Archive for the ‘Australian Open’ Category

1 Feb 2015

logo good

Episode the third! Brodie and Juan Jose discuss number five for Djokovic, Murray’s collapse, Serena’s legacy, the emergence of young players like Madison Keys, Nick Kyrgios, Garbine Muguruza and much, much more.

iTunes, Stitcher and subscription information coming on Monday!

25 Jan 2015

logo good

The Mind The Racket Podcast returns for a second episode! Bri (@4TheTennis) joins Brodie to recap and share thoughts on the first week of the Australian Open. How good is Murray right now? How bad was Dimitrov’s collapse? Nadal, Azarenka, Keys, Goerges, grunting on volleys and so much more!

iTunes, Stitcher and subscription information forth coming!

18 Jan 2015

logo good

It’s the very first Mind The Racket podcast! Juan Jose (@jjvallejoa) joins Brodie to look ahead to the 2015 season and the Australian Open. Will the Big 4 still be a thing? Which young guy is most likely to win a slam first? What sort of impact will the new coaches on the WTA make? All that, and we take a quick peak at both draws and talk about what excites us and make a few predictions.

iTunes, Stitcher and subscription information forth coming!

17 Jan 2015

Novak Djokovic (SRB) And Andy Murray (GBR). Day 14. Mens Singles Final. Australian Open Grand Slam Tennis Championship. Rod laver Arena, Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 27/01/2013. Photo By Lucas Wroe

Novak’s Quarter

It’s not often we get such a juicy first round match in the ATP, but Del Potro vs Janowicz is certainly that, even if neither seems likely to make a particularly deep run in this tournament. It should be must watch, early round tennis and may just end up as one of the night matches. Sigh, DelPo. This makes us all so sad. He’s already withdrawn.

But of course, this is Novak’s quarter, and he couldn’t have asked for a nicer run to the quarterfinals. As good as Bautista Agut can be, he’s not going to have the weapons to trouble Djokovic.

His likely opponent is Raonic, but sadly Milos may have some very tricky hurdles. Julien Benneteau will put him under pressure, and if he can make it that far, Feli Lopez is a serious problem in the fourth round, as could be Gael Monfils. It’s difficult to call that section, however, and assuming Feli Lopez will make it through his first three matches is probably asking a bit much.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Djokovic vs Raonic

Stan’s Quarter

This is a huge tournament for Stan Wawrinka. Stan was so impressive en route to taking this title last season, but fell off rather significantly after and never looked quite as impressive. He has his own quarter, and needs a good result to keep his ranking up where it is.

His first three matches should be straight forward, but beyond that, things get brutal, and quickly. He’s likely to face either Dolgopolov or Pospisil in the fourth round (Fabio “The Fog Machine” Fognini is still terrible on hard courts) and the Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals. Pospisil looked good at Hopman Cup, and played Wawrinka tough in Chennai last year before being forced to retire. That said, I like that Stan should be able to play himself into this tournament.

Things are hardly straight forward for Nishikori, who gets a brutal first round match against Nicolas Almagro. Dodig, Giraldo, and possibly Ferrer is hardly a cake walk, and that’s just to earn a chance to likely play Wawrinka. All of that said, I loved what I saw from Nishikori against Raonic in Brisbane, and he clearly has no problem sustaining a high level over long matches and should grind out any of these names if things get dicey.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Wawrinka vs Nishikori

Rafa’s Quarter

Let’s be honest – this quarter is going to be an absolute mess. In theory, it belongs to Rafael Nadal, who would be slated to meet Berdych in the quarterfinals. The chance of either of them making it that far feels low, and Nadal gets a seriously difficult first round opponent in Mikhail Youzhny. The Youz isn’t a problem for Nadal in theory, but his health and overall level remains a serious question. Looming in the third round? Lukas Rosol. Ouch.

Flying around in Berdych’s section are a whole bunch of wild names. Gulbis/Kokkinakis itself is a first round match. Tomic. Kohlschreiber. We’ve seen entire quarters implode in the WTA, and I think we need to start getting used to the idea of that in the ATP. My first two quarter predictions were boring, this one? Not so much.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Kohlschreiber vs. Anderson

Roger’s Quarter

At first glance, a quarter containing Roger Federer and odd-man-outside-of-the-top-4 Andy Murray should be a fun one. That quarterfinal certainly would be, but there isn’t much else here that gets the blood pumping. I would love to see a Federer and Robredo fourth round match, after Robredo took out Federer in the 2013 US Open. Outside of Nick Kyrgios, this section is Kyrgios-ly boring. I certainly don’t mind his chances of making the fourth round, too.

The top half of this quarter is pretty similar. Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov are the massive favourites to play in the fourth round, though I do like Martin Klizan, and he could give Murray a bit of a push.

I like this section for Dimitrov a lot. Dimitrov remarkably tossed Murray from Wimbledon in straight sets last year, but he also squeaked out a fantastic semifinal win against him in Mexico which was on courts pretty similar to Australia. His early round matches should be straight forward, and I think he is a real threat in this section.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Dimitrov vs Federer

Predicted Semifinals – Djokovic vs Nishikori, Kohlschreiber (how did this happen?) vs Dimitrov
Predicted Final – Djokovic vs Dimitrov
Predicted Champion – Djokovic

17 Jan 2015

WTA AO Preview

Serena’s Quarter

What a quarter, and what a way to kick this tournament off. Stephens vs. Azarenka, Wozniacki vs. Townsend, the winners play each other in the second round. Azarenka has to be one of the players to watch in 2015. After an injury riddled 2014, her ranking has some serious bouncing back to do, and she’ll be in tough right out of the blocks this year.

Ultimately, this is Serena’s quarter to lose, and she looks in good shape to make it through. Azarenka feels like the most likely player to challenge her, but that would not be until the quarter finals, and is far from a guarantee. A looming Jankovic vs. Muguruza is a looming third round match that would be must see stuff. Lastly, Pironkova vs. Watson is a fantastic first round match as well. And this is just the first quarter. Tasty.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Williams vs. Wozniacki

Petra’s Quarter

Sadly, the second quarter leaves a lot to be desired. There aren’t too many names that get the blood pumping, and there certainly aren’t as many intriguing early round matches. It’s tough to rely on Kvitova in what is typically extreme Australian heat, too.

It’s early, but I was so impressed with Madison Keys’ counter punching victory over Cibulkova to kick off the year in Brisbane. It’s easy to describe her as a big hitter, but what she really loves is when opponents give her pace to send back at them. This was evident against Domi as she routinely stepped inside the baseline and smacked forehands for winners. This section is full of players that Keys could be effective against, as long as she’s healthy.

The rest of this section pretty clearly belongs to Aga Radwanska, who probably shouldn’t have much reason to be scared in her first four matches, and might just make the quarterfinals without dropping a set. It’s that straight forward.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Keys vs. Radwanska

Simona’s Quarter

The rest of the draw looks likely to offer up plenty of excitement, and personally, find it overall much more intriguing than the men’s. Ivanovic and Halep are slated to meet in the quarters, but there are all sorts of sneaky, scary dark horses in this section. Pliskova has had an excellent start to the season and looks more increasingly like she can slap just about anyone off the court. Makarova had a quietly excellent 2014 and is, believe it or not, the 10th seed. Belinda Bencic! Pavs! Hell, Sabine Lisicki!

Halep absolutely rolled in Shenzhen, and as biased as I am, she has become excellent and doing away with lesser opponents with little to no nonsense. She has to be a heavy favourite for this quarter.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Makarova vs. Halep

Maria’s Quarter

And finally, the Queen and her heir to the Pretty Blonde Nike Throne, it’s Maria and Genie. The two of them facing off in a slam quarterfinal would be delicious. The question is – can they both make it there?

Sharapova first. She should be able to roll through her first four rounds, but I don’t mind Safarova’s chances at all. Lucie should be able to escape her section. If the two of them do meet, and Lucie’s forehand is working (which you would assume it would be), it could be a very difficult match for Sharapova. That said, Lucie needs to make it through the first three rounds, and that is hardly a guarantee.

Bouchard’s section is straight forward if not for Kerber. Duncurrber has one of the most unorthodox but fascinating styles of play, and her general lack of creation of pace gives Bouchard problems. Genie doesn’t always create a ton of pace on her own and it allows Kerber to start dictating by changing direction off the left handed forehand, especially because she’s likely to see lots of those coming cross court from Bouchard snatching at her backhand. Sadly, she might just ruin the Blonde Nike Party.

Predicted quarterfinal – Kerber vs. Sharapova

Predicted Semifinals – Williams vs. Radwanska, Halep vs. Sharapova
Predicted Final - Williams vs. Halep
Predicted Champion – Serena Williams

25 Jan 2014

Roger Federer Australian Open Nadal

Tennis hasn’t always been played this way.

The history of the sport of tennis is typically divided into two eras with the dawn of “The Open Era”, a sort of Anno Domini that began when Roland Garros became the first tournament to open its doors to professionals in 1968. However, the game that was played in 1968 hardly resembles the game that is played today.

We all know that the change from wooden racquets to modern technology in the 1980s had an incredible impact on the sport – perhaps an impact leading to the most significant change of any widely played modern sport. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the ancient method of serving and volleying, a tactic that had brought so many so much success, was beginning to be viewed as an outdated strategy to win matches at the highest level of the sport.

This wasn’t just down to the new racquet technology. Yes, players were getting better at dismantling and expecting serving and volleying when returning, such as Marat Safin’s rout of Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final. But they were also starting to find more success by staying at the back of the court when serving. This has little to do with a purposeful tactical shift and everything to do with the increased strength, speed and stamina of players in the modern sporting age. Simply put, tennis players weren’t just great tennis players anymore – they were also elite athletes.

Perhaps the best example comes from Andre Agassi’s book “Open”, where he recounts his wild drop in ranking and success. Agassi wasn’t playing well, but above all else, wasn’t fit enough. His rise from the embers of the Challenger circuit were widely down to the success of his trainer Gil Reyes who had Agassi completing vigourous workouts specifically designed for tennis players, eating properly, and hydrating properly on court with something that Agassi affectionately called “Gil Juice”.

Today, the practices that Reyes employed are a given for all players (and still employed with the Adidas team). However, at the time, they were seen as progressive and even revolutionary. That was less than 20 years ago.

Today there can be no doubt that the top tennis players are among the upper tiers of the world’s best athletes.

In 2013, Roger Federer had his worst year since 2002. Was it the back? Was it the racquet? Could he find a way to play more aggressively? Could he improve his serve? People wanted answers. After his defeat of Andy Murray at this year’s 2014 Australian Open, the narrative was simple – the aggressive play we come to expect from Federer was back. Federer was back to his old self. Before his semifinal match against Nadal, commentator Nick Lester, while also stating Nadal’s blister and perceived lack of freshness, went as far to say “the way Federer has played here… I think he has a real shot here. If I was putting my money down, I’d be looking at Federer in 3 of 4 sets.” Federer was then dismissed with ease as Nadal won in straight sets.

We know that sports science has pushed the athletic heights of tennis into the stratosphere. Despite all of this, there has been little talk about perhaps the most obvious and least sexy topics when it comes to Federer: he’s getting older. So what can we learn from other major sports when it comes to aging and decline?
Read the rest of this entry »

19 Jan 2014

Logo 1400
Brodie and Juan Jose discuss the stand outs of the opening week or so of the Australian Open, including Ivanovic, Muguruza, Dimitrov, Bautista-Agut and many more. They also introduce a brand new segment, and talk about some of the more interesting things players had to say this week.

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

10 Jan 2014

Logo 1400
The whole crew plus Jeff Sackmann (@tennisabstract) do a quarter by quarter break down of the men’s side of the Australian Open, picking out potential good matches, who we think will deep, and who we think will ultimately win the whole thing. Delicious!
Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

10 Jan 2014

Logo 1400
The whole crew plus Jeff Sackmann (@tennisabstract) do a quarter by quarter break down of the women’s side of the Australian Open, picking out potential good matches, who we think will deep, and who we think will ultimately win the whole thing. Do it up!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

29 Jan 2013

Sorana Cirstea AO 2

1. Business as Usual at the Top

I noted last year that while it felt like a bit of an odd season for the ATP, it was really incredibly predictable. Each of the top 4 men won the major title that they typically do well at. While Murray’s defeat of Federer is a significant note towards Federer’s incredibly slow but inevitable decline, it was really business as usual. Without Nadal in the top 4, the void was filled by Ferrer, without a doubt the most consistent guy out of the big 4, and the door was essentially slammed in his face by Djokovic. This top 4 thing doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to it’s finish.

2. Azarenka Enters Eliteness

Arguments about the drama aside, both the mental strength and physical strength shown by Azarenka to come through and defend her title really was “the stuff of champions”. When Azarenka’s name used to be mentioned, it was game first and mental strength second. Her collapses against Serena in Australia were the stuff of nightmarish legends. Suddenly, the fact that she’s still number 1 and finding ways to win difficult matches is the story. Very few people are talking about the fact that Azarenka is playing some incredibly top tennis at the moment and smoking the ball with little remorse. Embrace her in the discussion amongst the top, everyone. Vika and her grunt aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

3. Ball Don’t Lie: Jo and Rasheed Works

I’ll fully admit that I am a massive Jo fan. He’s one of those “five tool” guys who can literally do anything on a tennis court. Yet, his overall tactics, and at times, attitude or mental strength tend to fail him depending on the situation. His controlled aggression and ability to get down and find another boost of energy against Federer was refreshing. Jo was fighting and finding new ways to win points. There was a self belief there. Commentators noted that Tsonga said he enjoys working with his new coach because of the language barrier, and he really has to stop and think about what Rasheed is saying. Jo definitely seems like one of those guys who can act a lot without thinking (at times his aggression is insane, other times he looks like he just learned how to play tennis a week ago), and obviously there are a few key things that he is really taking to heart. A balanced Jo is a winning Jo, and I hope we get to see more of that in the clay season.

4. Li Na Here To Stay

I refused to buy into a lot of the Li Na hype being thrown around the past couple of years, mostly because I’ve been largely unimpressed by her game, and her age worried me. It’s becoming very clear that neither of these things are much of an issue, suddenly. Nails missed a lot of time earlier in her career, and the regular wear and tear hasn’t taken it’s toll to the same level as a regular 30-something tennis player. Li Na’s movement has always been her biggest issue, leading to her game to be incredibly erratic at times. It appears to have really improved under Carlos, particularly on the backhand wing which has almost instantly gone from, at times, a liability, to a super weapon. She’s making small adjustments on tough balls to play some defense instead of the one way train of “crush everything possible”. It’s another dimension that her game desperately needed, and will serve her well on the clay of Paris.

5. Andy Murray Still Not Over Final Funk

Listen. Tennis is great for narratives. Murray’s win in the gold medal final was fantastic, and he won the US Open title. But it shouldn’t be ignored that Djokovic played terribly in the first two sets of that final, turned it on, won two sets, and then basically collapsed. Murray failed to break Djokovic a single time in the Australian Open final. If Djokovic, Federer or Nadal played in a slam final, four sets, nearly four hours, and failed to break their opponent there would be serious questions being ask. Djokovic is receiving praise for this win, as he should, but Murray was incredibly impressive, and still lacks an ability to create in sticky situations.

6. Sloane Stephens is Legit

I always had a feeling Sloane Stephens was going to break through before Robson, Watson or McHale. Raw power goes incredibly far in the WTA, and players who can use that power to both 1) hit it inside the lines with some sort of consistency and 2) make decent decisions with it are going to win considerable amounts of matches. Along with the other three, Stephens has a great head on her shoulders, isn’t getting ahead of herself, and seems to be comfortable with the media. She turns 20 in March. Suddenly, she is no longer a “player to watch”. She is a legitimate player who could be knocking on the door of the top 10 before you know it. I think she’s that good.

7. Grigor Dimitrov Needs Some Work

Lordy. Remember when we were all GRIGOR DIMITROV HAS ARRIVED!…? I bit my tongue. The way Dimitrov hits the ball is eerily similar to Federer, and it’s nice to look at. Yes, his face is nice to look at too. But Dimitrov still lacks something essential, and that’s depth. It seems to be getting better, but some good wins in Brisbane does not make a top 10 player. One handed backhands are pretty things, but they need to be effective. Dimitrov’s backhand still hovers around in the Gasquet school of loopy yet ineffective backhands. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of positive signs in Brisbane, and I think he could be poised for a good year, but let’s not all claim him as the next big thing quite yet.

8. Delpo Where Art Thou?

Similar to my Jo love, my Delpo love is well documented. He had a great season last year to get back into the top 10 and really get fully healthy. Now is the time to go for it. He’s been pretty notoriously crap at the Australian Open and this year is along the same disappointing lines. It’s not easy, but an opportunity to challenge the top 4 is definitely there. Delpo is incredibly underrated on clay, and it would be lovely to see him crush some balls and get back into the groove before the hard court swing starts.

9. Azarenka’s Media Skills Come Back To Hurt Her

If you’re reading this, you know what happened with Azarenka and Stephens. Azarenka took a medical timeout which may or may not have been legitimate at a questionable time. Stephens’ coach called it “cheating within the rules”. Afterwards, Azarenka was hammered. Regardless of what you make of it, there is something much deeper to this whole situation.

Some have claimed that Azarenka has been “interrogated” and mistreated by the press. This may be true. It needs to be said, however, that Azarenka has done herself zero favours. I’ve been in those rooms, and I hear things. It’s simple human nature. It’s hard not to love a player like Petkovic, who comes in, gives good answers, and understands that the people in the room are there to do a job, and a job that is ultimately good for the sport that she plays. She once asked at the end of a press conference that I was in “are you guys good?”

Azarenka is largely uninterested in press. She often defers to her support group and is cold and mistrusting of the media. The media is not always the most lovable of group, but they will definitely warm to those willing to help them out. The fact that Azarenka may have been so affected by the media and others calling her out for medical timeout should teach her a harsh lesson about the power of the media and of fans.

10. Tennis Fans and Their Drama

Perhaps this isn’t something learned, but the amount of off court drama that came with this year’s first major was at times staggering. The Azarenka story above, the courts being too slow, players slipping and sliding, Tsonga’s comments… and now, finally, as more information comes out about doping in cycling and baseball, the spotlight somehow turns to tennis. Tennis has come a long way in a short time, along with other sports. The major difference of tennis to other sports is the technology. The rackets players use today have next to nothing in common with the wooden rackets of days gone by. Yet baseball players still use wood, football players still use their feet… Suddenly, the word “superhuman” has come to imply “unnatural”, as if there is no way top tennis players could have come this far so quickly without performance enhancing. A quick look on the changes of tennis’ racket technology, surfaces, and sports science and nutrition on a whole will see that this curve is entirely expected in a sport relatively young in its professional growth. So please, before you start throwing around steroid allegations, particularly those not as familiar with tennis, stop and think for a moment.

Mind The Racket Podcast:

Episode 3 – Australian Open Finals, Week 2 Wrap