Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Federer escapes - just

Rain created havoc on Day Two of the 2017 US Open, but not before Naomi Osaka had  created havoc of her own for defending champion Angie Kerber.

Not since 2005 had a champion lost in the first round after winning the title the previous year. Kerber followed the dreaded example of Sveta Kuznetsova.

Continuing a poor year, Kerber was easy fodder for an aggressive and fearless young Japanese player.

Despite hitting 10 winners to 5, Osaka could not find a way through the Kerber defence. In fact Angie had the first break point in the fifth game, saved by a winning backhand volley.

In the eighth game Kerber wasted a game point and a double fault presented Osaka with her initial break chance which she devoured hungrily.  Serving for the set at 5-3 Kerber saw two chances to break back slip away as well as set one.

Osaka smashed the sixth seed in set two, contributing a further 12 winners and limiting unforced errors to 5.  Kerber's unforced error count increased by 10 to a match total of 23, while winners only reached 9 by the conclusion of a decisive 6-3 6-1 dismissal.

In the space of 2 days three of the top eight seeds are gone.

The four other matches decided prior to rain were:

Karolina Pliskova (1) d Magda Linette 6-2 6-1

Barbora Strycova (23) d Misaki Doi 6-1 6-3

Yanina Wickmayer d Lesia Tsurenko (28) 6-3 6-1

Sorana Cirstea d Lesley Kerkhove 6-1 6-3

Other matches incomplete will be finished on Day 3, weather permitting.

Jelena Ostapenko was fortunate to have her match against Lara Arruabarrena shifted to Centre Court in order to complete - the Roland Garros champ was leading 6-2 1-6 3-1 and ended the clash quickly, winning the remaining three games and booking a second round berth 6-2 1-6 6-1, 

No further action on outside courts but the scheduled Centre Court battles were concluded.

Rafa Nadal (1) began scratchily but soon flowed into a nice rhythm, waving goodbye to Dusan Lajovic 7-6 (6) 6-2 6-2.

Madison Keys (15) was too accomplished for Elise Mertens, winning 6-3 7-6 (6).

Then, finally, the match of the day - Roger Federer (3) v Frances Tiafoe, the American teenager.

All sensible thought suggested this would be over in three sets and the crowd would be home relatively early.

Not so as Tiafoe had all the running in set one.  Federer committed 18 unforced errors and was terrible on his second serve.

One break was enough and the first set was the American's.

Roger settled , as one would expect, and cleaned up the next two sets 6-2 6-1 and people prepared for a fast finish.

Another brilliant effort from the young talent - he embarrassed the third seed 6-1 and forced him into a fifth and deciding set.  

Federer achieved a break in the fourth game and held on to that until he served for the match at 5-3.

Tiafoe pressured the Swiss great and incredibly broke back, but the adrenalin of the moment was too much and Federer capitalised on some mistakes to break again and win the match 4-6 6-2 6-1 1-6 6-4.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Sharapova shines

Day One of the US Open and clearly the highlight came at night with the match between second seed Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova, awarded a wild card and playing her first US Open since 2014.

A record of 6-0 head to head against Halep, including the 2014 Roland Garros final, and an astounding 17-0 when required to play on Arthur Ashe at night, would normally be enough to intimidate.

However, Halep knew that match fitness put her in front in that category at least.

From the outset, Sharapova looked exactly like the 5 time Grand Slam title winner we saw before the suspension.  Her movement was swift and smooth and she was hitting winners all over the place.  Errors came, but expected with the power game being exhibited.  

Sharapova broke the Halep serve in the fourth game, the Romanian second delivery under serious pressure.  Halep returned favour immediately and the breaks continued in the next two games, enabling Simona to hold and level in the eighth game 4-4.

Serving to stay in the set at 4-5, Simona had three game points before a double fault gave Maria a set point.  Another forehand winner sealed the set and things looked ominous for the world number two.

Worse was to come for Halep as Sharapova broke again in the fourth game and had a break point in the sixth game to lead 5-1. It was saved by Halep and precipitated a great run of five games from the second seed to steal the set from Sharapova 6-4 and keep the match very alive.

Sharapova steadied and raced to 3-0 in the decider.  She kept the advantage for the remainder of set three, with no further service breaks.  The only break point Sharapova faced in the set was 30-40 when serving for the match. An unforced error from Halep saw that opportunity disappear.

Sharapova ultimately served out the match in two and three quarter hours 6-4 4-6 6-3. 

Hard to recall a higher quality first round match at Grand Slam level.

To illustrate just how the match was on Sharapova's racquet, she hit 60 winners and 64 unforced errors - Halep 15 winners and 14 errors.  Halep displayed terrific resolve, saving 17 of the 22 break points that Sharapova had at her disposal.

A big blow for Halep's chances of grabbing the world number one spot. 

Garbine Muguruza is the biggest threat to Karolina Pliskova's tenuous hold on the top spot should her form hold.

The number three seed and Wimbledon champ easily won her first round match against luckless Varvara Lepchenko 6-0 6-3.

Other seeds to progress were :

Caroline Wozniacki (5), Venus Williams (9), Dominika Cibulkova (11), Petra Kvitova (13), Anastasija Sevastova (16), Caroline Garcia (18), Shuai Peng (22), Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (29), Julia Goerges (30) and Magdalena Rybarikova (31).

Ousted were:

Johanna Konta (7) in a huge upset, losing to 78th ranked Serb player Aleksandra Krunic.

Ana Konjuh (21) after winning the opening set, lost 11 of the next 12 games to Ash Barty

Kiki Bertens (24) downed by Maria Sakkari, ranked 95.

Lauren Davis (32) surprised by fellow American Sofia Kenin, ranked 139.

Three Australian women played and won their matches, but of the four Aussie men, three will pick up first round losers cheques - Bernard Tomic, Thanasi Kokkinakis (after leading Janko Tipsarevic.two sets to love) and John-Patrick Smith.

One stood out, and in a big way - Jordan Thompson repeated his Davis Cup achievement and defeated the crowd favourite, 13th seed Jack Sock,

After taking the first two sets (the second set tie break lasting 26 points) Jordan suffered a Sock in the mouth as the American raced through set three 6-1.

The Australian battled back and held two match points on Sock's serve at 4-5 in set four.

These were saved and the 13th seed won that and the next two games to level at 2 sets apiece.

The final set appeared to belong to Thompson when he broke the Sock serve in the fourth game. Sock fixed that immediately and dismantled the next two Thompson service games to lead 4-3 with his delivery to come.

Not to be outdone, the Aussie levelled and then held to be one game away from round two.

Three unforced Sock errors gave Thompson two match points - the second was converted into a terrific hard fought victory and heartbreak for Jack Sock and the crowd. 6-2 7-6 (12) 1-6 5-7 6-4.

Other seeds to fall were:

David Ferrer (21) to Mikhail Kukushkin

Karen Khachanov (25) to Yen-Hsun Lu

Robin Haase (32) to Kyle Edmund

Mischa Zverev (23) was down two sets to one against Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, ranked 710, before escaping in five sets.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas (20) also had a scare, going the five set distance against Denis Istomin, winning a fifth set tie break.

Roger and Rafa headline Day Two, together with Karolina Pliskova, Grigor Dimitrov, Madison Keys, Nick Kyrgios, Angie Kerber and Elina Svitolina 

US Open Womens Singles Preview

The women's singles at the US Open is a much more difficult proposition than the men's to predict.

Four former champions are in the field - Venus Williams (2000 and 2001), Sveta Kuznetsova (2004), Maria Sharapova (2006) and last years winner Angie Kerber.

Past finalists in the draw include Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Roberta Vinci and last years runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

Big interest In the first round match between second seed Simona Halep and wild card Maria Sharapova.  We don't know how Maria is travelling but she is not the ideal opening competition Halep would have preferred.

Maria has won all 6 clashes with Simona from 2012 through 2015, but of course circumstances now give the Romanian her best chance of breaking her duck.

Of the top 16 seeds the following have not won a WTA title in 2017:

Caroline Wozniacki (5) (6 finals)

Angie Kerber (6) (1 final)

Sveta Kuznetsova (8) (1 final)

Venus Williams (9) (2 Grand Slam finals)

Aga Radwanska (10) (1 final)

Dominika Cibulkova (11)  (1 final)

However I don't believe the winner will come from these - Wozniacki may be in the last eight but I think her run stops there.

The ones to watch for me are the top four seeds and Madison Keys (15).

Karolina Pliskova (1) may have lost in the Cincinnati semis but it was to a hot Muguruza, so no shame there.

The Czech star has won three titles this year and was ever so close to winning the US Open final last year.  The draw suggests a quarter final match up with Sveta Kuznetsova.

Simona Halep (2) won Madrid this year and has made three finals subsequently.  Although unsuccessful in those, Halep has enough experience in Grand Slam finals, including this years Roland Garros, to represent a more than credible threat - her likely quarter final opponent is seventh seed Johanna Konta.

Wimbledon champ Garbine Muguruza (3) played one of the best women's matches of 2017 in capturing the Cincinnati title a week or so back, a timely warning to everyone.

That form is enough to rate her one of the hot favourites to be in the last few, if not winning.

The one thing against the Spaniard is her record at Flushing Meadows, never having made it past the second round.

II believe that can be overcome in 2017.

Quarter final opposition, if she reaches that far, should be Caroline Wozniacki (5), a previous two time finalist.

Elina Svitolina is capable of anything this year, having won five titles, including a record three Premier 5 trophies in the one season.

However her Grand Slam efforts have fallen short of other performances. Third round at Aus Ooen, quarter final at Roland Garros and round of sixteen at Wimbledon, do not inspire ultimate success in New York.  Still, I put her in the mix.

Madison Keys, the home crowd hope, along with Venus, could be the first hurdle for Svitolina, drawn to meet the fourth seed in the fourth round.

Keys won Stanford and held three match points against Cincinnati champ Muguruza in the fourth round there.

She is a dangerous commodity.

My tips, for what they are worth:

Semi finals:

Karolina Pliskova (1) v Madison Keys (15)

Garbine Muguruza (3) v Simona Halep (2)

Monday, 28 August 2017

US Open Mens Singles Preview

The US Open begins in a number of hours and I am going to preview the singles, firstly the men's draw.

For many years the winner has come from the top seeds, and I see no reason for that trend to cease.  Perhaps Juan Martin del Potro, seeded 24, may cause some damage, but he is likely to run into Federer in a quarter final should they both make it that far.

Of the top 16 seeds (Sam Querrey is seeded 17 but effectively is the 16th seed thanks to the late withdrawal of Andy Murray (the original second seed)

The draw is a mess with the fifth seed, Marin Cilic, taking Murray's place in the draw instead of the now effective second seed Roger Federer.

It means that we have the 2 highest ranked players drawn to meet in a semi final instead of the final as should be the case.

And Querrey has been placed where Cilic was, giving him the advantages of a top eight player, ridiculous as well.

Still, the best player will win, despite dumb draw decisions.

In 2017, the Grand Slam titles have gone to Roger Federer (2) and Rafa Nadal, so it would be hard to go past those two in predicting the winner.

However at least one will be gone before the final as they can only meet in a semi final.

Of the other.14 top seeds, Zverev (4) has won five titles this year, including 2 Masters 1000 victories over Djokovic in Rome and Federer in Montreal. He is ready to step up to Grand Slam glory 

Zverev is in the softest part of the draw with only three American seeds in his quarter who may play a role in their home Grand Slam tournament.

Jack Sock (13), John Isner (10) and Sam Querrey (17) will attract solid loud crowd support while they remain in contention.

Berdych, Goffin and Kyrgios are the only seeds among the top 16 yet to claim a title in 2017, but they can cause trouble, especially Kyrgios, who has been given a reasonable draw through to a possible fourth round clash with Federer.

Grigor Dimitrov is the other player to consider outside of Nadal and Federer. He clearly has hit top form at the right time, winning last start in Cincinnati.  

Although drawn to meet Rafa in the quarters, Grigor is on hard court here, not clay, making things much more even.

Nadal won all 7 of the first matches between the two before Grigor broke through in October last year in China.

In this years Aus Open the pair played a classic five setter semi final won by Nadal 6-4 in the decider.

First round matches should be comfortable for the top 16 seeds with the Sam Querrey v Gilles Simon battle the most testing - Sam trails 2-4 in the head to head stats.

My pre tournament semi final picks are

Grigor Dimitrov (7) v Roger Federer (3)

Alexander Zverev (4) v Marin Cilic (5)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Dasha first title New Haven

An historic day in New Haven as Daria Gavrilova captured her first WTA title, defeating second seed Dominika Cibulkova after trailing by a set, and then down a break in the decider.

It's the only time that a player has chosen the Connecticut Open as the tournament to break through.

This was a great match, rated by no less than Pam Shriver as the best women's final of 2017.  Perhaps overstating things a little but it had plenty to please the crowd.

Set one included several momentum changes and seemed to depend on one particular end where neither player could hold serve through six games.

Two breaks of serve apiece after eight games until Gavrilova played a shocker, donating Cibulkova the chance to serve out the set, which she did accordingly.

Dasha was in a bad state mentally, and this was evident in the first moments of set two where her focus was all over the place.  Fortunately this lasted only long enough for her to survive the initial game on serve, which left her level at 1-1.

After a struggle to reach 2-2 Gavrilova's world became a whole lot brighter as she managed to break the Slovakian serve and lead.

Gavrilova broke again in the ninth game to win the set - important because it allowed her to serve first in the decider.

Set three was another roller coaster, with Cibulkova the first to make the break.  This was despite the fact that Gavrilova was creating more chances.

Both had dismal percentages of points won on their first serves, Cibulkova the worse.

Fighting hard, Gavrilova immediately broke back, the forehand a key weapon, and decisively won the remaining games for her historic victory.

4-6 6-3 6-4 was the score line, and both players can take heart from the week's work, knowing that the form is there for the US Open.

In North Carolina, Roberto Bautista Agut confirmed his top seeding by convincingly defeating unseeded Damir Dzumhur in the final of the Winston-Salem Open.

The 6-4 6-4 victory took an hour and an half, but could have been quicker had Roberto converted more of the 13 break points he built up over the match.  Five sufficed but considering Dzumhur used all of his 3 to advantage, Bautista Agut needs to be more efficient in future.

After the final Roberto moves up two spots to his previous career high ranking of 13, while Damir jumps 11 places to a new career high of 56.

The US Open sees five of the top eleven world ranked men not playing due to injury, including last years finalists.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Dzumhur first final

Finals are set in both New Haven and Winston-Salem, but most players are gearing up for Flushing Meadows where the 2017 US Open begins on Monday.

For top seed Roberto Bautista Agut and unseeded Damir Dzumhur, more work to be done as they both won semi finals against Jan-Lennard Struff and Kyle Edmund respectively in Winston-Salem.

Roberto has not dropped a set all tournament, and he savaged the Struff second serve in the semi final, winning 70% of points offered by that delivery in set one and 75% in set two.

The Spaniard was broken only once for the match - in set two - whereas Struff dropped serve twice in each set.

Dzumhur started with a first set semi final shocker, only winning 36% of points on his first serve, and dropping serve three times.  Down 1-6, it seemed that Kyle Edmund had a finals spot firmly booked.

The momentum changed and Dzumhur had no break points to save in set two, with a vastly improved 75% of points won on his primary delivery.

6-3 and the match was level.

Set three continued this trend and Dzumhur found himself as an opponent in the final to Bautista Agut.

This will be the first ATP final for the player from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It's the second final in 2017 for Roberto, the Spaniard having won in Chennai in January.

The New Haven final will be contested between second seed Dominika Cibulkova and unseeded Daria Gavrilova.

Cibulkova was in her best form, disposing of qualifier Elise Mertens in two sets, losing only four games and dropping serve just once in the semi final.

Gavrilova upset top seed and tenth ranked Aga Radwanska 6-4 6-4 in the other semi.

After a quick start Gavrilova held a slight edge throughout and with a win in the final will achieve a career high ranking of twenty.

Regardless of the final result Cibulkova will swap places with Radwanska and move from 11 to 10 in the world rankings.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Gavrilova pushing for top 20

Daria Gavrilova has made the semi finals of New Haven, ending the fine run of qualifier Kirsten Flipkens.

Gavrilova is attempting to break into the top twenty for the first time, having lingered around the mid twenties for some time, and reaching a career high of 21.

A win in this tournament would take her to 20 given other results going her way.

The win against Flipkens was always happening once the first four games were registered to the Australian.

Unfortunately the occasion must have been a bit much for Kirsten as she delivered too many unforced errors after a promising start at 40-15 in the opening game on her serve.

Strangely Daria only had three break points for the set but managed to convert two.  Despite the poor beginning, Kirsten created six break points and was unable to use any of them.  6-2 to Dasha was the result.

Similar for Flipkens in set two - five more break points all saved by Gavrilova and one of four used to her advantage by Dasha.

6-2 6-4 ushered Gavrilova into a semi final battle with the winner of the fourth quarter final between top seed Aga Radwanska and 8th seed Shuai Peng.

The other semi final is between second seed Dominika Cibulkova and qualifier Elise Mertens.

Cibulkova easily accounted for sixth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Mertens didn't raise her racquet with the withdrawal of Shuai Zhang prior to their match.

In Winston-Salem more top seeds have fallen, leaving top seed Roberto Bautista Agut as a quarter finalist along with Steve Johnson (6) (lost to unseeded Kyle Edmund), Hyeon Chung (13) (lost to unseeded Damir Dzumhur) and Borna Coric (14).

Roberto awaits Taylor Fritz in his quarter final, while Borna plays Jan-Lennard Struff.

Johnson began strongly against Edmund, winning all points on his first serve and 11 of 18 on his second, in the opening set, enough to take it 7-5.

Edmund was unfazed and pounced on the Johnson second serve, winning 67% of points on it in set two and 75% in set three.

The American serve was broken three times over the final two sets while Edmund's remained solid.

The result 5-7 6-3 6-3 to the Brit.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Seeds tumble in Winston-Salem

Four of the eight quarter finalists were decided on Day 3 of the Connecticut Open in New Haven.

The tightest of the second round matches was that contested between Daria Gavrilova and Timea Babos.

Babos had caused the first round upset of fourth seed Mladenovic, and despite winning less a percentage of points on her serve than Gavrilova in set one, the Hungarian created five break points.

However Gavrilova broke twice from her four chances, while Babos could only convert once, allowing the Australian to take the opening set 7-5.

Set two was even closer, with percentage of points won on serve almost identical.  Gavrilova, though, had eight opportunities for a break - twice as many as her opponent.  Both eventually broke twice, causing a tie break.

Gavrilova outlasted Babos 8 points to 6 to win the tie break and the match 7-5 7-6 (6).

The quarter final opponent for Gavrilova will be the winner of two qualifiers, Kirsten Flipkens or Ana Bogdan, the latter having ousted fifth seed Elena Vesnina in the opening round.

Other known quarter finalists are:

Aga Radwanska (1) - defeated Genie Bouchard after receiving a first round bye.

Shuai Peng (8) - knocked over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets, following a three set struggle against Siniakova in round one. Will play Radwanska in the final eight.

Elise Mertens - qualifier who beat Bertens in round one and Kasatkina in round two, both ranked ahead of her. Mertens will meet the winner of qualifier Magda Linettte and unseeded Shuai Zhang, the player responsible for Kvitova's exit.

Second seed Dominika Cibulkova is yet to play a match, and will do so on Day 4 - a second round encounter with Alize Cornet after an opening round bye.

Cornet is dangerous considering her 6-0 6-0 demolition of Yulia Putintseva in round one.

In North Carolina, the. Winston-Salem Open has reached the round of sixteen and these are the matches for decision:

Roberto Bautista Agut (1) v Marcos Baghdatis - Baghdatis defeated 16th seed Jiri Vesely

Taylor Fritz v Paolo Lorenzi (7) - Fritz defeated 10th seed Yuichi Sugita

John Isner (3) v Borna Coric (14)

Andreas Seppi v Jan-Lennard Struff - Seppi beat 12th seed Aljaz Bedene and Struff beat 5th seed Pablo Cuevas

Steve Johnson (6) v Carlos Berlocq - Berlocq defeated 11th seed Viktor Troicki

Kyle Edmund v Marton Fucsovics - Edmund beat 15th seed Daniil Medvedev and Fucsovics beat 17th seed Joao Sousa 

Horacio Zeballos v Damir Dzumhur - Zeballos beat 8th seed Fernando Verdasco and Dzumhur beat 9th seed Gilles Simon

Hyeon Chung (13) v Julien Benneteau - Benneteau defeated 2nd seed Pablo Carreno Busta

Only six of the sixteen seeds have made the final sixteen, which is not a good sign for the upcoming US Open, when match practise is what these players were looking for, coming into this tournament.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Warming up for US Open

In a relatively low profile week prior to the commencement of the US Open (qualifying is starting in a few hours) the ATP tour continues in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the WTA circus winds its way to New Haven, Connecticut.

The men's draw has been headed by top seed Roberto Bautista Agut and two other top twenty players.

Opening round matches were all decided in straight sets except for American wildcard Taylor Fritz taking three sets to overcome Malek Jaziri.

Two second round clashes have been decided and the seeds involved both were defeated after first round byes - Pablo Cuevas (5) to Jan-Lennard Struff and Jiri Vesely (16) to Marcos Baghdatis.

New Haven has been a bloodbath for seeds from the start.

The draw was strong, led by Aga Radwanska and including six of the world's top twenty.

Round one saw:

Petra Kvitova (3) kicked out by Shuai Zhang for the loss of just three games.

Kristina Mladenovic (4) dismissed by Timea Babos.

Elena Vesnina (5) ousted by Romanian Ana Bogdan, ranked 124.

Barbora Strycova (7) beaten by Daria Kasatkina.

Following opening round byes, Radwanska will face Genie Bouchard and Cibulkova meets Alize Cornet, in round two

Monday, 21 August 2017

Muguruza and Dimitrov win Cincinnati

Cincinnati is over, but not before we saw two immensely impressive performances in the finals.

Grigor Dimitrov had good opposition in Nick Kyrgios but at no stage appeared in trouble, continuing his sparkling tournament form, not dropping a set all week.

While Kyrgios served ok in set one, he was overwhelmed in the baseline rallies, and couldn't threaten the Bulgarian serve.

Although Kyrgios has two chances to break, Dimitrov saved the day, as he had done several times in previous matches.  Grigor took advantage of the one break point he created.  31 points to 21 indicates how dominant in general play Dimitrov was.

Set two was much the same, with the ninth seed winning 80% of points on his serve and not allowing Kyrgios a single break point.

Although the Aussie served first and Grigor was playing catch up, Kyrgios suffered the sustained pressure from his consistent opponent.

At 5-5 Dimitrov broke through and then wrapped up proceedings 6-3 7-5.

A great tournament for Nick Kyrgios whose ranking moves in the right direction for a change - up five to eighteen.

Sensational all week Grigor Dimitrov won his first Masters 1000 event and moved back to the top ten at number nine.

Both players should take plenty of confidence into the US Open.

Simona Halep had been the best player of the tournament prior to the final, not losing a set, and displaying tennis near the best of her form.

It would be tough against Garbine Muguruza, who had improved since her escape against Madison Keys, but had spent over two hours longer on court than Halep for the week.

Halep would become world number one should she win.

However, the Wimbledon champ from the outset shut Halep out of any chance.

It was simply a tennis clinic and a complete surprise, Halep forced out of position for most of the match.

6-1 in 23 minutes was how the first set brilliance from the Spaniard was scored.

Garbine gave us a first serve percentage of 81 and won all five points off Simona's second serve.

Set two towards the middle was more competitive but this was not reflected on the scoreboard.  As Halep lifted her standard, so did Muguruza stay strong, still dictating terms.

6-1 6-0 was the extraordinary score line and Garbine Muguruza becomes the first Spanish woman to lift the Western and Southern Open trophy in Cincinnati.

Now sitting at world number three Garbine leads the 2017 points race, just ahead of Simona, both having passed Elina Svitolina this week.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Kyrgios v Dimitrov - new territory

Cincinnati semi finals have been played and the men's were the matches in which to be engrossed.

First up Grigor Dimitrov (7) battled John Isner (14) and there were no breaks of serve in the match.

Dimitrov managed to edge out the American in the opening set tie break 7-4 to take the lead.

The statistics reflected the close contest, especially points won on serve and return - virtually nothing to separate the two.

Set two continued the solid serving, only one break point created for Dimitrov but promptly saved by Isner.

The tie break was a lengthier affair but again the Bulgarian outlasted Isner 14-12.

John Isner failed to make the final, yet did not drop serve for the entire tournament.  That is the one failure of the tie break - it can be a lottery.

Two tie breaks were also required in the second semi final where David Ferrer served it up to Nadal conquerer Nick Kyrgios.  The Australian didn't jump to an early advantage as he had against Rafa - in fact was playing catch up for all of the opening set.

No break points for either player but Kyrgios took control in the tie break 7-3, his forehand overwhelming the Spaniard.

Kyrgios serving first in the second set, most pressure reverted to Ferrer, but he responded well, again refusing to drop serve.  Both saved three break points and Ferrer served well to force a second tie break.

Once more Kyrgios raced to three set and match points.  Ferrer saved one with a brilliant winner, but an unforced error when serving at 4-6 sent Kyrgios into the Masters 1000 final with Dimitrov, a class of tournament final where neither has been before,

A chance for Kyrgios to jump into the top 12 and a big seeding boost for the US Open, considering he entered Cincinnati ranked 23. 

Dimitrov has moved back into the top ten and will be ranked 9 irrespective of the final result.

The women's semi final results were both comprehensive.

Garbine Muguruza knocked out world number one Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-2.

Converting four of an incredible fourteen break points and saving three on her own serve, Muguruza completely dominated a previously impressive Pliskova.

The Czech star appeared tired, possibly due to the two matches required of her the previous day.

Simona Halep will contest Muguruza in the final, after thrashing Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-1.  The Romanian second seed now has the chance to jump to the world number one ranking should she capture the title.

Again Stephens was under the pump thanks to her playing two matches the previous day.

However she was never going to compete with Halep in this form.

Facing no break points but converting five of nine created on the American serve, Halep devoured the second delivery, winning 10 of 11 points.

The final will see the two form players of the tournament and should be a ripper.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Muguruza d Kuznetsova in thriller

With a bout of rain there have been a number of players doubling up on matches in Cincinnati.

Top seed Karolina Pliskova had a battle on her hands with Camila Giorgi in their quarter final, dropping the second set and enabling the Italian to level the match.

However that was as close as Giorgi was allowed, with Pliskova routing her 6-0 in the decider.

It was much easier in the semi final played later in the day against Caroline Wozniacki Wozniacki had beaten Ash Barty the day before, so had the advantage of not having to play an extra match.

But in avserving display which would make her coach happy, the Czech star was only in trouble in the early stages where she faced her only break point for the match.

Twice she broke the Danish serve and the first set was done and dusted 6-2.  Set two was similar and one break was sufficient to send Pliskova into a semi final where she will meet Garbine Muguruza.

Muguruza defeated Sveta Kuznetsova in a high quality match, after surrendering a one set lead and a break in the second.  Kuznetsova led 5-4 in the decider but committed too many unforced errors from there, while Muguruza attacked with effect and won the final three games and the match.

Garbine has had a difficult run to the semis, having also had to save three match points against Madison Keys in the quarter final.  The semi with Pliskova promises much.

The other semi will feature an American but not the one expected by a pleasantly surprised crowd.  Sloane Stephens defeated both Ekaterina Makarova and Julia Goerges to reach the final four, following the upset loss experienced by Elina Svitolina to the German in her round of sixteen tussle.

Stephens faces Simona Halep who is in impressive form, dispensing of Johanna Konta after doing similar to Anastasija Sevastova the day before.

One men's semi final features seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov against crowd favourite John Isner (14).

Isner beat fellow American Jared Donaldson (unseeded) in a tight quarter final 7-6 (4) 7-5 while Dimitrov thrashed Yuichi Sugita, giving up just three games.

Nick Kyrgios will face top seed Rafa Nadal in a quarter final following his comeback win over another big server Ivo Karlovic in the third round 

Karlovic served 28 aces and converted the only break point he created on the Aussie serve for the match, to take set one.

Nick had two chances but both went begging.

Set two went directly to a tie break which Kyrgios won 8-6 to turn the battle.

Set three saw Nick break Ivo early and he retained the edge and won 4-6 7-6 (6) 6-3.

Rafa had a tough first against Albert Ramos-Vinolas before belting him in a tie break,7-1.  Set two was all about Nadal's return which was lethal on his compatriot's second serve.  Ten points won from 13 available. Nadal won through to the quarters 7-6 (1) 6-2.

The winner of Nadal \ Kyrgios will play David Ferrier who has snuck up on most watchers, knocking over both Pablo Carreno Busta (11) and in the quarters Dominic Thiem (3) in two decisive sets.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Barty ditches Venus

Another round of upsets in second round matches at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Perhaps the biggest was Aussie qualifier Ash Barty dismissing 9th seed and Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams in three sets.

The first set saw Barty out ace Williams 6 to 2 and win the battle of second serve points won.  Both players protected themselves from break points, only facing one each.  But it was Barty who converted hers and that was sufficient to clinch the set 6-3.

Venus rebounded in set two, punishing the Barty first serve and gathering 5 break points.  The American broke twice and squared the match 3-6 6-2

Ash had enough of this and smashed Venus in the decider.

The underdog won all but two points on first serve, drew no break points but created 6 on the Venus delivery and converted 2.

30 points to 20 convinced Venus to leave Cincinnati and Ash to later play doubles and win that match with Casey Dellacqua.

America was more successful with Sloane Stephens who has been in form the last two weeks since her recent return to competitive tennis.  After first round losses to Riske (Wimbledon) and Halep (Washington), Sloane reached the quarters in Toronto (beaten by finalist Wozniacki}.

Now she has knocked off both Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova (14) to reach the Cincinnati round of sixteen.

Angie Kerber (1) has fallen back into her yearlong indifferent form, taken out in her first match (second round) by Ekaterina Makarova, although her loss this time was in a terrific match decided by a tie break won 13-11 by the Russian.

The winner last week in Montreal, Sascha Zverev, was surprisingly dumped from Cincinnati by 87th ranked American Frances Tiafoe 6-4 3-6 4-6.

Tiafoe won 66% of points on his serve, compared to Zverev 53%.

He returned won 47% of points on the German serve while Zverev could only manage 34%.

Other seeds leaving the tournament are:

Gilles Muller (16), losing to capable Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5 4-6 4-6

Sam Querrey (15), ousted by Adrian Mannarino 2-6 6-7 (4)

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (8) lost the previous night to Ivo Karlovic 4-6 6-7 (9).      

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Cincinnati Round One

With the withdrawal of seeded players Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, Cincinnati organisers strangely allowed byes for the lucky losers in qualifying who replaced them.

So the top five seeds and Janko Tipsarevic (ranked 69), Christian Harrison (240) and Thomas Fabbiano (85) receive free passes to the second round. Losing your qualifying in Cincinnati brings ridiculous rewards.

The first round is complete and some results are surprising.

Injury has troubled the recent progress of Nick Kyrgios but he had little bother in his opener against ninth seed David Goffin.  Dominant on serve, losing only 3 points on his first delivery in the first set and just 1 in the second Goffin was a passenger in the match.

Nick faced a mere four break points all match, all saved.  The 6-2 6-3 result keeps the hopes of a fine career alight.

Montreal quarter finalist Kevin Anderson lost to qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov, and other unseeded players were successful:

Jared Donaldson knocked out 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut

Yuichi Sugita defeated Jack Sock (13) in straight sets

Juan Martin del Potro won the deciding set 6-0 against Tomas Berdych (10)

Of course del Potro is a much better player than his ranking of 30 suggests.

Again the top twenty ranked women have all turned up for the Premier 5 Cincinnati event - except the pregnant Serena.

The top eight seeds have had first round byes but we have seen exits from some of the others already.

Daria Gavrilova defeated 13th seed Kristina Mladenovic in two contrasting sets.

The opener was totally one way traffic, Dasha winning almost everything on her first serve and trashing the French player's efforts from the line.

To win 6-0 was amazing and not surprising was the comeback from Mladenovic in set two.

The returning of Gavrilova's serve became more efficient and both players broke each other twice meaning a tie break would decide the set.  Before the breaker Dasha had the chance to serve for the match at 5-4 but Mladenovic was back in the match at that stage and broke for her second time.

An even tie break was ended with a poor French forehand and the Aussie was second round bound.

Other seeds to fumble their opening rounds were:

Roland Garros champ Jelena Ostapenko, losing to qualifier Aleksandra Krunic, ranked 85.

Agnieszka Radwanska, bounced out by big server Julia Georges, ranked 37 but playing above her ranking in recent tournaments.

Simona Halep (2) and Johanna Konta (7) have played their first matches (second round) and both won comfortably in straight sets.

Halep will play the winner of Sevastova (15) and Vinci, while Konta faces the victor of Cibulkova (11) and Cornet.