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Posts Tagged ‘Preview’

Feast and Famine in the 2014 Australian Open Draw

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Welcome back to the ATP tour.  In case you missed it, Jack Sock and Sloane Stephens became tennis’s version of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, Caroline Wozniaki agreed to marry Rory – as soon as he turns 18, of course – and Roger Federer switched to a geriatric-sized 98 square-inch framed racket (either he needs a bigger sweet-spot, or his eyesight is going).  But no ordinary water cooler gossip compares to the drama of the year’s first Grand Slam draw, announced yesterday in Melbourne.

At first glance, the draw seems stacked in favor of three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who may not meet a seeded player until the quarter finals, while Rafael Nadal must run the gauntlet of Bernard Tomic, Gael Monfils (25), Leyton Hewitt, Kei Nishikori (16), and Juan Martin Del Potro (5) in his quarter.  But if the draw truly favors anyone, it is the fans, as numerous compelling matchups loom in the first four rounds alone.  With the first matches just three days away, here are some story lines created by the draw, and my humble predictions for the outcome …Full Story

#1 Rafael Nadal is Extraordinary

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Rafael Nadal did not play in the 2013 Australian Open.

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That fact, listed above, is just one of many factors that makes Rafael Nadal’s #1 ranking extraordinary. Nadal’s 2013 performance is so unbelievable as to border on absurd.

Nadal started the year at a small tournament in Chile where he lost [sic] to Horacio Zeballos.From that point on, he won Sao Paulo by beating David Nalbandian on clay, Acapulco by defeating Almagro and Ferrer, on clay, Indian Wells by taking down Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, and Juan Martin Del Potro on hard court. Nadal finally lost to then #1 Djokovic on clay at Monte Carlo, but not before beating the surging Philipp Kohlschreiber, baby-Fed Grigor Dimitrov, and the always dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Nadal’s torment of the clay-court season continued in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, and of course Roland Garros …Full Story

The Duality of #10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

In Tennis on December 16, 2013 at 5:12 pm

In the 2013 Australian Open, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Michael Llodra, Go Saeda, Blaz Kavcic, and close friend Richard Gasquet en route to a quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer,  6-7(4), 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-6.

Australian Open Tennis

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s entrance into professional tennis relevancy was meteoric. In 2008, unseeded, the Frenchman put together a string of upsets (defeating Andy Murray, Sam Warburg, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, fellow countryman Richard Gasquet, Mikhail Youzhny, and Rafael Nadal) to land himself in the finals against then-world-number-3 Novak Djokovic. Tsonga won the first set of the championship match before losing in four – Jo-Wilfried’s first set victory was the only set that Nole lost in the tournament.

Here are some words that are often used when describing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: acrobatic, potent, aggressive, dynamic, percussive. More than anything, Tsonga is defined by his potential; at his best, Tsonga can beat anyone on the tour.

There are players that make it into the ATP top 10 by stringing together a series of smaller wins, by playing consistently well enough throughout the year to accrue the points, essentially by grinding it out. Tsonga is not one of these players. At any tournament, in any match, Tsonga is poised to go off. Watching the Frenchman play pushes the viewer to the edge of their seat, not wanting to miss some of the miraculous shots that he’s proved himself capable of producing, or the artistry with which he constructs, dictates, and wins points when he is at his best.

But potential is defined not only by its upper limit – it is rooted in its baseline’s lowness. That is, potential matters because it is about momentary ascension. Its inconsistency is what makes it an important characteristic (and a difficult to measure metric). Another way to frame Tsonga’s potential is to think about the possible outcomes in Melbourne this coming January: we can’t really expect Tsonga to win the Australian Open, but we also know in the back of our minds that Tsonga absolutely could win the Australian Open. He has the tools necessary – the deep and heavy forehand, a precise backhand on which he can impart devastating pace or bewildering spin, a serve that marries thoughtful placement with arm-numbing power, and impeccable touch at net. At 6’ 2” and 200 lbs, he processes the athleticism necessary to wrestle control of a point back from Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray. (This is of course only true when he is healthy. It is important to remember that Tsonga has a bad history of injuries, and that his professional career almost ended before it began with a series of issues – a herniated disc, two consecutive shoulder injuries, and abdominal troubles – in 2005.)  It also helps that Tstonga never took well to his home country’s red clay – he favors hard courts, and his record against the top players at the Australian Open is better than elsewhere. Tsonga is 6-11 against Novak Djokovic, but is 5-1 against the Serb on indoor hard courts.

After fighting for a semifinals appearances at Roland Garros – where he fell to Spaniard David Ferrer, 1-6, 7-6(3), 2-6 – Jo-Wilfried’s 2013 campaign sputtered out. Tsonga retired in the second round of Wimbledon with a left knee injury while up two sets to one against Latvian Ernests Gulbis. The same knee injury would cause Tsonga to drop out of the US Open. His deep runs earlier in the year, combined with a semifinals appearance at the Shanghai Masters 1000, garnered Tsonga the 8th seed at the BNP Paribas Masters 1000, a critical tournament late in the season. After a first round bye, Tsonga fell in the second round to Kei Nishikori in straight sets, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(7). (Tsonga had defeated Nishikori in Shanghai en route to his semifinal.) Tsonga’s loss to Nishikori shut the Frenchman out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Final in London.

Despite his emotive and gregarious demeanor, it can be hard to read which Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will show up at a tournament – he presents a true duality. We may see the calm, powerful, controlling player who can challenge anyone (he of the deep runs at Monte Carlo, Roland Garros, and Shanghai), or it may be the error- and injury-prone player who drops sets inexplicably (see the Paris loss to Nishikori, wherein Tsonga dropped two set-points in the third set tiebreak). If the former Tsonga steps on to the court in Melbourne, anything could happen.