Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nadal and Berdych stroll into the finals

This makes for a very interesting Wimbledon final. Berdych, has continued, to defy the odds, by dethroning yet another top seeded player. This time in straight sets. I thought for sure Djokovic, would have finished him. Albeit probably in a close five setter. But it surprises me, to see Berdych, getting the better of the #2 and #3 ranked players in the world. I think in this case, it was Djokovic's, second serve that was his downfall. He had 8 double faults in the match and won only 42% of the points on his second serve. No where near good enough, for the later stages of a grand slam.

Berdych, did a very good job of consistently applying pressure to Djokovic through out the match. This was a well deserved victory for him.

The other semi-final, turned out to be fairly routine as well. Andy Murray, was attempting to become the first British man, in a billion years to reach the finals of Wimbledon and to his credit he played a solid match. He just got outplayed. Nadal's level was very, very good. Not up to his 2008 level, perhaps but still excellent. Rafa, got lucky in the tie-break, at 6-all. His return clipped the net and just barely tipped over. Making it impossible for Murray, to return it. This set up, a set point for Rafa, which he won and in doing so sealed Murray's fate.

Furious, over losing the second set, Murray, played the third set, with full aggression. Breaking Nadal straight away and giving the crowd, a slight hope of a comeback. Unfortunately, for Andy, he wasn't able to maintain that level long enough to serve out the set. Nadal got the break back, a few games later and then broke again one final time to win the match 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-4.

Now for the finals: I think Berdych's dream run, is going to come to an end. He's played great and deserves to have gotten this far. I don't see what advantage he has on Nadal, except for the serve. Both have great forehands, good backhands. Nadal is much better on the run and mentally stronger than Berdych in pivotal moments. I predict the finals will go to 4 and that Nadal will be the 2010 Wimbledon champion.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wimbledon: Quarters

Federer is out. Can you believe it. For the first time in 8 years, there will be a Roger-free final at Wimbledon. Love him or hate him, this is going to be weird. It feels like Roger is as much a part of Wimbledon as the all white dress code, the strawberries & cream or the unpredictable weather. While, I'll miss watching Roger play for the title, it's also kind of refreshing to know that someone else is finally going to get a chance to win.

Berdych, has had a phenomenal year. For a guy that looked washed up when he was 23 years old, he's had quite the turn around. I'm very excited to see how he does against Novak, this should be a great match. I predict it'll go the full distance but I'm giving a slight edge to Nole. He's a little more familiar with the later stages of slams and it might give him enough of an edge that he'll pull it out. Again, I expect this will be very close.

Djokovic, beat out, Yen Hsun Lu, in a very easy straight setter to reach the semis. He's gone up several levels, since his first round struggles with Rochus.

Nadal, looked great against Soderling. Even though he lost the opening set, he was able to come back and tear right through Soderling, sending him packing with a breadstick (6-1.) Nice stuff, from Rafa. Going to be tough on Andy Murray, who was able to come through a relatively competitive quarter-final match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Intersting fact, is that despite the head-to-head being 7-3 in Nadal's favor. Murray holds even when playing Nadal in slams. Their record is 2-all.

So with only 4 players left in the draw it's time for me to make my pick for the finals.

I'm going with the top seeded Rafael Nadal to play Novak Djokovic, for the title.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Round of 16 at Wimbledon

I have to admit, I'm surprised that all 4 of the top seeds are through to the second week. These guys, have struggled and struggled, through their fare share of 5 setters, but they're all still alive and ready to go from the looks of things.

Nadal's match against Paul Henri-Mathieu, showed some noticeable improvements in the Spaniard's game. Rafa's forehand was very good this time around and he served into the 120s. He also, won 47% of the returns off Mathieu's serve. If there was one area that he could have improved, it would have been on converting the break points. Nadal, only managed to get 5 for 15, a good number but still a little lacking. He looks set for the quarters against Soderling, who was nearly beaten by Rafa's compatriot David Ferrer.

Ferrer, has never really done well on grass. In fact this was only the second time in his career, that he's reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. As for the match, he did a nice job playing against Soderling. When his first serve percentage was high, he was able to cruise through the match. His second serve was a different story though. He didn't put enough on the ball and allowed Soderling, to attack it with ease, which explains why Soderling broke him 6 times in the match. Robin, did get the win after 5 sets but I would have like to have seen a cleaner performance from him. His unforced were a bit too high today. He'll need to clean that up, if he wants to have a chance to beat Nadal in the quarters.

The biggest surprise of the day, turned out to be Andy Roddick's downfall at the hands of Yen-Hsun Lu. This, was the first time that I had ever seen Lu, play and while I admit his win was impressive and well deserved, it was also highly unexpected. Lu, doesn't have any real weapons, to threaten Roddick. He doesn't hit big, he doesn't serve hard, but he does play a very smart game. And when he see's an opportunity, he goes for it.

Lu, served very well, in both tie-breaks and I was impressed by how easily, he was able to win points against, Roddick by going for placement rather than brute force. Lu, was the better man today. I don't expect he'll make it much further though, as he now must face Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer back to back.

Djokovic's form, has been improving steadily and I can't see him losing to Lu, unless something goes wrong. Perhaps, there's a small glimmer of hope, given Lu's win over Roddick but really this is Novak's match to lose.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Roger, continues his early round struggles, Davydenko out, Mahut and Isner set record for longest match

Another tough match for Roger, this time with Serbian, tennis player Ilija Bozoljac. Bozolijac, actually outplayed Roger in many aspects, coming up with more aces and winners. He was almost able to steal this one from Roger, but like in the Fella match, Rog was just too good and put away his opponent, in a very tight 4 setter.

Roger, has been thoroughly tested, in the early rounds of Wimbledon. It should bode well for his confidence, but it hasn't been easy on him physically. He's still got five more matches, to go. That's a long way to the championship.

As for Davydenko, he met his match against Daniel Brands. Brands, initially got off to a rough start, dropping the first set. But he didn't let the deficit stop him and stole the next two sets in tie-breaks. After taking the lead, Brands was then easily able to put Davydenko away, winning the match 1-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(10), 6-1.

Now on to the one you've been waiting for. The one that has everyone talking. The conclusion of the psycho marathon, match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Which is now officially, the longest match of all time. Strung out between 3 days but only took 10 hours to complete. Neither player was able to break the other guy's serve. Which is why it lasted forever and ever and ever but don't get me wrong, this was one incredible match to behold.

Now some people have said that the return games of Isner and Mahut, were lacking and that's why it went to 70-68. These people don't know what they're talking about. Mahut alone, had 244 winners to 34 unforced errors, 103 aces and won 502 points (he actually outperformed Isner in the stats department.) Does that sound like a guy who played a bad match?! No way.
I couldn't believe the level, they were able to produce for 10 straight hours it's mind boggling.

This was a very well deserved win for John Isner and a heart breaking loss for Mahut. Hopefully there won't be another one like it for a while though. I'd like see this record stand. It's an epic battle in it's own right. A definite must see, if you haven't already.

Fed and Djokovic forced to five in round 1, Nadal and Murray progress in straights

I never thought, I'd see the day where Roger Federer, would be pushed to five sets in the opening round of Wimbledon, but sure enough, it at hand.

Roger's opponent, Alejandro Falla played incredibly well, winning the first two sets and putting Federer, in a deep hole, with not much chance of a comeback. Amazingly Roger, still pulled it out in just under 3 and a half hours. I can't say he looked great in the match, but he finish off Falla with a bagel. And most likely Fed, will continue to improve in the rounds to come.

Nadal, posted a relatively routine, win over Kei Nishikori, while still managing some thrilling winners. Rafa, played great here. His serve in particular, has come a long ways, he was able to keep it at 70% winning 80% of them, while still maintaining an average speed of 115 mph. Nadal, may have a tough draw but if he continues, playing like this, he'll have a great chance at regaining his 2008 Wimbledon title.

Djokovic, did not get off to a great start against Olivier Rochus. Novak's serve was terrible, he had 17 aces to 12 double Faults and won only 68% of his points on first serve. He also, had an inordinate number of unforced errors, topping out at 60 for the match. This was not a good performance from Djokovic and he's going to face Taylor Dent in the next round. If he found Olivier Rochus, to be tricky, then Taylor Dent, should present some serious problems. The American, has a huge serve that get's up in the 130s and is very adept at the net.

Davydenko, made a successful return to the tour, by narrowly surviving, a viscous 5 setter against Kevin Anderson. Can't say Davydenko, played great but I will give him credit for gritting his way out of a 2 sets to love deficit. Since, he's just getting back to playing on tour (and because he's not good on grass) I don't expect he'll go much further. We're going to have to wait a few more weeks, until the summer hard court season approaches, to see how he's coping with his wrist injury.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wimbledon predictions

For the first time in many years, Roger Federer has looked vulnerable on his favorite surface. Just 2 weeks ago, his long time rival Lleyton Hewitt, was able to win his first match in 7 years against the world #2, beating him 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Prior to this defeat, Roger, had won 76 of his last 77 matches on grass but now it seems that his aurora of invulnerability has faded. He's no longer a sure win, for the title and with the Fed/Nadal era weakening, there may be a wide enough gap, for someone like Roddick to bag the trophy.

So with that said, here's my prediction for how the top 10 will do at this years Wimbledon:

10. Jo Wilfried Tsonga: He's had some good results at Wimbledon in the past and has a relatively reasonable draw, for the early rounds. I expect he will reach the quarter-finals.

9. Fernando Verdasco: He's got all the right tools to do well on grass. Hard serve, fast paced groundies, which he can hit with a lot of variety. I think he can do better, than the fourth round this year. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself a bit, but I'll pick him to reach the semi-finals this year.

8. Juan Martin Del Potro: Poor Del Potro, has missed yet another slam, because of his wrist fracture. I hope he gets well soon.:(

7. Andy Roddick: Last years, finalist may have the best chance of everyone to win a slam. He's now one of the older players in the top 10 but his serve is still a tremendous weapon and he's played some great tennis earlier this year. The highlight, being his win over Nadal, in Miami. I'm picking him to reach the finals but don't be surprised if he wins it.

6. Robin Soderling: Really has a tough draw. He'll be tested early and to make matters worse, he has to face Nadal in the quarters. Given the head-to-head I'll side with Nadal to beat him, but Soderling, could surprise everyone and upset the world #1. He's got the game to do it, he's got the game to win the championship, but I still believe, he'll only reach the quarter-finals.

5. Nikolay Davydenko: He's had a lot of time off, recovering from the wrist surgery, so he's going to be out of form, heading into Wimbledon. Coupled, with the fact that Davydenko, never does well, on grass, I'd say he'd be lucky to reach the third round.

4. Andy Murray: It's tough to say how he'll do. Murray has been erratic, ever since his run to the finals at the Australian Open. He could lose early or he could reach the semis. But my gut tells me, he won't go all the way. Prediction: Quarter-finals.

3. Novak Djokovic: His game has been a mess, this year. He may be #3 in the world, but he's well out of form. Todd Martin, Djokovic's former coach, has made some adjustments to his serve, which hasn't paid off for him. He really needs to go back to basics, with his game. Prediction: fourth-round.

2. Roger Federer: This is hard to predict, because he's been inconsistent, recently. I could see him winning Wimbledon again, but sadly I could also envision losing in the third round. I'm going with the Semi-finals for Fed, his game, isn't on right now and if he runs into Roddick, it could be serious trouble for Fed. Andy, is going to want to avenge his defeat in last years final and I know, if he gets to play Roger, he'll come out at full force.

1. Rafael Nadal: If you haven't already seen his draw, I'd advice you to go take a look. It's one of the nastiest things, I've ever seen. For round 1 he has Nishikori, round 2 is Blake, round 3 could be Gulbis, fourth round may have Isner, and for the quarters, none other than Soderling. Yeah, that's a nightmare draw, if ever I've seen one. Luckily, Nadal has been playing very good tennis lately. Not his best but still solid. If he's able to fight his way through this mountain of a hurdle. I believe, he'll be the champion. It's not going to be easy but then again, what slam is?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nadal defeats Soderling to win Roland Garros 2010

What a disappointment. This match had so much potential but sadly it never lived up to expectations. After watching, Soderling dismantle Roger, in the quarters, I was convinced, that if he made the finals, he'd be the favorite to win and that anything less than a great performance from Nadal would equal a straight sets victory for the Sweede. Boy, was I wrong. Nadal, seemed to only play at about 70%, but it was more than enough for him to thrash Soderling 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Robin, was simply, not able to hang with Nadal on the longer points and didn't bring out his aggressive style of hitting either. There were very few occasions where he managed to get himself completely in control of the point and run Rafa ragged, like he did last year. There were a lot of things he needed to do better in this match.

Soderling, has proven, that he has potential. He may even be good enough to win a slam and I think he's got a few good years left. Who knows. We could be looking at next years French Open champion. But if he is going to win the French. He'll need to start playing these finals on his terms and not allow Nadal to keep him pinned behind the baseline with his topspin forehand.