Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Day Two - US Open

Day Two of the US Open determined a number of things, among them the lack of wisdom in predicting which matches may be ones to watch out for.  Of the six carefully selected by me, Dolgopolov lasted 11 games before retiring against Ferrer, Coric only 7 before raising the white flag against Lopez.

Halep smashed Flipkens for the cost of just 2 games, while Williams took just over an hour taking care of Makarova and Wawrinka also won in straight sets.
Only the three set win by Samantha Stosur over Camila Giorgi lived up to expectations of a close tussle, at least for two sets.

Of the seeds, Steve Johnson survived after giving Evgeny Donskoy a two set start, but Americans will be hoping their highest ranked male starts a little quicker in his next match against Juan Martin Del Potro, whose three set win over Diego Schwartzman was far more impressive. 
Eighth seed Dominic Thiem and 21st seed Ivo Karlovic also are breathing easier following five set victories over Millman and Lu respectively.

Not as happy are David Goffin (12), Bernard Tomic (17), Philipp Kohlschreiber (25) and Sam Querrey (29), all first round losers.  Andy Murray won easily, as did Nick Kyrgios -  Kei Nishikori not quite as convincingly.

Venus Williams and Elena Vesnina joined Stosur as seeds needing the full distance to reach the second round, but seeds Kiki Bertens (20), Daria Kasatkina (23) and Ana Ivanovic (29) failed to make it that far, together with exiting fan favourite Genie Bouchard.

Simona Halep and Serena Williams led an impressive group whose straight sets wins gained entry into the final 64 - Aga Radwanska, Carla Suarez Navarro (6-0, 6-0), Timea Bacsinszky, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Karolina Pliskova all showed signs that they could figure prominently in this year's Open.  Of course it is only one match.

Round two commences in a matter of hours, and a few reputations are on the line.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Flushing Meadows - Day One

The opening day and night of US Open 2016 did not provide too many shocks, although top seed Novak Djokovic sent a temporary scare through tournament organisers and his legion of supporters - he lost the second set while appearing to suffer a debilitating injury battling Poland's Jerzy Janowicz.

Janowicz is ranked 247 in the world, but that position ignores his Wimbledon performance of 2013 where he reached the semi final.  A series of injuries has prevented him from continuing to challenge at the highest level, the latest a knee problem this year.  

At one set all, Jerzy's big serve and ground strokes had put Djokovic into areas not usually faced, and it took a number of changes in the Serb game plan to bring significant benefit in the third and fourth sets.
The top seed, seemingly affected by a wrist complaint and serving at slower speed, used his other skills, including slice and placement, to reach the second round 6-3 5-7 6-2 6-1.  Many sighs of relief but fingers remaining crossed that Novak is fit enough to survive the next two weeks.

Richard Gasquet was drawn to play Djokovic in the round of sixteen, but England's unseeded Kyle Edmund reduced the French 13th seed to a shadow of himself in the  impressive 6-2 6-2 6-3 performance.

Two all American matches went the distance, and although losing, the teenagers involved have potential for big futures.  20th seed John Isner fought back from two sets down to defeat 18 year old Frances Tiafoe, while 26th seed Jack Sock broke another 18 year old, Taylor Fritz, in the final game of their match to win.

Easier tasks for Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, Rafa Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, all of whom won in straight sets.

The only other men's seed to fall on opening day was 28th seed Martin Klizan from Slovakia, beaten by Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.

Most of the favoured players in the women's draw that saw court time on the first day prevailed, even if it took longer than desired in a few cases.

3rd seed Garbine Muguruza lost the first set, and her poor Flushing Meadows record appeared likely to continue until she corrected things with a flourish, winning set two without surrendering a game.  
The Roland Garros champ won in three, as did eighth seed Madison Keys in the final scheduled match against fellow American Allison Riske. Keys also came from a set down,  and she and Muguruza are drawn to meet in the quarters. (as per my prediction which was looking rather shaky - twice)

Six seeds exited - Barbora Strycova (18), Irina-Camelia Begu (21), Sara Errani (27), Coco Vandeweghe (28), Misaki Doi (30) and Olympic Gold Medallist Monica Puig (32).

Decisive wins were enjoyed by seeds Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Kvitova, Roberta Vinci,  Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova, all in two sets.
Second seed Angie Kerber was leading 6-0 1-0 before opponent Polona Hercog retired.

Day Two matches to keep an eye on (completion of first round)

S Williams v Makarova, Halep v Flipkens, Stosur v Giorgi
Wawrinka v Verdasco, Ferrer v Dolgopolov, Lopez v Coric

Monday, 29 August 2016

US Open - Wide Open

The final Grand Slam tournament for 2016 kicks off in a few hours and for once Novak Djokovic is not the raging favourite.  Neither is Serena Williams as certain of taking home the Flushing Meadows prize as in past missions.

Still the top seeds have to be toppled, and Andy Murray has been given a decent head start in his effort to achieve back to back majors.  If there is such a thing as a soft draw then Andy has had one delivered on a silver platter.  His Cincinnati conqueror, and 2014 winner of this title, Marin Cilic is in the other half of the draw, as too is his Wimbledon final opponent Milos Raonic.  Rafa Nadal also won't be a bother unless they meet in the final, which leaves Nishikori, Wawrinka and Thiem as the top ranked seeds in his half - clearly Novak has the tougher road to travel.

Interestingly, the two top Australians will likely meet in the third round, and either Nick Kyrgios or Bernard Tomic could face Stan Wawrinka in the round of sixteen.  Currently that is not the intimidating prospect it may have been at other stages of the year.  Alexander Zverev could give Stan trouble even before the fourth round.

Interest in the bottom half will possibly be mostly centred on an unseeded player - 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro.  The Olympic runner-up, if free of injury and still in form, is the danger to all around him, representing a real chance of reaching the quarter final.  He would need to defeat Ferrer and Thiem if the seeds won through, but he has the talent.  And having made it that far, a semi against Murray wouldn't be too much of a stretch.
I can't see anyone troubling Murray until the semis.

The top half of the draw has much to offer - Djokovic's quarter features himself, Gasquet, Tsonga, Cilic, and a few Americans to satisfy the crowd - Isner, Sock and one of the NextGen Taylor Fritz.  Big serving Anderson is thereabouts and he always is a worry to Novak once he starts serving well and winning a round or two.

If Djokovic survives the quarter final stage he will meet the winner of Nadal's section, and that won't necessarily be Rafa.  Six French and five Spanish players have spread themselves through this quarter but it should come down to Nadal v Raonic.

My pre tournament predictions are for the following quarter finals:

Djokovic v Cilic, Nadal v Raonic, Del Potro v Kyrgios and Murray v Nishikori

I believe Djokovic can win the title despite his lack of matches leading in.

Serena Williams has drawn quite well apart from a testing first round against Ekaterina Makarova.  The rest of her quarter is full of talent but a lower level and only the likely quarter final opposition in Simona Halep represents realistic danger.  Past major winners Ana Ivanovic and Samantha Stosur could stand in Serena's path, but their inconsistency will ensure little resistance should that occur.

The Williams sisters could clash in the semi finals if they each win their first five matches.  However, it is more likely that the Cincinnati and New Haven title winners of the last couple of weeks will meet in a US Open quarter final.  Aga Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova have the form and, on paper, friendly draws, Pliskova's not so much if she faces the seemingly ageless Venus in the fourth round.
In a star studded block, Bouchard, Bacsinsky, Mladenovic, Bertens and Pavlyuchenkova threaten to upset the expectations of many including yours truly.

The bottom half of the women's singles draw is even more exciting to anticipate.  
Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza is in what may be called the US quarter, with Keys, Vandeweghe, Townsend, Riske, Mattek-Sands and 3 others flying the Stars and Stripes.
Strycova, Kuznetsova, Olympic gold medalist Puig, and fast rising Johanna Konta all have claims for deep runs in this tournament, while 2014 finalist Caro Wozniacki is hoping for just one win to turn around an awful year on the court.

Angie Kerber can take the number one ranking off Serena Williams if certain results occur, and she has been dealt a handy draw.  Not until the round of sixteen should she be truly tested - probably against either Svitolina (New Haven runner-up) or Kvitova (New Haven semi finalist).  Last year's runner-up Roberta Vinci should make the fourth round, despite indifferent form, but it could be Dominika Cibulkova who finds her way through to a battle with Kerber in the final eight.

Even if Kerber loses in the first round, she will be world number one unless Serena makes the semis and Muguruza plays Radwanska in the final.  However if Serena wins the tournament she retains the top spot.

My quarter final forecasts are:

S Williams v Halep, Radwanska v Pliskova , Keys v Muguruza, and Kerber v Cibulkova 

I believe that Kerber can win another hard court major but realise that selecting against Serena is asking for trouble.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Pablo and Aga win titles

Aga Radwanska heads into Flushing Meadows for the final major of the year, US Open 2016, on the back of a convincing week in Connecticut.  The top seed in New Haven smashed sixth seed Petra Kvitova in the semi final 6-1 6-1 to set up a final clash with Elina Svitolina, the latter having had little trouble with Johanna Larsson in their semi, winning 6-4 6-2.

Radwanska opened with a rush in the final, far too much for Svitolina to handle - she broke the Ukraine serve twice and won 28 of the 43 points played in set one.  Set two was more of the contest expected from the two, and eventually was decided with a tie breaker.  Aga ruled proceedings here, taking it 7 points to 3 and accordingly the New Haven title 6-1 7-6.

Not all that far away in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the final was an all-Spanish affair after 2nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Viktor Troicki in three sets in one semi and 16th seed Pablo Carreno Busta brought John Millman's fine run to a close in the other semi 6-4 7-6.

After dropping the opening set in a tie breaker, Pablo squared the final by taking the second set tie breaker.  The underdog prevailed with Carreno Busta winning the third set 6-4, converting the only break point created by either player for the set.  Winston-Salem was the first ATP title for Pablo Carreno Busta, the scoreline 6-7 7-6 6-4.  He will take some confidence to New York but of course the Grand Slam tournament draw will be of a totally different class, and Pablo will be unseeded.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Aga v Petra in New Haven semi

The last tour events before the US Open are being contested by the ladies in New Haven, Connecticut and the men in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

New Haven promised a top class event, with the eight seeds currently ranked in the top twenty, numbers one through four all top 10 players.
However, before the tournament commenced, injury and illness forced the withdrawal of six players, including seeds Keys, Konta, Kuznetsova and Cincinnati winner Pliskova.

Still, Aga Radwanska and Petra Kvitova remained and both won their way through to the semi finals where they will play each other.  Aga won her quarter final in straight sets against Kirsten Flipkens, who took advantage of replacing an ill Barbora Strycova in the draw by reaching the final eight.
Petra impressed with her equally swift dismissal of dangerous Russian Ekaterina Makarova in their quarter final.

If Aga wins New Haven and the US Open she can take the world number one ranking, provided Angie Kerber exits Flushing Meadows sufficiently early.  More on those possible machinations in the US Open preview.later.

The second semi final features Elina Svitolina who took out Makarova's doubles partner Elena Vesnina, and Sweden's Johanna Larsson, whose quarter final victim was second seed Roberta Vinci.  Again these matches were two set affairs.

Winston-Salem attracted no top ten ATP players, but world number 15 Richard Gasquet was kind enough to grace the tournament with his presence, and he was awarded the number one seeding as a thank you.

Unfortunately for Gasquet he won't be winning the tournament as he was knocked out in the quarter final by unseeded Aussie John Millman who, with his straight sets victory has reached his first ATP tour semi final.
The hurdle to Millman's hopes of a final appearance is 16th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who, after defeating third seed Pablo Cuevas in the third round, accounted for Andrey Kuznetsov in the quarters.

9th seed Viktor Troicki will meet 2nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the other semi final.  Troicki overcame sixth seed American Sam Querrey in round three before eliminating 15th seed Fernando Verdasco in a quarter final.  Verdasco had previously disappointed locals by dispensing with another American, fourth seed Steve Johnson.

Bautista Agut dropped the opening set in both his first and second matches of the tournament but managed to survive.  His quarter final was much easier going and opponent Yen-Hsun Lu left Winston-Salem shortly after the start of the match which ended 6-4 6-0.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Big wins for Cilic and Pliskova

Well Serena's place atop the world rankings is safe at least for awhile thanks to Karolina Pliskova's destruction of Angie Kerber in the Cincinnati Premier 5 final.  The German serve was easy pickings for Karolina, as Kerber struggled from the outset to take advantage of a commendable percentage of accurate first deliveries.

The opening set saw Pliskova win 11 of 19 points from the Kerber first serve, and convert each of the three break points that came her way,  Angie somehow managed to create four break points of her own, despite the Czech dominance, but she could only break once and set one was inevitably Karolina's 6-3.

Set two was even more emphatic, with Pliskova winning 72% of points on her serve compared with Kerber 46%.  The only two breaks of serve belonged to the Czech Republic and the match was won 6-3 6-1.

Angie has now lost the last three finals in which she has appeared, not having won since Stuttgart in April.  One of those losses was the Wimbledon final to Serena but in the other two she started favourite coming up short - perhaps not a major concern just yet, but a trend the world number two would prefer to alter.

Meanwhile for Karolina, the victory was her second of 2016 and first at Premier 5 level, seeing her ranking jump from 17 to 11.  Her hope will be a solid run at the US Open because to date her performances at Grand Slam level have been appalling, never reaching beyond the third round at any of the majors.

Andy Murray was seemingly cruising to another title, but in the Cincinnati Masters final Marin Cilic surprised us with another of his performances which, while sadly he provides too infrequently, are great to witness on the occasions he does.

The 2014 US Open champion reminded the tennis world of his credentials virtually on the eve of Flushing Meadows 2016 with a straight sets defeat of the best performed male player in the world over the past two months.

There was little to choose between the two in set one, and for once the stats agreed.  Similar success in first serve percentages and again with points won on serve.  Break point opportunities were rare but when they arose, both players were about as successful as each other in conversion.
Cilic just edged his opponent though, breaking twice from three chances, Murray once from two.  The set to the twelfth seed 6-4.

Set two was won by Cilic 7-5 but on court the gap between him and Murray was clearly more than just a single service break.  
The Croatian racquet was on fire, allowing Cilic to win 24 points from his 27 serves, serving five aces and no double faults.  The Scottish equipment was working ok but not to the same level, providing Murray 25 points from his 38 serves, no aces and two double faults.

Cilic created five break points on the Murray serve and had none on his own delivery to worry about saving.  One conversion was sufficient and Andy's undefeated run ended.
A terrific win for Marin Cilic 6-4 7-5.

The win propelled Cilic five spots into the top ten at number nine, while the other significant mover was Cincinnati semi finalist Grigor Dimitrov who is back in the top 30, leaping 10 places to 24.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cincinnati - Kerber and Murray looking good

Cincinnati has been the scene the past week for the WTA and ATP to assemble the best players in the world.   These are the final respective Premier and Masters tournaments prior to the US Open.

The top seeds would have been Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic but neither participated due, we suppose, to nagging injuries sustained in failed Rio campaigns.  Novak however had failed to enter, even before Rio.

Keen to make amends for her loss in the Olympic final, Angie Kerber, the number two, and highest remaining seed, faced a demanding draw, but handled it beautifully, accounting for world number 37 Kristina Mladenovic, world number 20 Barbora Strycova, 9th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, and most recently 3rd seed Simona Halep in the semi final.
Kerber lost just a single set in reaching the final, that to Suarez Navarro.

The fate of the other top seeds was varied.  Halep, as already stated, made the semis, defeating 5th seed Aga Radwanska in the quarter final in straight sets,  Roberta Vinci, 6th seed, was knocked out prior to the quarters by Suarez Navarro.

The non appearance of Serena Williams was a gift for those in the top half of the draw, and it was the 15th seed Karolina Pliskova, who took the biggest advantage.  Instead of playing Serena in the round of sixteen, the Czech Fed Cup star met and dispatched unseeded Misaki Doi before trampling over the top of 7th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters, and 4th seed Garbine Muguruza in the semis.

Full of confidence, Pliskova will be more than a handful for Kerber in an exciting final.

Andy Murray was installed as top seed in the men's draw with Djokovic's absence.  The Olympic champion is gunning for the year end number one ranking, having not lost a match since receiving the Roland Garros runner up trophy in June.
Plenty of his potential rivals in Cincinnati served to make his job easier by dropping matches in which they normally would be expected to prevail.

2nd seed Stan Wawrinka struggled in his second round match after a first round bye, requiring three sets to beat wildcard American Jared Donaldson.  Not so lucky in round three though, losing in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov.

Joining Stan on the third round scrap heap were 3rd seed Rafa Nadal, losing badly to Croatian Borna Coric, and 5th seed Kei Nishikori, downed in two tie breakers to Bernard Tomic (who'd also beaten the Rio bronze medalist in Brisbane earlier this year)
6th seed Tomas Berdych and 7th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also failed to make the quarters, losing out to 12th seed Marin Cilic and unseeded Steve Johnson respectively.

Apart from Murray and Cilic, the only seeds to make the quarter finals were Milos Raonic (4) and Dominic Thiem (8).

Raonic dismissed Thiem, then Murray gave Raonic his marching orders, and now the final will see Andy Murray attempt to win his fourth successive tournament and improve to five wins from seven finals in his last seven starts.  Standing in his way is Marin Cilic.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Puig wins Gold for Puerto Rico

While it is still hard for me to grasp Olympic tennis as a tournament in the same sense as the standard ATP or WTA calendar events, being just one of many sports within the greater Olympiad experience, the athletes who choose to compete treat it even more seriously than their weekly fare.

This has been borne out by many of the results from Rio, beginning with the highly unexpected early defeats of top seeds - Novak Djokovic in the first round and Serena Williams in the second round.  Their opponents, Juan Martin Del Potro and Elina Svitolina, lifted as if it were a Davis Cup or Fed Cup tie because it was a nation's hopes resting on the individual performance.

The Williams sisters lost their doubles clash in the first round, but to a combination of sufficient quality to make an immediate exit not so much of a shock.  Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova would eventually win the bronze medal match held between the semi final losers, overcoming another Czech pair Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova.

The gold medal deservedly was hung around the necks of Russian pair Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, who had the advantage of already being doubles partners on tour.  They defeated Switzerland's entry of Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinsky, the 2016 silver medalists.

Rafa Nadal eventually lost his battle for singles bronze, but had already secured gold in the men's doubles for Spain with Marc Lopez.  The duo overcame Romania's Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea who grabbed silver.
The US team of Jack Sock and Steve Johnson won bronze after winning the play off against another North American pair, Canada's Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor.

Jack Sock won another medal, this one gold, as the US triumphed in Mixed Doubles.  He teamed with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and together they defeated Rajeev Ram and Venus Williams, who ensured that Rio would at least not be medal-less for the sisters with silver also heading to America.
Bronze was captured by the Czech team Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek who edged out India's Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.

The highlight of the tennis in Rio was Monica Puig from Puerto Rico.  Unseeded, but having a pretty good season, it was never expected that she would be capable of defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round, Roland Garros champ Garbine Muguruza in the third round, dual Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova in the semi final and to top it off second seed and reigning Aus Open champ Angie Kerber in the final.
Gold medal glory for Monica and the first in Olympic history for her country of Puerto Rico.  Germany won the silver through Kerber, and Petra won the bronze medal following her win over American Madison Keys in their play off.

The men's bronze was won by Japan thanks to Kei Nishikori, who was the player denying Rafa and Spain.  Kei had previously lost his semi to reigning Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray who would be defending his title against Juan Martin Del Potro.  The Argentine had already knocked off current world number one Djokovic, and in the semi final former number one Nadal, to reach the final.

Murray appeared set for a gold medal repeat after taking set one, but Del Potro came back to level. Murray easily won the third and despite being down a break of serve a number of times in the fourth, eventually leaving Del Potro to serve for the set, the number two seed denied Argentina and sealed another Olympic win for himself and Great Britain.

In another part of the world slightly fewer people were aware that third seed Ivo Karlovic defeated top seed Feliciano Lopez to capture Mexico's Los Cabos title. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Atlanta joy for Kyrgios

After winning in Atlanta for three straight years John Isner had every chance to make it four, but Nick Kyrgios thwarted the American in a final dominated by the serve, as fully expected.

Both players belted 18 aces in two sets which predictably went to tie breaks.  None of the six break points for the match were converted.  Isner won 91% of points on his first serve, Kyrgios 82% on his.  However the Australian managed to return Isner's second serve far more effectively, winning the point 67% of the time.

The match though was decided with the ability of Kyrgios to handle the pressure of each tie break the better, winning 7-3 and 7-4.  The second ATP title of his career was Nick's 7-6 7-6, and he moved to a career high ranking of 16.

Meanwhile in South America, major upsets have split the Olympic tennis draws wide open.  Novak Djokovic fell to Juan Martin Del Potro in the opening round - the Argentine is now officially Novak's Olympic nemesis, having beaten the Serb in the bronze medal play off in the London games of 2012.  Sad for the world number one, but great signs for the comeback of Del Potro to top tennis.

Venus Williams, having been dumped from the singles in round one, completed her miserable Rio experience with an opening match loss in the doubles with her sister to the Czech pair of Safarova and Strycova.  Venus will now devote her energy to cheering on Serena who remains in the singles race for gold.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a second round casualty while Angie Kerber, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray join Serena among the big names still standing.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Olympics - Venus and Aga gone already !

With the Olympics underway, tournaments in Nanchang and Atlanta have either finished or reached the final stage.
In China, it was success for the home country as Ying-Ying Duan recovered from losing the opening set badly to win her first WTA title, defeating sixth seed American Vania King 1-6 6-4 6-2.  

The final in Atlanta will have the tournament organisers smiling as it features the top two seeds, big serving American John Isner, and exciting controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios.  The local crowd's gain is Rio's loss and the match should provide plenty of big hitting enjoyment.

Isner had to fight back against his younger compatriot Reilly Opelka, after losing the first set tie breaker in their semi final.  Poise and experience told in the end and the top seed won 6-7 6-4 6-2.  Isner won 36 of the 42 points decided on his serve in the final two sets, and that brought too much pressure to bear on his opponent, whose own serve suffered accordingly.

Kyrgios also took three sets to claim victory over a feisty Yoshihito Nishioka.  The Japanese player, ranked just inside the top 100, and spotting Kyrgios 23cm in height, surprised the second seed with his returning capabilities in set two, but either side of that, Kyrgios was rock solid on his delivery, and won 6-3 3-6 6-3.

The first round of singles in Rio De Janeiro has commenced, and most of the results in the men's draw have gone as expected, with perhaps the loss of Jack Sock in straight sets the biggest surprise.  The top three seeds, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal have yet to begin their campaigns.

However, prominent names in the women's singles have been ousted straight away.  Venus Williams will now have more time to devote to doubles having lost to Kirsten Flipkens in round one.  Roberta Vinci is also licking her wounds following another first round exit in an inconsistent year.  The loss to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova wasn't a total shock considering the fairly good year that the Slovakian has enjoyed.  The biggest upset on day one of Olympic tennis was the departure of Aga Radwanska, whose straight sets loss to China's Zheng Saisai opens up the bottom half of the draw, especially for Angie Kerber, her previously likely semi final opponent.

China caused another seed to fall, this time Switerland's main hope Timea Bacsinszky. Zhang Shuai took three sets to convince Timea that she should forget about singles this time and concentrate on helping Martina Hingis win gold in the doubles.  Timea obliged and began the doubles journey with a three set win over the Australian pair - Stosur and Gavrilova.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Begu wins in Brazil

Hungary's Timea Babos dominated the first set of the Florianopolis final against Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, winning it 6-2.  She won 16 of the 19 points decided on her own serve and 15 of the 29 points when receiving the Begu serve. Babos had the only break opportunities - 5 - for the set, converting two of them.

However, it was Begu who won the title.  The reversal of fortune came immediately, with the return of serve from the Romanian racquet in set two back to what it had been throughout the tournament.  Babos continued to trouble Begu's serve but could not create quite as many opportunities, and one extra service break was sufficient to level the match at a set apiece.

Begu rode the momentum and controlled proceedings in the decider, always looking the winner, but having to work hard to maintain the edge.  The final score was 2-6 6-4 6-3.

In Atlanta, the exciting run of Reilly Opelka continued, his latest victim being fellow American Donald Young.  The giant teenager broke once in each set for a 6-4 6-4 win, leaving him with a semi final match against top seed John Isner.
Isner reached the semi by defeating another teenage American, Taylor Fritz.

The other semi final will see second seed Nick Kyrgios taking on unseeded Japanese player Yoshihito Nishioka.  Kyrgios won a high standard quarter final against Fernando Verdasco in three sets and should have little trouble with Nishioka provided his mind is switched on.

In Nanchang, the final will be played between American Vania King and China's Ying-Ying Duan, ranked 106 and 163 respectively.  Valuable points for both as a result of virtually all players in the top 100 avoiding the tournament.

Friday, 5 August 2016

18yo Reilly Opelka in Atlanta quarters

The Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics is just hours away and three international tennis tournaments are drawing towards a close around the world before the big event.  One of them is in Brazil and the final of the WTA Florianopolis event will be decided between 6th seed Timea Babos of Hungary and 2nd seed Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania.
Babos defeated another Romanian, Ana Bogdan in the semi finals - Bogdan, ranked 127 in the world, had earlier shocked the tournament with her upset win over top seed Jelena Jankovic in the second round, and had not dropped a set until the Babos match.
Begu, meanwhile must be relieved to have regained the form which saw her play a prominent part throughout the major clay court events this year.  She lost one set en route to the final - the first set of the tournament - and it was to a Brazilian lucky loser from qualifying, Laura Pigossi, ranked 384.  Since that scare, Irina-Camelia has looked sharp, breaking opponents' serves seemingly at will, third seed Monica Puig her semi final victim.

In Atlanta, the top two seeds, John Isner and Nick Kyrgios, have both reached the quarter finals.  Isner faces promising young American Taylor Fritz for a semi final spot, and Kyrgios has the likely tougher test - 5th seed Fernando Verdasco.
Already the event has lost its third, fourth and sixth seeds - Kevin Anderson, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez respectively.
Anderson at 203cm is about the tallest there is on tour, but he lost out in the height stakes when facing off against American teenager and wildcard Reilly Opelka.  At 210cm the 18 year old, ranked 837 in the world, belted 20 aces past the South African in a thrilling display which ultimately saw him win 6-7 6-3 7-5.  
Opelka won 80% of points when his first serve hit the mark, and he created an incredible 18 break point opportunities on the Anderson serve.  He could only convert four of those, but that was all he needed.
Reilly Opeka is in the quarter finals of the Atlanta event, and whether he goes further or not, he is a young player worth following - a ranking of 837 appears set to change for the better by lots and rapidly.

In Nanchang, two semi finalists are known - sixth seed American Vania King defeated fifth seed Kai-Lin Zhang from China and Japan's Misa Eguchi overcame China's Fangzhou Liu in two of the quarter finals.

The other quarter finals are being contested between Francesca Schiavone (Italy) and Risa Ozaki (Japan) in one, and Ying-Ying Duan (China) and Kurumi Nara (Japan) in the other.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Halep and Djokovic enjoy Canadian success

In Toronto, Novak Djokovic won Masters title number 30, his fourth this year, two in finals over Kei Nishikori.  Both will enter the Olympic Games confident of success, but expectation of the colour of the medal should realistically be restricted to silver or bronze for Nishikori and anyone else bar the relentless Serb.

The Rogers Cup final between the pair was played out to the usual script, the only variation the scoreline which was 6-3 7-5.  The inability to manufacture a serve to trouble Djokovic for any sustained period had Nishikori on the back foot from the outset, while the top seed was comfortable and reliable from the service line.

Novak has certainly performed to much higher standards than that exhibited in the past week, which only augurs well for a top podium in Rio.

Simona Halep is also searching for gold in Brazil following a brilliant win in the Montreal WTA version of the Rogers Cup.  The straight sets disposal of Madison Keys capped off a series of impressive wins, and earned a jump in the rankings from five to three.  Although disappointed with the 6-7 3-6 defeat, Keys enjoyed a great tournament, rewarded with a return to the top ten, now at 9, her equal career high.

The possibilities of medals in Rio are real for both finalists, but much will depend on the draw.

The Olympics includes a tennis element, but does not stop the ATP and WTA tours.  Atlanta is hosting an ATP event this week, with John Isner and Nick Kyrgios the top draw cards.
WTA players are gathering in Florianopolis, Brazil.  Jelena Jankovic and Irina-Camelia Begu are the top two seeds.
Nanchang, China is where the other WTA tournament is scheduled for the first week of August, but it has only attracted one woman in the top 100, Kurumi Nara at 91.