27 Jan 2016

raonic banner

It’s 2016, and Milos Raonic still hasn’t lost.

When Rafael Nadal lost in the first round, Milos Raonic’s section mildly imploded. He’s done wonderfully to build on his title in Brisbane to advance to the semifinals at the Australian Open, defeating Gael Monfils Wednesday night, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. He’ll join Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as the final four players in the men’s draw. It’s fitting, because he’s looked like the fourth best player in the world to start 2016.
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26 Jan 2016

djokovic ao nishikori

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

Juan Jose and I talked about the crazy, bizarre yet fascinating Djokovic/Simon match at length on the latest podcast. Simon played the perfect match – junk balling, keeping things central, lengthening points and coming up with some crazy backhand winners. Djokovic’s inability to create pace and break down Simon looked troubling, nevermind the fact that he hit 100 unforced errors. Novak was clear that he wouldn’t be tired and had experience being pushed in long matches and being forced the very next day, nevermind two days later.

Nishikori would be a very different proposition. Kei would hit with pace, hit with angles, open up the court and bring the madness. From the get go, Djokovic looked back in his comfort zone.
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24 Jan 2016
Podcastlogosquare

Brodie and Juan Jose convene for a Week 1 of the Australian Open megasode. They focus in on the crazy Djokovic/Simon marathon, the ATP drama around Federer and Tomic and the WTA’s intriguing young players and subsequent draw implosion. Finally, Juan Jose shares what he learned from his interview of Boris Becker for his piece at Rolling Stone.

Like the podcast? You can help support the podcast and the blog by contributing to the Patreon campaign. Subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher. Soundcloud link coming, too!

22 Jan 2016

pondertheracket

 

1. Serena’s Health

I was skeptical of Serena’s health and interest going into Melbourne. She seemed grumpy before play had even began, and we’ve seen her bow out of big tournaments early when she gets frustrated and things just aren’t going her way. She was even 3/1 by many odds makers to win the tournament. That seems laughable now, particularly with her draw, and is without a doubt the favourite to win it again.

2. Tsonga/Nishikori

Jo is confident, healthy, and playing well. So healthy that he’s even trying crazy crap like this (on set point, none the less):

 

Likewise, Nishikori looks healthy and has been going for some big shots on these quick courts. This should be the toast of Sunday (or Saturday night if you’re in North America) and is much watch tennis. The match up is great, too.
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22 Jan 2016

dimitovao

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

Grigor Dimitrov is turning into the high draft pick that never quite worked out. Every night you can see flashes of brilliance, signs of what he could be, but unfortunately just can’t quite seem to have everything work out to be a top player.

That was the story of Dimitrov’s Friday night encounter with Federer. We all know there is a bit of a master and padawan relationship between these two. Dimitrov’s shot execution looks eerily similar to Federer’s other than the fact that he’s not Roger Federer. Unfortunately for him, their recent matches have been one way traffic with the final destination being Fedtown.

This time, he came prepared to play. The second set was brilliant. Running around forehands, playing excellent defence, going down the line, mixing in some good net play. It was a recipe to keep Federer guessing and off of his rhythm, and it worked. Roger became irritated with himself late in the set, both after a missed shot coming into net as well as after a poor return decision. He was in a big hole and lost the set. Dimitrov was pumping his fist, pumping the “c’mon!”s and we had ourselves a match.

I hate the word momentum (in sports, I guess it works in a scientific sense). Momentum is often a figment of a fan’s imagination and impossible to quantify. But there is no doubt Dimitrov had the momentum going into the third set.

And then he didn’t.
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21 Jan 2016

hewitt wimbledon

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. Today we look back at Lleyton Hewitt’s lone grand slam title, the 2002 Wimbledon final.

What a time. The early 00s are one of the most fascinating, bizarre times for tennis. The Agassi/Sampras era was coming to an end, and there was a flood of talented yet flawed up and comers. Marat Safin. Andy Roddick. Lleyton Hewitt. And Roger Federer, but hey, he wouldn’t win his first slam title until 2003, and right now, it’s 2002.

Disclaimer, I didn’t watch this entire match. I’m not insane. But I did watch a good chunk of the first set, and it’s a lot of fun to take a look back.
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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

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