2012 US Open Preview

I love the US Open for a plethora of reasons, ranging from all the exciting tennis action to the Heineken Red Star Cafe. However, what I love most is that despite a few big tournaments in the fall, this really feels like the Grand Finale of the tennis year. There are lots of loose ends out there, and lots of players will be looking to tie them up during the two weeks in New York City. Let’s discuss a few here:

Image from greattennisphotos.blogspot.com

Can Andy Murray build on his Olympic Gold & finally win a Grand Slam? Short answer = yes. Long answer = it really depends on his draw. If he can make it through to the semifinals with some relative ease, I think he would have a chance of beating both Djokovic & Federer in back to back matches (the most likely scenario for anyone not named Novak or Roger). Murray proved at the Olympics that he can win on ALMOST the biggest stage, but not quite the biggest. Yet.

Is Roger Federer going to relapse a bit after recapturing the Wimbledon title & #1 ranking? I know it sounds like a bit of an odd question, but he is 31, has cemented himself (in many circles, anyway) as the greatest player ever, and between winning Wimbledon and Olympic silver, has had a pretty grueling summer. Basically, he has now proven EVERYTHING he needed to prove. Would it surprise anyone if he took a step back?

Are any of the younger top ranked females (Azarenka, Radwanska, Kvitova, etc) ready to take over Women’s tennis? Or is Serena Williams still too dominant? I guess I should probably throw Maria Sharapova in with Serena, but the top ranked American is on another planet right now. This question will be answered by one person only, and that is Ms. Williams. The bottom line is it really seems like none of the other women are good enough yet (and lots of it seems to be mental) to beat Serena IF she decides she wants to win. While that has been a question at times over the past few years, it hasn’t been one lately.

What does Nadal’s absence mean for the tournament? We won’t know until the draw comes out who it will affect more, but either Federer or Djokovic will end up extremely happy. One of them will have Murray in his half, and the other one will have the player I’ve named ‘Someone that is not Rafael Nadal.’

Is Del Potro ready to compete for a Grand Slam again? Yes. Oh, you want me to elaborate some? Ok…once he came back from injury it’s always looked like he had the physical skills to compete with the top men, but mentally he seemed a bit defeated. I sincerely believe the Bronze medal finish at the Olympics will give him the confidence he needs going forward.

Will Caroline Wozniacki FINALLY win a slam? Will she ever? I’m almost 100% certain she will not win the 2012 US Open. As for ‘ever,’ that answer is a little different. I know she is struggling, I know the history of former #1′s falling off the map recently to varying degrees, (Ivanovic, Safina, Jankovic), and I know her confidence is somewhat shot. But I also know that no one else in the top 10 seems to have staying power anyway, and ‘Caro’ is young enough at 22 where she still has time to climb her way back into the thick of things.

Finally, we know he is still one of the best players in the world, but what’s up with Novak? Personally, I think he is struggling mentally with the fact that he hasn’t been able to duplicate his 2011. I think it eats away at him at he is second fiddle to Federer, and to a certain extent even Murray. I think he needs something to get his mojo back…something like an epic night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium…with the slightly raucous NYC crowd cheering him on…

2012 Olympics Recap

Even for Federer fans it was hard not to feel for Del Potro...

Enough happened over the last week+ of Olympic Tennis that I could spend the next week writing all about it. So I debated this morning whether I should touch on just two or three topics in this space in a more complete manner, or touch on a number of subjects. I chose to do the latter, because, well, it’s more fun that way!

- Serena Williams is as dominant now as she was in her prime. This is kind of hard to fathom, given the litany of off the court issues she has dealt with the last few years, but her ability to decimate the field when she is playing well has to lift her career up there with the all time greats. Perhaps this is a bit of an indictment on the top WTA Players in today’s game that she can still dominate, but just imagine the damage the 2002-2004 edition of Serena would be able to inflict today?

- While I am incredibly happy for Andy Murray, am I the only one out there who thinks his stunning defeat of Roger Federer for the Gold Medal (stunning in the manner, not necessarily the win) will only serve to increase pressure at future Grand Slams? By going through both Djokovic and Federer this weekend, Murray has proven he can beat the best on ALMOST the biggest stage, but when the US Open starts in a few weeks (or if has yet to win one before Wimbledon next year), the prevailing question will be – can he beat the best on THE biggest stage.

- There are five tennis events. Team USA won Gold in three of them (Men’s Doubles, Women’s Singles & Doubles), and Bronze in another (Mixed Doubles). I am not here to proclaim that tennis in the United States is as good as it was on the days when the likes of McEnroe, Sampras, Evert or Agassi patrolled the court; but at present, it is doing just fine. People love to point to our lack of power at the top of Men’s Tennis as a barometer all the time, and as I pointed out on facebook this morning, we are as well represented at Grand Slams as top European countries like France & Spain (USA has 10 players in the top 100, Spain 11, and France 9).

- As wonderful as Gold Medal moments are to watch, I found myself to be most emotional when Juan Martin Del Potro defeated Novak Djokovic for the Bronze Medal. While the big Argentine did not set out to finish in 3rd place, it still must have felt amazing to win after losing such an mentally & physically draining match against Roger Federer less than 48 hours beforehand. Since returning from major injury, Del Potro has been looking to regain the form that had him winning the 2009 US Open – I think he has served notice that he is once again a MAJOR threat.

- Novak Djokovic is struggling. I guess after such a dominant 2011 it is no surprise that Djokovic would come down a level. However, I don’t think anyone would argue that he has come down more than just one level. Bottom line is that the chances of him every dominating the sport like he did for the first nine months last year are almost nil, and I think if he accepts that he can work on getting a bit of his swagger back.

- Finally, let’s give a shout out to Team USA Doubles! Bob & Mike Bryan had accomplished pretty much everything a doubles team could accomplish – short of winning Olympic Gold. With their dominating performance at the Olympic Games they have now achieved a Golden Slam (all four Grand Slam Titles & Olympic Gold), and moreover showed they aren’t going away anytime soon. And regarding the Williams Sisters, does anyone else get the feeling that if the two of them had focused on just doubles like the Bryans, they could very well be undefeated?

- Overall it was a terrific showcase for tennis. While the pink/purple motif at the All England Lawn & Tennis Club was a bit tough to get used to, I thought the organizers did a tremendous job of blending the history of the grounds with the modern Olympic spin and turned it into an amazing event.

 

 

 

 

Tennis Links: 2012 Olympic Edition

Federer has Olympic Gold, but not in Singles...yet.

Is anyone else excited to see how the tennis plays out at the Olympics this year, at Wimbledon, only it won’t look anything like Wimbledon? Ok, well maybe it still looks plenty like Wimbledon, only more…pink. Enjoy the following articles everyone!

Good round up of the past couple weeks in the tennis world for those that took a vacation after Wimbledon.

How to run a successful tournament even with the Olympics going on.

The story behind Bartoli, her father, and missing the Olympics.

Peter Bodo on Nadal’s withdrawal. And Howard Bryant on the challenges ahead.

ESPN Power Rankings.

Bruce Jenkins goes over Team USA Tennis. Even goes so far as to say Roddick could medal!

Latest Wertheim Mailbag. Always worth a read.

Terrific debate on tennis being part of the Olympics.

Finally, Johnny Mac, Agassi & Courier discuss the Olympics!

Friday Links: Hall of Fame Edition

This weekend, down in Newport RI, Jennifer Capriati & Gustavo Kuerten will headline the group being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In honor of these two amazing tennis players, we’ll lead off this week with a couple of their highlights!

Old School SI Cover!

There were few who expected a 16 year old to win the Gold Medal against Stefi Graf, but Capriati did just that at the 1992 Olympics!

Everyone’s favorite Guga moment!

Terrific Bonnie Ford piece on Serena and her Gold Medal goal.

The US Open raises early round prize money (just like Roland Garros & Wimbledon), on the advice of the Big 4. As if we needed more reasons to praise them.

Rick Reilly compares Federer & Tiger.

Jon Wertheim tackles Serena & other topics in his first post-Wimbledon mailbag.

CNN/SI report card for Wimbledon.

Some awesome Wimbledon photos from the past 40 years.

Interview with Milos Raonic – who has not quite broken through yet, but is certainly on the verge…

I want Peter Bodo to write my autobiography one day…here is his piece on a “career defining” win from Federer.

And finally, one more slideshow. This one of all Wimbledon 2012 from Tennis.com.

 

2012 Wimbledon Review

I haven't jumped that high in...ever.

Let’s start with my age – 30. At the age of 30 I feel old in countless ways: I can no longer play tennis for any more than an hour without feeling it the next morning, no matter what time I go to bed I don’t sleep past 8am, I actually want to mow a lawn (that is, if I had one), I can’t have more than 3 alcoholic beverages without feeling their effects the next morning, etc, etc, etc. Meanwhile, in some parallel world (or, more simply, another country), Serena Williams & Roger Federer are winning Grand Slam tournaments at the same age! I don’t know whether to rejoice in the fact that, as I’ve been told countless times, life does indeed not end at 30; or get even more depressed at the gap in talent/stamina/athleticism/fill in the blank between myself and my fellow thirtysomethings. But enough about me…

Say what you want about Serena William’s attitude, her negative actions both on and off the court, whatever. For a few minutes, simply focus on her tennis game. To come all the way back from a serious medical condition and win Wimbledon for a 5th time (not to mention her 5th doubles title with her sister) is astounding. You will hear lots of people say that her winning is more evidence that the WTA is in dire straits right now, because if a seemingly out of shape Serena can take the Wimbledon Championships than no one at the top really deserves to be there. This is not the case. Azarenka played like a champion against Serena, Radwanska (save for the opening few games) would’ve beaten almost anyone else in Women’s tennis that day. The bottom line is when Serena is on, and when she is serving like Pete Sampras, I’m not sure that anyone in the history of the WTA could beat her. She might not be your favorite, she might actually be the exact opposite, but no matter what – she is the best. Kudos on your amazing fortnight, Serena.

I want to give Roger his own space here, so a quick word about the runner up. Andy Murray did not lose the finals, he simply got beat. He played like a top 4 player in the world, and lost to the guy who is now #1 in the world, and the greatest champion of this generation. Add on top of that he has the pressure of an entire nation on his shoulders (that is not an overstatement, if you believe it is then I urge you to go to London during Wimbledon next year), and I’d say he comprised himself in amazing fashion. And if your eyes didn’t get misty during his post match interview, you don’t have a soul.

As for Mr. Federer, the man just tied Pete Sampras for most Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championships (7) of all time, and in a week’s time will pass Pistol Pete for most weeks ranked #1. Does anything more need to be said? Probably not, but I’ll say it anyway. For me, Federer’s greatness is not measured in a single statistic – though the number of Grand Slam titles, or consecutive quarterfinal streak, or weeks at #1, etc. – but rather the body of work as a whole. Yes, I know he has a terrible win-loss record against Nadal…but consider that for Nadal to equal Federer’s quarterfinal streak (which now stands at 33), Nadal would have to make it that far in every Grand Slam he plays from now until the 2020 US Open. That is, of course, assuming Federer loses before the QF at this year’s US Open. Ha. Or how about that Federer is assured 287 weeks at #1, almost 6x as much as Djokovic and almost triple Nadal’s total. That gap will most likely tighten over the next couple of years, but it’s still staggering. And while there is a solid chance the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, or even Murray might challenge for the odd slam in 2017 (when they are all approximately Federer’s age now), I’ll let Milos Raonic have a free serve at my butt if any of them are consistently playing the final weekends of Grand Slams like Federer is now. At the age of 30, Federer is now ranked higher than other dominant players in his era who are in their primes…while there is no telling the future, I would be shocked of the same will be said of Nadal & Djokovic in five year’s time. Hell, for all we know, Federer will still be ranked #1 in 2017!

In summation, Serena and Roger and pretty damned good at tennis, and I feel privileged to be able to still watch them…even if my eyes are starting to go in my old age.

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

2012 Wimbledon Preview

Though still fresh off some Parisian jet lag, we are super excited to be in London for Wimbledon with over 150 happy GSTT Patrons! On top of dinner parties, tennis academies, and an exclusive hospitality house, they are sure to see some amazing tennis as well. Over here in Wimbledon Village, there is obviously lots of talk about Andy Murray. Will he finally break through and capture a Grand Slam? Methinks that on top of the “Big 3” being in his way, the pressure for him to win at Wimbledon is simply too great. Now that Djokovic & Nadal have met in four consecutive Slam finals, it’s nearly impossible to pick against the same thing from happening again. That being said, Federer is still an obvious threat, and if it stays dry & quick big hitters like Berdych, Tsonga, Raonic, and Del Potro all have the potential to make waves. Also, look for the following players to create a headline or two, even if they fall short of the final 8 – Isner, Seppi, Cilic & Tomic.

Who will hoist this after the fortnight?

As for the Women, there are definitely quite a few names in the mix…but they’ll all have to get through Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova. Despite Serena’s awful result at Roland Garros, she is a four-time champion at the All England Club and won back to back titles just a couple of years ago. And while Sharapova faces the daunting task of winning Roland Garros & Wimbledon in the same year, if anyone is equipped to do it, she is. She has always been a stronger grass court player and with other top women playing so inconsistent lately, it would not surprise anyone to see her hoisting a 2nd straight slam trophy. The other women ranked in the top 5 (Azarenka, Kvitova, Radwanska & Stosur) all have a solid shot of making it to the final weekend as well. A bit deeper into the rankings, look out for Kerber, Lisicki, and someone whose last name ends in ‘Ova’ to also make a splash!

Here are what some others have to say!

ESPN Picks

Greg Garber

Sports Illustrated Picks

Peter Bodo

Steve Tignor

 

 

Friday Links: Jet Lagged Edition

So I finally have a minute to breathe between the end of Roland Garros and getting ready for Wimbledon, and I thought I’d stop by here since it’s been awhile. The French Open was certainly a blast, and full of amazing tennis – even though the two people holding the Championship Trophies at the end were anything but surprises. Nadal won a Grand Slam in just about as domination fashion as one could imagine, and Sharapova cemented her comeback into the top echelon of the sport with her win. Going into Wimbledon, it would not surprise me in the least if both prevailed again. What did surprise me in Paris? Let’s see: Isner exiting early (although Mathieu winning was definitely a feel good story), Serena losing in the 1st Round, other American women going 10-0 in the first round, Andy Roddick not making a deeper run (kidding, obviously), Federer not taking at least a set from Djokovic, and I think my two favorite stories were two guys on the opposite ends of their careers (Tommy Haas & David Goffin) winning multiple matches. What do other people have to say about Roland Garros & more? Read below.

Thumbs Up for these two!

Peter Bodo gives some Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down for Paris.

The mighty trio have won 28 of the past 29 Grand Slams…one will probably win the next as well.

Sharapova is all jazzed up about being #1 again. The question is, will it last?

Djokovic coming so close to holding all 4 Slam Titles at once begs this question to be asked.

Greg Garber offers some advice to Serena.

Not one, not two, not three…FIFTY thoughts on Roland Garros from Jon Wertheim. Definitely worth the read…

French Open Grades.

How will Novak recover? That’s just one question Bruce Jenkins answers.

Wertheim also gives us a mailbag this week!

A little break from analysis…here is some Lob instruction.

Finally, an early Wimbledon Video Preview!

Friday Links: Stressed Edition

Ok, so my tennis team has 4 matches in the next 5 days, and on Day 6 I leave for Paris. I’ll do my best to get a Roland Garros preview up before the start of the tournament, but for now deal with people who write better than

Adriano Panatta had some game back in the day...read the story below.

me anyway.

Peter Bodo comparing Madrid & Rome…Note: if you are tired of the blue clay thing avoid this link.

Ivan Ljubicic stirring up some needless controversy.

And more controversy amongst the top 3 women. Fun times.

The math on how Federer can climb back up to #1.

Wertheim thinks Nadal needs to can it every now and then.

Courtney Nguyen’s Madrid Report Card.

Good chance to learn a few quick things about Sloane Stephens.

An interesting look back at Adriano Panatta.

Which tennis stars made the Forbes ‘Most Powerful’ Celebs list?

Peter Bodo on the politics of the ATP.

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

Friday Links: Blue Clay Edition

I love all the hype around the blue clay. This story is making everyone look bad in my opinion. On one side you’ve got tournament organizers, who many are claiming are simply doing to blue clay to stand out (is that such a bad thing?) and make more money. On the other hand are players that win millions of dollars a year for playing a sport complaining that they aren’t used to it. Come on, play. Everyone be quiet. And I’ll watch because I can finally see the ball!

It's so pretty...or is it?

Great piece from ESPN’s Kamakshi Tandon on the fall out for Madrid & Paris losing out on the Olympics.

Some of the aforementioned criticism.

This is one of the more inspiring tennis stories you will read this year. Wertheim weighs in on Brian Baker’s comeback as well.

I am not surprised that Jon Wertheim tackles the blue clay subject in his weekly mailbag.

Serena tackles subjects well outside of tennis on Piers Morgan.

A fun breakdown of which tennis stars could host Saturday Night Live.

Peter Bodo on the current WTA vs. ITF debate.

Can Melanie Oudin still make it all work?

Tennis Connected Podcast featuring…me!

And finally, blue clay is one thing…fluorescent balls though?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

Facebook Q&A, Part I

Tried something new out this week -  letting Facebook fans pose some questions on our page, and answering them here. Only a few people took advantage, but they asked some great questions so I’ll do my best to answer them below.

There are many Spanish & French players in the top 100, & yet only one Brit. Why?

Unfortunately I am not quite tapped into the tennis world enough to answer this question with any certainty, however, my initial thought is lack of resources. Whether or not the UK has the money and is not using it on tennis development, or they don’t have the money to spend in the first place is not something I know. That being said, the countries that put the money in develop more top talent- like France & Spain. Take the US, for example. Lots of us complain that we don’t have the likes of Agassi, Sampras, Connors, etc. anymore. While that is obviously true, that is more due to the fact with how global the game has become. There are still 7 male players from the USA ranked in the top 100, 6 more than the UK…and my guess is there is a pretty strong correlation between money spent on tennis development and top ranked players.

Most of the players I like are ranked 5-20. What tournament in the US would be the best to see them and what round? I’ve thought about Cincinnati or Toronto. (Men btw….)

I can’t answer this question honestly without saying the US Open. Even if you didn’t want to pony up for one of our travel packages, and just get some grounds passes or nosebleed seats, simply attending the US Open is something that should be on every fan’s bucket list. I’d recommend going during the earlier rounds, not only is it a bit cheaper but besides the Big 4, there is no guarantee your favorite is likely to survive the first week. Lots of people see Arthur Ashe Stadium on TV and that’s all they know about the US Open. However, the most fun I’ve had is patrolling the outer courts for some good matches where I can sit a few feet from the action. And yes, players inside the top 20 will play on outer courts, especially during the first few rounds.

When will the WTA put an end to all the “noise”? I’ve been able to watch very little women’s tennis this year (and I’ve been a fan for decades) b/c the grunting is unbearable.

I bet she was grunting...

In a word, never. I’m 30, and have been watching tennis pretty much for the past two decades, which means I started when Monica Seles was lighting up both the courts, and my ears. While fans constantly complain about it, and justifiably so, I might add, and some players voice their annoyance, the bottom line is until a large contingency of players takes a stand I doubt anything will get done. I also think this is a case where we are making just a tad too much of it; often times I find myself watching a women’s match featuring to grunters and it’s barely noticeable, until someone says something about it. If we collectively just start to ignore them, it might become more tolerable. As it stands, it might be our only option.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .