BNP Paribas Masters What the Trophy Would Mean Djokovic Federer Wawrinka

Paris-Bercy

Photo courtesy of vesti.mk

With one of the biggest trophies of the season at stake, and with the ATP’s top eight players keen to put in a good showing before the WTF, the competition at the BNP Paribas Masters, Paris-Bercy, will be tough. The Tennis Review takes a look at what the trophy would mean to some of the tour’s leading players and what stands in their way to getting their hands on one of the tour’s most prestigious and imaginative looking prizes .

Paris Bercy trophy

Photo courtesy of ibtimes.com.au

Novak Djokovic. Champion 2014, 2013, 2009.

Novak Djokovic has won five ATP 1000s this season (Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Shanghai) becoming the first player in history to achieve that feat twice in their career (he did it first in 2011).

If Djokovic wins Paris-Bercy, he will become the first player ever to win six ATP 1000 titles in a season. A sixth trophy would also mean he would hold ten of the tour’s most prestigious 14 trophies going back to the WTF ’14.

It could also be the achievement that distinguishes his 2015 season from all the other contenders for best season ever in the Open era (Federer’s 2005, 2006, Djokovic’s own 2011, Sampras ’96 are among the others).

Djokovic could meet the dangerous Benoit Paire in the last sixteen and then either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tomas Berdych in the quarters. While any of those players might trouble him for a few games or even a set, none of them are likely to upset him.

If an upset were to happen, that is most probably going to come at the hands of Stan Wawrinka who is Djokovic’s scheduled last four opponent and who beat Djokovic so brilliantly the last time they met in Paris in the Roland Garros final in June.

If Djokovic survives Wawrinka, it is hard not to see him beating either Andy Murray or Roger Federer in the final considering the slow surface and the confidence he would have from winning 21 matches in a row to make his 14th consecutive final.

Federer

Photo courtesy of cdn.sindonews.net

Roger Federer. Champion 2011

Federer’s Basel win will have made up somewhat for the disappointment of an early loss in Shanghai, but a win in Paris will mean that extraordinary slip-up will definitely be forgotten.

More importantly, a second career Paris-Bercy trophy would mean that Federer would enter the ATP WTF full of confidence.

The slow Bercy surface is one of the reasons why Federer has only managed to win one title in Paris-Bercy, and his resume there is littered with early upsets. If Federer was to prevail this year and thwart the all round offensive-defensive skills of the likes of Djokovic and Murray then that would mean Federer was well and truly on his game at the net and that his underrated defensive skills were on-song, too, which would help him considerably on the slow London surface.

Federer opens up against his Australian Open conqueror Andreas Seppi and then could meet Isner in the last sixteen, Ferrer in the quarters, and Murray in the last four.

Andy Murray. Quarter-finalist 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014

Andy Murray recent rise to the world No.2 ranking was impressive, but his 1-6, 3-6 loss to world No.1 Novak Djokovic left many people wondering if there had ever been a greater gap between the world’s top two ranked players.

Now Murray has been overtaken by Federer and is back to No.3, but he is still the second seed in Paris -Bercy. Should Murray topple Federer in the semis and meet Djokovic in this year’s finals, then the opinion he is a few leagues below Djokovic is unlikely to change. Djokovic thrives on slow indoors courts as much as he does on slow outdoors ones, and Murray, who has never been past the last eight in Paris-Bercy, could find himself facing another humiliating defeat.

If Murray does lift the trophy, a scenario that could play out if Djokovic loses early, then it would be his third ATP 1000 title of the season (won Madrid, Montreal), a career best. But there are questions about just how motivated Murray isto win a third ATP 1000 when his focus is understandably on the Davis Cup at the end of the month.

Interestingly, Murray will face his Davis Cup final opponent David Goffin in the fourth round, a match that, considering the slow Paris-Bercy surface, could give us some idea how their Davis Cup clash might play out.

Wawrinka BNP Paribas Masters

Photo courtesy of www.srf.ch

Stan Wawrinka. Quarter-finals 2013

How will Stan feel about Paris now he has won the French Open? The Swiss world No.4 had not been past the Roland Garros Quarters before his win this year and the two time slam winner may surprise us again this year in Bercy.

Wawrinka, who did very well on a similar surface last year at the WTF, has not had the best runs in Paris (he is 10-10) but his previous history at event accounts for little for this streakiest of players.

A trophy in Paris would round off Wawrinka’s 2015 perfectly, and leave whatever happens in London as a very nice bonus. This season Wawrinka has won a slam, two ATP 500s (Rotterdam, Tokyo) and an ATP 250 (Chennai) so an ATP 1000 title would complete his trophy collection very nicely.

Wawrinka has a possible clash with Nadal in the last eight and would likely have to beat Djokovic in the semis to get a shot at Murray or Federer in the finals. That might sound like an intimidating line-up to some, but for Wawrinka the more illustrious the opposition and the bigger the stage, the better he plays.

Rafael Nadal. Runner up 2007, Semi-finals 2009, 2013

Nadal, who has been a pro since 2001, has only competed in four Paris-Bercy events and has never lost before the quarters.

This season, Nadal goes into the tournament having had a strong indoor season, one of his strongest ever in fact, and in his weakest season since 2004, too.

A runner-up finish in Beijing, semis in Shanghai, and a finalist in Basel, Nadal has found his game to some degree, but most importantly, he has re-found the quality that has made him one of the game’s very best- his fighting spirit.

That fighting spirit could result in one of the stories of the tennis year- a Nadal triumph in Paris. If that were to happen, Nadal would go into the WTF in two weeks on a high, with nothing to lose, and only confidence to gain going into the off-season. That huge swing in Momentum- remember how bad things looked when he was beaten soundly by Djokovic in Monte Carlo?– could carry over nicely into 2016 and to Melbourne where Nadal would be eager to show off that fighting spirit all the way to another final, and possibly a 15th slam trophy.

Nadal will not have it easy. He has drawn Kevin Anderson, playing the best tennis of his career, in the last sixteen, Wawrinka in the last eight, and Novak Djokovic in the last four.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

Who do you think will win Paris-Bercy? Amd what do you think the trophy will mean to them? Let us know in the comments box below.

Posted in BNP Paribas Masters, Paris-Bercy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roger Federer Defeats Rafael Nadal Swiss Indoors Final Aggressive Play Wins

Federer

Photo courtesy of indianexpress.com

Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in the Swiss Indoors final, their first ever meeting in Switzerland, and in the Swiss’ hometown, too. The Tennis Review looks back at a win for Federer over an old foe who put him under pressure, as ever, but this time against whom Federer was able to stand up to thanks to his commitment to an aggressive game plan.

Federer knew the only way he was going to beat a resurgent Nadal was to commit to all out aggression. The Swiss went into their 34th meeting trailing 10-23, a head to head that had seen the Swiss lose many matches he should have won because of retreating to the baseline when inside the court was where the match was there to be won.

Federer started the Swiss Indoors final with the play fans hoped for, serving well, moving forward and taking Nadal on at the net whatever the Spaniard threw at him.

Federer also had an aggressive mindset on the return, too. Though his SABR was not working, the defending champion was still able to put pressure on Nadal’s serve early in the first set, and at 2-2 Federer converted his third break point, hitting big on the rise, and striking a down the line forehand winner.

Federer ran with the momentum held to 5-3, and then created another chance for himself to break. The Swiss kept up with his aggressive returns and earned himself three break points , converting the first one with another forehand winner into the open court, and taking the first set 6-3.

Another forehand winner earned Federer a 1-0 lead at the start of the second set, and with his serve, net play, and forehand all imposing his game on Nadal, the aggressive approach so vital for a win looked to be paying off.

Federer

Photo courtesy of meridiano.com.ve

Nadal, who called the trainer and had his much troubled tendon wrapped at 1-2, was pretty aggressive himself, far more so than he has been most of this season. The third seed faced break points at 2-3, but served his way out of trouble, and as the set went on, Nadal, who had fought back in every match on his way to the final, began to assert his own game on Federer as he hit his forehand with conviction, got the Swiss on the run, attacked the backhand, and enjoyed having a target at the net.

At 5-5, Federer serving, Nadal won a 15 stroke rally for 15-30, and the pressure began to tell on the Federer game as the Swiss missed a forehand crosscourt to go break point down. The slightest chance and Nadal took it, hitting deep and with spin to the Federer backhand and then approaching the net, his formidable self coming for his rival forcing Federer into an error.

Nadal served out to love and the match stood at a set all. Though Federer had been commited to all out attack, the very moment he slipped up, Nadal was there to take advantage, a fact that surprised no one.

Now a match that looked to have been possibly decided on the more effective strategy was going to be decided in a third set and ultimately on who was the mentally tougher on the day.

Typically in these Federer-Nadal situations, it is Nadal who emerges the stronger. But this time Federer did not shrink into his game as he has so often done, and instead he stood up to Nadal, winning his service games with imposing play and continuing to go for his shots and put pressure on Nadal’s service games, a break point at 2-1 letting Nadal know he had as much fight in him as the Spaniard.

Nadal would save it, but another would come Federer’s way at 4-3. Federer signaled his intent early on, got to 0-30, took the game to deuce, and then earned break point as his aggressive returning forced an error. Federer converted when Nadal overhit a backhand cross court, and he had the chance to serve out for the match.

A Federer ace brought him a championship point, but Nadal fought it off with a backhand passing shot winner. A couple of points later and Federer had his second chance. The Swiss served out wide and roared as Nadal’s return went out.

Federer would later call the win his best ever in Basel. That is quite some status considering he has now won 61 matches there, has seven trophies, and has beaten the likes of Djokovic before his home fans.

Deserved status though for a win that increased his indoor hard head to head over Nadal to 4-1, cut the head to head deficit to 11-23, and allowed his home fans to witness and in many ways take part in a rare big win against the man who threatens his GOAT status more than anyone else in the game.

Status that looks, as Federer claimed his sixth title of the year, aged 34 and playing the most aggressive tennis of his career,(he won 23 of 34 points at the net), pretty safe for the time being.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

Posted in Roger Federer, Swiss Indoors | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Swiss Indoors Final 2015 Roger Federer Vs Rafael Nadal

Federer

Photo courtesy of vtv.vn

Roger Federer (1) and Rafael Nadal (3) will meet for the first time since the Australian Open ’14 and for the first time ever in Federer’s own backyard of Basel, Switzerland. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

History: The Federer-Nadal rivalry, often known as Fedal, will go down as one of the greatest ever in tennis history.

Nadal won their first match in Miami 2004 when he was just 16 and Federer was the world No.1. Since then they have played 33 matches with the last one resulting in another Nadal victory in the Australian Open semis in 2014.

Head to head: Nadal leads this rivalry 23-10, a decisive lead that is partly to do with the number of matches they have played on Nadal’s favorite surface– 14, of which Nadal has won 12- and also Nadal’s winning strategy against the Swiss.

Hitting heavy top spin ground-strokes high to Federer’s backhand and passing him at the net with such success that Federer stays back where Nadal wants him have helped the Spaniard compile an 11-8 lead over Federer off clay.

Those tactics have won Nadal important hard court and grass court matches against Federer at tournaments where the Swiss has a much better record than the Spaniard such as the 2008 Wimbledon final, the 2009 Australian Open final, the 2012 Australian Open semi-final, and the 2006 Dubai final.

Form going into the match: Federer has been up and down this week, but the Swiss’ struggles have brought out the best in him even if at times his temper has been volatile. He has had to win two three setters, one against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round, and one versus David Goffin in the quarters, and after each victory he credited the crowd for helping him pull through.

The Swiss has not been too worn out this week, however. He cruised through his other matches versus Kukushkin in the opening round and Sock in the semis, though he did struggle a little to close out the Sock match.

While Federer has been doing what he does best in Basel, winning (he is 60-9 there now and has won 6 titles), Nadal has been doing what, before his slump set in, he had been doing best everywhere- fighting.

The third seed has fought back in every match he has played. He came back from a set and a break down against Rosol and Cilic, came back from a break down in the third versus Dimitrov, and fought back from a break down in the opening set versus Gaquet in their semi.

Federer

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

Who should win?: Federer leads the indoor hard head to head 3-1. The perfect indoor conditions really allow his serve and risky game to flourish free from the possible negative side effects of windy or wet conditions.

In this rivalry though, who should win is not always who actually ends up doing so. Federer has lost many matches he should have won against Nadal by starting out aggressively and then retreating back to the baseline and allowing Nadal to pummel the weaker backhand side.

That scenario last played out at the Australian Open ’14, their last match and the first tournament where Federer really committed to all-out aggression under Stefan Edberg. Federer had recovered from the back injury that had plagued him in 2013, was comfortable with his modified racket and was coming off big wins over Tsonga and Murray yet still managed to go from an attacking, promising start to a passive, surrendering finish to the then world no.1.

This time expect things to be different. Federer has fine tuned his attacking game to put together his best season since 2012 and with his serve stats, net points won and confidence all high, this match should go in his favor.

Fedal

Photo courtesy of yebohe.cn

Nadal could win if: No one bothers Federer like Nadal does, and if the Spaniard produces his best tennis of the season in the final – and his 30 winners to 21 errors versus Gasquet hint that he is nearing that level- then he has a chance to stay with Federer and take the sets to tiebreaks where anything can happen.

If things get tight and an inspired Nadal gets into Federer’s head forcing the Swiss to doubt his strategy and try to win from the back of the court then this match will turn out to be an upset.

Prediction: Federer is by far the more big match tough of the two right now. He is also far more committed to aggressive tennis than he was the last time he and Nadal met and will stand up to Nadal no matter how much pressure the Spaniard puts him under.

Those factors, plus the home crowd who will be desperate to help Federer grab a win over Nadal in their first Swiss battle, make Federer the favorite to win in two tough sets and lift his seventh Swiss Indoors trophy.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

Who do you think will win the latest Fedal match? Let us know in the comments box below.

Posted in Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Swiss Indoors | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Djokovic Dominates in Shanghai on Greatness Quest- Who Can Challenge Him?

Djokovic

Photo courtesy of www.sporter.md

Novak Djokovic swept aside the competition in Shanghai, winning his ninth title and fifth ATP 1000 trophy of the season. The Serb’s final 6-2, 6-4 victory over sixteenth seed Jo-Wilfred Tsonga was yet another commanding performance in a year which may prove to be the strongest season ever played by an ATP world no. 1. A year which could go down as another trophy laden chapter in the career of an all time great. The Tennis Review looks at Djokovic’s Shanghai win, his path to greatness, and asks who can make the road tricky for him?

6-2, 6-4. Djokovic has won trophies this season with other dominant scorelines – 6-2, 6-2 versus Rafael Nadal in Beijing, 6-4, 6-3 over Federer in Rome. But this win was slightly more commanding because at one time it looked like Tsonga, unlike Djokovic’s more celebrated rivals, would be able to actually threaten Djokovic’s supremacy.

That time was brief, and for a Djokovic match in Asia (he had won nineteen sets since his first match in Beijing losing three games or less bar one, a tiebreak in the Shanghai quarters), it was a rather exciting one as what looked like another exhibition style performance threatened to turn into a competitive match.

From early in the second set, Tsonga picked up his deflated game, destroyed by Djokovic from the get-go, the Djokovic return too good for Tsonga’s principal weapon, and rebuilt it into the inspiring game that had seen him edge Nadal in a close three setter in the semis. The Frenchman nailed his first serve, charged the net, hit some beautiful volleys and took the set to 4-4, a feat which only unseeded Bernard Tonic had achieved against Djokovic in ten matches.

4-4. Further than even world no.2 and one of only four players to beat Djokovic in 2015, Andy Murray, (Karlovic, Wawrinka, Federer x 2 are the other honourees) was able to take him in their semi-final. The new world No.2, the man who will likely be seeded to challenge Djokovic in the ATP’s big finals the next few months, was thrashed 6-1, 6-3 in a match which had many wondering if there had ever been a greater disparity between the sport’s two top ranked players.

But one game better than Murray in each set was the best sixteenth seed Tsonga could do. At 4-4, Djokovic’s depth of return and consistency broke the Frenchman, and then Djokovic’s effective serving, length of shot, intelligent point construction, fitness and desire won him his 25th Masters title, taking him one ahead of Federer in that regard, and just two behind Nadal.

Those two names – Federer and Nadal- are often said in the same breath as Djokovic’s, and not, unfortunately, as positively as he deserves. But that is, as Djokovic plays like he did these past two weeks in Asia, changing. Now the talk is turning to the ten time slam winner bettering Nadal’s 14 and Federer’s 17 slam titles. With both men doubtful to win more slams, and Djokovic aged only 28 with arguably three more years of peak play ahead of him, it is very possible.

In fact, only injury and his own self could stand in Djokovic’s way because the one thing that should be able to prevent him, the whole point of the ATP in fact – the competition- is more likely to continue to submit to his all conquering game than figure out a way to topple it. Partly because of their own shortcomings, partly because Djokovic has done everything he can to exploit them.

Djokovic’s own generation, bar one player, does not seem capable of toppling him – Nadal is losing his confidence, Federer is unable to flourish in finals on medium slow surfaces, Murray is as intent as destroying himself as Djokovic is, Berdych goes from peak to awol in a flash, Tsonga is injury prone and as inconsistent as ever. Each and every one of those players has it in them to win, but the one or two things they lack, or have too much off, Djokovic makes sure they pay for it. He makes Federer play one set too many in best of five, lures Murray into losing his mind over Medical Time Outs and grabbed-at-limbs, forces Berdych to hit one more ball, kills Tsonga’s greatest shot with his own, makes Nadal ask himself if he can still win.

Those players may rise above it all and get the odd win over Djokovic at 500 and 1000 level events, but they have failed to do it when it really matters, in the business end of slams. Of course, none of them should be written off in terms of their future prospects versus Djokovic – all of them have the ability to transform themselves and raise their games should they get the chance- but their recent history versus Djokovic in slams does not give us much hope for any exciting victories in the big ones anytime soon. Only one player has managed to do that recently, but we shall come to him later.

Meanwhile the next generation of Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov should really be the current one but are not even, except for when we least expect it such as Tomic in Shanghai, appearing in the last eight of ATP 1000s.

As for the up and coming youngsters such as Coric, Zverev and Kokkinakis, the slower courts and the resulting increased age players peak means they likely won’t make strides until Djokovic has well and truly slowed down.

But not all hope is lost for those who enjoy some competitive ATP action- there is one player capable of making Djokovic’s quest to become the greatest a trickier one- Stan Wawrinka. While we certainly cannot rely on him, the Swiss should have his moments over the next season or so of standing up to Djokovic with his beautiful versatile game. The two time slam champ, who beat Djokovic on the road to both titles, has the serve to negate the return whatever the score, the aggression to punish Djokovic if he is nervy and passive as he can be under pressure, the strategy to get Djokovic in such a predicament in the first place, the flair to surprise him and rob him off his rhythm, and a mental strength that peaks the closer he gets to a big win. A winning package that can overwhelm Djokovic on medium slow courts, and can do it, in fact can only do it, on the big stages in the biggest moments.

Those moments will be savoured, as will Djokovic’s moments of supremacy. These final demolition jobs may not be giving us the drama we would hope the ATP would produce, but they cannot be faulted for quality on Djokovic’s part, a factor the ATP has had a hand in producing, too. For, after all, Djokovic would not need to be striving for such perfection if his hard working colleagues such as the dangerous Wawrinka were not demanding it of him to begin with.

Posted in Novak Djokovic, Shanghai | Tagged | Leave a comment

Shanghai Rolex Masters Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Shanghai Rolex Masters

Photo courtesy of www.sport-ivoire.ci

The Shanghai Rolex Masters Final 2015 will be contested between the red hot Novak Djokovic and the talented but unpredictable Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

History: Djokovic leads the head to head 13-6, 7-6 on hard courts, and 1-0 in Shanghai (2013). The last time they met, Tsonga ended a nine match losing streak to Djokovic by beating him 6-2, 6-2 in Toronto (2014).

Tsonga dominated the head to head at one stage and inflicted on Djokovic one of his few defeats at the Australian Open (2010) since the world no. 1 started to rule there.

However, once Djokovic got his game into regular slam winning shape, he turned the head to head round, proving to have the greater mental strength when their matches got tight (see Roland Garros 2012). Tsonga has always struggled when matches get down to the wire, making some suspect shot selections, and if this match gets close, Djokovic is likely to be the one who keeps it together.

Form going in: Novak Djokovic was unstoppable against Andy Murray and beat the world no.2 6-1, 6-3. Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was in inspired form in his 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 defeat of Nadal in which when the match got tight he trusted his instincts and played the better tennis. Tsonga was helped out by Nadal getting tentative, the kind of help he will definitely not be getting from Djokovic.

Who is the favourite? Djokovic is the favourite, but he won’t have it as easy against Tsonga as he did Murray – the Scot’s passive play played into his hands, allowing him to find his rhythm and control the match from inside the baseline and be aggressive. Tsonga, on the other hand, will try and finish points quickly, and make it harder for Djokovic to control the match’s tempo. Tsonga will also serve much better than Murray and Djokovic won’t have such an advantage on the return.

Tsonga can win if: The 16th seed has to serve above 70%, be aggressive at all times, manage his backhand so Djokovic does not tear that side apart, and go for his returns so that Djokovic does not get him into long rallies and get any rhythm.

Tsonga’s best chance will be to take the sets to tiebreak, trust his instincts, take risks and get the crowd on his side. If those risks pay off and he gets the crowd going he can use the atmosphere to his advantage as Djokovic can get testy in those situations.

That’s a lot to ask, but Tsonga has shown this week with three 3 set wins that he is prepared to put in the effort.

Whatever Tsonga does, the one thing he must not do is overthink. The Frenchman has both one of the most beautiful and unique games on the tour and one of the most fragile minds.

Prediction: Djokovic to win in two close sets. This is Tsonga’s biggest final since Toronto ’14 and while he handled that one beautifully, Djokovic will unsettle him by asking too many questions on his backhand wing and gradually break him down both physically and mentally.

Posted in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Novak Djokovic, Shanghai | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shanghai Rolex Masters Semis Preview Djokovic V Murray Nadal V Tsonga

Shanghai Rolex Masters

Photo courtesy of www.sports.inquirer.net

The Shanghai Rolex Masters semi-finals will see ATP no. 1 Novak Djokovic take on old rival Andy Murray and a seemingly resurgent Rafael Nadal up against the talented Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray

Djokovic leads the head to head 19-9, is 15- 7 ahead on hard and leads 1-0 in Shanghai, winning an epic three set final in 2012.

Murray ended an eight match losing streak to Djokovic in the Montréal final back in August and that win, their last meeting, should give Murray some confidence.

The Scot will need it. Djokovic has made his last four hard court finals since entering Montréal, and for the first time in his last seven matches dropped more than three games in a set when Bernard Tonic took him to a first set tiebreaker in their Shanghai quarter-final.

Murray, playing his first event since a bruising loss to Kevin Anderson in New York, can also draw some confidence from his recent form. The Scot survived a tough match against John Isner and then dismissed old rival Tomas Berdych in the last eight for the loss of four games.

The Shanghai conditions will also give Murray some heart as he enters the Djokovic contest. Like Montréal, the Shanghai courts are faster than most hard courts on the tour which plays into Murray’s very fine hands. The Scot is at his best on fast hard courts on which he can use his defensive skills to track down balls and then his counter punching skills to send them back with interest and, thanks to the speed of the courts, out of his opponents reach.

Djokovic meanwhile prefers conditions a little slower so he can really find his much needed rhythm. But the US Open champ is no slouch on faster courts either, and he will be ready to be a little more aggressive versus Murray than against other players to get the win.

Prediction: With both men playing well and considering their Shanghai history, this will likely go the distance. Djokovic should edge the win – the heavier, slower night conditions will help him and he is on a 15 match winning streak in his most favourable part of the season.

Rafael Nadal vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Nadal leads the head to head 8-3 and 6-2 on hard.

Tsonga has had to hustle his way through to the semis, taking three tough sets to get past Federer’s conqueror Alberto Ramos-Vinolas and then Kevin Anderson. But those battles could prove to be just what he needs to prepare him for a scrappy encounter with Nadal.

Nadal is certainly improving this past couple of weeks, but he has not really been tested – Wawrinka was sub-par in their 62 minute quarterfinal and Raonic is still rusty coming back from injury- and we have yet to see him beat someone playing good tennis. Tsonga is hitting a lot of winners and is confident so this will be a real test for Nadal and will, if he wins, give us a better idea of where he really is game wise.

Tsonga needs to be absolutely aggressive if he is going to make his first Shanghai final. Any rally balls will just play into Nadal’s hands and he needs to go easy on the slice. The Frenchman needs to serve big, take cuts on the return, and outmuscle Nadal.

Prediction: Tsonga has a great chance here. If he can end points quickly and attack Nadal from the get go if he is hitting his rally balls short, he could overwhelm the Spaniard in straight sets. If Tsonga gets close to achieving that, and then lets Nadal back into the match, we may witness another big match slip away from the Frenchman’s grasp and see Nadal, once again, coming back to steal a win.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.
Liked this article? Share it and help us get read.
Have something you would like to say? Get yourself heard in the comments box below.
Subscribe to our email list for all the latest posts straight to your in-box.

Posted in Shanghai | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Albert Ramos-Vinolas Defeats Roger Federer Shanghai Three Vital Things

Photo courtesy of www.puntodebreak.com

Photo courtesy of www.puntodebreak.com

Albert Ramos-Vinolas’ 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 shocking defeat of defending champion Roger Federer in the second round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters will go down as one of the, if not the, biggest upsets of 2015. The Tennis Review looks at three aspects of Ramos’ huge win.

  • Ramos had the right strategy and executed it.

We knew it would take a great performance to defeat the defending champ, and Ramos gave one. The 70th ranked left-handed Ramos hit heavily and aggressively from the baseline and took the ball on the rise which allowed him to really take control of the rhythm of the match.

Ramos also played with a lot of variety from the back of the court, mixing up the depth of the ball, switching between down the line and cross court plays, and keeping Federer guessing.

Federer kept the points short when he could with his aggression, but Ramos was aggressive in his own way, too. Ramos attacked the Federer backhand, with height and spin, opened up the court and then hit flat to the forehand, leaving Federer flailing on his strongest side.

The qualifier frequently used depth, spin and angles to move the ball away from Federer, and stepped inside the court when he got short balls. That aggressive mind-set allowed him to stand up to the Swiss all the way to the first set tiebreak which he edged 7-4.

Federer came back strong to take the second set 6-2, but Ramos did not go away. The world no.70 stayed with the second seed until he led 4-3 in the third set. In that eighth game, with Ramos holding break point, perhaps the second most crucial point of the entire match, Ramos hit a deep, high return which kept Federer back and got him both off balance and on the defence, which is as good as it gets versus Federer after the Swiss has struck a serve break point down. On his next stroke, Ramos hit a mid-length inside out down the line to the Federer backhand, and then, with plenty of time, courtesy of the Federer slice cross-court, set up his forehand and struck a winner down the line. Winning that huge point, in a match in which Federer won 52% of the points, was a sign of Ramos’ clear thinking and confidence on the verge of the biggest win of his career.

That confidence carried Ramos across the finish line as Ramos also won the biggest point of the match- match point. Once again he won the crucial points with his most effective tennis. Ramos served with heavy spin into the body forcing an error, a typically smart play that was characteristic of the win.

  • Ramos played three matches going into the match while Federer had not played since the US Open final

Qualifying meant Ramos had to play two matches to get into the main draw, and beating Zhizhen Zhang and Michael Berrer in straight sets set Ramos up nicely to defeat Sam Querrey in the opening round.

Taking on Querrey’s serve and big game certainly got Ramos in the rhythm to go up against the aggressive Federer and the Spaniard did well to keep Federer back as much as he did and challenge him to produce his best net play when he made it that far.

Federer meanwhile had not played since the US Open and arrived in Shanghai to defend his title to the kind of fanfare you would expect. Pre-event conferences, promotional duties, and very much the center of attention, the pressure was on Federer to deliver, and an under the radar and well prepared Ramos was waiting to catch him unawares.

Federer

Photo courtesy of www.dnaindia.com

  • Ramos had nothing to lose.

Ramos came out with nothing to lose and played with an intensity and enthusiasm Federer has not seen much of in the early rounds of 2015 events. As soon as Ramos found his deep, heavy and aggressive hitting to Federer’s backhand was working, he seemed to sense an upset, and with nothing to lose, he went for it.

Federer meanwhile had everything to lose – 1000 points as defending champ, and his trophy. The Swiss had also said in his pre-tournament conference he wanted to be no. 1 again, but with this early defeat on one of the surfaces most suited to him, the chances of regaining that status have diminished greatly.

Talk of no. 1, huge expectations, and an in-form and confident opponent with the perfect strategy, in hindsight Federer’s defeat seems written in the stars. It was Ramos though who made it happen, and while Federer fans will be bitterly disappointed, Ramos supporters and neutrals will be pleased he had it in him to inject an exciting twist so early on into this season’s Shanghai script.

Watch highlights of Ramos-Vinolas’ shocking defeat of Roger Federer in Shanghai below

Liked this article? Share it and help us get read.

Have something you would like to say? Get yourself heard in the comments box below.

Subscribe to our email list for all the latest posts straight to your in-box.

Posted in Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Roger Federer, Shanghai | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

China Open & Tokyo Open Novak Djokovic Stan Wawrinka What We (re)Learned

Djokovic China Open

Photo courtesy of www.s1.yimg.com

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka picked up ATP 500 titles in Beijing and Tokyo respectively last week. While Djokovic’s title run just reminded us of his greatness, Wawrinka’s run taught us a little something about the multi-slam champ.

China Open final Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-2.

Novak Djokovic won his sixth consecutive title in Beijing so we did not learn too much about him from that win- we already knew he thrived on the high bouncing slow surface which gives him all the time he needs to get into a rhythm and control matters from the baseline.

We already knew how motivated Djokovic is, a slam champ turning up each year at an ATP 500 event and playing it with the same devotion and passion he gives to the 1000s and Majors (the way Federer does in Halle and Nadal does in Barcelona).

We also knew Djokovic is as sturdy as they get in tennis. For while his scores through the draw – 6-1, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2- looked as smooth as it gets, there were some sketchy moments, particularly in the final.

Nadal, playing some decent tennis on hard courts for the first time this season, had break points in the first set, trailing 2-3. The Spaniard, hitting with more depth than he has done lately and making some smart decisions, bringing Djokovic in and passing him rather than letting him camp happily at the baseline, looked set to make a real battle of it. The kind of battle Djokovic wanted to avoid with the Shanghai Rolex Masters starting next week. A battle he avoided as he ramped up the aggression, played smart on the serve, got himself out of trouble and never looked back.

In his element on slow hard-courts, a devotion to his sport wherever he goes, and the ability to knuckle down and fight- we knew Djokovic had these qualities, but it was a privilege to be reminded anyway.

Wawrinka

Photo courtesy of www.static.a-z.ch

Rakuten Tokyo Open Final Stan Wawrinka defeats Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4.

While Djokovic was reminding us of his strengths, Wawrinka was teaching us new things about himself.

The two time slam winner has ‘only’ won 9 other titles outside of his slams, the most prestigious of those being the ATP 1000 Monte Carlo, and he had not won a 500 title until Rotterdam this season. In fact, before winning his first slam, the Australian Open 2014, the Swiss had won four titles in his 12 years as a pro, and all at 250 level.

Part of the reason for Wawrinka’s unbalanced title haul is both his strength and his weakness- his streakiness. “Stanimal’ is perfectly capable of beating in-form world no.1s Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in slam finals, or Roger Federer in an ATP 1000 final, as he is of going out to world no.74 Federico Delbonis in the last eight of the 250 Geneva Open or going down to 103rd ranked Tatsuma Ito in the first round of a 500, as he did in the Tokyo first round last season.

This year, he again came up against Ito in Tokyo, now ranked 127, in the round of 16, and this time he did not get down on himself but fought through the doubts and won 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

That was the only set Wawrinka lost all week on his run to his fourth title of the year, the most he has won in one season. That run told us Stan had it in him to be as focused in the mid-range events as he has shown he can be at the game’s highest levels. The kind of focus that could help him build up his resume, balance it out and enhance his legacy.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

Liked this article? Share it and help us get read.

Have something you would like to say? Get yourself heard in the comments box below.

Subscribe to our email list for all the latest posts straight to your in-box.

Posted in China Open, Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tokyo | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Roger Federer ATP 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters Who Can Stop Him?

Federer

Photo courtesy of www.delo.si

Roger Federer enters the ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters as the second seed and firm favourite. The Tennis Review looks at who will most likely get the chance to stop the defending champion on his quest for his 88th career title.

Round 2 likely opponent Sam Querrey

Federer leads his head to head with Querrey 3-0, has never dropped a set against him, and only dropped eight games when they met in this year’s Wimbledon second round.

To win, Querrey would have to serve his very best, and take big risks on second serves and with his ground game in tiebreaks. Even then, though, that would still not cut it – Querrey’s serve is easy for Federer to read, and the Swiss would most likely just up his own level on key points, take wiser calculated risks of his own, and pull out the win.

Last Sixteen scheduled opponent Tsonga (8)

Federer leads 11-5 and 9- 4 on hard.

This is a tough draw early on for Federer who has suffered some tough losses to the Frenchman (Wimbledon 2011, Canadian Open ’09). Tsonga is in good fast hard court form, reaching the US Open quarters and winning the Metz trophy. But Tsongas’s record in Shanghai is average (9-5), he has never had any big wins there and it is hard to see him suddenly defeating Federer in the upcoming week.

For the win, Tsonga would have to be at his very best, and while he can produce that in big matches, his at times weak shot selection will most likely let him down if things get tight.

Possible Quarter-Finalist Kei Nishikori

Federer leads the head to head with Nishikori 3-2 with the last two wins convincing ones at the ATP WTF and Halle last season.

Nishikori can beat Federer on slow courts (Miami ’14) or Clay (Madrid ’13), but he will not have as much time as he needs on the Shanghai ones when it comes to the return or passing shots to really bother Federer.

Likely Semi-Final opponents

Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Rafael Nadal

Cilic would be the most dangerous opponent here. Federer leads him 5-1, but that one defeat was when Federer was in fine form in the US Open semis ’14.

Cilic is a streaky player and if he reaches the semis he would be hitting one of those streaks, especially since he has never reached an ATP 1000 semi-final. Should he make that breakthrough in the upcoming week in Shanghai that means the Croat will be serving big, teeing off on his ground strokes, defending well, attacking the net, and in the form that is capable of winning slams, and, more crucially, of beating Federer in big matches.

Second most likely to upset Federer in this round would be Wawrinka, but the chances are low- Federer has the upper hand in this rivalry on faster courts (see their recent US Open semi). Wawrinka, though, is coming off a win in Tokyo, can play great on fast hard, and is better than anyone at winning matches he is expected to lose.

As for Nadal, who just had a positive defeat, if such a thing exists, in the Beijing final versus Djokovic, the chances of Federer losing to him are the hardest to speculate on. These two have not played since the Australian Open ’14, and their fortunes have been strikingly different since that one sided contest.

This rivalry, led by Nadal 23-10, is as all about the lopsided nature of the surfaces competed on, the way Nadal has used that to get into Federer’s head, and the Nadal tactic of feeding deep high topspin groundstrokes to his backhand side.

Back in the days when Federer was losing to Nadal so often, he allowed Nadal to attack that backhand, abandoning an attacking strategy mid match. The 2015 version of Federer is not going to do that and his commitment to attack, and his riskier approach to his return game, should allow him to cut the deficit in that lopsided head to head versus Nadal should they meet in Shanghai.

Likely final opponent- Djokovic or Murray.

With the way Djokovic is playing on hard recently, (two runner-up finishes, two wins) he is Federer’s most likely final opponent. Federer would welcome that though. The Swiss may have lost the last three slam finals he has made to the Serb, but he has beaten him on the tour’s fastest ATP 500 and 1000 events in Dubai (x2), Cincinnati and Shanghai the past two seasons.

Last year Federer was decisive in his victory over Djokovic in the Shanghai semis, winning 6-4, 6-4 in a match in which both players had positive winner-error differentials.

This year, if the two meet in the final, the result, unless Djokovic is more aggressive than usual or Federer is below par, would most likely be the same.

In fact, if Federer is going to lose to anyone in the final, it is more likely to be Andy Murray who has beaten him twice in Shanghai (2010, 2012), but those defeats were after Federer’s peak and when he was not so committed to the aggressive tennis he is now.

Since adopting that career rejuvenating attacking style, Federer has beaten Murray decisively on faster courts, and would be likely to do so again. Murray, though, has proven this year he cannot be counted out from surprising us and could push Federer hard if his serve is on and he commits to being aggressive.

Nothing less will do. Hard to read effective serving and aggressive play- that is the kind of tennis Federer will be bringing to the final, and the only kind that will, on Shanghai’s faster than average courts, trump him.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

Liked this article? Share it and help us get read.

Have something you would like to say? Get yourself heard in the comments box below.

Subscribe to our email list for all the latest posts straight to your in-box.

Posted in Roger Federer, Shanghai | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Japan Open ATP 500 What the Trophy Would Mean Nishikori Wawrinka Dimitrov

Japan Open

Photo courtesy of www.sipse.com

The Japan Open features one of the most competitive fields on the tour at an ATP 500 event this season. The Tennis Review looks at the potential Champions, what obstacles they have to overcome, and what the title would mean to them.

Kei Nishikori (2)

The two time defending champion goes into his home event at the end of another remarkable but injury hit, and at times inconsistent, year.

The Japanese, who hit a career high of four in the ATP rankings this March, becoming the first Japanese player to do so, has fallen down to world no. 6 since then. That fall mostly is due to his failing miserably to defend his US Open final points- the Japanese suffered a shock upset to Benoit Paire in the first round.

Nishikori has not competed since that disappointing defeat, and he has his work cut out on his return to the ATP tour. The second seed has been drawn against Borna Coric in round 1, could face Alexandr Dolgopolov in round two, and is scheduled to meet his 2014 US Open conqueror Marin Cilic in the quarters.

If Nishikori navigates that tough section of the draw, he is scheduled to face fourth seed Richard Gasquet and then top seed Stan Wawrinka in the final.

A third consecutive Japan Open trophy would get 2015 back on track for Nishikori and save him from possibly slipping even further down the rankings. A win would also put him in strong contention for the ATP World Tour finals. Meanwhile, a loss would be further disappointment for Nishikori and his fans, particularly considering his heroic status in his homeland, and an early defeat before an idolizing crowd which might take Nishikori some time to recover from.

Stan Wawrinka (1)

Wawrinka has had a career year this season winning the French Open in emphatic style, reaching the Australian Open and US Open semis, and winning Rotterdam and Chennai.

Wawrinka’s streaky nature –he has suffered eight upsets this years-means he could win the whole thing or bow out early. The latter occurrence is not too far-fetched either as his first round opponent is the unique Radek Stépanek who leads their head to head 4-1, though the Czech’s last win came all the way back in 2009.

Wawrinka has nothing to lose this event- he has already qualified for the ATP World Tour finals- but if he does win the title it would balance out his season nicely.

Marin Cilic

Cilic surprised many in reaching the US Open semi-finals last month and he was unlucky to suffer an ankle injury before his semi-final against Novak Djokovic.

Cilic is a curious case. The 27 year old has a Slam trophy in the cabinet, and 12 ATP 250 titles, but has never made the semis of an ATP 1000 event, and has never won an ATP 500, finishing runner up four times. So a first ATP 500 title would make his tournament record less quirky when compared to other Slam champs.

Cilic, who this weekend lost in the Shenzhen semi-final to Garcia-Lopez in three sets, has a tough task ahead of him in Tokyo if he is to win the title. The Croat has the recently in-form Donald Young in the first round and is scheduled to meet Nishikori, who beat him in this Summer’s Washington final, in the quarters.

Grigor Dimitrov

The recent news Grigor Dimitrov had taken on Franco Davin as coach was well received with his fans who are hoping Davin’s slam winning touch (del Potro, Gaudio) might rub off on the now ranked no. 19 (Dimitrov was ranked 8 in August 2014).

The pair’s first event together last week in Kuala Lumpur resulted in a straight sets loss to 74th ranked Veteran Benjamin Becker in the quarter finals. While that was another frustrating loss for Dimitrov and his fans, there was one positive factor- it was the first quarter he had reached since Madrid.

If anyone’s season needs saving, it’s Dimitrov’s, but there is unlikely to be a successful rescue mission in Tokyo next week. Dimitrov has drawn the dangerous Benoit Paire in the first round, and if he manages to survive that test, he would face either Fernando Verdasco or Marcos Baghdatis. Should he make his second quarter in a row, he would then come up against nemesis Richard Gasquet whom he trails 0-3.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

Liked this article? Share it and help us get read.

Have something you would like to say? Get yourself heard in the comments box below.

Subscribe to our email list for all the latest posts straight to your in-box.

Posted in Japan Open, Kei Nishikori | Tagged , , | Leave a comment