Category Archives: ATP Players

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Fan violence has arrived in the world of tennis. I hope we handle it better than we have gambling.

During the second round match between Konstantin Economidis and Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open, a group of Greek fans were so unruly that the Australian police used pepper spray to subdue them. Three Greek fans were arrested for assaulting police and resisting arrest.

That’s unusual enough, we usually see that at soccer matches, not tennis matches, but now the story has taken on a political spin. A video showing Marcos Baghdatis holding up a flare at a barbecue chanting “Turks out of Cyprus” has been posted on youtube. Baghdatis can be seen arm in arm with one of the three Greek fans arrested by police.

Baghdatis is from Cyprus and there is actually a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that is recognized only by the country of Turkey. The Cypriots view them as an illegal occupation force.

This was a drunken party, not a political rally. You can also hear the partygoers chanting “We just had a barbecue, we just had a barbecue.” Not exactly inflammatory rhetoric, is it? And anyway, I agree with the Cypriots, the Turks should leave Cyprus. What’s bothering me is that fan violence has now arrived in the tennis world and I hope we handle it better than we have gambling.

The professional tennis world reacted too slowly to the gambling problem. They should have had people monitoring betting patterns on gambling websites as soon as they learned that millions of euros were being laid down on tennis matches.

After the fact, they overreacted. Journalists can no longer take their laptops into stadiums lest they take advantage of the short lag time between on court play and internet scoring updates to lay down a bet or two. Remember, gamblers can make a bet throughout a match on gambling websites.

It’s a pretty dumb rule, though. What’s to keep you from laying down a bet using your iPhone?

The police in Australia also overreacted to the Greek fans in the stands. The pepper spray they used caused eye irritation to surrounding innocent fans. Jeez, don’t the Aussies teach their officers come-along grips? We learned them in our basic martial arts class. You bend the finger, wrist, or arm of the unruly person into an awkward position and the person has no choice but to come along with you.

I’m afraid tennis will do the same thing for security that it has for gambling: institute unnecessary and ineffective procedures. I can see it now. Tennis matches will look like airports with long security lines and various undressing requirements – shoes and belts off before entering the stadium.

Hopefully stadium security will, instead, treat fan violence as isolated incidents and step in as quickly as possible using the minimum amount of force needed. Indecent language should get a fan thrown out immediately. Quick preventive action keeps a drunken crowd from getting drunker. We’ve had violent incidents in basketball games and baseball games in the United States, but once it happened, security was increased and there have been few repeat incidents.

Keep a visible security force ready, respond quickly to fan’s complaints, and take fast action against unruly and abusive behavior. It’s not that difficult.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 170 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin in five sets in the second round of the Australian Open, but Baghdatis’ career might look a lot like Safin’s by the time it’s over.

To be a championship tennis player you need the appropriate balance between intensity and amnesia. You need enough fire in your belly to slog through five set matches in ungodly heat for two weeks straight and enough amnesia to forget a stretch of bad tennis.

While I was watching Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, I spent a little time placing both players on the intensity/amnesia spectrum. The exercise brought up a number of interesting comparisons between these two players.

First of all, we know Safin does not have amnesia. He not only doesn’t forget his last bad shot but he’s very likely to respond to a stretch of bad tennis by getting into an argument with the chair umpire, or any other willing participant.

You could never, however, accuse Safin of lacking intensity or lacking effort. Safin had game point at 4-2 in the third set when Baghdatis hit a beautiful running forehand down the line. Safin was at the net and he lunged towards the sideline and hit what could only be called a stretch stab volley. I mean, he launched all six foot four inches of his body horizontal. The volley was perfect.

Baghdatis, on the other hand, is short on intensity. He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. He’s my top candidate to take Safin’s place as the player most likely to fail to fulfill his potential. Here’s a guy who made it all the way to the final at the 2006 Australian Open and got up to the number eight ranking and he’s been rattling around with a 15-20 ranking ever since.

Whereas Safin is a tall powerful tennis player who’ll attack the net – he’s the most powerful tennis player I’ve ever seen, Baghdatis has a lot of baby fat on that body and he ventures to the net only when the situation requires it. He could impose his game on opponents by moving forward much more but he seems to float above the game instead of get down and dirty.

Baghdatis started the match off doing what he does well: aggressive counterpunching. He was on fire for the first two sets and got out to a two set lead. Safin fought back to win the next two sets as he went through is own patch of exceptional tennis.

When the fifth set came around, Safin went on a walkabout. As he put it,

..unfortunately my concentration and my — everything went a little bit downhill, and he was just preparing himself for the fifth set. So it’s a little bit unlucky.

Consistency is neither player’s hallmark but I have hope for Baghdatis. He’s only 22 years old and he’s playing more aggressively than he used to. He plays very well indoors and on grass courts – he has a semifinal and quarterfinal at Wimbledon already. I could see him winning a Wimbledon some day, maybe even two.

Two slams. That exactly the number of slams owned by one Marat Safin.

Grinders/Retrievers

Safin hit the shot of the tournament but Roger Federer and Fabrice Santoro played the point of the tournament and it tells you why grinders and retrievers are such a pain in the butt. Those are the players with ugly games that get the ball back no matter what you do.

Here is a point from that match that demonstrates what I mean.

Santoro blocked a wide serve into the court then ran deep to the ad corner to retrieve Federer’s response. Santoro’s response was short so Federer came in and hit an approach to deuce corner. Santoro got to it and hit a lob to the middle of the court which Federer hit softly to the ad corner. Another short response by Santoro was followed by yet another Federer approach. This time Santoro’s lob hit the sky and landed just inside the sideline. Federer telegraphed his overhead and off went Santoro to retrieve it. By the time he got there he was at least ten feet beyond the sideline, but get to it he did and his lob pushed Federer back to the baseline where he….yup, shanked the ball and lost the point.

Federer beat Santoro easily, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, but this point shows you why most people want to strangle player like Santoro. Have any of you readers had a similar experience? I know I have and I was none too successful at dealing with it either.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 226 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

If Maria Sharapova is the diva, what does that make Lindsay Davenport? How about inspiring?

Lindsay Davenport just passed Steffi Graf to become the highest career money winner on the women’s tour. She’s currently at $21, 872, 217. That figure is partially due to inflation. You can bet that Graf never made $1.4 million for winning the U.S. Open and that doesn’t include a $1 million bonus for winning the U.S. Open Series.

Davenport hasn’t had heavy endorsement income for a few reasons. She’s not classically beautiful or sexy, and she’s not a self-promoter. Maria Sharapova is both of those things. It’s not a wild guess to say that Sharapova will earn as much in endorsements by the end of her career as Davenport will have earned from prize money by the end of hers.

Sharapova is an intense diva who commands the court and fights to the very last drop. She’s the self assured product of a family which lives for her tennis career. She’s supposed to succeed and she does. And her success is not limited to tennis.

For all the extra curricular activities Venus and Serena Williams involve themselves in – Venus now wears her own line of clothing and Serena consults on her Nike clothing line, Sharapova will probably outdo them both. She just signed a contract with WTA sponsor Sony Ericsson that includes acting as a design consultant for some of their products. Sharapova is, by the way, only 20 years old.

And so we find ourselves in the second round of the Australian Open to watch Sharapova, the present moment of tennis, play Davenport, the past champion. I feel bad about putting Davenport into the past tense because I’m ecstatic that she’s rejoined the tour after retiring to have a baby.

But she is 31 years old and it’s not quite the same as the Martina Hingis return tour. Davenport is a strong hitter and a big server but she never moved all that well. Hingis could always move and she was still a young 24 when she unretired from a three year hiatus with foot problems.

Sharapova isn’t a good mover either so both players tried to end the point as soon as possible once their match started. You’d have to go back to old movies of serve and volley at Wimbledon to watch a match with shorter points. These days Wimbledon courts are much slower.

Davenport was completely overwhelmed in the first set. It’s understandable considering that she’s only played Tier III and Tier IV tournaments since she returned to the tour last September. Sharapova repeatedly hit behind her or too far in front of her. Sharapova was already up 5-0 in the first set when Davenport ran Sharapova deep into a corner. Sharapova recovered with an emergency forehand slice but the angle of the shot was out of Davenport’s reach. Most women players today would get to that ball.

Davenport recovered in the second set, though, and managed to hold her first three service games. Now she was winning some of those cross court rallies. Two consecutive breaks of serve gave Sharapova the match, 6-1, 6-3, but Davenport could probably have made it to the third or fourth round with a bit more luck from the draw.

I think Lindsay can make it into the top ten. She beat number three ranked Jelena Jankovic twice last year and she also beat number 12 ranked Daniela Hantuchova. I don’t think she can get into the top five and I’d bet a lot of money that she’ll never win another slam. What do you think? Am I wrong? Am I more or less right?

[Correction: Davenport beat Jankovic once last year. In fact, until Davenport met up with Sharapova, she was 19-1 on her return tour. Her one loss was to Jankovic. Thanks to Anon for setting me straight.]

In either case, it’s wonderful to have Lindsay back on the tour. Tennis was never the beginning and the end of the world for her and that’s especially true now that she’s a mother. And don’t take my word for it. Serena Williams, who seldom has many positive things to say about her opponents, had this to say on Saturday:

I’m speechless because she looks better than me and she’s seven months out of having a baby. I’m convinced if I had a baby, seven months later I’d probably still be in the hospital trying to get over the pain. She is my ultimate role model. I’m really so motivated … she’s just taken it to a new level.

Tall Tennis

Ivo Karlovic is 6’10”(2.08m) and John Isner is 6’9”(2.05m). There’s no doubt they were the tallest doubles team ever to play a professional tennis match when they took the court in Melbourne today. They lost their match in straight sets but the trend worries me. Sharapova and Davenport are both 6’2”(1.88m) and if tennis continues to go the way of basketball, maybe we should consider raising the net. On the other hand, if people were abusive towards me just because I liked round robins, what will they say about raising the net? They’ll probably come after my head!

Watch out for Richard Gasquet. He beat Feliciano Lopez easily today and is looking good. As long as he doesn’t stub his toe or get a slight fever, I think he can go a long way.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 200 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic exchanged places in the rankings, Novak Djokovic breezed through his first round match at the Australian Open, and Viktor Troicki ain’t looking too bad either.

I was watching Viktor Troicki play his first round match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open today and a thought hit me: Could it be? Is net play actually coming back into fashion? In case you’ve forgotten, net play is the act of approaching the net by choice instead of necessity.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took Andy Murray out yesterday by pressuring him at the net early in the match and here was Troicki hitting a forehand slice approach to get his butt to the net against Nadal. Nadal won the match 7-6(3), 7-6, 6-1, but it was closer than the score indicated and Troicki looked good. As Nadal said, “He played very, very aggressively.”

Troicki is a 6’4” (193 cm) player from Serbia who is ranked 126 in the world. Hardly seems fair that Serbia might have another promising player to add to Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, and Novak Djokovic.

While I’m on about the Serbs, I’d like to elaborate on a point I made about Jelena in my post yesterday. Jelena is one of my favorite players because she’s an idealist. She isn’t grinding for points and money, she wants to get the number one ranking and that’s why she’s out here. If tennis doesn’t work out, she has an alternative plan. She’ll return to Megatrend University in Belgrade – I hope it’s a business school with a name like that, complete her education and be happy to do so.

Here’s the question: How idealistic is Jelena?

If she really is interested only in the number one ranking, will she drop out of tennis and return to University if her ranking drops down to, say, the thirties? Or will she hang around for as many years as possible extracting every last bit of life out of tennis. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, but there’s something very appealing about someone who has other fish to fry. Someone who thinks of something else besides accumulating as much money has humanly possible. It’s a rare thing in today’s world.

Most tennis players hang around as long as possible and do little afterwards, but I have hope for Jelena because she’s different. She’s unconventional in a way that her fellow Serb, Ivanovic, is conventional. Jelena is unconventionally beautiful and unconventionally outspoken. Okay, Ivanovic is a smoldering hot beauty, but she’s the last person likely to say anything remotely controversial. She cares way too much.

It cannot be easy for Jelena to be compared to Ivanovic. Jelena has lost to her five out of the six times they’ve played and Ivanovic just took away Jelena’s number three ranking. Not only that but Ivanovic is already a sex symbol and she just signed a racket deal with Yonex that could pay her more than $10, 000, 000 over four years.

Ivanovic is only 20 years old so who knows how she’ll develop and mature as a person. But for my money, I’ll take the devil may care Jelena any day.

I Told Ya So

Stefan Koubek took out Carlos Moya today, 7-6(5), 6-7(2-7), 7-5, 6-4. I told you Moya would not get to a fourth round matchup with Nadal. This is the fourth year in a row Moya has lost in the first round.

I know you all disagree with my Gasquet pick – I have him beating Nadal and getting to the final – but the way Nadal looked today I might not be far off. He struggled at times.

Farid, you were right about Ivan Ljubicic. He’s out already after losing to Robin Haase in four sets. Are James Blake‘s chances looking any better right about now?

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 203 user reviews.

The first grand slam of the year has arrived and the number one ranking is already in question.

Think about this for a minute: Roger Federer could lose the number one ranking to Rafael Nadal by the end of the Australian Open. Will it happen? Let’s see.

Roger Federer’s Quarter

Juan Monaco and Tomas Berdych are waiting around in the top half of Federer’s quarter but Monaco still isn’t good enough on hard court and 2004 was the last time Berdych beat Federer.

In the bottom half of Federer’s quarter there are a few stories. Ivan Ljubicic’s ranking has been sinking since last August and I don’t expect him to recover. James Blake dropped out of the top ten last October and is currently ranked number 15. I don’t expect him to drop further but I also don’t expect him to get back to the top ten. Ljubicic has a 4-1 record over Blake but his victories came over two years ago and Blake won their last match. If they meet in the fourth round, Blake should win.

Then we come to Fernando Gonzalez. He reached the final here last year then played through the most wildly inconsistent year I’ve every seen from a top player. He lost his first match in eight tournaments yet still ended up in the top ten. Well, except for Nikolay Davydenko who also lost his first match in eight tournaments but we expect that from him.

If Gonzalez gets to the fourth round and meets Blake, he should be golden because he’s won their last five matches. That would put him in the quarterfinals against Federer but Gonzalez can’t win that match.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter

Marcos Baghdatis is in Novak Djokovic’s half of this quarter but he’s right up there with Gonzalez and Davydenko for inconsistency. Still, Baghdatis should be able to beat Lleyton Hewitt and that should put him in the fourth round against Djokovic. That will be as far as Baghdatis gets because he’s lost both of his matches to Djokovic.

I think Nicolas Kiefer will take out Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round. Kiefer is one of my two dark horses. He could get to the fourth round because David Nalbandian is having trouble with back spasms. That wouldn’t be shocking because Kiefer got to the semifinals here in 2006. He’d meet David Ferrer and though he beat Ferrer in their only meeting, this time Ferrer should prevail.

I’d love to tell you that Ferrer could beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals but I’d be lying. Djokovic has beaten Ferrer every time they’ve met on hard courts and he beat him in straight sets at last year’s U.S. Open.

Nikolay Davydenko’s Quarter

My second dark horse is Stanislas Wawrinka. I say he beats Davydenko in the third round then loses to Mikhail Youzhny. The big match here is a possible fourth round matchup between Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray. I think one of them gets out of this quarter and into the semifinals. Which one?

This is the toughest match in the draw to call because Gasquet and Murray have similar hard court records. Gasquet has beaten Murray both times they’ve met but that’s not why I’m choosing him. I just think Gasquet is a bit more mature than Murray and is ready to reach the semifinals here.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter

We’ve been concerned about Nadal’s fragility on hard courts and we saw it again in Chennai two weeks ago. Nadal survived a four hour semifinal with Carlos Moya then suffered a lopsided loss in the final the day after. This doesn’t happen on clay and it doesn’t even happen at Wimbledon. Nadal played seven straight days in Wimbledon last year due to the rain and still got to the final.

Given Nadal’s fragility I didn’t think he’d go far here but now I’ve changed my mind. I was expecting a knock down drag out fight between Moya and Nadal in the fourth round but Moya has bombed out in the first round the last three years. He just beat his first round opponent, Stefan Koubek, in Sydney last week but Koubek won both their hard court matches last year. And Moya lost to his second round opponent, Agustin Calleri, in Sydney.

That leaves Andy Roddick in the top half of Nadal’s quarter. Philipp Kohlschreiber should be Roddick’s third round opponent and I wanted to pick him as one of my dark horses because he just won Auckland. But Roddick takes care of business in slams so let’s look at Roddick versus Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Nadal beat Roddick in the semifinals at Indian Wells last year so I’m going with Nadal to get to the semis.

Australian Open Draw

My Picks

Semifinalists: Roger Federer plays Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet plays Rafael Nadal.
Finalists: Federer, Gasquet
Winner: Federer

The answer is no, Federer won’t lose his number one ranking but Nadal may get even closer to the top.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 165 user reviews.