23 Jun 2015


Belinda Bencic is a Tank

Belinda Bencic defeated defending Eastbourne champion Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 in under an hour.

Belinda Bencic used a variety of serves and placements at an absurd 82% to avoid facing a break point all match.

Belinda Bencic took advantage of Keys’ weaknesses, keeping the ball consistently deep to create attackable balls she could put angles on.

Belinda Bencic drove to the net brilliantly to force Keys to have to hit a fantastic passing shot – she rarely did.

Belinda Bencic can get low and absorb pace, making her well suited to grass.

Belinda Bencic is coached by Martina Hingis, and it shows.

Belinda Bencic is 18 years old.

Belinda Bencic is a tank.

21 Jun 2015


One of the greatest things about the WTA is the wild and obvious contrast in styles across players. Never is that more obvious than when two players who excel on a particular surface for different reasons face off in tight final like we saw Sunday in Birmingham, as Kerber inched past Pliskova in three sets, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.

Pliskova has come a long way in the past year, and it really starts with her improved movement. She’s tall and long, and can crush the ball. She’s never going to be a player who can run around and defend, but her problems largely arose from the fact that she could only really attack the ball if it popped up into her hitting zone. Otherwise, there were a lot of flat footed, poor errors.

Her improved movement gets her to the ball a half step quicker, and suddenly she’s able to attack balls in a trickier spot, or on the run. She did this brilliantly at the end of the first set and for flashes in the third. Everyone always talks about being aggressive, but that is always built out of making two good shots. Pliskova routinely hit a deep, flat ball cross court, received a short, cross court return right back to where she was standing, and then crushed it down the line, from both wings. When she was doing this, she stayed patient and often smacked it into the same corner a few times – she knew it was deep enough that Kerber couldn’t change direction, and she was in control.

The difference in the match really  came when Pliskova lost some of her depth in the second set. Kerber’s fantastic ability to keep her swings short is incredibly effective against those who use pace. It also means that it’s a highly repeatable motion, and she can change direction in a safe but effective way – a true counterpuncher.

Furthermore, she loves to get crafty. Her drop shots and variety disrupted Pliskova’s comfort on the baseline, and slowed the pace of rallies down.

All in all, Kerbz is a treat on grass and this was a well earned first title on the surface. Her ability to squat down and ping balls back is fantastic. She can counters big hitters not just with a change in direction, but with drop shots and effective lobs and passing shots.

Both of these players are certainly ones to watch for at Wimbledon, particularly if the match up is right. Pliskova should dominate opponents who struggle to hit with consistent depth and impose themselves, and Kerber should gobble up bigger hitting, lower ranked players or those who like to run but have less craft than her.

Wimbledon can’t come soon enough.

19 Jun 2015


– Grass court tennis remains one of the oddest phenomenons in all of sport. The surface the sport was initially played on outdoors gets all of five weeks in the spotlight of the tour. The switch from clay is beyond jarring, and it’s as if the entirety of both tours travel to the moon to play. They might as well.

– Three weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon is fantastic. More tournaments and time gives players more opportunity to setup their schedule as they see fit. In my opinion, the added week between has seen the quality of Queen’s be particularly high, and it’s clear players have had the chance to get used to the speed and conditions.

– Grass is a great time to watch some weird players, particularly those who don’t hit too hard. Kerber and Gilles have been a blast as they’ve dug out ankle height balls, hit absurd running passing shots, and used spin and low dipping shots to frustrate their opponents and dictate play in a way that is only possible on such a low bouncing surface.

– Gilles Muller played the perfect first set against Andy Murray, giving a master class on how to beat him. Murray thrives when his opponent starts hitting into space and creating angles. He will push his opponent even further out wide, and use his creativity and variety to end points, as well as getting to net on grass.

– Muller served and volleyed effectively, but he also kept the ball central and played safe during rallies, which tamed Murray. Furthermore, he approached the net on shots that were effectively deep and right at Murray, instead of creating an angle and approaching. The onus was on Murray to come up with his own spectacular angle, and failed time after time. A great example of how to play up and down on grass, not left to right.

– If you get a chance to watch Yen Hsun Lu at Wimbledon, do so. A shorter player who loves to keep the ball low, he forces some seriously old timey, long grass rallies at such a consistency that you can’t help but enjoy yourself, regardless of who is on the other side of the net.

– Much has been made of Halep struggling with her serve, but for me, her lack of confidence in her backhand is what is really costing her. She does such an excellent job of pushing opponents around by creating angles from the middle of the court, and going inside out. She’s still doing that with her forehand, but when the time comes to do it on the backhand side, or even go down the line with it, she tends to hit it much more central and safe, or worse, go for it and make an error. It’s just not on, and it’s freezing up her entire style of play, and what makes her so effective, especially when returning.

– Most people called Raonic’s loss to Simon a choke – he missed several simple forehand returns in the final game – but it was clear he was exhausting, and nearly panting between points at the end. His stamina will return, and with another week off to train and a day off in between during Wimbledon, he looks in good shape for the third slam of the season. Serving huge, hitting effective inside out forehands, and playing pretty well at net are all great signs. The sneaking in on very poor approach shots still needs to go, however, especially when he needs to defend the passing shot on his backhand.

– Poor Delpo. The big man posted a nearly tearful video to YouTube several days ago, announcing that it is not tendinitis effecting his left wrist, but damage to the tendon that will require yet another surgery. He hasn’t played since Miami of this year, and with the traditional big 4 failing to impress at times, we certainly could have used him in 2015. Here’s hoping he can have a fully healthy season in 2016.

– I haven’t seen enough of Bouchard to really know what’s going on, but what a disappointing drop off this has been. In her loss to Mladenovic, she looked like a very bad Julia Goerges circa 2013. Hitting incredibly safe, nothing forehands while at other times going for insane winners she had no business going for. In other words, she lacked patience to hit the ball into space, stay solid from the baseline and actually construct points. And as she got frustrated, things went off the rails and she was easily bageled in the third set. It’s not looking good.

18 Jun 2015

It’s been a while.

When I started this blog, I had no idea where it would take me. I was in university, and I had a lot of time and ideas on my hands. It allowed me to write about the sport I am most passionate about, and gain a following. It has led me to cover multiple Rogers Cups as media, the Raonic vs Sampras exhibition, and even work in the ATP production truck keeping stats for the 2014 Rogers Cup.

Unfortunately, we all have to grow up sometime, and once I eventually finished school my time for watching and covering tennis diminished. The past two years have been particularly difficult, as I’ve worked a physically demanding job during the day causing me to miss nearly all of Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and other European tournaments that happen during the day in North America, with little energy left at the end of the day. But all of this has changed.

I’m back.

Saddled with a move to Toronto and a new job that is primarily during the evening and far less taxing, I’m excited to resurrect the blog and the podcast. I’ll finally have both the time to watch tennis during the day and the energy to write about it. In fact, my plans are much bigger than that. My hope is to treat this as a second job, and be able to cover the sport to a level that those who do not have the same kind of time to be able to keep up can turn to my tweets, blog posts and podcasts to stay up to date. I plan on pushing the podcast beyond it’s typical weekly round up format that I’ve done in the past, try out Periscope – all sorts of things. I’ll kick it off with a return to one of my favourite recurring formats, Ponder the Racket, which I plan on doing every Thursday from here on out.

Spread the word. It’s good to talk tennis again.

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!

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

14 Jan 2015

It’s been a while. The blog was once a common spot for me to get my thoughts out into the world, and after a busy year last year, I’m ready to return to regular blogging. The mailbag returns, up at the beginning of every week. I hope to make Thursday the day where I post Ponder The Racket, a collection of random assorted thoughts. There’s a podcast in the works and of course there will be plenty of other posts including full previews of both Australian Open draws, match analysis and so much more.

Shout out to Katie for this week’s mailbag. She sent in a bunch of brilliant questions and I’m going to get to a few of them here.

There are three ATP single-slam winners (del Potro, Wawrinka, Cilic) and three WTA single-slam winners (Ivanovic, Schiavone, Stosur) currently playing. Of those six, do you think any will ever win another Slam? If you had to pick one as the most likely, which would it be?

– Katie (@breakpointsaved)

Brilliant question, and certainly a fun one. Off the bat, it’s pretty difficult to see del Potro winning one again, though he is just 26 which is still young by the ATP standards. Schiavone certainly not, and Stosur almost definitely not.

That leaves us with three intriguing questions. Stan Wawrinka turns 30 in March, and I was disappointed with how his season seemed to fade after winning the Australian Open last year. I was quite high on high during the 2013 US Open, and his backhand was incredibly explosive. But for me his movement and complete fearlessness to hang with the big names in long rallies is what really gave him such an excellent year, from the 2013 to 2014 Australian Opens. Stan has been excellent on clay for most of his career, but he showed little promise on it last year and his season seemed to lose momentum, and those stunning backhands down the line seemed to disappear as well. With the ATP in so much flux, he’s certainly one to look out for but I feel like there’s a less than 50% chance of him winning another.

Marin Cilic, roll the dice. Is the huge serving, fearless, stepping inside the baseline Goran protege here to stay, or will he revert to his far too passive, floating forehand self? Sadly, we are going to have to wait a while, as he has had to pull out of the Australian Open. Cilic’s best shot at another slam title is definitely a fast surface, Wimbledon or the US Open, but he also needs to be careful to keep his ranking at a respectable level to play himself into the slams and avoid those big names for as long as he can.

And finally, Ana Ivanovic, amazingly, may be the most likely of any of these players. Last year was an excellent year for her on so many levels. She played deep into tournaments across various surfaces and most importantly seemed to be genuinely enjoying her time on court and happy in general. The forehand was confident, not loopy, and she genuinely dominated players at times and won easily. Ivanovic can be a streaky player, and if she gets a streak going at the right time, she might just pull it off one more time, before it’s all said and done.
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Episode 7 – US Open Week 2 Wrap-Up