Miami Open Semi-final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs David Goffin

djokovic

Photo courtesy of twitter.com

The Miami Open semi-final features another match between the world No.1 and one of the game’s up-and-coming players making their mark on the ATP tour, David Goffin. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

While, in Novak Djokovic’s case, 2016 is ticking along much like 2015 did, things are quite different for David Goffin. The  world no.15 has been climbing steadily up the rankings the past 2 seasons, winning ATP 250 events and reaching 500 finals, but in the last three weeks he has taken some further steps forward in his pro career by reaching the semi-finals of the North American Spring Swing ATP 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.

The next step would be an ATP 1000 final, and if he is to take it, he would have to stop Djokovic’s brutal pendulum swinging at its peak.

Goffin had a chance to become one of the few players to stop Djokovic the past few seasons the last time they met, back in the last sixteen of the 2015 Cincinnati Open. The Belgian led 3-0 in the final set only to lose the next six games as he suffered his third defeat in 3 meetings to the world No.1.

Watch highlights of Djokovic-Goffin at the 2015 Cincinnati Open below

Back then, however, Djokovic was struggling a little, well, compared to his standards anyway- he had suffered his only loss to Andy Murray in nine matches versus the Scot the week before in Montreal– and the upset was there for the taking.

This time things are a little different- Djokovic has lost just three matches since that escape act versus the Belgian– to Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final, to Federer in the WTF round robin stage, and to Feliciano Lopez in Dubai, and has collected no less than two slams, a WTF title, three ATP 1000s, an ATP 500, and an ATP 250 just to balance things out.

Mind you, things are a little different for Goffin right now, too. The world no.15 was a little infamous for letting leads slip back last Summer, but in Indian Wells a couple of weeks ago, he finally closed out a match he seemed intent on letting slip from his grasp when he defeated Stan Wawrinka 7-6 in the third after leading 5-3 in the second and third sets.

That win was a big one for Goffin. Wawrinka may not have had a great record in Indian Wells and he may be one of the streakiest slam winners, but he is a tough match player and he had a nice 3-0 head to head lead over the Belgian. In fact, before that Indian Wells match, Wawrinka had not dropped a single set to Goffin.

That Indian Wells win should give Goffin some confidence and the knowledge that letting a big lead slip against a top player is not the be all and end all- if you stay in the match things might turn your way again, and as happened to Goffin versus Wawrinka, your opponent might give you a helping hand by missing an easy overhead at 5-5 in the final set breaker.

The overhead is actually one of Djokovic’s few weaknesses that the Belgian can attempt to punish. Goffin has the tools to also exploit another weakness- the variety of stroke and shot to keep Djokovic guessing and keep the Serbian’s beloved and devastating rhythm at bay.

Of course, knowing what to do versus Djokovic and doing it are very different things because the world no.1- who is the first ever player of such status to lead the world number 2 by double the ranking points- does not let you do what you want to do. He has the serve and, as he said after his win over Raonic in Indian Wells, the return game to dictate how points will go. From the get-go, he will break down both your weaknesses and your strengths with his scarily precise baseline game, range of depth and spins, and the game’s best point construction that allows him to control the baseline and finish points at the net when the chance arises.

As Raonic found out in Indian Wells last week, and as Thiem discovered in this week’s Miami Open last sixteen, no one quite tests how far you’ve come than Djokovic, and no one quite points you in which direction you need to go.

If Goffin is to stand a chance, he will have to be keep Djokovic guessing on the serve and off the ground and take the initiative in rallies. Such is the tall order to beat the very best, but Goffin will not expect anything less, and as we have come to see of him these past weeks, he will give it everything he has, and then some.

Prediction: Djokovic should take this one in straight sets but it won’t be straightforward with Goffin coming into the match match fit, confident and with the kind of game that can unsettle the world No.1.

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Miami Open Last Sixteen Preview Novak Djokovic Versus Dominic Thiem

Thiem Djokovic Miami Open

Photo courtesy of www.zimbio.com

The Miami Open last sixteen features one of the season’s most intriguing match ups- the world No.1 Novak Djokovic versus one of the hottest players of the season world No.14 Dominic Thiem. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

History: Djokovic won their sole meeting 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 32 at the 2014 Shanghai Open.

Watch highlights of Djokovic-Thiem at Shanghai 2014 below

Form coming in: Novak Djokovic is still dominating the tour, winning the Australian Open and Indian Wells. The only blip in 2016 has been his retirement from his Dubai quarter-final versus Feliciano Lopez.

Djokovic has been creating history left, right and center and it does not look like this is going to come to an end anytime soon, which is what makes this match up so interesting.

While the likes of Murray and Federer have been unable to get in Djokovic’s way, it will be interesting to see if one of the season’s breakout stars can do so. Thiem, one of those stars, has made his presence felt on the ATP Tour in 2016 winning titles in Buenos Aires and Acapulco and scoring wins over Nadal and Ferrer along the way.

This Miami Open he is looking good, too, beating Groth and Nishioka in straights.

Who should win?: Djokovic. Thiem has not faced anyone like Djokovic in his recent run- after all, there is no one like the Serb. No one has the all round strength and  consistency of the world No.1 and no one else is better than using an opponent’s strengths against them and exploiting their weaknesses.

This match will tell us a lot about Thiem’s game and where he is at. We know he can serve and return great, be aggressive, and be mentally tough when matches go down to the wire. The question is can he do it against the game’s very best?

Thiem can win if: he can mix it up and keep Djokovic a little out of his comfort zone on big points. Thiem also has to serve his best and stay aggressive, the only way to defeat Djokovic on these slow courts. Thiem has shown great aggression this season, but Djokovic’s passing shots and retrieving skills will force errors and raise doubts. Thiem has to be strong to withstand the pressure and maintain the self-belief that has seen him reach world No.14 this past month.

Prediction: Djokovic to win in straights. The Serb has the extra motivation of leading the ATP 1000 overall title leaderboard with 28 if he wins the Miami title, and he will be ready for a motivated and confident opponent who could be one of the big threats to his quest for the one remaining slam missing from his collection- Roland Garros- this June.

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Anyone for 2016’s Most Exciting Tennis Event? Five Reasons Why Tennis Lovers Should Attend the Tennis Experience

Tennis expo

Photo courtesy of Connected Clubs

Anyone for 2016’s Most Exciting Tennis Event? Five Reasons Why Tennis Lovers Should Attend the Tennis Experience Powered by Connected Clubs and Visio Motion Tennis at the Elite Sports Performance Expo 2016

This Summer Connected Clubs and Visio Motion Tennis will be powering one of the most exciting tennis events of 2016- the Tennis Experience at The Elite Sports Performance Expo held from June 15th-16th at ExCeL London. If you are passionate about tennis, here are five reasons why you cannot afford to miss this free event.

Face One of the World’s Fastest Serves with The Ace Attack Ball Machine

The return of serve is one of the most under-practiced shots in tennis yet one of the most effective- Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray both have the best returns in the game and are currently the world’s No.1 and 2 players.

Come along to The Tennis Experience and check out The Ace Attack Ball Machine which stimulates the kind of serves Djokovic and Murray have mastered the art of returning with venom- serves of up to 110mph with a variety of spins and directions.

The Ace Attack Ball Machine is not only the best piece of equipment on the market for practicing your returns, it can also be used for other shots, too.

At the Tennis Experience, coaches and players can take a look at a machine which could help you get some big returns yourselves by improving the shot which could take your tennis to the next level.

Also, if you want to be part of the action, and are feeling brave, you can hit our full sized covered court and try returning the kind of serves Murray is not just a master at getting back into play, but the 110 mph kind he is a pro at serving up, too.

Get Yourself into the Guinness Book of World Records

Get along to the Tennis Experience and into the Guinness Record Books this June.

The Tennis Experience will give you the chance to break the record for most people bouncing a tennis ball on a racket at once.

The current record is held by the Shanghai Open which set the record on September 5th 2015 with 767 people.

Help us beat that world record at this year’s Tennis Experience at the Elite Sports Performance Expo and make this year’s event not just one of the most fun Tennis Experiences ever, but a record-breaking one, as well.

Connected clubs tennis expo

Learn from Some of the World’s Best International Tennis Experts and Speakers

Listen to some of the world’s best international tennis experts and speakers at the Tennis Experience talk about topics ranging from mental health in tennis, the return of serve, and maximizing income from your coaching.

Learn from the best and improve your game as well as your business.

Get Huge Discounts on Leading Equipment Brands

Connected Clubs in partnership with leading equipment brands such as Oncourt OffCourt will be offering huge discounts on various brands at our pop up sports shop at the Expo.

Come Along and Take a Look at Our Mini Covered Tennis Court

Thinking of getting a new court at your club? Come and see our Tennis Experience Centerpiece-a mini covered tennis court.

Watch top juniors and former pros hitting on the Bergo Tile medium to fast paced surface and take advantage of some special deals we have negotiated with suppliers on indoor court facilities.

See the latest coaching technology, get into the Guinness world record books, enjoy huge discounts on equipment, improve your own tennis and business related expertise, and see our full sized covered tennis court and get special deals on indoor facilities- that’s five great reasons for tennis lovers to get along to the Tennis experience powered by Connected Clubs and Visio Motion Tennis at the Elite Sports Performance Expo held from June 15th to 16th at ExCeL London.

Come and spend a few hours finding out how to improve your game and then spend a lifetime playing better tennis. See you there!

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Miami Open Preview Roger Federer Vs Juan Martin del Potro

federer del potro

Post courtesy of forumindex.hu

Roger Federer takes on old foe Juan Martin del Potro in the Miami Open second round today. The Tennis Review previews a much anticipated match between two players on very different injury comebacks. 

History: Federer may lead the head to head 15-5, but del Potro prevailed in their most significant match, the 2009 US Open final which went five sets.

These two have produced other classics such as the 2012 Olympic semi-final and their last seven matches have gone the distance  featuring some of the finest forehands on the tour up against each other.

Form coming in: Both men are coming back from injury, though in very different circumstances. Federer’s knee injury, which led to his first ever surgery as a tennis professional, has only sidelined him from the tour for seven weeks, while del Potro’s wrist injury has meant he only played 14 matches throughout 2014 and 2015.

del Potro, though, who returned to the tour at Delray Beach, has been playing since Federer’s time-out, and is 5-2 this season, reaching the Delray beach semis, the Indian Wells second round where he lost to Berdych, and he won his Miami Open Opener versus Guido Pella so he will face Federer with some recent match mileage on the clock.

Who should win: Federer matches up well against del Potro, his aggressive game not really asked too many questions by del Potro’s defense. He should also be able to exploit del Potro’s big weakness on the backhand side.

Watch Federer vs del Potro at the 2012 French Open in the video below

del Potro can win if: del Potro still has two big weapons working with his serve and forehand. That forehand can keep Federer back behind the baseline and get the better of the Swiss in lengthy exchanges.

The Miami courts are slow, too, which will help del Potro cover the weaker backhand side and allow him to run round it and hit inside out forehands which could put pressure on the Federer backhand and force some errors.

If del Potro can keep the pressure on Federer, and stay with him deep into sets, his comeback might be sealed with a headline-hitting win.

Prediction: Federer to win in straights. Federer may have been off the tour but he has been training recently, and he has had some rest from the ATP tour, too. A refreshed, motivated Federer will be hard for del Potro, still early in his comeback, to upset.

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Miami Open Preview The Return of Roger Federer

Federer

Photo courtesy of Richard Fisher @ Flickr (Creative commons license)

Roger Federer has been sorely missed from the tour this past couple of months. After undergoing knee surgery in February, the world No.3 had to pull out of Dubai, Rotterdam and Indian Wells, events where final finishes and trophies would have been likely. The Tennis Review previews Roger Federer’s return to the ATP Tour at the upcoming Miami Open.

Federer, originally expected to return in Monte Carlo,  announced his Miami comeback with a surprising emoji tweet on March 17.

 There were some clues to an earlier return in Miami in the run-up to Federer’s emojiment such as the tweet below.

 

Miami has not been the most successful of the ATP 1000 tournaments for Roger Federer.

Federer has only won twice at Crandon Park- in 2005 and 2006. Compare that to his other hard court ATP 1000 title hauls such as his seven Cincinnati titles or his four Indian Wells trophies.

The venue is also where he suffered his first ever defeat to Rafa Nadal when in 2004 he lost to the then 17 year old 3-6, 3-6 in the third round.

Miami is also the scene of one of Federer’s rare outbursts. Check out the video below to see him smashing his racket in his 2009 semi-final versus Novak Djokovic.

Federer has been vulnerable to athletic, aggressive baseliners on the slow Crandon Park hard courts, suffering losses to Canas, Berdych, Djokovic, Nadal and Nishikori. He has also suffered two of his three  (from a total of 24 matches played) losses to Andy Roddick there.

Miami, then, was, for some, a surprising choice for the scene of a Federer comeback. However Monte Carlo has never been a great hunting ground for Federer either, and Miami will be a great chance for him to get some match play in, and with relatively little pressure.

Federer has comeback from injury on two other occasions with great success.

In 2005, Federer suffered a foot injury and missed the season from September onwards until the WTF where he lost in a five set final to David Nalbandian. In 2006, he was soon back on track, winning the Australian Open at the start of the season.

Federer also suffered a back injury which contributed to his fall down the rankings to No.8 in the 2013 season. Once again, Federer came back strong, climbing back to No.2, challenging for the No.1 spot and reaching 3 slam finals in the 2014-2015 seasons.

Federer has a very exciting, but tough, draw

Federer has drawn Juan Martin del Potro in the second round. Federer leads the head to head 15-5, but he has suffered some big losses to the Argentine, none more notable than his 2009 US Open defeat to the then 20 year old.

del Potro is also coming back from injury (see our Juan Martin del Potro comeback fan survival guide) which makes their second round clash particularly intriguing.

If Federer gets past del Potro, his draw is projected like this:

3r: Jeremy Chardy (28), who beat Federer in his 2013 Rome opener when he came back to the tour from the birth of his twin sons. Fernando Verdasco might also lie in wait if he can upset Chardy. Verdasco would be a challenge- his game works well on slow hard courts and his high risk baseline game can catch fire any time.

4r: David Goffin (15). Federer matches up well to Goffin and leads him 4-0. Goffin has won sets from Federer, though, and recently had something of a break through win versus Wawrinka in Indian Wells, and made the semis there which will help his chances confidence wise.

QF: David Ferrer (8). Federer leads Ferrer 16-0. More dangerous would be Marin Cilic (11) who defeated him so impressively on his run to the 2014 US Open title.

SF: Novak Djokovic (1). Novak Djokovic, fresh off a run to a historic fifth Indian Wells title, on a slow court is a nightmare for Roger Federer. Realistically, Federer’s run would end here. The Swiss might benefit from someone upsetting the worrld No.1 such as Dominic Thiem, scheduled to meet Djokovic in the last 16, or Berdych, his last eight projected opponent.

Final: Andy Murray (2). Though Federer matches up well to Murray in the last few years, the slow courts would favor Murray who has won in Miami twice (2009, 2013) and trains there.

Rafa Nadal (5) could also await. That final would be a dream for the ATP- it’s recent revival in the 2015 Basel final was a huge talking point. Nadal’s recent return to good form in Indian Wells and the fact Federer would have to be playing great tennis to make the final would make this match one to watch.

Watch highlights of Roger Federer versus Juan Martin del Potro at the 2012 WTF in the video below.

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BNP Paribas Open Final Novak Djokovic Defeats Milos Raonic Five Points

Djokovic

photo courtesy of the BNP Paribas Open twitter account.

Novak Djokovic’s speedy 6-2, 6-0 win over Milos Raonic in the 2016 BNP Paribas Open final was another piece of history for the world No.1. The Tennis Review looks at five points concerning the Serb’s 62nd ATP title win.

Novak Djokovic won a historic fifth Indian Wells trophy

Djokovic was tied at four trophies with Federer, but he now holds the record for the most trophies at the ATP’s most prestigious 1000 event with five. Djokovic has won the title in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015 and now 2016.

In the trophy ceremony, the idea to rename the center court the Novak Djokovic court was put forward. After today, that seems only right.

Novak Djokovic is now tied with Rafa Nadal at 27 ATP 1000 titles

With the Miami  Open coming up this week, Djokovic will most likely take the lead on that table pretty soon.

Milos Raonic was suffering from an injury

Raonic was on the comeback from an abductor injury he suffered in the Australian Open semi-final and that injury may have been aggravated in the BNP Paribas Open final which might have accounted somewhat for the very one-sided scoreline.

Djokovic made just four unforced errors

Injured opponent or not, Djokovic did what he tends to do in finals- he played the perfect strategy. Djokovic exploited Raonic’s impaired movement and played the kind of baseline tennis he does so well on slow hard court. The Serb did not put a foot wrong as he dropped just two games, struck 15 winners in 14 games and hit a grand total of four unforced errors.

Djokovic’s return game won him the match

Raonic did well on his first serve, winning 23 of 30 points behind that delivery, but on his second serve, he was well and truly punished. The Canadian struggled to do anything with that stroke, perhaps too hampered by a reported leg injury, and won just 3 of 30 points, 10%, behind that stroke.

Djokovic said after the match how his return game had been key to such a dominant display and that he had been able to control points from the baseline as a result. With Djokovic’s own service game being so effective- he won 79% of points behind his first serve, 62 behind his second, and faced no break points- the combination of a killer service and return game resulted in a performance that once again reiterated the fact that nothing other than your best tennis is going to get you a win over Novak Djokovic in an ATP final.

 

 

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BNP Paribas Open Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs Milos Raonic

BNP Paribas Open

Photo courtesy of theepochtimes.com

World No.1 Novak Djokovic takes on one of 2016’s hottest players Milos Raonic in the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday. The Tennis Review previews what will be their sixth meeting and their second one in an ATP 1000 final.

An ATP 1000 final between the Big Four and the Nishikori-Raonic-Dimitrov generation is a rare event on the tour- it has only happened three times: when Nadal defeated Raonic for the 2013 Canadian Open title, when Nadal beat Nishikori in the 2014 Madrid final, and when Djokovic straight-setted Raonic for the 2014 Paris-Bercy title.

Watch highlights below of Djokovic’s win over Raonic in the Paris-Bercy 2014 final.

There were no Big Four- Raonic gen ATP 1000 finals in 2015, a season which was a difficult one for the Raonic gen– the Canadian got injured, Dimitrov fell down the rankings, Nishikori did not live up to his US Open ’14 run- but Raonic is starting to give tennis fans hope that at least one of them might break through.

The Canadian started 2016 off with a win over Roger Federer on his way to the Brisbane title and then took Andy Murray to five sets in the Australian Open semis.

Raonic was troubled by injury in that match and took a break from the tour, and it seems to have done him well if his Indian Wells performances are anything to go by. He has beaten Ingo Cervantes, Bernard Tomic, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych, and David Goffin, in a match that saw him drop his first set of the event, on his way to his third ATP 1000 final.

The Canadian’s serve has been on top form and his ground strokes, net game and return have been backing up the huge advantage his big serve gives him.

The big question now is can he pull it off against Novak Djokovic, the one member of the Big Four he is yet to beat?

Djokovic has been doing what he does best- getting through matches and saving his best for when he needs it- in tiebreaks, after dropping a set and when his opponents look dangerous. The world No.1 has beaten Bjorn Fratangelo ( he dropped the 1st set to the world No.149), Philipp Kohlschreiber, Feliciano Lopez, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Rafael Nadal on his way to his tenth ATP 1000 final in a row- the last time he failed to reach the final of an ATP 1000 he competed in was Shanghai 2014 when Federer defeated him.

Those players who the world No.1 has beaten on his BNP Paribas Open ’16 run are ones against whom Djokovic matches up well, and from the look of his 5-0 head to head versus Raonic you would have to say he matches up well to him, too. However, Djokovic is troubled by the game’s biggest servers, and Raonic is a better all round player than the last time they met at the 2015 Australian Open.

However, though Djokovic may be troubled by the game’s big servers such as Isner, Karlovic, Federer and Anderson, he can ride out their purple patches and has the return game to pounce the second a serve lands in his strike zone.

Raonic’s progress in 2016 after his comeback from injury has been great to see and this match will really tell us how far he has come. Raonic would need to play the match of his life to win this one. He will have to serve his best to win out versus the game’s best returner, be sharp on his own returns, steady and penetrating on his ground strokes, and put those volleys out of Djokovic’s reach because anything less than perfect is going to be chased down and returned with something excellent.

Raonic has it in him, and if he did it, it would be great for tennis, injecting some much needed competition to Djokovic’s dominance.

Raonic is certainly pumped up to break through with a win over Djokovic in an ATP 1000 final. Read his Facebook post below to see how motivated the world No. 14 is.

 

A great fortitude to get through and overcome the challenge today against David Goffin. Now I give myself an opportunity…

Posted by Milos Raonic on Saturday, March 19, 2016

 

Prediction: Djokovic to win. Raonic may be in great form, but Djokovic is just too good in finals and too great a match player to lose this one to a relatively inexperienced, at this level, Raonic. Expect Raonic to make some kind of stride though, and win a set versus Djokovic in what will be their highest stakes match.

Come back tomorrow and read our review of the BNP Paribas Open final at The Tennis Review.

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BNP Paribas Open Preview How Will ATP February Breakout Players Do in the Desert? Thiem Zverev Fritz Kyrgios

Indian Wells

Photo courtesy of the thehimalyantimes.com

February was a big month for some of the ATP’s 22 and under players as Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverer and Taylor Fritz all made some big strides in their careers. The Tennis Review looks at their chances of making even more progress at the ATP Tour’s “Fifth Slam” Indian Wells. 

Alexander Zverev, ranked 58

February breakthrough: Zverev scored what he said was the biggest win of his career versus 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in Montpellier on his way to the semis. A week later, he came back from a break down in the third to beat the tough Gilles Simon in Rotterdam. At the Open 13 the week after he made the quarters where he took Berdych to three sets.

Indian Wells history: Zverev lost in the first round of qualifying last year to Michael Russell.

Indian Wells potential: Zverev likes slow courts, and the Indian Wells hard courts are some of the slowest hard courts on the tour.

Zverev also likes big matches against the top players and that appetite will serve him well at a prestigious event like the BNP Paribas Open.

Zverev will face Ivan Dodig in the first round and the winner will face Grigor Dimitrov. Zverev’s chances of beating Dodig look good – he defeated him to qualify for the US Open main draw last season. As for Dimitrov, Zverev has a great shot there- the German is on a nice run while Dimitrov is still struggling to find his game.

If Zverev makes it past Dimitrov, he might have a rematch with Simon, and if he repeats his Rotterdam win over the Frenchman then he could face Rafa Nadal in the last 16. That contest would be a classic one of veteran versus up and comer and with Zverev having so much momentum and Nadal at a crossroads in his career, it would be one that no one interested in tennis’ history and future would want to miss.

Dominic Thiem, ranked 13

Thiem Indian Wells

Photo courtesy of www.zimbio.com

February breakthrough: Thiem beat Rafa Nadal, saving match point, on his way to the ATP 250 Buenos Aires title. The next week he beat Ferrer on his way to the Rio semis, and the week after he won his first ever hard court and ATP 500 title in Acapulco.

Indian Wells history: Thiem is 2-2. Ranked 101, he qualified for the 2014 event and made the last 32, beating Simon to get there. Last season he crashed out to Sam Groth in round 1.

Indian Wells potential: Like Zverev, Thiem likes slower courts, and at Indian Wells he will have plenty of time to set up his dangerous one handed backhand.

Thiem’s serve is also a much improved stroke in the last 12 months and he will be able to get a lot more free points than he used to which will save him some much-needed energy if he comes up against any of the game’s best athletes, and he could come up against its current greatest, Novak Djokovic, if they both make the last eight.

Thiem has quite a tough draw in general- he has drawn qualifiers in round 1, and 2, and Jack Sock in round 3. Those qualifiers  will be match tough and with Thiem’s recent elevated status as world No. 13 and No.3 in the race to London, his opponents will be even more motivated to take him down.

Sock will be a tough task considering Sock’s aggressive game and the home crowd support he will receive. Also, if Thiem is at all tired from his February run and his recent Davis Cup battle with Portugal’s Gastao Elias which he won 7-6 in the fifth, he could be in trouble. However, if Thiem has recovered, he should have too much variety for Sock and repeat his straight sets victory over the American at last year’s Sony Open.

Thiem has drawn Tsonga in the round of 16. Tsonga won their one and only match in the Vienna quarters in 2013 in a third set tiebreaker and this could be a good opportunity for Thiem to get another prestigious win as Tsonga is not that match fit this season, only going 7-4, and recently lost to world No. 338 Thiago Monteiro in his Rio opener.

Thiem’s chances of bettering his current best ATP 1000 result- the Miami ’15 quarters- are not helped by his draw- Thiem will have to beat the best player in the world if he wants to take another step forward in his career. He would take two steps forward if he won- a first win over a world No.1 and a first ATP 1000 semi-final.

On the bright side, Thiem would likely have to beat Djokovic for the title anyway, and his chances of doing so are better earlier on in the tournament rather than in the final.

Djokovic was recently on the verge of reaching a record tying 18th consecutive ATP Tour final and of his last 17 finals he has lost just four of them. Of his last 17 semi-finals, he has won all of them. The last time he lost a quarter-final? His last event, Dubai. That was, though, a retirement due to injury. The last time that Djokovic went out in the last eight of an ATP tournament having completed the match was back in Doha, January 2015, before his final streak got going.

Match-up wise, well no one matches up well to Djokovic, and to beat him you pretty much have to put in a career best performance, but encouraging for Thiem he has been putting in plenty of those recently, and after his Davis Cup win he talked about how motivated he was to do well in Indian Wells.

Djokovic leads Thiem 1-0 after beating him in the 2014 Shanghai Masters 6-3, 6-4, and it seems only right that the world No.1 should face the game’s most in-form young player as he tries to win a record fifth Indian Wells title. It will be a big challenge for both and great entertainment for us.

Nick Kyrgios, ranked 27

Kyrgios Indian Wells

Photo courtesy of vk.com

February breakthrough: Kyrgios  won his first e ver title when he took the ATP 250 Open 13 tournament. Kyrgios was very impressive in his back to back defeats of Gasquet, Berdych and Cilic which saw some of the most impressive serve and return stats of anyone this season.

Indian Wells history: 1-1. Kyrgios reached the second round last year where he was beaten in a very competitive contest by Grigor Dimitrov.

Indian Wells potential: Kyrgios has the big serve, a much improved return, explosive ground-strokes and great shot-making skills to win big against attacking players like himself, but will have a more difficult time against the baseline oriented ones, and if his projected third round opponent Gael Monfils is in-form, Kyrgios will have a tough time making the last 16.

Murray would likely be waiting next. If Kyrgios’ aggressive game is clicking well enough to get past Monfils’ defense then he would be in good shape to fight past Murray who has beaten him the four times they have played on the ATP tour and lost just one set in their last ATP encounter at last season’s US Open.

Kyrgios does have one win against Murray, though, and their last meeting, too, when he defeated the Scot in straight sets at the ITF Hopman Cup. Only another aggressive, focused and confident performance like that will do against the world No.2, but if Kyrgios’ health is holding up, considering his recent form, he certainly has a chance of making another big stride in his ATP career this BNP Paribas Open.

Taylor Fritz, ranked 80

Fritz Indian Wells

Photo courtesy of www.tennisklub.pl

February breakthrough: Fritz made his first ATP final in Memphis last February playing only his third ATP event. Two weeks later, Fritz made the Acapulco quarters, beating veterans Jeremy Chardy and Victor Estrella Burgos before losing to Sam Querrey.

Indian Wells history: Indian Wells is the only ATP 1000 tournament at which Fritz has ever competed. Ranked 941, Fritz lost in the second round of qualifying last season to Thiemo de Bakker.

Indian Wells potential: Fritz may have limited experience in ATP main draws, but three of his four main draw appearances have come on hard courts. Indian Wells will play to his strengths- his serve and his ground-strokes- and compensate for his main weakness, his movement which means Fritz will have a bit more time to put his smart tennis brain to use from the baseline, but will also mean his wily potential second round opponent David Goffin will have that bit more time to bring him to the net and exploit his movement.

Fritz, the youngest player in the top 100, will face Frances Tiafoe, the youngest player in the top 200 at 177, in the opening round in what will be their first match. Should Fritz win, he would face Goffin and if he can upset him, a possible meeting versus in form Pablo Cuevas awaits in round 3. In the round of 16, Stan Wawrinka is the projected opponent.

Fritz has a tough draw, but the players in his way, while they may be in good form, are not the most consistent seeds, and if he can produce his steady baseline tennis, he will give himself a great shot at continuing to make a name for himself in the pro ranks.

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BNP Paribas Open Preview Round 2 Juan Martin del Potro Versus Tomas Berdych

BNP Paribas Open

Photo courtesy of sportaktualne.cz

Juan Martin del Potro’s comeback from injury will come up against its biggest challenge yet when he takes on Tomas Berdych (6) in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. The Tennis Review looks at the Argentine’s chances of pulling off the upset. 

History: del Potro leads the head to head 4-2, but they have not played since Roland Garros 2012, a contest won by del Potro in four.

Indian Wells history: .The last time del Potro played Indian Wells, in 2013, he defeated Novak Djokovic (then ranked No.1) and Andy Murray on his way to the final where he lost to Nadal in three sets.  He is 16-5 at the event, going QF-SF-QF-R16 in his four previous appearances before 2013, and he has only lost to Nadal (x3), Federer and Richard Gasquet.

Berdych is 18-11 at Indian Wells. Last year he made the last eight, losing to Roger Federer. His best result was the 2013 semi-finals when he lost to Rafa Nadal

Form coming in: del Potro has only played five ATP matches this year. Three of those came at his comeback event at Delray Beach which saw him defeat Denis Kudla, John-Patrick Smith and Jeremy Chardy before losing to Sam Querrey. His other win came in his previous round in Indian Wells when he defeated Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-0.

del Potro’s serve has been strong, and his forehand up to par, but his backhand has been weak- he has had to slice it much of the time- which may be too big a weakness to cover against a player like Berdych. del Potro’s backhand, though, was better in his last match, and he was able to hit with more top spin.

This is a good time for del Potro to meet Berdych- the Czech had to retire from his last match, at the Davis Cup, with a hamstring injury. The Czech has also been struggling a little with his game. While he has been consistent in 2016, reaching the Australian Open quarters, the Marseille semis, and the Dubai quarters, he has yet to make a final, even at events like Rotterdam and Dubai where he has done well in the past, and all of his defeats have been straight set ones to Federer (Australian Open) and to Kyrgios (Marseilles, Dubai).

Favorite to win: Berdych. His presence in Indian Wells means his Davis Cup retirement might have been precautionary so some rest and treatment could mean he is ready to play, and in a recent interview with HEAD the Czech seemed upbeat about playing in the desert.

Watch Tomas Berdych chat about Indian Wells and tennis in the video below.

Live with Tomas Berdych

Posted by HEAD Tennis on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

 

While Berdych may be struggling, he is still reaching semis and quarters of ATP events and his defeats to Federer and Kyrgios were about match ups more than just his poor form.

The Match up issue could also hurt him against del Potro who has beaten him four times and has a serious weapon in his forehand to beat him from the baseline if rallies are prolonged or to kill any returns into his hitting zone on his forehand side.

Berdych, however, has proven he also has the ammunition with his clean hitting to defeat the Argentine, and considering how early del Potro is into his comeback, Berdych should have too much game to expose del Potro’s backhand vulnerabilty and get the win.

Watch highlights of del Potro and Berdych playing at the 2012 Madrid Open in the video below.

del Potro could win if: del Potro can hold his service games, and take the match to tiebreaks, his chances will be good. He has the confidence of a great history at Indian Wells, a surface that will really give him the time to set up his forehand and run around his backhand, and he is a tough match up for Berdych.

Berdych also has a reputation for struggling mentally in close matches, and considering Berdych may not be that confident with his recent heavy defeats in his last three events, if del Potro can get in the match and inside Berdych’s head, he has a chance.

Prediction: Berdych to win. He may not be playing his very best, but he is playing well enough to punish del Potro’s backhand and get a win over the Argentine this early on in his comeback.

However, a del Potro upset of Berdych would not be that shocking considering how hard del Potro has been training, how well he is serving and hitting his forehand, and how excited he is to be playing again, and what a big match player he is. Berdych had better be playing some good tennis in the desert unless he wants his 2016 Indian Wells appearance to be the match in which del Potro announces he is well and truly back on the ATP tour.

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Dominic Thiem Wins First ATP 500 Title With Defeat of Tomic in Acapulco

Thiem

Photo courtesy of francetvsport.fr

Dominic Thiem (4) took home the ATP 500 Acapulco title with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 defeat of Bernard Tomic (5). Here are five points to note about his trophy win, his first ATP 500 title and his first one on hard courts .

Thiem once again showed his fighting spirit as he came back from behind in the two sets he won.

The Acapulco final between Thiem and Tomic was expected to be a close one.  Thiem was in great form and Tomic is a skilled hard court player with 3 titles on the surface (Sydney 2014, 2015, Sydney 2013) on his resume. This first encounter between the 22 year old fourth seeded Austrian and the 23 year old fifth seeded Australian did not let us down and gave us an exciting glimpse into what may be the future of the ATP one day.

Tomic started the stronger of the two as he took a 5-2 first set lead, but Thiem has shown plenty of fighting qualities the last few weeks- he beat Nadal in a third set tiebreak in Buenos Aires, saving a match point on the way, and then beat Nicolas Almagro in another third set breaker in the final- and displayed those battling qualities once again in the final.

The Austrian fought back to take the first set on a tiebreaker (8-6) and then when Tomic took the momentum to take the second set 6-4 and lead 1-0 in the final set, Thiem never gave up and got himself back into the match.

In a match between two in-form players with plenty of versatility and enough game to trouble the other, this Acapulco title contest was always going to be decided on the mental side of things, and Thiem, the more stable of the two in general, was the winner in that department while Tomic was unable to hold on to his leads.

Once Thiem broke back, held and then broke Tomic to get a 3-1 lead in the third set, the Austrian managed to hold onto it and his clutchness on serve is what made the crucial difference in a closely contested match.

At 5-3, Thiem served out for what would be his biggest title yet, and he did it to love and sealed championship point with an ace.

Watch Thiem seal the win in the tweet below.

Acapulco is Thiem’s first hard court title

In 2015, Thiem won 3 clay ATP 250 titles, and won another one this season in Buenos Aires. But going into Acapulco, he was not so accomplished on other surfaces and had not even been to a hard-court final with his best result being semi-final finishes at St Petersburg and Sydney, both results coming in the last six months.

Thiem’s serve is a weapon on any surface

One factor why Thiem is doing better on hard courts is his service game. In the Acapulco final, he hit 22 aces, had a first serve percentage of 78, won 82% behind that delivery, and won 8/19 of his second serves.

Thiem’s controlled aggressive game also helped him conquer hard courts- he hit 45 winners to 33 errors compiling an impressive +17 differential. Tomic, meanwhile, went 27-35, a -7 differential.

Watch highlights of the Acapulco final in the video below

Thiem is now ranked a career high of 14

Thiem is the youngest member of the top 20 aged 22 and with 2,430 points is only 20 points behind Milos Raonic, the 2nd youngest. He also has just 595 points to defend between now and the French Open so if he can maintain his recent form, he could climb further up the rankings and into the 9-12 seedings which would protect him from facing one of the top four ranked players at the slam he is most touted to one day win.

Thiem is 18-4 for 2016 and ranked 3 in the race to London

Thiem has gone SF-3r-W-SF-W in 2016 so far and we still have the slow hard courts of the North American Spring swing and the red clay European stretch to come. Last year a less developed Thiem made the last eight of the Sony Open so with the spring in his step his recent run should give him, the next few months is looking very bright for the young Austrian.

 

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