Category Archives: Rafael Nadal

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: 4.8 out of 5 based on 225 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: 4.7 out of 5 based on 282 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: 4.5 out of 5 based on 250 user reviews.

Let’s hand out the Teddy Awards. Tomorrow I’ll look at the contrasting way that Martina Hingis and Roger Clemens are handling their illegal drug use problems.

I’m disappointed that Hillary Clinton didn’t win the Iowa presidential caucus – the opening state primary for the U.S. presidential election. But the Teddy Awards votes are finally in and I can’t complain about them.

1. Best Player: Justine Henin and David Ferrer

Both players got the same number of votes and, really, the only surprise here is Ferrer. He deserves the vote even if he was helped along by Federer-fatigue (the state of being tired of talking about Roger Federer).

2. Most Improved Player: Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer

Another tie for this category. Fair enough though Anna Chakvetadze probably suffered because we didn’t have separate categories for men and women. Djokovic shot up like a rocket. He won two Masters series events, five tournaments, and, unbelievably, reached the semifinals in two slams and the final in another. What more can you say about Ferrer? While Djokovic jumped by leaps and bounds in his physical and mental play, Ferrer aged. What else can you call it when a player doesn’t figure out he’s a top five player until he’s 25-years-old?

3. Most Disappointing Player: Marat Safin

I personally am over my disappointment in Safin. I’ve been disappointed for too many years. Besides, he really hasn’t been the same since his knee surgery.

4. Most Surprising Player: David Ferrer

No need for more comment except that David Nalbandian got more than a few votes in this category and Marion Bartoli might have done well if she’s had any good results after her Wimbledon final appearance.

5. Male Centerfold of the Year: Feliciano Lopez

6. Female Centerfold of the Year: Ana Ivanovic

There wasn’t much competition in the centerfold category. There was a little Rafael Nadal and some Carlos Moya in the mix but Ana was the unanimous choice for the women.

7. Player in Most Need of a New Coach: James Blake

Poor Brian Barker. People have been trying to take James Blake away from him ever since Blake hit the top 20. Blake will never leave his coach. Barker has drilled the idea of improving as the main goal into Blake’s head since he was an adolescent. Improving is just nebulous enough that Blake feels comfortable with it. If Barker had set the goal of winning a slam instead, Blake might have fulfilled it by now. As it is, Blake will continue to justify playing poorly in high profile events by coming up with something, anything, that can be counted as improvement. Lose yet another five set match in the fourth round at the U.S. Open? No problem, at least he won his first career five set match in the second round and that’s an improvement. See what I mean?

8. Player Most Likely to Succeed in 2008:

There’s no winner here because I asked the question incorrectly. Some people thought I was asking who’d win the most slams in 2008 – Federer got those votes – and some people thought I was asking who would improve the most in 2008 – Andy Murray got those votes. I meant to ask who would improve the most and I agree with the choice of Murray. I think he can compete with Djokovic in finally taking a slam from Federer and Nadal. Then again, that’s what I said last year.

9. Player Who Should Really Think About Retiring: Mark Philippoussis

Philippoussis won by a landslide and deservedly so. Last year he was heard saying that he thinks his best tennis is still ahead of him. I believe in pumping yourself up but that comment was surreal. Anyway, he reinjured his knee during the competition for an Australian Open wild card so it’s probably the Outback Series for him from now on.

Pollster

Since I botched the Player Most Likely to Succeed in 2008 award, let’s do this. Mosey on over to the poll on the right side of the page and vote for the player most likely to break Federer and Nadal’s stronghold on slam titles. Ferrer is ranked number five in the world but I just don’t think he’s got enough offense to win a slam. You could say the same thing about Murray and he’s only got three titles to his name so far though that might change tomorrow – he’s in the Doha final. But he’s one of my two choices. Djokovic is the other. I just can’t picture Nalbandian doing it.

What say you?

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 239 user reviews.

I lost the internet for a few days, the gutters were leaking onto my carport, my carport was leaking into my office, even my refrigerator was leaking. Things can only get better in 2008 so let’s put 2007 to rest by finishing up the Wayback Machine: a look back at last year.

Gambling Blows Up

Rafael Nadal continued to battle injuries. Donald Young moved a lot closer to fulfilling his promise. David Nalbandian resurrected his career and took it higher than ever before with consecutive Masters titles.

These were all very important events in 2007 but they were on court events. The biggest news in tennis was off the court. Gambling came out of the shadows and ended up dominating tennis news.

Gambling on tennis is nothing new but the volume of gambling has increased dramatically and for that we can credit technology. Online gambling has made gambling much more accessible. Unless you live in the United States – offshore gambling is illegal in the U.S. – all you have to do is logon to betfair.com and start placing bets on tennis matches.

Technology cuts both ways. It makes it easier to lay down bets but it also makes it easier to uncover suspicious betting patterns which may indicate match fixing. That’s exactly what happened during a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo-Arguello at the Prokom Open in August and everyone, and I mean everyone, has been tripping over themselves to assure us that gambling will not happen at their tournament.

Australian Open organizers are going crazy to make it clear that they won’t tolerate match fixing. They moved a bookmaker off their premises and banned laptops from the stands. Meanwhile, someone can sign on to betfair.com and fix a match and we might not be able to prove it. An investigator might be able to trace the gambler through an internet address but might not be able to connect a player in the fixed match to the gambler.

What if the gambler is part of a larger organization? Consider this as a hypothetical example. Tony Soprano, head of the fictional Sopranos mafia family, fixes a tennis match. If the ATP were able to track down Soprano’s whereabouts, the FBI might be much more interested in murder and mayhem than a possible fixed tennis match and the ATP would be limited in its investigation.

Since August my gambling education has gone through the roof. I know how to convert US odds to fractional odds and fractional odds to decimal odds. I know what a suspicious betting pattern looks like and I even broke the story of a possible fixed match between Tatiana Poutchek and Mariya Koryttseva in September.

Gambling has been out there all along. Onthepunt.com reported a number of suspicious betting patterns on tennis.com and no doubt tennis players have a few stories of their own. The tennis world is finally catching up to the horse racing world and the rest of the sports world. Professional tennis now monitors betting patterns on internet betting sites.

It’s not a horrible development, it’s just a fact of sports life. Gambling might even help increase the popularity of tennis. Heaven knows we can use it.

The 2008 tennis season has begun. There are tournaments galore on both the men’s and women’s side. I’ll get on to that tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Teddy Awards

Please go to the right side of the page and vote for the player who should really think about retiring. That’s it. This is the last Teddy Awards category. We’ll hand them out in a few days.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 189 user reviews.