Monthly Archives: July 26, 2021

John McEnroe and Jim Courier held forth on the state of Roger Federer’s current plight at the Countrywide Classic.

Now I know what it must be like to share a broadcast booth with John McEnroe. My deep respect for McEnroe’s frequent broadcast partner Mary Carillo just got deeper. McEnroe and Jim Courier are here at the Countrywide Classic for an in-tournament version of the senior tour, and they both sat for a media session yesterday afternoon. McEnroe dominated the conversation but he did let Courier say a thing or two.

I started the session off by asking their opinion about the change in the number one ranking in the ATP. Federer has held the number one ranking for 236 consecutive weeks and will lose it to Rafael Nadal on Monday. The subject turned to Federer’s state of mind now that he’s lost the number one ranking and on this subject, Courier had the most interesting thing to say:

I’ve been saying since Wimbledon that we’re going to learn a lot about Roger Federer here in the next six months. We’re gonna learn a lot about what he’s gonna have longevity-wise because he’s been so brilliantly scheduled for the last four or five years when he hasn’t overplayed. He’s talked about playing well into his thirties and we never thought that Borg would disappear after John’s appearance at the top. And then he was in the finals at Wimbledon and the finals at the US Open, John beat him and he was gone.

So how long will Federer stick around? Will he be more like Borg and just up and leave one day, or will he be more like Sampras who hung around until he won his last slam? Courier is betting against Borg:

I don’t think that’s what we’re going to see with Roger, I hope that’s not what we’re gonna see with Roger because he played incredibly at the final in Wimbledon, just an amazing match. Certainly his ability has gone nowhere, it’s just a question of what’s going to happen inside of his heart, inside of his head.

McEnroe then made a good point about Federer’s supposedly brilliant scheduling. Federer had such a large gap between him and the number two player that he probably could have played less and still kept the number one ranking. As McEnroe said, “Maybe he just liked it.” By extending McEnroe’s thought, you could say that Federer liked being number one so much that maybe he sacrificed long term results – such as a few slams at the end of his career that would put him past Sampras – for the experience of being number one. If he’d played less, he could still have been a solid number one or, at the very least, the year end number one, and he might have extended his period of dominance.

McEnroe, who is damned good at this stuff by the way, probably the best tennis commentator in existence, then brought up another good point: Federer is 27 years old. Today is his birthday and he celebrated it by carrying the Swiss flag in the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. Federer is in good enough shape – McEnroe said that neither Federer or Nadal looked winded after coming off the court in Wimbledon incredibly enough – but how many slams can he win from here:

When Pete hit 14 I was like, “Oh God, who’s gonna get there?” And it’s been pretty amazing that Roger’s gotten so close so fast. [But] how many did Pete win after 27?

Sampras won three slams after the age of 27 and he won his last one when he was 31. For sure, Federer will be much more like Sampras than Borg, but will he stick around for a few years to get that last slam as Sampras did in 2001 and 2002? Most likely.

Sampras didn’t win any events between his 2000 Wimbledon title and his 2002 US Open win. But he did get to the final of the US Open in 2000 and 2001, and he ended 2000 ranked number three in the world. Sampras, however, didn’t have a Nadal around to make life difficult for him or Djokovic breathing down his neck. Marat Safin beat Sampras in one of those US Opens and Lleyton Hewitt beat him in the other, but only Hewitt won another slam during Pete’s era.

By the time Sampras retired, his ranking was down to number 17. I think Federer could live with that if he felt he still had the goods to take another slam, but I’m also guessing that he can stick around the top ten for at least three or four more years so he may not have to deal with that. I also think he’s the kind of player, unlike Sampras, who would enjoy a farewell tour.

I give him five years. Three or four to get those last few slams and one for the farewell tour.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 287 user reviews.

Which player will Donald Young look like when he finds his game? Serbian player Dusan Vemic is like no one else you’ve ever seen.

Donald Young turned 19 a week ago and believe it or not, this is his fourth year on tour. He’s a young 19. After he lost his second round match to Marc Gicquel at the Countrywide Classic this afternoon, he looked like a teenager slumped in his chair with disappointment. Half of him wanted to answer our questions and the other half wanted to get the hell out of there.

So, I ask myself, When he does grow up, which player will he turn into? My best guess is Radek Stepanek. Without the gamesmanship and complaining and unnecessary injury timeouts, of course, but with the stylish all court game and net play. While gamesmanship is annoying, it does express a strong desire to win and that part I don’t know about in Young’s case. I’d say that Stepanek’s career high number 8 ranking is probably a bit higher than Young is likely to reach.

Gicquel is a more polished version of Young. Young disagreed that their game was similar when I suggested it to him after the match, but he was willing to concede a few things they shared and I think it’s a fair assessment of his game:

He runs a lot of balls down, he gets a lot of balls back, he makes you play different shots, and he can hit his forehand, he can step up and hit it. He has all the strokes. I wouldn’t say we’re alike but we have all the strokes and can do a lot of stuff.

I’m guessing that “all the strokes” carried Young to the number one ranking in juniors because most teenagers are still developing the strokes he already had. In the pros he has two problems: lack of power and immaturity. I’ve only seen Young play a few times but I’ve never seen him hit harder than his opponent. The word “whack” doesn’t come to mind when he hits the ball, it sounds more like “thock.”

Young may not be able to do anything about that but he’s definitely got game, it’s just that it might take him a bit longer than most to learn how to use it. He’s not just standing at the baseline whacking the ball to the corners and he’s had to adjust his expectations a few times. That’s the burden of being a child prodigy: expectations have to be adjusted with each new passage in life. What starts out as a life of unlimited possibilities slowly becomes a series of concrete results which seldom match expectations.

Young seems emotionally solid enough to have crossed that bridge. He’s happy to be earning a whole lot more money than the college graduate he would have been if he hadn’t turned pro and there’s something to that. He’s earned $168, 000 so far this year and that’s with a best result of one quarterfinal.

Emotionally he’s okay so what about his game? Like most young players, Young knows what he needs to do but he can’t quite do it. He lost the first set and was even at 3-3 in the second set when Gicquel was called for a foot fault. Gicquel was furious. He complained to the chair umpire (“Only in the USA” he said twice, meaning patriotism played a part on the foot fault call because Young is a US player) and generally fell apart. Young knew Gicquel was out of whack and he knew enough to take the game to him, but when he got to the net and had the easy put-away volley for the service break, he hit the ball into the bottom of the net. The line judge had given him a gift and he couldn’t take advantage of it.

Then, like most young players, Young lost his focus and couldn’t recover. He lost his serve then Gicquel served out the match to win it, 6-3, 6-3.

John McEnroe and Jim Courier sat still for a media session late afternoon – I’ll get to that tomorrow – and then I went out to watch Andy Roddick’s match. I wasn’t interested in Roddick except maybe to see if his shoulder is holding up – it is. I wanted to see Dusan Vemic and he is something everyone should see.

I’d only been out there a few minutes when Vemic hit a 135mph serve. A few points later he hit a forehand slice which is a cross between a drop shot and a squash shot. I’d barely gotten over his physical appearance with the black socks, white shoes, wraparound silver Oakleys, ponytail and beard, when he slipped and fell into a full split then jumped up as if nothing had happened. I’ve never seen that before on the men’s tour!

Vemic is tall, moves lightly, and he’s got those goggles. He’s a mixed up tennis player with a huge serve and funky drops shots and lobs. Tipsarevic is the next model up which still comes with the goggles. And then there are the top three.

Think of it like this: Vemic is Serbian tennis player Beta version 1.0. Tipsarevic is Beta 2.0. Djokovic, Ivanovic, and Jankovic are the release versions and their release was timed to coincide with the Olympics. All along we’ve been thinking that Russia and China have been building the perfect Olympic athlete and it was Serbia who was doing it and right under out eyes.

I’ve detected a few glitches. The Vemic model goes through an abbreviated practice service motion before it serves as if some incomplete code had been left in the program, and the Djokovic model gets into programming loops now and then. It bounces the ball endlessly before it serves.

All in all I give the release version 4.5 stars.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 237 user reviews.

Mardy Fish defeated Vince Spadea at the Countrywide Classic with the Davis Cup looking on.

Yes, that is THE Davis Cup and that is me standing in front of it. I figure a Davis Cup pic is more valuable than a photo of Mardy Fish or Vince Spadea running around a tennis court. You can get those anywhere right? The cup is standing in the middle of the tennis complex on the UCLA campus here at the Countrywide Classic, but only till 9pm when it will leave for its next appearance.

I’m not using this image for entirely egotistical reasons. It features in my story today.

I’m (still) reading Vince Spadea’s book, Break Point: The Secret Diary of a Pro Tennis Player. Besides being as feisty as its author, the book has some insight into the psychological ploys that players use to motivate themselves. One motivational ploy is the slight. Spadea fuels himself off slights and one of those slights involved his opponent this afternoon, Mardy Fish.

Spadea wanted to play Davis Cup for the US in 2004 but Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe chose Fish instead. If you read Spadea’s book, it looks like he was cheated out of his rightful place on the team. He wrote an open letter to McEnroe stating his case and, according to Spadea, McEnroe chose him to go to the Davis Cup finals that year with the agreement that Spadea would play if he beat Fish in practice.

Spadea kept a log of his matches with Fish and he beat him in three 11-point groundstroke games and two sets. After their match today, I asked Fish about the Davis Cup controversy. He hadn’t read Spadea’s book but he remembered the incident well:

I’d played Davis Cup the entire year. For him to think that he was just gonna come in and play the final after we did all the work to get to the final is slightly ambitious. Beating me in baseline games to 11 certainly doesn’t mean that he deserves to play the final after we did all the work to get there.

Notice that Fish remembers those 11-point game losses. Spadea is not wrong in his recollection but he doesn’t quite tell the whole story either. Fish and Spadea’s ranking flip-flopped during 2004. Spadea started in the 30’s and ended in the 20’s whereas Fish started in the 20’s and ended in the 30’s. So Fish was the highest ranking player at the beginning of the year and he’d also performed well in a Davis Cup match the year before.

Spadea may not have been treated fairly in the Davis Cup finals but you can hardly blame McEnroe for choosing Fish, and perhaps escalating the slight to larger proportions is Spadea’s way of motivating himself during the long grind of the tennis season. Here’s a guy, after all, who is now 34 years old and has over 400 victories in his career.

Fish might also have wanted to prove that he deserved that Davis Cup spot because he lost his three matches with Spadea before 2004 and won all three of them after. All but one of those matches went three sets and the match today did too. Spadea fought back from a break down to win the first set tiebreaker in a display of tight tennis from both players. Spadea appeared to tire from then on as Fish got the win, 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-0, and is into the quarterfinals.

Fish is in the quarterfinals but Andy Roddick won’t play his first match till tomorrow evening. John McEnroe and Jim Courier will play too and all three will be holding media sessions so there should more than enough to talk about tomorrow. See you then.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 187 user reviews.

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 4, 4am (EST) in the U.S./10am (CET) in Europe.

This week we have one 28 player tournament in Los Angeles. We need eight players for our fantasy team so let’s pick the quarterfinalists.

Los Angeles draw (hard court, first prize: $79, 000)

Andy Roddick is the number one seed in this tournament but I don’t know if he’ll show up. He dropped out of Cincinnati with neck/shoulder soreness and he had shoulder problems earlier this year. There are two more US Open tune-ups in Washington and New Haven so he might want to save himself for one or both of those. I used him at Queen’s, Wimbledon, and Toronto, and I was saving him for the US Open and an indoor fall event that pays more money. If you do pick him and he drops out before the start of the event, you won’t be able to substitute for him after the Monday deadline, but it also wouldn’t count as one of his uses.

Roddick will have no problem getting to the quarterfinals if he plays and Tommy Haas shouldn’t have a hard time either. However, Haas beat Roddick the last three times they met including Indian Wells this year, so I wouldn’t waste Roddick this week. But that presents a problem because Lu Yen-Hsun is not eligible for our fantasy team because he was ranked too low at the beginning of the fantasy season. Since there’s no one promising in the qualifying draw, I’m going to pick an additional player further down the draw.

In Feliciano Lopez’ section, Denis Gremelmayr is 1-3 on hard court this year and Fabio Fognini is 1-2. Lopez is just okay on hard court this year with a 7-7 record, but he only has to beat the winner of the Gremelmayr/Fognini match to reach the quarterfinals.

Bobby Reynolds is in Marat Safin’s section and Reynolds beat Safin in Miami this year. Reynolds has a 5-5 record on hard court versus Safin’s 2-6 record, but Reynolds isn’t eligible for our fantasy team and neither is Wayne Odesnik. Can Safin beat John Isner? It’s a tossup but Safin did reach the quarterfinals here last year so I’m picking him.

Carlos Moya reached the quarterfinals in Cincinnati and he beat Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev to get there. He’s 4-0 over Malisse so I’m going to say he can get to the quarterfinals.

Juan Martin Del Potro beat Kunitsyn on grass and hard court last year. However, Dudi Sela beat Del Potro in Tokyo on hard court last year. This is killing me because I hate picking all seeded players and Del Potro hasn’t played much on hard court this year, but he got to the semifinals on grass in s’Hertogenbosch and he won the last two ATP events on clay, so I’m guessing his confidence is sky high. I’m going with Del Potro. By the way, two years ago seven of the top eight seeds reached the quarterfinals so there is a precedent. Not the strongest argument for picking so many seeded players, I know, but we don’t have a lot of choices because so many players are off to the Olympics this week.

Mardy Fish’s section is the hardest one to pick. He has the best record on hard court but he’s lost his last four matches. Vince Spadea reached the quarterfinals here last year and he beat Dmitry Tursunov in the process. He also beat Sebastien Grosjean on hard court in Adelaide this year. However, Fish can probably beat Spadea on hard court. What to do? Since I didn’t pick anyone in Roddick’s quarter, I’m going with both Fish and Spadea.

Fernando Verdasco got to the third round at Cincinnati which is more than anyone else in his section can say so he’s my last pick.

One last note, be sure to check the draw at the last minute possible because players could get shifted around.

Picks

Here are my picks: Haas, Lopez, Safin, Moya, Del Potro, Fish, Spadea, Verdasco.

Happy fantasies!

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 190 user reviews.

After four and a half years at number one, Roger Federer’s reign will soon be over.

It could be next week or it could be the week after that or it could be the week after that, but it will happen. Roger Federer’s reign as the number one ranked tennis player in the world will end. Here is a terse, info-packed assessment of the situation courtesy of the Cincinnati Masters event website:

– If Nadal wins the title [in Cincinnati], he will become No. 1 this Monday.
– If Nadal loses in the final he will become No. 1 on August 11
– If Nadal loses in the semifinals he will become No. 1 on August 18

Federer has held the top ranking a record 235 consecutive weeks (since Feb. 2, 2004) and Nadal has been No. 2 for a record 158 straight weeks (since July 25, 2005). The last player to rank No. 1 before Federer’s reign was Andy Roddick the week of Jan. 26, 2004.

“A record 235 weeks” adds up to just over four and a half years of which 2004-2007 ranks as the most intense slam frenzy the men’s game has ever seen. Twelve slams in five years including three slams in the years 2004, 2006, and 2007. In contrast, Pete Sampras won 14 slams in 13 years and so, I give you Federer’s Law of Dominance: the more intense the period of dominance, the faster the decline.

Federer suffered the third loss in his last four matches this week in a loss to Ivo Karlovic in the third round at Cincinnati. If you look at this page of Federer’s tournament results for the past year, everything looks good till January 2008. Then there are four straight tournaments with no better than a semifinal finish.

Of course, that’s because Federer came down with mononucleosis at the beginning of the year and that is an immune system problem. You don’t get sick with mono unless you’re immune system is compromised and it takes more than a case of the flu or a tummy bug get to that state. Overwork and stress are two main contributors to the illness.

College students have a high incidence of mono because they stay up half the night for those keg parties and cram sessions. Federer didn’t play a lot of tennis tournaments but he was usually in the final and that adds up to lots of tennis matches. Those 235 consecutive weeks are 49 longer than any other tennis player, male or female, has ever stayed at number one. Add that to expectation of reaching the final at every slam and winning at least three of them and, yeah, that’s a lot of stress.

The record for total weeks at number one goes to Sampras at 286, but he was number one over 11 different periods. That’s called stretching your stress out. People expected Sampras to take Wimbledon every year and if he threw in an Australian Open or a US Open now and then, all the better. So maybe there’s a corollary to Federer’s Law: the more consecutive weeks you stay at number one, the less likely you are to get back there. If you don’t release the pressure valve now and then, eventually you blow.

Or suck, as the case may be, because Federer’s game right about now just plain sucks. He lost to Gilles Simon in his first match in Toronto and Simon barely gets off the ground when he serves. Federer came within a few points of losing to Robby Ginepri in Cincinnati and now the loss to Karlovic for the first time in seven matches.

After the loss to Karlovic, someone asked Federer the following question:

Q. How discouraging is it for you that another Masters Series event goes by without you winning it?

That question had a few other questions inside it: How discouraged are you that you haven’t won a Masters event all year? How discouraged are you that you haven’t won a hard court event all year?

Here is Federer’s response:

No problem. It wasn’t an Olympic or a US Open, so I can live with that.

Maybe, but I’m guessing the precipitous drop continues. I’m also guessing that this is the last week at number one in his career.

What say you?

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 174 user reviews.