Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drive By

It's been one helluva harvest season. No end in sight.

I want to write about tennis, but I simply can't.

I will again, though. Sure as the sun rises.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Men's Final Preview

Andy Murray GBR (3) vs  Novak Djokovic SRB (2)

Andy Murray of Great Britain will be playing in his 5th major final, having lost the first  four against Roger Federer (2007 US Open, 2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon) and one against Novak Djokovic (2011 Australian Open). Djokovic already has 5 majors and has won the last three hard courts majors played.

The two played what would have been the best match of the year in the 2012 Australian Open semifinal if it were not eclipsed by the insane 6-hour final played between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Since then Murray has won the Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics and I think that he really feels that he can win this match. He is playing someone he has known since he was 11 years old. The two are 1 week apart in age and are god friends off the court (who used to practice together, until Murray's coach Ivan Lendl prohibited such fraternization).

Murray has had an extra day to rest, which should serve him well. To me, the match will not be decided by tactics and strategy but by the mental toughness of the person who wants it the most. Head-to-head Djokovic has a slight 8-6 edge, but this Murray is a different player now.

MadProfessah's pick: Murray.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Women's Final Preview

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) vs.  Serena Williams USA (4)

Here are my predictions for the women's final of the 2012 US Open. This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals3 of 4 of the men's quarterfinals2 of 2 women's semifinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals.

How They Got Here: Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams USA (4) d. Sara Errani ITA (10) 6-1 6-2. 
Serena was never threatened by the diminutive Italian who has become her country's best player by dint of having one of the best seasons of any player this year. Errani has won all 6 of her WTA career singles titles this year, and reached the quarterfinals or better in  three majors, the first time she had ever progressed that far in any Grand Slam. Errani is a fighter but she has no shot that could trouble Serena, and the match was basically a mismatch, with the result never really in doubt.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) d. Maria Sharapova RUS (3) 3-6 6-2 6-4.
The other semifinal was completely different, one in which the result was hard to predict until the very last game, which was won by Azarenka. These two are establishing a significant rivalry, having played four times in 2012, with Vika winning three of these matches and now has a 6-4 lead in their career head-to-head.  The two have very similar playing styles with hard-hitting groundstrokes on both wins, with stronger backhands than forehands. Azarenka has significantly better movement, while Sharapova can have a significantly better serve when she gets in a groove. This match was a war of attrition, with Azarenka surviving Sharapova's firepower with her retrieving powers (the Russian ended with 44 winners and 42 unforced errors, while the Belarussian ended with 19 winners and 19 errors). Sharapova's mental toughness and competitive spirit has served her well in winning 4 majors but Azarenka is 2 years younger and could very well end her career with  an even larger numbers, depending on when Serena decides to retire.

The Women's Final: Prediction
Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) vs.  Serena Williams USA (4). Serena has an overwhelming 9-1 career head-to-head advantage against Azarenka and this really reflects the 90% probability that Serena will win this match. Despite this act, it should be a relatively close, hard-fought match, perhaps of the quality of their 3rd round match from 2011, which was won by Serena 6-1 7-6(5). This is pretty typical of their matches; Serena wins the first set relatively easily and when she gets up a break in the second she relaxes and gives Azarenka a chance to get back into the match and eventually has to gut out the second set in a close tiebreak. Serena does not feel any kind of animus towards Azarenka and will not try to blow her off the court as she did with Sharapova during her 6-0 6-1 drubbing to win the Gold Medal match at the London Olympics earlier this summer.

However, after having two bad experiences in New York in 2011 against Sam Stosur and in 2009 against Kim Clijsters, Serena has been on her best behavior this year. Serena was unable to play the 2010 tournament due to her year-long medically induced hiatus from the game, and she last won this title in 2008 (over Jelena Jankovic). It's amazing that  a few weeks before her 31st birthday Serena is the heavy favorite to win her 15th major title, pulling her within striking distance of the magic number of 18 that all-time greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert ended their storied careers with. If she were to get to the number then the question of Greatest of all Time would be another legitimate title to bestow upon her.

MadProfessah's Prediction: Serena.

Friday, September 07, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview



Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. This year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. Here are my predictions for the 2012 US Open women's semifinals.

Victoria Azarenka
 BLR (1) vs.  
Maria Sharapova RUS (3)Both players played some of the best tennis of the year against stubbon opponents in their quarterfinals to reach this point. Azarenka took out the defending champion Sam Stosur in the most exciting women's tennis match of the year 6-1 4-6 7-6(5). Sharapova had to come back from 0-4 down against the hard-hitting but peculiar Marion Bartoli, which she did by winning 3-6 6-3 6-4. This showdown is worthy of a grand slam final, and indeed these two played the Australian Open final earlier this year, which was won by Azarenka 6-3 6-0. Bizarrely, this was not the only time this year that Sharapova was blanked in an important final, losing the Wimbledon Gold medal match 6-0 6-1 to Serena Williams but she also had a high point by winning the French Open over surprise 2012 US Open semifinalist Sara Errani to completing the career slam. Azarenka and Sharapova have played 9 times, with the Belarussian possessing a slight 5-4 lead, including a 4-2 lead to Azarenka on hard courts. Azarenka has also won their only grand slam meeting (in the 2012 Australian Open final). Sharapova got revenge for that major final loss to Azarenka by winning the Stuttgart final but that was clay and this match will be during the day on a hard court in New York. The World's #1 player will likely prevail to reach her first US Open final. Mad Professah's Pick: Azarenka.

Sara Errani ITA (10) vs.  Serena Williams USA (4) For the first time in my memory Serena was placed in the much easier half of the draw. The other half of the draw contained almost all the former and current Grand Slam champions except for Serena's sister who lost in the second round to another one of the most dramatic matches of the tournament to Angelique Kerber. Kerber is the last person to beat Serena, but the lefty German was taken out by Errani, her Italian opponent in two tight sets 7-6(5) 6-3. Errani is a fighter and makes the most of her slight frame but she can easily be overpowered, as women's tennis most powerful player ever will demonstrate quite easily as she reacher her 6th US Open final, and 19th major final, of her career. Mad Professah's pick: Serena.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

EDUARDO MUNOZ/Reuters

BY RON BUCKMIRE

Last year I predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Below is my preview of the 2012 US Open women's quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) vs  Samantha Stosur AUS (7) The World #1 has been brutally efficient in reaching her first career quarterfinal in New York, dropping an impressive total of ten games to reach this stage. She will face the 2011 US Open defending champion whom she has never lost to despite playing 6 hard court matches against, including a final this year in Doha. Stosur has the game to match up well against anyone on the WTA tour but she sometimes does not have the mental strength to match her physical strength. After all, this is someone who has been on the tour for 13 years and has a mere 3 career singles titles, one of which is a major, despite playing in 14 finals. However, when she is playing without pressure, like in a match where almost no-one expects her to win, Stosur can often play her best tennis and this can make her very difficult to beat. Also, since Azarenka has only faced token opposition to this point in the tournament I suspect she may be surprised at the difference lowered expectations can make to her opponent and may find herself in too deep a hole to dig out of. Of course, tat 6-0 career head-to-head does make it more likely that it will become 7-0 instead, but nevertheless I'll go with the Australian who has played some of her best tennis in New York, unlike the Belarussian who never has. Mad Professah's Pick: Stosur.

Maria Sharapova RUS (3) vs Marion Bartoli FRA (11). Surprisingly, these are two players where the career head-to-head is also skewed heavily in one direction, with the Russian 4-time major champion having never lost to the unorthodox French player in four career meetings. Sharapova has been playing excellent tennis this summer, winning her 4th major title in Paris in June, despite being demolished by Serena Williams in the Gold Medal match at the Olympics in July and dealing with the dissolution of her engagement to hockey player Sasha Vujicic. That being said, Bartoli does have a very intense fighting spirit, as her comeback win against Petra Kvitova in the previous round is testament to. Theoretically, she also has the game to defeat Sharapova, but really everything Marion can do, Maria can do as well, and perhaps just a little bit better. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova.

Ana Ivanovic SRB (12) vs  Serena Williams USA (4). Serena has won 20 of her last 21 matches, with her sole loss coming at the hands of Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati. Her opponent in the Round of 16 failed to win a single game while Serena was pummeling the ball with deadly and frightening power and accuracy. Ivanovic is in her first major quarterfinal since her disastrous slide down the rankings following her sole Grand Slam title at the 2008 French Open. It's good to see Ivanovic back in the mix again; she has a beautiful forehand and moves quite well but after falling so low can she ever really have the confidence to go toe-to-toe with another major champion deep in the decisive set? I think not. That being said, it is more likely that Ivanovic will prevent Serena from reaching her second consecutive major final of the year and second consecutive US Open final than either of the Italians in this part of the draw. After all, Serena has never lost to the Serbian, despite playing her 3 times, including last year in the Round of 16 here in New York. The only question is which Serena will play on Saturday evening, will it be the 2012 Wimbledon finalist (who defeated Agnieska Radwanska with brilliant serving and mental toughness) or will it be the 2011 US Open finalist (who won the fewest number of games she had ever won--5--in a still-puzzling defeat to Stosur). We'll know soon. Mad Professah's pick: Serena.

Angelique Kerber GER (6) Sara Errani ITA (10) vs  Agnieszka Radwanska POL (2) Roberta Vinci ITA (20) This is one of the most surprising major quarterfinals in recent memory. Errani is having the best year of her career, having reached her first major final in Paris just 10 weeks ago, broken into the Top 10 and won a half-dozen doubles titles this year with her best friend and countrywoman, Roberta Vinci, whom she will be playing to reach her second ever major semifinal (and whom she owns a slight 3-2 career  record against). This should be an almost unwatchable match, which often happens when the stakes are so high and the competitors are so close. Vinci actually leads 2-1 on hard courts and I suspect would desperately like to become the 3rd Italian woman to make a big splash at a major, following in the footsteps of Errani and Francesca Schiavone. In the end it doesn't really matter who wins this match, because in all likelihood they will be losing their semifinal match to Serena. But this is sports, and nothing is impossible. Mad Professah's pick: Errani.

Monday, September 03, 2012

US Open 2012 Labor Day Open Thread

Andy Roddick
Reuters

Andy Roddick thanks the crowd for cheering him through a four-set victory over Fabio Fognini in the third round. Next up: Juan Martin del Potro.

::

Here in the United States, today is the day we celebrate the contributions of the great American worker to our nation's prosperity. In Flushing Meadows, the players on the singles schedule will have to work hard to secure a berth in the quarterfinals of the great American Slam.

On Ashe, former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic will open against Grand Slam giant killer Tsvetana Pironkova. I think the Bulgarian with the nasty forehand slice has another upset in her. Olympic Gold Medalist Serena Williams continues her campaign for a fourth US Open crown against Andrea Hlavackova. I haven't a clue how the Czech woman plays but if Serena is on point, she won't even drop her serve.

The men take the main stage next. American Mardy Fish faces Roger Federer and if Fish, who can disappear quicker than money, can win a set, I'll be shocked. In primetime, Olympic Gold Medalist Andy Murray will take on Milos Raonic. The Canadian Tower has been serving down aces like rain, but has struggled off the ground when his opponents dig in. Some are smelling an upset here. I'm not.

On the minor show court, I suspect on the high seeds will prevail. even if it takes a final set.

Who you got?

::

Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 4th Round
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) vs. Ana Ivanovic (SRB)[12]
Not Before:1:00 PM
Women's Singles - 4th Round
Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) vs. Serena Williams (USA)[4]
Not Before:2:30 PM
Men's Singles - 4th Round
Roger Federer (SUI)[1] vs. Mardy Fish (USA)[23]
Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM
Women's Doubles - 3rd Round
Serena Williams (USA) /Venus Williams(USA) vs. Maria Kirilenko (RUS)[4] /Nadia Petrova(RUS)[4]
Men's Singles - 4th Round
Andy Murray (GBR)[3] vs. Milos Raonic (CAN)[15]

Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 4th Round
Nicolas Almagro (ESP)[11] vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE)[6]
Not Before:12:30 PM
Women's Singles - 4th Round
Angelique Kerber (GER)[6] vs. Sara Errani (ITA)[10]
Women's Singles - 4th Round
Roberta Vinci (ITA)[20] vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)[2]
Men's Singles - 4th Round
Marin Cilic (CRO)[12] vs. Martin Klizan (SVK)

Grandstand 11:00 AM

Women's Doubles - 3rd Round
Vania King (USA)[5] /Yaroslava Shvedova(KAZ)[5] vs. Julia Goerges (GER)[11] /Kveta Peschke(CZE)[11]
Men's Doubles - 3rd Round
Santiago Gonzalez (MEX)[16] /Scott Lipsky(USA)[16] vs. Bob Bryan (USA)[2] /Mike Bryan(USA)[2]
Mixed Doubles - Quarterfinals
Kveta Peschke (CZE)[4] /Marcin Matkowski(POL)[4] vs. Sania Mirza (IND) /Colin Fleming(GBR)
Mixed Doubles - Quarterfinals
Lucie Hradecka (CZE)[7] /Frantisek Cermak(CZE)[7] vs. Elena Vesnina (RUS)[3] /Leander Paes(IND)[3]

Court 17 11:00 AM

Men's Doubles - 3rd Round
Frantisek Cermak (CZE) /Michal Mertinak(SVK) vs. Alexander Peya (AUT)[15] /Bruno Soares(BRA)[15]
Women's Doubles - 3rd Round
Sabine Lisicki (GER) /Shuai Peng(CHN) vs. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)[6] /Elena Vesnina(RUS)[6]
Men's Doubles - 3rd Round
Jamie Delgado (GBR) /Ken Skupski(GBR) vs. Marcel Granollers (ESP)[6] /Marc Lopez(ESP)[6]
Mixed Doubles - Quarterfinals
Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) /Jean-Julien Rojer(NED) vs. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) /Bruno Soares(BRA)