I’ll be the first to admit, with the Red Sox starting off their season (poorly, I might add), the Celtics looking poised to make a deep run in the playoffs, and the Bruins starting the defense of their Stanley Cup title, tennis news has not exactly been on the forefront of my mind recently. Luckily for you, I can scour the net for good articles better than any other. Here are the fruits of my labor:
Ok, as always, I think it’s important to go back and review how I did with my Davis Cup picks. For those that don’t trust me to divulge the truth about my original picks last week, either scroll down a few posts or click here.
USA vs. France – I picked France to win 3-2, and fortunately, I was wrong. I don’t think I was selling Isner short by predicting a close loss to Tsonga, but at the same time I don’t think I accounted for just how far Isner has come over the past few months. The bottom line is this – he should be mentioned with the other top guys (outside of the “Big 4″) as players capable of doing significant damage, on a regular basis, at the big events…much like Tsonga. Win or lose against Spain in September, what Big John has accomplished to date in the 2012 Davis Cup Tournament should go down in history as one of the most memorable runs in recent history for Team USA. One last note, lets give 1st timer Ryan Harrison a bit of credit as well for battling a bit in the opening rubber and taking a set off Tsonga. And oh yeah, the Bryans win again…and my taxes are due next week.
Big John gets it done again!
Austria vs. Spain – I picked Spain to win 4-1, and that’s exactly what they did. Honestly, Austria never had a chance in this tie. Spain just rolls way too deep, as exemplified by Team Austria’s failure to win a single set in any of the four singles rubbers. It’s impossible to tell who will play for Spain (or USA, for that matter) in the semifinals all the way in September, but with all their depth, and home court advantage, Team USA will certainly have their hands full.
Czech Republic vs. Serbia – I was close on this one, as I expected the Czech Team to win, I just figured it would be 3-2 as opposed to 4-1. You really have to give the MVP of this Tie to Tomas Berdych, who absolutely dismantled Troicki in the opening rubber to get the ball rolling for CR. Then, with the Tie knotted up at 1-1 after a thrilling five-set battle that saw Tipsarevic edging out Stepanek, Berdych carried his exhausted teammate to a doubles victory Saturday, before taking three straight tiebreakers in the opening rubber Sunday over Tipsarevic to seal the win. The combination of Stepanek and Berdych might not excite you the way a couple of Spanish players might, but these guys give the Czechs a solid chance going forward.
Croatia vs. Argentina – Ok, let’s get one thing straight first – I nailed this match, picked Argentina 4-1 and that was the exact result. Instead of lauding myself for being really, really smart, I’m going to focus for a couple of sentences on the 5+ hour battle between Nalbandian & Cilic that opened this Tie up. Yes, it was dramatic; yes, it was exciting; BUT, it was also awful. I don’t care that this match was played on slow, red clay…for two guys as accomplished and talented as they are, to hit a combined 241 unforced errors is mind-boggling. I mean, read that number again, it’s STAGGERING. Couple that with a total of 83 winners (3:1 ratio) and I am quite happy I only followed that match online, and was not actually subjected to watching it.
Let’s face it, despite a very exciting weekend of tennis ahead of us, more people will be watching the Masters, including myself. Why? Well, because I STILL don’t get The Tennis Channel, but I do get CBS. So, whatever you decide to watch this weekend, enjoy it, and here are some links to get you through.
For those of you who don’t like to read, I’ll redirect you to a podcast I did this week on the Davis Cup with Tennis Connected. I’d also tell you to read on, because the insight I’m going to provide below is second to none. Or not, but either way please read.
Team USA will have their hands full this weekend
France vs. USA (France, Outdoor Clay) – When Team USA upset Switzerland back in February, they were short a Bryan brother. This weekend, they will be short Mardy Fish. In February, Team USA was able to overcome it, this weekend I fear they will not have the same success. Tsonga gets things going against Ryan Harrison on Friday, followed by Simon and Isner. I could definitely see Isner winning, but give Harrison very little chance. Then let’s assume the Bryan Bros win the doubles (though, we should note that the last time they lost was to Llodra some years back), which will give Team USA a 2-1 advantage heading to Sunday. The 4th rubber is Isner vs. Tsonga, and the Tie will be capped with Harrison against Simon. Again, I can’t see Harrison beating the 13th ranked player in the world, on clay, in France with the tie on the line. So, it will come down to Isner and Tsonga. I love the way Isner has been playing and would really call this a toss up, so I have to give it to the higher ranked player in front of his home crowd. France, 3-2.
Spain vs. Austria (Spain, Outdoor Clay) – Once again Rafael Nadal will not compete for Spain, and once again they should have no trouble advancing. They are just too deep with the likes of Almagro & Ferrer playing singles, and half of the winning BNP Paribas Open doubles champs in Marc Lopez playing doubles. Jurgen Melzer of Austria is certainly no slouch, and I can see him pulling off an upset in singles. However, I certainly can’t see him winning both matches on Spanish turf, and a doubles upset as well. I’ll go with Spain, 4-1.
Czech Republic vs. Serbia (Czech Republic, Indoor Clay) – Without Djokovic in the mix, this might be the most intriguing of the four match ups. Look at the singles players – Berdych (ranked 7th) & Stepanek (24th) for CR, and Tipsarevic (8th) & Troicki (27th) for Serbia. Nenad Zimonjic is far and away the most accomplished doubles player of the group, and gives Serbia a slight edge there; but the top doubles players are rarely the same without their typical partner. Add this all up and I really have no idea who to pick. That being said, if it comes down to the 5th rubber (Stepanek vs. Troicki), I have to give a slight edge to the Czech Republic. Between the home crowd behind him and the fact that Stepanek is pretty much a robot, I like him to win a tight one against Troicki. Czech Republic, 3-2.
Argentina vs. Croatia (Argentina, Outdoor Clay) – On paper this looks like it should be a blowout for Argentina. Nalbandian is playing like it’s 2004, and del Potro is, well he is a kind of a beast. The Croats feature Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic, neither of whom inspire much confidence. ‘Dr. Ivo’ seems to be in the twilight of what has been a solid, and at times, slightly spectacular career. Cilic is ranked 23rd in the world, but is only 1-3 in 2012. So, really, it seems that Argentina has the advantage all around; not to mention that should they need a sub in a pinch, they can turn to Juan Monaco who is coming off a semifinal showing down in Miami. I know what you are all thinking – it seems like I’m building up towards some kind of “Argentina should destroy them…but…” However, there is no ‘but’ coming. Argentina, 4-1.
As we head into the final weekend of ‘March Madness’ for tennis, it’s easy to forget all that’s gone down at just two events. Lots of ups and downs for lots of players – John Isner made a run to the singles & doubles finals at the BNP Paribas Open only to flame out early down in Key Biscayne; Roger Federer won BNP, then lost to his first player ranked outside the top 20 in a VERY long time; that player, Andy Roddick, had a tough loss at Indian Wells, beat Federer, then got crushed by Juan Monaco; the Williams sisters made some good runs in Miami, but then people were surprised at their losses as well. Though, I would say, that neither of the Williams has played in a long time, and the fact that we are still surprised any time they lose says more about our expectations than anything else. Once this weekend passes, we’ve got the next round of Davis Cup then time to start paying attention to the European Clay-Court season. For now, here are some links on what’s been happening down in Key Biscayne:
I realize that this time of year people are enamored with their NCAA Brackets, Spring Training, Tim Tebow, etc etc…but this really might be the best month for tennis. The 5th & 6th biggest events in the world – BNP Paribas & Sony Ericsson Opens – occur back to back, on American soil, and even get (some) coverage by ESPN. By and large, every top player on both the ATP & WTA Tours compete, and going far at both events takes just as much, if not more, physical and mental stamina than making a deep run at a Grand Slam does. Keep your TV’s tuned to the Tennis Channel, ESPN, and whoever else might be covering all the action down in Miami. For now, here are some links to keep you entertained.
Lots of these types of articles out there this week…here is Greb Garber on that guy who can’t win anymore, Roger Federer (please tell me you could sense my sarcasm).
This has to be the best tournament going. The grounds at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden get better and better every year with more restaurant choices, shopping, and most importantly new watering holes (aka – bars). The weather, minus some intense wind earlier in the week, is outstanding. And everyone just seems so relaxed out here at the BNP Paribas Open. That being said, I’m going to leave my hotel room now and go enjoy it…but not before leaving you with some links.
And I’ll be there for the entire BNP Paribas Open. Can’t freakin’ wait! I’ll be doing as much blogging & tweeting as possible, so be sure to keep checking back during the tournament. Until then, wish me safe travels (I have to fly out of Vermont & through Chicago, so I’m sure I won’t make it on time), and enjoy the following links!
These probably aren't the headlines Marko had in mind...
First off, I should let you know that I don’t know the answer to the above question. If I did, that would make me a psychic & I probably would be on tv or something like that. However, I think at this time it is safe to assume Roddick is done as a consistent top 10 player. His baseline or net game was never amongst the upper echelon of Men’s tennis, and his serve has now fallen back as well. He is 2-3 on the year so far, with losses coming against three players ranked outside the top 60, and no marquee wins on his resume either. Of course, when you are losing
Too much of this look from Roddick lately...can he turn it around?
to the likes of Xavier Malisse in the first round in Memphis, you don’t really give yourself a shot at marquee wins. That being said…I am certainly rooting for a final push from Roddick (and Blake, for that matter). If he can rediscover some of his service magic, it will breed confidence, which is really vital at the professional level. Is he going to win another major, or even a master’s event again? No, probably not. That isn’t what I’m after though…I just want him to be relevant again.