Archive for the ‘The Week Ahead’ Category

24 Aug 2015

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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!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, rate, review and tell a friend!

18 Aug 2015

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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

1 Feb 2015

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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

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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

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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!

13 Sep 2012

(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.

24 Jun 2012

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

24 Jun 2012

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
Champion: Azarenka

26 May 2012

French Open Stadium

Official Site: Here
Mens’ Draw: Here
Ladies’ Preview Here

Djokovic’s Quarter, Top Half – It can never be intentional, but the top seed always seems to get an excellent path to the quarterfinal, and it has to be said that Djokovic’s first four matches will have to be nearly painfully straightforward. Only Melzer or Davydenko could even have him breaking sweat in the first three matches, and will never last for five sets. Verdasco is a potential fourth round match up, however it remains to be seen whether or not the Spaniard will make it that far, and he surely will not have what it takes to outlast the Djoker.

Likewise, the other side of the quarter sees fan and French favourite Tsonga with confidence boosting first four matches. He would likely get Simon or Wawrinka (how’s that for a third rounder, by the way) and should be able to handle either of those if he can keep his brain together. This should be a largely straight forward and upset free quarter.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Djokovic vs. Tsonga

Federer’s Quarter, Top Half – Things are far less straight forward for Federer, as it is immediately obvious that Nalbandian in the second round is a serious landmine that all tennis fans should be aware of and be looking forward to. It should be one of the first displays of world class tennis that will deserve every eye ball it gets. I don’t think Nalby will have what it takes, but he may push Fed to the limits of his game.

The other half of the draw seems destined for a Berdych/Delpo showdown. Before his US Open win and eventual injury, Delpo pushed Fed to five sets and nearly won. He has some of the most underrated defense on the tour, and his ability to consistently drive the ball deep and find the angles and big shots to finish points means that he is a considerable clay opponent for a big man. Regardless, Berdych, an insanely streaky player, is finding his groove and will feel he has a legitimate chance at Fed in the quarterfinals. A tough one to call.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Federer vs. Berdych

Murray’s Quarterfinal, Bottom Half – In a mirror reflection of the ladies’ draw, the third quarter offers up many more questions then it answers. Ferrer and Murray are the favourites to make the quarters, but many names, including many who have found recent success on clay, may toss things slightly out of position.

Isner could wait for Ferrer, a match-up that does not suit the Spaniard, though clay will give him an obvious advantage. Murray could meet Dolgopolov, and yes, Richard Gasquet. If memory serves correctly, Murray has come back down two sets to love TWICE to the Frenchman at Roland Garros. Always an intriguing match (though, when isn’t it with Murray on clay?). Perhaps the most difficult quarter to call.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Ferrer vs. Gasquet

Nadal’s Quarter, Bottom Half – Sven himself could not have drawn up a better draw for Nadal. Pico in the fourth round and Tipsarevic in the quarters is heavenly for the Spaniard. Both players who play a defensive, grind style. In other words, a lesser attempt at what Nadal plays, and a style Nadal routinely feasts on. Easy.

The only other real threat, Nico Almagro, is on Tipsarevic’s half of the quarter, and a player Nadal can easily outlast over five sets.

Beyond that, Nadal could easily take a Ferrer, Murray or Gasquet and grind them into a pulp in the semis. Again, these are not power players who push the ball deep or serve big on clay. They are players whose games match up perfectly for Nadal on clay. No Soderlings, no Isners, no Delpos. If you are a Rafanatic, give a prayer to the tennis gods before bed.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Nadal vs. Almagro

Predicted Semifinals: Djokvoic vs. Federer, Nadal vs. Ferrer
Predicted Final: Djokovic vs. Nadal
Champion: Nadal

26 May 2012

Official Site: Here
Ladies Draw: Here
Men’s Preview: Here

Azarenka Quarter, Top Half – This quarter is full of players who have had either a solid clay season, or a rather succesful six months, and may offer up many entertaining early round matches devoid of big names. Wozniak, Cibulkova, Cetovska, Halep, Safarova and even French youngster Caroline Garcia are names to keep an eye out for early.

This will be of little consequence to top seed Victoria Azarenka, however, as she will avoid most of these potentially dangerous names and should make the quarterfinals in rather straight forward fashion.

The main challenge for her will not come until the quarterfinals. Stosur sits on the opposite side. She will need to get past Petrova first, a match up that offered up an epic 3 set tilt at the US Open last year. Clay gives the advantage to Stosur, however, and I like her chances for success in Paris once again.

Despite some interesting names, there are very few players that can really threaten Azarenka or Stosur early. If you’re a fan of either of these players, you should like their chances, as do I.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Azarenka vs. Stosur

Radwanska Quarter, Top Half – It should be immediately clear that this quarter is minefield of early round matches and disasters waiting to happen. Radwanska has played an incredible amount of tennis this year, and I am not completely convinced of her chances on the slow Roland Garros clay. She gets Williams in the second, yes, SECOND round. Truly, that match is anyone’s guess.

Two other Roland Garros champions and possible hijackers of the apple cart are Ivanovic and Kuznetsova. Ivanovic may have a tricky match against Errani, who has been fantastic of late, in the third round. Regardless, her draw is rather do able and a fourth round finish is a must. Beyond that is not out of the question either.

Elsewhere, Bartoli and up and coming Kerber are on course for an absolute thriller of a fourth round bash. Pennetta and a recently of form Medina Garrigues will have other ideas, however. Personally, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Kerber this year and I really don’t think she will be stopping any time soon. Her power game translates well on to clay (rather like Kvitova or even a Stosur) and she will give Bartoli massive problems.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Ivanovic vs. Kerber

Kvitova’s Quarter, Bottom Half – Not only does this quarter feature the past two RG champions, it features both of last year’s finalists. In my opinion, this quarter is the most difficult to predict and will serve up the most upsets and largely bizaare results.

Schiavone, ranked only in the top 20 from her finalist points of last year, won Strasbourg this past week. She is a streaky player and thrives off confidence and the mental game. A successful week may just be the thing she needs to have a good week.

Similarly, Li Na is a player coming off success, the type of succes she may need to kickstart her championship defense. However, she has a tough first round opponent in Sorana Cirstea. Haha. No, really. Seriously. She should be fine, though.

Kvitova is coming off a rather serious injury, and in all honesty, I don’t think she will find much success here. Other question marks are raised by Zvonareva and Jankovic. Overall, however, the quarter is there for the taken.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Na vs. Schiavone

Sharapova’s Quarter, Bottom Half – This quarter should really come with an asterik of “Williams’ Quarter?” There are some other good clay grinders in this quarter, Wozniacki, Kirilenko, Rezai, Goerges… unfortunately all of these players have the exact wrong styles of game to upset the power houses of Masha or Serena. The end. There would have to be an absolute seismic collapse of one of these players or a career showing from one of these players to prevent the quarterfinal match we all want to have happen. I don’t see it happening.

Predicted Quarterfinal – Sharapova vs. Williams

Predicted Semifinals: Stosur vs. Kerber, Na vs. Sharapova
Predicted Final: Stosur vs. Sharapova
Champion: Sharapova

Mind The Racket Podcast:

Episode 5 – Federer and Serena Dominating, ATP and Halep