Monthly Archives: June 2008

ATP Fantasy Picks for Halle, Queen’s, and Warsaw

It’s time for the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season so check out our 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.

This week’s submission deadline is Monday morning, June 9, 4am (EST) in the U.S./10am (CET) in Europe.

The grass season is upon us but some people are still hanging onto clay. We have grass in Halle and London/Queen’s Club, and clay in Warsaw. Halle and Queen’s are both paying more prize money than Warsaw and they both have higher ranked players, so let’s pick three players each from Halle and Queen’s and two from Warsaw to make up our eight player team.

Halle (grass, first prize: $177692)
Queen’s (grass, first prize: $130,000)
Warsaw (clay, first prize: $104,231)

Because Halle and Queen’s attract the top players, the draw is more predictable than Warsaw, a smaller tournament with lower ranked players. Twice in the past five years, six seeded players have reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s and Halle averages between four and five seeded players in its quarterfinals.

Roger Federer has won the title in Halle four of the past five years (he withdrew last year) but you should obviously save him for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. There are also four Masters events left to play so save him for one or two of those also..

Below Federer’s quarter, Mikhail Youzhny reached the quarterfinals here last year but his first opponent is Dmitry Tursunov who reached the semifinals in two of his grass events last year and beat Youzhny on carpet the only time they met. I’m going with Tursunov.

The next quarter is exceptionally tough to pick. Radek Stepanek is a good grass court player but he faces Tommy Haas in the first round. Haas is an even better grass court player but he’s been injured and Stepanek beat him three times last year. Philipp Kohlschreiber reached the semifinals here last year but Tomas Berdych is also in this quarter and won this tournament last, but he’s recovering from injury too. Stepanek is having the best year so I’m going with him.

James Blake should be able to get to the semifinals and I’m taking him because I can still use him for both summer Masters events, the U.S. Open, and Stockholm. He always does well at the smaller hard court summer events but a semifinal here pays as much as a final at any of those tournaments so I’m taking him here.

Rafael Nadal has reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s for the past two years but obviously you should save him for bigger tournaments. Is there someone in his quarter who can reach the semifinals or final? There’s no sure thing because Ivo Karlovic beat Fernando Gonzalez on grass here last year and those are the two best grass court players left.

Andy Roddick is in the next quarter and he’s won this title four of the last five years but should you use him here? Probably. You can still pick him for Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and one of the summers Masters events and that still leaves you one more event in the fall.

In David Nalbandian’s quarter I’m going to skip over Nalbandian and Richard Gasquet because Nalbandian has lost in the first round here both times he’s appeared and Gasquet has a few problems: the past few years he’s lost early in his first grass tournament of the year and he’s been suffering through a confidence crisis so let’s look at Mario Ancic and Nicolas Mahut instead. Ancic beat Mahut on carpet earlier this year so I’m going with Ancic.

Novak Djokovic is likely to win his quarter but you should save him for Wimbledon, one or two of the remaining Masters events, and the U.S. Open, so let’s see who’ll meet up with him in the quarterfinals. Marin Cilic reached the quarterfinals last year but hasn’t done much else and that leaves us with Lleyton Hewitt and Paul-Henri Mathieu. Hewitt has a much better record here but Mathieu’s game is improving and Hewitt has been struggling due to a long term hip injury so I’m going with Mathieu.

I’ve picked six players so I need two players from Warsaw to complete my team.

If there’s a clay court tournament somewhere in the world, Nikolay Davydenko is sure to be there and he’s in the draw at Warsaw. I used him for clay court Masters events so I’m saving him for the U.S. Open and Moscow. He’s won the title in Moscow three of the past four years and it pays a lot of money.

In the quarter below Davydenko, Gilles Simon has a winning record over everyone in his quarter except for Guillermo Canas – they’re even at 1-1. Canas has lost his last six matches on clay so I’m going with Simon.

Tommy Robredo is 4-0 over Albert Montanes on clay and beat him in Valencia this year so he’ll probably get out of the bottom quarter. If he meets Juan Monaco in the semifinals that’s a tough choice. Monaco beat Robredo in Kitzbuhel last year in their only meeting but Robredo has better results in the bigger events this year so I’m picking Robredo.


Here are my picks for this week: Tursunov, Stepanek, Blake, Roddick, Ancic, Mathieu, Simon, and Robredo.

Happy fantasies!

Monfils Rope-a-Dopes His Way to the Semifinals in Paris

Gael Monfils feinted and jabbed and ran a few miles along the baseline on his way to a victory over David Ferrer in the French Open quarterfinals.

Gael Monfils, Gael Monfils, what can you say about the guy? The French tennis federation brought him along, then he jumped ship to the rival Lagardere Group, then he came to the U.S. and signed up to work with Tarik Benhabiles, then he went back to Lagardere. He’s like a kid in a candy store who can’t make up his mind. He leaps and splits and splays those arms and legs all over the court retrieving balls that should be out of reach. He celebrates wins with the moonwalk and the robot and good shots with equally boisterous outbursts of childlike glee, one of which ended up with an awkward landing and a badly sprained ankle and a trip off the court in a wheelchair. There he was a few weeks later looking just as good at an indoor Masters event.

One thing Monfils doesn’t do is play aggressive tennis and retrieving is not a recipe for success against David Ferrer – the human wall – especially in the quarterfinals at the French Open. Right? Monfils’ only consistently aggressive shot is his serve: the beanpole version of Andy Roddick’s power serve with the feet together and everything bending instead of stepping. And everything bends on this guy. I was never sure Monfils was designed for tennis. Not that he isn’t very good at it, mind you, and not that many other tennis players couldn’t play another sport, but Monfils, in particular, is the best example of what we call a pure athlete on the pro tennis tour.

That’s not necessarily a good thing, by the way. I’m currently reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis, a book about the way statistics have changed player evaluations in baseball. It used to be that baseball scouts looked for the best athlete – the five tool player: the guy who ran fast, thres the ball hard, fielded well, hit well and hit with power. The subject of the book is Billy Beane, a five tool player who had all the physical tool but didn’t have the proper mental makeup to play professional baseball.

Beane now chooses players for the Oakland Athletics, a major league baseball team, but if he’d been picking tennis players instead, he might have skipped over Monfils because maturity is a word that has seldom been attached to Monfils’ name. Luckily for tennis, players are not signed to teams and given a big signing bonus, they’re allowed to mature over time and they only get paid when they win matches.

Today Monfils was paid a lot. He beat Ferrer, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, to reach the semifinals at the French Open. How did he do it?

Monfils started in with the rope-a-dope. If his fellow countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can be compared to Muhammad Ali, then Monfils actually uses Ali’s tactics. Speaking of which, it’s hard not to think that Tsonga’s run to the Australian Open final didn’t light a fire under Monfils or, at the very least, arrive as a wakeup call.

Anyway, back to the rope-a-dope. Ferrer is a counterpuncher and Monfils didn’t give him anything to punch with so Ferrer had to be the aggressor and that didn’t work so well. Monfils had won the first set and was facing break points at 2-2 in the second set. They were on their third deuce and Ferrer was hitting the ball as hard as he could and running Monfils all over the place. Ferrer finally got to the net and Monfils calmly threaded a backhand down the line and past Ferrer for his second game point.

On the next point, Monfils served and volleyed and put the ball away easily. By now, though, Monfils appeared to be gassed as he lost his next two service games, and the set, and twice leaned over on his racket to prop himself up. Not the best signal to give your opponent and also one of the consequences of a defensive playing style because you end up running a whole lot more than your opponent.

Two errors and an ill-advised drop shot by Ferrer and Monfils was up a break immediately in the third set. Monfils took the gift and, well, continued on with his rope-a-dope. Ferrer couldn’t penetrate Monfils’ defense so he went for more on his shots and made errors, including a mishit and a drop shot into the net to give Monfils the third set.

I’d like to tell you that Monfils has turned a corner. That he’s finally listened to one of his many coaches when they suggest he play more aggressively. He did sneak into the net occasionally and finish off the point and he did turn some second serves into mincemeat but, honestly, I don’t see it. He doesn’t seem to make the connection between playing a grind it out, defensive style of game with a spindly body and a high occurrence of injuries. After today, he has even less reason to listen.

Instead, he frustrated Ferrer so badly that he had the poor guy imitating James Blake by going for smoke on every shot. And Ferrer did it badly. On break point in his first service game of the fourth set, he hit a forehand so hard it barely missed hitting a ballperson on the fly. Monfils took him completely out of his game. Ferrer managed to win only one game in the fifth set.

I will say one thing, Monfils is the most talented grinder in the world and if he can frustrate Ferrer, the number five player in the world, then he can also beat a whole lot of other players. What I saw today is the full commitment of Monfils to his uber-defensive tennis self, this is who he is so we should all just get over it.

And that probably means more of the same: the ongoing rollercoaster ride with the same cycle of injuries interspersed with brilliant play. We might even get the coaching rollercoaster: Monfils mentioned the word “argue” and “coach” in the same sentence three times in his postmatch media session today.

Whatever, strap me in, I’m ready for the ride.