Archive for the ‘The Week Ahead’ Category
It’s the Mind The Racket Podcast, Episode 5! I’m joined by Bri AKA @4thetennis and we break down Federer and Serena’s impressive runs to the titles, the rest of the ATP’s chances at the US Open, Halep refinding her form and so much more!
Episode 4 of the now weekly Mind The Racket Podcast! Featuring Bri AKA @4thetennis. We talk Belinda, Serena, why the Kyrgios thing is such a big deal, Murray, Nadal and so much more!
Also available on iTunes. Subscribe! https://itunes.apple.com/si/podcast/mind-the-racket/id596038464?mt=2
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!
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!
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!
(0.5 Kim Sears’ hair > Yours)
1. Murray Really Does Have It In Him It was always going to be a matter of when, not if, but after Djokovic’s career year last year, there was significant questions about Murray finally breaking through and winning that first slam.
He needed a bit of luck, as many champions do, but his ability to realize it was his moment in the fifth and shut down a tiring Djokovic was truly impressive. I think it would be silly to start getting carried away thinking Murray is a big favourite to win the Australian, but suddenly he looks a legitimate chance to win at least one of three major titles next year, and that is a refreshing change.
2. Serena Williams – Greatest Ever?* It was tedious to sit through people wonder out loud if Serena was the greatest player years ago, when her amount of major titles barely stacked up to the 22 of Steffi Graf. While now only at 15, *Serena can’t be considered the greatest in terms of results, but surely has to be considered the best in terms of pure objective power and ability. McEnroe noted that having missed so much time, there’s a legitimate chance she could play for several more years and not get tired. She might have that 22 number in the back of her head, and if she does, watch out.
3. Super Saturday Doesn’t Work Regardless of whether or not it actually rains on Saturday, loading up the end of the week with so many important matches is suicidal, and has provided us with five straight Monday finals, going back to Federer over Murray in 2008. (That was 2008? I feel old). If it rains Thursday or Friday, the entire thing is basically screwed. As I mentioned many times, the decision on this is largely due to ratings for TV, and it needs to stop.
4. Jo Needs A Coach. Bad. It’s no secret that I’m a big Jo fan. He has massive power, but he’s also pretty natural, has a crafty element to his game, and is quick around the court, particularly back to front. However, while being coachless for a while has allowed Jo to stop thinking and go hit the ball, his loss to Klizan is unacceptable for someone of his quality. Sort it out, dude.
5. Azarenka The First Legitimate Top Player of the New Generation While Caro was number one for some time, it has been her friend and mirror image Victoria Azarenka who has made the biggest surge for the upper levels of the game. The spoiled brat syndrome has all but been converted into a cool confidence (hashtag #Vikaswag please) that has pushed her to the next level of mental strength. Outside of Roland Garros, she has to be in the conversation to win any of the other major titles next year, and arguably had the second best year to only Serena.
6. There Is Still a Place for Crafty Fighters Maybe it’s come from their great success as a doubles team, but despite being no match for Serena, both Errani and partner Vinci made some impressive runs this US Open. As far as the women’s game has come with big hitters and big servers, they can still be prone to having their game break down, and players who really want to fight to the end can always have a chance on their day. Likewise, Vinci uses some mega slice on her backhand that throws off players who like it simple and flat. A lesson a lot of players could learn.
7. Delpo a Threat Again There wasn’t a whole lot between him and Djokovic, despite the close score. Quality over quantity (of sets won), my friends. This was always going to be an important year for del Potro to really push his game to get back to the top. Now ranked sixth and likely playing the World Tour Finals, JMDP is now setup to get some nice draws and push deep into the second weeks of slams. Get it, son.
8. Ivanovic Steadying the Ship – Slowly It’s hard to believe this was the former number 1s first slam quarterfinal since she last won one at the 2008 Roland Garros. I don’t need to remind Ana fans that it has been a pretty terrible fall from grace. Regardless, Ana appears to be figuring it out, and by that I mean finding that controlled, consistent aggression she once had. She can beat the players she should be beating. The ball toss and serving in general remains an issue, but the ground strokes and brain problems are really starting to find a happy medium, which is a positive sign heading to 2013.
9. Canada Looks Strong You know who I’m talking about. Filip Peliwo of course! The kid is on fire, and made all four junior slam finals this year, winning Wimbledon and the US Open. Junior success never automatically translates to senior success, but he seems to be a genuinely great kid as well as having a real controlled competitiveness to him. He’ll need to keep working, like any junior, to bulk up a bit, among other things, but he already looks like he has a bright future ahead of himself. Oh, and yeah, Milos had a great tournament, falling to Murray in the fourth round.
10. WTA Full of Impressive Youngsters Sloane Stephens equaled her 2011 fourth round result and Laura Robson matched it. These two ladies, YOUNG ladies, have tremendous attitudes and tremendous power. I’m absolutely convinced they have top 20 stuff, likely top 10, as they already impress and are no where near turning 20. Believe the hype, these kids are the real deal.
Women’s Draw Preview Here
Top Half – Djokovic’s Quarter
Overall, this looks like a pretty straight forward quarter for Novak. He avoids many of the big serving floaters. A second round clash against Harrison should give him a good push and force him to look towards top gear.
Waiting for him in the quarters is likely to be Tomas Berdych. It’s nearly impossible to predict what you’re going to get from the T-Berd, but his best tends to show up at Wimbledon. If it does, he will make the quarterfinals without difficulties.
A potential Djokovic/Berdych match-up is a big wonder. Berdych’s serve is massive when on, but Djokovic is an excellent returner. It is very plausible that he will be able to get more balls back to Berdych, and then get to shots immediately after that. Djokovic’s ability to play defense on grass will likely plant the seeds of doubt in Berdych’s mind and I like him to get through a test such as that.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Djokovic vs. Berdych
Top Half – Federer’s Half
Once again the potential for a Federer/Djokovic semifinal looks ripe and ready for the picking; and the tournament hasn’t even started yet. Really, Fed’s draw is THAT easy. Simon and Tipsarevic are the other top seeds, and all players Fed can and will devour on grass.
The only name that in any way sticks out at me in this quarter is Isner. Yes, another Isner/Mahut match (three years running!) is possible. Tree still has massive difficulties with returning, but when he’s on his game, he can take tiebreaks off anyone on grass, and that is good enough. As much as it’s a favourable draw for Fed, you have to think it is for Tree too.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Federer vs. Isner
Bottom Half – Murray’s Draw
With all eyes turning from football to tennis, the lens will once again focus on Andy Murray. The tennis gods have not been kind to him, unfortunately, as tons of dangerous floaters lurk around nearly every corner of this draw. Literally.
Roddick, Cilic, Raonic, Querrey… and even Karlovic in the second round. Obviously Murray won’t have to play every one of these players, but there is a very good chance he will play Karlovic, one of Cilic, Raonic or Querrey, and lastly Roddick. These are all winnable, albeit incredibly difficult matches.
Overall, I’ve largely been underwhelmed with what I have seen from Murray this year. He has lacked that creative spark much of the time and his self-defeatist attitude continues to take it’s toll. While the home crowd tends to help him, playing against big servers requires a ton of patience, and Andy’s patience will be tested to the limit in this quarter.
Special shoutout has to go to Raonic. He was injured in the second round of Wimbledon last year and we never really got to see what he could do on grass. In Halle of this year he was good but not great, losing in a third set breaker to Federer. That added intensity of a grand slam (there was zero atmosphere in Halle until later in the match) will help Raonic with his focus. Likewise, coach Galo Blanco is always looking to push Raonic’s game to new levels, and will likely address the first shot after the serve as well as the ongoing improvement of movement. Could we see a five set Raonic/Roddick epic in the quarters?
Predicted Quarterfinal: Roddick vs. Raonic
Bottom Half – Nadal’s Quarter
After winning Roland Garros last year, the bitter disappointment of not regaining his Wimbledon crown was obvious after a scrappy final in 2011. Nadal will be hungrier and more confident than ever.
His draw is a big boost, avoiding so many of those big servers who could be problems (since they all ended up in Murray’s first 1/8th) for far tamer versions in Dodig and Lopez. These are players that he should and will beat. At first glance the other side of the quarter seems troublesome, with a Fish/Jo fourth rounder looming. Luckily for him, this should be a quarter easily dealt with. Fish has been injured and missing for some time now.
Jo is a different story, and continues to be one of the more fascinating players on the tour for me. Jo is the complete package, but has difficulty piecing it all together. For him, grass is his safe haven, and he has called it his best surface. On clay, Jo has difficulty with decisions on his shots; when to go for it? When to rely on athleticism? Does athleticism automatically equal effective defense? On grass, Jo not obviously shows off his power, but he goes for it. He absolutely goes for it. It’s why his comeback against Federer last year remains one of the most amazing comebacks in tennis history. Against the greatest grass player ever, Jo simply threw caution to the wind, bombed his serve, and whipped forehands out wide to devastating effect. Fed had no answer. No one would have.
If Jo can get over his difficult defeat to Djokovic in Paris, he can and will give Nadal problems. However, I’m not sure if Jo can mentally outlast Nadal in five sets.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Nadal vs. Tsonga
Predicted Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Federer, Nadal vs. Roddick
Predicted Final: Djokovic vs. Nadal
Predicted Champion: Djokovic
Top Half – Sharapova’s Quarter
It was only two weeks ago that Maria Sharapova completed the career slam, with all four under her belt. It was a long eight years ago that a 17 year old Sharapova won her first ever grand slam on the speedy lawns of London. The distance between these two staggering facts makes Sharapova the most intriguing story for this fortnight.
Lest we forget, Sharapova made the final of Wimbledon last year. She went out with a whimper, however, against the big hitting Petra Kvitova. It has been a common theme versus Serena Williams and was the same story at this year’s Australian Open against Azarenka. Sharapova only has one way of playing, and it overwhelms the vast majority of opponents. However, those who hit hard and take matters into their own hands give Sharapova cause for caution, and that’s why her draw is incredibly important to her success at this tournament.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much worse for her. She has Pironkova second round, and possibly Lisicki fourth round, followed by Kerber or Clijsters in the quarters. While she can not face Kvitova, Azarenka or Serena until the final, it is far from smooth sailing for the Russian. Winning back to back slams has become somewhat of a rarity in the WTA and while Sharapova has to be the favourite for the title, I really think this draw could and will get to her at some hurdle. She might be a difficult pick for winning it overall.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Sharapova vs. Kerber
Top Half – Radwanska’s Quarter
Unfortunately, grass has never really been Aga’s surface and never will be. She will out smart and out drop shot opponents that she can dictate. However, up against a power player she is likely to be overwhelmed. A second round blockbuster against Venus Williams may derail her hopes before they’ve even set up on the runway.
The next seeded favourite is Sam Stosur. As a player who relies on a kick serve and getting on top of the ball, Wimbledon and grass in general will never be a welcoming place for her.
Beyond that there are many question mark floaters. Li Na comes to mind, but she is incredibly streaky and has never made it past the quarterfinals here. Petrova? Dani? Kiri? CIRSTEA?! Players rarely look at their draw, but if they have, they should be thrilled with this quarter which appears to be the one that will be incredibly open and entirely unpredictable.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Radwanska vs. Li
Bottom Half – Kvitova’s Quarter
There is very little in this quarter outside of the potential Kvtiova/Serena match-up that almost certainly will happen barring disaster. So what of it? These are the types of matches Serena loves. A chance to defeat the defending champion and make headlines once again. It doesn’t hurt that Serena can work her way into this tournament with some players she should and likely will absolutely dominate.
One name to watch out for in this quarter is Laura Robson. She’s a growing girl and has had some difficulties with health and injuries, but she has the type of game that is just shouting out for a coming out party. A first round match against Franny is difficult, as she will have to manage the creativity of Schiavone. At the same time, she has the power to push Schiavone who can become incredibly error happy at the worst of times. After that the draw opens up, and could open up even more than that. A surprise fourth round run, and a further push up the rankings? It’s possible. Keep an eye on that one.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Kvitova vs. Williams
Bottom Half – Azarenka’s Half
Azarenka truly came to form at the beginning of the season en route to her Australian Open win. She showed the mental strength necessary and absolutely went for it; with devastating results. This nearly reckless abandon will be necessary again if she hopes to make it past her best ever result of a 2011 semifinal. With eyes focused on Sharapova, Kvitova, and the Williams sisters, this may be the perfect opportunity for Vika to continue doing her thing and spring a trap. I, for one, think she may. Azarenka has the confidence and discipline to routine the players she should, and that is incredibly necessary in grand slams and particularly Wimbledon where a good start in matches and the tournament overall is incredibly important.
Her opponent is likely to be Marion Bartoli or Caroline Wozniacki. Bartoli plays a similar style to Azarenka with weaker movement and a less devastating forehand, and I like her chances to get through a quarterfinal against her.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Azarenka vs. Bartoli
Predicted Semifinals: Kerber vs. Li, Azarenka vs. Williams
Predicted Final: Kerber vs. Azarenka