Friday, December 30, 2011

A quick game of 'what-if?', starring tennis racquets


I caught something tweeted this morning by Erik of Adjusting the Net on how Federer came out to play with a new racquet against Novak Djokovic in their match in Abu Dhabi. I asked Erik if that could've contributed to the lopsided score, and he scoped Wilson's site and found the switch was merely cosmetic.

But what if Federer would've gone out there with a different frame? Is that something he should've done? Or is it way too late at this point to start tweaking his weapon of choice?

I actually thought it would've been a good move for him to make a couple of years ago; maybe move up to a 95. He says he's tried out other frames, but they just haven't suited him. In the midst of all that winning, too, why make the change?

Maybe the result would've been more Slams, as if 16 weren't enough. He could have taken his lumps for a year, then by the time he'd gotten adjusted, he'd still be looking at a couple of extra years ahead of him to make up for any lost time.

I've wondered in the past why players would bother to fool around with their money-makers; I guess making more money is the reason! I didn't think Djokovic's switch would work out, but obviously it has. And even way before him, I didn't understand at the time why Andre Agassi went from Donnay to Head, but it all ended up OK for him, too!

Federer makes me think of Pete Sampras and when he was doing battle with the original Wilson Pro Staff. What happens if he switches to the model Stefan Edberg was using toward the end? Would he have won 20 Majors?

I guess that's why they call it "what if"!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12 for '12: Predictions for the season ahead



It's nearly upon us, that 2012 tennis season, and I figured there's no time like the present to start looking ahead, particularly with the '11 season firmly in the past.

Whew, talk about one time paradox of a sentence!

Anyway, here are 12 predictions that I'm going to give you going into the new year. Check back a year from now to see what came true. Actually, check back here all of the time: I'd miss you if you didn't come back! Here's the look ahead:

12. Rafael Nadal will finish the year on top in the men's rankings.

11. Serena Williams will win two Majors, and finish the year at number one.

10. This year's Slam surprise winner on the women's side: Andrea Petkovic at the French.

9. Andy Murray will make two Slam finals, but still won't win one. 2013 is his year.

8. No American male will make a Grand Slam semi; John Isner will be the number-one American male by the end of the year.

7. Davis Cup champ: Argentina. Fed Cup champ: Russia.

6. Kei Nishikori will crack the top 10.

5. A lot of people are picking Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Juan Martin del Potro to break up the big 4. Neither one of them will.

4. Comeback players of the year: Sam Querrey and Casey Dellacqua

3. Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic both return to the top 10. Caroline Wozniacki's out.

2. Roger Federer: 2012 Wimbledon champ, plus Olympic Gold--in singles this time!

1. Novak Djokovic wins half as many titles as last year.

And a bonus prediction:
Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian, Kim Clijsters and the biggie, Venus Williams, announce they're hanging it up at the end of the year.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Four for Four: Picking the WTA's possibly out-of-the-blue Slam winners for '12


With anyone who's anyone being considered a Slam contender on the WTA Tour nowadays, I decided to throw out four players that I think are serious contenders to win their first (and maybe only?) Major in 2012:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The youngest player in the top 20 has been shooting up the rankings the past few years. She has that "sneak-up-on-you" quality I feels to pull off enough big upsets in a row to win a Slam.

Maria Kirilenko
Although she went titleless for the third season in a row, you could almost say the second half of '11 was one of the best of Kirilenko's career. She finally started to play tough tennis at some of the game's biggest stages. If she starts off hot in Australia, watch out for her there.

Andrea Petkovic
A career year for the German saw her finish the season in the top 10. I had the fortune of sitting in on one of her press conferences at the U.S. Open this year, and she said then that was she was ready to start thinking about winning Slams. Health will be a big factor with her.

Shuai Peng
If countrywoman Li Na can do it, why can't she? Or at least that's what Peng could be thinking when it comes to her Major-winning aspirations. She hasn't won a singles title yet, but is coming off the best season of her career and has been on an upward swing.

If anyone of these four break through for a Slam, I'll have my bases covered. If not, you can't blame a guy for trying to do some predicting amid the unpredictability!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hewitt, Schuettler and Clement: still grinding after all these years


(Yep, I might just skip a recap this year: After all, there's plenty happening during the offseason--at least in my head!)

So, tennis-nut confession: I like to look through the rankings from time to time--and from time to time again--even when there's no tennis anywhere going on. Glancing outside the top 100, I stumbled upon a few familiar names and had this thought:

Why are those guys still playing?

This was triggered after seeing Rainer Schuettler at 132, Arnaud Clement at 153 and Lleyton Hewitt at 186. None of those three would be someone you'd confuse with having an easy time of it on the court as all three won most of their matches--and their millions--with their legs. They're all on the north side of 30 (but younger than me, who's on the south side of 40!), but still showing younger opponents a thing or two, although at a lot-less-frequent pace.

I think it's something to be admired, the work ethic of these guys. Or maybe it's their passion for the game that should be noted. Whatever the case, it's fun watching these "old baseliners" still get out there if it's within their power to do so.

I guess the "grind-it-out" style of play doesn't have such a short shelf life after all!

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Novak Djokovic as Roger Federer--or Thomas Muster?


(Offseason, shmoffseason: I gotcha covered!)

1995: Now that was a tennis season! Andre Agassi hit the top spot for the first time after winning the Australian and Pete Sampras took home the last two Majors of the year.

The French Open was won by Thomas Muster in his first and only Grand Slam final appearance. Muster was doing his impersonation of Agassi and Sampras by putting together a truly extraordinary season in winning 12 titles. Actually, that's Federer-like!

Along with the Slam, he won three Masters Series 1000 events (Monte Carlo, Rome and Essen). Not a bad year, to say the least.

The next year, though, was tricky: With the way the rankings system is set up, he had to defend all those points from the dream season or risk seeing his ranking plummet. Muster gave it the good fight: He defended six of them in 1996, plus added an extra title in Bogota. He was shocked relatively early on at the French Open by Michael Stich, but still had a pretty solid year. Seven titles is nothing to sneeze at!

Someone who found themselves in a similar situation was Roger Federer. From 2001 to 2004, the number of titles he won went up each year: one at the start to 11 in '04. In 2005, he won 11 again, with seven title defenses. Then in '06, he went one better and brought home 12 titles. He repeated his efforts from the prior year at six of those tour stops.

Now Novak Djokovic finds himself in a tough situation after his dream '11 season. Ten titles won, with three of them being Slams and five Masters Series 1000 events, will be exceptionally tough to defend next year. The mental and physical pressure could be too much. It'll be a true test of where he places in the history of the game: all-time great or really good player who had an amazing year.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Will the veterans still have their day on the WTA Tour?


(The offseason of originality—if that's what I'm going to call it—continues!)

It's always said in sports that it's a young man or woman's game: You just hit a certain point and things don't come as easy any more.

I'm thinking that's not really the case in women's professional tennis.

Take a look at the top 20 of the rankings and 13 of them are 24 or older with all kinds of experience. Case in point: Maria Sharapova. The world number four won her first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 2004, which is a bit of a minute ago. Then you have three of the past four Grand Slam winners—Kim Clijsters, Li Na and Sam Stosur—who no one would ever refer to as a "spring chicken" in the world of pro tennis. Add the return of Serena Williams and it kind of makes it hard to envision a youngster finding their place in the game.

Some are, of course, such as reigning Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, who's only 21. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could also have a big year in '12.

Even though, I guess it's all a matter of players now really coming into their own right around the age of 25. This could all set the stage for the older players to dominate again when it comes to the game's biggest prizes.

And we still don't know how that grand dame Venus Williams will do: That could be more Majors being won by the older contingent!

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Who will be the ATP's comeback kids in '12?


(With the pro tennis season over, I decided I'm just going to try and send out as much content as I can muster in the weeks ahead with previews, intriguing story lines past and present, predictions, recaps and what have you. Here's my first post along those lines.)

How about that Juan Martin del Potro? Though his season had an unfortunate end, there's no discounting what he did: getting close to the top 10 after starting the year outside the top 250. There are some other players out there that surely will be inspired by that as they make their way back from injury. Among them:

Robin Soderling
The Swede won four titles before the U.S. Open, but had to shut it down for the year at the tournament after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. As we've seen from various players out there contracting that, it takes a while to bounce back. He hasn't fallen too far in the standings yet, ending the year at 13. A return to the top 10 is possible, depending on his health.

Tommy Robredo
The veteran started 2011 off very solidly, making the fourth round of the Australian Open and winning his 10th career title in Santiago. He was playing well at Indian Wells before suffering an abdominal injury that hampered him for the rest of the season, going 2-9 since Wimbledon.

Sam Querrey

Strong play at the Challenger level, plus a late-season win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, helped get the big-serving American back into the top 100 by the end of the year. He missed his favorite stretch of the season, the summer U.S. hard-court tournaments. If he makes it there and is playing at his 2010 level, he could possibly go higher in the rankings than he ever has before.

Lleyton Hewitt
It's been a tough go for Hewitt over the past year. He's currently ranked well outside the top 150 and has been battling issues with his hip for a few years now. Still, if there's one player you can never count out, it's the Australian. A del Potro comeback is probably way too much to expect, but if the body's willing, he'll take it as far as it can go.

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Congratulations to Spain! (and I can admit when I'm wrong)


3-2 Argentina: perhaps I was a tad bit off with my prediction!

Spain once again won the game's top team tournament, this time over Argentina. In my last post, I mentioned how this final was pretty unpredictable, which ended up being the case:

* Who thought Rafael Nadal would utterly demolish Juan Monaco first match out?

* Who saw Juan Martin del Potro losing from a winnable position against David Ferrer?

* Who knew David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank had such stellar tennis in them?

* Who would have figured Rafa would be in a dogfight in his second singles rubber, considering how differently things went for him and del Potro the first day?

* Who didn't think David Ferrer had gas left in the tank from a long season to do what he did against del Potro?

Anyway, hard to predict, but entertaining, nonetheless. And Spain truly deserved to win it all: Congrats again!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spain vs. Argentina: as good as it gets (well, maybe...)


It's just a few hours until the first ball is struck in the Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina. This could be a heavyweight battle. Or a whitewash for Spain. Or a display of epic proportions from Argentina to beat the odds.

You really just can't tell!

In the first rubber, Rafael Nadal takes on Juan Monaco. Then Juan Martin del Potro goes up against David Ferrer. Realistically, you could be looking at a split heading into the weekend, which is a feat unto itself considering Spain's playing at home on clay.

The doubles could yield an interesting result: Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez have been a solid team for Spain, but you don't know what David Nalbandian has up his sleeve. Eduardo Schwank is a solid-enough player; nerves will be a factor for him.

On the last day, the blockbuster match--that is, if the tie's still live--of Nadal and del Potro is first up. Then, you have the possibility of Monaco and Ferrer playing for all the marbles, or reduced to a best of three.

It may seem like I'm a little all over the place with talking about this tie, but the circumstances here will do it to you! I'm just hoping for a good final.

Wait, I can't chicken out like that: It wouldn't be TTA? if there weren't some prediction.

Argentina in a 3-2 upset. There, I said it. We'll see how it unfolds!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A couple of words about the World Tour Finals

Well, maybe more than a couple, but it won't be many seeing as how it's near Davis Cup time!

* Congrats to Roger Federer on winning his sixth year-end championship. It's a great feat, especially seeing as how this year hadn't exactly been up to his usual standards.

* As great as that was, though, I wish he would've played those other three guys--Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray--at their best.

* Speaking of those three guys, pretty weak effort from the lot of them. Well, maybe, it's not the effort, but the way they all broke down by the end of the year doesn't exactly instill me with a ton of confidence about them having lengthy careers like that of, oh let's say, Federer.

* Great way to end the season for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Dude just has to stay healthy and he could be a legit threat to break up the big four.

* And a very nice effort by David Ferrer, getting to the semifinals: What happens if he wins that first set against Federer?

* Tough break for Mardy Fish, but if anything, he'll be hungrier to get back to the tournament again. Janko Tipsarevic, too.

* Tomas Berdych showed something there: Can he do more of that in '12?

That's it: More than a couple of words, but I still tried to keep it brief! For thoughts on the doubles there, check out The Doubles Alley!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WTF? (where TTA? gets in on the play on acronyms)


Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer should be expected to go to a third-set tiebreaker, right? If not, I'm sure the fans at the O2 Arena for the ATP World Tour Finals will be hollering for their money back!

It's only to be expected that a match should go the distance there after what's been happening, most recently with Tomas Berdych fighting off a match point against Janko Tipsarevic. Guess it's karma gone right for Berdych after what happened to him against Djokovic.

If Ferrer and Djokovic don't go to the end of ends, maybe it'll just be your standard-issue blowout, like that Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal result. Umm, yeah, that did not live up to the hype, to say the least!

Or who knows? Maybe Ferrer or Djokovic will even bow out of the tournament before the match starts, like Andy Murray was forced to--leading to the Tipsarevic appearance. You just never know.

I mean, WTF, WTF? (Look, I used it twice and it makes perfect sense!)

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The two best opening days ever at the ATP World Tour Finals


What will all of these guys do for an encore?

I can't recall so much drama at the year-end championships in the first rotation of round-robin play. The top seeds might not be so excited about it, seeing as how if they weren't upset outright, then they were really tested.

Andy Murray was knocked off in his first match and is toying with the possibility of pulling out the whole shebang. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were each taken to the limit, and Roger Federer was pushed to three sets.

And it hasn't just been the singles: The doubles draw appears to be following the same path. (Catch more on that at The Doubles Alley)

It seems as if things have slowed down a bit this morning (morning my time, at least), with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's straight-sets win over Mardy Fish. Maybe by the time it gets to that Federer-Nadal match, we'll be back in third-set tiebreak action, picking back up on the trend of the tournament's start!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

WTF Preview: Murray, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic--who has the answers?


(We're hours away from the start of the ATP World Tour Finals, and here's the second half of my preview. Enjoy the first day!)


Looking at Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray heading into the WTF, one phrase springs to mind when it comes to the "Big 4":

"Questions abound."

How healthy is Djokovic? Is Rafa going to be rusty? Will the pressure be too much for Murray, playing in his "hometown"? Is Federer really in good form?

And that's only a sample of what I'm thinking about those guys going in! I guess I can give my take on those four queries.

Djoko isn't healthy. Rafa will be rusty, but a little rested, which will do him some good. If there's a time for Murray to thrive, this is it. Federer's form is still too hard to gauge, seeing as how he didn't play any of the guys ranked above him.

Federer could be in for a bit of a shock, going up against Nadal in group play for the first time, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish are no jokes. The other group holds its own problems for Murray and Djokovic, as alluded to in the prior post.

Still, I think the champ of the tournament will come out of the top four, maintaining what has been the status quo all year--despite all the questions.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, November 18, 2011

WTF Preview: Fish, Berdych, Tsonga and Ferrer--who'll break through?


(I knew I'd fall behind from my original intentions! All that matters is I'm here now, so let me give you something on the guys outside the top four.)

So there's Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, for whom playing in the ATP World Tour Finals is almost a given.

Then you have players like Mardy Fish, who is making his debut; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who's been on a tear the past couple of months; Tomas Berdych, seeming to turn up the intensity the past few weeks; and David Ferrer, who you know will fight for everything he gets on a tennis court, regardless of the surface.

Those four have a lot to play for, in particular, a confidence boost for the year ahead and points that will help them break up the stranglehold at the top.

Fish, Tsonga, Berdych and Ferrer are all quite adept at playing under fast conditions, which will help them greatly in London. Ferrer and Berdych are in the same group with Djokovic and Murray, while Tsonga and Fish will have to take on Nadal and Federer, as well as each other.

So who of the lower four can do the most damage?

I'm going to have to say the draw actually shakes out nicest for Berdych: He just beat Murray, Djokovic is perhaps more vulnerable than he has been all season and Ferrer might have trouble handling the big man's firepower. Look for Berdych in the semis.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Previewing the World Tour Finals, two players at a time

The groups have been set for the World Tour Finals kicking off Sunday, and they're both quite a doozy for any player involved. Getting through will be no picnic for anyone.

Group A:
Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray
David Ferrer
Tomas Berdych

Group B:
Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Mardy Fish

As I said, a doozy!

What I'm going to do in anticipation of the big event is give a daily preview starting later on today. I'm going to handle two players at a time, counting down from eight to one. I'll be doing the same for the doubles team at TTA's sister blog, The Doubles Alley. I'm going with two just to make sure I have them all in by Sunday, but if I slip, I'll just triple or quadruple up!

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Roger Federer's Parisian splendor


Well, he finally got one there!

Roger Federer won his first Paris Indoors title, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straights for the victory. It's been a little shocking that, for whatever reason, he hadn't gotten it done there before as he's one of the greatest fast-court players of all time. Now that monkey has been erased with his 18th Masters series title. This was also his second tournament victory in a row after having won in Basel.

I said a few days ago that I thought he was the hands-down favorite for this event and he lived up to that. (Well, not my personal proclamation; I'm going to go out on a limb and say TTA? isn't on his radar.)

I'd expect this run of good form will continue through next week's World Championships. However, I'm not going to declare Federer's "back": It's just too hard to say as he still hasn't faced his three main rivals recently. And then when he does, you have to wonder about the state of their health, mental and physical.

Fed's proven he's OK in both of those regards at the moment: Back-to-back titles will do that.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Novak Djokovic's shoulder is a burden


So Novak Djokovic pulled out of his quarterfinal match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Paris Indoors.

If you didn't see that coming, you might need some thicker glasses!

Seriously, though, it was so borderline that he was even going to play the tournament, I'm surprised he even got a couple of matches in. I'm not going to go into why he chose to enter the event, but I will say that I think he should've just sat it out. The dude is seriously beat up at this point in the year: legs, back, shoulder ... that's a lot for one guy to deal with over 11 months.

Who knows? Maybe he shouldn't have played in Basel. I do know that looking at it now, it seems he came back too soon. Sure, it's good to get matches in before the year-end championships, but with the season Djokovic has had, that tournament almost gains a sense of irrelevancy compared to being as healthy as possible for 2012.

Anyway, just a bit of advice from TTA?, Novak, old pal: Take it easy out there!

(Photo: AP)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And just like that, the London field is set


Tomas Berdych: Doing the job of three men!

With his win over Janko Tipsarevic in the third round, Berdych helped everything fall into place for the ATP World Tour Finals: He's going in at six, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be seven and Mardy Fish is eight, making his YEC debut at the age of 29.

Berdych and Tsonga have each had a pretty solid run this fall, picking up titles to boost their chances. Fish has been slowed recently by injury (and had to retire in his match today against Juan Monaco), but that can't take away from the season he's had. He definitely deserves his spot in the field.

I know I just tabbed Federer as the favorite going in (see prior post below), but those three late qualifiers--if they're healthy--can definitely do some damage on a fast court. Getting out of the round-robin stage will be no easy task for anyone: just what you want to see in a championship event!

(Photo: AP)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Federer should look all right by the end of '11


I'll say this right now: If Roger Federer doesn't win the Paris Indoors this week, well I just don't know what to say! That goes for the year-end championships, too.

He's coming off his second title of the year with his win at the Swiss Indoors over the weekend, so it seems he's in pretty solid form, right? Well, I think the tournament was marked more by the loss of Andy Murray before his first match, and Kei Nishikori upsetting Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Federer did beat the guy that beat the guy in the title match, but still, how much more impressive would his win have been if he had topped Djokovic in the finals?

It's not Federer's fault that the draw ended up the way it did, though. He took care of business on his part (a win over a fellow top-four player probably would have been more legit, though.

That being said, he has to be the hands-down, clear-cut favorite to win this week in Paris. So, so many of the top guys are battling injuries, while his time away getting healthy seems to have helped. And things should be fairly interesting by the time the YEC rolls around: He should go into that as the favorite, too.

By the time the year ends, Federer could be in great shape, rankings- and confidence-wise. We'll see how it all shakes out in the weeks ahead!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, November 4, 2011

David Ferrer: How does he do it?


OK, so right now on the ATP World Tour, you have your "Big 4" of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer firmly locked in at the top. Then, toward the lower tier of the top 10, you have big guys like Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish lurking around.

But in between those two groups happens to be the defending champ at this week's tournament in Valencia, David Ferrer, who, rankings-wise right now, can't catch the top four. In that similar regard, the guys behind him have no way of touching him at this point, even though they play with a style you might think upon first glance could overpower the Spaniard.

Those guys might be able to tag Ferrer every now and then, but for the most part, he's going to come out on top. While he may play a steadier brand of tennis, he's capable of using his physical abilities to put some pop on the ball when the time is needed. You don't get to a career-high ranking of four in the world just by getting every ball back, especially in this day and age.

If Ferrer defends his title in Valencia this week, it wouldn't come as a surprise. If he were to make the finals next week in Paris or later at the year-end championships, that would be a bit of a shock. Then again, he has made the finals at the YEC before, so maybe it is well within the realm of possibility.

I don't know: I started this post with a question in the headline, and I'm still confused at the end! All I guess I do know, is that he's an enjoyable player to watch and best of luck to him going forward!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Petra Kvitova: The next number 1?


And that, my friends, is that.

Well, aside from this invitational tournament in Bali I kinda don't get, the WTA season is essentially over with Petra Kvitova beating Victoria Azarenka in the year-end championships.

Kvitova, this year's Wimbledon champ, is the first player to win the YEC on her debut since Maria Sharapova back in '04. That's not really bad company to be in. Another similarity: Sharapova won Wimbledon that year, too. Can Kvitova pull off another Maria-like feat and get to number one, though?

I wouldn't bet against her. The main thing she's going to have to do is play consistently on a week-to-week basis, much like Caroline Wozniacki has been doing for the past couple of years. That's what gets you to the top, and keeps you there, too--even if you don't win Slams. (Sorry Caroline, it had to be said!)

But as she's shown through most of the year, Kvitova definitely has the game. It'll be interesting how she handles being so close to the peak in the months ahead.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Juan Martin del Potro and the road back


Juan Martin del Potro won his first match at the tournament in Vienna, defeating Philipp Petzschner pretty easily. It's a nice win for del Potro, particularly after that early-round loss in Stockholm last week to James Blake.

I would say that del Potro, the second seed, has a really good shot at advancing far in the tournament. Then again, you could say that about him at any tournament almost! His comeback season has been pretty remarkable, considering where he came from at the start of the year.

I wonder how much further can he go? Top 10? Back to the top five? Next year's going to be a little bit tricky for him as he'll have tons of points to defend in the first half. His comeback could hit a bit of a snag; it'll be up to him to navigate how far he can take it.

Meanwhile, there's tennis still to be played in '11, and it seems del Potro is out to make the most of it while fighting for one of the final spots at the year-end championship. Recapturing that first-half magic will be key, but del Potro's shown that he always has it in him.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Will the titles start rolling in for Janko Tipsarevic?


Yep, he did it again: Janko Tipsarevic won his second title of the year over the weekend, this time at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, beating countryman Viktor Troicki in the finals. This follows up his first victory at the event in Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago. And that comes off his quarterfinal run at the U.S. Open, the year's last Major.

Not a bad stretch by someone who probably frustrated himself and his fans for years!

He's always been a talented player with big wins under his belt, but for whatever reason--lack of focus, injuries--could never sustain momentum: something I just wrote about a few weeks ago.

Now, seeing his countryman Novak Djokovic reach the heights he has has inspired Tipsarevic.

And that could be a scary thought for the other players on the ATP Tour. Tipsy is playing with an extremely high level of confidence right now. If this carries over into '12, I could see him becoming entrenched in the top 10 for a couple of years at least.

Not a bad stretch indeed.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Marion Bartoli, Agnieszka Radwanska scramble for Istanbul


Agnieszka Radwanska, the hottest player on the WTA Tour the past few weeks, lost her match to Lucie Safarova at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. This has opened the door for Marion Bartoli to get the last qualification spot at the year-end championships. All she has to do is win the tournament.

No pressure at all!

Bartoli is playing well, though, having just won the tournament in Osaka. However, I've never thought of her as the type to rattle off eight to 10 wins in a row over the course of back-to-back tournaments. Truth be told, I've probably thought of her as the opposite: someone who could win a Premier-level event one week, then lose to a qualifier the following.

It's good to read in Bartoli's press, though, that she is focusing on getting that final spot. She pretty much is already going: Either her or Radwanska will serve as one of the alternates there.

But if you have to keep on traveling, might as well make sure you're in the field!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kei Nishikori and Feliciano Lopez are the real Shanghai surprises


A funny thing: Yesterday, I was just thinking about Brad Gilbert working with Kei Nishikori and saying to myself, "Man, BG must really see something in him that'll enable him to compete with the big boys." I've always thought of Nishikori as a Lleyton Hewitt-type, and I just didn't know if that would translate to a ton of success anymore.

I guess that's why Brad is the coach and I'm blogging!

Nishikori is in the semifinals at the Shanghai Masters with some good wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Alexandr Dolgopolov along the way. I know Nishikori has been plagued by injuries in his young career; here's hoping that's on pause so he can get even more good momentum going.

Another guy that always intrigues me is Feliciano Lopez: How does he hang around in the top 40 like he does with that backhand? I guess he knows how to work around it, plus having a good forehand, big serve and really nice hands at the net helps!

Neither one of these two were on my list of contenders when the tournament started. And even though their games and success have always baffled me, I'd say I'm a fan of both of them and perhaps they can keep on defying the odds.

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Andy Roddick, a Shanghai surprise so far


2011 has not worked out like Andy Roddick intended at all. Early-round Slam losses, only one title, a period outside of the top 20 in the rankings ... you name it, it's happened.

And while there's been plenty of talk on the outside that this slide is a harbinger of things to come, I'm not ready to wave the white flag on him yet. Winning two matches in a row over somewhat-decent opponents so far, and a very winnable one ahead in Nicolas Almagro, at this week's Shanghai Masters event indicates that Roddick's form isn't too far off.

Shanghai is one of his last opportunities to do something big for the year, and with two of the top four not even playing, gives him a shot at a decent run through the draw. Advancing can help build momentum for next year.

Sure, Roddick doesn't have the biggest serve or forehand out there anymore, but they're still big enough to do some damage. I think his fate is in his own hands for a little while longer at least, and it's up to him to take advantage of that.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In a race-to-the-finals kind of mood


It's not that I want to see the '11 season end: Let them play year-round, I always say! (Don't let Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer see that...)

For some reason, I'm really into following who's going to make it into the ATP and WTA year-end championship events. It's great that you have players such as Li Na qualifying for the first time. It's also exciting to see hopefuls like Mardy Fish and Andrea Petkovic so close to joining Li.

Then you have players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer, who have been there before but haven't made it a habit like Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic.

Speaking of Djokovic, how amazing would that be if he capped off this insane season with a win in London? That's the perfect way to bookend a year: Federer did it last year after starting the season with a win at the Australian Open.

Nadal couldn't pull it off the year prior, but he has to be motivated to take the '11 year-end championship, particularly as it's the only major title he's missing.

If you were to switch back over to the women's side for a minute, world number-one Caroline Wozniacki didn't capture a Grand Slam title but beating her peers that did would be a nice way to go into 2012.

And how about the old standbys that just won't be there? A shout-out to the Andy Roddicks and Serena Williamses (well, not that she played the YEC much anyway) of the world.

There's plenty of excitement and intrigue wrapped up in "the race"--enough to get me caught up in it weeks before the end!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Andy Murray and the race for number 3


Well, I guess he's gotten his quest off to a good start!

Andy Murray won the PTT Thailand Open over first-time ATP finalist Donald Young yesterday. During the tournament, Murray stated his intentions to finish the year in the three-spot, ahead of Roger Federer. Andy's going to have to win a lot of matches to pull that off, but it'll be a tall task: After all, he is going after Roger Federer!

But you know what? Good for him for setting that goal, and if he pulls it off, more power to him.

I'm a firm believer that there is a "Big 4" in men's tennis, despite Murray not having won a Slam. He's in a position to do so at every Major, even the French, as he's shown the past couple of years. The guys ahead of Murray are legends, but instead of accepting the fact that he's playing in a tough era as it seems a lot of players are doing right now, he's doing all he can to keep up--and has notched more than a decent number of wins against Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer.

I also find it refreshing to hear a player making a bold challenge: It puts pressure on themselves, and if they pull it off, it makes the reward that much sweeter.

And look, wouldn't you love to hear David Ferrer, Robin Soderling or Tomas Berdych say "I'm going to break up that stranglehold on top of the rankings and stay there"?

There is a stranglehold up there, and kudos to anyone looking to improve their standing in it.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska aims for two in '11


The finals are set at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, with Agnieszka Radwanska beating Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva getting by Petra Kvitova.

It's going to be the second time these two have played in a final this year, with Radwanska beating Zvonareva in Carlsbad, Calif., over the summer. That was Radwanska's first title in what must've seemed like a decade, but in actuality was since 2008.

Ahhh, 2008: Radwanska won three titles that year and made her top 10 debut. It seemed like she was destined for Grand Slam greatness at some point over the next couple of years, but it didn't happen as some of those players in the top 5 were just too tough for her--and a lot of other women--and injuries got in the way, too.

However, that win over Azarenka and the results she's put up this year shows she's close to hitting her peak and a win in Tokyo could do a lot to get her there.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is it Janko Tipsarevic's time?


A solid top-20 ranking, first Grand Slam quarterfinal, a couple of runner-up appearances at Tour events: This has been quite the season for Janko Tipsarevic.

Now the question is can he grab that elusive first career title?

Tipsarevic is the number-three seed at this week's Malaysian Open, held in Kuala Lumpur. The top seed is Nicolas Almagro and number two is Tipsarevic's countryman Viktor Troicki, who has already been in the winner's circle once in his career.

Tipsarevic and Troicki, for all their success, are still looking up to Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic. Tipsarevic has been open about how much of an influence Djokovic has had in his desire to get better and reach a spot in the rankings that is reflective of his talent.

He's always had the talent as a smooth shotmaker that can succeed on any surface, and before he hit the spot in the rankings he rests at now, he was one of the guys in the draw that no one wanted to face early on. Tipsarevic finds himself one of the hunted now, but there's a bit of irony there as he's still searching for that first-place trophy to solidify that he's on the right track. The Malaysian Open is the latest place for that opportunity to come about. The good thing is that he's worked himself into a better spot to make that dream a reality.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Germany and the U.S.: a tale of two nations


After noticing on Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline Twitter page the other day that U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber had to play the qualies at this week's Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo due to the ranking cut-off rules, I was going to write something about the success German players are having on the WTA Tour. Aside from Kerber, three others are ranked in the top 50: Andrea Petkovic, Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges.

That's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, considering the drought the nation had experienced the past few years when it came to producing top-flight talent.

So as I sat down to get ready to write, I took a glimpse at the U.S.' ranking sitch, only to find Serena Williams all by herself in the top 50.

That's bad by any stretch of the imagination, considering the wealth the nation has experienced over the game's history when it came to producing top-flight talent.

I guess the thing to look at is that the U.S. has very young players, such as Christine McHale, Sloane Stephens and Irina Falconi, who are climbing up and should join Serena soon. However, you can't really think of--or expect--any of them to be "the next Serena," which is a lot of pressure in itself.

That's something that Petkovic, Kerber and the other top Germans have had to endure as their country sought "the next Steffi Graf." The young Americans would do well to follow the paths of their German counterparts in making their country a national powerhouse, too.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

King, Dushevina, Goerges: Who has the Seoul power?


To say it's not one of the biggest events on the WTA tour, the Hansol Korea Open didn't do a bad job with the level of players it attracted: Two top 10 players among the 32 isn't bad.

Too bad those two, Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli didn't make it to the quarters!

But good for the two that pulled off the upsets, Vera Dushevina and Vania King, respectively. They're both pretty young, but it's hard to think of them as up-and-comers because they've been out there forever now it seems. They just haven't made that huge, huge breakthrough in singles yet. Maybe this is the start of that.

That'll be tough task, pulling something off here, though. You still have players like Dominika Cibulkova and Julia Goerges in the draw, both who have made it to the quarters without dropping a set.

Whoever fights through and wins at the end of the week will have pulled off a pretty impressive feat.

I never expected so many possibilities out of a $220,000 event!

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How far can Alexandr Dolgopolov go?


In case you didn't know—which would be hard with me mentioning it hundreds of times!—I got to cover the U.S. Open for Tennis View Magazine. It was as amazing an experience as you could imagine. I got to see a LOT of tennis and develop an even greater appreciation for some of them, like Sam Stosur, for instance.

One other player I really enjoyed watching was the "Dog," Alexandr Dolgopolov. I caught some of each of his matches, from the first round to that fourth-round battle with Novak Djokovic. Those two played an amazing first-set tiebreak with Djokovic coming through at the end of it. From then on, Djoko steamrolled through the next two sets.

Dolgopolov did leave the crowd wondering, "How does he do that?" and also thinking, "That guy's a pusher—with a 130 mph serve!" He can lull you to sleep with crosscourt slice backhands, then pound a winner when you least expect it off either side. He's got good hands at the net and knows the court like the back of his hand.

So with all that court sense and savvy, how high can he get in the rankings? Djokovic noted in his press conference that "Dog" needs to be a little more consistent. I guess in regard to that it'll be interesting to see if in the next couple of years he's willing to tone down his game.

He's the third seed at the ATP stop in Metz this week and plays his first match against another top shotmaker, Marcos Baghdatis, which should come down to who's the steadier player. Dolgopolov would do well to hit the heights that Baghdatis has: a top 10 ranking and a Slam final. Can he do it?

I know one thing, he'll keep the fans entertained as he figures it out!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rest now, Novak Djokovic: You deserve it


Just like that, in one fell swoop, my two favorite things about pro tennis are all wrapped up in the confines of one week: the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup. And just like he has all season, Novak Djokovic in some ways had and is having a tremendous impact on both.

First, let's take a look back at his amazing U.S. Open run. What else can you say about what he's done this year? Kudos to him on a third Major championship in '11.If he's on the court, he's winning.

Speaking of him, though, being on the court...

His lack of being on it this weekend has his country in a deep hole in the Davis Cup semifinals this weekend. If anyone out there, though, deserves to take some time off it's Djokovic. His teammates should've been at least able to earn a split in the opening singles. But I guess that's why pro tennis is so unpredictable: You don't know what's going to happen when it's time to serve them up.

That is, unless you're Novak Djokovic, who on or off the court has a lot of control over how things are going to go down.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Congratulations Sam Stosur!


I've been out covering the U.S. Open for Tennis View magazine, and this has been my first time experiencing that much of live tennis. One thing that has really stood out is that I found myself catching a few players quite regularly as they went through the tournament.

Somebody who I did get to see quite a few times was Samantha Stosur. From early on, I couldn't help but notice how physically impressive she seemed in person. That got me developing a deep appreciation for the work she puts into being the best that she can be. One evening when I came home, I was talking about her with my wife and showed her pictures of how fit Stosur is. Also, I mentioned to her that it was kind of shocking that as great of shape as she was in, she could still get blown off the court by Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams. I wondered what could Sam do to ever break through when it looked like she was at the peak of her abilities and fitness?

What she could do was fight, and fight some more. And she could also keep calm and focused in the biggest match of her life. That's what she did throughout the U.S. Open, and there you have it: Sam Stosur, Grand Slam champion.

If she wasn't on your radar, she needs to be there. It's a great sight to see someone work that hard and have it all pay off at the end.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is this Roger Federer's Sampras-in-'02 moment?


As Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer get ready to take the court today (or take it, then come off, then go back again--it looks like it's going to be one of those days), I was thinking something about Federer there:

Mainly, it's been a long time since he's won any tournament, much less a Grand Slam singles title.

Of course, it really hasn't been that long: He did win a regular title in the first half of the year and he did capture the Australian Open last year for a Major win. But you can equate that amount of time for Federer to dog years. Who would've ever thought he'd enter any kind of title-winning drought?

That being said, I wonder if this year's U.S. Open will be his time to show that he's still a Slam winner, much like Pete Sampras did at the Open in '02. Federer's been playing particularly well the whole tournament and we all know what happened at this year's French Open when he faced the then-unbeatable Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

By no means do I think he's going to retire if he wins; he still has years left in him at the top. I just wonder if this is his time to come in and win a Major when everyone's counting him out, which was the case with Pete in 2002. I guess we'll find out soon enough!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal complete the fantastic 4


I alluded to this on Twitter earlier, but I think any talk of Andy Murray not being part of the "Big 4" any more should stop immediately. I mean, what else does the guy have to do?

(I guess win a Slam!)

That aside, he showed just like the other guys ahead of him in the rankings, he's capable of dealing with whatever a player below him in the standings throws at him. John Isner was game and made a fight out of it, but at the end, Murray was just too good. Isner might have thought he had good preparation to combat Murray by going against Gilles Simon the round before, but Simon is "Murray-Lite."

Much like David Ferrer is "Nadal-Lite." Andy Roddick from the first ball on was on his heels. Come into the net? Get passed. Hang at the baseline? Watch groundstroke winners fly by. It was just too much for him today.

Now you have your dream semifinal lineup at the U.S. Open: Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic and Rafa vs. Murray. TTA? is picking a Djoko-Murray final, but anyone of them deserves to be there, just like Murray deserves his spot in the "Big 4."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Andy Roddick--who woulda thunk it?


Going four against Michael Russell must seem like a lifetime ago!

Court-gate, bubble-gate, Armstrong-gate--whatever you want to call it--aside, Andy Roddick played a very solid match against David Ferrer today, and on Court 13 no less! This might be some of the best he's played all year, and now he has to try to pull another trick out of his hat tomorrow against another Spaniard, or rather THE Spaniard, Rafael Nadal.

Call me crazy, but I think he has a shot against Rafa. I've been saying this for a minute now that if he played like he did in their matchup in Miami last year on a semi-regular basis, his ranking might be in better shape. That style of rushing and crushing might be what serves him best here. Nadal, however, is no dummy and will be on the lookout for it.

Maybe Roddick will get all fired up about some issue with Ashe and ask to go back to the friendly confines of 13 again!

(Photo: Getty)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If only every day was a rainy day at the U.S. Open


I'm totally kidding!

Seriously, though, in looking for some silver lining about the washout, the lineup for Wednesday is pretty amazing. Everyone's going to be out there (fingers crossed!) and probably the best thing is that players who hadn't been off Arthur Ashe stadium since 1847 (Andy Roddick) and stars of the '11 edition of the Open (Donald Young) are playing on smaller courts. It should be quite the day.

So enjoy, and in case you forgot, I'm at the tournament for Tennis View Magazine. You can catch me Tweeting there, too, at twitter.com/tennisviewmag.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So, how about that U.S. Open? (and some big news on the way)

Hey everyone: I'm on the grounds at the National Tennis Center doing some work for Tennis View Magazine. I'm Tweeting for them and doing interviews. You can catch my "live from the U.S. Open" Tweets at @tennisviewmag.

Also, I managed to write up a VANtage Point for blog Down the Line!, which you can find at this link.

And be sure to come back tomorrow: I'm going to have some HUGE news for you, which I'll need you to pass along to all your friends!

UPDATE: No big news as of yet, but I'm still hoping to have some to share with you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No need to worry about Serena Williams' seeding at the U.S. Open


Can you believe that Serena Williams is seeded 28th for the U.S. Open? That's outrageous!

I'm just kidding folks; it's not outrageous at all. It's funny to see, though, that there are some complaints about it, arguing that if other Slams seed players based on past performances then the USTA should follow suit.

The USTA tried that back in the late '90s and it was a very unpopular move: The top Spanish male players at one point thought about boycotting because of it.

The USTA did the right thing here by not bumping Serena up, or even granting a seed to big sis Venus. Unless that's the procedure from now on, then you shouldn't just make the adjustment for one year. The fact that Serena even got herself to a seeded position is one of the most remarkable feats in the women's game this year.

And at this point, does anyone out there really think Serena needs any help from anyone in regard to having an easy draw?

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cincy's (almost) Elite 8


Aww man, David Ferrer: Why couldn't you come through?

Not that I have anything against Gilles Simon; it just would've been cool to see the top eight seeds all make it through to the quarters at the ATP Masters 1000 stop in Cincinnati. Simon's a worthy addition to the quarterfinal lineup, so I won't be too mad!

But thinking about the (almost) Elite 8 there, I'm going to make a quick call on who I think will be in the Final Four:

Novak Djokovic over Gael Monfils, Rafael Nadal beats Mardy Fish, Roger Federer tops Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray overtakes Simon.

And would you look at that? A fabulous Final 4!

UPDATE: Obviously, I was a little off! Congrats to Fish and Berdych on big wins, and an extra congrats to the champs, Murray and Maria Sharapova on the women's side!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wondering about the Wayne Odesnik situation


An interesting result occurred this past weekend a little off the beaten path in Binghamton, NY. There at the annual challenger event leading up to the U.S. Open, American Wayne Odesnik reached the finals before falling to Paul Capdeville of Chile in straight sets.

Now, we all know Odesnik and the controversy surrounding him (and in case you don't, here are my thoughts on his drug case last year). After serving a suspension, he's essentially had to rebuild his career from the ground up. The crazy thing is he's doing a great job of that. He's gone from being unranked at the beginning of the year to the top 150 as of today: Essentially, that means he's playing some mighty fine tennis.

However, there is that enormous cloud hanging over him, which hasn't exactly endeared him to his peers. (It's been well-documented that players are going out there with an extra bit of motivation against him.) If he is guilty of cheating, then he deserves all the animosity directed toward him.

But let's say he maintains this level of play over the next year and ends up in the quarterfinals of the French Open, for example: Will U.S. fans embrace him? Will he greeted with open arms by the USTA as a hope for American tennis? Or will the drug thing hang over him even then?

I guess it's a situation all the parties involved with will have to deal with at a later time. Going by the way that Odesnik is playing, though, it might be something that comes up a lot sooner than people might think.

(Photo: AP)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Does Roger Federer need to win the Rogers Cup?


Waaay back when, I wrote something for GOTOTENNIS, one of THE top tennis blogs out there, on whether or not Roger Federer needed to win the 2011 Indian Wells event as part of the Serves & Returns feature (I haven't forgotten about S&R, Team Freaky: I'll be back soon!). I brought up at the time with the way the guys around him in the rankings had been playing that he'd be hard-pressed to pick up a title for a while.

Looking at what's happened the past couple of days at the first Masters tournament of the summer hard-court swing, I couldn't help but think of that again. With Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray out of the way, does this become his best chance to win a title for the next few months?

I realize that, of course, he is Roger Federer and you can never, ever, ever count him out at any event. But if Novak Djokovic stays playing the way that he is, and Rafa and Murray get in a nice groove, title winning becomes a tough task going forward. It's crazy to think that Fed's only captured one tournament so far this year. If he wants to put an end to that and get back on the board, the Rogers Cup might be the best place to do it with two major hurdles falling already.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mardy Fish and the big picture


Chalk this up to some weird paranoia of mine, but I always get nervous seeing players on hot streaks leading up to Majors. Maybe it's from the shock of what happened to Andre Agassi in 1995, when he was unbeatable that summer until Pete Sampras stopped him in the finals of the U.S. Open.

Or it could be tracked back even earlier to 1989 when Brad Gilbert went into the Open a solid favorite, but a stomach virus and a game Todd Witsken tagged him in the first round.

Anyway, one of my favorites, Mardy Fish, is on fire right now, reaching his second final in a row, this time in L.A. His emergence in the past year has been pretty remarkable and currently, he's playing the best tennis of his career.

Still, there's that little event called the U.S. Open a few weeks away and the way Fish's schedule is set up, he could end up playing a lot of matches going into New York. That's fine because he's playing some great ball right now, but how much will he have left in the tank when it's Slam-time?

Hopefully, a lot because being hot at the end would mean a lot more than racking up the titles right now.

(Photo: AFP)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How will the rest of the year go for Serena Williams?


I'm curious...

Can Serena Williams get back to the top 10 by the end of the year?

Will she play a pretty full schedule for the remainder of the season?

Will she be considered a serious threat at the U.S. Open?

How will her body hold up?

It's funny how a 6-0, 6-0 win can get the mind racing!

Serena took out Anastasia Rodionova by that score yesterday at the WTA Tour stop in California. It's an impressive result, considering how little she's played in the past year due to injury and illness. Her next match against Maria Kirilenko could be a tough one. Every match out there at this point, actually, has the potential to be a true test. She passed with flying colors against Rodionova, though.

And win or lose against Kirilenko, I'm sure I'll be asking the same above questions again!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Loving the WTA's depth. The rankings? Not so much.


Vera Zvonareva won the the inaugural Baku Cup this weekend for her second title of the year. It wasn't a big tournament, but a win's a win at any level of the pros and it solidifies her spot in the top three.

The thing is, is "solidifies her spot" a good thing for the WTA rankings? Or should there be a massive rankings shakeup?

The level of depth has been amazing this year: Did you see Li Na getting to the finals of the Australian and winning the French? Or surprise finalists Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova duking it out for the Wimbledon title? You just never who's going to come through on a week-by-week basis, which is a good thing.

But wow, the rankings sure aren't keeping pace: Caroline Wozniacki's still number one, and even that "being the most consistent player results-wise" argument is running thin. Kim Clijsters is number two, but at least she did win a Slam this year. Sam Stosur is in the top 10, and what has she done lately?

Sharapova, Li, Kvitova and Francesca Schiavone should all be ranked higher than they are. And I know this is an age-old complaint, but take a look at the rankings and see if they still don't make you go, "What the ... ?"

Not to knock what any of these players are doing, but a revamped system can only strengthen what is already a great time in the game.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Finally ready to get off the last-weekend rollercoaster


OK, I've given myself a few days, now I'm back in a regular frame of mind.

Last weekend was pretty draining for a few different reasons:

* First, it was my 20th high school reunion (yep, I'm gettin' on up there!). Only thing is, I couldn't go because I've been working in this new job. I'm thankful for the work, of course, but I'd been looking forward to attending that for years and was bummed about missing it. Oh well, I guess there's always the 30th!

* Actually, though, with the way the schedule fell, I should've bailed on it anyway for one major reason: Andre Agassi went into the Hall of Fame and I made a vow years ago that when he did, I'd be there. (Don't worry, I wasn't going to bore you with my high-school-reunion yearnings for long!) He is, after all, my favorite athlete ever. At least I got to see the induction on TV!

* Then there was Davis Cup: Oh man, talk about a bummer. Congrats to the teams that made it through to the semis, but wow, that U.S. performance really bummed me out. David Ferrer, who I really like, is a class or two above Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish right now. Add to the mix a solid Davis Cup performer like Feliciano Lopez, who is at his best on fast surfaces, and it's a tough matchup for anyone. Still, I thought the U.S. had a shot. A friend of mine asked me if the tie should've been played on grass. With F-Lo making quarterfinal runs at Wimbledon on the regular and Ferrer being solid on everything, I don't think it would've helped.

Oh well, that's life—and tennis!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Know what I haven't done? Given Novak Djokovic enough props.


So, how about that Wimbledon? You had Petra Kvitova almost coming from nowhere to take the women's title, the Bryan brothers winning an 11th Major, Katarina Srebotnik finally winning a doubles Slam, the return of Venus and Serena Williams, unseeded players making deep runs--you name it.

And oh yeah, there was that Novak Djokovic fellow continuing his dream season by grabbing the men's crown.

I was just looking through the annals of this here blog, and I realized I haven't given Djokovic the attention he deserves. I don't know why: Maybe I feel if I write something, I'll jinx him. (I'm a superstitious fellow: You should see me with the New York Jets!

Regardless, I apologize because what he's done so far this year has been one of the most amazing tennis things I've seen in my lifetime. I apologize for the negligence on my part.

To make it up, I'm changing the name of this blog to "Novak Djokovic Talk, Anyone?" Just kidding of course, but the dude does deserve all the acclaim and coverage he's gotten so far, which will hopefully continue during his great run.

Who knows? You might even see more from NDA?! : )

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sweet to be in the 16s


And on the seventh day, they rested...

It's the Sunday "off" day at the big W as players get ready to hit the home stretch of the game's marquee tournament with the round of 16 matches all set up. I have to say, I didn't get to catch much live action because I've been caught up with this new freelance gig (but I was following the scoring online as much as I could!) Here are some quick thoughts on the week that was:

* Welcome back Venus and Serena! (But Venus, that toga top is horrible.)
* Roger Federer and Andy Murray look good.
* I wasn't shocked at all by Vera Zvonareva and Andy Roddick losing early.
* Bethanie Mattek-Sands needs to worry more about her game than tennis ball-lined jackets.
* How about all the unseeded players in the 16s?

And the week that will be:
* Murray-Richard Gasquet, Mardy Fish-Tomas Berdych and Serena Williams-Marion Bartoli are some great fourth-round matchups.
* Don't sleep on Maria Sharapova, Venus, Juan Martin del Potro or Michael Llodra.
* The WTA has to be pleased with how the draw's shaken out so far with a healthy mix of veterans and newbies advancing.

I'll keep following online while I'm working! And if you want my thoughts on the doubles action at Wimbledon, check out that blog sensation that's sweeping the nation, The Doubles Alley. But don't forget to come back here, too!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!


* Eight guys in the top 100.

* Right before the French, victory in the World Team Cup.

* Two of them, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner, played in the final of "hometown" tournament in Halle, with Kohlschreiber taking the title.

In other words, it's starting to look like Germany's once again becoming a force on the ATP Tour. Of course, I'm not saying it's like the days of Boris Becker and Michael Stich, or even Tommy Haas and Nicolas Kiefer, because none of those guys currently ranked among the top 100 have seen the top 10. But watch out, though, because the increased depth will only inspire players to keep reaching higher to outshine their compatriots. There's nothing like a little homegrown inspiration/competition: Look at how Spain has benefited from that.

I don't know if any of the German guys really have Slam-winning potential, but I think it's good to see them making an impact on the tour.

(Photo: AP)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy 500th TTA?! And introducing The Doubles Alley!

So, now that that little thing called the French Open is out of the way...

Just kidding, it was quite the big thing, with history being made as Rafael Nadal took home his sixth title, equaling Bjorn Borg, and Li Na winning China's first Slam singles title on the women's side. And how about that Roger Federer?

Anyway, this is a big occasion here at Tennis Talk, Anyone?: This is the 500th post! (Yay! Yippee! Woohoo!) I started this blog four years ago (I know, that's a long time to write 500 posts) right around the grass-court season of 2007. As a matter of fact Amelie Mauresmo was playing Justine Henin in the finals of the Eastbourne tournament, as noted in my first post.

Whatever happened to those two? Man, it's been a long time! : )

My second post was about a doubles team, Eric Butorac and Jamie Murray, aka "Booty and Stretch," who I thought really brought some excitement to the doubles game.

And speaking of segues...

I also want to get into the big news I mentioned in my previous post: I'm adding a new blog to the Van-blogging-about-tennis stable, The Doubles Alley!

I'm actually going to be writing two blogs now: Good old TTA? (It's my baby: I could never stop writing this one!) and The Doubles Alley, which will focus on doubles—pro, amateur and otherwise. (I don't know what "otherwise" actually means...)

Anyway, it has its own URL and everything (http://thedoublesalley.com) or click on the link above, so catch me here, there and everywhere!

And mainly, thank you so, so, so much for reading this blog!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

French Open quarterfinal picks, plus big news on the way!


Hey all, hope all is well! So, I've been trying to write tennis stories everywhere I can, but then I remembered, "What about TTA?"

Duh, Van!

Anyway, I usually make my picks from the round of 16 on for the Majors, but seeing as how the tournament's underway, I'm going to go back to the traditional way and just announce the quarterfinalists—at least who I think they will be! Let's start with the men, shall we?

Quarterfinals
Rafael Nadal vs. Gilles Simon
Andy Murray vs. Nicolas Almagro
David Ferrer vs. Roger Federer
Tomas Berdych vs. Novak Djokovic

Semifinals
Nadal over Almagro
Djokovic over Federer

Finals
Djokovic over Nadal

Now, for the women:
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sam Stosur
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Francesca Schiavone
Petra Kvitova vs. Victoria Azarenka
Maria Sharapova vs. Andrea Petkovic

Semifinals
Stosur over Schiavone
Azarenka over Sharapova

Finals
Azarenka over Stosur

And that's not all: So my next post here will be a monumental one for TTA?, and I'm preparing something to mark the occasion. If you don't see me here for a few days, don't worry: I'm not going anywhere! See you for the big post!

In case you missed them, here are a couple of stories I've written elsewhere recently:

For Down the Line!:

Bonjour, Y'all! It's Roland Garros Time!

For Bleacher Report:

Roger Federer: What Would a Win at the 2011 French Open Mean for His Legacy?

See you soon: Here, there and everywhere!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Waiting for Richard Gasquet


After (kind of) shaking up the tennis world with his win over Roger Federer, Richard Gasquet followed that up with a victory over Tomas Berdych today in the quarters at the Italian Open. Next up, he's playing this guy named Rafael Nadal--a tough task to say the very least.

I don't know what kind of chance the Frenchman has against the king of clay, but it's good to see him in position to battle him in the later rounds of a tournament. And who knows? Maybe he can really shake up the world this time.

Gasquet's long been heralded as one of the game's most talented players, but motivation, injuries, drug-related controversies--what have you--have held him back. Hopefully, that's all behind him and he's ready to firmly establish himself in the top 10.

(Photo: Getty Images)