Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Federer conquers Nadal

The results from last week were interesting to say the least.

Shanghai saw the Nadal train derailed when Roger Federer won another final against the top seed - the third this year. (He also won a fourth match against Rafa in the round of sixteen in Indian Wells).

The straight sets victory was a surprise to most and gave Federer his second Shanghai trophy.

I have to feel sorry for both finalists in Hong Kong. The weather was horrible and delayed the start of the match for about five hours for Dasha Gavrilova (7) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6).

Further delays meant that the match, which lasted over three hours anyway, finished well past midnight.

Gavrilova fought hard to win the first set, after being down a break, but it was Pavlyuchenkova who controlled the rest of the match. The deciding set was 2-2 with no break, but the next eight games were all service breaks, Pavlyuchenkova failing to serve out the match on two occasions.

In the tie break Gavrilova led 3-1, but the Russian reeled off six straight points to take the set and the title.

Maria Sharapova was granted a wildcard in Tianjin, and would normally have faced top seed Caroline Garcia in the first round. However, the French player’s late withdrawal meant that Maria would play ninth seed Irina-Camelia Begu.  

Sharapova won this battle and all others until the semi final, where she knocked over third seed Shuai Peng.

49 games to 22 was the domination into the final where Sharapova found things more difficult against unseeded Aryna Sabalenka, but still won 7-5. 7-6 (8).

First title since returning to the tour.

Barbora Strycova (2) triumphed in Linz, defeating top seed Magdalena Rybarikova in two decisive sets.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Fedal final in Shanghai

Finals are decided in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.amd while one is as expected the other is a relative surprise considering the initial field.

The Shanghai crowd will be thrilled to have tickets to a Federer Nadal match up. It wasn’t looking like happening early though, as Juan Martin del Potro battled through an injury to take the first set in his semi final against the Swiss number two seed.

However, Federer was not going to surrender another clash to the Argentine 16th seed, remembering how the 2017 US Open quarter final loss scarred him 

Bouncing back with a brilliant serving exhibition, Roger lost just a single point on his own first serve in set two, and broke the first del Potro serve, enough to take the set 6-3 and level proceedings.

Set three was similar, with no break points on the Swiss serve and just a point taken off his first serve again. Tha Argentine was broken twice and Federer joined Rafa in the final 3-6 6-3 6-3.

In Hong Kong six of the eight seeds were dumped before the quarter finals, either through poor tennis or retirements because of injury pre match.

The remaining seeds, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6) and Dasha Gavrilova (7) managed to navigate their way through the mess and book places in the final.

Pavlyuchenkova dispensed with Qiang Wang in straight sets and Gavrilova treated Jennifer Brady in the same way in respective semi finals.

In the only match between the two finalists so far, Gavrilova was the victor.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Another Nadal Federer showdown ?

The ATP tour has moved to Shanghai where the tournament has been headlined by 7 of the worlds top ten ranked players.

Having reached the quarter final stage, we have lost third seed Alexander Zverev in a wonderful battle with Juan Martin del Potro (16). Each player was broken only once in the match which was over in less than two hours but enabled a scoreline of 3-6 7-6(5) 6-4.

The top two seeds, Nadal and Federer, have been untroubled in reaching the final eight, neither dropping a set in their respective two matches.

Nadal has lost just seven games.and his serve is yet to be broken this tournament. A seventh title for 2017 is highly likely at this rate.

Grigor Dimitrov [6] will be Rafa’s final 8 opponent while other quarter finals are:

Marin Cilic (4) v Albert Ramos-Vinolas - expected quarter finalist Thiem (5) was ousted in the second round by Viktor Troicki.

Viktor Troicki v Juan Martin del Potro [16] - Troicki also removed John Isner (12) in round three.

Richard Gasquet v Roger Federer (2) - Federer would have been surprised not to see form player David Goffin (8) as his opponent but the Belgian lost his second round match to Gilles Simon. Gilles in turn lost to Gasquet in a lengthy three setter.

The women are in Hong Kong during the WTA Asian leg of 2017 and the quarter finals make for unusual reading.

Apart from losing Venus William (2) and Aga Radwanska (4) in the second round, to Naomi Osaka and Samantha Stosur respectively, Elena Vesnina (5) exited in round one courtesy of Luksika Kumkhum, ranked 130 from Thailand.

Shuai Zhang (8) also lost before the last eight and we had the unfortunate walkovers given by Elina Svitolina (1) and Caroline Wozniacki (3) before they even hit a second round ball.

Svitolina carried a groin injury into Hong Kong, suffered in the final loss to Garcia in Beijing, and Wozniacki cited an elbow complaint.

Two seeds are left in the quarter finals:

Nicole Gibbs v Jennifer Brady - all US clash

Lizette Cabrera v Dasha Gavrilova (7) - all Aussie battle

Qiang Wang v Samantha Stosur

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6) v Naomi Osaka

Monday, 9 October 2017

Garcia grabs another title

Simona Halep (2) won her Beijing semi final easily against Jelena Ostapenko (8), and in doing so achieved her long awaited goal of world number one ranking.

The final was a match between Halep and the previous weeks Wuhan winner Caroline Garcia. The French player, unseeded again, had ousted 12th seeded Petra Kvitova in the semi final, following an epic quarter final victory over third seed Elina Svitolina.

In a close encounter, the final featured an attacking Garcia edging Halep with more winners and a presence on court which was just enough to give her the title.

The 6-4 7-6 (3) scoreline indicates the tightness of the contest. After swapping service breaks, the first set was on serve until Garcia broke in the final game and the second set tie break speaks for itself

Interestingly, Garcia didn’t face a break point entering the tie break, whereas Halep had to save nine, possibly indicating the Romanian’s slight vulnerability in this final.

Garcia jumps six places into the top ten to a career high ranking of 9 and Ostapenko climbs one spot to 7, also a career high.

The mens Beijing final featured old and new after semi finals in which Rafa Nadal (1) defeated Grigor Dimitrov (3) in a testing three setter, and Nick Kyrgios (8) dispatched Alexander Zverev (2) in a most impressive straight sets display.

The final, however, was one way traffic, all heading to Spain. Kyrgios had no answer to Nadal whose 2017 is increasing in titles.

Nick won only 48% of points on his serve and Rafa did not drop serve the entire match in which he surrendered a mere three games.

The Tokyo final was won by David Goffin (4) whose end to 2017 has been stellar.

He defeated unseeded Adrian Mannarino.

Mannarino had defeated top seed Marin Cilic with a semi final third set whitewash 6-0 and Goffin won his semi against Diego Schwartzman (8) in two tie breaks.

Goffin replaces Pablo Carreno Busta at number 10 in the world rankings, a career high previously achieved in February this year.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Halep closing in on No. 1

In Beijing Garbine Muguruza opened up the chances of three other players to take over her number one position in the world.

The Spaniard exited in the first round against Barbora Strycova 1-6 0-2 retired.

Karolina Pliskova (4) lost her chance when Sorana Cirstea delivered a big straight sets upset in the third round.

Elina Svitolina (3) made it to the quarter finals and fought for over three hours with Caroline Garcia (unseeded, but unlikely to be that way in tournaments for much longer).  The French woman appeared destined for defeat a number of times but climbed out of holes with a fierce determination, not unlike that displayed in her Wuhan final triumph last week.

Garcia won 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (6) and Svitolina remains waiting for another chance to take the top mantle in WTA rankings.

Simona Halep (2), though, who has wasted several opportunities to grab the top spot in the past, only needs to win one more match and she will overtake Muguruza to achieve her goal.  It will be difficult, since her semi final opponent is Jelena Ostapenko (8), the Latvian yet to drop a set this tournament. 

However, Halep, apart from donating a set to Alison Riske in her opening match, has been ruthless ever since, and is hot favourite to win both her semi final and the final, and take the lead in both the WTA World Rankings and the 2017 WTA Points Race.

Winning the final, should Halep reach it, won’t be a walk in the park. It will be either Petra Kvitova (12) or Caroline Garcia who she will need to overcome and neither of those players will fold easily.

Petra is showing some of her Wimbledon winning form, dispatching Wozniacki for the loss of just five games, and then her Fed Cup team mate Barbora Strycova in another strong straight sets victory in the quarter final.

The men are also entertaining the Beijing crowds - the semi finals have been determined - 

Rafa Nadal (1) v Grigor Dimitrov (3)

Nick Kyrgios (8) v Alexander Zverev (2)

Nadal was down a set and taken to a second set tie break in his opener against Lucas Pouille, but has been comfortable since. Dimitrov will provide something harder.

The other semi is one between two of the young guns - Zverev already a top five player and Kyrgios set for the top ten if he can avoid his nagging injuries.

In Tokyo, another ATP 500 event is down to the final four:

Marin Cilic (1) v Adrian Mannarino

David Goffin (4) v Diego Schwartzman (8)

No luck for Milos Raonic who retired injured in the second round. Also out in the second round was US Open finalist Kevin Anderson (5).

We had already lost in the opening round Dominic Thiem (2), Sam Querrey (6) and Albert Ramos-Vinolas (7).

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Garcia wins in Wuhan

Although she may have come away from Wuhan with four significant scalps, it has ended up with little for Ash Barty, losing to Caroline Garcia in the tournament's final.

The match began with a close opening set but it was stolen by Barty, after two failed attempts by Garcia to serve it out. The Australian won the tie break 

Appearing the more composed player in set two, Barty cruised to 5-4 and served for the match. Then she mirrored Garcia's first set collapse. Broken for 5-5, another chance came as the French number one was herself broken next game.

However, Barty had lost all confidence and lost serve and the resultant tie break. 

The match was level but Garcia ran through the decider, losing just two games.

Garcia moves up five spots, to a career high 15 in the world, while Barty shifts up 14, to a career best of 23.

Tashkent also saw the crowning of an unseeded champion - Kateryna Bondarenko upset second seed Timea Babos in straight sets.

Final in Chengdu will be between Marcos Baghdatis and Denis Istomin, both unseeded.

Final in Shenzhen will be between Alexandr Dolgopolov (5) and David Goffin (2)

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Barty slays the best in China

Aussie Ash Barty has torn apart the Wuhan draw by defeating four seeds in her path to her third final of 2017, this her first Premier final.

Gone at Barty's pleasure are Johanna Konta (world number 7), Aga Radwanska (world number 13 and former Wimbledon finalist), Karolina Pliskova (world number 4, former number 1 and 2016 US Open finalist), and Jelena Ostapenko (world number 10 and this year's Roland Garros champ).

Barty has lifted her live ranking 14 places to 23, and if she defeats Caroline Garcia in the final she will become the highest ranked Australian female player. Already Ash is the 18th ranked in the 2017 points race.

Garcia made her way into the final by dispatching qualifier Maria Sakkari.

The final in Tashkent will be a battle between second seed Timea Babos and Kateryna Bondarenko - Babos defeated Aryna Sabalenka in one semi final, and Bondarenko won her semi final when Vera Zvonareva retired through injury.

Chengdu semi finalists:

Guido Pella v winner of Yen-Hsun Lu v Marcos Baghdatis 

Denis Istomin v Yuichi Sugita (5)

Shenzhen semi finalists:

Damir Dzumhur (6) v Alexandr Dolgopolov (5)

Henri Laaksonen v David Goffin (2)