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!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What is next for Federer?

Roger Federer had a very busy summer.  He won his seventh Wimbledon title and returned to #1, then he won the silver medal at the Olympics, and then he won his 21st Masters title in Cincinnati.  The end of the summer provided disappointment with a shocking loss to Tomas Berdych in what can be considered an "off-match."  Then, just over a week later, he helped the Swiss get back into the World Group in Davis Cup with a 3-1 win over the Netherlands.

Recently, the 17-time Grand Slam champion reported that he was feeling tired and needed a break.  This has brought up the same old stories of his decline, which has become all too familiar in the last five years since his reign of complete dominance ended in 2007.  Federer has four tournaments on his schedule for the rest of the year, being Shanghai, Basel, Paris, and the year-ending World Tour Finals.

Will he play all those tournaments after stating that he is exhausted and needs a holiday?  After all, he is 31 years old now, and has played 69 matches this year, not to mention winning six titles and one Grand Slam.

The cherished #1 ranking is on the line for the rest of the season, and it looks likely that Roger will lose the top spot by the end of the year.  He has 3000 points to defend while Novak Djokovic only has 560.  Both players did not play Shanghai last year, so both could gain up to 1000 points should they win.

Djokovic currently has a more than 1000 point advantage in the 2012 race, and with plenty of points to gain, he'd have to play pretty badly to not get the #1 ranking.  It is possible for Roger to retain it, but the stars would need to line up in his favour.  If you're optimistic, you can point out that Roger only played 15 matches post Wimbledon, whereas Djokovic played 23 matches, including the long and physical US Open final against Andy Murray.  Fatigue could become a factor, just as it was last year.

When trying to figure out what Federer's schedule might look like for the rest of the year, there are a few factors to take into account.  Unlike last year and years prior, there will be no break between Paris and the World Tour Finals.  This is unfortunate for Roger, because he won Paris last year, and considering his mental state right now, he may not be so keen on trying to defend his title there and only focus on the more important eight-man tournament in London.

If he does skip Paris, it may not be the worst thing as he will have a great chance to win Shanghai, which he should play.  He will have had a three week break before the tournament starts, so he should be refreshed by then.  In 2010, he made the final and played some great tennis, beating Isner, Soderling, and Djokovic back to back to back before suffering a bad defeat to Murray.  He loves Shanghai and the fans love him - he won the Masters Cup there in 2006 and 2007.

It is certainly not impossible that Fed could sweep the end of the year tournaments again; he has only lost two matches after the US Open since 2010, and has won a total of six titles.  He could very well win Shanghai, Basel, and the World Tour Finals, where he has won ten straight matches.

As always, the final few tournaments of the year are very interesting, especially this year with the #1 on the line.  But there are currently 4 spots up for grabs in the World Tour Finals, and there will be two or three players that will want to make a big push for the 8th or 9th spot (in case of withdrawal as we saw last year).  Janko Tipsarevic, Nicolas Almagro, John Isner, and Richard Gasquet hold the 9-13 spots, and they will try to sneak in with good end-of-year results.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, holding down the #8 spot, is defending titles in Metz and Vienna, as well as defending final results in Paris and London.

The end of the year should be very entertaining, and the race for #1 shall keep fans enticed until the season closes.  Whatever happens with Roger, he has had a fantastic year, but knowing his record in the indoor season the past two years, he'll have a good chance of doing well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Murray wins first Grand Slam

It had been a long time coming for Andy Murray - four years since his first Grand Slam final.  In that time, the Brit had lost four Grand Slam finals while only ever managing to take a set.  This time around, Murray got the 76 year-old monkey off his back by winning his very first major title over Novak Djokovic in 5 grueling sets.

Murray won the first set in a whopping 86 minutes, when he finally converted on his sixth set point in a tiebreak that ended with the score 12-10.  He took a surprising 4-0 lead in the second set before the cagey Djokovic brought it back even, only for Andy to wrench back control by taking the set 7-5.

Djokovic brought the match back even at two sets apiece by playing two relatively clean sets of tennis where he wasn't broken.  Murray was trying to not become the first man since 1949 to blow a two sets to love lead in the final of the US Open.

In the decider, Murray played the better tennis and held a two break lead before it was cut down to one.  He once again regained the double break lead and that was to be enough, with Djokovic struggling physically, his legs cramping up at the most inopportune time.  So Andy served for the match at 5-2, and on his third match point, he converted.  He had finally made history.

The match lasted minutes shy of five hours, and that, along with Murray winning, made it a memorable event.  But from a pure tennis perspective, it was a pretty bad match in tough, windy conditions.  Djokovic hit 65 errors to only 40 winners, and Murray hit 56 errors to only 31 winners.  Remember, this was a match that lasted nearly five hours.  In the 315 points played, there were a total of 71 winners hit to 116 errors.

This year is the first year since 2003 where there have been four different Grand Slam champions.  This year, it was Djokovic in Australia, Nadal at Roland Garros, Federer at Wimbledon and now, Murray in New York.

Now that Murray finally has a Slam under his belt, it is unclear whether there will be more or less pressure on him.  The pressure of winning the first one is over, but now, surely, he will be expected to win even more Slams and challenge Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic even more stoutly in 2013.  Now, those big upset losses in Masters events (like the one he suffered to Garcia-Lopez in Indian Wells) will come under more scrutiny.  And as if the scrutiny wasn't already high for him without a Slam, the spotlight will be brighter now that he has broken through.

So Andy finally did what we all thought, eventually, he would do.  Now the challenge for him is to build upon this initial success, and with rivals like Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, del Potro, Berdych, and other top players, it will be easier said than done.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Federer Stunned in US Open

I apologize for this entry being a little late; it has been an off week for me with Roger's walkover and then the rain delay on Tuesday, and then starting college this week (in journalism, go figure, right?). 

For the first time since 2003, Roger Federer will not be participating in the final weekend of the US Open.  He suffered a disappointing loss to Tomas Berdych, the #6 seed, in the quarterfinals late Wednesday night.

The last match Federer had played was on Saturday, when he took out Fernando Verdasco in the 3rd round.  He was due to play on Monday, but his opponent, Mardy Fish, withdrew, citing health concerns as his reason.  \as it would turn out, this withdrawal had a major impact in the outcome of Roger's quarter with the dangerous Czech.

Roger started well enough, grabbing a break in the first game of the match.  He held that break until 3-2, when Berdych broke back.  This is where the wheels began to fall off for the great Swiss.  He held break point at 4-4 but failed to convert after dumping an overhead, and then in the tiebreak, he only won one point as the 2010 Wimbledon finalist stormed to a one set lead.

Fed got down a quick break in the second set and could not get back even.  In the third set, it looked all but over when Berdych got a break in the first game.  However, he stumbled midway through the set at 3-2, allowing Roger to gather some momentum, which had been avoiding him thus far.  Suddenly, it looked like Fed was back to his best and he broke at 4-3 and held to take the third set.  This dramatic turnaround only took about 15 minutes.

In the 4th, with all the momentum seemingly on Roger's side, it looked like the match may go to 5.  But Roger relinquished the momentum back after not converting on a 0-30 chance in Berdych's service game early in the set.  At 3-4, Fed went down 15-30 but hit a miraculous stab drop volley, saving himself.  Then a point later a forehand hit the net cord and went long, bringing up break point, and Berdych smashed a forehand winner.  4 points later, Federer was upset 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Throughout most of the match, Federer played poorly, missing routine forehands, and in general, never finding his rhythm.  He hit 44 winners to 40 unforced errors, most of them off the forehand.  He didn't serve as well as he is capable of, and in turn, Berdych served wonderfully well.

At the start of the 4th set, when all the momentum was with Federer, Berdych had to be thinking about the match these two played almost four years ago at the Australian Open in 2009, where he was ahead two sets to love and lost the match.  However, in impressive fashion, Berdych played strong and weathered the Federer Express until Roger made the one crucial mistake that cost him the match - that net cord at 3-4 30-30.

It is a disappointing result for Roger, knowing that he had a wonderful summer and was the #1 player in the world again.  The walkover really hurt him, as when he finally found his game, it was too late.  Remember, he had 4 days off in between matches.  He did not play at all on Monday (he could have practiced and didn't, which I consider a mistake), and on Tuesday it rained the entire day.  For any player, but especially Roger, walkovers are the worst, as he thrives off rhythm and timing.

To be fair to Berdych, he did play an amazing match, and of course would have had a great chance at winning even if Roger had played on Monday.  Against a lesser player like Almagro (for instance), Roger probably would have been fine to win his quarterfinal match, but not against a very dangerous player like Berdych.  Roger had to be at his best to be able to beat the big guy, and he wasn't (or couldn't, depending on the way you look at it).

After initially being very upset with the loss as a Federer fan, I have come to be at peace with it. Roger had a bad day and he lost to the better player.  This has still been a wonderful year with wining Wimbledon, getting back the #1 ranking, winning a silver medal, and picking up 3 Masters titles.  Matches like these, where Roger plays tennis that isn't up to his standards remind us of how rare those occasions have been the past nine years.  He was always on his game and always wary of the fact that one bad match could cost you a Slam, and therefore, he always stayed sharp and focused.

- - - - - - - - - -

The two men's quarterfinals in the bottom half of the draw, Tipsarevic vs Ferrer and Djokovic vs del Potro were amazing matches that featured brilliant tennis.  Ferrer overcame a 3-0 deficit in the 5th set before rallying to win the match in a tiebreak, while Djokovic beat Delpo in straight sets, although very difficultly.  Delpo played very hard in the final two sets and served for the second set, but Djokovic played his rear end off to get the break back and prevail in the tiebreak (after losing a 17-minute-ish long game where he had a few set point chances.

Marin Cilic displayed the great tennis that had him beat Andy Murray at the 2009 US Open, going up 6-3, 5-1 before choking away that set, and evidently, the match.  Disappointing from Cilic's end, but from Andy's end, it must have been very sweet to pull off that comeback.

So the semifinals are set, Murray vs Tomas Berdych and Djokovic vs Ferrer.  I'm not sure who to take in the Murray/Berdych match because Andy has looked shaky at times and Tomas has found the form that had been eluding him since the French Open.  Djokovic vs Ferrer should be a straight sets win for Djokovic, even though Ferrer will play his heart out and fight for every point.

And don't think that the 5-set four and a half hour quarterfinal will tire Ferrer out.  He's the fittest guy on tour and he'll be ready to go right from the start.  Unfortunately for him, as has been the case against the top players for years now, that won't be good enough.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

US Open Round of 16 Preview

The round of 16 at the 2012 US does not feature many players that you don't expect to be there.  Federer and Djokovic have been untroubled.  Del Potro, Murray, Ferrer, Berdych, Tipsarevic, and Almagro are there.  Gasquet, Cilic, Wawrinka, Raonic, Klizan (who?), and the soon-to-be retiring Andy Roddick fill out the remaining players in the 4th round.

The only top seeded players that aren't there are #5 and #10 seeds, Tsonga and Monaco.

There are many exciting match-ups; some are predictable and some are not.  Here are the previews for the eight contests that will determine the quarterfinal entrants:

(1) Roger Federer vs (23) Mardy Fish

Federer looks in great shape heading into the 2nd week.  Fish is coming off a less-than-stellar performance against Gilles Simon, where he made 75 unforced errors, and he'll need to play near his best if he wants to give Roger any sort of scare.  Roger was impressive in their last meeting in Cincinnati, and I expect the same kind of result here.

Federer in 3.

(2) Novak Djokovic vs (18) Stan Wawrinka

Djokovic has only lost 14 games in his first 9 sets of the tournament, and he is looking very good.  Wawrinka is playing some of his best tennis as of late, coming off a semifinal showing in Cincinnati.  On paper, Djokovic should win without much of a fuss, but you never know - Stan could give the Serb a tight set or two.

Djokovic in 3. 

(3) Andy Murray vs (15) Milos Raonic

Raonic has a win against Andy this year, from the clay court season in Barcelona.  He has the game to hurt Murray, and he should give the #3 seed a big run for his money.  Murray struggled at times in his tight win against Lopez, and he'll need to be better if he wants to counter-attack the big Raonic serve and ground game.

My mind says Murray but my heart says Raonic.

Murray in 5.

(4) David Ferrer vs (13) Richard Gasquet

The ever-consistent Ferrer has looked rock solid through three rounds at the Open, only dropping one set.  Gasquet has only dropped one set as well, in his first round.  It should be a good match, but the crafty Spaniard should have all the tools to outlast the talented Frenchman.

Ferrer in 4.

(6) Tomas Berdych vs (11) Nicolas Almagro

These two have history this year, having met three times.  Berdych won in Australia, Almagro got revenge at Indian Wells, and Tomas took the tiebreaking win in Rome.  Both have played well to get to this point, but Berdych will be the fresher man, and he should pull through in a close, tough match.

Berdych in 5.

(7) Juan Martin del Potro vs (20) Andy Roddick

After wins over Tomic and Fognini, Roddick will have a much tougher opponent on his hands in the 2009 champion.  The American can pull off the upset, of course, but it will be difficult, as Delpo has played good tennis so far.  The crowd will need to help Andy and urge him on as he should be in an uphill battle right from the start.

Del Potro in 4.

(8) Janko Tipsarevic vs (9) John Isner or (19) Philipp Kohlschreiber

Tipsarevic has been in good form since his first round scare, where he went down two sets to none.  Kohlschreiber is coming off two straight five-setters, including an upset over John Isner, so he could be spent.  Take the #2 ranked Serb.

Tipsarevic in 3.

(12) Marin Cilic vs Martin Klizan

Klizan made it to the final 16 with impressive wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the #5 seed, and Jeremy Chardy, who took out Murray in Cincinnati.  However, his run should come to an end here as Cilic has been in solid form thus far.  The big Croat should overpower the Slovak native, and he should pick up the win.

Cilic in 3.


Stat Pack:

Here are some of the stats for all the players in the Round of 16.  Some interesting numbers (well, interesting if you love stats like me; don't ask me why I love them, I don't know):

The legend goes winners-errors, then sets played in brackets, then aces-double faults.

Federer:  101-61 (9) 29-4
Djokovic:  102-38 (9) 26-4
Murray:  129-100 (10) 33-13
Ferrer:  97-80 (10) 22-15
Berdych:  116-88 (10) 40-6
Tipsarevic:  111-86 (11) 45-16
Del Potro:  111-82 (10) 30-15
Almagro:  159-124 (13) 59-18
Cilic:  142-147 (14) 36-16
Gasquet:  122-56 (11) 36-11
Raonic:  158-110 (11) 89-24
Wawrinka:  108-78 (12) 54-11
Fish:  154-164 (12) 44-9
Roddick:  109-65 (10) 43-4

Enjoy the Round of 16!


Federer into Round of 16

Roger Federer continued his great form, entering the Round of 16 with a win over Fernando Verdasco 63 64 64 in just over two hours.  The Great Swiss next plays Mardy Fish, who overcame the ever-consistent Gilles Simon in four sets in a match that went well past midnight.

Roger played a solid match overall.  It was even in the first set for the first seven games until Fed broke and held to take the set.  In both the second and third sets, he got an early break, and they rode his reliable serve home to victory.  He wasn't broken and only faced one break point.

Statistically, Roger was great in very tough conditions.  He hit 30 winners to 19 unforced errors, fired his first serve in 67% of the time, and was an amazing 26 of 27 when he came to net.  Things are looking good for Roger through his first three matches.

Fish beat Simon in a tight 4-setter, but the American committed a whopping 75 unforced errors.  It was your typical match that features Gilles Simon, with plenty of long, drawn out rallies.  Mardy will have to play much better if he wants to have a shot at beating Roger, who won't be pushing in his serves at well under one hundred miles per hour.

Andy Murray needed nearly four hours to overcame Feliciano Lopez 76(5), 76(5), 4-6, 76(4).  It was a fun match for the crowd to watch, and it was very physical and dramatic.  Lopez had a chance to win all three tiebreaks, and one or two points in each tiebreak was the difference between a Murray win and a potential Lopez upset.

Murray will play Milos Raonic in the 4th round.  The Canadian beat James Blake in straight sets and held the crowd favourite off in a tight third set tiebreak.  Milos has a win over Murray this year, from Barcelona, and with Andy being on court for nearly four hours today, there may be a chance of an upset.  Either way though, it should be a great match.

Marin Cilic took out Kei Nishikori in four, and he'll take on Martin Klizan, the man that beat Tsonga, in the Round of 16.  He looks like a good bet to be Murray's quarterfinal opponent.

Nicolas Almagro ended Jack Sock's great run with a four-set win.  The first three sets went to tiebreaks, two of which Almagro won, and then in the 4th the veteran Spaniard pulled away and won easily.  Tomas Berdych booked his spot in the final 16 and came that much closer to setting up a quarterfinal with Federer when he notched a four-set win over Sam Querrey.  Almagro and Berdych will battle it out for the chance to take on The Fed.

Kim Clijsters officially ended her amazing career when she and Bob Bryan lost in the mixed doubles.  It was a great way to end things, as she seemed to have plenty of fun on the court, not taking anything too seriously.

To recap the action from Friday:

Andy Roddick kept his career alive with an emphatic win over Bernard Tomic 63 64 60.  A-Rod played a fantastic match, but Tomic showcased a lack of fight and willingness to even stay on court that has me questioning whether he has it in him to get to the top of the game (and stay there).  As for Andy, he'll next play Fabio Fognini, and should he get by that match, he may play the 2009 champion, Juan Martin del Potro in the 4th round.

John Isner overcame a few blips on his radar to take out Jarko Nieminen in straight sets.  The top American hopeful will play Philipp Kohlschreiber next, who may be tired as he needed a 5th set tiebreak to beat Benoit Paire of France.

Novak Djokovic breezed by Rogerio Dutra Silva 62 61 62.  He has only dropped 7 games in 6 sets thus far, and it was a similar situation last year where he only lost 3 games in his first two matches.  The Serb will face Julien Benneteau, the 31st seed, who should be a big step up from Lorenzi and Silva.

Juan Martin del Potro took out the rising American hopeful Ryan Harrison in four sets, while David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic put on great displays in taking out Igor Sijsling and Brian Baker in straight sets.  Richard Gasquet breezed through against Bradley Klahn and he'll take on former college player Steve Johnson.  The American is a nice little story this year at the Open.

Alexandr Dolgopolov needed four sets to beat Marcos Baghdatis, while Stan Wawrinka needed five to overcome Steve Darcis.  Those two will square off for the right to meet Djokovic (in all likelihood) in the 4th round.  Great prize, isn't it?

Lleyton Hewitt overcame a set deficit twice to advance to the 3rd round, defeating Gilles Muller 6-4 in the 5th.  Muller fired 95 winners, but committed 69 unforced errors, while Rusty hit 60 winners to only 30 unforced errors.  Those margins may have been the difference.


So what can we say through 6 days at the Open?  Federer and Djokovic look like the two best players in the world.  Serena, Sharapova, Azarenka, and Radwanska look like the four best ladies players.  Juan Martin del Potro looks to be in fine form and completely healthy - let us hope it stays that way.

We say goodbye to two legends, Clijsters and Roddick, and hope that the next generation will have players as wonderful as Kim and Andy; Kim for her likeability and personality, and Andy for his charisma and fire.  American tennis will advance to the next generation of Isner, Harrison, Querrey, and Sock.

And maybe the most important thing to note about this US Open is how many 5-setters there have been, and how many times guys have come back from two sets to love down.  10 times, which is just scary.

Round of 16 previews coming after the bottom half complete their 3rd round matches.