The second Grand Slam of the year has started – and there‘s a big buzz about the victor-to-be already. Will we continue to see the same legendary players snatching their consecutive titles, or could we hope for a bit of fresh air in terms of a new star? Let‘s take a look at who‘s the most likely to win French Open.
A Debut Title for Djokovic?
While it may sound hardly likely that any title could be a first for a player like this, all tennis fans know that the only Grand Slam that Djokovic is yet to win is Roland Garros. He managed to go to the finals thrice – and was defeated by Rafael Nadal in 2012 and 2014 and by Stan Wawrinka in 2015. Could this finally be his year?
According to the UK-licensed bookie TonyBet, it absolutely can: the odds for his outright win are 1.80, which is way ahead of anyone else. It’s only fair, too, as the world’s #1 has double the points that #2 Murray managed to collect, and he’s been in incredible form for a ridiculously long time.
Djokovic started off his season with a sixth Australian Open title, and while he did have a blip in his performance when he lost to Jiri Vesely in Monte Carlo, it seems to have gone away. He won Madrid Masters against Murray and even though the Scot managed to then stop him in Rome finals, the Serb remains a powerful contender.
Could Rafael Nadal Make a Phoenix Comeback?
If Djokovic seems to have disproportional amounts of trouble at French Open, Nadal is the exact opposite. He’s got nine titles, of which four and then five were consecutive, although Rafa did struggle last year and only went through to the QF. If there’s a Grand Slam he can rule though, it’s this one: can we expect the old Nadal back?
The TonyBet bookies think that he’s got a fair shot at this as they’ve given him the odds of 4.75 at winning his tenth Roland Garros. The world’s #5 has been having struggles with his form since 2014 when he suffered an injury, and his first Grand Slam of 2016 ended in the first round.
However, since then he’s managed to win Monte Carlo and Barcelona, although he did lose to Murray in Madrid Master’s SF and to Djokovic in Rome’s QF. Nadal seems to have gained at least some of his form back, and the upcoming tournament will really be a good show of that. And who knows – maybe he’ll finally win another Grand Slam title!
Andy Murray to Keep Climbing?
The Scottish player had a pretty good season last year – even though he didn’t bring home any Grand Slam titles, his form was pretty good and he managed to push Britain’s national team to the first Davis Cup trophy in 79 years. Could Murray go on to win his first French Open?
Even though the furthest that world’s #2 has managed to go in this tournament before is semi-finals, TonyBet bookies seem to have a reasonable amount of faith in him. The odds for Murray winning Roland Garros are at 4.90 which is just a smidge behind what Nadal got. Obviously, Djokovic remains a force to be reckoned with, but even he can fall.
The Serb has already been a big hurdle for Murray this year, beating him at the finals of Australian Open and Madrid Masters. However, the Scot managed to win against Djokovic at Rome finals, which is definitely a very good sign – although it remains clear that this is one of the scariest opponents he could face.
Still, we never know what surprises may strike us. A dark horse win is always a possibility, and we have seen that plenty of times in the past. While Djokovic, for example, absolutely dominates the ATP ratings, that doesn‘t mean he‘ll get every title. In any case, there‘s a lot to look forward to in the French Open, so make sure to not miss it!
Milos Raonic Serving Woes Leads To One-Sided Loss To Novak Djokovic – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig
by Kevin Craig
- Ana Ivanovic was given the 2nd quickest loss of her career as Karolina Pliskova beat her 6-2, 6-0 in the third round of Indian Wells in 49 minutes.
- In the men’s singles final in Indian Wells, Milos Raonic managed to win only three of 30 points on his second serve, leading to a 6-2, 6-0 defeat.
- Andy Murray was beaten by a left-handed player other than Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2011 as Federico Delbonis beat him in the third round in Indian Wells.
- At one point in the John Isner-Kei Nishikori fourth round match at Indian Wells, Nishikori’s average first serve speed was 108 miles per hour, while Isner’s average second serve speed was 115 miles per hour.
- On a negative note for Isner, each of his last three losses have been decided by third set tiebreaks. In each match, Isner held match point and did not face a break point.
- Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nenad Zimonjic were able to saved eight match points in the semifinal win over the Bryan brothers in Indian Wells.
- 16-year old Denis Shapovalov of Canada became the first player born in 1999 to win a match on the challenger level. This comes after Felix Auger Aliassime, also of Canada, became the first player born in 2000 to win a match on the challenger level last year. Shapovalov would also go on to become the first 16-year old to make a challenger semifinal since Stefan Kozlov made the semifinals at the Sacramento Challenger in 2014 as a 16-year old.
by Kevin Craig
- At No. 149 in the world, Bjorn Fratangelo became the lowest ranked player to take a set off of Novak Djokovic since No. 174 Nicolas Almagro, who was returning from injury at the time, won the second set in their meeting in Rome in May of 2015. The last time Djokovic lost a first set to a player outside of the Top 100 was when he dropped the first set to No. 158 Lleyton Hewitt in the 2012 Olympics.
- 18 year old Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe did battle in the first round in Indian Wells with Tiafoe wining in three sets. It was the first all-teen matchup in Indian Wells since Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori in 2008.
- With Borna Coric and Alex Zverev reaching the third round in Indian Wells, it marks the first time since 2007 that multiple teenagers made the third round of the event. Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Evgeny Korolev were the players who did so.
- For the first time since 2010 in Indian Wells, no German woman reached the third round of the event.
- The No. 1 doubles seed in Indian Wells lost in the first round for the first time since 1998 as Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, 10-6 in a match tiebreak.
- The final of the Jonkoping challenger lasted two hours and 44 minutes, making it the longest final on the challenger circuit in 2016. Andrey Golubev took home the title by beating Karen Khachanov, 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 7-6(4), saving four match points along the way. The four match points saved was the most in a challenger final since Tim Smyczek saved four in the Tiburon Challenger in 2015.
- The challenger event in Santiago saw a 19-year age difference in the first round as 38 year old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo took on 19 year old Christian Garin. Ramirez Hidalgo came out with the victory in three sets.
- Facundo Bagnis became the first player to successfully defend a challenger title in 2016, winning the title in Santiago for the second straight year, also making it three titles in four tries in the Chilean capital.
by Kevin Craig
- Novak Djokovic earned his 700th career match win in Dubai, beating Jaziri in straight sets. He is now the third active player with 700 wins, behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
- The 28-point tiebreak in Dubai that was played between Stan Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis was the longest in an ATP final since Andy Roddick beat Mardy Fish in San Jose in 2004, also playing a 28-point tiebreak.
- Wawrinka’s title in Dubai extends his win streak in finals to nine after starting his career 4-9 in finals.
- There were four finals played last week that involved a player with a one-handed backhand and a player with a two-handed backhand. All four of the players with one-handed backhands prevailed, including Dominic Thiem over Bernard Tomic, Pablo Cuevas over Pablo Carreno Busta, Wawrinka over Baghdatis, and Carla Suarez Navarro over Jelena Ostapenko.
- Cuevas played seven left-handers in a row, including all five of his opponents that he beat en route to his title in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first player to win a title playing only left-handers along the way. Cuevas played Facundo Bagnis twice, Thiago Monteiro twice, Federico Delbonis, Nadal, and Guido Pella.
- Nick Kyrgios held all 47 of his service games during his title run in Marseille before being broken in his first service game in Dubai.
- Baghdatis served up a bagel to Roberto Bautista Agut in Dubai. The last time he had won a set 6-0 was against Andy Murray at the French Open in 2010. Baghdatis has won four 6-0 sets against players in the Top 20, but only won two of the four matches that included bagels.
- Franko Skugor of Croatia won his first match on the ATP World Tour in six years in Dubai, beating Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets. His most recent win came in July of 2010 in Umag when he beat Filippo Volandri.
Novak Djokovic Holds Huge ATP Ranking Points Lead Over No. 2 Andy Murray – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig
by Kevin Craig
- Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open title is his 11th major title overall and puts him on even terms with Rod Laver’s and Bjorn Borg’s 11 major titles. Djokovic now also has six Australian Open titles, matching Roy Emerson’s record.
- The current points gap in the ATP rankings between No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray is equal to the points gap between No. 2 Murray and No. 36 Pablo Cuevas. With his win at the Australian Open, Djokovic is now guaranteed to hold the No. 1 ranking for at least 100 consecutive weeks.
- After hitting 100 unforced errors in his fourth round win over Gilles Simon, Djokovic hit only 88 unforced errors combined in his last three matches.
- Angelique Kerber was a combined 1-11 against Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams heading into the 2016 Australian Open before beating Azarenka in the semifinals and Williams in the final.
- The loss in the 2016 Australian Open final was just the fifth loss in a major final for Williams, and her first in three sets.
- For the first time in Australian Open history, eight different countries were represented in both the men’s and women’s singles draws. Serbia, Japan, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France, Canada, Spain, and Great Britain were represented on the men’s side while the United States, Russia, Poland, Spain, Germany, Belarus, Great Britain, and China were represented on the women’s side.
- Jamie Murray became the first person not named Bob or Mike Bryan to make three straight major doubles finals since Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor did it in 2002. Jamie and his brother Andy Murray will now both be ranked No. 2 in the doubles and singles rankings, respectively, the first time two brothers have done so.
- Bruno Soares became the first player to win two titles at the Australian Open by virtue of winning the men’s and mixed doubles since Rennae Stubbs won the women’s and mixed doubles titles in 2000.
- Di Wu became the first player from China to win a challenger title as he took home the title in Maui. Wu beat the No. 1 seed Kyle Edmund in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
by Kevin Craig
Novak Djokovic claimed his sixth Australian Open title and 11th major singles title overall on Sunday night in Melbourne as he defeated Andy Murray in the final, 6-1, 7-5, 7-6. The win evens Djokovic up with Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg at 11 major titles, a number which Djokovic will surely increase by the end of 2016.
The first set started promising for Murray as he had a break point in the opening game of the match on Djokovic’s serve. It was all downhill from there in the first set though, as Djokovic fought for the hold and then quickly raced out to a double break lead at 5-0 in less than 20 minutes. Murray, stunned by what had just happened on the court, started to show signs of life as he was able to get a game on the board and avoid a bagel before making Djokovic stress slightly as he served out the set, having to play a game that lasted 10 points.
Djokovic started off the second set strong again, having a look at four break chances at 1-1. Murray was able to fend those off, but not the break chance Djokovic would see at 3-3, allowing the Serb to take a break lead in the set. Murray refused to go away though, as he quickly earned his first break point since the opening game of the match and took advantage of it to get back on serve. Despite the disappointment of letting the lead slip, Djokovic continued to apply pressure on the Brit’s serve, getting break points at 4-4 and 5-5. Murray was up 40-0 in the 5-5 game, but lost a 37-shot rally to Djokovic, the first of five points that the Serb would go on to win in a row to get the break advantage and a chance to serve for a two sets to love lead. Murray fought in the 12th game to earn a break point and take Djokovic to deuce, but the Serb didn’t let up and was able to successfully take the set.
The match appeared done and dusted early in the third set as Djokovic broke in the opening game and then held at love for a 2-0 lead. Combine that with the fact Djokovic had only ever lost from two sets up once, to Jurgen Melzer at the 2010 French Open, and there was little hope for the No. 2 player in the world. Murray, though, was able to earn break points in back-to-back service games from Djokovic, and was successful in the latter game as he got the third set back on serve. It was straightforward to the tiebreak from there as the returners only got past 15 twice in the last six games of the set. After fighting so hard to get to the tiebreak, it appeared as if Murray had nothing left, falling into a 1-6 hole. Djokovic, on his third championship point, hit an ace down the T that sealed the straight sets victory and his 11th major title.
The disappointing moment for Murray sees him lose to Djokovic in the Australian Open final for the fourth time. Murray, though, does not have to stress about tennis for a couple weeks as he can head back home to his wife and await the birth of their first child.
Djokovic’s success stemmed from his application of pressure on Murray’s second serve and being able to force him into hitting unforced errors. The 35 percent success rate on second serve and 65 unforced errors will create an easy recipe for the No. 1 player in the world to grab the win. Djokovic was able to do so in less than three hours as he was not only able to level Laver’s and Borg’s number of major titles, but also evened himself with Roy Emerson’s six Australian Open titles. Djokovic continues to look unstoppable early in 2016, and the tennis world is left waiting to see who has the ability to beat the best player in the world.
by Kevin Craig
Andy Murray is into his fifth Australian Open final after defeating Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Friday in Melbourne. Murray ended Raonic’s undefeated start to the season, as the Canadian had won nine matches in a row to start off 2016. Murray will go on to face Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open for a fourth time, the most recent of which came in 2015 with Djokovic winning in four sets.
The eagerly anticipated semifinal match between the No. 2 seed and the No. 13 seed got off to a start that not many people would have expected. Raonic broke Murray at love to start off the match, before fighting back from a 0-40 whole on his serve to get the hold and go up 2-0. There’s not much else to say about the first set, other than that Raonic had another break chance at 4-2, but Murray snuffed it out. Too little too late for Murray, as Raonic cruised on his serve throughout the set to take the early lead.
The second started very tight as Murray had break points in two of Raonic’s first three service games, but was unable to convert on any of them. Raonic struggled to make an impact on Murray’s serve throughout the duration of the set, winning only six points on Murray’s serve. Being able to relax on his own serve allowed Murray to continue to apply pressure on Raonic’s serve, opening up a break chance in the 12th game of the set. Murray would not miss out on this opportunity, as he took it and the set to level the match.
Five holds at love started off the third set as both players appeared to settle down a bit now that the match was back at even. Only once in the set did a returner get past 30 in a game, and that was when Raonic took Murray to deuce at 5-5 and saw a break point. Raonic failed to convert on that, but when the set went to a tiebreak, he was ready to pounce on the big points, taking it 7-4 and going up two sets to one.
The experienced Murray didn’t let the disappointment of dropping the third set get to him, as he waited for an opportunity in the fourth set to take advantage of. It took a while, as once again the servers dominated and the returner got past 15 only once in the first six games of the set, but when Raonic played one poor service game at 3-3, Murray was all over it and broke at love to take the lead. The last three games of the set all went to deuce as Raonic had three opportunities to get back on serve in the set, but Murray played too well for Raonic and closed out the fourth set to even the match up again.
Raonic’s window to get the win appeared to close as the fourth set ended as Raonic quickly found himself down 4-0 in the fifth set. The Canadian appeared to be hindered by a groin injury throughout the match, but the pain intensified as the match approached the end. Murray took advantage of Raonic’s inability to move as well as he had been, jumping out to the double break lead and not looking back, only losing one point on serve in the deciding set.
Murray’s consistent level of play and tough defense proved to be too much for Raonic throughout the match, as Murray hit only 28 unforced errors, 50 less than what Raonic hit. Murray also applied a lot of pressure on Raonic’s second serve, as Raonic won only 44 percent of the points on his second serve.
Despite the loss, Raonic has proved to the tennis world that he has made the necessary improvements to compete at the highest level of tennis. With wins over Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka already in 2016, combined with this valiant effort against Murray, the rest of the ATP will be on the lookout for the big hitting Canadian.
Murray will now take advantage of the much needed day of rest after having to battle Raonic for over four hours, before taking on Djokovic in the final. Murray has played Djokovic in five of the nine grand slam finals that he has played in, but has not been able to beat him in the three finals they’ve played in Melbourne. Murray did come out victorious at the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013, and will hope to replicate those results on Sunday night in Rod Laver Arena.
by Kevin Craig
Novak Djokovic was able to beat Roger Federer in the semifinals at the Australian Open on Thursday, 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, setting up a match-up in the final with either Andy Murray or Milos Raonic. Djokovic’s level was extraordinarily high for the first two sets, but Federer didn’t go down without a fight as he clawed out a set to make things interesting. In the end, Djokovic was able to take the lead in their head-to-head battles at 23-22, and make it to his 17th consecutive final.
It’s difficult to put into words how well Djokovic played in the first two sets. Djokovic was playing arguably the best tennis a human possibly could, as he was ripping winners from anywhere on the court and acting like a wall behind the baseline, leaving the 17-time grand slam champion frustrated and having no clue what to do.
Djokovic quickly broke Federer in his first service game of the match and raced out to a 3-0 lead in what appeared to be the blink of an eye. Federer did get a hold at love in his second service game, but that is all Djokovic would allow him to have has he turned the knob back up and won three straight games to close out the 22-minute set with a double break advantage. The second set was more of the same as Djokovic again raced out to a quick lead, finding himself up 4-1 in a very short period of time. Djokovic gave Federer more trouble in his last service game of the set before he was able to hold, possibly foreshadowing what he was about to do in the third set. Nevertheless, Djokovic held at love and once again closed out the set with a double break lead.
The third set was very tight throughout as Federer’s level began to rise and Djokovic’s began to drop slightly. Federer was the one who began hitting winners from almost anywhere on the court and playing tremendous defense as Djokovic would drag him from corner to corner. After four easy holds to get the set to 2-2, Djokovic had a look at a break point before Federer would save it and wind up getting the hold. In the next game, though, Federer and Djokovic fought for over 10 minutes in a 16 point game that saw Federer have four break points. As the game was being played, it almost felt as if Federer had to get that break if he wanted to prolong the match at all, or else Djokovic would relax and get the break in the next game and cruise to the win. The former is what happened, though, as Federer got the break on his fourth chance and went on to close out the set.
The match continued to be tight into the fourth set, as neither player gave the other any opportunities on their serve. Neither returner was able to get past 30, until Federer served at 3-4 and got down 30-40. Djokovic, disappointed with the fact he let the match get to this point and aware what Federer could do if the match was taken to a fifth set, had no issue converting the only break point of the set to go up 5-3, and served out the match at love to book his place in the final.
Djokovic put on an absolute masterclass display of tennis in the first two sets as he won both in an under an hour combined, losing only three games and making six unforced errors along the way. Many viewers were even being reminded of the 2008 French Open final when Rafael Nadal defeated Federer in the final, only losing four games in three sets. Djokovic stated himself that the “first two sets have been probably the best two sets [he’s] played against [Federer] overall.” All Federer could rely on was the hope that Djokovic’s level would drop at some point, and it did, allowing the Suisse to give the fans some of what they wanted as he took the match to a fourth set and competed until the last point. In the end, Djokovic was too good and proved again why he is the No. 1 player in the world.
Djokovic awaits his opponent in the final as Murray and Raonic will battle on Friday night in Melbourne. Both Murray and Raonic earned their spots in the semifinals with four set wins, Murray beating David Ferrer 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3, and Raonic defeating Gael Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Murray is hoping to make his fifth appearance in the final of the Australian Open and create a repeat of last year’s final, while Raonic is in his second grand slam semifinal after making it to the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014 and looks to make his first final at a slam.
by Kevin Craig
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic cruised through their Australian Open quarterfinal matches on Tuesday to set up a classic semifinal matchup. The current head-to-head record between Federer and Djokovic is even at 22, and each player will look to take the advantage in that record as well as earn a spot in the Australian Open final.
Federer was able to defeat Tomas Berdych in the last match of the of the day session on Rod Laver Arena with a 7-6, 6-2 6-4 score line. Berdych started off strong as he was able to break Federer early in the set, but was unable to consolidate the advantage as Federer broke straight back. The two played a lot of hard hitting extended rallies throughout the entire first set, but just a couple poor points for Berdych handed the first set to Federer in the tiebreak.
Berdych appeared to lose all the confidence he had in the first set as he was quickly broken in the first game of the second set. Federer lost only five points on serve in that set and went on to get another break late to close it out with a double break advantage.
Berdych appeared as if he was going to turn things around in the third set as he grabbed an early break to take a 2-0 lead. Federer would have none of that, though, as he quickly broke right back and controlled his serve throughout the rest of the set. Just like in the second, Federer grabbed a break late and was able to easily serve it out for the straight sets win.
Djokovic looked to join Federer in the semifinals as he had to play Kei Nishikori in the night session. The No. 1 player in the world was able to bounce back from his poor, 100-unforced error performance against Gilles Simon in the fourth round to beat Nishikori handily, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic started off the match in a dominant manner, having little trouble on his serve and applying pressure on Nishikori’s service games. A break to go up 4-2 was all Djokovic needed as he would lose only two points in his next two service games to close out the set.
Nishikori began to make Djokovic work a lot harder on serve in the second set, but just was not able to defend his own serve and win the big points. Despite winning the same number of return points as Djokovic in the second set, Nishikori played two poor service games, allowing the defending Australian Open champion to pounce on the opportunity. The two service games combined with a 0-5 conversion rate on break points led to an easy two sets lead for Djokovic.
The level of play dropped drastically in the third set from both players as there were four breaks in a row early on. After breaking to get back on serve for the second time in the set, Djokovic settled down and broke Nishikori for the third straight time to take a 4-3 lead. Once again, the Serb cruised in his last two service games to close out the set and win the match.
Both Djokovic and Federer played clean tennis in their easy quarterfinal wins. The two combined to hit only 53 unforced errors and get broken only four times as they both cruised to the matchup that many fans around the world have been waiting for.
With a win in the semifinal, either player would take the 23-22 lead in their head-to-head record, but each player has a little more to play for than that. This match is coming down to a battle of legacies. Federer is hoping to get one more grand slam title and separate himself that much more from Djokovic, who is quickly approaching many of Federer’s records. Another win at the Australian Open for Djokovic would be his 11th slam title with a few years still left in his prime, only six away from what Federer currently has. Federer will be well aware of this when they take the court on Friday night in Melbourne, and the warriors will be ready to provide a match for the ages.
by Kevin Craig
- Roger Federer became the first player to win 300 grand slam matches with his third round win over Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open. Compatriot Stan Wawrinka also had a milestone win in Melbourne as he won his 400th career ATP match with his third round win over Lukas Rosol.
- Kristyna Pliskova set the record for most aces in a women’s match by hitting 31 in her second round loss to Monica Puig at the Australian Open.
- Novak Djokovic hit 100 unforced errors in his five set win over Gilles Simon in the fourth round, after only hitting 78 unforced errors in his first three matches combined. The win sent Djokovic to the quarterfinals for his 27th consecutive quarterfinal appearance at a grand slam event.
- Victoria Azarenka is still undefeated in 2016 with a 9-0 record that sees her in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Azarenka has only lost three or more games in a set four times, only once being taken to 6-4.
- John Isner exited the Australian Open in the fourth round, but not before hitting 119 aces, an average of just under 30 per match. Isner also made 75 percent of his first serves throughout the tournament. The second best first serve percentage of a player that made it to the fourth round was Bernard Tomic at 66 percent.
- Gilles Muller and Fabio Fognini played the first all tiebreak four set match at the Australian Open since 2000 when Max Mirnyi beat Antony Dupuis in four tiebreak sets. Muller was the winner with a 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 score line.
- Adrian Mannarino and Lucas Pouille of France have teamed up to make the men’s doubles quarterfinals at the Australian Open without losing a set. Before the tournament, the two had a combined 10-42 doubles record for their careers.
- 38 year old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo made the semifinals of the challenger in Rio de Janeiro this week. The 263rd ranked Spaniard has now made at least one challenger semifinal every year since 2001.