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?


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.


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.


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.

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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.

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 th 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.