Monthly Archives: August 2008

ATP Fantasy Tennis Picks for New Haven

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 tennisdiary.com. We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

Pay attention! This week’s submission deadline is Sunday, August 17, 10am (EST) in the U.S./4pm (CET) in Europe.

This week we have the last tuneup event before the US Open in New Haven. It’s a 48 player event and we need eight players for our fantasy team so let’s pick the quarterfinalists.

New Haven draw (hard court, first prize: $94000)

Fernando Verdasco is the top seed and I’m concerned about Eduardo Schwank who’s in his section. Schwank is going to be a good all court player but he’s not eligible for fantasy tennis because he wasn’t in the top 100 when the fantasy tennis season started. Verdasco is my pick.

Agustin Calleri reached the quarterfinals in two of the three hard courts events he’s played this year and he beat Robby Ginepri here last year. Juan Monaco has the most promise of anyone in this section, but he’s been injured a lot and he just missed eight weeks before losing a first round match at the Olympics. He’s also 1-4 against Calleri so I’m going with Calleri.

Juan Martin Del Potro just won his 17th straight game and he’s the first player in the Open Era to win his first three tournaments consecutively. I’m assuming he entered all three hard court tournaments leading up to the US Open because he didn’t expect to win the first one and still be alive for the semifinals in the second. He skipped the Toronto and Cincinnati Masters events after winning consecutive clay court events in Kitzbuhel and Stuttgart and the US Open starts next week, so I expect him to withdraw from New Haven.

Marcel Granollers and Steve Darcis have one main draw hard court win between them. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is slightly better on hard court than Chris Guccione so I’m picking Garcia-Lopez. If you do pick Del Potro, be sure the look at the draw before submitting your picks.

Marc Gicquel should be able to beat Albert Montanes on hard court but Mardy Fish should be able to beat Gicquel. Fish is inconsistent but he did reach the semifinals at Los Angeles and he reached the final here last year so I’m picking Fish.

Marin Cilic has beaten Fernando Gonzalez and Andy Roddick on hard court this year and he reached the quarterfinals in Toronto. Arnaud Clement beat him at Wimbledon but Clement is 2-5 on hard court this year. Cilic also beat Viktor Troicki on hard court in Chennai and he’s 2-0 over Melzer on fast courts with both victories coming this year. Melzer did reach the quarterfinals at the Olympics so he’s a valid pick, but Cilic is my pick.

Igor Andreev is the obvious choice in the next section – he reached the third round in Toronto, Cincinnati, and the Olympics, and he beat Oliver Rochus here in their only meeting three years ago – but I used him up in the clay court season so I need to pick between Victor Hanescu and Denis Gremelmayr. Hanescu beat Gremelmayr on hard court last year though it took three sets. I’d love to pick Gremelmayr because he reached the semifinals at Los Angeles and he’s won 58% of his hard court events while Hanescu has won only one third of his, but Gremelamayr isn’t eligible for fantasy tennis so I’m going to hope for a miracle and pick Hanescu.

Potito Starace took a set off Rafael Nadal at the Olympics but Andreas Seppi is the best Italian hard court player. Nicolas Lapentti reached the quarterfinals in Cincinnati and he beat Marin Cilic and David Ferrer to get there. This is a tough choice because Seppi is the more consistent player. Seppi reached the second round or better in six hard court events while all of Lapentti’s wins on hard court were in Cincinnati. I’m taking Seppi.

The two tall ones, Ivo Karlovic and John Isner, will play in the first round. Karlovic got to the semifinals in Cincinnati and he reached the semifinals here last year while Isner is having a disappointing year. Can Karlovic beat Jose Acasuso? Yes he can, he beat him on the way to that semifinal in Cincinnati so Karlovic is my pick.

Picks

Here are my picks: Verdasco, Calleri, Guccione, Fish, Cilic, Hanescu, Seppi, Karlovic.

Happy fantasies!

Federer Loses to Blake at the Olympics Which I’m Not Enjoying Very Much

James Blake defeated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals at the Olympics but I’m not digging the tennis event so far.

After James Blake beat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals at the Olympics today, he said he had no idea how he did it then added:

Maybe if you play him enough times, he’s bound to have an off day. He didn’t play his best today, but I felt like I served well when I needed to, especially in that tiebreaker.

Blake did serve well – he faced only one break point and beat Federer in straight sets, 6-4 7-6(2) – but Blake’s statement does seem to epitomize Federer’s current predicament: no slam titles, losses to players like Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Simon, and now no Olympic gold medal after Federer had focused his year on Beijing.

Yes, if you play anyone enough times they’ll have an off day, and, as time goes on, they’ll start having more and more off days. Blake seemed to be saying that he didn’t beat Federer, Federer just didn’t show up. That thought must we wearing away at Federer’s mind, so how will he gather himself for the US Open? Losing the Wimbledon final must have been a huge emotional blow after coming back from two sets down, and being thrashed in the French Open final no doubt felt awful, but at least he reached the final of the last two slams and knowing his propensity for throwing the best face on difficult results, he’s probably telling himself that very thing.

And there’s also the matter of having played in the best match ever in that Wimbledon final. Not a bad way to make a positive out of a negative. As for me, I am not enjoying this thing called the Olympic tennis and now I don’t even have the prospect of the best final ever in the Olympics between Federer and Rafael Nadal. Has there ever been a famous Olympic tennis moment? Anyone know?

In fact, I’m not only not enjoying the Olympic tennis event, it’s irritating me. I find myself complaining about the past-midnight start time for Serena and Venus Williams’ first round doubles match on Tuesday night. Especially after Serena looked lead-footed in a loss to Elena Dementieva today and Venus double faulted nine times in the first set of a loss to Chinese player Li Na. Would the organizers have started a doubles match featuring Li Na after midnight?

Actually, they might have, but I’m whining and sniping because I’m jealous. Not only is my favorite sport declining in popularity in my part of the world – the U.S. – while it’s increasing in popularity in Asia, but it’s not a very popular Olympic sport and, worst of all, my part of the world is declining politically while China is ascending – which was, of course, the point of the beautiful but interminable opening ceremonies.

The whole thing is leaving me out of sorts and even a bit depressed. Take the streaming tennis matches on NBC’s Olympic website. They feel like those soccer games played to empty stadiums as punishment for bad behavior by home fans. Not only are the stands empty, but there’s no commentary either, no verbal commentary anyway.

Actually, there were people in the stands in the early rounds. They all wore yellow t-shirts and cheered for both players. They were like the volunteer seat-fillers at the Oscar ceremony who fill up seats when actors leave to go to the bathroom or receive their statuettes.

And that’s what’s missing. Energy, particularly the partisan version of it. If this was a Davis Cup event, there’d be drums banging and cymbals clashing every time a player won a point. If this was slam, momentum would build over the event until we were glued to the screen for the semifinals. We’d even be arguing about the commentators.

There is a big semifinal coming up. Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet in the semifinals and one of them will take home a gold or silver medal. Blake will play Fernando Gonzalez. Blake has lost five straight matches to Gonzalez and that is probably a better predictor of the outcome than Blake’s eight straight losses to Federer. You’d think Blake would have lost a ninth time but Federer’s matches are now totally unpredictable.

I will watch the semifinals and finals, but a few years from now, I won’t remember who medaled. Thank heavens the US Open is coming soon. Maybe the biggest tennis event in the US will cheer me up.

A Young Colt Beats Up On Roddick: Del Potro Wins His Third Title in a Row

Juan Martin Del Potro beat Andy Roddick in the Countrywide Classic final today and one of the “new big” players rises up the rankings.

Three 19 year olds, all tall, all born within a month of each other, all ranked in the top forty on the professional tennis tour: Juan Martin Del Potro, Marin Cilic, and Ernests Gulbis. I haven’t even had time to think about which one would get their first slam or even if one of them would win a slam, and now one of them has broken out.

Del Potro beat Andy Roddick to win the title at the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles today and maybe I’ve been spending too much time watching the Olympic opening ceremonies. Maybe the need for each and every event to symbolize a significant passing has gripped my brain. But to my thinking, Del Potro’s victory is significant. Roddick was the big player – literally –when he came along at 6’2”(187cm), but the young trio is part of the new big: Del Potro and Cilic are 6’6”(198cm), and Gulbis, well, he’s an inch taller than Roddick at 6’3”(190cm). Of course size isn’t everything, but these guys move better than the old big too.

Roddick dismissed the notion that a group of young players is now taking over (probably out of frustration at losing the match to one of them) as follows:

I always get a kick out it when everyone acts shocked when young players start winning matches. Like it hasn’t been happening for the last 100 years.

But he did agree on the key point:

I think the biggest thing is that these guys are huge. I remember when I was big, once upon a time. As far as tennis stands, these guys are all six foot six and higher. I think that’s a more interesting story than someone being 19 years old.

Well maybe, but age may be the significance of Del Potro’s win. We’ve been talking about Federer losing the number one ranking but Roddick has slipped down the rankings to number nine because he’s been struggling with injuries. After a very good spring that included beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Dubai and Federer in Miami, he’s been having some shoulder problems and he had to drop out of Cincinnati after waking up with a stiff neck and shoulder:

He skipped the Olympics to concentrate on the US Open by playing here and in Washington next week and it’s true that he’s played well this year when he’s been healthy, but Andy Murray has already jumped past him to become the fourth best prospect to win the US Open, and Roddick hasn’t reached a semifinal in a slam since the Australian Open last year. This year his slam results consist of a third round at the Australian and a second round at Wimbledon.

I’ll give Roddick a quarterfinal result at the US Open at best and I’m not sure about that. He’ll probably get his ranking up in the fall season but my guess is that he’s more likely to get to the year end championships as the number seven or eighth ranked player, not the sixth or higher ranking he’s had for the past year.

Speaking of symbolism, by the way, potro means colt in Spanish. Besides referring to a young male horse, the word can also mean young and inexperienced. For that reason I thought Del Potro had a chance to beat Roddick today, but I didn’t expect it to be in straight sets and I certainly wasn’t looking for a 6-1 score in the first set. That’s a bit misleading because Roddick couldn’t find his serve and had treatment for lower back stiffness towards the end of the set, but Del Potro was cracking the ball and even Roddick said, “I could have played really well and I’m not sure if it would have mattered.”

I asked Roddick who was more likely to reach a slam out of the tall trio and he chose Del Potro because he plays more consistently. I guess so. Del Potro has now won three straight tournaments and they were the first titles of his career. Has anyone ever done that before? Anyone know?

That kind of streak means that a player has entered the zone and taken up residence and it certainly looked like it today. Calmness is the overarching trait of a player in the zone and Del Potro calmly walked from one end of the baseline to the other even as Roddick improved his serving percentage to almost 70% in the second set while Del Potro’s level of play dipped. You may not play lights out 100% of the time when you’re in the zone, but you don’t care because you know you will be soon enough and that’s what happened in the second set tiebreaker.

Roddick should have had the advantage in the tiebreaker because his serve was working, but with Roddick serving at 2-3, Del Potro got a 135mph (217kph) serve back in play and the two of them rallied until Roddick coughed up a forehand error to go down a minibreak. Roddick lost the next point on his serve too and Del Potro served out to win the match, 6-1, 7-6(2).

I asked Del Potro, as we all did, what precipitated his current streak of excellence and he did give us an answer: he has a new coach as of February, Franco Davin, and he is now much calmer on court. Del Potro speaks English but not well enough to get into the gritty details – what exactly has Davin changed, for instance? I kick myself in situations like this because I don’t speak enough Spanish and I’d really like to pick his brain about it.

Gulbis has already lost his first round match at the Olympics and Cilic is in the middle of his first match as I write this. Del Potro will be the number two seed at Washington next week while Roddick will be the number one seed. We’ll see if the young colt can continue the trend.

Watch Olympic Tennis Live Online

NBC is streaming the tennis matches at the Olympics live online. Go here and watch to your heart’s content as soon as the rainstorms end.

ATP Fantasy Tennis Picks for Washington

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 tennisdiary.com. We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

This week’s submission deadline is Monday morning, August 11, 4am (EST) in the U.S./10am (CET) in Europe.

This week we have only one tournament and it’s in Washington. It’s a 32 player draw and we need eight players for our fantasy team so let’s pick the quarterfinalists. The draw is almost identical to last week’s tournament in Los Angeles – twenty players from Los Angeles are entered into Washington – so we’ll have some of the same decisions to make.

Washington draw (hard court, first prize: $80,650)

Andy Roddick is the number one seed again and the only person who might give him trouble in his section is Eduardo Schwank. Roddick beat him in straight sets at Wimbledon and it wasn’t easy, but Schwank hasn’t played a hard court main draw match this year and, in any case, he’s not eligible for our fantasy team because his ranking was below 100 at the beginning of the fantasy tennis season.

Back to the same conversation we had last week: should you use Roddick in this event or save him? I have two Roddick picks left and I’m going to save one for the US Open because a quarterfinal there pays twice as much as the first prize in Washington. Roddick has fallen down the rankings a bit so he’s planning to play four tournaments in the fall and those tournaments pay at least twice as much as Washington. But I’m getting a bit concerned about his injuries this year and except for Paris and Madrid – where he hasn’t done well in the past few years – he’d have to reach the finals to match Washington’s prize money. He’s also won this tournament two out of the last three years so I’m taking him this week.

We have only one choice in the next section because Marc Giquel is the only player eligible for fantasy tennis.

The next section has Feliciano Lopez, Taylor Dent, and two qualifiers, so we have to pick Lopez because he’s the only player eligible for fantasy tennis. Dent fell out of the rankings because he’s been off the tour for a few years with a back injury. Lopez lost to Denis Gremelmayr in his first match in Los Angeles but at least Gremelmayr made it to the semifinals.

Marat Safin has a 2-0 record over Fabio Fognini and a 1-0 record over Mischa Zverev who share the next section with him. Safin also reached the quarterfinals this week. Igor Kunitsyn is not eligible for fantasy tennis so Safin it is.

Mardy Fish reached the semifinals in Los Angeles and he beat Alejandro Falla and Florent Serra in straight sets along the way, so I’m picking Fish again.

Nicolas Mahut and Tommy Haas are the only eligible players in the next section. Mahut is 2-0 over Haas with one victory on indoor hard court and the other on outdoor hard court in Indianapolis. And Haas lost to Donald Young this week, which was a surprise, so I’m going with Mahut.

Sorry to repeat myself but Marcel Granollers and Donald Young are the only eligible players in the next section. Granollers has yet to win a hard court match in a main draw event and Young beat Haas this week, so I’m going with Young.
[Correction: John Isner is in this section as fantasy player gzd astutely pointed out, and Isner reached the final last year. He can probably beat Young so I’m picking Isner instead.]

Juan Martin Del Potro is the second seed and he just dismissed Mardy Fish in the semifinals in Los Angeles, 6-2, 6-1. That’s Del Potro’s 13th straight win and tomorrow will be his third straight final. He had a leg injury and skipped Toronto and Cincinnati so he shouldn’t be tired.

Picks

Here are my picks this week: Roddick, Gicquel, Lopez, Safin, Fish, Mahut, Isner, Del Potro.

Happy fantasies!