Monday, November 28, 2016

Campeones! Campeones! Olé! Olé! Olé! Argentina are your 2016 Davis Cup Champions


2016 is the season where the sporting curses have been buried on a global and local level. Chicago Cubs in the baseball, Cleveland Cavaliers in the basketball, Portugal beating Germany and France to win the Euro football champs. In local Australian sports, Cronulla never won a rugby league title and Footscray hadn't won since 1954.

Argentina continued the vein of breaking sporting curses. This was a wonderful achievement at their fifth attempt, best of all they won every tie away from home which magnifies the achievement Davis Cup is taken seriously in Argentina and until yesterday they were the best country never to win it.

No I in team, but there is in winners

Sure Juan Martin del Potro is going to get most of the credit but this was a team effort and huge kudos to Daniel Orsanic one for getting him back into the fold and two he was able to blend the group of players into a unit. Leonardo Mayer who won the final match in the semi finals against the Brits. Fede Delbonis who lifts for Davis Cup played brilliantly against Italy and then was playing lights out in the final rubber to bring the final home. This was definitely the triumph of the collective than the individuals.






The Failures

Argentina had a golden generation of players Nalbandian, Coria, Gaudio, Chela, Calleri, Cañas and Zabaleta but weren't able to win it. Yes, there was a lack of a reliable second singles player on faster surfaces back in those days which were much faster than today's equivalent. As much as this is a factor, the biggest issue was they couldn't function as a team, it takes a special kind of DC captain to keep these strong personalities focused into playing for each other. Unfortunately it wasn't able to happen for them, but these guys helped paved the way for this generation as Vilas had done for them.

There have been some great meltdowns in Argentine Davis Cup history. In 2002 when Gaudio was 5-2 40-15 up against Kafelnikov in Moscow and on the second match point that clown posing as an umpire Jorge Dias didn't overrule a corrupt linesman who had hooked Gaudio with the ball landing in. Yes, this was the time before Hawkeye, then Gaudio was mentally crushed going down 2-0 on Day 1 and couldn't be pulled back.

Malaga 2003 when Coria and Nalbandian were easily the two best players in Argentina but both didn't play due to injuries. Gaudio who was hideously out of form had his lowest moment when he lost 14 games in a row against Ferrero on Day 1. Zabaleta playing so well in first 2 sets cramped up due to the tension, then we have Calleri who made the world number 1 Ferrero look like a child. In the final match Gaudio crumbles and cops a lot of shit for his awful performances when he returns home. Argentine fans are magnificent at creating atmosphere and support, but they will give you plenty of crap and acerbic comments if a player doesn't perform.



Worst of all was the Mar del Plata final farce. Nalbandian who was the star of the team wanted the final to be played in Cordoba but El Presidente Morea and the AAT thought Mar del Plata was a better option even though it was a much smaller venue. That created tension that was always simmering which tends to be forgotten about when you are winning. They thought it was going to be the big coronation moment, they forgot to realise that preparation is important and didn't respect the opponent. What should have been their moment was taken away by Spain.

Davis Cup Is Unique, Keep It That Way

With all the previous failures it makes the first Davis Cup title all the more special. Argentina has a great tennis tradition, they understand the unique nature of Davis Cup unlike Ben Rothenberg and some others who foolishly believe that Davis Cup should be played at a neutral venue and best of 3 sets. What's the point of these ludicrous ideas? They will not improve thhttp://www.daviscup.com/en/news/245925.aspxe competition or the sport, which is what innovation and positive rule changes can do.

Davis Cup has its issues and it's mostly with scheduling this is something they can't or won't get it right. One suggestion maybe would drop the teams in World Group to 14, so the finalists can get a bye into the quarter finals. From there, only the semi finalists onwards would be guaranteed places in the World Group and the other places will be decided as they are now with 10 places instead of 8. It was through Davis Cup that I became a fan of tennis and wanted to explore it more. There is more than enough homogenisation especially within the surfaces and an increasing globalised world, there needs to be some points of difference. If the nations are prepared to cede home ties and the revenue that it raises so ITF can have Davis Cup ties at neutral venues. Then it's a case of turkeys voting for Christmas.




Playing home ties creates such a better atmosphere for the players. The final in Zagreb was brilliant and the players lifted for the occasion, look at the 4th match where del Potro rallied from 2 sets down to defeat Cilic to give Delbonis the chance to win it. The interviews from the players and captains talk about this Interviews There was a hot crowd and they played a match befitting the audience. This is not going to happen in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, Foot Fault City or Tashkent Uzbekistan for match involving neutral countries.


On a positive note, this was a brilliant way to end the tennis season. It's party time in Buenos Aires as they welcome home the champions and they deserve a week of celebrations.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Roland Garros Review : Novak Djokovic creating history

Novak Djokovic creating history was enough to bring back the blog.


Believe it or not it rained a bit in Paris during these past two weeks, maybe the Sunday start isn't such a bad thing. No, that's not true, but the organisers managed to get the event finished on time so that was an achievement. As the premier clay event in the world, it should have the best facilities but this sadly not the case. The beast of French bureaucracy is not an easy one to defeat. Roland Garros was outdated when I visited the event which is when Gaston Gaudio qualified for the main draw and Thomas Muster's last event. That should give you an idea that they need to expand, ideally they should have floodlights as well, but we know it's all about the roof. The tournament deserves it and maybe it will happen, then again we could always have some tennis surfaces which have variety unlike the homogenous state tennis is in at the moment.




Thiem rocking the zebra

So what were the other highlights of Roland Garros. The young Austrian Dominic Thiem into his first Slam semifinal and making it into the top 10 for the first time. It's an outstanding achievement, he has a lot of improvement as well, once he matures and knows his game. Thiem is strong off both sides, can construct points with patience and then be very aggressive. He has to learn when to go for it but that will come with maturity, best of all he has an excellent work ethic and is analytical about his performances which bodes well. On a side note Gunther Bresnik his coach knows how to prepare players, he got Gulbis and Thiem into the top 10, plus the late Horst Skoff and Koubek into the top 20, so Thiem is in good hands.



Thiem vs. Goffin QF

Odds and Ends

Ernests Gulbis decides he wants to play again and has a good tournament. He'll just do what he wants and possibly lose 7 first round matches in a row. Gulbis has the talent but not the desire, so he will have his fleeting moments and play for the fun of it. Ramos-Vinolas somehow makes the quarter finals, it's never the guys you really want to do it that get these surprise runs.


Bernie Tomic won a match on clay that is always a cause for celebration, this is the part of the year where he is on vacation. The fact that he lasted longer in the event than Fabio Fognini the man who has trolled Roland Garros on numerous occasions is strange in itself. Speaking of characters it was great to see Stephane Robert win a match in Paris. In an age where sportspeople with personalities are crucified because if they say nothing, they are boring and when they do, the media for the most part totally overreact. Robert dances to his own tune, plays an unorthodox game and at 36 doesn't look like stopping soon. The personable nature and also he actually likes to see the places where he is playing and not just room service. Good to see the game hasn't killed them off.

Stephane Robert vs. Kevin Anderson

Murray not a clay pigeon no more

Enough of the fun stuff and onto what this entry was meant to be about. First of all glad to be proved wrong about Andy Murray making a Slam final on clay. I didn't think he would be able to do it as the better claycourt players could outhit him, expose the forehand which is much easier to do on clay than the faster surfaces. It was a tremendous achievement taking out the defending champion Stani Wawrinka who was off his game and Murray weathered that challenge fairly easily in the end.

Djokovic and Murray finals generally aren't the most interesting. Some match ups just aren't that good unless you're specifically a fan of the player who is dominating. The final went the way that most expected, it was going to be a tall order for Murray on his worst surface to beat Djokovic on his second best one in a Slam final. It would need Djokovic to be 5-7% down and Murray to at the top of his game for an extended period of time.

Final

Djokovic got the early break but Murray broke back immediately and started off very aggressively. He was taking risks on the forehand, the second serve was solid which helped his court positioning which forced Djokovic into error and pushed him around. Murray is more consistent than Wawrinka, but Wawrinka has a bigger game and more of a shotmaker so in the 2015 final he was able to pin Djokovic further from the baseline and break down his defence which Murray wasn't able to do here.

Once Djokovic settled down into the match and got into that mode where I am not going to miss, hit down the lines and make you run. The confidence grew as he was on or just inside the baseline dictating the play, you know he is playing well when he is making volleys and there weren't any funny Djokosmashes. Yes, there was a bit of fun at the end when Murray got one of the break backs in the 4th set but it didn't feel like we were seeing a 2004 Coria choke, which is still the best or at least strangest Grand Slam final.


Djokinho

Now Novak Djokovic has the "Nole Slam" along with Laver and Don Budge to hold the 4 titles simultaneously. For the record I don't think he'll get the calendar Slam but that counts for now in reality. Djokovic has always been seen as the 3rd wheel in comparison to Federer and Nadal. Federer is the last link to the game when there were clear differences between the various surfaces and played the classic game. Nadal appealed to the demographic that didn't want to see Federer dominating, sure it was more teeny bopperish and Justin Bieber like initially, but others were drawn to his energy.

Djokovic and Murray are peers, they eventually started catching up to the big 2. Djokovic in his younger years had great theatrical skills looking like he was injured and coming back to win matches.. Yes, there were the impressions, the wanting to be loved but it not quite happening. Underneath all that there was the steely resolve to improve, hiring Thomas Muster's former fitness trainer, the egg chamber, the diet. He managed to start beating the others, yet it wasn't as spectacular as the other two.


Bossman Vajda

Once Djokovic returned to Marian Vajda after a bad stint with Todd Martin. Vajda was the calm father like figure he needed, they rebuilt his serve and improved his forehand to such a level that it's only slightly behind the backhand. This with the improved fitness levels were the main factors in Djokovic reaching the top of the tree. Naturally winning is a wonderful habit and having the self belief to win when things are difficult is a skill very few possess.

Career Slam

It's good that Djokovic does have the career Slam now and while this is a fantastic achievement like Nadal and Federer. For one it's deserved and it would have been disappointing if he didn’t manage it especially in this area. Which leads to the next point as someone who loathed Andre Agassi from the start to the end, the fact he won the career Slam is far more impressive than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

Yes, it’s true when Agassi won the career Slam, the grass was very fast, low bouncing, skidding unlike the grass at Wimbledon today where the only similarities are the colour. The clay well they use a lighter ball these days but there is only so much you can alter the clay courts as they are more dependent on weather than the other surfaces.

As for whether Djokovic is a contender for the GOAT. This is really is a stupid narrative in reality as it can’t be effectively judged. So if the bean counters want to solely use stats, then that will always be flawed like anything just based on numbers. Each player can only exist in their generation, as it’s impossible to create the same conditions as time doesn’t stand still. There are achievements which will always be great. Borg winning the RG-Wimbledon double three times in a row when the surfaces were so different. Nadal winning so many RG titles, Federer with the weeks at number 1, the Wimbledon titles, the Nole Slam, Luis Horna not getting a break point at all against Flavio Cipolla.

Federer said it himself “Anyway, every surface is very similar today, otherwise we couldn't have achieved all these things on all these different surfaces so quickly, like him and myself”. This now applies to Djokovic. It’s still accurate, in spite of this it’s admirable what Novak Djokovic is doing and it’s irrelevant that he doesn’t get the love that Federer and Nadal do from press and fans alike, but he finally got some love from the French crowd.

Friday, February 26, 2016

South Tyrol's Finest : Andreas Seppi Interview

Here is an interview that had been planned for a couple of years but for whatever reasons hadn't happened until the Australian Open this year.

Andreas Seppi is an example of a player who has made the most of his talents. He has won 3 titles on grass, clay and indoor hardcourt and has reached number 18 in the ATP rankings. There are players with more natural talent but don't have the dedication or work ethic to maximise their potential which is all one can ask at the end of their careers.

Seppi is from Kaltern in South Tyrol which is a region more famous for winter sports, hiking and where the majority of its citizens speak German as a first language which Seppi does along with Italian and English.


Seppi on the left

You're from South Tyrol. How did you start playing tennis in a region which is famous for skiing. How did your interest in tennis evolve?

Actually I was skiing until I was 14, I was also playing football and tennis. No one in my family was playing tennis. My father was playing ice hockey and the tennis courts were close by, so I saw them and wanted to try.

Then a good friend of mine who was playing, we are the same age and started playing tennis together. That was the beginning.

Massimo Sartori has been your only coach on tour. How did you meet and how long have you been working with him?

He was playing club matches where I grew up and the club president asked him once he retired whether he would do some coaching at the club. He lives 2 hours away from South Tyrol, he agreed and moved to the region in 1996. I’ve known him since I was 12, it’s a long time, he’s like a second father for me. When you’re travelling 30-40 weeks a year it’s very much like that.

When you started playing on the tour, how difficult was it to find a sponsor to help with the initial costs? Did you ever have thoughts of giving the game away in the most difficult times?

It was very tough, you know. At the beginning when you play a lot of Futures or Satellites when I started out. For us it was very difficult, you had to find someone to help you out, there was a bit from the federation.

With the federation once you made the top 100 you had to pay back the money. It was good when you are young to get some sponsorship, because there are a lot of expenses.

When you were starting out how advantageous was it to have a lot of tournaments in Italy ?


For sure, we always tried to travel by car, also in Germany and Austria where there were a lot of tournaments. We never took the plane to South America or somewhere else where it was easier to get points. It was too expensive, so we travelled by car to events that were closer to us.

Do you remember your first Futures title ?

Yes, it was in Germany in 2003 when I was 18 and a great feeling.



Once you graduated from Futures level, you played more main ATP Tour qualifying events instead of Challengers. What was the reason behind that?


My coach wanted me to practice with better players. Even if I lost in the qualifying of an ATP tour event I’d stay around for the week and practice to improve my game. I think it was a very important point to do it this way.

What were your earliest memories on tour and when did you realise that you could make a career on the ATP Tour?

After high school when I was 19 or 20 I started to have some better results. I was feeling comfortable on court and then I realised I can make a living through tennis.

What are your favourite tournaments?


Monte Carlo and the clay season leading up to Roland Garros, the grasscourt season. Wimbledon is my favourite tournament and playing in Rome is always special.

What’s your worst hotel experience and why?

Not sure if should I say (laughs). I played twice in Casablanca but didn’t enjoy it too much. The food was tough and especially us Italians we’re used to good food. There I was going crazy and the hotel wasn’t the best. I’ve just played twice and in the last ten years I haven’t gone back there.

How would you summarise the current state of Italian tennis?

It’s at a good point. We have some good players Fognini, Bolelli, Lorenzi, Cecchinato, we have 5 top 100 players. We’re at a good level, of course we are missing a big champion. In Davis Cup we can do well especially if we stay together and are focused. We have some young players coming up, so we’ll see.

What do you remember of the Bobby Reynolds match at the Australian Open which finished at 3.49 am?

Ja, I remember it was a long day I was supposed to be 3rd match on, but it was so hot that they suspended play. They didn’t start again until 9pm in the evening, there was still one match before mine and we started at midnight.

Of course it was a long match that went 5 sets and finishing at 3.49 am. It was very tough after of course you have some adrenalin. You can’t sleep straight away and ended up sleeping at 7 am, so yes it was tough.

It must have been awful for the next match?

Yes, you sleep 4-5 hours and then you practice a bit, but it’s tough to get into rhythm. It was a nice win.



How do you describe your win over Roger Federer in the 2015 Australian Open and the feelings after the match?

Of course it was the best win of my career for sure. I think beating him in a Grand Slam is very difficult you know. In the last 10 years he was always in the quarters and semis, so beating him was something special for sure.

I’d have to say this was a match where I was very calm and in the important moments I didn’t get very nervous. It’s hard to find that feeling again as I don’t know how it happened. I was feeling very calm and never had that feeling before on the court, so it was a strange situation and that’s how I could beat him.


The ATP awarded your match against Stanislas Wawrinka the most exciting comeback of the year. What are your memories from this dramatic match in Rome?

Yes, maybe emotionally this was one of the best matches. The crowd was crazy, it was almost like playing Davis Cup. Beating him from 6 match points down with the crowd was for sure something special. Of course doing it in Rome made it even better.






What was the worst ever match you played?


(Laughing) There were a lot of bad matches in my career. It’s tough to say, in the last 3-4 years not so much but before there were too many.

Can you describe your feelings when you won your first ATP title in Eastbourne 2011, especially after the tough loss against Mathieu at Gstaad in your previous final?

That first final in Gstaad was very surprising for me, because I came from a very tough moment. I wasn’t playing very well at all and it was the first time that I was outside of the top 100.

Just went there struggling trying to find my game. I played a Challenger the week before in Torino losing in the 2nd round. I went to Gstaad to play qualies, I won some tough matches 7-6 in the 3rd set twice and then I was in the final. I started to play some good tennis, but maybe I wasn’t ready mentally to play that final. I was leading 5-3 in the 3rd, maybe I was too nervous as it was very unexpected. It was tough to lose 7-5 in the 3rd but it was a good week as I made it back to the top 100.

Eastbourne was a strange final I was leading 5-3 in the 3rd set also, serving for the match and Tipsarevic retired It’s good to have one title in the pocket.


Seppi Eastbourne

2012 was your career best year winning Belgrade and Moscow, Finalist in Eastbourne and Metz, plus your best ever Grand Slam performance at Roland Garros taking Djokovic to 5 sets. What were the reasons behind your career best year?

Winning the second title in Belgrade was very important and for sure 2012 was one of my best years. If not my best year winning 2 titles and making 2 finals doesn’t happen so often.

What's your opinion on Davis Cup. Do you think they should give ranking points for playing?

I like the competition of course and it’s a pleasure to play Davis Cup. In the last few years we have had some good results and when we play at home we are very dangerous.

Not sure if it’s good or bad, but it’s ok they give some ranking points.

What do you think about the length of season?

It’s ok, in the end you can make your own schedule. Yes, there are some events you have to play, but you can find some weeks for rest and preparation. You just have to be smart with the scheduling.

The ATP is meant to be a joint union between players and tournament directors but it seems to favour tournament directors more so. Are the ATP improving in this field?

In the last few years they have improved a lot. They are listening more to the players and are more receptive to our needs. It’s improving year by year, that they are doing a good job now.

Most of the players are making their money through prizemoney and not sponsorship. How can they improve conditions for these players?

The ATP need to do more as it’s very tough for a guy ranked 200 to travel a lot just playing Challengers it’s tough to make a living. If they improve prizemoney and get more players trying to make it on tour it’s good for the sport.

What's your opinion on the ATP reducing the differences in the surface speeds, Do you think they can make some surfaces quicker or are you happy as it is?

Now it’s ok unlike 3-4 years where it was very slow. They slowed it down too but now it’s getting better. The courts are a bit faster and now here (Melbourne) it’s a good speed.

What do you think about doping on the tour and have you been tested at an unreasonable hour?


There is this WADA thing where every player fills in a form, where you state your whereabouts so you are available for at least an hour a day. It’s good to have doping control but a bit stressful for us players as well.

Willy Cañas said “The ATP practices discrimination from an economic standpoint, like any multinational corporation. It’s just another of millions that there are in the world. Point being that I accept it, but I'm not buying into it that it is a group of players that decide (players union) because it isn't like that”. Do you believe that Willy is correct on this particular issue?

Yes, it was like that but in the last 3-4 years they have improved a lot in this way. They listen more to the players which is a positive thing.

You got engaged recently. How did that come about?

We met three years ago and we’ll get married in September. So that’s another step in my life.

So you’re going to be a dad soon. Maybe, you can ask Massimo for some tips?

(Laughing) Not yet.





Word Association. I give you name or a subject and you have to name the first thing that comes into your mind.


Kitzbühel - Ski resort

Ferrero Rocher - Very good chocolate

Mario Balotelli - Crazy

Andrea Pirlo - Genius

Båstad - Blond girls

Silvio Berlusconi - Idolo

Denis Istomin- 5 sets

What shouldn’t be on pizza- Pineapple

I'd like to thank Andreas for giving up his time with this interview. He was a pleasant and an articulate subject which was to be expected. If anyone wants to translate or use this interview. Please ask me and credit the author don't pass it off as your own work.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day 4 : The Mailman delivers the goods

It has been a long and rewarding day so if these reports make less sense than usual, then that’s the reason. Today there were 5 matches today that I was interested in. Managed to see 4 of them and it ended up 4-1 which was fantastic.

Sousa vs. Giraldo


This was the most difficult match out of the 5 as the feisty Joao Sousa lined up against the likable big hitting Colombian Santi Giraldo. Sousa started off solidly and in a strange twist didn’t complain much at all. Normally Sousa is very grumpy on court questioning every little thing.

Giraldo, while he has some big shotmaking skills he has a few clear weaknesses which have prevented him progressing and stabilising within the top 30. These were highlighted today, Santi doesn’t defend well at all, when he is out of position he goes for the spectacular winner. In contrast Sousa is an excellent mover and knows how to defend. Sure it’s great to have big weapons but it counts for nowt if you can’t defend when needed.


Sousa

Sousa had nine break chances and managed to convert one which was enough to take the 1st set. Giraldo served well on those break points but eventually couldn’t hold out any longer. The second set was more of the same, the highlights were made by Giraldo but Sousa was just more solid went it counted.

In the 3ed set Geraldo played better made less errors whereas Sousa had a letdown. Once Sousa got his concentration back it ended up a comfortable win for the pork and cheese.

Robert vs. Ram


What to say about a match that should have been won easily and then ends up in a 5 set battle. That’s the fun with animated Frenchman Robert, he makes shots that no one has tried and misses the easy ones.



It was all so comfortable with Robert leading a set and served for the 2nd set. Once he dropped this gave Ram an opportunity to regroup which he did successfully taking the 2nd set. From there on Ram served better and was on a hot hitting streak especially on the forehand. Rampras continues to hold serve and is dictating in the rallies protecting his lack of speed around the court. Robert plays a poor game to lose the 3rd set.

A group of young kids sit behind Robert’s chair and Stephane talks to them trying to get them to cheer for him. The 4th set was a mix of Robert feeling good, Rampras hitting big forehands, using his slice backhand. Robert was defending his service games well amongst Rampras teeing off and gets the 4th set.

Momentum was with Robert at the start of the 5th, he breaks early with some clean hitting down the line, passing shots off the back foot. After he broke serve, he has forgot the golden rule of tennis. It’s not a break of serve unless it has been confirmed. Robert missed too many first serves and Ram was able to get the effective first strike in.

As the set develops Robert has to fight a lot in his service games but manages to hold whereas Rampras was holding with more ease in spite of Robert getting more returns into play.

In the 12th game Robert manages to hit some good returns and he’s feeling the love this is when he plays his best tennis. When there is nothing to think about, a big stage and this was his time to strike. On the second match point he hits the winning shot and lets out a great roar to the delight of the majority of fans who were cheering the Frenchman.


Millman vs. Muller


This one turned out to be a journey and thankfully it was a happy ending which doesn’t happen very often.

The match started in bright sunshine and the quicker courts were advantageous to Muller on who was dialled in on the serve. Millman played one poor service game in the 1st set and Muller made him pay by breaking him and taking the set.

Muller has an early break in the 2nd set and the same pattern is continuing. The Luxembourger serving well, Millman not getting into the match until a game where Muller was 40-0 up and Millman makes a couple of returns putting Muller under pressure where he cracks and is broken back. Millman gets momentum and breaks him again levelling at 1 set all.

This was an unusual crowd for a match involving an Australian. It helped that Tomic and Hewitt were playing at the same time. So there were no Fanatics or the other boorish types who think they are funny when in reality they are as funny as shaving your bikini line with a blunt razor. This crowd were having fun and giving the Mailman great support.

Millman continues where he left off at the end of the 2nd set as the conditions start to change with the lights starting to take effect making it slower and heavier which favoured the Mailman. He runs through the 3rd set easily, returning well and playing in the court dominating the baseline rallies.

As the 4th set progresses Muller is starting to get more aggressive as he realises he is being pushed around and during this time his groundstrokes are holding up. Millman is playing more defensively as Muller gets the break then serves it out to take it to a decider.

Millman’s temperament and body language have been excellent in the match especially from the first break he got in the 2nd set. He hasn’t won a 5 setter before losing to Ito on this same court and Baghdatis in Melbourne. There is a first time for everything.

The Mailman starts the set out in a positive manner and is in an excellent returning groove off the high quality Muller serve. He gets an early break but can’t consolidate as it gets back on serve straight away.



It’s tough playing a big server in many ways the best thing is to take care of your own service games and if there is a small window then take the chance when it comes along. Hitting with Wayne Arthurs who could hit 100 serves off the same toss was very helpful to Millman in preparing for this match.

Muller staying in the match with his serving and the forehand is the one that crumbles under pressure. Millman is stepping into the court getting the balance right between attack and defence. The crowd are loving it and spurring him on. There was the chant “I believe, I believe, I believe he will win” and the Mailman delivered a great victory in the end.



This was a great win under the circumstances, coming back from extended layoffs with injuries, unsure about his future in the game. He was never the prodigy, didn’t have the agents fighting to sign him. So him making the 3rd round here is a great achievement.

Millman is very popular among his peers and yes I’ll admit to personal bias in this case. In a sport where there are a lack of natural characters, yes I mean media trained to point of sucking out anything that resembles their true personality. Millman is refreshing in that he is honest, well spoken and definitely does things his way which is great.

Other stuff


Dudi Sela aka Hebrew Hammer is a great story. He never had too much money and he lifts for Davis Cup ties plus the Slams. He was lucky that Verdasco took out Nadal since the Nadal forehand would break down Sela’s backhand like he did last time.


Dudi Sela

Verdasco had a letdown after his big moment but Verdasco has plenty of parties to go to and plenty of women to meet. Dudi or maybe that’s Daddy Sela since he has two children now. If he can he’ll only travel 3 weeks at a time, so he can spend more time at home. Huge chance for a 4th round spot against Kuznetsov.

Lukas Rosol that was an impressive straight sets win over Jack Sock. So far Rosol has played 6 close sets either 7-6 or 7-5 and won four of them. The big Czech is looking to rebuild this year and a solid start so far.

Today was long and rewarding, but it was worth it as to witness John Millman making the 3rd round of a Slam. This is an individual who’d be easily top 3 when it comes to quality people on the tennis tour. I’m always happy to see good people doing well and maximising their potential.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Mad World of Day 2 Melbourne style

Day 2, the fun day where there were so many matches that I wanted to see but couldn’t. Thankfully there was help in the form of Sammy. It’s usually not problematic when the matches are on close courts, this wasn’t the case today.

Robert vs. Fratangelo


This was a brilliant performance from Robert, the shotmaking was on fire from both sides. As he hits the ball so flat when he’s on then it’s a joy to watch. He has cat like movement, it looks like he is not in position and then pow a forehand or backhand down the line winner. Thankfully there were plenty of them.

Fratangelo was just smoked and he knew it. Next round for Robert who plays the Rajeev Ram who was the beneficiary of a Kevin Anderson retirement who was doubtful before the event. So a huge opportunity for both in the next round.

Millman vs. Schwartzmann

Mailmain broke in the first game but Schwartzmann broke back immediately. The match was hard fought until the dramatic and unfortunate ending.

Schwartzmann settled better and controlled the rallies for the first two sets with clean hitting especially backhands down the line. Millman retreated to at best a passive position in the court or at worst negative. Apart from staying injury free the biggest factor in his improvement is the greater weight of shot, it’s when to use it.

Millman had chances in the 2nd and couldn’t convert. It looked like a straight sets win for Schwartzmann but Millman is known for his fighting tendencies. He hit with some better length, scrapped his way to the tiebreaker and managed to win it.

Schwartzmann gets some treatment on his hand and then halfway through the third game he collapses with cramp and heat exhaustion. Since players can’t get treatment for cramps at a non change of ends, then those games are forfeited. When the umpire called time Schwartzmann not being able to move, he conceded another two games hence the 5-0 scoreline.


Sportsmanship

It was so disappointing for Schwartzmann that he had to retire and sure Millman got the W, you don’t want to win it like that. He apologised to Schwartzmann, his coach Prieto and showed genuine sportsmanship which is everything to be expected from Millman. Schwartzmann will be fine and that Aussie sun is a brutal beast.

Gimeno-Traver vs. Smyczek

Smyczek is the classic solid American hardcourt player. He’ll do well in Challengers, have a couple of good runs at ATP events to keep his ranking.

While DGT has superior weapons, the big serve and forehand but as the courts are much quicker than in previous years he struggled with his timing. Smyczek is the player you have to beat, not someone who will fade away when struggling.

The second set was the only time where Gimeno-Traver was able to serve well enough and use the forehand to push Smyczek back. The 3rd set was close until some very cheap errors including an easy mid court forehand which the American took advantage of. Once he held for the 3rd set there was only one winner from there.

Giraldo vs. Young

This was on a very small court but with some boisterous Colombian fans providing some fun atmosphere. Giraldo actually played quite well apart from the set he lost.
He was thinking he could just tee off on the groundies when he was in no position to do so. In other words classic Giraldo but after the match he was very receptive to the Colombian fans afterwards which was great.


Rosol vs. Daniel


This was a very close and high quality match for the first 4 sets. This was the first time I’ve seen Taro Daniel play in the flesh. Can definitely tell he went to the Spanish school of tennis, this is not a bad thing. The forehand is big and the backhand is solid. The serve he doesn’t use his height effectively and he can get rushed on the forehand side.

Both players started within themselves and playing many extended rallies. Rosol does strike the ball cleanly but his early attempts at dropshots were almost Igor Andreev like landing on the service line and they were duly punished.


Rosol

Rosol takes the first two sets as the conditions became a bit slower and cooler which helped Daniel who was unfazed by losing the sets. He served fairly well and was hitting some excellent backhand as Rosol’s level dipped slightly.

Daniel fighting hard manages to break eventually in the 3rd set. He’s getting more confidence and Rosol for the most part was solid mentally, though of course he was doing his usual niggly tactics with questioning any call.

The Japanese youngster has a solid match temperament which is an underrated skill. Both of them besides being tough to break, made some challenges that even Federer would have been embarrassed by they were so awful. Daniel manages to take it to a 5th set and the crowd are loving.

Rosol plays some good shots to get the early break and keep the crowd from riding Daniel home. The early break took the wind out of Daniel’s sails and the extra experience of Rosol was enough to get the job done.

Other stuff

Great to see Brian Baker on court after the injuries. He wasn’t here for tourist purposes. Showed some excellent tennis and just hope he doesn’t have any more injury issues.

Tommy Robredo is tougher than $2 steak.

Today this video is the perfect way to end this entry and as a tribute to Rafael Nadal.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cuevas and Seppi get it done on Day 1

Day 1 of the main draw of a Slam is normally pretty fun before the usual things that annoy you come back. The people who think they are instant experts on something that they don’t follow all year round. The gronks who walk around like stoned cattle and find it strange that players get pissed off and then there is the lovable drunk bogan.

Enough of that annoying stuff and onto some tennis. Wasn’t sure of what matches I was going to see besides Seppi and Cuevas but more of them later.

Thiem vs. Leo Mayer


Not sure what Mayer was on at the start of the match but it wasn’t helping. He gave away his first service game. Thiem was quite steady and really didn’t have to press too hard in the 1st set. Alligator wasn’t handling the fast conditions too well. There was one huge air swing he took on the backhand side and it was not as if the ball hit a line.



In the 2nd set Mayer started playing better or maybe he was just less shit. Thiem was playing well within himself and took the 2nd set tiebreaker. The young Austrian dropped the 3rd set which was more due to a lack of concentration than a huge improvement from Mayer.

The match plodded along and Thiem got the business done easily enough in the 4th set tiebreaker.

Brands vs. Estrella Burgos


Big Daniel Brands is a gentle giant but can hit some really good shots though mental strength isn’t one of his best qualities. He was one of the better qualifiers to make it to main draw. He is coming back from injury and a loss of form and this draw was excellent for him.


Estrella Burgos

Last year Estrella Burgos came to Melbourne for tourism purposes just showed up collected the prizemoney and did nothing. This year he played a lead up tournament and fought hard but was outgunned by Brands.

Estrella Burgos was just scrapping whereas Brands was hitting huge. The bigger game of Brands took the first 2 sets and it was looking like a straight sets win as he was up a break in the 3rd. Then Estrella was able to break back and break again to take the 3rd. He was pumped up but even then there was no real feeling of a shift in the momentum of the match. Brands broke in the opening service of game and Estrella Burgos and ran out the match comfortably. Good to see Estrella put some effort instead of the performance last season.

Almagro vs. Benneteau

Wasn’t sure how this match was going to play out since Benne hasn’t played much after being out injured. Almagro had a quiet 2015 played pretty much a full season but didn’t have any huge results.

Almagro was serving very well, he has an underrated serve for sure. It’s very heavy and got some juice on it as well, he was having a lot of success on the wide serve. Benneteau, while he doesn’t have the greatest technique on shots is quite fun to watch as he is prepared to mix it up.

There were some extended rallies that in most cases were won by Almagro with the huge backhand down the line and the forehand was working well. It looked like it was going to be comfortable for Almagro after the 1st set, one thing Benneteau is known for is scrapping hard and was able to take the 2nd set.



It wouldn’t be an Almagro match if he wasn’t irritated about something and there were these two drunk Aussies who were giving him some verbal. Almagro was giving them the glare but managed to settle down and concentrate on the match.

Benneteau tried to come to the net more, this tactic worked to an extent in shortening the points since it was unsure whether he could go 5 sets. Almagro for his part used the 1-2 combo and didn’t rip the first passing shot on the big points. He placed at Benne’s feet forcing to volley up and made a couple of big backhands.

Once Almagro took the 3rd there was only going to be one winner and at the end of the match. Almagro celebrated towards the drunk hecklers, classic Nico.

Cuevas vs. Nishioka


Definitely not the best match Cuevas has played. Nishioka apart from his speed doesn’t have a lot of weapons has the Mariano Puerta style forehand without the clembuterol. It was one Cuevas should have won in straight sets and thankfully he did, this was a kind draw and had to take advantage.



Cuevas was up an early break in the 1st and then got very nervous as he was serving the set out. A couple of double faults with some tight shots and Nishioka was able to break back. The tiebreak wasn’t great in terms of quality but it was close and Cuevas eventually took it 7-5.

He settled down in the 2nd set, serving much better and working the point with the heavier and more powerful groundstrokes to the corners running out the 2nd easily. The same pattern was continuing into the3rd but Cuevas got nervous again and failed to serve the match out. Thankfully he was able to break for the match.

Some days just have to find a solution to get it done.

Seppi vs. Gabashvili

The big Russian started strongly and was into the groove quickly as Seppi was nervous plus the South Tyrolean is not a great starter at the best of times. Cañas looks like he is still juicing, the guy is massive.

Gabashvili deservedly took the 1st set, then after that Seppi eases into the match and while not playing great is able to grind, make more balls into the court. Gabashvili still trying to be aggressive though it’s more difficult as Seppi is hitting better length on the groundstrokes.

The second set tiebreaker was crucial from the point of how the match would play out. There was a call that looked a bit wide and was not called against Gabashvili who was unimpressed with the linesperson and then went off at the umpire having a rant in Spanish. That was the moment steady Seppi stepped up to take the 2nd set.

Gabshvili still pissed off with the call drops his level and Seppi was being his steady self was able to take advantage winning the 3rd. The Russian is making more errors and not hitting as well. Seppi breaks and had some easy chances to make it a double break in the 4th and this was the setting for where the shenanigan started to happen.

Seppi serving for sets and matches is always an interesting thing. Traders have been known to back the opponent in this game and not do poorly. Yes, it was classic Seppi he struggled to get first serves in and was hitting a lot of short second serves which Gabashvili was teeing off on and manages to break back.

There was the rare sight of Seppi having a discussion with the umpire on some calls. One of them was on the other side, but then he overruled one and it was wide. Seppi is calm and even his discussion with the umpire was measured. If it was the Fog, there’d have been animated gesticulations.

Now we come to the tiebreaker, which was a mix of some quality tennis though not when the player was leading and some major passive play from Seppi especially on the match points. Seppi wasn’t able to make many first serves, he hit a couple of good second serves though others were just fodder.

It was fitting in a way that the match ended on a double fault, though I was happy that this doesn’t go 5 sets. As they say, you don’t any extra points for winning in style.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Australian Open 1st Round preview

The first Slam of the year has come around again, well that didn’t take long. When you are younger, all you wanted to do was get older for all the really fun stuff, then you realise when you get there it’s not always good. The only that moves quicker is time.

In the interest of fairness and also the fact that there should be more writing on this blog, this will be a preview of some sort. Though it’s pretty obvious that who I’ll be picking to win the overall event.

Seppi vs. Gabashvili


Seppi

The South Tyrolean maestro was the unlucky guy to draw the Djokovic seeding, but as they say someone had to do it. This match against the Georgian born, Spanish based man playing for Russian with an Argentinian coach has some potential to be interesting.

Gabashvili is quite unpredictable then when your nickname is “tsunami” that can explain a few things. Ever since linking up with Cañas who is looking huge and not in the eating too many asado way, it has overall helped Gabashvili’s game.

As it’s meant to be hot for the first round and according to some players the courts a bit quicker than in recent years. The balls will fly through the air quicker and on Gabashvili’s worst days he resembles a baseballer. They’ve played a few times and I think Seppi will get up in 4 sets in this one, will be too steady overall though Gabashvili is capable of having one of those big days.

Thiem vs. Leo Mayer

This is an interesting match and one that Thiem knows he won’t find too easy. They’ve played 3 times all on clay and two of them were very close matches. Sure Thiem is better on the hardcourt but the Aligator Mayer is no clown on this surface.

When Mayer is on, he works the points well with the serve and the heavy groundies but he is a bit slow so Thiem can expose that with his big shots. The draw for Thiem does represent an opportunity for his best Slam performance. It will be interesting to see how the youngster handles the oppressive conditions tomorrow.

Almagro vs. Benneteau

Two guys who are on the southern parts of their career. Last season Alamgro was coming back from injury but really didn’t have a big result and Benneteau is here on a protected ranking. It seems like Benne’s best chance of prolonging his career is becoming a doubles specialist.

Bautista-Agut vs. Klizan

Bautigol will want to avenge an average performance against Muller last year. He won Auckland beating some good opponents, this plus Klizan is a gronk, the poor mans Melzer and will likely retire as he hates the heat.



Tuesday Matches

Robert vs. Fratangelo

The French youngster qualifies for another main draw and plays the lucky loser who is named after Björn Borg. Lucky losers can be dangerous well Robert made the fourth round taking a set off Andy Murray in a great run.


Stephane Robert

Just hope the Robert that shows up is the one who is loving life, having fun and playing that entertaining tennis. The first two are a given but the latter isn’t always the case when he is off, he is missing a lot and his second serve is fodder.

Gimeno-Traver vs. Smyczek

Not the worst draw for DGT, at the same time he is vulnerable to the hardcourt specialist. Ideally Gimeno-Traver would be getting plenty of kick off the serve and his forehand bouncing very high to push Smyczek back off the baseline where he is not at his best.

Maybe DGT should get some tips from his Bautista Agut on how to play Smyczek since he loves playing him. Gimeno-Traver started Chennai badly, played quite well in Canberra. He has a solid first half of the year to defend a lot of points.


Gimeno-Traver

Rosol vs. Daniel

Big hitting Rosol against a smaller player who trains in Valencia. This normally means a win for the smaller guy though as much as Taro Daniel has certain traits shared with David Ferrer, he isn’t at that level.

Rosol on a good serving day should have too much for Daniel who on the hardcourts is vulnerable on the second serve and backhand side. The forehand is heavy and Rosol could mishit some balls, since the big man doesn’t have the most compact swings. Though experience will get the job done here.


Taro Daniel

Millman vs. Schwartzman

Two guys I like but clearly Team Millman on this one. Millman has improved his forehand from before where it used to be a rally shot to set the backhand down the line up to a shot where he can hit winners from.

Blackman looks like a ballkid who has excellent timing on his shots. If Millman doesn’t hit with good depth or penetration then Boca Juniors fanatic will make the Mailman run and run. Millman is a huge favourite for this one, though while I hope he wins, those odds were a bit ludicrous.

Both have little niggles but will be fine come match day. Though Millman has a back condition that can flare up anytime, just hope it’s not here unlike last season.

Fognini vs. Muller

Muller has started the season well, he has that quality serve and steady backhand. The forehand breaks down under pressure and as for The Fog it depends on what mood he is in.

The Fog could easily win in straight sets or tank and lose in less than 2 hours. At least with the Fog it will be done in his own unique style.

Other points

Brian Baker has been sighted and no he hasn’t withdrawn yet. Just hope he gets through the match and has no more serious injuries.

Dimi Tursunov is back as well, yes he’ll lose in the 1st round to Wawrinka there should be some big ballbashing in this one.

It’s Hewitt’s last event before he becomes Australian DC captain a role that he is so suited to. Duckworth a guy who looks up to Hewitt and has received help from him is his first opponent. Don’t think Ducky will beat Hewitt and it’ll be David Ferrer that ends Hewitt’s career.

As for the tournament winner. This little story sums it up very well. Marinko Matosevic and Novak Djokovic were warming up and Matosevic was drilling one backhands at Djokovic who was at net.

Djokovic screams out to the media and others there “Did you see that? He’s trying to take me out. You saw it”. Then Matosevic replies dryly “It’s the only way anyone else has a chance in the tournament”.

Apart from a red hot Wawrinka, it really looks like Matosevic is right.