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!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Roger Federer - Perspective from the US Open

It has been a few days since witnessing Roger Federer lose in heartbreaking fashion to Novak Djokovic in the US Open semifinals, after leading two sets to love and holding two match points at 5-3 40-15 in the fifth set.  Right after that loss I was truly devastated.  This was Roger's chance to make another Slam final and win his 17th major title.  Alas, it was not to be, as Djokovic, the undeniable best player in the world right now, cancelled out both match points, one on a once in a lifetime forehand return winner, and won the final four games of the match, to make his third major final of the year, which he would win on a Monday final against Rafael Nadal, in a brilliant display of behind the baseline counterpunching tennis from both men.

That Nole dethroned Nadal most certainly eased the pain of Roger's defeat, although I still find myself asking what could have been.  I have replayed the match over and over in my head, wondering what would have happened had Roger played those two match points (particularly the first one) differently.  What if he had hit a serve up the T on MP #1 instead of trying to go out wide?  What if he had gone out wide, as he did, but hit it better, stretching Nole to the limit instead of giving Nole a strike zone swing to hammer away at?  So many questions that nobody can answer except for Roger himself, and I'm dead sure he doesn't want to think about it any more than he already has.

Without any doubt in my mind, that booming forehand return shook Roger up, and brought back haunting memories of last years' defeat at the hands of Novak, in the exact same fashion.  It was clear to me that Roger was going to lose if he did not hold that 5-3 game.  He faced a break point, hit an ace to save it, then faced another one an double faulted.  I know Roger got many criticisms for double faulting on such a crucial point, but allow me to put things in perspective.  Roger played so well in this US Open, and specifically against Nole in sets one, two, and five, because he went after his second serve.  Roger, fully capable of hitting a big albeit risky second serve, used it to full effect when he needed to all tournament, especially with great effect against Tsonga, yet that same serve failed him when he needed it the most.  Sometimes that is life.  That is the nature of the beast.  But looking back, who is to say Roger would have won the point if he had put in a second serve?  I would much rather look at the "what if" situation had Roger gotten another crack at winning the match.

Now, enough about the actual match, time to talk about the aftermath of that epic encounter with the Unstoppable One.  A 30 year-old Roger Federer took the much younger 24 year-old Djokovic, at the ultimate peak of his career, to his absolute limit.  Roger, with his lethal serve, attacking all-court game, and boundless experience, was able to come within a point of beating Novak for the SECOND time in majors this year.  Sadly, it wasn't to be.  Sometimes things just happen that are unexplainable.  Sometimes the bounces just don't go your way, and although it is hard to accept, it must be accepted.  I know that the word "choke" is thrown around often, but I don't like to use that word.  Sometimes matches get away.  On the court, things happen, and we want to make sense of it.  Sometimes sense can't be made.  As with every athlete, Roger is getting older and losing a step, both mentally and physically, but nothing can change the fact that Roger is the greatest tennis player to walk this planet.  That in 2011, at age 30, Fed could take Nole to the limit, and Nadal, five years his younger, couldn't, speaks to the Maestro's longevity and consistency. 

Sport is a cruel creature, but a creature that can bring us to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  By supporting Roger, we give our faith to him and with his racket as a wand, can weave magic and make us feel such joy that is rare in this world.  But with that faith, losses can become painful, shaking experiences.  All we want for Roger is to see him succeed, and when that success fails, we question everything.  It is only natural, but we must remember that everything happens for a reason.  Life takes its unalterable course, and all we can do is hope that we can see Roger brought success at the highest level, even if it is only one more time.

At this late stage in Roger's career, it is time to appreciate his genius, and give him nothing but unconditional love and support.  This man has given us so much over the years, and it has been such an amazing ride, we owe it to him to stand by him throughout thick and thin.  I believe Roger has the greatest fans in the world, and we are those great fans because we accept Roger for who he is.  We have cried with him, laughed with him, celebrated with him.  As he gets older, success will become harder to achieve, but we shall never doubt this great man, for what he has given us is remarkable.  What he has given tennis is remarkable.

In this final statement, let me say this:  Roger keeps putting himself in a position to win majors.  Soon, the cards will fall into place and he will win again.  Fed is the greatest athlete and champion I have ever seen, and before the end of his career, we will see him triumph again.  Hopefully, that triumph will come next January!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Djokovic defeats Nadal - US Open Final

For the fourth year in a row, the US Open final was being played on a late Monday afternoon, and for the second year in a row, the two finalists were the #1 and #1 players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.  Last year, Djokovic was considered the heavy underdog after a long, tough match with Roger Federer, saving two match points en route to victory, but this year was a different story.  With Djokovic having beaten Nadal 5 straight times in finals in 2011, the odds were most certainly tilted in his favour.  In the end, Djokovic capped off a wonderful Grand Slam season with a 62 64 67(3) 61 win over his foe, Nadal, thus giving him his third major title of the year, and fourth overall.

The match itself was what you would expect between a Djokovic/Nadal match.  Long baseline rallies, brilliant defense, and a LOT of time in between points.  In the first set, Nadal jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but then Djokovic won 6 straight games to take the crucial opening set.  The second set started the exact same as the first, with Nadal again gaining a 2-0 lead, but then the seemingly invincible Djokovic stormed back, and took 6 of the next 8 games to take a commanding two sets to love lead.  In the third set, it looked like more of the same, as Nole got a break lead, but Nadal fought back with everything he had, and broke even.  Then, at 5-5, Nadal was broken and Nole was serving for the match.  Nadal ended up breaking, sending the match to a 3rd set tiebreak, which Nadal played his best tennis of the tournament to win 7-3.  At the start of the fourth set, after the first game, Djokovic took a medical time-out to treat a back problem, and with all the momentum on Nadal's side after the tiebreak, it all vanished as Nole won the set 6-1 and his first US Open title. 

Before the match started, Nadal himself had said on numerous occasions that Djokovic was inside his head and that he hadn't found any solution to defeat him.  He could not find one on Monday, and the match really wasn't even close.  Djokovic was never really threatened at all, and seemingly broke Nadal's serve at love.  Rafa's serve, which had been questionable the past two matches against Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, was eaten alive with deep, penetrating returns that immediately gave Novak the edge at the start of the point.  The reliable lefty slice serve on the ad court was rendered useless.  From the baseline, the crosscourt forehand of Nadal was hammering back by the imperious Djokovic backhand.  It was clear pretty much the entire match that Djokovic is just the perfect opponent to beat a player like Nadal.  Nadal cannot hit through the court like a Roger Federer can, and his spinny balls have no effect on Novak's backhand.

More than anything however, this match showed how one-dimensional Rafael Nadal really is.  The majority of the match he was standing ten feet behind the baseline, trying to play like it was the French Open final.  On a hardcourt, no matter how fast, that just doesn't work.  Roger was able to give Novak fits on Saturday because he takes the ball early, hits it flat, and uses his serve to his advantage.  Nadal does not take the ball early, does not hit it flat, and lost all the pace on his serve from a year ago when he won the US Open title.  A big reason why Nole was able to break Nadal so many times was that he returns the ball so deep and so flat, Nadal cannot half-volley like Federer can, so while Roger has a decent chance of keeping the rally neutral should Novak pound a return at his feet, Nadal cannot.  On the forehand, his extreme grip does not allow him to.  He ends up topping the ball, and against Novak right now, if the ball is short, he will pounce, as he has shown all of this year.  Overall, it was a brilliant performance by Djokovic, he completely deserves all the praise he has gotten in 2011, and Rafael Nadal has a serious problem that could be a big issue for the rest of his career.  Like Roger with Rafa in 2008, Rafa has his own nemesis who can beat him consistently on any surface.

PS:  Something MUST be done about the time wasted in between points by both Nadal and Djokovic.  It is sad to see that a 4-hour 3 set match in Madrid two years ago was barely shorter than a 4 set Grand Slam final.  Mary Carillo was also talking about both of these men getting illegally coached, and that issue must be addressed also.  Not sure about Djokovic, but it is plainly obvious that Nadal has gotten coaching his entire career.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

US Open Semifinals Preview

Well, the time has finally arrived, tennis fans:  the final four at the US Open, and it could not get any better with the top four all there.  We have Nadal vs Murray and Federer vs Djokovic, two marquee matches that are surely as important as it gets in tennis for Grand Slam semifinals.  Nadal wants to prove last year's US Open triumph wasn't a fluke, Murray wants to prove he can win a Grand Slam, Djokovic wants to prove that he is really is the top dog in tennis by winning his 3rd Grand Slam this year, and Roger Federer, well, Mr. Federer wants to prove that his age is only a number and that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Previews for this year's US Open semifinals!

Rafael Nadal vs Andy Murray

This is a match that we have seen countless times before, and both men have had success against one another at the Grand Slam level.  Murray won in the US Open 2008 and the Australian Open 2010, whereas Nadal has picked up victories at Wimbledon in 2008, 2010, 2011, and the French Open 2011.   No matter what the outcome, it should be a tough, competitive match with many ebbs and flows, and it should be highly entertaining to watch, as long as the two men don't stand at the baseline waiting for the other to miss.

Rafael Nadal looks to be in imperious form heading into this match, picking up his game against Gilles Muller in the fourth round and an injured Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, where he only dropped 9 and 6 games respectively.  He is certainly the favourite coming in, being the 10-time Grand Slam champion, and owning many wins over Murray at the Grand Slam level.  But he has never beaten Murray at the US Open, and one could say that the surface plays into Murray's favour, as it did 3 years ago when he really broke through by defeating Nadal and making his first Slam final.  Nadal will need to be sharp on the serve, as Murray is arguably the best returner in the world, and unlike Andy Roddick, Murray is very solid from the back of the court defenseively and can hang with Nadal should they have many long rallies throughout the match.  Both men are elite counterpunchers, so there should be many rallies that should be finished but end up lasting 3-6 shots more because of the great defense that will be undoubtedly displayed.

Andy Murray has without a doubt had the tougher road to this semifinal, having come back from two sets down to beat Robin Haase in the second round, and a tough 4-set match with John Isner yesterday in the quarters.  However, despite having played way more tennis, Murray is as fit as they come, and he will be ready.  He knows he must have a true breakthrough at some point, and why can't it be today?  The court surface favours Murray, he knows he has beaten Nadal here before, and he too is looking fairly sharp heading into the match.  The only concern, as always with Andy, is his mental toughness and his ability to concentrate during crucial stages in the match.  How he controls himself will go a long way in determining the outcome of the match.  On paper, Andy is a great matchup for Nadal, but every time he has lost to the great Spaniard, it has been due to his mental strength and his inability to sustain lengthy periods of great play because his mind gets in the way.  Murray has all the ability in the world to go out and beat Nadal if he is playing well.  But if his mind puts up roadblocks, he does not stand a chance.

Alright, onto the first semifinal that will be played today, the best match in tennis:

Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic

Can you say blockbuster?  With their many close matches over the years, and their brilliant matches this year at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and of course Roland Garros, where Federer ended Djokovic's undefeated streak of 2011, this should be, without any doubt, one of the best tennis matches of the year.  Whereas Nadal and Murray play defensive baseline tennis, Federer and Djokovic play offensive, attacking baseline tennis, and they should have a compelling match that will feature beautiful attacking tennis and great shotmaking.

Novak Djokovic has been pretty good this tournament so far, as expected, and he has gotten two retirements, thus limiting his time on court.  With all the tennis he has played however, that should not be a problem.  What may be a problem though, is Djokovic's questionable form heading into this match with the hottest player in the draw right now, Roger Federer.  Novak was tested by Alexandr Dolgopolov, and looked to be in real danger before he won the first set 16-14 in a tiebreak.  Against countryman Janko Tipsarevic, he wasn't any better, and dropped a set before winning in 4 sets when Tipsarevic retired three games into the 4th set.  Simply put, Novak Djokovic will need to play much better or else he will be in for a rude awakening, because.....

Roger Federer is EXTREMELY sharp right now.

This is the best form Roger has been in since the World Tour Finals last year, or maybe even the Australian Open 2010, his last Grand Slam triumph.  The fire is back in his eyes.  He is as sharp as he has ever been off the serve and return, and that is no exaggeration.  Roger came out in his quarterfinal vs Tsonga and made a statement that he was still a giant force in men's tennis today, capable of playing lethal tennis just as he did in his prime from 2004-2007.  There is a case to be made that he wants this Grand Slam maybe more than any other he has won before, with perhaps the US Open 2008, Wimbledon 2007, and French Open 2009 being the only exceptions.  At this stage in Federer's career, he is trying to prove that he can still win Majors, and a win over Novak Djokovic, the #1 player in the world, would most certainly prove that he is still the man to beat in tennis today.

As for as the actual match goes, it will be a very tight battle, much like their past 4 encounters at the US Open.  Roger does have the weapons and the motivation to beat Djoker though, especially if Nole is at any time off during the match.  Roger, like Djokovic and Murray have become known for, is eating second serves and hammering them deep in the court, immediately putting his opponent on the defensive.  Like Nadal in the other semifinal, Djokovic will need to serve extremely well, as Roger is rolling on return.  Needless to say, Roger must be clutch on the serve as well, and if he is, then watch out, because that only means he is able to be more free on the return, which is dangerous no matter who he plays.  More so than any tactic in this match, Federer must use his fire and determination to will his way through the match, and play with the same emotion he did in 2008 here in New York.  Roger Federer has shown for years that he is the most talented man ever to play the game, but when he is focused and out to prove a point to his doubters, even now he is the best tennis player in the world.

It should be a wonderful match.  If there was ever a time to beat Novak Djokovic, this is it.

Prediction:  Roger in 4, 63 64 46 62

Friday, September 09, 2011

US Open Quarterfinals Recap

Well, it's that time of the year again - the final 4 in the 4th and final Grand Slam of the year, and for the 4th time in a row, the final will be played on Monday, a decision that has made all the players very happy.  Speaking of the number 4, the top 4 seeds are all in the semifinals of the 2011 US Open, as it was in 2008 when Roger Federer and Andy Murray made it through to the final.

Quarterfinal recap, here we go!

Roger played about as well as I hoped he would, defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 64 63 63 in a rather comfortable win that was delayed by a slight drizzle for 90 or so minutes early in the match.  I was one of the seemingly few fans that was confident Roger was going to win this match decisively, although I guess you can't blame anybody for thinking Tsonga would have a real chance with the results at Wimbledon and Montreal.  But I knew that Roger, after the way he looked vs Juan Monaco, was going to be sharp as his Gillette razor, and win the match in dominant fashion, making a statement in the process.  Roger did just that.  He was serving well, returning brilliantly, and he remained very level-headed when he got broken in the first two sets after having a break and double break lead.  He played within himself and used his lethal serve and quick-strike attacking tennis to take the match to Jo, and in the end, the Frenchman never really stood a chance.  Roger proved again why he is such a dangerous player in when he has something to prove, and he certainly had a score to settle with Jo after his two losses in the past few months.  Yes, Tsonga didn't play his very best tennis, much of that had to do with the way Roger was hitting the ball and constantly putting Jo in a defensive position in the rallies.  It was a brilliant gameplan and brilliant execution by the Maestro, and he looks exceptionally good heading into the semifinals, where he plays the #1, Novak Djokovic.

Novak had a tough match with countryman Janko Tipsarevic, who gave it his all but ended up retiring down 3-0 in the 4th set, down two sets to one.  It was a valiant effort from Tipsy, and he could not ask anymore of himself.  He reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time ever and he can walk away from this tournament knowing he had given it his all.  I, for one, am very proud of his effort, and he is quickly becoming one of my favourite players.

As for Djoker, he did enough to win but he certainly wasn't as sharp as we have come to see this past year.  He will need to be much better vs Federer in the semifinal, ESPECIALLY if Roger plays as well as he did vs Tsonga and as well as he did earlier in the year in Paris, where he sent a message to the world by beating Nole and handing him his first loss of the 2011 season.  Novak seems more prone to mental breakdowns than he did say, in March or April.  His confidence seems a little shaken, and he is, to me, not the favourite to win vs Roger.  If anything, it is right down the middle with Roger playing as well as he has the past two matches.

Onto the bottom half of the draw, and Andy Murray showed why he is such a great returner and defeated John Isner in 4 sets, even winning a tiebreak vs the big American, something that is rare to do, as Isner is a master of playing those tiebreaks.  I did not see the entire match, but Murray seems to be heading into the semifinal in good form, something that is a great sign for himself, his team and his fans.  As for John Isner, he is always improving and could be a top 10 player very soon if he keeps improving like he has.  I could definitely see him surpassing Mardy Fish as the top American in the world shortly, with his big serve, wide reach, and always improving fitness.  So basically, John Isner is improving, and that is great.  He is a class person and deserves to keep rising up the ranks in men's tennis.

The final quarterfinal to be played featured Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick, and if you watched the match, it wasn't ever close.  Nadal was focused and on fire right from the first point and he ended up winning 62 61 63.  Nadal certainly must be happy to be playing this well after his tough summer hardcourt season, but let's be honest here, Andy Roddick was injured going into the match and could have retired in the 2nd set, but didn't, mostly because, like Roger, he has respect for the game not to retire in such an important match, no matter what the final score in the end may be.  Rafa is certainly in good form, no doubt about that, but this may not have been the match to overly praise Nadal, seeing how he was playing an opponent who was undoubtedly moving and hitting the ball far worse than he is capable of.  Still, Nadal is dangerous right now and is peaking at the right time.  He has been very solid ever since his tough match with David Nalbandian in the 3rd round.

It should be a great day of tennis on Saturday, as we have the men's and women's semifinals, and all should be compelling matches.  I will go into more detail tomorrow morning about all the matches before the Federer/Djokovic match starts at noon local time.  I am already psyching myself up for both men's semifinals, and I really cannot wait for them to get underway (I know many Fedfans on Twitter aren't feeling the same way).  Cheers!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

US Open QF Preview - Federer vs Tsonga

After an annoying few days thanks to rainy weather, the US Open finally got back underway today, with many matches to complete.  Nadal/Muller, Murray/Young, Roddick/Ferrer, and Isner/Simon all scheduled to finally play their fourth round matches.  Three of the four matches were able to start on Wednesday, however they could only play 15 minutes with the unpredictable weather.

Rafa Nadal overcame a 3-0 deficit to start the match to win in three sets, two of them relatively easily.  I am a little disappointed because Rafa was down in the first set, but realistically I knew Rafa would win, but hoped that he would falter.  His next opponent in the quarterfinals is Mr. Andy Roddick, who took out David Ferrer 63 64 36 63.  Roddick was really solid and seems to be in great form heading into the match with Nadal.  Without a doubt he will have his chances and will be really motivated with the American crowd behind him.

In the other two fourth round encounters, Andy Murray rolled through Donald Young with ease, as expected, and big John Isner stormed through 3 tiebreaks to take the match vs Gilles Simon in four sets.  Great win for Isner and he is sure to give Murray a test, and, like with Roddick, the crowd will be very much behind him.

Now that I have gotten through that quickly, the prime-time match of the tournament:  Roger Federer vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  This clash has all the media-hype in the tennis world with Jo defeating Roger at Wimbledon from two sets down and then taking Fed down again in Montreal again, just like he did in 2009.  Without a doubt this is the biggest match of the tournament so far and maybe the biggest match of Federer's 2011 campaign, with this being his final chance for a major.  If he wants one, he will have to defeat the enemy.

In order to win, Roger will need to play with the same efficiency he had vs Monaco.  He must serve in the mid 60's or even high 70's, and must hit his groundstrokes with authority.  Coming into net successfully will also be key.  From the ground however, by hitting his groundstrokes with auhority does not mean that Roger must overpower Jo.  Jo has a game that has as much variety as power, so if Roger can use the slice well, as he did vs Monaco, he should be alright from the back of the court. 

I know many Federer fans are nervous about the match, but I honestly think Roger will be in his best form right from the first point and will take the match handedly in 3 or 4 sets.

Let's hope we see the best of Darth Federer tonight!  My prediction:

6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 Federer.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Federer Funhouse Demolition



Where did that come from?

Those were my three responses after Mr.  Federer quickly obliterated Juan Monaco 61 62 60 in the 4th round of the US Open on Monday night.  I came into the match knowing that Roger was never going to really be threatened by Monaco like he was by Cilic a round earlier, but this was a whole new level of domination, a performance that mirrored the performance we saw when Roger murdered Juan Martin del Potro 63 60 60 in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

The match itself started at 11:51 pm local time, among the latest matches ever to start on Arthur Ashe stadium (if not THE latest, I'm not quite sure), and from the very first game you could immediately tell Rog was in no mood to stay on court for very long.  The day on Ashe had seen competitive matches between Pavlyuchenkova and Schiavone, Serena Williams and Ivanovic, Tsonga and Fish, and Wozniacki and Kuznetsova, and it was extremely clear that the crowd was tired from the long day (the lines outside Ashe before Woz got on were huge).   In Fedbusiness fashion, he quickly rushed out to a 5-0 lead before wrapping up the set 6-1.  The second set was more of the same domination, although Monaco was a little more competitive, and the third set was child's play for Roger.  He made Juan Monaco look like an amateur, and let's not forget, Monaco was a former top 15 player and even gave Roger a tough two set match in Miami earlier in the year.  He was no Carlos Berlocq (ahem Novak).  Simply put, this was a masterful performance from the ultimate Maestro, and he is in fine form heading into his must-see quarterfinal match with - DUN DUN DUNNNNN - Jo-Willy Tsonga!

Evaluating the match from a tennis perspective, there was nothing wrong with Roger's game.  He was sharp on his serve, lethal on his groundies, and brilliant on returns.  I have never seen Roger return like that before in my life.  Monaco may not have been serving at his best, but Roger was hitting over every backhand return and smashing it deep in the court.  It was brilliant to watch.  His forehand was also on fire, and he hit his inside-out and inside-in forehands equally effective.  When Roger is flowing like he did in that match, nobody can stop him.  When he is serving like that, not even Djokovic can do well on the return.  When he is hitting the ball as crisp and clean as he was in that match, and using his vast combination of serves, groundies, returns, volleys, and half-volleys, he is unstoppable.  Roger Federer showed at 30 years old, he is still the most dominating player in tennis when he is at his best.  It was wonderful to watch, and being so late, I am glad Roger got it over with fast.  But boy, it was sure fun to watch Roger play his beautiful best.

PS - Brad Gilbert was going on and on about Roger hitting 4 aces in matches.  I remember many - Shanghai 2007 vs Nadal, an exhibition with Pete Sampras in Asia a few weeks later, vs Tsonga in Montreal this year, and the French Open 2009 against Sod, though that was in a tiebreak where he hit 4 aces on 4 serves.  Speaking of 4 serves, Roger won his service games at least 3 times by hitting 4 serves and winning all 4 points without having to hit a groundstroke, which if you think about it,  is absolutely remarkable.  It shows how lethal (and underrated) his serve is when he is rolling. 

Whew, I'm done with Roger for now.  Time to summarize the rest of the day.

Tipsarevic got by Ferrero in a tough 4-set match.  I have come to really enjoy watching Tipsy play, and how big he can hit the ball at his size.  He makes it to his first ever quarterfinal, where he faces his countryman Novak Djokovic, who got by Alexandr Dolgopolov 76(14) 64 62.  The first set was magnificent and Dog really had a chance to take it and change the outlook on the match.  But Nole prevailed like the champion he is and made it through easier in the 2nd and 3rd sets.  Looking at the QF, to those who say Janko will roll over for Novak, I disagree.  Janko has worked his entire life to get this far in a Slam, and he will give Nole everything he has.  I expect a 4-setter.

Tsonga vs Fish was entertaining even with the wind, and Jo prevailed in the end after coming back from two sets to one down.  A marvelous match but at over 3 and a half hours long and 5 sets, one has to wonder how Jo will recover to play Roger on Thursday.  But more on the Tsonga/Federer match another time.

Looking ahead to the bottom half 4R action:

- Nadal vs Muller should be compelling, and Gilles is a tough opponent that really challenges the best players in these kinds of matches.  With Nadal ailing physically, who knows how Rafa will be in this match?  He could cramp up again on court and be forced to retire for all we know.  Gilles has a great chance to make something happen, but the smart pick is Nadal and that's who I'm taking in 4 tight sets.
- Murray vs Young should be entertaining but Murray should win in straights.  He is too experienced now to let Young upset him on a big stage like this.  Andy needs to prove the loss to Young in Indian Wells was a fluke.
- Isner vs Simon will be a battle of wills.  Server vs Returner.  Attacker vs Pusher.  Who will prevail?  It will be close and it depends on if Isner can win many free points as to how the match goes I think.  If Simon makes Isner play he is in trouble.  Simon in 5.
-Roddick vs Ferrer is the match of the day, and Andy will want revenge for the Davis Cup loss.  I take Andy in 4 tight sets, setting up a quarterfinal with Rafael Nadal for all intents and purposes.

Have a great day, thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoyed the Federer Demolition Derby.  It was a fun show to watch when the Maestro is playing as God-like as that.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Day 7 US Open Overview

Day 7 featured many great matches and a few surprises.  I'll get right to it as I'm excited to cover it all.

To start the day, Rafael Nadal had a tough time with David Nalbandian, but eventually prevailed 76(5) 61 75.  It was a match filled with ebbs and flows and Nalbandian should have won the first set as he led the majority of the time until 5-4 when he got broken serving for the set.  Overall good match, and I expect Nadal to play better vs his next opponent, Gilles Muller.  Muller has given Rafa many problems in the past, but he will need to play at his best to test the Spaniard.  Final score will be Nadal in 4 I think.

Andy Murray blazed past his mother's fancy Feliciano Lopez and looks to be in fine form heading for another run at a Grand Slam title.  He will next face American Donald Young, who defeated Chela.  A huge win for Young, but the run could stop in the Round of 16 against a sharp Murray.  But Young did defeat Andy in Indian Wells this year, so the match will have its backstory for the media.

In shocker of the day, depending on how you look at it, Gilles Simon beat Juan Martin del Potro in 4 sets, giving JMDP his first loss in New York since winning two years ago.  Juan was not at his best at all and looked slightly injured throughout the match, but credit to Simon who always finds a way to win.  He is in great shape and constantly challenges the top guys.  He may not have any weapons, but he is very smart and knows how to get it done.  Like him or hate him, you must give him his due for finding a way to win all the time.

Andy Roddick breezed by Julien Benneteau and looks in fine form heading into the 4th round.  He next faces David Ferrer, who will be an extremely tough opponent, and they play for a potential match with Nadal in the QFs.  Should be fun stuff.  Sticking with Americans, John Isner got by late-upstart Alex Bogomolov Jr. in three tight sets.  With Roddick, Isner, and Donald Young winning today, they join Fish as the 4 Americans lasting through to the Round of 16.  That has to be a good sign for American tennis if you are looking for them.

On the women's side, I didn't really see much but I did catch part of the match between Samantha Stosur and Maria Kirilenko, a marathon three hour match filled with exciting points and a 17-15 2nd set tiebreak in which Kirilenko saved many match points to extend the match to 3 sets.  Stosur won the 3rd 6-3 on her 8th match point, showing how hard-fought the match was.  Both women should take a bow because that was a superb match.  FWe have now seen two brilliant women's matches on back to back days, and they are finally living up to their potential over there in the WTA it seems.  Adding to that mantra, Flavia Pennetta fought off a 6-2 lead in the second set tiebreak, and a sickness of some kind to overcome Peng Shuai in a tough two setter.  The women's matches in this tournament have been very high quality, which I love.

Looking ahead to tomorrow and my predictions:

Federer should run over Monaco.  6-2, 6-4, 6-3 Fed.

Djokovic should handle Dologopolov, although Dolgo is a fighter.  6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3 Djoko.

Tipsarevic is too good for Ferrero.  6-3, 6-4, 6-1 Tipsy.

Fish vs Tsonga, ahh, the match of the day.  I honestly expect a really close match and it should be fun to watch.  Would not be surprised to see a 5-setter and either way it goes I expect Roger to beat them in the quarters.  Prediction:  4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 Fish.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Day 6 US Open Overview

After being away for a few days camping, I am now back and ready to get back to blogging!  I managed to access the internet while I was away so I kept up on the scores and the upsets, so I wasn't too disappointed, but I was not able to watch any matches, which did leave me a little depressed.  From what I heard though it was very windy and all in all not that exciting, and surely the second week will pick up considerably.  Now, to get down to business, day 6 of the 2011 US Open, the first full day of tennis I have been able to watch of the year's final major tournament:

Starting off, Federer had a difficult third round match with the always dangerous Marin Cilic.  Roger started out on fire, winning the first set 6-3, but then Marin upped his game and took the second 6-4.  It was a very close match overall and Roger ended up winning in 4 sets, 63 46 64 62.  I was pleased with Roger's efforts considering the windy conditions, which are made even more difficult in New York on Arthur Ashe Stadium with the way the wind swirls.  Cilic played better than I have seen him play in a long time, but his serve let him down, serving under 50% I believe.  Still, he gave Roger a good mid-tournament test which I like to see because it keeps the Maestro's blade sharp.  His next round will be against Juan Monaco, who defeated veteran 33-year old Tommy Haas 67(3) 63 62 63.  That is a disappointing result for me as I would have loved to see Roger and Tommy square off one last time before Haas retires, which will surely be soon you have to think.  Assessing Monaco, he has no big weapon to hurt Roger and Feddy should win in straight sets.

Staying in the Federer quarter, Tsonga defeated Verdasco in straight sets and meets Mardy Fish in the 4th round.  It should be a firecracker match that can easily go either way, possibly 5 sets too.  Or at least 4 tough close sets.  That would bode well for Roger if Tsonga and Fish tire themselves out so they are less effective in the quarterfinal meeting.  I'm sure Roger would love to play Fish more than Tsonga given the two losses to the Frenchman this year, but I wouldn't bet against Roger being extremely motivated if they were to meet, and be out there to set the record straight.  We will just have to wait and see what the Tsonga/Fish match brings.

Novak Djokovic beat Nikolay Davydenko rather easily, although Davy really gave Nole some headaches in the second set and had his chances to make it a 4-set match.  Nole faces Dolgopolov next, which should be pretty routine if Novak is in the vicinity of his best.  Then, looking ahead, a potential match with countryman Janko Tipsarevic would be interesting.  Troicki gave Nole a huge scare last year and should have beaten him so maybe Tipsy would come out and try to take Novak out.  But I seriously doubt it and that would put Nole in the semifinals, hopefully against Roger.  But more on that later in the week when the results have come in.

A few other notes on the day/looking ahead to tomorrow:

-  It is a real shame that Serena wasn't seeded in the top 8 because to see a marquee match like Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka wasted on a 3rd round encounter is downright cruel.  Both are title contenders and I compare it to a Roger Federer vs Andy Murray 3rd round US Open matchup.  As for the match itself, Serena proved in the first set why she is the most dominant woman to ever play the game, and in the second, Vika showed some real heart and grit in coming down from 5-3, saving match points, and almost pulling out the set.  It was great tennis from start to finish and gave the WTA a good name.  Women's tennis needs more compelling, aggressive matches like that that will make people's jaws drop.

-  Tomas Berdych retired against Tipsarevic after being down 6-4, 5-0, and after losing 8 straight games.  I have a huge issue with the amount of retirements that are happening on the men's side now, but I will talk in depth about that problem later, because it deserves it's own post.  All I will say for now is that people pay great money to see the top guys and too many of them are retiring for their own selfish needs.

-  Donald Young plays the veteran Juan Ignacio Chela tomorrow, and if Young can win it would be huge for his confidence, and could potentially set him up with a match against Andy Murray, which would be interesting as Young beat Andy earlier in the year at Indian Wells when Andy was in his slump.  I'll be personally pulling for Donald as I like him and his Blake-like game.

-  Nadal vs Nalbandian should be interesting but it's only my hope that Nalby gives Rafa a challenge.  Nadal will probably win easily in straights.

-  Murray vs Lopez should be entertaining, but Andy should come through.

-  One last thing, Sloane Stephens, the 18 year-old American who upset Shahar Peer in the 2nd round, lost to Ana Ivanovic, but I think she has incredible potential and reminded me a little bit of the Williams sisters.  I hope she becomes a star one day and perhaps a future Grand Slam champion.

Overall, it was a great day of tennis and I hope it only gets better as the days go on.  Cheers!