Monthly Archives: October 2007

Should Djokovic Be Fined for Lack of Effort Too?

Join us for the Paris Masters final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 4th, 7:30am Los Angeles/10:30am New York/3:30pm London (remember to set your clock back one hour Saturday night if you live in the U.S.).

Novak Djokovic had two wisdom teeth removed last week and while that may help explain his desultory play against Fabrice Santoro in Paris today, I have to ask: If Nikolay Davydenko was fined $2000 for lack of effort in a match in St. Petersburg last week – and he was – why wasn’t Djokovic fined?

Santoro was playing well and won the match 6-3, 6-2, but come on, he won 88% of his first serves and I can serve harder than he can. Djokovic is in the top ten in three of the four return of serve categories and he can’t return Fabrice Santoro’s serve?

If Djokovic is suffering from tooth problems, Santoro had it worse. One of his legs was taped up to protect his knee. Djokovic obviously noticed this and hit drop shot after drop shot. Santoro got to most of them, though, which was amazing for a guy taped up like a mummy. At least HE was trying.

To be fair, Djokovic had never played Santoro before and Santoro is absolutely unique. No other player on tour hits a slice forehand from the baseline and Santoro hits it probably 75% of the time, if not more. Djokovic had fought off three break points in his first service game and was facing another one serving at 2-3 in the first set. After seven attempts at trying to hit something solid off Santoro’s short and low slices, Djokovic tried to hit a winner down the line and sent it wide to go down a break.

Here’s the thing: it didn’t seem to bother Djokovic. Okay, he wasn’t smiling, but I never saw him get mad or even throw his hands up in frustration. If he didn’t get a fine for not trying, he should have gotten one for not caring.

There is a possible explanation. Djokovic has already qualified for Shanghai and he’s played lots of tennis this year since he reached so many late rounds. He might just be tired or he might be very smart and is saving himself for Shanghai.

For that same reason, I don’t understand why Roger Federer is here unless he wants to build up a cushion in the rankings. He hasn’t played Paris since 2003. Any good theories anyone? Did the ATP put pressure on the top three players to turn up in Paris?

Davydenko lost that match in St. Petersburg to Marin Cilic by the score of 1-6, 7-5, 6-1. He served six double faults in the third set. Clearly Davydenko would not have been fined if he hadn’t embarrassed the ATP with an irregular betting incident earlier this year.

The online betting exchange Betfair voided all bets on Davydenko’s match with Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August because the match looked like it was fixed. That incident unleashed a torrent of reports of suspicious match results and players – who’d seldom brought the subject of gambling up before – were lining up to talk about anonymous phone calls and shady characters offering them big bucks to throw a match. As you can imagine, the ATP was not happy about that.

I don’t think Davydenko or Djokovic should be fined. I have a better idea. The ATP should find out who placed repeated irregular bets on the Davydenko/Vassall-Arguello match. That way the ATP don’t have to pretend to be doing something about fixing matches by deciding who’s playing hard and who’s not, they could actually get to the heart of the matter

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What a Difference a Point Makes- Kiwi and Wawrinka

Join us for the Paris Masters final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 4th, 7:30am Los Angeles/10:30am New York/3:30pm London (remember to set your clock back one hour Saturday night if you live in the U.S.).

Nicolas Kiefer lost his concentration then lost his nerve to lose his first round match in Paris today.

Two weeks ago, Nicolas Kiefer – known as Kiwi to his friends and his website – beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round of the Madrid Masters tournament, 7-5, 6-3. Today he lost to Wawrinka in the first round of the Paris Masters tournament, 7-5, 6-3.

If you’d listened to the Tennis Channel commentators for today’s match, you’d say the difference between this match and the one two weeks ago was the court speed. The Madrid surface was faster than the Paris surface and Wawrinka took advantage of the slower court to draw Kiwi into baseline rallies, most of which Kiwi lost. Maybe, but I’ll get to that later.

Wawrinka did draw Kiwi into baseline rallies and that does suit Wawrinka’s game better than Kiwi’s, but Kiwi played an awful point at a critical time and he never managed to recover.

Kiwi was serving at 5-6 in the first set when he hit a double fault that gave Wawrinka a set point. Kiwi followed that up with a lazy backhand into the net and that was that, he’d given away the first set. Serving to stay in a set is always a bit nerve-inducing but in Kiwi’s case, it carried over to the second set.

Kiwi had camped out at the net in the first set and even threw in a few serve and volleys. Wawrinka wasn’t far behind. He voluntarily got himself to the net at every opportunity. For a minute there I thought I’d entered the Twilight Zone and jumped back twenty years to a time when tennis players actually liked going to the net. It didn’t help that Wawrinka’s shirt was exactly the same shade of blue as the court. The shirt had a white stripe down the back of it so Wawrinka looked like a blurry blue skunk running back and forth to the net.

Kiwi, however, stopped going to the net in the second set. Wawrinka was already flying high and now he could see that Kiwi was playing into his hands by staying on the baseline, so he took over the the second set to go up a break and get to 4-1.

Kiwi got one break point with Wawrinka serving for the second set but it was too little too late.

Kiwi’s had a curious career. He spent a good nine months in the top ten in 1999 and 2000 then he dropped down the rankings. He was on the verge of climbing back into the top ten in May 2006 when he was forced to take a year off for a wrist injury. Has any other player dropped out of the top ten then dropped back in again six years later? If you can think of one, leave a comment below.

Kiwi hasn’t made his way back to the top ten yet but he has had three semifinals and two quarterfinals in his last eight tournaments and one of those semifinals was at Madrid. I wouldn’t think he could get back to the top ten with the young talent out there these days but those are solid results.

Back to court speed. How do you measure court speed? I suppose you could bounce a ball on the court and measure it’s momentum after the bounce. That wouldn’t account for changes in the weather and other environmental considerations and besides, who’s going to do that every year?

The faster the court, the easier it is to hold serve because the serve will travel faster. That means there should be more games played per set. By that measure, is Paris faster than Madrid?

If you look at this table on, you’ll see the number of games played per set averaged over the past ten years. Over that period of time, Paris is clearly faster than Madrid.

If you go to’s tournaments page and look up the court speed for this year’s tournament in Madrid and this year’s tournament in Paris, Paris is slower than Madrid. However, the measurement for Paris only accounts for the matches played in the first two days of the tournament and there were only two matches on Sunday so those results are incomplete.

Paris could be slowing down but we won’t really know until much later in the week. In any case, it’s unlikely that it is significantly slower than Madrid and we’re left with this conclusion: Kiwi lost a crucial point then lost his bearings. He stopped doing what had been working for him – going to the net – and played right into Wawrinka’s strength – baseline play.

It’s not the same as giving someone a set point with a double fault but it’s not all that different either.

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ATP Fantasy Tennis Picks for Paris

We’re deep into the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season so check out my Fantasy Tennis Guide. You’ll find Fast Facts, Strategies, and Statistics to help you play the game.

Sign up and join our subleague! It’s called We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

Pick your team before going to bed Saturday night because the deadline is early Sunday morning: 1am in Los Angeles/4am in New York/9am in London.

Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

I started the week in 22nd place and ended in 38th. Not bad considering that Jarkko Nieminen, Marc Gicquel and Sebastien Grosjean all made it to a final this week. I wasn’t expecting that. I still have Andy Murray and he could win the St. Petersburg title tomorrow.

My goal was to end up in the top 100 and it looks like I’ll make it so I consider this a successful year. How about you? And what would you change about the ATP fantasy tennis game?

This week we have the Paris Masters Series event and it’s the last event of the ATP fantasy tennis season. I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ll see you next season. Hopefully the ATP fantasy tennis people will get themselves together and start way before Wimbledon next year.

I’ll still be picking the winners every week, including the year end championships, so stick around.

Paris Masters (indoor carpet, first prize: $468, 860)

I’m going to assume that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will drop out of Paris because they’ve already qualified for the year end championships. In any case, I’ve used them both five times this season and can’t use them again. I’d like to think that Novak Djokovic is smart enough to stay home too but I’m not sure he is. I’ve also used him five times so prepare for picks that do not include those top three players.

We need eight players, two from each quarter, so let’s divide the draw into quarters.

Roger Federer’s Quarter

Carlos Moya is hopeless indoors so forget him. I’m going to pick between Fernando Verdasco and Ivo Karlovic in the top part of the quarter because David Nalbandian has never been past the second round in Paris.

This is a very tough pick because Verdasco is 8-2 indoors this fall and Karlovic is 12-3. They’re 1-1 in head to head meetings so that doesn’t tell me much. Karlovic will be playing his sixth straight tournament in Paris and that’s not good but I’m picking him because not even Federer could break his serve in Basel this week. Also, Verdasco hasn’t beaten any highly ranked players this fall and Karlovic has.

In the bottom part of the quarter there are three good players: Tomas Berdych, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Mario Ancic. I’m ignoring David Ferrer because he’s never been past the second round here either.

Ancic beat Mathieu two weeks ago indoors so forget Mathieu. Ancic and Berdych both reached the quarterfinals here last year and Berdych won it the year before. It’s a tossup because Berdych is inconsistent and Ancic is still making his way back from mononucleosis but I’m taking Berdych because he’s 8-1 in Paris.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter

Since I’ve used up Novak Djokovic, I’m taking Andy Murray in the top part of this quarter. Good thing Murray was injured this year else I’d have used him all up and he’s pretty hot. If he takes the title in St. Petersburg tomorrow, he’s within three points of the number eight ranking and that means he’s in the running for the year end championships.

This is the French quarter. There are five French players here. We need to choose between four of them in the bottom part of the quarter and James Blake. Richard Gasquet is having a terrible fall season but I have a feeling he’s going to wake up this week and wipe out all of the other French players. I’ve already used Gasquet five times so I’m taking Blake who will probably only make it to the third round.

Nikolay Davydenko’s Quarter

The top part of this draw is between Tommy Robredo and Guillermo Canas because everyone else is a qualifier or a clay court player. Canas has a 3-1 record over Robredo and he’s a better player on carpet so I’m taking him.

I saved my last Nikolay Davydenko for this week so I’m using him.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter

Fernando Gonzalez is 0-5 in Paris. Tommy Haas made the semifinals last year. I’m taking Haas in the top part of the quarter.

In the bottom part of the quarter I’ve used up Nadal. I’m skipping Juan Ignacio Chela because he’s not good indoors.

I’d like to pick Nicolas Kiefer because he beat Stanislaw Wawrinka in Madrid two weeks ago but Kiefer is not available because his ranking was too low at the beginning of the year. Oh well, I’ll have to hold my nose and go with Jurgen Melzer who should be able to win at least one match.

Paris Draw

My Picks

Here’s my team: Karlovic, Berdych, Murray, Blake, Canas, Davydenko, Haas, Melzer.

Happy fantasies!

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A Quantum Leap in Tennis?

Today we have an appreciation of Roger Federer from our reader Maria Duclaud, a Mexican living in Madrid who loves tennis

I have loved tennis all my life, ever since I was a little girl and my father used to take me to Davis Cup matches when Rafael Osuna, Tony Palafox and Raúl Ramìrez played for Mexico. My father and I never missed a Grand slam and we enjoyed tennis matches as much as soccer and Major League Baseball.

Tennis then was mostly amateur and not so physical. Gentlemen in white clothes with wooden rackets. Wit and intelligence was the thing..(so I thought) more like an elite. The popularity was kind of discreet, there were not so many tournaments and not that much money involved.

When John McEnroe started playing I fell for him immediately. I couldn’t stand Connors’ personality and I found his powerful and consistent game boring. Tennis started to be something different with Connors and evolved in many ways. The rivalry between McEnroe and Connors had begun and every match they played was so much fun.

I admired Borg but his consistency and imperturbability drove me mad. Unforgettable matches between Borg and McEnroe ..and then my beloved Agassi ….the way he learned to play the net, to believe in himself and win matches and tournaments, simply wonderful. Boris Becker, handsome, intelligent…. Santana, Orantes, Sampras !!!!!! such a gifted and humble player…

Then Roger Federer came along and everything changed… he started doing magic shots, with an elegance and with such grace that it seemed almost like a different sport, effortless and smooth, easy and brilliant… The people getting destroyed on the court at Roger’s hands are no amateurs but extremely fit, elite, world-class athletes, and he just plays with them like they are children when things get serious.

It is impossible to overlook the ridiculous degree of difficulty for many of the shots that he makes look easy. There is also a mental aspect to the challenge that he handles with ease, almost never letting the pressure of being #1 get to him or make him quiver. He has reinvented many shots in tennis and even when he loses he plays shots that surprise Roger himself and delight every one else. His capacity to concentrate and the deep understanding that it is not about his opponents but that it is all about him, shows pure wisdom.

I have heard about a New Energy that is accessible to us right now and a Quantum Leap that many humans are taking in these turbulent times. Since tennis is like a mirror of life and one of its greatest manifestations, since we can watch the play of consciousness all around and delight in its complexities, I started to think that Roger Federer is not just one more wonderful Tennis Player but a Master, a Guru that has come to teach us a new way to play the game and how to create a Masterpiece of every game we are involved in.

They say that when you are so integrated and in love with yourself, absolutely in love with yourself, your energy changes and a physics that takes place creates new potentials and new answers. Such a whole, integrated, divine human, so outstanding, can have an amazing effect on other players. He becomes a huge mirror for all of them and this gives everyone motivation and potential to change things.

Roger seems to be a totally integrated, self-healing, self-balancing, self-creating being. He is immersed in this New Energy, an energy that has a graceful flow to it, energy that makes things happen very, very quickly and very easily.
If it ain’t easy it’s not right (when he forgets how easy it is then he loses inexplicably… ) He is complete, he is whole (no need of a coach), wisdom is within him and he is a true Standard being for all, not just for tennis players.

Roger has been showing us a new way to play, a new way of doing things: effortlessly, with joy, with beauty, with simplicity, no need to struggle any more (he doesn’t even sweat), and radiating a special light that make all energies serve him, enhance him and help him create a Masterpiece every time he plays and lets himself go with the flow.

I don’t know if Roger is conscious of this, probably not. Nevertheless, he has a special flexibility and a way of not getting in the way, a way of surrendering to the moment with complete Presence, that makes the impossible possible. He achieves the unthinkable and creates a precedent for future players and for the life of all. I sure think he has helped tennis change and surprisingly enough, has helped manifest a true Quantum Leap in the game. “May those who have Eyes, See; and those who have Ears, Hear”

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ATP Fantasy Picks for Basel, St. Petersburg, and Lyon

We’re deep into the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season so check out my Fantasy Tennis Guide. You’ll find Fast Facts, Strategies, and Statistics to help you play the game.

Sign up and join our subleague! It’s called We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

Make your picks before you go to bed Sunday night. The deadline to submit your team is: 11pm in Los Angeles/2am in New York/7am in London.

Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

I started the week in 14th place and ended in 22nd place.

My strategy of taking the sure $183,000 for Novak Djokovic in Vienna instead of a possible final in Madrid paid off. Djokovic lost in the Madrid semifinals and won “only” $117,000. That was about the only thing I did right but come on, David Nalbandian beating Roger Federer in the Madrid final? I’m half expecting Nalbandian to test positive for synthetic testosterone.

I also made the correct choice of using Rafael Nadal in Stuttgart instead of Madrid. He made $183,000 in Stuttgart and $58,000 in Madrid. Of course, that’s assuming Djokovic and Nadal skip Paris.

I’m off to San Francisco for the week so I won’t be posting very much. If any of you readers would like to weigh in on any tennis subject, just click on the email link at the top of this post and send me your thoughts. I’ll be happy to publish them. Meanwhile, my co-writer Pat Davis will be covering the Federer loss on Tuesday.

There are three tournaments this week and we need eight players. Let’s pick three players from Basel and St. Petersburg and two players from Lyon.

Basel (indoor carpet, first prize: $166,514)

The big question here is whether David Nalbandian has anything left after beating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in consecutive matches. Will he even bother to turn up? I’m guessing he will because there are only two tournaments left and then he can rest until January. And, Nalbandian is 18-4 in Basel

Just below Federer is a very tough quarter to pick and we can’t take Federer because everyone I know has used him five times already. Stanislaw Wawrinka beat Nalbandian here last year and got to the semifinals and he beat Nalbandian in Vienna two weeks ago. James Blake, Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych are in this quarter too. Whoa!

I’m picking Wawrinka because he’s beaten Nalbandian the last three times they’ve played. Also, Feliciano Lopez could beat Berdych, and Karlovic could beat Blake.

In the bottom half, Fernando Gonzalez has three qualifiers in his section and he’s fighting to get to the year end championships. So is David Ferrer but he has Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marcos Baghdatis in his quarter and Baghdatis won this tournament in 2005.

If I were you I take Fernando Gonzalez but I’m taking Guillermo Canas because I’m not sure Ferrer can get past Baghdatis and, more importantly, I can’t use Gonzalez anymore. It could get ugly this week as I limp to the finish.

I’m also taking Paul-Henri Mathieu even though he’s not that good on carpet because he should be able to get to the quarterfinals and I need a third player from this draw.

Basel Draw

St. Petersburg (indoor carpet, first prize: $142,000)

Nikolay Davydenko reached the quarterfinals here two years ago otherwise he’s played poorly. That’s a good thing for me because I can only use him one more time so I’m saving him for Paris.

Thomas Johansson has won this twice and reached the final last year so he’s an easy pick.

Mario Ancic was the player who beat Johansson in that final and he’s reached the quarterfinals the last two weeks. He should play Mikhail Youzhny in the second round but I think he can beat him so I’m picking Ancic.

Andy Murray is my third pick. He has an easy quarter.

St. Petersburg Draw

Lyon (indoor carpet, first prize: $132, 384)

This is a very fast carpet surface and that could be why Andy Roddick won this tournament the only time he entered it. I’ve used him up already. His appearance here, by the way, indicates to me that he’s likely to skip Paris.

Unfortunately I’ve used all my Richard Gasquets too and that could be a big problem because he has a very easy quarter. You might want to use him because he’s never been past the third round in Paris.

I’d like to pick Tommy Haas but I’m not sure he can get past Igor Andreev and besides, I was going to save Haas for Paris because he reached the semifinals last year. On the other hand, he didn’t beat anyone important to reach those semis and he’s fighting for the last berth in the year end championships. I’m picking him because I’m desperate for a player.

Lots of people have picked Tommy Robredo to get the last spot in the year end championships but he has a dismal record here. He did reach the Paris semifinals last year so I’m saving him for Paris. I’m picking Juan Monaco. He should be able to get to the quarterfinals.

Lyon Draw

My Picks

Here’s my team: Wawrinka, Canas, Mathieu, T. Johansson, Ancic, Murray, Haas, Monaco,

Happy fantasies!

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