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!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Djokovic wins 3rd straight Australian Open

Another Australian Open has come and gone, and just as it was in 2011 and 2012, the closing images were of Novak Djokovic lifting the trophy. The World #1 defeated Andy Murray 67(2), 76(3), 63 62 to capture his third consecutive title Down Under, which hadn't been done in the Open Era.

Djokovic looked like the better player in the first set by a slim margin, but it was the Scot who came through clutch in the tiebreak. At the start of the second, Murray had a 0-40 lead and a chance to stretch his lead, but he could not convert.  That would prove to be costly as Djokovic ran away with the tiebreaker to even things up at one set all. After the tiebreak, Murray received a visit to the trainer, which would be a sign of what was to come

Djokovic and Murray are the two best returners in the game, but the match featured 31 consecutive holds before the Serb broke at 4-3 in the third. He'd go on to hold and took a one-set lead. Murray was struggling physically in the 4th set and Djokovic rode his momentum like a wave, en route to a pretty undramatic finish, unlike last year's 5 hour 53 minute final.

Djokovic confirmed that his best (and favourite) surface is the hard court on Rod Laver Arena. He did not drop serve in the final, and wasn't broken in the tournament after Tomas Berdych broke him in the second set of their quarterfinal clash. The final wasn't the cleanest of matches, as Murray hit 29 winners to 46 errors, while Djokovic hit 47 winners to 61 errors. A key number was 35/41, the amount of points won when the #1 came to the net.

Djokovic and Murray play such a similar style that the match wasn't the most exciting to watch, but it was incredible to see them hold serve for two and a half sets, considering their amazing returns. It wasn't as if they were serving lights out, either - for the match, Novak only served at 63% and Andy served at 60%.

In the end, the turning point came in the second set tiebreaker, when a feather came onto the court before Murray was about to serve a 2nd ball. He stopped to pick it up, and then he double faulted. He also apparently suffered from blisters on his foot and didn't seem to be moving well in the fourth set. Combine his poorer movement with Djokovic raising the level of his game, and it's no surprise the Serb won 9 of the last 11 games of the match.

My thoughts:

Not an unexpected result in the end. Djokovic is the best player on the Australian Open plexicushion and Murray needed to be much better than he was if he was going to stop the three-peat. Sure, he played a solid first two sets and had he broken at the start of the second, things could have been different, but I knew the longer the match went, the more it favoured the defending champion. Why? Because Andy was two days removed from a physical and tiring 4-hour match with Federer.

Even though Andy was the better player throughout his semifinal match, it still took everything Andy had to get by Roger - a less than stellar Roger, no less. Even though Andy was dominating on serve and controlling many of the baseline rallies, he was still worn down by Roger's complex and varietal game, as so many are.

Playing Roger is a unique experience because he has so many options out there on the court. As an opponent, you not only have to worry about moving side to side, as is the case in many baseline-oriented matches today, but you also have to be wary of moving forward and coming off the baseline. When he's at his best, Roger is always giving his opponents different looks, and he rarely gives a guy any opportunity to find any rhythm.

Now, I understand that in the Fed/Andy semifinal, it was not Roger who has playing his best game - far from it. However, it was a 4-hour match, and the physicality of the contest was still a major factor during Murray's physical struggles in the final. It came to the point where I thought that Roger would have given Novak a better fight because Andy was in no shape to handle the long baseline exchanges after the second set.

Anyway, Djokovic has proven once again that he's the best in the world right now and is undeniably the best hard court player. Murray established himself as the second best on hard courts, although I think he's second-best on slow courts whereas Roger is probably the best or at least on par with Djokovic on faster courts (yes, Novak is great on faster courts as well).

I am looking forward to the rest of the year and it should be very intriguing no matter whether you are a fan of Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, or even guys like Tsonga, Ferrer, and del Potro, who will all still be there to push the top guys and hopefully improve and break through (Tsonga and Delpo especially).

Anyway, congratulations to Djokovic, whom I have gained a lot of respect for in the last year. He is a great champion and handles himself very well. He is a worthy ambassador to the game and everyone else should be scared if he can continue to improve his already imperious game.

An Australian Open wrap-up will come soon,


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Federer Falls to Murray in Thriller

I won't recap the match, as I wrote about it here on SportPulse:


So I'm just going to give my thoughts on what was a disappointing yet encouraging loss.

From start to finish, Murray was the better player. He outplayed Roger from the baseline. He served much better, hitting 21 aces to Roger's 5. He was the more aggressive player, and utilized his improved forehand better than Roger used his favourite shot. In the end, it was amazing that Fed managed to push Andy to five sets.

I am not truly disappointed from this loss. Andy Murray is now hitting the prime of his career, and is more confident than he has ever been. Only Roger's A-game would have been enough to beat the Scot with the way he was hitting the ball, and Fed didn't have it in him. It was going to be a tough ask in the best of circumstances, and add to that the tough 5-set match against Tsonga, and perhaps by the start of the fifth set, Roger had no gas left in the tank.

Tactically, I think Roger was too passive against Murray, just as he was against Tsonga. His backhand was generally solid, but he didn't hit it down the line as much as he could have, which was strange because that shot was actually working for him quite well. He didn't attack Andy's 2nd serve like he could have, and in general only seemed to be really aggressive when he was behind. He was too content to rally with Murray in the backhand to backhand rallies, and didn't run around his backhand as much as he could have.

The movement of Fed didn't look as sharp as it did in the early rounds, especially against Tomic, where he was sliding from side to side smoothly and calmly defending big ground strokes with no sense of panic. The matches against Tsonga and Murray were very physical, and he wasn't serving like he was in the early rounds, which probably affected his baseline game as he was being made to work very hard to hold serve.

Speaking of the serve, it's just strange how he went from serving so well in the first four rounds to struggling so much against Tsonga and Murray. I understand Andy is arguably the best returner in the world, if not second-best, but Fed hit 5 aces in 5 sets, and 11 aces in 10 sets going back to the match against Jo. Those numbers indicate something might have been wrong physically, and perhaps he tweaked something in the 3rd or 4th round. Or maybe he was feeling so pressured by the presence of Jo and Andy on the other side of the net that he was going for too much and that's why the serve struggled.

Something I noticed also throughout the match against Andy (and Jo) was that Roger was not going for the serves down the T as much as he usually does, and he became predictable, which is very, very unusual for a guy with as much variety off the serve as Fed. On the ad side, he rarely went up the middle and tried hitting the harder wide serve, and on the deuce side he was burned quite a lot by the wide serve which was anticipated and sent back with interest more times than not. Right away Roger was placed on the defensive, not where he wanted to be, obviously.

The 2nd serve return was pitiful. Andy won 63% of his 2nd serve points, and that's a very high number in a high-profile match like that against Roger. That number proves that Fed didn't attack the 2nd ball anywhere near as much as he should have, and in the end, it cost him big. He was too reliant to go to the chip return, a big sign that he was being passive. Slicing the return back deep isn't a bad play, but to chip it short and try to goad Andy into coming in or hitting a short ball just doesn't work because Andy can get to Fed's backhand easier than anyone. 

Now, even though I have just pointed out all of Roger's faults and deficiencies against Murray, let me also say that Andy's aggressive game caused Roger many problems and forced him far out of his comfort zone. He served well for nearly the entire 4 hours of the match, and took advantage of Roger's second serves the way Roger should have taken advantage of Andy's. Andy did everything better than Roger did, and that's why he won, fair and square. The conditions were also cooler and windy during the match, so the courts played slower than they had been playing in the previous rounds, which was certainly a HUGE advantage for Andy's game.

I am proud of the way Roger fought. He could have lost the match in 3 or 4 sets (4 definitely as Andy was two points from winning at 30-15 and 30-30) and he played some incredibly clutch tennis when he needed to raise his game. He ran out of gas in the 5th set, but again, full credit to Andy who didn't fold when other players (ahem, Almagro) may have after losing such a turnaround 4th set like that.

There are many positives to take out of the tournament for Roger. He had the toughest draw of the top 4 seeds, and sent a clear message to all his younger rivals by beating Tomic and Raonic decisively. Even though the end result wasn't what we wanted, he showed the world he isn't going anywhere and still wants majors as bad as ever and is willing to do whatever it takes to win them.

This tournament really went to show how big a draw is in this day and age, and especially in this Slam when Nadal wasn't playing. What if Ferrer had been drawn in Fed's half, and the semis were Federer/Ferrer and Djokovic/Murray? We may be seeing a fresh Federer vs Djokovic or Murray, fresh from beating on each other in the semi. Perhaps things may have been different against Murray if Delpo had been drawn in his quarter and he ended up playing Chardy in the QF while Andy played Tsonga. The bottom line is, draws play a big part in Roger's success in Slams these days.

It's onwards and upwards for Fed, and I'm sure he'll go about the next few months the way he did last year. He'll have great chances to bounce back and win in Rotterdam and Dubai, and he'll have a good chance to win Indian Wells and Madrid, even though the latter is back on the regular orange clay. I think he'll put all his efforts into winning Rotterdam, Dubai, and Indian Wells before he'll take off Miami and have an extended break before the heavy part of the season starts with the French Open an Wimbledon. That extra training could help him when that part of the season comes.

As for Murray, he is going to try to become the first man ever to win his second major title one Slam after winning his first. Meanwhile, Djokovic is looking to become the first guy to win 3 straight Australian Opens in the Open Era. I have to give the edge to him, as Andy will be coming off the 4-hour match with Fed and Djokovic has an extra day's rest and had a very easy match against Ferrer. Besides, the Australian Open courts are his best on the entire tour, and I think his game will be too much for Andy to handle.

Whatever happens, it should be an exciting match, even if it will be a baseline slugfest similar to the final last year. I'll take Djokovic in 4 because his confidence is so high right now and he looks unbeatable on this court (and is proving that he is).

Stay happy Fed fans, many positives to take from this tournament.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Federer Outlasts Tsonga in 5 sets

Roger Federer earned a thrilling 5-set win against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 in 3 hours and 34 minutes.

Fed came out of the gate hot, breaking in the first game of the match, but Tsonga broke back in the sixth game of the match to level at 3-3. The set went into a tiebreak in which Roger went up a mini-break early and didn't look back from there as he closed it out 7-4. In the second, Tsonga broke in the seventh game to go up 4-3 and he would hold out from there to even the match at a set apiece. Roger only won two return points in the entire set.

In the third, Fed went up an early break but the Frenchman broke straight back in surprising fashion. The set was on the line at 5-5 when Roger went down 0-30, but came up with a stunning Wawrinka-like backhand down the line to save himself. He got out of the hole and the set went to a tiebreak.  Fed went up a quick mini-break again, but a brain cramp gave the mini-break back. On the seventh point at 3-3, he came up with a clutch point on the Tsonga serve (just as he did in against Raonic at 3-3 in their breaker). However Jo got the mini-break back once again. Roger was up to the challenge though, and hit an exquisite backhand down the line at 5-4, and won the set after an amazing defensive point to take a two sets to one lead.

In the fourth, Tsonga did not go away and broke serve in the sixth game to go up 4-2. It's all the opening he would need and he leveled the match at two sets all - the second five-setter in the head to head. In the decider though, Roger was up to the challenge, breaking in the 4th game to go up 3-1 and consolidating the break for 4-1. Tsonga did not quit when facing break points the next game and forced Roger to win it the hard way. After saving 4 match points at 2-5, Roger dug out of a 15-30 hole and capitalized on his 5th match point, but first on his serve. An exciting and thrilling win in the end, a win that Fed fully earned.

It was a hard-fought battle from start to end, and Tsonga played some huge tennis, almost like his performance against Roger in the Wimbledon 2011 quarterfinals. He was hammering the ball hard and didn't drop the quality of his play in the second and fourth sets after Roger won the tiebreaks.

To analyze Roger's performance, it wasn't pretty and it certainly was a big struggle, but he came through in the end and played some clutch tennis when he had to. The numbers weren't pretty - 49 winners to 47 unforced errors and 4/18 on break point chances, but he got the job done and the win should give him a big boost of confidence. He got through Jo playing his most explosive tennis and rose to every challenge he faced. Had a few points gone differently, he could have easily lost the match in 4 sets.

Roger wasn't serving his best, and he wasn't as sharp off the ground as he was in previous games, as the numbers indicate. But Tsonga was penetrating the court with his hard and flat groundstrokes and he played a generally solid tactical match - only approaching the net on a ball to Roger's backhand and ripping the ball big up the line. Roger was pushed back in many of the rallies and was forced to use his great reflexes and racket skills time and time again. The quickness of the courts this year certainly helped him hit past Roger's stout defense for an elongated period of time.

Murray awaits in the semis, who beat Jeremy Chardy without breaking a sweat, to absolutely nobody's surprise. That match will be much different from a tactical perspective but probably more physical. I think Roger will be able to attack more as Murray isn't as aggressive. I expect Fed will be fine physically for the match; even though he's 31, he is still in elite shape and he'll be up for it mentally. It will be a very tough match but if Roger can recover well and play the way we know he can, I see a tight 4-set win.

In the shocking news of the day, Serena Williams went out to 19 year-old Sloane Stephens in three sets. Serena injured her ankle in the match and apparently had been having back problems, but a great win for the young Sloane. She will take on Azarenka in the semis. What a story it would be if she could pull the upset and take on Sharapova or Li Na. The women's semis take place Thursday night, as does the first men's semi, Djokovic vs Ferrer.

Looking forward to the rest of the tennis action!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Federer beats Raonic to make QF

The legend of Roger Federer continues to grow. He made his 35th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal with an emphatic 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2 win over Canadian Milos Raonic in the round of 16.

The Swiss master and the Canadian met 3 times in 2012, with Federer winning all 3 times, all in 3 sets.  All 3 times Raonic won the first set, but not tonight. Raonic saved a few break points early, and the set rolled on until 5-4 when Roger, opportunistic as ever, earned a break point chance and converted as the tall, lanky Canadian sent a volley flying into the net.

The second set was dominated by the server, and Roger was on his serving game. He only lost 2 points on serve the entire set (Raonic only lost 9) and almost predictably, we were headed to a tiebreak - the 5th in their head-to-head. Both men held their serve until 3-3 when the Maestro hit an exquisite trademark backhand pass to take full command. He didn't look back from there, as he won the next two points on his serve and two points after that, he won the set.

In the third, Roger remained as efficient as ever and broke a struggling Raonic in the opening game, all but extinguishing any hope the young rising star had. He broke again and then cruised to victory from there. Another efficient straight-setter around the 2-hour mark, and the 17-time Slam champ heads into the quarterfinal with loads of confidence and, oh yeah, knowing that he hasn't dropped serve in 12 sets of tennis.

Roger did not face a break point against Milos the entire match, and was only taken to deuce once. A lot of that had to do with the weak return game of the big Canadian, but Fed was serving and playing spectacularly well to hold serve regardless. Many players, perhaps even Djokovic and Murray, would have had some difficulty trying to break serve. For the match, Roger hit 24 winners to 12 unforced errors, hit 14 aces, served at 64%, won 90% of his first serve points, 75% of his second serve points, was 14/15 at net, and won 36% of return points - impressive against a guy with such an amazing serve like Raonic.

Looking ahead to the quarters, Fed faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has quietly come through the draw in good form. He shall be a tough test but with the way Roger has been playing through the first four rounds, I think it will take a very special effort by Tsonga to have a chance at winning.

Also, how great has Roger's movement looked so far? He is defending off his forehand better than I've seen in a long time, and if he wants to beat Murray and Djokovic, the movement to that side will be key because both can rip the ball down the line with their two-handers.

Quick Thoughts on Djokovic/Wawrinka

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 48 hours, you're certainly aware of the 5-hour classic that took place between Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka - a match that went 12-10 in the 5th set. I just want to give some brief thoughts about it.

First of all, it was the best match Stan ever played, bar none. He was aggressive, determined, and he believed in himself - something other top 20 players could use more of when they run into the top guns. Stan is one of the only guys that can hang with Djokovic from the baseline shot for shot, and he certainly proved it, hitting spectacular winners off both forehand and backhand and not backing down.

Mentally, Stan was superb. Yes, he lost a 5-3 30-0 lead in the second set that would have given him a two-set lead. But knowing Djokovic, that may not have been good enough anyway and it's useless to play the "what if" game. The bottom line is that Stan could have folded after losing the second set, but he didn't. A previous version of him might have. If he shows that belief and mental tenacity throughout the rest of this year, chances are his ranking and results will see a decent improvement. He has top 10 quality talent, but the mind has always let him down. Maybe this inspired perfomance will create a change for him. I certainly hope so because he is very fun to watch when everything is clicking.

As for Djokovic, he has 48 hours to prepare for Tomas Berdych, who has quietly (like Tsonga) come through the draw with ease. We all know Novak's history with long matches - just last year he went nearly 5 hours with Murray and then nearly 6 with Nadal back-to-back. However, the #1 must still be wary of the danger that Tomas may cause if he gets going early. Surely the legs will be feeling it if he can't find a rhythm quickly.

If Nole doesn't feel any effect from the Wawrinka match, he wins, but I do expect a close match. Berdych has been thriving off the quicker courts this year and is confident after helping his country win the Davis Cup last December. And he will have a point to prove after last year giving Nadal a tough match but falling short.

So the quarterfinals are set, and it's Djokovic/Berdych, Ferrer/Almagro, Murray/Chardy, and Federer/Tsonga. Two of those matches should be close, the others might not be. Though Almagro has been playing well this tournament after surviving a first-round 5-set scare, Ferrer is too solid and too consistent. And even though Chardy took out Murray in Cincinnati last year before the Scot won his maiden Slam, he has practically zero chance barring a miracle.

And how devastating has Serena Williams looked? That woman is scary.

Until next time,


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Federer Passes Tomic Test

Roger Federer was given a test in his 3rd round match - facing the home hero Bernard Tomic for the second consecutive year. And though the Aussie put up a much better performance in this match than the last, the result was still the same - a straight sets defeat, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1 in just under two hours. The Swiss Maestro passed his test with flying colours (pink).

Fed broke in the opening game and held from there to take the first set comfortably in 34 minutes. The second set has to go down as one of the best sets of tennis played in 2013 thus far. Both men held relatively comfortably on serve and after 12 holds, the set deservedly went to a tiebreak. Bernie went up 4-1, or one mini-break, and he was riding a wave of momentum. Then Federer, just as he so often does, shifted that momentum back to his side of the court in a flash.

He won his two service points to make it 4-3, then Tomic made it 5-3. The next point was one of the best of the match, a 29-shot rally that had Roger pushed from side to side, forcing him to use all of his athletic ability. He won the point after a Tomic error, then won the next three points to take the set, which was the big turning point in the match.  In the third Tomic was out of gas (after trying so hard to win the 2nd set) and Fed broke twice to take the set rather easily. Tomic fought to the end but his efforts were not enough.

Overall it was a superb match from Roger: 46 winners to 20 unforced errors, 11 aces, 26/30 at net, 69% of first serves made and 88% points won when he got it in. The only downside was his break point conversion, 3/16, which could have cost him, especially in the second set when he went 0/6. Putting that aside, however, and it may have been an even more impressive win than the one he had last year against him in the round of 16 (considering Tomic is much better now).

A few things to take away from the match: one was Roger's defense. His movement was top notch the whole night and especially in the crucial second set tiebreak. Time after time he slid from side to side and dug out balls many players would not have gotten. The second notable was his serve, which was excellent as usual. I mention it because he only faced one break point against a very aggressive Tomic and he next plays Raonic, who has only broken Roger once in 6 sets of tennis.

The other thing that few take into account is how amazing Roger is at wearing down his opponents mentally and physically. He does this by constantly attacking and keeping the pressure on, but he also wears down a player's mind by using all his variety so that the guy is always trying to figure out what is coming next. This was evident in the match because Tomic was visibly feeling it in his body midway through the 3rd set, the result of many long and strenuous rallies (for both the body and mind).

A final thought: with the way Roger is playing right now, I think the only person that can beat him is Novak Djokovic. Murray is almost assured to be there in the semifinal, but Fed is playing so well right now I think he will win that one in four sets should it happen, just like the Wimbledon final.
Sunday's action features Djokovic and Sharapova, who should win their matches. It has the potential to be an exciting day with Ferrer/Nishikori, Ivanovic/Radwanska, and Almagro/Tipsarevic, which has a great chance of being a 5-setter.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 Aussie Open Day 5 Recap

Day five went along without any real upsets, as all the top stars won their matches without much difficulty.

Novak Djokovic won his 17th straight match at the Australian Open as he got by Radek Stepanek 64 63 75. It was a solid match from the #1 overall, and he did what he needed to do to win. It was like a classic Federer early round match, in which he did not expend much energy and upped his game in the tail end of sets to win each one. He will take on Stan Wawrinka in the round of 16, who took out the last American Sam Querrey in straight sets.

Janko Tipsarevic needed 5 sets again to advance to the round of 16, beating Frenchman Julien Benneteau in a match where he was down two sets to one. Believe it or not, it was Janko's 10th 5-set match in 19 career matches played at the Australian Open. Crazy! It's likely he may play another 5-setter next as well - he takes on Nicolas Almagro, who took out Paris finalist Jerzy Janowicz.

David Ferrer eased through Marcos Baghdatis in straights, and he'll next play Kei Nishikori, who took out Evgeny Doskoy in straights. Kevin Anderson came back from two sets to one down to beat Fernando Verdasco, and he'll have the tough task of beating Tomas Berdych in the 4th round, who manhandled Jurgen Melzer with the loss of only seven games.

On the women's side, Maria Sharapova finally lost a game. She defeated Venus Williams 63 61 in the first night match and looked very good. Her game streak was broken at 28 after Venus held down 4-0. Maria was up 5-1 in the 2nd but was broken and Venus almost fought back to even but the Russian was too strong in the end. Maria is the heavy, heavy favourite against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the 4th round.

Agnieszka Radwanska remained unbeaten in 2013 with yet another easy win, this one over Heather Watson. She'll play Ana Ivanovic, who took out her compatriot Jelena Jankovic in straights. Li Na and Julia Georges set a date with one another after wins over Sorana Circstea and Zheng Jie respectively. Angelique Kerber ended the run of young American Madison Keys, and Ekaterina Makarova upset Marion Bartoli in three sets.

Day 6 features the heavily-hyped Federer vs Tomic match, as well as an all French-battle between Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki are also in action. Also, watch out for Sloane Stephens vs Laura Robson - should be an exciting and competitive match.

On a side note to wrap this up, how good have the top players been on both the men and women's side? Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Ferrer, Serena, Sharapova, Azarenka, del Potro, Radwanska, and Berdych all look incredibly sharp right now.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Federer rolls by Davydenko

Roger Federer, sporting shoes with pink laces (because real men wear pink, right?) set up a 3rd round meeting with Bernard Tomic on Thursday night with a comfortable if not spectacular 62 62 64 win over his longtime rival Nikolay Davydenko to safely send 17 of the top 20 seeds on the men's side into the 3rd round. 

It was an overall solid performance by the Fed, even though he racked up 41 unforced errors to 35 winners. He served magnificently and did not face a break point the entire match. Granted, the Russian made for a pretty tame opponent, but the conditions were quick and after all, it was Roger's second match of the young season.

As far as I'm concerned, the groundstrokes will be there in the business end of the tournament. Right now, what matters most is that the serve is clicking, because as we all know, when the serve is working, the rest of Roger's game falls into place. Another thing worth mentioning is, like Djokovic the night before, Fed was taking huge rips at his forehand and was going big a lot, which is why he hit so many unforced errors.

Next up is Tomic, who needed 4 tight sets and two tiebreak wins to get by big-serving German Daniel Brands. A few thoughts on Bernie before his big anticipated match with Roger: he will likely try to use all his guile to mix Roger up, just as he did last year. The bad news is, that play doesn't work, because even with all the tricks Tomic has, he doesn't have as many as Roger.

Tomic is a really good match up for Fed in a few ways. He hits the ball flat and clean, but not too hard, which Fed likes in his opponents (hence the solid numbers against the likes of Davydenko, Roddick, Nalbandian, Hewitt, etc). In front of an excited home crowd, you get the feeling like the Aussie will try everything in his power to try to impress his fan base and try to embarrass Fed with some coy shotmaking. Roger, on the other hand, will be all business, and honestly, I see him having a Masterclass performance just as he did 12 months ago.

I won't go into the details of the other matches (you can read about them on my piece for SportPulse, link below). But I will give some short thoughts. Murray and Delpo look to be headed right towards each other in the quarters and both are on a roll. Tsonga looks very good. Serena is not human, I swear. As an athlete, there aren't many, if any, better than her.


Looking forward to the Venus/Sharapova showdown tomorrow, as well as Kerber vs Keys, Ferrer vs Baghdatis, Watson vs Radwanska, Verdasco vs Anderson, and Ivanovic vs Jankovic. Should be an all round good day of tennis.

PS, Gael Monfils is the shiz. At the end of his 5-set win over Yen-Tsun Lu, when he was serving for the match at 7-6, he held match point four times and double faulted all four times before finally acing it on the fifth attempt. He double faulted 23 times in the match overall. What a fun match, what a fun man. Only Gael.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 Aussie Open Day 3 Recap

Day three of the Australian Open has come and gone and there weren't many surprises.
Novak Djokovic took out Ryan Harrison in straight sets 61 62 63 and he looks in ominous form early on. He was hitting the ball as hard as I've ever seen him hit it and at least in these early rounds, he seems to be much more offensive and is playing almost Agassi-like. Ferrer and Berdych must be taking notice of this new super-aggressive play from the Serb.

If there is one thing I'll say analytically, it's that Djokovic returned Harrison's bombing serve with such ease in the same way Federer destroyed Roddick's serve - he just blocked it back deep and automatically took control of the point. The scary thing is that Ryan was serving very well, getting near 70% of his first serves in, yet he was broken 5 times and never really held easily when he did. And Novak was even better on serve - he served at 75% for the match!

If I'm being honest with myself, it's hard not to see Djokovic lift the title here. He is so dominant on the plexicushion and believe it or not he looks even better than he did in 2011.

Davis Cup hero of last year Radek Stepanek beat Feliciano Lopez decisively 62 62 64, and he now gets the lucky privilege of playing Nole next round. Sorry Radek!

Other action:

- Maria Sharapova became the first woman since 1985 (Wendy Turnbull) to win her first two matches of a Grand Slam 60 60. She looks scary good at the moment and I'd be shocked if she didn't make the final now. Venus Williams won her match handily setting up a blockbuster 3rd round match between her and Maria.

- Samantha Stosur lost to Zheng Jie 64 16 75 in heartbreaking fashion. She was up 5-2 in the 3rd set but proceeding to implode after that, losing five straight games. Her entire game went away and you know there must be some serious psychological issues with her and this tournament, since she's never made it past the fourth round. First round loss last year, second round this year. And I'm sure this loss is more painful.

- David Ferrer beat American Tim Smyczek in four sets, 60 75 46 63. He looks good as he always does and will play Marcos Baghdatis next, who took out Tatsuma Ito in 4.

- Last year's Paris finalist Jerzy Janowicz came back from a two set deficit to take out Somdev Devvarman 67(10) 36 61 60 75. The big guy plays Nicolas Almagro next, which should be a very enteraining match. Jerzy could pull the upset there if he has enough gas in the tank.

- World #8 Janko Tipsarevic needed 5 sets to beat Slovakian Lukas Lacko 63 64 36 46 75. Lacko came back from a break down in the fifth but it was not enough and he falls to 0-13 against top 10 players. On the other side, Tipsarevic has played 18 matches at the Australian Open and 9 of them have been 5-setters. Amazing!

- In sad news, Brian Baker, who missed many years with injury problems, was forced to retire against Sam Querrey with a serious injury that forced him to be wheelchaired off the court. Here's praying that it's nothing too serious and he can be on the court soon. Baker won the first set in a tiebreak and would have potentially won the match. He was playing in his first ever Australian Open at 27 years of age.

- Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic won their matches to set up a clash between the two Serb countrywomen. That should be a fun, drama-riddled circus ride. Madison Keys rolled over #30 seed Tamira Paszek and the young 17 year-old American plays Angelique Kerber next. It will be tough for her to win, but she's been touted as a future Grand Slam champion and after seeing her performance against Paszek, I have to think she will win a Slam in the future.

- Brit Heather Watson and Aga Radwanska set up a 3rd round clash with straight set wins. That could be a good match but with the form Aga is in, winning 11 straight matches now to start the year and not dropping a set yet (!) she should win in straights.

The top half of the men's side and the bottom half of the women's side features some amazing matches for Friday. On the women's, you have as previously mentioned Ivanovic/Jankovic and V. Williams/Sharapova, but there's also Georges/Zheng, Watson/Radwanska, Kerber/Keys, and Makarova/Bartoli. On the men's you get Verdasco/Anderson, Melzer/Berdych, Benneteau/Tipsarevic, Almagro/Janowicz, and Ferrer/Baghdatis.

Looking forward to day four, there are many great matches on the card. Federer vs Davydenko should be very good and for Fed's sake I hope Davy isn't as good as he was 3 years ago when they played. Serena, Murray, Kvitova (plays Laura Robson - should be great match of the lefties), Wozniacki, Gasquet, Tsonga, Tomic, and Delpo. Delpo plays Benjamin Becker, so it will be a meeting of the two men who retired American legends Agassi and Roddick. Sleeper match of the day for the men could be Simon vs Levine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Federer rolls by Paire

Day 2 is over and Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Serena Williams, and many other top players kicked off their both kicked off their quests to win the title.  All of the day's action recapped below:

Federer started his campaign for an 18th major title with a 62 64 61 win over Frenchman Benoit Paire on centre court (his 57th straight appearance on Rod Laver Arena!). The win was a smooth ride from start to finish as he was never in trouble. He broke in the first game of the match, and after saving break points the next game, he cruised to the first set. The second set was more of the same albeit closer, and in the third set Paire basically tanked, hitting many poor shots, reminding me of Tomic last year against Roddick at the US Open.

Roger hit 25 winners to 18 unforced errors, hit 3 aces, got in 64% of his first serves, won 84% of those, broke 6 times, and was 25/31 at the net. He only dropped 17 points on serve the entire match. It's hard to gauge how Fed really did because the match had little flow and few extended rallies for Roger to get into any sort of rhythm. He served very well though and got to net plenty, which is a good sign. There were few signs of rust after not playing any warmup tournaments, also a good sign.

He plays Nikolay Davydenko next, which could be challenging.  Will we see the Davydenko who nearly beat Roger in Rotterdam last year, or will we see the Niko that got routed in Doha last year?

Other action:

- Sara Errani became the highest seed (#7) to exit as she went on in straight sets to Carla Suarez Navarro. Pretty shocking stuff, but Suarez Navarro has game and she has a beautiful one-handed backhand. Nadia Petrova, the #12 seed, also exited in straight sets to 42 year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who became the oldest major winner ever. Pretty crazy that someone ranked as high as Petrova could lose while only getting 2 games to a 42 year-old.

- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won an entertaining match against Michael Llodra in straights. He is in good form and looks in great physical shape and I would not be surprised to one iota to see a quarterfinal clash between him and Roger.

- Serena Williams, to nobody's surprise, double bageled her unfortunate opponent. However, she suffered a fall during the match and hurt her ankle, so let's hope it's alright. Though I actually think Serena could win the title even if she had to do it on one leg. Superwoman.

- Andy Murray took out Robin Haase in quick time. He looks like he has a safe path to the 4th round, where he'll likely face Gael Monfils/Alexandr Dolgopolov or Gilles Simon.

- Two Canadians made it to the second round, as Milos Raonic and Jesse Levine won. Raonic, the #13 seed, dropped the opening set before taking the next three. It was a good win for Milos considering the struggles he's had recently, but I don't see him making the fourth round to play Roger.

- The 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro lost 5 games en route to a rout over Adrian Mannarino. He looks like a very serious threat to Andy Murray in the quarters. Watch out Andy.

- Bernard Tomic took out Leonardo Mayer in straights, bringing him one match closer to the match he desires against Federer in the 3rd round. Be careful what you wish for though.

- Jarkko Nieminen won a thriller against Tommy Haas in a match that lasted over 3 and a half hours. I'm sad that Tommy lost but since his return to great form last year he has proven a very difficult man to beat. Something to note is that Tommy did withdraw from the Hopman Cup doubles against Serbia with an injury, so not sure if he was completely healthy or not.

- Petra Kvitova survived a test from Francesca Schiavone, the wiley Italian. Kvitova plays Laura Robson next, who defeated US Open 2009 wunderkid Melanie Oudin. Robson was the one who ended Kim Clijsters' career last year at the US Open.

- Caroline Wozniacki came back from a set down to beat Sabine Lisicki. With the draw Caroline has, she could make the quarters to play Azarenka, though I'd honestly be surprised to see that. But 2013 is a new year after all...

- Gael Monfils, returnee to the tour this year, beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in a tough 4-setter. Good to see the Frenchman win in his first Slam match back. He is very fun to watch and he was missed last year. He could cause some problems in his draw because he's full of talent and ability.

- Other notables advancing on the men's side: Gilles Simon, Marin Cilic, James Duckworth, Richard Gasquet, Marcel Granollers, Gilles Simon, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jeremy Chardy, Richard Berankis, Andreas Seppi, Yen-Tsun Lu, Alejandro Falla, Denis Istomin, Blaz Kavcic (upsetting Thomaz Bellucci), and Florian Mayer. On the women's side, those notables who also won: Yanina Wickmayer, Sloane Stephens (one of my favs), Maria Kirilenko, Jamie Hampton (upsetting the 31 seed Urszula Radwanska), Svetlana Kuznetsova, Varvara Lepchenko, Roberta Vinci,  and Lucie Safarova.

On day three, watch out for Lopez vs Stepanek, and young upstart Madison Keys. One of the better matches of the day could be Malisse vs Verdasco.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Aussie Open Day 1 Recap

I am back to start off 2013 with a bang! Finally the first Slam of the year is under way! Some thoughts from the first day of action.

- Novak Djokovic got through a routine opener, taking out Paul-Henri Mathieu 62 75 64. The Serb was never in trouble and cruised on serve. He takes on Ryan Harrison in the second round, who won a 4-setter against the ever-inconsistent Santiago Giraldo. Logic dictates Djokovic handles Harrison handily, but Harrison could eek out a set if the stars line up for him ... they won't.

- #4 seed David Ferrer cruised by little Olivier Rochus 63 64 75 and he'll play American Tim Smyczek next, who defeated big Dr. Ivo. Looks very much like he will make the QF easily.

- Janko Tipsarevic got by Lleyton Hewitt 76(4) 75 63. The Serb went down a double break in the second set, but Janko on 7 of the final 9 games of the set to win it, which pretty much won him the match. Facing Lleyton at the Australian Open is difficult and Janko even admitted that the first two sets could have gone either way. As for Rusty, we are left wondering whether or not his 17th straight Australian Open appearance will be his last.

- Maria Sharapova blanked her opponent Olga Puchkova of Russia 60 60. No surprise there, of course, but Maria played very well. She is definitely motivated to win this tournament as she could gain the #1 ranking under the right circumstances. Maria has won Down Under once, in 2008, and behind Serena, she looks like the second favourite to win the title.

- Venus Williams routed her opponent, Kazakh GalinaVoskoeboeva 61 60, and she looked much more energetic than she did for much of 2012. A matchup with Sharapova awaits in the 3rd round, and that would be absolutely awesome to see. The past vs the present, almost.

- Samantha Stosur fought past a tough opening set, which she won in a tiebreak, to prevail in her first round 76(3) 63. Good win for her, but knowing the troubles she has had at her home Slam (lost last year in the first round), I can't see her making it past the quarters.

- Nicolas Almagro, the #9 seed, needed 5 sets to beat American Steve Johnson 75 67(4) 62 67(6) 62. The Spaniard plays another Spaniard in the 2nd round, Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who is not an easy opponent. That could go 4 or 5 as well if Nico isn't careful. With the draw he has, he could wind up making it to the quarterfinals against Ferrer (most likely), but now that he's had a 5-setter in the first round, it's unsure of how he'll respond. If he gets by DG-T, he could play Jerzy Janowicz in the 3rd round, which could result in an upset. You never know...

- Fernando Verdasco, the #22 seed and 2009 Australian Open semifinalist overcame a two sets to one deficit against David Goffin to win 63 36 46 63 64. After the disappointment of losing a two-set lead to Bernard Tomic last year, this has to be a confidence-boosting win against a player on the rise lke Goffin. Verdasco has being working hard in the offseason with former trainer to Andre Agassi, Gil Reyes, and he looked much more fit than he did last year. He plays the X-man, Xavier Malisse in the 2nd round, and if he gets by that, he'll likely play Kevin Anderson.

- Grigor Dimitrov, surprise finalist in Brisbane where he lost to Andy Murray, lost in straight sets to the 32nd seed Julien Benneteau 64 62 64. It will be a tough learning experience for the Bulgarian since he must have had high hopes heading into this Slam. Technically it isn't a bad loss since Benneteau is a very solid player but Grigor had to have wanted to go a bit deeper, like the 3rd or even 4th round. And he would have had his chance to if he had beaten Benneteau, with Roger-Vasselin or Bemelmans in the 2nd round and Lacko, Muller, Hewitt, or Tipsarevic in the 3rd round.

- Juan Monaco, the #11 seed, lost shockingly in straight sets to Andrey Kuznetsov. He lost the first set in a tiebreak but after that he lost two 6-1 sets. Quite the upset on day one, not only in the result but in the way it happened. 

- Agnieszka Radwanska won the final 9 games of her match to beat Aussie Bojana Bobusic 76 60. She is on a 10-match winning streak to start this year. She looks really good and she could cement herself as one of the big 4 in the women's game with a final or even (gasp) a win.

- The Doctor himself, the Youz, Mikhail Youzhny, came back from two sets down to take out Australia's own Matthew Ebden. Great win for the Russian, and he's set to meet Kei Nishikori in the third round, which would be a great match-up.

- Young 17 year-old American Madison Keys advanced to the 2nd round.  Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez held her in high regard as a key part of the future of women's tennis so she is someone to keep an eye on in the next half-decade.

- 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis came through in 5 against Albert Ramos 6-3 in the 5th. Bag is likely to go through to the 3rd round where he'll very likely play Ferrer.

- Ana Ivanovic, Li Na, Julia Georges, Angelique Kerber, Dominka Cibulkova, Marion Bartoli, Jelena Jankovic were also among the winners on the women's side. Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Sam Querrey (the only seeded American), Stan Wawrinka, Jurgen Melzer, Kevin Anderson, Feliciano Lopez and Brian Baker were among those that advanced on the men's. 

The match of day two on the men's side could be Tsonga vs Llodra. With both guys being great shotmakers and enigmatic Frenchmen, it could be a good show.  Also watch out for Monfils vs Dologopolov. Gael is back and he looks good and if he wins he could very well get to the 4th round and take on del Potro, which would be an awesome comeback to the tour. Also, Federer and Tomic start their road to each other

On the women's side on day two, watch out for Wozniacki vs Lisicki. If you recall, Sabine beat Wozniacki at Wimbledon in 2009 and Caroline could certainly go out in the first round yet again if Lisicki gets on a roll. Azarenka, Serena, Errani, and Kvitova should ease through.

Until next time,


Friday, January 11, 2013

Quick Blog Update

Hey all,

I haven't been writing much in the offseason, and I have been mainly talking about tennis on Ru-an's blog and Jonathan's blog. In light of that, I am making this quick post t explain some things. First of all, if you don't already know, I am writing about tennis now at SportPulse.net, so in 2013 I won't be posting as much on this blog. The usual match reports won't be as frequent as I will be reporting at SportPulse every week for both the men and women's tours.

However, I will make it my mission to continue this blog going, so I'm changing things up a bit.  From now on I'll be writing more or less from a point of opinion, and I'll be giving my thoughts in a more or less diary format. Anything from Roger's performances to the state of the game to giving thoughts to just about anything related to tennis.

Tomorrow I'll be giving my full and extensive thoughts on the Australian Open draw and what might be expected throughout the next fortnight. It is sure good to have tennis back, isn't it?