When Alexandr Dolgopolov burst onto the ATP, I quickly realized I had a new favorite player. His happy-go-lucky attitude paired with his flashy game sealed the deal for me! I will mention that it hasn’t always been an easy road being on the Team Dolgo fanwagon. Convincing other tennis fans about his talent and potential to be in the top 10 on the ATP has always been a task. While staying a loyal fan through heartbreaking losses, injuries, and low percentage tennis hasn’t always been easy, Alex has remained my favorite through it all. My friends and colleagues at Tennis Warehouse have had to put up with my Dolgo chatter since they met me, and especially during this year’s BNP Paribas Open, so check out the reasons why this talented, bouncy Ukrainian is number one in my book…and hopefully climbing the rankings to make the top ten very soon.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready for tennis season to be back in full force! I am counting down the days until the Australian Open! But until then, let’s discuss some player/coach relationships as it seems like lately there has been an influx of new relationships being formed.
It’s not new to see former pros on the coaching end of things, but it seems like lately, all of our favorite players from the past have made their way back to the circuit via coaching. Brad Gilbert has worked with the best of them — everyone from Agassi, Roddick, Andy Murray to Nishikori and even Sam Querrey. Some of those relationships blossomed in chemistry, and some were duds. In 2013, we saw Sharapova hire, and quickly fire, Jimmy Connors — but let’s be honest, there wasn’t enough room on the court for those two superstars. Then there was Martina Hingis’ stint in coaching Anastasia Pavlyuchnkova…until Martina realized how much she missed the limelight and competition.
So, who do we have paired up in 2014?
We’re off and running in the TW Friday Doubles League with two more matches just completed last Friday afternoon. In the first match, Team Johnson & O’Leary (Andy/Spencer) and Team Leftovers (Troy/Mark) went back and forth early on, with long deuce games. After a tough hold by Troy to get the match to 3-4, Andy and Spencer won 11 of the next 12 points to help them secure an 8-3 victory. (Click here for some video footage of last week’s matches!)
In the second match, Team Blonde (Michelle/Brittany) came out with an excellent gameplan and executed to perfection against Team Air Cooled (Granville/Chris). The girls jumped out to an early lead, held off a fierce comeback attempt, and finished strong for an 8-3 victory.
“Since we have played them several times before we knew what to expect – serve and volley, solid volleys, and lots of slice,” Brittany said following the match. ”We wanted to play consistent, smart tennis and then when we had the opportunity to be aggressive to take advantage of that. We were aiming for a high percentage of first serves and returns to start the point, then solid groundstrokes with a lot of shots down the middle. Lastly, we were ready to hit one more volley than we were used to because both of them have great hands.”
We are back!
I have a special blog on the newest member of our TW Playtesting Team, Michelle Heidbrink! Michelle played college tennis at the University of New Mexico and followed that up with an Assistant Coaching position there. Michelle is currently an Assistant Web Editor here at Tennis Warehouse. She has just started playtesting racquets, strings, and shoes so keep an eye out for her on reviews. You can find her first video appearance in our LoveMatch video. Check out her interview below.
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis when I was 5. My parents had just bought a weekend condo in Palm Springs and decided to take up tennis, so they got an hour lesson with the local pro, they took the first 30 minutes, while I got the second half of the lesson. The rest is history! I started tournaments at age 8 and have loved it ever since!
There’s little intro needed for this year’s US Open. On the men’s side, we’ve had three different Grand Slam winners to start the year for the first time since 2005. Can Andy Murray join the game’s elite as a Grand Slam champion? Will we see another unexpected run to the title like Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009? Can Novak Djokovic regain his form from last season? Will Roger Federer earn himself his 18th Grand Slam title and further strengthen his claim as the game’s best? All of these questions are going to be answered in the next couple weeks in the Big Apple. I hope you’re as excited as we are for the US Open to start!
With all these great storylines and great players gunning for the title, it’s easy to overlook the great action that’s going to start the tournament in the first couple rounds. True tennis fans say that some of the most exciting tennis to watch of the whole tournament is on the outside courts during the first week. Many tennis enthusiasts purchase a grounds pass for the early rounds instead of forking out the greenbacks for a premium seat on one of the stadium courts, where they see some lower ranked guys battle their hearts out for precious rankings points and prize money. Let’s take a look at some early round matches to keep an eye on, as well as some predictions for the rest of the tournament…
1st Round Upset Special:
Nicolas Almagro (11) vs. Radek Stepanek: I like Almagro, especially because he’s consistently a tough competitor, week in and week out. However, I see this as a tricky matchup for the feisty Spaniard. Stepanek makes his living coming forward to the net and giving big hitters little rhythm, carving them up and chopping them down. Almagro‘s even been a victim in the past, as Stepanek has beaten him both times they’ve played. Grab the popcorn and watch this one, as Almagro will scratch and claw but ultimately will get frustrated by Radek’s aggressive play…Stepanek in 4.
1st Round To Watch:
Juan Martin Del Potro (7) vs. David Nalbandian: It’s an all-Argentine matchup between two great baseliners. Del Potro looks to be finding his form of late, earning himself a bronze medal at the Olympics after taking down Djokovic and pushing Roger to the brink in the semis. Nalbandian is always a threat on the hard courts, and is 3-1 all-time against Del Po. Look for some hard hitting action, with Del Potro coming out on top…Del Potro in 4.
Potential 2nd Round Matchups To Watch:
Mardy Fish (23) vs. Nikolay Davydenko: This is just too intriguing of a matchup to pass up. Mardy usually plays well during the summer hard court season, but has been pretty average so far this year. Davydenko had two easy wins of Dolgopolov and Mayer (both top 25) last week in Cincinnati, but then retired to Djokovic after dropping the first set 6-0. This match is more about the unknown, about which Nikolay and Mardy we are going to see. I think this match goes the distance, and Mardy rides the wave of the New York crowd to victory…Fish in 5.
Alexandr Dolgopolov (14) vs. Marcos Baghdatis: I want to watch this one just for the personalities, as two of the most likable players on tour potentially face off (check out this funny glimpse into the life of Alexandr at the Australian Open). These are two of my favorite players on tour, both in their game styles and personalities. Dolgopolov won a title in Washington DC, but since then has had two bad first round losses in Toronto and Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of form both these guys are in…I say Dolgopolov in 3.
Dark Horse: John Isner (9)
Big John once again has turned in a solid performance during the US summer hard court season. He’s 18-3 since his first round exit at Wimbledon, with three top 10 wins (Tipsarevic, Tsonga, and Berdych) and two titles in Newport and Winston-Salem. I think he’s poised for a breakout at the Open, with a favorable draw and the New York crowd ready to support him the whole way. A couple other interesting stats for the ex-Georgia Bulldog…he’s leading the tour in aces this year with over 750, and he’s 6-2 against the top 10 this year, including wins over Djokovic in Indian Wells and Federer in Davis Cup. Look for Isner to make his way through his section, riding the wave of the American crowd into the semifinals.
Finals Prediction: Roger Federer (1) vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (7)
I think it’s going to be a 2009 US Open final rematch! Roger is the best in the world and he’s going to continue to prove it. He’s got a great draw to get to the quarters, and then I think he takes down Murray in the semis in one of the best matches of the tournament. I think Del Potro gets hot and goes on a run. The Del Potro/Djokovic quarterfinal will be the match of the tournament, with Del Po prevailing in 5 sets, and then riding that wave of momentum to his second career Grand Slam final. Once they both get there, I’m going to say…Roger in 4!
Thanks for reading!