ICYMI: Djokovic Wins World Tour Finals, Swiss Take Davis Cup Final Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
In case you missed it, here is a quick roundup of the last couple of non-exhibition events at the top level of Men’s professional tennis this year.
World Tour Finals
Novak Djokovic won his third consecutive and fourth overall year-end championships title in London at the O2 Arena, as a hobbled Roger Federer withdrew and gave the word number one a walkover victory. Besides Djokovic, only Ivan Lendl and Ilie Nastase have ever won three consecutive year-end championship tournaments.
Djokovic was the strongest player all week, not surrendering a set in round robin play against Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka, and Tomas Berdych, as none of his opponents really put in much effort. In the semis, Kei Nishikori snatched a set, but Djokovic won the other two sets surrendering just one game combined.
Clearly, a deserving champion.
Federer also played well, as the World Number 2 was able to topple Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori, two top players of the younger generation, without dropping a set, and then demolished Andy Murray in front of a home crowd for the UK number one. The match of the tournament was the semifinal between Federer and compatriot Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka had four match point chances and was up a set early, but Federer clawed his way back and eventually defeated a cramping Wawrinka in a third set tiebreak. In process of winning the match, Federer injured his back and had to pull out for the final.
The Bryans beat Ivan Dodig and Marcel Melo to win yet another World Tour Finals, as they continue to dominate the game even more than Djokovic.
Davis Cup Final
The top five Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka led their nation to its first ever Davis Cup title. The golden era of Swiss tennis was confirmed as the duo defeated a talented French team 3-1 for the title.
Wawrinka started proceedings by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4 sets. Tsonga played one quality set but was pedestrian in the three others that were played. Gael Monfils fought back and beat Federer in straights for the French, leaving the tie at an even 1-1 after Friday singles.
Fed and Stan beat Richard Gasquet and Julian Benneteau in straight sets to take the doubles rubber, and Federer would clinch the tie on Sunday, easing past Gasquet in 3 sets. Though the tie was played in France, there were nearly as many Swiss fans in attendance, and they basked in the glory of their first ever Davis Cup triumph.
This is yet another achievement in the illustrious career of Roger Federer, one of the greatest players of all time.
London, Great Britain
June 23-July 6, 2014
Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Rafael Nadal
3: Andy Murray
4: Roger Federer
5: Stan Wawrinka
6: Tomas Berdych
7: David Ferrer
8: Milos Raonic
Of the ATP top 50, the long-term injured Juan Martin Del Potro is out, along with Tommy Haas, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Nicolas Almagro, Florian Mayer and Ivan Dodig are also not in the draw, but all other top 50 players are participating.
1st round matchups to watch:
(14)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Jurgen Melzer
Tsonga is struggling right now, as he comes off a round 2 loss at Queens club. He hasn’t had a strong season, but I still think he will survive a test against Den Bosch semifinalist Melzer, who he beat at the French a couple of weeks ago and has a 4-1 overall h2h edge. Melzer can produce some good results and he’s finding him form again, so this should match should not be routine.
(18)Fernando Verdasco vs Marinko Matosevic
Matosevic is 7-2 on grass this season, and that stat, along with an even 1-1 h2h, is what gives him a chance against defending quarterfinalist Verdasco, who has had some consistency issues at the slams.
I’m picking Verdasco in 4 or 5 sets myself, but Matosevic seems boosted after finally getting over the hump of his first slam main draw win at the French, and this match could produce some fireworks if either or both players get worked up.
(27)Roberto Bautista Agut vs Steve Johnson
RBA comes off a maiden ATP title at Den Bosch, and he will be a favorite against the improving American Johnson who he has beaten twice this year on hard courts as part of what has been a career year for the Spaniard. RBA is looking to improve on his slam results and is a possible dark horse this year. His all-surface game is unusual for a Spanish player, and Johnson’s newfound mental fortitude and improved technical skills will be put to the test here.
If RBA isn’t fatigued I favor him to advance.
Dominic Thiem vs (Q)Luke Saville
Thiem is a much talked about rising young talent who is now an ATP regular, while Saville is a 20 year old Aussie, who was formerly the number one junior in the world and has two junior slams on his resume (one of them is Wimbledon 2011). He qualified here for Wimbledon as a pro player and Thiem has very limited experience on grass, losing his only warm up match this year in Queens 4 and 2 to David Goffin. The odds and recognition favor Thiem, but I like Saville to pull off the upset given his superior experience on grass. The Aussie could make a break through here at Wimbledon and introduce himself to the tennis world.
Donald Young vs Benjamin Becker
An interesting match between the improved Young and the veteran Becker, who has grass court expertise. Becker comes off the Den Bosch final, and at his age may be worn down a bit, but DY isn’t really at his best on the turf and he didn’t play that well in Eastbourne. Young was, dare I say ‘clutch’ at the French and was one of the last Americans standing. I like him to survive this match as well, probably in the full five sets, if he can weather the Becker serve and grind him down.
(21)Alex Dolgopolov vs (Q)Sam Groth
Dolgo might be in trouble against the huge serving Aussie Groth, who qualified here with three strong wins and also played well in the Nottingham-2 challenger on grass (7-1 on the surface this year overall thus far). The Ukrainian number one retired in his last match in Queens and his results haven’t been the best recently. With the ranking differential between these players, this has me thinking the match is ripe with upset potential, and I’m going with Groth to pull it off.
Dustin Brown vs (WC)Marcos Baghdatis
Dreddy Brown and Baghdatis both have good grass court pedigrees, though Baggy is the much more accomplished player overall who has seen his career hit the skids in recent years. This match has epic five set potential on paper.
Baghdatis got a wild card by virtue of winning the first Nottingham challenger on grass this year, while Brown has a win over Nadal in Halle to add to his resume. This match is a hard pick and cases can be made for both players, but I’m going with Baghdatis to have the experience edge and to pull out a late set victory.
(5)Stan Wawrinka vs Joao Sousa
I don’t really think Wawrinka will lose this match, but the possibility is certainly there if the screws come lose for him like they did against Garcia-Lopez at the French a few weeks ago. Sousa comes off the semis in Den Bosch and he appears capable of playing very good on grass, as he also pushed Federer to 3 sets in Halle. Wawrinka is better in most facets, but if he loses his focus and drifts again, Sousa is not the type of player to mess around with. I would tune in and see what happens here and where Stan’s head might be.
Julian Benneteau vs (Q)Gilles Muller
Another really interesting first round match that has five set epic potential: Benneteau can play well on grass but he hasn’t had the strongest of seasons, while Muller is absolutely on fire right now. He qualified easily for Wimbledon, and has absolutely dominated the challenger circuit this season. The big serving veteran is now finally back playing more astute competition, and his 1-1 record on grass against Benny suggests this one should be close. I may just be a Challenger tennis fan, but I’m on the Muller bandwagon for this one. I like him to advance as long as the serve is clicking and he can get to the net.
Jack Sock vs (Q)Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Sock had a great slam result reaching the third round of the French Open and now he looks to take his talents to the turf against the qualifier Herbert, who has shown signs of promise. Though he is one year older than Sock, his rise has been much more gradual. He beat Jerzy Janowicz in Halle this year and is another player with a big serve as his best asset. Sock is combustible and if Herbert can serve out a lot of holds, I like him to get through this one in 4 or 5 sets, though Jack could surprise me here easily.
(22)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Igor Sijsling
Kohli has never beaten Sijsling (0-3 including a loss in Rotterdam indoors to him this year), and he’s not in the best of form and really hasn’t been all season. He lost earlier than predicted in Halle. Still, the 2012 Wimbledon quarterfinalist is facing a struggling Sijsling, who is very much out of sorts right now having lost three straight matches, all on grass. I would go with Sijsling if he was showing any signs of getting out of his slump on court, but from the matches I have seen him play, he is not, and thus Kohlschreiber should improve the h2h and get through.
Novak is yet again one of the favorites for the title, but he’s nursing a sore wrist and was on his honeymoon before Wimbledon, so perhaps his mind is elsewhere going into this slam. His first match will be against Andrey Golubev, then he has a potentially dangerous meeting with Radek Stepanek, who he beat at Wimbledon 2012 and has only lost to once in a multitude of meetings.
Stepanek comes off the semis in Queens and he can play well on grass, but he will probably fall to Djokovic in round 2 after beating Pablo Cuevas. In round 3, Novak is likely to face either Gilles Simon or Vasek Pospisil, which is a bit of a lucky break for him, as both players have been poor all season. Vashy is just now breaking out
of a losing streak and he played so-so in Den Bosch, winning a couple of matches. Simon lost early in Eastbourne after showing signs of pulling his game together at the French.
I’m going with Pospisil in my bracket, but Djokovic should easily dispatch either player or less likely opponents Robin Haase and Konstantin Kravchuk to reach the second week.
Tsonga/Melzer will face Sam Querrey or Bradley Klahn in round 2. Querrey improved his play in Eastbourne as he reached the semifinals, and he’s a good grass court player, but I don’t think he is in the position right now to get past Tsonga/Melzer. I like Tsonga in the third round against either 17 seed Mikhail Youzhny or James Ward, who face each other in round 1. Youzhny is a good grass court player but he’s had a terrible season, while Ward can perhaps channel some home support and find a run of success at SW19.
The round 1 winner will face Jimmy Wang or Alejandro Gonzalez in round 2, and I’m going with Tsonga to survive the section only because Youzhny has been so poor this season. This section is not weak on paper, but if you follow the actual results of the players, it is a weak section.
6 seed Tomas Berdych, who lost in the Queens quarters, seems to be a Rubik’s Cube right now. He has a strong 21-9 record on grass since 2010 but both his slam results and regular tour results this year have been up and down and he has been unable to break through to the top tier.
He also isn’t getting a lot of attention going into the tournament this year. Berdych should get an early test against Bernard Tomic, a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist in round 2, after dispatching Victor Hanescu, who famously hates Wimbedon. Tomic must first beat Evgeny Donskoy, and he is not guaranteed to win any matches quite honestly.
I like Berdych to get through and face Marin Cilic in round 3 in what should be a very good clash. Cilic must defeat Paul-Henri Mathieu and Kyle Edmund/Andreas Haider-Maurer to get to that stage. Should Cilic and Berdych meet in the third round, the grass h2h favors the Croat 1-0, but Berdych leads the overall fast surface h2h 3-2 and also beat Cilic this year in Rotterdam. Cilic has also lost two straight matches and isn’t anywhere near his red hot form from earlier in the season. I like Berdych to reach the second week.
The section above Berdych should come down to either 12 seed Ernests Gulbis or Verdasco/Matosevic. Gulbis has been playing the Boodles exhibition along with some other top players for his warm-up and he had that surprising run to the French semis, so the newly minted top 10 player is in form. Verdasco, meanwhile, is defending quarterfinal points and played so-so in Den Bosch.
They would meet in the third round, and Verdasco beat Gulbis at the same stage at Wimbledon last year in straights.
This is a different Gulbis right now, and I favor the Latvian to make the second week. His route would be wins over Jurgen Zopp, Sergiy Stakhovsky/Carlos Berlocq and Verdasco/Matosevic or Jeremy Chardy/Daniel Cox.
The defending Champion and great British hope Andy Murray will face David Goffin first, and then Pablo Andujar/Blaz Rola. I doubt he will have much to complain about in those first two matches and should ease his way into the third round for a real test against Bautista Agut, assuming the Spaniard beats Johnson and Tobias Kamke/Jan Hernych.
They have never met, and RBA could trouble Murray, but after the title run in Den Bosch, I’m thinking he’ll be out of gas by the third round. By then, Murray can take advantage of a high unforced error count and get through to the second week, probably without dropping a set.
Murray’s first match of the second week will likely be against one of Kevin Anderson/Fabio Fognini/Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The 20 seed Anderson faces Aljaz Bedene and then ERV/Filippo Volandri, and both ERV and Anderson can play well on grass, with Anderson leading the fast surface h2h 2-0. They played a five setter that finished 7-5 in favor of Anderson at the AO this year, and in that one, ERV effectively choked under the pressure of being 2 sets up. With that match perhaps weighing on his mind, I like the more accomplished Anderson to find a way into the third round. The combustible Fognini, who played the Boodles, and can crash and burn or soar just about anytime, is seeded 16th and will face Alex Kuznetsov and then Teymuraz Gabashvili or Tim Puetz. Gabashvili has maximized a lot of his talent this season and he could make the third round or beyond, but I like Anderson over Fognini to make the second week. Anderson has a h2h win over Fognini on Grass at Queens in 2009.
7 seed David Ferrer and 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov appear to be on a collision course to meet in the fourth round in their section of the draw. Ferrer opens with Pablo Carreno Busta, who has been playing clay challengers prior to Wimbledon and looks to be an easy out, and then is slated to face Andrey Kuznetsov or Dan Evans.
Ferrer pulled out of Den Bosch with the flu, and it will be interesting to see if he has any rust from that. Brown/Baghdatis might spoil that Ferrer-Dimitrov meeting, as one of them must get past Andreas Seppi/Leo Mayer before facing Ferrer in a probable third round meeting. Both are dangerous players and I’m going with an upset in my bracket and placing Baghdatis into the fourth round as I think Ferrer will perform below expectations.
Dimitrov, who won Queens and is a trendy favorite this year to do well at Wimbledon, even after a shock round 1 exit at the French, faces Ryan Harrison, and then Saville/Thiem before meeting Young/Becker or Groth/Dolgopolov in the third round.
This is a section with some names to watch but I like the Bulgarian number 1 to survive it and Groth should make the third round.
The Swiss maestro is one of the co-favorites this year for the title at a tournament he has dominated in his career. He won the Halle title again, and that bodes well for his chances against Paolo Lorenzi, Muller/Benneteau and probably Nicolas Mahut in the first three rounds. Last year, Fed was shocked by Stakhovsky, and if that is going to happen again, it would have to come against Muller/Benneteau or Mahut.
Lorenzi is no threat, but Muller is playing well and Benneteau had a 2 sets to love lead and I believe a match point against Federer in 2012 at Wimbledon, but lost the match in 5 sets.
Mahut must beat clay courters Marcel Granollers and Santiago Giraldo/Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the third round. Giraldo isn’t playing that well, so I doubt he will make noise. Fed dominates the h2h against all these players and this may be one of his last best chances to win another slam, so I doubt he will lose his focus or killer instinct early on in the tournament.
Defending Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz has struggled through an abysmal season and the 15 seed could be headed for an early exit against former champion Lleyton Hewitt in round 2. JJ played the Boodles in preparation and he has never played Hewitt before. Lleyton is also struggling, but Wimbledon seems to give him a fresh focus every year.
Janowicz must first beat Somdev Devvarman, who he had an epic meltdown against at the 2013 AO, while Hewitt must defeat Michal Przysiezny, who has had a terrible season. Janowicz/Hewitt will meet most likely Tommy Robredo, the 23 seed, or grass court specialist Adrian Mannarino in round 3. Robredo has a poor record on grass and has played below his ranking as of late. He opens with Lukas Lacko, while Mannarino opens with Pere Riba. I like Mannarino to sneak into the second week over Hewitt in an open section.
Wawrinka/Sousa is slated to face off with Rendy Lu/Aleksandr Nedovyesov in round 2. Wawrinka could also be troubled by Lu, but I have him reaching the fourth round because his third round opponent, one of Denis Istomin/Dmitry Tursunov/Michael Russell/Julian Reister is nothing special.
The 9 seed John Isner keeps looking to build results. He will face Dan Smethurst, Jarkko Nieminen/Federico Delbonis and one of Alejandro Falla/Ante Pavic/Yuichi Sugita/Feliciano Lopez in the third round. This is a section of in form players as Falla reached the Halle final and Lopez won Eastbourne and reached the Queens final. Lopez and Isner have split fast surface meetings, and that one could truly go either way, but I’m factoring in Feli is probably fatigued by the third round after playing so much tournament tennis the past two weeks.
I like a Wawrinka/Isner round of 16 matchup, though Wawrinka/Lopez would also be intriguing.
Rafa Nadal, who is possibly nursing a sore back, and has been booted early at Wimbledon the last two years, should be on high alert against Martin Klizan. Klizan isn’t a grass specialist, but can play well and can put some power on the ball. He has had good recent results and is not a player to skimp on preparation.
Assuming Rafa, who lost to Dustin Brown in Halle, avoids disaster against Klizan, he probably gets a rematch of his 2012 shock defeat here to Lukas Rosol. Rosol just has to beat the struggling Benoit Paire first. Rosol clearly has the code to beat Nadal, as he has done it, and done it on grass, but his results recently haven’t been stellar on the surface. I think Rafa will find a way to get to the third round, or at least it’s hard for me to pick him not making at least the third round.
History does show he either makes the final or loses in the first two rounds, though. Nadal vs another big server, Ivo Karlovic, is a likely third round matchup. Ivo has to beat Frank Dancevic and Dudi Sela/Mikhail Kukushkin first. He can play well on grass but he is not in as good of a form as the past. Nadal has also never lost to Ivo (4-0, all on fast surfaces) and though big servers like Brown can be his Kryptonite, I think Rafa will survive, perhaps by the skin of his teeth, and reach the second week. Of the top 4 seeds, he is most likely to be sent home in the first week.
Eastbourne finalist Richard Gasquet, who appears to be over his shoulder and back ailments, will face James Duckworth and then Nick Kyrgios/Stephane Robert in round 2. Kyrgios won the second Nottingham challenger on grass and got a wild card, and I’m totally buying into his ability to post good results right now. He has skill and swagger, and he’s a great dark horse to upset Gasquet, and then perhaps Gael Monfils in the third round in what would be a massive showman’s match to reach the second week.
Monfils is slated to play Malek Jaziri and Victor Estrella/Jiri Vesely in the first two rounds. Kyrgios or a possibly tired Gasquet should get out of the section, and that round 2 meeting could go five and go either way.
10 seed Kei Nishikori, if healthy, is likely to do well in the section above Gasquet/Kyrgios/Monfils. Kei faces Kenny De Schepper first, then Marsel Ilhan/Denis Kudla and probably Kohlschreiber/Sijsling in round 3 assuming one of those players defeats Tatsuma Ito/Simone Bolelli in round 2. Kei’s health is a question mark, but I like him over Kohli in the third round. They have never met before.
Nishikori could face 8 seed Milos Raonic, who on paper with his serve and net skills has a good style of play for grass, but in reality has a poor record on the surface and continues to struggle navigating grass court tennis, in round 4, Raonic would need to beat Matt Ebden, Herbert/Sock and probably Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a dangerous all court lurker, in round 3. GGL must beat Dusan Lajovic and JL Struff/Lukasz Kubot to get there though, Kubot reached the quarterfinals here last year but he is in hard to predict form. Herbert/Sock could also surprise, and Sock has beaten Raonic before, so this is an open section with round 4 points up for grabs based upon which player gets hot. In my bracket I’m going with GGL, and Herbert upsetting Raonic to make the third round.
Dark Horses (1 per quarter):
Marinko Matosevic, Marcos Baghdatis, Gilles Muller, Nick Kyrgios
There are multiple options for dark horses in every quarter for me, but I went with 4 unseeded players who could do well.
Matosevic would need to beat Verdasco and likely Gulbis to reach the second week, but if they implode and he manages to put together his best ever slam performance, it is a possibility.
Baghdatis, if healthy and focused, has the game to do well here and he has the luck of Ferrer coming off the flu to perhaps propel him to the second week (and the same could be said for Dustin Brown in this section).
Dimitrov is the big roadblock in week 2. Muller, along with Hewitt, Mannarino and others have the opportunity to do well in the Federer quarter. Should Federer suffer another shock early exit, Muller could make a strong run all the way to the quarterfinals. I like Kyrgios to make the second week, and if Rafa loses before then, or to Kyrgios, Wimbledon becomes the Aussie’s Oyster.
Week 1 predictions (round of 16 matchups and picks)
Djokovic d. Tsonga
Gulbis d. Berdych
Murray d. Anderson
Dimitrov d. Baghdatis
Isner d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Mannarino
Nishikori d. Garcia-Lopez
Nadal d. Kyrgios
Djokovic to blitz Tsonga again.
Gulbis upset Berdych at Wimbledon a couple of years back and I’m picking it to happen again.
Murray shouldn’t be troubled by Anderson.
Dimitrov is 5-0 against Baghdatis sans a retirement loss at Wimbledon against him.
Isner is 2-1 against Wawrinka and I think he’s the better player right now.
Fed should dominate Mannarino.
Nishikori has a h2h and talent edge over GGL.
I think Nadal will get past Kyrgios.
My Full Tournament Picks
Djokovic d. Gulbis
Murray d. Dimitrov
Federer d. Isner
Nishikori d. Nadal
I think Gulbis has a great chance against Djokovic in the quarterfinals, and I’d be comfortable giving him 40% or better odds, but in my bracket I’m going with Djokovic given their French Open meeting.
Murray-Dimitrov could very well go five sets as all of their previous 4 meetings have been high quality, including a 3 set win by Dimitrov in Acapulco this year. Murray has an overall 3-1 edge though, and he’s best on grass so I have him getting through.
Federer should dispatch Isner as he has 4 out of the 5 previous times they have met, and though Nadal is 2-0 against Nishikori on grass, those meetings were quite some time ago at a different stage in their careers,
Nishikori came very close to beating Rafa this year on clay in Madrid, and also played him close at the AO, losing a couple of tiebreaks and a 7-5 second set. He is getting closer and I think he finally gets his revenge on grass, making his first slam semifinal.
Murray d. Djokovic
Federer d. Nishikori
I think Murray is healthier and more motivated than Djokovic right now and he is 2-0 against the Serb on grass, including a Wimbledon straight sets victory in last years final.
Federer just beat Nishikori in a competitive Halle match and I think Wimbledon will be a repeat of that.
Murray d. Federer
It’s a judgment call as they are 1-1 on grass in their career meetings, with Federer having that 4 set victory over Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon final. Murray would be going for his third slam and his second Wimbledon in front of the home crowd with a shot at establishing himself as a player who defended his Wimbledon title. Federer would perhaps be going for his final slam and his eight Wimbledon title.
Winning here might be enough to keep him ahead of Rafael Nadal in the slam count by the time they both hang up their racquets. There’s a lot to play for here, and I’m going with Murray in 4 or 5 sets.
2014 ATP Halle & London Queens Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The grass season begins with the 250 events in Halle, Germany and London with some strong fields and a nice change of pace from the clay court season.
Gerry Weber Open
ATP World Tour 250
June 9-June 15, 2014
Prize Money: €711,010
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (1)
2: Roger Federer (4)
3: Milos Raonic (9)
4: Kei Nishikori (10)
I fully expect Nadal to pull out of Halle after showing distress in the French Open final, but for now he is the top seed, and even without him, Halle has a great entry list with 8 top 25 players as seeds.
First round matchups to watch:
(7)Tommy Haas vs. Steve Johnson
Haas wasn’t healthy for the French Open and retired in round 1, while Johnson won a couple of matches in Nottingham at the grass court challenger there. The American has had a strong season and he beat Haas this year in Delray Beach in 3 sets. Tommy is a two-time champion here and a good grass court player, but I would say Johnson has a very good chance to upset him and I’m personally picking that result.
(6)Mikhail Youzhny vs Ivo Karlovic
Youzhny made the final here last year and is 3-0 career against Karlovic (all on hard courts). That being said, he has been in some awful form all season. Karlovic has had a strong season and is playing well, even on clay, his traditionally weakest surface, as he reached the third round of the French. Ivo is a much stronger player on the quick grass and he has a great chance of upsetting Youzhny.
If Nadal plays the tournament, he will face the potentially troublesome big server Dustin Brown or qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov for his first match. If not, it will be a lucky loser against one of those two. It could be Nadal or Brown or another player against most likely Jerzy Janowicz or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals.
JJ has a strong career record on grass and finally won some matches in Paris at the French, snapping a four match-losing streak. Kohli also has a great career record on grass and he just beat Janowicz on clay in Rome. The German opens with Andreas Seppi, who is in cold form, while JJ opens with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, a qualifier. I personally lean towards Kohlschreiber reaching the quarters, and in fact, the semis on.
Nadal doesn’t seem capable of mounting a deep run here in his current condition.
RG quarterfinalist Milos Raonic, who has had a strong season, opens with Peter Gojowczyk, a wild card, or Michal Przysiezny, who is really struggling. Milos is just .500 career on grass but he’s due for improvement on the surface given his good serve. His first opponent doesn’t seem troublesome, so expect him in the quarters against one of Richard Gasquet/Robin Haase/Lukasz Kubot/Alejandro Falla.
Gasquet is still working his way back from a back injury but he is best on grass of the four players. Kubot, though he can be dangerous, is struggling right now having lost three straight matches and being just 6-14 on the season overall. Raonic has a great shot at the semifinals against Kohlschreiber/Janowic.
Roger Federer will face JL Struff or Joao Sousa in round 2. The defending and six-time Halle champion was knocked out in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, and I for one think he will be pleased to be back on grass.
Federer vs Karlovic/Youzhny is a likely quarterfinal matchup, as Rendy Lu and Mate Pavic are the only other options, neither of whom are very imposing. Fed has a decided edge against all possible quarterfinal opponents and appears safe for the semis at minimum.
Kei Nishikori will face Gaels Monfils or Benjamin Becker. Nishikori was unfit for Roland Garros and bowed out meekly in round 1, but he has been on a tear this season. Monfils doesn’t have that much of a record on grass but he’s positive on the surface and comes off quarterfinals in Paris. They have never met before and Monfils-Nishikori could be an amazing round 2 match. The winner will face Johnson/Haas in the quarters. In my opinion, Ilya Marchenko, a qualifier, and Teymuraz Gabashvili are the other options.
Dark Horse: Steve Johnson
Kohlschreiber is unseeded and technically qualifies as a dark horse, but Johnson is the real dark horse. If he can upset Haas, he should at least make the quarters, and if Nishikori/Monfils show up unfit, he could find himself in the semifinals this week. That would be a great result for the American who continues to rise in the rankings.
Kohlschreiber d. Raonic
Federer d. Nishikori
Kohli and Raonic have a split h2h, but I’m favoring Peppo because of the surface. It could go either way. Federer is 1-2 career against Nishikori and lost to him this year in Miami, but Kei may not be 100% from what I can tell, and this is grass, which swings things in favor of the Swiss veteran.
Federer d. Kohlschreiber
Federer is 4-0 against Kohlschreiber on grass alone, including three previous Halle wins, the last coming in 2010. Fed also won twice last year against the German on hard courts, and he is a strong favorite to win his seventh title here.
ATP London Queens
ATP World Tour 250
June 9-June 15, 2014
Prize Money: €711,010
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (3)
2: Tomas Berdych (6)
3: Andy Murray (8)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (12)
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
6: Ernests Gulbis (17)
7: Kevin Anderson (20)
8: Alex Dolgopolov (21)
Like Halle, Queens has a very strong field with three top 10 players (four if you include Gulbis, who has risen up the rankings post-RG), and all the seeds are top 25 players.
First round matchups to watch:
Blaz Rola vs. (WC)James Ward
The Slovenian Rola is looking for his first career ATP world tour win here in London. He had a good run at the Australian Open at the start of the year, but hasn’t played any ATP main draw matches since. He faces the British Journeyman Ward, who just beat him in French Open qualifying and is a decent grass court player. Rola has a stronger future ahead, but for now this match won’t be easy.
Jurgen Melzer vs. (WC)Daniel Evans
Another matchup featuring a British wild card, Melzer has been so-so in this season. Off of clay, it will be interesting to see what the rest of 2014 holds for him. Evans is a very streaky player who can play well at times when he finds himself. He hasn’t been that strong recently though, and I think Melzer will prevail over the home boy.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. (Q)Daniel Brands
Stakhovsky is 3-0 career against Brands, who was out between Miami and the French Open this year because of mono, but has found some match form to qualify here. Stako is on a four-match losing streak, and though he famously upset Federer at Wimbledon, he is barely above .500 on the grass court surface overall. He could find some form on it, but Brands, with his style of play, will have a chance in this one to return to ATP success.
(10)Feliciano Lopez vs. Dusan Lajovic
Feli Lopez is struggling, but he’s 24-10 on grass since 2010 and should have the advantage against surprise round of 16 FO participant Dusan Lajovic, who has never won a tournament match on grass (0-4 since 2010). This is more of a form test for both players to see if Lajovic can at least give Lopez a hard time. This match could also be routine.
Stan Wawrinka will face Bradley Klahn or frequent wild card recipient, and now infrequent winner, Marcos Baghdatis, in round 2.
Baghdatis did just win the Nottingham Challenger on grass though. Stan has never been known as a grass court player along with coming off a round 1 loss at the French, but the trump card though is Wawrinka is 5-0 career against Baggy including 2 wins last year, so he should be able to reach the third round. Wawrinka/Baghdatis could face an American, one of Michael Russell/Denis Kudla/Sam Querrey in the third round, or Jeremy Chardy. Querrey has had an awful season but is looking to find himself on grass, while Kudla and Russell can be competitive. It’s hard to pick a third rounder from that section.
Wawrinka vs. Tsonga/Cilic is my quarterfinal pick. The Frenchman is a former finalist here and managed to make the fourth round at Roland Garros. He’s a good grass court player but so is Marin Cilic, as he is the defending finalist here. Cilic must beat Marinko Matosevic and Matt Ebden/Lukas Lacko to reach the third round, while Tsonga must defeat David Goffin/Dominic Thiem.
Thiem is a dangerous lurker but I’m not sure about his skills on grass yet. Cilic has a grass court win against Tsonga in ’07 here, and has won the last two meetings, including a meeting in Rotterdam this year (both on hard court).
I’m going with Wawrinka vs. Cilic in the quarters and Cilic over Wawrinka in that matchup. Stan did win on clay this year, but the faster surface favors the Croat.
Grigor Dimitrov will face Rola/Ward in round 2 and the former semifinalist here has a good skill set for grass court tennis. He didn’t play well at all at the French Open and said he was dealing with personal issues after a round 1 loss. Assuming he has been able to put his struggles behind him, his first test should come against Nicolas Mahut in the third round. Mahut faces qualifier Marsel Ilhan, and then Edouard Roger-Vasselin/Evgeny Donskoy. ERV is a good grass court player, too, as he grew up playing some on the surface. That being said, Mahut is an amazing 30-12 on grass since 2010 and Mahut over Dimitrov to reach the quarters seems like a good value pick.
Dimitrov beat Mahut in straights here 2 years ago and leads the overall h2h 3-1, but if Grigor still isn’t quite right with himself, Nico in the quarters is a good selection.
Dimitrov/Mahut will be favored against one of Alex Dolgopolov/Dmitry Tursunov/Igor Sijsling in the quarters. Dolgo faces Denis Istomin or Farrukh Dustov in round 2 and he is just 9-10 on grass in the past four seasons. Tursunov can play well on grass but he’s inconsistent.
Sijsling is a nice change of pace choice as he reached the semis in Nottingham and has a quality record on grass in the past four seasons. Sijsling/Tursunov faces Benoit Paire/Jarkko Nieminen in round 2. Paire has been very poor this season and Nieminen is also struggling and has never been great on grass.
Tomas Berdych, an RG quarterfinalist, will face James Duckworth or Dudi Sela in round 2, then one of Julien Benneteau/Victor Estrella/Adrian Mannarino/Dan Cox in round 3. Benny comes off the French Open doubles title and has some skills on grass, while the seemingly struggling Adrian Mannarino is one to watch: on grass he can catch fire and put some good results. He struggled on clay this year but that is to be expected.
Benny beat Mannarino at Queens last year and leads the h2h 3-0, so he probably has a slight edge for the third round. Berdych and Benny have a 1-1 h2h on grass, but Tom leads the overall h2h 4-1 thus he should be safe for the quarters against Ernests Gulbis/Lleyton Hewitt, or perhaps Lopez.
Gulbis, an RG semifinalist and Nice champion is an on absolute tear recently and has entered the top 10. He will face Somdev Devvarman/Kenny De Schepper first and then Hewitt/Lopez most likely in round 3. Hewitt has lost four straight matches and has been poor this season but he has a great career record on grass and given his 4-0 record against Lopez, including a win at Wimbledon in 2005, I expect him in the third round (he has to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver also in round 1) against Gulbis in a mouthwatering first meeting.
The Latvian is just 4-6 on Grass since 2010 and Hewitt may still be out of form, I’m going with my gut and putting Hewitt in the quarters of my draw, as Ernie may also be tired.
Defending champ and RG semifinalist Andy Murray has some points to defend first up against Aljaz Bedene, a newly minted Brit, or Paul-Henri Mathieu. After that, expect Murray, now working with coach Amelie Mauresmo, to face Radek Stepanek, as the Czech faces Mikhail Kukushkin (who on a trivia note also has a female coach, his wife) and then Bernard Tomic/Tim Smyczek to reach round 3. Stepanek is in decent form and Tomic, who can play well on grass, has been just awful this season as he seems to be throwing his career away.
Murray should be in the quarters after beating Stepanek.
Murray will have an interesting quarterfinal opponent. Kevin Anderson is the slated seed but he’s struggling and even with his big serve, has never dictated on grass like he probably should. Anderson will need to defeat Melzer/Evans to reach round 3, while Stakhovsky/Brands will face Paolo Lorenzi/Vasek Pospisil in round 2.
Lorenzi is an atrocious player off of clay, but Pospisil has literally not won a match since January and has to have absolutely zero confidence and belief right now with 8 straight losses (none of which came against top 15 opponents). I do believe Pospisil will break his losing streak because he’s facing Lorenzi on grass, but I like Brands/Stakhovsky to reach round 3, and one of Anderson/Brands/Stakhovsky to fall to Murray in the quarterfinals.
Dark Horse: Igor Sijsling
A variety of surprise players could make good runs here with an intriguing draw, but I’ll give the Dutchman the official designation for this tournament. If he can beat Tursunov, Paire/Nieminen and Dolgopolov/Istomin he will be in the quarters. This is an entirely reasonable proposition, and Mahut/Dimitrov will be a tough opponent, but he could make the semis.
Cilic d. Mahut
Murray d. Berdych
Cilic and Mahut have split head to heads on grass, with both meetings coming here in London Queens in 2009 and 2010. Cilic also won on a hard court in 2008 and I give him a small edge to advance to the final, given his strong season.
Berdych has won the last two meetings against Murray (in 2013) and he leads the overall h2h, but Murray seems to be in better form and this is grass, so I like him to make the final again.
Murray d. Cilic
It would be a rematch of last years final won by Murray in a competitive 3 sets, and I like a similar result again as Murray is 4-0 on grass overall against Cilic. Marin did win this year indoors in Rotterdam against him, but it seems like the British number 1 is finally returning to his pre-back surgery form or something near it.
Look for the three-time Queens champion to take his fourth title here next weekend.
‘60 MINUTES SPORTS’ MAKES THE CUT AT WIMBLEDON, BRINGING CAMERAS INTO ITS INNER SANCTUM BEFORE TENNIS’ MOST PRESTIGIOUS EVENT – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4 ON SHOWTIME® AT 9 P.M. ET/PT
Formerly its Bad Boy, John McEnroe is Now Wimbledon’s Ambassador
and a Symbol of How the Club has Evolved
NEW YORK — Inside Wimbledon’s clubhouse the trophies bearing the names of tennis royalty are enshrined, winners of an event that dates back to 1877. To tennis aficionados, it is hallowed ground, but to others it might still seem a hidebound relic ensconced behind ivy-covered walls. With tennis’ most prestigious tournament coming up in a few weeks, 60 MINUTES SPORTS takes a look inside this tennis mecca and finds some signs that things may be changing.
One of them is the virtual image of former star player and now tennis commentator John McEnroe. As a young phenom, his on-court tantrums drew boos at the exalted event; now he fronts a museum exhibit at Wimbledon. It’s an about face for the club that once denied him the honorary membership it gives to all its winners. Mark Phillips reports from Wimbledon and interviews McEnroe inside its famed Centre Court, for the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS premiering Wednesday, June 4 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME.
Still, traditions die hard at Wimbledon. It is the only Grand Slam tennis event still played on grass courts. It is the only private club that runs a major tennis championship. There is a Royal Box where Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Charles can be seen taking in the matches in clothing more suited for a church ceremony than a sporting event. Young “court attendants” are rigorously schooled in the affected art of being the perfect Wimbledon ball girls and ball boys.
Other signs point to the slow evolution of Wimbledon in the modern age. The elite club has recently begun outreach programs with local schools, offering free clinics and a chance for the non-member kids to actually play inside Wimbledon. To combat wear and tear on the grass courts during the championships, the club changed the type of grass it had used for decades. 60 MINUTES SPORTS gets a first-hand look at how the most famous “lawn” in the world is replaced each year in anticipation of next year’s tournament.
Other things may never change. Strawberries and cream have been a star food attraction at Wimbledon since the beginning and there is no sign of that tradition slowing down. The event sells 30 tons of the berries during the two-week tournament. When asked by Phillips whether he liked strawberries, Wimbledon’s head caterer, Jonathan Parker replies, “I used to.”
Djokovic Retains World Tour Finals Title, Nadal Finishes Year End #1
Novak Djokovic continued his edge this fall over Rafael Nadal and retained his ATP World Tour Finals title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Spaniard in a rather straightforward final match.
Djokovic was a perfect 22-0 after the US Open and won the 4 straight events he entered.
At the World Tour Finals, Djokovic went 3-0 in round robin play with 3 set victories over Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro and Richard Gasquet before a 6-3, 6-4 win over Stanislas Wawrinka in his semifinals match.
Nadal finished the year #1 in the world as he beat David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, with that last match going 3 sets in round robin play He then handled Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3 to reach the final.
Fittingly, The top two players in the game right now made the final match and both look to keep things going strong in 2014.
David Marrero/Fernando Verdasco beat the Bryans to capture the WTF doubles title.
2013 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Singles Preview and Match Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The top 8* men’s singles players and top 8 men’s doubles teams will play starting tomorrow in the World Tour Finals round robin in London with points, prize money, and pride on the line.
*#4 Andy Murray is out with a back injury and Richard Gasquet takes his place.
Here is a short preview of finals and predictions for the round robin singles groups. This is the final ATP level event of the year and it’s been a pleasure covering all the ATP action again this year.
Hope everyone enjoys their slight winter break from ATP tennis.
Barclays ATP World Tour Finals
ATP World Tour Finals (1500 ranking points category)
November 4-November 11, 2013
Prize Money: $6,000,000
Singles Group A:
1: Rafael Nadal
3: David Ferrer
6: Tomas Berdych
8: Stanislas Wawrinka
Singles Group B:
2: Novak Djokovic
5: Juan Martin Del Potro
7: Roger Federer
9: Richard Gasquet
Doubles Group A:
1: Bryan Brothers
3: Ivan Dodig/Marcel Melo
5: Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi/Jean-Julien Rojer
8: Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski
Doubles Group B:
2: Alex Peya/Bruno Soares
4: Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez
6: David Marrero/Fernando Verdasco
7: Leander Paes/Radek Stepanek
Singles Standings Predictions
Nadal 3-0 (d. Ferrer in 2, Berdych in 3, Wawrinka in 2)
Ferrer 2-1 ( d. Berdych in 2, Wawrinka in 3)
Wawrinka 1-2 (d. Berdych in 3)
Nadal will be fresher than Ferrer, who just beat him. Rafa will be eager for both revenge and clinching the year end #1, which he can do with a minimum of two wins in the round robin. He also has positive head to heads and better form than both Berdych and Wawrinka.
Ferrer, though perhaps tired, just beat Berdych in Paris. I think his form is better than Wawrinka though that is a tough match to call.
Djokovic 2-1 (d. Federer in 3, Gasquet in 2)
Federer 2-1 (d. Del Potro in 3, Gasquet in 2)
Del Potro 2-1 (d. Djokovic in 3, Gasquet in 2)
Djokovic just beat Fed in Paris. Both players might be a little tired but Novak is in great form. Gasquet will be found slumping in such a tough group. I have Del Po beating Djokovic just because, though he could easily finish 1-2 based upon his health and also his mental attitude.
After all, he was robbed of his personal possessions in a horrible incident on the way to London. Federer just beat him in Paris and Del Potro seems to be playing some of his best tennis at the end of the year. It will likely come down to the tiebreak formula, but I think he makes the semis.
Federer d. Nadal in 3
Djokovic d. Ferrer 2
Have to wonder what Rafa’s focus will be like after he clinches the number 1.
If Federer can keep his form up, he has a chance at a big upset as he seems focused here.
Djokovic should beat an equally tired Ferrer in a rematch of the Paris final.
Djokovic d. Federer in 3
This one would be exciting and probably close, just like their 3 set Paris meeting along with their previous meeting this week. I expect the result to be the same, Djokovic in 3 to retain the World Tour Finals crown. This is also a rematch of the 2012 final at the O2 arena.
Murray Wins 3rd Queens, Federer Takes First Title in 2013 and 6th Halle Trophy
ATP London (Queen’s Club)
Andy Murray won his third Aegon Championships crown with a hard fought 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Croat Marin Cilic. It was Murray’s third title of the 2013 campaign and he got it done beating Nicolas Mahut, Marinko Matosevic, Benjamin Becker and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 3 sets.
Cilic beat Ivan Dodig, Feliciano Lopez in 3 sets, Tomas Berdych, and Queens Club legend Lleyton Hewitt in 3 sets to reach the final, his 2nd final of 2013 (Zagreb). As a sidenote, Hewitt upset seeded and younger players Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey and Juan Martin Del Potro to reach the semis.
The Bryans won their 8th doubles title of 2013, and are dominating almost every event they enter with Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares their latest final victims.
Roger Federer won his first title in 10 months 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 over Mikhail Youzhny. The win is the 77th career title for Federer and Number 6 in Halle. He now has the 4th-most overall titles won in the Open era and he got there beating Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, double-bageling Mischa Zverev, and beating Tommy Haas in 3 sets.
Colonel Youzhny beat Dani Gimeno-Traver, Kei Nishikori in 3 sets, Phillip Kohlschreiber and Richard Gasquet.
Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky won the doubles title over Daniele Bracciali and Jonathan Erlich.
2013 ATP London, Halle Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
The dirt season is now over and tennis will return to the ornate lawns of Queen’s Club and the Gerry Weber Open, bringing faster tennis and more volleying.
ATP London (Queen’s Club)
ATP World Tour 250
June 10-June 16, 2013
Prize money: € 779,665
The Big Bracket 250 and joint WTA event brings tennis back to London.
Top 8 seeds (who all receive 1st round byes)
1: Andy Murray
2: Tomas Berdych
3: Juan Martin Del Potro
4: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
5: Marin Cilic
6: Sam Querrey
7: Alex Dolgopolov
8: Kevin Anderson
1st round matchups to watch:
Bernard Tomic vs. Benjamin Becker
Tomic is in dire straits right now but he still has talent and he still has skill on grass. Becker is a journeyman, but he is in the finals of Nottingham and is solid at trying to wear guys down.Have to say Becker is the favorite but this should be a quality match.
Kenny De Schepper vs. Rajeev Ram
De Schepper is a rising young Frenchman who relies on power and a big serve. Ram is of course the lanky American serve and volleyer who does his best work on grass, thus making this a great clash of styles. De Schepper comes off semis in the Nottingham challenger while Ram lost early, thus he should have a bit of an edge.
(13) Jarkko Nieminen vs. Ryan Harrison
First meeting between the pair: Nieminen has had a solid year and is good on all surfaces, while Harrison is working his way back to success but lost in the opening round of the Nottingham grass court challenger this week. Expect quality ball striking and a lot of fast movement.
Andy Murray will be able to occupy his time with something besides twittering once again. He’ll start with Nicolas Mahut or Rhyne Williams and if he gets Mahut again, it would be a rematch of a match he lost at this very event last year. After that, Murray should meet Marinko Matosevic or Michael Llodra. A qualifier and Pablo Andujar are also options in a winnable but challenging section.
The struggling Alex Dolgopolov will play Santiago Giraldo or Jesse Levine, and the winner could get Lukas Rosol, who comes off a clay challenger. A qualifier and the Becker/Tomic winner are all options in this open section.
RG semifinalist Tsonga, who was very disappointing in his semifinal match, will take on Guillaume Rufin or Edouard Roger-Vasselin. After that, he could see Tatsuma Ito, Andrey Kuznetsov, Denis Istomin or Igor Sijsling (who is playing well right now). Istomin will be looking for some better results off of clay.
The versatile Kevin Anderson will play the De Schepper/Ram winner in a key 2nd round match and that should be followed by Benoit Paire, a qualifier, Denis Kudla or Federico Del Bonis.
Tomas Berdych, who fell in that huge opening round match at the French against Monfils, will try again against Thiemo De Bakker or Rogerio Dutra Silva. Dutchman De Bakker has been playing a bit better recently and could do some damage. The rest of this section is Grega Zemlja, Sergiy Stakhovsky and British wild cards Ed Corrie and Kyle Edmund, a couple of young guns.
Marin Cilic could be facing his countryman and the Croatian #2 Ivan Dodig. If Dodig can beat British journeyman James Ward, then Julian Benneteau and Adrian Mannarino will face each other while the crafty Ricardas Berankis will play a qualifier. Benneteau beat Berankis at the French Open in a quality match and Rycka will try to get him back on the grass if they meet.
Juan Martin Del Potro is back in the field after many questions about his health. He’ll play Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or grass maestro Xaiver Malisse and the winner should get Nieminen/Harrison. Guido Pella and British Davis Cup hero Dan Evans are also options.
Sam Querrey should feel much more comfortable on grass and will play Aljaz Bedene or Paul-Henri Mathieu and then could get Grigor Dimitrov, Dudi Sela or veterans Michael Russell and Lleyton Hewitt.This section is deeply intriguing.
Dark Horse: Lleyton Hewitt
There are a lot of choices in terms of dark horses, but Hewitt played well and went out in 5 sets in Paris. Now back on the comfortable confines of grass he has a draw that gives him a chance to make to some noise if he can beat Muscles Russell and then Grisha Dimitrov, followed by an upset of Sam Querrey most likely. After that, it will probably be another big match with Del Potro. He will not be favored after the opening round but anything is possible when it comes to the tenacious veteran.
Murray d. Anderson
Berdych d. Querrey
Murray should be able to find his way to the semis as long as his back is ok though Rosol could be a challenge. Anderson needs to get past De Schepper/Ram, but after that things open up and Tsonga is probably tired from the French, setting up the South African for another good showing. Still, I don’t think it will be enough against the counterpuncher Murray who can parry him well. the h2h is 1-1, but they haven’t met since 2011.
Berdych, though he lost, really didn’t play poorly at RG, and his draw is about as good as it gets, likely rolling the semis unless an underdog like Berankis were to pull off a shock. I also think Querrey squeaks past his section and I can’t trust Del Potro health-wise right now. Berdych is just a better version of Querrey in almost every department, owning a 5-1 h2h record against him.
Berdych d. Murray
Could be a great final. Overall, Berdych leads the h2h 5-4 but Murray has a better record on faster surfaces.
Gerry Weber Open
ATP World Tour 250
June 10-June 16, 2013
Prize money: € 779,665
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Roger Federer
2: Richard Gasquet
3: Tommy Haas
4: Kei Nishikori
1st round matchups to watch:
(7) Jerzy Janowicz vs. Phillip Petzschner
Janowicz made the 3rd round in Paris and has the game to do damage on grass given his good serve and quality volleying. Petzschner really is one of those players who only gets fanfare during the grass court season and thus this is an interesting match.
(5) Milos Raonic vs. Gael Monfils
Raonic will be happy to return to some quicker courts while Monfils was one of the huge storylines in Paris, this is a massive match and Raonic will be the favorite though Monfils won their only meeting indoors in 2011. Monfils is still unpredictable but at least he should be somewhat more rested.
4 time Halle champ Roger Federer gets Cedrik-Marcel Stebe or a qualifier, then should get the Janowicz/Petzschner winner, unless David Goffin or Mischa Zverev get through to round 3.
FO quarterfinalist Tommy Haas will play Ernests Gulbis for the 3rd time this year (having split meetings so far) if Gulbis beats Marcos Baghdatis in what would be an entertaining second round match. The Raonic/Monfils winner will play Daniel Brands or a qualifier in another big round 2 match.
Richard Gasquet will play Jurgen Melzer or a qualifier, then he will get one of Florian Mayer, Jan-Lennard Struff, Leo Mayer or a qualifier in an easy section. Kei Nishikori will play Mikhail Youzhny or Dani Gimeno-Traver and the winner likely gets Phillip Kohlschreiber if Kohli beats Carlos Berlocq and Lukasz Kubot/Tobias Kamke.
Dark Horse: Jerzy Janowicz
Janowicz has the game for grass but it will all come down to a likely round 3 meeting with Federer, Fed is still one of the best players ever on grass, but this year he has just not been reliable, losing once again before the semis, to Tsonga in Paris. With Janowicz rising and Federer slipping the conditions are ripe for an upset after that he could get Haas/Brands/Gulbis/Raonic/Monfils all of whom would be tough, and Brands qualifies as a bit of a dark horse too. I will note Federer did beat Janowicz in Rome this year, but that was on clay. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xfOtobpn_E
Janowicz d. Haas
Kohlschreiber d. Gasquet
Haas has a tough section but I think he makes it out before falling to the big Pole, Kohlschreiber should beat Nishikori on grass and then edge Gasquet who has a cupcake draw until the semis.
Janowicz d. Kohlschreiber
Janowicz won their only meeting last year indoors in Paris in route to the masters final and I think he wins his first ATP title in Halle.
Magic Murray is Golden in London, Del Po takes Bronze
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Andy Murray earned the biggest win of his career over Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, in the Olympic final on home turf at Wimbledon to earn the much deserved gold medal in an emotional victory. The raucous crowd urged their man on in their home Olympic games as he delivered a confident, methodical and smashing win over the man many have called the king of grass, avenging his loss in the Wimbledon final one month ago.
Murray broke twice in the first set and the second break closed the set out at 6-2. Then, he proceeded to roll an entire set of games in a row on Federer in the second. The key breakthrough came as Federer was unable to break Murray during a very long game early in the second set. In the third, the tennis was a bit more closely matched, but it was Murray who was top class, breaking midway through the third and then proceeding to confidently serve it out. He closed out the match with three smashing aces that Federer couldn’t answer.
Murray’s play was at his highest level. He was moving well, volleying brilliantly, including some extremely nifty flick volleys, and hitting from the baseline with excellence. While he did not serve the highest percentage, he got the aces when he needed them and managed to stave off any break points Federer received.
It was quite a different Roger Federer from the one who beat Murray in four sets just one month ago at Wimbledon on the grass. One has to wonder if his marathon match against Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis took something out of him, but either way his play was stuck in third gear most of the match with too many errors and a failure to capitalize on the chances he did have.
For Federer, it is a tough loss and a big blow to him as he was gunning hard for an Olympic gold in singles, one of the few accomplishments he has not achieved in his career and something that clearly meant a lot to him. Even in defeat, he remained sportsmanlike and still gets a well-deserved silver medal.
As for “Magic Murray”, he gets a much needed confidence boost and hopefully relieves a great deal of pressure. Even though the Olympics isn’t a grand slam event, the quality of the field and the tennis he had to play to win Gold was very similar, as was the feeling around the importance of the event. He will have a chance at the US Open and beyond as he got past his rivals Federer and Djokovic. You really have to hand it to the British crowd for pulling him and Team Great Britain through in the home Olympics.
In order to make the final, Federer beat Alejandro Falla in three tough sets, Julien Benneteau (who didn’t trouble him this time like he did at Wimbledon), Denis Istomin, last American standing John Isner, and Del Potro in a marathon match 3-6, 7-6, 19-17. Both Del Potro and Federer had chances to win in the third set, and Federer choked away a lot of break points but finally converted and managed to pull it off. After his victory over Del Potro, Federer was choked up during his post match interview while Del Potro walked off the court amid tears and apparently cried for many hours more.
Murray beat Stan Wawrinka, Jarkko Nieminen, Marcos Baghdatis, Nicolas Almagro and confidently handled Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 to make the final. Murray dueled serves with Djokovic and broke him at the end of both sets to win. Both guys played some skillful tennis and expended a lot of energy in the semi.
In the bronze match, Juan Martin Del Potro took it over Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4. Showing little signs of fatigue or depression after playing two long matches the day before, including a 19-17 third set loss to Federer in the singles semi. At four hours and change, it was a record setting match in length. Del Potro’s victory assured that there has been a medalist from South America in men’s singles the past three Olympic Games.
Djokovic will certainly be disappointed after two tough losses back to back and failing to repeat as bronze medalist, but he still did well to make it as far as he did. Djokovic also survived a third round test against the tenacious Lleyton Hewitt, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Hewitt nearly knocked him off and turned back the clock.
In the men’s doubles, the Bryan Brothers took the gold and completed the career slam over the exciting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra, who took silver. Another French team of Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet took the bronze medal over David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. Tsonga played a lot of tennis himself, including a 25-23 third set win over Milos Raonic in singles, the second most games in a set behind the epic Isner-Mahut match at Wimbledon a couple of years back.
Lastly, in mixed doubles, Murray and his partner, the young and talented 18-year-old British player, Laura Robson, fell in a tight match to Belarusians Max Mirnyi and Vika Azarenka, who were thrilled with their gold medal. Azarenka also won the bronze in women’s singles, while Mirnyi was the flag bearer for Belarus and played in what he says will be his final Olympics. It is worth noting that the team of Murray/Robson was a mixed doubles wild card while Mirnyi/Azeranka were the top seeds, so it was a good result for both teams. Americans Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond took the bronze over Germans Christopher Kas and Sabine Lisicki.
Murray (gold and silver), Mike Bryan (gold and bronze), Serena Williams (singles gold and ladies doubles gold) and Azarenka (gold and bronze) all walked away with more than one medal in the Olympic tennis event.
Just a few weeks after Wimbledon, the top tennis players are back at the All England Club vying not for trophies but for Olympic medals in the 2012 London Olympic games. In the 2008 Beijing Games, Rafael Nadal took home the gold, Fernando Gonzalez took home the silver and Novak Djokovic the bronze. As Gonzalez is retired and Nadal had to pull out with knee problems, we will have some new medalists. Here is a preview of the draw. (http://2012.itftennis.com/olympics/results/men%27s-singles.aspx)
Top 8 Seeds:
1: Roger Federer
2: Novak Djokovic
3: Andy Murray
4: David Ferrer
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
6: Tomas Berdych
7: Janko Tipsarevic
8: Juan Martin Del Potro
1st round match ups to watch:
Roger Federer vs. Alejandro Falla
The Wimbledon champion will start his quest for gold in singles (he won the gold in doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2008 Games) against the man who pushed him to five sets in the 2010 Wimbledon tournament. While Federer will be a heavy favorite, there is always a chance for a scare.
Denis Istomin vs. Fernando Verdasco
Istomin reached the fourth round of Wimbledon while Verdasco has been up and down recently. FerVer is higher ranked but Istomin will have a good chance in this match up.
David Nalbandian vs. Janko Tipsarevic
Nalby and Tipsy will face a rematch after Tipsarevic beat Nalbandian in the first round of Wimbledon this year. Tipsarevic has also been on fire recently, winning Stuttgart and reaching the final of Gstaad. While that was on clay, it is still a good indication of his current form and why he will be a favorite in this match up. That being said, Nalbandian is always a threat on grass.
Bernard Tomic vs. Kei Nishikori
A couple of the most hyped young players in the game, Tomic and Nishikori have had polar career turns recently with Tomic having a very bad year and Nishikori having a good but inconsistent year. Tomic, who had a masterful run at Wimbledon last year, has not made a quarterfinal in any tournament since April and he bombed out his first match at both tournaments he played on grass, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. For his part, Nishikori is 20-12 on the year and reached the Round of 32 at Wimbledon and the Quarterfinals in Newport. He will be a favorite against Tomic, but both guys still have a lot of potential.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Andy Murray
If Andy Murray is to do well in his home nations Olympics, he will have to get past Stanislas Wawrinka in the opening round. Murray made the final of Wimbledon this year while Wawrinka will be the flag bearer for Switzerland in the opening ceremony. Wawrinka is not the most comfortable on grass but he is still a dangerous player who could cause problems for Murray.
David Goffin vs. Juan Monaco
One of the most intriguing young players in the game right now, Goffin will face Monaco, who just broke into the top ten and is in top form going into London. Goffin reached the Round of 32 at Wimbledon and the Round of 16 at the French Open. Monaco, who won Hamburg and was a finalist in Stuttgart will be a favorite, but Goffin could pull an upset.
Wimbledon Champ Federer will likely be able to reach the quarters, but to do so he will have to get past some old rivals. After Falla, he would draw Julien Benneteau, who pushed him to five sets at this year’s Wimbledon. He could also see Mikhail Youzhny, and could then play Istomin or Verdasco in the third round. His other two options are Atlanta finalist Gilles Muller and Adrian Ungur of Romania.
Tipsaervic could face Phillip Petzschner, who replaced Ivo Karlovic, or Lukas Lacko in the second round, and then could play a big third round clash with John Isner. Isner will face veteran serve and volleyer Olivier Rochus and then the winner of Lu Yen-Hsun and Malek Jaziri, neither of which should be too hard for Big John. The winner of that match makes the Quarters.
David Ferrer, now Spain’s top ranked participant, opens up against the young Vasek Pospisil of Canada. He would then face the winner of Philip Kohlschreiber vs. Blaz Kavic, a couple of guys who have been playing a lot of clay recently. Ferrer could face a dangerous third round clash with Nishikori. Nishikori will have to get through Tomic and Radek Stepanek or Nikolay Davydenko to make the date with Ferrer.
Del Potro opens up against Ivan Dodig and could face Andreas Seppi, who has had a great year and possibly Gilles Simon in the third round. Also lurking is the young Grigor Dimitrov, who has a game that does well on grass. Dimitrov opens up against Lukasz Kubot of Poland and then would face Simon or Mikhail Kukushkin.
Novak Djokovic faces Fabio Fognini in the opener and could get a strong looking Andy Roddick in what would be a second round blockbuster. If he gets through that, Marin Cilic is his likely third round opponent. Keep an eye on wily veterans Lleyton Hewitt and Jurgen Melzer, who spent a week in Vegas before the Olympics.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga starts off against a recently top performing Thomaz Bellucci and then could face the dangerous Milos Raonic in the second round. After that, he could play Monaco, who, after Goffin, will face the winner of Dmitry Tursunov vs. Feliciano Lopez.
The home favorite Murray will get Somdev Devvarman of India or Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the second round after facing Wawrinka. Another rematch with Richard Gasquet could be in the cards for the third round. Go Soeda and Marcos Baghdatis, the flag bearer for Cyprus, are also in this part of the draw as is Dutchman Robin Haase.
A slumping Tomas Berdych, who lost in the first round to Ernest Gulbis at Wimbledon, will open against Steve Darcis of Belgium then could face Ryan Harrison in the second round. Rival Nicolas Almagro is lurking in the third round. Harrison starts off with Santiago Giraldo, while Almagro faces Viktor Troicki and then either Carlos Berlocq or Alex Bogomolov.
Dark Horse Dimitrov
Dark Horse: Grigor Dimitrov
The young Bulgarian is finally coming into his own and recently reached the semis in Bastad and Gstaad on clay. He has a game that plays well on grass and also reached the semis of Queen’s Club. He is 18-12 on the year and has a pretty lucky draw, as Gilles Simon hasn’t really been performing well recently and Del Potro is rather inconsistent. He has a nice shot at the quarterfinals at least.
Federer d. Tipsarevic
Ferrer d. Dimitrov
Murray d. Almagro
Djokovic d. Monaco
Federer d. Ferrer
Murray d. Djokovic
Federer d. Murray
In what would be a rematch of the Wimbledon final, and a second chance for Andy Murray to best Federer in best of five sets in front of the home fans.
3rd place match:
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Djokovic will attempt to repeat as Bronze medalist.