Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Olympic Tennis Open Thread

Somehow, I lost a day. I could've sworn tennis action started tomorrow, so I missed almost all the live tennis broadcast today.

Check out Savannah's preview.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Federer Wins 7th Wimbledon and 17th Major Title


As I predicted yesterdayRoger Federer defeated Andy Murray 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 to win his 17th major title and tie Pete Sampras record of 7 men's singles titles at Wimbledon. The 30-year-old Swiss great has now won titles at Wimbledon in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012. With his win today, Federer moves three singles titles ahead of Sampras' 14 on the list of most Grand Slams. His previous Grand Slam win came at the 2010 Australian Open (over Murray), more than 29 months ago. Additionally, he will be ranked World #1 on the ATP Tour again on Monday, for the 286th week, becoming tied with Sampras for the most weeks at #1. That record will almost certainly be broken the following week. At 30 years, 335 days Federer will be the second oldest player to be ranked #1 after Andre Agassi did it when he was 33 years, 131 days old. Federer was last ranked number 1 in June 2010, losing the ranking to his nemesis Rafael Nadal on June 7, 2010 following his quarterfinal loss to Robin Soderling at the 2010 Roland Garros tournament.

Federer's win should end the conversation once and for all who is the greatest men's singles player of all time, despite his 10-18 losing career record against Nadal. Nadal has won 7 titles on his best surface, and reached 5 Wimbledon finals, where he defeated Federer in one. Federer has won 7 titles (in 8 finals) on his best surface, and faced Nadal in 4 finals and 1 semifinal in the major on his worst surface and lost all 5 matches. But on hard courts Federer has won 5 major titles (in 6 finals) while Nadal has reached 2 hard court finals and won one (not against Federer). Federer has now won 75 ATP tour singles titles, extended his head-to-head lead over Novak Djokovic to 15-12 and he has evened his career head-to-head score with Murray at 8-all. Speaking of Murray, the first British Wimbledon finalist in 74 years made many more fans worldwide with his post-match speech where, despite unsuccessfully fighting back tears, he praised his opponents play and said "I'm getting closer, aren't I?" Hopefully his coach Ivan Lendl, who also famously lost his first 4 major finals but went on to win 8 major titles, will be able to help his charge recover from today's loss.

Interestingly, both the mens and women's singles title winners this year, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, are both over age 30, the 6th time the two have won majors at the same tournament in their illustrious career. The 5-time Wimbledon ladies singles champion also won the Wimbledon doubles title with her sister, 5-time Wimbledon ladies singles champion Venus Williams, for the 5th time.

US player Serena Williams looks at the trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish, after her women's singles final victory over Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska on day 12 of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament at the All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 7, 2012. Serena Williams won the match 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07:  Serena Williams of the USA jumps in the air with the winners trophy and celebrates after her Ladies’ Singles final match against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 7, 2012 in London, England.

It was a great tournament for me, as I correctly predicted 7 of the 7 last matches in the men's draw (quarterfinals on) as well as 7 of the 7 last matches on the women's side. A 100% accuracy rate!

Men's Final Review
Murray started the match much more strongly than Federer, who was clearly uncharacteristically nervous in the very first service game of the match, making two errors on very easy shots to lose his serve. Murray was played aggressively at the start, hitting his forehand and backhand with much power and authority than he is known for. Eventually, Federer was able to get the break back in the 4th game of the match, but suddenly at 4-all Federer was broken and Murray was able to serve out the 1st set. In the second set, things were basically proceeded on serve, with Murray routinely hitting his serve at 130 mph and Federer struggling to achieve his usual unerring accuracy on the serve, which resulted in less aces than his 25-year-old opponent. Federer had to save break points in his 3rd and 5th service games. Murray was serving at 30-0 in the 12th game when suddenly Federer won 4 straight points, primarily with excellent net play to win the 2nd set. Serving at 40-0 in the third game of the 3rd set the rain started coming down and play was suspended. Unfortunately for Murray, the decision was made to close the roof on Centre Court, transforming the match into an indoor 3-set match on a grass court, basically ideal conditions for the 16-time major champion. In the 6th game of the 3rd set Murray was at 40-0 when suddenly things got complicated and there were ten deuces, with Federer having 6 break points and Murray's serve. The game was more than 20 minutes long, with Murray repeatedly getting out of trouble with big serves. Eventually, the young Briton succumbed and Federer was able to hold serve to maintain his lead and claim the 3rd set with a 1-break lead 6-3. In the fourth set, Murray barely missed a forehand down-the-line passing shot on a breakpoint in Federer's first service game but then lost his own serve in his 3nd service game and Federer was able to calmly hold serve without incident to win the 4th set with another 1-break lead 6-4.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Men's Final Preview


Here are my predictions for the men's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I correctly predicted Petra Kvitova's win over Maria Sharapova in the women's final and Novak Djokovic's win over Rafael Nadal in the men's final. This year I have correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals. I also correctly predicted Serena Williams's win over Agnieska Radwanska.

How They Got Here: Men's Semifinals Review
Roger Federer SUI (3) d. Novak Djokovic SRB (1) 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3
Many pundits believed that the World #1 would continue his winning ways against the 16-time champ in major semifinals but I always believed otherwise. After all, Federer had been able to end Djokovic's 44 match winning streak in the semifinals of Roland Garros last year and that was on clay. On grass, here at Wimbledon, Federer has lost a mere 3 matches in a decade (2008 Final against Rafael Nadal2010 quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych and 2011 quarterfinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga). In order to beat him on Centre Court you need to bring something special, and if he gets out to an early lead and feels comfortable, look out. Against Djokovic Federer easily won the 1st st after an early break in well under a half-hour. Djokovic returned the favor in the second set, although he had a slightly tougher time holding on to the break. The key to the match was the 3rd set, where the two had pretty thrilling rallies, and it became clear that Federer was able to hang with Djokovic in backhand-to-backhand rallies and was winning the forehand-to-forehand rallies. Federer's defense on grass was stifling the Serb's offensive efficacy. Federer failed to break serve in the 6th game but in the 10th game he was able to get breakpoints which were also set points and took a 2-1 set lead by blasting an overhead into the corner out of reach. In the fourth set Djokovic played like a man mentally defeated, and soon the score reflected that fact, giving Federer his 8th appearance in a Wimbledon final, a perfect 8-0 in Wimbledon semifinals.

Andy Murray GBR (4) d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5) 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5.
This match was fraught with historic significance, as Britain's Great Hope was playing to end a 74-year drought of British male players reaching the Wimbledon final. Happily, he had an excellent 5-1 head-to-head record against his opponent, and his play showed why. Murray raced out to a quick two sets lead as Tsonga was slightly flat at the start. Murray got an early break in the 3rd and the match looked like it would soon be over but then Tsonga broke back and since he was serving first he was able to put pressure on Murray to hold serve to stay in the set, which the Brit was unable to do. The fourth set seemed like it would go to a tiebreak but in the 12th game out of nowhere Tsonga got tight and suddenly faced two break points which were match points. Tsonga served a first serve on the first and Murray blasted a forehand crosscourt  service return which appeared to clip the sideline but was called out by the linesperson. Murray challenged as the two players walked towards the net and the electronic review showed the ball had indeed touched the line and Murray was awarded the game, set and match. History made.

Who Will Win: Men's Final Preview
For both players, this is going to be the most important match of their careers to date, but 30-year-old Federer has been in this position many many more times than his 25-year-old opponent. Surprising to some, Murray has a slight 8-7 career head-to-head edge against the 16-time champion. Earlier in his career, Murray had an even better record against Federer, but the Swiss Great has had more success recently, especially in big matches. In ATP tour finals Federer leads 6-2 and the two have never met on grass before. This is the 3rd major final the two will be contesting, after the 2007 US Open final and the 2010 Australian Open final, both won by Federer in straight sets. In fact, Murray has been unable to win a set in the three major finals he has appeared in, also losing in straight sets in the 2011 Australian Open final, this time to Djokovic.  I am pretty confident Murray will end that streak in the men's final, giving his country hope but in the end I think the history that will be made is Roger Federer extending his lead in the number of most men's singles majors titles to 17 (Pete Sampras is next at 14) and returning to the World #1 spot in order to surpass Sampras's record 286 weeks at #1. Federer has currently been #1 for a mere 285 weeks. For Murray to win he will become the first British male in 76 years to win a singles title at Wimbledon, which would happen one day after Jonathan Marray became the first British male in 76 years to win a doubles title at Wimbledon.

Despite my confidence that Federer will win, it is very possible for Murray to win this match. He has the ability and almost certainly will be a heavy crowd favorite. However, he will have to get some help in order to win the match Great Britain has been waiting to see for 76 years. Murray wants the weather to be bad, windy and wet but not wet enough that the roof is closed. Federer has been nearly flawless in indoor matches, amassing a gaudy 28-1 record over the last year in indoor matches (the one loss was to John Isner in Davis Cup this spring). If the roof is closed, Murray may not even win a set. However, if the roof is not closed and Federer starts to have problem with his timing on the serve and one-handed backhand in the wind then Murray has a much better chance to stay close enough to win two (and possibly even 3) sets. This would require assistance from Federer, which is very unlikely to occur in a final, especially a major final. His overall final record is 74-30 and his major final record is 16-7. I expect Federer to find a way to close out the match, and end the debate about the Greatest Player of all Time once and for all. Prediction: Federer.

Friday, July 06, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Women's Final Preview

Serena Williams USA (6) v.  Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) 


Here are my predictions for the women's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I correctly predicted Petra Kvitova's win over Maria Sharapova in the women's final and Novak Djokovic's win over Rafael Nadal in the men's final. This year I have correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

How They Got Here: Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams USA (6) d. Victoria Azarenka BLR (2) 6-3 7-6(6).
Serena put on a serving display that has never been before on Centre Court, or frankly any court, to win her semifinal. In 11 service games and a 14 point tiebreaker Serena  blasted 24 aces, 1 more than the record she had set earlier in the tournament. Serena's set total is extraordinary; in the tournament through 6 rounds of play she had more aces than either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, despite (obviously) playing far less sets. Azarenka played an excellent match--she cut down on her unforced errors and was doing well to not only hang with Serena in the groundstroke rallies but Vika was actually able to win a lot of the important points from the back of the court. But whenever Serena got into any kind of trouble, her serve was able to bail her out. She only faced 2 breakpoints and was broken once, after she was already leading 6-3, 3-1. Azarenka was able to save a couple of breakpoints and then slightly faltered in the inevitable tiebreak when the score was even by hitting some unforced errors. Vika was able to save one match point on her serve, but the second was on Serena's and one knew that she would be able to end the match with one swing of the racket, which she did with her 24th ace.

Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) d. Angelique Kerber GER (8) 6-3 6-4.
This match was actually much tighter than the score would indicate. Kerber is the more powerful player and grass always rewards players with lefty spin. She broke first and led 3-1, but even though she was playing in her first major semifinal, Radwanska did not panic and calmly held her service games and was able to break back twice to win 5 games in a row and steal the first set. Radwanska repeatedly frustrated Kerber with her tenacious defense and her opportunism, i.e. ability to instantly convert defense into offense and move forward to the net to win a point if she could see her opponent was even slightly out of position. The two had many long rallies which would finally end when Kerber would go for broke, more often than not hitting an error instead of a winner. That's how Radwanska wins, she hits a remarkably low number of unforced errors herself and incites her opponent to go for too much. The problem is that sometimes she meets someone who can combine power and accuracy and the strategy fails. Kerber was unable to rise to the occasion. The second set was also very close with just one break in the 5th game which the new World #2 nursed to reach her first ever major final. If she wins one more match she will not only become the new World #1, but she will lead the tour for the most matches won on tour in 2012 with 45. This almost certainly will not happen.

The Women's Final
Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) vs. Serena Williams USA (6). These two have met only twice in their career, both times in 2008 when Radwanska was a teenager, including here in a Wimbledon quarterfinal, with Serena winning both matches easily. In the last few years although there have been multiple players winning in their first appearance in a major: Francesca Schiavone (2010 French Open), Petra Kvitova (2011 Wimbledon) and Victoria Azarenka (2012 Australian Open), most Grand Slam winners have either won major titles before or are appearing in their second major final: Samantha Stosur (2011 US Open), Maria Sharapova (2012 French Open), Li Na (2011 French Open) and Kim Clijsters (2011 Australian Open2010 US Open). If Radwanska was playing a different opponent I do believe she has the mental fortitude to add her name to the first list, and I also think she has the potential to add her name to the second list as well.

Unfortunately for her, Aggie is playing the one active player who is appearing in her seventh final here at Wimbledon and her 18th major final overall. In fact, the only year in the last decade that Serena has not appeared in a major final was in 2006. There's almost nothing that Serena has to fear from Radwanska, even if she does get nervous as the significance of winning her 14th major at age 30 becomes closer to a reality. Serena is well aware that she nearly died last year from a blood clot and did not play a single professional match for a year during a period which ended just over a year ago. I''m pretty sure that Serena's serve will continue to bail her out, and even if she gets frustrated by Radwanska's dogged defense, she knows that she will have her opportunities to win in both her own service games, and her opponents. Prediction: Serena.

2012 Wimbledon: Men's Semifinals Preview


Here are my predictions for the men's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals. This year I have correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic SRB (1) vs. Roger Federer SUI (3). There are three major rivalries in men's tennis right now: Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal (10-18), Roger Federer versus Novak Djokovic (14-12) and Novak Djokovic versus Rafael Nadal (14-19). Each of these match-ups brings excitement and intrigue to the men's game. Although the Djokovic-Federer rivalry is the 3rd most significant in terms of total matches contested is it is still quite significant, especially in terms of Grand Slam tennis. Although they have only met in one major final (unlike the 8 Nadal and Federer have contested or the 4 in a row Djokovic and Nadal have played over the last year), the two have met an astounding eight times in major semifinals (Djokovic leads 5-3). This number of semifinal clashes is quite surprising because Djokovic has only been in 15 major semifinals in his career (8 wins 7 losses) compared to 33 major semifinals for Federer, an all-time record. Their current head-to-head in grand slam matches is even at 5-all with Djokovic having won 4 of the last 5 meetings, including last month at the 2012 French Open semifinals. Their matches are becoming less competitive, not more, as both players age. However, bewilderingly, the two have never met at Wimbledon. Djokovic is the defending champion here but Federer won 5 titles in a row between 2003 and 2007 and considers Centre Court "his house." But Federer had also won 5 consecutive titles in New York between 2004 and 2008 when his reign was ended by Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 US Open final. In 2008, Nadal (the member of the triumvirate at the top of men's tennis who is missing from the final weekend due to a Czech fluke named Lukas Rosol) had to win what many consider the best match of all time to stop Federer from winning his 6th consecutive title here. Djokovic has demonstrated that he will do whatever it takes to win during the slugfest with Nadal that lasted nearly 6 hours to defend his Australian Open title. However, I don't believe that the match will be a slugfest. I think that Federer will do (and some would argue, he must) what it takes to change his game and mindset to beat Djokovic on grass: be aggressive, serve outstandingly and use the crowd. I believe that if Federer plays his best tennis and Djokovic plays his best tennis, that Federer can win. It doesn't mean that Federer will definitely win, but I believe it is more likely than not. PREDICTION: Federer.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5) vs. Andy Murray GBR (4). Murray has faced more pressure to do well (i.e. reach the final and win it) at his country's major tournament, which just happens to be the oldest and most prestigious tournament in the world, than perhaps any well-know sports figure in the world. The fact that he has not cracked mentally under the pressure is a pretty good result. No male British player has reached the final of Wimbledon since 1938 and no one has won it since Fred Perry did it in 1936. Previously, Tim Henman carried the hopes of his nation circa 1998-2202 but Murray has already surpassed many of Henman's career achievements, reaching 10 major semifinals (and 3 major finals) to Henman's 6 major semifinals and no major finals. After having lost to Nadal in the previous two years he must be very happy that instead he will be facing someone else, the talented Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray did well to get past a surprisingly tenacious David Ferrer in tough 4-sets 6-7(5) 7-6(6) 6-4 7-6(4). Murray has a surprisingly large 5-1 career head-to-head edge against Tsonga, only losing to the Frenchman in the 1st round of the 2008 Australian Open, which is the tournament that Tsonga demolished Nadal in the semifinals and lost a tight 4-set final to Djkokovic. The two have played twice on grass, both won by Murray: an entertaining final of Queen Club last year and a 4-set Wimbledon quarterfinal encounter the year before where Tsonga won a bagel set but lost the match. Both players have improved since then, especially Tsonga, who has accomplished two noteworthy feats in the last year: having 3 match points against Djokovic in a major semifinal match (French Open 2012) and dropping two sets but winning the next three against Federer in last year's Wimbledon quarterfinal. Murray has not been able to accomplish either of these, but he has been consistently higher ranked than Tsonga for several years. It is very possible that Tsonga could have one of these superb performances which allows him to defeat Murray, but I suspect that the Briton will use his hometown advantage to counteract any Gallic power. PREDICTION: Murray.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Women's Semifinals Preview


Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) vs. Angelique Kerber GER (8). These two players are the most consistent winners on the WTA this year, with 45 wins for the German and 43 for the Pole but none of these matches in 2012 have been against each other. Kerber faced her countrywoman Sabine Lisicki in her quarterfinal and despite blowing multiple match points and a 3-0 lead in the second set, the mature lefty was able to come back from 3-5 down in the third set and win the match after Boom Boom started to misfire. Radwanska had her ticket to her very first major semifinal on her racket in the second set and tightened up and lost the middle set to Maria Kirilenko on an emotionally challenging day with multiple rain delays. Eventually the match was moved from an outside court yo under the roof on Centre Court and the nearly 3 hour long affair ended with a Radwanska victory. Their career head-to-head is tied at 2-all with Kerber defeating the higher ranked Radwanka during her dream run to the 2011 US Open semifinals and the Pole getting revenge a few weeks later in Japan. The fact that these two players are competing for a historic place in a Wimbledon final will most likely lead to a low-quality, nervy match won by the player who can control her emotions in order to keep control of her game. I suspect that person will be the one who has the reputation of being a 2.0 version of Martina HingisPREDICTION: Radwanska.

Serena Williams USA (6) vs.  Victoria Azarenka BLR (2). This showdown between the 2012 Australian Open champion and the 2003, 200520072009 and 2010 Australian Open champion should be the last great women's match of this year's championships. Serena Williams has only lost to Victoria Azarenka once in 8 meetings (2009 Sony Ericsson Open final in Miami), and was clearly hampered in her movement in that match. As she amply demonstrated in her straight sets dismissal of the defending Wimbledon champion, her serve is still the biggest weapon in women's tennis and her movement is at or very near the level which has brought her to 6 finals here, winning 4 titles. Azarenka played well to get past the hottest player on grass this year, Tamira Paszek, in two tights sets. However, Serena is no Tamira Paszek. The only thing which could stop Serena reaching her 7th final (and winning her 5th Wimbledon championship) this year would be if she at age 30 she is suddenly afflicted with nerves which prevents her from playing her best tennis. Serena's puzzling loss to Samantha Stosur in the 2011 US Open final still has never really been explained to my satisfaction. Another factor could Azarenka realizing that she has never matched up well against Serena and thus playing fearless tennis, akin to what she did after dropping the first 3 games in the Australian Open final against Maria Sharapova this year. One needs to remember that this is only Azarenka's 3rd major semifinal, and she is also going to be nervous. It's very possible that the match could be very close, but it is hard to imagine a scenario where Serena is not raising the Venus Rosewater dish above her head on Saturday. PREDICTION: Williams.

2012 Wimbledon: Men's Quarterfinals Preview



Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I  correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic SRB (1) vs. Richard Gasquet FRA (18) Florian Mayer GER (31). The World #1's inevitable march to a mouth-watering semifinal showdown with 6-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer continues. His opponent is a German journeyman who is playing in his first ever major quarterfinal playing the best tennis of his life. Mayer's just happy to be here, and although he has a decent grass court game, he simply does not have the arsenal to match what Djokovic brings to the court. Mayer will be lucky to win even a handful of games. PREDICTION: Djokovic.

Roger Federer SUI (3) vs. Mikhail Youzhny RUS (26). Roger Federer has played Mikhail Youzhny 13 times and never lost a match to the mercurial Russian. Youzhny is a talented grass court player, having reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon seven times in his career, with his first quarterfinal appearance occurring this year. The two have played 5 times on grass, and last year at Wimbledon Youzhny won the first set in a tiebreak but ended up losing to Federer in 4 sets. Objectively, Federer is not playing as well this year as he did last year, as evinced by his Houdini-like escapes in the two previous rounds against Xavier Malisse in 4 sets and Julien Benneteau in 5-sets. Youzhny on the other hand, by definition, is playing better here than he has previously, since he has never advanced this far in the tournament before. This could be a very tough match for Federer, especially with the prospect of another historic semifinal showdown with defending champion Novak Djokovic to look forward to. Youzhny knows that no one expects him to win, but he definitely has the tools and mental fortitude to achieve the upset if Federer does not play well. I do think Federer will get through (who would bet against a 16-time champion on his favorite surface?) but it will be quite difficultPREDICTION: Federer.

David Ferrer ESP (7) vs. Andy Murray GBR (4). This is a repeat of a quarterfinal matchup at the French Open from a few weeks ago where the Spaniard dirt baller demolished his higher ranked British opponent. However, this  match will be at Wimbledon where Ferrer is playing in his 1st ever quarterfinal after having manhandled an opponent a full foot taller than he is while Murray is attempting to reach his 4th consecutive semifinal. This should be the most interesting match of the quarterfinal round; t he two are actually evenly matched in their career head-to-head at 5-all with Ferrer winning all 4 clay court meetings and Murray winning 5 of their 6 hard court clashes. They have never met on grass before, and one would have to give Murray an edge because he has hometown advantage and he has the bigger serve, which grass rewards. But later in the tournament Wimbledon's grass in recent years has been playing more like a clay court, which partially explains Rafael Nadal success here. This year, however, the weather has not cooperated to bake the lawns into something resembling the dirt of Roland Garros. In addition, if it does rain and the roof is closed then an indoor court would also give Murray an advantage, who is on a historic quest to end the decades-long absence of Briton in the finals of Wimbledon. With the Spaniard who had reached his last six Wimbledon finals now missing from the tournament due to an unfortunate 2nd round meeting with a Czech thunderbolt, Murray should be able to ride the hopes of a nation to his date with destiny on the final Sunday. PREDICTIONMurray

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (27).  Germans have been doing well at Wimbledon for decades, with greats like Steffi Graf and Boris Becker etching their names into the record books and memories of tennis fans around the world. Since Graf's last appearance here more than a decade ago German tennis went through a sever drought which appears to be ending. A full one-quarter of all the quarterfinalists in the men's and women's draws were from Deutschland this year (Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki, Florian Mayer and Kohlschreiber)Tsonga has only lost once against Kohlschreiber, and that was several years ago. If a 6-time major Wimbledon champion couldn't win a Wimbledon quarterfinal match against the Frenchman last  year despite being two sets up, what chance does a 1st time Wimbledon quarterfinalist have? Exactly. PREDICTION: Tsonga. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Women's Quarterfinals Preview



Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I  correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals.

Maria Sharapova RUS (1)  Sabine Lisicki GER (15) vs. Kim Clijsters BEL Angelique Kerber GER (8). Instead of this all-German match I had expected a quarterfinal meeting between two 4-time major champions, but instead they both lost their fourth round matches. One of these results was an upset, while the others was just  upsetting. Sabine Lisicki was able to learn from her 2011 Wimbledon semifinal loss to Sharapova to realize that she had to go for broke and seize every possible opportunity this year. Most impressively, she was able to execute her plan to perfection and dismiss the betting favorite for this year's championship. Kerber upset most of the tennis world with her straight set drubbing of fan favorite Kim Clijsters in her last Wimbledon appearance. Kerber has played her countrywoman 4 times on tour and has never lost to her. When asked about this, Lisicki quickly responded that she had never beaten Sharapova in 3 attempts before today with the obvious implication that she could overcome a losing head-to-head record. It's true that Boom Boom has a massive serve and a strong return game, but she doesn't move better than the crafty lefty who has won an astonishing 44 matches on tour this year, the most of any player. One year ago, Kerber was an unknown but after surprising everyone to reach her first major semifinal at the 2011 US Open, in the last three majors Kerber has only lost to players who have reached the final. I think that streak will continue to four grand slam tournaments in a row. PREDICTION: Kerber.

Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) vs. Maria Kirilenko RUS (17). Aggie Radwanska is one of two players who has a chance to reach the World #1 ranking now that the current #1 was dismissed by Sabine Lisicki in the 4th round. Her frenemy Victoria Azarenka is the other player who has a chance to reach the top spot as long as she wins more matches than Radwanska.  Interestingly, the two are in opposite halves of the draw because Vika has beaten Aggie in 7 consecutive matches this yearRadwanska would be an even more controversial #1 player than former #1 Caroline Wozniacki because she has never been to the semifinal of any major. It may seem surprising to some, because Radwanska, like Wozniacki, has no obvious weapon or shot that opponents fear. She is really a player more in the mold of a Martina Hingis, where her most dangerous weapon is her court sense and ability to cause her opponent difficulties by placing the ball with pinpoint accuracy in the position that causes the most damage. She has used this skill to deadly effect in 2012, having won 42 matches this year, just a few behind Angelique Kerber's gaudy total. Regardless, she has, however, been to 5 major quarterfinals, which is 4 more than her Russian opponent. In fact, Radwanska has a clear 5-2 head-to-head edge against Kirilenko and is dead-even against both of her potential semifinal opponents. I suspect that she will be playing in her first major final on SaturdayPREDICTION: Radwanska.

Tamira Paszek AUT  vs.  Victoria Azarenka BLR (2).  Azarenka embarrassed  former World #1 Ana Ivanovic in the previous round by conceding a single game in a rout on Centre Court. The win ensures that the 2012 Australian Open champion will have more ranking points than current #1 Maria Sharapova at the end of the tournament. There has not been much chatter about Azarenka's chances of winning this title, probablybecause Serena Williams is still in the tournament and although Azarenka had a 26-match winning streak earlier this year, her record at major tournaments is not very impressive. She has only ever been to two major semifinals, and the first of those was at the 2011 Wimbledon. In fact, who was the opponent she beat to reach her first major semifinalTamira Paszek. Last year, Azarenka easily won in straight sets but this year Paszek is undefeated on grass, having won 9 matches in a row on the surface, which includes winning the Eastbourne warm-up tournament. But it's not just the fact that Paszek is playing well on grass that gives her an excellent chance for the upset against Azarenka, it is her mental toughness. In those 9 grass court matches this year she has faced match points down in three of them (against Marion Bartoli and Angelique Kerber at Eastbourne and against Wozniacki in the 1st round here). I really believe that Paszek feels like she can not lose. Unfortunately for her she will probably learn what Azarenka learned earlier this year: no streak lasts forever. PREDICTIONAzarenka

Serena Williams USA (6) vs.  Petra Kvitova CZE (4).  This showdown between the 2011 Wimbledon champion and the 2010 Wimbledon champion is the marquee match of the tournament, not just of the quarterfinal round. Serena has never lost to Petra, having played her in the last two major tournaments she has won (2010 Australian Open in the 3rd round and in the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals). Kvitova has the power to out-hit almost any player off the court, but it is extremely doubtful that she can do that to the 13-time major champion. Serena has not been playing her best tennis, but she has been displaying her mental toughness by gutting out two consecutive three-set matches (6-7(5) 6-2 9-7 in the 3rd round and 6-1 2-6 7-5 in the 4th) with clutch serving and excellent defense powered by her superior grass-court movement. semifinals. Kvitova has been having an easier time of it, only having dropped one set, in her previous round against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. The Czech player is currently higher ranked, but no-one really thinks that seeding alone will determine who wins this match. I believe the most important factor is who wants it more,and at this point in her career that player is the older player. Regardless, the player who wins this match will almost certainly be the prohibitive favorite to win the title against anyone from the top half of the draw. PREDICTION: Williams. 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Wimbledon 2012 Middle Sunday Musings

Andy Roddick will always be my guy because that's just how these things work. But I wrote his championship-winning epitaph twice now and there's no need for a third. 


Serena Williams will always be my girl because that's just how these things work, but I wrote her championship-winning epitaph once now and here's hoping there's a need for a second. The rest of this tournament will have a lot to say about that.


As for the small batch of young American players making a bit of noise over the last few seasons: they lack fortitude. Some lack weapons, too, but they all lack fortitude. Without that, they won't win a thing worth a thing. It's too bad, really.

And how can it be that old holey pants is the first American man to win a title in 2012?

We may go a whole tennis generation without producing a single new champion.

That's messed up, but it looks like that's where we're going...


I've been hearing a lot (some of it even sounds celebratory) about one of the greatest upsets in Wimbledon history. Surely, there's a reason for that description. But it still doesn't feel apt. Especially since I saw the match. Saw how the organizers decided to insert themselves in the match at a most crucial juncture seemingly to facilitate exactly the result they got. As though it was the only way to get the result they got.

As I wrote elsewhere, momentum isn't just a word.

Everybody at least knows that.

Including the organizers...


Roger Federer is lucky to still be in the draw. Yeah. I know. I said his draw was laughable. It still is. That he would be two points from defeat by Julien Benneteau after being down two-sets-to-love underscores my point. (That the gimpy Frenchman couldn't close him out is also laughable, but we all saw it coming, no?) But I'll give Raja credit where credit is due: he admitted he was lucky.

I suspect he's a lock for the title now, no matter how vulnerable he remains.

And he's certainly vulnerable.


I hope Tamira Paszek wins the title. She won't. But such a welcome result would do a great deal to restore my enthusiasm for tennis in general, women's tennis in particular.

You have no idea...


Guess it's ironic that I seem to be losing my enthusiasm for the sport smack dab in the middle of what some are calling a "golden age" in men's tennis. Smack dab in the middle of my favorite sporting event period.

Something needs to change.

Something's got to....