20 Jan 2016

genieao2016

2015 was a difficult year for Eugenie Bouchard in a lot of ways, but perhaps the most confusing part was just how awful she could look on court. Depth, power, serve, everything was a mess.

In retrospect, her split with childhood coach Nick Saviano in November of 2014 looks even more confusing. Working her way through a couple of different teams (and Jimmy Connors) in 2015, there was serious discontent in her camp through out the year. The year ended even more horribly with her awful injury at the US Open.

Enter Thomas Hogstedt.

He’s worked with big names including Tommy Haas, Li Na and most famously a three year stint with Maria Sharapova. Would his positive, energetic style be able to get the best out of Eugenie Bouchard? Despite a tough second round loss at the Australian Open to Agnieszka Radwanska, the early signs from 2016 are positive.
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19 Jan 2016

nadalAO2016

We’ve heard it a million times. When he was a young boy, Uncle Toni switched the right handed Rafael Nadal to play with his left hand to give him an advantage over his typically right handed opponents, not used to playing against left handers. The rest is history.

And so in a rematch of one of the greatest matches in recent memory, Rafael Nadal ran into that very problem himself. A lefty who demolished his patterns of play which normally work so well against right handers.

This match was close. It was very close. Nadal was two points away from winning, and ran out of steam in the final set. This match was really lost for him in the first and fourth sets where he was unable to take control and finish off the set and ultimately the match.

There are a couple of issues with Nadal’s game right now, but for me the most glaring one is his forehand. His inability to really flatten it out consistently and take control of points early in the rally is a problem, and it was an even bigger problem against big hitting Verdasco on quick, hot, Australian courts.
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18 Jan 2016

Podcastlogosquare

Instead of previewing the entire draw, Brodie and Bri (@4thetennis) just talk about which sections look the most interesting, and what they’re looking forward to as long as some good ole predictions.

Subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher. Soundcloud link coming, too! If you like it, leave us a rating and a review, and you can support the podcast by contributing to the Patreon campaign.

 

15 Jan 2016

atp aus open

A quick quarter by quarter breakdown of what I’ll be looking forward to, and who I think will win.

Top Quarter – Novak’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – N. Djokovic v K. Nishikori

Before the draw was even made, I thought Novak Djokovic was the overwhelming favourite. Far and away. The draw helps his case in a nearly hilarious way.

There isn’t a single player in his first four rounds that can or will beat him. There just isn’t. After that, it remains pretty simple. The oft injured Nishikori or probably Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. As much as I love Jo Willy (why so silly?) it’s always difficult to see him raising his game to outlast Djokovic in five sets, especially at a tournament that Novak has so historically dominated. You can write in Novak for the semis, and you can use a pen.

Predicted Quarterfinal N. Djokovic v J.W. Tsonga

Second Quarter – Roger’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – R. Federer v T. Berdych

Not unlike the women’s draw, the second quarter of the men’s draw helps spice up what otherwise might be a pretty boring day of action. We could in theory have Federer/Dimitrov, Cilic/Bautista Agut and Kyrgios/Berdych all as third round matches on the same day. Sign me up.

It would be nice to see some of these younger dudes break through and give some life to this quarter. Federer didn’t play particularly well against Raonic in the final of Brisbane, but he reportedly wasn’t feeling fantastic and it showed. I think Kyrgios probably has the best shot of doing something fun here.

Quarterfinal Prediction R. Federer v N. Kyrgios

Third Quarter – Stan’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – S. Wawrinka v R. Nadal

Yup, Stan the Man still has his own quarter, and is still keeping Rafa out of the top four, so naturally he drew him in his section and is slated to play him in the quarters. There were a lot of positive signs out of Rafa in Doha, albeit against weaker opponents, and he got absolutely slaughtered in the final against Djokovic. Still, when he’s playing pretty well he can usually return well enough to handle big servers, and he’s likely to face Chardy or Gulbis in the third round and either Monfils or Anderson in the fourth round, all of which are probably reasonable yet tough asks with where his game is right now.

The other part of this quarter is just as intriguing. Jack Sock had a fantastic week in Auckland and could face off against Stan in the third round, which could be a potential blockbuster. Sock is serving big and isn’t afraid to move the ball around and open up the court. Neither is Stan. I do worry that Sock might be a little tired after a long week, however, which always makes it tough to go to a slam and play five sets every other day. The winner of that probably faces Raonic. This whole section is a toughie, but a fun one.

Quarterfinal Prediction – M. Raonic v R. Nadal

Bottom Quarter – Andy’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – A. Murray v D. Ferrer

This is a pretty fantastic draw for Murray. For me, Murray has always been a guy who likes to play himself into tournaments, and can always use a few pretty straight forward wins early on. With the only other seeded players in his eighth being Tomic, Fognini and Sousa, he should be fine to cruise into the quarters.

The rest of this quarter doesn’t look likely to offer up much of a threat to Murray either. Ferrer, Feli Lopez and Isner and not a heck of a lot else (shoutout to The Rusty Lawnmower Lleyton Hewitt, though). Probably the most boring quarter of the men’s draw, and with the most predictable winner.

Quarterfinal Prediction – A. Murray v J. Isner

Semifinals Predictions – N. Djokovic v R. Federer, R. Nadal v A. Murray
Final Prediction – N. Djokovic v A. Murray
Champion Prediction – Novak Djokovic

15 Jan 2016

rod laver wta

A quick quarter by quarter breakdown of what I’ll be looking forward to, and who I think will win.

Top Quarter – Serena’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – S. Williams v M. Sharapova

Let’s get this out of the way – I’m not sure Serena is as big of a favourite as everyone is making her out to be. Sure, she’s the obvious choice, but with her health up in the air, this feels a bit like a classic case of her being the favourite until she very suddenly isn’t.

All that said, she might be able to roll through this quarter on one leg anyway. Wozniacki? Sharapova? Errani? These are all delicious appetizers before the main course.

I don’t even see a ton of intrigue in early round matches, either. Serena versus Slapmila Giorgi should be fun, and I’d love to see a second round match between Watson and Bencic. Let us all pray that Serena/Maria doesn’t happen again.

Quarterfinal Prediction – S. Williams v B. Bencic

Second Quarter – Aga’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – A. Radwanska v P. Kvitova

For all the blandness in the top quarter, this quarter certainly makes up for it and should keep every other day from being stale on the women’s side of things. Radwanska/McHale in the first round, with the winner to play Bouchard? Puig/Stosur second round? Stephens and Vinci in a section? Cibulkova/Mladenovic first round? All of that with having no idea which Petra Kvitova will show up. This entire section might implode and explode all at the same time. I have no clue, and it should be hilarious fun.

Quarterfinal Prediction – A. Radwanska v A. Petkovic

Third Quarter – Garbine’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – G. Muguruza v A. Kerber

Muguruza is a great player, and will likely be a top 10 player on the tour for years to come, but with her current health issues and form just isn’t the third best player in the world right now. And for Victoria Azarenka, that is fantastic news.

Vika lurks in this mini section and almost by default takes over the number 3 seed on the other side. Barring a slip up against Svitolina, I think she’s into the quarters. The other side of this quarter is a bit more up in the air with players like Kerber, Jankovic and Bacsinszky. I always think Kerber is a pretty solid bet until she comes up against someone who can really over power her, and this section of the draw sits pretty nicely for her. This feels like an easy quarter to call.

Quarterfinal Prediction – A. Kerber v V. Azarenka

Bottom Quarter – Simona’s Quarter

Projected Quarterfinal – S. Halep v V. Williams

Much like the second quarter of the top section, this quarter seems to make up for the short fallings of the quarter above it. It feels like there are a zillion questions. Is Simona’s health okay? She said her Achilles is feeling alright, but who knows. Where is Madison Keys’ game at? Ivanovic? Pliskova? Makarova? It’s craziness.

This is more or less a tricky section for everyone, and it’s tough to pick an eventual champion really coming out of here. I do worry that Halep is likely to run into either Ivanovic or Keys in the fourth round, and may be over powered on some quick, hot courts. This section will be fun regardless.

Quarterfinal Prediction – Ka. Pliskova v Ana Ivanovic

Semifinal Predictions – S. Williams v A. Radwanska, V. Azarenka v Ka. Pliskova
Final Prediction – S. Williams v V. Azarenka
Champion Prediction – Victoria Azarenka

“Is Genie Back?”

Posted by Brodie under: Eugenie Bouchard, Hobart

15 Jan 2016

bouchard hobart 2016

If you were a Canadian tennis fan last year, 2015 sucked. Regardless of how you feel about Milos, Genie and Vasek, you probably want them to do well.

Eugenie Bouchard wasn’t just bad last year, she was down right hard to watch. It was painful. She was out in front on so many forehands, and it felt like every other backhand was being scraped off the floor and dumped into the bottom half of the net. Left hand tossed in the air, head spun to the right, grimace down to the court. Rinse and repeat. Lose.

And so I came into Genie’s semifinal match with Dominka Cibulkova in Hobart cautiously. It was nice to see she was winning, but winning doesn’t always mean high quality tennis is being played.

I was blown away.

Maybe it was because of my expectations, but Genie looked like a top 10 player again for the first set. She looked like the player I saw at the 2014 Hopman Cup who was absorbing pace, pushing the ball around and controlling play.

The stats say a lot. Cibulkova served at an amazing 87% but won just 40% of her total service points in the first set. Bouchard was doing a particularly fantastic job of letting the ball travel into the hitting zone, so much so that she was changing direction down the line on both wings and winning some points quickly and decisively. None of those herky jerky, stop start forehands. She did an excellent job of counter punching pace – which she got a ton of from Cibulkova – establishing herself in the rally and then hitting the ball into space and finding a way of finishing the point. She even felt confident enough to do so by coming to the net, and did so effectively. It was one way traffic.

At one point in the second set, Bouchard was 6/6 returning second serve points and looked to be poised to win the match even though she had not held serve yet. But as tennis can sometimes go, a point here and there, a “pome!” here and there and Cibulkova was moving the ball around, hitting some fantastic backhand winners and things were tied a set a piece, 6-1, 4-6. Then, smash.

Three fell swoops at the court and Bouchard’s racquet was gonzo. It wasn’t the defeatist, face scrunching moping we saw in 2015, it was a genuine out burst of anger from a player who knew she was the better player on the day but had let a straight forward win slip away.

With some yelling at herself (and new coach Thomas Hogstedt) and some wild gesturing, Bouchard got herself back into the match and managed to squeak the thing out, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, holding serve in every game of the final set without facing a break point.

Her level of play wasn’t what it was in the first set, but that might be okay. Her shots were largely cross court and predictable, and played into Cibulkova’s style. However, she offered up a lot of depth, particularly on the forehand. Cibulkova dealt with this fine, but hitting consistently deep, heavy balls is enough to trouble a lot of players outside of the top 20, and was something Bouchard was desperately missing last year.

It is impossible to know where Bouchard’s year will go from seeing just one match, but her year is certainly off to a much better start then 2015. Don’t write her off just yet.

14 Jan 2016

sharapova 2008 ao

Throw back Thursday, because looking back at how tennis used to be is great fun. I’ll take a look back at a tournament or day that happened on this day or week. For our first segment? The 2008 Australian Open, which started January 14, 2008.

It’s hard to believe the 2008 Australian Open was eight years ago. Maria Sharapova defeated Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – still top names in the name today. Amazingly, Djokovic wouldn’t win another slam again until 2011 and then win another eight to reach his current ten. It would have been nearly impossible to believe that Sharapova would only win two more slams, and both of them would come in Paris of all places.

2008 was also the first year the courts changed from that awful, blinding green to the much more familiar ocean blue we still see today. The surface also changed from the classic Rebound Ace (what a hilarious name, when you think of it) to Plexicushion which was originally derided for turning the Australian Open into “just another US Open” but was mostly praised by the players after the fact, mostly for having a lower heat retention and feeling less sticky than Rebound Ace.

Finally, this tournament was largely owned by the Serbs. Djokovic became the first Serbian man to win a grand slam, Ana Ivanovic completed an unlikely comeback in the semifinals against Hantuchova to make the final and Janko Tipsarevic nearly toppled Roger Federer in a five set thriller. Let’s take a look at some of the finer details of this tournament that you would never have thought happened, or time may have forgotten.

How’s this for an opening day?

Jo Wilfried Tsonga d. Andy Murray [9], 7-5, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(5) (of course you got bageled in the third set, Jo)
Lindsay Davenport d. Sara Errani, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5
Alicia Molik d. Kaia Kanepi, 7-6(4), 7-5

The top 20 men’s seeds still included players such as Nalbandian, Blake, Hewitt and even Carlos Moya. The top 20 women’s seeds featured Anna Chakvetadze (at number 6), Vaidisova, Golovin, Schnyder, Safina, Bammer and Mauresmo. What a time for the WTA.

The number one ranked qualifying player on the men’s side? Robin Haase. Other qualifying players included Victor Troicki, Kevin Anderson and Marcel Granollers.

The women qualifiers are equally as interesting including names such as Timea Bacsinszky, Kleybanova, and the lowest ranked player to qualify for the main draw… Sabine Lisicki.

A few final notes of interest – winner of the boys tournament? Bernard Tomic. Winner of women’s doubles? The Bondarenko sisters who defeated none other than Victoria Azarenka and Shahar Peer in the final.

Patreon Announcement!

Posted by Brodie under: Uncategorized

13 Jan 2016

The time has come.

Those who know me or have followed me for some time know I used to write a lot. When I was in university, I had a lot of time on my hands, and a lot of interest in putting some energy into something I loved that wasn’t school.

Naturally, as we get older, life starts to get into the way. I graduated, got a job, moved to a different country, and moved back. I’ve been able to follow tennis, tweet about it, even attend the Toronto tournament as media for five years running. But trying to keep a steady stream of content has been nearly impossible.

Until now.

Currently, I am working a nightly job that is going to allow me the time to cover tennis including writing, podcasting and tweeting about it. I plan on treating tennis like my second job, both in how I schedule my time and how I produce content. I plan on having recurring posts – the podcast, mailbag, Ponder the Racket and more – as well as other match reports, tactical analysis, and other goofy fun stuff. However, I am asking for your help.

I’ve decided to launch a Patreon campaign to make this whole tennis business possible. If you like what I do and want to see me continue doing it and have a few extra dollars to throw my way, I would be eternally grateful. I’ve set up some simple rewards that look a bit like this –

I plan on doing some exclusive hangouts during bigger matches. If you help in any way, you’re in.

$1 – My never ending love and a shoutout on the podcast (if you’re into that)
$5 – A shoutout on the podcast and on Twitter as well as a guaranteed answer in the weekly mailbag
$8 – A shoutout on the podcast and on Twitter, a guaranteed spot in the mailbag as well as a follow on Twitter. If I reach my goal and start doing two podcasts a week, you’ll be near the top to be an early guest.
$12 – Everything in the $8 package as well as a monthly post topic that you request. Yup, you give me the topic – a match, a player, an idea, anything – and I’ll write a post on it during that month. Limited to 8.
$40 – SPONSOR PACKAGE – A 60 second read during every podcast as well as an ad space on the side of the blog and a monthly shoutout on Twitter.

Any support of any kind is greatly appreciated. Thanks guys. Let’s have an awesome 2016 season.

Find the Patreon page here/.

13 Jan 2016

sock auckland 2015

The Bakery is your one stop shop for quick hitting match reports. Bagels and breadsticks may or may not be included.

It was a rough year for Canadian tennis in 2015.

After the greatest year in Canadian tennis history, the 2015 was akin to the air being drained from a balloon in the slowest, most painful way possible. Luckily, 2016 has started more brightly with a title run in Brisbane from Raonic and a few encouraging wins from Bouchard. Unfortunately, things haven’t started so brightly for Vasek Pospisil.

Vasek has always been a player I’ve been able to believe in. A big serve, a plus forehand and solid movement have always reminded me of Tomas Berdych. If he can have a consistent top 10 ranking, why can’t Vashy?

The answers were all too obvious as he bowed out to his long time doubles partner Jack Sock in the second round of Auckland. It wasn’t pretty. Vasek was floating pointless slice backhands early in the match, not serving particularly well, and most worryingly of all, firing forehands into the thick of the net. A lot of them.

Pospisil’s ability to hit cross court, inside out forehands has always been a strength for him, and that shot was still on vacation during this match. At times he was able to rush the net and win points, but even that seemed to happen almost randomly and didn’t always end well.

It’s a troubling sign. It’s incredibly tough to win on the ATP tour if you can’t establish some sort of game in midrange length rallies, and Sock often pushed Vasek around as points extended into the 7-10 stroke range.

Fair play to Jack Sock, however. He’s never been someone I’ve been a huge fan of, mostly due to his bizarre, slap happy Roddick-esque forehand. But he makes it work, and his ability to generate pace and spin with a quick flick while on the run won him a few top tier points, and he continues to move better than I’ve ever seen from him.

7 Jan 2016

nadal doha

The Bakery is your one stop shop for quick hitting match reports. Bagels and breadsticks may or may not be included.

Rafael Nadal is the player to watch heading into the Australian Open. We more or less know what we are getting from the other members of the big four, and possibly even the rest of the players in the top ten. But as with his health, Nadal’s form was all over the place in 2015, and it is difficult to forecast how his 2016 will play out.

Everything looked like business as usual for Nadal in the first set. Kuznetsov’s inside out forehands from the ad side floated short and high and the Spaniard took full advantage, ripping forehands every which way and looking to be in complete control. The most obvious positive sign was his interest in hammering forehands down the line from both the deuce and ad sides. If you’re a Rafa fan, you don’t just want to see those types of shots, you want to see the explosiveness from the ground to create the overwhelming pace that’s necessary to make those shots successful.

However, as the match wore on, Kuznetsov grew more comfortable. He did well to mix in drop shots and put some extra spin on the inside out forehands. Those shots went from falling into the hitting zone of Nadal to pushing Rafa out wide. With the court open, the Russian began venturing to the net and getting more creative. The wind and cold temperatures further affected the match, including one game where Nadal was forced into hitting some bizarre looking backhand slices and digging tough balls off of his shoe laces.

With a double fault forcing a break, Nadal went up 4-3 in the final set, but was immediately broken off two sensational Kuznetsov return winners. Finally, Nadal closed things out with a couple of stellar games.

Overall, it was a decent showing from Nadal in tough conditions. The flashes of explosiveness, forehands down both lines and pretty good movement are all excellent signs. However, the lack of depth and problems with Kuznetsov’s inside out forehands are worrying. Stay tuned.

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