Toronto Preview

With the U.S. Open Series heading into week four, the big guns will finally grace us with appearances on consecutive weeks in Toronto and Cincinnati. We’ve already seen a resurgent, lighter Mardy Fish take the inaugural Atlanta title, Sam Querrey defend his title in his home tournament at UCLA and finally David Nalbandian take 500 points and about a 70 ranking spot increase at Washington. The question is: who will win with everybody in action this week?

Nadal’s Quarter
Winner: It would be insane to bet against Nadal. The man is supremely talented and even more supremely focused in his goal of winning the U.S. Open for the first time. This tournament will give us the first look at a healthy and rested Nadal on the hardcourts when seemingly every other threat is struggling. Juan Martin del Potro may not make it back to the Open, Federer has lost his swagger, Murray has taken a step back and seemed disinterested in non-majors, going only 11-8 in such events and Djokovic looks as if he maxed out in 2008.

Dark Horse: Watch out for Sam Querrey. The American is currently ranked inside the top 20 and has played great tennis on the hardcourts. He defended his title in L.A. with less than perfect performances until he finally dispatched the Murray plague that had done him in the four previous meetings. Querrey willed himself to victory even when he didn’t have his best stuff – the mark of a true champion. Don’t be surprised if he really challenges Nadal in the Round of 16. Another potential true dark horse in this quarter would be Janko Tipsarevic. He’s played some excellent tennis in North America so far, throttling Marcos Baghdatis and Sam Querrey along the way.

Early Exit: It seems like the Roddick-Cilic part of the draw will provide the quarter with the early exit. Andy Roddick played absolutely lethargic in his loss against Gilles Simon – a man he should never in a million years lose to – and he’s even getting medical tests before the tournament. Who knows where his head will be, but the good news is that he keeps a bye for one last week before he drops out of the top 10. It’s the first time ever there are no Americans in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. If that’s not enough incentive for Roddick to play his best, he will also have the added bonus of a chance to get payback on Yen-Hsun Lu for his unbelievable Wimbledon upset of Roddick in his first match. Another possible early exit I could see happening is Marin Cilic only because he played a bunch of matches in the grueling humidity in Washington D.C. The good news for Roddick and Cilic is one has to get to the quarters – or do they?
Best potential match: Nadal vs. Querrey – The entire world will get the chance to see if the Southern California boy is for real. Continue reading

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U.S. Open Preview

Nadal’s Quarter
Winner: It would be insane to bet against Nadal even if his injury is still lingering on. Jo-willy Tsonga could step up and beat him in a potential quarterfinal match, but the problem is will he get there? He can go out and beat any of the top players on any given day (Fed in Canada) but he could also lose to anybody on any given day (Isner and Guccione).
Dark Horse: Watch out for Jeremy Chardy to take out Gael Monfils in the first round. Chardy has come inot his own, while Monfils continues to struggle with injuries. David Ferrer could also potentially beat Rafael Nadal based on well he played Federer in Cincy, but he had a phantom retire against Rafa earlier in the summer.
Early Exit: Gael Monfils has his hands full with Jeremy Chardy and all of his injuries. 32 seed Nicolas Almagro could very well lose in his first match, but that’s not that big of an upset considering he’s a clay-courter. If he manages to win his first match look for Robby Ginepri to dispose of him in the second. Tomas Berdych is the ultimate wild card. Who knows if he’ll play well or poorly – this guy could appear on the early exits and/or dark horse list every tournament – it’s just a question of his motivation and his fitness.
Best potential match: Berdych vs. Gonzalez – interesting match considering Berdych has won the last three meetings, but it’s Gonzo who lives for majors. Gonzalez vs. Tsonga – If you like to see thunderous ground strokes and some of the hardest hit forehands you’ll ever see in your life – this is the match for you. Nadal vs. Gasquet – it’s not too often I put a first round match here, but this match is just so intriguing no matter how you look at it. Whether it’s Nadal’s storyline (first major since losing his “King of Clay” title) or Gasquet’s (first match back on the tour since his alleged cocaine use.) Continue reading

L.A. Tennis Open Day 6

dodgers 021In the biggest match of his career, Sam Querrey was willed to victory by his Samurais. The Samurais were vocal throughout “Big Red’s” match as the young American claimed his first career victory over Tommy Haas. Haas was clearly unsettled by the rambunctious crowd, and didn’t know how to deal with the heat from “Big Red’s” serve or the fire coming from his fans. Sam Querrey now takes the lead of the U.S. Open Series and will see if the third time is a charm tomorrow against Carsten Ball. Querrey made the final his last two tournaments, but lost. Today’s match he will once again be the favorite to win his second career tournament.dodgers 020

L.A. Tennis Open Day 5

John Isner vs. Carsten Balldodgers 011
This match was lightning quick featuring an abundance of…well… lightning quick serves. Not much to say for this match, but Ball continues his hot streak. He’s now won six matches in a row and will move on to his first semifinal. Before this week he didn’t even have a single tour level victory, now he’s got three!

IMG00005-20090730-1431Dudi Sela vs. Sam Querrey

In the most vocal match of the tournament, the young American prevailed over Sela in straight sets. The Samurais challenged the Israelis in a chant match and came out on top. As high of praise as I gave to Sela earlier in this tournament, with all his amazing passing shots and fundamental tennis, he just doesn’t have enough power to match up with the likes of Sam Querrey. If Sela has problems returning serves like he did against Querrey, he’s not going to have an easy time. Compare that with every serve he hits bouncing right into Querrey’s strike zone, and you have a predictable outcome – a Querrey victory. Querrey has now gone 11-2 his last 13 matches and will take on Tommy Haas in a blockbuster semifinal tonight.

Leonard Mayer vs. Mardy Fish
Mardy Fish withdraws from L.A., yet appears in the Washington draw that comes out the same day. Interesting. I’m going to say the whole 500 (Washington) vs. 250 (L.A.) thing had nothing to do with this decision…

Tommy Haas vs. Marat Safindodgers 037
The final match of the day lived up to the hype. Safin and Haas traded heavy ground strokes on ESPN 2 for the better part of an hour and a half. Safin fought as hard as I’ve seen him fight this year, but in the end, Haas’ return game wore Safin down (Haas won 50% of the points on Safin’s serve), and Haas’ ground strokes also overpowered the former world number one. Safin has noticeably lost heat on his ground strokes, and it seems retiring at the end of the year may indeed be appropriate for the two-time grand slam champion. Haas will take on Querrey tonight in a battle of two of the hottest players in tennis. This should be the biggest match of the tournament, especially considering everyone who went to the Friday day session will get free tickets tonight due to Mardy Fish’s withdrawal.

Day 4 L.A. Tennis roundup

Dudi Sela vs. Robert Kendrick
Sela had amazing support today in Los Angeles that helped pull him through his three-set victory over Kendrick. Sela is a great player to watch if you’re a smaller guy like me. He does everything fundamentally well. Watch his court positioning too, if you’re a little guy. He has two different looks. One being right on the baseline, so he can take the ball early on the bounce up, the other being deep in the court so the heavy topspin ball won’t bounce over his shoulder. He also comes to the net a lot to put away points because he may not have as much power as bigger players, but plays the way coaches should teach their players – an aggressive attacking style of tennis with no rest or break for his opponents. One of his favorite tactics is hitting a drop shot to his opponent so he can pass cross court, and his defensive play is second to none.

Ryan Sweeting vs. Sam QuerreyIMG00003-20090730-1428
In a battle of Americans, the lesser known one, Ryan Sweeting played great tennis, but lost in three sets. Sweeting regularly serves the ball around 130 mph and has huge, but inconsistent, ground strokes. Sweeting, a former U.S. Open Juniors champion, proved he has skills, and should make it into the top 100 in no time. He’s currently at his career high ranking of #155, and looks to be on the rise. The other American, Sam Querrey looks to continue his hot streak. He’s made the final in his last two tournaments, and has a big quarterfinal match against Sela tomorrow. Querrey is looking to become seeded in a grand slam for the first time in his career. He currently is at a career high #32, right on the brink of being seeded for the Open.

Here’s a special look behind the scenes of the ESPN Gameday booth setup at Straus Stadium for the next four days of the tournament.dodgers 034

L.A. Tennis Open Day 3 Roundup

Carsten Ball vs. Dmitry Tursunov
Ball impressed me again in his second match I’ve witnessed of him in person. His backhand time and time again punished Tursunov, and Dmitry could only welter in the scorching sun. Tursunov tapped out early in the second set retiring even though he would come back and play doubles later that day. This type of behavior is insulting to a fan who paid money to watch him play. How dare he “retire” with an injury and win a doubles match later on in the day. It’s insulting to fans, the integrity of the game, and especially Carsten Ball who pummeled him into submission and deserved better. With the whole rant on Tursunov aside, Ball is really playing well, and may be the favorite in his next match against John Isner. He hits cleaner ground strokes and volleys than the American, so that may indeed equal a first career semifinal appearance for the Aussie.

John Isner vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Isner beat Baghdatis in painful fashion. He took a major fall in the second set tiebreaker, and stayed down for the count Baghdatis rushed to his aide, putting a towel under his leg and showing real concern for the 6″9 American. After a good seven minute delay, Isner would come back and take the final three points of the tiebreaker against a rather complacent Baghdatis. Baghdatis clearly checked out of the match mentally when he saw his opponent withering in pain. Baghdatis showed his first display of anger I’ve ever seen of him after the match throwing his racket and kicking the mph tracker in the stadium. I have to say, although I was obviously rooting for the American, I felt genuinely bad for the Cypriot since Isner played dead for literally seven minutes and should have told Baghdatis he had no plans on retiring from the match. This would have allowed Baghdatis to stay focused as opposed to worrying for his opponent’s well being.

Marat Safin vs. Ernests Gulbis
The last match of the day saw it’s fair share of choking. Ernests Gulbis jumped out to an easy one-set lead on Safin. Things were looking great. He was clicking on all cylinders. He got up a break in the second set… and then… it happened. Gulbis showed the reason as to why he still is ranked #62. He has all the tools except for maybe the most important, the mental. Every time he gets up, he loses his killer instinct and allows the struggling opponent back into the match. The veteran Safin pounced on the opportunity and took the final four games of the second set. It’s tied now, so once again, Gulbis plays well and goes up a break in the third. Unfortunately for Gulbis, the third set was a repeat of the second, showing Gulbis give the set back to Safin again. The one thing Safin did better towards the end of the second set and in the third set was hitting more balls in and allowing Gulbis to press. Gulbis, I’m calling you out right now! You have too much talent to be 62!

Tuesday Tennis

During the last weekend some interesting things happened. Robby Ginepri came out of nowhere and capitalized on that mediocre field in Indy defeating Sam Querrey in the final, while Nikolay Davydenko won the bet-at-home.com open. Pretty ironic the guy who was blamed for throwing matches and had his own gambling controversies won the BET-AT-HOME.COM OPEN!!! Continue reading