Friday, 15 December 2017

Tennis back in a fortnight

Enough of no top level tennis - the ATP and WTA tours are about to resume for 2018 and Brisbane has attracted a sensational field in both the men’s and women’s events.

Starting on 31 December with qualifying, Australians will enjoy the following stars:

Raval Nadal - World number one and two time GS winner in 2017

Grigor Dimitrov - World number three and winner of the 2017 ATP Finals 

                                  He is the defending champion 

Andy Murray - World number one in 2017 until injury struck

Nick Kyrgios - Australia’s excitement machine 

Kei Nishikori - previous top 5 player returning from injury

Milos Raonic - previous top 5 player also returning from injury

Garbine Muguruza - World number two and 2017 Wimbledon champion

Karolina Pliskova - World number four and defending champion

Elina Svitolina - World number six and winner of 5 titles in 2017, including 3 Premier 5

Caroline Garcia - World number eight and winner of both a Premier Mandatory and a Premier 5 title in 2017

Johanna Konta - World number nine and winner of 2 titles in 2017 including the Miami Premier Mandatory

Kristina Mladenovic - World number 11 and winner in St Petersburg 2017

Sloane Stephens - World number 13 and 2017 US Open Champion

Anastasija Sevastova - World number 16 and winner in Mallorca in 2017

Ash Barty - World number 17, top Aussie, and winner in Malaysia in 2017

Additionally we have previous GS champions Petra Kvitova - Wimbledon 2011 and 2014 - and Samantha Stosur - US Open 2011.

There are 12 of the worlds top twenty women competing in Brisbane, making it one of the strongest fields in the event’s history.

The WTA tour also kicks off in Shenzhen on 31 December with qualifying.

The tournament highlights World number one Simona Halep, who was runner up at Roland Garros in 2017, but captured the Madrid Premier Mandatory title for a second successive year.

Jelena Ostapenko, who defeated Simona at Roland Garros this year to win her maiden GS title, will be another star attraction at Shenzhen, as will 5 time major winner Maria Sharapova.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

France wins 2017 Davis Cup

The 2017 Davis Cup was a thriller, with neighbours France and Belgium fighting it out to the very last match

First up, and pivotal, was the battle between David Goffin (fresh off his excellent ATP Finals performance) and Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

In an otherwise even opening set, Goffin had a much better percentage of points won on first serve and converted the only break point of the set. 7-5 and that was as close as Pouille would be for the match.

Goffin broke twice in each of the next two sets and never faced a break point on his serve throughout the match which he won 7-5 6-3 6-1.

It only took Jo-Wilfried Tsonga an hour and 46 minutes to level the ledger - the Frenchman thrashed Steve Darcis 6-3 6-2 6-1. He was especially dominant in sets two and three, losing only two points on his serve in that period.

Like Goffin, Tsonga faced no break points in the match.

The doubles rubber, as in many Davis Cup battles, proved critical.

The French have had, until reasonably recently, the leading pair in the world - Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

With Mahut missing from this tie, Richard Gasquet joined Herbert to match up against Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore.

The French pair were overwhelming in the opening set, winning it 6-1, but were taken aback by the Belgian resistance in set two which was the leveller 6-3.

A third set tie break, won by Gasquet and Herbert seven points to two, was enough for them to proceed to a four set win and give France a 2-1 lead in the tie.

In the biggest match, the two winners from Day One were up against each other.

The opening set was close enough to require a tie break and Goffin eked out a win over Tsonga 7 points to 5.

Following that it was all Belgium and Goffin won 7-6 (5) 6-3 6-2.

The tie was 2-2 

The final match would decide the tie and Lucas Pouille and Steve Darcis were both looking for redemption following losses on Day One.

It was Lucas who fired up, destroying his Belgian opponent 6-3 6-1 6-0.

France had won its first Davis Cup since 2001.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Dimitrov wins ATP Finals

The season is over for ATP players and Grigor Dimitrov (6) has won the chocolates in the London ATP Finals.

He remained undefeated throughout, and overcame David Goffin (7) in an exciting final.

Neither player had reached these dizzy heights at the seasons end, indeed had never qualified for the elite eight.

To make the final, David Goffin did something he had also never dome previously - knocking over Roger Federer (2) - and this after dropping the opening set. Federer was undefeated and supremely confident, only four losses for the year.

Perhaps a touch of arrogance entered his game and Goffin lifted the overall quality and consistency of his output to pressure Federer into unusual numbers of unforced errors.

One break point was all it needed and Goffin had levelled the semi final at 2-6 6-3. He took the momentum straight into the decider and the pressure showed on Federer.  

Goffin again outgunned the 19 time major winner both on serve and return to break once from two opportunities and win unexpectedly but outstandingly 2-6 6-3 6-4.

Dimitrov won his semi final against Jack Sock (8), but also took three sets to do so.

In set one, despite a woeful conversion of points won on first serve, Sock smashed it on his second delivery, and pulled Dimitrov’s second serve to pieces, winning 10 of 13 points.

The set went to the American 6-4.

Set two must have been uninteresting for Sock because he didn’t win a game. Dimitrov definitely lifted his work rate, but winning 24 points out of the 33 played said a lot about Sock’s failings.

The return of the eighth seed to competitive tennis happened early in set three, but despite an excellent first serve points won percentage, he lost all points when relying on a second delivery.

Dimitrov pounced on one of two break points and Sock wasted all of three. The Bulgarian reached the final 4-6 6-0 6-3.

The final was a rematch of the round robin encounter in which Dimitrov thrashed Goffin 6-0 6-2.

This was to prove completely different.

All the first three service games were lost by the server, two by Dimitrov.

Goffin consolidated a lead 4-2.

However the eighth game was pivotal when the Belgian failed to nail his advantage and surrendered the break to the sixth seed.

The momentum switch was irresistible and Grigor won four of the remaining five games played in the set to win it from Goffin 7-5.

As in his semi final with Federer, David fought back against another Goliath in set two.

Seven aces and 14 of 15 points won on first serve made holding his serve more comfortable than in the opening set.

Still finding a way through the Dimitrov defence was difficult.

Finally, with a break point each, Goffin was the one to convert and push the match to a decider, the scoreline 5-7 6-4.

Returning the Goffin serve well and winning significant number of points was integral to Dimitrov collecting six break points.

Goffin was playing well enough to find four of his own.

Only one of those ten was,converted, and that was enough for Grigor Dimitrov to capture his biggest title of 2017.

Top ten at end of the year:

1. Rafa Nadal 10,645

2. Roger Federer 9,605

3. Grigor Dimitrov 5,150 (Highest career ranking)

4. Alexander Zverev 4,610

5. Dominic Thiem 4,015

6. Marin Cilic 3,805

7. David Goffin 3,775 (HCR)

8. Jack Sock 3,165 (HCR)

9. Stan Wawrinka 3,150

10. Pablo Carreno Busta 2,615 (HCR)

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Last four reached in the ATP Finals

The semi finals at the ATP Finals are confirmed after the last of the round robin matches were completed yesterday.

David Goffin (7) gave Dominic Thiem (4) a tennis lesson, beginning with a solid opening set in which his first serve percentage of 71 compared with Thiem’s unhelpful 46.

Despite this stat, Goffin only marginally out played Thiem, but in all facets of the game, appearing dominant throughout.

A 6-4 advantage quickly turned into a rout.

Thiem won only 43% of points on his serve in set two, and the most devastating factor was his inability to convert break points - zero from five, as against Goffin’s three from four.

The seventh seed, who only one match ago was thrashed by Dimitrov, did likewise to Thiem, returning serve with precision en route to a 6-4 6-1 success.

Goffin meets Federer in one semi final while Grigor Dimitrov (6) plays Jack Sock (8) in the other.

Dimitrov is in possibly the best form of any player in the whole tournament, including even Federer. He continued his undefeated dominance with a comprehensive dismissal of Pablo Carreno Busta in the final round robin match in the Pete Sampras Group.

Facing no break points, but taking advantage of five from ten chances of his own, led tthe Bulgarian to a 6-1 6-1 masterful display, with some of the finest shots seen in the tournament.

Dimitrov won twice as many points as his opponent in the match.

A win over Sock will move Dimitrov to number three in the world rankings.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Sock beats Zverev into semi final

The round robin matches have been completed for those in the Boris Becker Group at the ATP Finals in London.

After dropping the opening set to Marin Cilic (5) in a tie break, Roger Federer (2) came back strongly to win the next two 6-4 6-1 to preserve his undefeated status and ensure Cilic left the English capital winless.

That match had no effect on the semi final line up since Federer was already qualified.

The next match would determine who joined the Swiss master.and Alexander Zverev (3) played Jack Sock (8) for the spot.

Sock entered the clash in the peak of form, having won the Paris Masters 1000 title in the past week or so. He pipped the German in a competitive opening set, converting one of a number of break points available to both players. 6-4 and the early lead.

Zverev turned it around in set two, winning 70% of points on his serve, compared with 41% for Sock. Two service breaks for the third seed and the match was even.

Each player feasted on the second serve of the other in the deciding third set, assisting in five service breaks. Sock owned three of these, enough to claim the set, the match 6-4 1-6 6-4: and a semi final berth.

That is against Grigor Dimitrov.

The win takes Sock to a new career high ranking of eight, leaving the injured Stan Wawrinka at nine, dropping behind both Sock and Goffin because of his absence in this tournament.

One of the final round robin matches in the Pete Sampras Group will feature alternate player Pablo Carreno Busta battling Grigor Dimitrov (6) in effectively an exhibition since Dimitrov has already booked a semi final spot.

The other match between Dominic Thiem (4) and David Goffin (7) will see the winner take the fourth semi final spot and earn a clash with Roger Federer.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Dimitrov into ATP Finals semis

Sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov has joined Roger Federer in the semis of the ATP Finals in London after he dismantled David Goffin (7).

The Bulgarian was ruthless fro the outset, winning 86% of points on his serve in set one, and 63% of points on Goffin’s serve.

Three of seven break points were converted, while Goffin couldn’t manufacture a single chance.

6-0 was the scoreline and it didn’t improve much in the second set.

Dimitrov capitalised on two of four break points but Goffin failed to do anything with his only break point of the match.

Again taking significant skin off the Belgian serve, Dimitrov delivered the set with ease, and the match 6-0 6-2.

The live rankings now see Dimitrov jumping two spots to a possible career high of four.

Dominic Thiem (4) kept his hopes of a semi final spot alive by defeating alternate player Pablo Carreno Busta.

Rather than facing Nadal, it was the less imposing fellow Spaniard, but that still posed plenty of problems for the Austrian who was stretched to three sets.

Opening with a blistering 84% of points won on serve and facing no break points, Thiem raced to a 6-3 lead.

This was matched by Pablo who returned brilliantly in set two resulting in two breaks and a 6-3 for himself.

The decider saw Thiem gather seven break chances and weight of numbers told - two converted - and while Pablo squeezed a break of his own, it was insufficient.

Thiem won 6-3 3-6 6-4 and will play Goffin for the second semi spot from the Pete Sampras Group.

As we speak, Marin Cilic (5), winless so far, has taken the first set from unbeaten Roger Federer (2).

While the match has no bearing on standings in the Boris Becker Group - Federer already in the semis and Cilic unable to qualify - a win over the Swiss legend would be something for Cilic to take away from the tournament. A reminder of the semi final in the 2014 US Open, where his win over Federer was a prelude to the major win - the final against Nishikori.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Federer outlasts Zverev in London

The third day/night of the ATP Finals produced two three set thrillers and included a broken record.

First it was fifth seed Marin Cilic (5) against Jack Sock (8), both coming off losses in their opening matches.

It was Cilic who began best, winning 63% of points on his second serve in the first set compared to 25% for Sock.

Service was broken twice by Cilic and once by Sock, enabling the Croatian to take the lead 7-5.

Sock struck back hard, reversing the trend with points won on second serve, 64% to 23%.

Two breaks to none and the match was level.

An even third set, with a break each, meant that a tie break would determine the result.

Cilic led 4-2 but some aggressive and outstanding shotmaking from Sock saw him rattle off five straight points to steal the match 5-7 6-2 7-6(4).

Alexander Zverev (3) served it up to Roger Federer (2) after surrendering the close opening set to the Swiss star in a tie break 8 points to 6.

In set two the German young gun converted two of seven break chances , while Federer broke just once from two chances.

Federer was clearly angry and blasted Zverev off the court in set three 6-1, remaining undefeated and taking a spot in the semi finals.

31 points to 17 in the decider and Federer will compete in the semi finals at the season ending tournament for the 14th time in 15 appearances. He now has broken the record of Tiger Woods in terms of career prize money.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Nadal withdraws from ATP Finals

In London at the ATP Finals, Alexander Zverev (3) finished the opening night by recovering from a break down in the deciding third set to defeat Marin Cilic (5) 6-4 3-6 6-4.

The second day/night saw two matches from the Pete Sampras Group.

First up, Grigor Dimitrov (6) played Dominic Thiem (4).

In set one, both were terrific on first serves, Thiem winning 10 of 11 points, and Dimitrov 16 of 18.

However, Thiem could only manage a terrible 37% of first serves into play, and enabled Dimitrov to have a go at three break points, one of which was converted.

The Bulgarian faced no break points and won the set 6-3.

Set two was somewhat a reversal, with Dimitrov poorer on first serve percentage and winning far less points overall.

This time the only break point converted was initiated by Thiem who levelled the match 3-6 7-5.

Points won on second serve determined how the third set was won. Dimitrov won 69% of points on his second delivery, while Thiem won 44% on his.

Break points were created more at will for the sixth seed and he just required one to be converted and the match was his 6-3 5-7 7-5.

David Goffin (7) picked up the biggest win of his career when he toppled Rafa Nadal (1).

After taking set one in a tie break, Goffin would have been concerned when Nadal levelled by winning set two, also in a tie break.

From five chances, though, Goffin broke twice in the decider to shock the top seed 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-4.

A bigger shock came after the match with Nadal’s withdrawal from the tournament through injury.

Fellow Spaniard, Pablo Carreno Busta, is the replacement for Nadal.

Monday, 13 November 2017

ATP Finals underway

The year end ATP Finals have commenced in London and the two groups consist of four players each - the top eight ranked in the world have qualified although seventh ranked Stan Wawrinka is injured and unable to compete. His spot is taken by ninth ranked Jack Sock.


Group Pete Sampras

Rafael Nadal (seeded 1)

Dominic Thiem (4)

Grigor Dimitrov (6)

David Goffin (7)

Group Boris Becker

Roger Federer (2)

Alexander Zverev (3)

Marin Cilic (5)

Jack Sock (8)

Roger Federer opened proceedings by defeating Jack Sock in straight sets 6-4 7-6(4)

Not much separated the two in set one with the only break point being pounced on by Federer, effectively deciding things.

The pressure of the Swiss first serve winning 16 of 18 points was an important factor.

Despite again dominating on his first serve - winning 20 of 22 points - and creating 5 break points, Federer could not pierce the Sock serve in set two.

It took a tie break, in which Federer has proved a master, to force the issue. Roger predictably won it and the match.

Currently Zverev and Cilic are battling each other in the second round robin match on opening night with the two swapping sets and Cilic achieving an early break in set three.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Sock and Goerges score big

Jack Sock recovered from losing the opening set and won the Paris Masters 1000 final against qualifier Filip Krajinovic.

The American 16th seed has suddenly leapt 13 rungs into the world top ten, grabbing the number nine spot.

Serbia’s Krajinovic sits at 33, only nine spots below Milos Raonic, whose absence has cost him a drop of 12 places this week.

Long term injuries are costly - Nishikori has finally slipped from a solid top ten ranking to 22. Number ones from 2016, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, are now 12 and 16 respectively. Murray dropped 13 places after missing Paris.

Only Stan Wawrinka, of the players injured and out for the last part of 2017, has held onto a top ten ranking (7).

The two ‘comeback kids’ are up and away from the rest of the field:

1 Nadal 10,645 points

2 Federer 9,005 points

3 A Zverev 4,410 points

Zhuhai saw the completion of the WTA tour with the final of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy held.

Seventh seed Julia Goerges won her second title in a fortnight, following Moscow, by proving too strong for Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets 7-5 6-1.

This was after being down 2-5 in the first set.

Julia lost the first set she played in the tournament, and proceeded to win every set henceforth.

End of year rankings are such:

1. Simona Halep 6175 points (ended 2016 at 4)

2. Garbine Muguruza 6135 (7)

3. Caroline Wozniacki 6015 (19)

4. Karolina Pliskova 5730 (6)

5. Venus Williams 5597 (17)

6. Elina Svitolina 5500 (14)

7. Jelena Ostapenko 5010 (44)

8. Caroline Garcia 4420 (24)

9. Johanna Konta 3610 (10)

10. Coco Vandeweghe 3258 (36)

Those tumbling from the top ten at end of 2016:

1 Angie Kerber (now 21)

2 Serena Williams (22) good excuse !

3 Aga Radwanska (28)

5 Dominika Cibulkova (26)

8 Madison Keys (19)

9 Sveta Kuznetsova (12)

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Qualifier Krajinovic in Paris final

The Paris Masters 1000 final match up is something no one would ever have predicted.

Jack Sock, seeded 16, is potentially good enough to make the final, but let’s be truthful his path was cleared by:

Roger Federer withdrawing and Lucas Pouille (17) taking that place in the draw. Sock played Pouille in the second round instead of a likely more potent Swiss foe.

The dismissal of Marin Cilic (3) and David Goffin (7) by unseeded Julien Benneteau.

The ousting of Dominic Thiem (5) by unseeded Fernando Verdasco.

This meant that Sock avoided playing any seeds after he’d beaten Pouille.

He knocked over Verdasco in the quarters and Benneteau in the semis.

And who does he face in the final ? A qualifier !

Yes, Filip Krajinovic, given a walkover by Nadal in the quarters, defeated the big serving ninth seed, John Isner in the semis.

How Isner lost is a mystery - 31 aces, 85% of points won on first serve, five break points created on his opponents serve, only one on his.

It came down to break point conversion. Isner failed to convert any of his five chances, whereas Krajinovic snapped up his one opportunity.

With tie breaks shared, that meant exit for Isner, the scoreline 6-4 6-7(2) 7-6(5)

Krajinovic, by making the final, has jumped from 77 to 33 in the rankings. If he wins, 25 will be his spot.

A victory for Sock will rocket him into the top ten at 9, five better than his current career high, and placing him as the US number one.

With Djokovic and Murray losing lots of points, a number of players have moved up the rankings to career highs:

Alexander Zverev is number 3 (previous high 4)

Dominic Thiem is number 4 (6)

Grigor Dimitrov is number 6 (8)

David Goffin is number 8 (10)

Pablo Carreno Busta is number 9 (10) but will revert to 10 should Jack Sock win Paris

The Zhuhai final will be fought between Coco Vandeweghe and Julia Goerges, after both won in convincing style against Ash Barty and Anastasija Sevastova respectively.  

Each semi final was won 6-3 6-3, meaning Barty finishes the year ranked 17. Sevastova will finish 14 if Vandeweghe wins the title, 15 if Goerges prevails.

Goerges ends up 14 should she win, 16 if she loses.

Coco is number 10 whatever.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Nadal injured in Paris

The semi finals in Zhuhai have been determined and the four women were undefeated in each of their respective groups.

Coco Vandeveghe (2) will play Ash Barty (9) in one semi final and Anastasija Sevastova (5) battles Julia Goerges (7) in the other.

Vandeweghe will gain a season ending ranking of 10, irrespective of what happens from now in the tournament, and this is a career high for the American who is only behind Venus Williams of US players in the charts.

Sevastova will jump to 11 if she wins the tournament, a career high, beating her previous best of 15.  

However, if Ash Barty wins the title, the Aussie will move to 14, a career high, and Sevastova will finish at 15.

Julia Goerges winning the title would mean Ash Barty finishing at 17 and Sevastova at 15. Goerges would sit at 14 - a new career high.

So, many possibilities are available with the semis upon us, and the matches are mouth watering.

Vandeweghe and Barty have never played each other, while Goerges leads Sevastova 3-2 head to head.

However, the 3 wins for Goerges were 2011-2013 and the latest match between the two was in Mallorca this year with victory to Sevastova, albeit on grass.

Paris has seen most of the top men’s seeds say goodbye.

Top seed Rafa Nadal gave qualifier Filip Krajinovic a walkover into the semi finals, citing a knee injury. This puts doubt into the world number ones participation in the ATP Finals.

Other considered serious Paris contenders to fall by the wayside included:

Marin Cilic (3) in a quarter final to unseeded Julien Benneteau

Benneteau had previously knocked out eleventh seed Tsonga in the second round and seventh seed David Goffin in the third round.

Dominic Thiem (5) in the third round in straight sets to Fernando Verdasco

Grigor Dimitrov (6) in the third round to John Isner (9)

Isner proceeded to defeat an in form del Potro in a quarter final 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Barty top Aussie

The ATP Tour has rolled into Paris for the latest Masters 1000 event - Roger Federer is the biggest name to not be competing.

Just beginning third round matches, there have been some upsets already.

Sam Querrey (10) was ousted by Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic and veteran Nicolas Mahut defeated Pablo Carreno Busta (8), both in second round matches after first round byes.

All seeds had byes before their first matches.

Another Pablo was more successful - Pablo Cuevas - who beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas (15).

Robin Haase dumped fourth seed Alexander Zverev while Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (11) lost to fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau. US Open finalist Kevin Anderson (12) has not managed to keep his New York form and departed Paris at the hands of Fernando Verdasco.

Other players expected to do well have done the job required early in the tournament, including Rafa Nadal (1), Marin Cilic (3), Dominic Thiem (5), Grigor Dimitrov (6) and David Goffin (7). All are through to the third round.

Juan Martin del Potro (13) is the first to make it to the round of sixteen, halting the run of Robin Haase.

The top eight women have only just completed the WTA Finals in Singapore, and this week it is the turn of the next tier of women to compete in a similar tournament to complete their year.

Held in Zhuhai, 12 women were seeded, Kristina Mladenovic the number one, down to Shuai Peng at 12, and then split into four groups of three for round robin matches.

To date, the players with two wins and no losses are Anastasija Sevastova (5), Coco Vandeweghe (2), and Ash Barty.(9).

With the points from those wins, the live WTA rankings have Sevastova sitting at a potential career high 14 and Barty a career high 16.

Elena Vesnina (6) and Magdalena Rybarikova (10) have matches in hand which could take Barty back to 18 in the world which would still be a career high.

However, if the Aussie keeps winning, and she is in a semi final, her ranking could end up better than 16, Already she is guaranteed to be the top ranked Australian female player at the end of 2017 - remarkable since she began the year ranked 271.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Wozniacki caps great year with Singapore triumph

Caroline Wozniacki has completed an amazing 2017 by winning the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Her win over Venus Williams was her first in their head to head competition and completed a 60th match win for the year, the most by any woman on tour.

8 finals for two titles and a rise in rankings from 19 in January to 3 at years end, her highest since 2012.

Wins over three reigning world number ones showed just how significant Caroline’s comeback to the elite stage has been. Only a major title continues to elude her.

The Singapore triumph was not without its hurdles, the round robin stage interrupted by an unexpected loss to Caroline Garcia who ended up topping the Red Group.

Although Wozniacki dominated the group apart from that three set match, the rules dictated that she play a semi final against top of the White Group Karolina Pliskova.

Wozniacki cleaned up Pliskova, just as she eventually would four of the five top seeds she played throughout the tournament.

Venus Williams was far from disgraced in the final and indeed the whole shebang.

From a thrashing in her first match against Pliskova she edged Jelena Ostapenko in a three hour thriller before denying Garbine Muguruza the year end number one ranking with a straight sets triumph.

A semi final win over Caroline Garcia brought back many memories and the first set of the final was willing and full of winners.  

Wozniacki twice drew a break ahead, only for Williams to in each case immediately break back and even the score.

Wozniacki had another service break up her sleeve though and the vital opener was hers 6-4.

Set two was similar with 3 breaks to two and the match won 6-4 6-4.

The year ended with rankings:

1 Simona Halep 6175 points

2 Garbine Muguruza 6135 points

3 Caroline Wozniacki 6015 points

Australia has a new number one female player - Ash Barty at career high 20.

While the elite WTA players were doing battle in Singapore, the ATP players were on show in Europe,

In Vienna:

Semi Finals

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (8) d Philipp Kohlschreiber 

Lucas Pouille d Kyle Edmund

Lucas Pouille won the title 6-1 6-4

In Basel:

Semi Finals

Roger Federer (1) d David Goffin (3)

Juan Martin del Potro (4) d Marin Cilic (2)

Roger Federer won the title (his 9th in Basel)

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Halep humbled in Singapore

Two rounds of the WTA Finals have been completed, and two players have appeared to be the favourites to advance to the big match.

From the red group, Caroline Wozniacki (6) has thrashed Elina Svitolina (4) and world number one Simona Halep, losing just four games in total over the the two matches.

Halep and Caroline Garcia (8) are probably set to fight for second place in the group as both have one win, but Garcia’s chances are slim given she will need to overcome Wozniacki, while Svitolina is set to go home after her final round robin match against Halep.

The white group has been all Karolina Pliskova (3) with straight sets wins over both Venus Williams (5) and Garbine Muguruza (2).

Surrendering just eight games to her victims - four each - Pliskova is primed to have a shot at regaining the number one ranking.

This will happen if she wins a likely semi final against Halep and proceeds to win the whole tournament.

At the moment, though, I predict Wozniacki to win everything.

In Vienna we have only two quarter finalists to this point - Alexander Zverev (1) and compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber, the latter having defeated fifth seed John Isner in the opening round.

Another American, Sam Querrey (6), also disappeared in round one as did third seed Kevin Anderson (7).

Querrey dipped out to Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Anderson fell to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Basel, or alternatively the Federer Invitational, has seen just one seed suffer - Mischa Zverev (8) - not as fortunate as his younger brother over in Austria.

Three players have so far slipped through to the final eight - David Goffin (3), Jack Sock (5) and Roberto Bautista Agut (6).


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Wozniacki impresses early in Singapore

The WTA finals kicked off in Singapore with all initial round robin matches won with relative ease.

In the White Group, whose matches began first, Karolina Pliskova (3) was at the peak of her powers, defeating Venus Williams (5) 6-2 6-2.

Pliskova won 54% of points on the Williams serve and converted five of twelve break points in the match.

Garbine Muguruza (2) was almost as efficient in her victory over Jelena Ostapenko (7) 6-3 6-4.

It was Muguruza’s returning of second serve which impressed in set one, but her much improved points won % on her own first serve in set two which enabled a position of strength from which she won in straight.

Day two was the Red Group’s chance to shine and Simona Halep (1) did just that in the opening match against Caroline Garcia (8).

The scoreline was 6-4 6-2 but could have been closer had Garcia converted break points as well as Halep did - one from six compared with four from five.

Three of the break points came in game four of set two, with the chance to level at 2-2. Halep managed to save, however, and proceeded to break again for 4-1 and effectively seal the match.

Up second were Elina Svitolina (4) and Caroline Wozniacki (6).

The performance of the first round of matches was left to last as Wozniacki tore apart Svitolina 6-2 6-0 and served a severe warning to all 7 others that the dangerous Dane was not here just for kicks.

Caroline smashed the Svitolina second serve 11 of the 12 times it was delivered to her and she broke the Ukraine serve each time a chance was created - five from five.

Elina was zero from one - that one in game one of set two 

Watch out number one ranking chasers - Wozniacki is here to win the tournament and other stuff is purely ancillary.

The men are playing too, believe it or not.

In Vienna, Sascha Zverev is top seed and he won his opening match against Viktor Troicki. Not so fortunate were fifth seed John Isner, and veteran Feliciano Lopez.

In Basel the Federer presence is hard to miss as he is aiming for title number eight here. He has made the final in his last ten appearances, but this year he has form players in the draw aside him, including Cilic, Goffin and del Potro.

Even his first round match against unseeded Frances Tiafoe presents a challenge of sorts, considering the five set match the two gave the Flushing Meadows crowd in this years US Open. This time however it is played in Roger’s back yard.

So far, not many major highlights, and one seed through to round two - Roberto Bautista Agut (6), winning his opener over qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Delpo defends Stockholm

Winners of five titles over the weekend are available and significantly Juan Martin del Potro has broken through for only his second crown since Sydney 2014. The other one was here last year. Defending his Stockholm Open was another step in a full comeback to where he wants to and should be - a returning top ten player.

Already Delpo has reached number 19 and barring another injury stretch he is set to charge through in 2018.

His final win as fourth seed over another top achiever in number one seed Grigor Dimitrov was comprehensive, and no doubt a little disappointing for the crowd who should have expected something closer. However the Argentine cut the Bulgarian to shreds. The opening set was the beginning of a horror story, although Grigor wasn’t playing too badly.

But you can’t argue with 85 % points won on first serve or just one break point to save (dutifully done). Set two saw two more breaks of the top seed’s serve while del Potro saved the single break point he faced.

6-4 6-2 and the Argentine won easing up.

Damir Dzumhur has had his best season by far, capturing his first ATP title in St Petersburg and making his best efforts so far in smashing his ranking - he has for years hung around mid sixties to mid nineties while never threatening the top fifty.

This year he began at 77 and jumped to 36 a couple of weeks ago, his career high. He celebrated with a second title for 2017 in Moscow - a love affair of Russia continuing.

He, as sixth seed, defeated unseeded Ricardas Berankis in the final.

Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga snagged a fourth title for 2017 in Antwerp, sneaking past one of the years biggest improvers Diego Schwartzman 6-3 7-5. Diego had stopped the surprising run of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi final.  Tsitsipos jumps 27 spots to 95, his entry to the top hundred a career high.

Moscow also found another winner who has renewed her game in 2017. Former top twenty player Julia Goerges, seventh seed, won the final against Daria Kasatkina, not dropping a set, in fact something she hadn’t throughout the tournament.

Finishing 2016 ranked 54, Julia was still sitting at 54 half way through 2017. Then she began a serious run:

Finalist at Bucharest and Washington, quarter finalist at Cincinnati and fourth round at US Open. The USA was a terrific stretch. And now with the Moscow title, 28 year old Goerges sees her ranking at 18, just three shy of her career high of 15, achieved over five years ago.

The other successful female came from the Luxembourg final, and it was German improver Carina Witthoeft. Her title win in the Luxembourg Open was at the expense of Monica Puig 6-3 7-5 in all unseeded final.

Carina’s win shoots her 22 places up the rankings to 51, just two spots below her career high.

This weeks light shines brightest on Singapore, where the top eight performed ladies of 2017 battle it out in the WTA finals. Last years final eight included the winner and runner up Dominika Cibulkova and Angie Kerber, neither who have qualified this year.

Semi finalists Aga Radwanska and Sveta Kuznetsova also are missing this year.

From last year we have Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina. Joining them are Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Ostapenko and surprise packet Caroline Garcia.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Titles up for grabs in Europe

Quarter finals have been reached in Moscow (ATP), Antwerp (ATP), and Stockholm (ATP)

Semi Finals have been determined in Moscow (WTA) and Luxembourg (WTA)

Stockholm has gone as per the seedings, the final eight being:

Grigor Dimitrov (1) v Mischa Zverev (5)

Jack Sock (3) v Fabio Fognini (6)

Yuichi Sugita (7) v Juan Martin del Potro (4)

Fernando Verdasco (8) v Kevin Anderson (2)

Elsewhere, being a seed has not necessarily been a guarantee for success.

In Moscow, Julia Goerges (7) was the only seed left in the quarter finals, and she survived through to the final four:

Daria Kasatkina v Irina-Camelia Begu

Natalia Vikhlyantseva v Julia Goerges (7) 

Not all that brighter for the men’s supposed best of the field. Here is the final eight:

Daniil Medvedev v Mirza Basic - Daniil knocked out the top seed Pablo Carreno Busta while qualifier Mirza has burst into his first ATP main draw of 2017 and is making a big run of it.

Andreas Seppi v Damir Dzumhur (6) - Seppi dismisses 4th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round.

Dudi Sela v Adrian Mannarino (3) - Sela did not meet a seed until now due to the late withdrawal of eighth seed Karen Khachanov.

Ricardas Berankis v Alexander Bublik - Berankis made the main draw because of a protected ranking and Bublick, a lucky loser from qualifying, rode his luck by defeating second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas. 

Antwerp quarter finals are:

David Goffin (1) v Stefanos Tsitsipas - qualifier Tsitsipas, ranked 122, beat 6th seed Pablo Cuevas in the opening round, and had the measure of big serving Ivo Karlovic before the Croatian retired, a set down. Neither player had dropped serve in the match to that point.

Diego Schwartzman (4) v David Ferrer (5)

Joao Sousa v Ruben Bemelmans - Sousa defeated Benoit Paire (7) and Bemelmans shocked Nick Kyrgios - after taking the first set in a tie break, and winning 89% of points on his first serve, Nick just fell in a screaming heap, points won on first serve dropping to around 50% for the rest of the match. The 98th ranked Belgian used seven extra years on Nick to full advantage.

Julien Benneteau v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2)

We could still have the top two seeds in the final.

In Luxembourg the final four will do battle as follows:

Monica Puig v Elise Mertens (5) - Monica can do no wrong, it seems, since defeating top seed, Angie Kerber, in the first round 

Pauline Parmentier v Carina Witthoeft - Carina defeated 8th seed Varvara Lepchenko in the first round and Kiki Bertens (2) in the quarter finals.

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)

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Seeds tumble everywhere

The fancied players are not living up to their seeding in a number of tournaments being played this week.

The biggest of these is clearly the WTA Premier event in Wuhan where carnage has occurred amongst the very best.

First round saw the departure of Petra Kvitova (11), Angie Kerber (12), Kristina Mladenovic (13), Anastasija Sevastova (15), and this years US Open finalists Sloane Stephens (14) and Madison Keys (10).

Simona Halep (2), last week's Tokyo winner Caroline Wozniacki (4), Johanna Konta (5), and Sveta Kuznetsova (6), followed in round two, their first and last appearances.

So the third round featured just six of the 16 appointed seeds in the tournament.

Ash Barty had been responsible for Konta's exit, and captured another big win in her next match, defeating Aga Radwanska (9).

Dominika Cibulkova also went by the wayside in the third round, well beaten by dangerous unseeded French player Caroline Garcia.

Elena Vesnina (16) came undone at the same stage, leaving only three seeds in the quarter finals, all in the top half of the draw.

Garbine Muguruza (1) v Jelena Ostapenko (8) - a battle between two of this years major winners

Karolina Pliskova (3) v Ash Barty - if Pliskova wins the event and Muguruza loses her quarter final, Karolina returns to number one in the world

Alize Cornet from France v Qualifier Maria Sakkari from Greece, ranked 80

Caroline Garcia (second French women in the final eight) v Ekaterina Makarova 

 No more success for the seeds in the WTA tournament in Tashkent.

Quarter final match ups:

Kurumi Nara (ranked 109) v Kateryna Bondarenko (133) - Nara had beaten top seed Kristyna Pliskova and Bondarenko knocked out seventh seed Nao Hibino.

Vera Zvonareva (308) v Aleksandra Krunic (seeded six) - Zvonareva was a former finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010 and left tennis in April 2015. After marriage and having a baby Vera decided to come back earlier this year to the lower tier ITF tour. Now she is enjoying some success on the WTA tour again. She defeated fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu. 

Kateryna Kozlova (71) v Aryna Sabalenka (119) - Sabalenka defeated third seed Tatjana Maria.

Stefanie Voegele (196) v Timea Babos (seeded two) - Voegele defeated fifth seed Marketa Vondrousova.

In ATP events in both Chengdu and Shenzhen, four of the final eight are known:

Chengdu:

Jared Donaldson v Denis Istomin (both unseeded)

Yuichi Sugita (5) v Dusan Lajovic

Seeds 2, 3 and 6 were dismissed from the bottom half of the draw - Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Karen Khachanov and Kyle Edmund.

Shenzhen:

Henri Laaksonen (ranked 107) v Zhizhen Zhang (ranked 495) - Laaksonen beat seventh seed Joao Sousa and Zhang beat fourth seed Paolo Lorenzi.

Donald Young (8) v David Goffin (2)

Monday, 25 September 2017

Wozniacki stars in Tokyo

The past week has provided several unexpected results in the tennis world, which continues to make this year such a thrilling spectacle.

But before details of that, as an Australian I want to talk of someone pretty well unmentioned to date - Lizette Cabrera. The 19 year old, born in Townsville, has been working hard on the ITF circuit over the last couple of years and also been battling through qualifying in WTA events, with limited success.

Her performance in Guangzhou this week was a breakthrough and should be recognised more broadly by the Aussie press. Lizette won.two qualifying matches then punched her way through the main draw to the quarter finals, beating world number 30, Anett Kontaveit, along the way.

Not too bad for the 153rd ranked player, who now sits at 136 and has won through qualifying in successive WTA tournaments, awaiting a first round main draw match in Tashkent.

Now to results of finals:

From her sensational 7th final appearance this year, Caroline Wozniacki (3) finally cracked it for a win. Her quarter final victory over Dominika Cibulkova (5) after saving match points was a little soured by the retirement of Cibulkova, but her destruction of top seed Garbine Muguruza in the semi final was out of this world, with attacking tennis which we had been used to seeing Garbine apply.

Her domination of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final completed a brilliant defence of the Premier title in Tokyo for Caroline.

Others to capture glory:

St.Petersburg

Damir Dzumhur d Fabio Fognini (3) and jumps 15 spots to a career high of 40 in the world rankings.

 Metz

Qualifier Peter Gojowczyk d Benoit Paire (7) and moves 29 places up to 66, another career high

Seoul

Jelena Ostapenko (1) d Beatriz Haddad Maia

Beatriz moves 13 spots up to a new career high of 58

Guangzhou

Shuai Zhang (2) d Aleksandra Krunic

Krunic moves 9 spots to a new career high of 56

The elite women are in Wuhan for the next Premier tournament and already we have seen the 13th and 15th seeds - Kristina Mladenovic and Anastasija Sevastova - fall in first round matches.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Tennis in Asia and Europe

Davis Cup results see France and Belgium facing off in this years final, David Goffin a hero in driving Belgium's comeback from 1-2 down against Australia.


This week has seen a lot of tennis on both the WTA and ATP tours, the men playing in Europe, the women in Asia.

We have reached the quarter finals in St.Petersburg and Metz where the following matches are set:

St.Petersburg

Roberto Bautista Agut (1) v Viktor Troicki (7)

Fabio Fognini (3) v Ricardas Berankis - Berankis had knocked out fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber

Damir Dzumhur v Liam Broady - Dzumhur defeated sixth seed Paolo Lorenzi and Broady disposed of fourth seed Adrian Mannarino

Jan-Lennard Struff (8) v Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (2)

Metz

Kenny De Schepper v Mischa Zverev (5) - Kenny was a lucky loser from qualifying, replacing the original top seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who withdrew late from the tournament.

Marius Copil v Peter Gojowczyk - Copil and Gojowczyk defeated a pair of French seeds, Lucas Pouille (3) and Gilles Simon (8) respectively 

Denis Istomin v Nikoloz Basilashvili - Istomin dismissed sixth seed Richard Gasquet and Basilashvili defeated fourth seed Gilles Muller (4)

Benoit Paire (7) v David Goffin (2)

Quarter finals are underway in Tokyo and Seoul:

Tokyo

Garbine Muguruza (1) v Caroline Garcia (9)

Caroline Wozniacki (3) v Dominika Cibulkova (5)

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Barbora Strycova - Strycova defeated fourth seed Johanna Konta and eighth seed Kristina Mladenovic was ousted in the first round by Qiang Wang

LATE NEWS - Pavlyuchenkova has won in three sets to be the first player through to the final four.

Angie Kerber (7) v Karolina Pliskova (2)

Seoul

Jelena Ostapenko (1) v Veronica Cepede Royg - Ostapenko won her way into a semi final

Sorana Cirstea (4) v Luksika Kumkhum - Kumkhum won her way into the semi against Ostapenko 

Beatriz Haddad Maia v Sara Sorribes Tormo

Priscilla Hon v Richel Hogenkamp

In Guangzhou the semi finals are:

Yanina Wickmayer v Aleksandra Krunic

Evgeniya Rodina v Shuai Zhang (2)


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Davis Cup Semis almost done

The ATP tour has had a weeks break since the US Open while the Davis Cup Semi Finals and Play Offs are underway.


The semi final between France and Serbia promised plenty until Novak Djokovic suffered his season ending injury. Still the strong French team was rocked in the first rubber with its second ranked player Lucas Pouille upset by Dusan Lajovic, ranked 80 in the world.

Thankfully for France, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga levelled the tie, beating Laslo Djere, ranked 95.

Disappointing to see the two highest ranked available Serbs - Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic - giving the semi final a miss after fighting to help their nation make it this far.

The fifth ranked doubles pair in the world - Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut - clinched a 2-1 advantage, winning the key doubles over Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic.

Australia finds itself in a similar position after three rubbers, losing its first match to Belgium, David Goffin a four set winner over John Millman.

Nick Kyrgios was in a precarious position, down two sets to one against Steve Darcis, before steadying to take the last sets for the loss of only 3 games in total.

The doubles was a clinic put on by world number two John Peers and his partner Jordan Thompson 6-3 6-4 6-0 to defeat Ruben Bemelmans and Arthur De Greef.

Well done Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem for committing to your nations - Croatia and Austria -- in the Davis Cup Play Offs - something a lot of top ten players refuse to do before their individual priorities.

A couple of WTA events have occurred this week - neither featuring the elite players, but each allowing others down the rankings to boost their status somewhat.

In Quebec City, Canada, Lucie Safarova was granted top seeding, ranked 37. She made it through to the semis, as did the third and fourth seeds, Timea Babos and Tatjana Maria respectively.

However, the finalists are Babos and seventh seed Alison Van Uytvanck. Alison knocked out Tatjana and Timea did the same to Lucie in the semis.

Second seed Oceane Dodin had to withdraw from her second round match through injury.

Tokyo has been a qualifiers dream. Three of the four semi final spots were won by them and the final was decided between two qualifiers.

Jana Fett, ranked 123, defeated top seed Kristina Mladenovic in the first round on her way to the semis.

Miyu Kato, raked 171, defeated fourth seed Kristyna Pliskova in the second round en route to the final four.

Zarina Diyas, ranked 100, defeated second seed Shuai Zhang in the second round and eighth seed Yulia Putintseva in a quarter final.

Ultimately Diyas proved too strong for Kato in the final.

Diyas moves 28 spots up to 72 in the world and Kato 48 places to 123.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Rafa wraps up US Open 2017

The US Open is finished for 2017 and appropriately Rafa Nadal was the closing attraction.

He was the dominating figure throughout, both with his tennis and his presence.

He is world number one again, by quite a margin, and with two Grand Slam titles he and Roger Federer have shared the major spoils for 2017.

The final was expected to be a bridge too far for Kevin Anderson, but even the hardened Rafa fans could not have believed the way he out served the South African who had used that weapon to his benefit so well in the tournament.

Set one began with six service holds, but that didn't tell the story. Nadal lost only three points on his serve during that period, whereas Anderson struggled, saving two break points in the fifth game which lasted sixteen points. 

Finally the 28th seed cracked in game seven, when leading 40-30. Two loose forehands, and a double fault in between, gifted the break to Nadal and from 4-3 the set was his, another break in the ninth game just icing on a cake being prepared for celebrations already underway.

Not too early for champagne as set two was also one way traffic, the break arriving with the second chance in the sixth game thanks to a winning smash. Still no break points on the excellent Spanish serve. Only seven points lost on the delivery from the line, and 12 from 12 points won at the net.

Comeback from Anderson ? No chance.

The third and final set was a siesta for Rafa, gaining a break in the opening game - Anderson led 40-15 but threw in four straight forehand errors of his own making, and Rafa simply held serve for the rest of the set.

6-3 6-3 6-4 was a picture of the total domination of the tournament from the top seed, and deserved.  Rafa Nadal has won 3 US Opens and 16 Grand Slam titles.

Kevin Anderson has moved to number 15 in the world rankings, a jump of 17 spots and now he is just five away from his career high.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sloane Stephens wins US Open !

Madison Keys (25) entered the final of the US Open as the favourite, and deservedly so considering her form line, and that shows no disrespect for the performances of Sloane Stephens over the course of the last two weeks.

One of the pair would be the first American woman to hold a Grand Slam title, other than the Williams sisters, since Jennifer Capriati won the Australian Open in 2002. 

Stephens opened the better, breaking a clearly nervous Keys in the fifth game on the back of four unforced errors. 

At 3-5 Madison saved a break point but at game point, three more unforced errors donated the set to Sloane whose effort was stellar, facing no break points and committing just two unforced errors. Keys hit 10 winners to 2, but 17 unforced errors was her undoing.

Set two began with Stephens serving, and she was taken to deuce, giving Keys a sign of hope. It was dashed when Stephens attacked her backhand, forcing successive mistakes. 

After that tight game Keys could not take any chances and was broken three times by a decisive and ultra tidy Stephens who hit as many winners as her opponent but restricted her unforced error count to 4 as opposed to 13 from Keys.

6-0 was an unfortunate score line, and a disservice to the tournament performance from Madison Keys. However, all credit to Sloane Stephens for a brilliant match to cap off a wonderful comeback beginning only five weeks ago.

A Grand Slam win for Stephens and a final appearance by Keys is amazing when considering neither were fit to play the Australian Open in January.

American tennis is alive and thriving, especially on the WTA tour. One in the top five, thee others in the top twenty, and nine more in the top 100.

Sloane Stephens is now 17 in the world after spending the first week of August languishing at 934. Coco Vandeweghe has jumped six places to a new career high of 16, but 11 in this years points race.

Garbine Muguruza leads both the current world rankings and the 2017 points race.

Over the past two years, three players have won two Grand Slam titles apiece - Serena Williams (from just five entries), Angie Kerber and Garbine Muguruza.

Nadal v Anderson in final

The men's semi finals at the 2017 US Open trended the same way but one was more pronounced.

Top seed Rafa Nadal sounded a loud warning to everyone, but then he has been doing that consistently all tournament. His victory over Juan Martin del Potro (24) was brutal, especially considering the generous start he had given the 24th seed.

Set one saw one break of serve, in the fifth game, when del Potro converted a chance with a backhand winner. That held true and the set was transported to Argentina.

That was all she wrote for South Americas on this day.. Set two was a Spanish delight - Nadal hit 13 winners and committed 1 unforced error. He won 12 of 14 points on his serve. That's how few serves he needed in the 6-0 demolition.

Set three was not much tougher - 12 winners to 5 and facing no break points - 4-6 6-0 6-3, and ominous for del Potro.

Already having found plenty, Nadal looked for more blood in the fourth set. He crushed any spirit left in the Argentine heart with a 6-2 reminder of just how great Rafa is.

11 more winners, no break point chances given, strong when at the net, and 16 of 18 points won on serve. The match was over 4-6 6-0 6-3 6-2.

Despite the loss, Juan Martin can walk away proud of his efforts at this Open - the comeback against Thiem and the win over Federer the very next match were memorable.

Kevin Anderson (28) had earlier become the first man into the final, but now would be quaking in his boots, having seen the Rafa exhibition.

Still, it will be a two horse race, and Anderson was extremely impressive in removing Pablo Carreno Busta (12) from calculations.

The higher seed played to the rankings in set one, the only player to break serve. Once was enough and 6-4 was the result. Anderson's unforced errors cost him dearly because he was controlling the match, winners or errors - Pablo was sensible, winning most of the extended rallies whenever the booming serves of Anderson failed.

Set two was the turning point of the match, with the serve of Anderson consistently a problem for Pablo. Holding relatively quickly, Anderson was able to place pressure on Pablo when returning the Spanish serve.

Even so after suffering an early break, the twelfth seed broke back with 3 forehand winners.

Anderson took the set though, thanks to a double fault from Pablo at 5-6 and 30-30. Anderson converted the set point and levelled the match.

From that moment, the match was effectively done and dusted. Anderson reduced his unforced errors and was solid on serve, not facing a break point for the remainder of the match.  

He rallied better and managed to pick up a break in each of sets three and four to force his way into the final.

Perhaps thinking that this may be his last hurrah here, given the quality of opponent he will face in the final, Kevin celebrated as if he'd won the title, climbing into the stands and thanking everybody in what sounded like a victory speech, unlike the one he will probably give as losing finalist on Sunday in New York.

A wonderful tournament for Anderson, first South African in a US Open final since Cliff Drysdale in 1965.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Keys v Stephens Final

The women's semi finals at the 2017 US Open provided one set of competitive tennis and two players into the final who have never been there before, in fact never seen a final at Grand Slam level.


First up were Venus Williams (9) and Sloane Stephens, a mere 13 years and 7 Grand Slam titles between them.

Stephens refused to take notice of the greatness of Venus in set one, winning five straight games from 1-1, breaking twice and not facing a break point on her own serve.

Venus looked the complete antithesis of the player who had starred throughout the tournament to date.


A 180 degree shift occurred in game one of set two when Stephens couldn't convert three break chances.

Venus wasted two game points of her own before holding due to a couple of errors from Stephens.

Then Venus won the next five games to bagel Stephens and level proceedings.

Double the winners and double the points won on serve and the momentum was clearly now with Williams.


The third set was a ripper, with the best of Stephens from set one and Williams from set two, but raised higher.

Stephens opened brightly, breaking for 2-0, only to have Venus win the next three games.


Stephens once again attacked the Williams serve, gaining an advantage in the seventh game on the third break point, forcing a volley error.

Venus calmly forced Stephens into backhand problems and levelled at 4-4.

Playing catch up, Sloane played solid tennis for 5-5.


Then it was magic with a withering backhand to place pressure on the Williams serve at 0-15.  Another wonderful point ending with a Stephens forehand winner forced Venus into errors and a break of her serve.

Stephens served it out and found herself in the final - just a month ago she was 934 in the world, having played and lost two matches, coming back from a year out with injury.  Now she can claim semi finals in Toronto and Cincinnati, and a chance to win a Grand Slam title.  Her ranking is currently 22 with the possibility of moving to 17.


The second semi promised much more than it delivered, although Madison Keys (15) certainly delivered quality in spades against a disappointing Coco Vandeweghe (20).

Keys lost just three games for the match and never faced a break point.

25 winners against only 9 unforced errors is one statistic demonstrating how well Keys dominated.


Although Sloane Stephens is in fine form, there is no doubt Madison Keys starts a warm favourite to capture her first major.

Her only loss in the past 14 matches was to Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round at Cincinnati and she held three match points in that clash against the hottest player at the time. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

del Potro slays Federer

Well Roger Federer will not be playing Rafa Nadal in this years US Open.


Rafa did his part, dismantling teenager Andrey Rublev in ruthless fashion, wasting just five games in the process.

Apart from the opening sets he lost to Taro Daniel and Leonardo Mayer in early matches, Nadal has not lost a set in the tournament. In the sets won he has captured 91 games and lost 37.

Rublev was the receiver of a Nadal clinic, the Spanish number one seed winning 22 points out of 31 on the Russian serve and breaking 7 times from 18 opportunities created.


Roger was outplayed by the one who denied him a sixth US Open title in 2009 - Juan Martin del Potro.

del Potro, seeded 24, had, only two days prior, mounted one of the best comebacks seen in Grand Slam tennis in the fourth round.  Many thought that this five set effort would place him at Federer's mercy, the Swiss number three seed only taken to three relatively basic sets by Kohlscheiber.


The Argentine was deaf to the experts as he wielded his lethal forehand from the outset.

No break points in set one though until Federer served at 5-5.  At 30-15 two Argentine winners, plus a Swiss double fault, gave the break to del Potro and he converted it into a 7-5 set win.


Not to be denied, Federer came alive in set two, breaking the 24th seed unexpectedly in the fourth game due mainly to unforced errors off the South American racquet.

Levelling at a set all, most pundits picked Federer to continue his momentum and take out the match.


But no, this was the night for Juan Martin.  He raced through the first three games before Roger evened things and it was 4-4.  A tie break eventuated where Roger opened a 3-1 lead.

Four set points were saved by del Potro and at 9 points to 8 the Argentine converted his first to take a two sets to one lead.


In a brilliant fourth set, del Potro hit 12 winners (the same as Federer) but only spent one unforced error compared with ten from the Swiss great.

On his serve del Potro won 20 of 23 points, leaving Federer with virtually no room to seriously challenge.

One break was enough, and it arrived in the fifth game.

Juan Martin del Potro is in the semi final with Rafa Nadal thanks to a wonderful 7-5 3-6 7-6 (8) 6-4 victory


Coco Vandeweghe (20) did two things - she defeated last years finalist and top seed Karolina Pliskova in a classy display, and in doing so confirmed the climb of Garbine Muguruza to the world number one ranking.


The match was full of exciting tennis, started on most occasions by the American.  

A service break apiece led to a tie break and Coco controlled it to 5-2 but two errors gave Pliskova a chance.  Two errors from the Czech racquet donated the set to Vandeweghe.

Serving machine Pliskova only managed the one ace for the set.


Broken in the fourth game of set two, Pliskova fought back and broke back, only to lose serve again for 2-4.  

Coco Vandeweghe became the third American in the semis, winning. 7-6 (4) 6-3.


Madison Keys locked the door on any other nation making the semis after her quality victory at the expense of Kaia Kanepi in the quarter final.

Straight sets was always the requirement and it was delivered in kind 6-3 6-3.


Keys will play Vandeweghe in one semi final as a result.

Venus Williams had already booked a semi final with Sloane Stephens.


So either Williams will win her eighth GS title or there will be a debut GS champion, the third for 2017.


Rafa Nadal will win his 16th GS title, or Juan Martin del Potro his second, or there is the unlikely possibility of Kevin Anderson or Pablo Carreno Busta taking out their first.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Kevin and Pablo in 1st GS Semi

Quarter finals began on Day Nine of the 2017 US Open, and both American women won their high quality matches.  The remaining men's competitor was outgunned, upsetting most predictions, and especially the home nation commentators hopelessly biased output.


In a thrilling three set battle, Anastasija Sevastova (16) broke the serve of Sloane Stephens in the opening game, only to see the unseeded American take the next four games with delight, the Latvian's forehand failing badly.


The two service breaks gathered by Stephens were more than enough to grant her the lead 6-3, but not security. Sevastova created the only break point of the second set with a backhand winner, and a backhand error from Stephens converted the break.

A terrific set of tennis from both players was captured by Sevastova who didn't face a break point and we were gifted a decider.


The final set made up for the lack of second set service breaks.  Sevastova appeared to have the match in her grasp when she broke to lead 2-1 and held that for 3-2.

However Stephens fired back with a break of her own for 3-3, and the two exchanged service drops till at 4-4 the match was on edge.


In the eventual tie break Sevastova delivered a poor forehand at 4 points to 5 and a backhand winner on the first match point gave a free semi final entry to Sloane Stephens 6-3 3-6 7-6 (4).


The score line was identical in the second quarter final between Venus Williams (9) and Petra Kvitova (13) but the match was a much harder hitting affair.


Venus took out the first set 6-3, winning the last five games after being down an early break.  Petra's 16 unforced errors didn't help her.

The Czech champ fought back in set two, the winning score line assisted by 16 winners and excellent work at the net.


The decider had Kvitova leading 3-2 with a break and 15-15.  A series of unforced errors followed by a double fault handed a break back to Williams and from there a tie break decided the result.

Venus glided through, assisted by four Czech forehand mistakes and a Petra double fault.


Now a semi final between Williams and Stephens.  There will be at least one American in the final.


Pablo Carreno Busta (12) was too strong for Diego Schwartzman, winning in straight sets.

Schwartzman was his own worst enemy, converting only two of ten break chances (Pablo took six of his eight), and winning just 9 points on his 27 second serves.

The 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory puts Pablo into just his first Grand Slam semi final.  Until this years Roland Garros quarter final, he had never been past the third round in a Grand Slam tournament.

He has certainly stepped up in 2017.


To make the final he will have to defeat Kevin Anderson (28), who broke American hearts late at night by saying farewell to Sam Querrey (17).

As expected with two big servers three of the four sets were decided by tie breaks, and after Sam won the second set, home hopes were high that the momentum would carry him through.

But Anderson savaged Querrey's second serve in set three, winning ten of fifteen points off it.  He managed to break the American serve in the sixth game helped by two double faults from Sam and that was sufficient to take a two sets to one lead.


Anderson won the fourth set tie break and the match, and is in his first ever Grand Slam semi final.  He had previously made just one quarter final at this level - here in 2015.


Tomorrow we have the remaining quarter finals - if Coco Vandeweghe (20) defeats Karolina Pliskova (1), Garbine Muguruza becomes world number one after the tournament finishes.

If Pliskova makes the final she will retain the top ranking.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

4 US Women in quarters

Quarter finals are finalised in the 2017 US Open and as expected Roger Federer (3) and Rafa Nadal (1) are both one step closer to meeting in the semi finals.


Each was completely at ease in disposing of their fourth round opponents, Nadal a straight sets winner over normally troublesome Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Federer the conqueror of Philipp Kohlschreiber.


Nadal lost just 7 games, hit 23 winners and submitted just 11 unforced  errors.

Federer hit 39 winners, twice as many as Kohlschreiber, won 88% of points on his first serve, and 73% of those on his second delivery.


Although the top two attractions were entirely impressive, the match of the day was not on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

On Grandstsnd, 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro (24) mounted the comeback of this tournament, and one of the best in living memory, against Dominic Thiem (6).


Suffering from illness del Potro was easy to target through sets one and two, and Thiem had booked his spot in the final eight, leading 6-1 6-2.

Somehow the Argentine managed to feel better as the third set began and changed the match - Thiem lost the first three games and the last three games for a 1-6 score.  His points won on first serve was 29% and on second serve 44%.


del Potro broke for a 2-1 lead in the fourth set but Thiem went on a tear, winning the next four games, and sitting a game away from the quarter final.

Not acceptable for the Argentine and del Potro broke back and a tie break eventually decided the set.


Five backhand errors from Thiem helped del Potro to five set points and he put away a forehand winner on the first to level the match at two sets all.


No break of serve in the final set through the first nine games and Thiem saved a break point at 4-5, wasted a game point, then threw in a poor forehand and a double fault to lose the match.


Quarter finals:


Rafa Nadal (1) v Andrey Rublev - Rublev defeated David Goffin (9)

Roger Federer (3) v Juan Martin del Potro (24)


Four American women have won spots in the final eight - each is in a separate quarter final, making it possible for an all American final.


The best fourth round match was Madison Keys (15) v Elina Svitolina (4), where Keys won the opening set via a brilliantly played tie break, but was smashed in the second set.

Svitolina broke a seemingly out of energy Keys in the fifth game of the decider, based on four unforced American errors.

Out of nowhere, Madison lifted her game and broke back for 4-4.  Svitolina couldn't buy a first serve, and was broken again in the tenth game, losing the match to a revitalised Keys.


Svitolina also lost her chance to grab the world number one ranking.


Quarter finals:


Karolina Pliskova (1) v Coco Vandeweghe (20) - Pliskova thrashed Jennifer.Brady 6-1 6-0 and Vandeweghe defeated Lucie Safarova in a much closer match

Madison Keys (15) v Kaia Kanepi - Kanepi defeated Daria Kasatkina