Archive for November, 2010

20 Nov 2010

Muzz

I can’t believe this is the last tournament of the season. Time really does fly. Although, I could really use a break from tennis, to be honest. It drained a lot of my energy.
Well, I was talking with Brodie to see which group I’d preview and I ended up taking Group B since according to him it would only make sense considering my new found love for Andy Murray. So, here we go.

Roger Federer [2]

This was a strange season for Federer. I mean, it started pretty well, but as you all know he didn’t have the same success as in the previous years. Still, he won two titles this fall, Stockholm and his beloved Basel. Fed was also runner-up in Shanghai where he lost to Murray and reached the semifinals in Paris for the first time. Anyways, he has assured a Top 2 finish for the record 8th consecutive year and his seeding for the Australian Open is safe. If we think about it, not that bad of a season, huh?

Fed comes into London pretty confident about his chances of winning the WTF. Given the surface and his record there (29-7), I can’t argue with that. It is pretty remarkable. 9th straight appearance, 4 titles (2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007) and the only time he failed to advance past RR was in 2008. He lost in SF last year, to Kolya.

Robin Soderling [4]

It has been a nice fall for Sod. He reached QF or better in all the tournaments and ultimately won Paris after saving 3 match points in the semis against Llodra. It was his 2nd title of the year (after Rotterdam) and his first Masters 1000 title. First Swede to win one since Enqvist (2000 – Cincinnati). This win got him a career high No.4.

It’s no surprise that indoors hard is Robin’s favorite surface. It just suits his game. And I can’t help but thinking he has a solid chance of going further in the WTF. It is his 2nd appearance and last year he lost in the semi to Delpo, scoring wins over Rafa and Nole in RR. His group is not easy (we’ll get to that in a bit) but he must be confident after winning Paris and let’s not forget that depending on a number of results he can finish the year as No.3 in the world. That would be a very motivating factor for me.

Andy Murray [5]

After a very disappointing USO losing to Stan in the 3rd round, Muzz reached Beijing’s QF. One week after, he captured the Shanghai title without dropping a set, against Federer. He then lost to Pico in Valencia and reached Paris QF where he fell to Gael.

Since he couldn’t defend his title in Valencia and Soderling won Paris, he has dropped to No.5 but the year-end ranking can still change. I like to think Muzz has a chance since he’s playing indoors and at home, but if Wimbledon is any indication, I might just be wrong.

This will be his 3rd straight appearance in the WTF. In his debut (2008), he lost the semi to Davydenko and had a perfect RR that included a 3 set win over Federer. Last year he failed to advance past the RR due to just one game difference. Remember when Muzz tweeted about it? Poor guy really didn’t have a clue.

David Ferrer [7]

What can I say about David? He has had an amazing season and should be really proud of it. We all know clay is his strongest surface. Although he wasn’t that consistent, he still managed to get some solid results on hard courts losing the Beijing final to Nole and winning his own tournament in Valencia against Granollers.
All together it gave him a Top 10 year-end for the 2nd time and a spot in the WTF.

This will be his second appearance in the last tournament of the season. He has a nice record (4-1) only losing to Fed in the 2007 final. He had wins over Rafa, Nole, Gasquet and A-Rod. Impressive, right? Poor guy, just couldn’t be more unlucky with his group. I don’t like to predict, though. Ferru has been surprising me the entire season. So, who knows what will happen.

Head To Head Previews

Sunday, November 21st, 2pm: Soderling vs. Murray
H2H: Soderling 2 – 2 Murray
Hard Court H2H: 2 – 2 (tied)
Last Meeting: Indian Wells 2010: Soderling d. Murray 6-1 7-6(4)

This is the only balanced H2H from this group. And two players with all to fight for rankings wise. All their meetings have been on hard courts with Soderling winning the last two in straight sets. In my opinion, this is one of the toughest matches to preview.

Murray should have home advantage, but (and it’s a big one) we all know how much pressure he feels when playing in London, so it could definitely work both ways. As for Robin, he comes from a huge win and his first Masters title, but could the chance to end the year as No. 3 will mess with his head? Or will this winning streak continue? Sod needs to be serving out of his mind and still might have problems considering Andy catches pretty much every single ball. Anyways, I think the key for this match will be their nerves. The guy that manages to keep his cool will probably come on top. Winner: Murray.

Sunday, November 21st, 8pm: Federer vs. Ferrer
H2H: Federer 10 – 0 Ferrer
Hard Court H2H: Federer 4 – 0
Last Meeting: Madrid 2010: Federer d. Ferrer 7-5 3-6 6-3

These two played each other once in 2010 and that was on clay in Madrid. Last time the boys met on hard courts was Cincinnati in 2009 where again they went the distance 3-6 6-3 6-4. However, Ferrer seems to be getting a little closer, taking a set off of Federer in three of their past four meetings. He had lost their previous six meetings in straight sets.

Let’s not forget that Roger’s last year-end title came after beating David in Shanghai. Maybe the Spaniard is ready to get his revenge. Nonetheless, I believe the Swiss experience and that he feels way more comfortable on hard courts will play a major role in this match. Winner: Federer.

Tuesday, November 23rd: Murray vs. Ferrer
H2H: Ferrer 3 – 1 Murray
Hard Court H2H: Murray 1 – 0
Last Meeting: Madrid 2010: Ferrer d. Murray 7-5 6-3

This is not an odd head to head if you consider 3 of their meetings were played on clay, two of them this year. Not only this is David’s best surface, but Andy’s clay season was even worse than usual in 2010.

The only time Andy beat David was in Toronto (2006). It’s been a while since they played each other on hard courts. It’s difficult to predict how that match will go, but I think it will be interesting to see how much their games have evolved. Although David had some solid results, Murray is clearly the best hard court player, so it’s impossible not giving him the edge on this one. Don’t count David out just yet. His fighting spirit has led to many wins. Winner: Murray.

Tuesday, November 23rd: Federer vs. Soderling
H2H: Federer 14 – 1 Soderling
Hard Court H2H: Federer 8 – 0
Last Meeting: Shanghai 2010: Federer d. Soderling 6-1 6-1

Honestly, I’m not sure why I was so surprised that Soderling has beaten Fed just once. I mean, he did it in Abu Dhabi but didn’t count since it was an exho. Everyone remembers when Robin’s win happened. 2010 in Roland Garros. They met twice more this year, both on hard court (QF – USO & Shanghai) with Federer winning.

Actually, from those 14 wins, 12 were in straights sets, one by retirement and another one in 4 sets. (Seriously!!) I don’t need to say the statistics clearly favor Federer, right? And the Swiss wants to end the year on a high note grabbing the last big title. On the other hand, Robin’s recent Paris run, might just help him overcome this hurdle. Winner: Federer.

Thursday, November 25th: Soderling vs Ferrer
H2H: Soderling 8 – 4 Ferrer
Hard Court H2H: Soderling 3 – 2
Last Meeting: Valencia 2010: Ferrer d. Soderling 6-3 3-6 6-3

They met 5 times this year. David won those two matches on hard courts, while Soderling won one in each surface. Their matches have been pretty good, but the surface benefits the Swede. Since David is one of the best returners on the tour, I think Robin’s serve needs to be super effective or he might get into trouble. Winner: Soderling

Thursday, November 25th: Federer vs Murray
H2H: Federer 5 – 8 Murray
Hard Court H2H: Murray 8 – 5
Last Meeting: Shanghai 2010: Murray d. Federer 6-3 6-2

All of their meetings were on hard courts being 3 of them played this year. Federer beat Andy in straight sets at the Australian Open, and the Scottish came out on top in Toronto and more recently in Shanghai. To be honest, I never know what to expect when they play each other. Federer has won each of their GS matches (2008 USO and 2010 AO), but Murray leads 3–1 in ATP 1000 tournaments. They have met twice in the WTF, with one win to each.

Murray has a legit shot against Federer, but he needs to play aggressive and never let his guard down. He’s the only other current top ten player to have a positive head to head record against Roger. Winner: Murray

So, my picks to reach SF are Federer and Murray. I really wish I could give David a shot in this group.
12 hours until London. Enjoy it guys!

19 Nov 2010

The quick title to this group is clearly the rematch of the last two slam finals between Rafa and Berd/Nole, but us tennis nerds know there’s more to this group than meets the eye. How have these players been doing post-USO? How do they stack up against others in their groups? What are their WTF records over the years? Let’s take a look.

Rafael Nadal [1]

While this might be the greatest year Rafa has ever had, it hasn’t exactly been an autumn of much note… not that he needs one or anything. He had a strange loss to Garlo in Thailand, turned around and won Tokyo the next week, and then crashed and burned in his third consecutive week of playing in Shanghai against Melzer.

The real cause concern hasn’t been the results. A nagging left shoulder injury bumped him out of Paris, however he insists he is now fine, and that the doctor just recommended he take a week off to make sure it didn’t get worse. Fair enough. Hopefully it’s a non-issue.

What about motivation? You’ve won three slams, you completed the career slam, you’ve locked up the number 1 spot for about the next 6 months… who cares?

“I will have a special motivation, and I’m going to give everything I can to play well here,” Nadal said. “I want to improve the image of last year. I’ll try to win.” (Associated Press)

A quick peek at Rafa’s WTF history is surprisingly underwhelming. In 2005 and 2008 he was unable to compete due to injury. In 2006 and 2007 he lost in the semis to Fed, and last year he looked utterly exhausted and didn’t manage to win a set, let a lone a match. His record through the years is 4-7.

We all know Rafa loves titles, especially ones he’s never won before, and this would definitely be another solid feather in his cap, especially considering indoor hard courts are easily his worst surface. He’s only ever won one title on indoor hard courts (over Ljubs in Madrid in 2005… 7-3 in a fifth set tiebreak, none the less).

Last year Rafa played Paris, played WTF right after, and then had Davis Cup. Combined with an even more exhausting season than this year’s, last year’s results weren’t necessarily that surprising. This year it’s just London, and he hasn’t played in a month. Expect Rafa to come flying out of the gate this year.

Novak Djokovic [3]

It’s been a pretty productive fall for Nole. He won Beijing without dropping the set, lost in the semis of Shanghai and the final of Basel to Fed, and then basiclally check out of the building in the third round of Paris against Llodra.

With the momentum of a solid summer and autumn behind him, Nole might appear to be one of the favourites in London. There is one pink elephant in the room, however, and that’s the upcoming Davis Cup tie involving Serbia and France. Nole is the only player who will be competing in London and the DC final this year, and one has to wonder how much that will be in the back of his mind. Does he really want to get himself deep into three setters or get all the way to the final of London if that’s going to risk his chances against a solid French team? Or does he really want those bonus points going into next year?

The good news for him is that the fast indoor hard court will likely make life a bit easier for him and his body, but more on that when I get into the actual head to head.

Tomas Berdych [6]

It’s been a breakout year for the Berdman, who turned 25 in September. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten past the quarterfinals since Wimbledon and hasn’t gotten past the third round since Toronto. Cripes.

I’ll be honest in saying that I haven’t seen much of Berd since his semi-heart breaker against Fed in Toronto (5-7 in the third). He just hasn’t really gotten far enough for me to have had to take notice. But from what I have seen, it’s been pretty clear that Thunderberd has turned into Hummingberd in terms of his aggressive play and accuracy. It’s one of the harder parts of being tall. Much like someone as, say, Venus, when things get out of whack with all those moving parts, it gets messy. The ability to scoop out those low forehands and put some spin on them (what helped him reach the Wimbledon final) has basically disappeared. With missed, sprayed balls the confidence goes and then more balls… well, it’s a vicious cycle. You know the drill.

So what a great opportunity for Berd to toss out the past months, remember what he’s done well this year, and go out and battle. And let’s be honest, in this group, that’s exactly what he’s going to have to do. This is a pretty fantastic opportunity for some points, and a great first time reward for an epic year. Show us what you got, big guy.

Andy Roddick [8]

While Andy might seem like the most surprising guy to see here, history would kindly disagree. Andy has now won at least one tournament every year for the past 10 years, and has qualified for the WTF 8 years running. That’s some pretty damn good consistency.

While Dick didn’t make it past the quarters of a slam (and only got that far once; in Australia) he did have a pretty wicked first half. He won Brisbane (which included my favourite player/umpire interaction of the year), made the quarters of Australia, made the final of Indian Wells, and then won Miami while only dropping one set on the way. Other highlights include the semis of Cincy and Basel as well as the quarters of Paris. When you quickly compare those results to the year 9th ranked player Fer had, it makes sense (sorry Fer fans).

While injury nearly kept Dick from qualifying in the first place, it may end up being a bit of a blessing in disguise. A fresh and hungry Dick is a dangerous Dick (well that sounds interesting…) and if his serve is working on these fast indoor courts, he could throw a serious wrench into the WTF wheel. Don’t count him out.

Head To Head Previews

Monday, November 22nd, 2pm: Djokovic vs. Berdych
H2H:
Djokovic 3 – 1 Berdych
Hard Court H2H: Djokovic 2 – 0
Last Meeting: Davis Cup 2010: Djokovic d. Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

It’s a bit of a strange head to head, and it’s even more strange that all of these meetings have come from 2008 and after.

If for nothing more than recent results, it’s pretty easy to give Nole the edge. He’s clearly gained confidence and momentum after his US Open final run, whereas Berd has puttered out after his Wimbledon final run. I’d give Berd the slight edge for the indoor hard court surface, however, he’ll be knee deep in his own Berd poop if he plans on playing passive or sloppy tennis. He’ll need to bring his serve and hope to keep Nole off balance so points are nice and short.

As for Nole, I’d expect him to come out flying, toss in some spinning kick serves, and make Berd run a lot. If Berd starts spraying, he’ll smell blood, and this thing might be over before you know it. Winner: Djokovic

Monday, November 22nd, 8pm: Nadal vs. Roddick
H2H:
Nadal 5 -3 Roddick
Hard Court H2H: Nadal 2 -3 Roddick
Last Meeting: Queen’s 2010: Nadal d. Roddick 7-5, 6-4

This is more or less what I expected before I looked up the head to head. Slight edge to Rafa overall, slight edge to Dick on the hard courts. Oddly enough, Rafa’s hard court wins over Dick came in the 2007 and 2009 semis of Indian Wells. His other wins were on clay in Davis Cup, and the Queen’s result above.

The most important match in this head to head, however, was their Miami showdown in which Dick won in 3 sets. Rafa was hardly playing terrible tennis. Andy, however, was serving laser beams out of his eyeballs and was basically unbreakable. Not only do big servers cause Rafa problems in that he can’t work his way into points, but they also severely screw with his rhythm and that’s exactly what happened in Miami.

I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to know that, barring a Rafa injury, Dick is once again going to have to fire up the rocket launcher and serve as if his life depended on it. The surface is obvious a big advantage thrown Dick’s way in that it will help the serve and it’s Rafa’s worst surface. Who knows, maybe Andy will even get some bonus London support after his tragic hero Wimbledon run last year.

I think the breaker here is Rafa’s motivation. He’s not just finishing off the year, he wants this title under his belt. Still, don’t write Dick off just yet… Winner: Nadal

Wednesday, November 24th: Nadal vs. Berdych
H2H:
Nadal 8 -3 Berdych
Hard Court H2H: Nadal 3 – 2 Roddick
Last Meeting: Wimbledon Final 2010: Nadal d. Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4

Indoor hard courts are a whole different beast from grass, but unless Berd can blast his way through Rafa and play some damn precise tennis, he’s likely going to be ground up and spit back out by Rafa who will probably come out firing. At the same time, if Berd’s serve isn’t working or is making a lot of errors, Rafa can sit back a bit and win on athleticism alone. Probably the easiest throw away match of this group. Winner: Nadal

Wednesday, November 24th: Djokovic vs. Roddick
H2H:
Djokovic 2 -5 Roddick
Hard Court H2H: Djokovic 2 – 5 Roddick
Last Meeting: Cincinnati 2010: Roddick d. Djokvoic 7-5, 6-4

Much like Rafa, Nole doesn’t always have the greatest answers to big serves, and because of it this head to head isn’t wickedly surprising. But does Dick really have the advantage here?

Likely not. A fast court does give him the advantage, but Nole’s return has been pretty damn solid this past half year. Not to mention, anyone who saw him at USO (specifically the Fed semi) knows that Nole isn’t afraid to let it rip. The problem for his opponents is that it’s landing in.

Dick remains the wildcard for this group and does have a shot at Nole. I just don’t think a big serve will likely save him. As long as Nole isn’t too busy thinking about Davis Cup, he should bring the heat and the aggressive play that will make the difference. Winner: Djokovic

Friday, November 26th: Nadal vs. Djokovic
H2H:
Nadal 15 – 7 Djokovic
Hard Court H2H: Nadal 3 – 7 Djokovic
Last Meeting: US Open 2010: Nadal d. Djokvoic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2

The obvious answer here would be to choose Rafa after his win over Nole in the US Open final. However, it’s important to look at the hard court head to head, 7-3 for Nole, and their only meeting on an indoor hard court. That would have been last year in Paris where Nole only dropped 5 games on his way to winning.

Lots has been made of the type of court, and rightfully so. Indoor hard courts force Nole (and Rafa) to be aggressive, and unlike most players, Nole is typically fine with Rafa playing wicked defense and getting a lot of balls back.

Overall it’s going to be quite the fight, and might end up being the best match of the tournament. Winner: Nole. In a squeaker.

Friday, November 26th: Berdych vs. Roddick
H2H:
Berdych 2 – 6 Roddick
Hard Court H2H: Berdych 1 – 3 Roddick
Last Meeting: Miami 2010: Roddick d. Berdych 7-5, 6-4

Poor Hummingberd. Sorry dude, but Roddick is probably gonna pull out the rocket launcher and serve his way through you. Winner: Roddick

So there we are. Nole wins the group, Rafa gets second. Let me know what you think. Will Rafa be too rusty? Too hard indoors? Will Nole be too busy thinking about Davis Cup? Will Berd pull off an upset? Can Dick’s serve mess something up? Hit me.

13 Nov 2010

Go forth and enjoy.

My contribution is a bit lacking, which I think has more to do with busting it home after a long day than the tennis watching fail of late, but luckily Victoria rocks the shit out of it, and it turned out awesome.

Note: This isn’t a year end wrap-up yet, though we did touch on the odd WTA thing looking ahead to next year. We’ll likely have a full 2010 wrap-up one post-Davis Cup.

Sticky Situation

Posted by Brodie under: Headbandian, Muzz, Paris

11 Nov 2010

I’m blogging? Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

It’s true, I haven’t forgotten about this place. I’ve just been so damn busy, I’ve had to awkwardly place it aside and hope no one’s noticed. Regardless, I’ll have lots of time in December to attempt to entertain you/remind you of my existence with some year wrap-up posts, some lists, and some fun stuff. I hope to watch a solid amount of London next week too, since it’s at a pretty reasonable time for me. In the meantime…

Nalby/Muzz on a Wednesday? Yes please.

There’s something special about Nalby knowing that he’s playing better than his opponent, and his ability to pick them apart regardless of the surface. It’s got to be heaven for coaches. “Yes, be aggressive. Down the line? Perfect. Wow, I didn’t even think of that.”

There’s something equally as special as watching top 4 Andy Murray play, dumb, defensive tennis.

In the end, Muzz got his business together, got attacking, and got Nalby headcasing late in sets, and that was pretty well the match. As much as something could be said for Nalby’s collapse, we have to realize that Muzz is still the favourite, and his ability to get his head in the game, get on the attack, and play consistent and generally attacking tennis outside of his comfort zone on a psycho slick surface is impressive.

Next up for Andy is Marin. Last time they played?

Yeah. Marin made the semis of a slam. This year. Wot?

Overall, the draw is looking fun and Andy and Fed look like they’re on a crash course for a semi showdown barring any sort of freak accident. The other half, however, is a bit more stacked and features some great matchups. Definitely a nice draw and tourney to throw down right before the year ending WTF and Davis Cup final.

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap