Fantasy Tennis Australian Open 1,250 euro in prizes

Fantasy tennis
Photo courtesy of zweeler.

Fantasy Australian Open 2019:

In the next two weeks Melbourne will be dominated by the first Grand Slam of the year: the Australian Open.

Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki will do everything to defend their title successfully.

But that will not be easy. Contrary to twelve months ago, Novak Djokovic is back at the top at the men’s tennis table and Rafael Nadal is, in his own words, once again top fit.

For the ladies, predicting the winner is a tombola. Almost everyone in the top 20 can beat each other.

Why play Fantasy Tennis?
 Your engagement with Tennis will further increase. It is not about one tennis players, but 30 tennis players who need to perform for you!
 For only 7 euro you will get many extra hours of entertainment before the start of the tournament but also during the event your tennis players will give you a lot of joy, but also a lot of frustration.
 If you manage to beat the other players, you can also win nice cash prizes (at least 1,250 euro) 1 st prize is at least 250 Euro!

Zweeler Fantasy Sports Games set up a few great games for the Australian Open so you can enjoy Tennis with even more passion!

The Fantasy Australian Open 2019 starts on Monday 14 January 2019 at 1:10 hours CET.

As a participant to the Fantasy Australian Open you need to create a team which exists out of 30 tennis players. All tennis players (men and women) are divided into 7 different groups. You can choose per group a restricted total of tennis players of which you think are going to win the most
points in the Fantasy Australian Open.

The game will cost 7 euro per team and will start with a guaranteed amount of 1,250 euro in prizes.

The first prize will be 250 euro (31 GC prizes).

Click here to register!

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Australian Open Mens Singles Draw Breakdown and Predictions

Australian Open Preview
Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

Trust the inimitable Ogden Nash to say it like it is,

“Athletes, I’ll drink to you,
Or eat with you
Or anything except compete with you…”

Here we are then, at the start of the new year and new tennis season: sunshine and popcorn at the ready Down Under while the northern hemisphere braves winters. For it is us onlookers who have perhaps missed the action more than the gladiatorial professionals themselves who would definitely appreciate a longer off-season.

World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic enters the year’s first major—the Australian Open—as an overwhelming favorite, despite his last three defeats in competitive play, most recently to the pugnacious Roberto Bautista Agut, and then two more—towards the end of 2018—to youngsters (or NextGen, as ATP Tour calls them) Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov.

While one may be tempted to put in an asterisk against Djokovic’s favorite status, because the losses to the young pretenders came in finals, let us not forget that a Grand Slam is a different animal altogether. And facing the Serb on hard courts over five sets is one of tennis’ ultimate tests, which is what fourth seeded Zverev could well find out should the duo face off in the semis.

Six-time champion and two-time defending champion Roger Federer, the number three seed, may only count himself among the “top 10 favorites”, but is being viewed by most experts as Djokovic’s main challenger, and if they do meet in the final, the eventual champion would have a record 7 Australian Open titles.

Poetic it was then that the Swiss landed in the opposite half of the Serbian, giving scribes even more to write home about: a potential ‘Fedal’ semi-final.

Lest we forget, 17-time major champion Rafael Nadal is on the hunt for an elusive second crown on the Plexicushion Prestige surface—one that would mean the Spaniard would have won at each of the sport’s four flagship events at least twice – but the Spaniard has had to withdraw mid match from his last two hard courts slams (AO ’18; USO ’18) so scribes may be denied their Fedal part 39.

So, how did the draw play out and what lies in store for the top four? The Tennis Review editor Christian Deverille and sports analyst Karthik Swaminathan @Lord_Kartz) present their points of view below.

First Quarter:

Headlined by the top-ranked Serbian, who begins his quest for a fifteenth grand slam against a qualifier (tbd), this section comprises shot-makers old and young.

Djokovic could face an old foe who is making a comeback, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the second round, before an exciting third round against Denis Shapovalov.

Daniil Medvedev (15), the towering Russian who reached the final in Brisbane (l. Kei Nishikori), might lie in wait in the fourth. The Russian, who led the 2018 ATP tour in hard court wins (37), is one of the trickier last 16 opponents Djokovic could have drawn and an opportunity for the Serbian to reassert himself against the younger prospects in the game.

Brisbane winner Kei Nishikori, who stopped an ignominious nine-match losing streak in title bouts, is Djokovic’s scheduled last eight opponent. He will need the awesome returning he showed in that Brisbane run if he is to survive Ivo Karlovic in round 2. In round 3, he could meet veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber. Fabio Fognini is scheduled for round 4, but few will be relying on the dynamic Italian to meet his seeded position meaning Nicolas Jarry or Pablo Carreno Busta could find themselves in a position to challenge the Japanese.

David Goffin (21) is the dark horse in this section. His potential last 32 match vs Medvedev could be one of the matches of the first week.

Christian’s pick: Djokovic is less of a favorite for me this year than he was in his pomp. But, Djokovic doesn’t have to be as good as he was – he just has to be better than everyone else right now, which he will likely prove to be in best of five sets in Melbourne.

Karthik’s pick: Novak Djokovic; writing off the Serb in a major would be a costly, costly mistake. While Shapovalov and Medvedev are among the most exciting talents to rise up the ranks, the World No. 1 has one skill which is perhaps beyond their reach: his defence, which is backed by a mind that no longer doubts itself.

Second Quarter:

Having not gone past the third round in three of the four majors, Australia being one of them, Alexander Zverev (4) will be on a mission to reach the semis of a slam for the first time. Only this time, he will be venturing out into the unknown coming off his biggest title—the World Tour Finals—and with Ivan Lendl in his corner.

The German’s quarter brims with young talent such as
Hyeon Chung whom he lost to last year and could meet again in the fourth round, unseeded Nick Kyrgios (another potential fourth-rounder) and Borna Coric (11) (possibly in the quarterfinal), who has been drawn the dangerous Marton Fucsovics in round 2, a match no one will want to miss if it happens.

Zverev’s drawn Alex Bedene in round 1, could face Jeremy Chardy in round 2, and will be tested in round 3 if he meets 29th seed Gilles Simon. In the fourth round, it’s Milos Raonic (16), but few will be shocked to see Stan Wawrinka, who outmuscled Khachanov and Jarry in Doha, waiting for him.

Sascha’s dear friend Dominic Thiem (7) stars in the far end of the section, but fast hard courts are not Thiem’s favorite, and Benoit Paire or Mischa Zverev have a good chance to upset the Austrian in rounds 1 or 2 respectively.

Marton Fucsovics, who ran Djokovic so close in Doha a couple of weeks back, is the dark horse who could go far in this section.

Christian’s pick: Marton Fucsovics.

Zverev is still a little unproven at slam level- his one run to a quarter-final was anything but convincing – so this quarter is wide open.

Fucsovics seems the best candidate to take advantage of that- he is supremely fit which will help him in the brutal conditions and has the powerful ball striking game to succeed on the surface.

Karthik’s pick: Sascha Zverev; if not now, when? Surely then. What is perhaps most striking is the assurance Sascha showed in London, against some of the best the sport has seen. He became just the fourth player ever to beat Federer and Djokovic in succession. Not a small feat by any means.

Third Quarter:

The tournament could see a rematch of last year’s final in the quarters as Federer and Marin Cilic (6) take their positions as the highest ranked players in an explosive third section.

The Swiss commences his campaign for a record-extending 21st grand slam against the mercurial Denis Istomin, who memorably ousted Djokovic on these very courts two years ago. Possibly lying in wait in succession are Gael Monfils (30) (third), Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) (fourth) and either Khachanov (10) or Cilic or the red hot Bautista Agut (22) (quarterfinal).

Defending finalist Marin Cilic won’t be going under the radar at the Australian Open this year after drawing home hope Bernard Tomic in round 1, Russian big hitter Andrey Rublev potentially in round 2 (or Mackenzie McDonald who ran Dimitrov so close last year), Fernando Verdasco (26) in round 3, and Karen Khachanov in round 4. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

The returning Andy Murray finds himself in this quarter and opens against the Doha champion. Murray shocked the tennis world by announcing this Australian Open could be his last tournament. The five time AO finalist has been suffering with his hip and was tearful making his announcement. He’ll be proud if he goes down to Bautista Agut, though, who lost his mother last season and has show tremendous spirit to lift his game to its recent heights.

Christian’s pick: Bautista Agut. He’s full of confidence, very fit, and fast hard courts are where his skills really shine.

Federer did play well in the Hopman cup, but that was an exhibition event, so how his serve and forehand, which were as vulnerable as they have been in a while post Indian Wells, will hold up under the pressure of Grand Slam tennis is a big question mark.

Karthik’s pick: Roger Federer; yes, it can get tricky. Yes, he can make things hard for himself. And yes, he isn’t growing any younger. But on a medium-fast court and with a ball that pops around, high bounce or not, trust the magician to show why he is considered one of the greatest ever.

Fourth Quarter:

Nadal (2), who is returning from surgery and is testing a new serve, could well cause multiple heartbreaks to the home crowd as three of his first four potential opponents—James Duckworth, Matthew Ebden and the rapidly rising Alex de Minaur—are Australians.

Kyle Edmund or Diego Schwartzman are potential fourth round match-ups. Edmund may fall victim to the resurgent Tomas Berdych in the first round, however.

One of last season’s biggest success stories, Kevin Anderson (5) who triumphed earlier this year in Pune, could present a tall order should the pair face off in the quarterfinal. Kevin Anderson faces Adrian Mannarino in round 1, Frances Tiafoe, in round 2, Steve Johnson (31) in round 3 (or Andreas Seppi) and John Isner (9) in the last four. If that match happens, the final set tiebreak at 6-6 might be seen as a wise decision indeed.

Christian’s pick: Kevin Anderson. Anderson is the ultimate tennis professional and this is a nice draw for him to knuckle down and get on with powering through.

Karthik’s pick: Kevin Anderson; the gentle giant doesn’t just possess a killer serve. He has made his game more solid and doesn’t hesitate to unleash his forehand to create openings.

Christian’s predictions for the semis and final:

Semis:

Djokovic d. Fucsovics: Djokovic’s experience will out, though if their US Open and Doha matches are anything to go by, there’ll be some brutal and hairy moments.

Anderson d. Bautista Agut: Anderson’s serve will make the difference here, and the final set tiebreak will work in his favor.

Final

Djokovic d. Anderson: This will be a better match than the Wimbledon final, but the result will be the same.

Karthik’s predictions:

Semis:

Djokovic d. Zverev: Order will be restored.

Federer d. Anderson: Wimbledon will be avenged.

Final:

Djokovic d. Federer: Call it more mental between the two, but no one, not even Federer, will stop Djokovic from making the Australian Open his own.

Play the Fantasy Australian Open 2019. At least 1,250 euro in prizes! 

https://zweeler.com/game/tennis/FantasyAustralianOpen2019/main.php?ref=628

The Fantasy Australian Open 2019 starts on Monday 14 January 2019 at 1:10 hours CET.
As a participant to the Fantasy Australian Open you need to create a team which exists out of 30 tennis players. All tennis players (men and women) are divided into 7 different groups. You can choose per group a restricted total of tennis players of which you think are going to win the most points in the Fantasy Australian Open.
The game will cost 7 euro per team and will start with a guaranteed amount of 1,250 euro in prizes. The first prize will be 250 euro (31 GC prizes). 

Posted in Australian Open, Draws, Preview | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Australian Open 2019 Men’s Preview

Australian Open

Photo courtesy of Paodom.net

The Australian Open kicks off the Majors for 2019 after a short but sweet off-season. The Tennis Review previews the conditions that will play their part in producing the men’s champions as well as taking a look at the contenders to become part of tennis’ most prestigious champion’s club, the Grand Slam winner’s circle.

The conditions and variables

Surface:

The Australian Open is a little less predictable than some Majors of late. One reason for that is the modification and speeding up of the plexicusion hard court surface over the last couple of seasons (2017/18).

The majority of the tour is played on medium-slow surfaces and most players have modified their games to those higher bouncing baseline based conditions. The Australian Open’s current plexi-cushion surface, however, allows the ball to bounce both faster and lower which favors aggressive players who are comfortable at the net or favor stepping inside the court once the chance arises.

Weather:

The Australian Open is notorious for some of the most ferocious conditions on the tour with on court temperatures in the 40s and only the game’s fittest players can be expected to survive into the second week.

The tournament is two different tournaments in some respect. During the day, the courts play faster, as do the balls which bounce lower. In the evening, the cooler weather and more humid conditions mean the balls fluff up more and play heavier.

To some degrees, those conditions will favor some players more than others and there is a degree of luck, as there always is, as to when certain players are scheduled.

Attacking players will still be favored either way, enjoying, in the day, the balls flying off their racket strings a little quicker and their shots dying before their more defensive minded opponents can track them down, as well as, at night, having a little extra time to handle counter-punchers and being able to move up the court and set themselves up to hit a winner.

In extreme weather, when the roof is not closed, the players will receive ten minute breaks.

The Roof:

When conditions get too hot and humid and thermometers and officials dictate, the roof is closed, as it was so infamously in last year’s final.

Very few players have games tailor made to thrive indoors in today’s game, with so little of the tour played in those conditions, but those players with more awkward ball tosses and  more weather effected and/or error prone strokes and high risk games will benefit. As will players more prone to displaying great touch and who win points by shot placement rather than power.

The off season:

Players come into the Australian Open refreshed after a 6-7 week break from the grind of the tour, relaxed after a holiday or two, and improved, having had some time to tinker with their games or work on their weaknesses, meaning the Australian Open has been known to throw up a few surprises over the years such as Safin beating Federer in the 2005 semis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reaching the ’08 final, and Kyle Edmund and Hyeon Chung reaching last year’s last four.

Rule changes:

Following on from Wimbledon’s introduction of a tiebreak at 12-12 in the fifth set, the Australian Open has introduced a ‘super’ tiebreak at 6-6 in the fifth with the tiebreak being the first to 10.

This rule is most likely to benefit the older players preventing them from enduring the rare but often fatal epics as well as being to the advantage of the great returners and the risk takers. It may not mean much in deciding the outcome of a Federer- Djokovic final but could be something of a factor should Federer meet Nadal or Djokovic meet Zverev.

The balls:

The Australian Open has changed its balls from Wilson to Dunlop, a move already criticized by Bernard Tomic who said it was “terrible” and that the balls, that the balls did not feel so good, and that the balls were said to be “cheap.”

While the tournament has defended itself by saying the balls are good quality and made by one of the world’s four best ball manufacturers, other players, have been reported to say the ball is flat and dies quickly on making contact with the court.

Inevitably, the ball will be perceived differently by each player, but it won’t help any but the most experienced competitors to have yet another unknown added into the mix of Grand Slam play.

The Draw:

The greatest variable of them all.

No educated guesses are really possible until the draw is made. Some in form all time greats whose games suit the surfaces to a tee might fly through any draw, but there is no player pre-tournament playing such great tennis to scream champion (Djokovic played three three setters in a row and then lost to Bautista Agut; Federer has only played an exhibition event.)

All will be revealed, and the real speculation can begin, once the draw is made on Thursday January 10th.

Potential champions

Past champions

There are four past champions in the draw- Federer (6), Nadal (1), Djokovic (6), and Wawrinka (1), and their collective reign down under goes all the way back to 2006. 

The big three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, also happen to be the top three seeds so with good draws and fine health, their chances of extending that run are high. Still, they won’t take anything for granted. The faster conditions and a few quickly improving players mean this tournament is ripe for someone new to have their name etched on the trophy.

Roger Federer

The Swiss has been the main beneficiary of the sped up conditions and is the two time defending champion in Melbourne.

This tournament is arguably the 37 year old’s best chance to win his 21st Major with the clock ticking even on his superhuman career.

Expect Federer to receive preferential treatment- he will most likely play defensive players in the day, and if he comes up against an attacker in form, he’ll play them at night. And if it there is even a sniff of the roof being used, if Federer’s playing, that court will be covered.

Federer comes in refreshed after a disappointing second half of 2018. He had a great Hopman cup, but that is an exhibition match and a world away from the intense competition offered up by a slam.

If anyone is going to benefit from the rest offered by the off-season and all the preferential treatment his resume deserves, it’s the Swiss.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic goes into the Australian Open as the clear favorite- Sports Dime Betting have the world No.1 and six time champ at +120.

Back at No.1, and holding the last 2 slams, Djokovic is the favorite to win the title, and with organizers most probably aiming for a Federer-Djokovic final, he’ll see his matches most often scheduled at night if he comes up against an aggressive fast court player.

Djokovic will handle the day conditions well, too. The Serb is an aggressive baseliner who just also happens to be the best defender in the game and aged 31, he’ll be happy to  compete in faster conditions, not have to run quite so much and have more energy for the finals where, fresh from the off season, he so often plays his best tennis.

Rafa Nadal

The fast conditions on hard courts help Nadal whose 31 year old body can only take so much pounding from best of five on hard courts- he has had to retire during matches in his last two hard court slams (AO ’18 QF; USO ’18 SF)- so, he’ll be ready to attack and flatten out his shots to give himself the chance to hold each slam at least twice.

Stan Wawrinka

Wawrinka looked good in his late 2018 outings and played well in Doha, beating Khachanov and Nicholas Jarry before falling to eventual champion Roberto Bautista Agut.

The Swiss has the game to overwhelm anyone and if he catches fire, with his experience, you would not count him out. However, he will need to reproduce that form for seven straight matches and may not have the match fitness to defeat too many of the game’s super fit counter-punchers in succession.

Grand slam pedigree

There are only six active slam champs in this year’s Australian Open draw (Juan Martin del Potro has withdrawn with injury) and four of them have won the Australian Open. Here’s a look at the two remaining ones, both former finalists.

Marin Cilic

The defending finalist seems to have put the disappointment of his Wimbledon ’18 exit to Guido Pella in the second round behind him, winning the Davis Cup.

Cilic has been making regular deep runs at slams since his 2014 US Open win and seems due another one.

Andy Murray

Tennis can at times produce a story only a Hollywood screenwriter could come up with, and Murray winning the Australian Open after being the bridesmaid five times and coming back from a hip injury that has seen him drop to 230 in the world would be up there with Roger Federer’s 2017 Australian Open win.

Veterans

If one, or more, of the aforementioned favored champs or finalist or if a player in form gets upset and/or the draw falls apart, or both, experienced vets will be around to take advantage. They might even have gotten themselves together enough to win the slam outright.

Kei Nishikori

Nishikori is one of the 2018 comeback players of the year and the Australian Open suits his baseline aggression. He just won in Brisbane, ending his run of nine losing finals, which will fill him with plenty of confidence.

Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov has played some of his career best tennis in Australia. Has the Bulgarian peaked or will Melbourne be the stage for his career achievement?

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Reached the Brisbane semis. A deep Tsonga run would have plenty of support at the scene of where he first burst onto the Grand slam tennis scene when he made the ’08 final.

Tomas Berdych

Made the Doha final. Berdych had been gone six months from the tour until Doha. The popular Czech is another vet who can be sure of getting plenty of love from the knowledgeable Melbourne crowd.

Players in form

Plenty of players come out of the block at the start of the season playing their best tennis and make a deep run through the Australian Open draw.

Roberto Bautista Agut is the Doha champ.

Bautista Agut is ‘due’ a deep slam run. He will have to earn it, of course, but he has done everything he can to put himself in a situation to take his chances. Supremely fit, a game suited to fast hard courts, and with plenty of heart, if he can get a good draw, expect a breakthrough.

Daniil Medvedev was the Brisbane finalist.

A big serving, confident shot-maker, Medvedev led the tour in hard court wins last season and just made the Brisbane final. He’s had a pretty short career- he did not play his 1st main draw ATP match until Nice ’16- to win 3 titles and have such impressive stats, but he is a born champion and if he gets an inch, he’s taking miles.

The Next in Line

2018 ended on a high note for some of the players most likely to succeed the current elite. Could any of these players take another step further by winning their maiden slam?

Sascha Zverev

Success at Majors is the big question for the 2018 WTF champ who has reached 1 Major quarter final (Roland Garros ’18) in his admittedly still young and otherwise impressive career. A let down and an early exit at the Australian Open would be no shock, but with Ivan Lendl around to keep his feet on the ground, a run to his first semi would be the most fitting step in the right direction.

Karen Khachanov

Bold and unassuming, a lethal mix, Karen Khachanov plays like he is not afraid of success and this Australian Open would be the perfect time for the Paris-Bercy ’18 champ to step up before the hype starts getting in the way.

Borna Coric

The Shanghai finalist has added a bit of zap to his shots, especially on the forehand, and proved in 2018 he had a mature and cool head on his shoulders. The conditions will suit him and he has a lot of level-headed confidence, not too surprising considering his game is so closed modeled on six time AO champion Novak Djokovic.

Next Gen

The game no longer favors 17 to 20 years olds announcing themselves with slam titles, but if it were to welcome them with open arms again, these are the players the Major winning circle would be giving hugs to. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Aged 20 and ranked 15, Tsitsipas has only played four slams, all in 2018, but has already been to a last 16 (Wimbledon) and should reproduce that result in Melbourne.

Denis Shapovalov

Fast hard courts are the Canadian’s best surface. He’s not won much recently, winning just 1 match since reaching the Tokyo semis, and he hit a lot of errors losing in the Sydney first round, but he likes the big occasion and a Grand Slam is certainly that.

Hyeon Chung

Last year’s semi-finalist has struggled with injuries and looked rusty in Pune. But talented and touted players often play their best at the slam where they achieve their earliest success and so the Australian Open could be where Chung treats us to some of that A grade baseline hitting of his.

Frances Tiafoe

Hard courts are where the shot-making, sparky Tiafoe shines.

Dark horses

With it’s faster low-frequency conditions, the aging bodies of the established champs, the lack of slam winning experience of the vets, the unknown quantities of the next in line, the lack of young players coming through at the very top, and the stronger depth of the men’s field, the Australian Open is the slam most likely to see a dark horse cross the winner’s line. 

Players ranked outside of the top 16 seeds qualify for dark horse status.

Fernando Verdasco

The upset maestro. He pleases as much as he lets down, but you know his presence in an early round match versus a seed adds a little extra to the proceedings.

David Goffin

Goffin, ranked 22, is a skilled fast hard courter and a great competitor. No one wants him in their last 32 bracket.

Martin Klizan

If Klizan faces one of the top seeds, at some point of the match, he is going to look like the winner in waiting. If he can look like that for three sets then we won’t have to wait much longer for him to finally reach the last eight of a slam.

Marton Fucsovics

Fucsovics is one of the game’s most improved players of late and has the fitness to cope with the Australian conditions. He has shown how dangerous he is on hard courts in his US Open and Doha matches versus Novak Djokovic and should come in with plenty of confidence and little pressure.

Home grown hopes

The players born in the Major hosting countries are a privileged bunch with the chance to play the show courts despite their lower rankings, to get one of the sport’s best pay days courtesy of a wild card. and the exposure that can only encourage sponsors and media opportunities. Australia’s rich tennis history also means it’s not short of talent to get the fans involved and attract some new ones.

Nick Kyrgios

Impossible to predict, you’ll just get what you’re given with Kyrgios. He’ll be under the spotlight, that’s one thing for sure.

Thanassi Kokkinakis

Kokkanakis’ Miami win over Roger Federer showed his potential last season.

Injuries have sidelined him, but if he is healthy and playing well, his youthful and charismatic presence on court will do wonders for Australian tennis. That’s if he plays of course. He’ll have to come through qualifying after being looked over for a wildcard.

John Millman

Millman has come to prominence of late after his fourth round US Open win over Roger Federer and he has the athleticism, stamina and counter punching skills to do well at home.

Bernard Tomic.

Nick Kyrgios’ antics have overshadowed the once prime bad boy of tennis, and going under the radar will help the one time great Australian Hope. Tomic seems like he has found some love for tennis again, winning the Chengdu Open with some real grit, and breaking back into the top 100. That means little in the face of the pressure and expectations he might face at his home Major, but Tomic keeps showing us new layers and there are sure more to be peeled.

Alex de Minaur

He’s got Hewitt’s legs and Hewitt’s ear, and the youngster will have plenty of support.

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ATP Fantasy Tennis What You Need to Know

Fantasy tennis
Photo courtesy of zweeler.

Why play Fantasy Tennis?

Fantasy ATP Tennis 2019: At least 4,000 Euro in prizes!

  • Your engagement with Tennis will further increase. It is not about one tennis players, but 20 tennis players who need to perform for you!
  • For only 10 euro you will get many extra hours of entertainment before the start of the tournament but also during the season your tennis players will give you a lot of joy, but also a lot of frustration.
  • If you manage to beat the other players, you can also win nice cash prizes (at least 4,000 euro) 1st prize is at least 600 Euro!

The Fantasy ATP Tennis 2019 starts on Monday 7 January 2019 at 0:40 hours CET.

You have a budget of 270 million euro to buy 20 tennis players of which you think are going to win the most points in the Fantasy ATP Tennis 2019. 

The game will cost 10 euro per team and will start with a guaranteed amount of 4,000 euro in prizes. The first prize will be 600 euro (81 GC prizes).

The Fantasy WTA Tennis 2019 starts on Monday 31 December 2018 at 0:10 hours CET.

You have a budget of 265 million euro to buy 20 tennis players of which you think are going to win the most points in the Fantasy WTA Tennis 2019. 

The game will cost 7 euro per team and will start with a guaranteed amount of 1,500 euro in prizes. The first prize will be 300 euro (41 GC prizes)

Click here to register!

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2018 Men’s Tennis Review Fight it, Embrace it, it’s Happening all the same

Zverev

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

Little it seems changes in men’s tennis these last few seasons, except of course when it does, and when it does, it means business. The Tennis Review reviews and gives its thoughts on the 2018 men’s tennis season. 

Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Novak Djokovic cleaning up at the Majors, we’ve seen that plenty of seasons (2006-2008, 2010, 2011, 2017) and 2018 saw all three win at the game’s biggest events (Federer, Australian Open; Nadal, Roland Garros; Djokovic, Wimbledon and the US Open).

None of the Big 3 were dominant throughout the whole of the 2018 season, though. Federer dropped off after his close loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the Indian Wells final, and the match play he lacked after skipping the clay season hurt him on Grass and the US Summer hard courts. Nadal petered out, as he has often done, in the latter part of his season, losing his No.1 ranking in the process. The man he lost it to, Novak Djokovic, was a shadow in the first third of the season until he appeared in technicolor vision to win 2 slams and end the season No.1, though his subdued performances in his last two finals, Paris-Bercy and ATP WTF, were poor imitations of his Greatest Hits.

Another reappearance for old time’s sake we got this season was Roger Federer reaching the No.1 spot and Juan Martin del Potro in a slam final, the US Open no less, though his performance bore no resemblance to that 2009 shake up as Djokovic shook him down after a tight first set and left him with nothing more to give. del Potro did give us something new, however, this season- his first ATP 1000 title, and what a title and match that was.

But if it was a case of remixes at the big events, tennis did get something fresh at the ATP 1000s. Borna Coric played a great Indian Wells, taking the match to Federer in the semis, winning a title in Halle, beating the Swiss, and then beat the Swiss again on his way to the Shanghai final. Stefanos Tsitsipas made the final in Barcelona and in Toronto. Karen Khachanov gave us the match of the US Open in his loss to Nadal in the third round and won the Paris-Bercy title. Sascha Zverev made the Miami final, won Madrid, and was the WTF champion. Khachanov’s and Zverev’s end of season runs injected some excitement into the season for those of us impatient for new faces biting trophies. They were, however, not so much the young and the fit disposing of the reigning yet still strong leaders, but more the young and the fit feasting on their superior’s burned out remains.

In the slams, the most notable youthful results were Hyeon Chung and Kyle Edmund reaching the Australian Open semis, Dominic Thiem reaching his first slam final and putting up a great fight in the first set and Zverev making his first slam quarters, at Roland Garros, and barely so. That those latter two achievements seem like shifts in the tennis status quo tells you how far 2018 was from any real breakthroughs at the top.

For those who like their vets as much as the Next Gens, or more than, John Isner won his first ATP 1000 title in Miami, Ernests Gulbis was back playing his best in slams, coming through qualifying and reaching the Wimbledon fourth round, and Kei Nishikori worked his way back into the top ten. Kevin Anderson made his 2nd Major final, at Wimbledon.

So while tennis did not undergo any seismic shifts in terms of champs and contenders, it did start to shake a little,at least, and nowhere more so than in the administration of the game whose effects will really come into play in 2019. 

After two grueling semi-finals between John Isner and Kevin Anderson and Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, lasting over 10 hours and two days, Wimbledon decided to introduce a tiebreaker at 12-12 in the fifth set. The Australian Open followed suit announcing a super tiebreak at 6-6, the winner the first to 10 and to hold a 2 point advantage. In a sport racked with debates as to how to cut down on court time and increase fan numbers and revenue, these moves may mean little in the short term, with very few matches reaching those late stages in the fifth in the first place, but such changes could end up being the first steps towards some of the scoring and ruling trialed in the Next Gen Finals and, for the purists, the end of the fifth set, the very heart of men’s tennis at Majors. Such predictions may seem alarmist to some, but if anyone is going to be alarmed at such potential changes in the game, it’s the fans who’ve sat through more epic late in the fifth slam matches than they can remember and who would not want a single second back.

The Davis Cup suffered the greatest shake up of all when a one time Great footballer swooped in to reduce the men’s game’s biggest team event to a once great competition, no longer to be played at different stops throughout the year but to be competed for in an end of year one week event.

Change is inevitable, and tennis, when it comes to changes at the top, likes to keep us waiting or, when it comes to admin, bamboozle.

New champions, new rules and formats are on the horizon, but there’s still a few seasons in the current Greats and institutions- here’s to some deep in the fifth classics at Roland Garros, and Wimbledon, too (12-10 is still pretty reasonable).

2018 gave us a little bit of the old, a little bit of the new, sometimes a mishmash of the two. We witnessed some new and old faces taking their chances with vigor and we saw the end of the historic epics at a couple of the slams and the abrupt demise of the year long journey of one of the sport’s most significant institutions.

Tennis is changing. Fight it; embrace it- it’s happening all the same.

Happy New Year!

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Who Needs Hype When You Have Karen Khachanov?

Khachanov

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

Unseeded 22 year old Karen Khachanov defeated the then imminent world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the Paris-Bercy final 7-5, 6-4. Who needs hype when we have such a promising player?

The first big final of a player’s career is an important moment. The walk on to the court a sweet moment, a time to revel in a quiet sense of achievement before the elation or deflation that is to come. That moment is not quiet anymore though, not in Paris-Bercy anyway. Flashing lights against a dark backdrop, loud music drowning out excited pre-match murmur, WWF style announcements of the players just in case you did not know why they were. You would forgive a young gun for firing blanks after such a stage fright aggravating build up.

Karen Khachanov does not want our forgiveness, though. This unassuming and quietly confident young man wants nothing from us other than the minimum he could expect as a performer and a next big thing- a little courteous applause for what he can give, which is plenty. The Russian can take plenty, too, surviving, in the early stages of the match, the relentless pressure Djokovic brings to the big finals. The Russian fought off break points in his first service game and then again at 1-2, finally caving in on the seventh to go down 1-3 to the tune of a roaring Djokovic.

Caving in, that’s par for the course it seems nowadays when the younger players face the vets in these finals, unless they catch them out of form and/or injured. But, there was something different about this time. First, the Djokovic roar seemed a little out of place at such an early stage in a match versus an unseeded player with a 6-16 record versus the top ten. Three of those wins, though, had come on the way to the final, and this Djokovic, while on a match winning streak of 22, had a cold and was coming in off the back off as big a match as it gets outside of a final, a three set, a third set tiebreaker no less, win over Roger Federer.

Khachanov quietened that roar in the next game, breaking back for 2-3.

What followed was a balanced and engaging contest between a veteran and a next gen player with different styles- Khachanov’s ballstriking (Safin 2.0 some say) and power versus Djokovic’s careful construction work. At 5-5, the balance tipped Khachanov’s way when he broke the Djokovic serve and let out a roar of his own. This cry was anything but strange. Unseeded, in his first ATP 1000 final versus a wounded soon to be No.1, the Russian had the opportunity all the talent, hard work and focus had brought him. He did not let himself down either, serving out to take the first set 7-5.

Still, plenty of players have taken Djokovic to the extremes when he has been under the weather or tired out and then backed off, or been thrown off the scent. At least we had, whatever was to happen, a little more of a glimpse of the promise Khachanov offered in such matches. Promise we had seen in the US Open third round versus Nadal when the Russian was still feeling his way around big matches, grappling a little in the dark at vital moments. This time, however, the Russian was not into just giving off glimpses of his potential; he could see only all too clearly now. This final was about delivering ball-striking with precision, depth and shape, about vision and believing. The 22 year old did not let up, breaking Djokiovic early in the second set and then seeing his promise all the way through, taking the match 7-5, 6-4 and the Paris Rolex Masters title, the fourth trophy of his career.

In his speech, Khachanov said what an honor it was to play Djokovic in such a match and that he hoped to match his impressive numbers one day. Such ambition is admirable and, it would appear, warranted. How far ahead fans should look, however, is another thing. Having been burned by hype, proclaiming the next big thing more often than not, it’s wise to proceed with cation. Paris has a history as the venue for a few career peaks- David Ferrer’s lone ATP 1000 title, Jerzy Janowicz’s run to the final, Jack Sock’s career high last season. (Sock is now ranked outside the top 100). The tournament is a good one for a player with some form to catch a few tired and off their game vets and elite players.

At the same time, Bercy has also been the site of some of the game’s best ball strikers teeing off in indoor conditions- Safin and Agassi to name two prime examples- and some all time greats showing how season long stamina and dominance is done- Federer and Djokovic.

Where Khachanov will land on that spectrum is unknown. But watching him take that first step on his journey at the top of the game was a real ride. One with a noisy start, a thrilling middle, and a hopeful ending. No need for hype- we will always have, whatever happens, Karen Khachanov at Paris-Bercy ’18.

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Novak Djokovic Plays his Way Back into Greatest of all Time Debate

Djokovic

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

After a quiet couple of seasons, slam trophy wise, Novak Djokovic came back out the woodwork the second half of 2018 to add to his silverware and in doing so has played his way back into the Greatest of all time debate.

Novak Djokovic’s straight sets US Open 2018 final win over Juan Martin del Potro was the Serbian’s 14th Grand Slam title and his second this season, the other one won at Wimbledon.

Djokovic could not have won his recent US Open any more convincingly than he did, winning his semis and final both in straights, barely putting a foot wrong, and against fine grand slam pedigree, a former finalist, Kei Nishikori (’14), and a former champ in del Potro (’09).

That recent US Open  win was another feat in a sudden rush of achievements for the Serbian. 

Djokovic’s comeback from well documented setbacks the second half of this season has seen him, after his Cincy win, complete the ATP 1000 set of nine titles, the first man to do so, and level Pete Sampras in the all time slam haul list.

The eighth seed also had his fourth multiple slam winning season (Federer has had six, Nadal 4, Sampras 4.). Though, like many stats, how much that reveals, considering the likes of Laver could not compete in slams for five years in their prime, is contentious.

Those achievements, whatever they reveal, have seen Novak Djokovic not just return to the current crop of slam winners, but have also seen him play his way back into the All Time Great conversation.

That conversation, as involving and controversial as it is for some, is one not everyone has time for. After all, comparing different eras is a little orangey and appley when you factor in the different surfaces slams have been competed on (just two in the years Laver won his calendar year slams; the four very different surfaces Sampras played on; the more homogenized era we have now), development in racket and ball technologies (wooden vs graphite; varying bounces and speeds), fluctuating prestige of events over time, (Borg played one Australian Open, in 1974, the slam before he won his first Roland Garros), and the years particular players were able to compete at events such as slams (Laver missed slams from ’63-’67, but won what many coined the Pro Grand Slam in ’67) being just a few of the variables.

However, a couple of elements which are consistent over time in judging the all time greats are winning percentage and who wins the big events, and Novak Djokovic has excelled at both.

In 2018, Novak Djokovic is at 80% for the past 52 weeks, (third after Federer and Nadal), and is third all time, too, at 82.6, behind Borg (1st) and Nadal (2nd). (Federer is 4th). This stat, like all, is as revealing for what it does not say as what it does,  a stat a little skewed with Borg’s early retirement. However, whether or not Djokovic comes first in it or not is not what proves conclusive. What matters is just how high Djokovic is ranked in the list, and what this ranking reveals about his consistency.

Another important factor to consider when delving into the G.O.A.T debate variables is that while the tournaments considered to be prestigious have changed- can anyone imagine Thiem missing the Australian Open the way Borg did?- who wins whatever those events are is still indicative of who the best players of that time are. In today’s game,  the ATP 1000s and slams are the tournaments to win and Novak Djokovic proved at Wimbledon, Cincy and the US Open that he was the man to beat.

The G.O.A.T debate variables keep on coming, too. Increased career longevity has been one factor reshaping the G.O.A.T debate the last few years and is  one crucial factor in the Serbian playing his way back into that debate.

Djokovic has been one of the men to beat, at times the man to beat, at those tournaments to win since 2007 when he first won the Canadian Open and a few months later when he won the Australian Open.

That early Djokovic success began just at the end of Federer’s prime, in late 2007 and early 2008, in what seemed like another in a long line of one of tennis’ most compelling tales: All Time Greats being surpassed by the next in line. Djokovic’s rise also occurred at the same time Nadal transformed from a one surface great to an all court one, no longer just getting in Federer’s way in Paris, but in London and Melbourne, too. That gradual usurping and battle for supremacy has been a long and engaging narrative in tennis, from Lendl and McEnroe being dethroned by Sampras and Agassi, those two Americans then slayed by Federer.

This passing of the tennis racket, though, did not play out like ones of times past, with Federer not going down in his late 20s or early 30s before licking his wounds on the Golf course or commentating on TV like many a great champion before him, but, instead, taking on the role of both the Jesus and the Lazarus of tennis, the player most beloved by the tennis congregation and the player most beloved of pulling off headline making comebacks.

If the general consensus is that Federer is the greatest of all time then Nadal and Djokovic are, only logically, his biggest rivals for that title, and if slams, the current be all and end all for judging greatness, are anything to go by, that would mean Federer is the greatest, Nadal second, and Djokovic third, which reduces the debate to its simplest, and using slams as the ultimate indicator, most modern form.

Who is the greatest cannot just come down to slams though, and cannot be just shaped by the U.S media’s desire to frame Sampras as the greatest when he tied and then surpassed the slam count with Laver. Outside of the slam numbers game, Djokovic has a few stats and achievements which could be seen to compensate for the number’s differences in slams won (Federer, 2o; Nadal, 17; Djokovic, 14). He has head to head winning ratios over his greatest rivals Federer (24-22) and Nadal (27-25), is the only one of the three to have won all four slams in a row, and is the only won to have all the ATP 1000 titles.

Still, as impressive as all these numbers are, we cannot fixate on objective figures, ones which can so neatly put an end to a discussion, not when it comes to a debate of such subjectivity. Look beyond the numbers, instead, and there is plenty going on in the foreground and the background which opens up that debate for some real conversation, namely style and story.

Narrative wise, Djokovic can now compete with Federer and Nadal, having, like them, bounced back from a fall from the top, battling elbow injury and the subsequent shocking and confidence bruising losses suffered on the road back, and what a high road it was the Serb had to get back on.

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have all come back in inspiring fashion, but Djokovic’s fall- going from winning the Djokiovic slam in the Roland Garros final to losing in the third round of Wimbledon and going through 2017 not making it past the quarters of a slam- was more of a staggering drop from the top than Federer’s(the Swiss’s 2016 injury woes were four years past his last slam triumph) and Nadal’s (his 2014 fall did come off the back of a number 1 winning multiple slam winning year but it still pales, in the brightest colors, compared to Djokovic’s 2015-2016 run).

If the Djokovic comeback story was not compelling enough to give him an edge, then the Djokovic style is sure to pull any lover of baseline tennis or point construction in. The manner in which Djokovic won his most recent slams, winning both finals in straights and playing just the right match each time, breaking down his rival’s strengths and coming through the difficult moments of the match when they found their weapons again, was a return to the style Serbian executed to such great effect in his 2011 and 2015-16 runs. That Djokovic signature style, baseline prowess at its best on the big points, may not be greater than Federer and Nadal’s, but in its execution and effect, is certainly their equal.

So, what does Djokovic have to do to become the Greatest Ever?

First, he needs his rival’s own slam hauls to grind to a halt. Djokovic has already been argued by some scribes to be the greatest ever after his 2015 season and few expected Federer and Nadal to get back to winning slams and hitting the number one spot again pushing Djokovic back down into clear third place in the ruthless process. Now that Djokovic has caught back up a little, few would still bet against Fedal repeating that pulling away feat despite both men’s recent struggling form and injury issues. At the very least, and most optimistic, Nadal has a few Roland Garros titles in him, and, as for Federer, who would dare write off Federer, whatever happened versus Millman in New York?

Djokovic would also need the generations below him to continue struggling on the biggest stages. If Djokovic could carry his confidence over into the next season or two, his mental strength and game style would most likely mean he would be the favorite versus Thiem, Zverev, and Kyrgios, in slam matches, all of whom have failed to build on any significant advances in the major leagues, and all of whom are less likely to if Djokovic continues to make his experience count for him as he embarks on building up his slam count even further.

If Federer stopped his slam counting at 21 and Nadal did so at the same number, then Djokovic, now aged 31 would need 7 to tie them. He could get those titles, playing another five years, and would need ‘only’ two multi slam winning seasons to do it. Safe to say, the slower conditions of the US Open hard courts could be where Djokovic picks up another two slams, Wimbledon another two, Roland Garros another title, the Australian Open, another title.

It’s quite a stretch, there is no denying that, but, then again, who is better on the stretch than Djokovic? Even if he does not quite get there, slam tally wise, there would be plenty of arguments in Djokovic’s favor as to his Greatest Ever status, and in an argument which, unlike Grand slam finals, can never  be won, it’s all about how you play the game, and, in tennis history, what is not up for debate is that Novak Djokovic has done that as well as anyone.

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US Open Men’s Singles Final Preview Juan Martin del Potro Vs Novak Djokovic

Photo courtesy of wikipedia commons.

The US Open final is set and it’s a good one- Juan Martin del Potro (3) versus Novak Djokovic (6). So, the big question- Who Will Win?

What’s at stake: For Novak Djokovic, a 14th slam title, tying Pete Sampras, and a 3rd US Open title (previously won 2011, 2015).

For Juan Martin del Potro, a 2nd slam title, his 1st coming in 2009 at the US Open when he was just, in his own words,  ‘a kid’.

Favors: del Potro. The Argentine has nothing to lose here. An extra slam on his resume would be a worthy addition, and he would join the likes of Yvgeny Kafelnikov, Sergi Bruguera, Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt, and Marat Safin as two time slam winners, but win or lose, this is his first slam final for nearly ten years and a step forward in his career.

del Potro is also a big match player. Djokovic is, too, and arguably the greater of the two considering their respective resumes. However, when del Potro plays a big match, he turns up to play, while the same cannot always be said for Djokovic who has been a little flat in some big matches.

However, Djokovic is unlikely to be anything less than fully pumped up this US Open final after writing himself back into the all time great narrative at Wimbledon, and 14 slams would not only tie him with the great Pete Sampras, but also leave cut his haul deficit to four behind Nadal and seven behind Federer.

That pressure to tie and close in on his all time Great rivals might tell on Djokovic if del Potro comes out swinging and finding his mark, and the Serbian is prone to letting pressure get to him in slam finals. (He’s won 13, but also lost 9 times and is 2-5 in New York, the event at which he has lost the most slam finals.)

Path to the final: Novak Djokovic has beaten Martin Fucsovics (4 sets), Tennys Sandgren (4 sets), and then defeated Richard Gasquet, Joao Sousa, John Millman, and Kei Nishikori, and all in straight sets.

Juan Martin del Potro did not drop a set on his way to the quarters, beating Donald Young, Denis Kudla, Fernando Verdasco, and Borna Coric, before beating John Isner in four sets and then defeating Rafa Nadal 7-6, 6-2, ret.

Favors: del Potro. He’s had arguably the tougher route to the final and the first set versus Nadal in which he dropped serve when serving for it at 5-4 and then managed to pull himself together and take the tiebreak was as tough as any period of play Djokovic has encountered bar the Serb’s struggle with Fucsovics in round 1.

Surface: The US Open courts have been slowed down this year, according to the tournament director.

Favors: Djokovic. The slower the hard court, the better.

Conditions: Both men have had to play in some of the, reportedly, toughest conditions of the Open era, though Naomi Osaka pointed out it was not too hot for her as she trained in Florida, and both men have had great success playing in hot humid conditions in years past.

On Sunday afternoon, 4 pm, the weather in New York is forecast as 19 degrees with showers, which would mean the final would be contested under the roof.

Favors: Djokovic. But not by much. del Potro is also a handy player indoors and has even more margin for error on his forehand side.

Head to head: Djokovic leads del Potro 14-4 and has never lost to him in a slam (leads 4-0, 2-0 at US Open). On outdoor hard courts, Djokovic leads 7-2. On indoor hard, Djokovic leads 3-1.

del Potro’s wins have come on outdoor hard in Rio (16) and Indian Wells (’13),  on grass at the 2012 Olympics, and on indoor hard in the 2011 Davis Cup SF (won 7-6, 3-0).

Favors: Djokovic.

The match up: Aggressive defensive baseliner (Djokovic) Vs Aggressive baseliner (del Potro).

del Potro has his serve and forehand which can help him get short balls from Djokovic and hit winners.

Meanwhile, Djokovic has the return to break the del Potro serve, the point construction and speed to move del Potro around, force errors of the forehand and thus unravel his strength, and break down the weaker backhand side.

In this match up, del Potro has to serve in the mid to high 70s, go for his shots, and be firing on the forehand if he is to have a chance of winning.

Favors: Djokovic.

Form: del Potro was cruising through the draw until Isner engaged him in a real contest and played effective and aggressive tennis under a lot of pressure in the tiebreak versus Nadal in the semis.

Most encouragingly for del Potro is that the Argentine has been hitting his double handed backhand a lot more aggressively than of late, making that side no longer a much exploitable one, a factor which is, alongside his return to good physical health, perhaps the key to his reappearance in a slam final.

Djokovic has been playing some very nice tennis, particularly versus Gasquet and Nishikori. The Serbian has been serving particularly well, too, and is playing with great rhythm.

Favors: Djokovic. He has won 11 matches in a row and was in his element versus Nishikori.

Fans: Tennis darlings don’t get much bigger than del Potro and there will not just be the Tandil army out to support him, but many of New York’s Argentinian residents and his legion of fans.

Djokovic will also get plenty of support from Serbian locals and his fans, however neutrals are more likely to be cheering for del Potro considering his well documented struggles with wrist injuries and his easy natural charm.

Favors: del Potro. The US Open is one of the noisiest venues on the pro tennis circuit and it will get a lot noisier when del Potro hits a winner or has break or set point. Djokovic has, however, seen it all before, such as versus Roger Federer in the 2015 final, and come out on the other side the champion.

Prediction: The current US Open conditions and surface are where Djokovic thrives and he is coming off a Wimbledon and a Cincy win. As much as sports entertainment would be better served by a del Potro win, the nitty gritty of tennis, the match ups and favorable conditions, means Djokovic most likely has this in five sets.

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US Open Preview Rafa Nadal Favorite to Defend Hard Court Slam for 1st Time

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

Rafa Nadal, the top seed, goes into the US Open as the favorite after the draw was made, and if he wins, it will be the first time he will have defended a hard court slam. The Tennis review looks at one of the rare weaknesses in the Nadal resume and his chances of righting it this US Open.

In a career in which Rafa Nadal has won 17 slams, 10 titles at the one slam, 33 ATP 1000s, and the Career Grand slam, there seems very little left for him to achieve.

But there is one milestone, a feat that has itself been the peaks of great careers, such as Pat Rafter who won back to back US Opens in 1997-98, which the Spaniard has still to do – defending a hard court slam.

That gap in Nadal’s resume is one of the few weaknesses his detractors in any Greatest Of All Time debates throw into the ring when that debate starts getting down to the particulars.

Nadal has won back to back titles at slams and to historic effect, winning Roland Garros from ’05-‘8 ,’10-’13 and ’17–’18, and that back to back slam slam winning ability has meant he has the record for most slams won at any single event, that feat in itself one of his prime claims to all time greatness.

But, Nadal has not gone back to back at two different slams, and that inability to do so makes him stand out when compared to his all time great rivals, and stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Federer has gone back to back at three slams, (US Open, Wimbledon, Australian Open), Sampras at two, (Wimbledon and US Open) and Djokovic at two (Australian Open and Wimbledon), Borg at two (Roland Garros, Wimbledon).

Going back to back at two different slams played on two different surfaces suggests a greater versatility than your competitors, and in the current climate of the professional game, in which Grand Slams are the be-all-and -end-all achievement wise, who has gone back to back, where and how often can really make the difference when it comes to deciding who is greater than whom.

Not only is defending a slam a current mark of greatness, hard courts matter because that is where half the slams and most ATP events are played, and when it comes to hard court slam tennis, Nadal is already a step behind his fellow legends.

Federer, Djokovic, and Sampras have the more impressive credentials with both number of titles won (Sampras has 7, Djokovic 8, Federer 11) , and back to back wins.

Federer won five US Opens back to back (2004-2008), and won the Australian Open back to back in ’06 and ’07, and ’17 and ’18.

Djokovic won the Australian Open three times in a row (’11-’13 )and then defended his 2015 title.

Sampras won the US Open ’95-96.

Even if Nadal does defend in New York, he will still lag behind those rivals hard court wise, but that one, and potentially imminent, back to back hard court slam achievement would boost his already all time great career resume even further.

This upcoming US Open title defense is arguably Nadal’s best ever shot at achieving that elusive hard court slam back to back win. Nadal was already one of the favorites for this US Open men’s title after winning in Toronto, beating two former US Open champs in Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic on the way to the title, but now that the draw has been made,  the top seed has reaped the benefits such a position gives him and is now the favorite to lift the trophy.

Nadal’s projected draw is:

1st round: David Ferrer. This is Ferrer’s last US Open, and should be a routine win for Nadal. Ferrer does have a US Open win over Nadal, back in 2007 so this opener to what would be a historic run for Nadal adds a nice touch to that narrative should it unfold in Nadal’s favor.

2nd: Vasek Pospisil/Lukas Lacko. Both of these players are at their best on hard courts, but neither are especially skilled at dealing with Nadal’s heavy top spin, and neither pose any weapons that can really hurt the top seed.

3rd: Karen Khachanov (27)  Khachanov’s hard hitting won’t worry Nadal who will keep the ball out of Khachanov’s strike zone, and once the Russian starts overhitting, Nadal will pile on the pressure and possibly send any Khachanov dips into total freefall.

4th: Kyle Edmund (16)/Jack Sock (18). Edmund is the scheduled seed, but Sock has a good chance of making it to the round of 16 in this section of the draw. Both Edmund and Sock have strong forehands, and could really cause concern for Nadal in cross-court Edmund/Sock forehand to Nadal backhand exchanges, but Nadal knows how to pick an opponent’s backhand side and execute his down the line forehand with impact, and he will be ready to do so on the big points.

QF: Kevin Anderson (8). Anderson beat a favorite at Wimbledon in the quarters this season, and his best bet of beating Nadal would be earlier in the tournament rather than later, however Nadal has too much all round game for Anderson over a five set contest.

SF: Juan Martin del Potro (3). By the time del Potro has made it this far, he may be too spent to really give Nadal much of a match for more than two sets.

Stan Wawrinka could end up sneaking through this section of the draw, though, and while he would not have a great shot at beating Nadal, he might be the player who could test Nadal’s fitness the greatest and leave the top seed’s chances of defending a hard court slam for the first time a little slimmer than they might otherwise have been.

F: Federer (2).  Federer does have the upper hand over Nadal on hard courts in recent years (5-0 since Basel ’15), and most notably last season when he went 4-0, but Federer’s ground game has been unimpressive this season and who better to exploit that than Rafa Nadal?

Djokovic (6). Wimbledon champion Djokovic may be winning slams and ATP 1000s again, and he’s probably the player Nadal would least want to play in as big a contest as the US Open final, but Nadal would still be my pick if these two make the final, the amount of spin he can generate consistently and with aggression giving him the edge.

Cilic (7). The perfect final for Nadal. If the inconsistent but in form Cilic makes the final, Nadal will be the heavy favorite.

Defending a hard court slam has been a milestone too far for Nadal so far in his career. In 2010 in Melbourne he had to retire injured in his Quarter-final. In New York 2011, in the final, he had to face Djokovic and his down the line backhand in top form. In 2014, he was beset by injuries and did not play. This year, though, Nadal seems to be on the verge of adding an extra boost to his resume as he defends his title coming in on the back of winning his first ATP 1000 on hard since Cincy ’13, taking a precautionary rest by skipping Cincinnati, and having as good a draw as he could have hoped for.

 

 

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Wimbledon 2018 Review The Whole Greater than the Sum of the Parts

Djokovic Wimbledon

Photo courtesy of http://trendsindia.net

Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon 2018 final 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 victory over 8th seeded Kevin Anderson, as impressive as it was in its showcase of the victor’s persistence, passion and champion’s mentality, will not go down in the all time top 100 slam finals list, but the tournament, as a whole, will likely go down in history as one of the greatest slams of recent times. 

Casual fans, or one off viewers of the 2018 Wimbledon final, had they just watched that one match of the total 127 played in the men’s draw, may have switched off mid second set, if not earlier considering the ease with which Novak Djokovic was predicted to win and how early in the match those predictions seemed to have been prudently cast, Those viewers may have then decided never again to set eyes on a Wimbledon final.

For those viewers new, or relatively so, to tennis who watched the championship match until the bittersweet end, (the bitter the overall quality of the contest, the sweet Anderson’s rallying end and Djokovic’s comeback sealed),, they may have decided to not skip next year’s entirely, to perhaps, instead, just tune in at around 3:30pm, in time for the start of the third.

That is not how it works for the well slam versed tennis fans, though. There’s no giving up when the parts of a slam get a little shaky for us. Too often we have seen ‘dud’ finals and sat through them to the bitter end, but had the edge of our brief disappointment taken off by the lingering afterglow of the thrills that came before, our reward enjoying the victor both lift the trophy and live the dream of grand slam glory.

Plenty of thrills came before this year’s final, too. 11 hours 51 minutes of it, in the semis. John Isner and Kevin Anderson going all the way, 26-24 in the fifth, in 6 hours 36 mins; Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic going 5 hours 15 over two days. The last time men’s tennis had such competitive semis was the Australian Open 2017, though the Australian Open 2012 was perhaps the last time a slam’s semis were as comparably outstanding, when Nadal defeated Federer in four and Djokovic defeated Murray in five. This slam semis day may not have had the overall gravity of that Melbourne pair, depth wise, but it bested it for Will they-won’t they (hold serve, finally break, collapse, beat the all time slam length record) drama and How on earth do they do that? gasps, let alone surpassing that Ozzie duet for post match subject matter, both semis sparking debates ranging from the somewhat mundane now hotly contested in and outs of sporting event’s contracts with local authorities regarding closing time all the way to the more complex reform of long held conditions of the game (tiebreak in fifth sets at SW19 in 2019 anyone?).

The call to bring in fifth set tiebreaks was part knee jerk reaction, part sound reasoning, and the record breaking semis were, at least, partly to blame for the lack of intensity in the first two sets of the final. Such intensity was needed if the match was going to end the tournament on a high. Anderson needed to be pumped from the first ball, while Djokovic could afford to be calm, this being his 22nd slam final to Anderson’s 2nd, the Serbian having earned the right to wait to go up a gear or two until Anderson bought it to him, and/or until the 12th seeded Serbian got closer to the finishing line of sets and the match, whichever came first. Anderson, though,  could not bring any such intensity. The second time slam finalist , with two appearances on his resume for the past 12 months, was, after that grueling semi-final, dead on arrival, and Djokovic, who had not seen a slam final Sunday in over two years, took his cue to come back to life.

Djokovic had resurrected himself, somewha,t already in the semis versus Nadal, showing us he could beat one of his great rivals on the slam stage again and it was his biggest win since beating Murray in the 2016 Roland Garros final. That Nadal semi win was the win of Djokovic’s comeback from injury. Nadal was playing close to some of his best grass court tennis, but Djokovic stayed with him deep into the fifth, the indoor conditions too good a sign his time had once again come, and that, added to the 12th seed just needing the win that little bit more, that potion of luck and desire, in a game of small margins, made the difference.

There is back, however, and then there is back, and Djokovic could not be said to have returned to his old self until he was winning Slams again, so the Wimbledon final victory proved to be the final nail in the comeback, the achievement, after two years of sitting on the slam final sidelines, at times relegated to the back benches, losing the big ones he did play, but more often not even putting himself into a position to contest them.

Anderson, meanwhile, had just played the two matches of his 11 year career back to back and a third one, the Wimbledon championship match, while potentially poetically his, was, in the record book scheme of things, with Djokovic across the net, most likely one match too far.

For the South African, the most significant of those two career wins was versus Isner, the most remarkable versus Federer. That last eight match in which Anderson saved a match point and came back from two sets to love down to defeat the defending champion in a season the Swiss was partly ranked No.1 and which he had, after Indian Wells, structured with a view to winning an 8th title in SW19 was quite the shock even in as upset ridden a tournament as Wimbledon ’18. That match was an upset to remember for neutrals, and, a match, which, when paired with the five set Nadal win over del Potro, made the quarters one to remember. The tournament needed it, too, after a less than stellar round of 16 in which none of the matches went to five, and half were over in straights, a Monday more sedate than manic. The last sixteen, however, had been led into by the drama of Gulbis Vs Zverev and  Khachanov Vs Tiafoe in round 3, the shocking collapse of a seemingly strident Cilic to Guido Pella in round 2, Fritz’s remarkable composure for two sets versus Zverev in that same round, and the score of competitive contests in the first couple of rounds of the Championships.

That’s how slams roll, though. Ups and downs all the way, and you never really know what you are going to get- Nadal Vs Anderson in the US Open ’17 or Coria Vs Gaudio in the French Open ’04 final to name two ends of a wondrous and at times woeful spectrum. Seeing where a slam final lands or crashes on that spectrum is why those fans who suffered this year’s Wimbledon finale will sit through every slam final, to see if Anderson’s late rally in the third could be that Gaudio moment.

And who would have wanted to miss that?

Not those who had been following the 126 prior matches this Wimbledon, and who knew the narrative so far. Nor even those who anticipated the final was more coda than climax, but had their minds open to the idea that the match, once in motion, could change direction any ball before game, set, and match was called. After sitting through two semis as torturous for one proponent of one style as they were beautiful the other, and an indulgence for lovers of both, those fans had seen the protagonists develop over the fortnight, had anticipated where the arcs would curve, knew how gracefully Anderson had taken his semi-final victory, how much the journey meant to him, and they also knew how, after two tumultuous years, Djokovic really was Grand-Slam-Winning-Grass-eatingly back. Those fans knew that the record books would show that Djokovic won his 13th slam and Anderson went 0-2 in finals, but they also knew that was not the whole story. That whole story was told in the matches before, in the interviews, the reports and the forums. A story more than the sum of its parts. A story, whatever the score, well worth watching all the way to the end.

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