Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Federer takes 9th Halle crown

In the week before Wimbledon, some of the players are practicing through tournament play, while others are choosing just practice.
Meanwhile others outside the main draw are already on the courts in qualifying, hoping to survive that tournament within a tournament.

Last week, Petra Kvitova stamped her return with a title win at Birmingham, although Aah Barty gave her a scare, winning the first set.  Unfortunately Petra suffered an abdominal strain which forced her withdrawal from this week's Eastbourne event but hopefully it will be ok for Wimbledon.

Kvitova moves up four spots to 12 in the rankings while Barty sails up 23 places to a career high of 54.  I said top 50 was coming soon for the talented Aussie.

Also in England, at Queens Club, unseeded Feliciano Lopez in his second successive final, went one better than Stuttgart, taking out the final against fourth seed Marin Cilic.
Lopez moves up seven places to 25 in the world.

The Halle final was a lesson for young gun Alexander Zverev as Roger Federer sounded a warning for those thinking of Wimbledon success.
Federer won his ninth Halle crown, losing just four games to the talented German.

In Mallorca it was success for Anastasija Sevastova, her first grass court title coming in three sets over Julia Goerges.
Sevastova remains at 19 in the rankings but Goerges bounces back into the top 50, up nine spots to 45.

This week there are WTA and ATP events at Eastbourne, and an ATP tournament in Antalya, Turkey.

So far, we have seen the fourth straight first round exit for Dominika Cibulkova, this time at the hands of Heather Watson.  Cibulkova was defending champion at Eastbourne so the defeat was extra hard to take. 
For a top ten player 2017 has been ordinary for Dominika, with only a 50% winning record.

The only other seed to fall so far in Eastbourne, male or female, has been Daria Gavrilova (16) to Lara Arruabarrena after winning the opening set.

Already in Antalya Borna Coric (7) and Viktor Troicki (6) have lost opening matches to Adrian Mannarino and Carlos Berlocq respectively.
The top four seeds have been given first round byes.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Federer v Zverev - Halle final

After dropping her opening set  against a threatening sixth seed Garbine Muguruza, unseeded Australian Ash Barty unleashed her several grass court weapons to deny the Spaniard's attempt to reach the Birmingham final.

The variety of Barty's game has earned her a place alongside seventh seed Petra Kvitova who was carving up her opponent mercilessly, winning the first five games against Lucie Safarova, before taking the first set 6-1.
Safarova retired after losing her first serve in set two, not wanting to worsen a leg injury before Wimbledon.

The contest will be a huge test for Barty, but she has done much this year and her Muguruza victory is her first over a top twenty player.
Kvitova meanwhile is improving her odds for Wimbledon each day.

The Mallorca final will be fought out between second seed Anastasija Sevastova and unseeded Julia Goerges.  Sevastova was too strong for Caroline Garcia and Goerges continued her consistent serving to dismiss Catherine Bellis for the loss of only two games.  Bellis had a fine tournament but could win only 12 points from her 38 serves in the semi.

The old and new are set to battle in Halle, the final featuring Roger Federer for the 11th time and home countryman, fourth seed Alexander Zverev.  Federer had more trouble than expected with Karen Khackanov, but still won in straight sets 6-4 7-6.
Zverev struggled further, dropping the opener to Richard Gasquet before settling and running out the match with 32 points from 35 first serves.

The Queens Club final should be a thriller.  
Feliciano Lopez was a finalist last week in Stuttgart and has made a second successive final, this one in London, unseeded and knocking out Wawrinka, Berdych and in the semi final Dimitrov on the way.

The next task for Lopez is to beat 4th seed Marin Cilic who dropped his first set in the tournament en route to defeating Gilles Muller in their semi final.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Safarova outlasts Gavrilova

Some excellent quarter finals played throughout Europe - others a little disappointing.
The highlight, no doubt was the Birmingham three hour battle between Lucie Safarova and Daria Gavrilova.

Safarova saved match points against Cibulkova just to survive the first round and again was under pressure from Gavrilova, down a set and match points in a third set decider.

In a blinder of a match Gavrilova grabbed the opening set in a tie breaker, only to be taken apart early in set two, broken twice.  Gavrilova managed to gather one of the breaks back but Safarova broke again and fully deserved to win the set and level the match.

The decider went with serve until the sixth game where Gavrilova broke, and held the advantage until 5-3.  On the Safarova serve two match points were saved and eventually the game was saved for the Czech player.

Serving for the match Gavrilova wasted another match point and was further exasperated when Safarova broke back for 5-5.
A tie break was appropriately the decider and Gavrilova was in control and had two serves at 5 points to 4 to win the match.  Safarova had other ideas and won both of the points off the Aussie serve, then the first point on hers to take the match and earn a semi final appointment with her Czech compatriot Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova played exemplary tennis to oust fifth seed Kiki Mladenovic.  Only back from injury a short time, the grass is looking wonderful for the seventh seed and remarkably Petra is a big chance of not just winning Birmingham, but snatching a third Wimbledon title.

The other semi will feature sixth seed Garbine Muguruza against unseeded Ash Barty.
Both won their quarter finals following retirements through injury from their opponents.
Muguruza had just levelled her match with Coco Vandeweghe 4-6 6-4, but during the second set Coco fell, hurting her ankle, and she couldn't continue in the decider.

Muguruza was impressive nonetheless, 22 winners against 11 unforced errors.

Barty was dominant in the first seven games of her match with Camilla Giorgi, but the Italian was forced to withdraw due to injury at 2-5.

In Halle top seed Federer will play unseeded Karen Khackanov in one semi, while the home country will be represented in the other semi by fourth seed Alexander Zverev.  Zverev's opponent will be Richard Gasquet.

Queens Club semis:

Gilles Muller v Marin Cilic (4)
Grigor Dimitrov (6) v Feliciano Lopez 

Lopez has included Wawrinka and Berdych in his victories to reach the semis. 

Mallorca semis:

Julia Goerges v Catherine Bellis
Caroline Garcia (3) v Anastasija Sevastova (2)

First semi final for teenager Bellis in a WTA tournament.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Barty comeback on track

Quarter finals have been reached in the latest tournaments on the ATP and WTA tours.

Queens Club has lost Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and is left with just three seeds in the final eight.  Of those remaining neither of the Australians is included.  After outstanding wins over Murray and Raonic, Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis were both unable to repeat their efforts, losing to Sam Querrey and Daniil Medvedev respectively.

Querrey will meet Gilles Muller in one quarter final. 
The others are:
Marin Cilic (4) v Donald Young
Grigor Dimitrov (6) v Daniil Medvedev 
Tomas Berdych (7) v Feliciano Lopez

Halle has been a gold mine for Roger Federer over the years, winning the tournament eight times from ten final appearances.
He has made the quarter finals this year, putting his Stuttgart disappointment behind him, and will play dangerous German Florian Mayer with a German crowd sympathetic to Federer but supporting their home country player.

The other matches in the last eight are:
Karen Khachanov v Andrey Rublev 
Roberto Bautista Agut (7) v Alexander Zverev (4)
Richard Gasquet v Robin Haase

Surprise exits were made by Dominic Thiem (2), Albert Ramos-Vinolas (5) and Lucas Pouille (6).  Kei Nishikori (3) was unlucky to lose through injury and Gael Monfils (4) was beaten by countryman Gasquet, always a tough contest.

In Birmingham, injured top seed Angie Kerber pulled out before the event began and the next three seeds lost either in the opening or second round.
Elina Svitolina (2) bowed out to unseeded Italian Camilla Giorgi in a three set second round struggle, Dominika Cibulkova (3) had already disappeared in her first match against Lucie Safarova, and British hope Johanna Konta (4) was comprehensively thrashed by American Coco Vandeweghe in round two.

Quarter finals as a result will see:
Lucie Safarova v Daria Gavrilova (9)
Kristina Mladenovic (5) v Petra Kvitova (7)
Garbine Muguruza (6) v Coco Vandeweghe 
Ashleigh Barty v Camila Giorgi 

Barty dismissed eighth seed Barbora Strycova in three sets and is playing some fine tennis on all surfaces in her comeback to tennis.  Her ranking should be top fifty before too long with this progression.

Vika Azarenka's return to tennis lasted just the two matches in Mallorca after teenage Croatian Ana Konjuh continued her good grass court form, winning in straight sets.
This created a quarter final match up with second seed Anastasija Sevastova after the Latvian prevailed over Varvara Lepchenko in a three set contest.

Other matches in the final eight:
Julia Goerges v Sabine Lisicki (all German encounter)
Catherine Bellis v Kristyna Pliskova 
Roberta Vinci v the winner of Jana Cepelova v Caroline Garcia (3)

Cepelova and Garcia were at a set apiece and 2-2 in the decider when play was stopped due to bad light.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Top 3 seeds out of Queens R1

Following last week's grass court tournaments in the Netherlands, Germany and London, further events this week are being held in Halle, Queens Club, Mallorca and Birmingham.

Winners last week were Gilles Muller who beat Ivo Karlovic in two tie break sets in s-Hertogenbosch.  Also in s-Hertogenbosch, Anett Kontaveit secured her first WTA title, winning in straight sets over Natalia Vikhlyantseva.

In Nottingham, Johanna Konta was upset by unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic, after winning the first set.  It was the first grass court title for the 20 year old and only her second title overall, her first coming in Malaysia in 2014.

Stuttgart was the scene for fourth seed Lucas Pouille to pull off victory in the final against Feliciano Lopez after dropping the opening set.

Upsets have been the order in Queens Club, London where the top three seeds have exited in the first round.
Aussies Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis have taken care of top seed Andy Murray and third seed Milos Raonic respectively, while Feliciano Lopez has continued his fine form by knocking of second seed Stan Wawrinka.
All these were in straight sets.

Different story in Halle, with Federer, Thiem, Nishikori and Zverev all safely through to the second round.

Birmingham has seen Dominika Cibulkova's run of bad form continue, the third seed losing another first round encounter, this time to a dangerous opponent Lucie Safarova.
Other first round losers of note were last week's Nottingham champ Donna Vekic and Ricoh Open finalist Natalia Vikhlyantseva.
Good to see Petra Kvitova playing and winning.
Big names such as Svitolina and Muguruza are first round winners.

In Mallorca a great sign was the return of Vika Azarenka to competitive tennis following the birth of her baby.
Currently Vika is a set all against Japan's Risa Ozaki but will be in better shape come Wimbledon.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Konta finding grass form

Finals have been decided in all the lead up tournaments to Wimbledon and the some of the grass court specialists have prevailed.

In the Netherlands, s-Hertogenbosch has hosted the Ricoh Open for the men and women.  The top four seeds in the ATP event were the semi finalists, but the truth of the draw fell over when top seed Marin Cilic lost to fellow Croatian and third seed Ivo Karlovic, two tie breaks the clincher. 

Second seed Alexander Zverev also lost to the lesser ranked Luxemburger Gilles Muller in straight sets.

The women's final will be an unseeded affair with Russia's 20 year old Natalia Vikhlyantseva killing off 19 year old fifth seed Ana Konjuh's chances 6-3 7-5.
The future is looking good with these two young players results in 2017.

Vikhlyantseva will play Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the final after Anett survived a three set two hour struggle against Lesia Tsurenko. A middle set tie break won seven points to zero by Tsurenko sent a scare up Kontaveit but she steadied to win the decider 6-2.

Stuttgart's final will be contested between unseeded Feliciano Lopez, who ousted another Zverev - Mischa - in three tight sets 6-7 7-6 7-5, and fourth seed Lucas Pouille, who won against compatriot Benoit Paire in straight sets.

Johanna Konta is running into form and a final in Nottingham is promising for her Wimbledon hopes.  Her semi final victory came against Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2 7-5.
Croatia's Donna Vekic took almost three hours to upset fifth seed Lucie Safarova 7-6 3-6 7-6 and the 20 year old will test the top seed in the final. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Haas upsets Federer in Stuttgart

In the lead up to Wimbledon a number of grass court tournaments are in progress.
s-Hertogenbosch is hosting both WTA and ATP events, while Stuttgart is holding an ATP event and Nottingham a WTA draw.

So far the biggest news is the loss by Roger Federer in Stuttgart.
After a first round bye, the top seed fell in three sets to an even older player Tommy Haas from Germany.
Haas, aged 39 and ranked 302, lost the first set easily 2-6 and the crowd was set for a disappointing result for their man.

Set two was even with both players converting a break, leading to a tie break which Haas won eight points to six.

Federer had seven break chances in the decider but Haas saved each of them.
The one break point given to Haas was converted and the veteran knocked the legend out 2-6 7-6 6-4, delighting the German crowd.

The draw now opens up for third seed Tomas Berdych and sixth seed Mischa Zverev, both players in the third round and in the Federer quarter of the draw.

In Nottingham only three seeds survived the first round.  One of these was top seed Johanna Konta who has won through to the third round where she will play Australian Ash Barty.

s-Hertogenbosch saw 161th ranked German 20 year old qualifier Antonia Lottner upset top seed Dominika Cibulkova in three sets in the first round.
As in Nottingham only three seeds progressed beyond the opening round - Ana Konjuh (5), Lesia Tsurenko (7) and Kristina Mladenovic (2)