This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam
or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.

I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 US Open Preview

Well, the US Open, the final Grand Slam of the year, is here, starting today.  I am a bit late in previewing this draw of the top 4, but better late than never, and this is as late as I can go because I am going camping for a week today.

Roger Federer

The great Mr. Fed has been given a tough draw, starting with the potential meeting of Thomaz Bellucci in the 2nd round, who is a big hitting dangerous lefty.  Bernard Tomic, Marin Cilic, or Ryan Harrison in the 3rd round.  In the 4th round, Troicki, Stepanek, and Kohlscreiber come up as possible opponents.  And then, of course, the daunting quarterfinal that may feature a match with Tsonga or Fish.  And then if he gets by all that, Djokovic.  What a wonderful draw to be given.

However, in saying that, this draw isn't as bad as many are making it out to be.  Sure it will be difficult but that hardly phases Fed these days.  Throughout his entire career he has always risen to the occasion - my three memories of that being the Australian Open 2006, US Open 2008, and of course the magical French of 2009.  If you look at it logically, Roger should beat Bellucci in straights, and should beat Tomic, Cilic, or Harrison in three tough sets, if he is on his game.  A 4th round encounter with Troicki, Stepanek, or Kohl should only be worrisome if RF is not at his best, but even then he will probably still find a way to win.  In the quarters, a match with Fish would be far easier than Tsonga, but still tough nonetheless.  So you see, if Roger is playing well like he should, then he most certainly has the chance to meet Nole in the semis for a 4th straight year (that would be really ridiculous to be honest).  I'm hoping for the best and if Roger gets through I will be so dang happy.

Novak Djokovic

Nole has a pretty manageable draw, although you never know at this stage of great run this year when he might tire out and give a guy like Berdych, Monfils, Gasquet, or even Dolgopolov a ray of hope that they can beat him.  Last year Troicki should have beaten him and I could see a guy upsetting Nole too if it all matches up right.  Djoker is the top dog now and everybody wants to say they beat him. 

Rafael Nadal

Let's face it, Rafa has a sweet draw, as ALWAYS (damn ATP!), but with the way he has been playing this summer literally anything is possible.  There are many holes in his game right now and he can be exposed.  I really don't see him making it past the quarters, where he could either face Ferrer or Roddick.  Yes, Roddick.  Andy may be in the twilight of his pretty disappointing career (thanks to an elegant Swiss man), but this is New York and Andy always gets motivated for the US Open.  If Rafa isn't returning well and is moving slowly, Roddick, even now, could give him a match.  If John Freaking Isner could take a 2 sets to 1 lead in the 1st round of the French vs Nadal, surely Roddick can do the same, no?  Anyways, I don't expect a trip to the final 4 for Rafa.

Andy Murray

Murray could have some problems early on with Robin Haase and Feliciano Lopez, but I have come to expect little of opponents that should give Muzzhead problems.  They usually don't.  A 4th round match with Wawrinka would be the best match of the first week given the history they have from last year.  I for one want to see that.  A QF with big hitters Soderling, Isner, or Delpo would be fun, but hopefully he doesn't have to face Gilles the Pusher, which would be extremely boring to watch.  Overall, I expect Murray to make the final with the draw he has and with my prediction that Nadal won't make it to the semifinals to give Andy any headcases.

Well, there you go.  I finally got my preview written, and just in time for the US Open.  Now that Hurricane Irene has seemingly passed New York, let's have a great two weeks of tennis with some great matches and unbelievable shots (Roger, I'm looking at you).  I may or may not write again before the week is out, it will depend on my ability to access the internet while I'm off camping.  Anyways, enjoy the tennis!

Final prediction:  Roger Federer over Andy Murray in four sets.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cincy Final Disappointment

The fans in Cincinnati were anticipating a wonderful final match between World #1 Novak Djokovic and World #4 Andy Murray on Sunday afternoon.  Unfortunately, they received a match cut short after Djokovic retired with a shoulder injury at 6-4, 3-0. You could see Novak was in considerable pain after the first set when he had his shoulder examined, and it was only a matter of time until Novak retired. 

Personally, it it a wise move with the US Open just over a week away, because the last thing he would want is to injure his shoulder even further and risk his chances of winning his 3rd Grand Slam of the year.  However, professionally, no matter how bad an injury is, unless it actually prevents you from playing, you continue until the match is over, ESPECIALLY in a final, where the fans pay the most money.  Even if it meant losing 6-4, 6-0 in one hour and 25 minutes (the match was one hour and 11 minutes), you tough it out and give the fans a full match, even if it isn't at all competitive. 

I would love to say that Djokovic getting injured comes as a complete surprise to me, but it really doesn't.  Novak has built his game the entire year upon taking huge swings at the ball, and sooner or later, that will take its toll on the shoulder.  Unfortunately for Djokovic, this injury is now coming a week before the US Open, which automatically now puts his condition heading into the event in question.  I'm sure he will be fine, however there will be the concern about the shoulder acting up in New York and costing him a match like it did today vs Murray.  Needless to say, we all want Novak to be at his very best in New York, so I hope he gets the proper treatment and goes into the US Open with no health concerns and ready to rock and roll.

Anyways, I hope Novak is ready for the US Open and that this shoulder injury isn't a big deal.

PS:  It is interesting to note that two of the top three players in the world are not healthy heading into the US Open.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Roger and Rafa lose in Cincy

What a day of tennis in Cincinnati.  First Rafael Nadal goes out 6-3, 6-4 vs Mardy Fish in to me wasn't really a shocking upset, and then right afterwards Roger Federer goes out to Tomas Berdych 6-2, 7-6(3).  Needless to say, both Federer and Nadal have their major concerns heading into the US Open, with Rafa struggling mentally and physically, and Roger struggling to change his game up when he needs to against certain opponents.

Fits, I will talk about Nadal.  This is about as poor as I have ever seen him play, and he is making his 2009 self look like the greatest player ever (post French Open 2009).  He is hitting most shots off the back foot, is moving very poorly, and is struggling mentally when he needs to rise his level of play.  When was the last time you saw Rafa hit only one winner through a set and three games of play?  It just doesn't happen unless something is seriously wrong, which there is right now.  He needs to be really concerned heading into the US Open because not only is he struggling in every department right now, he has a win to defend in New York.  He would lose so many points if he were to go out in the QFs or 4th round.  He and his team really need to dig down deep and find a way to make something out of the upcoming US Open.

Now, onto the disappointing result of the day, Roger's loss to Berdych.  Berd came out on fire in the first set, hammering every ball deep and flat, and pounding Roger's second serve which is usually very good.  There was really nothing Fed could do when Berdych is playing that well, because he hits the ball SO big.  In the second set Roger showed a better brand of tennis and at 5-5 in the set showed a lot of heart and clutch serving to hold after a ten minute power struggle.  I though Roger would take the set after that, but alas I was wrong.  Fed came out in the TB and mistimed seemingly every ball on his FH, which usually means he is trying to go for too much.  A poor tiebreak and generally a poor match, but if I was to take any positives out of the match it was his serving in the 2nd set and his heart in that 5-5 game.

However, Roger practically handed Berd the match with the way he was trying to play.  Fed must understand that he CANNOT overpower these young big hitters like Djokovic, Tsonga, Berdych, Soderling, and Del Potro.  He played a brilliant match vs Delpo by mixing up pace and spin, and keeping him off guard, but against Berdych he seemed to throw that book out the window.  To be fair there really isn't much chance to change things up when Tomas is hitting so big off both wings, but Roger could have sliced more and could have given Berd more junk right up the middle of the court.  I understand it must be hard to come to grips with the fact that you can't outhit these young guys anymore, but he must face facts.  He just can't keep giving these guys the same looks in rallies and the same pacey ball.  They feed off it and it helps them get into the zone, which if they do it is over.  I know that Federer's real game is hiding somewhere and he just needs to use it.  He is the most complete player of all-time and he MUST use his full arsenal to beat these big boys.  He did it vs Del Potro, who, while not at his best, was thrown way off guard by Roger's tactics, so why couldn't he do it vs Berdych?  It is frustrating as a fan seeing Rog try to overpower these guys when he can't.  Stubborn, maybe, and sometimes no matter what you try the bigger hitter will have the advantage, but he has to at least try to change things up.  Back in his prime he never hit the same shot twice.  Now he is feeding these big guys the same topspin ball over and over and it just doesn't work.

Anyways, I am a little worried about the US Open for Roger, but I do know that best of 5 set matches are a different ball game than best of 3 set matches, and that Roger generally ALWAYS brings his best for the slams.  I hope he can do it come US Open time, and I pray that he gets a favourable draw with nobody named Berdych, Tsonga, or Del Potro in his quarter.

Another tough match to go through today for us Federer fans, but stay positive and keep faith that the Maestro will show his true form when he needs it most.  I am of the belief that battles may be lost along the way, but the war will be won by the right person, and currently that says it all about Roger.  I hope he wins the war at Flushing Meadows in a few weeks time.

Cheers, and don't be too negative.  It will not help anything.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cincinnati 2011 2R - Roger Federer vs Juan Martin del Potro - 6-3, 7-5

Wow, what can I say about this match?  Roger opened up on fire getting out to a quick 4-1 lead, and ended up winning the 1st set 6 games to 3.  The second set was much closer but Mr. Federer was serving as well as I have seen him serve all year long, so he never really had many problems holding (or even losing points on serve), with the exception of one break point in which he saved with a great body serve.  As Roger showed venomously throughout his prime, he played his best tennis when he needed to, breaking at 5-5 in the second to serve for the match, which he did fairly comfortably.  Bingo bango bongo Mr. Fedurah, 1 hours and 31 minutes, first serve percentage at 75 and of those first serves, 83 percent of those points he won.  Pretty amazing numbers vs a player as great as Del Potro is.

Now let me talk a little about why Roger won the match 6-3, 7-5.  It is fairly simple when you think about it in-depth.  Roger, instead of trying to cream every ball to Delpo, massaged the ball deep in the court and made the big Argentine quite uncomfortable where he usually feels safe.  He also sliced and chipped returns, and forced Delpo into the net quite often, where he is extremely uncomfortable.  To me, this was the Roger Federer we all know and love, where he shows his unmatched variety and guile.  When he is using every shot in his arsenal as well as serving well enough that half of his points won are unreturnable serves, then there is NOBODY IN THE WORLD who can stop him.  Nobody.  Not Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Del Potro, Tsonga, Soderling, Berdych, Davydenko, nobody.  The tennis he showcased vs Juan Martin is what he needs to do the rest of his career.  As the younger guys start to hit bigger and bigger, Roger must use his tactics to get them outside their comfort level.  He must outsmart them a let them know that even though he isn't pounding the ball, he is controlling the match.  Versus JMDP, he did this beautifully, and it gave him one of the best wins of the year in my opinion, falling just behind the Roland Garros semifinal and the final vs Davydenko in Doha.  Well done Roger!

JesusFed now plays old friend James Blake.  It should be a fun match that Roger takes easily if he plays even a fraction as well as he did vs Del Potro.  Then after that comes a potential Toronto 2010 rematch with Tomas Berdych, which would be interesting.  If GOAT-RF employs the same tactics he used to beat Del Potro and he serves well, he could take Tomas out easily.  But that is two rounds from now, so no getting ahead of myself yet.

As for the rest of the days' action, Isner lost to Stepanek which is obviously disappointing for him.  Stepanek is a crafty little player though and uses his serve effectively.  And after all, he did win in Washington two weeks ago, so he is on a roll.  Fabio Fognini lost to James Blake quite easily after he upset Viktor Troicki in round one.  A bit of a shock that Fabio beat Troicki, but James Blake is DANGEROUS when he plays well.  Unfortunately with his high-risk game that doesn't happen often anymore.  Shame, really.

Sometime soon I am going to write more in-depth about how to make life difficult for pace-eaters, or counterpunchers like Djokovic, Del Potro, and Nadal.  Cheers until then, and celebrate Roger's great play!

PS:  Roger owns revenge matches, yo. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Previewing Cincinnati 2011

So, Cincinnati is being played this week and after Federer was bounced out of Montreal in the 3rd round, it is obvious that Roger needs to gain some momentum heading into the US Open.  But is match play always necessary for Roger to do well at Slams?  3 years ago at the US Open in 2008 Roger had all of 3 matches, one in Toronto vs Gilles Simon, and two in Cincinnati vs Robby Ginepri and Ivo Karlovic.  The way I see it, playing matches are only helpful if it helps your game to peak at the right time.  In 2008, Roger only played 3 matches between Wimbledon and the US Open, but he was healthy, and even though his game was struggling, he was able to play at his very best in New York, winning his 13th major title.

This year, in 2011, Roger will most certainly want to win the tournament for a 3rd straight year, but more importantly, he wants to get some good matches in so he can work his way into top form.  For instance, struggling his way through to the semifinal or final probably wouldn't benefit him, but winning a few matches quite comfortably would most certainly help boost his confidence heading into the US Open.

As many of us know, when Roger is at his very best in New York, nobody beats him, and he is the most dangerous player on that fast hardcourt surface.  The warmup tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati, especially now in Federer's career, are stepping stones used to help him get into top form for the US Open.  This isn't always the case with the younger guys like Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic, who want to win every single match, but risk tiring themselves out in the process if they happen to face tough opponents who give them difficult matches.

However, in saying that, I'm not suggesting Roger never cared about Canada and Cincy in his prime between 2004 and 2007.  He was just so much better than everybody else that he could play well without expending energy and then really bring his best in New York when he really needed it.  This was evident in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.  In 2004, he won Toronto, in 2005 he won in Cincinnati, in 2006 he won in Toronto, and in 2007 he won in Cincinnati.  He never won both in the same year between '04 and '07 (didn't play in Montreal in 2005), and the closest he ever came to winning both was in 2007 when he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final.  Even though he wasn't great in every match throughout those summers, and came close to losing a few times (Toronto 2006 comes to mind), he took his good form out of those tournaments and helped it propel him to greater play in New York.  I have always said that Roger Federer is so good at playing well at any tournament even when he struggles previously because he is so positive and always has belief in himself and his abilities.  After all, why wouldn't he, being the most talented tennis player ever?  Unlike other players who may need to win to feel good about their game, Roger knows it is there and knows how to channel his best at the most important moments.  It is one reason why he held a Grand Slam semifinal streak of 23 between Wimbledon 2005 and Australia 2010 - he brings his best out when it matters most.  That takes a great amount of mental strength and confidence, something Roger does not lack at all.

Now, onto this week in Cincinnati:  Djokovic is certainly the favourite, but as I always say, never count Roger out.  The courts really suit his game as proven by his 4 titles in 6 years between 2005 and 2010.  It would not surprise me in the least if Roger came out firing and made the semifinals or finals (if he pulls a win vs Novak or Nole goes out early).  He has a tough match with Delpo in the 2nd round should he get by, but I believe a win over JMDP could skyrocket Roger's confidence and lead him to a superb week.  A 3rd round clash with old rival James Blake could be a fun match to watch, kind of like Federer vs Nalbandian at Wimbledon, and a quarterfinal clash with Berdych could be tough, but Tomas isn't anywhere near as good as he was in Toronto last year.  As for Nadal, with all the troubles he has had mentally and physically lately, I believe he will go out in the quarterfinals or earlier.  But this is Rafael Nadal, and that man has a fighting spirit like no other, so as with Roger, we shouldn't count him out.  Having said that, the easy draw doesn't mean anything because we saw what happened in Montreal when we thought Dodig would be do(di)g food for Nadal.  Andy Murray won't make any splash as he is so mentally unstable right now, and he has a tough draw with Tsonga in his quarter.  And after the success Mardy Fish had in Montreal, he could be another threat in Cincinnati.  Djokovic is definitely a lock to go the final and probably win if Roger doesn't have anything to say about it though.  Let us Fedfans hope that Roger pulls out his magic should they meet in the semifinals.

Overall, it should be a great week and I hope we see the very best of Roger Federer!

Prediction:  Roger Federer defeats Mardy Fish in the final


Who is Kyle Johansen?


Welcome to Lefty Advantage, my very own new blog in which I hope to write great articles about tennis.  Some of you will know me as @KJOttawa on Twitter, where I can talk about tennis for hours upon hours on end, especially when it comes down to talking about the great Roger Federer.  If you have followed me at all over my two-plus years on Twitter, then you will know that I am a diehard Roger Federer fan and one who has no doubts that he is clearly the greatest player ever to walk the face of this planet.  I always stand by him and I will never stop being his ultimate fan.

Seeing as I am going to be writing this blog for hopefully a long time, I want to let my readers inside my head.  I want to let you guys know the evolution of KJ, how I came to be this extremely passionate tennis fan who will be giving his thoughts and opinions on this blog.  So as my first post of what will surely be hundreds more to come, this one will be one of the few that is not about tennis, or at least directly about the current ongoings in the game.

I was born June 23, 1992, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  So skip through all that fluff that is the 19 years of my childhood, where I played and watched sports as if my life depended on it, and I am currently a 6'3, 165 pound lanky soon-to-be-man with long legs and big feet. 

But how did I get into tennis, this wonderful sport that has given me so much?  Well, throughout my childhood I was a huge hockey fan, and I watched the sport with a passion.  My favourite team was the Ottawa Senators and I never missed watching a game, and usually went to a handful of games every season.  In general, I was a sports nut - hockey, football, basketball, baseball, you name it - every day my friends and I would be talking about nothing but sports.  Then, when I was 10 years old, in 2002, my parents introduced me to tennis at this great little tennis club in a small neighbourhood where I lived.  Intitally, I was against the prospect of playing tennis, and didn't want to take a lesson with my folks.  However, I went through with it, and before you know it I was a natural tennis player from the first time I picked up the racket.  I fell in love.  Through my early teenage years, I joined summer camps and was always one of the best, if not THE best in the camps.  Then, in about 2008, I started really getting involved in the game and it became my one true calling in life.  I started watching more matches, listening to the commentators, analyzing points, watching technique and finding every nugget of information I could about ways to improve my game.  Right now I am a 5.0 level player through the ranking system of the NRTP, and I play almost every two days.  I have always taken pride in the fact that I am a self-taught player, having really only learned the very basics in my first lesson (the camps were just for me to have fun, I already knew the things they were teaching).  I believe in tennis, as with anything in life, if you work hard enough and set your mind something, it will be achieved.  I am happy to say I have achieved my goals of improving at tennis and devoting my days to the wonderful sport.

Now, the story of Roger in relation to MOI.

In 2002, when I was 10 and just starting tennis, I was a Lleyton Hewitt fan.  His backwards cap and his intense fighting spirit must have caught something within me  and I was a fan.  Then in 2003, probably when Andy Roddick had won the US Open, I became a fan of his.  Big serving American with a loudmouth demeanor and dripping buckets of sweat?  What's not to like about that?  So then my fascination lasted for about a year.  Then, and this is where it gets good, I heard on TV that this man named Richard Feedera had just won his third straight Wimbledon.  Right afterwards I found out it was Roger Federer.  Immediately I was hooked.  But that third straight Wimbledon wasn't the draw to my liking of him.  I saw the highlights, where he demolished Andy Roddick, and I couldn't get over his grace, elegance, and temperament on court.  His shotmaking was unreal, and I realized, even at 14, THIS was the guy I wanted to cheer for as long as he was around playing his beautiful tennis.

Skip ahead to 2008, and I was still a Federer fan, but I hadn't really followed the results at all over the past two years.  Then came the French Open.  Roger struggled to make the final, having many tough matches, and then came the final.  Oh, the final.  He was clobbered by Nadal.  Clearly not at his best, and it broke my heart.  Then came Wimbledon.  The 5-times defending Champion, I thought he had it in the bag, even with the heartbreaking defeat to Nadal a few weeks earlier.  I watched the final.  It was the greatest single match I had ever seen in my life and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Then Roger lost, and it broke my heart again.  It took a very long time to digest what had happened, until the US Open began.  Roger got his fire back, and took the title by defeating his younger rivals Djokovic and Murray in the process.  I was ecstatic, The King was back!  Well, not quite.

Skip ahead to January 2009, and the Australian Open final was another meeting of Federer and Nadal.  Fed had just come off two great wins vs Del Potro (two bagels) and Roddick, and after Nadal had a 5-plus hour marathon with Fernando Verdasco the day before, I thought there was no way Roger would lose.  Then he did.  It broke my heart, and it just furthered my depressed state I was in the months before where I was absent from school thanks to deep anxiety.  Then, months later, it was the French Open, and Roger had just come off a win vs Nadal in Madrid after a TOUGH season filled with racket smashing and shanks.  I was optimistic about Roger's chances knowing who he was, but I thought it was Nadal's tournament surely.  Then Rafa lost to Soderling.  I was amazed.  Then Roger, the day after, barely edge Haas and saved break point at 3-4 30-40 down two sets.  I didn't watch the match live and I'm happy I didn't because I would have lost it.  Then came the semifinal vs Del Potro and Roger pulled out a two sets to one deficit, showing his true warrior spirit in the face of adversity.  Then the final vs the Giant Killer, Soderling.  I knew Roger would win, and sure enough I was right.  The weight was lifted and I could cry for a positive reason this time!  The ceremony was beautiful and the rain made the moment magical.

Then came Wimbledon.  After learning Nadal withdrew, I knew Roger was going to win it.  He did, but not before being taken to the brink by Andy Roddick, who I felt so sorry for after the match.  But Roger was the 15-time Grand Slam champion and officially the greatest ever.  Since that time, I have watched EVERY single Federer match from Wimbledon 2009 up until now, and have followed tennis with a keen eye and an even greater love for the game.  I have grown to appreciate what Roger has done for tennis, his fans, and for humanity (Roger Federer Foundation), and I am proud to say that Rog is my true inspiration in this world.

I aspire to be a sports journalist someday and maybe a tennis instructor.  I would love to work for Tennis Canada and help improve the tennis youth in Canada.  I love writing, reading, and learning, and I will always have something to say about any subject related to tennis.  I hope to share my knowledge and passion for the game with those who read this, and hopefully in time I can become good enough to make this blog enjoyable and a good tool for discussing tennis.

Thanks for reading this first entry!  Cheers until next time, and until then, wag that finger!