Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wimbledon picks (from the round of 16 on)


Would you believe me if I told you I knew Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams were going to win the French Open a few weeks ago?

Yeah, I wouldn't believe me either, especially without any proof in the form of a blog post to back it up.

So I figured I'd better get my Wimbledon picks up for documentation!

Here you go, for the men, in TTA? patented round-of-16-on fashion:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Kevin Anderson (14)
Marin Cilic (9) vs. Kei Nishikori (5)
Stan Wawrinka (5) vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Richard Gasquet (21) vs. Milos Raonic (7)
Vasek Pospisil vs. Rafael Nadal (10)
Gilles Muller vs. Andy Murray (3)
Tomas Berdych (8) vs. Gael Monfils (18)
Feliciano Lopez (15) vs. Roger Federer (2)

Quarterfinals
Djokovic vs. Cilic
Wawrinka vs. Gasquet
Nadal vs. Murray
Berdych vs. Federer

Semifinals
Djokovic over Gasquet
Murray over Federer

Finals
Djokovic over Murray

And for the women

Round of 16
Serena Williams (1) vs. Venus Williams (16)
Victoria Azarenka (23) vs. Belinda Bencic (30)
Maria Sharapova (4) vs. Flavia Pennetta (24)
CoCo Vandeweghe vs. Lucie Safarova (6)
Paula Parmentier vs. Angelique Kerber (10)
Sabine Lisicki (18) vs. Simona Halep (3)
Ekaterina Makarova (8) vs. Madison Keys (21)
Elina Svitolina (17) vs. Petra Kvitova (2)

Quarterfinals
Williams vs. Azarenka
Sharapova vs. Safarova
Kerber vs. Lisicki
Makarova vs. Kvitova

Semifinals
Williams over Sharapova
Kerber over Kvitova

Finals
Williams over Kerber

Check back to see how I made out!

(Photo: Tenis, Londres)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My call, once again, for American men to hit the dirt in Europe


I hope I don't sound like too much of a broken record on this one, but I just can't figure out why the top American men don't play a heavier schedule on the red clay in Europe.

I know that that's a long way from home base. I know there are finances involved. I know that there's the inclination to save oneself for the faster surfaces. But there's so much potential there to do well on the clay, and pick up points and prize money.

Jack Sock just won the U.S. Clay Court Championships and did so in quite impressive fashion, counting among his wins Roberto Bautista Agut—no slouch on the clay at all. Why couldn't Sock hit Munich?

I think if there was ever a surface built for current U.S. number-one John Isner, it's clay. He's battled Rafael Nadal to the brink on it a couple of times, and beaten Roger Federer. I'd think he could've made a dent in that Istanbul draw if he'd played.

It might sound crazy, but I think an American male of this generation could have a better shot at going deeper at the French than Wimbledon. They can't follow the Courier/Agassi/Sampras/Chang model of showing up for the big warm-ups, either winning them or going deep in the draw, then advancing far at Roland Garros, mainly because those four are among the greatest players of all time.

If the commitment's there from this current crop, though, the results will come.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Miami shaking out OK for Andy Murray


It's been an interesting 2015 so far for Andy Murray.

There was that Australian Open final. There was that return to the "Big 4." There was that stretch of tournaments without a sniff of a semifinal. There were those convincing defeats at the hands of Novak Djokovic.

But I guess you'd have to say the good outweighs the bad, for the most part, especially coming off a season where he was rebounding from back surgery--not really the easiest thing in the world for a professional athlete to deal with.

Anyway, the reason I bring up Andy Murray is because of Rafael Nadal and his upset loss to countryman Fernando Verdasco. Not that Nadal's exactly been a Miami world-beater, but in my mind, his loss makes a Murray run to the finals as close to a sure thing as it gets. I'd say the toughest player left in the bottom half of the draw is Tomas Berdych, and Murray's come through against him with regularity.

I'm not necessarily tapping Murray for the finals once he gets there--I don't know what can derail the Novak Djokovic express--but a title-round tilt can be another notch in what has been an interesting campaign so far.

(Photo: USA Today Sports)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One of the best top tens in years?


Over the weekend, Kei Nishikori won his first title of the year in what's essentially become his home court, Memphis. Stan Wawrinka took home his second trophy of the season after winning Rotterdam.

Wawrinka beat Tomas Berdych, a fellow member of the top 10, who has been having a very solid season as well.

This has got me wondering: Is this one of the best top tens in men's tennis in years?

You know Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray are going to get theirs--and have been doing so for years.

What makes things different nowadays is that the other guys are showing such a high level of mental toughness. Nishikori fought all the way through that Memphis draw. Wawrinka bounced back nicely after failing to defend his Australian Open title. Berdych's consistency has been at a high level all season. And you can't overlook Milos Raonic and David Ferrer: at opposite ends point-in-their-career-wise, but both eager for continues improvement.

The jury's still out on Marin Cilic, who's been battling injury all year. Whenever he does return, he'll have a big battle ahead of him to maintain his spot among the above-mentioned players, who all appear eager for any challenge.

(Photo: The Associated Press)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

One of those crazy Australian Open thoughts...


So, this seems a little odd for me, chiming in at this point of the year's first Grand Slam when I usually would've had my patented round of 16 predictions all said and done by now, with another post or two in between. But I just had this crazy, nutty, out-of-this-world thought:

What if no one from the "Big 4" made it to the semis?

Like, suppose Nick Kyrgios continues to play like the fearless teenager that he is and rides the momentum of hometown support, and shocks Andy Murray in the quarters? What if Tomas Berdych decides no one beats him 18 times in a row and takes it to Rafael Nadal in their final-eight matchup?

Roger Federer's already gone, having lost to Andreas Seppi in the third round. That just leaves the top dog himself, Novak Djokovic, who's been looking like the man to beat so far. He faces a resurgent Gilles Muller, then if he gets past that, big-boomer Milos Raonic or the underrated Feliciano Lopez in the quarters. Could one of them pull off the biggie?

I don't know when the last time all four of the four were entered in a tournament and not one of them made the semifinals. I'd probably have to guess the safe answer would be "never." But what if it happened now?

Crazier things in this world of ours have happened. And this would definitely be up there, tennis-wise.

To be clear, I'm not actually rooting for that to happen, but if it did, it would be mind-blowing.

And who doesn't like a little mind-blowing every now and then?

(Photo: The Associated Press)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Federer, Wawrinka Facing Biggest Test of Careers


It wasn’t so long ago that Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka—two of the top four players in the world—lost a Davis Cup tie that they were overwhelming favorites to win.

At home.

Indoors on clay.

Against the United States.

The Swiss team has managed to bounce back against that most ignominious defeat quite nicely and finds itself in the Davis Cup finals for only the second time in the nation’s history. And even though Federer and Wawrinka have had fantastic years, they’re faced with some serious obstacles:

Playing indoors on clay.

On the road against a veteran French team.

Balky health.

And the unbelievable amount of pressure to capitalize on their best opportunity to win the Davis Cup and put one last feather in the cap of Federer’s accomplishments.

It’s a stern test, possibly the biggest of both of their careers—even that of the most prolific Grand Slam winner in men’s singles.

Because of his near-decade of dominance, Federer has rarely found himself in a situation where he’s been so close to capturing a meaningful title and the situation representing his best opportunity to achieving the feat. In one instance, after Rafael Nadal lost early at the 2009 French Open, Federer became the overwhelming favorite to win the title, which he did, finally completing his career Grand Slam.

Conversely, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Federer made it to the Gold Medal match, but was soundly defeated by Andy Murray, whom he’d just beaten on that same court a few weeks earlier in the finals of Wimbledon. More than likely, it was Federer’s best chance to join the likes of Nadal and Andre Agassi as holders of the career “Golden Slam.”

As for Wawrinka, his career has been one of mostly ups and downs. In 2014,  though, coming off his first year-end top 10 finish, he finally realized his potential and won his first Grand Slam singles crown, defeating Novak Djokovic and Nadal en route to the Australian Open title. The months afterward showed he wasn’t ready to quite capitalize on that surprise victory as he won only one more tournament over the course of the year.

Wawrinka has been a Davis Cup stalwart for Switzerland, often having to pick up the slack when Federer hasn’t participated in the competition over the years. But the situation this weekend is entirely different as the Swiss players will be facing former top-tenners in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, who both know how to work a crowd to their advantage.

It’s a difficult situation, especially as Federer and Wawrinka are the favorites on paper and are both accomplished clay-courters. Can they overcome one of the stiffest tests they’ve had to face in their careers?

One thing’s for certain: It’ll be worthwhile viewing to see how they handle the pressure.

Friday, November 14, 2014

So, what have I missed?

Only a couple Slams, some Masters 1000 events, a year-end championship, a Fed Cup title, a Davis Cup round or two...

You get the idea!

But let's let all that go and talk about the here and now, now being the ATP World Tour Finals. Not much drama on the singles side with a lot of whuppings going on. Should be some good semifinal matches, though. Kei Nishikori is a gamer, Novak Djokovic is on fire, Roger Federer is playing like it's the late aughts and Stan Wawrinka has been solid. It's a solid efinal four, and one I'll ruminate on post-matchups.

And I promise it'll be sooner than my last post!