Monday, January 22, 2018

It's time to go final Australian Open report

Yes, it's that time of the year where the Australian Open adventure has ended. It's very rare that I go to the second week of a Slam in other words very similar to the majority of players that I like, but you have to enjoy those moments.

Better get the rubbish out first before writing about the positive aspects. The venue continues its necessary expansion but the challenge is now to get the balance right between expansion and the "Happy Slam" moniker which is what they're trying to achieve. In the first three days there were way too many people in the grounds to the point where it was uncomfortable at times, there were deep queues to matches which in reality shouldn't have had that many people. Then there is the shade issue to the point where some people were just sitting at the back of the courts not moving, nor taking an interest in the matches. There are way too many people who go to the tennis just to say they've been there and not remember a match that they have seen.

The Aus Open website and app were awful. Normally the functions of a website and app are for it to work efficiently and accessibility of information. The previous versions there weren't major issues and worked well unlike the 2018 version which was rubbish, required three updates during the event. Maybe they will need to cap the ground passes but there isn't a chance of that as long as the event generates more and more money then the side effects are just that. The organisation aren't lacking in financial resources, the reduced dining options in terms of quality and quantity are issues that can be solved easily, the other ones require a lot more desire to address the problems.


Cabal y Farah

Onto tennis matters now watched the animated Colombians Cabal and Farah smash Paes/Raja. As a team they've never made the Masters Finals in doubles, their Slam record doesn't do them justice. This is an opportunity for them to improve on the Slam record do so they're playing the retiring Sam Groth and the man who won't retire Lleyton Hewitt, it would be good to shut the local crowd up and Hewitt may finally retire.


Seppi vs. Edmund

Huge opportunity for both to make their first Slam quarter final. Seppi started serving well and was moving the ball around as the best way to play Edmund is to keep him off balance so he doesn't have time to set up the huge forehand which is massive weapon. Edmund wasn't playing that well but he was fighting hard and got it to the tiebreak. Seppi played a solid breaker and took the 1st set and broke early but as we know in tennis it's not a break of serve unless you hold. Seppi played a sloppy game and Edmund was able to break back. The second set took on more significance it was important that Seppi to take it as Edmund starts playing better. At the 12th game Seppi hardly gets a first serve in and his second serve has always been a weakness which was exposed big time as they landed in the middle of the box with nothing on them as Edmund punished these serves with his huge forehand to take the set.


This was the momentum shift as Edmund is playing more aggressively and pushing Seppi around the court. The Italian was just outhit and even the little bits of luck were going Edmund's way and Seppi doesn't have the game, his slice isn't short enough to bring Edmund off the baseline into uncomfortable areas or deep enough to keep him back. Edmund wants to be in the backhand corner drilling forehands all the day once he got the momentum and confidence and was able to do it, the few half chances Seppi had he wasn't able to convert. The last two sets were comfortable for Edmund and well deserved win, he was the better player and able to execute his game plan.


Seppi winning the Canberra Challenger last week and a fourth round appearance in Melbourne has been an excellent start to the season, as long as there are no injuries then he should be fine. If he can finish in the top 50 then that would be a very good season, that's the one thing no one can say seriously about Seppi is that he hasn't maximised his potential which is all you can ask of a player.


Extras

Tennis wise the results weren't bad with Seppi and Schwartzman making the 4th round, Fognini strutting like he owns the universe, foot faults called on second serves through the centre line. Johnny Millman defeating Coric, always good to see him on the court, please have an injury free year. Stephane Robert please make main draw next year as the game needs characters and Dreddy Brown qualifying for the main draw. Mikey Russell doing a great job so far with Ryan Harrison. Kavcic to have a year without injury among other things.


The best thing besides watching matches are the variety of people from all over the world that you meet, so going to do a few shout outs. These are no order in preferences, first of all there is Alex the Swedish legend who decided to start a website Tennisportalen in Swedish but is expanding into English with a podcast named after an underrated shot The Block Return Podcast will update in my links when it's active. Valentin, the Swedish Romanian coach who taught me a lot of things and really hates early preparation which makes sense when it's explained.


My younger siblings no, we are not related it's just we've been at this event for so long though we hardly see each other come main draw as they're at different matches. Love your work Kristen and Peta, but that's as obvious as night follows day and pineapple not belonging on pizza. Dave the man from South Tyrol who keeps introducing me to members of the Ladin mafia, he's a great guy who I met through super coach Jamaican Mikey who is always entertaining noticing things half an hour before they happen. The fab 4 Lance, Sean, Arthur and Darko these guys grind through qualies, know what is shit and isn't in tennis world and red card to that arseclown complaining about opening a chip packet. Mr. Qureshi good to see you man and the kids as well, never know in 15 years they maybe playing at the Open. Lizia always great catching up with you. I got to meet this incredibly salty and feisty Korean lass Joanna, have to say I only have positive memories of the experience even though it was so fucking hot, but glad she came to Melbourne finally got to see del Potro and Federer play maybe next time she'll get pics.


Thanks to the very few readers I have of this infrequently updated and odd blog, quality is always better than quantity. I appreciate the very niche market and unlike that clown that impersonates a journalist I'm not going to twist stuff to get more retweets, nor think Slams should be best of 3 sets or have a tiebreaker in the 5th. There are many shit things about tennis, so it's important to embrace the qualities that make it unique


Last of all one of my best friends Sammy he had a difficult 2017, so I was happy to see him back at the venue where we met. He loves the game and was there to lift the mood when I needed it and was grumpier than usual, also he co writes the reports because the matches I want to see, normally there are on at the same time when the WTA goes too far or not long enough. There is enough crap that we have to deal with in our own individual situations, so it's important to some positive influences ah the simple things.







Friday, January 19, 2018

South Tyrolean Superman chops down the tree of Karlovic

Today was stupidly hot and there were only two matches on the card that I wanted to see, but was unable to see one of them due to the other going well over time. In the end it was a long and rewarding day which is what counts.

Seppi vs. Karlovic

This was a huge opportunity for both players to make the quarter finals as the winner will play Kyle Edmund in the 4th round so there was a lot at stake. Thankfully the match was played with the roof open as the indoor conditions would have suited Karlovic taking out the sun and the wind. Slow start Seppi wasn't on show as he was able to get an early break and run through the set to take it 6-3. He was returning the Karlovic serve very well who initially wasn't hitting them at full capacity. It's a tactic for the 39 year old as a way to preserve the serving arm as that's what is making him the money over his career, this in addition to lasting 5 sets and previous round a 12-10 win. Seppi had a half chance for another break in the 2nd set which was saved by Karlovic. Seppi played a solid breaker and was able to take the 2nd set.


At the start of the 3rd set Karlovic called for the trainer but didn't receive a medical timeout. Big Ivo finally started cranking up the serve and was hitting his spots, it's a major advantage serving from a tree hitting 210 km/h wide and the difficulty of playing Karlovic is not getting an opportunity to get into service games. Seppi was comfortable holding his own service games which is what you need to do when playing Karlovic, then take the rare opportunities on offer. Seppi served a double fault on the first point of the breaker and was behind ever since as the big Croatian takes the 3rd set. Karlovic is serving magnificently in the 4th set cranking up the service speeds as the sun went down. All Seppi could do was just take care of his own delivery and was frustrated at Karlovic serving bombs in both directions. As per 3rd set we end up at the tiebreaker which was going on serve, then Seppi hit a backhand into the net and Ivo takes the set.


Seppi matches are rarely routine and this was no different. Thankfully the Aus Open doesn't have that nonsense of a 5th set tiebreaker when you're at a Grand Slam event, you should win by breaking your opponents serve not winning a crapshoot. In this case Seppi could have easily lost this match in a 5th set tiebreaker without losing a serve in the match. As the weaker server it was good that Seppi started serving in the 5th set. He was placing the serve well and once the rally went over 5 strokes he was winning nearly all of them. Karlovic was serving bombs but in the middle of the 5th set Seppi was starting to read the serve better and creating half chances which were snuffed out by the big man.


Seppi


After getting some half chances when Karlovic was serving at 7-8, Seppi was able to make some excellent returns and passing the big man at the net. The South Tyrolean Superman was able to get two match points, he was unsuccessful on the first and then took the second. Seppi let the frustrations out with a roar and celebrated knowing what a difficult match it was mentally when playing Karlovic, the games to go quickly and frustrations increase when serves a 400km/h serve wide on a big point.


Tennis is a brutal sport mentally but thankfully Seppi was able to break to win the match which is what players should be doing at this level, though some tennis writers think Slams should be best of 3 sets with tiebreakers, then again there are some who believe the earth is flat.


Sorry Diego Schwartzman and Dogs Balls I was unable to watch your match due to a giant Croatian who fought and competed hard to take a match to 5 sets when in ideal world 3 would have been sufficient. Think there'll only be one more report to come after this

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Day 4: The Heat Is On

Yes, surprise surprise an entry that wasn't late this is mainly due to the awfully hot weather and didn't watch too many matches.

First of all there were two major upsets, the first one was the hot Hungarian otherwise known as Martin Fuscovics who took out Thousand Oaks finest Sam Querrey who has never been great heat. It will be interesting to see how he comes up in the next round where he is the favourite against the Argentine Nicolas Kicker who took out the erratic Lukas Lacko to follow up from his win against Lleyton Hewitt's favourite guy Jordan Thompson.

Julien Benneteau the man who keeps scrapping manages to beat Michael J Fox lookalike David Goffin. Normally Benne doesn't handle the heat well but Jules is inspired and recovered well from failing to serve out the match in the 4th. The tiebreaker not sure what Goffin was doing though not sure it was tennis related and the man from Boulogne-Billancourt was rewarded with the win.

Fognini vs. Donskoy

Managed to get a seat fairly easily which hasn't always been the case these past few days, perhaps the stinking weather helped. One thing I noticed that lots of Japanese fans were coming into the court, then I realised it was because there was a WTA match after this one.

Donskoy early in the piece was hitting the ball well, he and topspin aren't on friendly terms. The Fog was slow out of the blocks and was only mildly muttering to himself nothing really amazing or theatrical from the Fog after the loss off the 1st set.

My peace watching this match was ended fairly quickly when these 5 drunken guys who were cheering on the Fog decided to sit near me and act fairly loudly. I just straight out to a couple of them. "You have money on Fognini don't you?". They answered yes and asked was it that obvious. My response was well poker face isn't your strong point, they were on the border of being obnoxious but not as bad as some.


The Fog

The Fog decided to dig in the 2nd set and cut back on the errors, he was able to use that big forehand to push Donskoy around the court who then started going for more shots and wasn't able to control them. Once the Fog took the 2nd set he was in control of the match and really never felt like in much danger.

There was a funny incident where the Fog hit a backhand pass which bounced out of the court hit the pole holding up the tarpaulin covering the court bouncing back hitting the security guard in the face just as he was taking a drink. He spilt water over his face and had a good laugh. The Fog looked over and had a chuckle as well.

Fognini decided to turn up and play well enough this was definitely not the total listless I don't give a shit Fog, but far from his best then you only need to be good enough on the day to win. There is a big opportunity for the fourth round as he plays Benneteau.

Short one for today as tomorrow will be even warmer, the viewing will include Seppi vs. Karlovic and Schwartzman vs. Dolgopolov for sure but strange things happen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 2/3: South Tyrolean Superman Seppi saves the day

Due to technical difficulties aka the laptop is ready to be taken out back and put out of its misery, so there will be 2 days of reports, so prepared to be bored.

Benneteau vs. Daniel

This was a match that screamed opportunity for a win at Slam. Benneteau is definitely in the southern part of his career playing for the love of the game, plus he has a child and one has to provide for the family. Daniel is meant to be coming into his best years, but as we know players mature at different speeds.

As expected this was a clash of styles with Daniel trying to use his heavy forehand to work Benneteau around the court extending the rallies whereas Benneteau was looking to vary the style, albeit in his manner with off pace shots and scrapping which got him a break. Benne had an opportunity to serve out the 1st set but failed to do as Daniel played a solid breaker.



Taro Daniel

In the second set Daniel was playing the slightly better tennis in a scrappy match, he had a break but was broken back and the turning point was the tiebreaker which Benneteau played very well. If Daniel had won the 2nd set, the general feeling was that he'd have run away but Benneteau was riding that momentum train and not getting off any time soon.

Benneteau who was cramping slowed the serve down and was getting more of them in and placing it well. In the rallies he was being more aggressive and yes the forehand as well. Daniel wasn't pushing off on the serve at all, at the moment his game is based on defensive skills and he needs to be less reactive.

Daniel came out with a great line to the coach "I can't believe I'm losing to a guy who is cramping". The last two sets were quite one sided as Benneteau was playing very well and Daniel further and further behind the baseline. Benne has to enjoy his time left in the game, whereas Daniel has some improvements that need to be made

Gasquet vs. Kavcic

Definitely not a great draw for the Dexter lookalike who hasn't had a great start to the year, though never has Gasquet but this was a match which was always in his favour.
The first set was just rubbish from Kavcic, who couldn't get into the match. Gasquet wasn't being pressured at all and was very comfortable to taking it without breaking much of a sweat.

Kavcic does start to get into more rallies but for him to win a match like this. The matches where has taken out seeds in Melbourne were where he was aggressive with the forehand and just playing behind the baseline. At his age it's the direction his game needs to progress, but old habits die hard especially when your game is defensive orientated. The serve he has a lower ball toss and wasn't able to get the arm through quickly enough serving plenty into the net.


Blaz Kavcic

Gasquet was under a bit more pressure though not really threatened in the 2nd set. In the 3rd set Kavcic starts getting into the match, he was able to break serve a few times but didn't follow the basic rule of tennis which was not holding serve after breaking. It was strange he broke by being aggressive and taking advantage of Gasquet's court positioning, then in the following games went back to reactive tennis not doing what got him the lead.

The set point summed it up in that Kavcic hit a good first serve and then instead of hitting an aggressive backhand, he hit a nothing slice not deep at all, nor short enough to bring Gasquet in who slapped that fodder for a winner. Kavcic probably deserved to win that set, but he had enough chances and just wasn't good enough

Seppi vs. Nishioka

This was a rare Seppi match that really wasn't a grind which makes a change. Nishioka is coming back from a lengthy time out with injury but had a big win over the streaky Kohlschreiber.

It's a different thing playing the handsome South Tyrolean who has the lovely Mrs. Seppi here with him. Seppi is a very seasoned and tough professional the ones that youngsters need to test themselves against, as he is an excellent gauge of what tour life is about.


Seppi

Nishioka was trying to use his heavily spun forehand to open the court up. I did say a few years ago he had the Mariano Puerta style forehand but without the excess vitamins and it's still similar. He needs to get stronger, he will never be Tiafoe strong or have the Duckworth chest but I do like his work ethic and was going the right way before the injury.

It's difficult to say too much about this match. In reality Seppi was steady not give away the errors like Kohli can which Nishioka took advantage of. Seppi needed an easier match especially after his tournament win last week in Canberra, now he has a big battle against the serving machine Karlovic who went to 12-10 in the 5th. There is a big chance for a quarter final for the taking.

Cuevas vs. Harrison

This was a match between good and evil. Unfortunately in this case evil was triumphant in tough conditions. This is the kind of the match on this surface where Cuevas has to play a bit better and Harrison needs to be off which wasn't the case.

Harrison's serve pretty much won him the match, he was able to hit the spots with solid speeds and moved it around very well. When the Cuevas forehand is working well that's when he is on for a good day, he didn't play an awful match overall though the 0 from 0 break points makes it look he couldn't return a phone call.

Match started out both players were holding serve comfortably, there weren't too many rallies and they were won by the server. Harrison's backhand was solid, the forehand made a few errors but nothing like leaking like a sieve which happens when he is lacking confidence. Cuevas played a couple of poor points and was broken to lose the set.

In the context of the match the 2nd set was huge. It went to the same pattern as the first though Cuevas wasn't as strong on serve as Harrison. The one thing Cuevas didn't do enough of was vary his position on returning serve. He did it once jumped back on a second serve got it deep and was able to move Harrison around and won the point. The tiebreaker came down to one point where Cuevas missed a backhand down the line and Harrison took it.


I can't believe I had no break points

Cuevas was frustrated and lost his first service game and then started swinging more aggressively, it wasn't quite a Gaudio tank but he was just second best today. That's just tennis, it wasn't Cuevas was shit just Harrison was better.

Michael Russell who was the consumate professional who knew how to compete,. grind, very intelligent and excellent communicator he has already improved the Harrison forehand. First week he makes an ATP final makes a gracious speech and now in the 3rd round of a Slam.

Schwartzman vs. Ruud

Interestingly this match was between two guys who 11-9 in the 5th set in the previous round. That was as close as it got, as Schwartzman started very well and was not making many errors moving the young Norwegian around the court.

Schwartzman is solid off both sides he was winning the extended rallies hitting excellent length and Ruud wasn't able to use his forehand at all to put consistent pressure on the Argentine. Finally think there are some people who realise Schwartzman isn't a vertically challenged person impersonating a tennis player, the fact he is one of the great returners has contributed to his success.


Schwartzman

Ruud looked gassed and didn't believe he could win especially after the first set. He had a good tournament making his first Grand Slam main draw and winning a match, but this is all about gaining experience and he'll want to finish the season in the top 100.

Seppi saved the day, clean that man's cape and the longer he goes in the tournament, the better it is,


Monday, January 15, 2018

Day 1 : The Mailman delivers Coric to the dead letter office and other assortments


Well this was a very long day in equal parts rewarding and frustrating. Since this blog believes in the power of positivity and never branches out into the tree of cynicism, the frustrating parts will be dealt with.

Thankfully the weather today was mild which was good to watch tennis, however the issues with that are the crowds were very large and disorganised to a fault. The tickets I bought one for Sammy, yes, he is a legend and a veteran of Australian tennis who knows more about the game than I do. He also helps with reports and all round good bloke, went to pick his ticket up and there was a huge line of people to get in. I do this and then go to Will Call to pick mine up, previously they had a separate section for people to pick up Will Call tickets in a system that worked well, so obviously it had to be changed to include it in addition to cloaking and accreditation. In a huge surprise to maybe zero people the first day of a Slam it might be busy. I was there before the start of play and by the time my ticket was received almost 90 minutes had passed. Then again the tournament is making so much money, but offering less services and the prices for ground passes now are very steep to the point where they are almost pricing out the people they should be wanting to attract.

Now onto the tennis side of the things, there were some very interesting court selections maybe it was close their eyes and throw darts. The matches at the start were of course on opposite sides of the complex so in a huge surprise this where I started today

Cuevas vs. Youzhny

Thanks to Sammy for the first set was this one I missed due to the farcical situation aforementioned. Cuevas was solid had a break and played a sloppy game to give it back. Youzhny who was playing his first match of the year showed some good signs and managed to get 2 set points, which were saved by some excellent play from Cuevas and the other a forehand error from Youzhny.

Once Cuevas took the first set, he was fairly comfortable and there didn’t feel like there was any danger that he would lose enough momentum for the match to turn around in Youzhny’s favour. From the baseline Cuevas was good, when he is hitting the off forehand well that’s a good sign for the Uruguayan cause the backhand is a one of my favourite shots. Youzhny looked underdone and while he was hitting some excellent backhands himself, the forehand was breaking down which Cuevas took advantage of to roll through the second set.


Pablo Cuevas

It was more of the same in the 3rd set Cuevas had a break, played a sloppy game to get broken back. There was a passing shower which gave time for Cuevas to change shirts, collect his thoughts and refocus. Cuevas was able to break serve after the resumption and served the match out to get a rare win in Melbourne. It’s good for the game when Cuevas is winning matches.

Seppi vs. Moutet

Made my way to the other side of the complex where this match was being played. Moutet is a very flashy French player with a massive forehand, a lot of attitude, seems like some anger issues on court, also a love of slice forehands and dropshots. With this mix and slow start Sappi mode, the young Frenchman took the first set.

Seppi is the consummate professional, a tough player to beat, competes hard but fair and kept a level head, started to get used to the conditions as he only arrived yesterday after is a good gauge for the youngsters to see where their game is at. Seppi winning the Canberra Challenger which is good as it gave him matches, he needs the kilometres in the legs to be at his best.




Andreas Seppi


As Seppi adjusted then he was able to make enough balls and work Moutet over, definitely not the best day for the Seppi forehand which he made a few errors but it was enough as Moutet start cramping in the 4th set. Thankfully Seppi used his experience and not fall for the antics and efficiently put away the talented but raw Frenchman.

Sela vs. Harrison

Tennis is not a nice sport at times, then again we can’t always have what we want in life. This match was going on simultaneously with the Seppi match but for some reason it was on a smaller court. Part of the Australian Open tradition on the outside courts is to watch Dudi “The Hebrew Hammer” Sela going through long matches with the boisterous but fair Israeli fans, it’s not an Aus Open without doing this at least once.

Sammy was here for most of it, but the organisers putting this on a small court wasn’t the best idea and the place was packed. Sela started slowly and lost the 1st set, then he got his act together, started making less errors and moving the ball around taking advantage of Harrison’s movement. Buoyed on by the Israeli fans Sela starts taking control, had a wobble serving for the 3rd set but thankfully had a double break so it wasn’t so costly.

Sela continues on his way plays a great game to break with plenty of variety, steps up to serve for the match and fails to do so, which lead to Harrison going on a streak of 4 games to take the 4th set when he really should have been finished off. That’s the main thing his new coach Michael Russell brings to the table besides improved fitness is to install that you must compete hard.

In the 5th set Sela wasn’t playing well enough to challenge Harrison and the brattish American took it in 5. Not a surprise after the match Harrison said to the support crew “fuck them off” about the Israeli fans as they say leopards don’t change spots.

Lorenzi vs. Dzumhur

Crossed back to the far side for this intriguing match. Dzumhur was just bitching the whole time about everything, the way he was playing, the situation, the meaning of life even after points he won.

Lorenzi took the first 2 sets, grinding away and not missing anything at all pissing Dzumhur off in the process. The match was mostly extended rallies with Lorenzi using his forehand to grind the Bosnian down who despite his very grumpy demeanour kept hanging in and the Bosnian support was loud which we fed off to take the 3rd set.

There was definitely some needle out there which isn’t always a bad thing. Lorenzi called for the physio to wrap up the thigh, maybe it was a strategic break as it didn’t seem to impede Lorenzi’s movement. Dzumhur while still acting like the world was against him, manages to make less errors and Lorenzi’s shots are getting shorter to level at 2 sets all.


Dzumhur

In the 5th it was going along without too much drama except for some chatter, then the poor call at 30 all on Lorenzi’s serve where he got broken. The ball was clearly long even the biased Bosnians knew it and not Carlos Bernades best work that should have been overruled as this wasn’t even close.

Dzumhur closes out the match and completes the comeback. For the most part the Bosnian fans were fine but there was one point where they were mocking Lorenzi’s grunt after he hit the ball. It was a reasonable impression but thankfully it stopped after one point.

Millman vs. Coric

What a performance from the Mailman, he continued where he left off against Dimitrov in Brisbane. Was able there in the 2nd set this on paper was a tough but winnable match against the much hyped Coric.

Encouraged by a boisterous crowd no thanks to the four drunks near me who tried to be funny but they had a 1 from 20 success rate. Millman was playing some tough tennis hitting the ball very deep, the backhand was very safe and the forehand definitely had some more heat using that push Coric around the court.

As the Mailman took the 2nd set and got an early break in the 3rd. Young Coric wasn’t too keen on the battle and Millman grew in confidence being more aggressive with the forehand but within himself to easily crush Coric in the 3rd.


John Millman

Millman was fantastic after the match he signed for everyone which was around 25 minutes then after the match. He chatted with everyone that wanted to speak with him, a Japanese fan who travelled from Kyoto, a Spanish lass who is a massive fan. Then there is the dad Ron Millman who is one of the great characters around and you can see he and his wife did a great job of raising John and his four sisters/

Outstanding performance and big opportunity for another 3rd round showing here at the Aus Open.

Sousa vs. Brown

A contrast in styles then most opponents are in comparison to Brown. The court was packed for this match, they know Brown is an entertainer and he brings in the people. Sousa was surprisingly calm by his standards only bitching every third or fourth point.

Sousa took the first two sets over the flashy Brown who still had the self belief that he could still come back. Brown started playing a lot better and Sousa’s level dropped a bit with the combination of huge serves and forehands took the third set.

Continuing on from previous set Brown was playing very well and got a break. In the latter part of the 4th set is where things began to change. Brown was up 40-30 on serve and charges to net. Sousa hits an excellent lob which wasn’t going at a fast pace which lands long and hasn’t been called. The umpire fails to overrule and Dreddy is far from impressed giving it to him, this game Sousa breaks back.


Joao Sousa

Not long after the non overrule, the umpire decided to overrule on the tramline and Brown is getting even more urined off that he has been already saying along the lines “you haven’t overruled all match, then you do on that one when it was not clear”.

While Brown takes the 4th set, he drops serve early in the 5th set and the pattern continues as Sousa is solid off both sides just making him play one more ball which leads to Brown making errors and Sousa with excellent forehands and passing shots takes the 5th set comfortably.

Sousa and Brown know it was a hard fought match and share a warm handshake, whereas Dreddy gave the umpire a refusal. It definitely wasn’t the best night for the umpire.

Additional Extras

Diego Schwartzman the best little big man around and Boca Juniors fanatic finally manages to serve out the match against Lajovic 11-9 in the 5th set after the third time of asking. Maybe this will be the match to kick start the 2018 season after losing first round of the first two tournaments.

Casper Ruud, creating more history he was the first Norwegian since Jan Frode Andersen to win a match at Grand Slam level, qualified for his first Grand Slam. It was memorable one because it was 11-9 as well and two because this was the venue where his father Christian Ruud had his best ever run at Slam level.

Malek Jaziri came back from 2 sets down to beat Caruso. Jaziri has been struggling but he found a way and yes this person was out there watching the final set.

So the day started out poorly, ended fairly well and best of all the 5 set matches on the outside courts in the first few days are the place to be. Don’t take some journalists who seriously thinks Slams should be best of 3, no matter if they write for a so called respected paper.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Qualies Day 1 : Here I Go Again On My Own

Yes, it’s that time of the year when one of the world’s laziest bloggers decides to do some writing. For the ten people who appreciate the quirks, random nonsense and weird references I love you long time.

With that out of the way it was Day One of the quails for the Australian Open and yes I really enjoy going to these for a few reasons. They are mostly hardcore fans who are quite interesting to talk to as we all got hooked on the game for different reasons and always good to hear, but there is a funny incident with a fan coming up.

Before I get into the fun stuff of reporting the matches that I have seen today. There are a few points, yes they bought out the metal detectors for qualies, the steps to go over to court 16 and beyond has been replaced by a ramp. There is a stupidly large car park within the grounds for some reasons they decided to build, could have put another court but hey I am just some random who doesn’t know shit from clay but worst of all.

The 3rd set advantage has been crapped and replaced by the crap shoot that is a tie breaker. It’s simple when you are in a Grand Slam you should break serve to win the match, this didn’t start the day very well as I’ve been to many qualie battles going the 10-8 and beyond. Thankfully it hasn’t happened in the main draw, yet but I see it coming because the ITF which stands for Idiots Tools and Fuckheads don’t have the best interest of the sport at hand, even less so than before so enough of that.



Brown vs. Andreozzi

Naturally this was the first match, on the cards with the flamboyant German-Jamaican with the best hair on tour and the dogged Andreozzi who is now being coached by “Polaco” otherwise known as Juan Pablo Brzezicki. Polaco famously retired from an ATP match and the umpire asked for a reason and he said mental. Got to say he’s looking lean these days.

It was the classic clash of styles with Brown using the combination of massive serves, slapshot forehands, drop shots and serve volley against Andreozzi who was steady from the back looking to extend the rallies.

The match pretty much went to the above script. Dreddy Brown got an early break in the 1st set but after a few hairy moments he was able to serve it out. That’s the deal with Brown he plays what he feels and not the percentages. Of course there are some who would love the chance to coach him and make him more pragmatic, but finding the balance about when to unleash the flair and when to reign it hasn’t been easy.


Dustin Brown

One thing both players were getting very pissed off about where fans just walking into the court at non change of ends. It only took 5 minutes for the herd of cattle to start doing it, got to the point where security has to stop the herd. Brown was quite tetchy today, there were a couple talking the whole match and he turned around asking then is that all they do.

In the 2nd set Brown had a lapse in concentration and played the poor game that he is liable to throw in there. Andreozzi took advantage and was able to keep Brown from attacking on his terms and these two Latin lasses were being very loud supporting the Argentine.

The predictable thing about a Dustin Brown is the unpredictable and in the 3rd set it was like this. He played some spectacular shots and made some basic errors but he was focused enough to get the break and then hold all the way serving the match out convincingly.

Back to the Latin lasses halfway through the point they celebrated really loudly on a Brown error who then with a scowl and fine delivery asks “Have you ever watched tennis before””. Brown wins the next point and then celebrates very loudly looking directly at them. Funny enough they were very quiet after that.

Robert vs. Ofner

The young Austrian against the unconventional Frenchman was an interesting match up. My feeling before the match and still holds true that whoever wins this will make the main draw.

Robert started a bit slowly, while Ofner was hitting well and got the early break, though thankfully he broke one of the golden rules in tennis that it’s not a break of serve unless you hold serve. Back on level terms both were playing at a reasonable level with Robert after about 6 games got used to the Ofner serve and was returning it well. Ofner was looking to be aggressive with the forehand. The 1st set tiebreaker was a fair on the balance of play but Robert with his quality returning and started to serve well was able to take it. Though there was a close call which went in Robert’s favour seems like one of those days.

Riding on the momentum train Robert definitely was milking it for all it was worth. Ofner wasn’t serving badly but the Frenchman was able to get most of his serves back in excellent positions and got an early break. Ofner was getting visibly frustrated but didn’t go into his shell though he wasn’t brainless ballbashing to get out of the situation.


Stephabe Robert

Then it came to the time which many people who know Stephane Robert’s game just hope, yes it was time to serve the match out. Whereas he had been serving well, his first serve deserted him and when he did get it in it wasn’t well placed and Ofner broke back. With the pressure relieved Robert held easily and said to the guy next to me, it’s better Robert breaks for the match. Then at 30-40 on Ofner’s serve he hits a first serve fault, but the ballkid was moving as he was in motion and the umpire called a first serve which is the correct call, but one you hardly see. There was a little bit of a discussion but Robert eventually took the match point and the show continues.

Overall I thought Robert played reasonably well, but he didn’t share the same opinion entirely. After the match he said “I was not feeling the ball, sure I served well and fought hard but was just happy to get through”.

Paul vs. Rola

Tennis is a brutal sport, you don’t have to be the better player throughout, you can win less points overall, can make more winners and less unforced errors, can play well and lose, can play shit and win. The only point that really counts is the last one.

The Ayatollah of Blaz Rola is now being coached by Ziga Janskovec and newly retired Grega Zemlja is helping out. He started the season well in Bangkok losing to Marcel Granollers in the final.
Ayatollah of Rock N Rolla

While the scoreline was close this was a match of missed opportunities in fact a sea of missed opportunities. Rola started a bit slowly but found his groove whereas Paul was content to grind and play defensive tennis. In the first set Rola was prepared to take more chances and deservedly won it in the first of 3 tiebreakers yes, a 6-7 7-6 7-6 sounds like an Isner vs. Karlovic match at altitude.

Rola continues where he left off breaking Paul and wasn’t looking too troubled and then as what happens with players at the Challenger level, they will give you one poor service game just a question of whether their opponent is able to take advantage in this case Paul does. They get to the tiebreaker, whereas Paul continues to be solid and Rola played an awful breaker.


Blaz Rola

Both go off the court for toilet breaks for quite some time, think Rola must have been reading a novel in there. They come back and the same pattern continues Rola with a bit more meat on his shots breaks serve, they continue holding. Then at 5-4 Rola serves for the match, he definitely went after the first serves at 30 all but just not enough spin to get them in. yes, it’s a cliché but it’s true serving out a match is difficult at any level.

They make it to the tiebreaker Paul is battling and grinding, Rola hitting well and takes a deserved lead. Another chance to serve it out in the tiebreaker 5-4 up with 2 serves to come and doesn’t win either point the legs are very heavy which comes down to nerves. Paul has one match point and takes it at the first attempt.

Yes, tennis is a brutal sport for which I appreciate and the lesson of the day is your opportunities when on offer.

Ruud vs. Ito

This match was moved to Court 3 and when I arrived Ruud was playing like crap, Ito was being solid and there was this drunken Aussie gronk cheering over the top for Ito and grinding Ruud’s gears big time.

Ito takes the first set, then Ruud calls for the supervisor we thought it was because of the drunken fool but more on him later. It seems like Tennis Australia is struggling financially as not all the lights were on and the court was very dark, it was almost time for the miner’s helmets. This delay was about 10 minutes and then the brains trust realised we better turn the other ten lights on and surprisingly the court wasn’t dark.

Ruud settles down and start making less errors and working over Ito’s forehand who can’t do anything when it’s shoulder high. It seems like he has gone the Paolo Lorenzi forehand style without the pop and thankfully without the grunt, yes this blog is very pro Lorenzi but that grunt is loud.

It finally happened after Ruud make a basic error the drunken arseclown was into it again with the over the top cheering. Ruud had enough and starts talking to the guy, couldn’t hear all of it but heard the drunk say “you should be more professional””, yeah fair enough but it’s not football where you act like a boorish fool. Here is the thing good trolling is an art form which has truth based in it, this was just obnoxious stuff. Security got a hold of the gronk and he got the red card. After that Ruud’s mood improved and did enough to get the cash.

Casper Ruud

So what have we gathered from Day 1, there is a meaningless car park built in the middle of the complex, the herd of cattle walking in between points and games hasn’t changed and tennis is a brutal sport.

Tonight there was Tiebreak Ten Tennis which like Fast 4 is a shit gimmick and as a wrestling fan I know about gimmicks. The best ones are something that have something behind it, these formats have nowt they appeal to the lowest common denominator, gloryhounds, the epitome of fast food and nothing memorable about them.

Thankfully I discovered going to Slam qualies, there are many current top players who had to go through Grand Slam qualies, it’s always more rewarding watching when something major is on the line.



Monday, March 13, 2017

San Pablo Cuevas : The pride of Uruguayan tennis

It's interview time and during the 2017 Australian Open I managed to catch up with Uruguay's finest and the king of ATP São Paulo where he has won the title three years in a row. He is Pablo Cuevas who was generous with his time.

Cuevas was out of the game for 2 years with a knee injury and was not sure if he was ever going to come back to play at the top level. He is a very friendly personality one player I have wanted to interview. He has won the most ATP singles titles ever for an Uruguayan player and has an outstanding single hand backhand

I would like to thank him for giving me 20 minutes of his time, helping me with my first experience of yerba mate and an oppprtunity for him to laugh at my bad Spanish.



How old were you when you started playing?
I started playing tennis at 6 years old.

Uruguay is known for football and beef? What made you choose tennis over other sports?

I like watching football but as a young boy I had many friends who played tennis, so I played and now enjoy the sport.

Did you have anything to do with Marcelo Fillipini or Diego Perez when you were playing in your early career?

I’m a very good friends with Diego and Marcelo. I couldn’t share much time in a tennis court with them. But they are always there, giving me advice, whenever I need them.

Without a powerful federation and a big agency behind you. How difficult were the early days when trying to establish yourself on tour, for example in relation to getting sponsors?

In Uruguay it is very difficult to get support or sponsorship. It becomes difficult for any South American player during their early years. I had an investment group in Argentina at the start. Well, I hope that things can change for the rest of the upcoming players, that we can have a much powerful tennis federation, along with a Government that can support the sport.

When did you realise that you were able to make it as a professional player?


When I made it to the top 100.

What have been your experiences of playing on the Futures & Challenger Tour? Do you have any funny stories to share?

Yes, I was playing with Crazi Dani Koellerer in Poland (Szczecin) in 2010 and it was a very difficult match where there was a lot of antagonism.

After the match in the locker room I was with my brother. Koellerer came in and wanted to start a fight, then he said let's go outside where the media were so he could make some shit and get me suspended. He showed what a pussy he was.





From a personal viewpoint your Roland Garros doubles win with Lucho Horna was one of my favourite moments. How did you decide to form the team and what were your memories of that fortnight?



I have great memories from this moment. I played with Lucho one tournament before Roland Garros. In the first round we defeated the reigning Australian Open champions. Lucho said " it was a big match in the first round", but it was so exciting after we won. We beat the Bryan Brothers in the quarter finals and then won the final in my 2nd Grand Slam this will always be a big memory.


You jumped over the net in the final set tiebreaker against the Bryans and they got angry. Can you explain the incident?


In the final set tiebreak it was 5-1 to us and at the changeover I sprinted and jumped the night. I don't know the Bryans didn't like the attitude or something, but they didn't say well done at the end of the match and refused the handshake.


Final Set Tiebreak

You won your first singles title in Båstad? Can you talk us through what it meant?

I remember the celebration and the party (laughing), No, I remember everything of this week it was my first title and I played unbelievable in the final beating Joao Sousa 2 and 1. I think it's my favourite tournament it's so nice.




You missed 2 years with injury. What were the injuries and how frustrating was it not being able to play the sport you love?

The injury was to the knee and I was out for 2 years. Mentally was i trying to get my head around it and thinking about different situations. Fortunately there is no more pain in the knee.

How did you spend your extended time away from the game? Did it change your perspective in any way?

I was partying every day with friends (laughs) when you were playing it's not possible, so I was enjoying the parties and the nightlife. Then I was working a lot with my physiotherapy, psychology, speaking with my family and friends who have always supported me.

Also I was reading a lot of books from other sportspeople Lance Armstrong, Martin Palermo and Tata Lopez.

I always say that it’s not necessary to practice just inside a tennis court, you also practice a lot outside of it. I believe I came back better and stronger after the injury and ever since then I have had the best years of my career.


Futures prizemoney has hardly changed since the 80s. Challenger prize money at its worst has decreased 30% from 1995, now it has been increased slightly. What can be done to readdress some of the balance?

I think this is a difficult question but I don’t know how to put it on the same level. But I understand that there are some things which are distributed in the wrong way. It is really difficult for a kid who is just starting, where everything is costly for him. I also understand that in some ways that the money isn't distibuted fairly.

I also don’t agree about the small amount of money that players get, in comparison with the amount that the tournament gets, especially in Grand Slams. So, basically, I don’t have a clear idea on how to solve it, but I believe in some way things can be done in order to improve it, since the prizemoney is not well distributed.

Do you believe that the current ATP Player Representatives doing enough to ensure that the players who earn the vast majority of money through prize money and not sponsorship are able to survive playing the sport?

The Players Council, I don't know too much about that they do.


Your favourite tournaments?


Besides Båstad, the Montevideo Challenger and I enjoy Davis Cup so much. I have a great memory of Miami when I played Roddick the stadium was full of Uruguayans and other Latin Americans. In the stadium I heard "Uruguay, Uruguay" .



Best friends on tour?

David Marrero, Marcel Granollers and the Argentinian players.


What’s the worst place you have stayed in so far on tour?


At the start of my career I played a lot of tournaments in Romania. I was staying in homes and walking from door to door asking if they had any rooms.



Name the best and worst matches you have played in your career so far?

The best matches were the semi final of the Rio 500 where I defeated Nadal and the final of Umag where I beat Robredo.

The worst was Yesterday (laughs) when I lost to Schwartzmann. (The Australian Open 2017)






You're a big surfing fan. How did you get into it and where are some of your favourite spots?

When I was 16 it was first time I started surfing and loved it. The first place I went to was a small spot called Santa Lucia Del Este it's 70km from Montevideo.

Which football team do you support?


Peñarol

What do you think about the length of season?

It's really long but it will be difficult to take ou some tournament since everyone is special in their own way.

What solutions would you propose for the calendar to reduce or maybe not reduce the amount of tournaments?

The last years I have realised the calendar is so important for me. I study it thoroughly play 2-3 weeks and then rest for one week.

The ATP is meant to be a joint union between players and tournament directors but it doesn’t to favour tournament directors more so. Are there ways to improve the organisation to have a better representation and reputation among the players?

I think the tournaments are well organised. But it's unfair what happens in Grand Slams and in big tournaments, where the tournament gets a larger percentage, meanwhile the players only get a 15%, which I find a too small percentage,


What are your hopes and goals for 2017?

Stay and consolidate in the Top 20 and my dream is to make the top 10.




Word association


Álvaro Recoba: Pure talent.
Brazil: Carnaval.
Punta del Este: The prettiest place.
Fernet with Cola: ah, Fernet with Cola, yes. friends.
Luis Suárez: Pure garra.
Cumbia or Candombe: Candombe.
Lucho Horna: The best partner I had.
Pepe Mújica: A figure who represented Uruguay internationally, as no one else.


Once again I would like to thank Pablo for his time, also the three translators who helped with me with the interview, especially after I lost the original translation without them it would not have been completed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Australian Open : Final Thoughts Time To Go

Well that is another Australian Open done and yes I had a good time in spite of the growing corporatisation of the event. It's always expanding and Bogan Saturday is still awful, this is when the tourists came in got pissed and annoyed tennis fans but it brings in the bucks so it will keep happening.

Qualifying

Stepanek vs. Kavcic was the best match of qualies and easily comparable to anything in the main draw. I always enjoy qualies because you see a real mix the youngsters who are making their way in the game. Yes, Novak Djokovic qualified for Slams so there is the potential to see new talents at an early stage.

There are the guys who are coming back from injury or have lost form chasing former glories. The Challenger players who know the points can help the ranking and making draw at the Aus Open was a 50K payday definitely helps financially.

Main Draw

Ah! Nico Almagro made news and not for the right seasons. As I wasn't there for the match and I couldn't see what happened but he withdrew after 4 games. Sometime as a player they feel Ok in the warm up and then go out to play but realise they can't do it. What would people rather he tanked 0,1 and 0 or he retired when he did.

This brings me to the ATP an organisation that I have criticised in the past and will continue to do so in the future. However they have bought in a rule which in theory is a very good one. A player who withdraws after the main draw will still get the prizemoney for the 1st round, while the Lucky Loser will play for the points. Obviously if the Lucky Loser wins then he gets the 2nd round prizemoney, it's to prevent injured guys taking spots in the main draw taking the cash when they can't play. Next, let's see if they can stop the retirement from singles and then playing doubles.

Upsets

Great for the tournament that Djokovic and Murray lost early. It brings a different atmosphere to the event and you could hear the cheers on the outside as they lost to Istomin and Mischa Zverev respectively.

Since they are using a much lighter and faster ball, plus the courts are a bit quicker this has had influence on some of the results. At the same time the game is in a pretty solid state that they can experiment with quickening up the faster courts, of course they aren't going to be like the old days when they were glorified ice rinks.

A Zverev in the quarter final isn't surprising it's just it was meant to be Alex and not the older brother. Mischa has a very funky forehand but he has a big point of difference as players aren't used to the serve and volley. The fact hititng with his little brother and seeing his progress motivated him to come back. Can't say it was a bad decision.

Random
An 88 year old lady to John McEnroe.
"I enjoyed talking to you in Adelaide".
JMac : "Well that's one person".

On John McEnroe, well he definitely isn't a Trump fan at all. However what he said about Kyrgios was that he didn't try in the 4th set, not that he didn't try in the final set. The journalist who asked Kyrgios was shit stirring and it's an easy target as Kyrgios takes the bait. As for who will coach him, it's an interesting challenge and Rasheed is champing at the bit to do it, but Rasheed really is a fitness trainer.

Think I might even follow a couple of results from WTA from now on and no I won't be writing about. I did manage to get an interview during my time here and it's a good one. Just needs to be transcribed.

The venue keeps expanding and for the most part they are doing a good job. The fact the Australian Open is the Happy Slam is a reasonably accurate description. Roland Garros has the best surface but the venue is so small and they need to expand for the amount of people that want to go there. Wimbledon, the place is like a church and churches aren't fun. The US Open well it's Zoo York, 5th set tiebreakers, the distance away from Manhattan is an issue. The Aus Open everything is central and easy to get away.

Apart from seeing tennis I got to meet a legendary guy Alex who came out from Sweden for the show. Met some great old friends and some new people who for the most part were great. Had an interesting discussion about how the Futures level prizemoney is a joke and how unsurprising it is that a lot of the match fixing is happening at that level.

John Millman was looking sharp for his commentary role while he is recovering from the hip issue. He is going to take the protected ranking and come back in April. Matt Barton "The Ginger Tsonga"", yes he knows the nickname is still hilarious. Chris Guccione the block return is still awesome and appreciates the fans.


The tournament staff are class, the drivers, information people. Best of all there is one prick who doesn't like seeing me around the place, so as I left yesterday I told him "Don't worry I am out of here today, but I'm back next year".

Most of all thanks to the crazy people who follow this rather nche blog.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Australian Open : The Pression is Off Final Match Reports

Due to heat, feeling a bit shit. These are summaries of the matches I have seen ending on the Seppi and Wawrinka, some are old, some were good and some had shit results.

Fognini vs. Paire

Once the draw had pitted these two mercurial cats it was the only place to be. The Fog in the first game got footfaulted and immediately had words with the umpire getting a code violation that is impressive from The Fog.

It was an entertaining match where both guys played quite well, the theatrics were minimal considering who was involved. The Fog cost himself with ludicrously bad challenges in the 5th set and when he needed one he couldn’t use it.

In the game Paire serving for the match he was down break point. The Fog was dominant in the rally and Paire’s shot hits the net and gives him a short let cord which changed the momentum. In the end Paire was able to come through ugly forehand and all.



Seppi vs. Darcis

This was a difficult one to watch both guys were a bit inhibited and never really played to their best level. It was like the opportunity of playing for a spot in the 4th round overcame them.

There were some extended rallies early on Seppi was making errors on the backhand side. Darcis who was on fire against Schwartzmann wasn’t able to impose himself in the rallies. “The Shark” Darcis took the first set after a dumb service game from Seppi.



Seppi while not playing well was able to lift his game after the 2nd set and in the vital moments where he played two quality tiebreakers and got the cash. It was a difficult one to watch but there was never a feeling that Seppi would lose.

Istomin vs. Carreño Busta

Normally this match would have little fanfare but on Bogan Saturday strange things happen plus the fact Istomin managed to get a huge set of new fans made it difficult to get a set. Istomin is the new favourite player of the Federer, Nadal and Murray fans, but we know many fans of the Big 4 have a ludicrous sense of entitlement.

Back to the match, this was a bit of a grind and the danger was whether Istomin could back up his form in taking out Djokovic or not.

Istomin started strongly and the backhand down the line was firing as it does. Carreno Busta has improved significantly and goes under the radar. He’s lean as but has managed to beef up his serve and play well on the hardcourts.



The rallies were well contested and when Carreno Busta started hitting dropshots he was able to expose the Istomin movement when going forward is far from the best. This is a trait common to modern players.

It came down to the last set where Istomin is roared on by the crowd. Yes, there was even an Uzbek flag, some young lads dressed in the Istomin bandana and glasses. Even Denis told some of the drunken buffoons that were cheering for him to shut up in between points. Mama Istomin is great she even joined in on the wave during the final set, enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Istomin was able to put the pressure on the Carreno Busta serve more often than not and broke him. Huge achievement making the 4th round for Istomin who is definitely one of the more popular guys among his peers.


Wawrinka vs. Seppi

Of course you know it’s no AO blog without the customary Seppi match report and this is the one I will finish the matches on this one.

It was very hot out there and somehow I managed to be sitting near 3 guys who were Ladin speaking. Yes, they were from the same town as Seppi’s wife so that made a chance to listen to spoken Ladin while sweating it out.

This was a strange performance from Wawrinka it wasn’t his normal aggressive self. He didn’t want to give Seppi any pace where he can counterpunch. These two have played each other enough times to know what works and what doesn’t.

Seppi served well throughout the match except when he really needed to close out rhe 3rd. Wawrinka’s backhand when he wants to hit is even more magnificent live. Stani took the first two sets when surprise surprise he was more aggressive in the busters.

In the 3rd set buster Seppi started the better and then Wawrinka decided to turn it on, slapping backhand winners for fun to win the match.



Apart from the backhand winners in the 3rd set. The highlight was Wawrinka shutting down the heckler with the “Come On Roger” call during the match, he’s playing on the next court. Heckler went for the cheap laugh and copped the backhand.

First tournament of the year for Seppi and an excellent one it was. It’s the classic when you’re the lower ranked guy you have to play at your best level, the better one has to be down and the few chances you have must be taken.

There’ll be a final blog which will include some random stuff, shout outs, positives, negatives but now all the action is over from the outside and there are others that

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Australian Open Day 3: Seppi just shows his South Tyrolean sexiness

Seppi vs. Kyrgios

Ah! Revenge is a wonderful thing. The South Tyrolean Sex Machine who has had a longer layoff than usual managed to come back from 2 sets down which is always good for the sport. Seppi normally needs a few matches to get the engine into full gear, then it looks marriage and the long layoff is working for him.

First set he was just blown away by the extra firepower from Kyrgios. The second set Seppi starts making more balls into court and getting more into the match but the fiery Aussie still has the advantage.

Keeping the momentum at an even keel isn’t normally the case with Kyrgios, he has moments where the high level is very high and the low level well it’s not pretty. Seppi just kept competing hard and was able to start making inroads into the match, taking the 3rd set.


Seppi

The 4th set well it happened. Kyrgios is competing better in the 5th but Seppi is being his usual solid self though having a crack when the chances arose. He served for the match once and played a poor game to lose it. He didn’t get down on himself he was able to break at 9-8, then served out the match like a maestro.


Jaziri vs. Bublik

This was a very winnable match for both guys but the craftier play won easily. It wasn’t a great performance but he managed to play well enough to get it done.

Bublik is a big talent, did well to qualify win a round but he wasn’t in the mood for it today. He’s young, raw and with the right people around him will develop into an excellent player. He was suffering from dropshotitis big time, just playing too many of them and way too early.


Jaziri

Jaziri was moving the ball around well whereas Bublik was going for either huge shots, drop shots before he earned the right to hit them though his backhand lobs were brilliant in this match.

Bublik had started slowly in all of his matches so far. He had plenty of chances in the 2nd set where he constantly broke Jaziri’s serve but was unable to hold onto his own delivery. Rule 1 in tennis it’s not a break of serve unless you hold.

In the 3rd set Bublik was inconsistent and Jaziri’s greater experience saw him through to the 3rd round.

Sela vs. Lacko

Sela had an excellent start buoyed on by the Israeli fans while Lacko looked stoned missing balls for fun. The first set flew by easily but Lacko who is very languid in his movements started to make more balls into court and was able to change the momentum of the match.

Lacko takes the 2nd set and Sela is making a lot of errors he starts to look gassed as he is out of position hitting the ball late. Lacko is timing the ball nicely putting the ball into difficult spots where Sela is struggling.


Lacko

The 3rd set was more of the same and in the 4th there was a small window of opportunity for Sela not even the Israeli fans were able to inspire him this time. Lacko ran out a comfortable winner in the end.

Troicki vs. Lorenzi

Unsurprisingly this was a grindfest and Lorenzi had full sound effects going. Not necessarily the most interesting match on paper but it was entertaining in its own way.

The difference in this match up is that Troicki has slightly more firepower than Lorenzi though the Italian has more variety. He will come to the net, throw in some slices, hit some groundstrokes flat, throw in the odd moonball as well.

We had another Troicki meltdown but he was massively robbed here, thankfully he got over the line.


Troicki Meltdown


Even though this went 5 sets as much as I wanted Lorenzi to win this match, there was the feeling that Troicki was always going to get the W and he was able to do so. It’s funny watching Troicki trying to hit touch shots, for every one he makes he misses about 15 though in the 3rd set breaker he pulled off a great volley at the feet. He makes his customary 3rd round appearance in a Slam.

We had another Troicki meltdown but he was massively robbed here, thankfully he got over the line.


Darcis vs. Schwartzmann

Darcis was sold but Schwartzmann wasn’t at the races today. That’s the easiest way to describe it, that’s the thing about tennis you only need to be better than your opponent on the day. You don’t get extra points for winning in style.

Seppi is very much a contrast to Kyrgios not just in game but in demeanour.

Australian Open Day 2: Better late than never


Dutra Silva vs. Donaldson

Dutra Silva what a fighter, couldn't hit a ball in the court for the first 2 sets but just dug in & kept fighting so hard. Donaldson has a good game but he tweaked something, the longer it went the more Dutra Silva got into the match was able to dominate the rallies.

He had the momentum & almost relinquished it after a timeout from Donaldson. He served out the match strongly, great reaction at the end with him hugging Larri Passos who coached him for years and the bond is still strong.

Giraldo vs. Edmund

Santi Giraldo couldn't handle the conditions, love the guy but he has some amazingly poor footwork. Edmund is an Andreev light. Edmund doesn't defend that well but he didn't need to in this match. Giraldo's second serve was almost in the Nieminen class.

Fognini vs. Lopez

The Fog vs. LaLo this was the match for who can spend more time in the mirror. Both started slowly but have to say The Fog played very well. Maybe Davin told him less strutting, he even behaved quite well. Yes, he did call LaLo a lucky son of a bitch when he made a tough shot.

Generally was very quiet though after the match the Fog had his strut. Always good to see Feli Lopez aka LaLo losing early. The Fog has been working with a psychologist, has lost a few kgs and meant to be a father, let’s see how long the serene Fognini lasts.

Karlovic vs. Zeballos

This match was all about the last set. Yes, there were two busters and two sets where each man broke once to take it. They were small letdowns and were taken advantage of.

Zeballos only had one break chance in the 5th but couldn’t take it. Karlo can’t return a phone call and generally only made returns at 40-0 down. Zeballos just couldn’t get onto the Karlovic serve.
For the man who has a weaker serve, serving 2nd in the final set is a disadvantage. The court was so packed but winning 22-20 wouldn't happen at the US Open, advantage sets rare great, yes that’s what I wrote.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Australian Open Day 1: Where it all begins


Yes, it’s the first day of the main draw and overall it was a mixed day results wise though for others it may have been fantastic.

As it was warm today, the courts are quicker with the balls much harder than usual making the conditions quicker than usual at the Aus Open. Nadal would have had fun with his forehand getting the ball to jump high to the opponents backhand.

Naturally all the matches I wanted to see where on at the same time, so as per usual I managed to get some help with some matches which is always appreciated.

Estrella Burgos vs. Bedene

Wouldn’t say this was my first choice of an opener but we take what we’re given. This match was between the out of form and the underdone. Towards the end of last season Estrella Burgos was in very poor form hardly winning matches and Bedene seemed to have some injury issues.

All things considered this wasn’t a bad match which essentially came down to whose weaknesses would hold under pressure better. Estrella Burgos for a small guy has a good serve and a heavy forehand which was getting some good bounce but he slices that backhand almost as much as Emilio Sanchez.

Bedene is the much better overall player but he was struggling especially on the forehand side. It would be a case of two or three forehands, then an error into the net and the odd one long for some variation.

Estrella has never won a match here and the first set was key for this to happen. Both players were very tight but the Dominican manages to take it. After this his self belief grows, he is opening the court up well with his forehand using the slice backhand to stay in the point most of the time.



While the Dominican’s confidence grows there is still the feeling that the extra class of Bedene especially on this surface will get him through but Estrella Burgos gets the 2nd set has a letdown in the 3rd and Bedene strolls through it to love, there is definitely a bit of tanking going on.

Bedene had an early break in the 4th but Estrella Burgos has switched back on mentally, fighting hard making Bedene hit extra shots and his forehand is really just breaking down which Estrella Burgos is taking advantage of just getting one more ball back.

Estrella Burgos eventually takes the match and delighted with his first ever win in Australia. Sure it always seemed that Bedene would get this done, it’s great the veteran Estrella Burgos got the victory and Bedene left the court swearing loudly in Slovenian as he knew this was a lost opportunity.

Robert vs. Lajovic

This is a big year for Stephane Robert to back up his great 2016 season and this on paper was a winnable match, though anyone with a functioning brain cell knows matches aren’t won on paper.

Lajovic started well and was able to adjust to the faster and higher bouncing courts using his forehand to dominate in the rallies. The enigmatic Frenchman who has gone back to his original coach was struggling to deal with the balls flying and since he has a low margin of error, the adjustments that needed to be made weren’t.

The Serbian who had a loud but fair fan base were cheering him on and he was enjoying the conditions not making many errors. Robert wasn’t serving well enough, not able to hit the groundstrokes with enough penetration often enough to trouble Lajovic.

There was an incident at 30 all in a service game of Lajovic where a ball girl fainted on court. Straight away Lajovic grabbed the girl and took her into the shade, made sure she was looked after before continuing play.

After the break in play the match continued in the same pattern with Lajovic solid from the baseline being the aggressor. Robert was too inconsistent to put pressure on Lajovic and when he managed to break in the 3rd he lost it straight away.

There were a couple of shocking overrules against Robert at vital times, one of them was on his break point, the ball was clearly long which would have given Robert the break. Who knows whether that changes the momentum or not, but there has to be a clear mistake for an overrule, except it was a ball width out, yet called in.

It wasn’t a great performance by Robert but Lajovic was just too good overall.

Jaziri vs. Soeda

This match report comes via my friend Sammy since I have not been cloned and can’t be in a few places at once.

Jaziri has definitely slimmed down significantly and was able to have a solid 2016 through playing mostly on the main tour with some Challengers. He was playing well and was able to expose the Soeda forehand, he is in many ways the typical Asian hardcourt player bar Nishikori or Daniel where there isn’t much margin for error in their groundstrokes. When it’s on, then it’s very difficult to play but when off it’s a festival of errors.


Jaziri

The Tunisian is a very talented player when it comes to ball striking and creativity with the ball, but was never the fittest or best trainer around. He has managed to lose some of the beef in the second set he served for it, he played a poor game and was broken. Jaziri was able to overcome that setback and now plays the talented young Russian Bublik who is representing Kazakhstan who upset Pouille.

Cuevas vs. Schwartzmann

There really isn’t that much I can say about this match that is positive for Cuevas. The Boca Juniors fanatic Schwartzmann is now coached by Chubby Chela, so his grinding skills should improve and Chela is someone while not the most exciting to watch was able to maximise his ability which is all you can ask for a player.

Schwartzmann was very solid from the baseline and this pressured Cuevas into error. Some players enjoy when they are pressured whereas others like Cuevas tend to struggle plus he is much better on slower hardcourts. The last set just wasn’t good enough.

Chela summed it up well. “Yes, Diego played well but Pablo was really really bad”. Though after doubles Cuevas will have some time for surfing, definitely it won’t be at St Kilda beach.

Seppi vs. Mathieu

You knew it was coming there is no Aus Open report from here without some Seppi coverage. Both of these lads got married at the same time, definitely Mathieu is in the southern part of his career and Seppi might not be too far away.

This was Seppi’s first match of the season after getting married, growing a magnificent beard. He decided to take a 1 month holiday to Fiji and New Zealand with his new wife. He has played so many tournaments over the years that the extended break will work.

It wasn’t a great match but it was good for Seppi to get a hitout though Mathieu wasn’t exactly giving rhythm. It was ballbashing Paul-Henri style though with less patience than before after 3 strokes he’d go for the huge winner, there were times when it was happening and others where it was on the back fence.


Seppi


There was a memorable moment in the 3rd set when Mathieu won a point with a drop shot then he reverted back to the “Hands of Stone”. Seppi was never in any danger of losing this match, yes he had to save some break points but Mathieu was never going to be consistent enough to take advantage.

Seppi was glad to get through and for the first match of the season it wasn’t bad but don’t see him really challenging Kyrgios at all, though would love to be wrong.

Sela vs. Granollers

It’s not the Aussie Open without David Dudi Sela aka “The Hebrew Hammer” battling on the outside courts. Sela loves coming to Melbourne, every person that speaks Hebrew in Melbourne comes out to support him and he thrives on it.

Granollers can be a tricky customer with his defensive skills, sneaky forehand, and willingness to come to the net. They split the sets both of these guys will provide chances to break serve. The third set was going to be very important as I expected this one to go five.

Sela who won the Canberra Challenger last week, played well in Chennai in the first week has started the season strongly. Granollers is the guy who can play well from nowhere but Sela who thrives in loud atmospheres and the Israeli fans provide that. He was able to seize the initiative in the 3rd set not making errors, hitting deep and punishing the short balls from Granollers.


Dudi Sela

Sela who was willed on by the boisterous but fair Israeli crowd was loving it and steamrolled Granollers in the 4th set who didn’t even grunt on the slice backhand which he is famous for. The last set was just the Sela show.

After the match it took Sela at least 30 minutes to leave the court. He made sure he took photos with the fans on both sides of the court, shook as many hands as possible. He does this even when he loses but Sela has always been a likeable guy.

Sela will plays Lacko next and couldn’t get two more contrasting characters or games but that makes tennis interesting this plus it’s a brutal sport with no hiding when things are tough.

On a side note “The Mailman” John Millman is here working in the media doing commentary while doing rehab on his hip injury. Yes, he will be taking a Protected Ranking as he recovers.

That ends the grinding for Day 1 and same as it ever was.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Australian Open Qualifying : The circus has come to town

This is a bit delayed but this was due to technological failings. A laptop battery that was worse than Gimeno-Traver’s backhand on his worst day and a camera giving me more attitude than Fabio Fognini. So it wasn’t laziness this time but these issues have been fixed and since we have a rain delay it’s the time to update on my findings so far.

Qualies are among the best times to visit Slams unlike the others the Aussie Open qualies are free, this in addition the venue which keeps expanding, with courts disappearing and some existing ones getting upgrades. Apart from the coaches, spouses, the spectators tend to be the diehards, gamblers or people with little to do. This is where the simmering starts, the final day of qualies bring some heat as there is so much on the line. There is the extra purse, the additional points for making a main draw and if they are lucky win a match or two which can help kickstart the season.

1st Round

Kavcic vs. Donati: This wasn’t much of a match. While Kavcic had an excellent week in Bangkok, the foot has been playing up and in his own words he was lucky that Donati was injured. There were some back issues, he was hitting out a bit in the second set but went up for a serve, then retired.

Daniel vs. Setkic : Daniel after the Sevilla Challenger struggled to finish outside the top 100. He is definitely good enough to be solid lower end top 100 player with the odd big run in a 250 clay event though he does need to be more aggressive.


Taro Daniel

Setkic served for the set, but Daniel broke and once he managed to take the 1st set he was never in danger of losing. There are times when you play well and don’t win, an example I’ll expand on later in this piece and then there are the days where you only need to be less shit than the opponent. I like Taro Daniel he is a pretty cool guy, hope to interview him eventually. He has a tough one against Melzer next.

Ghem vs. Souza : Matches between fellow countrymen are never easy unless you’re the guy who is so much better than everyone else. There is a dynamic that makes it different to regular matches. Ghem started well but Souza was fighting hard and ready to pounce on any lapses by Ghem, which duly came in the 2nd set.

The third set was some good tennis thankfully it wasn’t marred by an overrule from Pascal Maria. In the game where Souza got the break it was 0-15, Ghem hits a skyhook smash which lands right on the baseline and Maria overrules to which Ghem isn’t amused.


Andre Ghem

Souza is serving for the match and Novo Hamburgo’s finest starts to become more aggressive especially as he was match point. Ghem starts playing closer to the service line which is what he should be doing, since he’s not exactly the fastest man around the court. At least a Brazilian is through.

Ruud vs. Gabashvili: The legend of Norwegian tennis and father of Casper Ruud is here, the great man Christian who made it to number 39 in the world. This is definitely a case of the kid having more talent, but best of all he has a good attitude on court for the most part.

For those people who don’t know Christian Ruud make the 4th round of the Aus Open on the old Rebound Ace he played against Goran Ivanisevic on a 43 degree day it went for ages as well. It was least 50 on the court, those were the days.

Gabashvili was hardly hitting his second serve and Ruud was taking advantage. It was a solid performance but he wasn’t happy with it, that’s a good sign he knows he can get better. At this age it’s about getting the experience. It wouldn’t surprise if he finished in the top 100 at the end of the year barring injuries. The match ended on a note when Gabashvili smashed a ball of court and it almost landed in Hisense.

Conflicting Emotions

Ghem vs Kibi : Novo Hamburgo’s finest started very slowly maybe he was thinking about the situation where it’s a huge opportunity instead of focusing on the job at hand. He lost the first set easily which was enough to wake Ghem up who was able to step up his game and win easily in the end. Credit to Tennisportalen for the photo below


Ghem through to the final round


Stepanek vs. Kavcic : The best match on paper and it was easily one of the best qualie matches I have seen. Next week there won’t be many first round matches better. Both of these guys without injuries are easily top 100 players. Stepanek, the man is so crafty someone who has made the most of his talent which is something to be admired. Kavcic the dogged fighter who hasn’t had a full year on the circuit for 3 years at least. He was battling foot problems, it’s a different issue to the foot which was operated on.

Steps made a solid start and Kavcic was finding it more difficult to hold on serve and this cost him in the end. In the 1st set the game he lost on serve apart from one shot was through a donation of errors.

Kavcic started playing better in the 2nd set he was able to hit better length on his shots making it more difficult for Stepanek to reach the net. In the early part Kavcic was hitting his backhand pass exclusively down the line, which the crafty Stepanek was awake to. They were playing some quality extended rallies opening the court up with Steps trying to get to the net as often as possible while Kavcic hit a couple of outstanding backhands lobs to keep him on his toes.

The Slovenian played a quality tiebreaker and was able to take it on probably the only backhand Stepanek missed for the match. At the start of the 3rd set he took a timeout to check on his foot, not sure that was the time to do it. Kavcic takes the early break but he has been serving issues with hitting faults into the net, the toss got too far out in front and or he wasn’t able to reach up to it.

They continue with the extended rallies with many angles, plenty of slices to vary it up and Steps threw in some well timed dropshots which worked to throw Kavcic out. The crafty Czech breaks back and he was playing well as he hit some clean forehand winners in this set.

Both players are really into the match, the crowd are entertained which is why the ending was so disappointing for the level they played. In a final set advantage when the player is a worse server it’s always better to serve first. Kavcic’s serve just fell away in the final game served 2 double faults and one on match point.

Overall it was an outstanding match, tennis is a brutal sport can’t hide behind a team mate. There are sometimes you play well and lose, then there are times when you play shit and win. You don’t get style points for winning or winning well. If Kavcic can get over the foot issues have a solid 3-6 months then the ranking will look after itself.