Category Archives: James Blake

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.

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This week’s submission deadline is Monday morning, April 28, 4am (EST) in the U.S. and 10am (CET) in Europe.

I made a mistake last week. Well, I made a few, but one in particular stood out. I picked Carlos Moya for my team without noticing that he’d gone out in the first round the past three years. Pay attention to such information even if I forget. Of course, who’d a thunk that Sam Querrey would beat Moya and I find it interesting that James Blake took a wild card to Barcelona this week. Querrey reached the quarterfinals, for heaven’s sake, and that should embarrass both Blake and Andy Roddick enough to get their butts over to Europe immediately.

Keep slogging along here with your complete season strategy because, remember, there are seven Masters Series events and three slams in the season. For instance, you should probably use Rafael Nadal for the three clay Masters events, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon because you can only use him five times.

There are two tournaments this week. Barcelona is on clay and pays $209, 692 for a first prize. Munich is also on clay and pays $90, 923 to its winner. Given the disparity in the first prize money, let’s pick five of our eight players from Barcelona and three from Munich.

I keep waiting for Nicolas Almagro to step up at required events and it hasn’t happened yet except for a quarterfinal here and there, so pick him for Barcelona because it’s one of the highest paying optional events. Almagro won’t get past Nadal but he’s a good candidate for the semifinals over Andy Murray who has an 8-13 career record on clay.

I suppose it’s time to start thinking about how to use David Nalbandian and David Ferrer this year. Nalbandian is up and down at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open and hasn’t done well at Hamburg. He’s golden at Madrid – in last four years he’s never done worse than semis – but his win in Paris last year was an anomaly. And forget about the summer hard court Masters events. That means I have to try and get three tournaments out of him in the clay court season and since I didn’t pick him last week – one of those mistakes – I have to use him this week. I just hope Stanislaw Wawrinka doesn’t take him out.

Ferrer is having a good year and he got to the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year so I’d save him for that. The question is whether to save him for the remaining Masters events or not. He hasn’t done well and Rome or Madrid the past few years and he’s never done well in Canada but he has a legitimate shot at the remaining three Masters events. However, I think he’ll make the final in Barcelona because he’s 4-0 over Nalbandian on clay and Barcelona pays more than a quarterfinal in Cincinnati (the dollar ain’t worth much today) so I’m picking him this week and then saving him for Hamburg and Paris.

I’m going with Juan-Carlos Ferrero over Carlos Moya even though Moya is 3-0 over Ferrero in their last three clay matches because, for some reason, Moya cannot seem to play well in Barcelona. Guillermo Canas has been sinking so I’m taking Tommy Robredo over him in their quarter.

Barcelona draw

Let’s go from the Spanish tournament with all those Spanish clay court players to the German tournament with all those German not-so-good-at-clay court players. I’m hesitant to pick Igor Andreev because he lost to Steve Darcis, who is in his quarter, last year and he’s in Fernando Gonzalez’ quarter. And Fernando is 6-0 on clay this year, but Andreev is on a roll and he beat Fernando the last two times they played on clay.

From the top half I’m going with two players. Paul-Henri Mathieu lost early in Monte Carlo but he’s never gone past the first round in Monte Carlo and he had a big clay court season last year in optional events. Philipp Kohlschreiber is my second pick here because he has good results here and his quarter is weak.

Munich draw

My Pick
Almagro, Ferrer, Nalbandian, Ferrero, Robredo, Andreev, Mathieu, Kohlschreiber

Happy fantasies!

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 289 user reviews.

Let’s finish up this week’s picks and previews for Acapulco and hopefully I’ll get to Maria Sharapova on Wednesday.

I did pick one finalist and one semifinalist in Buenos Aires last week, otherwise everything is a total bloody mess and the week has barely started. Aj, would you please write the picks next week, you seem to know what’s going on. As you correctly predicted, Michael Llodra has withdrawn from Zagreb.

Not only that, but Fabrice Santoro retired against Olivier Rochus in Zagreb with an elbow problem and in Memphis, John Isner has already lost and James Blake pulled out with a knee injury of some sort. That’s three of my picks down and it’s only Monday. Oh, and Tommy Haas looks like his shoulder is o.k. and he eats Memphis up when he’s healthy.

Acapulco (clay)

It looks like they packed up last week’s tournament in Buenos Aires and shipped it here. David Nalbandianand Potito Starace sit in the first quarter along with two other players who were also in the top quarter at Buenos Aires. Unless Nalbandian is tired from taking the title at Buenos Aires, he should meet Starace in the quarterfinals again.

Unlike last week, I think Starace wins this because the match was close and Nalbandian struggled a few times in Buenos Aires.

Carlos Moya jumped over Juan Monaco in the rankings so Monaco is anchoring the second quarter with Juan Ignacio Chela. Chela won this tournament last year and got to the finals the year before. Agustin Calleri should be his second round opponent and Chela beat him here last year so Chela should get to the quarterfinals.

I’m picking Chela over Monaco because Monaco has a 1-3 record at this tournament and Chela has beaten him the last two times they’ve met.

Igor Andreev lost his first round match to Alberto Montanes. Montanes had a pretty good year on clay last year but he’s 0-4 against Jose Acasuso who’s in his quarter. If Acasuso can’t take out Guillermo Canas, Montanes is 0-2 against Canas.

Canas hasn’t played on clay this year and Acasuso got to the final last week so I’m putting Acasuso in the semifinals.

The bottom quarter is pretty strong. Nicolas Almagro, Filippo Volandri, and Moya are here. Almagro has a slightly better record than Volandri here and he’s beaten Moya in their last two matches so he’s the final semifinalist.

Acapulco Draw

Semifinalists: Starace, Chela, Acasuso, Almagro
Final: Starace, Almagro
Winner: Almagro

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 171 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.

Serena and Venus Williams lost their singles matches and their doubles match at the Australian Open. Are other players passing them by?

As Ana Ivanovic powered Venus Williams off the court in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open – Ivanovic won the match by the score of 7-6(3), 6-4 – I couldn’t help wondering if I wasn’t seeing the tail end of the Williams sisters era.

Venus’ sister Serena lost to Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and the sisters also lost their doubles match.

Both sisters were injured but neither one would reveal her injury. Serena was moving awkwardly and Venus walked onto the court with a slight limp and her thigh wrapped with enough bandage to cover a mummy. This is what Serena had to say about her injury situation:

I was having some issues, but I don’t like to make excuses. We won’t discuss those.

Neither Venus’ mother nor her hitting partner knew why Venus was limping and Venus wasn’t telling. Here’s what she said about the subject:

I never talk about my injuries.

Listen, nobody thinks you’re making an excuse if you divulge an injury after a loss. Justine Henin said her knee was bothering her after her lopsided loss to Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals and nobody is complaining about her today. Players refuse to reveal their injuries so they can maintain a mystique of invulnerability but Serena and Venus have been injured so much that there’s no mystique left.

I am apparently not the only person wondering about the sisters. Someone asked Venus the following question after her match with Ivanovic:

Has to be a long time, if ever, since you and Serena lost singles and doubles within 24 hours at a big tournament. If people start talking about the Williams era being over, what would you have to say to them?

What can she say? Yes, you’re right? What she did say is that she’s a champion and she expects to be a champion. It’s hard to count out either sister and we’re not sure how much Venus’ thigh was bothering her but there were points in her match when it very much looked like Ivanovic was passing her by.

Both players started out slowly. Ivanovic has a bad habit of being very nervous coming out of the gate. When she got to the French Open final last year, she was so nervous she couldn’t serve properly. Venus couldn’t get her serve over 100mph (160kmh) herself.

By the end of the second set, though, both players looked strong and Venus was just pounding the ball. At 4-4, she pounded a bunch of balls at Ivanovic’s backhand then sent a ball down the line. Ivanovic ran the ball down then got Venus on the run for few shots before putting an inside out forehand away. Ivanovic then leaned back and let out a big “Oh yeahhhhh.” Venus had hit her with her best shot and ended up playing defense.

Venus didn’t give up. She pounded a few more balls and got two break points as Ivanovic was serving for the match, but Ivanovic had found her serve by now and a few good serves put the match away.

It was a great show by Ivanovic but I wouldn’t say she’s ready to win a slam just yet. It’s those nerves! She should have rolled over Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals but she started slowly again: she lost the first set 6-0. She won the match, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4, and she’s into her second slam final but she won’t get away with that against Maria Sharapova who ran over Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the final.

Blake is Getting Better, Really He Is

I’m encouraged by James Blake’s play. I really am. He looked sharp against Roger Federer in their quarterfinal match and that’s progress.

Federer wiped him off the court in Cincinnati last year. Blake doesn’t have enough game to beat Federer. He doesn’t have enough variety and his strength – hard flat shots – feeds right into Federer’s strength – quicksilver defense. Blake also has an average serve and he’s not going to outduel too many players from the baseline. But he kept attacking Federer and played a very high level of tennis. Check this out.

Blake was serving at 3-2 in the first set when he got to the net and hit a drop volley. Fed ran from one corner of the court to the other to get to the ball and hit a lob that landed just inside the baseline. Blake spun and raced back to the baseline and when he got there – no lie – he hit a between-the-legs lob! I have never ever seen a between-the-legs lob before, have you? Fed hit a soft overhead in response then followed that up with a forehand error. Definitely a top ten candidate if not top five for best point of the fortnight.

Blake is now back in the top ten and it looks like he really is getting better at age 28.

The question now is: can Novak Djokovic beat Federer?

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 246 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.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Philipp Kohlschreiber have performed well at the Australian Open. We’re still not sure about Roger Federer.

Is Tsonga Only a Serve and Volleyer?

I let out a sigh of relief after David Nalbandian lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero by the score of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round at the Australian Open. It’s not that I wish David any ill will, I’d love to see him win a slam, but I would have felt like a total idiot if he’d won this tournament because it would have been the third time I doubted him and paid for it. I didn’t pick him for my fantasy tennis team in Madrid or Paris and that knocked me out of the ATP fantasy tennis game top 100.

What’s up with that lopsided score, and to Ferrero too? Did David’s back spasms finally catch up with him? I couldn’t find any injury information about him and he didn’t talk to the media.

On the other hand, I picked Richard Gasquet to beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and now he’s gone. He was beaten by his good friend and countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-3 in the fourth round. Tsonga is a serve and volleyer in my mind and I expected the slow court here in Melbourne to limit his results. Either the players are lying and the court is not that slow or Tsonga is a more complete player that I gave him credit for. Let’s see which it is.

On thing is for sure: Tsonga is driving his opponents crazy. He knocked Andy Murray out in the first round by attacking him nonstop early in the match. Something happened to Gasquet too. How else could you explain 73 net approached in one match. I doubt Gasquet has ever done that before but he had no choice, nothing else was working.

Tsonga attacked Gasquet early too and he was also winning the baseline game. Gasquet is the shotmaker but it was Tsonga who made the shots in this match. He was up 4-3 in the third set when he ran Gasquet first to one corner then the next and followed that up with a sweet forehand dropshot winner.

Tsonga is quick and it showed in his defense. In the third set tiebreaker, Tsonga hit his bread and butter shot, an inside out forehand approach. He backed up to get to a deep passing shot then ran to the opposite corner to track down a Gasquet approach. Gasquet followed that up with a pretty hard overhead shot but Tsonga tracked that down too and Gasquet put the ball into the net. On the next point, Tsonga dug another ball out of the corner and Gasquet put the ball into the net again to give Tsonga a set point.

You can see why Gasquet was trying to attack. He was lucky to stay as close as he did in this match .

Tsonga is still a bit inexperienced. He ran around his backhand too much and got himself out of position and he wasn’t always sure when he should attack. But all the tools are there and he deals with pressure very well judging by today’s match. He hit three aces when his serve was under pressure early in the fourth set and he hit another passing shot at the attacking Gasquet to win that game. That’s right, at this point Gasquet was attacking and Tsonga staying back. So much for being a serve and volleyer.

Federer Wins – Roddick Doesn’t

Tsonga is the second player to have a coming out at this party. The first was Philipp Kohlschreiber who beat Andy Roddick in the third round by taking the fifth set 8-6. Roger Federer almost suffered the same result at the hands of Janko Tipsarevic before finally winning 10-8 in the fifth set.

Kohlschreiber played a very good match and Roddick couldn’t do much about it. The question is: Was this a coming out party for Tipsarevic too?

No. Kohlschreiber should keep moving up the ranking but Tipsarevic will most likely continue to ping pong back and forth between the 40’s and 60’s in the rankings.

Tipsarevic played inspired tennis but Federer converted exactly five of 21 break points. That is bad tennis. And he had problems with his forehand. You think David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal – those energizer bunnies of the baseline – didn’t take note of that? Nadal can’t pass Federer in the rankings here even if he wins the title but I’m tellin’ ya, he can taste that number one ranking.

Blake Takes Advantage

James Blake beat Marin Cilic by the score of 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals and that’s exactly where he should be. Both Ivan Ljubicic and Fernando Gonzalez were knocked out before Blake could meet up with them and that’s what we call the luck of the draw. Blake got to the fourth round here last here so it’s fair enough to expect him to reach the quarterfinals.

Lest you think I’m being too demanding, I do not expect him to beat his next opponent: Federer.

Okay, people, here’s the question of the day: Can Federer win this tournament or not? Please chime in.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 171 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: 4.6 out of 5 based on 157 user reviews.