kavčič on the drip after beating Ducky in Melbourne


Kavčič trained well in the off season had an excellent Doha qualifying before Tomas Berdych smoked him which he did to everyone bar David Ferrer. If it's windy it will help Kavčič, the key for him to win is how well he negates Duckworth's serve. If Kavčič makes enough returns in good positions and gets the balance right between attack and defence then he has excellent prospects. The defensive skills of Kavčič are unquestionable but barring injuries then he needs to be more aggressive from the baseline which he has shown in the last year on hardcourts. It's something that had to be done to take the game forward.


Both these matches occurred at the 2013 Aus Open, for those who like history here are the match reports for that day. Definitely want the same winners just not the same condfitions Seppi and Kavčič beat the heat


Millman vs. Leo Mayer

An interesting match up here though I wish the Mailman got someone like Go Soeda or Luke Saville, but we can't what we want in life all the time. Last year was excellent for both men in the progress they made. Leo Mayer who has had back issues throughout his career but was able to remain healthy for most of 2014 finished with a career high season end ranking plus an ATP 500 title in Hamburg. Big Leo or the Aligator uses his big serve, forehand combo to win matches. His backhand isn't totally shit but he isn't known for his defensive skills, it's a good time for Millman to catch Mayer.


Millman played fantastically well against Federer but didn't get the desired result. In spite of this he has shown what level he is capable of playing at and with a season fully fit he is clearly a consostent top 100 player. The shoulder is holding up very well and he is one of the most positive people within the tennis world. Aligator some big shots. Millman needs to hold his ground on the baseline when he can as the default position isn't always the best 3 to 4m behind the baseline, in a similar vein to Kavčič he has to get more aggressive overall and is hitting his forehand with more power these days. Getting that first Grand Slam win is always a big moment, if Millman plays to his potential then it will happen on Monday. It would be fantastic for the tournament if the Mailman delivered a win in his home Slam.


Ruseell as he qualifies

These three matches are ones that I will definitely be attending but the others that hopefully I will attend are with the youngster Michael Russell playing the winner of the ATP comeback award David Goffin. For Russell this could be his final year on the tour. The equation in his case is finish 2015 inside the top 100 then he will play again, if he fails to do so when he will retire. Yes, he is used to the conditions and Goffin has to make his hay at the start of the season as he has nothing to defend until middle of the year.


Dreddy Brown and Grigor Dimitrov is definitely a clash with plenty of hair and also a bit of flair. Would love to see Brown serve lights out and eliminate Dimitrov from the event as I could imagine Roger Rasheed's face would be so expressive. The ladies will like this match as well since there are a few who quite like Brown and the poor mans Federer though as suave as both men are they are not in the class of Radek Štěpánek who unfortunately couldn't play due to a back injury.


Dreddy Brown the charmer


The will he or won't he play Lukas Rosol has been sighted in Melbourne and is playing the French Karlovic de Schepper. One of the few matches where Rosol will be the shorter guy. It remains to be seen as to how much work Rosol has done aince his girlfriend just gave birth recently. Playing the Aus Open makes sense now since nappies and children are not cheap to raise.


Monaco and Bolelli is another one for the ladies as well. At the same time lots of Aussies tomorrow Kyrgios, The Kokk, the Dolph Lundgren lookalike Sam Groth. Pantera Charly Berlocq playing against Gasquet on Court 20 though it would be nice if Nadal was put out there once.

As to who I think will win the event I want someone new that isn't Nishikori so it will be a Nishikori vs. Nadal final just to troll me.

On that note as a great group of philosophers once said.

Hey you, don't watch that
Watch this!
This is the heavy heavy monster sound
The nuttiest sound around
So if you've come in off the street
And you're beginning to feel the heat
Well listen buster
You better start to move your feet
To the rockinest, rock-steady beat
Of madness
One step beyond!

Let's get ready to rumble.