Men's U.S. Open Preview 2014
By Mike McIntyre
I've always enjoyed the ups and downs that a year on the ATP Tour can bring us. When you have a season that lasts from January (or even the end of December) until November you are bound to have ebbs and flows and an ever changing wave of momentum that sees players rise and fall at different times in the schedule. Seemingly impervious to these ups and downs in recent years have been Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who currently sit at number one and two in the Emirates World Rankings. Yet as the final Grand Slam of 2014 is set to begin, both of these steady talents find themselves on the outside of the list of favorites in New York - and for very different reasons at that.
It has been almost a week now since Nadal has announced what everyone suspected earlier this summer when he revealed a right wrist injury he sustained after Wimbledon. While he initially pulled-out only from Toronto and Cincinnati leaving the door open to a return at the U.S. Open, many believed that the Spaniard would be unable to make it back to the form required to compete in gruelling best-of-five set matches. The tournament will be without it's defending champion and one of its biggest stars.
Djokovic on the other hand will be participating at Flushing Meadows and seeking his second title in New York however his play this summer has not indicated that he is the front-runner by any stretch. A 2-2 hardcourt record in August and straight set losses to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Robredo do not bode well for his chances over the next two weeks. While the loss in Toronto could be attributed to some rust after not playing since Wimbledon and getting married as well, the Cincy defeat had no excuse for a world number one. Djokovic's attention and tennis game seem to be elsewhere. Djokovic's faltering game coupled with the previously mentioned loss of Nadal in the draw and suddently there are 127 other players who are just chomping at the bit to make their mark in New York this year. That being said, let's take a look at the draw and who we might be watching play for the title in two week's time.
While Djokovic is the top seed and may very well surprise us all by suddenly returning to form, I feel that players like John Isner, Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could prove otherwise.
Isner has always been a threat on the hardcourts of North America and typically has success at the smaller lead-up events such as Atlanta and Washington. He did win in Atlanta this year and then was bounced early in D.C. as well as Toronto and Cincinnati. Still, Isner has the serve and the home crowd that could propell him to a round of sixteen match against the struggling Djokovic. If Tsonga and Robredo can beat the Serb, why not Isner? While Djokovic has a 5-2 career head-to-head against Isner, the two have always had close matches. Isner made the quarter-finals of the Open in 2011 and I feel he is a strong candidate to repeat that again this year.
Tsonga put together a week that most players can only dream of when he knocked off four top-ten players in Toronto (Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov and Federer) en route to the second Masters 1000 title of his career. Then, just after he appeared invincible, he fell in his opening round match in Cincy to Mikhail Youzhny. In all fairness, Youzhny is a top-level opponent and Tsonga did not have much time to recharge in-between events. A third round match with compatriot Julien Benneteau would be a tough one and could leave either vunerable to a round of sixteen encounter with Andy Murray who has justifiably (given his play) been flying under the radar. Before we discuss Murray, let's look at Benneteau. At 32 years old this veteran has been playing some fantastic tennis this year and is currently ranked 27th in the world. He reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati recently and is a guy I feel could have an unexpectedly deep run in New York. The one knock against Benneteau is that he has only made it past the third round of a Slam three times over the course of his career. He trails Tsonga 4-5 in their career meetings but has won their only encounter this year on hard court in Indian Wells.
Now we come to Murray who by his own admission has not had a strong season. He can only use the "returning from back surgery" excuse for so long and fans are growing impatient to see some results from his partnership with coach Amelia Mauresmo. Murray has failed to reach the finals of any event on tour so far in 2014. The last year that Murray did not win a tournament was in 2005 and the last year he failed to make a final was 2004. With most of the season behind us, Murray is running out of time to keep his streak going. Could he reverse his fortunes with a deep run here at the Open? It is not out of the question, but my prediction here is on Isner to rise to the occasion and surprise a lot of people.
My Pick: Isner d Murray
Could Canadian Milos Raonic make his third straight Grand Slam quarter-final at the Open? I'd put money on it if I were the betting type. Over the past four years this guy has done all the right things in terms of his learning curve as a professional tennis player. Deservingly ranked 6th in the world, this could be Raonic's best chance at his first major title. A third round match against either 10th seeded Kei Nishikori or a surging Jack Sock could test him but he has prevailed against both players in recent history. A quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka who is seeded 3rd would be fun to watch, but with Wawrinka's up and down play you just can't bank on him being there. I really think Raonic is the favorite in this part of the draw and perhaps even to make it to his first Slam final. Keep an eye out for fellow Canuck Vasek Pospisil who made the finals against Raonic in D.C. and pushed Roger Federer to three sets in Cincy recently. He could take out Wawrinka in the 3rd round.
My Pick: Raonic d. Wawrinka
Things get really interesting in this section of the draw and again we could see an unpredicatble name make it into the semi-finals. David Ferrer is the 4th seed and recently made the finals in Cincinnati and made Federer work for the title by taking him to a third set. Ferrer could see Marin Cilic in the round of sixteen and Cilic is my man to advance to the semis here. Lookout for Jerzy Janowicz who performed admirably in Cincy in defeating Grigor Dimitrov and then fell in the finals of Winston-Salem this past week to Lukas Rosol. He's full of confidence and if Cilic doesn't make it through it very well could be because of JJ. I wouldn't waste much hope on 6th seeded Tomas Berdych who has been absolutely miserable since the French Open. Take a look at American Steven Johnson who is quietly becoming a force for the struggling legion of American tennis players. Johnson is a true sleeper in this draw in my opinion and a guy who has worked his ranking up from the high 100s to 51st in the world over the course of the season.
My pick: Cilic d. Johnson
Many are calling this quarter the home of the future 2014 U.S. Open champion - Roger Federer. It's true that this is a golden opportunity for Fed to capture his 18th Slam title, but don't think it is going to be a walk in the park. Roger's forehand is not nearly as flawless as it used to be and although he is riding a huge wave of success from this summer, things almost seem too good to be true. He's looking good until the quarter-finals but lookout for a meeting there with either Gael Monfils or Grigor Dimitrov. Either has the capability of beating Roger and while Monfils spends too much time showboating, he could focus long enough to cause an upset. Dimitrov meanwhile has made the semis at Wimbledon and the semis at the Masters 1000 in Rome andToronto in 2014 and he is itching to prove he belongs in the top-ten. He is also one of but two players (Djokovic being the other) to have won an event on clay, hard and grass this year. I'm gonna go with Dimitrov over Federer in the quarters making this U.S. Open one to truly remember. The big four are in for some challenges and we are about to find out if those obstacles are going to present themselves here at the U.S. Open.
My Pick: Dimitrov d. Federer
Raonic d. Isner
Dimitrov d. Cilic
Raonic d. Dimitrov
Top 5 Things Not To Miss At The U.S. Open
The 2014 US Open begins on Monday, August 25th and lasts until Monday September 8th. There's plenty to look forward to between the exciting matches, amazing food, luxurious accommodations and gorgeous weather. Let's take a look at what tennis fans should look forward to the most at the 2014 U.S. Open.
1) An Unpredictable Women's Tournament
Only one woman, Eugenie Bouchard, has reached the semifinal round at each of 2014's three women's Grand Slam events. The world's number one female player, Serena Williams, has failed to advance beyond the fourth round of this year's majors. All of this adds up to what looks like a women's US Open tournament that can be won by anyone.
2) Sleepers To Watch On The Women's Side
There is a sense around the professional tennis circuit that an unheralded player will rise up and make some serious noise in this year's US Open. Some potential sleepers on the women's side to watch are Madison Keys, Alize Cornet and Garbine Muguruza. Cornet, 24, has had a nice season that includes two wins over Serena Williams. Keys, a native of England, is only 19 but she won her first WTA title heading into the All England Club. Muguruza typically plays her best tennis on clay but the 20 year old is thought to have the potential to be a Grand Slam champion.
3) The Men Could Surprise As Well
Last year's men's US Open featured a stunning upset in which Tommy Robredo defeated the five time US Open winner Roger Federer. This year could have a few similar upsets in store. Tennis experts point to potential sleeper picks like Ernests Gulbis, Julien Benneteau and David Goffin. Marin Cilic is poised to make some noise as well. He is 6'6” and has an overpowering serve that few will be able to handle on the US Open's incredibly fast courts.
4) Experience The US Open In Comfort And Style
Tennis fans should take advantage of the US Open's Luxury Suite package. It is ideal for a large group of friends, corporate partners or those who are looking to entertain special guests. This package provides a gorgeous lounge in Arthur Ashe Stadium along with the finest foods, a plasma TV and a private bathroom. There's also a Premium Seat package with a shared hospitality space in which small groups can dine, a choice of premium seats in the stadium and much more. Finally, there is a Private Hospitality package that offers entertainment for large groups in a private room within the Indoor Training Center's Hospitality Pavilion, a plasma television and premium seating in the stadium.
5) The US Open's Amazing Food Choices
The US Open has the perfect variety of food for tennis fans of all backgrounds and ages. There's a Cuban restaurant called Mojito, Grey Goose Bar, Champions Bar & Grill for steaks, the US Open Club for American cuisine, Moet & Chandon Terrace, Cuppa Spotta, South Plaza Café, Ben & Jerry's, Carnegie Deli, the Heineken Red Star Cafe and the Patio Cafe & Bar for sandwiches, salads and cocktails. There's also courtside and suite food service provided by Aces and Champions Bar & Grill.
After the US Open ends that puts a cap on the 2014 Grand Slam season. Get ready for the 2015 season by getting an Australian Open travel package lined up so you don’t miss the beginning to what could be a crazy year in tennis.
Western and Southern Open ATP Preview
By Mike McIntyre
A few days removed from a third round loss at the Rogers Cup should help world Number One Novak Djokovic work on a few things in practice and refocus on his U.S. Open preparations. Djokovic receives a first round bye once again and then opens against the winner between Gilles Simon and Bernard Tomic. The month off after Wimbledon is tough on all players and those in Toronto witnessed that first hand with the high number of upsets that happened there. Expect the top guys to shake off the rust and have a deeper run here in Cincinnati as they get closer to the final Grand Slam of the year.
In the top quarter Djokovic has a possible third round meeting with solid veteran Tommy Robredo who knocked-off Jack Sock in the opening round 7-6(5), 6-3. A good win for Tommy considering that Sock was ripping his forehand pretty well last week in Canada and has been enjoying success in both singles and doubles this summer.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a likely quarter-final opponent for Djokovic and would give him a chance to redeem himself from the 6-2, 6-2 beating that the Frenchman put on him at the Rogers Cup. Tsonga must first overcome the crafty Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round who has won three of the last four matches between the two. Fatigue may be a factor for Tsonga, although if he plays like he did last week in Toronto and carries that momentum forward he should be just fine. Can he beat Djokovic in back-to-back tournaments, I don't think so. Should Djokovic win the title in Cincinnati he will become the only player in the history of the ATP World Tour to have won all nine Masters 1000 titles in his career.
In the second quarter of the draw, Stan Wawrinka is the 3rd seed and will face Benjamin Becker who beat Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5), 6-4 in his first match of the tourney. "Stan the Man" could face Marin Cilic in the third round before a likely encounter with recent Masters 1000 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov who had a successful week in Toronto. Dimitrov made the second Masters semi-final of this career this past week and is one of only two players on Tour this year who have won titles on all three surfaces (along with Djokovic).
In the third quarter, Milos Raonic is the 5th seed and despite his loss to Feliciano Lopez at his home tournament last week, the Canadian is looking more and more like a bonafide member of the top-ten. After his bye, Raonic will face the winner between Dominic Thiem who represents the future of the ATP World Tour and Robby Ginepri who I think we can all agree represents the past. The enigmatic Ernests Gulbis could face Milos in round three and a potential quarter-final battle with 4th seed Tomas Berdych also looms. Berdych was practicing hard last week in Toronto with Andy Murray. We'll see if any of that work pays off as he looks to take his hardcourt season up a notch. Berdych is in a slump that has seen him win no more than two matches in-a-row since the French Open in May.
In the final quarter of the draw, Roger Federer is the second seed and is coming off a strong result in Toronto where he lost the final to an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer will see either 35 year old Radek Stepanek or 24 year old Vasek Pospisil in the second round. He could get Gael Monfils in the third round which would be fun to watch - heck Monfils against just about anyone is a fun match to watch. Andy Murray could see Fed in the quarter-finals which would give fans and tournament organizers plenty to cheer about. I feel that Murray is due for a breakthrough performance and Cincinnati could be the place this finally happens. I know he had to overcome back surgery in the off-season but the fact that the Scot has not been in a final all year on the ATP Tour is quite shocking. Murray has won this event twice before, in 2008 and 2011. He's no doubt hoping that this three year in-between titles trend continues.
Ultimately I am going with Djokovic, Dimitrov, Raonic and Murray to make it through their respective quarters and I'll take Murray over Djokovic in the finals. This will be the last apperance of most of the top players on Tour before the U.S. Open begins later this month. One interesting stat to note is that in the 44 year history of the Western & Southern Open, the winner has gone on to win the final Grand Slam of the year in Flushing Meadows 9 times. Most recently Rafael Nadal proved that winning Cincinnati is excellent preparation for the Open, we'll see if someone else can do the same in 2014.
Sunday in Pictures from the Rogers Cup Final
By Mike McIntyre
Photographs by Bob and Mike McIntyre
The blockbuster final between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not disappoint today at the Rogers Cup. Despite the match not making it to a decisive third set, both players put on a show for the crowd with plenty of awe-inspiring shots and (if you're a Fed fan) lots of drama as well.
Here then is our last instalment of pictures from Toronto that capture the best moments from Sunday.
The doubles final was played first in Toronto and saw Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares defend their Rogers Cup title from a year ago.
Peya and Soares are currently ranked third in the world in the ATP doubles rankings. Won their second title of the year in Toronto.
Next up was the match everyone was waiting for - Federer vs Tsonga. The Frenchman walked in first.
Next came Federer to a giant roar from the crowd. Tsonga wasn't kidding when he said he expected to be up against 10,000 today.
For many, today's final was considered a real coin toss.
The players stayed on serve through the first eleven games of the opening set.
Federer's forehand would betray him on set point allowing Tsonga to take it 7-5.
No final tally was given to the press today but tournament director Karl Hale said, "We are very, very happy with the numbers achieved." Today's crowd sure seemed like a full house.
Federer's serve would bail him out of more than one break point in the second set, but you wondered how long could he fend Tsonga off? In total he saved 6 of 7 break points faced in the match.
A great reach for Tsonga whose forehand was killer again today.
Tsonga's serve was rock-solid when needed today and the Frenchman would not allow a single break point to his adversary, much to Federer's mounting frustration.
Tsonga had his moments of frustration as well but they were few and far between.
Coach Edberg could only look on and watch like the rest of us.
Federer seemed like he might be on the verge of forcing a third set as he staved off match point while serving at 4-5.
But Tsonga's serve was too strong again in the tiebreak to ever allow Federer a chance at a comeback. Tsonga would win 7-5, 7-6(3) to capture his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
Tsonga lifts the trophy after the 1hr47min match
Federer didn't seem to distraught with the result. Some nice ranking points added to his pretty solid year.
Not a bad week at the office for Tsonga!
Celebrating with his team.
And of course it wouldn't be Canada without a couple of Mounties on hand to pose with Tsonga and the trophy.
A great week of tennis here in Toronto which hopefully is a sign of things to come on the ATP World Tour as we get closer to the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. We plan to have some coverage of the tourney in Cincinnati this week and of course previews and analysis coming up from the U.S. Open. Keep checking back at ProTennisFan.com and on Twitter as well.
Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
Photographs by Mike and Bob McIntyre
It was semi-final Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and while the matches may not have offered the same level of drama that fans have grown accustomed to throughout the week, the end results have set-up a dream final between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer will be seeking his 80th career ATP title on Sunday while Tsonga will try to add a 2nd Masters 1000 Championship to the one he achieved in Paris in 2011. Here are some of our best photos from the singles and one of the doubles matches that graced the Rexall Centre today. Enjoy!
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continued perhaps the best week of his career as he dispatched his third top-ten opponent in-a-row in Grigor Dimitrov.
Despite the loss, Dimitrov is proving he belongs in the top ten. Made his second career Masters 1000 semi-final here in Toronto.
Beating Tsonga proved to be too much of a stretch for the young Bulgarian.
"Can I maybe replay that set?"
A strong contigent of Bulgarian fans did all they could to help their man Dimitrov.
The view from the top of the Rexall Centre.
Tsonga was able to do all kinds of crazy things with the ball as evidenced in this shot.
And this is why people make Muhammad Ali comparisons!
Brad Gilbert clowning around with Tsonga after the victory.
A very happy Tsonga acknowledging the crowd support.
Federer practicing under the guidance of coach Stefan Edberg about three hours prior to his match against Feliciano Lopez.
Federer's new practice shirt. Selling for $50 on the grounds of the Rogers Cup this week.
This guy smiles more than Vasek Pospisil - which is really saying alot.
At 41 years old, Daniel Nestor is still without a doubt Canada's premier doubles player. Made his 26th straight appearance at the Rogers Cup this year. Wow, just wow.
Dance competition or ATP Masters 1000 semi-final? You decide.
Even Lopez cringed at one of his many errors on this night.
Often called an artist, Federer looks like he himself is leaping out of a painting here.
Fireworks to celebrate Roger's win and the end of the final night session of the year at the Rogers Cup.
Even Roger was surprised by how easy he was able to advance to the finals!
Check back with us Sunday for the final between Federer and Tsonga which is supposed to start around 3pm ET. Be sure to follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates and photos from the last day of the Rogers Cup.
Thursday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
Photographs by Bob McIntyre
Thursday was without a doubt one of the crazier days in the history of the Rogers Cup. Not only did world Number One Novak Djokovic make an early exit, but favourites such as Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych also crashed out in the third round. Canadian Milos Raonic found a way to perservere in three close sets as did Roger Federer who almost squandered six match points against Marin Cilic before finishing him off in the third. Here are some photos taken by our own Bob McIntyre. Enjoy and keep checking back for more as we head into the final three days of action in Toronto.
Stan saved a match point in his second round match against Benoit Paire on Wednesday, but could not muster the same type of luck against Kevin Anderson on this day.
Here is Anderson celebrating his victory and looking every bit the 6'8'' that he is.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Djokovic looking for divine intervention perhaps during his 6-2, 6-2 loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Coming up a bit short
Now that's frustration folks.
It should have been a sign to Djokovic when Tsonga already had a grin on his face as he walked in to Centre Court.
Check out the quad on this guy...yikes!
About as happy as you'd expect after defeating the number one player in the world
Total control of the ball today from Tsonga
Andy Murray got a break when opponent Richard Gasquet withdrew prior to their third round match. Looks like he made the most of the opportunity on the practice courts with coach Amelie Mauresmo.
Grigor Dimitrov continued to show why he is refered to as "Baby Fed" with a three set win over veteran Tommy Robredo.
Robredo was feeling the same way as many of Dimitrov's opponents have been feeling this year.
Dimitrov is happy like a room without a roof!
Don't try this at home kids. Actually, unless you are Ivan Dodig, don't try this anywhere!
David Ferrer...yours to discover. And as Dodig discovered, a tough obstacle in his path. Ferrer would win in three sets to advance against Roger Federer.
Hey look, it's former Pro Brad Gilbert who's in town working for ESPN.
Milos Raonic was looking pretty suave against Julien Benneteau in the first match of the evening session on Centre Court.
Raonic would advance in three sets which seemed to be the standard distance required of most winners on this epic day of action in Toronto.
Doesn't look a day over 32!
Despite squadering six match points in the second set, Roger Federer would recover to defeat Marin Cilic in three.
Less than half an hour after the match, Federer would turn 33. Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday.
Check back with us again all weekend at ProTennisFan as we will have extensive coverage of the semi-finals on Saturday and the finals on Sunday at the Rogers Cup. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter as well.
Tuesday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
There was more rain on day two of the Rogers Cup in Toronto but things eventually cleared up and by the afternoon everything was back on schedule. Roger Federer made his hardcourt summer debut and three Canadians all made an exit from the tournament leaving Milos Raonic as the only Canuck remaining in the draw. Here are some of my favourite shots from around the grounds today. Enjoy!
Frank Dancevic practices in the morning despite the rain shower.
Philipp Kohlschreiber's shirt might have jinxed the German as he was defeated 6-3, 7-6(3) by Tommy Robredo.
The drying machines proved their worth today and made several appearances throughout the morning as the rain continued to fall.
There's a first for everything. Dancevic looks incredulous as he is asked to sign a fans purse.
An auction item of the last Toronto Maple Leafs team to win the Stanley Cup. Hopefully we don't have to wait that long for a Canadian to win the Rogers Cup!
Despite the wet courts, "La Monf" flashes a grin during morning practice.
World Number One Novak Djokovic grins as he prepares to return a shot to coach Marian Vajda. Djokovic makes his singles debut Wednesday in Toronto.
Warning: being the world number one comes with high pressure. At least Novak has an emergency exit!
Here we can see reality sinking in for 612th ranked Brayden Schnur of Canada who fell 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round to Andreas Seppi who is ranked 561 spots higher than him on the ATP World Tour.
Someone finally got a smile out of the normally very professional Milos Raonic. Had to be the Djoker!
Wildcard Jack Sock celebrates his 6-1, 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer.
Dancevic faltered today in a match he should have found a way to win. He goes down 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 to Donald Young.
To say Young was happy with the result was an understatement.
Likely the scariest serve on the tour. "Dr." Ivo Karlovic
Monfils battled back from a 1-5 deficit in the second set to beat Radek Stepanek 6-3, 7-5.
Tough day for Vasek Pospisil who admitted he has simply, "been on the road a lot of weeks." He loses the rematch with Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-5.
And then there was Federer. Playing in his first match since an epic final at Wimbledon he looked ready to rock. Broken in his first service game of the night, Federer would not have any more hiccups in a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Peter Polansky.
The view from the very top of the Rexall Centre tonight for the Federer/Polansky match.
Former world Number One and six time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg was inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame this evening.
Federer doing some post-match press to end his night.
Stan Wawrinka saved a match point against close friend Benoit Paire and prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) to end another fantastic day of tennis in Toronto.
Check back with us often here at ProTennisFan as we continue to provide a glimpse at all the action at the Rogers Cup. Follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates and commentary.
August 5, 2014 in Donald Young, Frank Dancevic, Gael Monfils, Ivo Karlovic, Jack Sock, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Peter Polansky, Phillip Kohlschreiber, Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup, Stan Wawrinka, Stefan Edberg, Tommy Robredo, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
Canada's biggest tennis tournament got underway in Toronto on Monday as round one of the Rogers Cup began. Here are a few shots from around the grounds of the Rexall Centre as taken by yours truly.
Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor celebrating what he called, "championship point at Wimby" against partner Nenad Zimonjic.
Gael Monfils of France was all smiles as he practiced with American Jack Sock. The jury is still out on the goatee though.
Denis Istomin won for "coolest shades" of the day, but little else as he went down in three sets to Marin Cilic in the first match of the day on Centre Court.
Andy Murray practicing under the watchful eye of coach Amelie Mauresmo.
Milos Raonic receiving his "welcome to the big boys club" award, aka top ten award, from ATP World Tour President Chris Kermode.
You know you're pro when you have your name on your tennis bag as Tommy Robredo does here.
No that's not security standing behind world number 8 Grigor Dimitrov, but his coach Roger Rasheed.
Lleyton Hewitt's struggles at the Rogers Cup continued today as he was defeated 6-1, 6-2 by Julien Benneteau to drop his career record at the event to 9-10.
The biggest grin on the ATP World Tour goes to Vasek Pospisil without a doubt. As soon as the first smile broke, all the photographers in the room started snapping pictures in a collective frenzy.
It's not every day that you get to ask questions to your childhood idol. Here is Stefan Edberg, six time Grand Slam champion and current coach to Roger Federer. He is being inducted Tuesday night into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame.
Frenchman Julie Benneteau fields questions from but a single reporter following his victory over Lleyton Hewitt.
Only Roger Federer could get away with a behind the back volley!
Practice with coach Edberg nearby
I can't think of better suited partnership than Federer and Edberg. Both class acts through and through.
France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga kicks-off the night session on Centre Court.
Ivan Dodig proved to be a handful for John Isner while the American's towel was clearly a mouthful. Dodig prevailed in three sets.
Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka head out at 10pm to start their doubles match together. A victory sends them up against Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic next.
Photo cred on the above picture only: David Li
Celebrating his first Rogers Cup victory in four years, Canada's Peter Polansky autographs the camera.
Check back with us regularly at ProTennisFan.com as we catch the action each day this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Be sure to follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates.
August 4, 2014 in Andy Murray, Daniel Nestor, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Lleyton Hewitt, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Peter Polansky, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup, Stan Wawrinka, Stefan Edberg, Tennis Canada, Tommy Robredo, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)
Rogers Cup ATP Preview
By Mike McIntyre
Once an optional blip on the screen for pro tennis players, the Rogers Cup has become perhaps the most important event outside of the four Grand Slams on the ATP World Tour. While the Emirates U.S. Open Series has already seen events in Atlanta and Washington, it is the start of the Rogers Cup that really signifies the start of the summer hardcourt swing. This is where the favourites for the upcoming U.S. Open begin to show their stuff and help build momentum towards the crowning of what is arguably the hardest Slam to win.
In Toronto this year the favourite will no-doubt be world number one Novak Djokovic. Fresh off his second career Wimbledon title, Djokovic has worked hard to re-establish himself as the premiere player on the Tour. His victory at the All-England Club sent him past Rafael Nadal in the rankings and has likely given him the confidence to continue that impressive level of play throughout the summer. The Serb has already won the event in Canada three times which is the most of any players participating in this year's draw. (2007, 2011, 2012). For Nadal, a right wrist injury has unfortunately sidelined him for the Rogers Cup where he was to be the defending champion. Hopefully the next three weeks of rest will allow his body time to recover in time for Flushing Meadows in New York.
Here is our look at the draw for this years Rogers Cup:
Djokovic has already been on-site for several days in Toronto and participated in the draw ceremony on Friday at the Ontario Legislature. On Saturday the world number one captured the attention of teenage music fans when he hit a few balls with Niall Horan of One Direction fame.
Djokovic gets a first round bye along with the other top seven seeds at the Rogers Cup. His first match will be against the winner between Gael Monfils and Radek Stepanek. That match between "le Monf" and "the worm" will undoubtedly be one of the more entertaining pairings on deck in the opening round.The Djoker could also see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round which would make for yet another challenging match.
One unexpected curve-ball in Djokovic's quarter of the draw is the presence of Andy Murray who has won the Rogers Cup twice himself. Murray has yet to reach the finals of any ATP event so far in 2014 and has seen his ranking slip to 10th in the world. He finds himself seeded 8th here in Toronto but could face Djokovic in a blockbuster quarter-final match-up. While I do see Djokovic moving through his quarter, there will be a stern test in every match for him to overcome.
In the second quarter of the draw we find Stan Wawrinka as the 3rd seed. Wawrinka now shares the spotlight among Swiss tennis players and is no longer viewed as Roger Federer's understudy. In a move that will surely generate some buzz in the doubles draw in Toronto, Wawrinka will be partnering Djokovic to help the two get a little extra hardcourt practice. Wawrinka will face either Alejandro Falla or a qualifier in the second round when he begins play. Beyond that, Stan's first real test could be in the quarter-finals against the up and coming Grigor Dmitrov who is seeded 7th.
In the third quarter, Tomas Berdych will try to improve upon his recent result at the Citi Open in Washington where as the number one seed he fell in his third round match to resurgent young Canadian Vasek Pospisil. Berdych is the 4th seed in Toronto and will open against either Yen-Hsun Lu or Marcel Granollers. He should be able to sail into the quarter-finals where he could very likely face another Canadian - Milos Raonic.
The "Maple Leaf Missile" has stepped up his game to another level this year and has proven that he belongs in the top ten. A quarter-final result at the French Open was an unexpected surprise for the hard-serving Canuck whose game is more suited to faster surfaces. He then followed that up by reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon where he was eventually defeated by Federer. Raonic won the Citi Open in Washington on Sunday against his compatriot Pospisil in what was the first all-Canadian final of the Open Era of tennis on the ATP World Tour. In short, Canadian tennis fans have plenty to be excited about this week as the world of tennis turns its focus to their major tournament.
In the last quarter of the Rogers Cup draw, Federer is in the number two position and will face either Jerzy Janowicz or Canadian wildcard Peter Polansky in his opening match. Federer has a very agreable section of the draw to work his way into and his subsequent opponents could be Marin Cilic in round three, David Ferrer or John Isner in the quarters and then either Berdych or Raonic in the semis. Federer has to be happy with this draw and should likely find himself playing deep into the tournament.
Other players of note in the draw are the 6'11'' Ivo Karlovic who is something to behold if you are attending the event live. He opens against Bernard Tomic in the top-half of the draw and fans will have the opportunity to get up close on the Granstand Monday afternoon to see his incredible serve in action.
Australian teenage sensation Nick Kyrgios received a wildcard from Tennis Canada and faces Santiago Giraldo of Columbia in the opening round. This kid you'll remember from defeating Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon a few weeks ago before falling to Raonic in the quarters. This will be a good chance to see what all the hype is about and he should face Andy Murray in the second round.
Veteran Lleyton Hewitt is making his tenth appearance at the Canadian Masters 1000 event, but his first in Toronto since 2006. At 33 years old, this could very well be Hewitt's last appearance here in Toronto and a great chance for fans to see this former Grand Slam champion in action for a final time.
In terms of Canadian content, there is Milos of course who the fans will be counting on to contend for the title. He is defending finalist points this year and hopefully is not too tired from his run in Washington.
Posipisil also had enormous success last year in Montreal where he lost fo Raonic in the semi-finals. He's played a lot of tennis over the last few days with his quarter-final match in Washington being finished the same day as his three set semi-final victory against Richard Gasquet. Pospisil will be quite familiar with Gasquet by the end of the Rogers Cup as the two are slated to face one another in the opening round of both singles and doubles play. Vasek is slated to re-join doubles partner Jack Sock and see if they can continue their impressive partnership that has yielded a 10-0 record and two titles this summer including at Wimbledon.
Veteran Frank Dancevic recently cracked the top hundred in the ATP rankings for the first time in years and opens against American Donald Young. Dancevic has fallen back to 123rd in the world over the last couple of weeks however and we will see if he is fit enough to show glimpses of his 2007 form that saw him reach that quarter-finals in Montreal.
Finally there is the previously mentioned Polansky who plays Janowicz in an opening round match that is a big-ask for the 129th ranked Canadian. He has proven resilient playing in front of a home crowd however and has twice advanced past the first round at the Rogers Cup.
Keep checking back with us regularly as we will be attending the event live all week long and providing match updates and plenty of photos as well. You can check us out on Twitter as well for timely updates.
Raonic and Pospisil Make Canadian Tennis History
By Mike McIntyre
Just when you thought that Canada had accomplished all of its possible firsts in professional tennis this year, they strike again.
At the Citi Open in Washington D.C., Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil have ensured an all-Canadian final on the ATP World Tour for the first time in the Open Era of the sport which goes back to 1968.
The timing of this momentous achievement could not come at a better time for Tennis Canada as it is on the eve of Canada's marquee event - The Rogers Cup, which begins Monday in Toronto for the men and in Montreal for the women.
While Raonic (being the number two seed at the Citi Open this year) was what many would say the favourite to make the finals prior to the start of competition earlier in the week, Pospisil was anything but. His season was derailed early by a back injury that saw him miss a month following his third round withdrawal at the Australian Open and hindered him so much that he went on to lose an astounding eight opening round matches in-a-row when he returned to action. After that horrific five month period Pospisil was able to re-discover his form on grass with a quarter-final result in the Netherlands. The turning point however might have been his shocking doubles victory at Wimbledon with American partner Jack Sock. Buoyed with a new sense of confidence in his play and with his back, Pospisil is now finally seeing the returns everyone expected when he made it to the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup nearly a year ago.
Pospisil lost that semi-final to Raonic in their only professional match to-date against one another. On Sunday we will see if he can even the score, although the odds are stacked against him. Not only has Raonic been coasting through his matches all week, but he played the early semi-final on Saturday and is clearly the more rested of the two players. Pospisil had to begin Saturday by finishing his rain-delayed quarter-final match against Santiago Giraldo before playing again just a few hours later against the talented Richard Gasquet of France. In that match Pospisil had to battle back from a one set deficit and a 0-3 hole in the third and decisive set before prevailing 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 in 2hrs 28 minutes.
Regardless of the outcome the result will be a victory for Canada, a country that is quickly establishing itself as a new power on both the ATP and WTA circuits. Not only that, but the Rogers Cup is getting some free publicity that it could never have imagined just a day before the main draw is set to begin there.
While some might say the newfound hype surrouding Canadian tennis is overkill, I say they've waited long enough and we should let Canada enjoy the first of what we hope will be many finals and championships for their promising young tennis players.
ProTennisFan Weekly Wrap-Up
By Mike McIntyre
What a week it has been in the world of professional tennis, both on and off the court. There is normally a lull in the middle of July after Wimbledon concludes but for some reason this year there have been plenty of headlines worth noting. While champions have been crowned in Atlanta, Gstaad and Umag, it is news eminating from outside of the lines on the court that have to be addressed first and foremost.
From a tennis writers perspective, the shocking admission of plagiarism from one of the sports most recognized writers has lit up social media. Neil Harman, the lead tennis correspondent for the Times of London admitted this week that he has been passing off the work of his peers for several years in the official Wimbledon yearbook which takes a look back on the results at the All England Club each year. While some on Twitter are admonishing writer Ben Rothenburg for revealing the story and (as some claim) taking pleasure in Harman's fall from grace, I feel strongly that whatever repercussions come Harman's way are completely deserved. Being a professional in any line of work means adhering to the code of conduct of that establishment. Passing off the work of others as your own is simply inexcusable. Harman didn't just rip off any old tennis writer either - he stole from esteemed colleagues and some of the sport's most well known authors such as L. Jon Wertheim from Sports Illustrated. Harman tweeted an apology to those he hurt on Twitter on Wednesday but has since deleted his Twitter account and is currently suspended from his job with the Times.
Elsewhere and on the WTA Tour, Sloane Stephens has parted ways with respected tennis coach Paul Annacone. The split was amicable by all accounts and the two were singing each other's praises on Twitter this past week. Stephens has already turned to Thomas Hogstedt for help starting at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. this coming week. Hogstedt has coached the likes of Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki and Tommy Haas in the past. The Stephens news that really caught my eye however was the following article in Elle magazine. The American who is currently ranked 22nd in the world made several statements that portray her as a total space cadet. Among the most jaw-dropping include:
- “I saw my gyno today, and she’s like, ‘I can’t wait for Indian Wells,’...I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! She’s looking in my vajay!’ ”
- “I got the college experience without going to college. I don’t miss it. When my friends are like, ‘I’m going to class,’ I’m like, ‘I’m going to take a nap.’ ”
Perhaps Stephens did not realize that all of her statements made to author Lizzy Goodman were on the record and I'm being to harsh in my critique. You read the article in its entirety and feel free to make your own opinion.
Now let's look at what transpired on the tennis court this week and who has earned some well earned recognition for their accomplishments.
BB&T Atlanta Open
It should come as no surprise that number one seed John Isner capture his second consecutive title in Atlanta. The big man always plays a hectic summer schedule and warming up against a weaker field like the one in Atlanta worked wonders last year by helping him reach the finals of the Masters event in Cincinnati. Isner took out surprise finalist Dudi Sela in the championship match and got revenge against Jack Sock (who defeated him at Newport) in the semis. Credit to Benjamin Becker who also made the semis thanks to three straight0et wins in a row.
Canadian Vasek Pospisil failed to live up to his fourth seeded billing in singles (loss to Sela in QF) but did manage to win another doubles title with Sock. The duo are now undefeated as partners and seem to be having a lot of fun with each other on and off the court. Pospisil is going to be feeling the heat pretty soon playing in Toronto where he has semi-final points to defend from a year ago at the Rogers Cup.
Crédit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad
Pablos Andujar emerged victorious in Gstaad with a straight sets victory over Juan Monaco. It is the third title of Adjujar's career (2011 and 2012 in Casablanca) and should give him a nice ranking boost before the clay court season all but disappears.
This tournament was a solid step for Juan Monaco to correct an otherwise disappointing season. Currently ranked 105th in the world, Monaco had failed to win more than two matches in a row all year long. Monaco was in the top twenty just about a year ago but with only one more clay court tourney on the ATP schedule this year I'd say his chances of moving upwards are slim.
Gstaad also marked the return of Serbia's Viktor Troicki to the ATP World Tour after a year long ban for avoiding a blood test. Troicki won his first two matches before falling to Fernando Verdasco in three sets. I wonder how many more tournaments will be willing to offer Troicki a wildcard as he received this past week? It is likely that he will have to grind it out on the challenger tour for a while in order to re-establish his ranking.
Vegeta Croatia Open Umag
Pablo Cuevas hoisted the trophy in Umag over veteran (and defending champ) Tommy Robredo in two sets. Cuevas has now won back-to-back tournaments as he won a week ago in Bastad. The Argentinian has now won an impressive 31 matches on clay this year (including challengers) and the only non-clay event he has played was Wimbledon (1st round loss). He started the year ranked 224th in the world, was 111th prior to Bastad and went into Umag ranked 60th. That will be pushed forward even more so when the new rankings come out on Monday, but the question is - will Cuevas play any hardcourt events now?
Another player to watch was seventeen year old Alexander Zverev who could not continue his hot streak from a week earlier in Hamburg and fell in the opening round to Albert Montanes. This is still a kid to keep a close eye on in the months and years to come.
The ATP World Tour now switches to Kitzbuhel on clay and Washington D.C. on hard courts. Keep checking back for updates and be sure to follow us on Twitter as well.
Around The Corner: Atlanta, Gstaad and Umag
By Mike McIntyre
The Emirates Airlines U.S. Open Series officially gets underway with the level 250 event in Atlanta. While the major players will make their first hardcourt swing appearances in two weeks time at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, some smaller (and taller) fish will start accumulating points a bit earlier.
When I say taller I am definitely talking about John Isner who heads the field in Atlanta as the number one seed. Isner has become the hardest working player on the ATP Tour in recent summers and this year should be no exception. He has plenty of points to defend which must compel him to play such a heavy schedule, but it certainly seems to leave him weakened by the time the U.S. Open arrives at the end of August. At the age of 29 Isner is no kid anymore and if he truly wants to have his major moment he is going to have to ease up on the hours he spends out in the summer heat. Isner's success in 2014 has been limited to the early months of the season where he won his first event in Auckland and then reached the semi's at Indian Wells where he fell to Djokovic in three sets. He's the defending champ here in Atlanta and anything less than a repeat victory at this event will be seen as a disappointment.
Isner has a first round bye and then will face the winner between wildcard Robby Ginepri -who is still trying to salvage something of a once promising career - and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Gael Monfils of France is the number three seed and is also in the top-half of the draw. Monfils could win this thing or self-destruct in a dizzying array of cartwheels and Boris Becker inspired dives...you just never know with him.
Wimbledon doubles champs Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil are reunited together again since their big triumph. They are also both playing singles of course and Pospisil is the fourth seed and in the bottom-half of the draw. With his back seemingly no longer troubling him, the Canadian will look to gain some momentum as the Roger's Cup approaches where he has semi-final points to defend. Lots of pressure on the youngster who is fresh off a loss to Bernie Tomic in Bogota this past week.
Yen-Hsun Lu of Tapei is the seventh seed and in the bottom half as well. He is coming off a Challenger level tournament victory in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. For him it will be a battle between his rising confidence and impending jetlag. Kevin Anderson, the second seed, is also one to watch. He lost the final a year ago to Isner and played very well last summer on the smaller American hardcourt events.
For those looking to cling to red clay for a little bit longer we have just the event for you in Switzerland. No Roger Federer this year as he does not need the extra ranking points nor is he testing out a new racquet. Federer was shocked in his opening match a year ago against Daniel Brands in a forgettable 65 minute match.
Mikhail Youzhny is the number one seed and defending champion in Gstaad. He is quite capable on clay as he is on all other surfaces. He's got some decent dirt-ballers such as Juan Monaco, Thomasz Bellucci and Federico Delbonis to content with in the top half of the draw.
In the bottom half the ATP World Tour welcomes back the self-proclaimed innocent Viktor Troicki who hopefully has learned his lesson about refusing to provide a blood sample when asked. He was fortunate enough to have his 18 month suspension reduced to 12 and to receive a wildcard for this event. He opens against sixth seeded Dominic Thiem from Austria.
Fernando Verdaso will try to get his season back on track as the fourth seed here in Gstaad. Other than winning a small tournament on green clay in Houston back in April, there has been little worth reporting from the thirty year old Spaniard so far in 2014.
Marcel Granollers is the second seed in the event and won this tournament in 2011.
Take the results from this tournament with a grain of salt. Clay court events are on their way out this year and a win here does not by any means translate to success at the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. These are players who are trying to pad their stats or bank accounts but clearly care little for what they may be able to accomplish at a major.
Ditto for Umag.
Number one seed Fabio Fognini will try to stick around a little longer than he did last week in Hamburg where he was defeated 6-4, 6-0 by the 150th ranked player in the world - Filip Krajinovic. A dismal effort from the defending champion to say the least. Fognini was a finalist here in Umag in 2013 and I would expect somewhat of a stronger effort this week as he tries to hold on to his current ranking of 15th in the world.
17 year old Alexander Zverev has received a special entry into the tournament due to his phenomenal effort last week in Hamburg where he reached the semi-finals before falling to David Ferrer. This kid has experienced the most prolific start to his career by a teenager since one Rafael Nadal did about ten years ago. He jumped 124 spots in the rankings up to his current of 161st in the ATP. Zverev started 2014 ranked in the 800s and won the Australian Open junior event. Looks like he's ready for the big leagues now.
In the bottom half of the draw the fans will no-doubt be pulling for Marin Cilic who won here in 2012. Tommy Robredo is the second seed and defending champion from a year ago. Every time I write anything negative about Robredo he goes on a serious run and manages to rediscover his top-twenty ranking and form. I'm done predicting anything for this guy, he is officially my kryptonite!
We're back in business here at ProTennisFan after some website issues earlier this year. Please check back with us during the summer swing for in-depth analysis of the ATP World Tour. You can also follow us on Twitter if you're so inclined.
Dolgopolov In Hot Water Over Instagram Pic
By Mike McIntyre
Wanted: new PR manager for Alexandr Dolgopolov.
It seems as though the 19th ranked Ukrainian has made a very poor judgement call with his use of social media. Dolgopolov posted the following picture on his Instagram account. Be warned that the picture is not appropriate to be viewed by children or in ones workplace.
The general consensus on Twitter on the translation of the words beneath the picture is, "childhood is over, bitches."
The first thing that crossed my mind when I saw this was that Dolgopolov's Instagram account had to have been hacked. I mean, what professional athlete would post such a vulgar and offensive photo on their public account? Then I saw the following article from changeovertennis.com and realized this is not the first time that Dolgolpolov has posted questionable materials online. I guess he just doesn't get it.
The fact that this picture is still up on Instagram more than 24 hours after it was posted is just as mind-blowing as the original post itself. Does Dolgopolov not have someone in his inner circle who might have suggested, "hey dude, maybe this isn't such a great idea?"
The two main issues (among the many) that I have with this image are the fact that it sexualizes children and that it is openly displayed in a place that children could view it. If I were a young fan of Dologopolov's and I saw that picture, I would have plenty of questions for my parents about its content. While the internet did not yet exist when I was a young tennis fan, I could never imagine finding something like that posted by one of my idols like Pete Sampras or Stefan Edberg. They both possessed two things that Dolgopolov appears to lack - common sense and class.
Of course I'm sure if social media existed back in the day, we would have had plenty of controversies similar to this one. Imagine Johnny Mac with Twitter during the 1970s and 80s! I'm sure Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors would have gotten in all kinds of trouble as well. But that was then and this is now.
Pro athletes are so much more in tune with the watchful eye of the media and of the damage that social media can have on ones public image. Dolgopolov seems to be oblivious to this fact. With his morals appearing to be about as low as his service toss, Dolgopolov - one would think - needs to seriously reconsider if having an Instagram account is such a good idea. An apology and removal of the picture in question might be nice as well.
Canadians Dominate at Wimbledon
By Mike McIntyre
While the term "dominate" might be a bit of a stretch, Canada can be proud to say that they have representation in the final four at Wimbledon in both the men's and the women's singles draws.
Just four years ago John McEnroe told me that, "If tennis was played on ice, Canada would have a top-ten player." Today thanks to victories on grass, not ice, Canada will have two players in the top-ten of professional tennis when the updated rankings come out Monday.
With her quater-final victory over Angelique Kerber, 20 year old Canadian starlet Genie Bouchard is going to jump into the top-ten on the WTA Tour next week and join Milos Raonic who broke into the top-ten on the ATP Tour in April of this year.
Also still alive in doubles action at Wimbledon are icon Daniel Nestor who is active in both the quarter-finals of the men's doubles with partner Nenad Zimonjic as well as the mixed doubles with Kristina Mladenovic. And don't forget Vasek Pospisil who along with American Jack Sock are also in the quarters of the men's doubles draw.
While Canada Day was July 1st, it is proving to be Canada Year in the world of professional tennis as seemingly every week on both the men's and women's tour there seems to be groundbreaking results for players from the Great White North.
Wawrinka Success Testament to Hard Work
If you were to look up Stanislas Wawrinka on Wikipedia and scroll down to the ‘Playing Style’ section you’d notice that, according to whoever wrote this entry, the Swiss star’s biggest fault is his lack of mental toughness. Having watched him win the Australian Open this week, I believe this line should now be scratched and never entered again.
The 28-year-old has, in the past year, shown facets to his game we did not think he had, hanging with and bettering those who had been considered all-round better players by fans of live tennis online. His stunning victory over Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals was the culmination of years of hard work, the majority of which did not look as though it had paid off.
At the 2012 Australian Open, Wawrinka was dumped out of the tournament in the third round by Nicholas Almagro and was considered as nothing more than “the other Swiss tennis player”. His remarkable rise shows he is way more than that.
Despite making it to consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals the Olympic double’s gold medallist is continually written off by tennis betting pundits. Minutes after his semi-final triumph over Tomas Berdych his stats when facing Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were dragged up, as if to dismiss him as a genuine title contender.
He may never have beaten Rafael Nadal but that record no longer matters. Warwinka had lost 14 out of 14 to Djokovic before this week but has now set that record straight as well.
What has gone on before should count for very little when you step out on court, and Wawrinka is a testament to that having put so many tough losses behind him to reach this point. Nadal started as the heavy favourite for Sunday’s final, and rightly so given his ability. The tag of favourite can count for very little though, as Juan Martin del Potro demonstrated when he won the US Open in 2009 against Federer.
Wawrinka has now become just the second man in the last five years from outside the ‘big four’ to win a Grand Slam. He can now certainly upgrade his status from ‘also ran’ to ‘contender’ amongst the tennis fraternity.
ATP Wrap Up: Brisbane, Chennai and Doha
By Mike McIntyre
It was more of the same for the start of the 2014 season on the ATP World Tour. World number one Rafael Nadal hoisted the trophy in Doha continuing his impressive return to the game following an eight month injury break that lasted from June of 2012 until February of 2013. In the 18 tournaments he has played since then, Rafa has won an astounding 11 and lost in the finals of 4 others.
In Doha, Nadal overcame his 2012 Wimbledon nemesis Lukas Rosol in the opening round, defeated a tricky Ernests Gulbis in the third round, survived a stiff challenge from Peter Gojowczyk in the semis and then finally toppled Gael Monfils in the finals, a guy who has historically had his number in this early season tournament. Nadal is simply en fuego and not likely to let-up anytime soon. The favourite at the Australian Open - you bet.
You can count world number three and four, David Ferrer and Andy Murray amongst those who found Doha to be a disappointment to the start of their seasons. Ferrer lost in the second round to German Daniel Brands while Murray also fell in his second match against another German, Florian Mayer. Ferrer should rebound quickly enough but I am a bit concerned for Murray as he recovers from back surgery late in 2013.
Gotta give the German contingent credit for their performance in Doha. Four of them made it to the quarter-finals and the rise of the previously (relatively) unknown Gojowczyk was something to see. It reminded me of the emergence of Jerzy Janowicz in Paris in 2012 or Federico Delbonis in Hamburg last summer. We'll have to wait and see if he can continue his early season success but so far he is the surprise player on the ATP Tour in 2014.
In Brisbane, Roger Federer made his first ever appearance at the event and did not disappoint by making it all the way to the finals. Still, Federer did not leave with the trophy at the level 250 event which must be largely viewed as a let-down. No Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to contend with and yet he could not secure the title.
In fairness, let's give credit to Aussie Lleyton Hewitt who was able to win his first trophy since 2010 and the 29th tourney win of his career. I can only imagine how satisfying this must be for Hewitt to do in front of his home fans and against arguably the greatest player of all-time. Could it be the last title of Hewitt's career? Not if he keeps playing this way. When you look at what 35 year old Tommy Haas has been able to do the past couple of years, there's no reason to think Hewitt can't be a level 250 and 500 contender for a little while longer.
In Chennai, Stan Wawrinka continued his string of success where he won the title for the second time in his career and in his third final there. For the second year in-a-row Wawrinka is the first Swiss player on the ATP World Tour to capture a title. Who would have thought that day would ever come? He has quietly established himself as a bona-fide top-ten player and when we talk about the next player not named Nadal, Djokovic, Murray or Federer to win a Slam, Wawrinka's name must now be mentioned as a viable option.
One more week until the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne. Keep checking back with us at ProTennisFan as we will take a look at this week's tournaments in Sydney and Auckland. Be sure to follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates and analysis.
Federer Releases 2014 Schedule
By Mike McIntyre
Roger Federer released his 2014 ATP World Tour schedule on Saturday which reveals the world number-six plans on entering sixteen tournaments this season. The total is the same as what he played a year ago, though with a couple of location changes.
Added to his travel itinerary in 2014 are Brisbane, Miami and Toronto while he has ditched the events in Rotterdam, Hamburg and Gstaad.
Federer has made a few adjustments in the off-season in the hopes of climbing back towards the top-four in the rankings, thus giving himself a better chance to add at least one more Grand Slam to his incredible total which currently stands at seventeen majors.
Former world number-one and six-time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg is now a part of Federer's coaching team. Edberg will join Federer for the Australian Open which begins January 13th as well as at least eight other weeks of tennis on the ATP circuit this year.
What will Edberg be able to bring to Federer's game that we haven't seen before? Perhaps nothing tactical but rather a fresh mental perspective and a calmness that the Sweded carried with him throughout his fifteen years on the professional tour.
In the following clip, Federer talks about the process of uniting with Stefan Edberg for the 2014 season and is clearly excited to work with his self-professed childhood idol.
Federer also reveals some of the problems he experienced in 2013 and shares his positive outlook on the year ahead.
Another change for Federer is going to be a renewed attempt at using a 98 square-inch frame from Wilson as he briefly dabbled with last summer before switching back to his old faithful one of 90 square-inches. Federer says he has felt confident after two and a half weeks using the larger frame and only time will tell if this is a permanent change or just another experiment to jump-start his once invincible game.
Federer kicks-off his season in Brisbane where he is appearing for the very first time in his professional career.
A New Chapter: 2014 ATP World Tour Ready to Go
By Mike McIntyre
Despite only lasting for little over a month, the layoff between the ATP World Tour finals in November and the start of the 2014 season (which actually begins at the end of the 2013 calendar year) seems to last an eternity to tennis enthusiasts. Well the wait is finally over as the men get back to business in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha this coming week.
The Brisbane International begins on Sunday December 29th and features world number six Roger Federer as the top seed. Federer might be the best number six player there ever was and is no doubt entered in this event as a sign that he plans on making big gains in the world rankings. While regaining his number-one ranking is likely out of grasp for the 32 year-old Swiss maestro, he definitely has the ability to get back into the top-four which would make his life so much easier when the Grand Slams come around.
Federer has shared some major news over the past week as he revealed to his fans that his wife Mirka is expecting their third child in 2014 and also that he is adding his self-professed childhood idol Stefan Edberg to his coaching entourage for at least ten weeks this season.
Federer opens his season with a first round bye and will then face the winner between veteran Jarkko Nieminen and wildcard James Duckworth. Sam Querrey or Dmitry Tursunov could be his quater-final opponent, followed by perhaps fourth seeded Kevin Anderson in the semis.
Locals will be hoping that Lleyton Hewitt makes it to the finals in the other half of the draw, although look for Gilles Simon, second seeded Kei Nishikori or disgraced dope-offender Marin Cilic to say otherwise. Incredibly this is Hewitt's 17th season on the ATP World Tour!
The Qatar Exxon Mobil Open begins play on Monday and can boast about having world number-one Rafael Nadal in their draw, along with world number four Andy Murray (who returns from back surgery), defending champion Richard Gasquet as well as world number three, yes that's right - #3, David Ferrer.
Nadal opens against Lukas Rosol who defeated the Spaniard in the second round of Wimbledon in 2012 in a match that shocked the tennis world. Nadal comes into the event after losing days ago to Ferrer in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament that offers up big prize money and appearance fees to its annual field of six players.
Nadal defeated Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga in a consolation match for third place to earn a little solace for his trip to the U.A.E. In short, I wouldn't expect Rosol to give Nadal anywhere near the same level of trouble that he did on grass two seasons ago when Rafa was struggling with knee issues. The loss to Rosol was Nadal's last match played in 2012 as he was forced to shut his season down to properly recover. Nadal could face the tricky Ernests Gulbis in the quarter-finals before meeting fourth seeded Tomas Berdych in the semis if the draw holds true.
In the bottom half look for Andy Murray to quickly find his game against wildcard Mousa Shanan Zayed from Qatar. Aged 19 and with an ATP rank of 2129 in the world, the only thing that can prevent Zayed from being double-bageled is if Murray is feeling pity towards his over-matched opponent. In reality, this is probably not the match Murray is looking for as he returns to the tour following his back surgery last year.
The bottom quarter of this draw is particularly loaded, with unseeded names like Gael Monfils, Nikolay Davydenko and Alexandr Dolgopolov floating around along with fifth seeded Gasquet and second seeded Ferrer. Tennis fans in Qatar are definitely in for an early season treat this year.
The Aircel Chennai Open also begins on Monday but has a much weaker field that the one in Brisbane and Doha. Top seed Stan Wawrinka should not be troubled en route towards the finals as his biggest obstacle seems to be fifth seeded Canadian youngster Vasek Pospisil. While Pospisil made huge strides last year, he could very well suffer a step back in 2014 as his opponents will no longer be taking him lightly. Third seed Fabio Fognini is also in the top half of the draw but is rarely seen as a threat on hard courts.
In the bottom half, second seed Mikhail Youzhny is a veteran presence who can still hit the ball pretty darn well. Somdev Devvarman will get lots of attention from his home partisans and media members, but otherwise Benoit Paire is the only other recognizable name that could perhaps make some noise.
Check back with us soon here at ProTennisFan for more analysis and previews of the very first week of ATP action and enjoy whatever tennis you are able to catch on tv or online.
Federer Adds Edberg to Coaching Staff
By Mike McIntyre
Roger Federer announced today that he will add his childhood idol Stefan Edberg to his coaching staff for the 2014 season.
The 47 year old Edberg who hoisted six Grand Slam singles titles during his playing career will join Federer at the Australian Open beginning January 13th in Melbourne.
The Edberg/Federer pairing first surfaced earlier in December with a week of training in Dubai. At the time Edberg said, "If we can, I would be more than happy. The idea of the (training) camp was that I would give my views and come up with some feedback. He wants to try some new things."
Trying new things is a must for Federer as last season proved his old routine was no longer getting the job done. He lost in the second round at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open failed to move past the fourth round. He closed out the year ranked sixth in the world, his lowest year-end ranking since 2003.
After parting ways with coach Paul Annacone in October, Federer was in no rush to bring on fresh blood. He kept long-time advisor and Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi who will remain the constant on his team in 2014.
Edberg will join the Federer camp for a minimum of ten weeks according to a post by Federer on his official website.
Andy Murray proved in recent years that hiring a former great can pay immediate dividends. After taking on former world number-one Ivan Lendl as his coach in 2012, Murray went on to win his first Grand Slam title that summer along with an Olympic gold medal. He continued his successful partnership with Lendl last year by becoming the first Brit in 77 years to win Wimbledon.
After losing his number-one ranking in October, Novak Djokovic approached another legend from the 1980s, Boris Becker, to be his new coach. Becker is best known for making the finals at Wimbledon seven times, capturing the title on three occasions.
Regardless of the immediate results of these two new coaching partnerships, watching some of the great tennis rivalries from the 1980s take on new form today should be something to keep tennis fans and pundits alike enthralled this coming season.
For the record, Becker held a 25-10 career head-to-head record against Edberg, while to date, Federer narrowly leads Djokovic 16-15.
If you combine player/coach career statistics the Federer/Edberg team leads the Djokovic/Becker duo in terms of win-loss ratio, career titles and earnings.
Murray could go one better in Melbourne
The betting markets seem to suggest that the forthcoming Australian Open in Melbourne from the 13th to the 26th of January will be a straightforward contest between three-time reigning champion Novak Djokovic and the back-to-form Rafael Nadal who beat the Djoker so convincingly in the U.S. Open final at Flushing Meadows in September.
In fact, if you look at the advanced betting market with the biggest online betting exchange in the world, Betfair, the only other player on the men’s side of the draw they give a cat in hell’s chance is Britain’s Andy Murray. Currently, Djokovic is around 6/4, with Nadal a little further out at 2/1, followed by quite a big percentage gap to Murray at a best priced 6/1.
For those who watch the game closely, that 6/1 represents outstandingly good value if you enjoy a wager on the tennis now and again.
Remember that Murray has been on the losing side of the net in three of the last four finals in Melbourne, losing twice to Djokovic and once to Roger Federer back in 2009. This is a tournament in which the Scot really excels. The problem is that the man who excels a little more, Novak Djokovic, keeps getting in the way.
But of course that wasn’t the case at the Flushing Meadows 2012 final, nor in the London Olympics, nor at Wimbledon this summer when Murray well and truly overcame the Djoker’s Grand Slam hoodoo with a 3-0 convincing win. So perhaps Murray has lanced that particular boil?
Also; consider that Murray had to have surgery on his back at the end of the summer and wasn’t really back to his best for the U.S. Open. He will be determined to prove that he is now – and he could very easily go one better in Melbourne, so 6-1 looks mightily generous.
Raonic Rewarded for Fine Year
Runs to the fourth round at the Australian and US Opens in 2013 have helped Milos Raonic to clinch Tennis Canada’s male player of the year award for the third year in a row.
The 22-year-old also won through to the third round of the French Open but was surprisingly knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon by the Dutch player, Igor Sijsling. He reached as high as ten in the world rankings in August before ending the season in 11th spot.
He also won two ATP tournaments, surprising line betting pundits to reach the final of the Rogers Cup for the first time, and helped Canada reach the semi-finals of the Davis Cup.
Raonic beat Tommy Haas in the San Jose Open final, his third successful victory in the tournament, and Tomas Berdych in the final of the Thailand Open.
“It feels great to be honoured with this award from Tennis Canada for another year,” said Raonic. “It was definitely a good season for me, and it’s been incredible to receive so much support from Canadian fans.
“Being able to play at home in the Davis Cup and Rogers Cup, it was amazing to see how passionate Canadians can be about tennis. I’m looking forward to 2014 now, and working hard to achieve everything I can.”
Meanwhile, Vasek Pospisil was named as Canada’s most improved player and Daniel Nestor was handed the accolade for the doubles player of the year.
Pospisil, an increasingly popular figure with fans of live tennis online, improved his ranking by more than 100 places in 2013, ending the year at a career high of 32 after winning his way through to three semi-finals.
Nestor won the doubles award for the 13th consecutive year after winning one tournament and becoming the first player to reach 900 career doubles wins.
Federer Secures 12th Straight World Finals Spot
Roger Federer has ensured he will play his 12th straight ATP World Tour Finals after coming through a tense second round clash against Kevin Anderson in the Paris Masters.
The Swiss star needed to reach the third round in order to book his place at London’s O2 Arena this month and did so courtesy of a hard-fought straight sets victory against the big-hitting South African.
Federer has never had to wait until the last minute to book his place at the season-ending showpiece, but a difficult year meant he needed a strong display in Paris to secure his place among the top eight to play at the O2 in London this month.
The former world number one has not been anywhere near his best this year, with some fans of live tennis online calling on the 17-time grand slam winner to hang up his racket. However, Federer has ignored his critics and merely focused on ensuring he finishes a difficult year on a relative high by reaching the Tour Finals.
"It feels great, I'm so happy, it's been a tough year so this is a highlight because this was one of the big goals I set for myself this year so it's great to have made it," Federer said after his crucial victory in Paris.
"I don't know if I'm doing anything wrong or maybe it's just a time where my opponents play well when they need to. Overall I played solid and it's just such a minor detail that it's hard to say what it is."
The six-time Tour Finals champion will now go into the final tournament of the season looking to bounce back from his defeat in last year’s final at the hands of the favourite in the betting, Novak Djokovic. And it would take a brave punter to completely rule out Federer’s chances of competing for the title in this year’s tournament.
Nalbandian Hangs up his Racquet
Former world number three, David Nalbandian, has announced his retirement from the game after enjoying a successful 13-year career.
The 31-year-old Argentinian won 11 titles and reached the 2002 Wimbledon final, when he was beaten by Lleyton Hewitt, as well as reaching four other Grand Slam semi-finals.
Nalbandian went through to the last four of the French Open in 2004 and 2006 as well as reaching the US Open semi-final in 2003 and the same stage of the Australian Open three years later.
A well-known player among tennis fans on betfair.com, he reached number three in the world in March 2006 and finished in the year-end top ten of the ATP rankings on five occasions.
However, he has been troubled by a shoulder injury recently and said, when confirming his decision to quit the game: "I can play matches, but my shoulder won't let me continue my career. I can't play like that at a professional level.”
"It's tough because I have to announce my retirement from the sport that gave me so much. I'm very grateful."
Nalbandian represented Argentina in three Davis Cup teams that reached the final - in 2004, 2008, 2011 - and he has fond memories of those achievements, adding: "It's the event that I felt was different from the others.
“The pressure and the support of the people, it's something unique. It's a shame Argentina couldn't win it, but that's the way it was."
Nalbandian reached his last final at the 2013 Brasil Open in Sao Paulo, when the perennial favourite on betfair, Rafael Nadal, beat him. However, after helping his country beat France in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup earlier this year, he was forced to undergo an operation on his right shoulder.
Nalbandian has announced that he will play a series of farewell exhibition matches against Nadal, which are scheduled to start on the 21st of November.
Murray Ready to Dominate in 2014After deciding to end his season early in order to undergo an operation on his long-running back injury, Andy Murray will begin 2014 free from injury and ready to build on another huge year.
The Scotsman underwent minor surgery on the injury in order to avoid aggravating the problem further, ruling him out of the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in London next month.
The back issue that Murray has struggled with is an injury that has plagued the 26-year old for a few years in varying degrees, but flared up badly in May and ruled him out of the French Open.
The problem did not stop Murray from finally winning Wimbledon the following month, but played a role in preventing the 2012 US Open champion from defending his title this year.
But while he played a key role in Great Britain qualifying for the elite World Group of the Davis Cup with a crucial victory in Croatia, it was evident Murray was struggling with the problem and the decision was taken to end his year early and attempt to solve the injury once and for all.
With his season now ended, Murray will be targeting a return to action in good time to get himself back fully fit ahead of the Australian Open in January, in a tournament that will have the three-time losing finalist right up there among the favourites in the tennis betting.
After the opening Grand Slam of the season, Murray will likely line-up for Leon Smith’s GB team for their Davis Cup clash against the United States.
It mustn’t be underestimated how much of a role this back injury has had on the two-time Grand Slam winner this season and those who bet on tennis will know a fully fit Murray could well be next year’s dominant force in the game.
Serena Relieved to end “Disappointing” Year on High Note
Serena Williams admitted she was "honoured" have drawn level with Roger Federer’s 17 Grand Slam titles by winning the US Open against Victoria Azarenka, putting herself just one Grand Slam title behind Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
Williams added the US Open title to the French Open crown to end another season at the top of the WTA rankings, but the 31-year old insisted she wasn’t entirely happy with how 2013 had gone. Despite losing only four matches all season, two of those defeats have come in Grand Slams, Williams claims she would have been disappointed if she hadn't won at Flushing Meadows for a sensational fifth time.
While admitting she was delighted to have equalled Federer’s 17 Grand Slam titles, Williams said that 2013 wouldn’t have been a success if she hadn’t been victorious in New York.
"It's an honour to be even with Roger. He's been such a great champion throughout the years, and he's just an unbelievable competitor and he's still playing, and he can probably still win more."
"I felt almost disappointed with my year, to be honest. So I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year,” admitted Williams.
But while the Grand Slams may be over for the season, there is still plenty of intriguing tournaments left to play, most notably the WTA Championships in Istanbul in November. With so much live tennis online still to come before the end of the year, the tennis betting options available offer plenty of opportunities.
In terms of the WTA Championships, as long as Serena can stay free from injury between now and November then she has to be the heavy favourite heading into the tournament in Turkey.