ATP

Bernie Tomic Incredibly Wins Chengdu Open

In a thrilling final match on the Centre Court of the Sichuan International Tennis Centre this evening, Australian world No. 123 Bernard Tomic saved four match points en route to a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(7) victory over Italian world No. 13 Fabio Fognini to lift his fourth career title and first title in three years at the Chengdu Open.

The former world No. 17 Tomic started the match on the back foot, having to save two break points in the very first game, but after he broke Fognini’s serve in the next game and saved another four break points in the third game, his Italian opponent cut a frustrated figure on court and hit too many shots into the net or long.

In an intensely fought second set, 31-year-old Fognini saved break point by a hair’s breadth in the third game, with electronic review confirming the line judges ‘in’ call that was challenged by Tomic, and finally got past the Aussie’s powerful serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead.

Even though Tomic immediately leveled matters with a break of his own in the next game, Fognini once again took the lead in the eighth game, when he rallied from 15-40 down to take four points on the trot before closing out the set on serve.

Both players struggled to hold serve in the first five games of the third set, with Tomic converting two out of five break points and Fognini also breaking his opponent twice, albeit in three opportunities. The players then held serve strongly to carry the match into a tense tiebreak finale.

Fognini scored three mini-breaks in the first nine points to Tomic’s one to go 6-3 up and have three match points on serve. Tomic saved all three match points with a combination of Fognini making mistakes (double faulting on the first match point), luck (his return hit the net and went over during the second match point) and an excellent forehand down the line on the third match point.

As light rain began to all, the drama continued when Fognini had another match point at 7-6 but hit his shot wide. Backed by a thrilled crowd, the momentum shifted to the Aussie who took the next three points on the trot and completed the victory with a powerful cross court forehand.

Tomic’s long path to victory in the Chengdu Open started in the qualifying rounds and included hard fought comeback victories Belarus’s Igor Gerasimov, American Bradley Klahn and South Africa’s Lloyd Harris. He also ousted seventh seed Joao Sousa in yesterday’s semifinal.

“I could have lost like five times this tournament. I was down in so many matches and faced match points against Harris in the second round as well. It’s been a rollercoaster week. Today I don’t know I saved how many match points. It was crazy. It was truly a really good match. For me to win here is huge. I’m so happy. He is a really talented player. I wish him the best to make the London masters,” said Tomic.

Fognini was despondent to have missed a chance to capture a record-breaking fourth title this season and become the first Italian to do so, but acknowledged that it wasn’t his day.

“This is sport. Sometimes you like it, sometimes not. It has been a great week, a great year for me. Now I am sad because I have lost a final with four match points but that’s the sport. Sometimes you win sometimes you don’t,” said the Italian.

Top seeded Croatian doubles pair Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic saved their best for last here as they swept past the American-Indian duo of Austin Krajicek and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 6-2, 6-4 in 52 minutes to lift their second doubles title as a pair.

Former world No. 1 Pavic (achieved in May this year) and world No. 24 Dodig (career high of No. 4) saved all six break points they faced during the match, four of which came in a memorable rally from 0-40 down in the fourth game of the second set, while converting three of seven break opportunities and winning 78% of their 46 service points.

The duo, who are playing in their eighth Tour-level event together, recorded three super tiebreaker victories en route to the final and ousted tournament fourth seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi on Friday to make their fourth final appearance as a tandem.

The Chengdu Open doubles crown is Pavic’s 13th career title and fifth of this year, which includes picking up his first career Grand Slam at the Australian Open with regular world tour partner Oliver Marach. Dodig takes home his eleventh career doubles trophy and second of the year.

“Yeah, I’m feeling great. This is my first time here in Chengdu and I really enjoyed the tournament. To finish the week with this trophy is a great feeling. The win is important for us. We played good matches here. We felt great at this tournament and in general in this city. We are leaving very happy,” said 33-year-old Dodig.

“We don’t play too many matches together and it’s our second title after four finals together, so I’m happy with the title. We were playing better and better, raising the level match by match. I would say we saved the best for the last. Coming back for my second time here, I would say this tournament is great, the hotel is one of the best on tour, with great facilities and great conditions for the players. They improve year after year and hopefully I am coming back next year,” added 25-year-old Pavic.

The tournament is owned by IMG and is organized by the Chinese Tennis Association and Chengdu Municipal Government, is co-organized by Chengdu Sports Bureau, Shuangliu District Government and Chengdu Culture Tourism Group and is promoted by Sichuan Investment International Tennis Centre Development Co., Ltd., CCTV IMG (Beijing) Sports Management Co. Ltd. And WME IMG China Culture Development Co. Ltd.

The Chengdu Open is also very proud to have the distinguished support from ATP World Tour’s Premier Partner Emirates, the official player hotel St. Regis, Chengdu, which fast became a favourite of the players, the official car Audi, Dunlop tennis balls, the Sichuan Tennis International Hotel which is conveniently located adjacent to the courts and providing efficient services to the tournament, the official digital media partner iQiyi, the official apparel Erke, the official stringer Yonex, the official gym equipment Life Fitness, the official tea Sichuan Mengding Tea Co. Ltd. and the official water Ice Age.

The official tournament website www.ChengduOpenTennis.com has additional information about the tournament.

Top 5 Tennis Betting Mistakes You Must Steer Clear Of!

Once you master a few tennis betting strategies you might feel like betting on every single match. However, it’s often seen that people start betting irresponsibly and aggressively, or using dirty techniques, sometimes even altering their strategies significantly.

Although you can make use of various Tennis free betting offers to test the waters first, taking your tennis betting skills from average to professional would require you to pay a lot of attention to the logic, numbers and equations. If you’re someone serious about taking his/her tennis betting to the next level, go through the following five tennis betting mistakes and stay away from them at all cost.

Betting on every single match
Let’s admit it, betting on tennis takes the game’s thrill factor to an altogether new high. Even though this is something natural and native to gambling, you’d need to overcome it to profit from tennis betting in the long-term.

There is no need to bet on every single tennis match. It might seem tempting, but not required. The tendency of betting with fresh winnings or some spare cash just because there’s a tennis match coming up soon is silly, and far from intelligent betting. This tendency can quickly slip into the impulse betting territory.

Not analysing enough
It’s important to analyse the matches properly. You should go through the concerned players’ past performances, recent form, playing styles and other factors thoroughly.

In tennis betting, you must look at every match from different angles. All such information can be gathered easily from the Internet these days.

Opting for handicaps
It might be good to reconsider taking frequent handicaps as tennis is one sport where players improve constantly and tremendously. Though you can refer to the statistics and figure if the favourites are likely to win their matches or not, things can always take unexpected turns, and put you in unwanted situations.

It’s a good idea to avoid handicaps if they seem too good to be true or unreasonable, but they can be a huge saviour in some cases. Use them to your advantage whenever possible and stay away from them when not needed.

Indulging in accumulators
Play big accumulators if you’re someone who wants to lose every single penny and go bankrupt in quick time. Well, that’s what a lot of experts say. It’s correct too in a lot of ways.

If you wish to make good money from tennis betting and want to simultaneously keep a tight hold on your winnings, try sticking to single bets only. In case you just can’t avoid accumulators, don’t include more than three matches in your bets. There is no way people can consistently win with accumulators, simply because sports betting is highly unpredictable in nature.

Being biased
Once you’ve spent a considerable time betting on tennis, you’d know that it’s mostly about statistics, logic and figures. Hence, the worst thing anyone can do is bet based on his/her biases and emotions. For instance, a lot of Roger Federer fans would blindly back him at the French Open, even if it was Rafael Nadal, the King of clay on the opposite end of the court!

In fact, logic is all about taking any personal bias out of the equation completely. You’d be setting yourself up for major disaster if you allow your feelings to get the better of you.

Former ATP Pros, Senior Aspirants Invited To Compete at Jack Kramer Club in Los Angeles March 1-4

Former ATP World Tour ranked tennis professionals and aspiring competitive players age 40 and over are invited to participate in a special senior prize money tennis tournament March 1-4 at the Jack Kramer Tennis Club in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

The Jack Kramer Club Past Masters Challenge will feature a 40-and-over singles tournament and a 50-and-over doubles tournament with prize money being awarded to singles and doubles semifinalists, finalists and champions. Prize money amounts will be determined based on a prize money pot that will be made up of tournament entry fees as well as fees raised through tournament competitors participating in pro-am, hit-with-the-pros sessions with patrons.

Former Top 50 professional 2000 U.S. Olympic team member Jeff Tarango, the new director of tennis at the Kramer Club, will be playing and hosting the event.

Players who ranked in the top 50 of the ATP singles rankings in their careers who enter the event will receive a bye into the singles semifinals of the event and if there are more than three who enter, they will receive a bye into the quarterfinals or another appropriate round based on the number of players of this level entered into the event. Former top 20 doubles players and their partners will be accorded the same in the doubles competition. All other entries, whether former ATP ranked players who did not receive a top 50 singles ranking or top 20 doubles ranking or are an aspiring competitive tournament players who did not receive a world ranking, will compete in a feed-in draw. ALL ENTRIES FOR ANY PLAYER WHO MEET AGE REQUIREMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED. THIS IS AN OPEN TOURNAMENT.Matches will be best-of-three FAST4 sets (first to four games, tie-breaker at 3-3, no-ad scoring)

“This is a fascinating grass roots effort to create some competitive playing opportunities for money for former ATP touring professionals,” said Tarango, who reached a career high singles ranking of No. 42 in 1992. “It’s very appropriate that we are hosting an event like this at the Jack Kramer Club as Kramer was perhaps the premier pro tennis promoter and many of the early pro events that he played in and later promoted had the competing players dividing portions of the profits of the event. I look forward to seeing many players competing at the Jack Kramer Club in March and hope that more of these type of events can be hosted in the future.”

To sign up for the event, go to this link: https://campscui.active.com/orgs/TennisGrandStand?orglink=camps-registration

Entries will close on Friday, February 23. Former Top 100 ranked ATP singles players will have entry fees waived if they participate in at least one one-hour pro-am, clinic or hit with the pros opportunity with amateurs or pay $95 “ante” entry fee to compete in the singles event. For all other entrants (whether former ATP ranked singles, doubles players or tournament players who did not earn ATP rankings), the entry fee (or “ante”) is $95 for singles and $150 per doubles team and players must be available to participate in at least one one-hour pro-am, clinic or hit-with-the-pros session.

Amateurs who would like to play in the one-hour pro-am, clinic or hit-with-the pros sessions will cost $90, which includes admission to the club for the day and admission to watch the matches. To sign up, click here: https://campscui.active.com/orgs/TennisGrandStand?orglink=camps-registration

All entry fees and pro-am fees go into a “prize money pot” that will be used to award prize money to the singles and doubles players. The more tournament entries there are and the most pro-am players there are, the more then prize money will be, so participating players are encouraged to promote and market the event themselves, encourage fellow players to enter the tournament or participate in the hit-with-the-pros events.

The prize money breakdown is as follows:

 

Singles winner (40-and-over): 15 percent of the “pot” and runner-up gets 7.5 percent

Singles semifinalists get 4 percent of the “pot”

 

Doubles winner (50-and-over): 10 percent (split) of the “pot” and runner-up splits 5 percent

Doubles semifinalists split 2 percent of the “pot” each

 

Remaining portion of the pot goes to administrative fees, costs, the club/promoter

 

Schedule of Play

Thursday, March 1

Opening round singles and doubles matches starting at Noon (special requests for match times will be considered)

 

Friday, March 2

Second day of singles and doubles matches starting at Noon (special requests for match times will be considered, flexible)

Pro-Am/Hit-with-Pros/Clinic can be scheduled if needed

 

Saturday, March 3

Pro-Am/Hit-with-Pros/Clinic at 11 am

Doubles semifinals starting at noon (simultaneously or one after another) and final to follow at about 3 pm (FAST4 sets, can be flexible)

Third day of singles matches, quarterfinal matches to start at  1 pm or so (flexible)

 

Sunday, March 4

Pro-Am/Hit-with-Pros/Clinic at 11 am

Singles semifinals starting at noon (simultaneously or one after another) and final to follow at about 3 pm (FAST4 sets, can be flexible)

 

Founded in 1962 during the golden era of tennis by legendary tennis player and promoter Jack Kramer and famed tennis coach Vic Braden, the Jack Kramer Club was the created to be a hub for developing tennis champions in a family focused club environment. The club features 13 tennis courts, a fitness center, an Olympic swimming pool and an iconic South Bay clubhouse. The club was focused on building tennis champions and succeeded as Pete Sampras, Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport, Eliot Teltscher among others.

beINSPORTS Announces Coverage of WTA Tour, ATP Tour Tennis for 2018

Are you a tennis fan in the United States searching for TV coverage of the WTA Tour? Check out beIN SPORTS  The network released its programming lineup for the 2018 season of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) events.

beIN SPORTS will offer exclusive live coverage of 44 tennis tournaments, (39 WTA + 5 ATP), from 26 different countries. The coverage will be easily accessible across beIN SPORTS television channels and on beIN SPORTS CONNECT, the network’s online streaming service, which features a dedicated tennis channel (beIN SPORTS CONNECT 10).

The championship matches of the Premier events in Doha, Dubai, Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome, Wuhan, Beijing and Singapore will air live on the beIN SPORTS US YouTube channel, which will be embedded on the beIN SPORTS homepage. Furthermore, finals of Premier events and events in Hispanic countries will also be broadcasted on beIN SPORTS en Español.

Coverage begins on Monday, January 1st, with the Brisbane Tournament, live from Australia. For live match schedules, please visit www.beinsports.com/us/tv-guide.

Below please find the beIN SPORTS schedule for the WTA 2018 season.

WTA 2018 Schedule
DATETOURNAMENTLOCATIONTYPE
January 1Brisbane InternationalBrisbane, AustraliaPremier
January 1Shenzhen OpenShenzhen, ChinaInternational
January 2ASB ClassicAuckland, New ZealandInternational
January 8Sydney InternationalSydney, AustraliaPremier
January 8Hobart InternationalHobart, AustraliaInternational
January 29St. Petersburg Ladies TrophySt. Petersburg, RussiaPremier 5
February 4Taiwan OpenTaipei, TaiwanInternational
February 12Qatar OpenDoha, QatarPremier
February 19Dubai Duty Free Tennis ChampionshipsDubai, United Arab EmiratesPremier
February 26Abierto MexicanoAcapulco, MexicoInternational
April 3Abierto Monterrey AfirmeMonterrey, MexicoInternational
April 10Claro Open ColsanitasBogota, ColombiaInternational
April 10Ladies Open LuganoLugano, SwitzerlandInternational
April 23Porsche Tennis Grand PrixStuttgart, GermanyPremier
April 26TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul CupIstanbul, TurkeyInternational
May 2J&T Banka Prague OpenPrague, Czech RepublicInternational
May 2Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla MeryemRabat, MoroccoInternational
May 7Mutus Madrid OpenMadrid, SpainPremier Mandatory
May 14International BNL d’ItaliaRome, ItalyPremier 5
May 23Internationaoux de StrasbourgStrasbourg, FranceInternational
June 14Ricoh Open‘s-Hertogenbosch, NetherlandsInternational
June 18Aegon Classic BirminghamBirmingham, EnglandPremier
June 19Mallorca OpenMallorca, SpainInternational
June 25The InternationalEastbourne, EnglandPremier
July 19Bucharest OpenBucharest, RomaniaInternational
July 2301 Properties Moscow OpenMoscow, RussiaInternational
July 23Jiangxi OpenNanchang, ChinaInternational
August 6Rogers CupMontreal, CanadaPremier 5
September 13Japan Women’s Open TennisHiroshima, JapanInternational
September 17Toray Pan Pacific OpenTokyo, JapanPremier
September 19Guangzhou International Women’s OpenGuangzhou, ChinaInternational
September 20Korea OpenSeoul, South KoreaInternational
September 24Wuhan OpenWuhan, ChinaPremier 5
September 26Tashkent OpenTashkent, UzbekistanInternational
October 1China OpenBeijing, ChinaInternational
October 11Prudential Hong Kong Tennis OpenHong Kong, ChinaInternational
October 15Kremlin CupMoscow, RussiaPremier
October 17BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg OpenLuxembourg City, LuxembourgInternational
October 22BNP Paribas WTA Finals SingaporeSingapore, MalaysiaPremier

 

For more information, visit www.beINSPORTS.com. Follow us on Social Media:

Twitter: @beINSPORTSUSA and/or @ESbeINSPORTS; Facebook: beIN SPORTS USA and/or beIN SPORTS En Español; Instagram: @beINSPORTSUSA; Snapchat: @beINSPORTSUSA.

 

Andy Murray Could Overtake Djokovic To Become No. 1

Who would have thought that Andy Murray would get this close to becoming the Number one Tennis Player in the world? The online tennis odds of Murray reaching the summit were never high.

His rivals were simply too good; however, it looks like Murray has overcome all obstacles to finally come within striking distance of the top spot. A long time ago, seven years ago to be exact, Andy Murray reached the No.2 spot in the rankings.

And that lit a fire in him, a desire to climb over opponents like Roger Federer to finally make it to the top. And the fact that he has come so close is nothing to scoff at; because Murray can literally touch his objective considering just how close he is to the top.

And with rivals like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it says a lot about Murray that he has climbed so far up the rankings. The only thing standing in his way is the Paris Masters. If Murray can win there and Djokovic fails to reach the final, then Murray will become the top-ranked Tennis player in the World for the first time in his career.

Of course, with the sort of pressure such a prospect can attract, Murray cannot afford to dwell on it, and he said as much in a recent interview. He cannot think about it too much, not when he has matches to prepare for in the immediate future.

Murray is right in thinking that he has no control over whether or not he becomes the Top-Ranked player. As things stand, Murray could win all his matches and still fail to become No.1.

Novak still holds all the cards; he can still waylay Murray’s journey to the top. Luckily for Murray, he hasn’t made becoming No.1 an obsession, which can happen sometimes. He has simply focused on doing his best in each and every game. He has no intention of acting any different from what he has done for the last couple of weeks.

That isn’t to say that Murray is completely brushing aside the idea of actually becoming No.1. Even if Andy were to strive to become the Top-Ranked player in the world, he doesn’t think he can achieve that goal before early 2017 at best. The prospect of reaching that goal this week seems unlikely for Murray.

This season has been good to Murray, allowing him to exceed many of his own records by winning seven titles; however, Novak has also performed astoundingly in 2016. If Murray does become Number one, he would be the oldest person to do so (at age 29) since John Newcombe who took the spot in 1974 when he was 30.

Murray is confident in his abilities and definitely, believes that he deserves the top spot. The last few months have seen Murray perform at his absolute best.

Last year’s Paris Masters didn’t end well for Murray who lost to Novak in the final; now, Murray will face Fernando Verdasco in the second round. Even with his victories at the Olympics and in Vienna, there is no way of telling whether or not Murray will end 2016 as the top-ranked player in tennis.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic Win Openers at ATP Finals in London

by Kevin Craig

 

The last tournament of the ATP calendar sees the eight best singles players and doubles teams battling each other for the title of World Tour Finals Champion. In the round robin format, every participant is able to overcome a loss, or possibly even two, but the teams that win on day one take the first and most important step towards the title.

The opening day of the ATP World Tour Finals in London saw the two main attractions of Group Stan Smith easily win their matches as Novak Djokovic dispatched Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, and Roger Federer defeated Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic was able to continue his out-of-this-world form, only dropping two games to the 2014 US Open finalist. Djokovic didn’t face a break point in the entire match and only lost nine points on serve total. While Nishikori may not have been 100 percent healthy, the Serbian was able to keep his game at an incredibly high level, playing insane defense on almost every point, allowing himself to get some breathing room before his matches with Berdych and Federer.

Roger Federer played the last match of day one and was able to sustain the powerful game of Tomas Berdych, winning easily in straight sets.  After exchanging breaks early in the first set, Federer was able to turn his game around and didn’t face another break point for the rest of the match. Meanwhile, Berdych struggled with his serve throughout the match as he only made 44 percent of his first serves and faced six break points, losing four of them. The Suisse maestro was able to overcome hitting four double faults by winning 86 percent of his first serve points and almost 50 percent of his return points.

Meanwhile on the doubles side of the tournament, the first-seeded Bryan brothers were upset in rather routine fashion by the team of Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea by a score line of 6-4, 6-3. The first set was tight as both teams won the same amount of points, 26. The teams exchanged two breaks each early in the set, but the eighth-seeded Bopanna/Mergea were the better team on the day as they were able to get one break more to win the first, and saved both break points they faced in the second set to get the straight sets win. The Bryans are now 0-2 against Bopanna and Mergea in London, after they lost to them in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon earlier this year.

The home favorite team of Brit Jamie Murray and Australian John Peers won a very tight match over Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli, 7-6, 3-6, 11-9. The exciting doubles affair was the first match of the tournament and many fans were eager that the rest of the matches would follow suit. Instead, this was the only match of the four played on day one that went three sets. The fourth-seeded Murray/Peers gave the London crowd the win they wanted and also gave them a very exciting match.  Despite the loss, the Italians set themselves up well by winning a set and only losing 10 games. This could come into play in their favor if the group ends up seeing three teams with the same record.

With these results, the Bryan brothers find themselves in a bit of trouble after day one of the tournament, as they failed to win a set and are now forced to play well against the Australian Open champs Bolelli/Fognini and the US Open and Wimbledon finalists Murray/Peers if they hope to make a run at the title. On the singles side, these opening matches only gave further proof as to what many fans already believed; Djokovic and Federer would be the class of Group Stan Smith. If either Berdych or Nishikori hope to make a run at the World Tour Finals, they’ll have to greatly raise their level in their remaining matches.

Looking Ahead To The Start Of The ATP World Tour In 2014

by Thaddeus McCarthy

Dear Fans,

As we are are now at the end of the ATP tennis season, I thought it would be good to assess how the beginning of the ATP season is looking heading into next year.

We start off as always Down Under, with the Heineken Open in New Zealand, and the Sydney International, before the first grand slam of the year. As this is the start of the year, it usually takes the big names some time to build up speed. So we may see some new names as winners of the year’s first couple of tournaments. Some we could see include; Jercy Janowicz, Milos Raonic and Stanislas Wawrinka. All of whom have been performing steadily better this year. One name I sadly don’t think we will see though is Bernard Tomic. Touted a few years back as the next Lleyton Hewitt, after a run to the Wimbeldon Quarters, he has failed to live up to expectations. He does definitely have a lot of talent though, and has a decent serve. Maybe in 2015 I think he will return to good form, but in 2014 I don’t think he will be quite there yet. David Ferrer will feature in Auckland, and should perform strongly there. He has won the tournament in the past, and he could win again.

The Australian Open has been Novak Djokovic’s domain during the past few years. And judging by his form finishing this season, I would not count him out. Some interesting possible records could emerge from a few of the regulars. Roger Federer of course will going for his eighteenth grand slam. Although his 2013 year has been poor, he does still have the potential for winning another. A lot of experts have said that he will have the best chance of doing so at Wimbledon. But I don’t agree with that assessment. If you look at his record at the Australian Open, he has not failed to reach the semi-finals since 2003. I expect that we will see a strong showing from the great man. Novak Djokovic is going for his fifth title, which would be a stand-alone record. And Nadal meanwhile, is going for a two-time career Grand Slam and would join Rod Laver in that category.

Why I think that Federer will play well at the Australian is for a couple of reasons. Firstly of course, is his record there, having won the tournament four times. Mostly though, I think that the off-season break will be hugely beneficial for him. He has been plagued by injuries this year, and you do have to wonder if he has not yet gotten fully over them. The off-season should do him a world of good. Novak Djokovic’s record at the Australian is stellar, and he would be regarded as possibly the greatest Aussie Open (male) champion in the open era, if he was to win there again. His form at the end of this season is unbelievable. You do have to question though whether he can keep winning. I suspect that next season we may see his streak broken. Nadal will benefit from playing on Rebound Ace, as it is a slower surface than indoor hard (where he has never done well). If he was reach the latter stages of the tournament, especially the final, I think he will win. Nadal has legendary mental toughness, and on the biggest stages there is perhaps none better. Andy Murray also, should not be counted out. He has made three finals, and would love to grab a win. He is an all-court player, and the days when many thought he couldn’t win on the big stage are long gone.
The Australian though, is notorious for throwing us surprises. Everyone will remember the Tsonga run back in 2008. And before that there was Gonzalez in 2007, Baghdadis in 2006, and way back in 2001, Thomas Johansson went one step further by winning it. The potential surprise run I’m going with next year (although it wouldn’t be really) is Juan Martin Del Potro. Since he won the US a few years ago, he has been plagued by injuries. But this season he has hit form again. He plays best on hard courts as well, with his strong ground strokes and booming serve. A mentally tough Nadal against an in-form Del Potro in the final would be quite a match.

Anyway, I would just like to say that I hope you all enjoyed my first blog. I hope that I will have created some debate.

A Year of Firsts for Milos Raonic and Canada

By Mark McCormick

 

Canada, a country that is so passionate for hockey, has had their eyes on tennis lately. Tennis? Canada is one of the coldest countries in the world, but that hasn’t stopped the rapid rise of tennis star Milos Raonic from training. The 2013 season has been a groundbreaking year for the young Canadian, cracking into the world’s top 10 for the first time in Canadian tennis history, reaching his first Masters 1000 Series final, and leading his country to the Davis Cup semifinals.

In an interview with AskMen, Raonic talks about his rise in Canadian tennis. “The pressure is really what you make of it, and I like to make more for myself than anyone else will, so I always push myself. The responsibility I have is a great thing, from helping tennis grow in Canada, but also in the future, being able to do stuff through my foundation, helping kids. And helping everyone I can, and really trying to make a difference.”

The 22-year-old is one of the youngest in the top 100, and has shown no signs of stumbling in the rankings. The 6’5” Canadian has a booming serve, and a big forehand. The powerful shots that Raonic possesses show a glimpse of what could possibly be the future of tennis.

Earlier in the summer this year, Raonic hired former top player Ivan Ljubicic as his full time head coach. Ljubicic’s work with Raonic has shown positive results. The months of August and September were important for Raonic. In the big matches he played, however, he didn’t make that big step. When Raonic reached his first Masters 1000 Series finals in Montreal in August, he had Canada on his back. The final for Raonic was a bit of a disappointment for Canadian fans, when Raonic fell 6-2 6-2 to Rafael Nadal. Granted, he was playing against one of the greatest players of all time, but this was a big chance to make a statement. Sadly, his nerves got the best of him.

A couple weeks later, he made the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. He reached the fourth round there last year, and had a legitimate chance to get into his first Grand Slam quarterfinal ever. He was playing against world No. 9 Richard Gasquet. Gasquet hadn’t been in a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam since 2007. Raonic dictated for most of the match, until fatigue came in late in the fourth set. Raonic was leading two sets to one, with several break points to go up a break early in the fifth set, but failed to capitalize again.

Nine days after his exit at the U.S. Open, Raonic led the Canadian tennis team into its first Davis Cup semifinal in over a century. Canada held a 2-1 lead going into the final day of the semi’s, but fell 3-2, with Raonic losing to Djokovic in the fourth rubber.

A wild stretch of firsts for Raonic ended in disappointments, but his run isn’t going to end yet this year.

En Bangkok, en route to the title, Raonic dismantled Feliciano Lopez in straight sets 6-4 6-3. His statistics were off the charts. Raonic had 19 aces serving at 86% for the whole match, and gave up eight points on his serve the whole match!

Raonic’s best surface is indoor hard courts. The post U.S. Open Asia swing is mostly played on hard courts and indoor hard courts. The Paris Masters is a big event for Raonic to make a deep run in. This tournament is played indoors, and is the one Masters 1000 tournament that lacks the most top players. His confidence is high still despite tough losses, and has a legitimate shot at making the ATP World Tour Year End Finals, which is also played indoors.

What does 2014 hold for Raonic? Big things. His unforced errors have cut down immensely, especially on his backhand. His inside out forehand is huge on the return game. His main focus in the off season has to be working on his return game. If Raonic can get more balls into play on the return, he has a better chance of getting into rallies, and trying to put himself into position to run around a forehand and put the ball away.

Raonic opens up his 2014 season at the Brisbane International, where he will be one of the top seeds going into the event. He lost in the second round last year in Brisbane, so he will have a chance at gaining points to boost his ranking. He’ll get a week after Brisbane to recuperate and head into the Australian Open most likely as a top 16 seed. This time, he’ll have a more favorable draw at the Grand Slam he plays best at. If he gets matched up in any of the top 8’s quarters except Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, he will have a serious shot at making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

From the Asia swing to mid-February, Raonic can make his statement known on the hard courts. His chances of cracking into the top 8 are very likely. He has already proven to tennis fans how much of a threat he is from his results this summer. It may be a slight surprise to see his name ranked among the names of Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal, but come February, it may happen. Don’t be surprised if you see the name Milos Raonic on sports headlines in mid-January, because his hard work and talent is going to be known to all sports fans very soon.

 

From Continent to Continent: ATP Washington and Kitzbuhel Previews

While the WTA divides its action between two coasts this week, the ATP spans the Atlantic Ocean with events on two different continents and surfaces.  The 500 tournament in Washington, part of the US Open Series, takes center stage.

Washington:

Top half:  A champion in Washington four years ago, Juan Martin Del Potro holds the top seed at the 2013 edition.  The Wimbledon semifinalist hopes to rediscover his torrid form against one of two men who shone in Atlanta.  Producing semifinal runs there last week, Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison will square off in one of the most intriguing first-round matches.  Nor can Del Potro relax if he survives the winner.  A strong grass season, highlighted by a second-week appearance at Wimbledon, will have restored Bernard Tomic’s confidence.  Although he continues to cope with controversy surrounding his father, Tomic has plenty of ways to disrupt Del Potro’s rhythm if the Argentine returns rusty from a leg injury.  A more straightforward test awaits from Kevin Anderson, seeking his third semifinal in three weeks.  Before he meets Del Potro in the quarterfinals, Anderson may find the returning Mardy Fish an opponent worthy of his steel.

If power dominates the top quarter, flair defines much of the second quarter.  The flamboyant shot-making of Tommy Haas favors precision over physicality, while the graceful one-handed backhand of Grigor Dimitrov has a vintage appeal.  Haas reached the final in Washington last year, perhaps using his training at the Bolletieri Academy in Florida as experience for coping with the humidity.  But power never lags far behind in a draw filled with Americans.  Sam Querrey will face one of two Atlanta quarterfinalists, Denis Istomin or Santiago Giraldo, in the second round.   A contrast of styles would await if Querrey advances to face Dimitrov and then Haas, although a 5-8 record since April leaves a deep run far from guaranteed.

Semifinal:  Del Potro vs. Haas

Bottom half:  Filled with question marks, the third quarter could produce a surprise semifinalist.  The favorite at first glance would seem Milos Raonic, by far the most powerful of the seeds.  Raonic’s massive serve could sizzle on a hot hard court, but he has accomplished little since winning yet another San Jose title in February.  Neither has fellow seed Nikolay Davydenko, who has struggled historically against possible second-round opponent James Blake.  Some of Gilles Simon’s best results have come in North America, including a Miami quarterfinal this spring, and the fifth seed’s steadiness might suffice to ease him past the erratic men around him.  Among them is former champion Radek Stepanek, who looks forward to American collegiate star Steve Johnson in his opener.

One might lose sight of defending champion Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth quarter.  Not a threat for most of 2013, Dolgopolov faces an arduous route towards a title defense.  Home hope John Isner looms in the third round if he can revive his energy after a draining title run in Atlanta.  An easier route to the quarterfinals beckons for Kei Nishikori, who won a North American 500 tournament at Memphis this year.  Bogota runner-up Alejandro Falla faded quickly in Atlanta, as did American teenage sensation Jack Sock.  The clean, balanced baseline game of Nishikori should carry him past either of those opponents, after which a first meeting with Isner could await.

Semifinal:  Simon vs. Isner

Final:  Del Potro vs. Isner

Kitzbuhel:

Top half:  An assortment of Europeans and clay specialists have headed to this Austrian event before venturing into the steamy American summer.  German top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber aims to move one round further than he did at another clay 250 event.  The finalist in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, Kohlschreiber can look ahead to a quarterfinal against Spanish dirt devil Marcel Granollers.  This Rome quarterfinalist will welcome the opportunity to erase memories of an epic loss in Gstaad last week.  Between them stand Horacio Zeballos of Nadal-defeating fame and Wimbledon surprise Kenny de Schepper, who reached the second week there.

A greater Wimbledon surprise than de Schepper came from Fernando Verdasco, who would not hold the third seed here if not for his quarterfinal appearance at the last major.  To his credit, Verdasco parlayed that breakthrough into a strong July, highlighted by victories over Nicolas Almagro, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jerzy Janowicz.  An all-lefty matchup against Brazilian clay specialist Thomaz Bellucci should not detain him for long en route to a rematch of the Bastad final.  At that Swedish tournament, Verdasco fell to Carlos Berlocq, who faces an extremely challenging assignment as the fifth seed.  Days after defeating Federer, the ominous Daniel Brands sets his sights on the Bastad champion.  Also in this deep section is Robin Haase, arriving from a series of morale-boosting wins in Gstaad.

Semifinal:  Granollers vs. Verdasco

Bottom half:   A week of mixed omens for Albert Montanes in Umag included an upset over world No. 9 Richard Gasquet and a tight loss to Gasquet’s compatriot Gael Monfils.  Twice a semifinalist on clay already this summer, Victor Hanescu finds himself on a collision course with Montanes, who won a clay title in Nice just before Roland Garros.  The winner should feel confident heading into the quarterfinals, although home hope Jurgen Melzer will have most of the audience behind him.  Melzer reached the second week of Wimbledon but has lost five consecutive clay matches dating back to Monte Carlo.

Arguably the softest section, the base of the Kitzbuhel draw lies at the mercy of second seed Juan Monaco.  This recent member of the top 10 has shown altogether too much mercy in 2013, helplessly watching his ranking decline.  All the same, Monaco has produced at least somewhat respectable tennis this summer on clay, his best surface.  Three qualifiers and a wildcard offer little competition, so any challenge would need to come from one of two Spaniards.  While Daniel Gimeno-Traver has struggled on clay this year, Roberto Bautista-Agut retired last week in Gstaad.  Monaco thus looks safe unless he implodes, admittedly not unthinkable.

Semifinal:  Montanes vs. Monaco

Final:  Verdasco vs. Montanes

Future Stars Earning Their Stripes: Rising Americans in Stanford and Atlanta

Among the annual narratives of the US Open Series are the glimpses of rising American talents on both Tours.  The first week of the 2013 Series shone a spotlight on a dozen of these players in Atlanta and Stanford, small events without draws too daunting.  Some took advantage of the breathing room this week, while others allowed opportunities to escape them.

Atlanta:

Ryan Harrison:  He had not reached an ATP quarterfinal since early January, compiling barely more wins in 2013 than one could count on the figures of one hand.  But Harrison ended that drought and bolstered his sagging ranking by weathering a pair of rollercoasters against higher-ranked opponents.  He outlasted Marinko Matosevic and the fourth-seeded Igor Sijsling more from superior determination than superior tennis.  Under the Friday night lights, Harrison will face Santiago Giraldo in a rematch of an Australian Open meeting that he won comfortably.  A first career final is not inconceivable.

Christian Harrison:  Every player must remember the moment of their first victory in the main draw an ATP tournament.  For Ryan’s 19-year-old brother, that moment came in the first round of Atlanta.  While Alejandro Falla entered that match drained from last week’s Bogota finals run, Christian still showed impressive grit by battling through three tight sets to upset an opponent ranked 210 places higher.  The grit resurfaced a round later, when he fell to the top-seeded Isner by the narrowest of margins.  Christian battled a far more powerful, far more experienced opponent deep into the third set, nearly scoring a massive upset.

Jack Sock:  A quarterfinalist at Atlanta last year, Sock could not recapture his success despite his clear advantage in power over Santiago Giraldo.  This Colombian clay specialist even out-aced Sock on a hard court.  Since reaching the quarterfinals in Memphis, Sock has not advanced past the second round of any ATP tournament.  Accumulated frustration from those struggles may have contributed to his outbursts of temper in Atlanta.  Fans should remember that Sock remains a raw, unfinished talent still a few years away from fulfilling his potential.

Rhyne Williams:  Raining aces aplenty on both of his opponents, this prospect established himself as an intimidating server in the mold of many American men before him.  Williams powered past compatriot higher-ranked compatriot Denis Kudla in the first round without dropping his serve.  He threatened to spring an upset on the seventh-seeded, much more experienced Lleyton Hewitt behind another barrage of aces.  But his inexperience showed in the first-set tiebreak, which Williams lost after holding four consecutive set points and donating a costly double fault.

Denis Kudla:  The world No. 93 showed promise in North American challengers this spring and by reaching the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club.  Kudla’s modest serve left him at a critical disadvantage against a torrid Williams, so Atlanta fans could not fully appreciate his skills in other areas.  He will hope for more advantageous draws as the US Open Series continues.

Tim Smyczek:  Just behind Williams in the rankings, Smyczek earned attention at the Australian Open when he upset Ivo Karlovic and won a set from David Ferrer.  Since that promising statement, Smyczek has won just three main-draw matches at ATP tournaments.  Curiously, two of those have come against notable opponents in Fernando Verdasco and Sam Querrey.  Smyczek needs to exploit opportunities in winnable matches better than in his loss to James Blake.  At 5-5 in the third set, he could not convert break points that might have sealed the match.

Stanford:

Jamie Hampton:  Like Smyczek, Hampton emerged on the radar of observant fans in Melbourne, where she won a set from eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.  A clay upset of Petra Kvitova signaled a second peak in June, marked by a stirring run to the Eastbourne final as a qualifier.  The 23-year-old Hampton holds a seed for the first time this week.  She carried that burden with mixed results in her opener, striking over 50 winners while spraying plenty of careless errors.  A semifinal looms against Agnieszka Radwanska, whom she defeated in Eastbourne.  She must clean up her game by then.

Madison Keys:  In a tale of two matches, Keys dominated eighth seed Magdalena Rybarikova and then fell quietly to qualifier Vera Dushevina.  Eagerness to find a successor to the Williams sisters, which Keys could become, should not blind onlookers to the inconsistency in her results this year.  She often plays to the level of her competition, a trait common among young, raw talents, and more growing pains will lie ahead before we can rely on her as a late-week threat.  Stanford brought a dose of optimism and a dash of realism, a healthy recipe for both Keys and her fans to consume.

Christina McHale:  A once-promising talent veered off the rails when McHale fell victim last year to mononucleosis, often a death sentence for tennis careers.  The New Jersey native has time to regroup, though, for she just turned 21 in May.  McHale has advanced past the second round at only one tournament (Doha) in the last 11 months, but she has troubled top-15 opponents such as Li Na, Sara Errani, and Maria Kirilenko this year.  Still searching for confidence, she won just four games from Urszula Radwanska in the first round of Stanford.

Coco Vandeweghe:  Reaching last year’s Stanford final as a lucky loser, she qualified for the main draw this time and routed her first opponent.  The somewhat less inconsistent Sorana Cirstea then ended Vandeweghe’s bid for another breakthrough.  Back inside the top 200, the Southern California slugger wields a huge serve—and not much else.  She accomplished about as much as one could expect in the context of her year overall.

Mallory Burdette:  Unfortunate to draw Marion Bartoli in the first round last year, Burdette enjoyed only slightly better fortune by facing Francesca Schiavone in this year’s opener.  The Italian has feasted on inexperienced players like the Stanford alum, who became a full-time pro last fall.  Despite her dwindling form, Schiavone pulled away in straight sets to hand Burdette her fourth straight loss.  She will hope for less thorny draws as the US Open Series progresses.

Nicole Gibbs:  The best player in NCAA women’s tennis again received a wildcard to the tournament at her university.  Gibbs produced a result similar on paper to her Stanford appearance in 2012, when she won one match before losing the second.  But her three-set dogfight with the fourth-seeded Hampton revealed the toughness behind her gentle demeanor.  Gibbs easily could have grown disheartened after failing to serve out the second set, or after falling behind 0-4 in the third.  Her resilience in both of those situations suggested that she has the heart to succeed in the WTA, if perhaps not the weapons.