Sunday, November 28, 2010

World Tour Finals :: Nadalerer

by Craig Hickman

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Roger Federer of Switzerland walks  off the court with the trophy after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain in  their men's final match during the ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on  November 28, 2010 in London, England.

Roger Federer of Switzerland walks off the court with the trophy after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain in their men's final match during the ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on November 28, 2010 in London, England.

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It will be the first time world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and world No. 2 Roger Federer have contested a match since the Madrid final five months ago.

Both are playing well. Both are struggling with concentration lapses during matches. He who lapses last will lose.

Who you got?

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MadProfessah was a bit late, but he offered up his divinations as follows:

ATP World Tour Finals Semifinals Review and Final Preview



World #1 Rafael Nadal will face World #2 Roger Federer in the final match of the 2010 ATP tennis season at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London today. As MadProfessah predicted on Friday, Federer was able to dismiss World #3 Novak Djokovic in straight sets while World #5 Andy Murray put up a stern challenge to prevent this 22nd meeting in the storied rivalry between the two greatest players of their generation.

Semifinals Review
The two semifinals were thrilling in their own way. Federer demolished the Serb in a 6-1 6-4 match which was not as close as the score reveals. Essentially, Federer won two 6-1 sets but went through "a bad patch" at the beginning of the second set where he lost 3 consecutive games. The Swiss quickly recovered and dispatched Djokovic to continue his preparation for next week's Davis Cup Final matchup versus France in Belgrade.

The Nadal-Murray match was one of the best matches of the year, with the Spaniard (barely) prevailing 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(6). There were some incredible 27 and 36(!) stroke rallies in the first set, with incredibly high quality tennis on both sides of the net. Murray basically lost the first set because after enjoying a hot serving streak for the majority of the set, in the tiebreaker he couldn't buy a first serve. If you can't serve well, it makes it very difficult to win a tiebreaker where every point is effectively a breakpoint. Interestingly the second set was similar to the second set in the Federer-Djokovic match where after basically playing to a draw at 3-all suddenly Nadal went through a bad patch and lost 3 games in a row. (Murray grew more aggressive and was able to break Nadal twice in ten minutes to win the set). In the third set Nadal got the early break and served for the match at 5-4 where, inexplicably, he was broken after holding a match point. Would he be able to prevail in the inevitable tiebreak? It didn't look like it when Murray won the first three points of the tiebreak and led 4-2 on the change over. However, as usual, Nadal did not give up and won the mini-break back to hold a second match point 5-6 on Murray's serve.Murray was able to defend that point with some incredible gets and at 6-6 went for a huge cross-court winner which flew a couple inches wide giving Nadal his third match point on his serve. The World #1 was able to win the match point with his patented inside-out cross-court forehand winner into the far corner of the court to reach the Tour Final for the first time in his storied career.

Finals Preview
This is the 22nd meeting between the 24-year-old 9-time grand slam champion and the 29-year-old 16-time grand slam champion. The younger player enjoys a 14-7 career head-to-head edge; all but 4 of their meetings have been in finals (where Nadal leads 12-5) but at the season-ending championships Federer leads 2-0 (but those wins came when Nadal was usually exhausted at the end of the season). In hard court finals, Nadal leads 2-1 (2009 Australian Open final, 2006 Dubai final). Nadal is also experiencing one of history's greatest seasons ever, having won every clay court match he played this year and winning the last three consecutive grand slam titles with a better than even shot of claiming the "Nadal slam" in Melbourne in a few months.

There are four possibilities for the match result (tabulated below with associated estimated probabilities)

Match Result               Probability
Federer wins in 2 sets 33%
Nadal wins in 2 sets 17%
Federer wins in 3 sets 20%
Nadal wins in 3 sets 30%

This computes to a 53% chance for Federer to win with a 47% chance for Nadal, if there is an equally likelihood of a 2-set and 3-set match. Actually, looking at their 21 previous matches, only 8 of their matches have gone the distance. All that being said, the match should be close and exciting!

MadProfessah's prediction: Federer in 2 sets; Nadal in 3 sets with a distinct edge to whomever wins the first set.

Friday, November 26, 2010

ATP World Tour Finals: Semifinals Preview



The semifinals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are set: Roger Federer will play Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will play Andy Murray. Federer and Nadal are undefeated through the first three round-robin rounds with Nadal only dropping his very first set of the tournament against Andy Roddick, although Djokovic should probably have won the first set in their match. Federer was pretty lucky not to lose the first set against Robin Soderling.

That being said, Nadal has a 8-4 career edge against Murray, a 14-7 lead against Federer and a 15-7 lead against Djokovic. He is, after all, the world's No. 1 player and the current holder of 3 of the 4 major titles, having won 3 in a row in 2010. He has never won this tournament, because he's usually dead tired by this point in the season. He did not play in 2008 and lost all 3 round-robin matches last year. However, it's 2010 and I expect him to at least get to the final, where I suspect he will play Federer in a mouth-watering final. Although Nadal leads the Greatest Of All Time in their overall head-to-head and beat him once this year as well as the last time they met on a hard court (the inexplicable 2009 Australian Open final), their hard court record head-to-head is tied 3-3 with Federer beating Nadal twice in the semifinals of the year-ending championships in 2006 and 2007. However, in Finals one would have to give the edge to Nadal (12-5).

Can Novak and Andy stop another Fedal final? Possibly, since Murray sports a 2-1 lead over Nadal (4-4 career on hard courts) this year, both time winning on hard courts including the last time they played in the semifinals of Toronto (where Murray also beat Federer). His single loss to Nadal came in London earlier this year in the Wimbledon semis. For all intents and purposes that was the equivalent of a Tour final. Murray himself has been lowering expectations about his chances against Nadal (and Federer) in his press conferences this week. However, I think he probably has the best chance of the three of preventing Nadal from winning his first tour championships.

While Nadal faces the person most likely to beat him, Federer plays the person least likely to beat him. (He beat Murray this week in round-robin play but has an overall 5-8 losing record to the Scot.) Djokovic trails Federer 6-12 in their career match-up, including 1-3 for the year. Of course that one win was in the semifinals of the 2010 US Open where Federer held two match points and lost. One does feel if the match is close, Federer will likely lose it. Ever since then, Federer has beaten Novak relatively easily and I expect that will be the case tomorrow.

MadProfessah's predictions: Nadal defeats Murray in 3 sets; Federer defeats Djokovic in 2 sets.

London Round Robin Review

by Craig Hickman

The title of this post is really a misnomer for I don't actually have a review of the round-robin matches to share. Too many of the encounters were straight-set snooze fests featuring uninspired tennis and an abundance of ennui. That's why I'm happy to know that the ATP and the ITF are conspiring to shorten the season by two weeks. I think it's two weeks. I'm sure one of our readers knows better.

The best match London has had to offer prior to the semifinals was Rafael Nadal's defeat of Andy Roddick after trailing a set and a break. Fans of Rafa will likely say he started reading Roddick's serve after being a break down in the second set and wore Roddick out from the baseline. Fans of Roddick will likely say he started disbelieving he could actually defeat a reigning world No. 1 shortly after being up a break in the second set and lost his way.

Now, we'll have Roger Federer wipe up the floor with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, presumably with lots of crowd encouragement, try to exert his hard court prowess over Rafa in the semis.

It's looking like another Nadalerer final, the first to be contested at season's end if I recall correctly.

Either you're excited or you're blasé.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Serena Williams Withdraws From Melbourne

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 19:  Tennis star Serena Williams watches a game  between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Bobcats at American Airlines  Arena on November 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida.
Getty

Tennis star Serena Williams watches a game between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Bobcats at American Airlines Arena on November 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida.

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From Tennis Australia:

Serena Williams today confirmed she has withdrawn from Australian Open 2011.

“As I continue to rehabilitate my foot after the second surgery last month, it is with the utmost regret that I am withdrawing from the Hopman Cup and the 2011 Australian Open Championships,” Serena Williams said today.

“As I recently learned, pushing myself back into my intense training too early only caused me further injury and damage.

“While I desperately want to be back on the court and competing in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, it is imperative for my health that I continue to work with my doctors to ensure my foot heals properly.

“This decision, though heavy on my heart, is the right one. I am praying for a healthy recovery and I promise my Aussie fans and my fans around the world that I will be back better than ever as soon as I can be.”

Williams has been in regular contact with Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley and made her decision after receiving further medical advice.

“I know how disappointing it will be for Serena that she’s unable to come back and defend her title at Australian Open 2011. We all know how much she enjoys playing here, and how much she loves her Aussie fans,” Tiley said.

“Serena is a great champion and we will miss her in January. We send her our very best wishes for a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming her back to Australia soon.”

What a blow for the first Slam of the year to be without one of its defending champions.

Truth be told, this fan has lost almost all interest in women's tennis. Serena's comeback is about the only thing on the WTA that I look forward to. Sure, she's my girl, so this comes as no surprise to many of you. But tell me who's holding down the fort right now? Maybe I've missed something exciting in my absence.

Far too early to prognosticate about who'll be in form to take the title Serena has held for two years now and won five times. But Melbourne won't be quite the same.

(Thanks, Savannah)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

World Tour Finals 2010 Day 1 Open Thread

by Craig Hickman

Tennis players (L-R) Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer, Robin Soderling,  Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and David  Ferrer are pictured standing together with British Prime Minister David  Cameron (4th L) outside 10 Downing Street in London, November 18, 2010.
Reuters

Tennis players (L-R) Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer, Robin Söderling, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer are pictured standing together with British Prime Minister David Cameron (4th L) outside 10 Downing Street in London, November 18, 2010.

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The final ATP event of yet another long and grueling year is upon us. Because I haven't seen enough tennis in the latter half of the season, I can make no predictions whatsoever.

Savannah's World has an excellent and artistic preview posted. Those interspersed head shots are lovely.

Tell us what you think about the draw and who you believe will prevail.

Enjoy tennis.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carlos Moya Retires

by Craig Hickman

Former French Open champion Carlos Moya looks down during a press  conference  in Madrid, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Moya, 34, a former No. 1  and member of Spain's 2004 Davis Cup-winning team, announced his  retirement from tennis on citing a nagging foot injury for calling time  on a 15-year career.
AP

Former French Open champion Carlos Moya, left, attends a press conference in Madrid, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Moya, 34, a former No. 1 and member of Spain's 2004 Davis Cup-winning team, announced his retirement from tennis citing a nagging foot injury, calling time on a 15-year career.

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This one makes me a bit sad. I sincerely enjoyed Moya's tennis. And he always seemed so humble.

1998 French Open champ Moya retires from tennis

(AP) – 3 hours ago

MADRID (AP) — Former French Open champion Carlos Moya retired from tennis Wednesday, ending a 15-year career because of a nagging foot injury.

The former No. 1 said differing medical opinions on resolving the lingering right foot injury had left him with little option but to retire.

"It's not how I dreamt of ending my career," the 34-year-old Spaniard said during an emotional news conference.

Moya said he knew it was time after his last match, a 6-0, 6-2 loss to Benjamin Becker at the Madrid Masters in May.

"I wanted to play the big tournaments and say goodbye, but I got to the Madrid tournament and I still wasn't 100 percent, but motivation pushed me on," Moya said. "But I realized with that match that the moment had arrived."

Read the rest...


Former French Open champion Carlos Moya, left, attends a press  conference  in Madrid, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Moya, 34, a former No. 1  and member of Spain's 2004 Davis Cup-winning team, announced his  retirement from tennis citing a nagging foot injury,  calling time on a  15-year career.
AP

So long, sir. Hope the next chapter brings as much success as this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

London 2010 - Groups and Orders of Play

For the ATP WTF 2010 groups and Orders of Play please go Savannah's World

Monday, November 15, 2010

Soderling Wins First Masters Title

Swedish Robin Soderling holds his trophy after winning the Paris  masters 1000 ATP tournament final on November 14, 2010 at the Paris  Bercy (POPB) in Paris.

Swedish Robin Söderling holds his trophy after winning the Paris masters 1000 ATP tournament final on November 14, 2010 at the Paris Bercy in Paris.

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Still haven't watched a lick of tennis. So much farming to catch up on before the ground freezes and I'm a farmhand short to boot.

I wish I had caught the Gael Monfils - Roger Federer semifinal. That scoreline was loaded.

I see The Sod beat a pair of homeboys back-to-back to take the title, not to mention the one he ousted in his first match. Can you say Frenchmen killer?

A nice penultimate year-end finish for the Big Swede. Let's see if he's got any energy left for London. Surely his confidence will be sky-high.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Taylor Dent Retires

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - OCTOBER 28:  Taylor Dent of USA plays a  forehand during his match against Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia during day  four of the Open Sud de France at the Arena on October 28, 2010 in  Montpellier, France.
Getty

Taylor Dent of USA plays a forehand during his match against Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia during day four of the Open Sud de France at the Arena on October 28, 2010 in Montpellier, France.

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This is understandable but too bad.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Former top-25 player Taylor Dent is retiring from professional tennis.

The 29-year-old American was one of a handful of current pros with a serve-and-volley style. Once ranked as high as 21st, Dent had three back operations in 2006 and 2007 that derailed his career, then made a comeback and climbed back into the top 100 in 2009.

In a statement released Monday by his agent, Dent says he wants to stay active in the sport and "explore opportunities ... that my full tournament scheduled never allowed."

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Face Of The Day

US  Andy Roddick reacts after a point a ball to Swiss Roger Federer during  their Swiss Indoors ATP tennis tournament semi-final match on November  6, 2010 in Basel. Federer won 6-2, 6-4.
Getty

Andy Roddick reacts after a point a ball to Roger Federer during their Swiss Indoors ATP tennis tournament semi-final match on November 6, 2010 in Basel. Federer won 6-2, 6-4.

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Tennis is like a soap opera. Now matter how long you've been away, you come back to see the same old story lines. I guess it's appropriate that Roddick gets the first nod upon my return for Face Of The Day, losing in straight sets to none other than Raja.

The more things change.....

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Checking In

As many of you know, I have been MIA over the last several months because I was running an intense campaign for the Maine House of Representatives as an insurgent.

I ran alongside a popular, well-entrenched, three-term moderate incumbent. By the end of the campaign, we had done such a good job that word on the street suggested we would win.

Wasn't meant to be. The voters chose to give the incumbent his last two-year term with 60% of the vote.

I'm proud of our campaign and humbled by all the good will the people of my district bestowed upon me.

I had the time of my life.

Sorry I haven't been around to comment on so many of the intriguing stories in tennis, but I'll get back to that when the time comes.

I'd like to thank Savannah and MadProfessah for their contributions in my absence.

See you soon.