Benjamin Becker is in the semifinals at Bangkok and you can watch it on a tiny TV window.

About 350 miles (575 km) northwest of Bangkok, Thailand, Myanmar’s military junta is shooting at peaceful protesters in the street. Only about 1% of people living in Myanmar (also known as Burma) have access to the internet but we are getting cellphone videos of the clashes.

Thailand hasn’t said much about the actions of it neighbor’s government. Maybe that’s because it’s ruled by a military junta itself and part of its population is under martial law. However, the internet in Thailand appears to work slightly better than in Myanmar.

If you go to planetstream.tv you can see a 24 hour webcam of center court at the Thailand Open tennis tournament. I was watching it at midnight Bangkok time a few days ago as two non-professional tennis players snuck onto the court and got in a little hitting. I’m pretty sure they didn’t know they were on camera.

Makes you wonder whether internet access is a good thing or not. Yes, it would make it harder for a dictatorship to censor information, but it also makes it easier to carry out surveillance activities.

We’ve been following Benjamin Becker’s career here at Tennis Diary since he was playing challengers. This week in Bangkok Benni has broken out of a three month losing streak and is into the semifinals.

Benni got to the semifinals by beating his fellow German Domink Meffert and I dragged myself out of bed at 5am this morning to see the match. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent futzing around with software that should automatically record internet video and let me sleep through the night, but it’s not ready for prime time yet.

Don’t get your hopes up, the live streaming window is small and the resolution is pretty low. As Benni entered the court, his argyle tennis shirt vibrated with baby blue pixels and you have to guess where the ball is going by the position of the players. Still, if you open up a live scoring window and listen to the commentators, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Benni had lost his first match in seven straight tournaments prior to Bangkok and that means there’s a problem with his game. I watched his match in its entirety so I could see what that problem is.

Meffert is a six foot six inch tree with a big serve who likes to get to the net. Benni is only five foot ten but he depends on a big serve too. Rather than going to the net he prefers to end points early from the baseline. This all sounds good to me. The shorter the match, the sooner I could get back to bed.

Benni was lucky to win this match. He saved two set points to get to the first set tiebreaker but this is only Meffert’s third main draw event and nerves got to him. Meffert served three double faults in the tiebreaker to lose it 7-2.

Benni hit a winner down the line to get a break point in Meffert’s first service game in the second set, but he followed that up by hitting a return into the net and then hitting an unforced error. This demonstrates two of the problems Benni has been having: too many errors on groundstrokes, particularly on the forehand, and poor footwork on the return. He stands at the baseline and takes the serve early, which is a good thing, but he’s way down in the ATP stats for break points converted.

Serving at 3-3 in the second set, Benni’s serve deserted him. He got exactly one first serve in while facing three break points and he went down a break. This is another problem: his first serve percentage for the year is just over 50%, not good enough for someone who depends on a big serve.

Having said that, he’s fourth in the ATP at saving break points and that’s a good sign because it means he plays the big points well. With Meffert serving for the second set at 5-4, Benni hit a good passing shot and a winner off return of serve. Meffert helped out by putting an overhead into the net but it was enough to put Benni back on serve.

In Meffert’s next service game, Benni hit another good passing shot to get a match point and won the match with another good return, this time at the feet of the big guy. The final score was 7-6(2), 7-5.

Benni has played exceptionally well this week. He beat number 15 ranked Carlos Moya in the first round and he’s reached his third semifinal of the year. That’s pretty good. It’s tough out here on the ATP tour though. You can fall as quickly as you rose and here’s hoping Benni can improve his weaker areas well enough to get back to a ranking somewhere in the 30’s and, in the future, even higher.

If you’d like to see Benni play his semifinal against Tomas Berdych, it’s streaming on Saturday at 3am (EST)/midnight (PST). Have fun and tell me what happened. I’ll be sleeping.


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