Monday, 24 July 2017

Bertens goes one better to win Gstaad

Titles were decided in the five tournaments post Wimbledon and there were some surprises along the way.

Newport saw Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden defy his ranking of 154 to battle top seed John Isner in the final for over an hour, only to come up just short 3-6 6-7.
Isner converted the single break point for the match, confirming how competitive Ebden had been.

David Ferrer found some of his old form to win yet another crown, this one in Bastad.
Ranking having dropped to 33, the Spaniard used his first serve more effectively than Alexandr Dolgopolov to claim both sets 6-4 6-4, and title number 28.

Lucky loser from qualifying Andrey Rublev managed to run through the main draw and defeat fourth seed Pablo Lorenzi convincingly in the final 6-4 6-2.  
Lorenzi's serve was attacked throughout, broken four times from seven opportunities.

Irina-Camelia Begu brought back memories of her form of 2016 with her Bucharest title, straight sets victor over big serving Julia Goerges.
Begu had a satisfactory first serve % of 75 but more impressive was the point winning off her second serve - 86%.

In a clash between the second and third seeds, Kiki Bertens (2) outlasted Anett Kontaveit (3) in three sets and almost two hours to take out the Gstaad title, one she lost to Viktorija Golubic in the 2016 final.

After two tight sets Bertens, despite a poor first serve percentage of 42%, won all of her points on the first delivery.  Kontaveit could only manage to win 4 points out of 11 of her first serves.
6-1 came easily to Kiki who won her second tournament for 2017, both on clay.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Tennis all over Europe

Yes the great weeks of Wimbledon are over and the champions have been celebrated, but the tours don't stop and the past week has seen five tournaments played.
ATP events have progressed in Newport, Umag and Bastad.
WTA events decided in Bucharest and Gstaad.

In Newport Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden has reached the semi finals, a second round win over sixth seed Lukas Lacko impressive.  He will meet unseeded German Peter Gojowczyk who knocked out second seed Ivo Karlovic in the quarter finals.

Other quarter finals are:

John Isner (1) v Dennis Novikov
Pierre-Hugues Herbert v Bjorn Fratangelo 

Quarter finals in Umag are:

David Goffin (1) v Ivan Dodig
Fabio Fognini (3) v Andrey Rublev
Jiri Vesely (8) v Paolo Lorenzi (4)
Alessandro Giannessi v Rogerio Dutra Silva

Dutra Silva upset top seed Gael Monfils in the second round after Monfils had a first round bye.

In Bastad, the Pablos have been defeated early.  Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta was ousted after an opening bye, retiring in the third set against Andrey Kuznetsov.
Third seed Pablo Cuevas also lost after an opening bye, his conqueror Henri Laaksonen.

Quarter finals:

Andrey Kuznetsov v Diego Schwartzman (7)
Karen Khachanov (5) v Alexandr Dolgopolov
David Ferrer (8) v Henri Laaksonen
Fernando Verdasco (6) v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (2)

Most of the seeds have survived to the quarter finals in Bucharest:

Anastasija Sevastova (1) v Ana Bogdan
Julia Goerges (3) v Alexandra Dulgheru
Irina-Camelia Begu (7) v Pauline Parmentier
Tatjana Maria (8) v Carla Suarez Navarro (2)

Top seed Caroline Garcia was toppled by Tereza Martincova, ranked 140, in the second round of the Gstaad tournament.
Garcia was one of four seeds not to reach the quarters.

Second seed Kiki Bertens has made the semi final where she will play 97th ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Remaining quarter finals:

Tereza Martincova v Antonia Lottner
Anett Kontaveit (3) v Carina Witthoeft (6)

As can be seen, all of the top ten players in the world and most of the top twenty have taken a break after Wimbledon but soon thoughts will turn to the American hard court season and back to the courts the very best will return.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Federer Record 8th Wimbledon Crown

Roger Federer made more history by winning his eighth Wimbledon title (the most by a male) and his nineteenth overall Grand Slam title (4 more than Rafa).
Sadly it was not in the greatest of circumstances because there was practically no opponent.  

Marin Cilic wasn't there, at least he was present in body, but the player whose talents and determination had brought him to win six matches at this tournament was nowhere to be found.  2017 saw the most one sided final since David Nalbandian said congratulations to Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 (coincidentally the year before Roger began his hobby of collecting GS trophies)

A mere ghost of Marin turned up to only give a yelp.  Roger of course happily thrashed the pants off the shell of Cilic, never looking in trouble. (faced one break point the entire match and that was saved consummately)
The first break came in game five and Cilic couldn't save the set. Serving at 3-5 and 30-0 to try and make Federer serve it out, Cilic threw in 3 forehand errors and a  double fault to finish the set 6-3 in Roger's favour.

Marin lost his serve straight away in set 2, giving Federer a 2-0 lead.  The backhand was breaking down now so nothing could help the Croatian out.
After Federer held for 3-0 Marin called for a medical time out although no obvious physical issues appeared to be hampering him.
Indeed he wasn't treated physically - he was just a mental wreck and needed some words of comfort and advice to stop the meltdown.

Back on court he held serve to the plaudits of the crowd.  That was however the final hurrah for Croatia for set two.  Despite holding two game points in his next service game Cilic managed to serve his way into bother and was broken, the game and effectively the set gone.
6-3 6-1 for Roger and the job was almost done - a quick Swiss assassination with a big payout.

Set three padded its way along to the 7th game where four errors from Cilic, two from each wing, were sufficient to donate the final break of the match to Federer, from which he nonchalantly completed victory in just an hour and 40 minutes 6-3 6-1 6-4.

Federer, to his credit, can only defeat what is thrown up against him, and he was fortunate this time that his main rivals were hamstrung with injury, or in Rafa's case simply outgunned earlier.
Roger played a brilliant tournament, and he would have been difficult for anyone to hurdle at any point, as Marin Cilic found to his utter disappointment in the final.

The rankings show Roger swapping spots with Stan Wawrinka, Roger now at 3 and Stan at 5.  Grigor Dimitrov slides back into the top ten at 10.  Murray's lead over Nadal has been sliced to less than 300 and Federer is closing close with no points to defend for the remainder of 2017. 

To illustrate just how Federer and Nadal have dominated in their respective comebacks, the year to date points leaders are:

Nadal            7095
Federer        6545
Thiem           3345
Wawrinka      3150
Cilic               2905

The following are some of the players who have achieved new career high rankings:

Pablo Carreno Busta - up 1 to 16 (prev high 17)
Gilles Muller - up 4 to 22 (prev high 26)
Mischa Zverev - up 2 to 28 (prev high 29)

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Muguruza Wimbledon Champ - and how !

Garbine Muguruza has joined an illustrious group of current players with two Grand Slam titles after her outstanding performance in the 2017 Ladies Wimbledon Final.

Not favoured by the majority of supposed experts, who were probably a little blinded by the emotion of a possible Venus win, Garbine should have been given more of a chance considering her preparation and match form pre final.

35 Grand Slam trophies are owned by the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova.
Then next of those still active are those with two apiece: Sveta Kuznetsova, Vika Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Angie Kerber.  Garbine can be added to these four now.

The beginning of the big match was an ace from Venus and a strong service hold from the five time champ.  Garbine's first point on her serve was a double fault but she held her nerve and serve, not dropping another point, two backhand volley winners sealing the game.

It took a couple of games but soon both players were into their stride and generally serves were being held with relative ease, the Venus forehand reliable and Muguruza confident in her attack.

Each saved a break point in games six and seven but the most significant moment in the final was the tenth game of set one where Venus held two set points following 2 forehand errors off the Spanish racquet. 
Garbine not only stood firm in this crisis, but she turned the match on its head from the minute the serve was held, significantly with an attack on the American forehand.

Three forehand mistakes and a double fault were too many gifts for Garbine not to take in the eleventh game and the 14th seed broke for 6-5 and held for a set lead.

Three games in succession became nine in a destruction so decisive and ruthless but beautiful to watch in itself.  Sad to see Venus brought to her knees by this wonderful display of relentless Serena-like tennis from the 23 year old, but there was no disgrace. The older sister had played a magnificent Wimbledon in her own right and losing 7-5 6-0 was just a reflection of the winners stunning exhibition.

14 winners and just 11 unforced errors is amazing from Garbine, when you think of how attacking her game is - Venus hit a few more errors but was more generous with her mistakes and that was pronounced in set two.

Obviously disappointed with the loss, Venus was all class at the interviews post match, genuinely delighted for Garbine's success and hopeful for her own future. (37 years young !)
Garbine, if she can remain fit, is truly the player for advertising the woman's tour.   Attractive and attacking tennis is what Serena Williams offers and Garbine attempts that type of game.  It's exciting, and not many others on the tour are capable of exhibiting it, certainly not at this level.

If Wimbledon 2017 has shown us many things, one is that women's tennis is alive and unpredictable - Karolina Pliskova is the new world number one despite again failing to make it past the second round.  Simona Halep is marginally behind her, while Vika Azarenka and Petra Kvitova are back and seriously challenging for their rightful positions amongst the top few.

Johanna Konta has moved up three spots to a career high of 4,  Garbine Muguruza has jumped ten places to number 5 and Venus Williams is improved by two back in the top ten at number 9.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Cilic to play scary Federer in final

The 2017 Wimbledon Men's Final will be a contest between Roger Federer and Marin Cilic as predicted before the semis, but the efforts of Tomas Berdych and Sam Querrey are to be commended.  Clearly the competitiveness of these semi finals gave us something that the ladies didn't. (not blaming Venus and Garbine for being too good)

First up were Cilic and Querrey, and the American was firing fastest first.
It didn't matter to Cilic who by serving first was always placing pressure on Querrey to play catch up.  
Not enough pressure to create a break point which never looked likely on either mans serve and a tie break resulted.

Cilic settled quickly, taking a 4-1 points lead but then lost the edge and 6-6 arrived.  Two unforced backhand mistakes from the Croatian saw the opening set slip from his grasp and Querrey was a set to the good.

Set two began with the American serving first and the advantage stayed with him until the seventh game where Cilic opened with a forehand winner and closed with a backhand winner, those enough with errors from the American racquet to cause a break of serve.

Cilic consolidated the break and won the set 6-4 and also the third in a tie break, putting Querrey under the pump, especially with Sam serving second.

When Sam broke in the third game, hopes had been regenerated amongst his fans, only to be reduced a little in the eighth game.  From 0-30 Cilic hit three clean winners to set up a break point which he duly converted for 4-4 and control once more.

At 5-6 Querrey began with a double fault and two unforced errors brought up two match points for Cilic.  A forehand winner on the second of these gave Cilic entrance to his first Wimbledon final 6-7 (6) 6-4 7-6 (3) 7-5.

His next challenge will be slightly more problematic.  Roger Federer is in his eleventh Wimbledon final, chasing his record eighth title, having ousted Tomas Berdych in a worthwhile semi final, yet frustrating if a Berdych fan.

For two fascinating sets the Czech player held serve, albeit through somewhat more difficulties than his Swiss counterpart, and two tie breaks ensued.

Federer is renowned for his abilities in tie breaks - let's be honest his abilities period - and poor Tomas was the latest victim, losing both of these and facing the improbable task of winning the final three sets to beat the maestro.
Coming back from two sets down in any match was something not achieved by Berdych since 2005, so history wasn't on his side.

Indeed Federer tightened the screws once Berdych failed to take advantage of two break points in the sixth game of the third set.  Federer served four brilliant points, two of them aces, to squash any chance.  
Next he broke the Czech serve after setting up break point with a forehand volley winner.

Holding serve to the finish line, Federer stepped into the final, with no Djokovic, Nadal or Murray in sight, but careful not to take Cilic lightly.  He did lose to Marin in the 2014 US Open semi final when everyone had already carved the Swiss name in the trophy.

Berdych can be pleased with his determined performance, knowing that Federer is currently playing tennis at a level similar to 2008-9 which is rather scary.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Garbine and Venus to contest final

The ladies semi finals at Wimbledon 2017 were both straight sets affairs, with Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza becoming the finalists as a result.

Venus destroyed local hopes by continuing her dominant tennis displayed throughout the tournament.  Winning a close first set against Johanna Konta was sufficient to give energy to charge into the second and Konta was virtually an onlooker for most of the remainder of the match.

Despite hitting 14 winners and only making 6 unforced errors in set one, Konta was punished on her second serve, losing eight of twelve points.
Serving at 4-5 the Brit generously donated four errors to Williams, handing the set to the American.

Set two was less of a contest - Venus faced no break points, hit 11 winners, made just 4 unforced errors and won 16 points out of 20 on serve.
Konta won just 17 of 34 on her serve.
Breaks came in the fourth and eighth (final) games and Williams won 6-4 6-2.

In the most brutal thrashing of the tournament to this point, Garbine Muguruza ended the amazing run of Magdalena Rybarikova.
Raising the standard of her game even higher, the Spanish number 14 seed dropped just a single game in each set as she clinically disposed of the Slovakian in a little over an hour.

22 winners to the Spanish star and only 11 mistakes of her own, five break conversions of the twelve opportunities created, and just over half of the points won by Garbine were off the Rybarikova serve.

If Venus was super impressive in her route to the final, then Garbine was possibly more so.

A final to come of which to savour.

Mens semis next and hopefully I can predict as perfectly as I did for the ladies.

Federer should be too adept for Berdych and Cilic enough equipped to account for Querrey (although I'm wanting the American to win and continue  a great story)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Federer cruising to his 8th

Roger Federer has been given a free fide through to another Wimbledon title (his eighth) thanks to unfortunate exits by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in quarter final matches.
True Roger played a terrific match himself to defeat Milos Raonic, avenging last year's semi final loss, but Djokovic retiring against Berdych means avoiding that tough mountain to climb and Querrey's epic win over an obviously sub par Murray leaves Federer as the overwhelming favourite to take more silverware.

Querrey is the real story, irrespective of Andy's troubles.  To hang in there through three sets and then just take full advantage of the top seeds worsening condition took a great deal of focus and great tennis.  His serving was fantastic and ground strokes some of his best for the tournament.

Sad to see Murray struggle so much but also good to watch him stay to the end and allow the American win on his merits 3-6 6-4 6-7 (4) 6-1 6-1.
Querrey hit 70 winners against just 30 unforced errors, and even Murray was on the plus side with 33 winners and 19 unforced errors.

Whilst Federer was a standout with his 6-4 6-2 7-6 (4) thrashing of Raonic - 46 winners and just 9 unforced mistakes - Marin Cilic is still in contention and could be a danger to Federer if things go right for the 2014 US Open champ.
He did beat Roger in the semis on the way to winning at Flushing Meadows that year.

Cilic ended the Wimbledon hopes of Gilles Muller in the best of the quarter finals, winning a tight five setter 3-6 7-6 (6) 7-5 5-7 6-1.  The Nadal match finally must have worn Muller down as Cilic dominated the final set.
The Croatian is warm favourite to edge past Querrey and make his first Wimbledon final.  Either way there will be one debut finalist and the American is confident enough to say it will be him.

Hard to see Berdych beating Federer, although he did win a quarter final against Roger back in 2010, and funny things can happen, but rarely.

Women's semis next and my selections are Venus Williams to upset Johanna Konta and all of Britain, and Garbine Muguruza to end the fairytale run of Magdalena Rybarikova.