ATP Blog: September (and a wee bit of October) in review

Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese player ever to win the Japan Open last week. Look for the hard-hitting youngster to make a push for the top 10 next year.

The pro tour action is starting to pick back up again after the exciting conclusion to the US Open about a month ago. Let’s take a look at what’s happened on the pro tour over the last month…

-The United States Davis Cup team’s run was halted by Spain in the semifinals of the World Group. The pivotal match came in the second singles match, where Nicolas Almagro outlasted John Isner 6-4 4-6 6-4 3-6 7-5 to give the Spainards a 2-0 lead going into the doubles. Next month, Spain will look to repeat as champions as they take on the Czech Republic in the finals after the Czechs defeated Argentina 3-2 in the other semi.

-Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese player to win the Japan Open, taking down Milos Raonic 7-6 3-6 6-0. Nishikori used the energy from the hometown crowd to beat US Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych along the way, dictating play with his aggressive court positioning and thunderous groundstrokes off both wings.

Novak Djokovic won last week's China Open, dismantling Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the finals.

-Novak Djokovic won his third straight China Open title after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final, 7-6 6-2. It was an even match until Novak just poked his head a bit in front in the first set tiebreak, and then it all began to unravel for the fiery Frenchman.

-The Shanghai Rolex Masters is underway, with 6 of the world’s top 10 players competing for $3.5 million in prize money and 1000 ATP ranking points on the line. Look for a Federer/Murray semifinal matchup if they can both make it through their respective sections of the draw. This will be the first time Roger Federer has played since his quarterfinal exit at the US Open.

Stay tuned for more ATP blogs…thanks for reading!

AG

Andy’s 2012 Men’s US Open Preview

Will Roger win his record 18th major title at this year's US Open?

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 has been streaky this year, but he's won at least 3 rounds at the US Open the last three times he's played.

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.

Can Alexandr Dolgopolov match his round of 16 appearance of 2011?

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.  

Big John is poised for a big run at the US Open

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!

AG

Who’s hot and who’s not on the ATP Tour

It’s been an exciting first half of the 2012 season on the ATP Tour! We’ve seen Roger regain the #1 spot in the world rankings and three different players win majors, which hasn’t happened to start the year since 2005. Anything can happen leading into the Olympics in a couple weeks and with the American hard court season looming. Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not on the ATP Tour leading into summer…

Who's hotter then the #1 ranked player in the world, Roger Federer?!

Who’s Hot??

Roger Federer – Record 287 weeks at #1. He’s just won his record 17th major and record-tying 7th Wimbledon title. He’s compiled a 46-6 record so far in 2012 with 5 titles, with two Masters 1000′s (Indian Wells and Madrid) and a major. Don’t look now, but Roger has returned to the throne at the top of the men’s game, and he’s turning 31 next month. G.O.A.T.? Without a doubt!

Marin Cilic – He’s won 2 titles in 2012 and they have both come in the last month, winning Queen’s Club (Nalbandian’s epic meltdown) and this past week’s clay court event in Umag in his home country of Croatia. After missing the first couple months of the year due to injury, Marin has compiled a 22-10 record (and four of those losses are to Del Potro). His only top 10 win of the year was against Isner in Madrid, but I think the big serving Croatian is gaining confidence and finding his form coming into summer.

Hard-working Croatian Marin Cilic could be finding his form leading into summer

Brian Baker – Is there a better story in tennis right now than this guy? After five surgeries and leaving the game to coach college tennis at hometown Belmont University in Nashville, TN, the smooth-moving American has come back with a bang and exploded into the world’s top 100 rankings. And if you think his recent results are a fluke then you’re heavily mistaken…he was formally number 2 in the world in juniors, and he’s won 32 of his last 38 matches dating back to April. Watch Brian continue his hot play on the American hard courts and reach the top 50 by the end of the year.

 

Who’s Not??

John Isner – After beating Djokovic and reaching the finals in Indian Wells in March, the big serving Georgia Bulldog hasn’t done much in tournament play since the tour moved over to Europe for the clay court season. I know he won Newport this past weekend, but his best win of the week was against fellow American #48 ranked Ryan Harrison, which just so happens to be his highest-ranked win in the last two months. He lost 5 of his 8 matches on the red dirt, which normally is a surface he’s strong on. Hopefully the big man can pick up some momentum in front of the home crowds in the States this summer, because the confidence seems to be lacking a bit in recent weeks.

Big John Isner will hopefully ride the momentum of winning Newport into the American hard court season

Feliciano Lopez – He’s lost 6 of his last 7 matches, including a first round loss at Wimbledon followed by a first round loss at a Challenger event in Colombia against the 213th-ranked player in the world. Not sure what’s going on right now with the big lefty from Madrid, but he’s seen his ranking drop from a career high #15 in April to his current #30 position. We’ll see if he can get out of a tough section of the draw in Gstaad, Switzerland this week and gain some momentum for the coming weeks.

Gael Monfils – He’s been struggling with a knee injury since the beginning of the year, and we haven’t seen him since his loss to Brian Baker in Nice just before the French Open. Given his history of injuries, who knows when we will see the exciting Frenchmen again. He’s got some ranking points to defend from last year’s summer hard court season, so if he doesn’t come back soon he’ll be out of the top 20 for the first time since 2008.

Speedy Frenchmen Gael Monfils has been struggling with knee problems since the beginning of 2012

 

 

Stay tuned for more pro tennis talk as the summer action heat’s up!  Thanks for reading!

Andy G.