Sunday, 22 April 2018

Nadal and Nishikori finalists in Monte Carlo

Semi final day in the Monte Carlo Masters provided Rafa Nadal (1) with his 34th successive set win on clay, a record achieved on his way to a 12th final in Monaco (10 wins 1 loss so far)

His latest victim is Grigor Dimitrov (4) who traded breaks with the top seed in the opening set to sit at 4-4.  Rafa was tiring of his time being wasted, and decided to take advantage of his excellent returning of the Bulgarian second serve, to break for a second time.  Of course two double faults from Grigor were a terrific help.

No aces but just a single double fault, and Nadal served it out .6-4.


The second set saw Dimitrov bowing to the clay king, as his second serve continued to be plundered.  Nadal only needed to create two break points, using both to seize a win 6-4 6-1.

26 points to 11 was the second set damage caused to Grigor.


It looked as though Sascha Zverev (3) would be the final gate for Nadal to open and enter to claim an eleventh title here, after reaching a first lead over Kei Nishikori 6-3.  It took a fair deal of time and effort, and thanks a fair deal to his serving, which was winning him points but relying too much on his second delivery.

Ultimately, the quality of Zverev’s powerful all court game was the key factor splitting the two.


Set two, and the serving woes of the German continued and his second serve could not save him.  Nishikori cleverly placed his shots and claimed 14 of the 20 points offered when Zverev was required to enter into play a secondary ball.

Whilst the Japanese number one dropped his serve once off the solitary chance Zverev had, Nishikori broke Sascha three times and levelled the match at a set all.


Zverev achieved a much better first serve percentage in the final set, yet Nishikori was still winning eight of eleven points from the second serve.  On his own second serve, Nishikori was winning 75% of the points.

At 4-5, Zverev was ahead in the game and ready to level at 5-5, but then came a series of rallies where Nishikori gave another demonstration of his tennis smarts.  He played Zverev all around the court to bring it deuce.  Next, two drop shots brought Zverev running towards the net in a futile attempt to win the points.  Zverev made ground to both but was then out of position, losing out and leaving Nishikori with a break of serve and the match win.


Rafa Nadal (1) v Kei Nishikori is the final

Rafa leads 9-2 in head to head battles, but those two wins for Nishikori have come in the past 4 meetings, including the last time the pair met.  It was on a hard court in the 2016 Rio Olympics.  This will be tougher, with Rafa on his favourite surface.

Fed Cup - USA and France 1-1

Fed Cup semi finals have kicked off with Day One singles:


Germany v Czech Republic (3)

With four of the best players in the world on display, this was promising to be a top class day of tennis - however, one team was clearly here to claim early domination, and the Porsche Arena crowd was far from pleased with the results


Petra Kvitova defeated Julia Goerges 6-3 6-2

Czech Republic 1-0


Kvitova hit 15 winners, evenly spread over the court, and only committed 11 unforced errors in a tidy display, breaking the German serve four times from five opportunities.

Goerges had an unforced error count of 23, making Kvitova’s task a whole lot easier.


Karolina Pliskova defeated Angie Kerber 7-5 6-3

Czech Republic 2-0


The match stats show a close run race in terms of winners - 17 for Pliskova (15 from her magic forehand) and 15 for Kerber.

Unforced errors flowed from the attacking approach of the Czech player, her 28 double that coming from the racquet of Kerber.

It was the forced errors (a figure hardly ever raised in basic analysis) that tipped the scales In Pliskova’s favour.  Her power gave Kerber plenty of trouble, and on 24 occasions her reply failed to find the correct part of the court.

Pliskova was forced into mistake just a dozen times.  Her 15 aces didn’t hurt either.


France (4) v USA (2)

The odds were in favour of the away team winning at least one of the two singles matches on Day One, with two top twenty players named for battle.  France had one, but because of Garcia’s refusal to commit to her nation, it had to call on a player ranked far lower than the other three on court for the openers.


Sloane Stephens defeated Pauline Parmentier 7-6(3) 7-5

USA 1-0


This was expected to be a rather straightforward victory for the top ten Grand Slam title holder Stephens against 122th ranked Parmentier.  Pauline had been ranked as high as 40, but that was a decade ago.

Still the Frenchwoman pushed Stephens hard, and the two set win was not the walk in the park that the Americans may have assumed would occur.

Indeed the first set should have been won by France before the tie break. Parmentier and Stephens both achieved two service breaks, but Pauline had ten other chances, while Stephens just four in total.

The wasted set didn’t prevent Parmentier from competing just as well in set two, but it was the second serve of Stephens that signalled the difference.  No double faults and 82% of points won on the second delivery.

Sloane only gave up two break points, one which was converted.  This time she created seven of her own, and made the most of two, enough to win the set and the match.


Kiki Mladenovic defeated CoCo Vandeweghe 1-6 6-3 6-2

USA / France 1-1


A speedy start to this match by Vandeweghe, where she handed Mladenovic a lesson in the opening set, was given a sharp red light by the French former top ten star, battling to regain that status.

Kiki’s second and third sets contained much of her best work, and she never allowed Vandeweghe the opportunity to enter the match in a competitive sense.

For the match, CoCo hit 16 winners and Kiki 12, but the 38 unforced errors were devastating for the American, as only 23 flowed from the French racquet. Yes, Vandeweghe had the power to force Mladenovic into 22 other mistakes but it wasn’t enough to prevent the French team from levelling the tie at the end of Day One.

If Kiki can repeat her heroics against Stephens on Day Two, then France has a real chance of upsetting the second seeds, and it may mean the doubles becomes a live match.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Nishikori upsets Cilic in Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo quarter finals are over, with some interesting results - the Rafa Nadal (1) victory over Dominic Thiem (5) was not one of those, although it was touted as the most mouth watering match of the four.

The top seed, who needs to win the tournament, which would be his eleventh title here, to retain his number one world ranking, slaughtered the Austrian 6-0 in the opening set.  Nadal had ten break chances, and converted three, which were placed equally in each of the Thiem service games.


Things looked equally grim for Dominic in set two as Rafa gathered up the first three games.  Thiem finally won a service game, two in succession in fact, but at 4-2 Nadal put the foot down again, holding serve and then breaking Thiem for the fifth time in the clash and booking his place in the semi finals 6-0 6-2.

Facing Nadal in the next match will be Grigor Dimitrov (4), who was  a straight sets winner like Nadal, though David Goffin (6) offered somewhat greater opposition in his 6-4 7-6(5) loss.


The upset of the day was unseeded Kei Nishikori knocking over Marin Cilic. The two are famous for fighting out the 2014 US Open final, and Nishikori has been keen to exact revenge at every opportunity since.

The opening set was his, through a rock solid serving exhibition, and achieving the only service break early in proceedings.  6-4 and well on the way to a semi final.

It was a different Cilic in set two, and with the Croatian serving first the pressure was being exerted on Nishikori to play catch up which he failed to do at 1-2, and Cilic held sway at 3-1.  15-0 and appearing set to capitalise on the service break, Cilic requested immediate medical attention, apparently injuring his leg winning that point.


After resuming, Nishikori won the next six points, in the process breaking back and setting himself up to hold serve and level at 3-3.

Cilic, who looked anything but competitive, progressively began to move better, and thanks to some magic injections and movement of bandages further up his leg, he kept pace with Nishikori through to 4-4.

Nishikori took control once more, breaking for 5-4 and serving at 40-15 had two match points - these evaporated, along with a third, and Cilic broke back, ultimately forcing a tie break.

The second seed raced through this 7-1 and a deciding set was required.


Games went to serve until Nishikori broke Cilic to lead 5-3, and then, serving for the match a second time, completed the deal 6-4 6-7(1) 6-3.

He will now match racquets with Sascha Zverev (3), who came back from a set down to defeat Richard Gasquet 4-6 6-2 7-5.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Nadal to face Thiem in quarter final

The round of sixteen in Monte Carlo produced four three setters of the seven matches played.  Milos Raonic (14) handed Marin Cilic (2) a walkover, and the Croatian now has a quarter final berth as a result.


Dominic Thiem (5) and Novak Djokovic (9) battled manfully in their opening set, and it was Thiem who made the running, breaking early for a 3-0 lead.  He held this advantage, and had set point with Djokovic serving at 3-5 Adv Thiem.  Novak save this, and two more when Dominic served for the set at 5-4 40-15.

Djokovic broke and then, as he did against Coric in the first set of their match, moved inside the baseline to win the eventual tie break 7-2.  Thiem donated his third double fault on the first set point for Djokovic.


Thiem put a stop to any momentum gained from the Djokovic comeback which garnered him the opening set.  The Austrian saved a break point in his first game of set two, then broke the Djokovic serve in both the fifth and seventh games.  The set was over 6-2.

Backhand errors from Djokovic in the deciding set on important points were critical, especially when Thiem was hitting winners with the same shot at the right stages.

The fifth seed broke in the seventh game, and Djokovic at 3-5 failed to hold serve when attempting to remain in contention.


A decisive victory for Thiem 6-7(2) 6-2 6-3, and his second in a row against the Serb champion, following the 2017 Roland Garros quarter final success.


Other round of sixteen match results:

Rafa Nadal (1) defeated Karen Khachanov 6-3 6-2

He will play Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals

Grigor Dimitrov (4) defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6 6-3 6-4

He will play David Goffin in the quarter finals 

David Goffin (6) defeated Roberto Bautista Agut (11) 6-4 7-5

Richard Gasquet defeated Mischa Zverev 6-2 7-5

He will play Sacha Zverev in the quarter finals 

Sascha Zverev (3) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 4-6 6-4

Kei Nishikori defeated qualifier Andreas Seppi 6-0 2-6 6-3

He will play Marin Cilic in the quarter finals 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Coric tests Djokovic in top match

The 11 remaining second round matches in the Monte Carlo Masters were resolved, leaving 16 players to contest the rest of the tournament.

All winners only required two sets, apart from qualifier Andreas Seppi, who ended the hopes of lucky loser in qualifying Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 4-6 6-3 7-5.


Possibly the best of the matches, though, was that between Novak Djokovic (9) and Borna Coric.

Djokovic was had an easy first round win, surrendering just a single game, but Coric offered a significantly greater challenge.

The pair provided a top class display of competitive tennis, clean ball striking throughout, including some delightful backhand exchanges


Djokovic achieved the initial edge, breaking for 3-1 in the opening set on the back of a winning backhand.

Coric answered in the seventh game, converting a chance thanks to a Djokovic errant backhand.

Novak, twice champion here, found himself in trouble at 5-5 and 15-40, but Borna donated a succession of mistakes to allow the Serb an escape and eventually a tie break resulted.

Here, Djokovic took control, moving inside the baseline to create angles which caused Coric all sorts of problems.

Seven points to two and Djokovic had a hard fought lead.


Set two was another struggle for both players with three straight service breaks.  At 3-5 and 15-40, Coric was on the verge of defeat, but he held on, and then broke Djokovic when he served for the match, saving more match points.

Coric saved a total of ten match points, but Djokovic broke in the eleventh game and served out the entertaining match 7-6(2) 7-5

Djokovic will play Dominic Thiem (5) in the round of sixteen 


Other second round results on the fourth day of main draw competition:

Rafa Nadal (1) defeated Aljaz Bedene 6-1 6-3 

He will play Karen Khachanov in the round of sixteen 

Karen Khachanov defeated wildcard Gilles Simon 6-2 6-2

Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (15) 6-4 6-2

He will play Grigor Dimitrov (4) in the round of sixteen 

Roberto Bautista Agut (11) defeated Feliciano López 6-3 7-6(5)

He will play David Goffin (6) in the round of sixteen 

Richard Gasquet defeated Diego Schwartzman (10) 6-2 6-1

He will play Mischa Zverev in the round of sixteen 

Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Fabio Fognini (13) 6-4 6-2

He will play Sascha Zverev (3) in the round of sixteen

Kei Nishikori defeated Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-2

He will play qualifier Andreas Seppi in the round of sixteen 

Milos Raonic (14) defeated qualifier Marco Cecchinato 7-6(5) 6-2

He will play Marin Cilic (2) in the round of sixteen 

Marin Cilic (2) defeated Fernando Verdasco 6-3 7-6(4)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

France lose five in Monte Carlo

The first round of the Monte Carlo Masters has been put to bed, giving some of the top seeds the chance to take court for second round matches after an initial bye.

Five Frenchman were involved in the remaining opening round encounters, and due to the nature of the draw, we had two all French matches.

Wildcard Gilles Simon keeps coming up with surprises, and he did again, knocking out compatriot Adrian Mannarino (16) 6-3 4-6 6-2.

Mannarino will be regretting not using any of the 7 break points he had in set one, while Simon converted the single opportunity that came his way.

Although Mannarino levelled the match, it was Simon, with excellent return of serve, who controlled the deciding third and final set.


Richard Gasquet was the other French representative to delete a fellow countryman from contention.  He defeated qualifier Jeremy Chardy in two close sets 6-4 7-6(5)


The fifth man from France on court for first round action today, Benoit Paire, will return to his Swiss residence straight away, courtesy of Feliciano Lopez.  The Spaniard outlasted Paire 5-7 7-6(5) 6-4.


Finalists from last weeks 2 tournaments, Tennys Sandgren and Kyle Edmund, both lost first round battles, to Philipp Kohlschreiber and qualifier Andreas Seppi respectively.  However, seeds Diego Schwartzman (13) and Fabio Fognini (13) are safely through, even with Schwartzman dropping his first set to Guido Pella 6-0.


Five second round matches were played, all of these featuring seeds:

Sascha Zverev (3) defeated Gilles Muller 4-6 6-3 6-2

Grigor Dimitrov (4) defeated qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 

3-6 6-2 6-4

Dominic Thiem (5) took two hours forty minutes to defeat Andrey Rublev 5-7 7-5 7-5

David Goffin (6) defeated qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4) 7-5

Mischa Zverev joined his brother in the third round by upsetting Lucas Pouille (7) 2-6 6-1 7-6(3).

The losses of Pouille and Herbert completed a bad day for France - two winners and five vanquished (2 at the hands of fellow countrymen)


Tomorrow will see the first appearance of the top two seeds Rafa Nadal (1) and Marin Cilic (2).

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Fed Cup and Monte Carlo Masters

Wins last Sunday for:


Steve Johnson in Houston

Pablo Andújar in Marrakech 

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in Bogotá 

Elise Mertens in Lugano 


This week the ATP Tour is concentrated on the first clay court Masters 1000 tournament for 2018, Monte Carlo.

The top players are assembled in Monaco, less world number two, Roger  Federer, who is skipping the entire clay court season.  

Other top ten players missing are Juan Martin del Potro, Kevin Anderson and John Isner.

The top seven seeds have first round byes, and so does lucky loser from qualifying - Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - who takes the place in the draw vacated by Pablo Carreno Busta, a late withdrawal.


While the men are playing games in the French Riviera, the WTA Tour is having a break, allowing the Fed Cup to take centre stage this weekend.

However, a second tier WTA event is taking place - the Biyuan Cup Zhengzhou Women’s Tennis Open in Zhengzhou, China.


The Monte Carlo Masters has started, with 14 of 24 first round matches completed.  Of those, only five went the three sets, including Kei Nishikori’s victory over Tomas Berdych (12).  A tough draw for Berdych, considering Kei is a former regular in the top ten, as high as four.

Mainly injury has forced Nishikori down the rankings, and having to play seeded opponents so early in tournaments.


Novak Djokovic (9) is, together with Federer and Murray, in a select group of highly decorated players whose careers have been hijacked in recent years by injury.  Novak’s comeback has been far from ideal - certainly not the ultra smooth recovery ride experienced by Roger.

He has begun his Monte Carlo run without any drama, though, ditching qualifier Dusan Lajovic 6-0 6-1.

Life potentially becomes tougher from here for the Serb star - he has Borna Coric in the second round, then likely Dominic Thiem (5) in the round of sixteen. Thiem was 0-5 h2h against Djokovic until he sunk him in the quarters at Roland Garros last year in straight sets. If Novak survives Thiem, he should have Rafa Nadal (1) to face in the quarters.


The Fed Cup has reached the semi final stage and these are the line ups for the weekend:

Germany v Czech Republic (3) indoors on clay at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, Germany 

Nominated players include:

Germany 

Julia Goerges ranked 11

Angie Kerber ranked 12

Tatjana Maria ranked 61

Czech Republic 

Karolina Pliskova ranked 6

Petra Kvitová ranked 10

Barbora Strycova ranked 26


France (4) v USA (2) indoors on clay at the Arena Du Pays D’Aix in Aix-en-Provence, France

Nominated players include:

France 

Kiki Mladenovic ranked 20

Pauline Parmentier ranked 122

Amandine Hasse ranked 204

USA

Sloane Stephens ranked 9

Madison Keys ranked 13

CoCo Vandeweghe ranked 16


It remains disappointing that top ten player Caroline Garcia still won’t put her hand up to play for her country (France).  Instead she only wants to play for her individual glory and France will subsequently struggle in the semis, depending on Mladenovic to carry the huge load as she did against Belgium in the quarters