David Nalbandian


imagesJustin Gimelstob (above, r.), who went big time, with sickening Jay Leno.

We did not think Rafael Nadal played very well in his much ballyhooed return to the tour on South American clay, as we watched him labor to beat Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-3 in a mid round match.  The score line may suggest relative ease, but that wasn’t the case.  The match took 1:31, a long time for a match to go in which you only drop 5 games, and Chardy had plenty of chances to make it even closer.  The rallies were long–too long for Nadal who is still out of shape–and Nadal drifted well beyond the baseline, practically playing many strokes with his back against the back wall.  And then there was the stalling.  Nadal was called, given warnings, for not serving within the allotted 25 seconds, which frankly, is always there when Nadal plays but seldom called.

A lot is being made over Nadal’s win in the final last weekend in Brazil over David Nalbandian, but one day before, Nadal was mere points away from being eliminated, down a set and fighting for his life in the second set breaker.  And that was against world # 91, poor man’s journeyman Martin Alund, who is now 27 and has zero titles in zero finals made.  We’d say that Nadal does not look good here in this return, and that had he returned for the Australian Open, he would have probably had a bad showing.

We were all over Justin Gimelstob that week on Twitter in the first week of Nadal’s return in Chile at Vina Del Mar, with good reason.  Gimelstob, a Nadal sycophant, seemed to have a list of Nadal talking points he wanted out there, which we have no doubt came from the star himself.  Like how Gimelstob urged that the chair use discretion when calling the time code, and how people were wrong to assume Nadal was stalling because of his knees when he routinely abuses the code as ritual, because Nadal likes to, as he explained, ‘really think through strategy between points.’

Really?  Because a guy that misses 7 plus months due to injury and who has chronic knee problems which have kept him out of 3 majors since 2009, would really raise the ire of an announcer when it is suggested that he stalls because the guy is lame?  By the way, we find Nadal’s one more ball back/heavy topspin forehand to backhand strategy completely simplistic and elemental, and the suggestion that Nadal is doing all of this thinking is insulting to us as real fans.  Especially when we feel that enforcing the time code is an important step that the chair has made collectively to improve the game.  Really, who in the game does not enforcing the code help other than Nadal?

Then you had Gimelstob state that Nadal is “one of the best doubles players in the game”, which, when considering the disservice that playing doubles at IW did to his career to follow, and how Gimelstob lauded Nadal for winning there, conveniently omitting the fact that Nadal has not even set foot on a hardcourt since, is questionable at best.  Nadal is a very talented doubles player, and we’ll not argue that.  But doubles has decimated Nadal, as has Plexicushion, and for everyone to pretend this is not the case for the sake of a constant Nadal love fest is disgraceful.  As is Nadal for missing a major in order to practice on clay instead, though if again, he is shaky on clay, it does not bode well for the rest of his game.  It’s nice that Nadal, at the age of 25, has finally figured out that Plexicushion is ruining him, but to say he’s needed a brick to fall on his head in order to realize as much would seem totally accurate.  It would also be nice if a high profile commentator like Gimelstob, who was himself an attacker, would acknowledge that Nadal’s constant grinding, inability to hit winners consistently, and necessity for long points has been essentially Nadal both living and dying by the same sword.  This is where we feel Gimelstob, who burst on the scene as a big time commentator due to his honesty and unabashed enthusiasm for the sport, has taken a back seat in recent months to announcers like legends John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Jim Courier, who we thought for a while he was set to surpass.  What Gimelstob should have said was that Nadal’s doubles prowess has come at the expense of his singles career, because his job is to do more than throw out hollow platitudes, by offering more substantial commentary to the hardcore fans who are watching match to match on The Tennis Channel.  Because what match in, match out fans of the game are really sitting there marveling at Nadal’s doubles ability in the wake of him missing the entire US Open, Indoor, and Australian seasons, when the guy has zero doubles majors to his credit?  What a John McEnroe does in providing meaningful commentary is to point out that Nadal’s excellent hands at net, which he seldom showcases in singles, could be a boost to his longevity and might serve to prevent him from breaking down so much if he could find a way to be more intrepid.

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But therein lies the rub with Gimelstob, who, we assume in his role as an official ATP guy, is looking to divorce himself from controversial, i.e. honest stances.  Guys like Nadal and Murray, who are talented net players, but who only approach net a handful of times per match have essentially rendered that skill moot by way of ignorance, and so wouldn’t it be more relevant for him to talk about why these guys would squander such ability due to under use?  Instead, we hear Gimelstob pushing Nadal’s agenda, which is to suggest the YEC be played on clay, rather than questioning Murray’s lack of initiative, we hear him talking all about Murray’s new apartment in London.

A guy like Boris Becker, who shoots straight as an arrow, has even been heard to criticize the great Roger Federer.  Martina Navratilova, as solid in the booth as they come, has panned players like Murray and Wozniacki, labeling their failures and the correlation to passive play as “the same old story.” She has labeled Nadal’s injury woes as “the same old story.”  These announcers have done something serious by denouncing the style of play, and in Nadal’s case, have connected the style of play with the physical toll, which Gimelstob disservices us by failing to admit exists.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/australia-plexicushion-bad-for-tennis-the-state-of-one-handers-and-the-game/
https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/as-1-wozniacki-is-done-see-camel-toe-shot/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/all-england-club-forced-to-seed-undeserving-wozniacki-first-upskirt-shot/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/unworthy-wozniacki-destroyed-roger-looking-smashing-at-roland-garros-see-vegas-odds/

Gimelstob doesn’t have the star power that they do, making honesty all the more precious a commodity for him, though he has definitely lost it along the way somewhere.  In fact, upon reflection, we’re happy that we were not subjected to this type of hack announcing from Gimelstob, who was noticeably absent from the AO ESPN mix channels coverage.

So Nadal plays perhaps his worst match on clay ever in that final and loses in a 3rd set breaker to Horacio Zeballos, then around world #73, and it is obvious to any true fan of the game that this is not the same indestructible clay court Nadal we have come to expect.  Gimelstob essentially tiptoed around the issue, another real disservice, we thought, to the tennis world.  As it would be to play the YEC indoors on clay, as indoor clay is the height of tacky, the most bush league a move there is, reserved for clay court specialist team tennis nations and the Porsche Cup at Stuttgart, which is a high quality surface in exactly zero arenas, and in most cases, is just clay heaped carelessly atop a hard wood, like the surface upon which John Isner, who we don’t see ever beating Roger Federer on an outdoor clay court, upset Roger Federer in Fribourg in February of 2012.  And frankly, we recall Federer’s back tightening up in that match, which we attributed to traction issues.

The next week, Nadal is set to play doubles with Nalbandian, and withdraws due to “knee overuse.”  The finals loss and the subsequent doubles withdrawal, coupled with the fact that playing doubles helped put Nadal in this predicament in the first place, was a huge tennis story, and we commend honest reporting like Matt Cronin’s, who was all over the withdrawal, calling it one of the strangest bits of phraseology he could ever remember regarding injury/non injury propaganda.  But then Nadal goes on to win Brazil despite the showing against Alund, which now seems a non a issue.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/down-under-poor-conditions-see-players-drop-like-flies-see-radwanska-survival-press-conference-video/

Today the story broke on Twitter regarding Nadal skipping Indian Wells, which Nadal already refuted, since putting out a statement through his camp that he ‘intends to play.’  Nadal has not played on hardcourts since IW in 2012, and at this point in the season he is usually playing on hards, but obviously this year he has played exclusively on clay.  If he missed a major where he was a defending finalist, why would he risk playing at IW in the Masters Series, with relatively little at stake besides points?

We think Nadal is playing coy when he says he ‘intends to play.’  We think he said he intended to play Melbourne, and how’d that turn out?  It seems to us that Nadal is trying to pull it together to play the soft court season only, and that like last season, he will barely keep it together through Wimbledon.

What would Gimelstob think of that?  We think we know already,though we don’t expect him to tell the truth.  We think Gimelsob is, at this point, resigned to seeing Nadal on a limited basis, and that he feels a little Rafa is better than none, which is probably why he has been on the shill for a clay court YEC.  One thing you can’t fault Gimelstob for is wanting Nadal back at a high level, as it is good for the sport, which is why we are always outraged when players who can go skip majors, as we do not think that is good for the sport or show’s the proper respect to the majors that they deserve.  Instead of getting together with Nadal to disseminate propaganda, Gimelstob and Nadal should deliver the bad word about Plexicushion and other soft hards, which beat the hell out of the players worse than anything, while promoting bland, timid, reaction tennis and one dimensional defensive style tennis.  Since Roger Federer has already announced that he will skip Key Biscayne and it’s tacky, bland, frustrating Defense Pro soft hardcourt, which frankly, we feel plays worse than fucking Lenglen and Philippe Chatrier.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Novak-Djokovic-Australian-Open-2012-ChampionNovak Djokovic (above), the prohibitive favorite to threepeat in Melbourne.

Men’s

Alexandr Dolgopolov

+15000

 

Andy Murray

+250

 

Bernard Tomic

+5000

 

David Ferrer

+2500

 

David Nalbandian

+25000

 

Fernando Verdasco

+20000

 

Gael Monfils

+15000

 

Gilles Simon

+25000

 

Janko Tipsarevic

+15000

 

Jerzy Janowicz

+6000

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

+3000

 

Juan Martin Del Potro

+1200

 

Kei Nishikori

+10000

 

Kevin Anderson

+50000

 

Lleyton Hewitt

+50000

 

Marcos Baghdatis

+10000

 

Marin Cilic

+15000

 

Milos Raonic

+5000

 

Nicolas Almagro

+25000

 

Novak Djokovic

-160

 

Richard Gasquet

+10000

 

Roger Federer

+400

 

Ryan Harrison

+25000

 

Sam Querrey

+25000

 

Stanislas Wawrinka

+25000

 

Tomas Berdych

+3000

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Ladies’

Agnieszka Radwanska

+1000

 

Ana Ivanovic

+6000

 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

+10000

 

Andrea Petkovic

+10000

 

Angelique Kerber

+2000

 

Caroline Wozniacki

+3000

 

Daniela Hantuchova

+20000

 

Francesca Schiavone

+25000

 

Jelena Jankovic

+12500

 

Julia Goerges

+15000

 

Kaia Kanepi

+10000

 

Laura Robson

+8000

 

Maria Kirilenko

+15000

 

Maria Sharapova

+700

 

Marion Bartoli

+6000

 

Mona Barthel

+10000

 

Na Li

+2000

 

Nadia Petrova

+15000

 

Petra Kvitova

+1000

 

Sabine Lisicki

+6000

 

Samantha Stosur

+2500

 

Sara Errani

+12500

 

Serena Williams

-120

 

Shuai Peng

+25000

 

Sloane Stephens

+15000

 

Svetlana Kuznetsova

+15000

 

Venus Williams

+5000

 

Victoria Azarenka

+300

 

Yanina Wickmayer

+50000

……….

The injured leg of Andrew McDougall (above), who was essentially recklessly kicked by David Nalbandian.

David Barbarian, um, Nalbandian, while up a set in the AEGON Final at Queen’s Club, in frustration at having been broken in the 7th game of the second set by Marin Cilic, kicked a wooden Nike placard that covered the feet of the line judge, drawing blood on the left shin of bewildered line judge Andrew McDougall, when that wooden placard crashed into his leg.  For any Nalbandian apologists that exist, and there should be few, especially considering the hell Serena is subjected to whenever she has an outburst, we would ask how they could explain away the following video:

Obviously Nalbandian tried to argue that he thought the Nike placard was moored, but with McDougall sitting directly behind it, feet probably touching it, we can not except that rationale.  Whatever happened to throwing your racquet?  Since when are guys kicking things?  It seems that this is something we can only credit to Nalbandian, who in all our years of watching tennis, is the only guy we have ever seen get disqualified in such a manner, for drawing blood to an official.  Let alone, in the final at the once very prestigious Queen’s Club, which used to be frequented by Nadal and Djokovic, but which this year barely pulled 3 players from the top 10 (Murray, Tsonga, Tipsarevic).  Even when our boy John McEnroe flipped out and smacked a cooler of Gatorade which spilled on the King of Sweden, he wasn’t DQ’ed.  Some thought that was funny.  Today’s incident was in no way funny at all.

While we can think of 8 tremendous #1’s who’ve won here (Connors, McEnroe, Becker, Edberg, Lendl, Roddick, Hewitt, and Nadal), 7 of which are Wimbledon champions, we’d have to say that the club is at a low point, as should be David Nalbandian after that act of savagery.  People in tennis definitely took note of world #2 Rafael Nadal’s decision to play Gerry Weber at Halle this week, the first time he had ever committed to a grass court event outside of Merry Olde.  Queen’s has looked completely drab since losing Stella Artois as a sponsor a few years back, and if you are watching Halle, where the main court is state of the art, complete with a retractable roof which slid closed when the sky greyed on Saturday in seconds, you’d have to say that Halle is the superior production.

Having Raonic, Nadal, Federer, and Berdych, among others doesn’t hurt, but the quality of the environment is obviously a factor in why people are playing Halle over Queen’s, when Halle was widely considered the inferior week to Queen’s until now.  From what we can see, the courts seem quicker at Halle as well, which, for tennis purists and grass court fanatics like us, means that for a rare week we get to see classic bang bang tennis, with more balls being taken directly out of the air.  It’s also nice to see a court where the ball stays low, allowing dynamic one handers like Federer, Haas, and Kohlschreiber to do damage on the backhand wing.

Halle had a magical week, featuring Federer-Raonic III, which was again decided by a third set breaker, and really, hinged once again on the scantest of margins, a mini break to Federer, who had really not managed a thing on Raonic’s first serve again.  We’re not surprised.  You know how we feel about the kid.  As for Roger losing to Tommy Haas today, we are very surprised.  Federer has looked listless in finals here in recent years, also very uncharacteristically losing to Lleyton Hewitt in 2010.  Seemed like he put the cart before the horse today, a day after blistering Mikhail Youzhny, and looking quite like the old champ.

But the result at Halle, with Haas, an exciting grass courter and dynamic player, returning to form is great for the game.  Unlike at Queen’s, where Nalbandian acted reprehensibly.  And for that matter, the British crowd, who applauded him, after a weak apology.  Sure, they wanted to see more tennis and that is understandable, but once that match is called, how can you applaud a guy who injures an innocent?

And how does Nalbandian pull this stunt up a set?  Complete disgrace.  We’d like to know why the tennis world is so silent on this debacle in its wake this evening?  Nalbandian should be suspended for Wimbledon.  The ATP is sending the wrong message if they allow him to play.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Sloane Stephens (above), popping a serve off against Mathilda Johansson on Friday in an easy breezy victory.

While we understood Serena as the prohibitive pre-tournament favorite, we have said many times that clay is a different animal that always treats her differently.  We said that her M.O. at RG was that something always seems to go wrong.  Were we surprised at the loss to Razzano?  Absolutely.  Were we on it?  No.  Betting against Serena is a bad business, as we’ve said, and only further reinforced by her destruction of Azarenka in Madrid, and that little gambit we took with Vica.

Hopefully someone took our underdog philosophy and made some bank on Razzano.  Still, not an easy bit of business, down a set and 5-1 in the breaker before the tide turned.  How often does Serena choke one away?  Or lose R1 at a major?  Until Tuesday, the answers to both were never.  But then again, neither the partisan French crowd–in truth a pit of vipers–nor Chair Eva Asderaki, with whom Lady S has past history, were going to do her any favors.  On Asderaki: 1) That’s a tough over-rule.  I don’t like to criticize calls, as it’s bad form, and at RG, the Chairs do player a larger role than elsewhere because the stupid clay leaves stupid marks…and yet, there is simply no line call conflicts on any other surface and at the other majors, where they have gone to modern technology.  John McEnroe has said often enough that he feels he would have been far more successful with the current Hawkeye system because he expended so much energy fighting officials and that had such a negative impact on his game.  Anyone who remembers John John understands the point all too well.  Are the French cheap, stupid, or just stubborn?

Ding ding ding.  Anyway on to 2) Point penalties for “hinderance” on player audibles are never called, yet has now been called by 1 Chair in 2 different majors against Serena in the last calendar year.  Does Asderaki make that call against Azarenka and Sharapova, the tour’s loudest players?  No.  But then again, they haven’t called Asderaki a “hater” and a “terrible person.”  But then again, again, Asderaki’s 1st hinderance call in the US OPEN FINAL against Stosur was not prompted by unfortunate remarks.

The Chair has played way too big of a role in Serena’s most recent USO & RG losses.  The same Chair.  While we may stop short of calling Asderaki a racist on this page, we would have to agree with Serena’s assessment.  Also, we aren’t one of those types who scoffs at the notion of racism in tennis.  We also feel that Asderaki is obviously prejudiced against Serena, if not actually prejudice (although…)  In a virtually even match on points (Razzano won on total points by 5, 117-112), those 3 points essentially gifted to Razzano would have swung the total in favor of Serena by one.  Three points is practically a game, or half a breaker.  Frankly, the Chair should not play a determining role in ANY match, EVER.  If the Chair’s fairness is questioned, then it ruins the integrity of the game.

On to little Lauren Davis, who announced herself this week with a huge victory over very impressive German Mona Barthel.  We thought Barthel was set to turn heads here.  But Davis, on a foreign surface, abused Barthel.  Despite her loss to the American bulldog, Christina McHale in the next round, we are very pleased with her results, obviously coming into RG prepared for both the surface and the stage.  If Barthel hasn’t yet registered as a name, it’s only because ascent has been so meteoric.  That is a tremendous win.  Perhaps MJF is doing a better job with our young ones than we usually credit her for, having been awarded the Fed Cup post out of what we feel is blatant cronyism.  As for McHale, she may not be ready to take out Li Na, but we watched it closely, and also listened to RadioRG tell it in stretches.  We all thought that McHale scared Li very much with that strong, clean first set, and you can really see McHale winning a match like that next time around.  McHale seems to get as much torque on her forehand as any woman we’ve seen this week.  In short, Joy-zee was in da house.

John Isner, 2 years after setting the major match length record at SW-19 after his 70-68 5th set win over Mahut, now has the French Open record, this time losing to Paul Henri Matthieu 18-16 in the 5th.  This match has us considering if John McEnroe isn’t right about something else as well.  We were inclined to disagree with Johnny Mac, who has pushed for deciding 5th set breakers at all the majors.  We had felt that the extended 5th set format at the AO, RG, SW-19, and DC has a certain mystique and that the players who take part in those matches enhance the history of the game and their own names by playing in these most memorable matches.

But the epic Isner-Mahut affair did effectively scuttle the rest of both players’ 2010 seasons.  Mac talked about how the players have discussed job actions in order to pursue better prize money for lesser players and better protections.  He’s correct that the 5th set breaker would protect players health and ultimately their careers.  And the very personable Dimitry Tursunov underscored the travails of the lesser player in a phenomenal interview he gave to Matt Cronin and Matt Brown of RadioRG.  Tursunov discussed his gig as a pro tennis blogger and how fickle fans always threaten to unfollow him, and more serious stuff, like how expensive the tour is for lesser players like him, who God forbid, want to travel with a coach, a physio and even a girlfriend.  Tursunov candidly explained that in a city like Paris he can barely afford to do anything.  We loved Tursunov in this spot.  While Justin Gimelstob (who hit with Brian Baker prior to Baker’s win over Xavier Malisse and gave great insight as to the Baker story, an American who played in the RG Junior Final in 2003 and was injured the next year and then spent almost 8 years off the tour) is obviously our favorite TTC personality by a mile, we are considering throwing our support behind Tursunov as well, who would be a fine score for TTC.

After an easy R1, Isner spoke with Bill Macatee of TTC, and discussed how he really likes playing on the clay, because of the time it affords him and because the ball bounces up high, right into his strike zone.  We weren’t paying close enough attention, and missed on another upset.  Paul Henri Matthieu is perhaps the flattest hitting Frenchman there is, and goes very flat on both sides.  Even flatter, we feel, than Gilles Simon.  Isner got a bad matchup in that regard, and is not as good when he has to get down low to play balls.  But the central issue with Isner remains his inability to generate opportunities in the return game.  We talked a lot about how Kevin Anderson was such a bad matchup for him back in Delray, because Anderson holds serve easily.  How many times have we seen Isner play these matches where he can’t muster a break?  We know that Jim Courier has been coordinating his efforts with guys like Isner and Harrison, and their coaches.  Isner’s coach, Craig Boynton, has done a great job getting this giant to play defense as he does, but the laterals are always going to be the question with a guy this big.  And now, in 3 recent majors (2012 AO, 2012 FO, 2010 SW-19), he has had to go to an extended fifth set, and all 3 times he faced unimpressive servers (Nalbandian, Mahut, Matthieu), or relatively unimpressive servers.

Isner has heart and smarts and weapons, but he has to do better in spots like these.  Matthieu in the 2nd round, on a collision course with Andy Murray, weak on clay in the quarters, then possibly Nadal, who he pushed to a 5th set here last year, Nadal’s only 5th set ever at RG.  That’s a bitter defeat.  But Wimbledon should also offer a wealth of opportunities for a guy who serves out of a tree top.

Then there’s Sloane Stephens.  Wow.  This is why we have been begging for her inclusion on the Fed Cup team.  She’s our best bet.  She’s not tiny like McHale, but she can defend like McHale, and her weapons are real.  Frankly, she has dominated this week, blowing out BMS and Johansson, and also straight setting Makarova, who was a big favorite.  We are going with her tomorrow against another SS, Sam Stosur.  We’ve gotten hot, pegging Varvara Lepchenko for good things throughout the week so far (another American), and today we had Granollers, Kanepi, and Rus.

Tomorrow it’s Sloane at +475.  As we see it, Stephens has the pace to target Stosur’s backhand and actually get the ball there.  If Stosur is allowed to run around every forehand, she wins.  She probably does enough to win here tomorrow, but she has been very wonky since winning the Open, and Sloane has the power and speed to show her up a little.  We do not see this line as being a realistic indicator of the scoreline.  We do not see the rock solid Stosur we saw two years ago here.

We’ll be happy to watch it all play out, provided NBC and ESPN and TTC can get the coverage straight, and we don’t have to watch a Spanish feed of the match off the internet (as we did today for Raonic-Monaco).  And hopefully Asderaki is chairing on another court, or better yet, no court at all.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

 

Tonight’s headliners, Milos Raonic (L.) and Roger Federer.

Up first at 8:30 PM EST, we’ve got a very good dog in Janko Tipsarevic facing David Nalbandian.  Here are the odds:

2012 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells — Round of 32

Janko Tipsarevic:  – 170

David Nalbandian:  + 135

…….

We very much believe that this line is a product of Nalbandian’s name recognition.  These guys have met just the once, in Melbourne, 2007, and Tipsarevic blew a 2-0 set lead and retired down 2-1 in the fifth.  That was five years ago, and a lot has changed for these two.  Tipsarevic has been strong, and sits at world #10, while Nalbandian is down around #74.  We feel that Nalbandian gets a lot of respect based on the past, but that he hasn’t done much to actually earn any in recent history.  We are going with the favorite here.  Nalbandian, though he plays close to the baseline, is a very old school grinder.  A grinder like him has to work very hard to win, and we haven’t seen him put a lot of work into any one match in several years.  This is a tale of two guys going in opposite directions, and in fact, we won’t be surprised if there is announcement forthcoming about Nalbandian, who loves the good life, horses, ladies, and fast cars.  We think he loves all that stuff at this point a lot more than he loves doing the work necessary to win.

Round of 16 — 9 PM EST

Nadia Petrova:  – 130

Maria Kirilenko:  even

…..

We just don’t feel Nadia Petrova is a good favorite.  The h2h is 4-3 for Petrova, and that’s been a slim margin, with the last two matches going to Petrova in 3 hotly contested sets.  Hate to be so un-PC (sarcasm), but we just kinda like the slimmer girl here on a slow as molasses hardcourt in a night session.  We also feel the Russian countrywoman rivalry can’t be overstated.  Kirilenko comes into this match as the higher ranked player for the first time in their 8 matchups.  Kirilenko seems to us to be the better player for a lot of reasons, and we are happy to see some nice odds by her name.  We also like her younger, hotter legs.

  Round of 16 — 9:30 PM EST

Marion Bartoli:  – 240

Lucie Safarova:  + 180

………

Bartoli leads the h2h 5-1.  We are going to stick with the same logic, or similar, to that used in our Petrova-Kirilenko analysis.  You should know by now that of all the players that play this game on the women’s side, Bartoli is one of our most hated, for the stupidest shot of them all, her signature two handed forehand.  While this surface does give her time to wield that ugly thing, she is the lesser conditioned athlete and Safarova has the younger legs.  Safarova makes a living by smacking players around who are favored.  We like her here.  In general, we like her variety, and she plays a lot of doubles, and has nice hands.  But what works best for her in this spot is her ability to scramble.  We are taking Safarova.

Round of 32 — 10:05 PM EST

Milos Raonic:  + 325

Roger Federer:  – 450

………..

I’d be shocked if Federer loses a set.  Really shocked.  Federer is playing magnificent tennis.  He has lost one tennis match since October.  He has been so dialed in on his service games.  We love Raonic, but we see the cracks.  The kid is about 20, or a young 21, and his lateral movement, while improved, is not Fed ready.  Last year at this time, we were very disappointed when Ryan Harrison, who scored a nice win over GG Lopez yesterday, upset Raonic and upended the Federer-Raonic sweet 16 matchup.  But the book on Raonic was thin then.  Now that the book is thicker, we can’t see him giving this year’s Federer, who seems, more alive than last year’s, any trouble.  In fact, we are predicting a bit of a Federer old school clinic.  Raonic served very comfortably the other day, and hit a lot of aces against awful Carlos Berlocq, as my mother could do.  Things will get very hairy for Roger come Nadal in the semis, but not tonight.  At least, we’d be very surprised if he is taxed by the kid.  There’s not a lot to be made off of a line so lopsided, but we have Roger advancing with ease.  Though we are very excited to see the first of hopefully many matches between the two, and acknowledge that Raonic is one of the very few players able to bring the big game to Roger, and that guys who have like Tsonga, Berdych, and Soderling, have had their moments.  BTW, a quick word on Harrison.  This kid had a terrible time winning matches after IW last season.  He really took his lumps.  We expect him to have a much better spring-summer this year, and to really climb up the rankings.  He’s a smart player, he’s an intense kid who wants to win, and we think he will take those lumps and turn them into positives.

Round of 16 — 11:30 PM EST

Ana Ivanovic:  + 140

Caroline Wozniacki:  – 180

………

Sofia Arvidsson played a great match against Wozniacki last night, and showed exactly how a veritable nobody can beat the Dutch Miss.  Arvidsson has played well this year, and surprised us with her win in Memphis.  She plays aggressive tennis, and she gave Wozniacki all she could handle, and frankly, a Wozniacki can’t really look in the mirror today and be proud of that style she plays, when she barely survives a player like Arvidsson, in approximately three hours, of which she was out played handily for the first two.  Wozniacki was warned for receiving in point coaching last night from her father, and you know what?  Her father should shut the fuck up because it didn’t help any, and we have to question whether anything he does helps any.  Wozniacki, we’ll say again, doesn’t think the game, and that is something that a coach, a real coach, would teach her.  How many more back foot forehands are we gonna have to bear, also?

In assessing her game, Lindsay Davenport, the anti-Wozniacki, said that she could be more aggressive off her backhand wing, that she has the ability to dictate with the backhand, but that her forehand basically needs a complete overhaul.  We concur.  And if you checked the stats last night after set one, Wozniacki had 4 forehand winners and lost her serve 3 times.  And she could not get her second serve out of the mid 70’s.  But we shall see.  If Wozniacki goes out early here, and fails to defend all these points from winning here last year, she is going to wake up 7th in the world next week.

She won’t need a fancy Rolex watch to know what time it is.

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Alejandro Falla (above) looks to make his 2nd Aussie round of 32 right now.

Journeyman Alejandro Falla, currently world #71, has taken the first two sets from Mardy Fish, “the U.S. #1”, on court 3 in the 2nd round at Melbourne.  Falla, best known for going up two sets to zero on Roger Federer in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010, has played incredibly, converting on all 5 of his break chances, including a clutch break back a second ago as Fish was up 5-3, and trying to close out the 3rd set.  Falla has played big tennis and error free tennis, and he has been very clutch at the net, and has clearly dominated on big points.

This would be a disastrous loss for Fish.  The score is currently 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-6 (4-2).  The boys have been at it for 2 hours and 40 minutes so far.

Later on tonight, John Isner battles David Nalbandian, Donald Young takes on Luckas Lacko, and Sam Querrey goes against Bernard Tomic.  It’s a huge night for Americans, even if Fish loses.  We expect all the younger guys to represent themselves well.

Also, Christina McHale is struggling at the moment, having lost the first set and down an early break in the second to Marina Erakovic.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Federer in Doha discussing his back woes (above).

Let’s call it what it is, Fed fans. The great man is as likely to default away a match as Nadal is to call out the trainer. And yet, after a very lackluster match in which Federer survived, barely, against Andreas Seppi, Roger broke a date to play his semi-final tilt against newish rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Exxon Mobil in Doha. For only the second time ever in a 14 or so year career.

These aren’t the only negative omens for those of us looking for Roger to sneak away from Melbourne with his 17th major two weeks from Sunday. Sure, we were stoked when Roger displayed his vintage indoor form once again, in getting a nice match streak going, a little tournament win streak, and taking his record 6th YEC crown at the major that’s not. But but but, the sun, as the song says, will come out tomorrow, and that’s not good for the great man, because as good as he is indoors, the sun seems to be setting on Roger’s outdoor game.

Are we disturbed, you ask? Quite often, but not at the moment. We pay super close attention to the man’s almost every move, and therefore, we can only frown upon Roger’s official start to the new season and his unofficial start to the new season. When Roger got smoked by Djokovic in Mubadala, 6-1, 6-2 in 44 minutes, the worst beating we can ever recall him catching, exhibition or not, we had to frown. Looky…Roger is not trotting out anything but the most vanilla of game plans against Djokovic or anyone else, not even at an exo with his good buddy the Sheik in the crowd. We are big chocolate people but love the vanilla in that spot, and recall a tilt or two before a major or two when Andy Roddick got the rope a dope treatment, only to see Roger march on him at that upcoming major final.

The next night at Mubadala, a gimpy (is there any other kind?) Rafael Nadal, fresh off a smoking at the hands of David Ferrer, which, to no one’s surprise, Nadal afterward told the press that his shoulder was giving him problems and he wasn’t quite himself –Go Rafa!–way to discredit Ferrer again, even after a meaningless exhibition (bet he still took his clown lap prior to the contest), still beat up on Roger, 7-5, 6-1. Again, it’s all vanilla, but it would be good for the Fed Camp to notch some sort of win against Rafa outdoors this decade. In fact, Federer has not beaten Nadal outside in the elements since, we think, Madrid in 2009.

Now the ‘Kush’ seems to be playing fast on courts from India to the Middle East to Australia, and mere mortals seem to be popping serves well enough, like Radwanska today, who took out Wozniacki (surprise surprise) with her ‘Howitzer’…LOL. But she was well into the 100’s. Pretty good for a pop gun. But wethinks the courts are still playing too slow (evidenced by Giant John Isner’s upset earlier today), despite a real bang bang affair between Monfils and Tsonga in which fast court tennis, synonym: good, prevailed over slow court tennis, synonym: evil. Tsonga got down an early break and then basically dominated his countryman, who the commentators noted, was simply not coming up with nearly enough to beat a real tennis player. Yet, he beat Nadal easily in straights easily enough the previous night, but anyways, they also called Monfils a great “shot maker” so we guess they were only half right.

By the way, had to laugh when Tsonga came up with the clutch running one handed backhand pass. Who does that guy think he is? This isn’t 1985. Come on, JWT!! We are supposed to be playing bland, safe, homogenized tennis, also synonymous with evil. But back to Roger and Rafa…so so glad that Rafa has been whispering, and um, interviewing in two languages that he hasn’t gotten much work in and he needs a lot of work to ‘play like bull’ and blah blah blah because we all know that Djokovic is still gonna smoke him, one healthy shoulder, two, or three. And as for Roger, we’ve been thinking, despite the French Open title that almost was, that Roger needs a cakey draw and lots of luck to grab a major at this point, and isn’t prime to go through both the Djoker and Rafa back to back in best of 5’s.

Now for the inevitable Pete Sampras comparison portion of the narrative. As great as Roger ever was, is, and always will be, Pete was the better outdoor player later in the game, and the more clutch guy for that matter, always, until proven otherwise. But we aint proud. We’d love to get Roger in through the back door and feel he has more than 1 more major in the tank, and that the favorable circumstances he needs will present themselves. Which we hoped would be next week. How close was he last year, really? Nadal got topped by Ferrer, and Fed was a game on serve away from going one to one in sets with Djokovic, and claiming all the momentum on his way to a possible dream (for Federer) rematch with the other Andy.

So we were feeling good, but we only feel as good as Roger, and Roger no feel good…wait, that’s Nadal speak, sorry. Roger doesn’t feel good, as evidenced by his second ever game day withdrawal. And the comments…no me likey:

“I don’t feel a whole lot of improvement for today, and I just don’t think it’s the right time to risk anything more right now,” Federer said. “I still have pain, and that’s why it was the only right decision, a difficult one for me … So it’s a sad moment for me and for the tournament and for the fans, but health goes first.”

And:

“Then I wasn’t able to serve properly anymore,” Federer said. “Had the same thing yesterday. I was really playing, you know, with the hand brake on, and I was just trying to manage the situation, really. So it wasn’t very easy to deal with.”

And perhaps even worse:

“For Australia, I’m optimistic, just because it’s not very good but it isn’t crazy bad,” Federer said. “I have had bad backs in the past. This is definitely not very good; otherwise I would be playing. But I feel without play and the right treatment, I will get through it in the next few days.”

No disrespect intended above to Roger with the Pete comparisons, as Roger is most obviously a warrior’s warrior, but the back places very serious limitations on Roger’s serve, already to be corrupted by the Australian wind, and the soft as belly fat blue tacky track that Australia and California have succeeded in jamming down the world’s throat (and Miami’s Defense Pro gross soft green garbage is even more horrendous, if you must know).

Also, very rare indeed for Roger to hold court on an injury situation prior to an event, let alone a major. Hopefully the great man is with a great physical trainer at this very moment, and that they can get his back in working order, because even as the biggest of Fed supporters, we are thinking this might be the first time he misses the quarters at a major since Nalbandian at the USO in 2003.

We’ll speak more on it all this weekend when the draw is published, but as Roger said himself, “it isn’t very good”, and for him, he is probably as weak as he has ever come into a major minus mono.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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