Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Paris a washout?

I think most were quite shocked to see the outcome of Novak Djokovic's first match at the Paris Masters tournament today.  He looked like he was playing amazing tennis in the first set, embarrassing Sam Querry with a bagel set.  I thought he was going to roll through an easy second set and I almost wasn't paying attention anymore when Sam got broken in the first game.  Novak looked to be taking the #1 mantle before it was fully given back to him by his dominant form.  However, Querry had other plans.  Relieved to win his first game at 2-1, this seemed to give him confidence and he was able to break back, ultimately taking it in a tiebreak.  I have often thought of Sam as being somewhat weak mentally though, so even when he broke in the 3rd set I still didn't think he would close it out.  However, his serve seemed to really help him, and frankly so did Djokovic, who was making a lot more than normal errors.

I know that Nole has been dealing with personal issues in his life, one of which is his father's hospitalization with a respiratory condition.  How much had to do with that, how much had to do with the fact that he already knows he got #1 back and would really like some rest before going into the World Tour Finals, and how much was simply just that he lost?

I don't know the answers to those questions.  I do know, though, that with Roger Federer not playing this week, with Djokovic out in his first round match, and with some of the others probably wanting to conserve some energy for next week, it just doesn't seem like a normal Masters 1000 tournament.  It reminds me of Montreal this year when several of the top guys didn't play.  It just didn't seem to have the same level of importance.  

It will be really interesting to see if Andy Murray gives his all to the tournament since he hasn't won one of these all year, or if he is trying to save a bit of strength too.  Maybe one of the other guys who usually doesn't have an opportunity to win such a prestigious event will be able to step it up.  I remember when Robin Soderling won it a few years ago (believe it or not I actually miss him!).  

I really wish they had found another way to give a longer off season than to put three weeks of tournaments back to back, including the all important World Tour Finals at the end of a long season.  Maybe then Federer would have chosen to play Paris, not losing 1,000 ranking points for not being able to play this week.  I'm sure I will still watch the Paris tournament this week to see what happens, but it's really next week that will be capturing my attention. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Basel, Istanbul and Paris

For Federer fans it wasn't the result we were hoping for.  After losing the first set, Roger Federer rallied and took the second set in a tiebreak.  Though he had his chances at a break in the third, he wasn't able to capitalize and it went to another tiebreak.  Roger played some loose points and really lost it in a couple unforced errors.  However, Juan Martin Del Potro was really very impressive today.  There were multiple points where it seemed like Roger had him, but he managed to stay in the point with some great defense and ultimately win the point.  He was also really using his power in his serves and his ground strokes, and even had some impressive net play.  As to Fed's play, I was concerned earlier in the week because it just seemed he couldn't find his form.  And while he still made some errors today at inopportune times, he also had some of the Fed magic going and overall I thought he played pretty well.  

To Delpo's credit, in spite of losing the second set he didn't let his level drop as has sometimes happened in his losses to Roger.  I'm sure after losing some very disappointing matches to him this year, he just wasn't willing to let it go this time, definitely putting in the extra effort to get to balls he maybe normally wouldn't have tried so hard for.  So even though I would have loved to see Roger come through with another win in his special hometown tournament, at the same time I am happy that JMDP was able to play well and really start looking like he could be the player he was in 2009 again.

There was a very tricky point that could have ended up with Roger on the ground, almost getting hit in a very tender spot.  Thankfully I think it just missed and hit him in the leg instead and he was saved that embarrassment in front of his hometown fans!

Roger announced after his match that he will not be playing Paris next week.  I was kind of figuring that was coming after a difficult three-setter.  He said it is just too much for him.  Sounds like he needs to deal with some niggling injuries and just be rested and prepared for the World Tour Finals in London the following week.  Unfortunately by doing this he will be handing Novak Djokovic the #1 ranking back again, but this was expected anyway.  He will for sure reach 302 weeks at #1, which is just beyond impressive!

In other news, Serena continued to impress today with a 6-4 6-3 win over Maria Sharapova in the final of the WTA Championships.  What a last few months Serena has had, winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold in singles and doubles, the U.S. Open and now this.  I have been so amazed by what Roger Federer has been able to do at 31 years old, but Serena has had even more incredible results than he has (which is difficult for me to say, as a hard core Fed fan!).  Though not always a huge Serena fan, you can't argue with what she has been able to accomplish.

Another 30-something who has had great results this year is David Ferrer, who just won a 6th title for the year.  

I'm not looking forward to Paris so much now that Roger won't be playing, but I am very much looking forward to the World Tour Finals, beginning in just a little over a week!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Roger squeaks through

Well hmmm, what do I say about this match?  The 1st set I was thinking, "Yes, he's finally finding his form and looking like the Roger we know and love."  So what happened in the 2nd and 3rd sets?  I'm sure part of it was that Belluci really was playing well.  But what in the world was happening with all those errors?  So many times it seemed like Roger was just hitting it into the middle of the net.  I mean, he came back in the tiebreak and saved a bunch of set points, and then when he finally was going to even things up he made another "easy" error.  I really was starting to think maybe he wasn't even going to make it to the quarters, which would have been, I'm sure, tremendously disappointing for him.  But Belluci kindly choked in his last service game and pretty much gave him the match.

Now I realize I can be, at the same time, Roger's biggest fan and also his biggest critic, so maybe I'm being too hard on him.  I know he struggled against Belluci when they played earlier this year in Indian Wells, so maybe there is just something in his game that bothers him.  But still, his form at the moment is concerning to me, especially with the World Tour Finals coming up  But hey, he's into the next round to face what would seem to be a fairly beatable opponent (Kubot or Paire).  Maybe he will start to get his feel again as he goes along.  We can hope anyway!

I really wish I could understand Swiss German.  The interview they did with him at the end of the match looked fun and I would have loved to know what he was saying - how he described the match, and also what things he was laughing about.  I don't think I will be learning Swiss German anytime soon, though.

I am still watching the last of the ladies matches for today.  The Serena-Li match was an error strewn match, with Serena being broken at love twice when serving for the set!  Wow, that made me feel a little better, since it happened to me again today (getting broken serving for the set - though not at love!).  The Azarenka-Kerber match was an amazing match that I wasn't fully able to concentrate on because it was on at the same time as Fed's match, but what I saw was great tennis!  I feel really bad for Petra Kvitova that she got sick and had to withdraw from the tournament.  What a sad ending for last year's champion.  Hopefully she will recover quickly for Fed Cup next weekend.

Lots of great tennis to keep us busy this week, that's for sure!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gearing up for Basel and Istanbul

It's a busy week coming up on the tennis circuit for men and women.  First a little review on what has just taken place.  After 2 1/2 years without a title, Venus Williams proved that she isn't planning on going away anytime soon by winning in Luxembourg.  Caroline Wozniacki also proved herself at the end of the season by winning another tournament in Moscow, beating top 10 player Sam Stosur.  Other winners this weekend in 250 tournaments for the men were Seppi, Berdych and Del Potro, with the latter two trying to quality for the elite World Tour Finals.

Speaking of World Tour Finals, the women have their year-end championship with the top 8 in Istanbul this coming week.  They were all looking pretty classy for the draw and player party:

Should be a fun week, with Serena and Vika being drawn in the same round robin group.  With Serena having won the last three big titles it will be fascinating to see if she can finish it off in style by claiming this elite title.

I have to say I wish this wasn't happening the same week as Roger Federer's hometown Basel tournament.  Of course anytime Roger is playing, his matches are priority with me.  That won't be the case on Tennis Channel in the U.S., however, who will be favoring the Istanbul matches and showing Basel on a delay, meaning I will need to watch Roger's matches on the computer.  Speaking of Roger he has been busy this week with commitments at Lindt, 

as well as meeting with friends, going to visit kids at a tennis club, and helping out at Jura headquarters:

Roger's initial first round opponent, Jeremy Chardy, withdrew from the tournament, instead giving him Benjamin Becker, which should be a nice warm-up for him.  We'll see if he can win a 6th title at his special tournament.  

I suppose I should also mention that there is another 500 level tournament going on in Valencia with some worthy players, though I doubt it will get much of my attention with the other big ones happening.

Looking forward to a fun upcoming tennis week!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Final thoughts on Shanghai

What an amazing final that was between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray!  The quality of tennis was incredible.  I can't count the number of points where it should have been over multiple times, yet one or the other of them was able to keep it going and turn things around to win the point.  I'm sure Murray must be bitterly disappointed after having 5 match points, to end up losing in the end.  Novak seems to have an uncanny ability to come back from the brink of defeat to win matches.  

With another 1,000 points added with this win it won't be long at all before Djokovic is able to wrestle #1 away from Roger Federer once again.  I must say, as a Federer fan I was rather discouraged with his lackluster performance against Andy Murray in the semis, strewn with so many errors, knowing this would have so much affect on the end-of-year #1 ranking.  However, I was encouraged to read this comment from him:

"I would love to finish number one as well for the end of the year. For that it's going to take a great stretch again, winning Basel, Paris and London I assume to give myself a chance," said the 17-time Grand Slam champion. "We'll see how it goes.  Look, I'm relaxed about it.  I'll give everything I can.  I want to get through this season well and finish strong.  But it's not the number one goal right now.  Right now it's to manage my schedule, hopefully be in good shape for Basel, then kind of go from there.  Just to repeat, the goal was to become world number one this year, which happened, not the end of the year. But if that happens, that's a bonus."

It's easy to just keep wanting more and more as Federer fans because we've seen him do so many amazing things.  But the fact that he repeated the statement that his goal was to become world #1, not to end the year as #1, just reminded me that it's okay if he goes back to #2.  Novak deserves #1 again at this point, and to have achieved 300 weeks at #1 was just incredible.  We can't expect him to win everything at 31 years old.  

It will be a fascinating next few weeks, particularly, in my opinion, to see who is going to step up at the World Tour Finals.  I would imagine Djokovic has much motivation this year to add that to his resume.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

300 and counting!

What can be said about this amazing athlete Roger Federer that hasn't already been said - other than now he holds a new record for 300 (!!!!) weeks at #1 (guaranteed beginning Monday).  I mean, that is close to 6 years as the #1 player in the world.  Rafael Nadal has been at #1 for a total of 102 weeks and Novak Djokovic for 53.  So not only has Roger been there almost three times as long as Rafa, but he regained the #1 ranking at 30 years old and continues to hold it at the ripe old age of 31.  The accomplishment is incredible!

I have to say I was beginning to wonder if it was going to slip away from him, down a set to his good friend Stanislas Wawrinka.  He got an early break in the second set and I thought it was going to be smooth sailing, but after he lost the break immediately it seemed the momentum had shifted back and might not let go until a straight set victory happened for Wawrinka.  However, Federer being the King of comebacks, among many other things, held on and squeaked out the second set tiebreak.  Stan was a broken man after that and didn't have any fight whatsoever left, not winning a single game in the third set.  You could see it was a very distressing loss for him after playing so well for almost a full two sets.  But some things are just mean to be - like Roger Federer at 300 weeks!

I have yet to see a full video interview with him after this great win, but I loved this quote that I read:

"Sometimes you're just happy playing. Some people, some media unfortunately don't understand that it's okay just to play tennis and enjoy it. They always think you have to win everything, it always needs to be a success story, and if it's not obviously what is the point. Maybe you have to go back and think, Why have I started playing tennis?  Because I just like it.  It's actually sort of a dream hobby that became somewhat of a job.  Some people just don't get that ever."

Well, Roger, we're so happy that you're playing and that you love it.  Of course we love it when you win, but your fans are happy when you're happy.  And we love that you won today and will always be remembered for having at least 300 weeks at #1!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back in the winner's circle

Great to see my guy Roger back in the winner's circle today with a 6-3 7-5 win over Lu.  I thought overall he played well after having not played a competitive match in almost four weeks, after his Davis Cup victories in mid September.  After the distraction of the death threat and the extra security that has been flanking him this week, he was able to put that behind him and play with his usual style and class.  Though there were maybe a few more unforced errors than we (and he) would have liked, he did what he needed to do and won the match, thrilling the much enlarged crowd with his presence.

Here is his post match interview:

It's too bad how often he ends up in the same portion of the draw as his good buddy Stan-the-Man Wawrinka (or Stanley, as Roger likes to refer to him).  In order to make it to 300 weeks at #1 he needs to win this match.  My fingers are itching to write about the incredible accomplishment that would be, but I will save it until he gets there.

Novak Djokovic was looking very sharp today.  It's obvious he is hoping to regain the #1 ranking before the end of the year.  His chances of doing so are very strong and I'm sure many scenarios will come out on how he can do that depending on what plays out this week.  Lots to still play for in the coming weeks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Federer Shangai interview

Here's an interview with Roger where he talks about how he's doing, the rest of the season, and some nice things about Andy Murray:


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shanghai here we come!

How fitting - Roger Federer standing next to a crown!  Great to see him looking happy after having to struggle with a death threat from a stupid person over the last few days.  Word has it the culprit has apologized to the tournament and to Roger and his family.  I guess people don't understand the power of the internet these days!  With that cleared up, hopefully Roger can focus on playing some great tennis this week.

The draw is out and once again Roger is on the same half as Murray.  I at first was frustrated by this, as it seems the harder draw, but since Berdych is on Djokovic's side that is one that also could have been troubling.  After a first round bye his first few rounds should be fairly doable unless he is particularly rusty after not having played for a few weeks.  Of course a win at this tournament would be awesome, but just seeing him play again when we weren't sure it would happen this week will be great.  Hopefully he can at least stay in there long enough to hold onto #1 to make it to 300 weeks!!!

Here is another picture of him at a Rolex exhibit he toured.  Glad he's getting out and about in spite of the heightened security.

On another note, I have been enjoying some of the tennis going on this weekend, particularly in Tokyo.  The match between Murray and Raonic was a great one.  I have never seen Raonic play so well, being aggressive, coming forward.  He came from a break down in the 3rd set, saved a couple match points, and went on to win in the tiebreak.  And Nishikori is playing inspired tennis to give the Japanese their first finalist at this tournament.  Should be an interesting final.  And then there is also Azarenka-Sharapova and Djokovic-Tsonga.  Not too bad of a tennis weekend for lower level tournaments!

Monday, October 1, 2012

He's playing!!

I'm sure all true Federer fans have been holding their breath waiting for his announcement one way or the other regarding the Shanghai tournament that starts next week.  It came today via Facebook:  "Looking forward to going back to China and playing in the Shanghai Rolex Masters. I have always enjoyed China and I can't wait to see my great Chinese fans again. See you soon!"

When he put the following picture on Facebook a few days ago that said "back in the gym" I thought it might mean he was playing, but wanted to hear it for sure.

Though I am always pretty curious when I'm not sure whether he will decide to follow through on a tournament he's scheduled for when he's been extra busy, this one had a lot of significance due to where things stand with the ranking points.  Roger is currently 1,335 points ahead of Novak Djokovic in the 52 week ranking system.  He also, as of today, has a record 298 weeks at #1.  With Novak playing the 500 level tournament this week in Beijing he could cut that down to 885 points if he wins the tournament, which is probably pretty likely with the field he's playing against.  Roger needs to play Shanghai if he wants to be sure to hang onto #1 and make it to at least 300 weeks.  

Novak is feeling pretty motivated to get the year end ranking, which he certainly has a pretty good chance at being he doesn't have many points to defend from last year, whereas Roger won everything he played, including the 1,500 point World tour Finals.  He would have to be playing his absolute best and be incredibly motivated to achieve all that again.  But hey, we're talking about Roger Federer, so it all remains to be seen!

Next week is suddenly looking quite exciting to me!