Monday, 31 July 2017

Isner 2nd title in 2 weeks

No luck for Caroline Wozniacki in Sweden.  The Danish top ten player lost her fifth final from five attempts this year thanks to the efforts of Katerina Siniakova in Bastad.

Siniakova burst to a 4-1 lead in set one, and had break chances for a 5-1 advantage.
Wozniacki survived those and broke back herself.  Unperturbed, seventh seed Siniakova broke once more and served out the opener 6-3.

Wozniacki came back and lead 3-1 in the second set but could not hold back the Czech surge and the second title of 2017, and of her career came to Siniakova 6-3 7-5.  
Bastad is becoming a love affair for Katerina as she was runner up in 2016 to Laura Siegemund.

In the battle of the Mayers, Leonardo from Argentina outlasted home favourite Florian in three sets to take his second Hamburg title.  In control after taking set one, and seemingly not under threat in set two, Leo was broken late and Florian grabbed the leveller.

Leo finally split the two in the eighth game of the final set, with a break of serve converted to a match win in the following game 6-4 4-6 6-3.

John Isner took two tight tie breaks to defeat compatriot Ryan Harrison and win the Atlanta title, his second title in two weeks following his Newport success.  Newport was on grass and Atlanta was on hard court so Isner has proved he can convert surfaces in readiness for the American season.

Italian fourth seed Fabio Fognini ended the honeymoon run of qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in Gstaad, capturing the crown 6-4 7-5, a year after his previous title in Umag.
Hanfmann jumps from 170 to 125 in the world rankings.  Nadal is only 285 points away from grabbing the number one ranking from Andy Murray.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Wozniacki 5th final in 2017

Caroline Wozniacki has made four WTA tournament finals in 2017 without success but her fifth chance in Bastad looks to be a good one, her opponent being seventh seed Katerina Siniakova.  

However nothing should be taken for granted considering Siniakova disposed of third seed Caroline Garcia in an impressive semi final performance.
The 44th ranked Czech player did not drop serve in the first set, winning 67% of points on her serve and 55% on Garcia's.  The second set was tighter but Siniakova managed to secure the extra break to clinch a finals berth.

Hamburg will see an all Mayer final following the two semis - one all Germany, the other all Argentina.
Leonardo Mayer overcame the challenge of qualifier Federico Delbonis in straight sets to become the Argentine finalist.
Florian Mayer won through good fortune as fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber had to withdraw when leading 6-4 2-3.

Atlanta will fittingly see an all American final, with second seed John Isner matched up against fourth seed Ryan Harrison.  Harrison knocked out Kyle Edmund who had previously ended the tournament for top seed Jack Sock.

In Gstaad, 170th ranked player Yannick Hanfmann took out another seed Robin Haase (6) to reach the final and meet fourth seed Fabio Fognini who's semi final victim was Roberto Bautista Agut.
Hanfmann lost the opening set but won two tie breaks to claim victory.
The final is on and Fognini is a set up.

Nanchung has its title winner for 2017, second seed Shuai Peng, successful in straight sets over Japan's Nao Hibino.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Why Clay Court events now ?

In a continuation of ridiculous scheduling three of the five tournaments this week - Hamburg ATP, Gstaad ATP and Bastad ATP are being contested on clay when the next part of the WTA and ATP tours is the American hardcourt season.

This is in the same vein as the Bastad and Umag ATP, and Bucharest and Gstaad WTA tournaments immediately after Wimbledon.
It may be how the calendar is set but it makes no sense.

We completed our clay court season with a rousing climax in Paris.
Then Wimbledon equally ended the grass court season amazingly well.

Why then should players have to change back to clay court management when the next Grand Slam tournament is the hard court classic at Flushing Meadows ?
Lead up events in America will be on that surface and so many players will have had to adapt from clay to grass, back to clay, and then to hard court. 

Thankfully Atlanta ATP and Nanchang WTA have enabled players in those tournaments to adjust from grass to hardcourt instead of reverting to the clay which we finished with Roland Garros last month.

To the results themselves, and Hamburg has seen the humbling of six of the eight seeds prior to the quarter finals.
Leonardo Mayer, 30 years of age, and lucky loser from qualifying, dumped top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round and has found himself in the final eight to play unseeded Jiri Vesely, who dispensed with seventh seed Fernando Verdasco in the opening round.

Third seed Karen Khachanov survived the carnage to reach the quarter finals where he will battle qualifier Federico Delbonis, conqueror of eighth seed David Ferrer in a second round straight setter.

Fans were most pleased to see a German through when unseeded Philipp Kohlschreiber overcame fourth seed Gilles Simon in a three set clash.
He will play 96th ranked Argentine Nicolas Kicker who kicked fifth seed Benoit Paire out of Hamburg.

The final quarter final features another Mayer, this one a German, Florian, and unseeded.  His challenge will be sixth seed Diego Schwartzman, the fourth Argentine in the final eight.

Atlanta has been a little kinder to the seeds, five having made it to the quarters, with top seed Jack Sock having just beaten Dudi Sela and now to play fifth seed Kyle Edmund.

Other quarter finals are:

Ryan Harrison (4) v Christopher Eubanks (ranked 461 beating eighth seed and fellow American Jared Donaldson in round two)
Gilles Muller (3) v Tommy Paul (ranked 291 beating seventh seed Korean Hyeon Chung in the first round)
John Isner (2) v Lukas Lacko

In Bastad top seed Caroline Wozniacki battled through two three setters, down a break in each of the deciders, but finds herself in a quarter final, her opponent Kateryna Kozlova, ranked 124

Other quarter finals:

Elise Mertens v Aleksandra Krunic (2nd seed Carla Suarez Navarro and 8th seed Julia Goerges early casualties amongst this section of the draw)
Caroline Garcia (3) v Barbora Krejcikova (Czech qualifier ranked 138, fortunate receiver of a walkover from 6th seed Kiki Bertens.
Katerina Siniakova (7) v Anastasija Sevastova (2)

In Nanchung only one seed made the quarters, Shuai Peng (2).

Some extremely low ranked players have reached the final eight:

Yafan Wang (147) v Su-Wei Hsieh (112)
Nao Hibino (88) v Jing-Jing Lu (313)
Arina Rodionova (134) v Xinyun Han (126)
Lin Zhu (118) v Shuai Peng (seeded 2 but ranked 30)

Quarter finals in Gstaad are:

David Goffin (1) v Robin Haase (6)
Yannick Hanfmann v Joao Sousa (8)
Ernests Gulbis v Fabio Fognini (4)
Denis Istomin v Roberto Bautista Agut (2)

Fine effort by German qualifier Hanfmann, ranked 170, to oust 3rd seed Feliciano Lopez in the second round.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Bertens goes one better to win Gstaad

Titles were decided in the five tournaments post Wimbledon and there were some surprises along the way.

Newport saw Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden defy his ranking of 154 to battle top seed John Isner in the final for over an hour, only to come up just short 3-6 6-7.
Isner converted the single break point for the match, confirming how competitive Ebden had been.

David Ferrer found some of his old form to win yet another crown, this one in Bastad.
Ranking having dropped to 33, the Spaniard used his first serve more effectively than Alexandr Dolgopolov to claim both sets 6-4 6-4, and title number 28.

Lucky loser from qualifying Andrey Rublev managed to run through the main draw and defeat fourth seed Pablo Lorenzi convincingly in the final 6-4 6-2.  
Lorenzi's serve was attacked throughout, broken four times from seven opportunities.

Irina-Camelia Begu brought back memories of her form of 2016 with her Bucharest title, straight sets victor over big serving Julia Goerges.
Begu had a satisfactory first serve % of 75 but more impressive was the point winning off her second serve - 86%.

In a clash between the second and third seeds, Kiki Bertens (2) outlasted Anett Kontaveit (3) in three sets and almost two hours to take out the Gstaad title, one she lost to Viktorija Golubic in the 2016 final.

After two tight sets Bertens, despite a poor first serve percentage of 42%, won all of her points on the first delivery.  Kontaveit could only manage to win 4 points out of 11 of her first serves.
6-1 came easily to Kiki who won her second tournament for 2017, both on clay.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Tennis all over Europe

Yes the great weeks of Wimbledon are over and the champions have been celebrated, but the tours don't stop and the past week has seen five tournaments played.
ATP events have progressed in Newport, Umag and Bastad.
WTA events decided in Bucharest and Gstaad.

In Newport Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden has reached the semi finals, a second round win over sixth seed Lukas Lacko impressive.  He will meet unseeded German Peter Gojowczyk who knocked out second seed Ivo Karlovic in the quarter finals.

Other quarter finals are:

John Isner (1) v Dennis Novikov
Pierre-Hugues Herbert v Bjorn Fratangelo 

Quarter finals in Umag are:

David Goffin (1) v Ivan Dodig
Fabio Fognini (3) v Andrey Rublev
Jiri Vesely (8) v Paolo Lorenzi (4)
Alessandro Giannessi v Rogerio Dutra Silva

Dutra Silva upset top seed Gael Monfils in the second round after Monfils had a first round bye.

In Bastad, the Pablos have been defeated early.  Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta was ousted after an opening bye, retiring in the third set against Andrey Kuznetsov.
Third seed Pablo Cuevas also lost after an opening bye, his conqueror Henri Laaksonen.

Quarter finals:

Andrey Kuznetsov v Diego Schwartzman (7)
Karen Khachanov (5) v Alexandr Dolgopolov
David Ferrer (8) v Henri Laaksonen
Fernando Verdasco (6) v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (2)

Most of the seeds have survived to the quarter finals in Bucharest:

Anastasija Sevastova (1) v Ana Bogdan
Julia Goerges (3) v Alexandra Dulgheru
Irina-Camelia Begu (7) v Pauline Parmentier
Tatjana Maria (8) v Carla Suarez Navarro (2)

Top seed Caroline Garcia was toppled by Tereza Martincova, ranked 140, in the second round of the Gstaad tournament.
Garcia was one of four seeds not to reach the quarters.

Second seed Kiki Bertens has made the semi final where she will play 97th ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Remaining quarter finals:

Tereza Martincova v Antonia Lottner
Anett Kontaveit (3) v Carina Witthoeft (6)

As can be seen, all of the top ten players in the world and most of the top twenty have taken a break after Wimbledon but soon thoughts will turn to the American hard court season and back to the courts the very best will return.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Federer Record 8th Wimbledon Crown

Roger Federer made more history by winning his eighth Wimbledon title (the most by a male) and his nineteenth overall Grand Slam title (4 more than Rafa).
Sadly it was not in the greatest of circumstances because there was practically no opponent.  

Marin Cilic wasn't there, at least he was present in body, but the player whose talents and determination had brought him to win six matches at this tournament was nowhere to be found.  2017 saw the most one sided final since David Nalbandian said congratulations to Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 (coincidentally the year before Roger began his hobby of collecting GS trophies)

A mere ghost of Marin turned up to only give a yelp.  Roger of course happily thrashed the pants off the shell of Cilic, never looking in trouble. (faced one break point the entire match and that was saved consummately)
The first break came in game five and Cilic couldn't save the set. Serving at 3-5 and 30-0 to try and make Federer serve it out, Cilic threw in 3 forehand errors and a  double fault to finish the set 6-3 in Roger's favour.

Marin lost his serve straight away in set 2, giving Federer a 2-0 lead.  The backhand was breaking down now so nothing could help the Croatian out.
After Federer held for 3-0 Marin called for a medical time out although no obvious physical issues appeared to be hampering him.
Indeed he wasn't treated physically - he was just a mental wreck and needed some words of comfort and advice to stop the meltdown.

Back on court he held serve to the plaudits of the crowd.  That was however the final hurrah for Croatia for set two.  Despite holding two game points in his next service game Cilic managed to serve his way into bother and was broken, the game and effectively the set gone.
6-3 6-1 for Roger and the job was almost done - a quick Swiss assassination with a big payout.

Set three padded its way along to the 7th game where four errors from Cilic, two from each wing, were sufficient to donate the final break of the match to Federer, from which he nonchalantly completed victory in just an hour and 40 minutes 6-3 6-1 6-4.

Federer, to his credit, can only defeat what is thrown up against him, and he was fortunate this time that his main rivals were hamstrung with injury, or in Rafa's case simply outgunned earlier.
Roger played a brilliant tournament, and he would have been difficult for anyone to hurdle at any point, as Marin Cilic found to his utter disappointment in the final.

The rankings show Roger swapping spots with Stan Wawrinka, Roger now at 3 and Stan at 5.  Grigor Dimitrov slides back into the top ten at 10.  Murray's lead over Nadal has been sliced to less than 300 and Federer is closing close with no points to defend for the remainder of 2017. 

To illustrate just how Federer and Nadal have dominated in their respective comebacks, the year to date points leaders are:

Nadal            7095
Federer        6545
Thiem           3345
Wawrinka      3150
Cilic               2905

The following are some of the players who have achieved new career high rankings:

Pablo Carreno Busta - up 1 to 16 (prev high 17)
Gilles Muller - up 4 to 22 (prev high 26)
Mischa Zverev - up 2 to 28 (prev high 29)

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Muguruza Wimbledon Champ - and how !

Garbine Muguruza has joined an illustrious group of current players with two Grand Slam titles after her outstanding performance in the 2017 Ladies Wimbledon Final.

Not favoured by the majority of supposed experts, who were probably a little blinded by the emotion of a possible Venus win, Garbine should have been given more of a chance considering her preparation and match form pre final.

35 Grand Slam trophies are owned by the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova.
Then next of those still active are those with two apiece: Sveta Kuznetsova, Vika Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Angie Kerber.  Garbine can be added to these four now.

The beginning of the big match was an ace from Venus and a strong service hold from the five time champ.  Garbine's first point on her serve was a double fault but she held her nerve and serve, not dropping another point, two backhand volley winners sealing the game.

It took a couple of games but soon both players were into their stride and generally serves were being held with relative ease, the Venus forehand reliable and Muguruza confident in her attack.

Each saved a break point in games six and seven but the most significant moment in the final was the tenth game of set one where Venus held two set points following 2 forehand errors off the Spanish racquet. 
Garbine not only stood firm in this crisis, but she turned the match on its head from the minute the serve was held, significantly with an attack on the American forehand.

Three forehand mistakes and a double fault were too many gifts for Garbine not to take in the eleventh game and the 14th seed broke for 6-5 and held for a set lead.

Three games in succession became nine in a destruction so decisive and ruthless but beautiful to watch in itself.  Sad to see Venus brought to her knees by this wonderful display of relentless Serena-like tennis from the 23 year old, but there was no disgrace. The older sister had played a magnificent Wimbledon in her own right and losing 7-5 6-0 was just a reflection of the winners stunning exhibition.

14 winners and just 11 unforced errors is amazing from Garbine, when you think of how attacking her game is - Venus hit a few more errors but was more generous with her mistakes and that was pronounced in set two.

Obviously disappointed with the loss, Venus was all class at the interviews post match, genuinely delighted for Garbine's success and hopeful for her own future. (37 years young !)
Garbine, if she can remain fit, is truly the player for advertising the woman's tour.   Attractive and attacking tennis is what Serena Williams offers and Garbine attempts that type of game.  It's exciting, and not many others on the tour are capable of exhibiting it, certainly not at this level.

If Wimbledon 2017 has shown us many things, one is that women's tennis is alive and unpredictable - Karolina Pliskova is the new world number one despite again failing to make it past the second round.  Simona Halep is marginally behind her, while Vika Azarenka and Petra Kvitova are back and seriously challenging for their rightful positions amongst the top few.

Johanna Konta has moved up three spots to a career high of 4,  Garbine Muguruza has jumped ten places to number 5 and Venus Williams is improved by two back in the top ten at number 9.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Cilic to play scary Federer in final

The 2017 Wimbledon Men's Final will be a contest between Roger Federer and Marin Cilic as predicted before the semis, but the efforts of Tomas Berdych and Sam Querrey are to be commended.  Clearly the competitiveness of these semi finals gave us something that the ladies didn't. (not blaming Venus and Garbine for being too good)

First up were Cilic and Querrey, and the American was firing fastest first.
It didn't matter to Cilic who by serving first was always placing pressure on Querrey to play catch up.  
Not enough pressure to create a break point which never looked likely on either mans serve and a tie break resulted.

Cilic settled quickly, taking a 4-1 points lead but then lost the edge and 6-6 arrived.  Two unforced backhand mistakes from the Croatian saw the opening set slip from his grasp and Querrey was a set to the good.

Set two began with the American serving first and the advantage stayed with him until the seventh game where Cilic opened with a forehand winner and closed with a backhand winner, those enough with errors from the American racquet to cause a break of serve.

Cilic consolidated the break and won the set 6-4 and also the third in a tie break, putting Querrey under the pump, especially with Sam serving second.

When Sam broke in the third game, hopes had been regenerated amongst his fans, only to be reduced a little in the eighth game.  From 0-30 Cilic hit three clean winners to set up a break point which he duly converted for 4-4 and control once more.

At 5-6 Querrey began with a double fault and two unforced errors brought up two match points for Cilic.  A forehand winner on the second of these gave Cilic entrance to his first Wimbledon final 6-7 (6) 6-4 7-6 (3) 7-5.

His next challenge will be slightly more problematic.  Roger Federer is in his eleventh Wimbledon final, chasing his record eighth title, having ousted Tomas Berdych in a worthwhile semi final, yet frustrating if a Berdych fan.

For two fascinating sets the Czech player held serve, albeit through somewhat more difficulties than his Swiss counterpart, and two tie breaks ensued.

Federer is renowned for his abilities in tie breaks - let's be honest his abilities period - and poor Tomas was the latest victim, losing both of these and facing the improbable task of winning the final three sets to beat the maestro.
Coming back from two sets down in any match was something not achieved by Berdych since 2005, so history wasn't on his side.

Indeed Federer tightened the screws once Berdych failed to take advantage of two break points in the sixth game of the third set.  Federer served four brilliant points, two of them aces, to squash any chance.  
Next he broke the Czech serve after setting up break point with a forehand volley winner.

Holding serve to the finish line, Federer stepped into the final, with no Djokovic, Nadal or Murray in sight, but careful not to take Cilic lightly.  He did lose to Marin in the 2014 US Open semi final when everyone had already carved the Swiss name in the trophy.

Berdych can be pleased with his determined performance, knowing that Federer is currently playing tennis at a level similar to 2008-9 which is rather scary.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Garbine and Venus to contest final

The ladies semi finals at Wimbledon 2017 were both straight sets affairs, with Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza becoming the finalists as a result.

Venus destroyed local hopes by continuing her dominant tennis displayed throughout the tournament.  Winning a close first set against Johanna Konta was sufficient to give energy to charge into the second and Konta was virtually an onlooker for most of the remainder of the match.

Despite hitting 14 winners and only making 6 unforced errors in set one, Konta was punished on her second serve, losing eight of twelve points.
Serving at 4-5 the Brit generously donated four errors to Williams, handing the set to the American.

Set two was less of a contest - Venus faced no break points, hit 11 winners, made just 4 unforced errors and won 16 points out of 20 on serve.
Konta won just 17 of 34 on her serve.
Breaks came in the fourth and eighth (final) games and Williams won 6-4 6-2.

In the most brutal thrashing of the tournament to this point, Garbine Muguruza ended the amazing run of Magdalena Rybarikova.
Raising the standard of her game even higher, the Spanish number 14 seed dropped just a single game in each set as she clinically disposed of the Slovakian in a little over an hour.

22 winners to the Spanish star and only 11 mistakes of her own, five break conversions of the twelve opportunities created, and just over half of the points won by Garbine were off the Rybarikova serve.

If Venus was super impressive in her route to the final, then Garbine was possibly more so.

A final to come of which to savour.

Mens semis next and hopefully I can predict as perfectly as I did for the ladies.

Federer should be too adept for Berdych and Cilic enough equipped to account for Querrey (although I'm wanting the American to win and continue  a great story)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Federer cruising to his 8th

Roger Federer has been given a free fide through to another Wimbledon title (his eighth) thanks to unfortunate exits by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in quarter final matches.
True Roger played a terrific match himself to defeat Milos Raonic, avenging last year's semi final loss, but Djokovic retiring against Berdych means avoiding that tough mountain to climb and Querrey's epic win over an obviously sub par Murray leaves Federer as the overwhelming favourite to take more silverware.

Querrey is the real story, irrespective of Andy's troubles.  To hang in there through three sets and then just take full advantage of the top seeds worsening condition took a great deal of focus and great tennis.  His serving was fantastic and ground strokes some of his best for the tournament.

Sad to see Murray struggle so much but also good to watch him stay to the end and allow the American win on his merits 3-6 6-4 6-7 (4) 6-1 6-1.
Querrey hit 70 winners against just 30 unforced errors, and even Murray was on the plus side with 33 winners and 19 unforced errors.

Whilst Federer was a standout with his 6-4 6-2 7-6 (4) thrashing of Raonic - 46 winners and just 9 unforced mistakes - Marin Cilic is still in contention and could be a danger to Federer if things go right for the 2014 US Open champ.
He did beat Roger in the semis on the way to winning at Flushing Meadows that year.

Cilic ended the Wimbledon hopes of Gilles Muller in the best of the quarter finals, winning a tight five setter 3-6 7-6 (6) 7-5 5-7 6-1.  The Nadal match finally must have worn Muller down as Cilic dominated the final set.
The Croatian is warm favourite to edge past Querrey and make his first Wimbledon final.  Either way there will be one debut finalist and the American is confident enough to say it will be him.

Hard to see Berdych beating Federer, although he did win a quarter final against Roger back in 2010, and funny things can happen, but rarely.

Women's semis next and my selections are Venus Williams to upset Johanna Konta and all of Britain, and Garbine Muguruza to end the fairytale run of Magdalena Rybarikova.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Muguruza staking claims

Because of the incompetence of organisers the first match decided on women's quarter final day was that between Novak Djokovic and Adrian Mannarino.
Djokovic was happy to wrap this up in straight sets and prepare himself for a quarter final with Tomas Berdych, whose Wimbledon this year has been most impressive.
Mannarino played a pretty good match against the second seed, especially being down a set and a break. He forced Djokovic to a second set tie break, losing it seven points to five.
A single break of serve in set three was sufficient to seal proceedings but Novak knew that he had been tested somewhat.

The head to head record against Berdych is 25 from 27 for Djokovic including the last 12.  The third meeting was the Wimbledon semi final in 2010 which Berdych won so he can use that as some hope.

Garbine Muguruza (14) continued her terrific tennis, ending Sveta Kuznetsova's Wimbledon hopes in two clinical sets. Power mixed with grace has seen the Spanish star emerge as a favourite, particularly since she has been a finalist before (2015).

In another high class battle, Kuznetsova (7) hit 21 winners and only committed 12 unforced errors, yet was unable to break the reliable Muguruza serve, and the timing of the single breaks of the Russian serve early in each set was impeccable.

Muguruza will play Slovakian surprise packet, 87th ranked Magdalena Rybarikova, who accounted for an erratic Coco Vandeweghe in their quarter final.
Rybarikova was ranked as low as the 400s earlier this year, having had to undergo surgery on her knee and wrist, and missing the second half of 2016.
Her record on grass is good, however, and by taking out Karolina Pliskova and now Vandeweghe, she is proving that in spades.
Never having been beyond the third round in a Grand Slam event before, a semi final is fantastic for Magdalena.

The Brits are really into Wimbledon 2017 with Murray in the quarters and now Konta (Aussie born) into the semis.
Another three setter was required and Johanna ultimately overcame Simona Halep in style, with a superb serving exhibition by both players.
The first two sets were split by tie breaks with only two breaks of serve included.
The decider was again close, but in the sixth game Konta attacked the Halep backhand and drew a couple of errors, helping create the critical break of serve for 4-2.

This was enough and Johanna Konta has raised Brit hopes for a first home win since Virginia Wade 40 years ago.
To even reach the final, Konta must defeat five time champ Venus Williams, who knocked off another youngster almost half her age, Jelena Ostapenko.

Venus is looking dangerous, her serve damaging.  In the last four and knowing how to win this thing must make her a big hurdle for Konta. A great semi final is guaranteed.

Mens quarter finals are next on the agenda and the match of the four in my opinion has to be Federer v Raonic.  Raonic defeated the Swiss master here in the semis last year so revenge is on Roger's mind no doubt.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Muller beats Nadal in classic

The round of sixteen was clearly highlighted by the almost five hour classic between fourth seed Rafa Nadal and sixteenth seed Gilles Muller.
Muller is 34 but hadn't won a title on the ATP tour until Sydney this year.
He added the Ricoh Open in s-Hertogenbosch recently and now has the scalp of Nadal at Wimbledon, seeing him in the quarter finals for the first time.

After winning the opening two sets, Muller could expect a comeback from the twice Wimbledon champ and it came without a significant drop in the standard of Muller's contribution.  It was Nadal giving his best and at two sets apiece most pundits were writing Muller's exit story.

Serving first in the final set, however, was an advantage too good to abuse, and Muller held serve a lot easier than Nadal.  Once 4-5 was reached, the Spaniard was constantly under pressure to stay in the match, because Muller was rarely in trouble on serve.  Indeed Rafa saved two match points to level at 5-5.

No breaks of serve and the key game was number 19 where Muller saved four break points, making fourteen of sixteen for the match.  Finally it was Nadal who wilted and the match was Muller's 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13.

Organisers made a ridiculous decision not to move the Novak Djokovic v Adrian Mannarino match to Centre Court which was vacant, knowing that the Nadal / Muller match would finish too late for it to be contested on Court One.
Pathetic excuses were offered but the result is that the winner of this match will now have one day less than others to recover after he has played his fourth round match.

Murray, Federer and Cilic all rolled through with no problems, while Raonic, Berdych and Querrey all took five sets to overcome A.Zverev, Thiem and Anderson respectively.

Quarter finals will see:

Murray v Querrey 
Muller v Cilic
Raonic v Federer
Berdych v winner of Djokovic and Mannarino 

The women's fourth round matches were interesting but the best match was Angie Kerber (1) v Garbine Muguruza (14).
A high standard throughout, the top seed managed to return the Spanish serve with enough smarts to grab the first set.
Muguruza struck back immediately and levelled the match, attacking all the way.  Both women were hitting the ball with great authority, creating a hot spectacle.

Set three saw an unusual series of service breaks from games 3-6.  Muguruza stemmed this trend and games went with serve until 4-5, Kerber under pressure to hold.
Kerber wasted three game points and lost serve and the match.
Muguruza attacked all the time and it paid off.
55 winners to 27, net points won 35 to 5.

Form player Elina Svitolina lost out to Roland Garros champ Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets, and Aga Radwanska also left without taking a set off Sveta Kuznetsova.
Coco Vandeweghe upset Caroline Wozniacki, who still cannot find a way past Wimbledon's round of sixteen which she has reached six times.

Local hope Johanna Konta scraped past Caroline Garcia, and Simona Halep ended the fairytale run of Vika Azarenka.
Venus Williams was too experienced for Ana Konjuh, and in the unseeded clash Magdalena Rybarikova survived a three setter against Petra Martic.

Quarter finals are:

Muguruza v Kuznetsova
Rybarikova v Vandeweghe 
Williams v Ostapenko 
Konta v Halep 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Round of sixteen reached

As we reach the first Sunday at Wimbledon - its rest day - the round of sixteen has been determined with third round matches largely going to seedings.  French fans will be disappointed though, seeing both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12) and Gael Monfils (15) exit.  Adrian Mannarino, Benoit Paire and Caroline Garcia remain.

Sam Querrey (24) dismissed a much larger name last year in Novak Djokovic but still Tsonga has been a semi finalist here previously so this win is big in Querrey's career.
He has a chance of making his second Wimbledon quarter final in succession and will play unseeded Kevin Anderson on Monday.

Monfils lost to fellow Frenchman Adrian Mannarino after leading two sets to one.  Unseeded Mannarino similarly overcame Yuichi Sugita in the second round, having to win the final two sets.  Mannarino lost in the lead up Antalya tournament final to Sugita so his form has been solid.
Next for Mannarino is second seed Djokovic.

Murray (1), Djokovic (2), Federer (3) and Nadal (4) all have breezed into the final 16, although Murray was almost forced into a fifth set by Fabio Fognini.
Others to impress through to this point include Milos Raonic (6), Marin Cilic (7), Dominic Thiem (8), Alexander Zverev (10), Tomas Berdych (11), Grigor Dimitrov (13) and Gilles Muller (16). 

Benoit Paire, unseeded, and a replacement Frenchman if you like, has done well to find his way to a fourth round match with Andy Murray, and 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut has earned a clash with Cilic following a fine victory over ninth seed Nishikori.

We lost a number of potential female Wimbledon winners early but it has firmed up since with top players demonstrating top tennis.

In the round of sixteen we see last year's finalist Angie Kerber gaining better and better form as the tournament progresses.  Her three sets win over Shelby Rogers may have come with an opening dropped set but her winners (25) to unforced errors (14) count over the whole match suggested a fight and then control not seen enough earlier in 2017.

The fourth round match with 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza (14) will potentially be one to remember, Muguruza also improving steadily with each match, disposing of Sorana Cirstea for the loss of just 4 games in the third round.

Other top seeds joining those two in the round of sixteen include Simona Halep (2), Elina Svitolina (4), who since her close first round shave has been dominant, losing just nine games in two matches, Caroline Wozniacki (5), Brit favourite Johanna Konta (6), and twice Grand Slam title winner Svetlana Kuznetsova (7).

Five time Wimbledon champ, and the only woman left to have won the title here, 37 year old Venus Williams, is incredible.  The older sister is playing as well as anyone and her fourth round encounter with Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh (27), almost half the age of the American legend, is one to savour.

Previous finalist Aga Radwanska (9) has had an ordinary season by her high standards, but her ability on grass has launched her into the last 16 and a match up against long time rival Kuznetsova.

Roland Garros Champ Jelena Ostapenko (13) is threatening again and will play Svitolina in another showcase match among the round of sixteen.

The unseeded clash sees the Pliskova (3) conqueror, Magdelena Rybarikova continuing her terrific tennis, playing Croatian qualifier Petra Martic.

Of the two remaining Americans Coco Vandeweghe defeated one of her own, Alison Riske, to earn a clash with Wosniacki, and French player Caroline Garcia (21) dismissed another Amercian, Madison Brengle, to reach the fourth round against Konta.

Possibly the favourite of the impartial supporters is Vika Azarenka.  The recent mum is only just back to the tour and yet she is through to a round of sixteen match against second seed Simona Halep.
Halep will start favourite but should watch out.  Vika has won two matches from a set down, proving that her fighting qualities are still there.  She also knocked out a quality grass court seed in Elena Vesnina (15), so all the double Grand Slam title holder abilities appear to be retained and on display.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Pliskova another Czech failure

I'm so disappointed - for two days in a row Czech tennis has been rocked and my prediction of a Czech final in the women's draw has been totally shattered.
Day 3 saw Petra Kvitova's dreams of a third Wimbledon disappear and Day 4 Karolina Pliskova once more failed to last beyond the second round.

Pliskova won the first set against Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, ranked 87 in the world, but her game fell apart after that.
Rybarikova hit 33 winners for the match and restricted her unforced errors.  At the net she was far more successful, winning 25 points from 36 ventures, as opposed to Pliskova with a dreadful 13 from 32.

Joining Pliskova on the scrapheap was her compatriot Lucie Safarova (32) defeated by American Shelby Rogers in three sets.

Other women's seeds to lose were Daria. Kasatkina (29), promising Estonian Anett Kontaveit doing the damage, and Kristina Mladenovic (12), American Alison Riske too strong on the day.

America has 5 women left in the final 32 including Venus Williams, the only player still standing to have won this title before (5 times).
It could have been 6 had Christina McHale converted one of her match points against Aga Radwanska.  
Radwanska came from behind to register one of her best wins for the year 5-7 7-6 (7) 6-3.

The previous 2 beaten Wimbledon finalists were impressive in reaching the third round, Kerber and Muguruza knocking over Belgians Flipkens and Wickmayer respectively.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were at the top of their games in dismissing Adam Pavlasek and Dusan Lajovic in about an hour and half each.

Not as much success for the Americans in the men's draw with seeds Jack Sock (17) and John Isner (23) bowing out to Austrian Sebastian Ostner, ranked 217 and veteran Dudi Sela respectively.

The expected mouth watering third round clash between Djokovic and del Potro will not occur thanks to Latvian Ernests Gulbis.  The once top ten player, despite making the fourth round of Roland Garros last year, is currently ranked 589, yet pulled off a massive upset, serving wonderfully and countering the powerful forehand of the Argentine, winning in four sets.

Other top seeds to do well apart from Roger and Novak include Alexander Zverev (10), Gael Monfils (15), Grigor Dimitrov (13), all straight sets winners.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Kvitova gone - major upset

So much for my prediction of an all Czech women's final at Wimbledon this year.
Petra Kvitova was taken out of the tournament in the second round by American Madison Brengle, ranked 95 in the world and having won only 7 matches from 18 attempts before this achievement.

After winning the second set 6-1 to level the match Kvitova seemed set to run away with things.  Instead it was Brengle who steadied and took advantage of the Czech errors in the final set.
For the match Kvitova paid the price of a poor percentage of points won at the net and and an overall total of unforced mistakes.

Brengle returned better and kept her game much tidier, fully deserving the win.

Another American, Madison Keys, seeded 17, was not as fortunate, losing to Italian unseeded Camila Giorgi in three sets.
This Madison won a thrilling tie break second set 12-10 to force a decider, but Giorgi blitzed it 6-1.

In possibly the match of the year on the women's circuit, 6th seed Johanna Konta had to pull out all stops to slide past Donna Vekic 10-8 in the third.
Vekic had break point to lead 9-8 and serve for the match but Konta saved it and then broke Vekic and won the three hour plus battle.  The pair hit 97 winners between them.
Vekic had upset Konta in the Nottingham final so this was sweet revenge for Konta as she reached the third round at Wimbledon for the first time.

While Murray, Cilic, Halep, Tsonga, Cibulkova and Nadal easily won their second round matches, other seeds encountered more trouble.  
Lucas Pouille (14) exited thanks to Jerzy Janowicz in four sets.

More carnage in the women's draw -
Anastasija Sevastova (18) lost to in form Heather Watson, the locals having another Brit to cheer.
Returning as a mum, Vika Azarenka defeated Elena Vesnina (15) in straight sets.

Barbora Strycova (22) was another high profile Czech player to fall, joining Kristyna Pliskova and Petra Kvitova, losing to Naomi Osaka after winning the second set 6-0.

Carla Suarez Navarro (25) was thrashed by Shuai Peng 6-2 6-2.

Federer and Djokovic will be the highlights of the fourth day, but Karolina Pliskova, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro, Caroline Wozniacki and others will offer excitement in their matches too.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Day 2 top seeds on fire

Day Two of Wimbledon 2017 was not kind to Australia, mirroring Day One. All players wearing the hopes of those down under lost their matches except for the one surprise packet.

Arina Rodionova, ranked 166 in the world, shocked the 16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in an entertaining three setter which went to 9-7.  The Aussie saved seven match points before taking the victory - her first ever win in a Grand Slam main draw match.

Not much effort needed for Federer and Djokovic as their respective opponents retired just part way into the second set after being a set down.

Most seeds were on fire but a few of the lower seeds suffered defeats including Richard Gasquet (22) at the hands of a fired up David Ferrer, Kiki Bertens (23) denied by 63rd ranked Sorana Cirstea, and Daria Gavrilova (20) upset by Croatian qualifier Petra Martic, currently ranked 135

Laura Davis (28) and Shuai Zhang (30) also failed to reach the second round.

Probably the biggest shock was Feliciano Lopez (19) losing to Adrian Mannarino.
Lopez had been brilliant in his lead up tournaments, finalist at Stuttgart and winning Queens Club.

Karolina Pliskova displayed the form which has her as one of the favourites, and similar impressive showings came from Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Kristina Mladenovic.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Wawrinka out on Day One

The biggest news on Day One of  Wimbledon 2017 was certainly the exit of fifth seed Stan Wawrinka.  The reigning US Open champ started slowly, losing the opening set to tall Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Although Stan drew level at a set all, the world number 49 has too much in store and stormed home 6-4 6-1.  

Of course Medvedev had not been playing average tennis.  It took Novak Djokovic to oust him from the. Eastbourne semi finals just s few days ago.  Now the draw opens up for Daniil and it could be a long stay based on his opening showing.

Not many other upsets, but some close matches for top seeds.
Elina Svitolina found Ash Barty hard work.  The fourth seed prevailed in straight sets, long ones at that.  7-5  7-6 tie break 10 points to 8.
Barty converted 3 break points from 11 chances, Svitolina 4 from 6, and Barty hit 40 winners to 26.  Svitolina probably survived her most difficult match of the first week.

Another fortunate seed was Dominika Cibulkova, the eighth seed who had lost her past four matches.  Cibulkova won her first set against Andrea Petkovic but the German, ranked 90 levelled the match and pushed Dominika to 16 games in the decider before allowing the Slovakian to proceed to the second round.

Comeback wins were celebrated by 1. Petra Kvitova, who after a three double fault opening service game gave plenty of evidence that she can win her third Wimbledon, and 2. Vika Azarenka, who won a three set battle with teenager Cici Bellis.

Rafa Nadal had no worries of previous years where he lost in early rounds (2012, 2013, 2015) and destroyed Aussie John Millman.
Andy Murray eliminated memories of recent bad results by taking Russian Alexander Bublik to the cleaners, surrendering just seven games over three sets.

Seeds to fall in addition to Wawrinka were Nick Kyrgios (20), retiring with his hip injury, Ivo Karlovic (21), in a five setter to Aljaz Bedene (4 tie breakers)  and Fernando Verdasco (31) in four sets to Kevin Anderson.

Seeds in the ladies draw gone on Day One are Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (26), losing 8-6 in the decider (as fellow Croatian Karlovic did in the fifth), and Roberta Vinci (31) who exited thanks to Kristyna Pliskova.

Simona Halep (2) and Johanna Konta (6) were impressive in their straight sets victories, as was Venus Williams.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Wimbledon is here !

Wimbledon begins tonight Australian time and it promises to be the most wide open tournament in many a year, especially in the women's draw.
Even the men's draw offers doubt, with defending champion Andy Murrsy in a form slump, affected by injury.
Federer and Djokovic have won titles coming in and they are drawn to meet in a semi final should they progress that far.
Murray has Nadal in a semi if they manage tough challenges beforehand.

It is difficult to imagine players other than the top four seeds winning the title but there are those that can cause difficulty along the way.

For Murray, it could be Fabio Fognini in the third round, either Lucas Pouille or Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round or Stan Wawrinka in the quarters.

Nadal has the possibility of meeting rising Russian Khachanov in round 3, Muller in the round of sixteen, and either Nishikori or Cilic in a quarter final.

Federer could be clearing hurdles of awkward Dolgopolov first up, Mischa Zverev in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round and Raonic in the quarters.

Djokovic faces del Potro in the third round if the draw goes to plan and if he manages that challenge it could well be Monfils in the fourth round, a replay of the Eastbourne final last week.
A quarter final against Dominic Thiem is on the cards.

I suspect we could see a replay of the 2011 final - Novak Djokovic v Rafa Nadal.

Novak appears to have his mojo back and that is a danger sign for anyone drawn to play him.
While it has been clay that has enabled Nadal to display his dominance in 2017, no one can deny his capability to win on grass.  Hot form should give him confidence to make another Wimbledon final.

No Serena Williams, but a brilliant field nevertheless fighting for the women's crown.

Karolina Pliskova has put her hand up by starring at Eastbourne, taking the title in a great match against Caroline Wozniacki, who also has real claims to a fine Wimbledon.
Pliskova is drawn to meet Shuai Zhang in round three, before a tough fourth round encounter with Kiki Mladenovic.
Should she survive those the quarter final will probably be against Wozniacki, the player she conquered in the Eastbourne finale.

Petra Kvitova is a dual Wimbledon champion, and despite her limited lead up, she has won Birminpham and is worthy of being one of the top fancies.
To win through to another final she would likely need to defeat Garcia or Cepelova in round three and Johanna Konta, the sixth seed, in round four.

A quarter final would possibly be contested against second seed Simona Halep and the semi opponent could be fourth seed Elina Svitolina.
Svitolina has a tough opener, playing unseeded Ash Barty, who stretched Kvitova to three sets in the recent Birmingham final.

Top seed Kerber is a doubtful quantity, out of touch lately, although she played better tennis in Eastbourne making the quarters.
The draw isn't friendly, possible opponents Flipkens in the second round, Safarova third round (both former semi finalists), Muguruza in fourth round (2015 runner up) and two time Grand Slam winner Sveta Kuznetsova in the quarters.

If Angie makes it through all that, she likely would run into serving powerhouse Pliskova.

I am predicting an all Czech final between Karolina Ploskova and Petra Kvitova, but with no great conviction.
Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko should not be left out of consideration.
Neither should a number of other players including Mladenovic, Muguruza, Konta (if fully fit) and vintage Venus Williams.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Pliskova and Djokovic take titles

After a high quality women's final at Eastbourne Karolina Pliskova has loomed as a favourite for the Wimbledon title.

Despite a fine match played by Caroline Wozniacki, she could not handle the brilliant serving exhibition by the Czech world number three, especially in the opening set.

Pliskova won all but a single point on her first serve, and seven of eleven on her second  serve.  On the only break point available to either player in the set, it was Pliskova who converted to take a 3-2 lead and maintain the break to a 6-4 lead.

 Set two saw Wozniacki have four chances to break the Pliskova serve in the sixth game but all came to nothing and it was later that the third seed took advantage and broke Wozniacki to lead 5-4 and be able to serve for the title.

This was done with purpose and Pliskova won her second title on grass, this the more prestigious, going one better than last year at Eastbourne where she lost to Dominika Cibulkova.
While she may have lost her fourth final out of four contested in 2017, Wozniacki is in top form and has every hope of reaching deep into the Wimbledon draw.

The men's final was also a good class match, but Gael Monfils just was a touch below what Novak Djokovic offered on the day.
The top seed came into the tournament looking to regain form with Wimbledon clearly in mind, and he hadn't lost a set all week.

Djokovic broke straight away and with a first serve percentage of 87% was in control throughout the opening set, although Monfils threatened at various stages.
Importantly Djokovic claimed another break in the ninth game which clinched him the set and allowed him first serve in set two.

Surprisingly it was Monfils who was more impressive in holding serve in the second set as both players avoided breaks for the first nine games.
Djokovic had survived three break points while Monfils had none to worry about.
However at 4-5 the pressure of staying in the match was too much as Djokovic delivered the killer blow.
Another title to the Serb to give him just the tonic going into a Grand Slam tournament in which he failed at round two last year, triggering an average (for him) run since.

Despite his 14th straight loss to Djokovic, Monfils played some great grass court tennis at Eastbourne and should be pleased in readiness for Wimbledon.

Meanwhile in Antalya Japanese player Yuichi Sugita won his first ATP title, defeating Adrian Mannarino.
The opening set was easy but it took a second set tie break to secure victory.