BNP Paribas Open Day 3 Preview: Djokovic Vs Baghdatis, Coric Vs Tomic

BNP Paribas Open

CC courtesy of Marianne Bevis at Flickr.

The BNP Paribas Open has a packed day 3 schedule featuring  some very intriguing clashes. The Tennis Review previews Djokovic versus Baghdatis, Cilic versus Monaco and Coric versus Tomic, looks at Gulbis’ and Kokkinakkis’ chances and gives its predictions.

Djokovic Vs Baghdatis

This one is the big match of the day occupying the Stadium 1 night slot and featuring the world No.1 and three time champion up against the former top tenner and Australian Open runner up who beat Federer in the desert in 2010.

The intriguing factor about this match is how the conditions suit both men in different ways.

The conditions, which will be slower at night, will allow Djokovic all the time he thrives on to set up his ground-strokes, track down balls and structure points so he can turn defense into offense when he needs t0.

Baghdatis will benefit from the extra time, too- he will be better able to get to shots and showcase his at times sublime shot-making.

This extra time could also be a downfall for Baghdatis, though- he might have too much time to think about which shot to use from his heavy arsenal and while Baghdatis may be one of the game’s greatest ever shot-makers, he is far from one of its greatest ever shot selectors, prone to making head-scratching errors.

And Baghdatis will have to select plenty of shots. Djokovic’s steadiness and athleticism means he can get back most of Baghdatis’ best shots which will dishearten the Cypriot.

Baghdatis has a lot of heart, but even the heartiest of players can have their most vital organ torn out by the relentless Djokovic.

Prediction: Baghdatis is a showman, a big match player, and will rise to the occasion- a Saturday night match at one of tennis’ biggest events.

But history tells us who is the superior player in this match up- Djokovic leads 7-0, 4-0 on hard, (last played 2012 in Miami.) and all signs point to an attractive but ultimately predictable contest with Djokovic winning in two.

Cilic Vs Monaco 

Cilic has not played since  the 2014 WTF, but he won’t have been sitting idly by with Goran Ivaneseivic as his coach. The two masterminded Cilic’s superb U.S Open win last season, and are working hard on another slam win this season.

Slow hard court is not Cilic’s best surface, but this match will be played early in the day so the conditions will be a little faster. This will make the match a good opportunity to get some shots going again before Cilic’s best part of the season-the Grass court season and then the North American hard court stretch starting.

Monaco will be a challenging opponent for a first match back after four months. The two are tied at 1-1 in their head to head, with Cilic winning their only hard court match, a three set contest  at the 2008 Beijing Olymoics. The two have not played since 2009.

Monaco has been in good form recently, getting his ranking back up to 48 and making the final in his home event in Argentina on Clay.  The former top tenner is 7-6 this year, though, did not record his first hard  court win of the sesason until be beat 78th ranked Teymuraz Gabashvili in 3 sets in his first round match in Indian Wells.

That is a lot of recent match play for Monaco  who will  have the advantage when it comes to match fitness, confidence and rhythm. The Argentine will get lots of balls back and will be able to pass an attacking Cilic. The Croat will need to avoid giving him a target and make the Argentine win points actively, which will be tough as the Argentine lacks a major weapon.

Cilic, though, has plenty of those with his serve and forehand.  His serve should get him a lot of winners and short balls. He will also be able to tee off on any weak Monaco second serves directed at his forehand.

Cilic also has underrated defensive skills and will be able to go toe to toe with Monaco from the back of the court, and most crucially, will have the upper hand when it comes to turning defense into attack and taking control of points.

Prediction: Cilic to win in straight sets.

Thanasi Kokkinakkis Vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 

This will be the first contest between the tour veteran and the up and comer ranked 124th.

Garcia-Lopez has made a recent return to form, got his ranking up to 26 and is close to his 2011 career high of 23. (21.02). The Spaniard is 10-5 this year and reached the last sixteen at the Australian Open and won the  indoor hard event at Zagreb.

Kokkinakis is also having a strong year. He started it by beating Gulbis 10-8 in the fifth at the Australian Open. That was an opportunistic win as Gulbis was injured, but it showed what a great match player Kokkinakis is for someone so young. He displayed that skill again when he beat Rosol last week on clay in the Davis Cup.

The young Australian, playing in only his third ATP 1000 event, will exploit Lopez’ weaknesses on a slower court and make him hit a lot of balls. He will also go for his shots and be pumped up. But Garcia-Lopez is very experienced, has an 8-6 record at Indian Wells and is in good form.

Prediction: Garcia-Lopez in a tight three setter.

Daniel Gimeno Traver Vs Ernests Gulbis

Gulbis has been struggling coming back from injury and is 0-5 this season. The confidence player is going to need a win and soon before he has to defend his Roland Garros semi-final points, and this might be the perfect place to do it.

Gulbis has a powerful enough game for all surfaces and will enjoy the time he has to set his shots up in Indian Wells, and with this match played early in the day, the ball will fly faster through the courts which will play into his hands.

The Latvian has had a favorable draw, too. Gulbis leads Gimeo Traver, the world no. 94, 2-0 and beat him twice last year, in Moscow and Barcelona, in straight sets.

Prediction: Gulbis in 3. Gimeno Traver has not beaten a top 150 player this season and Gulbis has had plenty of time between losing in the Dubai first round and this opening match to work on his game which should be too much for his opponent.

Bernard Tomic Vs Borna Coric

This is arguably the match most tennis fans will be most looking forward to. This is the first contest between the highly touted yet underachieving Australian talent against an up and coming highly touted talent who seems to have the hard working ethic Tomic has appeared to lack.

Coric has certainly been working hard this past month. He qualified for his first ATP 1000 event in Indian Wells, saving three match points in his final qualifying round. He is also coming of the back of a run to the Dubai semi-finals as a lucky loser.

The Croats’s great return and defense will be his weapons against Tomic. His ability to get every ball back will frustrate the flashier shot-making of Tomic and force him to come out of his comfort zone and be more aggressive.

Tomic will have to bring Coric out of his comfort zone, too, denying him any rhythm with his great variety and unsettling him by bringing him in and passing him at the net.

Tomic has been playing well this year, and has compiled a 16-6 win-loss record, showing a new found commitment to the game. A clash against a member of the generation threatening to outshine his before his has even achieved anything will certainly test that commitment. Coric will be solid, will not give up and loves an upset, and Tomic cannot afford to lose focus for even a second. Tomic has been prone to give up when matches have not gone his way, but those days seem over and this match will be a perfect opportunity for him to prove his improved mental toughness.

Prediction: Tomic in 3. The Australian has too much experience, is in good form, and will come out sharp against a dangerous opponent.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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BNP Paribas Open Day 2 Preview: Kyrgios Vs Kudla

BNP Paribas Open

CC courtesy of Marianne Bevis at Flickr.

The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells features Nick Kyrgios up against Denis Kudla. The Tennis review previews their match and predicts the result.

Nick Kyrgios (AUS) Vs Denis Kudla (U.S.A)

Ranked 37, Nick Kyrgios is the highest ranked ATP player on the schedule today and has earned the right to headline Friday night’s Stadium 1 match.

The 19 year old reached the quarter finals of Wimbledon 2014 and this year’s Australian Open, and his big serve, attacking game, athleticism and shot-making will certainly get the crowd going.

This will be Kyrgios’ first match since injury forced him off the tour after the Australian Open. So, the first round might be the best time to catch him and take advantage of any rustiness.

His opponent, Denis Kudla, a former junior world No. 3 and runner up at the U.S Open juniors, will have a shot.

Kudla, aged 22, may be 2-4 on the ATP tour this year, but he has managed to qualify for two main draws, in Brisbane and Memphis, and, as a wildcard, took Feliciano Lopez to 10-8 in the fifth set in their Australian Open first round match. That hard court form certainly justifies the home player’s wildcard and indicates he has what it takes to make a match of this first round encounter.

Kudla will also have the home support, but that won’t scare off Kyrgios. What might scare off the youngster a bit is if Kudla can get some balls back on the slow Indian Wells courts. Kyrgios likes to control rallies and get them over with sooner rather than later, and with 6 weeks out of action, he may find it tough to be consistent if the rallies go past five shots.

Kudla will be helped by the colder night conditions which will slow the court down, giving him a better chance with extending rallies and a better shot at returning the Kyrgios serve.

The American will certainly strong strategic support with the experienced Tom Gullickson as his coach, and if Kudla can combine his own aggressive play with some strong defense, he might have a chance to make the second round of Indian Wells for the second time in his career (lost to Federer, 2012)

Prediction: Kudla has a chance, but Kyrgios is a big match player, will enjoy the night time atmosphere and will be well-prepared if a touch rusty. The Australian will find his game though and eventually win in three.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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BNP Paribas Open Day 1 Preview: Baghdatis Vs Vesely

BNP Paribas Open

Photo courtesy of abc.net.au

Indian Wells gets up and running today and features Marcos Baghdatis, Mardy Fish and Borna Coric. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winners on day one of the season’s first ATP 1000 event.

Marcos Baghdatis Vs Jiri Vesely

The veteran takes on the the up and comer for the second time in their careers, with Baghdatis leading the head to head 1-0. His previous win came on hard courts at Delray beach, a match he won in 3 sets. In 2014, he also beat Vesely on hard in the qualifying round of Geneva.

Each time, the Cypriot’s return of serve has been too good for the big serving Vesely and Baghdatis, one of the game’s great shotmakers, has had too much game for the still developing 21 year old who needs his serve to be at its best if he is to stand a chance.

Baghdatis is not only a bad match-up for Vesely, he also has form on his side. While Baghdatis is ranked 61 to Vesely’s 45, the Cypriot is having a better 2015, compiling a 6-3 win-loss record and beating David Goffin twice. Meanwhile, Vesely is 6-6 and has not won a match since his impressive title run at Auckland.

Baghdatis has history at Indian Wells, too. In 2010 he beat then world No. 1 Federer in a third set tiebreaker. Those memories should inspire the 2006 Australian Open runner up, one of the game’s biggest talents and biggest big match players.

Prediction: A 2-0 head to head lead on hard, a better recent run, and history in the Californian desert make it hard not to go with Baghdatis in straights.

Watch highlights of Baghdatis’ 2010 victory over Roger Federer below

Ryan Harrison Vs Mardy Fish

Fish leads Harrison 3-0. However, Fish has not played on the ATP Tour since Winston Salem 2013 due to anxiety attacks.

Harrison, ranked 110, has been playing well recently, making the semi-finals of Acapulco where he beat Dimitrov and Karlovic.

While the heart may want Fish to win at the venue where he reached the 2009 final, beating Federer on the way, the head says Harrison’s recent good form will be the deciding factor against a man who has not played on the pro tour for 18 months.

Prediction: Harrison wins in straight sets.

Borna Coric Vs Andreas Haider-Maurer

These two are close in the rankings with Coric at 60 and the 27 year old at 56.

Maurer’s best results have come on clay while Coric has had his best career results, including wins over Nadal and Murray, on the tour’s faster courts of Basel (Indoor hard) and Dubai.

Coric saved three match points in his final qualifying round yesterday, beating local hope Fratangelo in a third set breaker. Coric survived the brutal desert sun, an inspired opponent and an excitable home crowd to get that win, and it is easy to see that experience, and his better hard court form, helping him grab his first win in the main draw of an ATP 1000 event.

Prediction: Coric to win in straights.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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Indian Wells Preview: Questions the BNP Paribas Open Will Answer about Federer, Nadal and Nishikori

Federer

CC courtesy of Marianne Bevis at Flickr.

The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells will answer a few questions many tennis fans will have about ATP Players and their games. The Tennis Review looks at those questions on the eve of the season’s first ATP 1000 event.

1. Can Roger Federer bring his A game to a big final against Novak Djokovic?

Federer’s Dubai run showed he still had the game and the belief to beat Djokovic in a final. We knew Federer could beat the world No.1 – he did it three times in 2014- but in finals Federer had come up short (Indian Wells, Wimbledon) or not turned up at all (World Tour Finals) so the Dubai win was something of a breakthrough.

Beating Djokovic in an ATP 500 final is one thing, doing it in an ATP 1000 final is another. Djokovic may have had problems in slam finals over the years, but he has had no problems winning ATP 1000s- the Serb has won his last 8 ATP 1000 finals. The last one he last? Cincinnati 2012, beaten by Federer.

If Federer makes the Indian Wells final and fails, the Dubai win, like his victory last season, may prove to be meaningless in the long run, the finish line of that run an 18th slam.

Indian Wells is the last event for Federer before the clay season where there will be few expectations. Then comes the transition to grass and Wimbledon, the tournament the Swiss recently said he was aiming to peak for.

An Indian Wells win, beating Djokovic in the final, would help set the Swiss up nicely for an eighth Wimbledon win while another loss in a big final to his Wimbledon 2014 conqueror could set Federer up for another fall in the final stages of the events that mean the most as Federer’s career approaches its end.

2. Nadal who?

Rafael Nadal won the ATP 250 event in Argentina recently, his sole title since Roland Garros 2014. A good starter as he comes back from another injury, but not exactly a statement to the rest of the tour he is ‘back’.

Nadal is the ‘comeback king’ of the ATP tour and Indian Wells 2013 was the scene of one of his most successful returns from inury. The Spaniard won his first ATP 1000 on hard court since 2009, four tournaments into a comeback from a seven month lay off. That season Nadal would win two slams and another four ATP 1000 titles.

This Indian Wells,  Nadal has a great opportunity to make a statement after eight months in the tennis wilderness, and the draw has been kind, placing him in the Raonic-Dimitrov quarter and the Federer half.

Federer may be world No.2 and in strong form, but Nadal’s matches with Federer are played out in the mind far more than on the court and a win over Federer and a place in the final would remind everyone just who Nadal is.

3. Is the next generation ready to step up at an ATP 1000?

Kei Nishikori nearly did it last season in Madrid when he led Nadal by a set and a break in the final before injury got the better of him. Since then, Raonic’s appearance in the Paris-Bercy final is the closest that the generation led by the trio of Nishikori-Raonic-Dimitrov have gotten to holding an ATP 1000 trophy.

This is the third season that tennis pundits and fans are talking about this group of players, ‘the young guns’, stepping up onto the winner’s podium. But last year Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Wawrinka and Tsonga took home the ATP 1000 trophies, and Dimitrov failed to even make a final at the ATP’s premier events.

With Nishikori turning 26 this year, Raonic, 25, and Dimitrov 24, this is the final season they get to be called the next generation before that title belongs to Coric, Kokkinakis, and Kyrgios.

All of them have the games, and now they have the experience, to compete with the tour’s reigning veteran class, and if the ‘young guns’ want to make sure ‘their’ time does not pass them by, they need to step up fast.

Indian Wells would be a great place to start and get generation ‘when’ up and running.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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Indian Wells 2015 Players to Watch: Cilic, Fish to Return, Kokkinakis Gets Wildcard

BNP Paribas Open

CC image courtesy of Marianne Bevis on flickr.

The 2015 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells will be host to ATP Tour comebacks for Marin Cilic, Tommy Haas and Mardy Fish, plus a surprise appearance from wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Tennis Review looks at the players to watch in the Californian desert.

Marin Cilic

Cilic has not played on the ATP tour since the ATP World Tour Finals 2014. The U.S Open champion withdrew from the Australian Open with a shoulder injury and was unable to defend his title at his home tournament the Zagreb Open.

The Croat achieved the biggest success of his career the last time he played on American hard courts, winning the 2014 U.S Open.

Last year in Indian Wells, the Croat took the first set 6-1 off Novak Djokovic before losing in three sets in the last sixteen. That performance has been his best showing in the desert- he is 6-7 at the event.

If Cilic can reproduce the big ground strokes and serves he showcased against Djokovic last year and which were the hallmarks of his U.S Open title run, he should at the very least repeat his 2014 last sixteen finish.

Watch highlights of Cilic’s three set battle with Novak Djokovic at last year’s BNP Paribas Open below.

Mardy Fish

Fish has not played since the 2013 Winston Salem Open when he retired with an anxiety attack, a side effect of a heart condition. Those attacks derailed his career, none more heartbreaking than the one that forced him to pull out of his 2012 U.S Open last sixteen clash against Roger Federer.

Fish could not have chosen a better place to come back to the tour. Indian Wells will bring back some good memories for the American- he beat Roger Federer in the 2008 semi-finals and took Novak Djokovic to three sets in the final.

The 33 year old, who has a protected ranking of 25, is 15-12 at the event and has also beaten David Nalbandian, Nikolay Davydenko (2008) and won a love set against Djokovic (2010) at the tournament.

Fish will have the home support of a sympathetic home crowd, and that could help him reproduce some of the form that has served him so well in previous visits to Indian Wells.

Thanasi Kokkinakis

Kokkinakis got a wild card after Juan Martin Del Potro withdrew from the tournament. The 18 year old Australian, ranked 124, is coming off a big Davis cup victory over 31st ranked Lukas Rosol in which he came back from two sets to love down to win.

Kokkinakis is proving to be a big match player- he knocked out 13th seed Ernests Gulbis in the Australian Open first round, winning 8-6 in the fifth. He also boasts a straight sets win over Julien Benneteau in Sydney and has qualified for ATP Tour main draws in his last three tournaments (Memphis, Delray Beach, Acapulco).

Watch highlights of Kokkinakis’ win over Ernests Gulbis in the first round of the Australian Open below.

This will be Kokkinakis’ first appearance in the main draw of Indian Wells (he lost in the first round of qualifying last year), and his third appearance in the main draw of an ATP 1000 after he qualified for the main draws of Canada and Shanghai last season.

Kokkinakis has earned his wild card and the chances of him upsetting a lower seed or pushing one of the favorites are anything but wild.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

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Federer’s Dubai Run Reviewed: Mastering Tennis’ Past, Present and Future

Federer

Photo courtesy of www.straitstimes.com

Roger Federer defeated tennis’ past, present and future on his way to his seventh ATP 500 Dubai title. The Tennis Review looks back at how the Swiss’ timeless game mastered three generations of tennis.

First and second rounds: d. Youzhny 6-3 6-1, Verdasco 6-4, 6-3. 

Federer and Mikhail Youzhny go all the way back to Stockholm 2000 when the then 19 year old Swiss got his first of fifteen wins over the then 18 year old Youzhny. That day Federer came from a set down to win, one of only four sets Federer has dropped in a head to head that was 15-0 in his favor before their first round clash in Dubai.

Youzhny, aged 32, suffered his 12 straight sets loss to the 33 year old world No.2, and one of the most crushing, winning only four games.

In the second round, Federer beat 30 year old Verdasco for the sixth time since 2005. Verdasco did push him in Dubai, leading 4-1 in the first set, but Federer won 20 points in a row to take control of the match.

On his way to Dubai title No. 7, Federer’s game, which has changed now and then over the years, was, for the 21st time in fifteen years, too good for the two players he met of his generation. The Swiss’ superiority came down to two fundamental strengths that have always been at the core of his game- the variety of his serve and his all-court skills.

Those assets, and the Swiss’ fairly recent commitment to a predominantly attacking game, have helped the Swiss stay at the top of the ATP tour while other players of his generation have declined.

Back in 2009, the last year in which Federer won multiple slams, Verdasco reached his first slam semi-final at the Australian Open and Youzhny finished the season a top 20 player. Six years later, Verdasco is ranked 30, Youzhny 64, and while Federer may have dropped his level to that of world No. 2 and lacks the status of reigning slam champion,  the Swiss is still in the mix and still at the top of his generation.

Present and Past: d Gasquet 6-1, ret.

When Gasquet beat Federer in the first round of Monte Carlo 2005 in a third set tie-breaker, the future looked bright for the then nicknamed ‘Baby Fed’ who was  part of the Djokovic-Nadal-Murray generation, and predicted by pundits to become an integral part of that slam contending mix and challenge Federer.

The Federer comparisons soon vanished though as Gasquet never reached a slam final let alone won a trophy, and the Frenchman managed only one more win against Federer in 15 matches, once again on Clay, at the 2011 Italian Open, and once more in a final set breaker.

Currently ranked 25, Gasquet, aged 28, was not even able to complete his quarter-final match against Federer, retiring with injury after losing the first set 6-1.

Future: D. Borna Coric 6-1, 6-2

Coric’s defensive skills and double handed backhand, his favorite shot, and their resemblance to the game of the world No.1 Djokovic are a testament to the Serbian’s legacy.

Both skill and shot have been honed to give Coric the best possible shot of succeeding in the modern game, a game that features very little of the all-court skills Federer displays, and barely any of the Swiss’ all out attack. And just as Djokovic has found the Federer attacking game overwhelming at its best, so did Coric, going down to the Swiss in just short of an hour.

The Present: d. Djokivic 6-3, 7-5.

Federer was 19-17 against Djokovic before the final. This rivalry, first played at Monter-Carlo 2006, has turned out to be one of the ATP’s most prolific in history, and at times, due to the contrasting styles and the see-saw nature of the matches, the most entertaining.

In 2014, Federer beat Djokovic three times (Dubai, Monte-Carlo, and Shanghai), each time in the semi-finals, and in his two losses, both in finals at Indian Wells and Wimbledon, Federer won the first set and went on to lose in the decider.

In those finals, Federer simply ran out of gas against the game’s best mix of defense and offense in one of his best ever streaks on the tour (Djokovic won three ATP 1000 events and a slam from six events played between Indian Wells and Wimbledon in 2014).

But if anyone is going to stop a Djokovic streak, it is Federer, who put an end to the Serbian’s 43 match winning streak at Roland Garros 2011.

Some of those wins have been nothing less than old-fashioned thrashings (Cincinnati 2012, Shanghai 2014), as Federer’s fast court skills have proved too much for Djokovic to handle, even at his peak, and Federer had to be as dominant if he was going to beat Djokovic in Dubai, avoiding the stamina sapping marathons Djokovic thrives on.

The Serb simply has no answer to Federer when he can sustain a high level attacking game for an entire match on a faster court, and that scenario played out in Dubai. Federer struck 11 aces, including the 9000th of his career, saved seven break points, won 80 percent of his first serves, and approached the net 21 times, winning 9 of those points, many when it really mattered, such as when Federer was set point down in the second set and kept his second set chances alive with a sublime volley that died right on the baseline.

In a rivalry that has seen Djokovic have the recent upper-hand in finals, Federer turned that storyline around, and placed himself in a position to carry that momentum into a possible, and more important meeting, at the upcoming ATP 1000 Indian Wells tournament.

Federer’s future.

Federer’s past is legendary, his present is impressive, but what about his future?

The Dubai win shows Federer has what it takes to defeat all-comers, including the best player in the world, at an ATP 500 week long best-of-three event, no more, no less. Federer’s fans, and the man himself, want more than ATP 500 titles, though. They want much more. They want Slams, and Dubai tells us little about Federer’s chances of winning Slam No. 18 anytime soon.

The question whether Federer’s game can stand up against the very best in the fortnight long best-of-five slam format has been answered with a no since Federer’s return to form and his commitment to a more aggressive-minded game in 2014. Five times Federer has competed in slams since then, and he has made only one final.

If Dubai showed us anything it was that Federer’s return to form and commitment is still very much present, and that as long as the Swiss can bring both to the court against the past, present and future of tennis, then, between this season’s French and U.S Opens, he has as much chance as anyone to to win a slam, and add to a legendary tally that will not be beaten for some time.

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Roger Federer’s Dubai Win: Five Factors for Success

Federer

Photo courtesy of www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com

Roger Federer hit all the right notes in his 6-3, 7-5 win over world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the ATP 500 Dubai Final. The Tennis Review looks back at the five factors that worked in Federer’s favor as he took his 84th career title. 

The Serve:

Federer’s serve had to be at its best against the game’s best returner, and it did not let him down when it mattered most. Federer hit 11 aces, striking the 9000th in his career in the match, and won 80 percent of his first serves.

Djokovic earned seven break points on the Federer serve in the match, but could convert none of them, Federer’s aces and service winners foiling him. And when Djokovic worked his way into the Federer service games and got to 0-30, Federer’s variety, slices, spins, speed and accuracy on the serve came up trumps as it left the best reader of the serve unable to anticipate the direction of the Federer serve as the Swiss’ delivery struck every corner and line of the service box.

Federer’s serve has rarely been more clutch at crucial moments, see the two set points he saved in the second set, in recent history. And for a 33 year old, Federer’s serve and the free points it earns him, are nothing less that invaluable.

The conditions:

The Dubai hard courts are among the fastest on the tour and Federer now has seven titles at the event. Thirteen of Federer’s seventeen slams have come on the faster tour surfaces in London and New York, and his serve and all court play thrive on them.

Playing the final at 7 at night made the conditions even better for Federer. The weather is colder and the ball bounces lower allowing the Federer serve to bite through the court and skid low and for his volleys to die quicker, an invaluable edge against the game’s best defender and returner.

The Attacking strategy:

Federer committed to an attacking game plan against Djokovic and never relented. History told us all that Federer had to get the win in straights, and he came out refusing to play the waiting game from the back of the court that Djokovic has so successfully employed in the past.

From the get-go, Federer took on the net, and won 9 of 21 attempts up there, a statistic that shows how successful Djokovic is at passing the Swiss, and how committed Federer was to taking the match to him anyway.

Federer’s attacking strategy denied Djokovic any rhythm from the back of the court, and when the Serbian did keep Federer back and tried to impose his game, his lack of rhythm resulted a few costly errors, and his confidence suffered.

Federer stuck to his attacking strategy and it paid off- he avoided a dangerous third set, closing out the match in two.

The single handed backhand:

It is no secret that Federer’s forehand is his strength in baseline rallies and that his single handed backhanded is his downfall against the game’s aggressive baseliners.

Not in the Dubai 2015 final, though. Federer struck his single handed backhand with ruthless intent, two of the most remarkable instances when returning the Djokovic serve at 3-3 in the second set.

Those shots told Djokovic that the Swiss’ weaknesses were as strong as his strengths, leaving a floundering Djokovic with even less of an idea where to go in the match.

Watch the video below to see how good Federer was striking his single handed backhand in the final.

Hunger:

Federer  lost two big finals to Djokovic in 2014, at Indian Wells and Wimbledon, finals he had chances to win. Each time he won the opening set only to lose out to Djokovic’s steadier game and stamina.

From the get-go in this year’s Dubai final, Federer played with a hunger for victory that showed he was not going to lose his one set lead and be runner up to Djokovic again.

An early loss to Seppi in Melbourne also meant Federer had even greater motivation. In 2015, in which he won five titles, Federer was a few matches away from taking the ATP No.1 spot from Djokovic, but the early Melbourne loss set him back and also cast some doubts as to his chances of winning another big title anytime soon.

Federer proved the critics wrong in his very next event. And while it is not an ATP 1000 or a slam event -Dubai only has ATP 500 status- the way Federer’s serve and attack proved so effective against Djokovic is even more valuable than those points. It shows Federer is on top of his game, and that there is still a chance he can make it back to No.1, and perhaps even the Grand Slam winner’s circle.

Federer looked hungry in his Dubai win, and the victory no doubt tasted good. The Swiss and his fans will be hoping that the win will merely serve to whet his appetite and he will be even hungrier come the upcoming ATP 1000 tournaments and Slams.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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ATP Dubai Final Review: Federer Defeats Djokovic

Federer Dubai

Photo courtesy of www.movietvtechgeeks.com

ATP 500 Dubai Final: Roger Federer (2) d. Novak Djokovic (1) 6-3, 7-5.

Roger Federer had to get the match won in straights if he was going to stand a chance of beating Novak Djokovic in the 2015 ATP 500 Dubai final. The two’s 2014 finals in Indian Wells and Wimbledon had featured some of Federer’s very best tennis only for him to struggle when the matches went the distance.

A long game with Federer serving at 1-2 in the first set was not what Federer or his fans wanted to see in the 2015 Dubai final. Djokovic seemed to be imposing his game early on, keeping Federer back and getting him stretching for wide balls, and held break points. Federer, though, was intent on imposing his game, too, and saved those break points with a smash and then a service winner. The game went back and forth for a little longer before Federer closed it out, again with a smash/ service winner combo and the Swiss was level at 2-2.

That serve, the shot that got him through that tough game, was the shot of the match for the Swiss. It had some competition, too. Federer’s attacking game and his defense were also on-song, but it was the serve that sung the loudest.

The Federer return was pretty vocal, too. At 4-3, Djokovic serving, Federer got the break as his perfectly thought out sliced return caught Djokovic off-guard and forced a backhand error.

Federer served for the set, opening the game with an ace and racing to a 40-15 lead. Djokovic saved the first with a huge backhand return that earned him a short ball off which he struck a forehand winner. Federer did not give Djokovic another chance to show why he was known as the game’s best returner, though. On his second set point, he struck a service winner and was a set up.

The first set won and half of the mission accomplished. Federer would need another clinical set to be safe- Djokovic has beaten him from a set down in 7 of his 17 wins, including those Indian Wells and Wimbledon wins last season.

That mission looked like it would be done soon at 3-3 with Federer returning. Two backhand winners in a row got him to 0-30, and he had Djokovic on the ropes.

But Novak Djokovic is a hard man to deliver the killer punch to. He got through that game, to lead 4-3, and then began to impose his own game on Federer, keeping the Swiss back with his full range of spins and depth.  A huge Djokovic return and a forehand down the line winner gave Djokovic a 15-40 lead and the script he needed to play out, the three set win, looked to be a possibility.

Federer, though, was still focused on not fluffing his lines. The Swiss saved the first break point with an ace and the second with a service winner. Level at deuce, another service winner and another ace leveled the second set at 4-4.

Federer was in trouble, again, serving at 4-5 when a Djokovic forehand winner earned the Serbian two set points. Federer saved the first with a sublime volley that died on the baseline. On the second, a service winner came to his rescue. Two aces, in a match in which Federer struck the 9000th ace of his career, and the Swiss was level at 5-5.

Djokovic got to 40-0 in the next game, his own serve much improved the past year since he lost to Federer in the Dubai semi-finals last season. The world No.1 then wobbled, his lead vanishing, and he was serving at deuce. Djokovic missed the first service, but there was no alarm, his second serve being arguably the game’s best.

Not this time, though. Djokovic threw in a double fault, just when he was a few games away from taking Federer to a tiebreaker and to taking the match to a much needed third set.

Federer could not have asked for more in terms of Djokovic wobbling, and then, when serving for the match, from himself. The Swiss went 0-30 down as he missed an easy drop shot and a Djokovic forehand on the run passed him at the net, but his serve would not miss when it mattered. A service winner and an ace, his tenth of the match, got him to 30-30. A serve and volley paid off when Djokovic’s forehand on the run went wide.

Federer now had a match point for his first win over Djokovic in an ATP final since Cincinnati 2012, But he would have to wait as he netted a forehand and was back at deuce.

Djokovic’s dreams of a tiebreaker then looked like they might come true as he earned a break point, but a Federer smash was too good and the Serbian netted his backhand retrieval.

Federer earned his second match point with his eleventh ace. He then served out wide to the Djokovic backhand, getting the Serbian on the stretch, and flew into the net to take the short return down with a forehand winner to win the match 6-3, 7-5, in straight sets, reading his script perfectly in what Federer and fans will hope will be the perfect rehearsal to a win on the game’s bigger stages come the Grand Slams.

Watch Roger Federer’s championship point in Dubai here:

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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ATP Dubai Final Preview: Djokovic Vs Federer

Dubai

Photo courtesy of sportskeeda.com

The ATP’s world No.1 and 2 will meet in the ATP 500 Dubai final. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

Novak Djokovic Vs Roger Federer.

Head to head:

The Swiss leads the head to head 19-17, and also leads their Dubai head to head 2-1, winning their semi-final last year in three sets.

Recent history:

Federer beat Djokovic three times last year (Dubai, Monte-Carlo, Shanghai) and all those matches took place at the semi-final stages. The Swiss lost their biggest matches, though, in the finals of Indian Wells and Wimbledon, and withdrew from the ATP World Tour Finals Final.

Federer, the defending champion, will be playing for his seventh Dubai title, and Djokovic will be playing for his fifth, and this is both their second final of 2015, with Djokovic winning the Australian Open and Federer winning in Brisbane.

Current form and run to the final:

Neither man has had to play someone who matches up badly for them and so assessing their true form is difficult.

Federer had to beat three tour veterans in Youzhny, Verdasco and Gasquet on his way to the last four, but he has commanding head to head leads over them and did not drop a set. In his semi-final, he had to beat the inexperienced Borna Coric, playing only his second ATP semi-final, and the Swiss dropped just three games.

Djokovic beat Pospisil, Golubev and Ilhan in straight sets and then took three sets to beat Tomas Berdych. That performance was an up and down one with Djokovic winning the first set 6-0 before dropping the second. Berdych, though, is having a stellar 2015 and can get under Djokovic’s skin on medium paced surfaces if he is striking the ball at his cleanest.

Djokovic’s tougher semi-final may have provided him with the better preparation for the final. The Serbian has never had it easy against Federer and has had to tough out all his wins against the Swiss, and tomorrow will be no different. The match against Berdych will have gotten him in the right frame of mind for a fight and will have given the Serbian something to think about.

Match-up: If Federer comes out aggressive and sharp, he could take this in straight sets as he did the last time these two played, back in Shanghai last Autumn.

Djokovic has the speed and the love of a target to chase down Federer’s net play and pass him. The Serbian also has the depth of shot to keep Federer back, and a more aggressive approach of his own to end the points should he gain the upper hand early in rallies. If Federer does not get the job done quickly, Djokovic will use these skills to work his way into the match, and with the world No. 1’s superior stamina and ability to maintain a more consistent level than Federer over a long period of time, he will win the match if it goes to three sets.

What will also make the difference is the serve. Federer is a greater server, no doubt, but Djokovic has the game’s steadiest second serve right now, and while Federer’s service level will drop as the match goes on, Djokovic’s will not falter. Even  if his first serve drops, his second serve will be there to be relied on, a factor that will give Djokovic confidence if the match goes to a final set tiebreaker. And, as Federer’s serve starts to drop, the game’s best return of serve will also be there to take advantage.

Prediction: Federer has to get this done quickly, but he has not faced anyone who challenges him the way Djokovic does all event, and so it may take him a while to get going. In fact, he has not been challenged at all. Facing the game’s best returner and all round best player is going to be a stretch for Federer who went out early in Australia to Seppi, a man he had had a 10-0 head to head lead over. 

Djokovic, meanwhile, has been tried and tested the past month, beating Wawrinka and Murray in Australia, and getting through a tough scrap against Berdych. The Serbian will be battle ready and will have too much game and too much in the tank for Federer.

Djokovic to win in three sets.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

Who do you think will win the final? Share your thoughts below.

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ATP Dubai Quarter-Final Review: Borna Coric Upsets Andy Murray

Coric

Photo courtesy of www.thenational.ae

Eighteen year old lucky loser Borna Coric beat Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3 in the ATP 500 Dubai tournament quarter-finals.

The world No. 84 lost to world No. 350 Fabrice Martin in the qualifying rounds, but benefited when a late withdrawal meant he was granted  a place in the main draw.

Since that stroke of luck, many other things have fallen into place for the teenager. In a draw featuring the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych, Coric was drawn against 72nd ranked Malek Jaziri , who is short of wins this season with a 2-5 record, in his opening round.

Coric had to work hard to win that match in three sets, and then had to work even harder in his next round against tour veteran Marcos Baghdatis when their match went into a third set tiebreaker.

In that match, another piece of luck came Coric’s way-Baghdatis was forced to retire at 4-4 in the breaker and Coric was through to the quarter-finals of an ATP event for the second time in his short professional career.

Coric’s hard work was rewarded with a match against the Australian Open runner up Andy Murray, who has a 9-3 record in Dubai. The match would pit Coric against Murray, the player about whom Coric said he played like at his worst, a comment that drew much criticism from the media and which Coric was forced to issue an apology for.

When Coric made that comment it was in answer to the question what his game was like- he answered like Djokovic at his best, Murray at his worst.

Murray could not have played much worse than he did against Coric in his Dubai defeat. The Scot hit 55 errors to just 15 winners as he went down in 79 minutes.

The teenager must have found it hard to believe his luck when he took the first set 6-1. Luck he deserved. Coric played a steady match from the baseline, his defensive skills better than the famed ones of  his opponent, his backhand never wavering while Murray made one error after another. Sound familiar? Djokovic would have been proud to have played as smart and nerveless a match aged 18, not too different from the ones he himself won at the same age.

Coric did not have a great winners-error ratio himself-racking up a tally of 10-21- but the win did not require any aggressive inspiration on behalf of the teen. All it required of him was to be steady from the back of the court, and not get nervous with a win over the No. 3 in his grasp, and the Croatian delivered on both counts.

The win means Coric now has two top three wins in the last six months (the 18 year old beat Rafael Nadal at Basel late last year).

Next up for Coric is six time champion and world No. 2 Roger Federer. Coric will need even more luck to get past the in-form Swiss, but his hard work means he will at least be there to take advantage of any luck that comes his way, and his last three wins all prove he has the ability to make that luck count, too, should he earn it.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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