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!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Still going (kinda) strong after all these years!

Happy birthday!

Not to you (unless it is your birthday!), not to me (still a month away).

Rather to this old blog of mine, Tennis Talk, Anyone? Seven years old today!

My, they grow up so fast!

I can't even begin to list all the things that have happened tennis-wise over the years, but they've been great and a lot of them due to TTA?.

I know I don't get to post as much as I'd like, but I try and vow to try even harder. And if you're still reading this blog, thank you so much! I hope it doesn't let you down.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wimbledon picks for '14 (and as always, from the fourth round on)

I missed it for the French, but in true TTA? fashion—aside from that aforementioned blemish—here's my Slam predictions, from the fourth round on. Enjoy the start of Wimbledon!

Fourth Round
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
Fernando Verdasco (18) vs. Tomas Berdych (6)
Andy Murray (3) vs. Kevin Anderson (20)
Grigor Dimitrov (11) vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Denis Istomin vs. Feliciano Lopez (19)
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Roger Federer (4)
Milos Raonic (8) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (22)
Richard Gasquet (13) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)

Djokovic vs. Berdych
Murray vs. Dimitrov
Lopez vs. Federer
Raonic vs. Nadal

Djokovic vs. Murray
Federer vs. Nadal

Nadal over Murray

Fourth Round
Serena Williams (1) vs. Eugenie Bouchard (13)
Angelique Kerber (9) vs. Maria Sharapova (5)
Sorana Cirstea (29) vs. Shuai Zhang
Sabine Lisicki (19) vs. Taylor Townsend
Coco Vandeweghe vs. Lucie Safarova (23)
Ekaterina Makarova (22) vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (4)
Venus Williams (30) vs. Flavia Pennetta (12)
Caroline Wozniacki (15) vs. Li Na (2)

S. Williams vs. Sharapova
Cirstea vs. Lisicki
Vandeweghe vs. Radwanska
V. Williams vs. Na

Sharapova vs. Lisicki
Radwanska vs. V. Williams

Sharapova over Radwanska

(Photo: The Associated Press)

Friday, May 2, 2014

The TTA? answer to improve American men's tennis

Earlier this year, I wrote an article stating that U.S. men's tennis is actually in alright shape—or at least that there's cause for optimism.

But now, but now (I had to type it twice for extra emphasis!) I just don't know.

All doesn't have to be lost, though. Why just tonight, in fact, I've come up with two ways that the fates and fortunes of the U.S.-born can improve. And since the whole point of a blog is to share your thoughts, here they are:

1. Make the Commitment
Someone's going to have to do this: the second that their U.S. Clay Court Championship run is over, they have to hop on a plane and go to Europe.

And stay there. At least until their Wimbledon run is over.

Of course, being away from home will be hard. But to be the best, one must go against the best first, and the best players are all playing abroad. Showing up three weeks into the clay-court season is a wasted effort as it takes much longer to get acclimated to the different playing conditions, from surfaces to weather.

Every American male within the top 100 should be overseas at least by now.

I'm not privy to anyone's bank accounts, but from what's been noted, John Isner and Sam Querrey, at least, are able to sustain themselves comfortably for a couple of consecutive months in Europe. In the past, all-time greats from John McEnroe to Pete Sampras to Andre Agassi to Andy Roddick could show up late because of their sheer talent. There's no one like that among the current crop of Americans, but hard work and sacrifice could make a world of difference.

And the old adage of "Americans can't play on clay" is hardly true anymore as both Isner and Querrey have won titles on the dirt. In fact, they're probably better suited for clay now than grass.

The truth is, no one can be forced to go over if they don't want to. But if that's going to be the case:

2. The U.S. Needs to Establish a Clay-Court Circuit
The Clay-Court Championships are it. One ATP World Tour tournament in the U.S. on the game's most prevalent surface. That's a poor testament to the importance of helping the game grow in the American consciousness.

There are tournaments being played on Har-Tru on the Challenger circuit, but the level of competition—while fierce—isn't what you'd find at this week's ATP World Tour event in Munich, for instance.

What if one or two more ATP events were held on Har-Tru? Then, players could stay home and work on their groundstrokes while playing matches that count. And while the green clay here isn't as tricky as the red dirt, at least a better semblance of timing is being established over the course of a few weeks. Plus, green clay tournaments would attract players from South America and smaller countries on this side of the hemisphere.

There's no need for anyone to worry about saving themselves for Wimbledon because the fact of the matter is that Americans are better suited for clay then grass by far nowadays. Get out on the dirt, hit big kick serves and forehands, and win matches. Doing that while being closer to home will build a semblance of confidence before heading abroad. Playing matches that count are better than practice sets anyway.

It's almost become cliche that American men are having some struggles. But maybe it'll just take getting down and dirty to hit the heights once again.

(Photo: The Associated Press)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can del Potro pull off another comeback?

I was at a party yesterday talking to a tennis-liking/playing friend of mine and as usual, talked turned to the pro game: Federer's resurgence, Djokovic's toughness, etc.

Then we started talking about Juan Martin del Potro and that wrist of his. Tough break after all that work to rise from the 400s to a spot in the top 10, and now another year lost.

You have to wonder if he has another epic comeback in him. In talking with my friend, I noted how young del Potro is. He  mentioned how it's one thing for Nadal to come back because he's so mentally tough, but how will it be for del Potro? 

I think he'll be able to pull it off: depends, though, how much self-belief the Argentine has.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Djokovic was up too long

Figured I should add a post so I'm not always reminded of my pick being off!

But in case you missed it out there in your Internet tennis reading, I backtracked some and called it on Wawrinka topping him in their QF matchup. Yay me!

It was a fun tournament to watch, but it's time to move on. This weekend is Fed Cup and I have a story coming out tomorrow on Captain America, Mary Joe Fernandez. I'll be tweeting links and all, so hope you'll check it out!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Round of 16s: It's what I do (Australian Open men's and women's predictions)

And here we are: Australian Open time!

With that, I'm going to give you the round-of-16-to-winner picks I do every Slam. I've been batting about .750 on the men over the years, while usually operating on a 50-50 clip for the women.

Anyway, here I go. First with the men:

Round of 16
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Kei Nishikori (16)
Grigor Dmitrov (22) vs. Juan Martin del Potro (5)
Andy Murray (4) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (21)
Marin Cilic vs. Roger Federer (7)
Tomas Berdych (7) vs. Kevin Anderson (19)
Florian Mayer vs. David Ferrer (3)
Stanislas Wawrinka (8) vs. Richard Gasquet (9)
Juan Monaco vs.  Novak Djokovic (2)

Nadal vs. del Potro
Murray vs. Federer
Anderson vs. Ferrer
Wawrinka vs. Djokovic

Nadal vs. Federer
Ferrer vs. Djokovic

Djokovic over Nadal

For the women:

Round of 16
Serena Williams (1) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova
Kirsten Flipkens (18) vs. Julia Goerges
Na Li (4) vs. Venus Williams
Elena Vesnina (23) vs. Flavia Pennetta (28)
Shuai Peng vs. Simona Halep (11)
Dominika Cibulkova (20) vs. Maria Sharapova (3)
Agnieszka Radwanska (5) vs. Kaia Kanepi (24)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (19) vs. Victoria Azarenka (2)

Williams vs. Flipkens
Li vs. Pennetta
Halep vs. Sharapova
Radwanska vs. Azarenka

Williams over Li; Azarenka over Sharapova

Williams over Azarenka

(Photo: The Associated Press)