Category Archives: ATP Tournaments

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.).

Will Roger Federer win the Australian Open and will Nikolay Davydenko ever get the ball into the service box?

Federer Looks Ordinary

I took a closer look at David Nalbandian’s win over Roger Federer in this week’s Paris Masters Series event. Nalbandian beat Federer yesterday to get to the quarterfinals.

Federer had lost the first set and had just been broken to go down 4-5 in the second when it hit me: Federer will not win the Australian Open next year.

A prediction on my part for sure and Federer actually broke Nalbandian in the next game to even the second set at 5-5. But Federer looked very ordinary. He couldn’t take control of the points consistently while Nalbandian was able to move Federer wide then hit winners to the open court again and again.

Nalbandian won the match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(3), and it was a rather routine win.

I don’t know what Nalbandian’s excuse is for playing so well considering that he hadn’t reached a semifinal in almost a year before he won Madrid two weeks ago. Evidently he was having some physical problems and couldn’t train properly.

I do know what Federer’s excuse is. This is his third tournament in a row and he doesn’t like doing that. He played Paris because Rafael Nadal is breathing down his neck. Nadal is into the semifinals in Paris and if Federer doesn’t do well in the year end championships in Shanghai, Nadal could be in position to take over the number one ranking early next year.

The surface at Shanghai is superfast so it’s unlikely that Nadal will do well there, but then it was unlikely he’d reach the semifinals in Paris. Luckily for Federer, Nalbandian will not be in Shanghai.

Who’ll beat Federer in Australia? At this point, Nalbandian and Novak Djokovic are the best candidates. Nalbandian just beat him twice in a row and Djokovic beat him in the final at the Montreal Masters which is an outdoor hard court event. Nadal reached the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open but his knees probably won’t hold up through a two week long hard court slam.

What do you think? Does Federer win the Australian? If not, who’ll beat him?

Davydenko Is Crumbling

The Nikolay Davydenko situation is getting ridiculous. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier warned him about his lack of effort while he was in the process of hitting ten double faults in his loss to Marcos Baghdatis in Paris yesterday. The ATP seems to be punishing Davydenko for his part in a suspicious match he played against Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August. There were irregular betting patterns on the match that made it look like the match was fixed. The ATP is still investigating the matter.

How else can you explain it but punishement? Last week the ATP fined Davydenko $2000 for lack of effort during a similar run of double faults. I understand how betting patterns can lead you to think that a match was fixed, but what’s the evidence here?

It looks to me like Davydenko is getting Guillermo Coria’s disease. He can’t get the ball into the service box. In Coria’s case the problem was a lack of confidence. I think Davydenko has finally succumbed to the pressure of constant scrutiny about the alleged fixed match. He gets asked about it at every tournament he attends and he’s not a guy who’s good with the media. He’s not smooth or well-spoken, he’s cranky if anything.

It would be surprising if it didn’t finally get to him. That’s immense pressure to face week after week. It’s not that I’m necessarily sympathetic. That match looked for all the world like a fixed match and until someone shows me an alternative explanation, I’ll be very suspicious.

But give the guy some resolution one of these days. That match was in August and he’s still twisting in the wind.

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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.).

Martina Hingis tested positive for cocaine and Roger Federer lost to David Nalbandian twice in a row. What is the world coming to?

A friend sent me an email invitation to an event at a local S&M parlor this weekend. I’m pretty vanilla so I didn’t accept the invitation but I was interested in the title of one of the workshops: Crack Addict. What’s crack got to do with S&M I wondered? Is that a new kind of kink I’ve never heard of before?

There are no doubt plenty of kinky acts I’ve never heard of but this one refers to whips. As in cracking a whip. Get it?

Crack is also connected to cocaine – it’s a diluted cocaine in the form of a rock – and I was even more surprised to hear it connected with Martina Hingis. I’m not naïve enough to think that rich athletes don’t try cocaine now and then and more power to them. I did enough acid and marijuana in my youth to get my fill, let others do it too. How else will they know what they’re missing?

Martina, however, tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon and that’s bit of a problem because cocaine is a stimulant which makes it a banned substance. Her response? I didn’t do it.

Here we go again. In the famous words of Rafael Palmeiro who sat in front of a congressional hearing on steroids, pointed his finger and said:

I have never used steroids. Period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.

Five months later he tested positive for the steroid stanozolol and suggested that the positive test had come from a liquid B-12 vitamin given him by a teammate. Later that season Palmeiro went home and he hasn’t played since.

Hingis is doing the retiring thing too and she’s denying that she ever used cocaine. This is her stated reason for retiring: “I do not want to have a fight with anti-doping authorities.” I can sympathize with that. I’ve written about the unfair balance of power held by anti-doping organizations over athletes and you have to wonder why it takes them four months to process a positive test.

But Martina, you can’t have it both ways. If you didn’t do cocaine, retiring sends a decidedly mixed message. The positive test result will stand if you don’t challenge it.

Does this taint Martina’s career? Not in the least. Party on girl, just be smarter about it. It’s not like cocaine is helpful in a tennis match. It’s a short lived high.

Martina’s return to tennis in 2006 after a three year layoff has been pretty cool. She’s done about what I expected. She got into the top ten, reached the quarterfinals at three slams, and won three titles. She can be proud of that.

Still, if she doesn’t fight the cocaine thing, she’ll go down as just one more big fat denier in a long line of deniers. And that’s really unfortunate because a huge part of Martina’s appeal was her unedited mouth. If she didn’t think much of an opponent’s game, she’d say so. If she was mad at the WTA, she’d say so.

And now she’s giving up because the case could drag on for years? Where’s your sense of outrage, Martina? It just doesn’t wash.

I’m hoping my co-writer Pat Davis will write one of her wonderful remembrances on the occasion of Martina’s retirement. How about it Pat?

Nalbandian Beats Federer Again

David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer again today in Paris. I don’t have time to write about it tonight but I’ll weigh in tomorrow.

I will say one thing. I expected Federer to lose early since he needs to get his rest for Shanghai – this is his third straight tournament – but I didn’t expect Nalbandian to keep rolling and how wrong I was.

Okay, I’ll say two things. Federer was beaten by Guillermo Canas in two consecutive tournaments earlier this year and now he’s been beaten twice by Nalbandian within three weeks. Federer’s hallmark is his ability to figure out an opponent’s game so we can assume the problem is not strategy. And as far as we know, he’s not losing brain cells.

That means Federer is not able to execute his strategy. It’s a very slight drop, he still won three slams this year, but it’s a clear indication of slippage in his game.

That brings us to today’s poll because Federer is also losing his grip on the number one ranking.


The year end rankings for 2007 will have Federer as the number one player, Rafael Nadal as number two, and Novak Djokovic as number three. Here’s the question:

Exactly one year from today, who will be the number one ranked player in the ATP?
Roger Federer? Rafael Nadal? Novak Djokovic? None of the above?

Go to the poll on the right of the screen and to vote.

Tennis Diary TV Feature

Some of my favorite shows of all time are the Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. The hapless coyote Wile E. repeatedly tries to trap the annoying little Road Runner for dinner and Road Runner repeatedly escapes, usually leaving Wile E. to suffer in a contraption of his own making that has backfired on him.

It’s all very simple, stupid, and hilarious. Just my style.

In that vein, I bring you this week’s Tennis Diary TV Feature: Tennis Funnies (If Tennis Funnies is not currently playing, click on Channel Guide and select it.)

It’s simple, sometimes crude, stupid, and really funny. Have a laugh. Why not? The world is falling apart.

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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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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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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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