Lisa-Marie Burrows

ATP Roland Garros Visions: Picks, Predictions, Dark Horses, Winners

(May 25, 2013) With tennis’ second Slam of the season about to get underway with main draw action, the dedicated panel of Tennis Grandstand writers have come together for a comprehensive preview of the men’s draw at Roland Garros. We’ve covered dark horses, seeded players crashing out early, first round upsets and matches to watch for, and potential semifinalists and eventual champion for the men’s tour.

In the table, you will find the entire Tennis Grandstand team’s “Quick Picks and Predictions” for the ATP draw, with further detailed analysis below by Lisa-Marie Burrows, James Crabtree, Romi Cvitkovic, Yeshayahu Ginsburg and Andrea Lubinsky.

Dark Horse

Lisa-Marie Burrows(6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga has the potential to sneak through to the quarterfinals relatively untroubled.  He may have Marin Cilic, Juan Mónaco and compatriot Jeremy Chardy in his section, but I feel that he can reach the quarters fairly easily. He could be a difficult quarterfinal opponent for Roger Federer to contend with.

James Crabtree: (12) Tommy Haas. The fairytale story has been waiting long enough, and Tommy Haas has the correct subplots to fulfill the fairytale. Not only that but his draw is favorable and rumor suggests he possesses magic beans, has a black cat, practices voodoo and is in fact Baron Samedi (James Bond reference for y’all).

Cvitkovic: Ernests Gulbis. The Latvian has a tough but very doable road to the semifinals. He could potentially take on Tomas Berdych in the second round, Tommy Robredo in the third and Nicolas Almagro in the fourth, before possibly outhitting David Ferrer in the quarterfinals if he has enough steam.  He may be a ticking time bomb on court, but Roland Garros has always been his best Slam result, having reached the quarterfinals in 2008. Now, more mature and experienced, he could make another solid run here.

Yeshayahu Ginsburg: (5) Tomas Berdych. Picking a dark horse in tennis is kind of an act of futility nowadays. When it comes to winning Grand Slams, it’s the “Big 4” and no one else. Take Andy Murray out of the equation due to injury (though he was weaker on clay anyway) and it’s Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or bust for the winner. But if I have to pick someone else, Berdych has been very strong recently, reaching the semifinals in both Madrid and Rome. He has a good chance at making a deep run—assuming he can get by Gael Monfils in the first round, that is.

Andrea Lubinsky(24) Benoit Paire. The good news? Paire is at a career high 26 in the rankings and scored wins over Juan Monaco, Julien Benneteau, and Juan Maritn del Potro en route to the semifinals in Rome, where he pushed Roger Federer in two close sets. The bad news? He’s in Nadal’s quarter. There are plenty of guys who have had a solid clay season, but what makes Paire a better Dark Horse is his inconsistency. His bad days are bad, but his great days are great…

Seeded Player Crashing Out Early

Burrows: (8) Janko Tipsarevic or (19) John Isner. For me it was a toss up between No.8 seed Tipsarevic losing to Verdasco in the second round and John Isner losing in the first.  I feel that an early exit may be on the cards for No.19 seed Isner as he faces Carlos Berlocq of Argentina in the opening round. He can prove to be a very tricky customer and enjoys playing on the clay.

Crabtree: It has to be (5) Tomas Berdych. If he doesn’t lose to Gael Monfils in the first round, a true son to his French faithful who is seemingly finding old form, he will have to battle Ernests Gulbis in the second round, another player destined for the top twenty.

Cvitkovic: (5) Tomas Berdych. If he can get past a newly in-form Gael Monfils in the first round, the Czech will likely encounter Ernests Gulbis, who took him out first round of Wimbledon last year and can easily out-play him again on the Latvian’s better surface.

Ginsburg: (8) Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic is not facing any particularly good players on clay until at least the third round (Verdasco can be a challenge but has been horribly inconsistent for a few years now), but Tipsarevic has been playing just awful tennis this year. He probably gets by Nicolas Mahut, but I can’t see him winning more than two matches here unless he turns around fast.

Lubinsky(8) Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic actually has a pretty cushy section of the draw, but for some reason I’m just not feeling it. That reason? He’s had an abysmal clay season, losing to the likes of Guido Pella, Daniel Brands, Guillermo Garcia Lopez, all ranked at least 50 places beneath him. If he beats Nicolas Mahut in the first round, the No. 8 seed could face Fernando Verdasco, who could pose a real challenge.

First Round Match to Watch For

Burrows(15) Gilles Simon vs Lleyton Hewitt.  The first thing that popped into my head when I saw their names drawn in the first round is ‘this is going to be a long match!’ Expect five long sets, each lasting around one hour each!  Both players are great defensive counter-punchers and it will be a battle of fitness on court to see who can edge out the other.

Crabtree: (1) Novak Djokovic vs David Goffin. It’s doubtful Novak will lose, but he should still be pushed by the rising Goffin who took a set off Federer last year. The other match is one that will get little press. Nevertheless watch out for qualifier James Duckworth and Blaz Kavcic. Their last encounter was a four hour and fifty two minute marathon in scolding heat at this years Aussie Open which Kavcic won 10-8 in the fifth.

Cvitkovic: (24) Benoit Paire vs Marcos Baghdatis. Both have eccentric personalities, so I would watch this match as much for the tennis as the hilarity or drama that could ensue. With Paire becoming a surprise semifinalist in Rome two weeks ago and Baghdatis the usual fan favorite, both are sure to bring crowds and opinionated people as well.

Ginsburg: (5) Tomas Berdych vs Gael Monfils. Can there be any better first-round match? Monfils was a top ten player before injuries stalled his career for a bit. He’s on the way back and isn’t fully at top form yet, but he always plays well in front of his home Paris crowd—at least in the early rounds. Both guys play hard-hitting power games and this should be some fun clay court tennis.

Lubinsky: (5) Tomas Berdych v. Gael Monfils. Gael Monfils is a wildcard. Yes, you read that correctly. After an extended injury break, the once world No. 7 has fallen to 109 in the rankings, but he’s working his way back up, winning a challenger in Bordeaux last week and reaching the finals in Nice. Will he win? Probably not. Berdych is in fine form, but generally any Monfils match provides plenty of entertainment. This is one not to be missed.

First Round Upset Special

Burrows: Gael Monfils d. (6) Tomas Berdych.  This match has entertainment written all over it.  This is a tough first round draw against the enigmatic Monfils, who would love to delight his home crowd with a victory over the fifth seed.  Should Monfils be feeling physically fit, this match has the potential to bring a closely fought contest, with the crowd firmly behind their man.

Crabtree: Lleyton Hewitt d. (15) Gilles Simon. Too much Aussie loyalty here. Hewitt will take down Gilles Simon in 5 brutally boring sets! Hewitt never has done much on clay, but he is a grand slam type player who hasn’t got too many of these chances left.

Cvitkovic: Dmitry Tursunov d. (22) Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dolgopolov has been struggling this year, barely winning over 50% of his matches and was defeated by both Robin Haase and Ivan Dodig on clay within the last month. What’s more, Tursunov took Dologopolov to two tiebreak sets in the second round of Munich where he eventually lost. It may be time to plot his revenge and garner more noise surrounding his comeback.

Ginsburg: Ricardas Berankis d. (30) Julien Benneteau. There are some good choices here, especially given Wawrinka’s injury. But I’ll take someone a little lower in the rankings. Ricardas Berankis is in a good position against Julien Benneteau, who is better on hard courts than clay. Berankis is a young player in his first French Open main draw and he has a real chance to make a splash by starting with an upset.

LubinskyPablo Andujar d. (29) Mikhail Youzhny. The No. 29 seed isn’t exactly a clay court specialist and while his clay court relsults this season haven’t been awful, they haven’t been great either. On the other hand, Andujar excels on the the red dirt. He reached the semi finals in Nice this week and even more impressively, the semi finals in Madrid earlier this month. Should he pull the upset, he has real potential to make the 4th round.

Semifinalists

Burrows: I have a feeling it will involve the two players that many expect to meet: Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal. Neither player has got a particularly easy route to the final, but it will make for a mouthwatering encounter. It could be the dream final – but a round earlier.

The bottom half of the draw may see David Ferrer take on Roger Federer for a place in the final. If Ferrer can battle past a possible quarter-final meeting with Berdych or Almagro,  I think it would provide an interesting semifinal between him and Federer.

Crabtree: I am probably very alone on this but I see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reunited with Roger Federer for another epic slam semi. Now I promise I am not on medication but Jo will take the winner of the Rafael Nadal and Tommy Haas match.

Cvitkovic: Outside of the top three who I expect to make the semifinals, Nadal, Djokovic and Federer, the fourth spot in Ferrer’s quarter is up for grabs. You could give the semifinal slot to Berdych, Almagro or Ferrer, but I’m going with Gulbis. He must be physical fit and be able to sustain all of his previous matches, then take it to Ferrer’s grinding game by hitting his signature wild winners.

Ginsburg: It would be foolish to pick Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal to lose early, but Djokovic has an absolutely brutal draw. If Tommy Haas ever had a chance for one last hurrah at a Major, this is it. I think he comes out of that quarter whether or not someone beats Djokovic before Haas would meet him. The other sections have some intrigue, with Federer/Tsonga and Berdych/Ferrer two very good potential quarterfinal matches, but I don’t know that there’s as much potential for an upset that massive in the other sections. Give me Haas, Nadal, Ferrer, and Federer as the four semifinalists.

Lubinsky: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer. One of these things is not like the others. When one of the Top 4 misses a Grand Slam, it creates a huge void in the draw, a void for someone to take advantage of. Theoretically this section belongs to David Ferrer, but it’s tough to determine his form since he’s been impeded by Nadal in both Madrid and Rome. Berdych on the other hand made the semi finals at both tournaments, putting him in a prime location to take advantage of Andy Murray’s withdrawal. However, he does have a very tough draw including the likes of Monfils, Gulbis, Robredo and Almagro so he will have to find his best form yet.

And the Champion is …

Burrows(3) Rafael Nadal. Despite a potential tough meeting against Djokovic in the semis, I feel that if Nadal can surpass the world No.1 he will have beaten his biggest nemesis out there. Roland Garros is his stomping ground and I have a feeling Nadal is not willing to give up his crown in Paris just yet.

Crabtree: (3) Rafael Nadal. Nadal will defeat Tsonga in 4 sets, bite his trophy and tell everyone that it was ‘more than a dream!’

Cvitkovic: (3) Rafael Nadal. Ever since coming back from his injury layoff in January, the Spaniard seems to be a man on a mission. Racking up six titles already this year, and holding a record 31-2 on clay in 2013, one would be hard-pressed to pick an alternative. He could face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, but given the Serbs tough road and any lingering ankle issue, Nadal should be able to get past him to the final with the hunger we’ve learned to love in the Spaniard.

Ginsburg: (3) Rafael Nadal. It would be foolish to pick anyone other than Nadal to win it all, especially with Djokovic’s draw. The only person I see with a decent chance to beat Nadal before the semis is Kei Nishikori, and he just isn’t good enough on clay (though a potential third-round match with Lukas Rosol will generate a lot of hype, that’s for sure). The only player I can see beating Nadal on clay this year in a Slam is David Ferrer (he sure came close twice this year already on clay) and Ferrer just can’t get that far because it means going through Federer. And we all know how Federer/Nadal French Open finals end.

Lubinsky(3) Rafael Nadal. Nadal is 52-1 at Roland Garros. Let that sink in. In 8 years, he has lost just once. Yes, he was out for an extended period of time, but the rust is all gone. He’s already won 6 titles since his return earlier this year and he’s already leading the race to London, despite having missed this year’s only Grand Slam.

ITF Release 2012 Testing Summary

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

“Last year, through the Dubai, Rotterdam and Indian Wells swing where I won all three, I didn’t get tested once. That shouldn’t be OK.”

At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Roger Federer once again shared his thoughts about doping and testing. He revealed that in 2012, there was a lack of frequent and consistent testing for doping whilst he was competing, despite having won three consecutive tournaments.

This week, the ITF (International Tennis Federation) have shared their plans for biological passports. They have been busy of late redesigning their Davis Cup and Fed Cup websites and their latest relaunch has been the official website of its Anti-Doping department.

The website aims to share detailed information on the Tennis Anti-Doping programme and it has uploaded many PDFs from recent years of blood testing which has been carried out on the athletes.

A summary of testing conducted under the 2012 ITF Tennis Anti-Doping Programme is now available on their website of all players who hold an ATP or WTA ranking. The results show the amount of times the athletes have been tested during the year whilst competing and also when they are out of competition. The results do not include samples collected during the London Olympics by the National Anti-Doping Organisations.

During 2012, the statistics show that a total of 1727 in-competition urine specimen samples were taken from male and female athletes and 124 specimens of blood.

Out of-competition testing was slightly lower with 271 specimens for urine and 63 for blood. Overall, 2185 total specimens were taken and it is interesting to see how consistently players were tested, particularly the higher ranked players.  I have put together a table of results for the current top 20 ATP and WTA players.

ATP Top 20 Testing Summary

These are the sample testing results for the players ranked in the top 20 in the ATP rankings as of this week.

The samples are fairly consistent with Djokovic, Murray, Ferrer, Berdych, Del Potro, Tsonga. Tipsarevic, Gasquet, Cilic, Wawrinka and Seppi all tested on seven and above occasions, whilst the other players were largely tested four to six times.

The only exceptions are Rafael Nadal, who due to injury was not tested for in-competition as frequently and therefore has a higher out-of-competition sample compared to his colleagues. Milos Raonic was also tested on one to three in-competition occasions.

For further names of athletes and their testing summary, you can access the ITF anti-doping website here:

WTA Top 20 Testing Summary

These are the sample testing results for the players ranked in the top 20 in the WTA rankings as of this week.

Half of the WTA top 20 players were tested during competitions on seven or more occasions and surprisingly four out of the current top 5 have been tested fewer times than some of their counterparts. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Na Li have been tested on one to three occasions and four to six occasions respectively.

For further names of athletes and their testing summary, you can access the ITF anti-doping website here:

Over the next few years, expect the number of overall testing to rise, as the ITF have made it clear that they are going to increase the number of blood tests done each year under its anti-doping programme.

Federer was pleased by the announcement and said at the BNP Paribas Open:

“I think tennis has done a good job of trying everything to be as clean as possible but we are entering a new era. We have to do everything to ensure our tour is as clean as it possibly can be.”

 

Rafael Nadal – It’s a Matter of Time

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Rafael Nadal is back. How long have his fans and supporters been waiting to hear those words? A very long 222 days.

Time is a great healer, or so we are told. The Spaniard may have been back for less than two weeks, but in that time he has reached the singles and doubles final at Viña del Mar and has been crowned champion in São Paolo.

Today he won his 51st ATP Tour title and 37th on clay, but is Rafa back at his very best after a great two weeks of his comeback? I doubt it, but give him time.

‘Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.’ – Abraham Lincoln

Taking time out from the ATP Tour to recuperate and recover has been necessary for the 11-time Grand Slam champion to ensure his knee heals and to prevent further injury. Undoubtedly his rhythm and feel for the ball is not at its best, but at least he is back on the courts competing again and without taking the time to recover, he may have made his injuries worse.

He may have ‘lost’ seven months on Tour, but in doing so it’s possible he has lengthened his time competing and that is the most valuable thing.

‘It’s better to do the right thing slowly than the wrong thing quickly.’ – Peter Turla

Nadal has won his first title in eight months and has received a mix bag of press about his return. He has been honest that he is not 100% and still feels some occasional discomfort in his knee. Whilst playing at the two South American tournaments, he revealed that he has struggled with his movement and timing on the ball, but after months of not playing, that is natural.

The Spaniard will not be playing in Buenos Aires next week and this is a sensible decision. It will give him an opportunity to assess his performance over the last two weeks, evaluate how he is feeling physically and relax mentally after two weeks of interrogation about his knee and level of play. Taking things slowly now may create better results in the future.

‘All the flowers of all of the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.’ – Chinese Proverb

The South American swing of the Tour is a good test for Nadal. He may not be playing against the top 5 players, but match practice is more vital. Clay is his favourite surface and one that is the least likely to cause further injury to his knee. Participating and winning at these tournaments are small stepping stones towards his bigger goals – winning against the best and adding further Grand Slams to his outstanding list of achievements.

Not being able to do the one thing you love always has the ability to make you realise how much you miss it. Have the last two weeks planted the seeds for future success for the King of Clay? I believe so, but only time will tell…

Rafael Nadal in your Pocket!

This week, 11-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, may be making his debut of the new season at Viña del Mar in Chile, but he has also made his debut in the world of mobile technology.
Nadal has launched his new application, which can be downloaded on the iTunes App Store. The new Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy App is for all recreational players, which helps you to learn directly from the Spanish champion himself.

The application offers exclusive, in-depth tennis tutorials of Rafa’s strokes and has easy-to-use video coaching tools so players can capture their strokes, analyse their games and compare their technique side-by-side with Rafa.

With this application, it is like having a bit of Rafael Nadal in your pocket, learning his secrets on his powerful serve, brutal forehand and ripping backhand.

The Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy App comprises of nine tutorials featuring his serve and returns with a host of future tutorials of all Rafa’s strokes, along with exclusive insights from Rafa himself on what makes him one of the world’s best tennis players.

For those who download the application can also upload their own videos as well as their own Vstrated coaching sessions to the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy on Vstrator.com.

It seems to me that for any budding future tennis star, this is the easiest (and most likely cheapest!) way of having Nadal as your own personal tennis coach!

http://youtu.be/mp5ufVDSz-0

Roger Federer Will Continue to Make History

Roger Federer: 17-time Grand Slam champion, 6-time Year-End Championships winner, 21-time ATP Masters 1000 champion (he holds the record amount of titles alongside Spaniard, Rafael Nadal), Olympic silver medalist and Olympic gold medalist in the doubles with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka. Overall, he has won 76 career singles titles in total, but why am I collating a list of his outstanding career achievements? Well, it is because Roger Federer made it to the semifinals of a Grand Slam and for many tennis players that would be a dream come true, for Federer’s critics, it’s simply not good enough.

World No.2, Roger Federer, was bundled out of the semifinals of the Australian Open by eventual finalist Andy Murray after 5 gruelling sets against the world No.3, not too dissimilar to his Australian Open achievements last year.

At the start of 2012 after Federer lost to Rafael Nadal in four sets during the semifinals of the first Grand Slam of the year, some began to question his future in tennis and if it would be the beginning of his career decline due to his age, after starting a family and having other players emerging and dominating in the major tournaments.

Last year in Rotterdam during the press conferences I heard the former world No.1 being questioned about his career and possible retirement (he went on to win the title in Rotterdam), whether he would ever win another Slam again (Wimbledon 2012 anybody?) and if he believed he would regain his place at the top of the rankings again (on July 16th 2012 he tied Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at No.1 after taking back the top spot once more). Prior to these achievements, Roger Federer had been written off in the minds of some people, but in 2013, write him off at your own peril.

After his 2012 semifinal Australian Open defeat, Federer went on to win consecutive titles in Rotterdam (where he defeated Del Potro), Dubai (where he beat Murray) and Indian Wells (once again beating the then-ranked No. 9 Del Potro, No. 2 Nadal and No. 11 Isner, all in straight sets).

His success continued back in Europe where he was successful in the final against Tomas Berdych on the controversial blue clay in Madrid and won a record 5th Cincinnati title against world No.1 Novak Djokovic. His victories continued on his beloved grass courts of Wimbledon where he was crowned champion for the seventh time against Andy Murray and two weeks later he was avenged by the Brit in the final of the Olympics where he was awarded the Olympic silver medal.

His 2012 season did not end too badly either with back-to-back final appearances in hometown Basel and at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the 02 Arena in London.

There is no doubt that current world No.1 Novak Djokovic and world No.3 Andy Murray are a formidable force on the tennis court and the ‘Novandy’ battles could serve up a rivalry lasting several more years, but whilst Roger Federer is around, he still has the ability to beat the top players – after all he is still one of them. If Federer remains healthy, he may go on to win another major, let’s remember what he achieved last year. Could 2013 be a bit of history repeating? For many Federer fans, they are hoping so and they never give up on their hero.

Ahead of the Australian Open, Federer had not played a tournament going into the first Grand Slam of the year and by his own admission, he was pleased to reach the semis with very little match practice prior to the tournament:

“So I go from here with a good feeling for the year. I didn’t play a tournament leading in, so now obviously I know where my level is at.”

Murray may have knocked Federer out of the semifinals, but has that knocked his confidence or willingness to improve? Of course not…

“I have even more time to work on my game, work on my fitness this year. It’s something I’m excited about.”

With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray frequently taking centre stage in Grand Slam finals and with the imminent return of Rafael Nadal after his lengthy injury battle with his knee, domination is something which Roger Federer will have to fight for, but he is a sportsman and losing is a learning experience that teaches you to work harder.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion is often referred to as arguably one of the greatest of all time (GOAT) players and as long as the Swiss maestro has the desire to continue playing, he will endure fighting amongst the greatest for more Grand Slam glory and to continue making history. For this reason I would not write him off for future success, after all, he is Roger Federer.

Birthday tribute to Serena Williams

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Today is the 31st birthday of tennis star, Serena Williams and to celebrate her birthday, it seemed fitting to share some of her inspirational quotes, which have become infamous for shaping her professional and personal life over the years and during a flourishing career. Like a fine wine, she has continued to get better with age and her fantastic 2012 season proves just that.
Serena Williams has experienced many highs and some painful lows, but throughout these roller coaster times, she has never held back on sharing her thoughts and occasionally they have been somewhat controversial. Either way, as she has said: “I am not a robot. I have a heart and I bleed.” Here are some of the heartfelt quotes she has shared with the world during her acceleration towards tennis superstardom:

Her love for tennis
Despite having the world at her feet and the opportunity to explore many different things in life, Serena has always stayed faithful to her one true passion – tennis:

‘I definitely have found a balance. I’ve had so many offers in the past to do different movies or different things and I always choose tournaments over it.’

A fighting champion
Being on the tennis court has not always been plane sailing for Serena Williams, as over the years she has been embroiled in some tough battles against great competitors and her inability to give up has put her in good stead to stare defeat in the eyes and refuse to back down. The final against Victoria Azarenka in 2012 is a perfect example of her resilience and winning attitude where she delivered this inspirational quote:

“I believe that a champion is defined as such for their achievements but also for the times when they have fallen and were able to get back up again. I’ve fallen several times and every time I have got up. I’m stronger than before.”

A battle against her health
Like every athlete, Serena Williams has become accustomed to dealing with sporting injuries that can plague a sportsperson during their career, but she has dealt with preventing injuries well and always ensured her physicality is a top priority in her training sessions, however, there are some things which you cannot prepare for, which she has had to bravely overcome, including the deadly blood clot which prevented her from playing on the circuit:

“I was so tired at that point. I had a tube in my stomach and it was draining constantly. Gosh, I mean, right before that I had the blood clot. I had lung problems. I had two foot surgeries. It was a lot. It was a lot. I felt like I didn’t do anything to bring that on. I just felt down, it was just the lowest of lows.”

On her physique
Many have talked about Serena’s incredible physique and the power and intensity she brings to the game. There is no doubt she is a great physical specimen, but for her, she prefers a different part:

“My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body.”

Family and friends
Throughout her career, Serena Williams has always credited her family and friends for her success and confessed that without them, many of her achievements would not have been possible:

“Tennis is just a game, family is forever.’

Of course, we cannot get forget her beloved sister Venus who has shared so many of the triumphs with her little sister:

“I don’t know what I would have done if Venus didn’t exist. I don’t even know if I would own a Grand Slam title or if I would be playing tennis, because we do everything together. Growing up I copied Venus. She was a really big influence for me. So when she started winning, I wanted it so bad. When she became No.1, I had to be No.1. I had to work harder. I had to do everything in my power to get there. I have no idea what would have happened if she weren’t around.”

Serena is enjoying a fantastic 2012 season and still has much more to look forward to. Happy birthday Serena Williams!

Top 5 reasons why Tomas Berdych impressed during the Davis Cup semifinal

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

During the weekend there were Davis Cup matches taking place all around the globe. Some countries were fighting to stay in their world group category; others were fighting for a place in the final of the Davis Cup. In Gijon, Spain, the home country favourites took on the USA and booked their place in the final despite a comeback attempt from the Bryan brothers on Saturday where they won their 5-set thriller to keep the USA’s hopes alive. By Sunday, their dream was crushed after David Ferrer defeated American, John Isner, in their encounter after a fairly straightforward 4 sets victory.
The question on their lips afterwards was, where would Spain be playing and whom will they face in the final? Spain had to wait to see the outcome of the other semifinal between Argentina and the Czech Republic and what a weekend of thrilling matches that was for both countries and that for me, was the standout Davis Cup tie of the weekend. The Czech Republic made it through after another nail-biting match by Czech hero, Tomas Berdych and he proved himself to be an impressive and formidable player that weekend. Here are the top reasons why Berdych should be very satisfied with his imposing performances over the weekend:

Fighting against fatigue
Coming into the Davis Cup semifinal in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Berdych had admitted that it was going to be a big last minute adjustment to get use to the clay again after the hard courts of New York and he like many other players who were competing in the Davis Cup, was also feeling the effects of a long summer on the courts. Berdych reached the fourth round in the ATP Masters 1000 events in Toronto, Cincinnati, he was a runner-up in the last event before the US Open at Winston Salem and then progressed to the semifinals in New York defeating Roger Federer en route, before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray. Coming into the tie, many questioned his physical condition, but despite the 4-hours he spent on court against Mónaco, 2-hours and 30 minutes in his doubles match and a further 2-hours and 30 minutes on Sunday, he fought against his weariness to win all three matches.

Facing adversity
The Argentinean home crowd was fantastic, animated, loyal and very involved. Drums were banging, trumpets were played and the crowd was creating enough noise to resemble that of a football match. Every point that was won by an Argentinean player was celebrated as though they had won the match and in each of those matches, it was Berdych who had to face the crowd. The Czech player was extremely impressive having kept his cool during every battle and he did not let the crowd interrupt his flow or concentration of the game. Even as Berdych was winning his matches, making an astounding comeback against Juan Mónaco and he kept Charly Berlocq at bay, the increasingly hostile crowds who cheered when he netted a ball or jeered when he questioned a call were still unable to break him. That is the beauty of Davis Cup and no doubt he will be pleased that the final will take place on his home soil and this time the crowd will be cheering him on!

Three days, three matches, three victories

Originally, Tomas Berdych was only suppose to play in the singles and reverse singles initially, but after his win against Juan Mónaco, their tie was leveled at one point a piece and many began to wonder if he would also feature in the doubles to try and seal the third and valuable point to give the Czech Republic the advantage at 2-1 and surprise, surprise, he did. Berdych paired up with Radek Stepanek who also featured on Friday in the singles match against Juan Martin Del Potro, to win their doubles encounter on Saturday. After their Davis Cup semifinal victory, Tomas Berdych was understandably proud that he had won all three matches that he had played in to secure the win for his country.

Keeping his cool
During all three matches, there was not one occasion when Tomas Berdych lost his cool on the tennis court with himself, his opponent or with the crowd, which he has been known for in the past. For me, there was an occasion when I held my breath and thought that now is the time when Berdych will become angry during his match on Sunday against Berlocq as the umpire, James Keothavong, addressed the Czech crowd in English at 5-3, a pivotal time during the match, asking them to be quiet and respectful during play. The Czech crowd was clearly the minority and the laughable request did not even make Berdych flicker with surprise or rage, he simply adjusted his hat and continued play, not allowing the demand to affect him. This was impressive given the absurdity of the call as he served out for the set regardless.

Birthday celebrations

On Monday, it was Tomas Berdych’s 27th birthday and no doubt for him it was an extra special celebration with his family, friends, team and compatriots after securing all three points for the Czech Republic and along with Radek Stepanek, he contributed enormously to booking their place in the final in November.

 

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl: Different players with a similar history

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Andy Murray is still one of the main topics of discussion on TV and in the newspapers (particularly the British ones!) after his epic battle against defending US Open champion, Novak Djokovic on Monday night, after a grueling five set match that lasted almost 5 hours that boasted exquisite rallies in each of the 5 sets played.

Ivan Lendl, the coach of Murray since January 2012, has admitted that Andy Murray and his ‘Slamless’ situation very much remind him of himself when he was younger and competing on Tour, but the comparisons do not end only there…

Mentality
Andy Murray has become more known for his tough mentality as he has for his great physicality. Yes, there have been moments on the tennis court where he has admitted that his mind let him down (e.g. most famously during the Wimbledon final this year against Roger Federer where he could have been up 2 sets to 0) but as his tennis has developed, so has his mental toughness and ability to win attitude.

This is also comparable to the attitude displayed on court by Ivan Lendl. He too played in an era alongside tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg and experienced some crushing defeats at the hands of them, but just as Murray has done, he never gave up and always believed that he could win. Like Lendl, Andy Murray has learnt from his painful losses.

Pressure in their prime
Throughout his career, the Olympic champion has frequently single-handedly shouldered the weight and expectation from the British public to do well, win tournaments, knock out the top 3 three players in the world and win a Grand Slam. Not much to ask of a young player in their early twenties? Now at 25-years-old, Murray seems to be able to deal with that pressure and has finally answered the call and hopes of many after his victory at the US Open.

Ivan Lendl as a coach and player has been a good influence on Murray as he can relate to the pressure and strain which Andy Murray has been under. He too had experienced it at a very young age and having lost to Connors, Borg and Wilander, he admitted that he did not know how to play against the big players in his prime and it was something that he learnt to do.

Fitness vs fatigue
Andy Murray did not have an easy start early on his career, having been criticized heavily for his personality, his mentality, for having a low first serve percentage, he was also targeted about his fitness. He experienced cramping during long matches in his early twenties and he knew that in order to compete at the top level, against the top players of the world, he had to become physically stronger as well as mentally stronger and this was also the case for Ivan Lendl. Like his coach had to when he was younger, Murray has spent hours at the gym and during training he has become increasingly stronger and has trained hard to keep his endurance levels up to sustain his energy levels during long matches – which have paid off extremely in recent years. Murray continues with his same demanding regime on the practice courts and in the gym today.

Fifth time lucky
Ivan Lendl could relate to Andy Murray and his sorrow after yet another Grand Slam final defeat at the hands of Roger Federer at Wimbledon this year, as he too experienced crushing losses and lost four Grand Slam finals before winning in his fifth appearance, à la Andy Murray. After his quartet of heartbreaking defeats, Lendl went on to win another eight Grand Slams and if history really does repeat itself, who knows if and when Andy Murray will lift another major title – or eight?

The stats
It took 5 sets for Ivan Lendl to win his first Grand Slam in Roland Garros against John McEnroe and he rallied back from a two set deficit to secure his victory, whereas for Andy Murray at the US Open, he also needed 5 sets to lift his first major but he needed to rally back after losing the third and fourth sets before sealing the championship title in the penultimate set.
The strangest thing of it all is that during their encounter, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic equalized the record for the longest final of all time played at the US Open after their 4-hour and 54 minute battle and they equaled the record of – yes you guessed it – Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander in 1988 which saw Lendl win after 4-hours and 54 minutes too.

Andy Murray has now laid his demons to rest, as his coach had after finally winning that elusive Grand Slam that he was so desperately chasing and yearning for. I just hope that now the talented Scot has got time to enjoy this momentous occasion he relishes it immensely before another dreaded question starts to beckon…. ‘Andy, do you think you can win more majors?’

The US Open comeback kings into the second round

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

On Tuesday it was only the second day of the US Open main draw action in New York, but yesterday served up some fantastic round one matches which entertained for hours and thrilled the audience.

The three five set matches involving Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco vs Guillermo García-Lopez, Fabio Fognini vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Jesse Levine may not have featured the infamous rivalries between the top guys that we have been so accustomed to seeing, but last night at Flushing Meadows, audiences both at home and on site were treated to matches worthy of that caliber.

The matches that took place between the players mentioned above showed the spirit and the fight of a toe-to-toe match reminiscent of the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On Grandstand Argentine and No.10 seed Juan Mónaco had an extremely tough first round opponent against Spain’s Guillermo García-Lopez who proved to be more than a handful for Mónaco. The Argentine took the advantage quickly as he led by two sets and 4-1 up in the third, but García-Lopez had other plans – he was not giving up that easily.

In a match that was played with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster and with such determined grit from both players, you would not have thought it was a first round match, the way the players fought and with such heart, you would have been forgiven for being fooled into thinking it was a Grand Slam final and they were fighting for the trophy, not a place in the second round.

Mónaco and García-Lopez fought against their nerves and against each other as it clearly meant so much to them to win. They ventured into the all-important fifth set tiebreak, after Mónaco broke back twice in the set from the brink of defeat and stopped the Spaniard from serving out the match. With a Davis Cup atmosphere on the tennis court and football style chants heavily in the favour of the Argentine with ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé, Pi-co, Pi-co,’ the match was there for the taking and it all boiled down to who could hold their nerve and the realization suddenly dawned that one of them was going to win… but also that one was going to lose and it would be a painful loss.

The joy and jubilation belonged to Guillermo García-Lopez after playing a very solid tiebreak, releasing his heavily weighted forehand continuously and used his well placed serve to give him the upper hand. After his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) victory a very relieved and emotional García-Lopez sat in his chair with a tear in his eye, whilst Mónaco visibly annoyed and understandably upset quickly exited the court.

Up next for García-Lopez is Fabio Fognini of Italy who was also involved in an epic five-set encounter against Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The Italian will be equally as tired going into his second round match against the Spaniard as he too was on court for nearly four hours with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory against the Frenchman and will be relieved of the day off to recover from that match.

It was during the key moments that Fognini was able to withstand the pressure and contained his fraught emotions to claw his way back into the match. As match point dawned on the Italian, the atmosphere around the court was raucous with expectation and disbelief with what Fognini was about to achieve. The Italian was clearly delighted with the turnaround of the match, but visibly tired too, as he and his weary legs exited the court knowing that he had finally booked his place into the second round.

Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself caught up in a difficult opening round against home country hopeful, Jesse Levine on court 17. The first two sets did not go as planned for the Ukrainian who played some loose service games which proved to be costly as he was suddenly staring at defeat after losing the first two sets.

At the start of the third set, Dolgopolov was quickly broken again and found himself 0-4 down and two games away from packing up his belongings and leaving New York. As Levine became tight, Dolgopolov began his revival and battled his way back into the match. Despite facing a heavily partisan crowd, Dolgopolov kept his composure to break back and take the third set 6-4 and stamped his authority in the fourth set by taking it 6-1.

Eyebrows were raised at his comeback and it was evident that Levine was disappointed with the renaissance that Dolgopolov was bringing to the court. Eventually the Ukrainian won 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and he will now play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.

There was so much entertainment and drama in one evening and we are still only in the early stages of the tournament, but it shows that for all of these players, it does not matter whether it is the first round or the final, they will fight for the win – yesterday they were the comeback kings. Their matches may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and they will be happy to take it all the same and improve ready for their next battles.

After the matches feelings of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained were evident – and that was just me! I don’t know how the players do it!

ATP US Open Draw Analysis – Who will win it all?

With the US Open kicking off main draw play next week, you won’t need to look much further than Tennis Grandstand’s panel of writers for your fully comprehensive breakdown of the men’s draw. We take a look at dark horses, exciting first round matchups,  seeded players crashing out early, our prediction of possible quarterfinalists, and, of course, the projected winner. What are you waiting for?! Get reading!

DARK HORSE

Burrows: #15 Milos Raonic. The Canadian is enjoying breaking into the top 20 for the first time in his career and his big-serving style of game suits the surface perfectly.  He has a difficult quarter with a fourth round meeting against Olympic gold champion, Andy Murray, but Raonic has the potential to pull off an upset against Murray, with a big win under his belt, he could finally begin to really shine.

Crabtree: #21 Tommy Haas. Nobody can argue that this guy has had one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory. He won Halle over none other than Roger Federer and reached the final in Hamburg and Washington D.C. Most Impressive has been his rise up the rankings from 205 at the beginning of the year to a current of 22. Now, don’t expect this 34 year old to take the title, but do expect a quarter final showing. Remember old guys make great runs in New York (Connors and Agassi).

Cvitkovic: #13 Richard Gasquet. After reaching the Toronto Masters final, he failed to back it up the following week as he fell to Milos Raonic in the first round, but his path at the U.S. Open seems a lot more open from the get go. His biggest potential hiccup could be a third round matchup against Haas, followed by David Ferrer in the fourth round, and then possibly John Isner or Janko Tipsarevic in the quarterfinals.

Watson: #9 John Isner. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of the Top 3 winning the title, but if one guy could potentially do it, it’s Isner.  He’s in one of the softest sections of the draw, he’s reached at least the semis in all of his tune-up events, and he’s notched big wins over Federer and Djokovic in 2012.  He’s got a big, imposing game, and as evidenced by the five-set scare he put into Nadal at last year’s Roland Garros, he’s a player that even the game’s best don’t want to see on the other side of the net.

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SEEDED PLAYER CRASHING OUT EARLY

Burrows: #25 Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard has not played a tournament since his first round loss at the Olympics and he has been plagued by injury, which saw him withdraw from Toronto and Cincinnati.  Verdasco will come into the tournament cold having not played a hard court match prior to the Slam and this year his tennis has been very unpredictable.

Crabtree: #6 Tomas Berdych or #8 Janko Tipsarevic. This is tough, Berdych faces the fearless and very dangerous youngster in David Goffin whilst Janko will probably meet giant killer Brian Baker in the second round. Let’s make the draw totally open. They both crash out.

Cvitkovic: #11 Nicolas Almagro. Not one known to be a slacker, Almagro has not played a tournament since the London Olympics, and last played a hard court event in March in Miami. It will certainly be a wake-up call to play Radek Stepanek in the first round, or solid players Nicolas Mahut or Philipp Petzschner in the second round if he breaks down the Czech wall.

Watson: #20 Andy Roddick. There are a couple more obvious choices than this, but I’ll be a little daring and say Roddick.  After a promising start with a title in Atlanta, Roddick has been slowed by injuries, pulling out of Toronto, bowing out to a lucky loser in Cincy, and suffering his latest loss in two tiebreak sets to the unheralded Steve Darcis.  With a potential tricky second-round match with Tomic and Monaco possibly waiting in the third, it ought to be considered a successful tournament for the American if he reaches Week 2.

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FIRST ROUND (OR POTENTIAL SECOND ROUND) MATCH TO WATCH FOR

Burrows: #7 Juan Martín Del Potro vs David Nalbandian will be an all-Argentinean battle, which on paper looks set to deliver a mouth-watering match that could transfer to be just that on the court.  Del Potro is currently fending off an injury to his left wrist, which troubled him in Cincinnati and Nalbandian leads their head-to-head 3-1.  They haven’t played against each other since 2008 and Del Potro has since won the US Open, but playing against a compatriot is never easy and with Nalbandian’s infamous fiery outbursts on the tennis courts, there may well be fireworks on the court.

Crabtree:#7 Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro is up against countrymen David Nalbandian, the man with the most dangerous right foot in tennis (just ask the linesman at Queens Club). Del Potro has had an impressive year thus far but the 2009 U.S. Open champion is 1-3 against Nalbandian. This being said none of their encounters have been within recent memory. Expect this to go to five and Del Potro to edge it out.

Cvitkovic: #21 Tommy Haas vs. Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis, always outspoken and unapologetic, will need to dig deep in order to get past a resurgent Haas in their first round matchup. Haas, an obvious contender back in 2002 is now 34-years-old and just as relevant since defeating Federer to win the Halle title back in June. Gulbis can be a tricky player when “on,” so it’ll surely be an all-out battle.
Watson: #7 Juan Martin Del Potro vs. David Nalbandian.  This one is dependent on how Delpo’s wrist is feeling and which Nalbandian shows up, but if they’re both in the mood to play, this could be a real dogfight – plus there’s always an added sizzle when two countrymen square off. Second Round – #14 Alexandr Dogopolov vs. Marcos Baghdatis:  Grab the popcorn if this second-round encounter happens.  When these two are on their games, they are two of the most spectacular shot-makers in the sport.  Could be some breathtaking tennis on tap.

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FIRST ROUND UPSET SPECIAL

Burrows: David Goffin d. #6 Tomas Berdych.  The Czech giant has not had a fantastic season so far with a surprising first round loss at Wimbledon and a disappointing Olympic appearance, but he is starting to pull it back together on the hard courts and particularly at Winston Salem this week.  He has made it into the semis (at the time of publication), but he will face promising, young hopeful, David Goffin in the first round, who has enjoyed an inspiring 2012 and also progressed into the quarter finals at Winston Salem.  Could the Belgium hopeful record an epic first round win at Flushing Meadows? Possibly.

CrabtreeMarinko Matosevic over #12 Marin Cilic. After a number of years as a journeyman, twenty seven year old Matosevic has finally found the confidence to really upset the bigger names. His year to date prize money has doubled his career earnings much in thanks to impressive displays in Delray Beach, Munich, Eastbourne and Los Angeles. Look for Matosevic to finally enjoy his breakout grand slam appearance with a hard fought win over Cilic.

Cvitkovic: (WC) Jack Sock d. #22 Florian Mayer. A very unsteady opponent on the hard courts, Mayer could easily succumb to Sock’s strengths that are best utilized on the hard courts. Although a stretch, Sock has the ability to get into the third or fourth round if he can overcome Mayer’s variety.

Watson: Radek Stepanek d. #11 Nicolas Almagro. No offense to Nico, who’s arguably been slightly underrated over the course of his career, but given that the last time we saw him was at the London Olympics and nursing an injury to boot, it’s a big ask for him to come out on top against his Czech opponent.

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QUARTERFINALISTS

Burrows:

Federer/Berdych – Roger Federer’s potential first difficult opponent is Fernando Verdasco who may not cause the Swiss maestro too many difficulties as he is fending off injury, but should he dispatch of him and a potential fourth round clash between Fish or Simon, he might find sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the quarters.  However, the Czech faces a difficult debut against Goffin and a hypothetical third round with Querrey, before a fourth round meeting with Almagro. Should Berdych maintain his winning form of this week, he has the ability to set up an interesting match against Federer.

Murray/Tsonga – Andy Murray dominates in the second quarter and in the first round he meets Bogomolov Jr. via a third round meeting with his mum’s favourite, Feliciano Lopez. The Scot is on a collision course with Raonic in the fourth round, but should he dispatch of them, he is most likely to face Tsonga in the quarterfinals. The fifth seed, will open his tournament against a qualifier and should not be troubled until he meets loose cannons Cilic and Nishikori. For me, a Murray/Tsonga quarter-final is likely.

Ferrer/Tipsarevic – Fourth seed, David Ferrer will face Anderson in the first round, Hewitt or Youzhny in the second round then possibly Gasquet and Haas in his quarter of the draw. Despite them being tricky opponents for the Spaniard I think he will make it through to the quarters where he could meet No.8 seed Janko Tipsarevic. The Serb will have a tough task against American John Isner, but he may just have the edge to do it.

Djokovic/Del Potro – After their infamous meeting at the Olympics, which Del Potro won denying Djokovic the bronze medal, it was interesting to see their encounter in Cincinnati which the Serb won.  They both have tricky players in their quarter, which they need to overcome first, but they have both won the US Open, they’re both experienced and hungry, with a lot to prove.  What a potential quarterfinal that could be!

Crabtree:

Federer/ Goffin. Okay call me crazy but why on earth shouldn’t the young Belgian get this far. Remember he did reach the 4th round in Roland Garros and push the Fed to four sets. No reason to think Federer should lose a set here but even less reason to underestimate the potential of the baby faced killer.

Murray/Tsonga – Sorry Cvitkovic (see below). There is no chance Raonic can defeat Murray enroute here, especially with the Scottish Gold Medallist looking for revenge after his loss in Barcelona. Tsonga’s path is an absolutely song, the biggest problem being there is nobody to really test the Frenchmen and get him hyped up.

Haas/ Isner – Big John loves playing for the American crowd and that will show here. Nobody knows for sure where a true New York fairy-tale begins and ends, but Haas is the perfect choice as protagonist for this year’s event.

Del Potro/Djokovic – An amazing quarter of the draw if you go on former form. But this year Roddick has been struggling all season. Monaco on hard courts? Nah.  Dolgopolov- too unpredictable. Harrison and Tomic- both missing some zing at present. This quarter final match up will be an all-out shoot out.

Cvitkovic:

Federer/Berdych – Federer should have absolutely no excuse to not reach the quarterfinals given that he could face a recuperating Verdasco in the third round and Fish who he has beaten eight of the last nine times. Berdych, on the other hand, seems to be struggling on every surface this year, but can break out and make deep runs as well. His only real test could be in the form of Sam Querrey who has returned after injuries.

Raonic/Tsonga – Sorry, fans. They’ll be no repeat of Wimbledon or the London Olympics finals between Federer and Murray, as on-point Raonic will finally mark his territory by defeating Murray in the fourth round. Tsongsa may have a duel with Marin Cilic in the fourth round himself, but having five of the sixteen qualifiers in his 1/8 helps!

Isner/Ferrer – Arguably the trickiest quarter, Isner will have to overcome Janko Tipsarevic, who has become synonymous with pushing his opponents into tough five-setters at the U.S. Open. Ferrer, likewise, is indestructible and could face either Gasquet or Haas, against whom he has solid winning records.

Del Potro/Djokovic – Easily the toughest and most unpredictable quarter, it features Roddick, Monaco, Dolgopolov, Baghdatis, Harrison and Tomic in addition to Del Potro and Djokovic. My chosen quarterfinalists will have to stay on top of their game in order to get through – especially Del Potro, whose first round opponent is fellow Argentine Nalbandian.

Watson:

Federer/Querrey – It’s no secret that Federer is back to playing some of his best tennis, and it’s hard to imagine him losing before the semis, let alone the quarterfinals.  As for his quarterfinal opponent, it’s a toss-up between Berdych and Querrey, but I’ll go with Sam.  His stock is on the rise, and he’s had a better summer than the Czech.  He’s also got the home crowd advantage, so I’ll put some faith in the Yank and hope he pulls through.

Murray/Tsonga – I’ll stick to the seeding here, despite their poor showings in the lead-up events to Flushing.  Murray has become remarkably consistent at the majors, and Tsonga is in a very cushy section littered with qualifiers.  Besides, you can generally count on the top guys to deliver at the big events, so you have to like their odds.

Isner/Haas – This is a tough one to call.  Possibly Malisse and Tipsarevic could prove problematic, but on the fast US Open courts, Isner is in with an excellent chance to make the quarters.  The bottom portion of this section is the trickier end.  Ferrer is seeded to come through, but the No. 4 seeded Spaniard could buckle under the pressure of trying to prove he’s an adequate substitute to fill the void left by Nadal – something a resurgent Tommy Haas could exploit.

Del Potro/Djokovic – On paper, there are a lot of potential stumbling blocks to this match up happening, including how Delpo’s wrist is holding up.  But even at less than 100%, Delpo is better than a chunk of the players in his section.  As for Djokovic, he’s come up big in both Canada and Cincy, so there’s no reason to think he can’t push on the gas when necessary to go deep in Flushing.

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AND THE WINNER IS …

BurrowsNovak Djokovic. He is the defending champion and he has had a good run at the two Masters 1000 Series tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati the two events preceding the US Open. He is seeking to put to bed the rumours of his apparent issues off the court which have supposedly affected his game in recent months and he is a man on a mission: to defend his title and he is in search of his No.1 ranking once again.

Crabtree: Andy Murray- Nope. Roger Federer- Are you kidding me? Novak Djokovic- Most certainly not. 2012 shall be the first year since 2003 that all four slams will be held by different names.  And all this will be thanks to Juan Martin del Potro who will have again found the dominance that brought him the 2009 U.S. Open crown. Sadly for the Brits I am picking him to take down Andy Murray in the final.

Cvitkovic: Roger Federer. Big surprise, right? Even though he didn’t take home the gold medal at the London Olympics, he’s easily shaping up to be the clear choice of champion in New York. Of the top four seeds, his path is the least trying and he’ll certainly have enough energy to withstand an intense final with Djokovic or Isner.

Watson: Novak Djokovic.  Seems Federer is the more popular choice at the moment, especially with the growing murmurs that the Swiss Maestro might be getting into the Serb’s head. But I’ll continue to back the Serb.  Djokovic has come back from match points down to defeat Federer the last two years at the US Open.  And don’t forget…just like last year, Djokovic won Canada and was a finalist in Cincy.  It worked out well for him then, so maybe history will repeat itself now.