Friday, August 27, 2010

US Open 2010: Last Round of Qualies

If you're ever in New York on the Friday before the US Open officially begins, you really must make the final round of qualifying. For one, it's free. Second, it's amazing how great the players are who are competing to qualify for the main draw, and you get to see them compete up close and personal. Professional tennis is a cruel dog-eat-dog world and the difference between the fellow who makes it into the main draw of a slam, and those shut out is, well, pretty small. Lastly, all the top names are out on the practice court and you might get to see them prepare for free.

First, the first qualifying match I saw was Nicholas Mahut beat Uladzimir Ignatik to advance to the final round of qualifying (67 [4] 76 [5] 62). You heard that right: the fellow who lost the longest match in history (held in the 1st round of Wimbledon) had to schlep his ass to play the qualifying tournament. Why the French Tennis Federation chose to award their reciprocal wildcard to Guillaume Rufin (19 year old) who is ranked lower than Mahut baffles me? The best (and still lame) explanation is that they have some rule to award their reciprocal wildcard to their best junior player on the cusp of turning pro. Frankly, this smacks of a brainless failure to recognize Mahut's truly historic achievement.

At any rate, I don't know who Ignatik is, but it was pretty easy to figure out his game after a couple points: he's your plain vanilla baseline grinder who unleashes a few big serves to win free points. There's a truism in tennis: you're only as good as your second serve. Mahut's second serve compared to Ignatik is excellent. Mahut has an excellent kick serve that Ignatik had to return at shoulder height (despite standing several feet behind the baseline). Ignatik, on the other hand, was going for more on his second serve and hitting way too close for comfort to the lines (and double faulting a bit too much). That difference alone gave me the feeling that Mahut would be able to win the match.



In contrast, Mahut tries to be an all court player. While he has a pretty good one handed drive backhand, he will use slices to coax errors out of his opponent or run around it (often) to hit a strong forehand to take control of the point. You will see Mahut rush the net quite a bit. Overall, Mahut is a very entertaining player to watch simply for his shotmaking. On the other hand, I tweeted Mahut seems to be a tortured artiste: he will miss the most incredible shots when it's crystal clear he was in control of the point. Mahut really should have put away Ignatik a lot earlier but he had to gut it out.

Watching the top players practice was a highlight. Federer was playing a practice set with Monfils (he lost) on Louis Armstrong Stadium.



Both guys were serving well, and Gael was ... there to entertain the crowd.



And the usual Federer slice and dice was at work to frustrate Monfils. The Annacone-Luthi brain trust was there to coach the Greatest Shanker of All Time.



Here are video samples of their practice section.



Nando and Kohli were on the Grandstand later to jerk each other side to side.



Then Curls and Big Berd were punishing balls as hard as they can.

One interesting take away I had: some of the rec players (NTRP 4.5+) I've played with can hit the ball as hard as the pros, but the huge differences are: it's a lot harder for the pros to miss; they can place the ball where their opponent least likes it; and they have phenomenal movement (i.e. the ability to get to a difficiult ball and still do something good with it).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

US Open 2010 Prognostications

New York Flushing Meadow US Open Tennis 14.09.09 General View of Arthur Ashe Stadium Photo Susan Mullane/camerawork usa/Fotosports International


The final act of the professional tennis season climaxes at US Open, the Loud Slam. Why the Loud Slam? As one observer put it, it rightfully claims all the cliches about New York.


The Open, on the other hand, is brash New York: all that concrete and hardcourts and loud music pumped into Ashe Stadium between games and the hot dogs and beer, and the late nights. The tournament that never sleeps. They’re both wonderful events in different ways, with Wimbledon more like a classical music festival and and the Open more like a state fair.


While Wimbledon's lawns mute the sound of the ball as it bounces, the asphalt in Flushing Meadow amplifies it and concrete stands amplify the crack of the ball as it collides with the strings and the courts. While Wimbledon mutes commercialism, the US Open embraces it to the max. While the Australian Open crowds are known for their laid back and happy feel, the crowds at the US Open are what you expect New Yorkers to be like: intense and rowdy. It embraces all the cliches of American culture: the surface is on fast hard court (Deco Turf II) which favors aggressive play, strokes that hit through the ball, and big serves.

Of course, crowds have a good reason to cheer when they see shots like this:



Tournament Site: here

Draws: men's singles and women's singles

Unfortunately due to wrist injury, Delpo won't be able to defend his title.

Flushing Meadows New York US Open Tennis Championships 14/09/09 Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) throws himself to the ground as he beats Roger Federer in five sets in Mens Final Photo: Roger Parker Fotosports International


Add ReeRee, Allez Bitch, Ali and Tommy Haas to the injury list.

With the form that Mum Train has been showing over the summer, she has a good chance of parading Jada around Arthur Ashe Stadium again.

Kim Clijsters of Belgium and her daughter Jada Ellie have fun with the champions trophy after Clijsters defeats Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 7-5, 6-3 in the Women's Final in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open Tennis Championships at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 13, 2009. UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom


Men



1st Quarter: When Rafa won at Roland Garros, practically the first words out of his mouth was that he wanted to win the US Open to complete a career slam. A lot has been said about why Rafa has had a tougher time at the US Open, but observing Rafa's game in the last year, he's been making the adjustments necessary to make it more likely that he'll win. His serve has more pop; he's flattening out his forehand more (more windshield wipers over the reverses); he's approaching the net more.

Rafa should like his draw. Assuming he gets past Gabashvilli and Istomin, he could face Kohli in the 3rd round, who gave him a close match in Toronto but then faded away. He could then face either Feli or Mr. Clean who have beaten Rafa this year (Queens and Indian Wells). However, beating Rafa in a 5-setter is a different proposition, even if it is on a fast surface.

Many of the dangerous players are in the opposite side of Rafa's quarter. Nando and Daveed are the highest seeds due to their great results during the clay season, but could definitely have the games to do well on hard courts. Curls and Fat Dave are the sleepers, and could do some serious damage.

In the end, Rafa looks to be well rested, and hungry to win the US Open, even if he could have done better in Cincy and Toronto. I would expect him to shape up his serve and backhand even if a few guys give him a scare on his path to the semis.

New York Flushing Meadow US Open Tennis D13 12.09,09 Rafael Nadal (ESP ) wins rain delayed quarter final match Photo Anne Parker Fotosports International



Lurker: Fat Dave, Curls

Semifinalist: Rafa

2nd Quarter: Muzz appears to have gotten out of the funk that began after he lost to Fed in Oz. After appearing in the Wimbly semifinal, he fired his coach Miles MacLagan, and has been relying upon his mum in the coaches box. More importantly, he seems to have taken to heart the constant advice that he needs to play more aggressively in order to win a slam. In Toronto he showed great form. Aggressive tennis a la Muzzard means hitting his forehand with more authority to either angle his opponents off court or to put them away on short balls by flattening it out. When he gets his first serve in, he can get free points. His backhand will always be a dangerous weapon. And his excellent movement means he will always be able to get back more balls than his opponent, and he has always been capable of putting himself in better court position.

He could face either Samurai in the 4th round, who wouldn't commit seppuku in the finals at UCLA or Nico, who has done better on clay than asphalt. I would expect Samurai to make a break through to challenge Muzz. In the bottom half of Muzz' quarter, Big Berd will have to hit great passing shots to get past Llodra in the first round. I wouldn't expect him to have to deal with Tree, whose ankle ligament injury looks serious. Head Banger or X-Man could block Big Berd's trip into the quarters.

In the end, Muzz is playing with lots of confidence. I doubt Big Berd's ball bashing will be able to overcome Muzz's defense.

Flushing Meadows New York US Open Tennis Championships 08/09/09 Andy Murray (GBR) shows his frustration as he loses fourth round Match in straight sets Photo: Rui Oliveira Fotosports International


Lurker: Samurai, X Man

Semifinalist: Muzz

3rd Quarter: Big questions hang over the Djoker's game this year: his serve lost consistency in the spring when Todd Martin unwisely tried to change it, and more importantly, his asthma/breathing problems have a tendency to flare up during tight matches. He's an easy target, but probably not in the first round as he plays fellow countrymen (and skit co-conspirator) Troicki. However he faces dangerous challenges in Bags or Fish. Even if he gets to the 4th round, he could be challenged by Play Station who is finding his form after a long injury layoff or ARod who beat him in Cincy. The cooler weather in New York won't drain the Djoker, but guys this year know that he's eminently beatable.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia ducks a return from Roger Federer of Switzerland during the Men's Singles Semifinal match on day fourteen of the 2009 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)


Lurker: Fish, Anderson

Semifinalist: ARod


4th Quarter: Despite winning his 16th major in January, Fed comes in with doubters, because of the relatively subpar performance (for his standards) at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Making the quarters of a major only to have big tall guys like Big Berd and Sod hit him out of the tournament doesn't cut it for Fed. He could face either Sod or Cilic in the quarters. Cilic has disappointed since Oz. However Sod has had a great year, beating Fed at Roland Garros to eventually make the finals, and appeared in the quarters at Wimbly.

Fed has a fairly easy path to the quarters, where he might face Rusty in the 3rd round and Melzer in the 4th. Although Rusty beat Fed in Halle, Fed has been Rusty's albatross through out his career. And Fed didn't have any trouble handling Melzer in their first meeting in Wimbly. If Fed meets Sod, I wouldn't expect Fed to show any mercy.


NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14:  Roger Federer of Switzerland (L) disputes a call in the fourth set tiebreak to chair judge Jake Garner during the Men's Singles final on day fifteen of the 2009 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 14, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)


Lurker: Rusty

Semifinalist: Fed

Aug. 15, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 15 August, 2010: ROGER FEDERER (SUI) and ANDY MURRAY.


Semifinals: Muzz d. Rafa, Fed d. ARod

Finals: Fed d. Muzz


Women



1st Quarter: Caro is the surprise top seed. For all the criticism fired at her game (absence of a put away forehand and net game), she's mentally tougher than many peers in her generation, and constructs points better than the typical WTA ball basher. Life can't be easy for her as she could be hit off the court by Masha or Rezai to even make the the 4th round.

Even if she gets past them, then Nails would be her most dangerous opponent, beating Caro twice this year. On the hand, Nails could hit herself out of the tourney. Sveta is looking to get her game back together, but faces match up problems against MaKiri. Caro is capable of handling either of those two.

New York Flushing Meadow US Open Tennis D10 09.09,09 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) wins quarter final match Photo Anne Parker Fotosports International


Lurker: Rezai, MaKiri

Semifinalist: Nails

2nd Quarter: Lady JaJa spent her junior years training at the Bollitieri Academy and should feel comfortable on the asphalt of New York. Her best showing was a finals appearance in 2008, but overall her best surface is clay as she has made the semis of Roland Garros thrice. This summer has not been her greatest on hard courts. Whoopie is looking to defend her semifinal showing here, but has been lacking consistency this year.

Aggie has been consistent, but doesn't really have the weapons to challenge the big hitters who hit a run of consistency in the majors. Bepa is having a great year, making the finals of Wimbly and Montreal. As long as she keeps her head together, a semifinal appearance is hers for the taking.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 03:  Jelena Jankovic of Serbia reacts to a point against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan during day four of the 2009 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2009 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)


Lurkers: Kanepri, Nads

Semifinalist: Bepa

3rd Quarter: At 30, Vee comes in as one of the oldest top seeds amongst the ladies. With her power and speed, she is always a dangerous ball basher to get past. Unfortunately her forehand and serve tend to disappear sometimes because she drops her head, and she tries to blast her way out of a slump. Not only that she faces Pironkova who flummoxed her at Wimbly. Flavs seems to have found her game but doesn't really have the power to beat Vee. Neither does Shahar.

In the top half of this quarter, Franny is tired of living off the afterglow of winning Roland Garros, but it remains to be seen if she will break out of the pattern of getting beaten early in a tourney. Vika, on the other hand, looks to be fully recovered from the injuries that plagued her through the clay/grass season. Not only that she is playing better defense and moving better. She's due for a breakout that was hinted at when she almost beat ReeRee in Oz earlier this year.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 06:  Venus Williams serves to Kim Clijsters of Belgium during day seven of the 2009 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)


Lurker: Pironkova, Flavs

Semifinalist: Vika


4th Quarter: Mum Train has had her best results in New York winning it twice. Can she do it third time? All her victories this year have been on hard courts (Brisbane, Miami and Cincy). As long as she doesn't over rush her pacing through a match, she has the right combo of power and defense to deserve to be called one of the favorites. Mono might block her path to the final, but doesn't have a serve that is not attackable.

Sam has never done well in the US Open. Part of the reason is that the surface softens the bounce of her kick serve, taking away one of her key weapons. Not only that, she's not the greatest mover and lacks the time to run around her backhand. LenaD on the other hand has always been a great mover with legs like a tree trunk, and doesn't need to cover up her backhand as a weakness. While some think she's in the sunset of her career, she looks ready to make a deep run making the semis (as we speak) of New Haven. In the end, Kim is a similar player to Lena D but with a better serve.

New York Flushing Meadow US Open Tennis 14.09.09 Kim Clijsters (BEL), her husband, Brian Lynch and daughter, Jada Ellie Lynch in Times Square the day after she won the US Open. Photo Susan Mullane/camerawork usa/Fotosports International


Lurker: Dina

Semifinalist: Mum Train

Jun. 29, 2010 - London - Russia's Vera Zvonareva held her nerve superbly to beat Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon and reach only her second Grand Slam semi-final...The 21st seed won 3-6 6-4 6-2 to end the Belgian's first campaign at the All England Club after four years away. ..Photo Shows; Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters.


Semifinals: Mum Train d. Vika, Bepa d. Nails

Finals: Mum Train d. Bepa

Monday, August 23, 2010

Montreal 2010: Sunshine Shines

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark hoists the trophy after defeating Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the rain delayed final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Shaun Best  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)


In Montreal, Sunshine broke through today to win her third tourney victory of the year.

Sveta, her semifinal opponent, could neither break Caro's serve nor keep enough balls in court to prevent herself from donating the match to her.

Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia reacts to a missed shot during her rain delayed match against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Shaun Best  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)



Bepa was ... Bepa.

Vera Zvonareva of Russia sits after her loss to Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the rain delayed final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Shaun Best  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cincinnati 2010: Federer Defends His Title

Roger Federer (L) of Switzerland shakes hands with Mardy Fish of the U.S. after defeating him in their championship match at the Cincinnati Masters tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 22, 2010. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)



Federer showed real fight today to beat a slimmer and faster Fish (67[5] 76[1] 64), yelling "C'mon" at key points in the match. He now ties Agassi with 17 Master's Series titles, putting them at second behind Rafa. He is now fifth in total titles won in a career being one behind Sampras.

Roger Federer of Switzerland holds up the championship trophy after defeating Mardy Fish of the U.S. in their championship match at the Cincinnati Masters tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 22, 2010. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS IMAGES OF THE DAY)


From the form he showed this week, he is looking to come forward more by chipping and charging on his return games. He is trying to open up the court more with a backhand down the line along with his favored inside-out (or in) forehand. It seems to me he has worked harder on hitting his shots on the run as can be seen from the first point in this highlight.



All of this can only bode well for their chances in New York for the US Open. Federer will be looking to win his 17th major when he had the championship on his racquet last year (and with all due respect to Del Potro who deserved to win for hanging in there). Fish has had a very good summer hard court season, but it remains to be seen whether he has the mental toughness to go deeper in a major than a quarterfinal.

Sadly there is no news to report from the WTA in Montreal, as the semis haven't even been played yet, due to rain.

Center court is seen during a rain delayed semi-final match at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, August 22, 2010.  REUTERS/Shaun Best  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)


That said, on Saturday (which was also rained out), we got to see what good friends Sveta and Caro are as they showed off their skills:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baseline Judges Can Breathe Easy

ReeRee has announced that she has had to withdraw from the US Open withe the following press release.


Serena Williams withdraws from 2010 US Open

Friday, August 20, 2010

Top-ranked Serena Williams has officially withdrawn from the 2010 US Open as she continues to recover from a cut to her right foot.
Williams cut her foot on a piece of broken glass in July, which required surgery, and has not competed on the WTA Tour since winning her 13th career Grand Slam tournament title at Wimbledon. She is a three-time US Open champion.
"It is with much frustration and deep sadness that I am having to pull out of the US Open," Williams said in a statement released by her publicist. "My doctors have advised against my playing so that my foot can heal."
She called missing the tournament "one of the most devastating moments of my career."
US Open Tournament Director Jim Curley released the following statement regarding Williams' withdrawal:
"We regret that Serena Williams is unable to play the US Open and wish her a speedy recovery. She will be missed, but the tournament is about the competition and the players on the court. This year's US Open will be a memorable event, as it has been every year."


When ReeRee announced her injury just after Wimbledon, you could count me in as one of the skeptics noticing that her withdrawal from the tour would coincide with the summer hard court season and that she would just happen to get back in time for the US Open. It's difficult to give her the benefit of the doubt that her foot injury was really that bad when she tweeted pictures like this:



Well, hopefully, ReeRee will recover in time to help the US win its Fed Cup tie against Italy.

One thing, for sure, baseline judges won't need to be afraid of calling foot faults in New York.

Serena Williams of the USA screams at a line judge in her semi final match against Kim Clijsters of Belgium after the line judge calls a foot foot fault before match point in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open Tennis Championships at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 12, 2009. Williams defeated Clijsters 6-4, 7-5 UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom


Less material for ARod to parody (see 1:30).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No Henin Backhands Until 2011

Allez Bitch announced on her website that she won't be returning to the tour until next year.


Hello everybody,

By this time, I'm doing everything required by my medical team to get a good recovery of the injury I had at the Wimbledon tournament.

I took several medical examinations the last days. It is going in the right direction. It's encouraging news!

It is still a slow recovery so I need to be patient again until the end of 2010!

For my preparation for the competition in 2011, I cannot take any risks, so I hope to go back to practice in October. I'll work hard to get ready for this new season!

I really thank you for your support and I'll keep you informed of the further evolution of my injury.

See you soon!

Justine


Of course when you take a spill like this

June 28, 2010 - 06102602 date 28 06 2010 Copyright imago Panoramic Tennis Tournoi de Wimbledon 28 06 2010 J8 Justine Henin BEL Photo News Panoramic PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxITAxBEL women Tennis London WTA Tour Wimbledon All England Championship Action shot Single cut out Vdig 2010 horizontal premiumd funny Tennis Wimbledon 2010 Championships Grand Slam betisier insolite chute Chuter largeur Attitude WTA femme Femmes feminine Lady Dames.


You too would end up wearing a cast like this. It's a good thing ReeRee took the time to pay a personal visit to her secret BFF.


BRUSSELS, July 9, 2010 Belgian tennis champions Justine Henin (R) and Kim Clijsters (L) stand with US tennis player Serena Williams with the footballs emblemed for the Belgium and Netherlands' bidding for 2018 World Cup during the ''Best of Belgium'' event marking the start of the Belgian EU Presidency, in Brussels, Belgium, on July 8, 2010. The event includes a tennis match between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters which will be the new world record for the biggest number of spectators for a tennis game. (Xinhua/Wu Wei.


But only a few of us get to sell the virtues of our homeland for hosting a World Cup in 2018/2022 instead of trying to smack 80 mph forehands. Oh, JuJu, football is so much more interesting than tennis.

BRUSSELS, Aug. 10, 2010 Belgian bid ambassador, tennis star Justine Henin (R), gives a welcoming address for the FIFA inspection team in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Aug. 9, 2010. The FIFA inspection team began a four-day visit to Belgium and the Netherlands for their joint bid for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup on Monday. The FIFA executive committee will make the final decision among nine bids for the host of both 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup on Dec. 2. (Xinhua/Wu Wei.


We won't get to see this until next year.



How does "diss" make me feel?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Defense Wins Cincy and Toronto

Andy Murray of Britain kisses the winners trophy after beating Roger Federer of Switzerland during their final match at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto August 15, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (CANADA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)


This happened in Toronto as Muzz surprised Fed with a more aggressive game that he needs to play in order to win a slam. Specifically Muzz showed a forehand that was either a putaway for short balls or a forcing shot (e.g. the angled inside out shot). The score was closer than it should have been (75 75) as Fed recovered in both sets from being a break down only to give the service break back to Muzz. If anything would prevent him from winning the USO, his second serve is still too easy to attack.


CINCINNATI - AUGUST 15: Kim Clijsters of Belgium poses with the trophy after defeating Maria Sharapova of Russia in the singles final match on day seven of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open on August 15, 2010 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


Mum Train recovered from a poor start and saved 3 championship points to prevail over Shrieka [2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2]. Shrieka started to feel pain in her left heel toward the end of the second set, and it clearly hampered her ability to push off as it worsened in the 3rd set.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oz Redux in Canada

Andy Murray of Britain celebrates his win against Rafael Nadal of Spain during their semi-final match at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto August 14 , 2010.  REUTERS/ Mike Cassese  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS IMAGES OF THE DAY)


In a replay of their AO semifinal, Muzz succeeded in hitting through Rafa (6-3 6-4). A typical point was that Rafa would hit to Muzz's forehand. Muzz would hit a reverse FH that angled Rafa off the court to his backhand. Rafa would try to hit a sharper angle back with topspin back, but Muzz is so fast he'd run it down and take the control of the point with a flatter forehand. Muzz presents a different problem to Rafa than, say, Fed, because when Muzz takes control of a point he's such a great retriever and such a great defensive player he's not likely to miss. Plus Rafa's heavy topspin FH to Muzz's backhand doesn't bother Muzz.

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 14: Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates match point against Novak Djokovic of Serbis during the semifinals of the Rogers Cup at the Rexall Centre on August 14, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)


The Greatest Shanker of All Time eked out a victory to set up a redux of his Oz Open Final. He admitted that he got ahead a bit too quickly against the Djoker (6-1, 3-6, 7-5). The Djoker settled down from trying to outbash Rafa, cleaned up his game and almost used his forehand to angle Fed out of the tournament. Kudos to Fed for clutch play in the 3rd set.

Cincy and Montreal 2010

The ladies and the men swap locations. The men are in the sauna that's called Cincinnati, and the ladies go north of the border to Montreal.


Cincinnati





Up north in Canada, all of the top 4 made it to the semifinals. Last year the same suspects made it to the semis in humid Cincy instead of Montreal. So look for someone beside the top 4 to upset of them. Rafa is looking to fine tune his form on hard court to complete his coveted career slam. From his match against Muzz, Rafa needs to serve better and cut down on his backhand errors. This year he's been doing an outstanding job of hitting the flatter windshield wiper forehand to supplement his better known reverse forehand. With Rafa's determination, he can never be counted out. Fed's coaching experiment with Annacone is off to a great start as he beat Berdych the type of player who has given him trouble this past year (big tall ballbasher) and the Djoker to reascend to #2. Annacone looks like he is making Federer drive more returns, and risk using his topspin backhand to open up the court (sharp CC or down the line). If Fed can do that consistently, watch out for the return of Darth Federer! Muzz is going without a fulltime coach, and relying upon the advice of his hitting partner (Danny Valerdu) and his mum. It looks like Muzz has figured out what it means for him to be more aggressive: hit a spin forehand to angle his opponents off the court early in the point. Then use his speed & movement off either wing to hit another shot on the rise to put his opponents in an even worse position to set up a flat forehand into the open court. Out of the top 4 guys, the Djoker looks the most vulnerable to an upset, as his opponents know that if you force him to stay out there long enough, his fitness problems will tip him toward mental collapse.


Tourney Site: here

Draw: here

Seeds: Rafa, Djoker, Fed, Muzz, Sod, Playstation, Big Berd, Nando


Montreal





Lady JaJa is officially the #1 seed, but for any WTA pro not surnamed Williams, that's no sure thing. The buzz is around Shrieka and Mum Train who met in the finals in Cincy. One reason for the hard court prowess is that they can hit through the court, preventing counterpunchers like Lady JaJa, Caro, Aggie and Franny from extending points past their shot tolerance. While Bepa does play a counterpuncher's style, her results at Wimbledon show that she can murder the ball when she wants. Nails always tries to murder the ball but can't find the court (a bit too often).

Tourney Site: here

Draw: here

Seeds: Lady JaJa, Caro, Lena D, Mum Train, Franny, Aggie, Bepa, Nails

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Toronto and Cincy 2010: Let the Games Begin

Even though the US Open series has already started (Washington DC, San Diego, Atlanta, Stanford, LA), most of the top 10 don't start to play until the more important Masters/Premier tourneys begin (and extend their summer vacations). Now shit gets real. The men have a Masters 1000 in Canada; the ladies play in Cincy. Looking back a year, what a difference a year makes?


Toronto





Delpo won't be around to defend his points from making the finals last year due to a wrist injury. Muzz hasn't won a tournament this year (after winning 6 last year), and failed to convert championship points against Samurai in LA. While Muzz has parted ways with his coach in hopes of improving so that he can start winning slams, it's not exactly clear what he wants to change. Does he want to improve at chasing balls? What about a forehand with more punch? It's not exactly clear whether he can defend his title here?

Recall that Fed had Tsonga on the ropes last year but failed to close it out in an epic collapse. While Anacone will be in Fed's coach box this week, it remains to be seen whether Fed can pull out of his slump. If pattern holds, Fed won't be in match shape until next week in Cinncinati. Or we might be surprised to see Anacone make Fed try different patterns to take control of points.

Rafa has had a stellar clay/grass season, and is hungry to win the US Open to complete a career slam. And this year he's managing his schedule to rest his knees to peak at the US Open. If I recall correctly, he's planning to skip one of the Master's 1000s (i.e. Cincinnati) to give himself more rest for his knees. Even with a less strenuous schedule, Rafa's heavy topspin strokes and preference for sliding won't be quite the advantage he's accustomed to on fast hard courts like Deco Turf (see here for the difference a hard court can make). Then again, he did make the semis of Indian Wells and Miami. So it would be no surprise of Rafa continued his domination of the tour.

Tourney Site: here

Draw: here

Seeds: Rafa, Fed, Nole, Muzz, Playstation, Sod, ARod, Nando

Injuries: Delpo (wrist), Ali (knee), Dr. Ivo (ankle), Gonzo (calf), Rusty (calf)

Oh, by the way, this odd couple is playing doubles.



Cincinnati



CINCINNATI - AUGUST 16:  Jelena Jankovic of Serbia (R) poses with the championship trophy next to Dinara Safina of Russia (L) after the finals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open on August 16, 2009 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


With the WTA, you never know who will come out on top on a given week. Dinara is coming back from back injury and is lucky to win consecutive matches these days. I'll go out on a limb and bet that she won't be in the final. Lady JaJa rolled her ankle back in Portoroz, Slovenia and claimed (again) that it hobbled her last week against Kleybs. Caro was at one point in the year the world #2 but frankly hasn't shown that she can be a consistent Slam contender because of her weaker forehand (and yes I count her movement as a weapon). While Sam has a heavy serve and forehand, her movement is bit suspect on faster hard courts where she can't hit a lot of runaround forehands. Franny has a high seed due to her magical (and career-climaxing) win at Roland Garros, but this may not be relevant to predicting her playing well this week in Cincy. Finally, Bepa is coming off an excellent run to the finals in SW19, where she had the misfortune of playing Serena en fuego. It will be fun to see which Bepa will show up: the racket smasher or the steady smart counterpuncher. Likewise with Nails we get a Heckyll-Jyde schtick. She can either be the cleanest ball striker you've ever see, painting the lines, or nail the ball into the alleys.

Tourney Site: here

Draw: here

Seeds: Lady JaJa, Caro, LenaD, Mum Train, Franny, Bepa, Nails

Injuries: Vee (knee), ReeRee (foot), Allez Bitch (elbow), Sam (arm)