Novak Djkovic

Australian Open Recollections

By James A. Crabtree

The Aussie Open is over and this means constant therapy and prescription pills until the French Open.

Regardless, here are some pointless observations, rumours, thoughts and complete randomness that needs to be shared.

1. Fred Stolle said, adamantly, a few days before the tournament that “Djokovic will win it all unless he breaks his leg.” Not only was he right but I do hate it when old people get it so so right.

2. During the qualifying rounds I got to know a guy I simply referred to as Security Guard Joe. Our conversations were like those you expect to share whilst drinking  a brew with an old guy at a bar.

“Got any good bets?” he asked.

Monica Puig, I’d say she will reach round 3, at least.” I responded boldly.

“Good. I’ll put some money down.”

I was wrong, need to avoid Security Guard Joe.

3. Bernie Tomic was the only non-seeded player to list Monaco as his residence, so somebody good is doing his accounts! According to rumour the young Australian was given 32 different racquets by Yonex to trial. He chose the 31st and is happy with it. Lets hope he is not as picky with shoes.

4. Djokovic should be featured in the next video by PSY, of Gangnam Style fame. He really should be, the guy just cant stop doing the dance.

5. Ever wondered why so many players look so clean cut? Wonder no more as the Australian Open featured a “Player Beauty Bar.”

6. Sloane Stephens had roughly 17,000 twitter followers before her match with Serena Williams. One little win later and she had 35,000. She now has over 60,000.

7. Spoke to an old Czech reporter who has been coming to the Open since 1991. He had some great tales, including the legend that Marcelo Rios spent $300,000 in the casino in 1998, the year he reached the final as the number one seed. Wow.

8. The media received a very cool media pack, sunscreen, that included a little towel, pen, mini fan, media guide and a USB stick that is not compatible with my computer….ARGHH.

Also, some journalists partook in a special Cardio Tennis session run by Tennis Australia. All athletes (I use that word very loosely) took themselves far too seriously, and all were panting like poodles on a hot summers day after only five minutes action. One journalist by the name of Crabtree was awesome and won a towel but we shall go into no further detail of these incredible exploits. 😉

9. Bumped into Security Guard Joe. Luckily for me he didn’t put a bet on Monica Puig because he couldn’t remember her name.

“My shift is over soon mate, got any other good bets?” he asked.

Del Potro is probably due a good run,” I suggested.

“Del Potro? “

“Yeah, the Argentinian. He should go deep, I’d put a dollar on him.” I said.

Security Guard Joe left quickly like I was Old Biff with a sports Almanac from Back to the Future 2. Del Potro lost later that day in the third round to Jeremy Chardy. I am not Old Biff, and really need to avoid Security Guard Joe for the rest of the tournament.

10. Stan vs Novak, for many this was the match of the tournament – can’t stop thinking about this one and a possible alternate reality where Stan got it then cruised through the rest of the tournament. Stan was amazing, up 1 set and 5-2 in the second. Imagine if he had capitalised and become the other Swiss with a slam.

11. The Media restaurant never once skimmed on portions. Thanks guys, but more dessert options next time, please.

12. Beneath Rod Laver Arena I passed a guy I thought I recognised, some small time Aussie player I thought. I said “Hey mate,” and he responded with a “Hey Mate” of his own. I stopped for a second, hang on, that wasn’t the Aussie I thought it was and this guy is wearing Nike’s with a hint of pink. That was bloody Roger Federer.

13. Popped in to see the stringers and one old time doubles player had a tension of 33lbs. What the!

14. The old Czech reporter told of how he once hit with Andre Agassi, whilst the eight-time grand slam champion was waiting around for Brad Gilbert on a practice court. I am insanely jealous.

15. Where’s Wally. Captain Australia. A bloke with a giant phone. A guy with a giant head. The Heard stole the show at matches featuring Aussie players. This crew should be a perquisite at every grand slam.

Like many of you I am having Aussie Open withdrawals. Hope this offers you some solace. Roll on Roland Garros.

2013 Australian Open and The Usual Suspects?

by James A. Crabtree

With the Australian open only a jiffy away now seems the opportune moment to make some foolhardy predictions as to who shall claim the spoils first in 2013.

At a glance it doesn’t look like a new grand slam champion will emerge just yet.

With the big 4 being cut down to the big 3 for a second straight major with a certain Spaniard sick one would assume that a new contender could join the party dominated for so long by the remaining Scot, Serb and Swiss.

In truth none look like they are either knocking on the door or even hold an invite to the elusive ‘S club 4’. Berdych and Tsonga have proved they can take down a big gun, but have never followed it up in the following round. This leaves only Del Porto who has at least proved he can hold his nerve in 5 set thrillers. The big Argie’s draw isn’t easy with a possible matchup against Granollers in round three, the inform un-seeded Dennis Istomin by round four and Andy Murray in the quarters. Tsonga’s draw is better with the only major problem being countrymen Gasquet in the fourth round.

With Nadal away so often Federer shall play, as with his Roland Garros victory in 2009 and Wimbledon 2009 and 2012. This time more question marks surround Federer’s destiny.  The seeding format in Australia is an upside down 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 rather than 1v 3 and 2 v 4. This means 2nd seed Federer is slated to meet 3rd seed Murray, a player he would have otherwise avoided, in the semi-finals. That is supposing he makes it. Problems persist for ol’ Roger well before then with possible opponents including Davydenko, an inform Tomic, a dangerous Raonic and a nemesis of sorts with Tsonga in the quarters. The all-time leading grand slam champion has big questions regarding form having not played a competitive match since the ATP Tour Finals in early November 2012.

And what of Murray?  Many tennis enthusiasts have predicted he could go on a tear having got the U.S. crown and shown impressive performances in Australia the past three years, with two finals appearances and one semi-final. His performance in Australia thus far has been the most notable of the big 3, inclusive of reclaiming his second straight Brisbane title. His first round matchup is against Robin Haase, a fellow curly haired baseliner and someone he has split their last two meetings with, although they have not played each other since 2011. Other hurdles for him include Dolgopolov or Simon in the fourth round then an intimidating Del Potro in the quarters.

As well as Murray has performed Djokovic has performed better as he looks for a hat trick in Melbourne and his fourth title in six years. A second round struggle could be with Ryan Harrison who looks to be itching for a big name scalp. This might not happen this year but Harrison can be dangerous and did take a set off Murray in Australia in 2012. The ‘other Swiss’ Wawrinka is expected in the fourth round then possibly an out of sorts Tomas Berdych in the quarters although his name could be replaced by new kid on the block David Goffin.

And what of the semi-finals?

It’s time to go out a limb and say Jo-Wilfred Tsonga will beat Roger Federer and make his first semi-final since 2010, but ultimately lose to Andy Murray who will continue to play for sick friend Ross Hutchins.

On the other side of the draw expect Mr Consistent David Ferrer to meet up with Novak for a repeat of their 2012 quarterfinal match with a similar score line and result.

That leaves Novak Djokovic to do battle again with Andy Murray in their second straight grand slam final with Novak gaining revenge on the Scot.

The 2012 U.S. Open Semi Final Preview

by James A. Crabtree

Whenever Federer, strangely, doesn’t make a grand slam semi-final there is a collective sigh of regret from the majority of the world’s tennis faithful. On the flip side, of the players still standing, there is a genuine sigh of relief.

Suddenly there is a chance, a real chance, a fresh face could hold aloft a grand slam trophy. Apart from Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open all the slams since Roland Garros 2005 have been dominated by either Roger, Rafa or Novak.

Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer all believe that this could be their chance at tennis immortality. They are smiling on the inside.

The only guy to possibly spoil an all-out ‘Thank God They Are Not Here’ party is, of course, Novak Djokovic who is the only member of the big three present. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Serbian world number two has been looking scarily good, just ask big Jaun Martin del Potro.

David Ferrer versus Novak Djokovic

Is this a forgone conclusion?

I really hate to say this, and I don’t want to believe it but yes, it looks to be all Novak. In almost all aspects he is a better version of his opponent.

What David Ferrer/young Emilio Estevez fans have to hope for is Djokovic to have one of those apathetic meltdowns that we used to see from him pre 2011. We need Ferrer to out grind to the backhand, keep the ball deep , return exceptionally and break late in sets. Trouble is it just doesn’t look likely. Tennis is all about current form and confidence. The Djoker is riding high on both after blitzing through the draw including that sensational win over Juan Martin del Potro.

Okay, so Ferrer’s record against the Serb isn’t bad, he has won five of their thirteen meetings. Noting that three of those were in round robin play, but none in grand slams.

Although it would be a real treat to see the other Spaniard gunslinger in a grand slam final, a true gambler wouldn’t bet against Novak now, especially in Gotham City.

Andy Murray versus Tomas Berdych

This should be a really testy encounter. A Highlander taking on the pride of Skynet, the T1000. These are two really volatile baseliners who can either bring brilliance or boredom.

Andy Murray is perhaps the best second-serve returner on tour. Now, Berdych does have the ability to serve big when he is on his game but when he gets nervous this is the first part of his game to falter, much in part due to that absurdly high ball toss.

We should expect to see Berdych start strong with that power game of his; riding high on his Federer victory but the Murray monotony will undoubtedly wear him down. Unless Berdych can hit flat out winners Murray should have him beaten from the back of the court using his superior fitness and consistency whilst lulling him into errors and a state of mental anguish, that cyborgs generally aren’t programmed to deal with.

Before you know it, it’s game, set and match to the golden boy. FREEEEEEEDOMMMMM!

The only question now is whether destiny is on the side of the Scot, the 2008 finalist? Without both Federer and Nadal to contend with, and ultimately some revenge on Djokovic, it would be hard to imagine Murray losing five grand slam finals in a row.

But that is a whole other conversation. Bring on the FINAL!